Friday, September 28, 2018

I Was Mesmerized- Random Thoughts on a Nomination Hearing

I rolled out of bed and onto Douglas (the couch) at 7am.  I made us breakfast during one of the breaks, opened a yogurt for lunch, but mostly I sat, mesmerized, in front of the television until I realized that it was over, it was after 4 o'clock, and I was still in my PJ's.
While I watched, I wondered, I squirmed, I reached out, I sighed.

I wondered if the Republicans were unhappy that their Female Assistant finished her questioning and then walked to the table to shake hands with Dr. Ford. 

I wondered how Kamala Harris's fingers managed to be as expressive as her words, those fingers opening and closing and pointing and have I mentioned that I was mesmerized?
I texted with my sister just after she had donated to Dr. Ford's GoFundMe. 

I heard from JannyLou, who was in D.C., meeting John Lewis.

Big Cuter checked in, wondering how he could use his privilege to ameliorate the problem. 
I watched an angry man call out Senators, interrupt Senators, refuse to answer questions, equate a hearing with an FBI investigation, and never once offer to take his all in, immediately attitude to get Mark Judge to answer questions.  He likes beer, and wondered what Senator Whitehouse drinks, wondered again, and then, again.  He asked Sen. Klobuchar if she had ever blacked out from drinking.

This was a job interview.  I'd have thrown him out of my office after five minutes.
It's possible that all of these women have, independently, decided to smear the character of this nominee.  It's possible that booting and ralphing have nothing to do with drinking and everything to do with Judge Kavanaugh's delicate constitution.  It's possible that church and working out and going to the movies with Susanne kept him so busy that he couldn't possibly have gotten drunk on a weeknight in the summer. 
It's possible that the product of a Catholic boys' school, valedictorian and varsity team captain, might feel entitled when it came to sex with a younger girl he barely knew.  It's possible that he would have enjoyed showing off for his friend, laughing uproariously as the friend jumped into the fun, tumbling them all to the floor. 
It's possible that a person with all this swirling around himself will soon have a seat on the highest court in the land. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

I've had a lot of false charges brought against me.
I've been a famous person for a long time.
I've had a lot of false charges brought against me.
People want money, fame, whatever.  
That's what our President had to say about the allegations against his Supreme Court nominee. 
 I'm wondering if Dr. Ford's whatever is what he had in mind.  

It's a very dangerous period in our country
That's what our President had to say about #MeToo.  
I don't think he's talking about the women who are being harassed.  

Y'know what we're looking for?  Role Models.
That's what someone said on MSNBC.   
Do we have to spell it out?  
Shouldn't that be the basic pre-requisite for government service?

......shoved a woman up against a wall aggressively and sexually
......there were at least four witnesses, including my daughter
....the victim called my daughter last night; they decided to remain anonymous
That's from the anonymous fourth accuser.  
Aggressively and sexually are not terms I use interchangeably. 
I love the fact that her mother couldn't keep her mouth shut.  I can hear her brain cracking - she knows they ought to speak out, she knows how it will wreck their lives, they are adults and should be able to decide for themselves, and finally, This Cannot Be Allowed To Stand! 

I'm setting my alarm for 7am.
This is better than House of Cards.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Not In My House

We've read all of Bob Woodward's books, finding them compelling and accurate and intimate pictures of the people and events in the headlines.  We lived in D.C. during Watergate; the Washington Post was our hometown paper.  Reading about it in Woodward's series of books brought us deeper into the minutia.  Then, as now, we reveled in the details.

So, when TBG asked me to reserve a copy of Fear at our neighborhood Barnes and Opal, I didn't give it a second thought.  I picked it up the day it was revealed.  This is what I was given
I had to ask for a bag. I couldn't have that man, that face, staring at me, sharing my space, in my car.    I certainly couldn't have him in my home.  

We took off the dust cover, but the binding was rough and TBG uses the inside flap as a bookmark.  I could have made one out of a paper bag, or wrapping paper, but my bookshelves offered many better options.
Has it come to this?
 Too easy.
 A Strong Possibility.
 The irony was too much.
 I was going to go with this one,
.   until I found the one:
You can thank me in the comments.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In Defense of Fraternity Men

In response to yesterday's post, wherein Rain grrr'ed thusly:
..... aren't they supposed to be the best of the best??? And some surely are but in our nearby university town, when they have the fraternity days, with the dads coming, it's drunk partying all the way. What the heck has gone wrong? I don't know about Kavanaugh but it sure paints a picture of a culture that was not very admirable and they end up running our nation or in high courts! 
Even as a freshman, I knew the fraternity houses with that reputation in my university town. 

My sorority was across the street from one of them; as pledges and then living in the house we were cautioned to avoid partying there. 

I helped a sophomore classmate with Sociology 101 and he invited me, and any and all of my girlfriends, to his frat parties.  We always had a great time, and he or someone we knew always made sure we got back to our dorm, if we wanted to go.  I heard stories about wild parties, but, if questioned, I couldn't say more than that.  

Years later, that same house was banned for a time for outrageous behaviors.  In its reincarnation, its members called a friend to suggest that she come and rescue her son.  She did. They saved her son, watching over him until she arrived.  

TBG and his fraternity brothers were just that - brothers.  Different in many ways, but similar in those that mattered.  They valued the trust that brought them together.  I know lots of them now, as adults; they are among our closest friends. 

They spoke of honor in the way that young men on their own are wont to do.  They held doors and chairs and enjoyed getting dressed up to do so.  Those who drank too much were escorted out of the way, and while some were crueler to others than they needed to be, it was, over all, a very civilized environment.  They were proud of their house, of their membership, of their reputation and they acted that way.  

It all felt very grown up, including the way I was treated.  

Most of his brothers were the product of elite public schools. Most of their families were well-to-do.  I was neither, and I never thought about it as an issue until my fingers started typing it right here.  There was no sense of entitlement, no need to exercise power for the sake of power, and certainly no sexual posturing.  They were Parent Presentable.

None of them resemble the Brett Kavanaugh described by his accusers.  
Now my husband can stop flinching every time frat boy enters his consciousness.
The media has now recognized his perspective.
He has been heard.

Isn't that what everyone wants, in the end?

Monday, September 24, 2018

And Then There Was This

I spent the weekend trying to forget it was happening.  I exercised and saw Berthold Brecht's Gallileo and read a novel and thought about Billy Collins poetry and then, as a go-to-channel when his football game was at commercial, we saw that there's another one.

Deep breath. 

He flipped back to football as I scrolled through Twitter (how 21st century of me, right?) for the details.  College boys delighting in a naked penis thrust in a young girl's face.  Ugh, on behalf of decent men everywhere.


I spent a moment hoping that the women are telling the truth, though I have no reason to disbelieve them.  Dr. Ford's career as a psychometrician focuses on resilience after trauma.  She surfs, pitting herself against the ocean, surviving where others might drown.  I'm unable to believe that's all coincidence.

At the next commercial, we read that there's a third one.  And that Michael Avenatti is representing  her. We remember that everything he alleged about the Cohen/Daniels/Trump bucket of slime was proven to be true. My doubts are evaporating.

What's the opposite of guilt by association?  Is there such a thing as truthful by association?

Senator Patty Murray shook her head in disgust, wondering if the younger reporter remembered what  the Senate did to Anita Hill. No wonder she kept quiet. Still shaking her head, she hoped that another generation would not learn that same lesson.

#MeToo, only a feel good moment?  #MeToo, a catalyst for real social change. 

A  girl can dream.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Random Thoughts On A Very Odd Day

The Cleveland Browns are charging down the field, impressing my boys.  This display of prowess is a rare and delightful occurrence.
I drove to an even that didn't happen, went to Costco and found the organizer in the pharmacy line.  We wondered whether I'd been notified of the change in plans; we agreed that it really didn't matter.  It was a pretty drive and life's too short to sweat the small stuff.
I came home with a trunk filled with basic supplies, having stared down the last roll of toilet paper in the house, willing it to procreate and failing miserably.  TBG and I carried and put away and in the middle of it all I realized that the heat was on. 

It was 75 degrees this morning, which by Tucson standards is cool, but by the afternoon we were nudging triple digits. Sensing my confusion, TBG pointed out the HVAC kid traipsing across the patio, reminding me that we were having our bi-annual check up and that it required turning on all the systems.   

True.  But the heat was on and I was in sandals and a sleeveless blouse.
Chuck Grassley the Younger is on my tv talking about the appropriateness of an FBI investigation.

Chuck Grassley the Elder is tweeting that there's no reason for the FBI to get involved in an investigation.
I can feel the women screaming.  Perhaps it's the outrage in my own head, unable to be contained by my skull, bursting out like Medusa's snakes.  #MeToo is all well and good, but the reality is that a woman spoke out about a sexual assault and now she and her family are unsafe in their own home. 

I haven't heard that the Kavanaugh's are receiving death threats.
It has been a very odd day.

Still, I was here to be annoyed by it.  So, by definition, it was also a good day. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Listening to Anita Hill - A Snippet
Do you remember these?  
The Sport Walkman was self-contained, had 5 radio pre-set buttons, and stayed in place as I jogged and power walked along the Chicago lakefront.  

It was on my head on that October afternoon, as Anita Hill testified.
I was watching Big Cuter play flag football, wearing a parka, gloves, and a scarf because, y'know, it was October in Chicago and they were, of course, playing on the field closest to the lake, the coldest, windiest place in town.  

I don't remember if it was a practice or a game.
I don't remember much beyond the grey skies and my outrage.
What is she saying? the other moms asked.
And so, watching little boys running somewhat aimlessly toward a distant goal, I said words like Long Dong Silver and pubic hair.

I feel as dirty now as I did then.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Are We Accountable?

Am I responsible for my actions when I was 17?

Whatever your stand on the validity of  Dr. Ford's assertions, the larger question remains.  Can you be called to task today for things you did in high school?

Some would say YES, boldly and in italics.  Some would argue that change is inevitable and that an unruly teenager could mature into a responsible adult.  

And that is where the real apology comes in.  I don't remember it, but I was an abuser of alcohol in my high school days and, I am embarrassed to say, I am missing many weekends of my youth.  I don't like to think that I would have done such a heinous thing, but if her memory is better than mine then I apologize with all my heart.  It was unconscionable, inexcusable, and reprehensible.  Tell me what to do to make amends, and I'm on it.

I'd have an easier time with him were he man enough to man up.

It's not easy, but it's been done.  I know.  I was on the receiving end.  Here's an excerpt from my October, 2009 post about my high school reunion.
Then I heard my name - my childhood name, the name no one has called me for 4 decades - in a voice I would have recognized even out of context. Her freckles, her sparkly eyes, her hair (a little less red, but still thick and enviable), her just-like-her-mother-had perfectly polished nails and that voice, that voice that tormented me on the playground and on the street we shared and in our hallways and suddenly she was hugging me tightly and expressing joy at our meeting and telling everyone in earshot that we'd known each other since we were 1 year old and how great it was to see me and then she looked me in the eye, hugged me tighter and shook my world: "I was sooo mean to you when we were young. I am so sorry. I am so not that person anymore. Will you forgive me?"

I realized that I had nodded agreement with her admission of guilt - yes, you were mean to me. Like a ton of bricks it hit me that I had never, in all my life, admitted that fact out loud. We were friends. We lived on the same street. We played together as kids did back then, ringing doorbells at friends' houses up the street until you found someone at home to do something with. Our parents liked each other. I always knew she was mean to me, but we were still friends.

If anyone holds the key to the intricacies of a young girl's mind, please enlighten me. All I know now is that a knot which had been hiding in a storage locker in my soul is now sliced through. Vanished. I've been carrying around the little slights and the bigger hurts and she looked right into my eyes and brought it out into the open and squished it like a bug. I cried. She cried. People noticed and smiled as we hugged and laughed about her "12 Step Friendship Program" and from then on it was perfect.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Snippet Or Five

The President of the United States is declassifying documents which will put at risk those engaged in keeping us safe.

Drunken teenage partying is delaying the confirmation of that President's nominee to the Supreme Court, a nominee called a fine person by that President, who also thought that there were some fine people on the alt-right side in Charlottesville, too. 

Wilmington, North Carolina is completely cut off, and those who stayed have run out their cell phone batteries and have no way to recharge them.  Terrifyingly, they have resorted to board games for amusement.

Dr. K and Not-Kathy arrived yesterday.  Thirty hours later, they've stripped their living room wall to the studs, with only one broken thumb nail on the casualty list.  We sent them home after dinner with beer and brownies, reassuring her that 9 o'clock was not too early to go to sleep.

And so, I leave you with this question from TBG last weekend:
One can hunker down.
Can one hunker up?  

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Second Thought on Football

Sitting beside TBG this afternoon, reading a book I realized I had read before, I was distracted by his quickened breath.  I looked up at the screen and witnessed his hapless Cleveland Browns running successfully across the goal line.

He whooped.  He hollered.  He shot his fist in to the air.

Then, we laughed together as the phone rang; we knew it was Big Cuter calling to congratulate his paternal unit.

And, as I listened to two of my favorite men reviewing and recounting and retelling and smiling and sharing I had to admit that football is good for something.

If it creates opportunities like these, maybe it's not all bad.  I was able to reassure my son that I no longer found him to be of questionable moral character for watching America's blood sport.  Instead, I lauded him for bending his principles enough to allow him to share the love with his father. 

This parenting stuff is complicated, no matter how old the kids get.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Garden Club at Prince Elementary School

I'd say we were oversubscribed, but I was thrilled with the turnout.
I went in with a flexible lesson plan in mind; forty some kindergarteners sent that flying. There was no way they were going to make name tags; they wanted to garden.  So, I regrouped.

I went over the rules :
Be Kind  (Obviously.)
No Shoes on the Raised Beds. (Do you want people walking on your bed with their shoes?) 
No climbing on or over the fence.  (Grandma will get in trouble if you do that, and I don't want trouble).

Then I set them to weeding the entire garden area. 
Their enthusiasm was delicious, but there were so many of them that taking pictures was impossible.  I was the only grown up, and I had to admire the collections of tiny leaves and small stones and sticks presented to me by many many many proud, little hands.  

The bigger kids came in the next wave.  There were just as many of them, and they were bigger. They took up more space, and made more noise.  But they were eager to learn, so we took a tour of the irrigation system, following the indentation left from the trenching.
UofA volunteers covering the trench containing the main irrigation line
It was a treasure hunt, ending where it all began, with connections and roaches and my voice calmly saying that they were all living creatures but no, I was not going to pick one up so they could see.
The hole beside the box was filled in when the system was installed, well before the kids gathered there..
We walked the main line back to the drip lines
 in the raised beds
They were less enthusiastic weeders than their younger friends, but their collection of the bigger stones (for a cairn) is neatly organized in a specific corner.  Then, they left.

The biggest kids were respectful of the process
and strong enough to lift the bags of soil (so I didn't have to).
Some held the bag, some scooped out the soil, 
and ML, a Leader, guided her peers as they amended the beds.
The little green wagon in the foreground collects our trash.  I'd never seen such eager barrow pushers.
There are two beds in the garden, with plenty of opportunity to get your hands dirty.
 No gloves (the school does have sinks, right?), just fingers digging deep into the soil, mixing the old with the new.
They were so proud, so determined to leave it perfect 
(they are beginning gardeners.... they have time to learn the truth)
that they lightly smoothed the surface to an even plane before they left.

And then there was this bit of hilarity.
What are you doing? I wondered.  They were weeding.  
And this weed was stuck.  Really really stuck. 
So they were getting down low to pull it or break it but it was really really stuck.
Perhaps that's because it's a root.  See this tree?  This giant tree looming over the roof of the school?  
This is one of its roots.  It's connected to all that tree-ness.  It's not going anywhere.
And yet, they kept pulling.

That optimism will stand them in good stead as they learn to be desert gardeners.
Garden Club meets every Wednesday in the hour around noon.
Come and visit us, if you're in the neighborhood.
We're quite proud.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I'm Exhausted

Today was the first meeting of Garden Club at Prince Elementary School.
These kids were a small part of the third group to work on getting the space ready for planting.

I took many pictures, so many that my phone died.
It was as tired as I was.  
Apparently, someone took my picture.
I share it with you as a teaser for tomorrow's post; I promise photos and giggles galore.

For now, I'll leave you with my candidate for Best Job Title, found on a Science Channel explication of the space time continuum:
Planetary Defense Engineer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


I ordered a print of this.
 I framed it and placed it in the center of my house.

Giblet's eyes follow me everywhere.
This is especially true since it's 16x20.

That turns out to be a lot bigger than I expected.

And yet, I am not at all tempted to move it.
It's an uber-status.  I am nothing else.
I am so happy.

Monday, September 10, 2018

And Then There Was This

I'm back on a regular routine in the gym.  I'm noticing changes and so are others.  I look forward to it. These are all good things.

The fact that I cannot get up off the weight bench is not a good thing.  Bench presses are easier than fly's; I can use the bar to hoist myself up.  But lying flat on my back, my knees bent and feet on the bench because they don't reach the floor, I have trouble getting to sitting.

The best I can do is to roll to the side, press my palm to the end of the dumbbell, and swing my legs around.  It looks like I'm falling off.... which I am.  But I'm in control of the fall.

The 20-something spotting his friend on the bench beside me noticed my maneuver.  I recognized the look:  a good deed needs to be done and I'm the guy to do it.  Big Cuter wears that look; it warms the cockles of my heart. 

I finished my graceless ascent, smiled at my would-be rescuer, replaced my weight and walked on. 

He smiled at me as I passed.  I took out my ear bud and thanked him for noticing what might have been distress but wasn't.  Since I was shot, I have trouble with my hip.  That's the only way I can ....

His face was fabulous.  YOU. Got SHOT?  With a GUN?

Yes, a 9mm Glock.  Yes, Gabby and Christina-Taylor.  Yes, My bullet wound peeking around the strap of my tank top.

And then, his friend:  I had two heart attacks and three surgeries.  Before I was 21.  Now I'm going on a bike ride with him.  You do what you have to do.

We talked about tomorrow not being promised, about making the most of every day.  We introduced ourselves, shook hands, and I left.

It was a moment, denizens.  Surviving brings me connections I'd never make otherwise.  Another reason to feel grateful that the sun came up today, and I was here to see it.

Friday, September 7, 2018

I'm Almost Optimistic

I was watching when Cory Booker realized that he was being threatened.  His body reacted before his face did; he was upright and focused as he stared Senator Cornyn down.  Bring it.  Bring it on.

Then Mazie Hirono said she was in, too.  And she had some reasons that Alaska's Lisa Murkowski ought to look twice at Judge Kavanaugh, based on documents the Committee started out withholding and belatedly de-classified.

Kamala Harris just makes me smile.  She's so used to being a prosecutor, to staring down the defendant, to hinting at information, it was fun to watch her leave the nominee squirming and worming his way around not answering. 

John Kyl is my new Senator.  He was a friend of John McCain.  I'll send him an email reminding him that he's holding a maverick's seat and that, perhaps, he might want to have a maverick moment himself.

Yesterday, I visited Jeff Flake's office and called out the crassness of turning your back on a grieving father.  I sent him an email today, reminding him that he represented me and that I was not thrilled with a prospective defendant appointing his own judge.

For the first time in a long time, I'm enjoying watching my government at work.  The system seems to be functioning.... lurching.... finally.... and November elections are less than 60 days away.

I'm going to hold those thoughts over the weekend.  I'm tired of being tired of my elected officials.  I'm enjoying watching them work through the night.  I'm hopeful that they might get something right, for a change.

I'm almost optimistic.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

It Seems Pretty Simple

You don't get to choose your judge.

You especially don't get to appoint the guy to a lifetime position, the law's most prestigious honor, before you, un-indicted co-conspirator that you are, appear before him, at the center of issues likely to unseat you.

I just looked it up: it takes 51 Senators to make a quorum.  Without a quorum, business cannot be conducted.

There are 49 Democrats.   If they and two other Senators who care about our country flee the scene, the Senate cannot advise and consent.  The flawed logic that led to Merrick Garland never receiving a hearing can be invoked once again:  let the voters have their say first.

Like I said.  It seems pretty simple.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I Can't Watch It

I just can't do it.  Being an informed citizen requires that I listen, but I cannot force myself to pay attention.

Judge Kavanaugh is naming the girls he coached on his daughter's 6th Grade CYO Championship team, and I wonder how he'd feel if he lost a few to a school shooter.

I hear him praise his mother and his wife, calling them strong and courageous.  Have they ever faced a back-alley abortion? 

I'm sure he's a fun-loving guy who adores his family and gives back to his community.  It's not his fault that Sen. Grassley is a pompous ass.  But the Republicans dropped 40,000 pages of documents on a holiday weekend night and began deliberations the next day.  Weeks ago, he ought to have stood up and said I have nothing to be ashamed of.  Release it all.  I'm proud of every word.

Condi Rice's smiling face over his shoulder sent me to the NFL and the flag and the Boycott Nike campaign because an ad featured Colin Kaepernick and we all know that he is ..... what?  An advocate of free speech?  A man of conscience?  A voice for the voiceless? 

As you can tell, I was getting nowhere.  I wanted to tell him that he wasn't running for Student Council President even though he managed to name every high school and college he and everyone he ever met attended.  He patted himself on the back (As I said when I gave the graduation address at Catholic University....) and looked smug.

It's not fair to the man and it's not fair to me.  I cannot bear it a moment longer.  I'm casting aspersions based on fury that my daughter will have to fight the fights that I fought for her all those decades ago.  I'm abdicating my civic responsibilities and going to swim laps.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Am I The Same?

Little Cuter wonders how I've changed since my adolescence.  Totally and Not At All is the most honest answer.

I'm still among the shortest people in the room.  My long, dark hair is now short and mostly grey.  Others see me as fit and trim today; I used to be just skinny. 

I was the fastest girl in my grade school classes; now I gimp along, struggling to keep up with the adults, giving up on catching FlapJilly.  That's the change that I notice the most.  Nannie used to laugh as she heard my footsteps; "Doesn't that girl ever do anything but scurry?"  Those days of quick movements were perforated, but the impetus behind them remains.  I'm moving fast in my soul, even if my body is lagging behind.

I was a voracious reader then, and I am one today.  Picking up a novel after the end of classes Freshman year remains one of the most satisfying events of my Summer of 1970.  I had time to read for pleasure.  Life was good.  Today, as The Burrow has reported often enough, spending all day with a topped off ice tea and a one-day-read is as near to heaven as I can get.

Then and now, I'd rather be outdoors than watching tv.  I would rather write you a letter than call you on the phone.  I need a solid breakfast and a decent snack in the late afternoon to maintain my sanity - both G'ma and the Cuters will attest to that.  "Mom, do you want to eat something????!!!!???" was their gentle reproach when hunger got the better of my after-school greeting.

I'm more comfortable with myself now than I was at 16.  I thought I was pretty special, then, and I wondered why no one else noticed that fact.  Could I be wrong?  Now I don't worry so much about whether others notice my wonderfulness.  As long as I make myself happy, I'm fine.  In Psych 101 terms, I have more of an internal locus of control as I age.

And that is funny, because the sources of my discomfort are, for the most part, external these days.  Trump.  2008.  Climate Change.  Our current president was merely a tabloid joke in my teens.  The financial markets were humming.  We were concerned about regulating smog, not boiling the entire planet.  As a teen, I felt much more in control of the outside world; student protests stopped a war and convinced a sitting president not to run for reelection. 

As an adult, I have a more realistic appraisal of my ability to secure lasting change.  I am still protesting a war and its consequences.  Access to birth control and abortion services are once more under attack.  With the other grey haired women similarly situated, I cannot believe we are still fighting these fights. 

I wish I had had Ruth Bader Ginsburg to look up to when I was a teen.  I wish Sally Ride and Serena Williams and Martha Pollack had been there to show me the way.  I was willing but didn't think I was able.  I didn't think it was possible.  After all, Della Street was an able assistant to Perry Mason, but she didn't get to search for clues very often.  Beaver Cleaver's mother wore pearls and did hand sewing.  The adventurous women on tv were single girls looking for a man to marry. 

I'm less certain about some things and more convinced than ever about others.  My politics are still progressive.  I'm marginally less judgmental.  I still leave piles of unfinished projects everywhere I go and cannot remember where I've left my keys and my wallet.  I have the best handwriting in my family.  I have more money now, less strife, a home with a better view. 

Inside, though, I'm still the girl who wonders if anyone would like me if they really knew who I am.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day

Here's my Labor Day post, recycled and improved every year since 2012

My Zaydeh was a paperhanger. So was his son, my uncle. They belonged to the Paperhanger's Union. When he retired, my Zaydeh got a lapel pin and a photograph of himself and the also-retiring Union Rep. The Union Rep got a pension and health insurance. No one knows if he got a copy of the photograph, too.

It was that kind of complicated relationship to Labor, with a capital L, that dominated my growing up years. Daddooooo's father owned a business. G'ma's father was a worker. In the same way that her parents' accented speech and his parents' religious devotion were there, so was management/labor, bruising the edges of their relationship.

On the one hand, I sat on my Zaydeh's shoulders as he bounced me around the living room, singing Zum Gali Gali, a Zionist/Socialist work song.  When I needed a biography for a book report in second grade, his daughter, my mother, suggested Eugene Debs. I was the only one in the class who wrote about the Wobblies, who knew that, before Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, a man who understood the plight of the working man, ran for President, albeit from prison.

On the other hand, Daddooooo inherited his father's bridal shop, working alongside his brother and the cutters and pressers and seamstresses he'd known his entire life. He took care of the girls, the worker bees, the ones who created what he tried to sell. He struggled to make a success, and failed, and among those he held accountable were the Union Guys.

He was unable to make a go of a business he'd rather not have owned.  He was living a life unlike that which he'd imagined in college.  It was not making him happy, nor was it paying the oil bill.  The generalized angst was unassailable; the Union Guys were real.

Yet I knew that we needed unions - the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire proved that protections were necessary and that management had no interest in protecting the welfare of the worker. Without collective action, nothing could be achieved.  I was still the 8 year old in love with Eugene V. Debs.

Those feelings didn't seem incompatible with the boss's daughter piece of me, the one who loved seeing her Daddy's name on the showroom door.  The ladies did piece-work, but always had time to smile and chatter at me, in Italian.  The cutter, an imposing fellow with a gigantic pair of scissors, shared a small corner of his even more gigantic table with me, as I worked beside them, trimming lace, doing idiot work in my father's parlance, completely content, with a foot on each side of the divide.

G'ma told me stories of her parents marching in Solidarity Parades, though never when Daddooooo was around to hear.  Daddooooo railed about union bullies, but rarely in G'ma's presence.

The battle between labor and management, waged, silently, over my kitchen table.