A Day at the Museum

Sun shining bright and clear.
Windows and whiteness everywhere
enhances the calm lake.

The museum is filled with children on a class trip.
Chatter, running, gleeful excitement.
Climbing on the art work when allowed.

Jane and I stop in the café
A chai tea and talk.
Happening upon long lost friends.
Welcoming comments from strangers.

Trip to the second level
to view the grand ceremony.
Calatrava wings,
like clockwork at noon
slowly close and open.

A docent group walks nearby
listening dutifully to the guide’s orientation.
Lunch in the restaurant.
A bubble of windows and light.
Endless talk.

Stop to see the newest exhibit,
a suitcase open on the floor.
Walk around each side to see the water below.
An adult’s legs cradle a child’s.
What does it mean. Who knows.
That was the only art seen on this artful day.

 

 

 

Broken Branches

When I was a child, one of my aunts kept a family tree. Nothing fancy. Just a type-written list that was mimeographed and passed out at each family reunion. Over time it became the final word when questions or disagreements arose about our family’s past.

How could I know that, as an adult, I’d have to make sense of the secrets it held and accept how mangled it really was. My mother was the oldest of six kids from a very large and close family and I was the first grandchild, oldest of over thirty cousins.     As a college student, I wanted to clear up a question in the family tree,

I couldn’t find one particular cousin. I was sure my mother’s sister had had a child but only my aunts name appeared on the document. I asked Mom and she, rather hesitantly, said it as true. As we were talking, I flashed back to an incident when I was about nine years old. Now it all made sense.

I have clear memories of times my aunts and grandmother would come over for one of their card parties. These times were as much fun for me as for them because I loved all the chatter and laughing. I’d sit quietly in the corner trying to understand the latest gossip.

But on that day, Aunt Marge was absent and their whispered conversations were out of the ordinary. They seemed to be purposely keeping something from me and to be judging Aunt Marge.

She was one of my favorite aunts and nothing she did could ever seem wrong to me. My questions were shushed but after everyone left I asked Mom what was going on. She fumbled around uncomfortably before finally speaking.

“Well, I guess you’re old enough to know. Your Aunt Marge is going to have a baby. And she isn’t married.” Then she got very busy folding clothes, clearly wanting me to let it go. But I couldn’t.

“But how can she help that?” I questioned, with the innocence of a fourth grader before sex education.

“She can’t help it if God gave her a baby,” I reasoned. “Father Elverman says babies are a gift from God. So how can she help it if God decided she should have a baby and she isn’t married?”  Mom gave me no straight answers and then told me to “just never mind.” But I couldn’t be stopped.

“When I go to school tomorrow, I’m going to ask Father Elverman,” I declared.  “He told us that babies are gifts from God and I don’t see how that can be wrong! She couldn’t help it!” Mom was a bundle of nerves; she somehow got me to promise I wouldn’t go to Father Elverman. Perhaps this was one of my first lessons in the power of family secrets.

Aunt Marge did have her baby, a boy named Dennis. On a weekend trip to Grandma’s, I visited him sleeping in a crib in Aunt Marge’s bedroom. She even let me hold him once.

Then a short time later, Dennis died. It was called “crib death.” He just didn’t wake up one morning. At my next visit, Aunt Marge was crying and getting clothes ready for the undertaker. After that, nothing more was said about Dennis. It was almost like he’d never existed.

Back to me, as a college student, looking over the family tree, I had a question for Mom.    “Why isn’t Dennis in the family tree? He was a part of the family, after all.” She thought for a minute before she spoke.

“Well, I guess people just didn’t do it that way back then.”

“Oh. Because Aunt Marge wasn’t married?”

“That’s right.”

“What about Dennis’s father?”

“He was a man Marge had gone with on and off for some time. But at the time she got pregnant, he was married. “

“Why didn’t she give the baby up for adoption?”

“Oh, that wasn’t done back then,” Mom said. ” You know my Aunt Trixie’s daughter, Pat? She was born out of wedlock. Trixie just lived at home and kept the baby. If they could, people got married. If not, they just took the baby into the family.”  As we talked more, Mom got a mischievous look on her face.

“Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but all my sisters and my brother had to get married.” She reeked snugness.

“What?” I gasped. “You mean Aunt Rita? Aunt Betty? Aunt Jean? What about Uncle Bill?” At the mention of each name, Mom shook her head up and down with a sheepish grin. That turned into a puffed-up posture as she filled in more details.

“I remember when I was in high school and a girl in my class got pregnant. All I could think was I’d never let that happen to me. And I didn’t.”

”And you were the only one. How interesting,” I responded. “Funny how, back at that time, everyone was judging Aunt Marge but they weren’t so perfect themselves.”

“I guess so,” Mom continued. “It’s just one of those things that everybody knows but nobody talks about in polite company.”  Humph, polite company. Small actions still speak volumes.

It will always bother me that Dennis was left out of the family tree. For whatever reason. So, if the family tree had been done when Pat was born, she’d have been omitted too. Even more unfair.

Aunt Marge died some years ago. We stopped having family reunions so the pages aren’t updated and handed out anymore. I didn’t know it, but the family tree was about to be hit by a bolt of lightning.

Around the time of her 92nd birthday, as Mom was “putting her affairs in order,” she privately told me and each of my five siblings that she’d been born out of wedlock. She thought it wouldn’t be fair for us to see the truth on her birth certificate after she’d died.

The realization was sobering that there’s cousins, aunts and uncles out there who I know nothing about. I’d always felt so lucky that, with the help of the family tree, I knew who everyone was three generations back in my family. I guess that’s the end of that childish fantasy.

So, Grandpa wasn’t really my grandpa after all. Now I understand why my mother always, in a derisive tone, called him Claude. And if these old rules were followed, perhaps my mother might not have been included in the family tree, gnarled and unruly mess that it’s turning out to be.  I now wonder what other secrets are still out there.

Stork Pose

Patience, balance, silence, breathe.
High on the mountain of repose.
Goddess lunges.
Vinyasa of warriors, humble and peaceful
opens in a flower pose.

Triangles give way to pyramids,
downward dog gone that feels good.
Seated twist creates
a sea of arms gliding from left to right,
closing to wide angle.
Serene, silent synchronicity.

Yoga touches all.
Stork pose morphs into tree pose
when foot rests on the leg.
 I forgive the mix of metaphor.
Perhaps that means the stork is sitting in the tree.
Or maybe it means something else.
Yoga is quite mystical, you know.

Finally,
last week I sustained stork pose
on both the left and the right.
Patience, balance, silence, breathe.

 

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