Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Scent of a Bookstore

What is it about the scent of a bookstore that is so appealing for me I wonder? I just love the way bookstores smell and could just go inside to browse, and to take very deep breaths, inhaling the scent of all the written words that exist in them. Maybe it’s because they smell like libraries that I like them so much. From the time I was very young I have also loved libraries. There weren’t too many bookstores around when I was growing up, so when it came to reading books, the library was the place to go.

My siblings and I grew up with a mother who read to us. We would sit on the couch at night next to my mother, who would read us all kinds of stories. We would often beg, “Please, just read one more chapter…please.” Fairy tales, nursery rhymes, short story collections, children’s novels, my mother read them all. I can vividly remember sitting snuggled up right next to her, tears streaming down my face as she read for probably the twentieth time, The Little Match Girl. I would plead with her to read that story, even knowing that the outcome always made me cry.

The Little Match Girl was part of a Christmas short story collection that we had in our home when we were growing up. It was the story of a little girl who was so poor, she had to sell matches to survive and how one night… she didn’t…. survive that is. I would cry as I listened to my mother read how this little girl gazed longingly into windows where families sat in warm homes, with food on the table and she had none. I would sob when suddenly she felt warm and before her, appeared her grandmother, taking her hand and leading her off. Initially I had no idea exactly what had happened, until my mother explained that in fact, the little girl had died and gone to heaven to live with her grandmother, where she would never feel cold or hungry again…..that’s when the sobbing began. Even knowing the outcome of the story, I would cry over and over again. Looking back on this, it must have been torture for my mother to have to read this story that always made me cry. That was not the only story I cried through though, there were others….and often I think my mother was probably inclined to cry a little bit too.

Every summer we joined the summer reading club at our local library. Weekly and sometime even daily trips there were common for us during the summer months. Take out books, run home and read them, write the report, then back to the library to hand in the report and earn your points toward the prize of your choice and the end of summer party. I would often lie on my bed in my hot bedroom and read hour after hour. But even without the prizes and the parties, I would have been in the library. Because of my mother, I learned to appreciated written words at a young age and have loved them ever since….as well as the scent of those words as written into books.

I’m not sure when, but at some point book clubs became popular and still may be. For a penny you could join and order ten books, along with committing yourself to purchasing four or five more at full price in a one or two year period. Purchasing the additional books at full price was never a problem for me. The problem would be purchasing too many of them and then having to come up with the money to pay for them all.

Book clubs were when my book collecting really started. By then I had a part time job, so I could afford to actually buy books, as long as I was able to limit myself…it was for me, a little like being a drug addict….I was addicted to books. Over the years, my book collecting tastes have changed. Most of the books that I bought when I was much younger are gone, having been sold in yard sales or donated, or been given away. I have held on to a few of my childhood books that amazingly enough, are on a book shelf in my transition home right now. One day I’m hoping to sit on a couch somewhere and read them to my grandchildren. They now sit among my collection of mysteries, thrillers, novels, books on how to garden, home medical books, true crime books, the Harry Potter books, cook books, how to teach yourself *whatever* books, social work books, text books and history books…..and I just love the way they smell.

Currently I have forbidden myself from purchasing any more books. I do not go down the book aisle at Costco if I can help it, nor do I venture into bookstores of any kind…..well, almost. I try to remind myself that one day in the hopefully not to distant future, I will have to move all these books that I own to a home of my own again…even if it is the size of a closet. Moving them to this transition home was a monumental task as they were so damn heavy! As I was struggling to lug box after box of them up the stairs, I was asking myself why the hell I needed all these books. Why couldn’t I collect something lighter? Since I never seem to do anything the easy way though, it makes sense that I collect books. Nothing that I do seems to be easy, so of course I would collect the heavy things… and then have to haul them around with me in the course of getting a new life. With the exception of my clothes, my books were the first things that I unpacked. Boxes and boxes of my stuff remains, piled in empty bedrooms, waiting for a permanent home in order to be unpacked, but the books, they sit on shelves in the living room, waiting too for a permanent home, but not left in boxes to languish in the dark until that time arrives. Somehow, looking at them gives me hope that not only will they have a permanent home again one day, but so will I.

I fell off the wagon today and went into a bookstore. I’ve held out since Bargain Books opened a few weeks ago, but my car drove it self there today…it was like it had a mind of its own. One minute I was on the road, the next I was in the bookstore….and how wonderful it was to stand there and just inhale the scent of all those books. Of course they did not have the particular book that I was looking to purchase, but I did manager to buy four of them for other people. How perplexing that I had to go home and order my book from…a bookstore with no scent at all.

They say that our sense of smell is a strong memory trigger. When I inhale the scent of books in a library or a bookstore, I remember sitting on the couch, snuggled up against my mother while she read us story after wonderful story, even the ones that made me cry. What a wonderful gift that was that she gave to my siblings and I…the gift of how written words can take you to so many places and teach you so many things. I remember my children when they were little, snuggled up against my side while we read scary stories and stories about *very bad bunnies* and Shel Silverstein poems. Just walking into a bookstore and smelling the scent in the air, brings those memories and those moments in time, to life again. I think I’m finally getting the idea that not matter where I am, all those very special moments in time will continue to live in my memories, no matter where I end up……

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Walking Down Pathways

A childhood friend of her daughter’s got married today. A young woman she had watched grow up since the age of 6 months old. This is the second of her daughter’s friends to get married this year. Another of her “from birth,” friends got married last December. If she weren’t so cynical about marriage right now, would she feel differently about these young women getting married so young? Probably not. She’s happy that her daughter is not even close to getting married. Having gotten married just prior to her 21st birthday, she thinks people should spend some time getting lives, prior to attaching themselves to others. Then, should things not work out, 1 year, or 5 years, or 20+ years later, one would remember that they did have an independent life of their own at one time. Maybe the struggle to get an independent life would not seem so great if at one time in the past, you actually had one. It might be like riding a bike, or *other things*…… activities that even if you haven’t done them in a while, you still remember what they were like.

The Minister at the wedding spoke about taking pathways through life. Of course he was speaking in the context of two people entering the church from two different entrances and both leaving together, using one. This metaphor aptly describe the journey into marriage that these two people will take together. Despite the fact that she’s in the process of becoming *un-attached* the symbolism of traveling down pathways was not lost on her.

She realized while sitting in that church this afternoon that she too, is on a journey. Not one that she really wants to be on, but is on nonetheless. For 20+ years she careened down a path, going top speed, with no thought to where she was going, or why. Now, she has to carefully make her way down a pathway that at times is blocked by large boulders, rivers of tears, fallen trees, uneven sidewalks, traffic jams and classes like Statistics. She’s hoping that there are no forks in this pathway since then a major debate would ensue….and God only knows for how long that might go on.

Yup, she’s on the pathway…that much she does know. Where it’s going to lead is a mystery. She’ll just have to keep walking and hope there are some 7-11’s along the way. Diet Coke and Iced Coffee are very important when you’re walking down a path to who knows where…….

Saturday, September 17, 2005

To wallow, or not to wallow....

To wallow, or not to wallow, that is the choice. This past week has been a major wallowing week….and boy, does she know how to wallow. If wallowing were an Olympic sport, she would be a gold medal winner.

Most of this past week she has spent either sitting in her computer chair, crying…..or laying in her bed…..crying……or sitting on friend’s couches…… crying. Now it’s freakin’ time to be done crying. Certainly in her mind, she has plenty to cry about. After all, getting a new life is hard. She does feel guilty about all the crying though. Certainly she hasn’t lost all her worldly possessions or any of her family members in the aftermath of the biggest natural disaster to ever occur in US history, Hurricane Katrina. That would surely be a reason to cry. So why couldn’t she stop herself she wonders? Maybe it was the birthday, or the job interview that only paid a pittance, maybe it was her ability to over-think her life, or just the time of year it is. The time of year when her life as she knew it, started to unravel…. when she finally woke up and didn’t recognize where she was. Maybe it was because she didn’t go to the gym this past week. The gym functions as her mood stabilizer. For about five minutes she thought maybe she did indeed, need a prescription. That thought seems to have past, especially since she’s made it to the gym the past two days….and really does feel better. Maybe it was just *all of the above.*

Wallowing is a choice. She can choose to do it, or not. She has instead decided to follow the *thinking positively for 15 minutes per day* plan, the *going to the gym as often as possible* plan, the *planning fun things to do with people you like* plan, the *you must stop projecting yourself two years into the future and worrying about it* plan, and the *let’s maybe have a small glass of red wine before bed* plan. Then there’s also writing all this stuff down as a means to remind her about all the plans she’s made. It’s good to write it all down; this way when you’re wallowing you have somewhere to go that will remind you how to stop the insanity. She thinks there’s a chapter on that topic in the “Living in the Moment” manual…you remember, the manual she doesn’t have but that she’s still looking for…..

(If she were any kind of computer genius she would be able to insert a link back to the “Where Is the Manual” piece, but she is no computer genius, which is why this blog sounds like her, but does not *look* like her…it is a huge dilemma…)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

September 14th, 2005

Today was my birthday. Thank God the day is almost over. It’s not the actual *having of a birthday* that I mind, or even the age that I’m at. It’s the continued feeling of disruption, of feeling homeless and lonely and unsettled.

Goals for the coming days, weeks, months and year:

To spend at least 15 minutes tomorrow, thinking positively about the many good things there are in my life, and there are many.

To spend at least 15 minutes each day next week, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

To spend 15 minutes each day for a month, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

To spend *time* each day, for the next 12 months, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

In the next year, to stop having to consciously think about thinking good things and just be able to enjoy them.

(Do you think repeatedly writing about thinking positively, will work? I guess we’ll see.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stuck in a Hallway

Tonight she is so grateful to have gown up in this small town that she still lives in. This truly is small town America. A town that could be describe in novels by writers much better than she. Tonight the sights, sounds and smells overwhelm her with joy and a little bit of nostalgia, tinged with some sadness too.

Walking across Smith Street she hears the crack of a bat hitting a ball at the ballpark and hears, before she sees, the cheering as men run around bases. This is baseball playoff weekend for the leagues that play on this field. Picnic things are laying all about the grass as she power walks on by. Women, children and older couples sit in the bleachers watching, talking and laughing while the ballplayers continue to play this game that to her at times seem boring. Not tonight though, tonight she can feel the excitement in the air as she hears the sounds of the game and smells the dust in the air as a player slides on into home.

She heads further into the park, past the playground filled with young children and families…..children running, jumping, and squealing with laughter and delight as they fly toward the moon on a swing or zipped down to the ground on a slide. As she walks onto the track at the park, she takes it past the 9-11 Memorial, a place she will sometimes stop and sit for a minute. It is a very small garden area connected, yet separate, from the walking track that winds its way in a quarter mile circle through the shore front park. Two benches, in the shade of newly planted young trees, sit, looking out across the bay at Fire Island on the other side. In front of the benches are two big native granite boulders, sitting in the middle of bunches of Montauk daisies. The boulders are inscribed in memory of not just the two men that she knew who died, but all the others who perished on that day as well. On occasion she has been down here and seen the elderly parents of one of the men in whose memory this little garden memorial is dedicated, sitting on a bench, gazing out over the water. She knows the story and knows that there is no cemetery for them to go to, as their son just never came home that day, like so many others...... like so many others, he vanished, like vapor into the air.

She hears the deep droning sound of the engines on the ferry as it makes its way across the bay and listens to the waves as they slap against the bulkhead. A light southwest wind whistles through the rigging of the sailboats docked nearby and she remembers what it was like to sail out onto the bay with her family. She always had mixed feeling about sailing with her father, who at times might rival Captain Bligh. Leaving from, and returning to, the dock was always a challenge, with orders begin bark at people who initially, had no freakin’ idea what they meant. After a couple of years of sailing, they all sort of got with the program and were able to do a half way decent job of knowing what to do. Recently she covered a sailing story for the newspaper she works for and decided that maybe next summer, she will think about treating herself to sailing lessons. It might be fun to relive that experience again, only with a more patient skipper this time.

She winds her way out onto the L- Dock, a place that has been in her life forever, the place where her brother once caught 40 blowfish. She wonders whatever happened to the blowfish; it seems that no one catches them anymore. Incredibly odd creatures they were. After being caught, they would puff themselves up like small balls in order to be more intimidating to others. She doubts that it ever worked as a defense mechanism against fishermen, but thinks that in the world of fish it might very well have been effective at keeping the larger ones at bay. It bothers her to know that now they’re gone. Just like the clammers that use dot the bay as far as the eye could see. When exactly did they disappear she wonders?

As she walks back up the dock she looks in the pails of water as she passes, seeing fish and crabs of varying sorts and sizes. She’s never been one for fishing and only likes the idea of it, but not the reality of it. Her way of fishing would consist of sitting on the dock with a fishing pole in her hand and gazing out over the water. It would not include baiting a hook, or even actually hoping to catch a fish. She would be hoping not to catch a fish and would just enjoy the scenery. It’s lovely out on the dock in the early evening and she finds it very relaxing to watch the stars as they start to appear gradually in the darkening night sky. She has difficulty *relaxing* these days as her mind tends to go into over-thinking mode quite easily. Sitting on the dock with an un-baited fishing pole, might just do the trick.

Up past the large French restaurant where a wedding is taking place and to Nancy’s Crab Shack she goes. Small and quaint with outdoor tables and a snack bar to sit at, Nancy’s is the place to be in the summer. The smell of grilled hot dogs and burgers mingled with the salt smell in the air is the scent of summer to her; a scent that on certain days in the winter when you stand on the porch with your eyes closed, you can almost still catch a whiff of. A guy with a guitar is playing for the diners and she chats with people that she knows as she walks on past. Nancy’s is the place to go to chat with all the people you know from your neighborhood that you don’t see anymore, because everyone is too busy to stop and enjoy their lives….but for a few minutes at Nancy’s they do.

Now on into the quieter parts of the neighborhoods, with the smells of the back yard grills cooking burgers, and the sounds of televisions and radios, cars and motorcycles, the ice cream man in his truck that now plays that annoying electronic music. She dislikes that electronic music and the way the tunes become stuck in her brain, to play over and over and over again. The jingling of the bells on the old ice cream trucks was so much less invasive to the mind. Softer and almost joyful she thinks. So what if the old fashioned style bells can only be heard from three blocks away. Children can hear the ice cream truck from wherever they are, so why not play something that does not irritate most of the population in a ten block radius.

She slows herself down now as she continues past the house that has a Gargoyle on the roof and the one that always flies the very interesting flags, many of which she has no idea of their meaning. Back in July that house flew the Union Jack right after the London subway and bus bombings. At the time, she thought about what a wonderful show of support that was. She wonders where these flags all come from and thinks about how she use to have a house that she flew flags from.

By now the fire flies are lighting up the air around her and she heads on past the house she use to live in, a house where the lawn and her beautiful flower beds have not been watered once during this very hot and dry summer. She thinks about how she would have been out there every day, watering the beautiful plants that use to live there. The fragrant miniature lilac bushes she had planted, the azalea that she bought 20 years ago in the grocery store and that survived all this time, until she moved away. The mass of black-eyed Susan’s, with yellow petals and brown centers, the purple cone daises and the large clematis, that over the course of the summer would have wound it’s way up past the dining room window, and in the late summer would be covered in small, fragrant white flowers that she could smell through the open window. She could have taken some of these things with her when she moved, but she just did not have the energy, or the heart, to do so. Now she is sorry as she mourns the loose of all these beautiful things that use to live in her garden. Now they are dry and brown and dead. It makes her sad to walk by there, but it’s not her house anymore. Maybe she’ll garden somewhere else one day, or maybe she’ll never garden again….who knows.

She finishes her walk at the house she now lives in. A place that she’s grateful to have, but cannot view as more than a place of transition. A place where she continues to stand in the hallway, with the door behind her closed and the door in front of her, not yet open. She hates standing in this hallway. How many moments, hours, days or years will she stand in this hallway she wonders, until the door in front of her finally opens so that she can walk through it….

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In One Year......

In one year…….she,

Lost a car…. got a car back
Gave a car back….bought a car
Left a home
Left her children……
…but not really
Lost her patience…..found her patience…..lost her patience….found her patience….a never ending saga...
Found a gym….lost a bunch of weight
Lost sleep...and still hasn't found it...
Found some very interesting new friends
Lost the rest of her stuff ….it went elsewhere to live
Lost three cats…kept one (the whiner)…
Lost her mind...found her sanity...maybe
Lost her groove…found her groove (Thank You God!)
Found her *Twinkle*
Found school
Found a *sort of* new career
Needs a much better paying job
Lost her whole entire life as she knew it..
Needs to find a whole new one...
Lost herself…found herself…lost herself…found herself... a never ending battle…with her mind...