face lifting

AgeMachine1500

Sometime in the 1970s, when cosmetic surgery was first being discussed on the nightly news as an elective procedure for those who could afford its extravagant price tag, my sisters who were gathered around the black-and-white TV in the kitchen dismissed the idea completely.

“I’d never do that,” they scoffed, extolling the ’70s all-natural look, “when I grow old, I want to do it gracefully—like Lauren Bacall.” They always referenced someone like Lauren Bacall (who only would have been in her fifties at the time), never Aunt Bea or Granny from the Beverley Hillbillies or any of the other women that most of the population ages into resembling.

At that point in the conversation, my mother turned from the kitchen sink with a wistful smile. “I don’t know,” she interrupted, “look at this.” Continue reading “face lifting”

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grounded

1eb1b-feet200Some days I’m more aware of
my chin’s closeness
to the floor,
the short distance
from shoulder to heel,
the nearness of my bones
to the boards they creak upon.

Feet of Missouri clay and corn-silk stubble,
I rise barely a fence post above the earth
that holds me
grounded,
like a bird
under a basket.

rembrandt’s gaze

I’ve visited, off and on over the past 35 years, this self portrait Rembrandt painted as an older man. It hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York.

He has always stared just past my left ear, as if he has something on his mind, sometimes concerned about me, sometimes engrossed in his own thoughts. Continue reading “rembrandt’s gaze”

the whisker on my earlobe

My Dad and I, circa 1960.

My dad would have been 97 years old today. To remember him, I’m posting a piece (more an anecdotal memory than a story) that I wrote several years ago before his death. Happy birthday, funny man!

This morning while plucking a hair from my earlobe as thick as a chin whisker I recalled my childhood visits to the barber with my dad. Saturday mornings belonged to my dad and me during my grade school years. He and I got out of the house, where my mother and six sisters ruled the roost, not to go fishing or hunting or do little league or some other typical father-and-son activity, but to do the weekly household grocery shopping.

Continue reading “the whisker on my earlobe”

working-class heirlooms

mom portraitMy sister Sally’s return address stuck out on the corner of the padded parcel envelope that someone had crammed into my mail cubby in the faculty lounge. I removed my gloves and carefully extracted the package from its tight squeeze, fearing that Christmas cookies, or what have you, might have been crushed. It was that time of year again. From Thanksgiving to New Years, my large family sent small gifts and packages to my work address in the City (the postal service in Brooklyn was not to be trusted), and most times the people at the elementary school knew better than to cram a package of cookies into a five-by-five-inch cubby.

As I freed the last corner of the envelope from the metal rim of the mailbox, I could tell that the contents were not crumbly at all. Rather, whatever was inside felt soft and pliable, like a small quilt or pillow. Continue reading “working-class heirlooms”