Three of the most important years of my life were spent on a Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. I was 7 when we moved there in 1967.
We lived on the main road into officer’s housing just across the street from the Officer’s Club golf course. Our yard was sometimes littered with stray golf balls if the foursome at the hole closest to us had too much to drink or were just novice golfers.
It was a small 3-bedroom ranch on a corner lot. Outside my bedroom window was a palm tree that would drop coconuts on the roof, sometimes startling me out of a sound sleep.
There was no need for insulation in Hawaii. If you hammered a nail into a wall and then removed it, daylight would stream through the hole. It was military housing and nail holes were pretty much forbidden. They were too much of a bother to fix to pass housing inspection when transfer orders were received. You didn’t just pack up and leave military housing. The house had to be squeaky clean from top to bottom. Many women had a side gig cleaning houses with a guarantee of passing inspection.
There was also no need for air conditioning most of the time. The windows were all thrown open to the island breezes. We had an extended carport with a covered patio – the patio was called a lanai. My mother, and my father too if he were home, would sit on the lanai and watch the children play on the communal playground just beyond our backyard.
I racked up some hours on the swing set and merry-go-round.
Daffodils make my heart sing each and every spring since I saw my first one — I would have been about 15. I had’t lived in places that had daffodils. It was love at first sight. I planted a hundred daffodil bulbs about 32 years ago. They multiplied and multiplied. I think it accurate to say that I have thousands now
I ran across e.e. cummings poem some years after that. It too was love at first sight.
in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)
in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if, remember yes
in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me
Dropping out of college and moving to Wisconsin to follow my family seemed like a splendid plan. I was attending university in West Virginia and floundering—oh if I’d only majored in English as my secret heart wanted, but no. I chose pre-med. I wasn’t just floundering; I was lost and drowning.
I grew up in California, Hawaii, and the southern part of the east coast. When I was 14, we moved to West Virginia, where there was regular snow and winter. I liked it. It was such a change to have 4-seasons.
My dad began his second career and transferred to Milwaukee. I had been a military brat, and home had never been a place–it was a group of people. My floundering became frantic when my folks left.
I didn’t understand about Wisconsin winters. I thought winter was winter–a sort of uniform experience.
I moved in October. There was already snow on the ground. Deep snow. Cold snow. It was the winter of 78-79. Some of you may remember the gawdawful spectacle that Ma Nature put on. Snow to the rafters, subzero, blizzard after blizzard.
If I could have gotten my car unstuck from the snowdrift it was then parked in, I would have left.
Folks in Wisconsin remarked that it was a rather brutal winter, but it didn’t stop anything. Events weren’t canceled. The Super Bowl parties continued during a blizzard. I was astonished at how much clothing I had to wear to be merely miserable instead of dying of hypothermia. And that was indoors.
What really astonished me, though, was ice fishing.
I thought those people insane. Wisconsin has many lakes, and we lived on Pewaukee Lake–about 40 minutes west of Milwaukee. I would be on my way to work and see those people out on the lake in the early morning. Little shacks. Big coats and fishing rods and nets.
I can’t imagine a love of fishing and/or a love of fresh fish enough to sit on a frozen lake in windy subzero temperatures. And I love a good fish fry. But, um, no.
Folks would snowmobile on the lake. And even take their cars out there.
I had once fallen through the ice–in northern Michigan. I was a stupid little girl who had grown up on beaches. I didn’t understand that it took a while for ice to get thick enough.
I was communing with nature–a 12-year-old hippie wannabe. Lost in the romantic thoughts of a precocious preteen, I walked onto the ice and heard that sound that I now associate with pure terror.
I plunged into the lake.
My floundering became frantic.
There are no words for that kind of cold. Just. No. Words.
I was alone but fortunate. It wasn’t deep, and I was able to wade out. My coat dripping and my body one gigantic shiver.
I ran as fast as I could through the snow to my aunt and uncle’s house. I was the only person there. I had been left alone at my request.
Peeling off my clothes until I was naked, I stood over the heating vent in the bathroom. I couldn’t get warm.
I tried to turn the thermostat up. I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I hadn’t grown up with thermostats. The furnace finally came to life and blasted me with warm air. I found a blanket. And dry clothes.
Using still frozen fingers, I made hot chocolate.
I eventually warmed, but it seemed like eons passed before I could move my hands without pain.
That experience scarred me.
I couldn’t drive past those ice fishing people without worrying about them. Some of them were so far out, and Pewaukee Lake was deep.
So very deep.
And there they sat with their little shacks. Little holes cut in the ice. Big coats. Coats that could drag them down under the ice if it cracked. Courting death. And I didn’t understand why they did it.
I still don’t.
I remember the cold of that lake in Michigan.
This has been a long winter. The last two years have just been surreal. I feel like I fell through the ice of life. I’m out now. Warm and dry. Wary, but also optimistic.
My hands cramp, fingers arching backward.
Arthritis. Two Advil daily.
My lower back aches, stooping my spine.
My arches continue their path to flat.
It feels like betrayal this revolt.
I was supple and graceful once upon a time.
First a disco queen and then a yoga diva.
This revolt surprises me.
The me that was me that will always
be me is still there.
But aging and menopause have not been kind to me.
I tell the young’uns not to get old ---
there’s no future in it.
My arm wattles jiggle when I do goddess pose.
Oh, how I wanted something to jiggle when I was 13.
Unnaturally thin for most of my life,
I longed for hips and breasts.
I had neither until the hot flashes were spent.
This extra weight is foreign to me.
There doesn’t seem to be a map for this territory.
I am frequently besmirched by the
indignities of old age.
The beginnings of incontinence,
dull dry brittle hair,
my oily skin suddenly flaky and wrinkled.
But the acne has persisted.
I buy moisturizer and acne remedies.
I’ve quit wearing eyeliner.
The crepe underneath my eyes
prevents a straight line.
My beloved shoes languish in the closet.
My balance precarious --
four-inch heels may be my past.
This menopause cleavage astounds me.
Oh, how I had longed for breasts and
now am plagued by underwire.
This revolt aggravates me.
My visage in the mirror a shock.
Who is that woman?
I feel weighed down by this body in revolt,
but I practice yoga and I continue to dance.
My spirit intact.
The me that was me that will always be me
is still there.
In revolt against the revolt.