Monday, August 15, 2011

Will Work for Sake Margarita, or Full Control....

I have been running, sporadically, exercising determinedly and attempting to make some concerted improvements to my overall physical well-being.  I live a stones throw away from the Hudson River, well maybe if you’re Roger Clemons or Lefty Grove, but you get the drift, I live close by.  I sometimes switch up my run to cover a portion of the river frontage and end with some intense stair climbs on the Amtrak trestle. When I take this route and descend the stairs to make my way home, I have noticed a few unruly weeds that have been getting quite assertive at the entrance of a local restaurant. 

This creates such a stir in my, what?  Not my groin.  Not my heart.  Maybe my sense of order?  Do I posses a sense of order? In gardening, only, I have a tendency towards clarity and some distinguishable degree of purpose.  (We all have our crosses to bear, and I have never pretended to be anything less than quirky.)  I live a life with constant disorganization and clutter in paper form all around me.  My car gets to a stage of mobile anthropology unit and transporter of folderol quickly and without warning.  I spend days searching for that check, or those documents, and that overdue application, they always turn up.  They always get piled up and around and reshuffled and piled again.  My bed becomes a balancing act of books, papers, magazines that I saw a beautiful picture in, that I can’t yet part with or utilize in some creative genius manner. (I might have tucked the check in that book….)

For these reasons, I love gardening.  It gives me this sense of order and control that I am fully capable of managing.  It gives me practically instant gratification, the weeding part anyway.  It lets me wrestle and tug and struggle without hurting anyone else, or myself.  Gardening, essentially let’s me be in charge and gives me power.  This past year, I left my garden behind.  I can’t describe the depth of sadness and loss this created for me.  I was hard to be around this past spring, let me tell you.  I fantasized about springing some of my plants and bringing them to my new home.  I imagined a covert operation in the pre-dawn hours, and a nighttime rescue effort with night vision goggles and a darling basket to transport my precious seedlings to our new place of glory.  I never realized any of my border crossing fantasies.  It was time to let go and move on, begrudgingly and with great sadness.

I have created a garden in my new locale.  The purpose seems to be cheery brightness and clashing colors of vibrancy and thrill.  It conjures an image of my older two children at 3 and 5 years of age.  They are dancing at an outdoor concert sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s on Cape Cod.  They are dressed brightly in summer fare.  They are dancing with such intense grins and speed!  Speed that will send one into orbit if her older brother let’s go or loses his grip.  They are spinning and twirling and shaking their heads.  It made me laugh then, and still.  A bit of hysteria, but not without an end.  This is what my garden looks like, a bit of hysteria with an end.  I have used only annuals.  They may not be long lasting but they have gotten me through and are in a constant state of cheeriness.  They have a very clear purpose.

So, seeing the assertive weeds after my run gets all that power-tripping juice running. I want to head over and set things straight.  Show them who’s in charge.  That’s right.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Until I see the owner in the library and I tremble and the hive thing starts happening.  I can’t seem to share my great idea.  And I wonder what the hell my problem is and why I don’t start engaging in some more interesting fantasies.  I say hello, and leave quietly.  A few weeks later, I decide to pack up a folding chair and sit and read at the water’s edge.  As I start to go up the stairs, I notice the restaurant owner heading to the restaurant in the early morning and decide, “Oh what the hell, go for it, live on the wild side. ”  I try hard not to sound desperate and pathetic about my displacement and phantom garden pains.  I try just as hard not to insult him for letting things get, well, so unruly, and disordered.  I volunteer my services, he accepts, we part ways and I venture out the next morning, with a cup of coffee and a pair of clippers.

As I am weeding and clipping, I think of another memory.  In my early childhood on the mean (they were actually quite mild) streets of Woodside, Queens, I remember this woman.  Old (probably 36) with quick, sharp movements, sharp determined features.  She dressed in blue from head to toe.  Navy blue, kind of.  The navy blue only found in that polyester nylon fabric of the early 70’s.  Not quite royal, not exactly navy.  She has a blue turtleneck, blue stretch pants, more than likely with that sewn in seam deal, I don’t have that level of detail in my memories, ever, but if I had to guess…and she wore a headband, an inch or two thick, navy blue nylon.   She used to garden, and I use the term lightly, and feed the pigeons.  Pigeons! Rats of the skies, no one fed pigeons.  No one who had any sense or purpose, anyway.  We referred to her maybe once as the “blue lady”.  She didn’t care to interact with us or smile even. Her “garden” was a dusty, clay mound encircling a tree that seemed to be suffering from sadness.  Trees there, were few and far between and they lacked color. In hindsight, I would have to guess adequate cellulose was also missing.

I started wondering.  Have I become that woman?  Will I?  I am not sure.  I don’t know her story.  I did have on my black stretchy running pants, and a stretchy sweatshirt.  I was probably making quick, determined movements.  I am sure I didn’t feed any pigeons.  I am not sure what I impressed upon the restaurant owner, but this is what he gave to me; the thrill of instant gratification, a chance to wield power and control, and wrestle harmlessly, the opportunity to be in an established garden in the early morning hours.  Quiet determination, that's me.   I wouldn’t mind for it to convey: I am a part of a community with something to give, quirks and all.  Maybe it will translate to a sake margarita on the house, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…  It wasn’t as unruly as I might have built it up to be.  It looks fine now, after one power-gardening session with me.  Oh Yeah, I still have it!  Watch Out!  I am in the house! And the garden. 

Has anyone seen my clippers??? Anyone?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keep the Faith

A few years back, following a trip to Puerto Rico, I became very interested in santos; hand carved religious figures depicting saints and other religious icons.  The simplicity of the carvings and vibrant colors were so attractive to me.  The contrast between these Hispanic inspired relics and the religious artifacts found in most Northeastern churches was conspicuously unashamed.  Us Yankee-type Catholic’s and Christian’s safely, or repress fully, relate to dark, renaissance inspired artifacts that seem to sternly direct us to bow our heads.  The santos that I saw were vibrant and happy-seeming.  There would be very little head bowing invoked by these.  They instead inspire joy and celebration. 

On an Internet quest to learn more and hopefully purchase additional santos, I stumbled upon an artist whose work resonated with me. The artist’s name is Jan Keels, a self-taught outsider artist in New Orleans.   Some of her paintings at the time depicted images of the sacred heart and various collage-like paintings with phrases from psalms and proverbs, as well as lyrics from contemporary music.  Her faith and spiritual connection was evident and unapologetic, as much as it was graceful and tender.  Perhaps this was the attraction for me. 

I have always been interested in the religious beliefs of others.  How some people are loud and proud, while others are cloaked in mystery, or embarrassment.  I wonder how some have no faith or lacked a faith upbringing,  they seem absolutely fine.  Faith and spirituality are big parts of who I am, whether I am “not currently feeling it”, participating in bible study, searching for a church that is welcoming and supportive, teaching Sunday school, or questioning the very possibility of God.  I struggle daily, with the internal conflict I have created in being Irish Catholic, while worshipping in a Reformed Church. I am sure my paternal grandmother has grown tired from the undue rolling I have caused.  I tell myself my father is more understanding and at peace, one day I will find out for sure.  My daughter is enrolled in a Catholic University, and at times she may not be quite sure how that happened, she has ministered sermons in the Reformed Church of her upbringing.  My sons are in the "currently not feeling it phase, please let me sleep in, and/or we will politely refrain from this conversation" moment in time.

My connection to the Reformed Church might also be the real attraction I have to those brightly colored santos and the artwork of Jan Keels.  While Catholic Churches have cornered the market on religious icons and figurines, the Reformed Church stays true to the Reformation in that there should be no worshipping of icons.  I miss them, greatly.  My grade school papers that have followed me for close to ½ a century are scattered with artistic depictions of biblical proportions.  I seem to have had an obsession with blood and guts in such an unlady-like fashion. My goodness!  In one picture, Judas is certainly getting his due.  When I came across these a few years ago, I found a bit of humor in them, as well as a bit of gruesome disturbance.  As a teacher in the 21st century, if I found similar paintings or crayon renderings, the artist would be promptly plucked out of class, suggested for neurological testing, concerned calls would be made, she would be recommended for counseling and possibly dropped into a self-contained program for the suspiciously dangerous or psychiatrically determined to be disturbed.  I can’t recall what Sister Bernadette directed us to do but by the grade on the back, she was quite pleased at the outcome.  Judas is hanging from a tree, and there is blood dripping all around.  That might be what saved me from expulsion.  I clearly did not understand that a hanging would not result in blood-oozing chaos.  I only knew there should be great suffering to one that would harm Jesus.  This lack of explicit teaching of suffering is implicitly the connection I have to The Reformed Church.  Suffering is all around, I for one, don’t need to go out looking for it, or have it lectured at me come Sunday mornings. I want my faith supported, not lashed out with terror and fear-making. 

So back to the santos and Jan Keels.  I returned from my trip to Puerto Rico, which was, naturally, a mission trip that I had coordinated for the fine youth of the Reformed Church in my community.  We curiously enough, worked with a leader from Catholic Charities to paint an Extended Stay Homeless Shelter, or Nursing Home for the Elderly Homeless, and spent time with the incredible people that lived there.  The thing about faith is, things seem to happen for a reason and otherwise strange unrelated events, people and places interconnect. Maybe my grandmother intervened and got me serving for the Catholic Church.

Following the trip to Puerto Rico, in 2006, my search for more santos and hand-made religious-inspired art began.  In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans hard and the devastation was epic, and continues to be felt.  My oldest son became involved with volunteer work providing camp programs for the first children that came “home” after the storm. When my santos search began, I came across the site for the gallery, Las Manos Magicas and Jan’s art stood out.  The pieces that she worked on immortalized Katrina, the devastation and the hope that springs from survival is clear.  It spoke of faith and beauty and “home”.   I wanted to purchase a piece that would honor my son’s work there.  When I first contacted this special artist, she wanted to know how I found her.  We corresponded via e-mail. She extended a thank you for my son’s involvement.  I purchased a symbolic piece of art.  We continued to interact via e-mail a few more times and got back to our lives. 

My son stayed involved and worked in New Orleans each summer that followed.  When he graduated, he decided to make New Orleans his home.  Two summers ago, I visited.  While walking through the French Quarter at dusk, a shadow caught my eye.  I was held briefly by the play of light and darkness, until I realized what it was.  There is an unadorned, white marble,  statue of Jesus, in a garden behind The St. Louis Cathedral on the corner of Royal Street and Orleans Street. This is known as St. Anthony's Garden.  At dusk, it casts a shadow well over 50 feet long.  The effect, for lack of a better word, is awesome. 

From time to time over the past few years I have checked back on Jan’s work with interest in purchasing another piece.  Last year, while checking, I hit an Internet snafu of sorts on her website and sent a brief e-mail to alert her.  She thanked me, and wanted to know how I was.  I wrote briefly about some personal going-ons, we did what any forward thinking, creative souls would do, or any old soul in the modern world for that matter, we face-book friended each other.  What this meant was, my total friend count rose, I got to see her postings from time to time and when my daughter was visiting in March I got to check in with a real “local” for some suggestions. 

Last month I visited New Orleans’s.   I decided to break out of my typical awkwardness, reached out of my comfort zone, and shared that I would love to meet her. I also wanted to pick up a another piece of her beautiful art.  A few days prior, I had been walking around the quarter snapping photos but I hadn’t posted them.  The next day Jan posted photos that were strikingly similar and of the same locations.  The funny thing is, they were not the ordinary, run of the mill touristy type pictures that everyone takes. They were interesting close-ups and artistically juxtaposed frames, to me it seemed a bit spiritual, for Jan, she shared it was somewhat common for her to experience what she called “parallel moments”.  

When I finally met her, she was on the corner of Royal and Orleans.  In that same spot that I had stood two years prior, behind St. Louis Cathedral. Interestingly, St. Louis is the patron saint of tertiaries, or “the third order”, these were lay people that did good works and by doing so promoted their faith.   Jan’s artistic purity and transparent faith is somewhat in keeping with tertiaries.  St. Anthony is known as the patron saint of lost things.  I personally feel less lost than ever.  Oh, and he's the patron saint of amputees.  I’m not sure what that means in terms of the thumb and forefinger that were “lost” or amputated from the statue of Jesus, when a tree fell during Katrina.  It could have been worse?  It was meant to be? And stranger still, in Bay St. Louis, a town outside of New Orleans, at St. Stanislaus College, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was ripped from its pedestal during Hurricane Katrina.  Only one hand was ever recovered.  Maybe not the DaVinci Code material, but pretty curious just the same.

Jan sells her art behind St. Anthony’s Garden, across from the white marble statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, perhaps not so much in the shadow of her faith but hopefully sheltered from the storms.  She has provided much to me in this art that must flow from her soul.  She is as a friend should be, open and kind, with maybe a passion for living, and appreciation for what she has post Katrina, rather than all that has been lost.  And that is a great find. 

It is also pretty curious to me that St. Louis was a collector of relics and “holy things”.  Just saying…  As my father use to say, “Keep the Faith.” 

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Dating is perhaps the one area that I am most ill-equipped at (more of this later).  I am a jumble of processing, speaking, feeling, reacting and facial expression that is hay-wired or prewired for disaster.  So here I am in this new phase of my life full of hope and wonder, excited about opportunities for connecting with the men folk that find themselves in similar situations.  Realizing I possess discernible physical and emotional features that come with age and experience, I still have much more to offer, and acquire.  So how does a somewhat-to-extremely socially awkward individual break through?  I have always struggled with the concept of permitting time and kindness to do this thoughtfully on my terms, and to just throw myself at any man that looks my way and shows the smallest interest and then hang on for dear life.  Over the past couple of years I have happily removed my white knuckle grasp on a relationship of great strife.  I am hoping to be able to coolly invite dating back onto my calendar soon. I don’t want to repeat mistakes.  At this age that knuckle grasping is surely going to develop into arthritis-like symptoms.

Having never mastered playful flirting and dating with the opposite sex earlier in my brief dating career is a real problem.  Having come up through this period pre-AIDs, if just by a month or two puts me in a real quandary.  We were a great deal more open, easy-going, and experimental, I believe.  Not every night, but generally speaking. The rules or complete lack of rules back then, were different. Things were a great deal looser.  Flirting typically ended with the option to get physical, fast.  I believe myself to be a bit more equipped in this realm.  (Don’t we all?)  This prior looseness might have interfered with the development of these much needed interpersonal skills needed for dating. Perhaps it is just my own experience that makes the rules that much more foreboding.  Maybe the rules are self-imposed and imagined.  I just can’t imagine how to get past my blank-faced-to-serious faced, which is really a deer-in-headlights-trauma-faced glance of terror.  Such a turn off, and so uninviting, don’tcha think?

I live in an area that is extremely family centered. That makes sense, as a mother.  It made even more sense as a wife with a husband and a few kids growing up.  This makes it hard to find a date, however. Of course, I, and many others, believe that we live in this traditional family centric community and only a couple of us are divorced or divorcing, single, or in one way or another nontraditional and available.  The fact is many, oh so many are more than likely in the nontraditional realm then we care to admit.  I don’t really know why.  If others could start admitting this, I would have an easier time determining my flight plan towards or away from the men folk that are out there. Could we get t-shirts or special hats? That would certainly make life a great deal easier for me.  As it stands, I can’t seem to pick up my mail, go to the hardware store, go for a run or go to the grocery store without breaking into hives because one of the men I cross paths with might be a potential good time.  I told you, I am a hay-wired dating or pre-dating disaster, and I wasn’t kidding. 

This brings me to the subject of computer dating programs that are currently abundant.  Earlier in this journey of singledom, which is still unfortunately, legally undetermined, but moving like molasses, slowly forward, a friend shared with me her secret to man folk magic.  I tried to explain I don’t really have any much magic to offer, she wouldn’t hear of it.  So I paid careful attention and made some attempts, at least from the comfort of my own home.  I peaked.  I looked a little closer.  I created a profile and I even uploaded a picture with much prompting and a tall glass with ruby red contents.  Much like my earlier dating experience, I froze after that.  I have a few winks, a few interesteds, and a couple or 10 e-mails that have not been responded to.  I have not paid to see the e-mails and I am uncertain that I want to commit.  That sums up a bigger barrier for me.  I don’t want to commit.  I cannot yet imagine wanting to commit ever again.  I don’t want to commit but I want to have fun. I don’t want to catch any STDs either, but I want to take some time to enjoy independence and single life.  I am not sure why these things seem to be somewhat exclusive.  Maybe it’s the on-line dating schema, maybe it’s men.  Maybe it’s men attempting to impress women or tell them what they think they want to hear.

It seems like all of the men that I have looked at or been matched to want a wife, now, but yesterday wouldn’t have been a moment too soon.  They don’t even pretend that they want to go slowly or find out for sure this time around.  They seem to be stating in pretty clear terms they want a warm body, stat!  They want a couch mate, bed made, house mate.  They don’t want to waste time with anyone that is not dedicated to that end game.  For me, this is the very last thing I want.  I want to learn how to date, and have fun and enjoy time in between.

I think a newer computer dating system would be useful, at least for me.  Something in between the amazingly bad college roommate filters that often end in fantasized death wishes and expedite college drop-outism and the current lack of mystique with comprehensive on-line dating filters. I would prefer a dating site that allowed for a bit more wild abandon.  I am in no rush.  I might need help renaming the sites, but these speak to what I want:  How about, we didn’t do so well last time, let’s keep this  Why are we in need of a perfect match so  Maybe just,  Let’sJustDoTheGrooveThingWithIntegrityUntilIamReady-  Maybe that’s what Craigslist is all about, but I'm not going there.

I get that we want to try to make it work with someone more compatible than the last go round, but the reality is, compatibility is not entirely fluid or easy to pin down.  Self-awareness is a bit sketchy too. Outside factors and long ingrained habits play a fairly big part. I may understand the reasons I made prior choices and I can easily avoid those types, very easily in fact.  I can’t be exactly certain how things will play out, knowing I have made a couple of way out there choices, I really need time and more experience before imagining for a moment my true love has simply escaped me.  I also don't want to give up thinking my one true love ended up marrying someone else.  

This reality that I am pretty sure I don’t make the best choices in love gets me wondering.  A new strategy is in need.  Every so often my eventual ex would buy me a dress that I would never have bought for myself, and it would work.  It would work really well in fact.  So do I throw myself into the “I would never date anyone like that” group and see what happens?  It might help alleviate the hives or it might provoke a deadly outburst.  God knows, the “I am attracted to a, b, and c” has not worked.  Of course the a, b, and c, that I am attracted to was presented to me in spades, but lacked truth. I might still be attracted to earlier conceived attributes if they are valid and honored.  How do we tease out this reality?

This is how some of the men folk are handling it:  They want someone 3 foot tall 2 inches tall to 8 foot tall. (A dear, snarky friend of mine can’t help imagining the benefits to men when considering eye, or candidly speaking, mouth level of a 3 foot woman)   They want someone athletically toned, average, slender a few extra pounds to the morbidly obese.  I am not sure if that is expected in one woman, although I have seen a few extra large women, with chicken-stick legs, large breasts, average sized wrists, and fearful looking biceps.  These men are interested in someone that never smokes, occasionally, and is in the process of quitting.  A moderate drinker, socially, or never.  So when they are out on a date they drink, moderately; at home with your kids, never; with their probation officer, they are trying to quit; with their friends they are all out addicted and proud of it. It could happen.  The men that I have glanced at enjoy going to museums, traveling, cooking romantic dinners, camping, they play 14 sports well, and like to go to dance clubs. They are spiritual but not religious, they like plays or opera and NASCAR, they only speak English but want to learn more languages.   I must say none of them profess to like shopping, so perhaps there is a level of honesty that does exist in these profiles.  It seems to me they are in want of someone, anyone.  Maybe, like me, they just want to avoid the initial outbreak of hives.  And dating is often spoken of with dread, like those middle school years.

After my own initial outbreak of hives, I am a lot of fun, at times.  I can be adventurous and I also like to snuggle at home, sometimes. Don’t expect me to be at home all the time. I won’t be out carousing or cheating, so relax, I am extremely trustworthy.  I like toxic-neon-colored petit fours, Delmonico Steak and organic mixed greens with artisanal cheeses with equal measure.  I have more than a couple quirky interests and desires, all of which have the potential to be charming to some very lucky, non-clingy, big, strong* man that does not expect me to be by his side at every moment.  I like to bake and cook sometimes.  I am a nurturing, maternally inclined being, and I have raised my children very nicely thank you very much. (My maternal instincts only work with children.)  This guy I am curious about running into, enjoys the wild thing, in a discreet and respectful capacity.  He might like wilderness camping, or he might need to have the comforts of home and indoor plumbing within close proximity, no worries.  He is passionate about life and thankful for that grand opportunity called living.  He will be able to maintain and enjoy his interests and allow me the same.  In time we might decide to share each other’s passions, but we are both unwilling to give them up to please the other at our expense.  But that’s not what I need right now. I just want a date now and again.

So the on-line thing might need to wait. I am heading back to school for another degree in the near future.  I am heading to Gotham for a writing and publishing course. If you are a big, strong* man and you see me and I look puzzled or nauseous, just let me know if you are interested in dating or not.  Cut to the chase and cut me some slack on cortisone creams and Benadryl for those hives. My snarky friend has suggested I join a gym. She is either twisted or supportive, or both.  She believes the physical workouts will help me gain confidence and feel better.  I might run into a man.  More likely, I will fall on top of, drop a weight on, and badly injure a man, or myself.  Physical routines and work outs in front of others has to be a strong contender for the area I am most ill-equipped at.  Oh, and line dancing, not good.  But boy can I find fossils! And fix things.  I am pretty good at electrical wiring too.  I make pie to die for.  A few more workouts and I might qualify for athletically toned, at this point I am somewhere between slender, average and working towards athletically toned.  After an especially large piece of pie, I might be temporarily in the few extra pounds range.  Once I stop worrying about how to relax and speak, I can be quite funny, and my eyes are deep and twinkling.  I am working on my t-shirt and hat, look for me soon, I'm the one at the gym with hives and two left feet, but oh so cute!

*big and strong may be used to describe my mystery date’s heart, eyes, spiritedness, arms and thighs, overall physique, personality-um maybe, and/or career.  Any combination of such might be carefully considered. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Driving Miss Ginger

On a recent visit to stay with my oldest son, I had the lovely experience of sitting in the passenger seat.  (Hold that thought; it seems to be a metaphor for this stage of motherhood, and it’s not quite as lovely as I would like.)  I sat in the passenger seat; I would like to imagine I sat demurely, as a revered and respected “elder”, comparatively speaking.  But that would not be accurate.  Of course, I had my trusted sidekick, lets just call him “Peanut” egging me on, or at least supporting me from the back seat.  The driver, the truly, or at least, at times, revered and respected first born was driving, very nicely I might add.  He drove us to City Park, a beautiful park in New Orleans where we were planning to picnic so that we might enjoy the cooler evening air.  Cooler evening air in New Orleans in late July means, 92° and humid as opposed to 95° and humid. In any event the New York heat wave with temperatures holding at 105° that we left behind made the hot humid weather at least seem that much more enjoyable (or not).  As we drove past pedestrians, sculptures, beautiful oaks dripping with Spanish moss, cypress trees and various palms and palmettos, the driver pulled over to park. 

"Peanut" and I were immediately unsettled.  We didn’t understand the parking choice.  There were clearly parking lots ahead in the visible distance and some that we had passed only briefly.  Why park in this more isolated section?  We were searching for a pavilion for our cool-er evening picnic.  There was a pavilion close by, but it seemed darkened and abandoned.  There were three police cars and a mounted officer across the median.  Didn’t this alert the driver?  We, "Peanut" and I, started wondering aloud, asking, questioning as only passengers can. 

There is an art in this passenger questioning type thing.  It is an art form in the best of worlds, or worst depending on where you're sitting.  The passenger aspect applies to transportation as well as the journey through life.  The passenger could also just as easily be accompanying someone to a grocery store, restaurant, or into the living room.  It’s not nearly as much to do with driving as it is learning to take  a back seat or diminished role.  Or quite frankly, it is usually about the downright refusal to take a back seat or diminished role.

Said passenger starts off with some degree of unease, which closely resembles disapproval, but can easily be dismissed or denied if said passenger is an artist in this milieu.  (Hah! “Milieu” isn’t that a fine piece of fanciness and frill, perfect to stress the art form idea!)  The unease moves into question form: “Do you think it’s ok to park here?”  In this form of questioning, the passenger gives respect to the driver.  The driver must surely know what they have done, right?  He, in this case, made a concerted choice to park the car in this very spot.  You can’t go in strong or direct, remember you, or I, in this case, am merely the passenger.  I couldn’t say, “OK, let’s just stop a moment and size up our surroundings shall we?  First of all, we are in a city, an inner city, with documented high rates of crime (if not always publicly reported) and well-known, rather infamous, corrupted and miss-managed police protection that is weakly patrolling this city.  Secondly, we are parked in a dark, abandoned, or at the very least fairly isolated section of a very large park.  Last of all, in my 30 second checkpoint system, police activity nearby in this weakly patrolled city leads me to believe this would not be a good place to park.”  I couldn’t say, “How is it that all my years of parenting has lead us to this dreadful scenario in which you are willing to risk your own life and that of your sainted and gifted mother and what about your sweet little baby brother, "Peanut"?”

The driver responds to the question that was posed, not the question that lies thickly beneath.  Deadpan. Waiting for this opportunity without fully knowing it, his whole sweet life.  Bingo!  Expecting it and savoring it in the drollest of ways.  This is a moment in life of great transformative power.  This is a rite of passage of ritualistic magnitude seldom discussed in anthropologic or psychological journals.  The driver must place the question squarely back in the passengers lap.  If done correctly, the passenger may get what they need in the moment, but the moment is transformative.  In this very moment, power shifts, the driver once dependent upon the passenger, becomes independent and capable.  The action, if handled well, completes a phase of development never to be visited again.  It goes like this:

 “I think it would be ok to park here, there is a pavilion right there, would you feel better if we found a different spot?”   

The driver can’t say:  “OK, I know that you somehow believe I am incapable of growing up and possibly surviving a picnic without your years of experience and wisdom to help guide and/or control my every move but before you came here for this “visit”, I have actually functioned and survived rather nicely, thank you very much!  If parking here for a 20 minute picnic is going to get your panties all bunched up in a knot and cause great levels of stress and agitation, I will surely move the car 400 yards to that safe haven of parking you alone seem to be able to see and know about and be safe in. ” 

Without saying any of this the driver has made me fully aware that for all the wisdom and knowledge that I have packed into this super sized vessel called “Mom”, I no longer get to call the shots, hold the keys, or decide which way to turn and where to park.  It happens in an instant.  I can see clearly this very transformative moment in my own past, which sadly seems like it just happened.  I can call it up and see my very parents as they visited me in a new city and knew better how to park, get to a restaurant, guide and steer me almost no more.   I can recall easily a minor eye roll, a droll response, a "glad to see them, glad to see them go back home" recollection of my own. 

“Peanut” on the other hand, still needs me to get him back to the airport at the end of our trip, back to his lovingly patrolled home, over to the Department of Motor Vehicles for his learner’s permit on his next day off and safely to a few more destinations before he takes me on a little picnic of sorts.  So for now, he supports, he adds to my earlier commentary or questioning.  He supports my wisdom.   “C’mon, dude, look around, this is definitely not the best place to park. “   When we get back in the car and drive to my happy safe parking spot, I am quieted by the experience.  I am wondering if I had just kept my flap shut, would I have extended this little fantasy of being “in control” a wee bit longer? 

As we approach a beautiful garden with a small pond and adequate parking, I can’t help but say, “Here, we go! This is much better.”  The driver remains quiet but smiles.  He seems to know who’s in the driver’s seat now, finally.  We get out and walk towards the water’s edge.  “Peanut” stands next to the driver, pats him on the back, roughly, brotherly.  He stands about an inch or two shorter with great confidence that he is still growing.  Soon he will also be driving.  Miss Daisy was a passenger with power.   Maybe I can work on my passenger persona.  See, growth never really has to end.  Soon I will be driving myself anywhich way I want to go, but I will be visiting "Peanut" and his wise siblings frequently.  Sometimes I might remember to control that old flap trap, but I'm not making any promises just yet.  I will soon enough need to be sized with a booster seat and I practically drive with my knees touching the accelerator or the hood release.   I've also never been a very good passenger, I am much more the participant.

[P.S. and of special note:  The above mentioned driver drove quite spectacularly over Route 10, a massive skyway type driving nightmare that hugs and crosses the Mississippi River, meanders towards Biloxi and lead us to Alabama.  He drove us calmly along the Gulf Coast and helped add three states to my travel belt, I remained mostly quiet and appreciative, I think.]