July 24, 2012

A River Runs Through It

Photo by John Cady

I finally decided at the end of packing up my childhood home that what I would really miss, the very most, is the view.

Over the last several decades when I've needed a vision of something to calm me- sitting in the back yard, and looking out over the water is where I have frequently traveled to in my mind.

Although the house is gone now, I will have this vision to go to, forever.

Our river house was built in 1890 and was a former tea house back in the day.

I don't even know where to begin to tell you about the house but to say that it touched every one of my senses.

My bedroom from when I was ages 10-12. I chose it because of the wainscoting.
It is where I've experienced some of the scariest moments in life, when strong electrical storms rolled in off Lake Ontario. Driving wind and rain would shake the house, and rattle the windows so violently, that I could not believe afterward that we had made it through another storm unscathed, yet again.

The weeping willow tree this past March

One night, while visiting my folks alone as a grown woman and mother of two, I was so frightened during such a storm in the middle of the night that I rapped on my parent's bedroom door and asked if I could get in bed with them.

"I don't know how you can stand this year after year," I said trembling.

My bedroom from age 12 and up that I chose for its view.

"Oh, it's not so bad," said my mom.

There were other sounds the house made however that were pleasing. Like the sound of the sliding screen door when it opened and closed in the summer, and the gentle clanging of halyards on sailboat masts, heard in the quiet of the night.

And, in particular, there was the sound of my dad's voice when he would say to my mom, with such satisfaction, "Mary just look at all these grandkids," or his oohs and ahhs from the aroma, and taste, of her homemade rhubarb pie.

Beauty was everywhere there. It wasn't just the water scape but also the textiles, artwork, and the treasures handed down through generations.

A pared down photo for the realtor's site. My favorite white cast iron rabbit is missing.
The river house, for me, was partly a lesson in the simplicity of living.

I keenly observed my depression-era parents after my four, much older, siblings went off into the world. Finally they had time to explore other things in life, like drawing and painting, bread making, gardening, and music.

With the somewhat tumultuous 60s, and paying for college tuition almost behind them, they could finally relax and drift, a bit.

And now here I sit with our youngest about to go off into the world herself. It seems crazy that this time has come so soon. How quickly children grew up. I wish I knew this before, but like many things in life, it isn't something that we can know until we live it.

Kind of like how quickly we all grow older, too.

Photos by KC Kratt.

July 17, 2012

The Great Divide

Before I left to clean out my childhood home with my four siblings, I emailed them a link to the post below with my thoughts about what we were about to embark on. It was, maybe for all of us, a lesson in the power of intention.

After we gathered, my sister suggested that we remain civil during the divide- that we wouldn't interrupt each other or yell. That we would come out as a family in one piece. This set the ground rules for the week.

Still, when joining together, we were all at a loss as to how to go about dividing up a household between siblings. Just how and where do we begin? Do we start choosing oldest to youngest? Do we pull straws? Do we have a pseudo auction? Everything I read on the web just seemed confusing.

Then my middle brother suggested that we simply start by writing on a small piece of paper what each of us most desired from the house and put the paper face down in a tray, with our name on it. When there was a tie between two people, the person who acquiesced, got to immediately pick two more items from the house, and sat out the next round of bidding.

If neither of the two siblings in the tie wanted to acquiesce, we flipped a coin.

So even if you lost, you still won.

This bidding process went on, round after round, for two and a half days, and worked beautifully.

And my mom was so relieved to hear that her family had not killed each other!

At about the 3rd round of bidding I decided to text Tom and our two daughters to see if there was anything they desired from the house.

Tom, who was in the middle of his work day, texted back "Just you."

My eighteen year old daughter texted back "Nothing."

But my twenty-one year old daughter had specific ideas :-)  I had someone on board with me for the bidding, which made it so much more fun.

At this, I decided to send her a link to the heirloom photos that had been taken a few months ago and it became a game. I would text her and say "We lost out on the dining room table but we got the dresser that you love!"

I'll tell you though- by day three I was reeaaally tired of choosing. Plus, behind all the fun of choosing, was the sadness of seeing our home unravel.

We rallied together though and after each long day of dividing, packing, and organizing, the five of us jumped into the river, or in the pool at the park nearby, and then headed out to dinner.

I had a martini with 3 olives in it every night.

From the yard, looking across to Canada.

It was really fun for the five of us to be together without any spouses or children.

For me, it was epic.

In the end though, the week reminded me of the week my dad died eleven years ago.

There was the sweetness, love, and support of being together, the sadness, and the celebration of someone/something.

And both times, there was the knowledge that we had lost, or were about to lose, something very, very dear to all of us.

And we did.

To be continued.

July 06, 2012

Homeward Bound

Peony by Caroline Fernandes

The time has come to head to to my childhood home for the very last time. It has been sold. I have never given up anything that I love so much. But, it's time. It's time to gather with my four siblings, and divide up the contents, and say so long to a very well loved, gem of a home.

You know how we all have expectations about how something is going to be before we do it? Well, I am trying not to do that. 


I don't want it to be this miserable time.

I want it to be a celebration.

Not a funeral.

I want it to be a sibling love fest (Uh oh... I said it...this might be an undelivered expectation).

I want it to be, as my sister-in-law Bonnie has said, "love soup".

I don't want all of us bickering over who got what and hurt feelings over what someone didn't get.



I kind of dread it.

In a way, at least some of it.

I don't even know what I want from the house anyway.

Sometimes belongings just seem so ridiculous. Half the beauty of anything there is that it has resided in this little oasis with everything else for the last 41 years. Like how peanut butter and jelly go together.

My mom isn't even there anymore preparing a nice lunch to have out on the deck. There is no longer a stash of wine in the cellar. So much of the house has already been fractured when she moved out 3 months ago with her most prized possessions.

And what's even worse: the memories are almost done being made.

Evening sky from the yard.
Luckily though,

we still

very much

have her.

July 01, 2012


While ironing the other day, I was looking at the bulletin board in my studio. It had been awhile since I had inspected it, but what caught my attention was this photo.

I got to wondering just how long I've had it.

It finally came to me that I use to have it taped to the inside door of a little cabinet in our bathroom at our old apartment in Brookline, before we ever had kids, over 20 years ago.

It was a funky old place with high ceilings, where we lived for almost 10 years.

Suddenly, while ironing, I remembered I took pictures of the apartment before we moved away in 1992 and ran to the photo albums to see if I had a picture of the bathroom.

There was the photo :-)

I loved the picture of the wrinkly old women back then

and still do.

Little did I know, so long ago, that I would someday be blogging about embracing aging and allowing our faces to line naturally.

Little did I know, back then, that there would even be a world wide web, or blogging for that matter!

But what I did know, even then,
was that there is such beauty in older faces.

Such incredible beauty.

How lucky are we all are,

to gradually become,

such masterpieces.