Yesterday, my neighbor sent her granddaughter to summon me. My neighbor is 84 years old and doesn’t move around easily. I walked over to her house to see what she wanted.

Someone had died. Two people. Make that three. She’d had a bad year. Yesterday was a bad day.

I think we talked for about an hour, and in the course of our conversation something made her laugh. As I watched her, I realized in the 13 years I’ve known her I had never seen her smile. Her face was completely changed, so soft. I can’t stop thinking about it.

 

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Epiphany

My mother was responsible for grocery shopping, but for some reason my dad was the designated purchaser of toiletries. One of his favorites was Alberto V05 shampoo in ‘jojoba’ or ‘extra body.’ This explains, I guess, why I’ve always considered Alberto V05 default shampoo, it’s what we always had. Anything cheaper, which is almost impossible since V05 is 75 cents a bottle, is bad shampoo, while anything more expensive is fancy shampoo. It makes no sense. Pantene is not fancy, but those things ingrained from childhood tend to stick.

The thing about Alberto V05, though, is that it has no silicone in it, and from my perspective that makes it a worthy bargain. It’s is evil to long hair, at least to mine, but I’ll happily pour Alberto V05 onto my head if I have a short enough hairstyle.

This morning while I was having a wash, surrounded by the same smell that meant ‘hair washing’ from my earliest memories, I heard the voice of my parents saying the name of the shampoo: Alberto Veal 5. That’s how they say it. You can maybe see how, if someone is saying it quickly and with a certain accent, the words can sound that way. Veal 5.

Younger me spent actual hours of life wondering about why a shampoo would be named after a meat. Was it a convention left over from the early days of the shampoo? Perhaps. That became my working hypothesis.

I was confronted with the problem every day, so I thought about it quite a bit: the shampoo, the label which very specifically did not refer to meat, the parents who knew–in the way adults often do, it’s magic to someone so young–what the shampoo was really called, despite the fact the label said something completely different. I couldn’t imagine ever being an adult. How do you KNOW things?

I can clearly revisit the moment when I put it all together. I was still small, alone, mostly submerged and peering out of the water at the bottles lined up on the bath. The room was drenched in light from the window, it was too bright for shadows, and finally, FINALLY, I realized what was happening. A strange pronunciation. That was all.

A different kind of magic, epiphany.

How many moments like that have I had since then? I want more. We need more. That’s what I hope for us this year.

During

A walk didn’t happen today. Man, this storm. It started out in an embarrassing way.  Our car is terrible in the snow, and it was supposed to be very slippery, and the forecast snow totals kept inching up…it seemed easiest for my husband to stay home from work. He has days to take, work is slow right now, so why not? Anyway, we woke up to the tiniest bit of snow floating down in surprisingly calm air (they said “BOMB CYCLONE” for goodness’ sake, we thought there would be a breeze) and a little on the ground. Just a little. It made me feel silly for taking precautions.

I feel much less silly now. It is howling out there.

I want to go out anyway, but I won’t. I’ll have an earache later.

We’ve been shuffling through our studies here, January always feels like that to me. Shuffling. Progress is progress, though.

I’ve been mooching around reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I have this abridged teaching version  and it has been helpful to have the end-of-chapter questions I can put to the kids.

Have you ever read this book? If you feel like everything in the news is so confusing and it’s hard to understand how we got from there to here, it may be your education in history is lacking. Mine is, and the more I read, the more things fall into place. I’m on chapter 9, and so far every chapter has been devastating, each in its own way. I feel like I can be a better neighbor and citizen with the knowledge I’m gaining. I wonder how many people read this book in school. I know we didn’t. I wish we had.

One Day

This feels like an okay time to do some posting on my blog.

I’ve been wrestling with feeling disoriented. It’s because everything has changed while nothing has changed. Surely you know what I mean. Things outside are different since late last year. In my home, though, it’s pretty much the same for now. I’m aware of the privilege contained within that sentence.

Such a massive change in atmosphere with no change in scenery makes me feel odd. I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve been restless, so I made an ugly necklace, fifteen tiny crocheted rabbits, three tiny felt mice, four hundred tiny flowers. I liked a couple thousand tweets. “A couple.” Make that five, five thousand tweets. I took refuge in small, immediate tasks. I did it the same way anyone does who really needs it–without thinking, I ran for the nearest place. I ended up in an okay enough spot, nowhere anyone could stay forever. I’m not staying forever.

This morning I took a walk outside. It was very cold, and there’s nothing like unpleasant weather to make it seem like the world is yours. I saw one other human, and he hurried by. I took my vitamins, drew something, read a book, cooked something, will finally tackle a large project I want to see completed. I think that’s good for now. It feels good.