Wednesday, October 3, 2007

October 3 letter

While the other ladies marched in the Spirit of Beacon Day Parade, I kept busy at our booth, painting kitty faces on little kids.

This is a close-up of Mom's painting.

October 3, 2007
Howdy! The air is suddenly crisper, and the Virginia creeper that grows all over our front porch during the summer has begun to turn from dark green to blazing scarlet. It is an effect that lasts only a few days, as the leaves fall off soon after they turn, but it sure is striking while it happens!

We had a short but fun visit with our friends the Habels, from Michigan. Mark collects prints by an artist named Richard Merkin, who was appearing at a gallery about fifty miles from here. So part of our visit with them was taken up on a holy pilgrimage to meet Richard. He is a very interesting guy–he’s a regular writer for Vanity Fair magazine, as well as an art teacher, and he is one of the people whose faces appear on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. We had a good chat. Mark bought a painting from him--a self-portrait--and everybody was happy!

I spent some fun time with Deb while the boys were elsewhere, probably upstairs arguing about politics. Deb (the child of two Polish concentration-camp survivors) let slip that she didn’t know how to make pizaki. (Yeah, I was shocked, too!) So the Scottish girl spent a day teaching the Polish girl how to make them. (They’re Easter eggs, by the way.) You draw designs on raw eggs using beeswax that you warm up over a candle, and it melts through a pizaki (a tiny copper funnel on a stick) onto the egg. You dip the egg into progressively darker colored dye baths, adding lines of wax where you want the next color to appear. Eventually, you end up with a lumpy black thing that hardly looks like an egg anymore. Finally, you hold it over a candle to melt off all the wax you just spent hours putting on. Gorgeous colors emerge. You have to be careful with the dyes because they’re poisonous, and not to break the eggs (after a few years, the stuff inside evaporates).

Deb and I had a fun afternoon, made almost indelibly memorable when I accidentally dumped two cups of black dye all over the place in my kitchen. I let go of a string of words that would have injured even Robert Lochow’s hardened ears. [Robert says: This I doubt.] I quickly sopped up the dripping puddle, but that left a huge blue stain on my white vinyl floor and another one on my horrible worn-out yellow counter top. Robert and Mark came running to assist me. With a lot of Clorox and elbow grease, after an hour you could hardly tell where the dye had been, except the grain on the wood cabinets is quite a bit darker there. Also, I forgot, and washed the old towels with some other laundry. Let’s just say I no longer have difficulty telling my identical pairs of white bedroom slippers apart.

We had a good time, visiting Olana (the home of the Victorian painter Frederick Church) and eating things. We had a great meal at Tonique, a fancy restaurant in Beacon, on Mark’s mother, Leonora. She was not very nice to me when Mark and I dated, but she has mellowed in her old age, and now enjoys treating Mark and his friends to nice things. One thing Mark’s father used to do at the end of a meal was to demand the "terrifying total." When the bill was finally presented, he'd give out a mock scream. So we called Leonora when the bill came, and screamed, and she giggled about it. It was a nice and funny way to remember Mark’s dad, who died a few years ago.

Mark also visited my mom before he came here (as I mentioned, Mark is an ex-beau of mine, and very fond of Patty). He brought some stuff from Mom’s house that I had been unable to bring back with me. One item is a very large painting that Mom started many years ago. It is of her old aunties in Nebraska, squinting into the sunlight. Mom never actually finished the painting, but I talked her out of doing any more to it, because I like it the way it is. If it were not so big (five feet tall by three feet wide) I would want to hang it in our house. But as I’m always trying to find ways to get some bucks together to pay for helpers for Mom, I thought I might find a better price for it in New York than in Michigan.

We have some new young neighbors across the street. (I find it hard to believe I would ever be writing about "those nice young people." I mean, aren’t Robert and I nice young people?) Joshua is thin and intense. He bought the terribly neglected house across the street from us and spent the summer gutting it, then piecing it back together. He finally moved in with his tattooed and pierced girlfriend, Erin. We don’t know them very well, but we’ve been friendly, providing them with useful welcome gifts–a sump pump we weren’t going to be able to use, and some cabinet hardware. I found out that Erin works in a gallery in town, so I took a photograph of the painting to her for advice on how I might go about selling it.

It turns out that Erin is the OWNER of the gallery (and others! And Joshua designs men’s clothing for Banana Republic–who knew?). She was thrilled with the painting, and wants to sell it in the gallery. The amount $1,500 was bandied about! So I’ve spent a few days building a frame for the thing, and I’ll take it over there tomorrow. It is so fun that my mother, at age 79, is still having life-long dreams made real. I promised her I’d take a picture of the painting when it’s in place, and that I’d tell you all that her work is being exhibited in a fabulous New York art gallery! It’s Beacon, New York, not New York, New York, but who’s quibbling? Mom was pretty tickled about that.

Sunday was Spirit of Beacon Day. I painted faces of little kids, including one very pretty little boy who talked the whole time, saying things like, "It was evil, so I cut it off," in a very sincere voice. It was more than a little creepy. Next, a little girl whom I had assumed was his sister kept touching the brush and my hands and my face while I painted her face. The woman who was with them said, "She can’t help it. She’s hyper-tactile." I realized these were probably children from a school for emotionally impaired children that is nearby. That made me sad. I wanted to hug them so bad. I also loved the little girl who wiggled all her loose teeth for me. I WISH WE HAD KIDS! If anybody has any they don’t want, let us know!

We made about five hundred dollars for the cat shelter at our booth. Robert marched in the parade, handing out candy, and helped me set up and close down. I am always thankful for his support and his unending love. I am a lucky chica to have chosen such an excellent muchacho! I thank God every day.

Speaking of the shelter and of cats, Alice was in good spirits while Mark and Deb were here. They also have a very old cat, so they are always very attentive to Alice when they visit. But the day after they left Robert told me he had seen Alice wandering around, squatting and straining as if she were trying to urinate. Not a good sign. He also found little drops of blood on the parlor carpet. So I took her to the vet in the morning to make sure she wasn’t in pain. The vet said her intestines were "ropey," a sign a she might have lymphoma. She said that even if Alice wasn’t in pain, she probably would be soon. So I had to do the hard thing and have my dear little baby put to sleep. I got to hold her, and that was good. I still burst into tears every time I think about it, but I know in my heart it was the right thing to do. Robert and I buried her in the flower bed, next to my dear Kahuna and Clawd’ya.

It’s not so easy when it’s your Mama who’s having the rough time. Although Mom’s very happy to be home, it hasn’t been easy for her. Her night nurse, Patience, had a terrible thing happen. Her father was in a bad car crash, and Patience may need to move in to take care of him. She has been spending a lot of time at the hospital, and Liz, Tim, and Chris have been staying with Mom on the nights she’s not there. Although Mom is expecting to get better and better, sometimes the improvements brought about by her physical therapy don’t seem to last very long, so she sometimes finds herself back at square one. I hope we can find someone who can help Brenda, who is doing all she can do right now, and for a reliable replacement for Patience, if she has to leave. Send prayers to my brothers and my sister-in-law Liz (and all my sisters-in-law, for that matter, because they’re all involved) because this is very trying for all of them. I wish I lived closer and could help more.

I wrote last time that a headhunter (that’s a person who finds jobs for white-collar employees) had called me to say there was no way in hell (I think those were her exact words) she could find a job for me. A couple of you have written back to tell me that person was a jerk, but I don’t think so. Her name is Judy. She is a very well-known and respected professional who I never would have consulted in a million years except that she had placed several people in my old office. I didn’t have very high expectations to begin with. She spent a long time with me on the phone, telling me the problems she saw with my situation that will make getting hired harder for than other people (most of the straight lawyer sort of work I did was about twenty years ago, for instance, and the last few jobs I held for only about two years).

I explained what happened to me in Michigan when the legal offices I worked for lost their funding. She asked me more questions about things I do for fun, and I told her about my writing and the cat shelter. She said she found me to be a very interesting person, but my resume didn’t show that. She mentioned it was near Yom Kippur, and she thought it would be a good mitzvah to help me (that's a good thing you to do to help others without expecting anything in return). I went to see her and she spent about an hour giving me invaluable advice, helping me to rewrite my resume to show employers what sort of things I might be able to do for them. So I feel a little more able to go out there in the world and find something important to do that makes money for Robert’s and my future together. Keep those happy thoughts coming for me and my job hunt!

I think I’ll make this a short letter. I hope it works out better for most of you to only have to load up one letter at a time. If you want to see letters that I wrote earlier, just click on the month on the right side of the top of the page, and that should bring it up for you.

Tonight is my writing group night. I have been so bummed out lately about things like my job situation and Mom’s problems that I haven’t been able to write anything new. But I’ll give it a try. Drop a line! I know you are supposed to be able to post comments here, but I don’t know how. You can reach me at

Love, and good health to you all!
FAH and Robert


Babette said...

Oh, no...the BLOG!

I'd walk a mile for one of your smiles!

Frederick Church! I spend an entire lesson on the Hudson River School in my art history classes. Alas, regarding your mother's painting of her aunts: Roll over, Grant Wood!

We don't cry over spilled milk here, but black dye might induce a few tears.

I would love for my kiddos to meet you, Fran, for you are the very definition of being beautiful from the inside out.

I'm coming to NYC to visit my eldest daughter on Oct. 23. Meet me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?


Franny said...

I would love to meet you on the 23rd! Tell me when! The only thing that might stop me is if someone actually hires me before then. Also remember we have a room here for you if you would like. You really need to see Olana, if you haven't, and Thomas Cole's house is right across the river.

Babette said...

Thanks! Thomas Cole - Be still, faint heart!

In a few days, then!