Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Write a Book with Blurb

This is the jacket of the hardcover book I created as a birthday gift for The Partner:

Find out more about my wholly satisfying artistic endeavor over at New England Mamas, where I'm hanging out today.


Monday, January 28, 2008

January By the Numbers

5 birthdays
2 deaths--one nonagenarian and one centenarian
A 3-in-1 baby shower--congratulations, Dr. and Mr. Boz!
Roughly 108 commemorative desserts consumed in honor of aforementioned events
10 pounds gained this month alone
2 trimesters completed
1 close family friend diagnosed with lung cancer
3 measly blog posts written

It's been the big and bumpy beginning to a year that doesn't show any signs of smoothing out. All I can do is try to write about it more.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Rest of Us

Yesterday we attended the funeral service for great aunt Sonia at the Russian Orthodox church of which she'd been a member for most of her adult life. The building was onion-domed on the outside; inside, it was all gold, crystal and the most ornate of wood paneling. There were shimmer paintings of the saints on walls and images of them on stained glass. The air was so thick from incense that it reminded everyone just how tenuous the connection is between properly functioning lungs and this mortal earth. I sat in the back, closest to the doors, where I hoped to gasp in some of the morning's fresh, rain-bedazzled air.

The casket at a Russian Orthodox funeral is traditionally open. That's what I assume, anyway, based on the sight of aunt Sonia's pancaked features turned up toward the ceiling as she rested on a pillow beneath a cloud of incense for the duration of the ceremony. "Give rest to your servant fallen asleep," the priest repeated as he swung the golden canister of burning ash in sweeping arcs around the casket, like a yo-yo in the hands of the most experienced entertainer. Everything was in threes. "Fallen asleep. Your servant fallen asleep." Our Father, who art in heaven. And again, and again.

I don't know that we cried, any of us. I know we looked at aunt Sonia in repose and thought how strange was this quiet. We tugged at our skirt hem, or adjusted our pants, or patted our hair. She would not have been impressed. We knew that. That's why her silence was so odd--the voice was still in our heads.

During the eulogy, the priest told us that aunt Sonia had trouble accepting the world for what it is. She had trouble accepting people for what they are. Flawed. And I thought that this priest hit the coffin nail on the head. He also told us she was the church's second oldest parishioner. She knew so much and she shared that knowledge. It was true, too. She was not all good or bad. When she was part of this world she was flawed just like the rest of us.

Afterward, our family lingered together in the game of catch-up we play only upon death. It's so good to see you. I'm sorry it had to be under these circumstances. We ate together. We exchanged email addresses and promises.

Even as we talked about someday having a real family reunion (it's not too late, said cousin Cindy, optimistically) we all knew that the next funeral would come first.

And we are scared, lazy and helpless, knowing there will be one less soul in attendance.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Russian Sisters

Yesterday my uncle found great aunt Sonia, age 99, dead on her kitchen floor. It was my mother's brother's weekly routine to check on their spinster aunt. Aunt Sonia had lived alone for her entire life--to the very end, as it happened.

She kept herself impeccably. Her makeup and its application was old, not cakey so much as thick and iridescent. She used to be a cosmetologist. On her head were platinum curls. She smelled of perfume dabbed on from the same bottle, one finger at a time, over fifty years. She had wattles under her chin and both arms. She was not soft, though; there was venom and pride in all her angles, all her words.

My uncle arrived at the house on Sunday and considered going straight to the garage to give her big, blue boat of an unused car a start, as was his custom. Instead, he went to the back door. He let himself in. He walked into the kitchen, where she was lifeless in a nightgown. He told my mother later that it was a good thing he hadn't gone to start the car first. Those were the emotions talking, because reality stated she'd been dead for at least a day, maybe a day and a half. Aunt Sonia could've waited five more minutes.

My mom was no more ruled by rational thought. "I can't believe she's gone," she told me.

"What do you mean?" I honestly wanted to know. Did my mother mean she was struck suddenly by the passage of time, by a long life no longer, by the unbelievable inevitability of death? Or did she mean what I thought she might?

"I mean, I can't believe it. She was not supposed to die, ever."

So I was right. My mother was not being philosophical. My mother was in denial. But as strange as it sounded, I think I understand. Probably we all do, those of us who knew aunt Sonia. Somewhere along the line we came to believe what we had always joked about: "Only the good die young."

My grandmother went first. She was Nadezda. Her name meant hope. Vera died next; she was faith. Then Anna and Olga.

Sonia meant wisdom. She was the last to go.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sounds Like Peanuts

The Boss recently mistook the word "penis" for "peanuts" and has run with it ever since. This is largely because The Partner and I reinforce her behavior with raucous laughter every time she utters the word.

She has even incorporated it into her bedtime ritual with her father.

"Goodnight," The Partner will say.

"Goodnight, peanuts," she'll reply.

"Sleep well."

"Sleep well, peanuts."

"See you in the morning."

"See you in the morning, peanuts."

Always, the word is drawn out with a giggle and then emphatically expelled, the emphasis on the last syllable. "Pea-NUTS!"

Believe it or not, this reflects an improvement as it relates to her knowledge of anatomy (if not linguistics). There was a time, not so long ago, when she walked into the bathroom while The Partner was taking a shower and asked him if he was washing his vagina.