All the days

They went in a pile beside the bed: the socks, the shirt, the pants and underwear. And in the morning, they came on in the opposite direction. The days were like that too, they got taken off at night and put back on in the morning. All the days were good. Of course they weren’t but you could make believe they were. Life was like that too, a summary of days. Alone it was marvelous and, in most ways, enough.

I cleaned the raclette, the Swiss table-top grill we pull out at New Year’s. The funky cheese goes on a paddle beneath the grill and warms while cooking the meat and vegetables up top. The speck doesn’t produce enough fat, so we fry the bell pepper in bacon grease, and when the cheese is bubbling and brown we scrape it onto the potatoes and serve it with cornichons and pickled onions.

We have snow outside like cake frosting and at night it’s so quiet there’s only the far-off thrum of the valley and freeway below. Everything is caked in white like marshmallow, a gingerbread house. We have mulled cider and wassail punch in ornate mugs from the German Christmas markets in Saarbrücken and Ludwigsburg. From the outside our house looks like the miniature light-up Victorian village we have inside—we could be the same as those happy figurines waving with our fingerless gloves, warming our hands by an electric fire.

I get out my cranberry-colored balaclava for a walk to the lake, and my Gore-Tex snow suit from the 1970s that’s bright yellow and heavy as hell. And then I stand for longer than normal watching the snow fall on the water, debate taking selfies and texting to friends or just being with it alone. The white on the rooftops of the houses on the far shore, the slant of the tall trees fading into the clouds and snow, the slate color of the water. Frozen snot in my mustache that’s fun to rub off, like picking dried glue.

I make a pot of Jamaican stew peas with the leftover ham, a bundle of fresh thyme, bay leaf, allspice berries and habanero wrapped in cheese cloth. After cooking the beans I add a can of coconut milk, remove the ham bones and dice the meat, then add it back in with chopped scallions and more thyme. Serve it with white rice and then stow the pot in the garage with the sleds and Himalayan mittens.

You can get sentimental about things, especially at this time of year. Thinking about packing up the Victorian village, everything going back in their boxes, into the garage, the same process in reverse. On Sunday morning it’s turned to rain and I put on the Blues music radio show, kick the tree to the curb, pack up the kids for a ride to the city, the old bookstore and brunch. We only get so many days like this when we’re all together and it’s good to remember that.

Dawn and I are getting to the end of the Beatles documentary, January of 1969. It’s gone on so long we feel like we’ve spent the whole month with the band. And we’re now at the end where they’re about to do the rooftop concert. Throughout the film they cross off each day when they’re done rehearsing so you can see how close they are to the deadline at the end of the month. It’s now just dawned on them that they only have six songs for the performance and wanted 14. George says if only we had six more weeks…

And Charlotte needs to return a gift to the department store so we take my car, and the song Get Back comes on. And I mention the lyrics, I didn’t know it was about nationalism and point out the part about the trans person. And tell Charlotte can you believe this came out in 1969?

There is almost no one at the department store. They have a place in the back where you can return stuff to Amazon and give you a coupon hoping you’ll spend money in the store. I tell Charlotte I knew the CEO of this place (Kohl’s); she worked at Starbucks and I arranged for her training when she started there in 1996. We didn’t have Outlook yet so everyone wrote their appointments in paper planners they carried from meeting to meeting. And some people (like me) saved those old planners for sentimental reasons because we believed there was a part of us in it and didn’t want to let that go.

I imagine John and George if they were still alive and what they’d say about our times. They are a comfort when the days feel bleak and represent the very best of what we can be, both elevated and down to earth. Paul gestures to the piano, all the songs that were ever written came out of these keys.

They come for the tree on Saturday and I put out last year’s calendar with the recycling. All the days were good and in most ways enough. You didn’t realize it as much at the time as you do when it’s nearly done.



Categories: Memoir, writing

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17 replies

  1. I think the Beatles doc was part of the sentimental spirit this year. I kept remembering myself back in those days, what was happening around me and was about to happen, and that music was in the background. It really ignites the memory neurons!

    Beautiful piece, Bill. Winter’s just started, technically, but it already feels like a visitor who can’t take a hint.

    PS — I can almost smell the food you cook!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great stirring of my own memories reading yours mixed in with the nows. I burned a bunch of “me” when I left South Florida in 1986 – those paper planner books, poems written by a sweetheart who arrived via plane once a month or so – scraps of paper in odd shapes, sizes, his sprawled handwriting from mid air – that was before I had any inkling to write poems! I had stashed them all away but did not know then how much I’d want to read them 20 years later and thus they went onto the fire when I thinned-before-packing to return to Texas. Lots accumulates in 17 years! At least we get to hang onto the memories, even if we box up, burn up the tangibles.
    I totally get standing in nature waffling between trying to record the experience for sharing vs. letting the experience just BE. Relying on recall and written words to summon it forth for sharing eventually …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Years Jazz! I can admire and understand the burning of things though I haven’t done that myself. It’s so final, to burn! My mother-in-law used our firepit a year ago on the anniversary of her son’s passing to burn the notes people had written for his wake. She reread each one and then burned them all. Not retrievable! I wish I could let go of some of my stuff like that. Maybe this is the year. Though I do regret giving away my record collection, that’s one thing I’d like back sometimes. Thanks for reading and hope you’re doing well, enjoying your Texan winter. Air quotes, winter? Be well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The man who wrote this probably understands why a pair of aged Gore-Tex boots with leaky souls sit in my shoe wrack. They are, however, resolution proof.
    (I pray that the writer forgives my atrocious puns).
    A thoughtful piece that moves your reader back and forth across time and through different planes, dropping images and ideas that will appear briefly in different parts of the brain for days to come.
    Thanks Bill.
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is fine piece, Bill. More than the sum of its parts. I had to come back to read it again. A gathering in, the home haven of domestic rites and rituals, shared meanings, delicious meals and the Beatles (god bless them). But also I’m sensing some ache of loss/aloneness – some spirit past, present or yet to come (?).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tish, yes that ache of loss is partly being a parent and knowing your kids are going to “leave the coop” and likely also the gauze of Covid funk we’re all under in myriad ways right?! Plus winter, there’s that. Good to have the Beatles and nearby parks to retreat to, for you the allotment I’m betting! Thanks for this…have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe paper planners and old diaries are like cameras that capture a part of our spirit. After enough years you’re like a horcrux of too many pieces and can only see the dark.

    But writing, a friend said, is learning to see in the dark.

    I reacted to “taking selfies and texting to friends or just being with it alone.” Thanks for the connection, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for reading while you’re on holiday Bruce! Love that word horcrux too. And sure, the paper stuff has some of us in it I think, for better or for worse. Been hearing a lot of music from 1972 now (our local radio station is celebrating their 50 year anniversary) and wondering if you’re heading back down in the hole for another project like that. Curious minds, you know…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, the old paper planner. In the big over-sized folio-thingy, that was the way to go. I discovered the Beatles when I was a kid, and I rediscover them every five years or so. I was just coming off a rediscovery when Get Back came out. I didn’t know it was coming, and boy howdy, what a gift. I’m on my third watch. And it’s got me falling down all kinds of YouTube rabbit holes, too. The Above Us Only Sky doc, for example, or the Concert for George, or any of the many Get Back reaction videos. I always thought Paul was the most gifted, and the doc bears that out I think. And I never knew how fragile and awkward Lennon could be. Always saw him as the confident, cocky one. I could go on, but I should stop now. Been wanting to write about it but something’s stopping me, not sure what. Anyhoo…thanks for this one. Have a good‘un.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy and happy new year! You should write about it if you feel inclined, you’re one of my “biggest Beatle friends.” And yes agree with your observations on them. Third time?! Well now that’s something. That’s a lot of spins around the Two of Us ride isn’t it? Whoo boy! I loved it too.

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