Thursday, June 09, 2011

can't sleep

It's 4:14 am - the middle of the night.  Birds are chirping already - I thought they slept until dawn.  I sat outside - it's hot out, even thought it's the middle of the night. 

The birds singing in the dark transport me back to my teen years.  My first boyfriend had a paper route.  (This was back in the days when kids actually delivered newspapers.  Nowadays, at least in the city where I live now, newspapers are delivered by adults with cars.) 

Joe invited me to join him on his paper route one early morning.  It was so early that it was still dark, yet the birds were warming up for their dawn performance.  My dog Terry joined me, off leash.  We walked several blocks to where we'd meet Joe.

I had never seen the world at that hour before.  It was quiet but for the birds.  There were no cars, no people.  I might have been scared if Terry the dog had not been enthusiastically accompanying me. Terry's protective presence enabled me to enjoy the magic of  pre-dawn, when nature awakens.

Joe, who tended to be a quiet boy, was even quieter at that hour.  I began to understand why he chose to deliver papers even though it meant that he had to get up 3 or 4 hours earlier than his schoolmates did.  There was a sacred aspect to the hour. 

Even the air seemed different, as indeed it probably was since the cars and buses had not yet revved up their engines.  It was spring, and the air was the perfect temperature and humidity - cool but not cold, and delicious with lilacs.

Joe took his job seriously, and focused on his papers rather than on me.  He had developed early-morning relationships with the shop owners who greeted him.  I admired that.  I could sense the mutual respect.  At that sacred hour, nobody said much, yet it was important to greet properly, in the spirit of setting up the day to be a good one.

The paper route was long.  Back in those days, kids actually walked places, so it was no big deal.  But it really was a long paper route.  By the time it was completed, the day had dawned.  I was disappointed to end the enchantment, but Joe and I walked to our respective houses to get ready for school, thus ending one of the most cherished memories of my childhood.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Last spring (2010)

Today I was searching on YouTube for a certain musical selection.  Much to my surprise, a song which I strongly associate with my sister appeared in the sidebar, and I had no choice but to listen to it.  I was already having a really rough day, and I would not have consciously chosen to immerse myself in renewed mourning.

Last spring (2010) I found a sitter for The Child and I took off for Boston, where my sister was......well, preparing to die, although none of us really knew that at the time.  Her tongue cancer had returned and had taken her voice, the voice which had still sounded high-pitched and childlike even during its last utterances.  Her voice, before its decline, had been so animated that during healthier times, she had been asked to record outgoing phone announcements for businesses. 

She was a shadow of her former self last spring (2010), but we dared not think of the end.  She and I held conversations with her side being written into a notebook, with florid handwriting, impeccable spelling and perfect grammar.  My sister was smart.  She had skipped 4th grade, which, due to the high standards of education in the state of New York where we grew up, was nearly unheard of. 

Over the course of that visit I became reluctantly accustomed to her weak, frail, silent body.  She was still herself in spirit, thanks to her unfailing willingness to write. 

On the day I returned home from that visit to my sister, The Child and I went to see the movie Shutter Island.  It was quite appropriate because it was set in Boston.  But the piece de resistance was the song This Bitter Earth which played during the credits at the end of the movie.  I was mesmerized by it, and although the child was tugging on my sleeve to leave, I could not budge. 

When we returned home after the movie, I found the Shutter Island sound track of This Bitter Earth on YouTube and emailed it to my sister.  That was her kind of music. 

Now I can rarely bring myself to listen to it.  But today it presented itself and demanded another listening.  I was transported back to that time, in the spring of 2010, when my sister was still alive.