Quiet visits

25/03/2017

garage3Some visits are quiet ones. The day is routine. Walking in any weather. Walking along the streets of a small town or the wide alleyways behind historic homes where even the garage curtains speak of a gentility. Big plates of pasta balanced on the laps of the three sisters, sitting on chairs and sofas. We are tucked in snugly on this chilly night. Mystery hour. It is about relationships. It is a slow story. One that takes time and nuance. So too, with my sisters and me. It is about relationship. Slowly moving through decades, through years of upheaval and years of the steady, almost imperceptible changes in each of us. It is a quiet visit. It is a visit that is full.

I return home, here, with sunny skies and warm breezes. Shy windflowers at my garden gate wave their greetings, faces filled with light. I am filled with thoughts of family as my key unlocks all that is before me.windflowers3.jpg

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A young couple during the 1980s, my husband and I were looking to put down roots; we were drawn to Takoma Park, Maryland for many reasons: proximity to D.C., wide variety of socio-economic classes & houses, but most importantly because it felt “real.” In a metropolitan area where pretensions about self-importance, whether it be a style of house, income level, or the newest car abound, this one community seemed to stand apart.  So, in 1981 we made it our home and we hope to “age in place.”

Working as an artist during the 1970s through the 1990s and with a flexible schedule, my first impulse led me to the library at the bottom of our street.  I began volunteering there while pregnant – stamping new books and writing titles in a ledgers – before technology. During the raising of our sons, soon to follow, we became regular patrons as a family. Our boys participated in children’s programs no other county library offered – the celebration of the solstice, Eagle Bear, Morris Dancers are among the few in addition to being avid readers. Twenty years later while pursuing my M.L.S., I interned at TPML eventually working as a part-time shelver and librarian before my career as a school librarian.

rendering of the library in 1935This place – this library – has remained steadfast, growing from a small house on Jackson Street in 1930 to its current “new” building erected in 1955.  Its friends and patrons, programs, City administrators, and even librarians, have come and gone, yet it provides what it always has – a solid center for new residents and a home for those who remain.  It has nurtured generations of residents, and has never asked for much in return, as the community is a supportive & generous one.

My first impression of Takoma Park was based upon the library; it endeared me to this city – the building, the librarians, and the ambiance, oh, so many years ago; now, if I were that young woman, hoping to buy a house and raise a family, I would look at that building and it would tell me a sadder story about the values of Takoma Park.

Rendering of 1955 library Now is the time for the City to be generous.  It is the same building space as 1955, yet is 2015. The building is tired. It strains to hold the collections, the patrons, the programs – rugs are worn, aisles tight, offices crammed, windows small.  A library speaks about the community and their values.

I can think of no better way to honor our city and the values we hold dear, than by creating a library for the 21st century – one for all our new immigrants and little patrons, all who someday will live and work here.

a brick house

02/10/2013

Today, I realized while I was teaching my sixth grade students a lesson in short essay writing that I needed to give them a personal example.  The one I had chosen from a very good book was just too long.  Below is what we will be looking at in class.  For them it is about structure and form; for me, a sweet memory.

My Life Before Cats

brick houseOur house always seemed  too quiet for my taste, as a child.  We lived in, what was called back then, a row house. This is where one house is slammed against the other, as if they are trying to hold each other upright.  What this also meant was that you and your next-door neighbor shared a wall.  You shared the sounds each house made if those noises were against the shared wall.  So, it was important to BE quiet. Fortunately for our neighbors, my two sisters and I were fairly well-behaved. Oh, this was not because we were born that way; rather, because my dad meant serious business if he told us to “quiet down” and we ignored him!  We rarely had pets of any sort. Once, when my older sister was doing a science project in high-school, we kept the guinea pigs afterwards.Unfortunately, my mom got asthma, and they had to go, even though they were quiet. Next, my middle sister brought home a stray dog.  We kept him too… for awhile.  He was not quiet. My father found a home for him. A guy he worked with at the steel mill had daughter who was “simple-minded.”  Other kids were afraid of her, even though she was really nice. She did not have a lot of friends, and she was lonely.  So, our dog went to her. I cried, but it was better for her, our dog, and especially our neighbors.

When I grew up and had my own family we bought a house – standing all by itself and surrounded by a big yard. Space between our neighbors and us. It was living here when I finally got my first cat.  She was a tortoise-shell stray who just showed up. She stayed.  She was not terribly friendly or cuddly, but I liked the way she strutted around, talking incessantly. She was noisy. Next, my sons found an orange cat – a stray with only three legs.  He was very friendly, very quick, and very talkative. We had to keep him.  Then, the animal shelter called us, “Did we want another cat – a three-legged one – a little black one.  Of course we did! For many years in our house we lived with these three, no-longer-stray cats. Until on an autumn night, a fourth, feral kitten came to our kitchen door.  The following week we brought her in.  It was never quiet after that!  There was constant meowing, howling, growling. There were my two boys fighting over who won this and that.  Oh! did I mention the dogs?  Two. My life was no longer quiet at home…except at meal times.

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