Monday, August 18, 2014

Circle Game

My ex-husband died two weeks ago. Can it really be 2 weeks already? It was a huge shock to me. Still very sad, but not such a shock to those who had seen him in the last few months. He was quite ill. I hadn't seen him since my mother died in November. For at least the last 6 months of her life - probably longer - he visited her every Sunday. She had always enjoyed his company. He brought her goodies like a pie, or a cake, candy, whatever caught his eye. I got to know him a little again also. He was so kind to my mother, anything negative from our past melted away. Even though I hadn't seen him since November, it hit me hard when my brother called and told me Michael had died the night before.

Following that very sad time, I was contacted by two women I hadn't seen in at least 20 years. Michael's cousin Sandy, and his aunt by marriage who we lovingly called Uncle Debbie. I am now friends with both of them on Facebook and enjoy glimpses into their lives, opinions, and views  through that medium. Deb and I have also been emailing, trying to catch up on 20 years of separation.

About a week after "being found" by Sandy and Deb, I learned that Steve, a friend I hadn't seen in probably 15 years, was coming up from Key West to Connecticut for his Dad's 90th birthday. I gave him my number and told him to give me a call if he had some free time and maybe we could meet for coffee. He got in touch with me on Saturday and we made plans to get together on Sunday.

I picked him up in New Haven and we were talking about what to do. We decided to surprise our old pal Fritz - someone else I hadn't seen in forever. We took a shot that he would still be living in the same house. As we pulled into the parking area at the top of the driveway, there was a man outside playing a stand-up bass. Definitely not Fritz. Then Steve said "That's Bob". A bonus surprise! Last time I saw Bob, he was a member of a very popular R&B group. He was known for hanging upside down while playing the saxophone.

Following hellos and hugs and some chatting, Bob brought us in the house. "Fritz, you've got company". Steve and I stayed in the living room. Fritz turned the corner, stopped in his tracks and looked at us like he didn't know who we were. Suddenly, this huge grin appeared on his face and I thought his eyes were going to pop out. He called Steve by his last name (Fritz does that) and just laughed out loud. The two of them broke into this animated conversation and I blurted out, "Don't say Hi to me Fritz" and he looked at me like he hadn't noticed me before. "Deneen! Holy shit. I can't believe you guys are both here!" Then he asked Steve about a couple of tunes he used to play. We went outside, Steve got his mandolin out of my car (Yep, this is "Mandolin Steve", for those of you who know him) and played a couple of tunes.

Fritz had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. We sat out on the back deck for at least an hour, drinking coffee, laughing, and talking up a storm. Steve had a jam to get to and someone was picking him up at Fritz's, so the guys walked down the driveway (a very long driveway) and I drove down so Steve wouldn't have to carry all of his stuff. Lots more chatting, catching up until Steve's ride arrived. Steve is on his way back to Key West, Fritz and I are both back at work, but our day yesterday is one I'll never forget. And I have the feeling we really made Fritz's day.

I don't know if the universe is trying to tell me something, but in the last two weeks, 5 people I haven't seen in many, many years have circled back into my life. First Deb and Sandy, now Steve, Fritz and Bob. I don't know why this is happening, but I love it!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Round Robin - Full Circle

My doll from the Hot Flash! Community Round Robin arrived on my doorstep this morning. She started her tour of the country back in April (2013) as a patchwork oval with a neck and an empty middle. I packed this torso and a journal in a box and sent her on her way. This piece is about 8 inches tall.

She spent one month with each of 7 other women, who read what I had written in her journal, added their own creativity and thoughtfulness, and each added something to the doll. She has received a head and a broken heart which is mending. There are some who claim she is starting to speak - I happen to know she is starting to sing!

She received a hand positioned to say "I love you", a bluebird of happiness nesting in a rose, and to rejoice in her singing, she was given 2 dancers.

She sits in a nest that also contains a bowl of blessings, an scroll containing and Indian prayer and batik strip prayer flags.

I absolutely love this doll. From her humble beginnings, to this spectacular result - travelling for seven months, visiting with seven talented, giving women. Thank you ladies!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

All My Trials

I haven't written anything here since April. Not that there hasn't been plenty going on. Just lots of negative, depressing stuff that nobody wants to read about.

But today, something very small happened at work that transported me back about 35 years to an event that had me walking on air for days. That small event was a song that flowed from my iPod to my headphones to my memory.

Many years ago, my friend Fritz brought me to a party at a house by the beach. I didn't know anyone there. I remember Fritz telling me that he thought I'd like these people. I don't remember any of them. I don't remember anything about the house except that it was near the beach. I don't even remember what town it was. What I do remember is music. If any of you locals remember the old "Pinky" hoots in New Haven, or the current BMAD in Bethany, you'll start to develop a picture. A good sized house with live acoustic music in every room. This was my first time at a party like this.

I remember going into a room, listening for a bit, then sitting cross-legged on the floor (I could do that back then!) I sang along on the tunes I knew, hummed harmonies on the ones I didn't. Then a guy came into the room, sat on the floor across from me, almost touching knees. He sang along for a while. I don't remember how it got started, but I will never forget it. The whole room was still. It was just me and this man singing "All My Trials". I sang the melody and he added the most beautiful harmony. No sound but his voice and mine. I had never experienced anything like it. It was magical. When we finished "All My Trials", the room stayed quiet for a bit - like no-one else was there. After a minute or so, someone picked up a guitar. The spell was broken. He stayed a bit longer, sang some more, then got up and left the room. I left a couple of minutes later and looked for him. Didn't see him anywhere. I found Fritz and asked if he knew who the man was. He wasn't in the room, but he heard us singing and no - he didn't know who it was. I never did find out.


Those of you who have known me a long time, know that I love to sing. I'd rather sing that do just about anything. I started in the junior choir when I was 8 years old. I was always in the school chorus, church choir. I was in a 5-person folk group for several years and we played at the gate at the Eli Whitney Folk Festival in New Haven for three years and finally on the main stage, singing in front of several thousand people, opening for Judy Collins.

Singing is the best high I have ever experienced. But sadly, I am no longer able to sing. I won't go into why, but I hope it's temporary. Hearing Peter, Paul and Mary singing "All My Trials" this afternoon lifted me up, transported me back to a God-sent moment and gave me hope. Maybe I will sing again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fare Thee Well, Neptune

Many years ago, my friend Brenda was leaving the job where we had met and become friends. This happens a lot. What also happens a lot is that friends say "We'll keep in touch", "Let's do lunch", and after a few months, they drift apart and never see each other again. Brenda and I didn't want that to happen. So, we agreed to meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. We decided on the Neptune Diner in Wallingford as it was roughly halfway between our homes. With the exception of vacations, minor illnesses and other inevitable interruptions, we've been doing this for 20 years. And then, this morning (yes, I know it's Sunday), we met at the usual time, got out of our cars, started walking to the front door, and we were told they were closed. What? "They retired. Closed the diner". What?

Wow! That explained the comment the hostess/owner made last time we were here. Her husband was always warm and friendly, happy to see us. She rarely even said hello. All we usually heard was "Thank you" as she took our money. Anyway, last time we were there, she thanked us for coming for such a long time. Brenda and I exchanged curious glances as we left. "What was that all about?" Well, now we know.  
I've been thinking about all of the things that had happened in that diner. That was where we always exchanged Christmas gifts. I was on my way to meet Brenda about three years ago, when a young lovely with no driver's license made an illegal turn and totalled my car. Less than 100 yards from the diner. I called Brenda, she left the diner and stayed with me. We did eventually have our breakfast that morning. The owners asked if I was OK.
But my favorite memory of all is the first time I met Brenda's future husband, Tim. Tim was in the Navy. Brenda often flew down to Norfolk to see him. He knew about me. We had even talked briefly on the phone once or twice. I don't remember the occasion, but Tim was coming to Connecticut for a visit. I wanted to meet him and Brenda and I decided to have a little fun at his expense. I went to the diner at the appointed time and rather than sit at our regular table (more on that in a minute), I sat at a table for 4. In walked Tim and Brenda. I totally ignored them. I heard Brenda say "How about right here?" She stood next to my table and said "Excuse me, can we sit with you?" I looked at her like she was insane. "Excuse me?" Brenda again asked if they could sit with me. "You've got that whole table by yourself." I said I was expecting two friends. This whole time, poor Tim thinks his girlfriend has flipped her lid and he's gently and quietly trying to guide her away from me. After a couple more exchanges between Brenda and myself, I said "This is ridiculous!" and stood up. I extended my right hand and said "Hi Tim, I'm Pat. Have a seat." The look on his face was priceless!! He still talks to me.
I mentioned our regular table a little bit ago. For years and years, we sat at a table for two in front of the fake fireplace. Over the fireplace was a wooden shark and a few lines of ship's rope. One year for Christmas, I made this for Brenda:
I was pretty new at dollmaking back then, but I'm still tickled at how this came out. Since then, I've given Brenda a hand-made gift every year for Christmas. She has more of my dolls than anybody.
The Neptune is gone, but the memories of these past 20 years will never go away. We tried a different diner this morning and we'll probably be meeting there for a while.
Here's to friendship!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

One for Doug

Many years ago I lost a special friend. He came into my life at a very difficult time. My father had just died and my brother's friends spent a lot of time at the house over the next several days. I don't know if Doug and I became friends because he was the youngest of these guys, or if it was something else. I do know that over the next 10 years, we did all kinds of goofy stuff.

Doug was a pacifist and a bit of a hippie. But he also enjoyed watching Kung Fu movies. Go figure. I also remember going to many flea markets with him. All in all - one of my favorite people. We could go ages without seeing each other and he'd show up out of the blue. We'd talk about what he'd been up to and move on like he'd never been gone.

He was always seeking, looking for a peace that always eluded him. He studied Baha'i for a while and he also studied Buddhism.

In 1977, Doug moved to Boston. I don't know what happened to him there, (although I have a theory) but he took his own life.

All these years later, I finally met his brother. We talked about memories a bit and I learned that Doug was buried locally. I took a drive today, did some walking around, found his grave and placed a wreath. I have blurred his last name for the sake of the family.

It's a funny thing. I know Doug's not there. But I still spent about half an hour at his graveside, telling him I never forgot him and I never will.

I wonder what he might have accomplished if he had survived that momentary crisis in Boston and lived to see the sunrise the next day. Out of that original group of friends, I know of two PhDs and a successful tech business owner. Not bad company. I can also see Doug as an artist, maybe a teacher. Also good company.

Rest in peace, old friend. I'll talk to you soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

From the heart

I am blessed to be a member of a very special second family. Ellen and Sallianne - the ladies who run Art Is You art retreats - and the people who attend and teach at these retreats have become big parts of my life.

Nearly a year ago, just before Christmas, someone broke into Ellen's house. Luckily, nobody was home at the time, but many items were stolen. I was so upset by this news, I decided to do something very special for her. With Sallianne's help, I sent e-mails out to the East Coast attendees asking if anyone would be interested in contributing a block to a group quilt. The response I received was heart-warming.

Once I knew approximately how many players we had, I sent out the specifics (block size and my address) and in no time, blocks started rolling in. There were some artists who wanted to contribute, but they didn't sew. I asked them to email me a jpeg of a piece of their art. I printed these on special ink-jet-ready fabric and included them in the quilt that way.

As I have since told Ellen, I've had some serious depression issues over the last year and a half, especially since April when I moved to NY state. Every now and then, I'd go to my mailbox and find a package containing a quilt block. A gift of love. Several times, there was an extra goodie for me. These things just filled my heart.

On Sunday, October 7, I had the honor and pleasure of presenting the quilt to Ellen. It was during the Breakfast for the Brave at Art Is You. (Every day at Art Is You features a different mode of dress. Friday is pink day, Saturday was tutus and Sunday was PJs day. We wear our jammies all day. Since I was not able to do tutu day, I decided to wear my tiara with my jammies.)

My thanks to Lynne Suprock for the photos!


Monday, September 17, 2012

A birthday surprise

It is a beautiful Saturday morning in New England. Warm sun, a soft breeze, and just the tiniest hint of autumn in the air. At the appointed time, a family of four pulls into the parking lot. On the far side of the parking lot, a woman is standing on the grass playing a hammered dulcimer. The younger of the two daughters in the car gets very excited. "A hammered dulcimer!" she shouts. She herself is a musician and has wanted a hammered dulcimer for at least two years. She gets out of the car to watch and listen.

She and her sister, Mom and Dad come closer. The woman playing the hammered dulcimer finishes the tune she is playing and looks at the family just a few feet away. She approaches the younger girl, hands her the hammers and says "I believe these belong to you now". The girl looks very confused and a little scared. The woman puts her arm around her and gently guiding her up onto the grass says, "Let me show you your new hammered dulcimer". Standing in front of the instrument, the girl looks at her dad. "This is very confusing". The woman says "Happy Birthday" and calls her by name. The girl said "For real"? The woman smiles and nods.

Laughing, Mom and Dad step up onto the grass and introductions are made all around. The woman teaches the girl a little about how the instrument is set up, shows her all of the books and goodies she brought and passes on a few tips. "Your dad has my email address, so if you have any questions or just want to stay in touch, please feel free". Hugs all around, a financial transaction completed, one more photo and the woman heads home.

A dear friend advised me not to sell the dulcimer. He was afraid that I'd regret it down the road. You know who you are and I love you for your concern. But I've barely touched it for three years. This is an instrument that loves to sing. It has a beautiful voice and needs to be played. I have passed it on to someone who is going to love it and play it. When her dad emailed me with these photos, he said that they set it up when they got home and she's already working on 2 tunes. She's telling everybody about the whole experience. We did good!

I'm grateful that I was able to play such a pivotal role in making this a birthday she will always cherish and remember!