october leaves

me breathless

I can hear you

speak again

inside fractured

shades of when

in the wind,  you

breathe again

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My children are obsessed with people’s names. At least once a week, we have the same conversation. It goes something like this:

“What’s your favorite girl name, Mom?”

“Gabrielle and Sophia.”

“No, just one!”

“I can’t choose just one.” (For obvious reasons.)

“Why do you like them?”

“Because they sound beautiful and I love what they mean.”

“What does my name mean?”

“Child of God.”

“Mine?”

“Wise.”

“And my middle name means “born again,” right?”

“Yes, Gab.”

“What about mine, Mom?”

“You’re named after Mom-Mom.”

Then I quickly change the conversation, before Sophia can ask me what it means.

 

In my state, hours after you give birth, while you’re still feeling like you’ve been run over twice by an 18 wheeler, you receive a phone call from some state employee asking you to confirm your baby’s name. This was not the case in the state where I had my first daughter, so I was not prepared for this phone call. I was banking on a little more time to convince my husband that it was really not necessary to name this child after his mother. It’s not that I dislike his mother. It’s just that her name means “bitter and warlike” and when coupled with the name Sophia, it sounds like I just gave birth to a Spanish toreador whose last name should be “Ole.” This doesn’t seem to upset him in the least.

                “It’s only a middle name, Dee, what’s the difference? It will mean so much to her. Don’t I have a say in this? She’s my daughter, too. I think I deserve a say here too, don’t I?”

Listen buddy, come talk to me after you’ve pushed a bowling ball out of no-man’s land and need to send out a search party to find your feet before you can get dressed. Then you’ll have your say.

This is what I’m thinking. But what comes out of my mouth is “Of course you do, honey.” Because given a little more time, I know I can use my feminine wiles to help him see the light. 

So when the phone rings, my husband picks it up, mumbles something to the caller and hands it to me with a huge smile. I’m expecting to hear “Congratulations!” or a “Dee, is it okay if I teach Gabby how to make homemade spaghetti?” from my sister who is watching my 3 year old daughter.

“Ma’am, what is the baby’s full name?”

“Ummm, yes.”  I look at my husband. He’s still smiling.

“Ma’am?”

“Sophia.”

“Full name, Ma’am?”

“Cross.”

“No middle name?”

I snap my fingers at my husband and point to the open door, hand flapping wildly, and mouth the words “Can you go get the nurse for me?” then put the back of my hand against my forehead, like I’m going to faint. I need to get him out of this room.  Now.

He nods his head, gives me the okay sign and quickly gets up and shuts the door. And sits back down across from me.

“Ma’am?”

“Ma’am???”

I blurt it out quickly and end the call. My husband is wearing a nauseating smile that takes up his whole face. I want to smack him.

“Thanks, Dee. I love you.”

I hate you.  I’m tacking 16 weeks onto the post-partum recovery schedule and cancelling your Sports Illustrated subscription.

“I love you, too, honey. Can you do me a favor and please go get the nurse? I’m feeling really nauseous.”

 

Now, how do I tell my daughter, who knows how much thought I put into finding a name with just the right meaning for her older sister, that her name means “wise and bitter and warlike?” It’s bad enough that you can’t say her name without singing it because it has so many stressed, long vowel sounds. I’m sure most people don’t worry about things like this.  Most people probably don’t even have this conversation with their kids. But like I said, for whatever reason, my kids are fascinated with names.

This leads me back to the original intent of this post. Today my daughter asked me what name I would choose if I could name myself. This is not the same question as “What’s your favorite name?” My favorite name wouldn’t “fit” me. It’s too glamorous and is meant for a full-blooded, very cosmopolitan Italian woman with long and lean legs, a body that would stop traffic and long, flowing black hair (and now you all know that is definitely NOT me.) I do know that it isn’t Danielle, because I don’t like the sound of it –“Dan Yell” (although my mother pronounces it “Den Yell,” unlike the rest of the universe.) I don’t like the meaning, either. My name means “God is my Judge,” and that’s not something I prefer to think about. So I don’t particularly like my name and I don’t feel it fits me.

That’s what I am thinking about today. If I could name myself, what name would I choose? What name fits me?

 I’m asking all of you the same question—what name would YOU choose, and why?

                 I hate dress-up days.

                When I was a kid, I loved playing dress-up. I’d put on one of the many dresses my grandmother bought me and I refused to wear except for this purpose, paint my lips with my mother’s bright fuchsia lipstick (the shade she still wears to this day) and top off my femme fatale impersonation with the straw hat I hid under my books in the closet on Easter morning. Then I’d do the same to my little sister, and drag her down the steps to perform a song for my adoring audience.  We wowed them every time, without fail.  I decided that I’d put my Tony award in the bookcase I used for a Barbie house, because after all it needed a little glitz.

                Dress-up isn’t fun anymore. No one claps for me.

                But today I have a “very important” client meeting downtown in the city’s crown jewel, a building so high I get vertigo when I look out the massive windows to the street below. So high that my ears pop when I get off the elevator. And this king demands his audience dress appropriately. Which means I need to wear my damn costume. I am not happy about this at all. I hate suits, and I despise their implications for my feet.

                I am not a short woman. In fact, at nearly 5’7” I might even be a bit above average height. Even taller when my hair is all punky the way I like it. My legs, however, are not quite average length.        Okay they are short. The thing is, you would never even notice it if you saw me. I don’t look grossly disproportionate (unless everybody is lying to me and I look like a funhouse distortion) and to be honest it never really bothered me until a few years ago.  I loved to see the shock and awe on the faces of the people in my yoga class when they watched me reach three full hand lengths past my toes while they grimaced trying to get to their ankles. “You’re so flexible” they would say with great admiration, and in truth, I am flexible, but of course the fact that my legs are stumps doesn’t hurt matters any.  

                Back to my feet. Because my legs are short, and because I am too cheap  busy to get alterations, my pants are always ridiculously long. Petite sizes don’t fit me.  So every pair of jeans I own has frayed and ripped bottoms. (I’ve decided it looks trendy.) Lucky for me, I own my own business, work from home and don’t ever have to wear anything other than jeans. Except on dress-up day, when I have to wear this damned suit. Of course, I am cultured enough to know that it is not acceptable for my pant legs to be dragging down Broad St, so to solve this problem, I decide on high heels. Very high heels.  Stilts, actually. Yes, 5” heels definitely qualify as stilts, don’t you think?  I know what you’re thinking—why not a skirt suit. Let it be known henceforth that I hate skirts even more than I hate high heels, unless they are flowing and gauzy and decidedly unprofessional.

                So I put on the costume, don my new stilts and trip out the door. Coffee? Check. Briefcase? Check. Laptop? Check. Black cami to hide the inevitable coffee spill?  Check. Corporate attitude?

Ahem.

Corporate attitude?

 Hmmm.

I decide to work on this during the car ride, which is a good hour without traffic. Plenty of time to find my moxy and put my game face on. It’s going to take a bit of coaxing and prodding, because I find corporate America to be very much akin to puppets these days, I don’t always play nice in the sand box, and I have a hard time holding my tongue when I see questionable ethics.  But I need to get ready for the show. Yes, I can do this. Focus.

            Except I can’t.  Because I am suddenly being pelted with ideas and inspirations from all angles. Seems my muse is throwing a bit of a temper tantrum at having to wear this mental straightjacket. Business is the last thing on my mind. I’m writing poetry. I’m writing this. This battle between left and right brain goes on for a good 30 minutes. Finally, I give up. It’s clear who is going to win this war.

               Soon I forget about the fact that my toes are jammed into two inches of paper at the front of my shoe (I had to stuff them with the store packaging because my heel kept coming out when I walked) and I am in full creative mode. I am on the hunt for ideas. I’m reading signs, scanning faces of the people in the cars next to me. I pass the international airport and wonder where people are going and if they are happy about it. I wonder if I’ll ever really get to Italy and be able to sit down across from the ancient toothless lady in the little village whose apron is covered in ripe plum tomatoes. I vow to myself that yes, someday I will. And then it starts to rain.

Umbrella?

Damn it.

No umbrella to be WAIT! Yes, an umbrella on the floor behind me! A teeny little navy blue umbrella with constellations scattered across it. And Snoopy looking up at them. Oh yes, and Woodstock too.

I swear I hear my right brain make nana-nana-poo-poo noises at my left.

         I contemplate this rather hilarious situation. In the end, I decide that I would LOVE to carry that Snoopy (and Woodstock) umbrella, just to see the faces of the people around me as I walk the streets with them, all suited up and proper on my way to Oz. This was going to be fun.

           My thoughts shifted away from the umbrella quickly as I approached the bridge. No, not a bridge…the tunnel into the bowels of the Death Star, and I am Chewbacca  Princess Leia sitting alongside Luke Han Solo on a mission to save the universe. This time, though, Han will realize how awesome I am when I flash him my humble but oh-so-regal smile and soon we will be back on the Millennium Falcon on our way to the planet Venalutia for our honeymoon.  After all, I’m wearing killer heels today, not those ugly granny boots.

        The car that almost ran me off the road put a quick end to my intergalactic romance and brought me back to reality. Nice, lady—real nice.  We were just about to kiss.

           Hmmmm—she’s wearing scrubs. A nurse? A doctor, perhaps? Well…I guess there are worse people to be hit by. At least she can help me if she isn’t dead when we crash. I decide not to flip her the bird, which, of course, would be very unprofessional.  Score 1 for left brain. Glad to see you’ve got a little fight left in you.

         Five minutes later, the Crown Jewel now looming in the cityscape, I am pulling off the interstate and on the hunt for parking.  Well, well–isn’t this just grand?  On the right, we have free parking for those visiting the unemployment office. Behind us, we have free parking for the “Executives” in the building. But for me, Ms. Middle Class Corporate Imposter in Stuffed Stilts and a Suit, that will be $33.00 per hour, payable by cash or credit card. The rain stops as I take my ticket and the sun pokes out from behind the Emerald City. I won’t need an umbrella now.

        I hate today.

        Maybe it’s just me, but I detest parking garages. I cringe every time I pull in and have to go under the clearance signs, always afraid of hitting it with the top of my car. Maybe that’s because one time I actually did.  That’s a story for another day. For today, I maneuver this behemoth SUV around tight corners and try, like an imbecile, to back into a tight parking space. The parking attendant (a very wise man, indeed) runs over and offers to park the car for me.  I almost hugged him in relief but left brain made another brilliant save and I just handed over some cash and thanked him like a proper lady.

        Then I notice something when he’s parking the beast. What’s that red thing in the white bag up against the back window?  I’m running late, but curiosity gets the best of me and I have to find out. I open the trunk and drag the bag towards me. Two googly eyes on a mess of red fur stare back.

        Elmo.

        It’s Emo Elmo, who lost his ability to laugh even when subjected to the most vicious tickles, best knock-knock jokes and fresh batteries.  Bound for the Island of Misfit Toys.  He’s been depressed for years, and been in here for well over a month.  I had forgotten all about him, and now here he is, staring at me with big googly eyes and a black hole puppet mouth.

       Now this is ironic. Funny, even.

       I pat him on the head. And he laughs.

He LAUGHS. He laughs loudly, and it echoes through the parking garage. And now I’m laughing, because Emo woke up after two solid years of sleep, just in time for my little masquerade. I know it’s a fluke and won’t last. I look at him for a minute, consider his fate, and then give him the thumbs-up sign.

I shall save you, Emo. Today you live.

The crowd goes wild.

I think he smiled.

        I pull him out of the bag and toss him into the front seat, grab my 20 pound briefcase, laptop and 10 pound feet and head towards the escalator. I have to hurry. 10 minutes to show time.

       Down the escalator to the crosswalk I go, and stand there with 30 other suits waiting for the white hand to blink. And…we’re….off! White hand blinks, and suddenly I am the lone horse at the end of the track staring at the rear ends of everybody as they race towards the finish line. Even the woman with hips that could give birth to a city block is beating me by a mile. What the hell is going on here???

      It is at this point that I make a scientific discovery. It is not anatomically possible for a short-legged woman with a long stride to walk in 5 inch heels without looking (and feeling) like she is doing lunges. It is also at this time I notice that the rest of the females are wearing sneakers. CHEATERS! I want  to yell, but I can’t because I am dangerously near collapsing from exhaustion.

                But I don’t collapse.  And despite my heels coming out of my shoes and the fact that I am tripping over my pants which miraculously grew an inch in one hour, I make it across the street, into the building, and up to the 32nd floor.

                On the way to the meeting place, I meet a woman I’ve been emailing for over a month for the first time, in person. She has a huge afro and a voice like a cello. I love her instantly. Anyone who can wear a suit and still have the guts to have hair like that is a-okay in my book. I strike up some conversation because I just love that voice. I wish my husband had a voice like that. I tell her this (not the husband part) and tell her she should be in radio. Turns out she is trying to break into voice-over  business and what do you know, she’s a writer, too.  I decide I am a very good judge of character and consider a new hair style as I walk towards THE office.

                Deep breath. It is time.

                What is this on the door jamb?

                It’s red fur.

                I can’t help it. I burst into giggles like a two-year old.

 

                                                                  ********************

 

                I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but I am happy to report that my meeting went extremely well , despite my obvious handicaps (mental being the most obvious).  Fist thumpin’ good, in fact. And, within an hour or so, I was back in the car.

Emo was waiting. I high-five him.

                Nothing.

                I tickle his belly.

                Nothing.

                I fist-thomp him on the head.

                He laughs.

                Yes, I made a good decision.

                My co-pilot and I share a few laughs on the way home. I walk in the door in stocking feet, holding my shoes and Emo, with frayed pants despite my best efforts to be the epitome of professional.

I put on my frayed jeans and a tank top.

Grab a cup of coffee, light a candle, sit down in front of my computer and start typing.

I’m back in barefoot comfortable Heaven.

 

       So there you have it. Probably more than you wanted to know but I sure had fun writing it.

May all of you have a fabulous, relaxing, and completely un-suitable weekend!  🙂

We reminisced about growing up

on Blanchard Road.

I remembered sneaking peeks

of the neighborhood kids playing

kick the can

from a blue rocking-chair on the porch

above the garage, hiding in the shadows

of the old oak tree with my pile of books,

high above the street.

I planned my escape to the countryside

with a mouse and a cricket from Times Square,

while he produced and directed Star Wars,

alone in his room high above the porch,

his empty triangle space-ship hands

flailing and poking air, at war

with each other, in an epic battle

between good and evil where no

one was ever hurt.     

We laughed until

we cried.

You are what your deep, driving desire is.


As your desire is, so is your will.


As your will is, so is your deed.


As your deed is, so is your destiny. 

 

                                                                                       

 

This is one of my favorite quotes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad . I’ve been trying to identify my own driving desire, and in doing so realized that I have never really taken the time to get to know myself. Sound strange? My daughter asked me some simple questions about myself that I couldn’t even answer: favorite color, favorite food, favorite book, happiest memories besides the birth of my girls and wedding day. I realized I had never taken the time to consider how I feel about any of these little things, much less try to identify what it is that I truly desire beyond the obvious good health, happy family, etc.

So, what is your deep,driving desire? Do you know? Do you have one? If not, maybe it’s time to step away from the daily chaos and spend some time thinking about who you are, who you want to be, and what you truly desire.

Good vibes to all,

D

 

She sat beside me

and watched me struggle

as I attempted to build

an empire from broken glass and tears

with retaining walls and a moat in defiance

of the tide.  

it will never be strong enough she told me

but there is nothing more you can do

it will soon be gone and I knew that

she was right.

I wiped the sands

of make-believe from my eyes and cheeks

and we sat together and watched the ocean

swallow the kingdom, leaving only wet

clumps of a childhood dream, an illusion

at our feet.  

follow me she said, and I walked with her to the edge

of the water. We stood ankle deep in silt

and broken shells. We stood in the only silence

that can be known on the edge of the water,

the kind of silence where you know

you are not alone

and never can be. We stood together,

worlds apart for what only seemed to be

an eternity.

 

Gentle swells brought children dancing in the surf

singing and playing the games that children play,

unknowingly conjuring spirits and speaking truths

they have yet to learn

                                          ring around

                                          the rosie

                                                         a pocket

                                                         full

She smiled at me and took my hands in hers

and we splashed and stumbled in circles

once, twice, three times

                                                          ashes

                                                          ashes

We all fall

And I knew it was time to let her go.

 

I turned away, holding in my hands the remnants

of her that had woven into my fingertips

and walked back up the sand

to my daughter, who was waiting for me

with the ocean in her bucket, waiting to build

sand castles.

She had

very little

in her cart

and she was

poking at pockets

searching for papers

and coins

in her wallet

and robbing me

of my time

when a plastic

accordian of photographs

fell to the conveyor belt

and I noticed a snapshot

of her with a man

they were smiling

he had his arm around her

and she showed the cashier

who said something

and touched her

hand

 

then she unloaded

her basket and

she had

a bouquet

of carnations and daisies

a steak

two tomatoes

a head of lettuce

and

one

single

ear of corn

and I suddenly felt ashamed

and I wondered

if she noticed

and she looked at me

full of sorrow

knowing I knew

at once,

She had.