Sunday, September 14, 2008

Long Time Coming

I know I've been MIA for quite a while. It's was a frustrating and busy summer. Aside from the eye infection that wouldn't heal, there were visits with friends and family, parties and celebrations, and a chance to be on stage again.


The weather this summer was a long time warming up - then it was suddenly very hot, for a few days. Then cold again. I got the ghastly summer cold. Now it's truly autumn. Snow fall in the mountains, cold nights where a cat and a blanket are just not enough to keep me warm. Some trees are turning and losing leaves. Squirrels are flashing through the trees gathering nuts.

And I've had a birthday. I'm 49. I never thought I'd be this old.

I try to ignore the news right now - economy is bad, presidential race is tight and in the middle of it all I keep hearing about "people just like us..."

What makes us feel a part of a group, or what makes us feel separate from the group? I come from a large family and there were rituals, traditions that defined us as a family. We had our place at the table. My dad made the coffee and always got the first cup. When it was time to decorate the Christmas tree, dad did the lights first, then we each had our own special ornament that we placed where ever we wanted. Christmas morning, we could open our stockings, but nothing under the tree could be touched until Dad had his coffee, coffee cake and a cigarette.

Then there were other traditions. My mother would bake cherry pies for my brother's birthdays - it was their favorite. She even did it for her son-in-laws. But the apple pie I wanted for my birthday was too much work. I'm all grown up now, and I do realize that apple pie is a lot of work. But it still hurts that my mother didn't want to make apple pie for me. I was too much work. I didn't get to share that tradition and that made me less of a member of the family. I was less like my siblings. And I was certainly less loved. (I say all of this from the child within me who still feels those pangs of not belonging.)

I have some traditions with my daughter. Music has been a part of many of those traditions. We both love music. We both have our own tastes, but share many artists we both love. But we both treasure singing along with our cat, singing lullabys and good nights with Steggie. And one very special song that will always mean 'we'.

My daughter is a brown-eyed girl. I'm a brown-eyed girl. I used to sing Brown-Eyed Girl to her when she was very small. That evolved into singing with it every time it came on the radio in the car. That became a ritual whereby every time we went on a road trip, the cassette went into the tape deck and Jimmy Buffet came along singing Brown-Eyed girl.

Last summer, when we were traveling from Portland to Boston, Bridgete had loaded her Zen player with all kinds of songs. We hooked it up to the radio and headed out. It wasn't long before we heard the familiar opening cords. We glanced at each other and immediately burst into song.

"Do you remember when?
We used to sing?

There was a sense of completeness, of destiny to that moment. And a satisfaction in knowing that tradition was with us.

That's what we look for in traditions - in rituals - be they sacred or silly. We look for those moments that remind us of our connection to one another. Things that remind us we are not alone out here.

Where we go astray is in letting the tradition or the ritual take precedence over the connection. Or when we fail to recognize how important a small gesture might be to someone else. Maybe I'm unusual in that I make connections with other people easily and I feel them deeply. Missing my annual trip to Nancy and George can make my whole year feel wrong. Friends forget to take me to lunch after having done so for several years...and I am likely to conclude that they no longer consider me a friend - rather than the obvious - we're all just so busy - answer.

I live alone. I work alone. And it's very easy for me to say that I'll just stop making connections - because it hurts too badly when they break.

Or maybe I just need some apple pie. Really good apple pie.