A Milestone

On Friday, I turned 60. It didn’t feel like much of a thing, but I wanted to commemorate it somehow. I have a lovely photo of my mother on HER 60th birthday, when I took her out to dinner with several of my friends when I still lived in Atlanta. We had a wonderful time and she enjoyed it immensely. My mother embraced every year she lived. She never shied from telling people her age; in fact, she was proud of it and in private scoffed at women who balked at revealing how long they had lived. I agree. Who cares? Why should women only be “a certain age?” It’s just another way to invalidate our power and our prowess. Men become “distinguished” and women become, what? There’s not even a word for it because so many of us are too busy trying to hide the fact that we’ve been here a while. But this isn’t a rant against the patriarchy, at least not much. It’s about me. I had a pretty good day, even though I had to work. I got lots of sweet messages on Facebook and a card in the mail from the friend who I figured if I got any “real” cards, it would be from her. Thanks, Ginny! 🙂

But the best part was, I got to pose for a photo with my mom. And this is me on my 60th with a photo of my mom on HER 60th. She would have loved to see this one through with me in physical form, but I know she’s having a celebration for me wherever she is.

Happy Birthday to ME!

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Conflicted

I have a bicycle in my living room. It’s up on a trainer, on a 30 x 30 piece of plywood so that when I ride it the back wheel doesn’t rub and mess up the carpet (yes, I am a conscientious renter). The trouble is, I don’t ride it all that much, but I haven’t let it become a clothes hanger or a prop for other items (although I will hang damp clothes on it if the dryer doesn’t get them all the way). For the most part it just sits equidistant between my two chairs, directly across from the TV cabinet, waiting for me to get on and ride to nowhere while I watch whatever I might choose.

I think about trying to sell it all the time, but something stops me. I’m not sure what. I’m not crazy about riding it on the trainer, but it’s a nice change sometimes from other forms of exercise. I haven’t taken it out of the house to ride it in the neighborhood for several reason. One, I’ve reached the point (age) where I no longer feel really comfortable riding a bicycle on a public street. My balance and riding skills are  okay, but I just don’t want to contend with traffic at all. Also, even though the streets in my neighborhood are wide and not terribly busy, there are many more hills on this side of town than where I used to live and I am definitely not comfortable on a bicycle on a hill…at least not right now.

I do love riding my bike on the many miles of trails here in Pueblo, but now I live quite far from the ones I used to ride on and it’s not feasible for me to ride the bike there, meaning I would have to transport the bike there by car, and I have a mid-size sedan, not a truck. Which means I would need to buy a bike carrier to put on my car in order to schlep it around. And I’m not sure I would ride it all that much, even if I did that. Sort of buying one more thing to carry another thing around with. And I think, how smart is that?

Still, I hesitate to put it up for sale. I’m not sure why. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to take it to Denver with me, and I know there are always bicycles for sale via the Internet or at thrift stores, garage sales, etc. This has really become a point of angst with me and I feel like I’m going to have to do something one way or the other pretty soon. Not much more than a year left here and I have to think ahead. Walking has always been my go-to exercise so maybe I should just stick with that.

But I do enjoy my bike outside and I loved the feeling of being strong enough to ride up some steep hills in those days when I was training for things. I don’t know. Maybe I should just keep it until it’s time to move and then see what happens.

Universe, help me get clear on this, thank you.

 

Posted in allowing, progress, routine, self-discovery,, things | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

I Carry the World

I Carry the World

Sitting, quiet.
A moment in the sun.
Anchored firmly to earth,
My root reaches easily
Through flimsy flooring and concrete,
No barriers to life energy.
I seek the heat of Nature,
Connections we too often forget
But never lose.

Sitting, quiet.
I feel the rise of inner flame,
Creativity growing, flowing
Up from the space that
Creates all life.
The sunburst in the center
Illuminates all choices,
Connects the root to crown,
Allowing base emotions to
Emerge as higher actions.

Sitting, quiet.
The roiling work of anger
And defiance reaches
The overflow, finds the target heart
And stops.

I expand.
I fall.
Into the outward burgeoning
Of a heart too immense to burst.
I hold it all.
You, I hold, you.
You, that I love.
You, that I hate but want to love.
You, that I am convinced I can never love,
But must love anyway.
I hold you.
I hold you all in my heart and
My heart is held in you,
Even if you never know it,
Even if you think you have no heart.
You cannot escape it.
I cannot escape you.

This supernova heart will hold everything.
It will hold and hold and hold,
The bursting pulse of love,
The ache of disagreement,
The de-gloving of the soul that is war.
It will hold defeat and ravishment and triumph.

I hold it all.
I surround it.
I grip and cherish it,
Because every breath of it,
Every atom of every molecule
Is what we are and what we are
Is so much more than this.

I carry the world in my heart.

So. Do. You.

©2017

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What A Difference…

…a month makes. I haven’t died or completely given up, although some days it is definitely tempting. I’m still here, just trying to get my bearings in a world that seems determined to fling itself over the edge of total disaster.

I’ll have more soon.

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Merry, Happy, Blessed

Where I sit, the clock just turned over to December 24, 2016. Christmas Eve. The tree is up and there are some presents under it. We don’t have stockings, but that’s okay. I actually put up some lights on the thorny bush outside my door and they don’t look too bad, if I say so myself. E. was going to Denver this week, but his mom has a new job and they sent her out of town until the actual day of Christmas, so we will go up for an overnight next week. Thus, we’ll have our Christmas tomorrow and on Sunday, we’ll go to his aunt and uncle, who have kindly invited us. I’m looking forward to good food and good company.

I wish you all the same, a wonderful, happy few days away from the recent unpleasantness to spend with people you love and who love you. Laugh, hug, eat, play games, nap. Remember winter’s message to go deep so that we can emerge renewed with the light of Spring. All will be well. Don’t worry about how, it just will if you focus on the wellness instead of the lack.

Blessed be.

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Something Unexpectedly Nice

Fridays are my run-around days. They are also my Mondays, when I make the trek back to work and my insanely disturbed sleep schedule, so I’m not crazy about the day in general. However, I have managed to get them into somewhat of a routine. I get E. to school by 7:30 and then I go and donate plasma at 8 a.m. I started donating plasma about a year ago. It’s a two-fold advantage. I get to help people who need the things they use plasma for and I get a little extra money every week. I’ve settled on a Tuesday/Friday schedule and the extra has helped with a lot of little things without me having to dip into my savings more than usual. It works.

I’m usually done with the donation by 10 a.m. and after that I head to my favorite place in the world right now, Stitcher’s Garden, Pueblo’s lone specialty quilt store. I usually run by Starbucks and pick up coffee for myself and for Becky, the woman who works there on Fridays. She taught my very first quilting class and I have taken another class from her since and she is just an incredible wealth of knowledge about quilts, patterns, piecing, mathematics, you name it. She and a friend of hers have written several quilting books and designed a number of quilting tools called “squedges” that make the most amazing quilts. Visiting with Becky is definitely one of the high points of every week.

So this week, I did that, and got some thread and notions to finish my squedge quilt that I had put together a few months ago. I’ll be quilting it myself later this month on the shop’s long-arm quilting machine–my first time using it, so I’m excited. (quilt top photo below)

Anyway, normally after the quilt shop, I hit the grocery store, but I had already done that this week, so I had a spot of time between the shop and picking up E at 1 p.m. as he gets out early on Fridays. So, I decided to head to one of my favorite Chinese places for a bowl of hot and sour soup and some wontons.

This is a tiny place in a small strip mall next to an Albertson’s. It’s run by a very brisk young woman who is also busy raising a family while she works. When you walk in the door, there’s a round table for about 6 to your left, beyond that, one 2-top, another round table to your right, the service counter/register straight ahead and then on left along the wall, a couple of long tables that could seat up to 8 people and then 3 booths. Not a lot of space for just one person, unless you pick a single chair at one of the long tables. When I got there, all the booths, the rounds and the 2-top were taken. There were people sitting at one of the long tables, but I couldn’t determine if they were customers or family. I ran back to the ladies’ before anything, hoping perhaps someone would be done by the time I came out.

No luck. So, I chose one of the chairs at a long table, up against the wall. Then another lone woman came in and did the same thing at the table in front of me. The owner came and took my order and the other woman’s, made the rounds doing all the things you do when you work in a busy restaurant. I got my soup, and a little while went by and I looked up to see four people standing in the doorway, hoping for a table. I motioned to them and asked if they were all together. One of them said, no two and two. I said they were welcome to come and sit at the other end of the table where I was, which would have left empty chairs between us, but no one seemed inclined to do that.

Then, the lady in front of me turned around and asked if I was by myself. I said yes, and she said she was too. I asked her to join me if she wanted to and that would free up the table where she was. And she did. We struck up a very nice conversation, about kids and grand-kids, and house sitting and driving and weather. Then, one of the women who had been standing at the door came over and asked if she could sit with us, too. Turns out it was not two and two at the door; she had been there on her own. Of course, we were happy to have her sit with us. More chatting ensued. I got compliments on my hair, which I had dyed blue around Halloween and had mostly cut off, but there is still some solid blue highlighting my gray patch in front. I really like it! Then it turned out the woman in front of me had purple in her hair, which I hadn’t seen at first because she was backlit from the front window. I loved it! Two women “of a certain age” with brightly colored hair who had not known each other fifteen minutes earlier.

However, the place was really busy, and time was hard on for me to go get the boy, so I asked if I could just get my wontons to go. When I left, the other two were happily chatting together and I don’t think the people at the door had ever sat down. They missed out on a great experience. I normally am not terribly forthcoming when I’m out, but I’m going to change that. I’m going to be more open to these kinds of serendipitous opportunities. We did not exchange any information, I may never see her again, but I got her name, Iris, and I had a lovely time chatting with her for a few minutes, and I will always remember our encounter with a smile.

These days, that’s worth a lot.

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Did I Pass?

Yesterday, I drove to Denver to deliver a quilt gift that I made for a friend of mine. True to form in Colorado, although we have had nearly summer-like weather up until about Thanksgiving, we had our first really cold and snowy day yesterday. I don’t like driving on the highway in snow, but I wanted to get this gift to my friend in person and she was only available yesterday this week. So, off I went.  It was cold yesterday, perhaps feeling more so than it was because of the late-season warm weather we had. I was fairly well bundled up in layers, and grateful that my car has a good heater.

Just a little south of Colorado Springs, nature made a demand and so I pulled off to a familiar stop–a gas station/rest stop that is a little larger and busier than average. It’s about a hundred yards down a frontage road off the highway.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a man standing by the stop sign with his dog. He was pretty obviously homeless, with a small backpack on the ground, and he was holding up his own sign, handwritten on a piece of cardboard box. I figured it would say the usual, “Anything helps” or “out of work veteran” or something similar. It didn’t. It said, “Testing Human Kindness.”

Hoo, boy. Given the huge amount of sheer ugliness that seems to flow out of everyone these days, that sign nearly stopped me in my tracks.  I pulled into a spot, went in to the warm store and availed myself of their very nice facilities. When I came out, directly across from the door was a rack of hats, gloves, jackets, etc. The man outside weighed on me. It was SO cold out there–colder than in Pueblo closer to Colorado Springs, higher in altitude, at the foot of Pike’s Peak, and the wind cut like a knife. I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to his attire, but I remembered he had some kind of a hat on, but his other clothing didn’t seem nearly adequate enough. I debated a jacket, a hat, something. I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know. What I really wanted to do was buy him a house.

In the end, I went to the coffee stand, chose the largest cup I could find, filled it with hot coffee, added lots of cream and sugar, paid for it with a twenty and got the change. I got in my car and made ready to leave. As I pulled out, I stopped at the sign and rolled down the passenger window and handed him the cup of coffee and then the money. He was very gracious and grateful. His dog, a black Lab mix, stuck his head in the window for a pat. He blessed me and we wished each other Merry Christmas and I got back on the highway and went to Denver. I cried most of the way. I realized after I got a few miles up the road that I had a bag in my trunk with an extra pair of gloves and a knitted hat (black) with an attached neck scarf that I could have given him if I had only remembered it at the time. I also had a waterproof picnic blanket I bought back in the summer that zips up into itself to make a seat cushion. The waterproof part seemed particularly important yesterday.

I thought, “I’ll stop by on my way home and if he’s there, I’ll give those to him.” But I didn’t stop. It was full dark by then and I was sure (I hoped, I prayed) that he would have gone to a shelter by then. But, I’ll probably never know.

I don’t often feel this moved. I see people out in the pleasant weather, at exit ramps and intersections, wearing pretty nice shoes and smoking cigarettes. I usually pass on by. But I can’t imagine anyone standing out in that weather yesterday unless they absolutely had no other choice. I hope the store owner let him come inside from time to time. I hope they let him use the bathroom if he needed to or let him get the dog some water. I hope he had a place at a shelter last night and tonight, which is just as cold.

I hope I always remember to practice kindness.

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Relax, It’s Only Birth

So, Donald Trump has been elected. The (slightly less than) half of folks who wanted his brand of America is busily celebrating and in a lot of instances being great examples of how to be sore winners. The (slightly more than) half who voted for Hilary or other candidates are mourning and running around in fear and agitation, wringing their hands and saying, “How could they?” I know this because I’ve done a fair amount of it myself since Tuesday. The November 8 square on all my calendars is now solidly black. It was not a happy day.

But, I continued to sit in meditation. And sometimes, when I sit, I feel my vision pulling back, kind of like being inside Google Earth. I pulled back from my own single body sitting on the floor in my bedroom, to just above my apartment building, to above my neighborhood, where I could see the track where I walk, the college where I swim, the complex where I go to movies. Then I pulled further up and there was my old house several miles away, the Pueblo Reservoir, the mountains to the West, the plains to the East, pulling higher and higher, just like a jet taking off, until I viewed Earth from an orbital perspective, that iconic photo from the space station or an Apollo mission, a sweet blue orb hanging in the depths of space like a fire opal sitting on black velvet. You can’t see all the seething and discontent from there, can you? You also can’t see the sweetness and the joy and the beauty.

I let all my judgment go, just for a few seconds. It was difficult, for sure. I felt like one of those sea anemones that open up and drift in the tides, but pull back into themselves when a hand waves over them. I would open, drop judgment and then it would come swooping back over me and I would close up tight. Being open is difficult. It makes you terribly vulnerable. But in one of my moments of release, I realized something.

Donald Trump represents an opportunity. People have been crying about change for a while. The promise of change was what drove the Obama election. But after he was in office, while somethings changed or moved forward, many things, things that we all hoped for, did not happen and the old boy, business as usual, it’s who you know, not what you know network didn’t change much.  Hilary in office would have represented a different face of the same coin. A prettier, more acceptable face than Trump, to be sure, but still, business as usual. Some small things might have changed, and some small changes already made might not be in the gun sights right now, but overall, not much would be different.

Donald Trump does not hide the ugliness. He celebrates it. He celebrates divisiveness over everything. He celebrates power over and would not know how to behave in a “power with” situation. It would cripple him. So, in a way, if we want anything to change in a meaningful, permanent way, electing Donald Trump was the best thing that could have happened because he will be a catalyst.

We are going into labor, folks. We’ve been in false labor, even Braxton-Hicks, for a while, thinking, yes, it’s going to change, we’re going to move forward, things will get better, we really can clean up this mess, and yet behind us, all we hear is spinning tires and all we feel is that we’re sinking deeper into the muck. But now, the water has broken and birth is going to have to happen soon.

To those of you who have never given birth or attended at a birth, it’s a hugely violent and messy process. You can have soft lights and nice music and a water bath, and chanting and all that, but the bottom line is that a new, living creature is trying to push its way out of another person’s body. Never easy under the best of circumstances. And all drapes and medical terminology aside, birthing is fucking hard work. There’s a reason they call it labor.  And it’s full of sweat and blood and puke and tears and snot and shit and amniotic fluid and lots of screams and an occasional

OHMYGODIHATEYOUIHATEYOUIHATEYOU!!!!!

OHMYGODWHYDIDIEVERLETYOUTALKMEINTOTHIS!?!?!?!?!?!?!

And sometimes, you have to literally reach into the mother’s body and turn that baby around so that it comes out right. And sometimes you even have to cut it out if there’s a problem.

But we have this opportunity. We are poised in this incredible cusp of power and force and energy, if only we don’t lose it, if only we will recognize it, if only we will see each other and work together.

The old way is never going to give us what we want or need. If we want things to change, we have to change them. We have to birth the new way and if we have to scream and cry and bleed to do it, in the end, if we have a beautiful new baby to love and nurture and raise to maturity, won’t that be worth it?

Are you ready? I am.

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Samhain

In less than an hour here, it will be Samhain or Halloween, as it is more commonly known. It’s a time of mystery, contemplation and connection with the parts of ourselves that we don’t always think about, not just about jack o’ lanterns and candy.

I’ve been very scattered lately and feeling stuck and blah and completely disconnected from anything meaningful. I go through my routine, do my work, pay my bills, fetch and carry the boy to and from school, get everything done, but there’s no spark, no drive, no real energy there. Just automatic movements.

But just tonight, I felt a push, an urge to maybe reconnect to the person I once was and to open up to the person I might become. I lit a candle and some incense. They’re burning now across from my desk, the candle on the bookcase/altar behind my door, with photos of my parents lit by the soft light, and the incense on my dresser on the other side of the room, next to Buddha and my shamanic mesa (i.e., medicine bundle) which is open on the top, allowing the incense smoke to waft over the contents. My mesa has been dormant for quite some time, just like me. But, again, earlier this month, I felt the need to bring it out. I left it out on the night of the full moon, open to the soft light of that heavenly body.

There are items in there that I accumulated during my shamanic studies, symbols of my journey around the medicine wheel, tokens from places I have been, gifts from friends. I need to sit with it more often, to become familiar again with the energy of each item. They’re my tools and I need to learn them once more.

I started reading Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare You” and there is a lot in there I needed to be exposed to and understand. About being in discomfort, about feeling things you don’t particularly want to feel, but allowing yourself to do it anyway. About not running away. I don’t know if I’m running away, but maybe this blah feeling, almost non-feeling, is a form of running away. I don’t know. I’m not sure you can force yourself to feel things, but you can be open. You can be still and allow. This weekend, I started meditating again. There’s no excuse. I wake up, I go pee, for 10 minutes I can sit and meditate. It’s not that long. Right now it feels good. Later it might bring up things, but I hope by then the habit will be stronger and that as above, I can sit and just allow the feelings and simply be with them.

That’s what Samhain is all about. It’s the new year, a new cycle, time for something different. I don’t have to know what it is. I only have to sit with the idea. And allow.

Blessed be.

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Leo

Sometimes, my thought convolutions and trails of memory surprise me. This morning, in the wee hours, to get a brief break from work, I read an online essay at Lucky Peach, a great food, cooking and culture magazine. In it, the author talked about keeping a food diary for none of the reasons that people are often urged to do this, i.e., track your food so you’ll know if you eat “too much” and then you can eat less and lose weight. This woman keeps a food diary as an aid to memory. Even writing this takes me down another mind corridor, to a conversation I had years ago with a college friend and her husband in New Orleans about our parents and their various quirks. Her mother invariably remembered events and occasions by what was eaten: “Oh, remember when we went there? We went to X Restaurant and you had that dish, and your father ate that?” while her husband’s father always seemed to remember event by how much things cost: “Oh, remember when we went there? We went to X Restaurant and the bill was X dollars, and you had that steak that cost X!” And so it goes.

Working nights is weird. I get hungry at odd times. I mean, really hungry. I don’t know if it’s the brain power I’m expending at times when my mind would normally be resting or if it’s just my body trying to tell me to sleep, but instead it just gives up and says, “Well, I know you’re not going to sleep, but I’m really tired, so why don’t you eat something instead?”

Either way, tonight/this morning there was a perfect combination of circumstances that threw me down memory lane big time. I decided I wanted some cheese toast. Toast has become a real treat for me lately because over the past few months, I discovered that either wheat or gluten or some combination of the two was the major culprit in all my miserable itching. I did two somewhat controlled experiments where I quit eating bread, baked goods, wheat flour products, etc. for a couple of weeks, then ate the same and wow…the itching had calmed down a lot and after I ate the things (2 donuts the first time, 1 corn muffin from a restaurant the second time) and had immediate and severe skin reactions, I thought, well, I can do without bread, etc. if it means not scratching myself till I bleed.

I did well the first 6 weeks or so. I’m not a really big bread eater, although I like it. Crackers are more my downfall, and I found some gluten free ones that I liked, so all was well. But, every now and then I want a sandwich. Or a piece of toast. So, after nearly 3 months of no bread, wheat flour, etc., I found a loaf of Udi’s gluten-free bread on sale and thought I would try it. I got the millet-chia variety and it is really good. My first piece of toast in 3 months was incredibly delicious…buttered under the broiler, with peanut butter and cherry preserves. Yeah, THAT’S a memory.

Which brings me back to tonight/this morning. I wanted cheese toast with tomatoes. And wanting cheese toast with tomatoes, I thought of Leo.

Leo was my boss at Six Flags Over Georgia in the Crystal Pistol for four years. The first year I worked there, I worked in the general wardrobe, where I took in the dirty uniforms for all the park workers and handed out the clean ones for the next day. I worked with a high school friend and her mom along with the rest of the crew, in a huge warehouse type place full of long racks of brightly colored uniforms for the different rides. There was a guys’ side and a girls’ side because every day after shift, the workers came in, went upstairs to the locker rooms, changed into their street clothes and brought their uniforms to us, got replacements and then went back upstairs to put them in their lockers for the next day. Over time, I learned people by their clothing size. I learned to look at a guy and think, “Oh, 32 x 32” instead of “Cute butt.” I learned to look at a girl and think, “Flume Large” or “Sky carts medium” which had absolutely no bearing on whatever size she might wear in the real world. But that’s a whole other post. The wardrobe was my world for the first year I worked as SFOG. I worked weekends and nights after school when the season overlapped and nights during the summer. It was my first experience with night shifts. SFOG was where I learned to drink coffee.

I liked working there, but even then my introverted self did not want to be out in the park mingling with the tourists. So, the second year when spring time rolled around, I put in an application again and started following up. My mom called, I called, but nothing seemed available. Finally, when I was just about to give up hope, my mom made one last call and the HR person asked, “Can she sew?” Oh, yes, I could, and so I got an interview with Leo at the Crystal Pistol.

On the day of, I went into the office area that I was familiar with and was told I needed to go out to the Pistol for the interview–that was where Leo worked. So, I found my way there, and asked the crew where to find Leo and they directed me backstage, where I found a woman in a tiny cubicle with a two sewing machines facing each other, surrounded by vast yardages of lace, net, tulle, satin, rhinestones and sequins, separated from the rest of the backstage space by a counter and a Dutch door.

As I got a little closer, it appeared that I was looking at her through the neck of the sewing machine…her head was barely over the top of it. I stopped at the Dutch door and told her who I was. She slowly got up and made her way around and through the piles of fabric and to the door and opened it for me, inviting me into her inner sanctum. I stepped in, more than a little nervous, especially when I saw that Leo was probably older than my grandmother and barely taller than my waist. Think Linda Hunt as Hetty in NCIS: LA.

Leo greatly resembled Gertrude Stein and she was, in effect, cubic. She was almost literally as wide as she was tall. She wore long smock tops and loose pants, and she pulled one of those vertical wire shopping carts along behind her coming to work and going home. She had crisp gray hair that she wore pulled back in a severe bun and bright blue eyes in a round face that was soft with wrinkles. She was not a particularly cheerful person, but over time, I could tell when she was amused because her eyes would sparkle even if her expression never changed. She never hurried, but she got everything done on time. She was a brilliant seamstress who had no formal training but she could look at a person for a few minutes and work out a pattern to fit them from thin air. I was immediately intimidated, but she asked me if I had made the top I was wearing, and I said, yes, ma’am, I had, and everything was downhill from there. I was in.

Leo ruled the backstage area. Nobody messed with her. As with the general wardrobe, the performers turned in the part of their costumes that were washed and cleaned every day…tuxedo shirts, or similar, various ties, accessories, even underthings (dance belts–if you don’t know what a dance belt is, Google it), dance hose, leotards. We were responsible for keeping the costumes up, washing the things that could be washed, and maintaining the dressing rooms. But Leo brooked no sloppiness. We kept things cleaned and mopped, but woe to anyone who left a bow tie or a stocking behind and woe to the person who turned in their things bunched up or inside out. There would be fines and no one got their items back until the fines were paid.

In addition to the two sewing machines and piles of fabrics and shiny things, Leo kept a fridge and toaster oven in the tiny space. I’m sure it was some kind of a fire hazard, but no one was going to tell her she couldn’t have them. One of the things she loved to make was cheese toast with tomatoes. She brought big, juicy tomatoes from her yard (her husband, Harold, was a gardener–when he wasn’t watching religious shows on TV, something Leo greatly disapproved of, as Harold was apparently prone to sending money to the televangelists. Leo was nothing if not frugal.) She sliced the tomatoes thick and the cheese thicker, and popped her little open-faced gems into the toaster oven to bubble and ooze into melted perfection.

My mouth watered every time she made this concoction, and I vowed I would try it at home. At work, I brought a cold lunch in and Leo and I ate together while I trained.

The first year, I worked under Leo’s close scrutiny. I learned to fit and alter, to sew yards of rhinestones onto plush velvet without marring the nap, to take regular looking street clothes and turn them into something showy that was also able to be yanked off a moving body in a hurry and replace with an equally showy different garment for quick-change moments. I once even fixed a young man’s zipper while he was still wearing the pants. When I told him sternly, “Don’t MOVE,” and he didn’t, I began to understand where some of Leo’s power came from.

Throughout the season, Leo continued to make her cheese toast with tomatoes. And I started making it at home. It’s such a simple item, but so good…way better than the ubiquitous grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. I could never abide tomato soup, even as a child, but the warm tomatoes coated in the melty, bubbly cheddar atop the crispy, buttery toast…that was comfort food at its best.

And so, last night/this morning, as I made my toast, Leo wandered into my head and in just a moment, I relived all those years at the Crystal Pistol, sewing rhinestones and sequins, watching the pretty boys and girls dance brilliantly onstage and cuss like sailors and smoke like chimneys backstage. I felt the swish of the netting around me as I worked in the close confines of Leo’s creative closet. I smelled the funk of costumes that can never really be washed but only “cleaned”…that unique mix of dry cleaning fluid and body odor that never exists anywhere but in the back of a live-performance theater. I thought about the author of the article, writing her food diaries ever day, hoping to preserve her memories of events and people by writing down menus. It’s a powerful technique, if just thinking about cheese toast and tomatoes can carry me back this far to a long-passed period of my life.

I’ve got short ribs in the crock pot tonight. Maybe I should write that down.

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