Art and Writing from the Domestic Front by Rachel Barlow
I usually ignore the magazines at the front of the check out. The magazine with celebrity photo on the front never interested me to begin with – I only know name of people I’ve seen in movies, and their personal lives are usually uninteresting to me (ruins seeing them in movies if I know too much about them).
I will admit, however, to having been distracted more times than I can tell by the ” What’s Wrong with Your Body and How We Can Fix it” magazine. For some reason, I let myself be fooled by headlines promising an insane amount of weight loss and the first week, written by sadists who know I don’t have patience to ride out a diet for the entire month.
Then last year one of my doctor suggested the South Beach diet. I figured it had to be halfway decent since the recommendation came from the doctor. I described the bullet points to my dad, also a doctor, and got approval from the family nutrition expert. I did. And guess what, the first few weeks I lost 14 pounds.
Not bad as far I was concerned. It was time to reward myself with a donut.
Aside from a few small chocolate-covered detours, I actually stayed on the straight and narrow for most of the summer, moving to a more plant-based approach that was easier to grow myself. Over the course of four or five months, I lost about 50 pounds.
I got away from looking for a miracle and focused on long-term health.
And then winter came. In Vermont, you’re kind of a prisoner in your own home and of the layers and layers of sweaters and coats you put on the minute you get up. The upside is the camouflaging of the poundage you put on to keep warm (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
I teetered around Thanksgiving and got completely off balance after Christmas. I’m back on a modified fitness plan but somehow have not been able to pull my fat butt back on that diet wagon (at least not for more than a couple days time).
So that, ladies and gentleman of the jury, is why I just had to look at that magazine with hot pink cover blaring the unheard-of promise of 24 pounds to lose in the first week. Just the thought of it made me consider taking a monokini instead of a muumuu to the beach.
Sadly, I know success comes down to the tried-and-true Eat-Your-Vegetables-Control-Your-Portion nonsense that has worked since the beginning of dieting. But the thought of my muumuu, reminded me of the my impending annual two-week swimsuit season, during which time (purely coincidentally) sightings of a great white whale beached on the shores of Lake Michigan are reported.
The inevitability of a season more certain and terrifying than tax time was the only reason I needed to find that last two dollars in my wallet – even though I know how that article will end.
I had the picnic basket packed with pasta salad, cheese and crackers, and watermelon by 7PM. We had an hour to go. It was a only a five minute drive to the church yard, but we’d need to get there early to find a good spot.
When we arrived, the unofficial meeting was just coming together. There were dozens of young faces – some just a few months into this world. There children born on the other side of the globe lolling on picnic blankets with kids whose grandparents and great-great-great-grand’s built this town. But, while the faces are different, the feelings of the attendees – unlike on official Town Meeting day – were very much in sync.
Everyone, regardless of how they felt about the latest stop sign or school budget line item, greeted their neighbors happily. Some had brought dinner. Others brought dessert. In front of the congregation was what looked like a laundry line, draped with colorful sheets. It looked like the make shift stage Thing1 and Thing2 had created under our swing-set a few years ago.
By the time the sun dipped behind the mountain at the edge of the field, the meeting was ready to begin. A wiry man with a snowy white beard walked to the center of the lawn making introductions and as he left the grassy stage, players bearing elaborate marionettes glided into view.
For the next two hours, we watched field in front of the mountain darken, with the only light coming from lamps clamped to teepees at each side of the stage. The players and puppeteers told tales of foolishness, mercy, greed, and, finally of one of those rare but wonderful instances of man’s humanity to man.
The last story of a lifetime of generosity and love ultimately benefiting the generous concluded with the illuminating of paper lanterns constructed to look like houses. The puppeteers dimmed the stage lights and soon, the only sight was the tiny houses against the mountain and the only sound was the rushing river nearby. And the only thing we knew for that moment was the peace that we were unconsciously sharing with everyone in that field.
That moment was a gift from the players. It was also a gift from the Arab and Jewish storytellers who gave these stories to their children and to the world. As our moment of peace came to a quiet end, I thought of their descendants a half a world away, locked in endless conflict and, gazing at the stars, I wished peace for both sides – for their sakes and everyone else’s. I wished for us to remember that, we all have an inheritance like this – one that could unite us more than we allow it to us divide us if only we’d claim it.
It’s only a wish,and, as John Lennon said, I may just be a dreamer. But I didn’t imagine these stories or that moment.
Case in point, as we get ready for our annual caravan to Lake Michigan, I am wreaking my wrath on the the descendants of the fleas that invaded our house last year while we were on the vacation. For the last four hours I have sweat, I have cried, and Heaven help me, I have cleaned. I have cleaned so much I have lost 2 pounds of pure sweat all to ensure that we come home to a flea free house in a few weeks.
I think that fleas are perverts because they do not respond to poisons or flea collars or any of that nonsense. The only thing they want is to watch me clean before they die. So I have made the ultimate sacrifice this weekend.
But it’s not all bad.
As I cleared my dresser of countless unused bobby pins, headbands for people with hair much longer than mine, and straggling clothing tags bearing sizes that would only fit in my wildest fantasy, I managed to do a little rearranging.
My day of cleaning has culminated in a careful rearrangement on my dresser of some of the many clay sculptures made by my boys when they were in kindergarten. It’s the only safe place in the house where these irreplaceable treasures are guaranteed not to break-mainly because I don’t clean it very often.
I also found and decided to display two pictures. One picture was of thirteen year old Thing1 when he was just a few days old. he’ll be 14 in just a couple weeks, but the soft faded photo of a time not too long ago when he still needed us for everything pulls my heartstrings harder than if it had been taken yesterday. Next to it I put a framed photo of his seven-year-old brother, Thing2.
The top of my recently cleaned and cleared dresser is now a gallery, decorated with a couple of very good things, and that makes all the sweat tears and cleaning kinda worth it.
Now on to my closet. I’m hoping I can
find the same sort of redemption there. I kinda doubt it.