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Metamorphosis – A Mom and a Son and their Transitioning Journey

Published July 25, 2019 by megdedwards

 

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JULY 2019

I did love blogging. I liked the way it concentrated my thoughts, how I would plan and quietly pursue a small topic, write, pause, re-read, edit, pause, think, write and wordpress it out into the world.  I was pleased with the writing when I was done, though now I find typos and plenty of room for more editing.  But I threw out my words, tossed them into the world of electrical impulses, the internet. I had my faithful readers, especially an old pal and her Mother.  Also, some strangers, some writers. It was a message in a bottle. I was singing out into the chasm.

And in my last sporadic words I think my message was: I am going to try to write more seriously. And I have been. But much more. So much has happened. I stressed about debt, I became sick with stress. Both my other older children left home for the bigger world. I completely stopped menstruating and began to transition to an older  woman free of the life driving fear and acceptance of pregnancy. I got a demanding new job. I thought I had recovered from the loss of my parents, god mother and step mother but I did not know that I was to also lose the emotional support of siblings. I walked alongside my son who was in the early stages of transitioning.

The best thing about life is that it is unpredictable. I like that about it. Who knows what will happen next? Presently I have gained a son and regained my health. We both look fabulous. He is a preternaturally mature 15 year old with startling blue eyes, curly red hair and a lovely low voice. A musician, artist, environmental activist and the kind of gay son who says he will fix my hair and take photos of me even when I am extremely old.  Due to my incredibly strict diet to recover the health of my gut, I look fantastic and have been well trained on how to pose for photos.  I do yoga every day and I have begun to meditate. All good, classic, mid life woman shit. Right here, right now. I wrote a play. Poems. Novel. Bliss has already had one art show and has another one set for next month. He is learning how to play the trumpet and drum, while keeping up with his clarinet.

I have been writing a lot and that’s great, but there is one topic that I have left buried. I have not yet written about my son’s transition. I have been hesitant; sometimes I believe that I am too close to the process to be able to have perspective. Other times I believe that I am hesitant to write about what I do not know, which is his feelings. I made that mistake once before when I wrote about a sexual assault that was not my own experience. It felt like my experience because I am so close to my children. It ravaged my mind and body as if it had been me assaulted, but it was not my story or my body.

At the time my blogging was my outlet. I wrote about everything close to me, my heart breaking when my Dad died, my life with my Mom with Parkinson’s, and then the assaults and how they affected my baby child and my family. But afterwards, as time passed, I was shocked that I wrote publicly about the assaults and I hoped that it would not cause pain in the future.

I also avoided writing about the transitioning because I feared that I would confuse the beauty and liberation of the transitioning with the pain of the assaults.  I needed time to untangle the threads in my mind. As a mother guarding over the development of her child, I was hyper vigilant about the unknown effects of the early assault on later teen development. As I was feeding, driving,  helping with homework and planning birthday parties and music lessons, I was watching for repercussions.

At 13 years old my child did begin to suffer from anxiety, nightmares and depression. ‘Her’ close friends were all troubled, some cutting, some depressed, some suicidal. I kept a close watch and had big sleep overs with lots of chips and they would do odd things like bind each other in tape.  One of the children would occasionally fall onto the floor in a foetal position. I took my troubled kids to Tim Hortons in the morning and they called me Mama Meg. I still feel protective of all of them.

My kid was always a good student and at the time, a very pretty girl with a womanly figure. ‘She’ got attention from much older men and boys and I kept an eye out. But Bliss has always been smart and self reliant so he did not appear to be struggling. What the outside world did comment on was how close he was to me. How close he needed to be to me. We spent a lot of time together, making art, learning to skate, going out for lattes.  We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot, but at the same time I was aware that he was not thriving. Often fearful, jumpy, he seemed scared to be in his own body. He had nightmares about scary men on the attack and would not go upstairs in the house on his own.

So I did not identify the classic signs of discomfort that can give a clue to the beginning of transitioning: sudden hair cuts, dyeing the hair, trying out many different styles, friends, moods. The person is trying to find a way to become comfortable in his body. And then he began to talk about it; we talked about a friend of his who wanted to be a ‘boy’.  We talked in the car, when we weren’t singing. I put forth every radical feminist argument for being comfortable in your own body. Bliss was quietly disappointed but kept at it. I got a video out from the Amherst Library and it explained that transitioning is much deeper and has a more scientific explanation. It is not mental or psychological or intellectual, it is physical.

I began to understand. I had to open my mind, it was, as a matter of fact, ‘mind blowing’. The term ‘mind blowing’ worked for me. It seemed precise and exact regarding my thoughts about gender. It felt precise and true and so that is how I described how I felt to those who asked. I had to think about gender, and my loose but still entrenched ideas about men and women. The transition forced me to reexamine how I defined male and female. What makes a man feel like a man? What is a man? Who gets to define what a man is? I was brought up by a divorcee in an angry era of feminism so I still had baggage. Finally, I understood, gender is important, and fluid and also, personal.

As the transition continued, Bliss and I cared for each other. He knew when I was worn out, when I needed to eat, when I was sick and weak. Due to stresses that had nothing to do with my teen, I lost a lot of weight and Bliss was nurturing and caring. I kept parenting, driving, working, shopping, cleaning, talking, listening, reading, and thinking. I did not quite understand transitioning. Then one day I realized that I was the one in the family that made things happen. I was the one who researched subjects and made doctor appointments. I knew it was up to me to move forward.  And I knew that Bliss needed action. I found a doctor and we began along the path of transitioning. I learned how to give a needle. I bought binders. I kept reading and talking and listening but I didn’t write anything at all.

I changed his birth certificate, I changed his health card, I changed his passport. I kept going forward. I didn’t even notice when people stared at my child. Bliss would tell me later that people were staring and I was sorry that I did not have a chance to stare right back at them. But  I did not see anything to stare at, I didn’t see it. It was just Maude/ Bliss. My brilliant child, so good at school, so insightful and kind, such a good team player in sports, such a good artist, so capable and competent.  Well loved by teachers and respected in school even by the bullies and conformists.

So much has happened in the last year and a half that I have trouble putting it down chronologically but I can tell you now that when I see the name of Maude, I don’t think of Bliss. I see it as a child that I used to know. As time goes on, when I remember his child self I see more clearly that he was struggling, even as he bravely and cheerfully charged forward. I am amazed at how strong he was, to carry on so good temperedly while feeling so trapped and fearful.

All our family can remember a time when he would complain that he could not yawn, and he would struggle to breathe. Now when we look back we know that this was happening as his body was hit with early hormonal change. He grew into a woman at about ten years old and that must have been horrifying to a child who was hoping to become more like a man as he grew.  He hated his voice, his name. In Grade three he wrote a letter to his sister that said, “Guess what, I am a boy. Just kidding” and we did not notice that letter til this year.

When I look back now I see more and more clearly that we were just going ahead with the notion that he was a girl. And even though we are progressive people, we still had our own expectations. We have plenty of preconceptions about gender, everyone does. That’s why it is important to drop them, just in case the next kid you meet, the next baby you are introduced to, is not the gender that everyone says it is. Give the kid a chance to choose, to breathe. We have learnt that now.

During the last years we have worked through our personal growth and recovery, our discovery of ourselves, through art and music.  During Grade 8, Bliss home schooled and created amazing art.  When he returned to school he slayed Grade 9, even with his top surgery in the middle of the year. High Honours, new friends, music awards, more art and he founded the Queer Room and hosts it once a week for LGBTQ youth. He became a vegetarian and began to organize Climate Strikes in Sackville where he bravely read his own speech/poetry.

A butterfly bursting forth: my gorgeous gay son.And when I refer to my child in my mind, I now say ‘he’. ‘He will wait for me’, ‘he would like this art’, ‘he is my child’. He was always a boy and we did not know it.

Bliss and I helped each other through the transition with the help of music and art and good snacks. On our journey we both got older, we both went through major change. It was a metamorphosis! We even went through menopause together, both leaving behind menstruation and both growing chin hairs, his celebrated more than mine.

Bliss is proud of my progress in understanding transitioning.  At first, I really did not know anything about the subject and had some of the worst immediate reactions. Pity, for example.  That is a useless emotion. How about celebration of an authentic person? How many adults do you know that go through life unhappy, struggling to accept themselves?  People who have transitioned are the bravest and most honest and true people that you will ever meet.  I am grateful to know, to learn and to understand.

Bliss has given me a chance to grow, for my mind to expand. He is a blessing, to our family, and wherever he goes.

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Mama

Published February 19, 2013 by megdedwards

SNOW!My Mom’s dying is so gradual that I feel like I am watching a tree return to the earth. She hardly moves now, and Parkinson’s is stealing her voice and her expressions, just as she feared.

But if I sit beside her and look into her eyes I know what she is thinking.  Her eyes tell me all there is to know, in a place beyond words.

Her hand might reach out to something I cannot see, and sometimes her eyes are looking into another world.  But then she focuses on me and I see all her ideas in her mind.

A few years ago she would have told me anecdotes, or advised me, she might even have indulged in some annoying gossip; those were the days when she was well and whole.

Last summer she became elliptical and poetic.  Her sense of drama was alive; she spoke of her hallucinations and made grand poetic statements.  She was half in a dream world and she became even more articulate and eloquent than usual.

I wrote down some of what she said:

“ How many years do you have left in your back pocket”?

““Do you have any unfinished dreams? How about you? Is there anywhere you want to see? When I look back at my life I notice with some dismay that I have done everything I wanted to do, like a book of coupons”

“…in bizarre moments when I am not making jokes or confessing sins”.

“What is the name of the state that exists when you are not dead, but on the way?”

“Can we reduce the speed”?

“I have a countryside, potatoes, sunshine…”

At 6 am on waking, “Shall we stroll the decks”?

“I am listening, I hear the stories behind the stores, it’s not so much who is getting pregnant by whom, but the gaps in between and what we make of them”.

Last winter and spring I took my youngest children to visit her and sleep on her feather couch, last summer my sister Liz and I took Mom to the cottage, in the fall I took my eldest daughter to spend her birthday with her Virgo Grandma, in the beginning of winter I went back to Toronto and had a few days with all my siblings together with Mom. Then I got really sick and told my Mom I had to go home and rest and I would see her after Christmas.

It was February before I could get to Toronto again, and I traveled by train with my youngest daughter. The little one is full of love and care, kissing her Grandma and laughing at her bizarre comments. Mom gathered her little soft body in her arms and said quietly, “Let me linger over this hug”.

In the last two visits my Mom has talked less about poetry and apparitions and more about me.  Words of love and acceptance, compliments about my personality, my life, my marriage, my kids, myself; it felt like she wanted to be sure her third daughter heard some positive remarks, as if she was trying to make up for a childhood interrupted by divorce and separation.

After a lifetime of being told I was plain and ordinary, I heard that I was beautiful. “We all admire you so”, she said, referring to a cabal of Jewish women her mind had created that had all apparently discussed me. “You are so beautiful”, she said, making me feel suddenly very beautiful. “You have a large amount of kindness; I have only a small amount of kindness”.

I soaked up those last words, the love and the acceptance, the admiration and compliments.  I felt a bit like a potted plant that has been sitting in old dry earth for a long time, still somehow putting out green shoots against all the odds.

Now she has stopped talking and I don’t think there is a more painful experience than our phone conversations.  I call and I can hear her clear her throat, and I can hear her caregiver say, “It is Meg on the phone, talk to her, I will hold the phone for you”.  I say” Hi Mama, how are you?” She says, with all her strength, “Hi Darling”.  She may have something she wants to tell me but she can’t get it out. She struggles, the line goes quiet.

I fill the void by telling her about my day: the washing machine broke, we had a big storm, and the kids are doing this or that. It is very quiet, I say,” Mama, are you there?” She says, ‘Huh’, so I know she is listening.

Last night, as we ‘talked’ I put the cellphone on speaker and made the bed up in new sheets, and put away the laundry. She could hear the squeaking of the misfit drawers and my rustling around; a mother who never stops moving, just like she was for so much of her life.

I told her what I was doing. I rambled; I talked about the infrequency of people who are truly honest about themselves or their motives. I could tell that idea had her thinking. I talked about the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, a writer who surely influenced my mother and consequentially all of our lives. She sighed. I said, “I know you have something to say and I am imagining what you would say”.

When she does rally to communicate, it is sometimes surreal.  Images from the TV work their way into her reality, mixing with her memories; her wildly imaginative mind conjures up anything and everything.  There are still hallucinations that are very real.

One never knows what she is going to say; sometimes it is ordinary but unrealistic. When I told her that I was leaving she cocked her head, gave me a flinty expression, and then started to say, “Well, we know we will have to wait 15 minutes for a street car” in a slow raspy voice. Or, she might use all her strength to tell me that she is going to whip up a simple dinner for us.

This is heart breaking because she is no longer capable of whipping up a simple dinner or hopping out to catch a streetcar.  But I don’t cry, and there are no tears. I laugh, and say, “OK, Mom”. And I smile into her face, and she sees me with her reptilian eyes, green and cool, and makes a small expression of irritation and love.  Just in her eyes; the look that says,’ very amusing’, an eyebrow cocked, a small smirk that says, I am still your Mother.

Last year my heart began to compare her to my sweet pets that have aged and died. I guess it is my closest experience to loving someone who is old and dying. I remembered a frail bony cat that would move its head to catch my eye when I spoke to it. Her fur was no longer rich or thick but dusty and thin. ‘ Don’t tell me to put my cat to sleep’, I told the vet, ‘when she still creeps out to the garden to lie in a sunny patch of grass, a smile in her eyes’.

The one time I put a cat to sleep I felt sick about it. I was late in my first pregnancy and my stray orange cat had a tumor in his eye. I was planning a home birth and I had already lost my other cat to illness during the pregnancy.  I thought it would be better if I did not have a death and birth at the same time in the same apartment.

A nice vet came over and gave him a sedative. I cried over his still lush orange fur, and a tear hit his ear making it twitch. He struggled to move, he must have felt scared by what the sedative was doing to him. Then she held him and put in the needle. I felt very sick, overwhelmed by my actions. I couldn’t eat without the food rising up in my throat.

I don’t know if there is a good time to put someone asleep but I don’t want to do that again with another animal. My first pet beloved cat died lying on my chest. After sighing his body went limp and his body released the last bit of urine, a warm spot on my sweater. He was like my first child; we mourned him like a child.

Since then I have had other sweet cats die of illness and old age and every experience is different. Everyone has their own path. There may be times when sedation would be good.  But doctors tell you that they only sedate the patient to relieve the pain of the loved ones who are watching. The last gasps are not necessarily calm breaths.

I left my Dad before he died.  It seemed like there were enough people around to hold hands, and my Dad and I had always had such a reserved love.  I was also holding out hope he would recover.

My sister said that it did get harder, he did fight death. And then they sedated him so that he could slowly stop breathing.

There are times when I don’t like to be stoned, and I am pretty sure my death is going to be one of those times.  I want to control the experience myself.  I don’t want to feel dizzy and nauseated on top of whatever else I am feeling.

My husband has told me that he wants to kill himself before it gets too late. I have actually heard this a few too many times, so the last time he told me about his desire to end his own life in a timely fashion I told him I will take over the shooting if he becomes too much of a pain. That seemed to amuse him.

As we gently care for our once strong parents, death is always on our minds. We are grateful to have our health and our lives, but it is without the lightheartedness of youth.

We wonder what sort of elderly people we will be, who will look after whom?  Will we be good tempered and brave?  My Mom is giving us her very best. In fact on my last visit she managed a full sentence, sitting up after dinner.  She slowly pronounced, “I am losing my faculties” she said, “but I am trying very hard to be brave”.

I would be proud to go into death as good temperedly as my Mom, “Like a character out of Dickens’” she joked last time after a big cough.  She is moving off very slowly, “Shall we stroll the decks?”  “Can we reduce the speed”?   She is getting every last drop of milk from the saucer.

The spirit in her eye is still flickering, love travels from one eye to another.  I am sending love, I am feeling love and I recognize love.

My last visit with Mom may not be my last visit.  My fingers are ready to fly over the keyboard, book a ticket, pack my old worn bag, get back on that little plane and fly back to her side.


 

 

Stark January

Published January 25, 2013 by megdedwards

jan 11 002Are you feeling a bit tense and irritable?  Did you just unfriend someone who annoyed you? Are you reconsidering your job, your marriage, your hair style?  Are you questioning every life choice you have ever made?

Do not act on your impulses at this time of the year. Leave your hair as it is. Changing  your circumstances is not going to change the weather.  Most likely you are just going a little ‘wintery’ . It is a saying I just made it up.

As January creeps  inexorably into February we begin to twitch and give hard stares to strangers.

Now let’s just say this, any mood swings or feelings of cramped irritation at the restraints that are part of your life , they all count as ‘first world problems’. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

It is stressful to have debt, it is stressful to be unemployed or badly employed, it is a drag that you can”t afford a holiday, or even a dinner out, but in the long run we all have good food and warm shelter and it is a fair bet that we always will have  these comforts.

But still, there is a harsh quality to a freezing January day that tests any good humor.

When I find myself standing at the window staring at the icy sea, and wondering whether I should make really chocolatey brownies, I know it is almost February.  When I find myself  thinking fondly of an evening glass of wine, in middle of the afternoon, I know the days are cold and short.

Today the sun crept up over the hoary frozen vista like a warning.  ‘Appreciate the day, Godammit’, said the Sun. I heard it distinctly. Last night the full moon lit up the frozen slippery garden and peeked in the windows, and it sang a sweet melancholy song,  ‘Sleep peacefully, all bundled up in warm blankets.  Be a happy beast, hibernate when you can’.

I know what I have to do this coming month.  The first thing is buy a big box of wine. The second is invest in good chocolate. The third is plan some dinner parties; have people over, make food, open my house.

And of course, feed the birds and critters, walk in the woods and, very important, take vitamin D and a massive stinking Vitamin B complex.

Tiny Moments of Reflection

Published July 13, 2012 by megdedwards

In many tiny moments I think about life and death. If I am carefully pouring sugar water into a small glass bottle for hummingbirds, I think about my Dad and how he would have done this, when he was alive. How my Dad would have enjoyed my bird feeders, and laughed with me about the bird battles over seeds and sugar water. When I smell sweet wild flowers in the air, I think about how this is something we can only do when we are alive, or when I feel a perfect breeze while taking in the laundry off the line. Mundane tasks make the strongest impression in my mind. Making toast, going through books on a shelf, small mundane tasks make me think about what it is to be alive. Daily or weekly tasks that make us feel as if we are getting something done, they are the most potent. As I roll the smelly garbage can to the road, and it makes a trundling sound and I feel the satisfaction of not having forgotten to get the garbage out, I think of what it means to be alive and functioning in our world. Our tasks and thoughts are so very arbitrary, nothing much will matter when we are dead, but everything must matter when we are alive. I think of my Mom who can’t do the smallest chore due to pain and exhaustion. She can’t cook a meal and say ‘there’s lots more’ as she always does, did. She can’t wipe down her table and set out plates and tell an anecdote and open a bottle of wine simultaneously, as I can picture her doing in my mind. She is too tired and her life is slowly coming to an end. Every little part of my life, my child saying, ‘Mama’, calls from my eldest looking for advice, hugs from my muscle bound teenage boy, every weed I pull and bill I pay, reverberates, like the sound of a low bell. Reflecting on being alive while one is alive is not a youthful state. I am not in the sensual moment, free of perspective. I am standing beside myself seeing my hands pouring sugar water. I am not unhappy, just seriously reflective. Lying in my comfortable bed without immediate fear of death or illness, I remember what it felt like to be twenty. The luxury of sleeping when young, when the future is a blank and expectant canvas and all one had to do was move forward. Now I seem to think and fret in bed, thinking of all the things I have to do. I want to bring back that careless mind because my fretful thoughts are unnecessary. I am young now, if I manage to grow old. We are living with death and loss when our parents are sick or dying. This is a predictable phase of middle age, where some of us will act out and grasp our youth, and others may become depressed. I feel fine, though stretched out. My heart and my capable mind are busy planning, scheming, paying bills or putting off paying bills, planning for the very young and very old. What will make all these people around me the happiest, what can I do to facilitate the lives in my small universe. I remember when my mother was in this role, and how she played it. Now her practical life has faded and her best moments are with her vivid memories. My memories collect on dusty shelves; a little child’s humming as she draws, a loving mustache kiss, and the kettle boiling in the morning.

Chaos and Order – Life and Music

Published June 5, 2012 by megdedwards

I drove to Dorchester the other weekend to go to a village organized garage sale extravaganza. Maud and I found a few things but one of the most wonderful things was the music I found.

I was looking through a box of things and found some hand labeled CD’s and cassette tapes. What drew me to the tapes was the hand writing, which looked like my Dad’s.

I picked out a few CD’s and tapes, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Now I know I love to hear the piano in almost any kind of music, but I have also grown very fond of strings that vibrate into your heart.  When I play the Vivaldi 6 Concertos I am transfixed.  I keep turning it up, and tuning out what is around me.  I want to lie down and just listen. It is beautiful story telling music, with echoes and refrains and the soul crying out to celebrate life.  The 6 Concertos pulse and surge, my heart fills, my mind is completely drawn into the conversation of instruments.  My Dad and I listen together.

Maybe I appreciate the violin now more since I have tried to learn how to play it. I was just getting somewhere with my lessons when I cut the tendon in my finger in a bizarre and unexpected accident with homemade granola. The lesson to learn from that is that you may in fact have a limited time to learn  something new so don’t put it off for 40 years like I did.

But I am really good at going with the flow. So I have moved on. Now I listen to the violin and in my head I am playing it. Sometimes I do desire that my children will try everything with no hesitation, and try to be good at it too. There can be no harm in achievement of any kind in any art or discipline.

But music means a lot to me, and dance. And I never really recognized how much it did. Even now I let music enter my life randomly, and I don’t indulge it as much as I could with concerts or a good sound system. My car is littered with CD’s though because as a rural Mom I spend a lot of time in the car: pop, classical, salsa, Arabic music. CD’s like autumn leaves, unsheathed and chaotic. I am the one who sweeps my hands this way or that and makes things happen in my chaotic life.

I chose tap dancing when I was a young shy girl and my Mom told me I could take any class I wanted from our local community center. That must have surprised my Mom. And my brother chose cooking and has been a chef all his life! Then later I played in the all boy brass band in high school because I had been given the trombone in Grade 9 when I had requested the flute.  In my thirties I found belly dancing and loved it. Recently I have been taking West African Drumming with Kadijah and really enjoying it.

I don’t know if I am a self- authenticated person. I am not even sure I know what that means but I suspect it means you know who you are and you act on it.

Lots of us struggle with knowing and acting. It does seem to take me a long time to take myself seriously. I don’t pursue achievements, I don’t believe in myself too strongly. What I do know about myself is that I enjoy my own company and I can flow with the stream of life, watching and thinking.

It is probably a fairly good achievement to be a content person so maybe I am self -authenticated after all.  I have always had modest dreams and within my own expectations I have done well. I really wanted children, and from a very young age I knew that. As I matured I knew that I wanted to be the kind of mother who gives her whole being to her children and allows them to outshine her. And I am doing that as planned.

My writing was not so much of a career choice but a part of me, I have always had journal of insights, observations and occasional poetry.  I have made money from my writing, which is good I suppose, but I don’t suspect it is ever going to be a big money maker for me.

This blog allows me to open up and add my voice to the chorus of voices. I can hear my voice, and that is nice. Others can hear me, and that is pretty good for a recovered shy person. I dance at my local hall with my friends because we like to dance but I find I am too shy to perform with any real enthusiasm. I just like to dance for my own pleasure.

If I did have a ‘bucket wish’, it would be to play an instrument again, and especially to play or ding with others, in choir or in a band.

It is so satisfying to play with others. I rediscovered this when I was drumming in my last West African drumming workshop.  Kadijah had me on the big low drum and I had to hold the beat together for the rest of us newbie drum players during our last song and the culmination of all that we had learnt that day.

I was concentrating really hard, my brain tying me to my hands, my feet wide apart and my stomach hanging out and breathing deeply.  Nothing brings your heart, mind and body together more than music.

Your body and mind must work in unison. You cannot be distracted or self -conscious or you will lose the beat. Your mind must stay focused and the only thing you will hear is your own beat, and how it is working in chorus with the other drummers.

It is hard work and it makes you a whole person engaged in the moment. It is satisfying and revealing; discovering the power of singing or drumming  allows the body to remember what it felt like to learn how to walk or talk. Like infants we smile broadly, proud of ourselves and amazed at the sound of our own voices.

A Cuppa

Published May 17, 2012 by megdedwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend looked at me with an expression of dismay, “Well”, she said, “I don’t know what to do now”.  I was at a loss too. Her husband was lying dead on the driveway with my favorite scarf jammed between the ice and his grey hair. He was splayed out in the look of death, absolutely relaxed, feet in odd positions, his snow shovel abandoned beside him.

The First Responders, there with their truck, were neighbors and past students of her husband, as they often are in rural areas where firemen are volunteers.  They stood together quietly.  “Let’s go inside and have a cup of tea”, I said.  My friend was certainly in the first moments of shock, and although teary, she was her usual thoughtful self, getting chairs organized for everyone and finding cups.  The men quietly moved her husband into their truck while we were inside. She gasped though, when she saw her husband’s hat on the back of a chair, saying softly, ‘his hat’ and patting it protectively.

So we made tea, a restorative drink and an important human ritual. First we have to boil the water, and then steep the leaves in the water. All this takes a certain amount of time and cannot be rushed. The water must boil, the tea must steep. It is a calming ritual because we must stop and sit and wait. While having tea we gathered ourselves, and waited for the officials. My friend prepared herself to call her children. We took a moment and talked about her husband, and how well loved a teacher and coach he had been.

A brewed cup of tea or coffee is an offering of friendship, an invitation to sit down and be heard. If someone offers to make you a hot drink that means that they like you, and want to make you feel at ease.  When we offer an upset person a hot drink we are giving them time to gather strength as well as caffeine and sugar to fuel their next move.

I have discovered that I love reading about hot drink rituals as much as partaking in them. My favorite authors use the tea or coffee break as a sensual reflective moment.  I first noticed this with P.D.  James.  I don’t read any murder mystery writers except P.D. James, and my favorite moments in the James novels are when the detective Dalgliesh is on a road trip investigating a crime. The detective loves to get into his car and go on a trip, and he also loves a good cup of coffee.

I bet I could find a lovingly detailed description of a good cup of coffee in every James novel. The aroma of just ground coffee beans rises up from the book.  A feeling of joy in the small comforts of life seeps into your bones as Dalglieish settles in before a fireplace with his fine brewed coffee and a puzzle before him.

I became a ‘red tea’ drinker because of Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Botswana, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I was addicted to this series during a very stressful period of my life. The books calmed my nerves and lifted my spirits when I was a shattered person, nerves frayed, digestive system shot. When the wonderful Precious and her assistant decide to make a pot of tea it meant the ladies had to stop and think, or give special time to hear a visitor’s story. During the time that I read that series  I went out and bought some Rooibos tea and started to drink it rather than over doing black tea.

When my life had settled down and my body had stopped being on high alert, I moved away from that series and went back in time to a writer I loved as a child, Tove Jansson. We were in the midst of a long dark winter, with snow piling up on the roof and storms burying us every weekend when I found my old Mommintroll books that my Mom read aloud when I was little. By the time I was 11 I would ask for them for presents and I had read them all.

I started to read the Moomintroll series to my seven year old daughter that winter, settling into our cozy bed every night and traveling to that odd world. Here too I found the hot drink ritual. Moominmamma, who clearly resembles me at this point in my life with her big black purse full of useful things and her motherly skills, is always the one to brew a pot of coffee for the family, no matter what the disaster, flood or comet.

Settling into a picnic on an island it is Momminmamma who buries the butter jar in the sand in order to keep it cool and starts a small fire to brew up some coffee.  Her insistence on continuing the small pleasures of life in the face of any other excitement makes her the comforting presence in the books.

When she brews coffee it reminds me of my intense memories of the family cottage. As a child, and as an adult, lying in a bundle of warm blankets with the cool air around your face, opening your eyes to sunshine on the trees and the sound of someone tinkering in the kitchen.  Water is being poured into the old coffee pot, the gas has been put on, and soon the delicious smell of coffee will waft through the air.

I read a short story in a magazine a long time ago in which a few images and an offered cup of tea stayed with me and lingered in my mind. I knew the story was by Rohinton Mistry but I did not know the title so it was hard to track down.  The images of the story stayed with me, and it was by doing some vague searches online that I finally found it.  My first searches turned up nothing at all because I kept including ‘tea’ in my search.  When I remembered to include a red stain on the white garments I found the story. Not everyone has my obsession with the tea ritual.

It was my memory of a red stain of beetle juice on the older gentleman’s white clothing that lead me to right story, Rustomji the Curmudgeon.  I remember a fussy old man and a younger wife. The older man was having  a tiring and troubling day as a day trip to a religious event is unsuccessful and instead he gets involved with some street confusion or uprising, and returns home with his good white clothes stained by red juice from someone’s spit.

In fact, I could not remember all those details at first. My mind was focused on the tea at the end of the story. Mostly I remembered how much I had enjoyed the journey of the story. I could see the red stain in my mind and smell the dust of the streets. And I felt the calm of the orderly home, and the loving offer of a cup of tea.  I wanted to read the story again to study the effect. There was a contemplative circular effect that had struck just the right tone, and the cup of tea at the end of the story had resonated like a note on a bell.

The story made me stop and think about marriage and happiness. Always egocentric in my analysis of literature I may have been looking for an answer to a question in my heart. I thought the offer of the cup of tea was the essence of a good marriage. When she lovingly offers the tea you realize that they do have a better marriage than you would have first thought.  Her offer of tea described or defined her love, and made him seem lovable. She created love, by offering the tea, and hence created her marriage.

I thought about the tea for some time. Marriage is not just about two characters and their compatibility; instead it is about what they create together. It is a third thing, something created by two people working together. A cup of tea offered, is the action and definition of love; it is a necessary tradition in a relationship and in all human relations.

 

Found: Old Poetry

Published February 18, 2012 by megdedwards

Crazy Kate

My sister, sweet soul,

deer doe eyed beauty.

 

Vain selfish fancy-

Full lovely girl.

You always laugh until you cry.

 

I wish you were still,

All there.

 

Black moth on the fridge,

Fluttering and fragile,

blown in by the storm,

Stark against the antiseptic white.

 

Shivering, giggling,

Pissing on the white sheets.

Black coal dripping from your mouth.

Large eyes, all pupil, wavering

Between crying and laughing.

 

You were young and full of fantasy,

All green eyes and sparkle,

Translucent, tendrils,

Drifting and catching,

Stinging and floating.

 

Falling so lightly

Off a bridge so high.

Not grounded, even then.

Too light hearted to die.

Rising again, hardened and confused.

 

Lady, light, you are floating away

And leaving your angry bitter body with me.

Killing your sweet self.

 

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