Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cobblestone Memories

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan.

University of Maine School of LawOur daughter strode across the stage to accept her diploma. Beth Marie Mason, Juris Doctor Cum Laude, University of Maine School of Law, Class of 2013. Within twenty-four hours of that moment she and her Army-veteran husband loaded their remaining possessions into their vehicles (the military had moved the rest) and headed south, toward their new lives in Florida.

The night before her husband Mike, her sister Katy, stepmom Pat (my wife) and I had piled into a rental car and driven to the waterfront along downtown Portland. We laughed, we drank....

I said a longing good bye to Maine.

Beth was living in Shapleigh when I visited in 2009. The house was an afterthought of a summer cottage set on a Thomas Kincaid-worthy wooded lake. We ate decedent butternut squash soup she'd made and watched DVDs. Her first job there was a place-holder - I was with her when she applied for, and was offered, a banking position she would keep until hours before her law school graduation nearly five years later.

To say the "house" didn't meet construction code was to say the Titanic sprung a leak. She tried to break the lease - the landlord threatened to sue - and Beth wrote her first lawyer letter, painstakingly outlining the property's deficiencies. She won.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Templates

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Charles Caleb Colton.

Police_officer : a smiling female police officer in the night during her shift  Amy Painter juggles a police career, manages a household, loves a husband and cares for her five-year old, a son born early, beginning his life in a NICU. Karen Sorenson's understanding of her mother's professional choices matures only when she faces them herself. Riley Malloy gracefully accepts a pilot's nightmare - grounding - for the chance to have a baby.

What do these women have in common? They are characters in novels, the product of an author's imagination. Professionals torn between two callings, a critical part of my own choices.

As my writing career has unfolded, I have benefited from others' willingness to share with me their experiences as mothers. All of them knew, for the most part, that they were helping me add depth to the people inhabiting a pretend world. They would see their own words, their thoughts, in print for others to judge. They spoke candidly anyway.

Often, the awkwardness of my questions reminded them I am a man, sometimes immune from illumination. They accepted the challenge.

I have had the opportunity to watch quality mothers close up. Three AM flu bouts, parent-teacher conferences, activities in the rain. The sacrifices are often ignored, or unperceived in the face of a mom's greater fear - that her children will face the same hardships that forged her own strong, enduring personality.

Happy Mother's Day - To my mom, my mother-in-law, my wife Pat, daughter Katy and daughter-in-law Lindsey. To my friends Donia, Danielle, Michelle, Michele and...Michelle. To sisters-in law past and present. You are more than the source of information for novels.

You are great moms.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Empty Hangers

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance." George Bernard Shaw.

The black Briggs and Riley suitcase holding last week's travel clothes sat next to a full basket of clean apparel. The temptation to juxtapose one for the other vanished easily - our next trip, to see daughter Beth graduate Maine Law, is merely a long weekend. The neatly-stacked shorts and shirts represented weeks of wear. I collected hangers.

Amid the usual suspects of cycling-event t-shirts and Tommy Bahama knockoffs hung the rarely worn, a sort of island of misfit tees. Nearby, the black plastic bag a third full of ARC-bound castoffs. I could add some, take it with me during afternoon errands....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pages

“A book without words is like love without a kiss; it's empty.”
Andrew Wolfe

My mother, shortly after I arrived for a visit, pointed out two bags of books in her living room's corner. "I'm donating them to the library," she said. "They're heavy - I already broke one handle. Go through them and see if there is anything you want."

Nestled at the bottom of a stack, innocuous - Wait Till Next Year, by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is styled a memoir, a rendering of Ebbets Field cloud-borne above a trim early fifties neighborhood. A possibility.

Ms. Goodwin's father was a Dodger fan, back when they played in Brooklyn, NY. He taught her to keeps score listening to the ageless radio voice of Red Barber describe games visible only to her imagination. Her father's return home from work led her to recount the play-by-play, honing story-telling techniques that would later earn her the Pulitzer. I settled in.

Inside the front cover, in mid-twentieth century script, a name; Alfred C. Lawson. A book dropped off at a library, as was its destiny again. A story making the rounds. On the title page;

"Christmas 1997
     To my dear husband after fifty something years of teaching me to love THE game

     With love and thanks
     Audie"

Alfred C. Lawson had been in the Navy during World War II. He settled in the Rochester area after his discharge. A life-long learner, he and Audie were married for sixty seven years at the time of his death in 2013.

I will not put Audie's gift to Alfred back on the pile, but will pass it on to my daughter Katy, with whom I share a love of the game.