Sunday, July 27, 2008


Why is it exhausting to recall the story of my grandmother? I know there is not enough of the her I knew intimately in there yet. Hmmmmmm.

kosmicegg one, continued

Before I begin, I just have to make a note that granite counter tops have been linked with a cancer risk...

So, I know virtually nothing about the adult life of my grandmother before I was born, nothing particularly personal. She was the mother of three. She liked dachshunds. She had a Japanese-American housekeeper and gardener for many, many years -- the Iwagoshis. She objected to her children coming home from Sunday school at their Congregation Emanuel, waving Israeli flags. She was a social democrat. Her husband liked to hang out with the ladies in the kitchen. Um, and she once had a party when they were remodeling a bathroom where everyone got to put graffiti on the wall, and a mistake was made in letting people do this with lipstick.

I do know based on a hand-written note that Robert wrote to her that they once had a serious falling out where she left Robert. He said, "Don't ever leave me again, Mrs. Morris. Don't you ever do it again." What was that about? I can only imagine.

During this period I know more about Robert. He was an architect designing multiple homes over the years for the family, and big buildings like the Samsonite factory and offices, and the Denver JCC. He also was a great athlete, and was asked to join the professional tour of golfers of the time, and declined.

From this I can assume that Babette spent a lot of time at the country club, Green Gables. She may not have been the wealthiest member, but I guarantee she was one of the most sophisticated and stylish people there. She had a very dry wit, and had that ability to hit the mark with her words and descriptions. She must have been on the top of the world to some extent. The few photos that survive this period recall the style of Kathryn Hepburn, high-waisted pants, cigarettes, coifed hair-dos swept to the side, deep red lipstick.

She was particularly sweet on her son Tom, though he was out of step with everyone and she often referred to him as a salmon swimming upstream. Her son Robert was a very conforming, sweethearted boy who attached himself to Robert's brother, Earl, fondly referred to as "Nanny." Where Tom could barely tuck his shirt in, Robert was tidy and predictable. Where Robert remembers participating at Congregation Emanuel, Tom has no memory of it. Meanwhile Betsy and father Robert were both the athletes and artists.

Things seemed to go along without trauma except for running over a beloved dachshund when it leaped out of a window after a cat. She always hated cats.

Then the kids went off to school. Betsy wasn't too scholarly and went to the Arts and Crafts College in Oakland, California. Robert had some trouble at the University of Colorado and transferred to Brigham Young University and focused on Audio Design in Architecture. Tom plugged along at the University of Colorado and followed the family business -- architecture.

Robert married a nice Jewish girl from Walnut Creek, California. Tom fell in love and married a gentile Southern Belle from east Texas. Betsy had an abortion. For a Jewish woman, even one who had somewhat rejected it all due to the advent of Israel's reality, it must have seemed like things were going slightly arry. She had a strong memory of slapping Betsy for her decision to abort her baby.

Then the worst tragedy of her life came with the diagnosis of Betsy's Multiple Sclerosis. Over the course of less than 10 years Betsy's health declined, her athletic prowess left her, and her sight, and her hearing, and her mind until she was little more than a vegetable in a nursing home. Babette and Robert never recovered from the experience of it. Not only did they lose their strong, tomboy girl, they went bankrupt because she had no health insurance.

More to come...

Friday, July 25, 2008

kosmicegg one

She really could touch the tip of her nose with the tip of her tongue, and she could make the perfect cow face by rolling her eyes up and over to one side while letting her tongue wag to the other.

Babette suffered a lot and joked a lot and often put these together in pithy descriptions like, "Amanda, I'm just a butterfly in a rainstorm." I could see it perfectly, and I knew exactly what she meant somehow though I was a young child when she said it the first time. Always metaphors, never similes.

She was born in November of 1909, the late age child of her parents who already had a ten year old son, whose name I think was Burt. Her mother was not pretty, a kind of ship's masthead of a woman with broad shoulders and a don't-cross-me look on her face. Her father, however, was a pretty man with a bright smile that looked somehow starved in the faded old photos. Henry had curly hair, parted in the middle and light eyes.

Pictures of her childhood show she was clearly the apple of everyone's eyes with Mary Pickford hair curls and fancy dresses and coats, but tragedy struck her young and kept on striking for much of her life. Her father died when she was a child, maybe six years old, suddenly. Her brother, sixteen, gave his mother trouble by repeating his senior year in high school something like four times in order to stay on the football team. Tilly, Babette's mother, then kept afloat somehow on perhaps a pension. She raised chickens in the backyard in what would have been the eastern hinterlands of Denver, Colorado, beyond the end of the streetcar line.

Soon it was just mother and daughter when the brother disappeared never to be seen again by his sister, Babette, though she looked him up in every telephone book she ever saw. Babette was shy by now, and didn't like to make waves. She won best attendance in her Sunday school, and probably was learning some bit of Hebrew for her Bat Mitzvah when her mother caught the flu. It was 1922, and Babette was 13 years old. Her mother died and she had to go and live with her cousins.

What she remembered about her cousins was that they were pretty snotty but not very pretty. She often mentioned that one of them wore "pinchnese" glasses and she would wrinkle her nose to imitate this poor girl trying to keep her glasses on. Her uncle's only sign of affection was giving Babette the paper ring off of his cigars. They didn't tell her that she had money of her own, and she spent the rest of her growing up years believing she was a charity case, exacerbating her shyness.

Somewhere in childhood, perhaps, from the start at their local congregation, Babette met Robert who would later become her husband. Where she was shy, he was outgoing and rakish. He had athletic prowess, and seemingly endless creativity and ability to learn new things. She became a librarian after graduating from high school and attending a few semesters of college in Boulder.

They waited to get married until 1934, the year Prohibition was lifted. The Depression prevented Robert from getting work, and Babette felt she had to keep her librarian position. In those days they didn't allow married women to work. Her lifelong love of books and knowledge must have taken root in those years. It seems as if perhaps Robert's mother didn't approve of their union either because as soon as she died, they got married.

Their wedding was December 31, 1934. She wore an olive green cocktail dress with an orange collar and said she looked like a martini olive. This was fitting because they loved martinis and received nothing but liquor decanters and highballs and double old-fashion and champagne glasses for gifts. The judge told them that he was very grateful to be marrying them because he'd been marrying drunks all day, and he could tell that they really loved each other and would stick to their vows as couples should.

The first thing that happened was that Babette discovered she had a small fortune that she inherited upon marrying, and a house full of old-fashioned leather furniture from Robert's mother, who it seems to me more and more didn't approve of her. So, of course, she gave all the furniture away and bought ultra modern furniture for the big old house west of City Park. Robert's older brother, Earl, had no place to go and so he lived with them for many years.

Two years later Babette had her first son, Robert, then two years later a second son, Tom, and two years beyond that her daughter, Babette, fondly called Betsy. It was the end of the Depression, and the beginning of America's involvement with the war by the time Betsy was born. Her husband Robert was a full-fledged architect by then and things seemed to fall together pretty well for a long time.

More to come...

aesthetics and specialness

I am of the last year of the baby boomer generation. 1964. In a month I turn 44, and I have to say I feel hardly related to my so-called generation. I am more inclined to feel disenfranchised and left-behind like the Generation Xers. Like somehow I just missed the boat that the rest of my class got on.

This is not all bad. I once got "lost" in Disneyland and it turned out to be an enlightening experience. My friends got ahead of me, and I was left behind, wandering the theme park alone, free to observe and witness its wonders. I suppose the fact that I like Disneyland makes me a boomer, but the way I like it makes me an Xer. Does that make sense? Hmmmm. I am not frantic to ride the ride. I'm more inclined to find the place that doesn't have a line and check it out. I like the Tiki Room.

So what does this have to do with aesthetics? There is a conversation that I've heard for the last 15 or so years about tile or granite counter tops. I may have mentioned it before. I've heard it over and over and over again. I think it is the quintessential conversation of my peers. Do you like tiles? Hand-made or stone does not matter. Do you like granite or even marble? I actually have an opinion. My favorite counter top is thick, thick butcher block, oiled and hardly otherwise treated. I like it to be marked with knife scrapes and dinged with dropped pots. Are you getting my point? I saw it once in a crazy old house in South Central LA off Washington Blvd. It had real substance.

I am an architect's daughter, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter. My mother is a fine artist. I can't help using my eyes. I do a lot around the way things look. I worked for a huge corporation just qualifying things based on the way things looked. What I do now for a small, non-profit is all about the way things look.

I used to be a long, long time ago very focused on the way I looked and I spoke to impress and I said things that were silly and accidentally profound. Apparently, I had a reputation for being cool, and I find that amusing and disturbing. I'm sure it is what got me in so much trouble to begin with, caring about appearances. I just told my boss the other day that I was tragically hip and I was. It was a tragedy because I was merely avoiding the idea that perhaps I was not special. I did not want to be a statistic ever.

When I first started writing these blogs I wrote about specialness and my argument with it. I was trying so hard to learn how to be a regular person with regular needs and regular goals. I have been immersed now for nearly a year in being pretty regular. I've concentrated on working and on sharing what I know without expressing a belief that I am destined to write something great or to create something substantial. I've accepted that perhaps I'm a torch passer rather than a torch bearer. This is the only place I've been writing publicly.

I have to apologize. I've gone back and re-read some of it, and I feel really boring. The same thing over and over again. Me. Me. Me. I can't seem to get away from myself. It occurred to me just now that mayhaps I shall write about something else for a while. What if I wrote about other people I've known or am meeting? Would that be interesting? Would you like to hear what other people look like through my aesthetic? That's about as far as I can get from myself. Har. Maybe I'll write a dozen a practice and a relief from endless me.

The me generation is part of me. I can't help it, but as I'm just hanging onto that boat with my fingernails, maybe I'll discipline myself and let go. Maybe I can turn my eyes away from the mirror and learn something from my observations of others...Maybe I can see the specialness in other people. I wonder...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Space and Time and the Kosmicegg

This morning I was walking my dog, Lucille. It was a perfect summer morning. Not too hot yet. The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. A soft breeze blew through the trees that have done with their pollination and have started bearing fruit. There was a guy hauling a para sail up the mountain that I later watched circle down in a white swirl. In the shade of the pricey neighborhood just South of my public housing compound, my heart swelled with an appreciation for being in this place at this moment.

It always seems to happen for me this way: I really settle into a place and figure out how it works and learn to feel I like it, and then it is time to move.

I've moved about 20 times in 25 years. Maybe even more. I moved five times year before last year alone. I thought of starting a packing business called 20x.

So, on my walk I was thinking about how I've grown to accept and even like my neighborhood of late. I've imagined someday being able to buy a house in the pricey neighborhood south of my public housing compound. I have liked the way the gardens grow over there, and the trees are mature, more or less for Colorado, and there are places with sidewalks, and a little reservoir of water to walk around, and trails that are pretty gentle to walk Lucille on, and the god parks, I mean dog parks. I have enjoyed walking to the three or four decent coffee houses within just 20 minutes walk at the most.

Now, I'm moving away, really away from this place. I am so glad to get beyond public housing. I am moving into a place with the man I love and with the children at least half time. The place I'm moving to is just as different from this place as it can be. It may be funky to have chosen such a starkly different place, but truth be told the place I am moving to really feels relaxing to me. It's a future I dreamed of often when I was roaming and moving five times in that year after the divorce.

It's just funny to me now because it isn't the place I dreamed of from here. So I'm beginning to see how slow the law of attraction can be, how slow and purposeful. Because instead of being this completely vast improvement in my life from homelessness to having this great place, it is a medium or incremental step from a simple home to a little bit more.

That got me thinking about trajectory, how little shifts in intention lead us through life. We dream in a very limited way and the Universe lines it up for us fast enough to feel like something has happened but slow enough so that we don't implode from the change.

I started to feel sad on my beautiful walk when I thought, "Well, there's the root of disappointment!" I figured out that this constant companion of mine, called regret, really comes from space and time limitations. Because not everything I dream up is possible within the confines of space and time, within the limitations of the Kosmicegg that is this life alone.

It is only when the dream aligns with the people in my life that the incremental and lasting changes finally happen. Then some things necessarily fall away because they don't harmonize with the person who I'm dreaming the failed marriage happened because my dream and my ex-husband's dream fell apart sometime like seven years ago. It took until nearly three years ago for it to become so apparent that it couldn't be ignored, and still another six months before it could be acted upon. And, only now seven years later, am I feeling like I'm making the kind of sustainable, reasonable progress that I dreamt of shortly after 9/11. What felt like a sudden change, really took at least seven years to finally manifest -- perhaps, largely because of my resistance.

Then the progress my new love and I have made to harmonize our lives is really remarkable. It has taken a mere three years to come to a near perfect agreement since I first laid eyes on him. Still there is more that we're planning together, and some of it is still vague enough to be a mystery. And the gracious part of it is that he doesn't expect it to be a fast and sudden road to change, and I'm beginning to understand the virtue of patience! And, yes, I met this man at precisely the time that lack of harmony in my marriage had become perfectly apparent, though, I had no clue that this man I picked up at the airport for a workshop and barely spoke to would one day be my man.

I can say that right away I loved his laugh. At the time I met this man I longed for real, hearty laughter that had no cruelty in it. A little incremental shift in my perception of what I wanted in my life. It was really that simple. Isn't the Kosmicegg amazing?