Shock and Horror

March 19, 2007 by susan

On vacation, light load

by susan
I slipped out of town last Friday, a winter escape plan hatched over 30 year ago by my mother, who figured out a way to get her entire family together once a year on a (formerly) quiet beach in Florida for a week in March
We're still at it, my sisters, in-laws and I, though my parents are no longer alive, and our own children (20 grands among us) are grown and busy with their own children, so the crowd has thinned and, um, matured. More.

One of the many good things about my siblings is that we are all in political agreement, so being in Jeb's Palace of the Hanging Chads creeps us out. And let's face it, Florida is flat and boring and an environmental catastrophe. Note to my children: If I ever start mumbling through my dentures about moving to Florida, take me out to the back forty and shoot me.

But we all live in cold climes, we enjoy being together, and to orchestrate a move of this many people to a new location, coordinating schedules, budgets, and tastes, is beyond us, so here we are. I know, poor us.

As fate would have it, the Idiot Prince launched Shock and Flaw while we were here four years ago today. And in an added twist, five years ago today, our good spirited mother, the patron saint of Democratic activists, died at the age of 90. She used to say that she couldn't bear thinking that she would most likely die under the reign of George Bush, but alas, she did. There's some consolation that she died before she knew how much worse it would get.

So it is an odd time to be down here, away from the living, as opposed to being in our home cities where there are marches, rallies and vigils. At the same time, it's a nice time to be together to celebrate our first-rate mother. As she got older, and before we knew anything about what Florida would do to Al Gore, she started getting restless down here, saying there was too much going on in the world to be sitting around in Florida, even for a week. I get that now. Time runs out faster at the end, like water spiraling down a drain.

Four years ago today we went down to the beach at sunset, a tradition started by my mother, and dug some votives into the sand in a tiny statement of personal grief and collective horror at the launch of war. We knew that four years later we would still miss and honor our mother, but that the sorrow would lessen. What we didn't know was that the war -- and so much else -- would only get worse. And that some days, hope would be so hard to find.

Tonight we'll put our little candles in the sand, as we have for the past four years, and if we're lucky, a pod of dolphins will pass by. And in that fin-flashing moment of delight, give us a glimmer of hope before arcing away into the melon sky.

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Candace (not verified) | March 21, 2007 - 6:14pm

almost kismet, I was watering plants and saw a picture of a mother and while not shocked was definitely awed by the power of persistence. How it can eminate thru out generations. Thankfull for all the mothers, who hold on to our hearts,clean our wounds and keep us all together. In a fashion, they show us a way to perservere. This war like all others will force us to find more definitions for courage and cowardice, while our strength continues to move us forward. Today I feel like there's a mother waiting in all of us and hope is something we have truly earned. Love the site, thanks for all the thoughfulness, and the courage.


susan | March 22, 2007 - 3:49pm

Thanks Candace. Our little beach vigil fizzled out due to high winds. The candles simply wouldn't stay lit, in fact, our feet could hardly stay planted on the beach. Okay, that's a stretch, but the wind was fierce. As we walked back off the beach, candles in hand, a couple of a certain age who also sit out each night and watch the sunset, asked us what we were doing. "Commemorating the 4th anniversary of this horrible war, and, if you don't like the politics of that, the 5th anniversary of our mother's death." "Ah," the woman said, "I'm sorry about your mother, but I love your politics." She said she also remembered that we lit candles the night Shock and Flaw was launched, and how glad she was that somebody in this idyllic spot was taking note. So, we make our little mark, one person at a time.
But speaking of mothers, the next morning, after our extinguished candle effort, I saw a small cardinal on a tree outside our window, the only time I've seen one here in 30 years.
Now, Jimfest and I have had odd experiences with birds around the time of our parents' deaths. We say, only half-jokingly, that his father came back as a pheasant, his mother as a cedar waxwing, my father as an eagle and my mother as a cardinal.
So this bright little cardinal on the Australian pine, trilling there only for a moment before flitting off, gave me a very woo-woo moment -- a wave of approval, perhaps, for our efforts? Who knows, but I like to think so.