Sterling too

I grow up with sterling.

My mother has a set of sterling. It is important to her. It is an emblem, a badge. She does not have as extensive a set as her mother.

My sister and I know the silver is special because of our mother. We like the tiny spoons best. They are silver with gold on the bowl.

“Can we use the special spoons?” we ask. For ice cream.

“Yes,” says my mother, smiling.

We run to get them, the small spoons, heavy for their size. Silver is heavier than stainless steel. The spoon also gets colder than stainless steel and tastes different. We eat our ice cream with our special spoons very happily.

We know that the silver is sterling. I don’t know what that means for a while. It means it is not plate. Plate? But these are spoons.

My mother shows us the stamp on the back of each spoon. “See? It says sterling. That means it is silver all the way through. Plate has silver over another metal.” She shows us the back of another spoon. The bowl has a worn spot. “The silver has worn away. And it does not say sterling.” We both study the two spoons and weigh them in our hands. The plate one is lighter. My mother is scornful of silver plate.

My mother is an artist and goes to museums. She comes back from one laughing. “They have an exhibit about homes and decoration. There is a room with tv trays and very few books and wall to wall carpet and a large color television. I thought it was so dull and ugly. Then I went to the next room. Oriental carpet and books and a guitar and no television and art!” She laughs. “They have me nailed. I am such a snob and it looked just like our house!”

We do have a tv but it is the smallest black and white that you can get. And my father knocked it over one night. Now the picture is cup shaped. The top of heads are wide and swollen. Neither of my parents care enough to get it fixed or replace it. They spend their money on art supplies and books and music. Friends visit. “What is wrong with your tv?” I look at it in surprise. I am so used to the deformed picture, I stopped noticing long ago.

Once we are at my mother’s mother’s house. My mother tells another story. “I found mother sweeping to get ready for guests. She swept the dirt under the edge of the rug! I said, “MOTHER! What are you DOING!” Mother just looked at me and said, “It’s a poor mistress who doesn’t know the maid’s tricks.” My mother’s mother did grow up with servants. But not here. She was born in Turkey because her father was a minister, running an orphanage and school. My grandmother lived there until she was sixteen and the family was exiled from Turkey at the start of World War I.

I give my mother’s sterling to my niece, after my sister dies. My children are not very interested in sterling. That is ok with me. Things change and values change.

I still have some special spoons, and think of my mother and father and sister when I eat ice cream.

___________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sterling.

Blessed

You needn’t worry that I will importune you.
Words explode and swirl upon the page.
It’s more likely that I’ll say blankly “Who?”
Since I enlarge upon a fascinating stage.
Approaching two years since I was taken sick,
on oxygen I wrote a poem of farewell.
Career ending injury: nature can be such a dick.
Breathing is important. Absent it is hell.
I am still healing. I hope that I can ski.
I am lucky that my fatigue is relatively mild.
My oxygen can go 9000 feet up where I’ll see
muscle dysfunction truly makes me wild.
Friends and family gather close and gather far
I feel blessed beneath a lucky star.

________________

Sonnet #2 for the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sonnet.

Dead letter

I get a letter for my mother on Saturday, asking for money.

I am answering the request. I write: Helen Ottaway died May 15, 2000. Take her off your mailing list.

I did not sign my name and I do not fill out a return address. Here is a picture of it, before the stamp. Habitat for Humanity, the next county south. They have not endeared themselves to me.

I get mail for the dead. My mother, my father, my sister. It is the colleges and universities that hang on. Princeton and Cornell have not found me, but my father’s preparatory school Williston, knows where I live. They send me reports. My father hated Williston. My sister went to the University of Washington and graduate school at the University of Oregon. I went to the University of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Virginia and residency at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, so I get mail from all of those. I like the science reports from the University of Wisconsin best. My son went to Washington State University, but has escaped their alumni association, who send me mail. My daughter went to Western Washington and has also escaped their clutches.

I get medical mail too. The American Academy of Family Practice Journal. I do not pay for JAMA but it comes anyhow. Various Family Practice journals and then drug company propaganda. Every so often I get a box of samples. Last time it was glucerna. I guess they have noticed I am older. One odd piece of medical mail is Guns and Ammo. The back story is that we ordered Woman’s Day when the clinic opened in 2010. Then we watched who they sold our information to. The scam is that a magazine will arrive for a year and then they will bill for the next year. We got Smithsonian for a while and that creepy right wing paper all about how we’ll all die soon. Smithsonian gave up on us and then it was RV World and Guns and Ammo. We quit putting magazines in the waiting room when Covid-19 hit. People had to bring their own and anyhow, we only had one person out there at a time.

I subscribe to my local weekly paper. I subscribe to one magazine. With all of the college and university stuff, I have a large pile to donate to the library monthly. Right now the AARP is sending two magazines to my house: one for me and one for my closed office.

And I still get weird junk mail from insurance companies saying “We have changed our rules again just like we did last month! Go on line and read the 47 new pages of rules for us and the other 499 health insurance money stealers!” Makes me gloomy about the wisdom of the US populace. When will we be smart enough to vote for medicare for all? How far will the medical system have to break down? People are dying and will die, including lots of medical personnel.

Vote for medicare for all, single payer, single set of rules. It’s not socialized medicine, the only socialized medicine in the US is the Veterans Benefits, and you aren’t going to vote to take them away, are you? Vote, vote, vote.

_____________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: envelope.

My mom loved me

I struggled after my mother died of ovarian cancer in 2000. She was 61 and our love was complicated. Two years after she died I hit an emotional wall and had to go find help. My marriage was showing cracks too. I have written about Adverse Childhood Experiences, but there can be love too, even in a difficult household. I wrote this poem during that time.

My mom loved me

It’s herself she didn’t love
She didn’t love her anger
She didn’t love her fear
She didn’t love her sorrow
She didn’t love her shadows

She packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
and rode forth singing

When I was angry
she felt her anger
When I was scared
she felt her fear
When I was sad
she felt her sorrow
When I felt my shadows
she felt hers
I hid my shadows

I hid my shadows for many years
and then my saddlebags were full
They called me

I dove in the sea
I rescued my anger
I rescued my fear
I rescued my sorrows
I rescued my shadows

At first I couldn’t love them
My mom didn’t; how could I?

But I loved my mom
I loved all of her
Her anger
Her fear
Her sorrow
Her shadows
Her singing and courage

I thought if I could love her shadows
I could love my own

It was hard
It took months
I looked in the mirror at my own face
And slowly I was able to have
Compassion for myself

I am sad that my mom is not
where I can touch her warmth
and tell her I love all of her

I tell her anyway

I’m finding many things as I surface from my dive
Sometimes I feel the presence of angels
I was looking for something else
I found a valentine
that she made me
No date
Many hearts cut out and glued
to red paper

I am so surprised

My mom loves me
shadows and all
now and forever.

__________________________

My mother used to quote “Pack all your troubles in your saddlebags and ride forth singing.” Does anyone know where this if from? I have not found the source. It could be her mother or her mother’s parents.

The photograph is my father, the year my sister died of cancer, 2012. He died in 2013.

Boa Black in dishabille

This is my beloved cat who died in February 2020. She was named Boa Black or Feather Boa, depending on the situation. We got her as a tiny kitten at the pound. She had the softest fur and purred the instant I picked her up. She was 17 when she died.

For the Ragtag Daily prompt: dishabille.

Lit

My friend Maline Robinson is an artist, paintings and silk screens. This one fits today’s “luminous” prompt, pale lit color and layers and texture.

Meanwhile my brain starts playing one of our choral pieces: Luminous night of the soul. It builds and builds, layers of sound and complexity. Here is another group doing the piece:

For today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt: luminous.