A page we don’t want to populate too often.
- Please Hold (5/3/2020)
By Narcissa Lyons
What do you write for a first sentence when you’re reapproaching writing from an obvious, long blank? Well that’s done. I have had several really good excuses for not writing much for over the past couple of years, but guilt builds up and anxiety is guilt’s best friend. I negate the previous thought by letting you know there are no good excuses, but there are good reasons. I suppose that is not a welcoming statement to read on, and after all, this is not supposed to be a diary entry, but it is important. Two years ago the company I worked for backed a sneaky man that didn’t know me who contemptuously, or possibly without a care (worse), made me leave my working home of nearly 9 years. As many of you may know, that kind of time develops you another family you love, help, bake cookies for, tell weird personal stories to, consult sometimes more than a spouse, build other worlds. After that particular vicious theft, my “real” world toppled a bit because it broke my confidence. Not the confidence I show to the world, and know is logical, but the one you think about when no one is looking. Was I really a great contributor and a considerate co-worker that everyone liked? Was I as helpful as I had always tried to be? Were all the raises and praises ill-founded by people that were just supposed to like me? Like I said, logic eventually brought me back to the truth and I looked at my extremely good record, and I think of my first seven years there happily. There are friendships I formed and still have that will last until I die, so that’s that.
She says almost two years later in the middle of this Covidean world. Here it is in this lovely life that germs have forced me to typing. Finally, because I was supposed to start writing when it all started. But let me get to the real first sentence of this article.
Wickedly and wantonly this unsightly and unsighted thing has changed us for what might be forever. Even while many hit the bottle earlier and more often, I see surreal sobriety in the stores I go to, want to go to. Faces are robbed of expression of the feelings people are not even sure they are having, and when they force cheeriness into their voices to make up for it, well, it’s eerily obvious. I don’t think it is bad to present cheer, but the mere fact we need to is squirrely and insidious. Dare I mention the nuances of just walking down the street when you glance at an on-comer and think “well I’ll move because they want me to and maybe I am not being considerate enough, and shit we’re just passing by, and really we’re all just going to get it eventually anyway, let’s get it over with”.
At the same time that people are getting nicer, there are others getting nastier. I understand that it brings to light the idea of taking care of your core peeps, your family within your immediate walls. That is an essential aspect of actually being a family, but to act to the Darwinian extent that you say well fuck everyone else is not just ludicrous, preposterous, and ignorant, it is inhuman and profoundly unsafe. In times such as these we do in fact have to spread that false cheer I mentioned, and let one another know that whereas we have the backs of our family first, we have the energy to spare to also have theirs. I want others to know that the mask I hate wearing is for me, but more for them in case I am one of the many carriers. Not that I want to get horridly sick, because as of this writing I know one person who was deathly ill for two weeks and two that are dead. I just don’t want the world to change. In that fashion. We are all so fear-ridden already, at least in the US, mistrusting of pretty much everyone, and then if you openly talk about issues and are on two different sides, other walls build. We do not need that kind of wall. Human beings are complex entities that do not get less so with the spiked ball at the end of the chain being tossed at them.
And then there’s apathy. I have so much time now to get things done, yet I don’t want to do anything. This one I can’t explain, although that goes under the assumption I have explained anything at all so far. I know I like cleanliness and living in a clean house, but I can’t bring myself to go from point a (kinda dirty) to point b (kinda cleaner). I have a lovely dining room that needs the shelves dusted underneath the beautiful plates we’ve gathered from afar. It’s just dust, and would take probably less than an hour. There’s the dresser in the dining room that has a lot of things I should throw out, and it’s only three drawers. And then there are the legitimate dust bunnies (OK, Australian Hares) making friends under our sleigh bed. I am gumptionless. I gad about, drive for a little, wonder at the tedium of this existence and why am I so bent on being bored, when I realized today it is the equivalent of being put on hold for the bank or whatever service that no longer answers the phone but tells you about how long you need to wait. And it is a hold where there is no music, no announcement of how much longer you will have to wait so you figure, OK, I’ll hold a little longer. Or put it on speaker so I can get some other things done. We cannot put Covid 19 on speaker, we do not know how long we will be relying on a government that really has no clue yet, we cannot fathom having to educate our children one moment longer, we cannot know whether to put money in or out of the system, and we cannot know—for certain—that our world is not being taken over forcibly and that instead of dusting and cleaning under the bed, we should be moving to far reaches with a bunch of food and several guns. We do not know.
Limited knowledge is the secondary killer here, but it will never be measured after the fact. We cannot know (there it is again) how many depressions deepened, nooses tightened, how many addictions heightened, how many illnesses uncaught, how many villains spawned (or freed, as the case may be), talent unnoticed, derision accepted. This is not to say that there has been nothing good that has happened while we’re all locked up. Less tech savvy folks have glanced to the sky as they finally caved to learning more about the inter-webs, families play games, some families get projects completed, rooms redone, books read. Having to live with the people you love ALL THE TIME should have been more difficult for our home, but so far, if anything, it has calmed us down. We are all pretty cool with one another, and this is not a big house. We sleep more, watch too much TV, don’t move enough, but we do it harmoniously and I would not want to be subject to this icky shit without them. But be wary. The real world shall return, and it will be uncomfortable even while we are eager to be a part of it. The unbearable hesitance of trying to act like we used to is a new hurdle we will bravely have to cross.
I am adding one more sentence because just now I heard that Governor Baker (MA) has decided that starting May 6th, all we strolling, happy-go-lucky Bay Staters are mandated to wear masks anywhere in public. It’s safe to say, or maybe it isn’t, but I am leaning to far reaches, food and guns.
As always, Be Thee Well.
- From the Manor Torn (5/30/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
Perhaps it was doomed from the outset with a name like “Lazy Acres” because that is what the estate sign read at the bottom of the hill when first we drove up in 1977. I found out the other day that Lazy Acres, my mother’s house, finally sold. That our home and home base finally sold. I say finally because the place, while once beautiful, is the epitome of a “fixer upper”– in the neighborhood of several hundred thousand dollars to do it justice. It sits on top of a hill in the middle of five acres, has an in ground odd-shapen pool with a poolside cabana, plus a guest house at the end of the driveway. Sounds rather luxurious I realize, but it withered over time since from the onset my parents could not afford to maintain it. If a house is not maintained it will slowly fall in on itself, which is what it aggressively did, particularly in the last 10 years or so.
And then the house was lost, a real debacle of life. I assumed it would have been bought by a general contractor and parceled off or razed to the ground for a fresh, magnificent start, but an older couple bought it instead because they fell in love with it and want to fix it up (it is a weird type of French Colonial, about 5000 square feet and had the best bar room you can imagine). That’s a good thing, but it is a finality. The year it fell out of our mother’s possession was obviously not good, and my own family of four had even driven up the driveway a few times since just to remind ourselves what we no longer had, took ghoulish pictures of my children’s eerily lit faces behind which stood the eerier house.
When we were older, living there or visiting, all of us complained about the condition of the house, how it was always so cold in the winter because it was made of stone and brick, the spider webs everywhere, disheveled back patio, bittersweet invading, you name the hazard–but we had a meeting place about which to complain and we had thrown some kick ass parties over the years that eventually lamed out appropriately as we were all forced to mature, but we met. We swam. We dined and heartily conversed, albeit it in mock finery.
Because it was such a big house, it was the predominant meeting point for the larger family whenever there was a birthday or holiday, and my family was also able to sleep over, saving considerable amounts of money in the process, and hence visiting more than we do now. We used to go down around eight times a year, and that has now dwindled to less than half that. As our children have grown it is less and less palatable to stay in one hotel room, and we are not yet able to swing pent houses on a regular basis. The other branches of the family, while occasionally able to offer up their home, cannot do it regularly because it is either unreasonable due to smaller space, food provision or “stuff” logistics, or because aunts and uncles are getting older, wearier at the prospect of hosting.
Not to have a central point is a devastation, a theft of some kind. Even if quirky (we have been referred to as the Addams’ family by several of our friends), family is so important, and communicating through email is a lot more work, the phone call that much more rare because of schedules. The knowledge you can always make a call defers the act, but a visit is in the books. Besides which, relating an experience is not anywhere near sharing an experience—the calm of a summer breeze, the taste of home spun delicacies, the swatting of bugs or the stoking of a winter’s fire while the wine is poured. OK, and the silly political squabbles, European or American—a common battle in this family since my generation is first generation and we hear about it. But we all have those rehashed topics and winless battles of marginalized facts. And it’s all part of this family’s dynamic that is no longer. We may have raised our eyeballs in exasperation at the thought of having to mix some personalities, but we greeted, caught up, ate and wished the other well during the coming absences.
I don’t want to etch a perception this is a note of only sadness or ruefulness, because yes that’s part of it, but so is deeply fond reflection. It was time to say good-bye before it swallowed whole the remaining tenants, and life evolves–we will figure it out. Countless crazy memories are in those walls, on that property, that Halloween house (below picture is Brutus, who I never had the displeasure of meeting and can only gleefully imagine my sister Paulette’s reaction to when she did, and he is guarding the bar room to which I referred)
I have learned since the writing of the last sentence that the demise of Brutus was a combination of a Swiffer and an iron, the courage of which to wield took a few hours. RIP Brutus. A deer once ran through the front door and out the back, even with six slate stairs en route. There was purportedly a mountain lion in the woods one summer and I tried to go after it with a large kitchen knife while wearing a fur coat over a bathing suit. I cannot recall the intent and am uncertain what the outcome would have been had the beast been found. Some normal things too—touch football in the front yard, playing pong and watching old TV shows in the basement whilst drinking tea, wrestling, first cigarettes and what-not, the best Thanks-giving dinners I have ever had, the holiest Christmas evenings of which I have been blessed to be a part.
The matriarch of the family, my Hungarian grandmother on my mother’s side, lived for many a year in the cottage at the driveway’s end, seemingly the gatekeeper, begrudgingly letting in a non-family member after worth was proven. Later on, when age demanded she stay up at the main house, she still kept a certain kind of peace and regular visits to her side by her sons kept things moving–astir. When she died, the house felt it, got ballsy in it’s own undoing. My mother, who had taken care of my grandmother consistently and then constantly, was then suddenly sapped upon her mother’s death. Time to move on, time to get goin’ (a nod to the ever correct Tom Petty).
Many things were learned by the likes of us–parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. The walls heard laughter, whispers, debating, cantankerous wenching and wishful slamming doors, the sometimes peace of emotions at rest. The critters who lived there saw teens running through the house, dancing on furniture (sorry mother), parents contentedly reading or lecturing at the dinner table, constant piano practicing and later playing with eager and many voices in varying degrees of sobriety. It was not Led Zeppelin overplayed that made me sick of Stairway to Heaven (still am), but the frequency with which we sang it along to the piano, no matter the passion with which we beat it to death. Mischief entwined with the mundane. Quiet punctuated by the not so rare maelstrom. Fare thee well home on the hill, place of weird and wonderful personality, source of many years of fun-ridden mayhem. What a grand, tumultuous ride. With as much grace as I can muster, I wish upon the new residents a continuance of cool stories, legendary moments and lasting peace.
- Requiem L (1/30/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
Leslie Jennifer Hale George died 20 years ago this month, a.k.a. one of my older sisters. I was hoping to publish on her actual day of departure but since she was infamously late all the time, I think she’ll forgive me. She was and is precious to me and the rest of my siblings, and I did not get the opportunity to say any words or openly express the gratitude I felt towards what she contributed to my life. She died when she was 39 to the nothingness and insidiousness that is cancer–the amoral, the fuckless, luckless, relentless the heedless–and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Leslie was seven years older than I so I did not see that much of her growing up. Hers was a tumultuous childhood, partly I believe because her mother was my father’s first wife and my mostly sane mother, her step mother, was still a jealous woman. Doesn’t always lend itself to harmony, particularly entering the teen years. She was sent to boarding school in Canada and I saw even less of her, but she was a mystery I waited for and eagerly listened to when she was home. She was a rebel from everything I observed and learned, and a spirit with whom not to reckon. She ran away from boarding school and lived for a while with an older man she had met and proved for a while that she could not be conveniently caged. She had very dark, thick hair, expressive brows and deep brown eyes that were set against her delicately featured face, all on a petite but feisty frame.
She had a silly giggle. So infectious, so gleeful, so conspiratorial when need be. Sometimes I can still hear it when I do certain things or say certain things to her, and what a lovely thing that ridiculous tee-hee. She used to work at my parents’ one-time company and many a day we’d share stories in her office. Used to be that I was on the receiving end listening, duly amazed and wide-eyed at some of her experiences. Then she got a serious boyfriend and we switched places. She would stare wide-eyed at some of my youthful anecdotes, giggling or choking on a bite of a sandwich, depending.
She got me high for the first time. And the second and third and fourth. We’d take walks near-by our house in Connecticut and I’d tell her about how the highs were getting better and just being about as deep as a 15 year old stoner can be and she would not stop giggling. This also leads to the credit she gets for introducing me to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, in particular “The Chain”. We’d sit in her room and listen to that in a calm and happy fog. In other smoking news she taught me how to do the “French inhale” with cigarettes which is just a deeper, nastier way to smoke, but it looks pretty cool. In French news she was with me at a bar where I got my first real kiss at 16, and she let us stay a little longer even though these were drinks after the funeral of one of her best friends, or maybe that’s why we stayed. For that matter, she took me to my first bar, her workplace, where we danced and laughed all night and she showed me off like I was just the best thing when clearly she was the best thing. Of course all these firsts she’d later partly regret since she then had to assist in taming the demon she had helped to create.
She let me drive from the passenger seat, or steer the wheel anyway. This does not sound like that big a deal, but to me, 14 or 15, it felt incredibly grand and illicit. Even on the wide turns she trusted me, and never wavered her resolution to let me go on and on. She taught me to begin to like cooking. This was no small feat since my mother did a pretty good job of botching me up in that area, well-meaning though she might have been. To this day I cannot cut parsley without thinking of Leslie. This is an herb I detest and while together preparing it one day I admitted this, and she nearly fell she was laughing so hard since she found it absurd. She taught me how to make what we call “Leslie Spaghetti” although I think she called it French spaghetti. The only difference between it and regular meat sauce is the addition of cinnamon. Try it sometime—it’s worth it.
Leslie was profoundly important to many of us while she was on this planet, and I still miss her even while I feel her presence. I wish so much my children could have met her, and she them. Leslie had a son, Christopher, and her raising him showed me another side to her, a side at the time I didn’t fully understand and that I know I sometimes gave her flack for. But then I had my own, and on several occasions I FELT her give me that knowing look and say “See”? She was right again, and always would be since she got to experience the large basics ahead of me. She taught me a lot, loved me more, and I am so grateful to her. Thank you Leslie for the part you played, and the joy you gave me over the years. You are monumental and you are a part of my beating heart.