This last week I stretched myself several times. On Monday, quite literally, I stretched Carla, which was great fun, then ran to Wing It! practice, then went out to the port of Oakland with my friend to prepare a spiral path of wildflowers for her 50th birthday celebration--hoeing, chopping, shoveling dirt with a former rock star 9really!) turned park ranger; then I went and taught my evening class at Writing Salon, god knows how.
On Wednesday I painted most of the kitchen of the in-law--at least all the detail work, moldings, cabinets, windowsills, ceiling-corners. When I fell into bed that night a muscle in my biceps would not stop twitching. In fact it twitched for days.
Thursday C discovered that I had accidentally painted the windows shut and he was understandably upset. A little further investigation revealed that they could be slit open with a razor blade and not too much effort, so peace was restored. But today we noticed that some of the paint I put up is now peeling--it's hi-gloss paint and not sticking to the surface. So it may all have to be undone and redone.
Friday I took a friend to the hospital to get her cast changed, and then met G and Carla for dinner and we rode into the city together to see In Remembrance Of. We had a great time, laughing and teasing and talking politics. The oldest Interplayer was at the show--I forget her name--she is in her 80s. It was her generation whose oral histories I had used to make the poems. Afterwards she practically ran across the floor to tell me she loved it, and how important the anti-war rant at the end was.
I spent most of the show with a baby in my arms--Soyinka's god-daughter, whom she babysits a lot, and who knows me and trusts me enough to go to me, which is always a thrill. I even got to change her diaper.
Saturday I took my Little Sister to see a movie which she told me she had already seen--after I had plunked down the money for two tickets, a large buttered popcorn and a hot dog for her. We ended up only staying about halfway through, and then splitting to go inside toy stores along College Ave. She wanted everything she saw. I told her she could have one small thing. I give her presents every time I see her, I had a checkers set waiting for her at home, and we're not supposed to make this big sister thing about materialism. She was literally tortured by the array of temptations in front of her--all those toys and dolls, and face-paint, and costumes, and bicycles, and and and...
"Why are they torturing me?" she cried dramatically, spreading her arms.
Later that evening after I had dropped her off and was wandering in the video store I saw a family with two little kids, cruising the aisles. The little girl was whining and begging for everything she saw. I said to the Dad that this made me feel better about my little sister. He was a young good-looking black man with gold chains around his neck. He said wearily "That's what kids do."
My Little Sister comes from such a place of deprivation and want and we live in a land of so much stuff. Yet she also has stuff--plenty of it--I know because I've given her lots already. And her granny pulled out all the stops on her birthday--she got way more presents than I ever did at her age--silver lame sandals, a pink princess backpack, a fake cell phone, toys, etc...
When is enough ever enough? for any of us?
Today I read an interesting article in the Times Magazine section about bi-polar children. I don't think my little sister is bi-polar, but she is ADHD and very irritable sometimes. We're all just a bunch of chemicals. I wonder how much better it might have been if, instead of a movie and a walk past all the shops on College Ave., I had just taken her up to the hills to hike and watch the eagles? That's what I used to do with the neighborhood kids, ten years ago, when I had no money. We would just get in my car and drive to Tilden Park, visit the Little Farm, Jewel Lake, the playground...
Have the times gotten so much more materialistic in these past ten years or is it just that I'm older, and more solvent, and live on the other side of town now, farther away from Tilden?
All the giving of last week rendered me super-sensitive and touchy, sort of like an over-extended mother who feels taken for granted. It feels satisfying and right to give of myself, so what is the problem? What do I expect in return? I think it is just simple connection and presence. Not great gushing thanks or anything, but just being seen. I was snappish with my friend for pulling out a cell phone to talk to her other friends while I was driving her home from the doctor. It made me feel like I didn't count--that I was just a chauffeur. But part of that is cultural--I am fifty Cell phones were not a part of my growing up. Now they're everywhere, like a cancer, and I find them intrusive and obnoxious, but clearly I'm swimming against the tide.
As I'm writing this I can hear C downstairs, practicing bass and pianao. Some of my moodiness and irritability splashed on him this week-and he had work stress which he brought home--but we've worked through it all now, and are just glad to be home together, reading the paper and drinking coffee and passing the power tools back and forth. I learned how to change the sandpaper on the electric sander. In a minute I'll go downstairs and start a big salad.
A friend suggested an excellent Palin antidote--donate some money to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name. Have them send the acknowledgement card to Sarah Palin c/o the McCain campaign. Hopefully these donations will pile up and we'll be supporting a good cause. It's the most positive suggestion I've heard yet--and I've thought of my share of negative ones.