Those Christmas Cookies

My cousins in downstate New York are all ready for Christmas with their cookies, posting photos and recipes on Facebook and making me feel inadequate as a grandmother.

My mother started baking after Thanksgiving and didn’t finish until the day before Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve, after all, was always the extended-family gathering at my own grandmother’s for the Polish Wigilia, a meatless night of eating and drinking and singing “Koledy,” Polish Christmas Carols.

When I moved away decades ago, I drifted away from those traditions, and, not really being into housewifery, I didn’t get into the baking, either.

One of my mother’s specialties was “pizzelles,” which are of Italian origin, but that didn’t stop my mother. She got the recipe from her Italian sister-in-law and each year gave everyone in the family a batch of her homemade pizzelles — which are made on a kind of waffle iron and which take an awful lot of time to make. You have to pour each one separately and then stand there while the hot gadget bakes them. Then you have to remove each one separately and set them carefully aside to cool and harden.

One of the few things I took for myself after my mother passed away was her pizzelle maker, and this year I unearthed it from the cellar, cleaned it up, googled a recipe, and made a batch that I will take to my daughter’s in-laws on Christmas Day.

I found that I actually enjoyed making them — something about the meditative calm of the repetitive task, the memory of my mother humming softly while she poured, clamped, waited, opened, and gently removed her perfectly round and patterned pizzelles.

Mine are not so round or so perfectly patterned, but it was my first try.

My mother always bought — rather than made — one kind of pastry for the holidays. She called them “bow ties” and got them especially for my son, who loved them. They are really Jewish “egg kichel,” and this year I ordered some from Etsy and sent them to my son in Portland OR in memory of my mom. He said that they were just as good as he remembered.

I don’t have many Christmas traditions (especially since I don’t really celebrate the religious holiday) but I think I will make making my mom’s pizzelles one of them from now on.

Old Poems

My son-in-law found the box of my poetry that I packed up to move here five years ago. I have enough for a book. They are mostly very dark. I would call the book “Dark Matters.”

In the bottom of the box is a journal where I wrote poems about some of the lovers that moved through my life back in those disco dancing days. I take the journal to bed and read their names, remember their faces, how they danced. I remember them all except one. Brad. My poem remembers him even though I no longer do. Why is he the one I can’t remember?

I think of who I was back then. It was when I discovered Lilith in an article by Lilly Rivlin’s in the first issue of Ms Magazine. That was in 1972. That’s when it all started.

my delightful writing circle

I finally got off my lazy butt and organized a “writing circle” at the public library. It’s held every other Wednesday afternoon and is loosely based on the Amherst Writing Method. I say “loosely” because, while I have participated in the program in the past, I have not been officially trained to lead a group. But we follow the suggested “prompt, write, respond” method, and it is working very well for us, I think.

So, today the folks each brought in an object for someone else to use as a prompt. I chose a pair of very worn women’s shoes from the turn of 19th century. I had posted it here but removed it because I am submitting it to a poetry journal.

my Hallowe’en addiction

Granny WeatherwaxFor as long as I can remember, I have dressed up for Hallowe’en. I start in September deciding on and building a costume. mad scientistLast year I was a mad scientist. The year before, a Lady Bug. The year before that, a Hogwart’s Professor. I have been Elaine of Camelot, a 1940’s gangster in a double breasted suit, medusaMedusa with pipe cleaner snakes in my hair, the “Deadly Sin” Lust (as a vampire),sneezy Sneezy of the Seven Dwarfs, Madame Sosostris (T.S. Eliot’s “famous clairvoyant, had a bad cold but was known to be the wisest woman with a wicked pack of cards”),sosostris a unicorn, Jeannie the genie, and any number and variety of witches.

ElaineMy once husband, being a playwright, actor, and director, could occasionally get into the costume thing. One year we went as Elaine the Lily Maid of Astalot and her Jester — with masks. When my kids were little, I made their costumes too. raggeyann My daughter, as Raggedy Ann, won a prize in a costume parade (an actual parade down the night streets of the small town we lived in then). autumnqueenHere’s a picture of both kids, my daughter as the Queen of Autumn and her brother as a little demon sidekick.

neutrino As my son got older, he opted to be some kind of super hero, including one that he invented and designed the costume for. He called himself “Neutrino.”

I am not dressing up this year. I just don’t have the energy, and I’m out of ideas.

But my daughter and grandson are not, and they are in the final stages of building the Dalek that my grandson will sit in and propel around the neighborhood, using my mom’s old transport wheelchair as the base. Don’t know what a Dalek is? Here’s a clue.

I have always approached “clothes” as “costumes.” I had my office worker costume, my funky weekend wear, by ballroom dance outfits. What I wear has always been an extension of who I am, and apparently I have passed those genes on to my kids and grandkid. What they wear is who they are (at that moment).

But what about me? What has changed so that I am no longer excited about a new costume — for Hallowe’en or otherwise. There is very little I seem to be excited about these days, and my Hallowe’en addiction seems to have disappeared. It’s it age? Is it some kind of depression?

Meanwhile, I am getting a real kick out of watching the birth of the home-grown Dalek, made all of cardboard, duck tape, bits of styrofoam, wire wreath frames, cup lids, spay paint, and an awful lot of imagination and determination.dalek1

10 books I have read that have stayed with me

There’s a Facebook meme circulating to which I am moved to respond, especially because, in thinking about the challenge, I see that my choices are very idiosyncratic. And, while I read much more fiction than non-fiction, it is mostly the non-fiction books that I remember because they had such an effect on my ways of thinking and creating. The fiction I remember because they were quirky and mind-bending.

1. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road by Sheldon Kopp
2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
3. Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
4. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
5. The City Not Long After by Pat Murphy — a sci fi novel where artists save the world after an apocalyptic event
6. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
7. Collected Poems, by T.S. Elliot
8. Words for the Wind by Theodore Roethke
9. a quirky transgender sci fi novel the title and author of which I can’t remember; but I remember the cover image, which looked a little like Prince (the artist formerly known as) with purple pompadour, and I remember becoming totally engrossed in the created reality of the novel
10 the Bible, both Old and New Testaments but not all of either — mostly the gospels because, as a kid, I liked reading about the dramatic exploits of Jesus while I sat through the boredom of mass

ADDENDUM: The sci fi book the title of which I couldn’t think of just popped into my head: Crygender by Thomas T. Thomas. Hardly great literature, but that was not the topic of this meme.

My Annual Mother’s Day Tribute to My Kids

(I first posted this in 2006.)

Some women take to mothering naturally. I had to work at it. And so I wasn’t the best mother in the world. I would have worked outside the home whether I had been a single mom or not. But because I was, mine were latchkey kids, with my daughter, beginning at age 12, taking care of her younger brother, age 5, after school. I left them some evenings to go out on dates.

Oh, I did cook them healthy meals, and even cookies sometimes. I made their Halloween costumes and went to all parent events at their schools. My daughter took ballet lessons, belonged to 4H (but I got kicked out as Assistant Leader because I wouldn’t salute the flag during the Vietnam War). I made my son a Dr. Who scarf and took him to Dr. Who fan events. I bought him lots of comic books and taught him how to throw a ball.

But most of all, I think/hope I did for them what my mother was never able to do for me, — give them the freedom to become who they wanted to be — to explore, make mistakes, and search for their bliss. I think/hope that I always let them know that, as far as I was concerned, they were OK just the way they were/are. (Me and that dear now dead Mr. Rogers.) Not having had that affirmation from my mother still affects my relationship with her. I hope that my doing that right for them neutralizes all the wrong things I did as they were growing up.

So, you two (now adult) kids, here’s to you both. You keep me young, you keep me informed, you keep me honest, and, in many ways, you keep me vital. I’m so glad that I’m your mother.

Never in a million years could I have foretold where my kids would be today.

My daughter home schools my grandson, now 11. This is her bliss, and he is all the better for it. She sometime writes about her experiences as a parent who home schools on her blog walkinglabyrinth.com, as well as on Facebook. I live in the home she makes for the four of us. That’s a surprise, too.

My son, currently between jobs, lives in Portland OR and is the co-owner of and social media manager for nonprofit The Belmont Goats. As always, he maintains a strong internet presence.

Whatever they learned from me over all of those years, I am still learning from them and enjoying having them in my life.

Who is Jake Trussell and why…..

Why do I have him listed with Kerouac and Kafka in a poem that I wrote when I was twenty years old?

jake TrussellEven the information about him in the last available copy of his chapbook that I just bought for $10 doesn’t tell me anything about how I might have come to know anything about him more than a half-century ago.

Apparently, he wrote back in the late 30s and 40s, and this chapbook is his only collection. The inside cover says

Only a limited edition of 1000 is being printed, and none of them will ever be available except as a personal gift from the writer.

The copy I bought is inscribed to “Doc Chandler: who appreciates cheesecake and football predictions — all the good things in life. Jack Trussell, 10-15-57.”

I was a freshman in college in 1957. Might I have heard him read his poetry on campus? Did one of my fellow pseudo-beatniks tell me about him? Did I share a beer with him one night in the tiny bar on Central Avenue in Albany where we gathered around a table in front of a bizarre mural of Buddha, Shiva, and various other inspirational myths? I don’t know why his name would appear in my poem.I don’t remember. Have no idea. “Doc Chandler” certainly doesn’t ring a bell.

About the poems in this collectin Jake says “To me, poetry was always a personal thing, written for the pure joy of writing and for no other consideration whatsoever. These poems were written at very odd moments ….and on the strangest assortments of materials (napkins, the backs of old football programs, and scraps of typing paper crammed into a beat up portable late at night on a kitchen table).”

I guess that sounds pretty much like what we were all doing back then.

Most of his poems have end line rhymes, which I rarely like. I might never know why his name found its way into one of my very early efforts. Maybe I had read this one of his; I know I would have liked this one, which he wrote in 1938:

trussell exit

when I was 20

I am looking through my pages of poetry, some written when I was in grade school, but I’ll spare you those. I wrote this when I had just turned twenty and was home from college during a part of the summer. It’s not great poetry, but it’s a great thought, I think.

on the boatbwhen I am old
I will not care for
rock ‘n roll
slopping
and jazz
bongos drums
beat poetry and
Kafka
Kerouac
Jake Trussell and
lifeguards with
sea-burnished hair
and convertibles.
but now I am young
and I know that all of these
will one day be
the cushions
on the couch of memories
on which I will repose
when I am old.

The Slop was a dance from the fifties. I had to google Jake Trussell and I still don’t remember why he was important to me back then. But I still like rock ‘n roll. And convertibles. And I’m still known to ogle lifeguards.

when blogging was personally new

This is something I posted during my second month of blogging back in 2001. I wrote some great stuff back then. I had posted a “best of Kalilily” for those early days, for which the links don’t work. So when I fix them, I’ll reprise the post here.

Big Picture, Little Picture
So, there are some discussions going these days on about the purpose and value of weblogs. Oddly enough, the other night at my bi-monthly group meeting, I mentioned that I had begun a weblog, and I was asked to explain what that was and why I was doing it, and why I just wasn’t keeping a journal. As I’ve said, I’ve unsuccessfully tried keeping journals before and I write so much slower than I think that I got frustrated and quit. I can type almost as fast as I think (I got used to doing that at the job from which I retired last year, which involved mostly whipping out quick documents for others to share and claim as their own.) So, it’s easier to do it on the computer. And why don’t I just keep a journal on disk, I was asked. The truth is, I admitted, is that I’m used to writing for an audience. And I like having an audience. Even my poems are usually written with an audience (sometimes of one) in mind. It’s why I ballroom dance. I’m a performer at heart. I need ways to say to the world: this is who I am. Look at me. Pay attention. It seems to me that that’s at the heart of why everyone else who keeps a blog does so. In a world where we all have to live up to expectations and assume roles for survival purposes (our own and others) — caregiver, mother, employee, citizen — it’s so satisfying to have a place where one can BE who one is. Or in some cases, where one can BE who one wants to BE. It really doesn’t matter. We can create who we want to be or be creative with who we are. Either way, one has an identity, a voice. In a way, it’s kind of a new art form — or at least it can evolve in some cases into such. How cool is that!