Mary Beth Writes

10/21/2021  Three Things

My birthday was last weekend. This is my question for you; have you celebrated a birthday lately that seemed extra fine? I wonder if the quarantine year reset our happiness scale. I don’t remember being miserable last year, but this year felt so rich.

Supposedly “older folks” are embarrassed or apologetic about being in our sixties or whatever non-cute age we are. I’ve never felt ashamed about getting older but I did internalize that it was my job to pretend this is a sorry joke. Somewhere in this past year I’ve jettisoned that, too. I’m 69; it is what it is. Still agile enough to hike and walk and move and why yes, I DO have a favorite physical therapist. (And I’m seeing her today for my ‘reading injury’ sore shoulder.)

Here are some of my good birthday moments.

Sunday afternoon my daughter called when she had just arrived at a playground with our four-year-old granddaughter. Grandkid was smiling and interacting with me until she saw her BFF Josephine who had arrived for their playdate. Poof, off my kid ran and it happened so fast both my daughter and I broke into laughter. All you could see was the back of my running kid, her blond hair flying, like those videos of parents coming home from war. These little girls had not seen each other in … a week?

Monday evening daughter called again, this time with our two-year-old grandson who is a total pumpkin head. Big head on top of his little body, his tummy pushing out whatever stripes and trucks t-shirt he is wearing.  

He “gets” FaceTime now. He looks right into the phone and grins; he knows we are really somehow behind the window in the phone. Daughter said a few weeks ago she found him in his room intently looking out his bedroom window. Their neighbor was making his breakfast and our kid was talking to him although the neighbor had no idea he was being watched and chatted at. We wonder if he thinks his window is FaceTime; when you see someone you love who is small and behind glass, you can talk to them.

Anyways, on the phone this week he was trying to say Happy Birthday which was cute. Len and I were talking to him and he watched us, his face all lit up like Christmas. It occurred to me he looks now like I looked on the MayaWorks trips to visit weavers in Guatemala. Totally happy to be there, concentrating like crazy, listening so hard for any word in the conversation that I might understand. When I did understand a word or sentence (from my high school Spanish) I would light up like a Christmas tree, too. People coping in a language they barely know pretty much all look like two-year-olds.

But, if you say “firetruck” he’s here for it. He’s got that word nailed.

I’m like that with “almuerza.” It means lunch.

Len and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Art Institute in Chicago. We hadn’t been there in maybe 15 years and it was powerful to revisit paintings that affected us when we were young.

Of course, this was one of the most amazing visions of the day. Every single person was wearing a mask and wearing it properly.

By the end of the afternoon, I had a new favorite painter. Marsden Hartley. I’ve already put books about him on hold at the library so I’ll know more in a few weeks.

He was born Edward Hartley in 1877, the 9th of nine kids, to a poor family in Lewiston, Maine. When he was 8 his mom died. Later his dad remarried Martha Marsden. I don’t know why he took her name as his name when he became an artist. Curious.

He worked in a shoe factory the year he was 14 (consider what you know about dangerous textile and leather factories in New England in the 1880’s, before unions and safety standards). At 15 he moved to Ohio where he went to art school.  Later he would live and paint in NYC, where he achieved some success.

When he was 35 he moved to Berlin where he fell in love with a Prussian military man, Karl von Freyburg. Von Freyberg would die in WWI, devasting Hartley. Hartley appreciated German culture through the 30’s and 40’s. Also curious for a gay man in that time and place.

I didn’t know even this much when his paintings caught my attention. These are three of his paintings at the Art Institute.

 

I like Hartley because I like the suggestion of shapes more than “it’s only this one thing and nothing more.” I love shadows. I’m curious about how this guy fitted himself into his world. His paintings from the southwest remind me of places Len and I visited this past May; that landscape is so massive, to witness and wonder seems like the only honest response.

I like watching my granddaughter streaming across a playground to her friend because it says she feels joy and passion and that’s awesome. I like that my grandson is trying so hard to figure out how to communicate with the rest of us. As a writer, I empathize that this is not always simple to do, but one keeps trying.

I like art that comes from a complicated life and leads me back to mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Happy Belated Birthday!!!
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you!

Thank you, Mary Beth, for sharing the joy of your Birthday. It transferred. Many Happy Returns!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks, Karen!

This made me smile. We also have more time to enjoy our birthdays now! Life is good.
Mary Beth's picture

Hah. We've known each other since we were, what, 25? That's a lot of birthday cards.

Happiest of birthdays to you! I love celebrating birthdays; in my view, it is an honor to age. I turned 60 last January. My intent was to have a big Disco party...the pandemic had other plans. My mom, daughter and I had a lovely lunch on the patio. I proudly wore a t-shirt my younger sister sent me: Vintage 1961. All original parts. The quiet of midday was disrupted by a surprise Mariachi band serenade family members had hired. I danced and sang with them, while family members attended through Facetime. It was wonderful! Talk about feeling the LOVE! I raise my glass to you. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

I LOVE this! Mariachi band, "vintage 1961, original parts", family on the deck. On my 60th I took the day off from work, invited many GF's (most are possibly reading this now), made so many pancakes, drank wine, and then there was a spectacular layer cake from Kathryn. Because everyone needs cake after pancakes. I said I wanted presents form everyone - with a $5 cap on price and thus received some of the best stuff one could laugh at. socks, markers, plants, chocolate. I'm sitting here grinning remembering that day. Good memories that are good medicine.

Happy Birthday! Good for you, accepting the age you are. Stay healthy!
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you! Though a behind the scenes joke was in the text, when I said I am glad to be 69, when I proofed it before finalizing it here - it said 29. Made me laugh.

Happy Late Birthday MB (NOT really, I feel we should celebrate our birthday month) because at our age we are deserving of it... I'm just now reading this post... I love finding the joy in the simple things, when it happens on ones birthday it's even better... Many more my friend...

The Art Institute of Chicago. What a lovely way to spend your birthday and to emerge ever so delicately out of Covid isolation. I have been a regular at the Art Institute before Covid, and went to an amazing exhibit of the work of Bisa Butler, an African-American fabric artist exhibit earlier this summer. It was breathtaking in its creativity, dazzling color, and cultural roots. As many times as I have walked the galleries, I have never taken note of Edward Hartley's work. The two landscapes are shades of Van Gogh with the swirling sky and hills. And what a backstory! You have piqued my interest.

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Happy Birthday to Len

11/30/2022 

Today is Len’s birthday. I told him this morning I might write about him but I would let him read whatever I said first. He said not to run it past him, he’d like the surprise of reading it when you all do. Let’s see what I come up with.

1. This is cute. Len was born in Chicago’s Passavant Memorial Hospital which was the grandparent hospital to Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital - where two of our grandkids were born.

Stories, Q Club, Us

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 

11/21/2022

Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

Covid Diary #979 - Still Paying Attention?

11/17/2022

Yes, it’s been 979 days since Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed.

Last Saturday one of our kids visited for several hours with their kids. It was fun though our kid looked tired. They said they’d taken a Covid test that morning and it was negative. They figured it was the wine and rich foods they’d shared the evening before with friends at the end of a very busy week.

Next Day - What Are You Seeing?

11/9/2022

It was a late night last night, wasn’t it? Len worked at a polling place 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM. He said the actual experience is a lot like working retail (which he has not done since he was 22). Stand up most of the time, pleasantly say the same thing over and over. Wonder if lunch is soon.  

Professional reporters and pundits are talking a lot about “what just happened”, but heck, we are noticing interesting things, too.  Let’s talk about what We The People saw and heard and are watching now.

Here are some things catching my attention.

Election Day

11/8/2022 

So many times I’ve thought things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t. My dad had that heart attack and the kid who was MB back then told herself to not overthink the drama because things always turn out more or less okay. Then the next day he died.

We lost a pregnancy far enough along that we had a name picked out and a crib in which to put that child. For a week I had all the misery and cramps that go with miscarrying and I still thought somehow it was going to work out okay.

That Beep-Beep-Beeping Moment.

In spring Len got a $100 traffic ticket when he turned right at a corner we’ve been turning right at for seven years. However, construction had started and there were orange barrels and cones everywhere – plus a small sign NOT facing the street Len was on, telling drivers to not turn there.

Len went back later that day and took photos. Len called the city to mention that if they posted a sign that actually faced the traffic, the city could save the cost of the cop parked there ticketing drivers.

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