Saturday, September 24, 2011

Once Upon A Time

Working on Antique Hill at the Tunbridge Fair last week was enlightening in ways it hasn't been before. I haven't heard what the official numbers were yet, but it doesn't take a mathematician to know that it was a slow year. What with rainy, cold weather dampening a couple of the fair days, and the recent flooding and all, not that many folks were in a fair mood, I guess. I was only asked, by a chuckling tourist, if I "was the real Schoolmarm in 1905" a small handful of times. That's my scientific calculation on the number of fair goers right there.

On account of an attack a few years ago, we're required to work the schoolhouse in pairs now, especially at night. The buddy system seems like a good idea, both because the building is set apart from the rest of the museum and because, when it's not busy, you get pretty lonely. I was fortunate to be scheduled with four dear friends over the course of the fair, and I had the absolute best time with each of them in different ways.

In between visitors, we all had these amazing heart-to-heart talks, leaving me feeling like a blessed person to have the people in my life that I have. Something about that little, red schoolhouse invites openness and honesty, it's such a cheerful, serene, no frills place. Very special. It could double as a therapist's office if you ask me. Had I more time tonight, I'd tell you all the stories and love that came pouring out of my wonderful friends in this place last week, but for now, I'll just settle for telling you about my pow wow with Euclid.

Euclid Farnham is our town historian, a handsome, mustached, elegant farmer in his late 70's that embodies all the common sense and class a true Vermonter should. He moderates our town meetings, plays Santa Claus every December, gives slide shows at the local schools, heads up church events, library events, town-wide events, he was the president of the fair for 31 years, a retired dairy farmer, brilliant speaker, writer, just an all-around first class human being. Talking to him is a joy and I'm proud to count him among my good friends.

While Marsha, Louise, and my conversations ran more along the lines of sniffy, tear-filled purging on the subjects of love, life, divorce, children, friendships, relationships, and uh, clothes, (What? We all like them!) and Ben's was four hours of a welcome, lighthearted, clowning distraction, a never ending continual joke and fun time, Euclid's stint in the schoolhouse, Sunday afternoon, left me with a lot of thoughts on how people have changed throughout history. We spoke in depth on the topic of "The more things change, the more they stay the same" and if we believe that or not, in the course of human emotional evolution.

Long ago, when people married, maybe it was for love, maybe it wasn't. Either way, people didn't seem to feel the same entitlement to happiness and success. Now, we come into this modern life thinking "I deserve to be happy. I deserve this and this and this..." According to old journals, people didn't actually seem all that miserable with their difficult lives, their loveless marriages, their hardships and grief. It was just a matter of fact. You get up and get on with your day. There WAS joy, equal to our own. Euclid told me a story about a young woman who died in her mid-forties, and on her gravestone, her face was crudely etched, surrounded by the faces of THIRTEEN children she had born and lost. THIRTEEN. Dead. Either at birth or in early childhood. And yet she somehow kept going, her farm, her life, she JUST KEPT GOING. Were people stuffing their emotions way down deep and suffering in silence, or was it just a fact of life, so completely accepted as the way it was? Did these mothers feel too depressed to function? Apparently not. But WHY not? Can we have evolved that much over the course of a hundred years? Has our idea of happiness changed so drastically? Happiness used to be a hot meal, a warm bed, a cow in the barn, living children. Now it's this idea of getting what we want, not just what we need, but what we WANT as well. And we want the moon.

I'm not joking. We want the damn MOON. Think about it, materialistically and emotionally, we want it all...the perfect home and impressive cars and STUFF galore, health and wealth, satisfying jobs, stimulating travel, well rounded children, intelligent friends, Martha Stewart Christmas's, and a partner who loves us, respects us, reads our minds, is attractive, babies us (not too much, just enough) takes care of us (while admitting that we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and everybody else) is 100 percent sexually compatible, loyal, says all the right things, is a certain height, weight, makes grand romantic gestures, likes the same movies and so forth. Just when did this happen? Not that I think it's bad or anything...I'm certainly not saying we should go back to a time when women were possessions, and happiness was not even a consideration when choosing a mate, but it's just interesting is all. And interesting to think that when hardship befalls us, we don't instantly pick up the pieces and keep on, but instead we stop our whole lives to grieve, to work through it, to get help, to talk, to feel, to purge.

At what point did feelings outweigh practicality? When did they take the top billing in our lives? Are we handicapped by the massive myriad of choices available to us, or are we lucky? Reviewing my own sadly failed marriage, dissolved from nothing else but feelings, I know without a question that one hundred years ago, I would be still be certainly happily married, And I'm not even kidding about the happy part. Because back then, 'happy enough' was all the happy you were gonna get. And you accepted it.

Is that terrible? Euclid and I discussed the horror of being one of those 1880's, poor, farm women, burdened by toil and baby after baby, but literature tells us that they, for the most part, were "happy" people, or at least as happy as we consider ourselves to be. Now, we've invented new unhappiness to take the place of the old. It's such a mysterious thing...on one hand, we should be counting our lucky stars that we have the freedoms and options we have, and yet we never stop wanting more. (Sorry Feminists, I'm on your side, but I'm just playing devil's advocate for the sake of this blog and my curiosity at the moment. And anyway, I'm not meaning to slant this towards women, ALL people were in a similar position, happiness wise. Men were just as trapped in many ways.)

Neither Euclid or I could make out which idea was better, maybe it seems obvious to others, but honestly, I can't say for sure. It's difficult and heartbreaking to make decisions, I, personally, never know if I'm making the right it better to have the decision made for you? Or is it unacceptable to be stuck in a just-make-the-best-of-it situation..."Life's hard, and then you die?" Is that how it should be? Now or then? It's all hypothetical anyway, we ARE living in the now. But I just spent several days imagining myself living back then, and let me tell you, it makes for some deep, dark questions on who I am, and how I really would have been, once upon a time...

It's a different world, that's for sure. For better or worse, they don't make 'em like they used to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Doing the straps on their car seats this afternoon, Ira asked Avry, "Do you still have to be buckled up too?" Avry said, disgusted, "Of course. EVERYBODY has to be buckled, 'cept for people who are dogs, 'cause nobody cares if dogs go dead."

And on the way home I decided to stop and get the kids an ice cream since they'll pull the plug on the creamee machine any day now, and Avry rapturously announced, "I LOVE the cone SO much, I wish I could have it without any ice cream in it, but I want the ice cream because that's my favorite part!" Well, OK then.


Ira put his hands on his hips this morning and, looking up at the sky, shouted: "God, throw down some snow! I wanna roller skate." I'd like to retract his plea, if it's all the same to you, God. You can hold off on the snow for a good, long time still.

The Fair's over, which means it's officially Fall...leaves are turning, air's crisp...I like Fall, like the way it smells and feels. Wouldn't mind it lasting well into rollerskating season.

Here are a few shots from this year's fair...I didn't feel much like taking a zillion pictures, it was a looooooooong four days. Mostly wonderful, as always, just tiring.

My dance group's performance was a bust, not my dancer's fault, the sound system crapped out, but luckily it was a wet, cold night and only a small handful of folks had to watch the disaster that was our show. We did the best we could, and I'm proud of everybody for pulling it off when we couldn't tell what the heck song was coming out of the speakers. Ah well, better luck next time.

Antique Hill was fun and amusing, the way I expected it to be, heard lots of stories from old-timers, plenty of "I think children should still recite the Pledge Of Allegiance" and "It was better when kids got smacked for giving the teacher any lip" and "We said the 23rd Psalm every morning."

The boys got pretty exhausted this weekend, so very grateful to our super nannies for their patience. And now here we are: Fall. Extra quilts coming out, no heat yet and it's already frigid in here most mornings. Gotta get cracking. I thought we could hold out until October before needing the furnace, but maybe not. Hey God? Instead of answering Ira's prayer for snow, can you just throw down a few cords of wood? Please and thank you and Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I was eating dinner with my friend Rusty the other night when he said, "I know it's a cliche' today and all, but DO you remember where you where when you heard the World Trade Center was hit?" I do, and it was the day my photo studio officially opened for business. Written right on all my tax info and all. I had a full eight hours of portraits booked, and the first one had just arrived. The radio was set to some classical station, I'd just placed two toddler sisters, in their matching vintage dresses, on a miniature park bench, and their mother was waving and hopping and whistling behind me. A symphony cut out to an announcement that was already half over, but we got the drift. A plane had just hit the first tower, something was happening to the Pentagon, then another plane...mass confusion, bedlam... The girl's mother just walked out my door and got in her car, either to listen to her own radio, use her phone, or just be alone a moment, I'm not sure. I was stuck inside with two kids who were happily hitting each other with a sock monkey and giggling, spilling a bottle of bubbles kept on hand for catching their attention. I have no idea what I was feeling. Isn't that crazy? No idea. The rest of the day's customers were no-shows. I remember my parents saying something along the lines of "We should all go hole up at camp until the world ends". And arguing about whether or not to pick up Myra from college.

But you know what? The birds were still singing. Those small sisters were still blowing bubbles and laughing. And all around us the world was falling. ENDING. Some people go around thinking that every day of their lives. Not everyone though. Is it wrong to blow bubbles and sing? I don't think so. See, I decided perhaps the birds and kids have the right idea. Of course, I feel horrified, absolutely horrified, about what happened. The pictures of people jumping from windows, and falling to a more preferable death than what awaited inside, make me sick. I can hardly type those words, in fact. But still...

Since I'm on an anti-political kick at the moment...I won't say what I think about the whole deal. I know that sounds shitty, but I'm tired of being angry or scared or helpless/hopeless feeling. Politics may be the single biggest factor in some people's depression issues. I'm needing to focus on up-close things right now. I'm needing to focus on the good, amazing, beautiful things in every single day. My children, my home, my friends and family, the sunset, jokes, happiness. Politics don't exactly lend themselves to positive thinking. So, I'm ignoring most of it. I know that ignorance is NOT bliss, I've said that before, but give me a break Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and Oil Crisis. I'm just going to try to be a decent human being for a bit, keep on keeping on, and pretend I've never heard of you. My recycling will still get sorted, my groceries still organic, I will still disapprove of war, but for God's sake, turn on the angry political ranting, the conspiracy theories, the debate about which president sucked more...and I'll politely tune you out. It's not because I don't care, or don't have an opinion, it's because I need to. No offense to those of you that sink your energy into making changes and do so much, I'm proud of you. I understand your drive and anger perfectly. It's just my time to step back...if I dwell any longer, well, it won't be pretty.

That being said, I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to pay for my recent trip to the ER with a simple sprained ankle, and where the money for this winter's heat is coming from. I could get super furious at a system that's made to eliminate the lower class, but life is hard enough without being ticked off at the Whys and Whats of the situation. Not to mention short. Life is dang SHORT. (That tiny girl, up above? She's a teenager now, nearly six feet tall. All grown up. Only yesterday she was smacking her hysterical, chuckling baby sister with a sock monkey while the Twin Towers collapsed.) So, that's the scoop. I'm sorry if I sound like a bimbo, or irreverent about sensitive subjects, but it's the only way my head can rest. If I get back on the political bandwagon, you'll be the first to hear it. For now, please pass the bubbles.

It's A Small World After All

So, you know when you just learn something and then it coincidentally pops up immediately? Like people tell you a fascinating new fact about gorillas and then boom! ...You drive right by Gorilla Street the very next moment. (OK, that made no sense, but you get what I mean, right?)...Is there a word for this phenomenon? Knowledge + Coincidence = What? This has been happening daily to me lately, and it's awfully strange. But fun.

I've started dating John. You might know him. You might not. Anyway, he seems to be the king of this weird phenomenon. A magnet for it. One example: My sis-in-law Tamera, and her husband Sean, just moved into this darling house in Plainfield VT, (making the long trek from San Fransisco in a cramped uhaul with two cats running wild in the cab with them) which is awesome, very glad to have them less than an hour away, the kids are in ecstasies. Anyway, I was describing their cute, brick house to John...then the next day, he tells his mother about it (she lives one town over, in Marshfield) and it turns out that her partner used to own it, and once threw a naked man who was sleeping with his ex-wife down the stairs in that very house...some coincidence, huh? And also it turns out John's mom's next door neighbor is my cousin Tim, who was at their place the other night when they happened to mention their son was dating me...apparently THAT was a funny scene. If you want to use the word 'funny' to encompass all manners of awkwardness.

Another goofy coincidence happened this week, I was in the Hanover Co-Op, when I noticed all these mylar baloons on the floor in the corner. Upon closer inspection, I saw they were shaped like animals with dangling cardboard feet and leashes, and were miraculously floating just a few inches off the floor. Some brilliant mastermind figured out all the details so you can actually walk an inflatable pug dog and have it follow right behind you, bobbing along completely realistically. (I was really into these, as you can probably tell.) I led one up and down a few aisles, other shoppers giving me the wow-now-she's-a-piece-of-work-whatta-freak eyeball before I decided I had no real need for an eleven dollar balloon shaped like a pug dog. Next day, a friend shows me a video saved on his phone of his son trying to pop an INFLATABLE MYLAR PUG DOG.

Is any of this important or meaningful? No. Just curious. And I like silly parallel occurences.

Yeah, my life, which is on an uncharted course at the moment, unsure and all very new and foreign, is suddenly filled with many, many chance happenings, deja vu, coincidence after coincidence, seemimgly random encounters with the very same person you were just speaking of, odd moments of supernatural connections...rather interesting, to say the least. Such a small world. Once you actually pick your head up and look around anyway. Maybe I haven't done that for a while.

What's that game? Five Degrees Of Separation? Where you can connect any two people in no more than five steps? Here in Vt, I feel like you can cut it down to TWO degrees of separation. And throw in a few gorillas, naked men, shocked cousins, and helium-bloated pug dogs for good measure.