I will never write about addiction.

clay mother sea of cortez

I will never write about addiction, even though I should. I do not visit its hard landscape easily.  I lived there once.  It consumed me.    The Addict dragged me to its jagged edge and left me there screaming as he plunged into its heart.   When I am forced to describe addiction to others, I use spare language.  I do not embellish.  There are no colors or smells or quirky characters we  met along the way.   There are nouns and verbs.  They are black and they are white.   This is very unusual for me.  When I am forced to remember addiction, however, it is vivid.  Like a slide show set too fast in HD.  Each lurid frame stands out, in Technicolor, then clicks to the next.  Continue reading

Vibrating Love and the Power and Politics of Stuff

Moving van and lift, Germany,2007
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Tuesday 6th September ♥  On Saturday morning, like most Saturdays, I was on the mat.  Yoga-like.  The theme of the class was “vibrating love” – as in “love is all,” “love is all you need,”  “what if we all vibrated love at once,” etc.  I dig this stuff.  I believe in it.   I am also devoted to our teacher.   His voice is smooth; his wisdom is even smoother.   I call what he delivers on Saturday morning The Weekly Homily and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word homily.  And I usually need what he is delivering.  This Saturday was no different.

Earlier in the week I’d taken a different delivery – the delivery of a moving van’s worth of stuff from my mother’s estate in NY.  I will be crystal clear.   I don’t need “stuff.”  I don’t like “stuff.” I don’t want “stuff.”  I think living within 3 miles of the Goodwill in our city may be one of the real estate high points of my life.  I am a frequent flier in the drive through drop-off there.  And when my children and husband tell the story about the time I nearly donated a Tiffany box to that Goodwill with the Tiffany necklace still in it, I do not even cringe.    My motto the past few years has been “Shed! Shed! Shed!”   Then the moving van arrived from NY.

I did not go to NY to dismantle my mother’s household.  I gave my sisters carte blanche. Blame me. I should have know better.   I had been adamant that I wanted very little.  Three nineteenth century beds, one 2004 Subaru and the dinner bell my mother called us home with back in the old neighborhood.  I agreed, when pressed, to accept delivery of “some” boxes of books from the basement that, my sisters claimed, contained “a few” books from my husband’s and my graduate school days.  I was led to believe that the “some” and the “few” would fill 2 or 3 cartons.

When the moving van driver called from the road the afternoon before the delivery, it was clear he had been charmed by my sisters.  Men who are easily charmed by my sisters are LIFELONG REDFLAG NUMBER ONE for me.  “I think your sisters have a few surprises for you on there,” he chortled.  My head sunk into my hands.  “Oh goody,” I said weakly.

I will cut to the chase.  The “surprises” included 22 sealed boxes.  My husband, who routinely adores my sisters even when I don’t, was furious. I good naturedly chalked it up to Family Humor and could not wait to dig in.   And after yoga on Saturday I did.  And within an hour I was fuming.  My sisters had sent me 22 boxes of books.  Not just my books.  Not just my books and my husband’s books.  Everyone‘s books for all times.  As one of my neighbors said as he surveyed the collection we spread out on the sidewalks in front of our house, ” I feel as if I am looking at someone’s entire intellectual history,” he paused, “…. or maybe several people’s?”  Yes, several people’s.   I had books stamped with the names of colleges and high schools I had never attended and in languages I do not speak.  I had books from professions in which I am not licensed to practice.  I had my mother’s books, my father’s books, books belonging to sisters, books belonging to grandparents.  My personal favorite category was a large one: books belonging to the old lady my parents bought our family home from IN THE 1960s.  By noon I was pissed and my husband was laughing, reminding me that it was Family Humor.

I spread the libraries out on the sidewalk, listed the mess on freecycle .  It was a holiday weekend and we live near the entrance to a popular park path down to the lake.  I sat back on the porch  to nurse my annoyance think dark thoughts about my sisters and their motives.   I located The Story of Stuff link www.facebook.com/storyofstuff  and posted it on my Facebook,  then tapped this out: “I have spent the day with Stuff – The Stuff and Politics of my family’s personal histories.  It was enough to push me to seek out this link and post.  My current motto is ‘shed, shed, shed.'” Six minutes later I realized I was madder than I had conveyed, but the situation was also a lot funnier than I had conveyed, so I posted this:

BTW if you live in [THIS CITY]  and want 22 boxes of hardcover books – stop by.  History, cooking, classic novels, politics.  Nature.  Art history, spy novels.  Text books from Our Lady of Mercy, Niagara, Georgetown, Mt. Holyoke, This City Academy, Amherst.  Books from the 1940s thru the early ’80s our specialty (apparently).  Women’s studies! The Making of a Liberal 1-2-3 (that’s a category, not a title).  Old SAT scores, awards.  Handwritten letters from many of you relating old loves and emotions, old scores, diets, anxieties and hilarity – but mostly long tracks of friendship.

Really?  The mess and what it represented were getting to me.    A long lost middle school friend now living in Ohio wrote back, “Always hang on to the long tracks of friendships ~~and, oh, the Mercy text books~~hugs to you.”  I softened my heart a little and my head a lot. I was beginning to vibrate love.

The next night I posted the following :

After sounding a bit grouchy about the politics of stuff and my fresh-off-the-moving-van 22 carton book collection  – I thought I should report the delight of watching two boys discover the 1970s Time Life series on ancient civilizations and cart all 12 volumes home in their skinny arms. Most of Judy B s cookbooks have also walked off the sidewalks into new kitchens.  Most importantly, the weekend front porch giveaway  also inspired dozens of conversations regarding books, reading and life with passers by. 

Emme, one of the pillars in my life, wrote back wisely, “Books always bring their own magic.”  And Elle, another pillar, wrote, “Judy B is creating a whole new batch of cooks.  Her legend lives on.”  

I rescued a few of the remaining volumes from the sidewalks and went to bed, vibrating love.