Them Bootsies

There is a horrid word advertisers are trying to make us say these days–“shooties”. “Little” or “ankle” boots wouldn’t do? But I suppose they assume that teens and 20-somethings have such a tenuous grip on the English language that you can convince them to say anything, especially if it’s the name of of something to place on one’s body.  Because, to utter that peculiar name while pointing at someone else wearing the item is important too.  “Oh my God, she wore her ______ to volleyball practice!”

A couple of years ago I stunned my fashion-conscious middle-schooler (she was then at the bossier end of the elementary grades) by showing her the ankle-high cowboy-boot-shoes I wore when living as a single professional in a state far to the south and west of here–in another life, really. “Whose are those?”–I’ve gotten used to this response to the few remnants of pre-motherhood still to be found in my closet. This week I gave my cowboy (cowgirl) ankle boots the final tryout–nope, my feet will never be that size again. A little due to rainstorm shrinkage on the boots themselves–the streets of that arid state really flow deep when a sudden thunderstorm comes–and a lot due to the burdens of childbearing and child-carrying, my feet are permanently bigger and flatter now.  There is no hope that I could even walk a few steps in these wishful allusions to (for me) an exotic lifestyle.

When I could wear them, so long ago, I loved them because they gave an edge–and a pointy toe–to my extremely bookish life.  The word “shooties” didn’t exist, thank ye gods, and if anyone had called them by that word, I’m sure I would have stopped wearing them that day, after retorting that, yes, they were cowboy boots of a sort but that the steel-capped beak did not, in fact, shoot bullets.  Except figurative ones at such awful little compromises.  You may be wearing part of a boot that might be warping your foot slightly, and enjoying it, but calling it by a name that tramples over the daily delights of language…makes my toes curl.

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I Hate This Notebook

(revised from an earlier, secret, blog)

I hate this notebook. It’s fat, almost 2 inches thick. A little brown brick of paper and temptingly leathery binding material.  The first time I saw it in a big chain bookstore, in the self-indulgent “Journals & Blank Books” aisle, the price was marked at $10.  Our baby was new and we weren’t spending much on ourselves since I was staying home–with no salary–to look after her; I fondled the notebook, and thought, you could travel months without having to buy a new journal, you could go and go and go, if you had THIS.  500 pages!  Cool quadrille, like the paper my German friends cover with their spidery handwriting.  Never mind that I wasn’t going on any solo trips any time soon, and hardly had the chance to take a shower or comb my hair, let alone write 500 pages.  The most writing I had managed so far—and I felt gleeful about that–was sending emails with the baby on my shoulder.

Several years later, when the baby had become a child, I spied the same notebook, this time wrapped in cellophane, in another big chain bookstore, in another state far away; I thought, ok, this will be my souvenir from this road trip–notebooks often are, along with a couple of postcards I buy to keep for myself.  My long-held desire for a child had been fulfilled, and I bought the brick full of other big desires: to write all the time, to set down all the things I hadn’t taken the time to (did I have the time?) when my girl was a toddler. I thought, I’ll scribble and scribble and catch up.  It will hold lots, I’ll carry it everywhere…

But The Notebook, my brick, feels like it weighs about five pounds, and its dense, rounded, just-above-handbook size is a factor of its tumbling off your lap, out of your tote bag, and of its generally taxing waywardness.  I have wished many a time that I was a bigger, stronger, wider-shouldered person, all so I could use this notebook with ease and happiness.  I had just spent a couple of years lugging around a roly-poly baby who demanded to be held all the time; I could wrangle an 18 lb deaf cat into its hated pet taxi.  But this notebook was going to break my back, because I wanted to have it with me all the time, everywhere.  So I could become the Herculean writer I wanted to be.  At the beginning (and now, at the end, with only 8 pages to go), when you open the notebook, one side is thin and wimpy; you have to rest the remaining right-hand pages on another book to write on them.  In the middle of the journal (and oh what it takes to get there in one of these stubby contenders!), it won’t lay open.  It wants to close up sluggishly, mid-thought, like a brainless sea creature whose nerves are set off by drifting oceanic chemicals you can’t see.

Writing a LOT had been the initial idea with The Notebook, and cramming it, being economical with paper and copious with words.  When I began writing in it, I used each and every quadrille line and made myself a little blinder than I already am.  Then the light bulb went off and I began to skip a line, but I felt like a lavish and wasteful Big Capitalist, sure to be swallowed up when the earth turns in on itself like a dried stoneless peach.  (Where would thrifty recyclers, among whom the Aristotelian ideal of my soul dwells, be?  Sitting up there on the branches of the heavenly tree Yggdrasil looking down at me in their long, natural, green-cotton robes?  They would be barefoot of course, but their feet would be CLEAN.)

The brick notebook is filled now.  That feels strange to say.  It happened only a few days ago, in the interstices of the cataclysms of our moderately sized emotional world:   we finally decided to go abroad as a family, finally decided to get our little house painted to sell (we are do-it-yourselvers very reluctantly giving in to the realities of jobs dominating our lives and to our limited physical capacities), and monitored Hurricane Gustav as it passed over my parents’ Louisiana home.  I kept writing in the margins of the brick’s filled pages, trying to make sure it was “complete”.  How could it be?  It wasn’t a novel with a beginning, middle and end.  I at least wanted to write R. I. P. or Om at the end.  It just filled up, sitting on my big cluttered desk, like a stomach filling up with odds and ends rather than with one hefty meal.  Then the nervous ritual of searching for a new notebook to continue in began.  I decided it wouldn’t be a fancy new one, because writing is what I do every day and I didn’t want to encourage myself to be arch or prim or special about it.  I found a simple spiral school-supply notebook in my desk drawer at work, and put it in a macho black executive-looking cover to disguise it for day-job purposes.  Only a few entries in it so far, but one includes the words “this is the right kind of notebook to have–flat and wide”.

Busy work

Oh, I wanted to keep my mind outdoors—in the crazily ripening accidental tomatoes (they are ours twice removed, literally), in the too-long grass, in the crows hopping among the first authentic red-brown leaves of fall. But repeatedly my eyes fall to the living room floor and the two trays of my daughter’s childhood crafts junk I’ve put there to pick through– an auxiliary to TV-watching, I naively thought a few days ago. Somehow I’ve managed to watch only gripping British films and BBC serials in the last few days, and the tantalizing, annoying, mixture remains untouched, a still life a little crazier than but sharing major colors with fancy gelatin salads featuring suspended fruits inside. As a sworn recycler, I can’t just “throw it out”, but must unwind pipe-cleaners from plastic spoons and single chopsticks and donate or deposit everything separately. Some of these chopsticks–the spares from many meals at a single Chinese family restaurant–are carefully wrapped in gold lame ribbon. In the trays are eight kinds of stickers (including home-made ones reminding me of moon and stars cutouts on proverbial country outhouse doors), and 17 kinds of large beads. Some stickers are threaded through with gimp. There are pen caps and perfectly good crayons, shiny alphabet letters that don’t stick to anything and doll brushes, cutouts from art museum catalogs and sewing-store ads. On a trip downstairs just now, I noted a doll’s picture cut out of the packaging in a sun-burst shape. I shake my head and swear I will get down to business tomorrow. Would it make it easier to take it outside and lay it on a blanket under the winking autumn sun?

Hello world!

September 16, 2010

Time to notice the world appears as calm, sharp, sunshine through a cold window, and a blush at the top of maple trees–aren’t they supposed to wait a few weeks?  No, we will not turn the furnace on yet, though some would, and the cat keeps asking about it by parking his generous self on any dark appliance with a cord.  (He was looking into a large black ring binder last, but it didn’t have a plug, so he left harrumphing).  We don’t quite want to give in to socks either, though we are loathe to let go of our cozy pets–our shoes and slippers–now even inside the house.  This blog is going to be a couple of paragraphs per post from some moment during living, hearing, seeing, in mostly ordinary moments in central Maine.

Some years ago–my first year in Maine,when my lanky child was a toddler yanking at the hem of my sweater–I tried my first hand quilting on a yard-square scrap-salvage piece for my mother, and called it Winter Sunshine.  I quilted standing up in front of a pile of boxes by a window, and the latter poured in every day, surprising me so after a number of dreary grey winters in in a midwestern town.  The sunshine made me awake and warmed my hair and face, despite the grimness of the scene outside–“inner city” Maine, where borderline characters rode their snowmobiles up and down the sidewalk under the scowling brows of the police.