31 January, 2019

Kidspoem/Bairnsangs By Liz Lochhead

it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood
birled a scarf aroon ma neck
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' my pawkies
it wis that bitter
said noo ye'll no starve
gie'd me a wee kiss and a kid-oan skelp oan the bum
and sent me aff across the playground
tae the place Ah'd learn to say

it was January
and a really dismal day
the first day I went to school
so my mother wrapped me up in my
best navy-blue top coat with the red tartan hood,
twirled a scarf around my neck,
pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens
it was so bitterly cold
said now you won't freeze to death
gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom
to the place I'd learn to forget to say

it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood,
birled a scarf aroon ma neck,
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' ma pawkies
it wis that bitter.
Oh saying it was one thing
but when it came to writing it
in black and white
the way it had to be said
was as if you were posh, grown-up, male, English and dead. 

27 January, 2019

Another Alexandra

Dear Sasha, 

The cold has truly settled in here in Chicago and we’re looking forward to -17 as a high temp on Wednesday. It is warmer in Vladivostok. Next week it is projected to be -40 and -52 with the windchill. It will be warmer on the surface of Mars. *

 I had a wonderful friend visit this week— a friend made several years (2011?) ago during a one week workshop. Her name is also Alexandra. We fully intended to walk around Millennium park, but then (of course) the weather turned to such frigidity that we decided to keep our activities indoors. That included a great deal of tea-sipping and talking—delving into deeper and deeper depths, like taking steps down a beautifully lit stairwell of intimacy.  It was so soul-resorting to spend quality time with a true friend and almost-sister.  Alexandra is probably the only other woman in my life that truly feels like the relationship one might have with a same-aged family member (much like Arielle, though that is even deeper for Ari and I have shared our entire lives). 

Alexandra has had a difficult year—her life-force of a mother died of early-onset Alzheimer’s in July, and over the years we have shared a beautiful common-knowledge of grief. We both bore witness to our parents dying slowly, but mine was physical while hers was a mental loss. In that vein, her grief was complicated by the fact that the mother she knew and grew up with “died," while her physical body remained and was replaced by a new person who did not know Alexandra at all from day to day. 

There were, effectively, two grieving processes for her to go through. I never knew Joan (her mother) in her titanic stardom of self, and it was heartening to know that over the years I have been of comfort to A as her mother slowly evaporated. By the time her mother did pass, the first grief was already thorough. I was honored to hold her experience both through the lens of my own grief of a parent, with curiosity and respect for its own distinction. 

In October, just before I left for Chicago, I drove up to New Hampshire to sing in her mother’s memorial service.  The weeks leading up to the service I was so mind-squashingly irritated with her. I almost couldn’t think about her without my brain exploding. She had asked me to sing at the memorial—a huge honor—but she had absolutely fallen off the face of the earth and I was at a loss as to how to proceed. I needed practical details to plan getting myself there, getting to Chicago, etc. Dear god Alexandra, my brain raged, I actually know first-hand that grief is crushing but I can’t be there for you if you don’t call me back!  

I tried her friends and boyfriend for help: what was I singing? What town was I going to? Do you realize how far away new Hampshire is? Do you realize how stressed I am trying to move to Chicago for 4 months, in only 4 days? What time was the service? Where? Where would we sleep? What in the actual hell was going on? This event very quickly became a major pain in my ass despite me desperately wanting to be there for her. As the day approached my frustration with her silence and scatter-brainedness mounted and nearly boiled over. I was a record-breaking level of grouchy.  

But, from the moment she and her boyfriend E piled into our rental car, I was transformed. Instantly. Over the course of the 48 hours encompassing the event, I’m wholly proud to say we shared one of the best, most hilarious, and most profound experiences of our adult lives. A treasured memory of laughter and sorrow and fullest humanity. I now own how thoroughly I projected her lack of communication as a lack of regard, and misinterpreted her silence as a lack of gratitude and love. I was wrong. She was, of course, just drowning. 

Alexandra, her boyfriend E (also a dear lovely friend) and I road-tipped up the country to her family’s home in New Hampshire. We sang along to terrible music the entire way. We told stories and laughed from our viscera. We vacillated from that laughter to tears in micro-seconds. We talked about real things. We talked about nothing.  We stopped at a being-renovated diner somewhere in deepest Massachusetts called “Athena 2,” (we never did locate Athena 1), ate gigantic over-priced salads underneath renovation tarps and laughed some more. Later, I helped her write her eulogy. I was her “other family” member and the family offered me a check after the service for my singing (which I, of course, donated to the Alzheimer’s Association). I got to know Alexandra, her family, and above all, her mother in a way I lack the language to express— but I recognize it as a sensation I still long to share with close friends about my father’s life. I bore witness to something deep and fervent and eternal. 

Basically: I was profoundly wrong.  I’m so glad I was wrong.  I learned the lesson thoroughly. I will never be such a grouchy pants again.  I should also mention that Alexandra was in a Broadway show (called “Head Over Heels”) that opened and closed in a matter of weeks, and thus, her highs and lows this year were on the Richter scale of intensity. This was her second week off after the close of the show, and she chose to spend it with me. I was very touched. 

Alexandra arrived on my doorstep last Wednesday on the first stop of what she is terming her “Grief Tour 2019.” All we did was light candles, snuggle Tati and one another, and talk at length about things that truly matter deep into the night. We occasionally ate food, sleep, bathe, and I did take breaks to go to work at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. When we weren’t doing those things, we were having a great deal of fun at Improv Shakespeare and the Art Institute. This visit somehow felt like the closing of the circle of memorial experience in October—like an echo. 

And I, of course, needed her too. I am lonely here and feeling unseen in that deep way that feels so necessary to me. I crave to know others deeply, and also to be known at the same depth—the latter sometimes being challenging for me, as discussed.  When she left there was indeed an Alexandra Socha-shaped hole in my apartment, but what remained was her essence, the fullness of my heart, and a little notebook labeled “SCREENPLAYS ABOUT MY CAT” with a long heartfelt note within it.

“To Alexandra, The only Alexandra I love more than myself.”

 My heart swelled, and off I went to play the fairy queen. 

08 January, 2019

Coulda-been-ku 20


We met high above 
Chicago. Both in pain. But 
you shared your heartbreak-

-for a collection 
of moments my soul was nude.
You melted my ice.

© Nick Bantock


Related Posts with Thumbnails