SuperShuttle picked me up at about 4:30 a.m. for my Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. It was raining, and as we headed to the airport, I was astounded to see three separate people out on bicycles. The shuttle driver had three electronic mapping devices mounted in front of him, which he consulted often, whereas his engagement with the actual road seemed more tentative. However, we got to the airport safely and he politely addressed me as “sir” two or three times, so all was well.
The day after I arrived, my parents and I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to look for a dress pattern. My mother is a master seamster, so I had asked her to make me a housedress to wear while cooking on the hot days that have become more common in San Francisco. The three of us sat down with pattern books and thumbed through them looking for dresses. I picked out a pattern for a wrap dress and then some fabric in a bright pink print.
My mother and I spent a good deal of time on this project. I did the sewing and she translated the instructions and provided mentorship and congenial company. Her sewing machine broke when we were about three-quarters done, and the old machine she’d kept just in case also proved to be on the fritz, so I will try to finish on my own.
I had my semi-annual cable news binge, watching what happened in Ferguson, MO, after the grand jury failed to indict the police office who killed Michael Brown. Also terrible was the video of the darling 12-year-old boy in Cleveland aimlessly puttering around on the sidewalk, making a snowball and dropping it, going to stand under a nearby gazebo. Then a police car roars up to him and he is shot dead, evidently before the police officer even gets out of the cruiser, and certainly without any evident exchange of words. This little boy had been playing with a toy pellet gun and someone called 911. The police claimed they asked him to drop the gun—there is absolutely no way—and after they took him from his family forever, they radioed something like “Black male down, age 20.”
It is sickening that the NRA wants everyone to have a real gun, capable of killing people with, when we have police officers murdering children holding toy guns. It is amazing that, with environmental collapse clearly in sight, we still haven’t made up our minds if black people are human beings or not. The world as we know it may literally end while blatant racism is still being practiced. If white adults can own real machine guns, black children should be able to play with pellet guns without being murdered.
One day, I joined my parents on their regular walk. My mother has lately discovered the joy of breaking into a jog and I was able to take a little video of her running down a hill. It is a joyful sight.
After grumbling here about my new camera, I got a characteristically kind and generous offer from my father, who said that I should bring my new camera to Michigan, and we could take some pictures, and if my camera seemed satisfactory to him, he would take it in exchange for his camera, which is identical to the one I loved and lost. I can still get the camera I liked, but not in silver, only in red or black, so my father also said that if I wanted to buy one in black or red, he’d take it in exchange for his silver one.
(This reminds me of when I was about eight years old and a friend’s father gave me an old film camera. My father offered to give me a brand new camera in exchange for the vintage item. I took a lot of pictures with the camera my father gave me—an Instamatic? I can still remember how it looked and the way the film smelled. Later my father bought me a Nikon FG that I used for years and still have in the closet. He got me a case to go along with it, and a yellow lens filter for snowy days, and cleaning accessories. What a great gift that was.)
I did take my camera to Michigan and my father and I sat down and took pictures of the exact same scene and I liked the look of his photos better, and, try as I might, could not duplicate the color balance using my camera, though in trying to do this, I learned a lot about my camera’s controls. Because the pictures taken by the new camera look terrible to me, I’ve had to explore all its options, and while I wouldn’t say I love it, I’ve become somewhat enamored of all the things it can do, so I’ve decided to keep it. Maybe I will still buy another of the original camera, in black, as well.
Or not. Having two cameras seems kind of wasteful for the amateur photographer. Spending time at the soup kitchen has made me more aware of this kind of thing, and has also made me think about food. The core volunteers probably eat many meals at the soup kitchen, and I am positive they don’t insist edibles must be organic and vegan or free roaming. (I lately heard someone refer to free-range chicken as “free roaming” chicken. Cute!)
Accordingly, I decided to be a non-vegetarian for Thanksgiving. I gather that it is less work for my father to produce a non-vegetarian holiday meal than to make the elaborate vegetarian meal he has often made. The last time he did it, it required starting at 3:30 a.m. So as a gift to my father and in solidarity with the soup kitchen’s guests, I ate and enjoyed roast chicken on Thanksgiving, along with Waldorf salad, and low-carb biscuits and cheese biscotti made by my mother. The biscuits and cheese biscotti were fantastic. That was our entire meal, along with wine for some and San Pellegrino for others. My father tries to make precisely as much food as people will eat during the actual meal, which even more encourages enjoying what is offered: leftovers are unlikely.
Afterward, my sister and parents and I lounged in front of the TV and watched some football and a couple of episodes of Orange Is the New Black. The others had my mother’s sugar-free raspberry cheesecake for dessert. I had to draw the line there. I quit eating sweets other than fresh fruit January 1, 2012, and it was totally easy and remains easy. It was a one-time gift from the universe, so I’m heeding what they say in AA: “Don’t pick up the first one.”
On Monday I had a salmon burger at Café Zola with Amy and ditto with Ginny on Wednesday. Both visits were delightful. After returning from lunch one of those days, I got a glass of soy milk from the refrigerator and Mom called from the TV room that it sounded like snacking was underway. I said, “You don’t want to become weak from hunger, especially right after lunch.”
“It’s a dangerous time,” Mom agreed.
I said I’d heard a great song on the car radio. It sounded like the guy was saying “I got my hash pipe,” and sure enough, the song was “Hash Pipe,” by Weezer, as determined by visiting WRIF’s website.
“The knowledge just builds and builds,” Mom said admiringly.
I was sad the night before I left, as is often the case. I noticed my thoughts: “I hate living so far from my parents and sister. I shouldn’t have left in the first place. Should I move back here?” Then I noticed this thought: “I should be over this.” Aha! Why should I be over this? I might never be over it.
I remembered what a guest speaker in my chaplaincy class said about maintaining a “posture of tranquility” and the thought came to me that I should leave in good cheer, and I did leave in fairly good cheer, with a new batch of nice memories.