Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Use Your Fine China

            Use Your Fine China
            As far as we know we have only one life to live. That suggests to me that I want to make careful choices. Of course some things are out of my control, such as the sock that went missing when I picked up my laundry at the local lavanderia this morning. It is a universal truth that washing machines the world over eat socks.

            People love clichés for that hint of truth. I like clichés. One I frequently hear is this: if you were on your deathbed, would you bemoan that you had not spent more time at the office? That is a great argument for seeking more experiences, for spending more time with friends and family, for travel to exotic places, for shopping, for skipping school. And I agree.

            But what if work is your pleasure? That certainly was true for my Dad. Work gave him satisfaction. One year I talked Dad into visiting relatives in Indiana with me. My agenda included looking up people from the past, asking blunt and uncomfortable questions of family, visiting cemeteries which aided in the former, and generally stepping outside the family rule of silence. I frequently made my poor father uncomfortable. He wanted to be wallpaper. Or better yet, back home in his shop changing tires.

            I knew two things on this trip. I could always make peace by talking about work, his or mine. And, I was not responsible for my Dad to have a good time. That one only took me fifty years to learn! When we returned to Montana, I commented, “We sure had fun.” Dad’s response, no surprise, “Well, I don’t know I’d call it fun.”

            I’m my father’s child.   I get satisfaction from work. In Mazatlan I see expats and snowbirds who live the tourist life. Okay, I don’t have the money to support a tourist lifestyle. But if I had the money, that life would not make me happy. Simple jobs give me great pleasure.

            Monday I ripped apart two blouses I didn’t like and seldom wore. Today I’m wearing a new red blouse, made of the crocheted yoke and sleeves of one and the African print lower section of the other. I’m so pleased that I sent pictures to friends, showing off. One friend wrote back bemoaning that she had no sewing skills, hated sewing, couldn’t imagine why I’d do this for fun.

            Strangely, as a child, I hated and dreaded sewing. Grandma started me with simple projects when I was eight.  I could do nothing right. I was never good enough. Nothing was good enough. That was my Grandma. She would only accept perfection. I learned to love sewing despite her. We don’t have to cast those early experiences in concrete.

            Make as many mistakes as you can; that’s what I say. Make silly, stupid mistakes. One learns from them. Be a fool. Dance in the parking lot. Quit looking over your shoulder.

This morning I made a mistake. I walked my laundry home. My bag of laundry weighed eight kilos (minus one sock). My arm nearly dropped off. I should have hailed a pulmonia for the three block walk. I’m on the lookout for an old-woman cart.

Laugh a lot. Now that I am multi-lingual, I laugh in three languages. When we learned to write letters in grade school, remember how we peppered our notes with Ha! Ha! Ha! In Spanish laughter is Ja! Ja! Ja! And in Norwegian it is Ya! Ya! Ya! 

Fall in love at least once a day. I didn’t say you had to act on it! Fall in love secretly, if you must. It can be as much fun and less painful. I adore the sweet elderly man who walks his scruffy dog, always tips his hat and kisses my hand. Love ugly people. They have their own story. Listen hard. Listen between the lines. You’ll discover there are no ugly people.

We are told we cannot choose our relatives. Well, blast that myth. We’d better choose them if we want to be loved and have friends, especially after we attain a certain age where most of our family lives in a small plot and a memorial service is a weekly social event. Just this week I adopted Kent Haruf, one of my multiplicity of favorite writers, as my brother, only to find out he’d recently died. He’s still my brother. I love that man.

Live, laugh and love. That’s what I say.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

May 28, 2015

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