Weather Report

If I had a favorite saint, St Jude, the patron of lost causes, would probably be it.

I’ve always preferred my underdogs bedraggled.

I especially enjoy that hackneyed old chestnut come-up-from-behind story, when the weakling who’s had sand kicked in his face all his f-ing life  surprises everybody and delivers upon the neighborhood bully a surprising sucker punch.  

This penchant for championing the underdog, this belief that lost causes can in fact always be saved has held true throughout my life —whether for people, for places, or for actual dogs (or horses, or cats, for that matter).  

This personality trait and the intro I just typed could  be the beginning of an essay about last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby — but it’s not. (Though that  essay might be the better, more interesting, more relevant one, for whoever might take it on).

I love my gentrifying-in-fits-and-starts Atlanta neighborhood with the sort of fierce loyalty I’ve always tended to shower upon lost chances and underdogs.  

Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a bit extreme when it comes to love of place — when I fall for one, I fall hard, and never  forget, and the places I have the most affection for tend to be underdogs.

If nothing else, they’re never easy.

My neighborhood south of the interstate, redlined in the 60s, white-flighted by the 70s, has had a hard- knock life.  The interstate exit ramp that leads you to it is shellacked with white MacDonald’s bags, and half the time some one you wouldn’t see in neighhorhoods north of us — a fetchingly dressed prostitute, a vagrant pushing a shopping cart — will cross against the traffic light as you proceed into the neighborhood proper.  “Old Ormewood” we call that, the Husband and I, as opposed to “New,” with its faux-craftsman bungalows and VW Passats in driveways (Old Ormewood considers us new Ormewood, though, having been here ten years, we by no means think of ourselves as that).  

In my neighborhood, old and new uneasily co-exist, and my neighbors are continually heading for greener pastures, further north, with — as they perceive it — better schools, better infrastructure, better amenities.   

But me, I love the underdog.  

I’m a sucker for margins, rough edges, those spaces in between, where interesting stuff happens.  

Right now, our weather is all humidity and honeysuckle.  From one window, my view is roiled dark sky and green leaves showing their white underbellies to the wind; from the other, it’s all blue-skies-and-smooth-sailing.

This morning as I drove the girleens to school there were  chunky carats of safety glass  spilled out onto the grassy median between the street and sidewalk, and each faceted sliver contained the lovely seafoam color of waves far out at sea.

This morning, as I walked, there was a tiny bit of butterfly, like a lavender paint chip, carried skyward.  

And in the park, there was a pile of scratch-off dollar lottery tickets.  Along with the convenience store receipt that had accompanied them out into the world.  

One hundred dollars’s worth.  

One hundred dollars!  Who on earth spends a hundred dollars on lottery tickets and sits in the park to take time to discover their negligible winnings?  And who knew — that buying a hundred dollars nets you exactly … nothing.  

Or does it?  Maybe one of those tickets was a winner, and in his haste to redeem it, the lucky guy forgot to throw the rest of his tickets in the park trash can.

No way of knowing.  But somebody somewhere could write a story about such things, if they were so inclined.  


Weather Report: March 2, 2009

Southerner that I am, I don’t have the proper words for snow. Sugar snow, corn snow, powder: here in Atlanta we don’t know nothin’ about those: we just have little snow, otherwise known as dirty snow. People who actually have more than a passing acquaintance with the cold white stuff would scoff; wouldn’t even call what we get around here snow at all. But yesterday’s “storm,” which began about 11 in the morning and lasted, off-and-on, until supper time, was such a lovely one —feathery, snow-globe-upended flakes, a cold swirl-and-dance to land on the tip of the tongue, the eyelashes, superlative for packing into snow balls. It left six inches behind in places (not south of I-20, as much as we hoped it might), contained thunder; muffled the city for a bit.

Somewhere there are children who make snowmen that aren’t muddy brown and studded with bits of pine straw collected on the initial roll of ball through snow, but I’m not sure the experience they have is half as magical  as it is for a southern child, who longs for snowfall all year long, experiences it once, if at all, and never ever has to attend school once it commences, since around here flurries constitute a “winter wallop” that leaves the streets empty of people to do what they have to but full of those engaging in what they want instead (get coffee, have a late breakfast).

Yesterday we had our annual snow, and embraced it with glee, because if it’s only going to snow for six hours, it doesn’t matter too terribly much that you lack gloves (me, because I lost one a year ago and figured I could hedge my bets and go without for an entire year), have never owned a suitable scarf (both girleens) or don’t possess a waterproof winter coat (ditto). Not for us the burn-out that comes with having to scrape ice from windshields every morning for months! Not for us, the ritual of getting suited up in padded snowsuits only to have to strip them off for a last-minute bathroom trip before even getting out the door!

Today, of course, all of yesterday’s cold austere beauty has become a few scabrous patches of dirty ice left below the trees, but all the same school’s been cancelled.

 Because it’s not actually snowing anymore and there’s nothing left to play in, the Girleens are mostly just bemused, though game to stay home. But I — although looked at objectively a snow day for me now is by no means a day off — embraced the news with the same joy I did back in those old bad days when snow day meant no classes for me at the University of Georgia and  lollygagging in a bed covered with raggedy quilts in a rundown apartment until mid-afternoon when all that was required of me was leisurely afternoon stroll downtown to see who was out which coffee shops and bars were open.
In the southern locales I’ve so far lived out my life, snow is not… extraordinary, but at the same time it is so out-of-the-ordinary that it becomes so.   When it snows, the matter-of-fact dailiness of my life is dusted with magic, transformed. I see a little better; I step a little more carefully, my eyes for once on exactly where I’m going.  
I  tend toward the ambitious in terms of resolutions, can come up with a baker’s dozen, as I did a month ago, here.  
But it would be enough; to treat each day like a snow day, an unexpected party, and rejoice.

In Our Times

This morning, during breakfast, during that brief eye of the hurricane between squabbles over who gets to hold which cereal box, the spillage of orange juice and shouts from the male half of the parenting duo of “come on!  come on!”, Elder Girleen posed the following question to her younger sister:

Hey, P, what do you want to be when you grow up?
If the face of a three-and-a-half year old can exhibit complete and utter disdain, Younger Girleen’s did at that moment.  
I DON’T WANT TO GROW UP, she replied and that settled the question. 
This may be the most sensible answer to this question that I’ve ever heard; in fact, as I multi-tasked between feeding myself, feeding others, drinking coffee, sneaking a look at yesterday’s NY Times Book Review, making nutritious lunches to be schlepped to school and emptying the dishwasher, I doffed my hat to her.
I’m sure that if I sat down and devoted three hours to thinking about it, I probably could set some laudable goals a la Your Best Year Yet, mentioned last post, and I must admit that the  thought of doing so appeals to the adult section of my brain, the same side that couldn’t stop itself from picking up a copy of The Mom’s Day Planner! at a stationary store the other day.*  
I started making lists when I was a freshman in college, and the fact that the Husband can get through his life without doing so blows my tiny mind (practically the first thing out of my mouth when he received the employment boot was maybe you should make a list…)** 
I will teach myself to play the guitar; I will double the size of the garden; I will finish the novel; I will be a better mom/daughter/spouse/neighbor; I will resume my role as community gadfly until the City, distressed or not, breaks ground on the playground promised our neighborhood; I will make more money; I will sell myself better; I will paint the house; I will…
I’ve run out of breath.  
But there is something, also, to be said, for being completely at home in the skin you inhabit right this minute.  
Ours is a culture seduced by transformation (and by success, but that’s another story),*** and I’m a sucker for the modern fairy tales (What Not to Wear, where Cinderella becomes a princess every single time; Super Nanny, where the dysfunctional family becomes a sane one in just four days…) as much as the next girl, but this year, I think I’d rather take a page from Younger Girleen’s book. 
Here’s to being no one other than the person you are, right this second.  
*Did she buy it; did she not?  Only the Shadow knows!
** Of course, those freshman in college lists were practically elegant haikus:
quit smoking
finish reading Moby Dick for AmLit

*** The fact that transformation often involves spending money bears thinking about:  how much of our lust for transformation has to do with keeping consumer spending levels up?