Remembering Bess

undergarments 1950's
My Mom center, L daughter Lara  and R daughter Brett .

We’d always celebrated my Mother’s birthday on January 3, until she informed us one day that she learned upon  getting a copy of her birth certificate, that her birthday was really January 2!  We all shook our heads in disbelief, but there it was in black and white, Jan 2.  These days, since she is no longer living, I tend to think of either or both days as her birthday.  This time of year triggers memories of Bess.

I easily remember her coming into my bedroom before she went to sleep , to kiss me goodnight. I always pretended to be sleeping, but waited patiently most nights for her sweet kiss.  What a nice game. I never did ask her if she realized, I’d been awake, all those times.

I loved to watch her get dressed to go out with my Dad.  Her bedroom, next to the bathroom, a little misty from the shower she’d just taken.  The door to her closet which held the only full length mirror in the house, would be ajar as she checked her progress.  Those were the years when a woman’s undergarments set the foundation for a well dressed woman. For a young girl watching the armor  applied to tame the mature feminine body, it was nothing less than fascinating.undergarments 1950's

 

My mother never ever got dressed without pulling on her girdle first.  When I questioned her about the procedure, she told me in no uncertain terms that she felt undressed with out it. I took her word for it and stopped inquiring.

Following her lead, when I became an adolescent, I decided I needed a girdle as well before going out on a date.  As a dancer, at this time of my life, I was very slender.  My Mom tried to tell me I didn’t need it, but I would have none of her reassurances.  The purchase of a girdle was a right of passage and I was hell bent on wearing one.

I got a stomachache midway through the date evening, excused myself, went to the bathroom and quickly pulled off the now loathsome girdle placing it in the trashcan, before returning to my date. Liberated!

Mom’s summer cologne in those years was usually Mary Chess, white lilac.  My love of the scent of lilacs equaled or surpassed hers and I too wore Mary Chess until it stopped being produced in the early ’60’s.

The choice of shoes completed her outfit and preparation.  She had about a dozen options, neatly displayed on her closet floor.  Years later, her oldest toddling granddaughter was attracted to that closet as if by a magnet.  She’d chose her (Mom’s)shoes to wear by some mysterious process and proceed to wear them around the second floor of my Mom’s house for several hours.  Mom never objected.

Today, I wonder how my Mom’s life might have been different if she’d been born a decade or two later.  She was one of the few working women I knew.  All of my friend’s moms were stay at home.

Mom put a lot of energy into making her home attractive and vibrant.  She boldly painted her kitchen ceiling red. She did not hesitate to go all white in her living room, reupholstering and recarpeting as needed.  The only caveat was it was not a room for children, only for company.  If kids tried to skirt the rule she’d quickly ask them to leave.  She cleverly converted New England antiques into working partners in achieving the look she sought.

She always needed and wanted a broader life, but my Dad insisted that if she was to work, it could only be for him, as a cashier in his grocery store.  I know she had bigger dreams, but never went after them.  She adored my father and stayed by his side, seldom complaining except when he spent most of Sunday golfing.  All through my childhood, she repeated to me, “Get out of Holyoke!”

I got the message along with the Mary Chess.

 

Things My Mother Told Me

It’s just as easy to do something right the first time. (Not true.  The trick is to try again.)

It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man.  (no comment.)

Let that be a lesson for you.  (It usually was)

Don’t come crying to me when…( I rarely did, as I remember.)

‘All right, but don’t come crying to me when you fall down.’

If you can’t say something nice about anyone, don’t say anything.(Still think of his one.)

You’re so selfish. (OUch!  hey I was a teen ager!  but, Essentially correct.)

You’re capable of being right on top. A straight A student if you really tried. (I didn’t really care, nor did I really try.)

I bend over backwards for you and all I get is a kick in the pants. (I think she must have meant forward.)

Don’t wear dirty sneakers.  ( I just ignored this mandate.)  Along with, “Go upstairs and change your shoes!)

Mothers have eyes in the backs of their head. (I believed it!) (Still do.)

I put you on a pedestal and you knock yourself off.  (so true, I didn’t like being on a damn pedestal.)

Waitressing:  It’s not a job for a nice Jewish girl. (The answer I’d get when I asked to go to the Cape to waitress for the summer with a non-Jewish friend.)

OK, what are YOURS?

Going Home!?

It was was dark outside.  All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a  visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side.  Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy.  The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.

cheesy dec

The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm.  The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered.  The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.

I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness.  I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”

Between Heaven and Earth

After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again.  I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving  road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.

At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.

 

 

 

 

On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain.  It even had a route #!

Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area.  The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color.  The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.

the river below.

 

Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over.  We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive.  Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so!  Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field.  We’ve lost so much of the natural world.

The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.

Life is precarious and glorious.

Am I Waku Waku or Doki Doki?

Waku waku (suru)!  I recently learned, means I am excited.  Or shall I say doki doki (suru),  meaning I’m excited and nervous at the same time?  Either way, I’m off to Japan again in two more days.  My excitement is always a given, my nervousness is a result of being by myself for about two weeks before I’m joined by my husband.  I looked for a travel companion but it was a half-hearted attempt because I was a bit ambivalent about having to think about anyone other than myself while traveling. The timing was not good for those I’d asked and I decided that was a definite sign to go it alone for a while.

So I’ll be setting my own agenda, lingering too long at places, eating too early or too late some days, and in general, just following my own instincts without consideration of any one else.  It will be wonderful at times, a bit lonely at times, but always interesting.

Some well-meaning people will be sorry for me, but I will not share in their sorrow.  I’ve been to Japan many times so I am familiar with the do’s and dont’s of the culture. I’ll use my gaijin license if necessary or when I feel like a bad ass. This means, that because I’m a foreigner in Japan, there’s no way I can possibly know how to do everything correctly, so I am given an imaginary license to make mistakes. Or do the wrong thing, as the case may be.comic

The loneliness I will feel will probably come around meals, but there’s freedom there too, to grab a take out and eat in my own room while watching tv, or writing a blog. I speak a little Japanese now and am eager to try out my new words. I know where to get $$ from atm’s when I run out.  I also know for a woman alone it’s about as safe a country as you can find. This trip, I’m determined to take a few day trips on my own to travel by train outside of Kyoto.

After a bit of a rough patch physically, I’m feeling more healthy than I have been for a while. For those wondering, I have asthma, but I’m now armed with different meds and am able to breathe so much more easily.

I am grateful for my new lease on life.  I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to return again to Japan to continually find inspiration there.  So doki doki is tolerable and part of the package of moving forward in life.  How wonderful to say waku waku (suru) as well!

Come on a long with me for the journey.  I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and interested.  Follow me on notoutyet.com.http://notoutyet.com