Monday, September 26, 2011

Bench Seats and Other Signs of Love

I was driving just now, lost in my thoughts.  Actually, I was in a grumbly, “poor me”, what-a-lousy-day kind of mood.  It’s been a hard morning.  Sometimes I feel like the harder I try to coax skills out of the kids I treat the more they hide their talents from me.  One child after another challenged my patience.  At any rate, I wasn’t exactly perky.  Driving along in the right lane, I was passed by an old, green sedan that my brother would call a “land yacht.”  You know the kind…a foot or two longer than anything else on the road these days with a long nose and a longer trunk.  It was driven by a silver-haired man and seated smack dab in the middle of the front seat was his lovely, silver-haired wife.  Boy, what a flashback to my childhood when bench seats were the norm. 

Our '56 Nash was grey on the bottom and hot pink on the top.

 I remember our old hot pink and grey ’56 Nash.  A full-grown person could lie down in total comfort on those over-stuffed, luxurious bench seats.  They were just as plush and about as big as our living room sofa. 
I loved those old bench seats.  You could switch drivers just by scooting over, and before seatbelts and car seats they gave oodles of room for one or two kids sitting beside Mom and Dad.  Bench seats also used to provide the perfect barometer of how far a courtship had progressed.  A polite young man would let his girlfriend in on the passenger side of the car.  He’d then walk around and open the driver’s door only to find that she had scooted to the center of the car and was sitting there, demurely waiting for him to climb in beside her.  Both would wait breathlessly for thighs to touch.  Oh my!  What a thrill!  This was sign language for, “Let’s go steady.”
I smile when I remember the sight of that green sedan as it floated by (what was it about the suspension in those days?) and I honor this couple for their insistence in sitting beside one another.  They’ve maintained this commitment through the years, possibly refusing to drive a new model in this era of bucket seats and consoles.  I imagine them at the car lot, looking in the window if first one car and then another.  After a thorough search they both decide that the old car will do another year or two.  They simply can’t give up the right to cuddle as they drive.  How long has it been, anyway?  For fifty years or so they sat beside one another as they travelled down the road, ever since that first day when she scooted across to be near him.  They drove away from their wedding in an old sedan, the shy, young bride nestled by her handsome groom.  Later, three little heads popped up from the back seat to see their folks side by side, providing a barometer for their children.  Mama and Daddy are cuddling as they drive again.  All must be well with the world.  And always, the passenger seat is empty…well, except for her ever-present purse. 
And there they were today, thighs still touching as they navigate through their lives.  The back seat has long been empty as their children now have their own children.  But, still they proclaim to each other and to all those who are observant that they are a team. 
I wonder, what do I announce to the world when I am out with my dear husband?  What do those who are observant witness when they see my actions?  I remember sitting with a latte in Starbucks a few years ago.  I looked up from the book I was reading to see an older couple seated nearby at one of the tiny bistro tables.  No one spoke as they drank their coffees.  Every so often I glanced furtively in their direction.  They avoided eye contact for about twenty minutes and I remember being astounded at how bored they seemed being in each other’s company.  I wondered what had happened through the years?  Were they really that disinterested in each other, or was this just their routine? I do know that I vowed to myself that I would not end up like that.  
And now I think of how often Noel will seek me out when we are at a party just so that he can stand next to me.  And I remember that last weekend when we were at a slide show of Glacier National Park pictures he leaned over several times to kiss my cheek or touch my hair.  We often looked at each other in shared amazement at the incredible pictures on the screen.  And we giggled together as the lady behind me commented loudly and persistently on each image.  I like to think that we show our commitment to each other when we are home and when we are away.  Little signs of love proclaim to the world, but more importantly to each other that we are a team.  A small caress, a sidelong glance, a quick smile…these are more important to me than a dozen roses, a Valentine or an elegantly wrapped present. 
And even though I can’t snuggle up to him as we motor down the highway because of that darned console, I think he knows this...I would if I could. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Present

I wrote this as a submission to Oprah's Life Class about the book "A New Earth".  If you haven't read it, I would highly recommend it.  Anyway, the question was "How has your ego blocked you from living your best life?"  I will submit this, but it's too long (2000 characters maximum).  I have a hard time editing. 

I love to sew.  And over the years I’ve gotten quite good at it because I made my own clothes, my children’s clothes, and a myriad of curtains and pillows for my house.  I’ve made couture wedding dresses, bags to hold life preservers, linen napkins and belts.  I’ve tailored jackets, altered skirts, and quilted baby blankets.  Through it all I’ve not only developed great skill, but I’ve also become addicted to seeing the responses of those who view my efforts.  “You just whipped this dress up for the party?” they say. 
“Oh yes,” I respond as I look down demurely.  “It was nothing.” 
“You’re incredible!!  I could never do anything like this.”
A smile will cross my face as if to say, “Yeah, I know.  I’m great. I can pretty much make anything out of nothing.  I am soooooo creative.”  My ego puffs out its chest grandly and with a toss of its head I’m off to find the next victim whom I can impress with my exceptional skills.
And yet….I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, not only about sewing, but about being human. 
This morning I awoke early to a quiet house.  A perfect time to steal downstairs to my sewing room and make a bonnet for my dear granddaughter Margot’s first birthday.  I’ve selected an old-fashioned prairie pattern and am making it out of a modern, dotted cotton.  It will be adorned with the same lace from her mama’s wedding dress.  Just looking at the combination makes me smile.  I go to the sewing machine that was my mother’s.  I love the hum of the machine as it travels along the fabric.  I watch my hands as they guide the lace and cotton.  I marvel at the transformation from two-dimension to three and the way the ribbon pulls through the lace to gather it just right.  I am lost in the process of folding, ironing, sewing and cutting.  I am filled with gratitude to my mother for teaching me this wonderful skill and feel her spirit guide me as I sew.  I imagine Margot and how beautiful she will look in this bonnet as she stares at me in her soulful way that only Margot can do. 
And not once, do I imagine someone saying, “Oh, I am so impressed by your skill.”
Finally, I am learning that it is so much more gratifying to be lost in the present than to be lost in thoughts of how others will respond to me or what I accomplish. 
Finally, I can enjoy the sensory experience as I watch the fabric respond to my hands, listen to the scissors snip the threads and feel the tug as the machine pulls the lace. 
Finally, (and maybe for only a moment) I can be free of my starving ego and simply enjoy the here and now. 
Finally, I am here where I ought to be.