Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chet Baker and peace in stormy L.A.

A quick note about the last blog entry: Thanks for all the feedback I've been getting about the story I wrote of challenged fertility and coming to peace with the family you have vs the family you pictured. Thanks also for the amazing personal stories that readers/friends are sharing. Most of you are emailing or FB-ing them rather than posting them, due to wanting anonymity or not wanting to have to register. To that end, we are working on a website dedicated to the project. I'll keep this blog going here and let you know when the site is up and running. At that point, you can post your stories anonymously or signed, and without having to sign in. Stay tuned...

It's been raining in Los Angeles for days. It's not a Los Angeles rain; it's what I imagine a Seattle rain or London rain might feel like. Falling asleep to the gentle pounding, waking up to a glary gray sky and windows spattered with drops. My two best friends from childhood live in those cities and I picture them wet, mossy, moody, cozy, a little sad. I looked away from the keyboard as I tried to type "moody" and I accidentally typed "mossy." I left it in because I liked the way it sounded. Mossy. That's how I feel right now: a little mossy. My husband and 6-year-old daughter just headed out to see Tangled and do some Christmas shopping, generously giving me a couple hours to write. Now that I've come back to it, if I don't have some writing time every day, I feel out of sorts, off, irritable. I remember reading Rainer Maria Rilke "Letters to a Young Poet" in college and he wrote about how a writer has to write every day. Over the years I'd question myself - am I a "real" writer? I don't write every day. Now I realize that a day when I write is a better day.

I have the IPod on shuffle in a docking station and some songs are just right - an Elvis Costello ballad, an old standard sung by Mel Torme, a silly Belle and Sebastian tune, but something just came on that is like that screech across the record album, "Ain't no cure for the summertime blues," sung by some bad country act. One of those - why do I have this on my IPod - moments? I'm getting up, excuse me...okay I'm back. Well, that was a big bummer. Turns out it was James Taylor (who anyone who knows me knows I love love love beyond reason and beyond criticism) on a recent Covers album he did. It was orchestrated like bad contemporary country and I am now working on flushing that sound from my memory lest it color my deep love of JT. Okay, got on Beck, singing Debra - "I wanna get with you...and your sister, I think her name's Debra..." That's so much better. Ahhhh.... Even though he's a scientologist. I probably shouldn't have typed "scientologist" into my blog. They're probably reading this as I type, internet spiders honing in on anyone who mentions the word.

Yesterday I was driving down to Playa Del Rey to swap some clothes at this awesome designer swap place - - feeling aware of my privilege and of the fact that we are living slightly above our means right now and fighting the urge to go get a thai massage just to really drive that home - and I passed a long line of parents and children, huddled under umbrellas, outside the police station. It took me a second to put it together: Toy Drive. Every year the police station by our house collects new toys then has a toy drive at which parents can come get free toys for their children. The parents have to bring the children with them. I think the rule is that one child has to be there for each toy. I wonder if they're wrapped - the presents, not the children. If not, doesn't it ruin the surprise? I guess the surprise is pretty limited when you've stood for hours in the rain to earn your own present. Or does it give it that much more values? I've been struggling with how to help my daughter see the value of what she has, without stooping to the "There are children in Africa who would kill for that spaghetti you are poo-pooing! What's it like to be those children, standing in the rain with your parents, watching them accept your gifts from police officers? Normal, I imagine. Just like anything, it's just the way those families do Christmas. Is it any weirder than parents shopping without you, sneaking presents into stockings and claiming Santa Claus?

I waited to feel sad, guilty, even enraged at the social injustice. But this weird feeling came over me as I sat at the red light and watched the families huddled under big umbrellas, socializing, laughing, sharing free cups of hot chocolate. I felt a little jealous. It looked like such a community. It looked comfortable and friendly, if a little cold and wet. The kids were running around on the slippery patch of grass outside the station. The line was moving pretty fast. It was about half as long as the previous year when it was standard L.A. sunny outside. I wondered if the parents on line felt lucky that it rained, if they'd get a better pick or maybe even extra gifts this year. I am so glad we are building the public charter school that I'm sure I'll write more about in this blog over time, as it's the center of our family's social/educational/emotional/physical life right now. I finally feel like we have a community in L.A. It changes everything.

Chet Baker just came on my IPod - "Although I can't dismiss the memory of her kiss, I guess she's not for me..." oh God I love his voice. Crap, just got followed by Gloria Estefan, put on the IPod by my husband, I swear. Yep, my husband likes Gloria Estefan - should've put something in the wedding vows - "in bad musical taste and good..." I jump up, run over, turn it off, flip to "artists," select Chet Baker, it'll be all Chet for the rest of the morning. Perfect for a rainy, chilly, L.A. day. Two sweet neighbor boys just brought me a bag of lemons from their lemon tree. Dominic was just a baby last time I looked, now he's got a mohawk. The gratitude is seeping back in as I write all this down. It doesn't take a masters in psychology and a license in marriage and family therapy - (Both of which I have by the way. Just saying) - to know that writing is therapeutic. That the act of slowing down and honing in, noticing the details of the day, recording them, brings a sense of purpose that's hard to achieve any other way. The wind is picking up outside and against the pale sky the undulating trees look unstable, overwhelmed by the sudden dramatic weather. Tonight we will take my dad out for a belated birthday dinner, then come home and start a fire in the fireplace. We will drag my daughter's futon in and cuddle up. Tonight's plan is a family camping trip in the living room. For now, Chet Baker's trumpet, stormy winds, a cup of mint tea, and gratitude. So much gratitude.

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