Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Emptying Drawers, Clearing Shelves

clarkstreetmerchantile

Last week, I sold a beloved nine drawer Spanish dresser my parents bought for me as part of a matching bedroom set for the new house they moved into while I was in college. It was for my room, the one I’d stay in while visiting, or as life would have it, lived in  periodically throughout those years.

The dresser was hand carved, heavy oak wood, beautifully polished into a lustrous golden smooth shine. The knobs on each drawer were dark iron metal, fastened to square bevels carved into the front panels. The square motifs continued down the sides of the piece. It was the center piece of an ensemble: End tables, bed head board and an additional little side bureau that completed the delicate rustic uniform that contained the same bejeweled hand carve squares.

The thing about the lovely dresser is that it always remained at my parents home, even after I moved out. Living in NYC, my early days proved difficult in terms of finding a large enough apartment to accommodate furniture of this size to my new dwelling. In fact, earning enough to have a larger space and bringing all this furniture with me, to use (you know, like a civilized person, where you have drawers to keep your clothes rather than pile them up in a deep shelf in the one and only closet you have in your loft studio apartment) was to be an achievement worth striving for.

When I was able to afford a one bedroom, my father felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when I was able to bring my pretty bedroom furniture and that big dresser to my new place. It was as if I arrived. I grew up.

Then, something happened. My folks passed away and I saw how all their own heavy furniture was a burden I had to dispose of. How they cherished these things I could not use and were in need of being sold off, auctioned off, or sadly – left on the curb.

And I realized, as I moved from place to place, how cumbersome this giant dresser was to transport. It cost so much to move. There were hallways too narrow and ceilings too low to lift it and bring it into certain rooms.  When I moved to LA, this dresser – all 200 pounds of it – made relocation costs more expensive than I anticipated. It rolled across the country, waiting to meet me on the other side, ready with new intention and experiences, only to find it wouldn’t fit in the bedroom of my small one bedroom LA apartment. So, it lived in the living room until  I moved into a larger LA deco apartment, where I currently live.  It looked perfect, beautiful in this LA pad, perfect for the sunny weather and spanish feel of Los Angeles style. I’ve been in the LA area 5 1/2 years, and the dresser settled in.

Yet, here’s the rub.

I want to go home.

I want to move back to NYC soon. No real date, but soon. A goal post – by this autumn.

This dresser can’t come back with me. It’s too heavy. It’s too expensive to relocate with (as history has shown me) and I want to travel light, as unencumbered as possible without giving it all away.

So, I sold it last week. I let it go. Thirty years of memories, of homes and family experiences kissed goodbye and hopefully blessed over to the next owners.

I don’t feel lighter. I have boxes and boxes temporarily filled with what used to be the contents of those drawers.

Donate. Throw out. Keep. All categorized, yet I can’t think straight with each toss of an old tee-shirt.

The space looks like I’m in mid-packing mode, yet I haven’t locked down the destination of this end chapter of the journey.

After the delivery guys came to pick up the dresser – that night, I woke up from sleep (as I usually do) and laid awake until I could drift back to dreamland. In the middle of meditative state and twilight,  I thought I heard my father’s voice call my name through the din and electrical current of some cosmic frequency.

In my mind I could only tell him I love him, and that it was time to come back home, to the city that was the main pulse of the region where I was born, back to the familiar, back to east coast time, back to what I know. Not to move backwards, but to move forward with a new perspective back home.

And  I’ll return with a little less baggage.

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The Smell of a Snow Day

I’m writing now in order to capture a moment I’m currently experiencing.

snowday1

The office days are dwindling down in my place of business. Two glorious weeks off as we scramble these last two days to get things done, send out client Christmas cards, give and receive little prezzies from our colleagues.

And someone in the pantry of our office has made toast. The golden warm aroma is floating past my nose and it brings me back to snow days.

Toast, coffee, bacon and baking cookies are my favorite smells in the world. They transport me to mornings waking up to the sound of parents in the kitchen, quiet weekends of freedom or, when I became an adult,  mornings in an office building in New York City or in Los Angeles where the day begins and so much is ahead.

Even though the lush aroma of toast is hitting me in the middle of a chilly Los Angeles studio office, the smell is the smell of snow days. The sight of thick, fluffy piled high snow mounting up. The thrash of ice flecks ramming into the window with waves of gale forced winds. The cozy warmth of home.  The thrill of the local radio or television station announcing school closures.

Sweet hot tea and the gold aroma of toasting bread for breakfast on those mornings. It makes me feel happy, carefree and brings me back to to the moments of putting on snow coats and pants, layered socks, boots, mittens, hats and bound into the fresh cold snow, breaking down a yet un- shoveled path with my legs until I made way to the road, where the plow truck barrel through, creating walls of snow drifts on both sides of the street.

One friend would come out of his house. Then another and another. A pow wow at the foot of my front path, now buried in two feet of snow. Sleds were fetched. Then an organized sleigh ride down the steepest driveway on Wilmoth Avenue would commence. That steepest driveway was my driveway.

Although the snow was high, we’d try to make our way down the winding drive to my backyard. We’d get stuck. With our bodies and legs, we’d pound the snow into a reasonably flat terrain, allowing our sleighs to get through the height.

It took a while. Our finger and toes went numb. We’d park our sleighs in front of my house. The snow would be lightening up by now. Not as windy. We’d break for a hot chocolate in my mother’s kitchen. Then – an hour later, pull on all our snow clothes and head out again for another round.

We’d sleigh one by one down the hill passing underneath the bending feather branches of our weeping willow, weighed down with the weight of snow. We stopped at the bottom where the untouched parameters of snow broke our speed.

After a while, we’d link our sled with our hands and feet, making a human sleigh ride chain. The excitement of creating a human train down the steep drive was like magic, a daisy chain of kids coming together to make a long locomotive.

On and on, the afternoon, as so many like these would, continued. With every turn of the rides, more snow was crushed and beaten down into tight, flat, slippery roadway.

A snow day was like a new project – a job. We Sleigh rode until our fingers grew numb or the white steely grey sky turned clear with blue and then grew into a sunset purples and shades of orange.

And it all started off with the aroma of toast, promising so much on this snow-free day. It takes me back to my home in Ardsley, NY.

 

Edited for tense.

 


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“Here Come the Hills of Time…”

Painting via The Glen C. Janss Collection, Idaho

“The buildings of New York look just like mountains through the snow…” Kate Bush

There’s a man who works at the commissary at the studio where I’m employed. His name is Craig. He’s likely in his mid-forties or early fifties. He’s short and sweet with salt and pepper hair.  He thrives on saying hello and asking you how your day is going. Craig also has Down Syndrome. Highly functioning, he knows his job and is very responsible. He has to be.

Craig always brings up his parents who both died twelve years ago. He brings them up each time I speak with him, forgetting he’s mentioned it before. Their deaths are always right there on the surface for him, hanging above his head within reach. He’s in constant mourning. You’ll find him sitting alone in his dark commissary uniform, black apron and cap staring with sadness.  He sometimes seems, from afar anyway – lost in the madness of this world, trying to comprehend it through the challenged body he’s been given.

He travels in from Culver City to Hollywood everyday. He loves living there. He lives in an apartment, but is always dismayed at the litter and the bad behavior of the neighborhood children. As disjointed as that last sentence is – it’s exactly how he imparts his world to me. Feelings and quick bites of information coming through his heartbroken smile. He doesn’t go into any details. Craig usually brings up how he’s had to cope with being alone and become a member of society when his parents died before you can ask him. I let him speak. I understand his loss; yet, I’m also concerned. Without his parents – who will take care of him? It seems Craig is determined to take care of himself. But he wears a long chain tied to their absence.

Craig and I do have one thing in common. We are both alone –  parent-less – orphaned at an older age. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll always be a kid left alone. But, if you’ve handled the cuts and gashes of life well, you’ll find the strength to handle the loss when the time comes.

There’s a certain beauty in continuing life in the aftermath of loss. You become the living embodiment of “life goes on”. The sun rises on another day. You take another breath. You get out of bed. You go on with your tasks and build new dreams.

You move along until you come across an old inactive phone number on you cell phone contact list labeled “Mom & Dad – HOME”.

I was listening to a song by Kate Bush last night called “Moments of Pleasure”. It was written in the early 90’s when Kate broke up with her longtime boyfriend and also suffered the sadness of losing her beloved mom. The song sings about those who pass on and those who are left behind to suffer the hurt of life, the beauty of life, the gift of memories that time leaves behind.

When loved ones die, timelines seem to become shrines in your mind – alters to moments when your loved ones were alive and time slipped through. You never realized you would ache to go back, to talk to your parents and appreciate their presence, every ounce, ever single particle. Life’s texture is now divided between “before parents’ death” and “after parents’ death”. The new normal you have to deal with everyday is something you get used to, but it never sits well.

Time is like hills, I guess.  I wonder if going back in time and climbing them builds the muscle you need to go on and make new moments.

Craig is taking it day by day by waking up each morning, taking the bus from Culver City to Hollywood and having a job to do. Although I hope he can really move on – these daily tasks may just be enough for him to get by.


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Going Deep

My father and my cousin Michele. The Cloisters, 1961.

My father and my cousin Michele. The Cloisters, 1961.

What memories are you carrying inside your mind that can’t be captured by a photograph?

The way you felt when you kissed someone for the first time.

The memory of the day you first experienced the death of a loved one.

Your first day of school and how the butterflies danced inside as you broke in your fresh new pair of back to school jeans.

The sweet ache of a fall day in the rain when you were in love with a boy or girl, and the romantic daydreams that held you.

The time you visited the Cloisters in upper Manhattan with your nieces and your youngest niece needed a hug because she was sad her parents were divorcing.

We live on this earth such a brief time. When we die, and when the ones who come behind us go – all those memories, feelings, images, love, and romance – or just the boring dripping time of everyday life that unfolded and passed – go with you.

The moments that grabbed your heart in a way that made you feel heaven – will all go away.

Hudson Hotel, NYC May 2014

Hudson Hotel, NYC May 2014

There will be pictures left behind, videos and albums. But will there be words? Will words express the coffee you had in that dreamy cafe in London? Will those pictures breathe true life into how you were feeling when you took that selfie on the EuroStar to Paris? Or what happened on that camp trip in Arizona? Your iPhone captured the hilarity of catching your partner behind a tree with his pants down to his ankles – but what happened afterwards? What was the laughter or anger like?

Do you want to remember? Yes? Of course! Don’t let the content of the mind’s memory bank fade away.

No? Why? Was the pain of a memory so bad, the intensity placed a wall, blocked it forever? Okay. Perhaps we should forget the bad memories and the sticky stuff of life. However,  painting a faint stroke of the bad makes us explore the good. It  makes us realize the person we’ve become today.

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Citifield. Memorial Day Weekend. May 2014.

Photos are beautiful. As a visual person by nature, I’ve marveled at the power of a photo as it delves into the spiritual aspect of a moment, the stillness in time,  the thrust of a muscle on hold, the grin and laughter frozen in a millionth of a second.

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Baxter and Batman, Los Angeles 2014.

A photo can express words and thought with just a click. The churning feelings behind the images we will leave behind in digital folders and clouds on the internet universe are there forever, and will remain so until after we are gone.

Indeed, a picture can tell a whole story, but the words a human being writes expressing the moments before and after the “click” can provide the screenplay to the entire film. The question will always remain: what happened after you took that picture? What memories are you carrying that can’t be captured by a photograph – memories that will disappear the day you leave this earth?

Tell your story. Write your words.