For My Older Daughter on Her Birthday

Ocean City, NJ

Little girl

gambols by the seaside

 

the saltwater flows,

and she grows

 

wondering who she is,

who she’ll be

 

as onward flows

the sea, she knows

 

kisses, and soaring free

to be

 

herself, and shows

a world images–she knows

 

what dreams can be

 

A quadrille for dVerse, where De is asking us to use the word kiss. Sorry for all the birthday poems, but I wrote a poem for younger daughter’s birthday, so I had to write one for older daughter’s birthday today. I’m struck by how many of her paintings are of soaring figures—both people and sea creatures. You can see some of them here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week That Was

Monk's Cafe--Inside Looking Out

Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia Merril D. Smith 2018

I was born in this city where now we go to celebrate, the night before my birthday. Holiday lights glow through the misty air. We sit in a pub, warm and cozy, even though the nearby tables are loud with after work parties, students, and academics. I gaze through the window as two young girls outside take photos of an older couple standing in front of the Christmas lights. Perhaps the girls’ grandparents? My husband and I clink our glasses in a toast, and I dig into my mussels.

 

holiday spirits,

sparkling souls in glowing light

December revels

We walk around the neighborhood for a bit. Rittenhouse Square is full of light; the skyline shimmers. We see winter trees and signs of city life.

 

ghostly branches wave,

beckoning to seasons past

harboring futures

We go to show, laugh at the jokes and clever Broadway parodies. The woman next to me sits stoically, never applauding, but suddenly lets out a loud guffaw at a joke about [vice-president] Mike Pence waiting to be raptured. Well, it was a funny joke. It is raining as we walk back to the train.

 

IMG_0774

raindrops dripping from branches—

glimmers in puddles

It is still raining the next day, my birthday, but we walk around anyway. Then go to a movie of cinematic splendor, filmed in black and white. The images linger on screen and in my mind–

 

puddles on cement

an airplane flying through clouds

crashing ocean waves

Class struggles. Race. But always women without men, raising children.

 

 

We eat Chinese food with friends, laughing, catching up with this and that. I receive roses from one friend, and another bakes me a birthday cake. My husband gives me chocolate truffles. I get birthday wishes from family and friends. I talk to one daughter on the phone, and I see the other at a winery holiday party. Despite the weather, this has been a wonderful birthday weekend.

 

I am thankful for this life.

I was born just before the solstice. The days have been gloomy, and the nights grow longer.

now coming darkness

then the coming of more light

long night’s moon whispers

softly from behind the cloud cover, where meteors blaze across the sky. Perhaps I hear them sigh.

I close my eyes. Like a vision—I see a snow owl. It swivels its head. Looks at me, raises its magnificent wings, and sails off into the night sky. I think of the owl I saw once on my birthday. Spirit animal? Magical vision? Who knows.  .  .

this feathered glory

shining white in midnight sky–

hope in the darkness

 

At Sharrott Winery, Members Holiday Party, 2018

 

I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai challenge—solstice. We went to 1812 Production’s annual show, This is the Week That Is. We ate at Monk’s Café.  My daughter took me to the member’s holiday party at Sharrott Winery. We saw the movie, Roma. It will be on Netflix, but if you can, see it in the theater. The cinematography is worth it. Here’s the official trailer.

 

 

To Sylvia Let Us Sing

 

 

Who is Silvia? what is she,

 

        That all our swains commend her?

 

Holy, fair, and wise is she;

 

        The heaven such grace did lend her,

 

That she might admirèd be.

 

 

Is she kind as she is fair?

 

        For beauty lives with kindness.

 

Love doth to her eyes repair,

 

        To help him of his blindness,

 

 

And, being helped, inhabits there.

 

 

Then to Silvia let us sing,

 

  That Silvia is excelling;

 

She excels each mortal thing

 

        Upon the dull earth dwelling:

 

To her let us garlands bring.

 

 

   –William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona

 

 

 

 

Today my mother, Sylvia, turns 91. She was born to immigrant Russian-Jewish parents after the War to End All Wars–which didn’t–grew up during the Great Depression, and married during World War II. She and my father married and divorced twice; they had four children together. When he died, she was at his bedside to say goodbye. She adores her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and they can do no wrong in her eyes, which is how it should be.

 

 

These are some facts about her life, but they do not describe her. They do not get to the essential Sylvianess of her–the laugh lines around her eyes and the way she talks and laughs at the same time when she tells a story; her sneezes at the end of family dinners followed by her statement, “I ate too much.” The basic facts about her life do not describe her impatience when she has to wait anywhere; nor her ability to laugh at herself when someone calls her out about it. The everyday statistics of her life do not explain her passion for art. They do not describe how she continues to paint, although her eyes have become traitorous. They do not describe the mother I love.

 

 

I did not know my mother when she was a child, of course, or even a young woman. There are few people now alive who did. I only know she has been a constant in my life, and I cannot imagine a day when she will not here.

 

 

Today in the Philadelphia/ South Jersey area it’s a gloriously beautiful day, the type of day we don’t often have here in August. The humidity has lifted, and the sun is shining. So today “to Silvia let us sing,That Silvia is excelling.” And I will hope that my mom continues to excel and we continue to celebrate her birth for many more years. I love you, Mom.