Bedroom door

19/08/2017

 

Door2This family. Open and close. My round, brass knob has lost its shine from all the hands – large and small – that have grasped me sometimes gently, others with uninhibited force. Children with the dirt of outdoor play or squeakily fresh from the evening baths – all I have felt as they have worn away at my golden brilliance. And those hands of teenage boys. Their fresh scents of testosterone and pheromones. They too have embraced me with their adolescent passion for sports and burgeoning loves.

But it is the woman’s hands. She, my only gentle touch. Clearing away my gauzy curtain, she lovingly washes me clean with care and deliberate pause at each of my fifteen panes. Ah, you see, I am French. I recognize love. It is she who loves to throw me open wide. This is her invitation to the family; she is at the ready for her family, even within the sanctity of this bedroom. She is the balance to the man’s hands. He, always closing me to keep his private counsel whether in muted conversations, in love with this woman, or alone with his dreams and fears.

Yet, I am no sentimental fool. My gift to you, you who reside within my boundary is this – I bear witness. Rarely has my soft pine frame been slammed in anger, yet I have seen pain, fevers, and heartache come and go across my threshold. I, the sentinel, have witnessed all and have kept my silence. I have done what is required with a steadfast heart.

The summer breezes brush against my frame. I sigh with a bittersweet and slight sway. I have seen and felt children growing into young men, and a young couple into an old one.


 

Despite the dark corner, I stand tall and proud.  Strength. Patience. Potent. The passage of time does not diminish me. I know my worth. I, who have negotiated for those ransomed by offering myself in exchange for those of lesser value, know the game of waiting . Long ago, I was sought after across continents and even cherished. Yet, time does not diminish me. I have never felt the loss like so many others as they vie for daily accolades. Now, relegated to an occasional glance or tentative embrace, I retain my power.

Do not be misled by my playfulness as I dance and weave among partners. Teasing you with my bawdy behavior, I fool you into thinking that you are more than you appear to be. Taste my lips. I manipulate this masquerade of intimacy all too easily for such a guileless novice as you. I can just as easily slip through your fingers as the white sands in the hourglass turn and descend to their nadir. Turn on me, if you dare. I will bite you. Burn you. Fervor will be my calling card.

I am indifferent to your years of thoughtlessness. Neglect me. I am not diminished. I wait. You will need me. Know this to be my truth. And when I come to you – when the door is thrown open and ambient light illuminates all that is before you, when the dark places are no longer my home, prepare to take the bitter with the sweet.


Mould

 

This writing is my nod to white pepper. It holds meaning in our family, and though I anthropomorphize it, I delight in its occasional use. My husband’s grandfather was a thirteen year old, Flemish lad and a baker’s apprentice who emigrated from Belgium to the United States in the early 1900s. He brought with him the mould you see here for speculoos cookies which was used to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6.  

My mother-in-law shared the recipe with me, which has now been lost or perhaps, misplaced. But, I remember a key ingredient, one which my family of origin never used for any purpose, is white pepper. A lone container of the spice has sat in the back of our cupboard for decades just waiting for us, to every so often, bring it out from its obscurity to limited fame.

Below I am including two links, one for speculoos and the other for a variety of foods elevating this ground berry to quotidian status:

 

Speculoos cookies  (This is a Dutch recipe, but close to my memory of the family’s list of ingredients)

 

White Pepper recipes  (choose from among 2212 options)
Smakelijk!

artist's book

Artist’s book, Conversation with May

The autumn season is one I have always welcomed.  Yet, it is bittersweet for me, as it is in my bones to remember my childhood at this time of year.  I remember the start of school – pulling out the wool school uniform (heavy and itchy, buying the new, brown and white saddle shoes and penny loafers.  I remember walking to school alone at a young age. It was not unusual for me to talk aloud to myself or my guardian angel who sat on my right shoulder and was a girl, of course.  I remember still – to this day – that is was the best feeling – the wind blowing my hair across my face, the cardigan sweater buttoned all the way to the top keeping me snug. I looked forward to lunch which my mother religiously packed every day – Lebanon bologna on white bread, a small bag of Wise potato chips, a Tastykake Cremie – and I carried it in a brown paper bag along with my oilcloth to place over my desk, where we ate in our classrooms with our teacher – Sr. Rosaline or Sr. Bernadette…So, clutching my book bag I left home every morning with excitement and fear mixed together, as I stepped away from the world my parents had so lovingly created for me.

My parents were the first generation of Americans whose parents and some siblings were born in Italy or Czechoslovakia.  They never finished high-school because they were needed by their parents to work in the Pennsylvania mills. Working at least 10 hour days at ages 13 and 15, they supported their large Catholic families. In my father’s home of fifteen children, only the oldest and youngest sons were “allowed” to go to college – and they did, both on sports scholarships to Catholic universities.  My parents worked in the mills until the day they retired despite the changing times and their intellectual brilliance.  It was not until I reached my 20’s that I realized how much they sacrificed for their daughters.  We were expected to go to college – all three girls.  And we did, and then some.

So, I find during this advent of autumn that it is no surprise I live where I have been living for 30 years – that I married, raised our children, and work here, in this small town of ____. It is a community where many immigrants struggle and sacrifice as did my parents, in order to give their children much more than they will ever have themselves.  They want what my parents wanted for us – a good education to secure success.  When the fees for this and that come home in the backpacks (as they soon will), I often wonder at the toll this takes in the private lives of these families.  Yet sacrifice is what they do for their children.  Times have indeed changed, but not where it matters.

This essay, written for the library where I worked, was originally published in 1998 under “Notes From Your Children’s Librarian” and has been re-edited for this posting.

“Great Time,” a poem by May Sarton written in 1929.

During a decade of my life, I found the journals of May Sarton to be a great inspiration for my art.  As we so often do, we find ourselves in a “conversation” with a writer.  This artist’s book was a small tribute to such a conversation.  The paper is linen fiber imbedded with leaves, pulled in a Japanese style of papermaking; pencil, acrylic paint, calligraphy, collage and bookbinding are all by the artist. cp.


Addendum

The start of the school year – at least in public schools – begins next week for teachers, and the following week.  Because of my own attachments to autumn this earlier “beginnings” pains me.  One always wants those sweet and dear experiences to remain for the younger generations…I suppose this is nostalgia.  The students walking to and from school accompanied by the hum of the cicadas and warm, late summer breezes are creating their own memories.  I wish for all of them the love of learning and joy in friendship for this new year!

August 2012

 

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