Requiem: Nightstand

I grabbed this dresser from the free pile in the basement of the Rosefriend Apartments. (That building was demolished in the mid-aughts.) It’s been my bedside dresser ever since.

I’ve always liked it. It’s solid wood (though with that flimsier wood-like substance furniture manufacturers used for the bottoms of drawers for a period of time.)

I like that it’s just the right size, has both a drawer and openings to store things. And I like that little bit of embellishment at the bottom.

I’ve thought, several times over the years, about refinishing it or painting it, but it never made it to the list of things to do. So it continued on doing its job of holding my bedside lamp, books and other sundry things.

Now it will go to find a new home. I hope they enjoy this little nightstand as much as I have for almost 20 years.

RIP RBG

1994. I was a freshman, settling in to my second semester. It was an optimistic time. I felt at home in college, Hillary Clinton was going to make sure everyone in the US had access to healthcare before I graduated from college—Time had even published a mockup of the national health insurance card—and women were ascendant, something that made choosing a women’s college seem like a brilliant decision.

My government professor had everyone pick a special project for the semester. Mine was to keep up with the doings of the Supreme Court. There was some end-of-semester assignment, now long forgotten, but I what I do remember is that I needed to read the New York Times and other publications like Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, to keep track of what SCOTUS was up to.

I liked this assignment. In my picture of my impending adulthood, I saw myself always making time to sit down and scour the news, keeping up on current events, informing myself about the issues, and being able to talk intelligently about not only the Supreme Court but also state and local issues. I would for-sure be a person who always had a subscription to not only my local newspaper, but also the New York Times.

I loved following the Supreme Court. Rehnquist, Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg. Blackmun was the key to the reason I’d grown up in a country where abortion was legal. He would retire that year, making way for Breyer, and that court would stay the same until 2005, when I was well into my imagined adulthood with no national healthcare and no subscription to the New York Times.

One of the things I loved about the Supreme Court was that it stood above politics. We said that all the time then, and talked about how the Founding Fathers (we used that term without much comment) designed the Constitution so that the Supreme Court was above the fray. The justices were appointed for life! They often went off in different directions than the presidents who appointed them!

And Ruth Bader Ginsburg was my favorite. A tiny woman with a big brain who wore lace collars on her robe, I took her nomination as one of the many signs the country was shaking off the conservative shackles I’d come of age chafing under. Her appointment and confirmation meant we were moving to a brighter future where women could finally fulfill their potential, and the idiotic notions of supply-side economics and shaming people who needed help were finally behind us.

It was so important to have more than one woman on the court. I’d watched with worry as several big decisions about abortion rolled through the court in the 80s and early 90s. It seemed ridiculous that eight men could properly put the importance of access to that procedure in context. Ginsburg was smart, and as I listed to Mara Liasson’s NPR stories about the Supreme Court I always held still to make sure I could feel the weight of Ginsburg’s words.

And now it’s many decades later, and I woke to the news she is gone. I’m no longer a college freshman optimistic about my future. I watched a talented, competent woman with clear platforms and tons of experience lose an election to a man with no plans, no respect for the people he supposedly serves, and no real desire to do the job. The healthcare system is a mess, the problems of systemic racism seem insurmountable, and the Supreme Court is not far above the fray, it’s right in swamp throwing elbows with the other two branches. My life is not what I planned it to be; it’s far from the rosy picture my nineteen-year-old-self envisioned.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life didn’t run its course as she planned. When I think of her, graduating at the top of her class, taking the hits of overt sexism, and interviewing with law firm after law firm, it’s hard to think about. She was sidelined, like so many women and people of color, and we lost years of her (and so many others) contributions.

But she kept going. She stayed with her love of the law however she could and eventually was appointed to a position only 113 other people have ever held, becoming one of six people to ever serve on the court who weren’t white men.

I’m pretty sure Ginsburg was set to retire once Clinton was elected president. She was already very old, and her health was turning. Her husband had died, and she had served for more than two decades. But when the election fell out a different way, she just kept going.

I was going to have a lazy day today. I’m tired from more than a week of wildfire smoke, worn down by this pandemic, beyond feeling anything about the current administration, sick at the amount of hatred and willful ignorance displayed by so many, and forever worried about how my health will affect my finances, now and in the future. The best course of action seemed to be to sink into my bed and my couch and let this day pass.

But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead, and she worked so long against such long odds for so many things that have made my life better, either overtly or tangentially. So I’m going to make my bed and get dressed. What I do today won’t matter much in the world, but it will matter in my life. If I don’t take care of my needs, I can’t do the work I need to do to make a better life for myself and my community. Today is the first day without RBG and it’s another one of the many days in my life where what I do makes a difference.

I thank Ginsburg for her service. And I will do my best to make my own service ongoing.

Requiem: Quinn Cup

Quinn was a student at The Emerson School and one year for Christmas she* gave me this mug.

I’ve always liked it because of the light handle and the shape. Plus, it has my initial on it.

Today though, the Quinn Cup came to it’s end. Alas. Now I need to find another go-to mug.

*Really, her mother gave me this mug. Quinn wasn’t much of a fan. But her mother liked me.

Requiem: collage photo frame

Soon after I came home today, there was a terrible crashing sound and I knew that something broke. After I reassured Antares that he was safe (as usual, Sentinel was only mildly affected) I went to the pantry to see what had broken. I found nothing. I couldn’t think of any other place in the house where something would crash and break. Puzzled, I returned to my usual evening duties.

It was only at the end of the night, when I was changing into my pajamas that I found the source of the noise and breakage. It was my collage photo frame, which had somehow fallen from its nail.

I was a little sad about this development. This is the frame where I print out my best eight photos (or, more accurately, my top four portrait-oriented photos and my top four landscape-oriented photos) from the proceeding year and then I can look at them throughout the next.

I’m not sure if it will be replaced. Time to take good photos seems to be in short supply right now. I still bring my camera with me to most places, but I rarely use it.

I’ll find my way back to photography, someday. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed using this frame.

Requiem: Water Bottle

This water bottle was one of those volunteer thank you gifts I find so puzzling. I don’t need to be given gifts as a volunteer. I’m volunteering. Still, they come. Most are donated to the Goodwill, but some find their way into my life.

I’ve been using this bottle for many years, probably more than five and less than 10. It’s a good size, it’s never leaked, and is easy to wash.

Alas, when going through security I removed the top and then lost it, so I cannot use this water bottle any longer. I will miss it. Especially because water bottles can be quite spendy.

Where’s a volunteer gift when you need one? 🙂

Requiem: Grandma shirt

One of the many things I find annoying, now that I’ve sized out of the standard retail sizes, is how ugly a lot of the shirts are. Why do people who manufacture clothing for large women think we want an abundance of 1)ruffles and 2)sequins on our shirts? I don’t want either of those things, and I’ve not met a fat woman who does.

I did, however make a sequin exception for this shirt. I did this in part because there are only a few sequins around the collar, and in part because I loved this paisley pattern.

Somewhere in this house is a photograph of my grandparents and me when I was still a baby. It’s not a great photo of any of the three of us. But my grandmother is wearing a fabulous mid-70s polyester paisley shirt. And so when I bought this shirt, I named it the Grandma Shirt.

It’s been a loyal three-season companion for at least two years now. But it’s worn out, and even I can take only so much paisley. 

Thanks, Grandma Shirt,  for being such an awesome shirt that I overlooked your sequins.

Requiem: Knife

This is a Romanian knife you are looking at!  I visited Hungary & Romania with the church youth group in 2005 (and also 2008, but did not acquire any knives on that trip.) While in Romania, we visited a grocery store to pick up things for a picnic and one of the things the tour leaders brought was this knife.

It somehow got packed into one of the other chaperone’s things and when we were repacking before our flight back to the US, she asked if anyone wanted it.  I volunteered and it’s been a good workhorse since that time.

Requiem: The Below-Thirty-Degrees Coat

Is there anything better than a plaid wool coat?

This was my coat for when it gets really cold* in Portland. It’s wool construction makes it super warm, and I pair it with real gloves (not the $1 stretchy guys I usually wear) and a hat that covers my ears and neck.  Then, I’m ready for any sub-30 degree weather. (Portland rarely sees temperatures in the 20’s and even more rarely does the mercury drop to the teens.)

However, my hips have exceeded the capacity of this coat, and thus I am sending it off to be consigned.  Hopefully, the next person will love it as much as I do.

*I realize that Portland’s “really cold” is laughable when compared to other areas.  I’ve lived in colder places, and had more intense coats.   But intense coats are not needed here.

Requiem: Thermos

It was 1998. I read a book by Deepak Chopra about Ayurvedic medicine.  I was putting the recommendations into place.  I bought a tongue scraper*, a loofah for dry-skin brushing, made some ghee.

(*I still have that same tongue scraper and it’s something I heartily recommend. Get a tongue scraper.  Your mouth health will improve!)

I was supposed to drink peppermint tea in the afternoon.  However, there was no way to make peppermint tea at my place of work.**

(**Motion Industries, Somerville, Mass. First job out of college)

So one dark New England night, I convinced my college boyfriend (at that point, I guess he was a post-college boyfriend) to drive me to a local variety store whose name escapes my memory.  There, I bought a full-length mirror, and this thermos.

I didn’t take to the peppermint tea ritual.  But the thermos hung around and later, working at the Extension service, I would boil water in the morning, drop in a tea bag, and then drink the two cups of tea over the course of the morning. That habit followed me to the next job, and the next, and to the current job.

But today, this thermos was dropped one too many times and it has ceased to function.  I’m very sad to see it go.  I liked getting two cups out of tea out of one tea bag.  I liked the sound the tea made when it poured from the thermos.  I drew comfort from using the same item year after year.

Thermos, you’ve been well worth whatever the amount I paid for you. (I’m pretty sure it was less than $15.) Thank you for such good service.

Requiem: Fan, CD player

After I graduated from high school, I went through all my things and discarded large swaths of my childhood. I donated a big box to my friend’s father’s favorite cause.  They had a fundraising garage sale every year.  I also renovated an antique trunk to store all my important childhood things in.  I prepared to leave home, but I don’t remember doing much to prepare myself for college.

My mother did a lot of that.  The college sent a list, and that summer I would come home from work to discover things had been purchased. I still have the stapler she bought me, and I probably haven’t yet gone through the box of staples that came with it.

One of the things that we did buy was a fan.  I was thinking this was bought in Boise, but it might have been one of the items we waited to purchase when we got to school.  If that was the case, it came from Walmart, which was the only shopping option in Nevada, Missouri.  If not, I think it came from K-Mart.

And this was my fan, for years and years afterward.  When the weather cooled off, I disassembled it and put it back in its original box.  It was mailed back to Boise when I finished up at Cottey, and I mailed it from Boise to Amherst when I went to UMass.  Then it traveled back across the country in the moving truck when I left Somerville.
I haven’t used it the last few years. Matt brought home an oscillating fan from work that is in better shape, so I haven’t gone through the ritual unboxing and assembling.   We were cleaning out one of the sheds and I decided it was time to let it go.  Thanks fan, for keeping me cool all those hot and humid summers.  And thanks, Mom, for making sure I had what I needed for college.

////

I was very resistant to the compact disk.  I loved records, particularly loved 45s, and hated how CDs took over and the 45s disappeared from the stores.  I hated that they were more expensive than records or cassettes and it drove me crazy that everyone made the switch. They didn’t sound THAT much better.  I didn’t start buying CDs until 1997, when my college boyfriend was getting rid of his old boom box (we might have still been calling them ghetto blasters then?) and asked me if I wanted it.  I said yes, and bought a few CDS.  One of them was “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Soundtrack Volume 1,” another was The Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Dirty Boogie.”To this day, I can’t listen to either of those CDs. I played them too often to ever hear them again.  (Though I still enjoy certain songs of Ella Fitzgerald’s from that album.)

I can’t say I loved this boom box, it was more of  a means to an end. But for the past decade I’ve felt warm feelings while looking at it, remembering the things I liked about the college boyfriend, remembering being young in the big city of Boston, cooking dinner and listening to my CDs.  There are so many things I don’t miss about that time in my life, but it was the time I was young, and I’m happy I got to be young, living in an old town, trying to figure my post-college life out.

There is an imagined parallel life that is running constantly in my mind. One where I got married and had kids when my mom did.  If I’d replicated her life, my daughter would be 12 now, and my son 10.  I remember being 12 and that things in my childhood that had always been there started to wear out and be replaced.  It felt weird to have new dishes when we’d always had the white ones that were wedding presents.  I think about how maybe that imaginary daughter would be astounded to see something leave that had always been there, something that she had spent her childhood playing CDs, before she discovered streaming.

Or maybe she wouldn’t have noticed.