Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

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We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

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This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.

Balloon Song: Quadrille

The child cradled the balloon,

what was left of it,

with wisdom beyond her years,

she sang a song of loss,

reality, what was and what is,

now grown, she’s flown

floated, landed

(grounded),

no hot air within her,

but love

makes her soar

 

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

 

 

This is a quadrille for dVerse. The prompt word was balloon. This poem is based on an event that I cannot explain without embarrassing one of my daughters, but the sentiment applies to both daughters.

Sunday Travels

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

–Herman Melville

A trip to see my mother,

not the one of birth

but the one in-law

(Is it a human trait to group and classify?)

I think of her as a young girl in Scranton, PA.

she and her sister, and the adventures they had

little girls in braids

roaming the hilly streets

to library, school, and church

playing with their friends

Rock Around the Clock

And Love is a Many Splendored Thing

She fell in love—love of her life–

and became a parent so young,

equal parts excitement and terror

I imagine.

Did she wonder was this what it meant to be an adult?

In less than a year, she’ll be eighty,

not so old anymore,

eighty, it’s the new sixty,

fourscore years

just a blink in the life of the universe

but enough time to build a life—and then some.

 

We travel through three states: New Jersey, Maryland,

and Pennsylvania,

crossing back and forth over the Mason-Dixon line

I look out the window

verdant rolling hills

goats, horses, and cows grazing contently

in the glistening grassy fields

waves of lavender-colored wildflowers in another field,

it is drizzling, and our daughter needs a bathroom stop,

a typical car trip.

 

With my brother and sister—also in-law–and their son

we take this other mother of mine to lunch

a belated Mother’s Day celebration,

we laugh at how my husband and his brother,

do the same jog-walk, arms pumping,

we eat sandwiches and French fries

and talk of this and that

we return to her house for dessert

and then the women sit in the living room to talk

while the men and boy go downstairs,

we talk of my daughter’s teaching job,

the play her students performed

the porn site her students discovered

(Ooops!)

we marvel at how the boy has grown,

his boyhood now shadowed by the man he will become,

taller and broader,

his opinions proclaimed in a deeper voice,

self-assured and absolute with the confidence of youth.

 

Soon it is time to leave,

back over the Mason-Dixon line

using technology that Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon

could never have imagined,

traveling through a nation that was still a colony

when they surveyed it,

traveling over a line that became more important a century later

for those who sought freedom from slave state to free,

traveling back on highways,

retracing our path home,

through time and space.

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Grandmother and granddaughter–both grand!

Marriage and Growing Pains

[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

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Last night my husband and I attended a wedding. We have been friends with the groom’s parents for about thirty-five years. The bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, and the couple were clearly very happy and in love. At the reception, we ate and ate, and then we ate some more. We danced and danced. People got drunk. There was some behind-the-scenes drama. In short, it was in many ways a typical American wedding celebration, but for the couple and their families it was a unique and extraordinary event in their lives.

Our older daughter will be getting married in about a year. Recently, she and her fiancée moved to a new apartment, and purchased, as she said “grownup furniture.”

Our younger daughter is starting her first grownup job next month. She will be living at home—at least for the next several months. She said it doesn’t bother her living with us, her parents, but she is eager to have her own place, as many of her friends now have. I can certainly understand this.

It amuses me when people make assertions about marriage and marriage customs based upon some mythical past. They describe the virginal bride dressed in white who married in her late teens or very early twenties in a church ceremony and who then stayed at home while her husband worked. This is a fairly recent trope. And of course it was only ever typical of some middle and upper class couples. Women have always worked, especially poor women and farmwomen. And does it surprise anyone that many brides have not been virgins on their wedding day? Yes, even in Puritan New England, although a couple could get in trouble if a baby arrived too soon after the wedding. (See Else Hambleton’s Daughters of Eve )Incidentally, marriage in 17th century New England was deemed a civil union, not a religious one—and divorce was legal.

As young adults many men and women lived apart from their families because of choice, economic need, and enslavement. Some couples lived together without being married (and of course, slaves could not legally marry). Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read lived as husband and wife for forty-four years without an actual marriage ceremony.  Deborah had been previously married to a man who deserted her. The couple’s household in Philadelphia in the 1730s included Benjamin’s illegitimate son, William.

When couples married in previous centuries they did not always move into their own home. Neither did they always live with one of their families, although these things occurred. It depended on time, place, and a variety of factors. Age of first marriage has also fluctuated over the centuries. For the children of late eighteenth-century Maine midwife Martha Ballard, weddings were simple affairs. After one such wedding, the bride continued to live with her family, while her new husband visited occasionally for the next month or so. During that time, the women made quilts and collected items the couple would need. It was only after that that the couple moved into their own space and “went to housekeeping.”

A few weeks ago, my husband and I drove past a group of houses set back from the road in their own small court. I remarked how nice it would be to live in a setting like that—we would have one house, our daughters and their significant others could have other houses, and my sisters and their families could each have houses. We would all have privacy, but we could just walk out our doors to visit one another. My husband looked at me in horror. Different dreams, I suppose. Ha!

My sisters and I have sometimes talked about how fun it would be to live in a setting like the one the grandparents have in the TV show Parenthood. Of course, we do not have the year-round lovely weather they seem to have there for the dinners the extended family enjoys.

I know my daughters will move on to next phases of their lives—as they should. At the same time, I will cherish the moments when they are here, and enjoy every one of those fleeting family moments. But really that family compound would be nice.

There is too much to discuss on marriage and divorce here. I discuss these subjects in more detail in Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord In Pennsylvania, 1730-1830, Women’s Roles in Seventeenth-Century America, and Women’s Roles in Eighteenth-Century America.