Vintage is Happening Now

Lately I’ve been trying to tighten-up my fashion, dress more like a hot librarian, or at least a cuter, more streamlined teacher. More edge and less of the post-prego phlump that has people asking me if I’m really due again…I penned three words of inspiration. Three words to help me find my way back to some semblance of style. Vintage was one of them, but I’m seeing that it’s not just fashion (and, yes, I should also, take better care of my nails).

My pull towards “vintagia” is more about roots showing up on my person. About being rustic and real. It is continuance, the memory of umbilical cord, the desire to feed my family from a bed of rich soil, and the tethering to all things good. It is the peace I make with my family tree. A transcendence which also colors my countenance and makes any leaf look wet with lush beauty. Vintage is the pressing of gold onto today’s feathers, a resounding in the heart.

The tension of “go” and “stay” until we simply hear, “It’s okay. We’re here.”

~~~
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
― e.e. cummings

~~!~~

Vintage is the song crooning out of my mouth right now, the song of longing and trekking, lunging, squinting forward. It is my turn to take the kids to school, preschool bags strapped to handlebars.

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I peddle through neighborhood blocks, tight clusters of Japanese houses and apartments. I’ve got two kids in tow, two year-old cutie boy in front and long-legged four-year old girl in back. We cruise to school, we Tokyoites, knowing all the back roads and most sunny spots. The bike is new, a battery-assist and our sole vehicle for the streets, other than our feet. Okay, and trains. A jackhammer pounds. Construction is always moving things around. I shift my cross-body bag a little farther down on my hip. We are a long way from where I grew up.

This bike is new, but I’ve been a bike girl from pink Huffy days, streamers streaming with the click of those rainbow spoke beads. Grandpa was cycling hero then, and since forever, strong slim calves gliding over highways, pushing over hills and dales. He once cycled from Maine to Florida, into the lot of The Melting Pot for fondue where we waited for him with a crown. Custom-built cycle. Round rearview mirrors and those built in cycling shirt pockets, while I was decorating my little bikes’s spokes with plastic rainbow-hued spoke beads. I know cycling from this man, also song and manners, how to maneuver a meal with gleaming, five-course silverware settings. I know finery and getting dirty, alike. I’m not afraid of a wrench and grease, or the reward of a crisp gin and tonic. I know how to make magic work. It’s a bit of grit and a lot of doo-wop, like Gene Kelley in the rain.

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Fresh air fills my lungs; even in the city, here, air is clean. I ride with the strength of a few strong men. (I know, I’ve got that battery pack, but my heart is in it, dear) .

“This riding? It’s in your bones”, I call out to both kids. Gotta be loud with all this wind! The squeaky voice and swinging, kicking feet behind. “Grandpa Dick!” Precisely. She knows that strength and beauty is what I mean. These traits are passed down. Fearless confidence to navigate paths and read maps, even in French. Theirs is the heirloom of strength, a marriage of intellect and a love for smiles. A time piece can be a song. Songs of cousins and reunions with Ella on the record-player and wicked laughter that sends some of us racing to the bathroom. The sass of Grandma shimmying into pink jeans when every other woman was June Cleaver. Her purse, a leather pack for bullet shells. Picture Annie Oakley and the most sophisticated, cultured Vogue Twiggy. Vintage must be attitude-meets-class. And that’s just one side of the family! I carry some precious cargo, glittering harbors full of stories and recipes inside these veins.

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Grandma gifted me jewels on this last trip–great grandmother’s silver and moonstone earrings and brooch. She brought it out of their walnut dresser, curved in art deco. I didn’t immediately think it my style. “Oh, I dunno, Grandma”, with my head cocked. Hmmm. It looked so old-fashioned. That was before I knew it’s history, before it gleamed extraordinary. I poked the stems into my earring holes and suddenly we all gasped. I was suddenly a dame in Roma or Seville, a woman of silk scarves and fabulous handbags. My great grandmother must have radiated style. I could begin to know her now. A remnant, a thread, a tangible sparkly element right here! My neck and chin raised. Those jewels could travel. I was vintage. A great grand daughter, known. (Problem is, these vintage jewels haven’t surfaced since my return to Japan. I am hurting and praying, loves).

Sometimes you don’t plan the things you pass down, the seeds that break open and shoot roots down. We hug our way into the earth, balanced on black rubber and gravel. It is a tree of life to those who hold onto it and all the supporters are happy. Legacy is how we speak, how we fumble and gaze at intimacy. My Grandpa and I saddle up to each other on those rides at the shore, singing songs, whistling stories and turning cobwebs into glory. Summertime and the living is easy… Old King Cole. Air Force, Army tunes, battle blues, folk songs, and spirituals. Stories with our white water bottle, trading off. Maybe vintage is vintage only if it’s passed down. Hand to hand. Otherwise it’s just old.

Soon enough my boy will sing these words. They will grow up his bones like invisible skeletal reinforcement for the soul. One of these days, you’re gonna take to the sky. And then it hits me. The time I think I am losing! The heirlooms I’ve lost! The artifacts of unknown whereabout, the drawbacks of many times moving. We can’t keep everything we treasure, so we write, and we weep, and we dance. I’ve got home, even here. The songs, they’re inside. Secure. Growing. I’ve got the loves hidden, all these conversations, all the glimpses of beauty. Each poster is pinned up on my walls. Really really on the inside wherever I move. As far away as Tokyo is. As far away as wherever. I’ve got my love to keep my warm. We sing that one, too. So off with my overcoat. I don’t need no overcoat. I’m burning with love. The flame grows higher, my love burns brighter and I can weather the storm!! What do I care…. I’ve got my love to keep my warm.

Another song to tick off. I’ve taught my girl this one, too. These are the pieces of worth, the things I can carry. Vintage is my voice taking the past into today, into my lap and into lullaby, round and round the circumference of the world, or at least my pedals. The things you pass on. Treasures in death and birth. 

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We must be known as the loudest here. Such is our projection and voice box. They are old songs, taught by the grands to our parents and handed down. We use them to make the ride easier, February rains gentler, and August sun cooler. Vintage is called more than getting by. It can be a lifeline and fun.

‘Cause I love you, a bushel and a peck! You bet your pretty neck I do. The sweet voice from behind me joins in, but she can’t keep up. I realize I’ve gone and changed the tune a bit. It is my jazz, so known on the insides that it can be squashed around and made different.

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I’ve got my love to keep me, and us, warm. This is vintage-lovesick-peace, and it is good. It is a turn on a merry-go-round, a tour of love as it makes its way down our lane and even round our ankles, kitten heels or bare-feet. 

A song of growing strong.

~~~~                 ~~~

How ’bout you? What are your vintage treasures?

What are the songs? The smells? The treasure you keep safe or maybe want to create?

I’d love to know!

Here’s some inspiration, perhaps!

On the life-long rotation:

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Summertime

A Bushel and a Peck

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A Perfect Freezing

I am back, now two days, from my monumental first trip back to the US without kids, in years. It was all to be with my Grandpa, and it was obviously, phenomenally, worth it.

It was a perfect freezing, though the two and a half weeks were surprisingly mild. Only the last day held snow, but just a light dusting. When I saw what was falling, I ran out and found many itty teeny stars just like this.

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Now I’m no snow expert, but I didn’t know they came in tiny fractals, perfect snowflake specimens! They were flakes begging for the trifold science boards and black construction paper, as if I could have glued them like sticky spider webbing. In my head, though, they last.

I balanced one flake on my pinky nail and I wanted to run in to show my mom, but it melted at such a rate. That is why there are pictures. And memories stuck on the boards of our brain. My sweet time is hopelessly, perfectly stuck and frozen in time and space.

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I know the smell of my Grandpa’s cologned cheek, have the laugh and smooth hug of my Grandmother, so happy to see me as soon as she wakes. I’ve got my Grandpa wrapped by the fire, his shoulders covered in the inky blue textured throw.

Every salad, every place setting. I loved helping. Simply knowing where each dish goes. I baked bread in my Grandpa’s loaf pans, carried up bottles and bottles of wine and Champagne. Every morning was glorious and each evening, a sturdy ball.

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It is the frozen conglomeration of each moment, stuck in the flake, though, on the morning of the single snowy day, that makes it easy to take all the moments with me. Snow accumulates, you see. It clumps. Inside on my boots, inside the lining of my pockets when I shove my hands inside. It seeps into bone and breath and inside the gallery of my phone and now with me in Tokyo, where I am breathlessly over oceans, home.

Here, Away, & Words For It

So, you know, I am off in America, spending time with my Grandparents in PA. My Grandfather is doing a remarkable job as he ages with cancer. My husband back at our home in Tokyo, is parenting on his own. I am here, representing my whole Japan clan. It is a good trip, filled with every kind of salad & ice cream. I’m thinking that all the green will cancel-out the heavy cream…

Here, in Allentown, everything has a name, described in particulars, in depth, and with smart words. We do not just chase cat tails and obtuse words like “stuff”. Here, we ask questions. Here, you are allowed, prompted, no—expected, to think.

Welcome to my Grandparents’ home. Sit down, here, have some wine. There is going to be talking. Here, grab some Gouda. We have time before dinner at 6:30.

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How it worked growing up is that if you didn’t know a word, you’d look it up in a fat college dictionary. You could surely be corrected, but it’s good for toughening-up. If you don’t know something, you ask questions. Move forward. You converse. It’s nice. It’s called human. It’s called knowing where to put a spoon and where to place the fork.

Every article of interest, worthwhile, is read aloud in a solid voice or shared in summation without hesitation. Thinking creatures must breathe. We don’t have to flit. I think of my Grandfather directing plays, rooted on stage, name ironed-on back of chair.

Here, words are used well. We all stand upright, not stifling thought. “Speak your mind, young lady, and stop apologizing”! I’m still learning this, my education with paperbacks, tall spines, supple mouth. I learn to undo the constant sorrying. “Tell me, my dear darling, tell me what you are reading, where you’ve been, how things are, conditions, numbers, how it feels to not be in your normal bed. Tell me, do you like the stars?”

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I keep asking questions. Tell me of 60 Minutes, of real estate in Israel. Tell me of recipes, Borscht she could not replicate, dinner parties of yore. Tell me, dear Grandparents, of yellowed letters, spouses also cousins; tell me of colleagues, theatre departments, libraries, and the recycling cans.

Tell me over black coffee that you love having me here, even though I continue, in traces, to want to sponge the remainders of soups and cappuccino when I should simply fill and fill the dishwasher, and that’s it. “Stop with the washing”!

Read me, sing me your voice during youngest/only kid, NYC culture during wartime bonds, stock market swings, pressing records, traipsing around Europe, in love, picnic sweaters.

Tell me of concern, of love, when your best friend died or when your daughter ran off. Tell me over the perfect pie crust, how hard your father worked, how fine a runner, all the ambition balled up, and stretched in a girlish Great-Grandmother. Teach me of history. Of geography, recollection.

When you eloquently speak, teach me again, infinitum, about meeting your wife, of your commute–Long Island to PA, while I sit, post-Pilates, spine to tummy lounging on your Mid-Century couch reupholstered four times. I will hold onto my wine stem and not break the beat with an ill-timed sip. I will wash it later, by hand, while you dry.

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I feel encompassed by care, flocked by rhododendron, aloes and jade, cactuses rioting in blooms, and that gargantuan amaryllis, a bit ostentatious if you are not accustomed to flowers or beauty or red in sunlight-stream. We talk over making the lamb–relationships take more than words, but motions in line with those words. Action is the crux, it seems.

It will be a whole lifetime of actions blooming even now, even here, in me, with me.

The continuance we need: long sips and shawls, cookies and cheese, crackers, cold chicken, & trips to the gym; seeing his misty blue eyes and wanting him to see we see him. Oh, emptying dishwashers we fill up again. A movie on pause. Plans to rest and discover tomorrow-errands and that which we could not fit into today. My, how you adore snowflakes made by my girl. Tomorrow we can do anything like feel stronger. We can catch a parade.

It will take many strong Herculean tries and a triple-dozen or so hugs. It will take a great many words to say just who you are beyond me.

When I Turn 89

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If I make it that far, I want the phone to ring off the hook, like my Grandpa’s did.

I want to greet visitors with crisp Champagne, artisan cheeses, and gorgeous pottery filled with strong coffee.

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I want to kiss my husband and hold him dearly, then turn to my kids and grandkids and great grandkids and say,
“Honey, it was all worth it. ”

I will play pickup sticks with the little ones, speak of summer long trips, and think forward, with optimism inherently.
I will gaze at the sunset and marvel at the stars and look on calendars without anxiety.

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I will walk with laughter and by that point, really know how to plan, and deal unscrupulously with any matter at hand.

I will choose more butter in the pan, which will hopefully be French and will hang over the sink from great hooks.

I will put every candle in the cake and not believe I am more than fifty-nine, perhaps.

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When I am “this many”, (imagine only good) I will have gotten out of my way, and put all bets on love.

A very happy birthday to my friend and dear Grandpa, Dick. You make it all look too easy.

Xoxo

The So-Long Day

guys-and-dolls

photo from Guys & Dolls

 

Grandparents

preparing

to fly back home

to where they hang their hats

and bicycles.

 

To the crabapple tree

the straw people

the smooth river stones

steep stairs

blue room.

 

Their wall of us

feathered hairstyles,

outdated pairings.

 

Posters of shows

Grandpa has directed,

silos of grain

wood stacks

fireplace

braided rug

sixties wallpaper

shouting HAIR! and love.

 

And I’ve only a

small handful

of recording

with them

when I need at least 360.

 

How could I write

seriously about them,

their lives

history

bound-up in next visits

when

I need a whole summer everyday

for the rest of our lives.

 

Bread making

cheese nibbling

gin and tonics waiting

on conversations and moments

to set aside and sing.

 

Hearing about mechanics giving way to learning just how little

he was expected to obtain.

 

And Grandma, her dancing,

private practice,

pink jeans juxtaposed with casseroles and June Cleaver,

thinking, moving friends,

and her parents–

Nanny so smart

even a part of Mensa.

Her “tootaloo”.

 

Did you know she had poison ivy on her wedding

& didn’t even

sweat it.

 

Yep, I need more time

with these two.

More whistles

and songs

stories and hugs

for like FOREVER.

 

Are you away from Grandparents? Are they still alive, thank G-d? What makes or made time with them so gosh-darn special? You may have a poem lurking there! List five smells or items from their home–what images come to mind that you want to forever keep, take out, and savour?