The Fox at Dawn

6.15.19 Boldly going where I went long ago

Among the discoveries from the Great Possum Invasion (more on that in another post) and the subsequent destruction of cardboard boxes storing much of my evidently long life’s ephemera, was a long neglected collection of writings printed off my sister’s computer, back when she was in medical school and had the only computer in the family. Seems I used it a lot, to write letters, scripts, scraps of things- long long banners of work printed on that porous paper that connected end to end. Remember how that fed into the printer? What I have read so far is simply strange, it is quite as if someone else wrote it. And I supposed that’s true. All those lovely long letters I used to write! Back when my attention span was not compromised by my overuse of screens, small and large, and the seduction of social media. Back when I had time to think.  

What I share here made me laugh, reading it again all these years later. I do not remember writing it. I do remember the circumstances. I spent a great deal of time helping my mother care for my grandmother, her mother, who lived in our family home since I was 12. Toward the end of her life, Mama was pretty much confined to her room, if not her bed, and required someone to be with her at all times. This was sometime in 1994 or ’95 I think, putting me in my early thirties. Though Mama has been long gone now, reading this makes that time present again. Mama is just in the other room about to call me.

Sitting at kitchen table with the baby monitor, clothing catalogues and Star Trek Next Generation action figures.

Loren: This is so ugly.

Data: Yes, I concur. Is that a catalogue from the Earth period known as the incredibly tacky seventies?

Loren: No, this is a catalogue from the desperate nineties reselling the tacky seventies.

Data: I see.

Loren: This one is kind of nice though, what do you think Data?

Data: It appears to be very practical, made of a fiber that could serve as a transition between fall and winter, even between winter and spring.

Loren: Yes, but it has no pockets.

Data: A drawback to be sure. But are pockets absolutely necessary in a dress?

Loren: I can never be absolutely at ease if I don’t have somewhere to rest my hands.

Data: Very interesting.

Loren: Yes, it is true. I think other people feel the same way, ask Dr. Crusher.

Data: Dr. Crusher is the only person on the Enterprise with pockets. If your hypothesis is correct, one could conclude that she is the only one on the Enterprise completely at ease.

Loren: It’s possible. She’s the only one who can carry around a Kleenex or a breath mint. She is the only one who can make fists when she is frustrated without anyone seeing.

Troi: Is that why you need pockets, Loren, to hide your frustration from others? Do you find it difficult to express anger?

Loren: Oh, not particularly, Deanna. 

Loren smacks the Deanna Troi figure down.

Troi: I’m sensing some hostility. I’m sensing a broken arm. Troi to Dr. Crusher, medical emergency on the kitchen table.

                                                                        Dr. Crusher beams in.

Dr. Crusher: Deanna, what just happened?

Troi: I’m afraid we’ll have to put Ensign Crawford back in the brig. Her violent outbursts have returned. She may be in for a court martial.

Dr. Crusher: Well, your arm is definitely broken. Here, that should be better. This is very unusual behavior from Ensign Crawford, she has always been so kind and caring. Perhaps I should examine her.

Troi: Be careful Beverly, whatever you do, don’t mention anything about pockets.

There is the sound of a toilet flush over the baby monitor. Loren bolts up from the table and runs out. The following conversation is heard over the baby monitor.

Loren: Mama, why didn’t you call me?

Mama: I didn’t know where you were.

Loren: I’m right down in the kitchen Mama, where I always am. I have the monitor, all you have to do is call. You know that.

Mama: Turn on that light.

Loren: Did you have a good nap?

Mama: No, I couldn’t sleep.

Loren: Do you want some juice?

Mama: I always want juice after my nap. Always thirsty, always have to go to the bathroom. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sounds of Mama sitting down, groaning, turning on the TV

Loren: There you are. I’ll be right back with the orange juice.

Loren re-enters the kitchen, pours a little glass of juice, gets the mail, exits again. Voices over the monitor.

Loren: Here you are.

Mama: Thank you.

Loren: And here’s the mail, nothing exciting, some catalogs…

Mama: Get me my emory board. Thank you.

Loren: OK, I’ll be downstairs. Call me if you need to get up.

Mama: Alright…You’ll be downstairs?

Loren: Yes Mama, in the kitchen.

Mama: Is the front door locked?

Loren: Yes Mama.

Mama: Alright.

Loren re-enters. Stands blankly in the kitchen. You can hear Oprah over the monitor.

Dr. Crusher: Yes, her personality has changed, ever since her last shore leave to Raisa. A medical scan is definitely in order.

Loren: Next on Oprah- Do inter-species marriages really work? What about the children? Up next: a Klingon man who was raised by humans and a woman who is herself the product of a mixed marriage, human and betazoid. Can it really work? What about the sex thing? Yes, we’ll let it all hang out after the next commercial break.

Picard: Deanna, Lt. Worf, have you lost your minds? Starfleet regulation 247c3 expressly forbids any appearances on daytime television. Oprah, Geraldo, One Life to Live, I don’t care, it’s not Starfleet.

Loren: (Singing) I’m so bored I’m so bored I’m so bored. What’s for dinner What’s for dinner What’s for dinner…She’ll be asking soon….(In a French male voice) Once upon a time, you were so beautiful, so fascinating, you had the world at your feet, and now, now your best friends are action figures. (In a female French voice) Allo, Je m’appelle Dominique. Je suis une etoille de la cinema Francais. Peut-etre vous me connais? Non? I have made many many films, well, deux films anyway- Tattoos Are Forever and its sequel fantastique Tattoos Two. I have been called the French Meryl Streep, in fact, we are currently working together on a remake of the classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Picard: Dominique, you are more beautiful than I remember, your pictures do not do you justice, you are far too rich, too complex to be confined to just two dimensions. Please, will you dine with me in my quarters this evening?

Loren: On one condition.

Picard: Anything. 

Loern: That you wear your sexy pyjamas, I cannot resist your little PJ’s Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc, why is it you have a French name and a British accent?

                                                                        Voice over the monitor

Mama: Loren! Loren!


Yes, I still have the action figures.

6.5.19 Cake
June 5, 2019, 10:02 am
Filed under: Art of the Day | Tags: ,

How to Eat My Mother’s Caramel Cake:

Let the whole cake sit in front of you for an hour while you pretend it isn’t there

Or at least that you don’t care that it’s there.

Pretend the candles refer to a variety of ketchup.

Sneak a crumb of icing when no one is looking.

Light the ridiculous candles and sing.

Because there are only three of you, sing too at the top of your lungs.

Cut yourself the smallest slice, too small to be of any notice,

Certainly too small to be called a serving.

Press your fingertip into the crumbs that fell off the slice,

Let the taste spread through your mouth.

Use your fingers to break off a real bite, careful to take some of the caramel frosting.

Put it in your mouth. Sigh. 

Let all the memories of eating this cake in years past come flooding back

Like a movie montage.

Break off another piece, make sure you get more of the frosting.

Let the frosting break over your tongue in wonder. 

Sigh again.

Eat the rest of it as quickly as you can.

Drink some water.

Now that the appetizer is over,

Cut yourself a real slice.

Use a fork now,

Marvel how the simple combination of flour, eggs, sugar and butter

Can taste so very differently from cake to cake.

From bite to bite, judiciously divide that frosting.

Reflect how you are not even a frosting person,

How you scrape it off those poor cousins, the grocery store sheet cakes.

Admit to yourself that you’d slap away the hand of even your own child

If they were to try to take that best bite, 

the one that holds the motherlode of frosting-

That T-shaped intersection between top and bottom layer and the outside.

Let that bite sit last on your plate as you write this account.

Then take a deep breath, eat it.

Close your eyes, say a prayer: 

Long life to Nonna. May there be many more cakes.

Calculate how soon you might justify coming back for another slice.

5.31.19 Circles
June 1, 2019, 9:04 am
Filed under: Art of the Day, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

6/1/19 Early morning. I’ve been thinking a lot about circles, all the orbits we make, all the beginnings, the middles, the ends that lead right back into another beginning. So I sat outside last night and drew it as best I could, in the little piece of green that I have the care of, the “bit of earth” that is my own secret garden. The end of another school year, the start of another summer, the end of J’s secondary education, the start of her collegial learning, the sun sets at the end of another day and I go to sleep solid in the belief that it will rise again.

I thought a lot about Mom’s grand birthday party so lavishly hosted by my brother and sister, celebrating her 80 trips around the sun and 60 trips for my cousin Bobby. A carousel of photos, some almost 80 years old themselves, played over and over on the big screen in the corner, the past made present in front of our eyes. There were so many friends there, so much family, she hinted that this might not be such a bad send off if she were to pop off in the night, but of course we aren’t done with her yet. She doesn’t have our permission to go. That’s what we like to think, that death requires our permission, that we are somehow in control our endings. Maybe sometimes we are, but mostly the carousel stops and we sigh because the ride is over. We hop down off our horse and go find the next ride.

There were beautiful toasts at the party, my brother’s of course, and old friends and that of my beloved nephew who surprised his Nonna in a grand Hallmark moment by coming through the door when she wasn’t expecting him, thinking he couldn’t get leave from the Air Force base where he serves. The look of wonder and disbelief on her face as he walked through the door with his arms open wide! The same look on his mother’s face when he gathered her up in a hug. Only my sneaky sister and her husband were in the know- how they laughed with the pleasure of it. That party was a great gift, a chance for us to come together from all over, a chance to be together in happiness.

We sang happy birthday by the light of the only two candles that Mom would allow- one for her, one for my cousin- led in song by the jazz singer my brother hired. For once that tiresome song was a joy and not the dirge it usually bogs into. And at the end of the night, there was dancing. One of mom’s high school friends stood up and asked her to dance. He had always been the best dancer, Mom tells us, the best escort to any debutante ball. There they were, gracefully, joyfully dancing to “What a Wonderful World”, the song I chose nine years ago for Dad’s funeral. It was perfectly right. It was as if Dad were suddenly there. How he loved to dance with his Florence Lee.