Anne Notations

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Friends 4 Ever

Lately I've thought a lot about friendship. As an adult I seem to have had friends who have moved in and out of my life, or maybe I've moved in and out of their lives. Sometimes the reason for this is situational: people relocate or divorce or remarry, and everything changes. Sometimes I wonder if my personality or my neuroses make it hard for me to keep friends - or to let anyone get too close as I get older. And sometimes I get to know people whom I am attracted to, who are fun to be around or interesting to talk with... but there is not enough TIME to develop a mutual attraction into full-blown friendship.

I didn't mean for it to happen, but it appears that some of my most supportive friendships are virtual ones, and that in real life I spend most of my free time with our children. Virtual friendships are great; I have met (both online and FTF) some amazing folks, and whatever the interest that has brought us together (panic disorder, Star Wars), I am grateful for an Internet that has linked me with kindred spirits from around the world. But I miss the intense, one-on-one friendships with other girls/women I had as a teen and in my 20s and early 30s. I miss the kind of girlfriend whom I could call at any hour and unload the burdens of my heart, or share the finest joy.

Now, the sort-of good news: In the last ten years, some of my old friendships have been revived. My sophomore-year college roommate Becky and I get together (with our families) at least once a year when she comes with her husband and daughter to visit family in nearby Connecticut. I have had reunions with two other college friends, Gail and Beverly, and met their families as well. One of my dearest friends from my 30s, Kathy, and I e-mail regularly. And for several years now, seven of us who were friends in the late 1960s at Old Rochester Regional High School have held reunions and kept in touch via e-mail.

The most recent of these reunions took place one week ago, here at our house. Everyone but Reese lives in nearby Massachusetts (she's in Arizona, running a charter school), so six of us were on hand. And I've gotta say: having ruminated on friendship so much lately, I am happy as a clam (or a quahog, this being RI) to have these women back in my life. It amazes me how the nice, fun, smart girls I hung out with in high school have evolved on seemingly parallel tracks into nice, fun, warm, smart, articulate, accomplished women. We've had spouses, children, careers. Edging into our mid-50s, we've aged pretty well, if I do say so. If anything, we have more in common now than as teens. We can laugh and be goofy, and in the next breath be serious and supportive. We spent six hours doing all those things last Sunday while eating and drinking our way through the day, ending with a seriously decadent banana cake (Sue) and Death by Chocolate (Chris W.).

It was the best time I've had in ... 4 ever.

2 good 2 be 4 gotten
Front: Chris W., Sue, Me
Back: Sandy, Sharon, Chris R.
Absent this time: Reese

Saturday, March 19, 2005

For the birds (and dog)

Kevin and "Chip"

Parakeets were how we eased back into pet ownership after the hectic years when our kids were young and demanded all of our time. First we got Princess Patty, a cranky green budgie who was on consignment along with her cage at a used-furniture store. Then, from an Internet classified ad, we got lovely yellow Laurie.

After those first two parakeets passed on, we got Blueberry and Chip, pictured here on Andrés's shoulder.

My final triumph, five years ago, was bringing home our adored pit-beagle mutt, Daisy, from the Providence animal shelter. She's the sweetest (and easiest) dog we've ever had, the heart of our household. Here she is festooned in ribbons from Andrés's birthday gifts last weekend:

Thursday, March 17, 2005

In Ireland

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
- from Prayer of St. Patrick

On a gray July day twenty years ago I stood inside the tumbled walls of an ancient rural chapel in Glinsk, County Roscommon, Ireland. Facing me was the lichen-encrusted stone likeness of a medieval warrior in chain mail. While my genealogically inclined husband searched the churchyard's eroded gravestones for traces of ancestors, I approached the altar wall of the roofless chapel. The implacable soldier in his pointed hat stood guard over slippery, moss-covered tablets; lavender wildflowers poked between the stones. Not even a cow mumbled nearby to break the sepulchral silence. "Bare ruined choirs," I mused. Then I reached to cover the warrior's cold stone hands with my own.

At that moment I heard history's true whisper, and I considered what a fragile membrane - time - separated me from the people who first beheld the chiseled Irishman. A window had opened onto the past, and I hastened to climb through it.

A few days later I visited the Galway public library and found, in the 1838 land surveys, a minutely detailed report by one John O'Donovan. He noted that in the 1800s there was a church at the Glinsk cemetery site, built on the ruins of an older church to which had been added "a small chapel." Excited, I read on: "There is a beautiful figure of a warrior clad in mail, with a conical helmet and slender sword, with this inscription under it - 'Here stands the effegis of William Burke, the first of McDavid family, who died 1116 and ericted by Harry Burke, 1722.'

"Tradition says," continued O'Donovan, "that this effigy was cut in France, where William Burke was killed in battle, by order of a French lady who fell in love with him, and that it was sent over to Glinsk to Harry Burke, the lineal descendant, who erected it in this chapel....It is of limestone and believed to be a striking likeness of the warrior."

My imagination feasted on this story long after we'd flown home to Rhode Island.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Rink rat

Here's how I fell in love with hockey:
In late 1969, the first semester of my freshman year, Brown hosted Cornell - a team that had a perfect season and went on to win the NCAA championship. Huge rivalry. My boyfriend Jeff brought me to the game at Meehan Auditorium. An hour before the opening face-off, the place was SRO. We stood on a stairway high up near the press box. The band blared and the crowd roared without ceasing for the next several hours. The game was pure adrenaline, a thriller that ended in a tie. The heartstopping sudden-death OT ended when Cornell scored to win, 5-4.

We lost, and I was lost. I'd had an epiphany. The game of ice hockey was the passion I'd sought without knowing it. I was in love with the beauty of the skating, the thrill of a supersonic slapshot or a perfect wrister, the weaving and deking of the speedy forwards, the cold-damp smell of the rink and the growl of the Zamboni.

Inspired by my figure-skater roommate Janet, I had already been skating daily at the rink, graduating from shuffling around on my ankles while holding onto the boards, to gaining some control and speed as I circled to the piped-in music. Now, I had a goal, no pun intended: I wanted to play hockey. And I was (O, serendipity!) in the right place. Brown had the first women's college hockey team in the U.S. It was a club, unfunded except for the assignment of a phys. ed teacher to advise us and some random ice times for practice. But it was exactly what I wanted. I spent the rest of the year skating on my cheap white figure skates until I was ready for the next step - real hockey skates. I bought them at Bennett Sports in Cranston: black-and-brown CCM Junior Tacks, my pride and joy.

I played hockey my sophomore and junior years and half of my senior year, centering the second line. During practice I loved the echoey sounds of pucks whamming into the boards, newly sharpened skates scraping on freshly made ice, the ready-set-go bzzzzzt of the buzzer when we scrimmaged. I loved skating out to take a face-off and, if I was lucky, sprinting down open ice toward the goal, my hair streaming out the back of my helmet. On the ice I could fly, I could push people around, I could lift the puck with a wrist-flick of my Koho stick. Speed, power ... pure joy.

We had only one opponent within driving distance, a motley club team in Cranston. To finance our annual January trip to a tournament in Montreal, we sold candy bars at the men's games, then hired a bus and paid our own way at a low-rent motel, four to a room. In our jeans and shin pads and skimpy boys' jerseys, we took the ice against fully equipped Canadian women's teams from McGill and other schools ... and got the crap kicked out of us. But it was real hockey, real games with referees and scoreboards, and we lived for it.

More than 30 years have gone by, and I have bad hips now and shaky knees. These days I go to Brown games with Kevin. We walk into the rink, where the band is playing and the Zamboni whooshing around the ice, and once again I am at home. Being a hockey fan is like belonging to the Church: you can walk into any rink or any Mass, anywhere in the world, and instantly be part of a community, know its rituals and its essence and sacraments.

Peek into the crystal ball: It's the year 2030, and I'm white-haired, arthritis-ridden. One of my adult children is pushing me into Meehan Auditorium in a wheelchair, right up to the railing above the goal where I can see everything. I breathe the icy air, watch the helmeted bodies swirling on the ice below me, open my mouth and CHEER for Brown ... for hockey ... for life lived on a finely sharpened skate's edge.

Anne, winter 1971, Brown University; Kevin, fall 2004, NEH Predators

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cardinal rule

My bird-watching father adored cardinals and kept a feeder in his crabapple tree year-round. He waged war on marauding squirrels so that his beloved red singers could eat their sunflower seed in peace. A few months after Dad died, a male cardinal swooped so low over my head as I sat on the back deck with Michael, the draft from its wings ruffled my hair. "Hi, Dad," I thought, and smiled.

Now the cardinals are calling to one another as I walk Daisy early in the cold mornings. On a birding Web site I read: "This is the time when (cardinals) begin singing their distinctive territorial call. Unlike most songbirds, both males and females sing, sometimes 'counter-singing' to each other." From treetop to treetop above our close-packed blocks of houses and schools, cardinal guys and gals fill the morning air with their whistling, a sound both piercing and seductive, the avian equivalent of "Hey, baby."

Yards and fields are blanketed with snow, and my breath puffs out from beneath my purple fleece scarf in gusts of frosty vapor. This week's forecast is for highs in the 30s and perhaps more snow.

But our New England days are getting longer and brighter, and the cardinals sing of spring. Their warbled promises remind us that beneath March's crust of frozen soil and packed snow, swollen daffodil bulbs bide their sweet golden time.