As I drift along on my daily walk, the one I started during this sheltering, passing by a large expanse of water and sky, I am reminded of how slowly change comes, and when it does finally happen, it’s due to a ferocious wind driving everything out of its path. I thought of my father today, on my parents’ wedding anniversary coincidentally, as he would remind me when I was frustrated with the lack of protections afforded queer people like me, and he would state some statistic like, “just remember Oscar Wilde was found guilty of gross indecency in 1895, not that long ago, and look how far the world has come” he would add. As sweet as his history lessons were the demands of today call for vast sweeping changes effective immediately. It is not enough to recant one’s prejudices or apologize how we got here, instead, it is time to kick into the cracks and bring down the shoddy notions of the past. Racial or economic or gender or sexuality or religious or any differences can no longer dictate who gets what in this one world.
In the suburban neighborhood I grew up in, each house had two parents, a handful or more of children, a cleaning gal who lived-in a few days a week, and an assortment of pets. Every household ran on the same schedule, with Dads out working, kids in school, while moms did everything they did until we returned to sit around the dinner table in our respective seats. Two houses down our lane was a family just like ours, until it wasn’t, and they moved across to the other hill in town, where properties were larger, houses grander, and then the husband left to make his bed with a younger woman in her city apartment. This mother, the one left with 5 teenagers still living in the grander home, she’s been on my mind, a lot, her image rolling around all this week. I picture her at her dressing table, drawing cat eyes with a black liner, a smoldering cigarette in a crystal tray, and a half-filled martini at her elbow. She was alone gazing into her mirror on those nights when we middle-schoolers were experimenting with beer and kisses downstairs in the oak-paneled den. I have no recollection about why I went upstairs to speak to her or what she even said to me, but I always did go. She’d flit about in a gold patterned caftan like Cleopatra, mesmerizing my imagination as she moved mythically from dresser to mirror, completing her toilet with care, as if her styling mattered, as if she was expected somewhere regal. Once properly primed she’d descend the wide staircase with care, imparting a question or a word, not a caution or warning, just a thought for our evening. Although I couldn’t capture her bleached-blond up-do or recreate that Valley of the Dolls barbiturate disposition, she has filled my imagination endlessly of late. I know nothing certain about her isolation or despair, but right now, those emotions lay torn open in me.
For several years we have lived on this same street, the one I’ve driven mostly at the speed limit. Except for the occasional weekend run up and back down the adjacent dirt road, during this shelter in place time, I’ve been walking this street and all about in my neighborhood, a lot. My new favorite jaunt is a 3.5 mile loop that for a section of that distance I pass by open water. It’s a shallow, in spots reedy and swampy pond, but right now, the sight of the wind rippling across it is heaven. In March, when we first began the stay at home order, the pond was broadly covered by ice but under a cloudy or blue sky this expanse was everything wonderful to see even while frozen and stagnant and filled me with enough joy to navigate another challenging day.