nonBlog – June 2010

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I Give Up; Mark Twain Was Right—Sunday, June 27, 2010

It’s the very definition of ironic that I wrote an essay about how San Francisco fixed me at the very moment that I realize I no longer need to live here. Maybe I no longer need fixing.
 
The essay is a chapter from the book I finally figured out how to write, and the anthology is about the importance of place. (No word yet on the editor’s reaction; I’ll keep you posted.) The piece mentions my daily fear that something will go awry and I won’t get to live here anymore, but maybe I was wrong about what it was that would vault us out of the Bay Area. I thought it would be a crisis, a reversal, and we’ve certainly weathered plenty of those. But maybe what gets you to leave the unleaveable place that made you is that you’re done making—you’re baked and ready to take out of the oven to cool. Except that my thoughts are trending in the other direction—I’m tired of being cool and want to go somewhere I can take my all-done self and be warm at least some of the time.
 
It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this on a day smack in the middle of the week between my New York trip and the month we’re spending in the Eastern Sierra. It was summer last week in Manhattan and it will be summer next week in Bishop. Here in SF, except for the odd afternoon, all of which will go poof when the July fog comes to stay, it’s winter. Cold, gray, blustery. We switch to light-colored cotton clothes, but I really don’t know why—we have to wear them under wool. When I went to New York I packed sleeveless dresses, sandals, open-toe heels. Now that I’m off to Bishop I’m packing t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops. The only thing the two bags and my usual wardrobe have in common is my collection of fab lingerie, which is a measure of last resort when you realize that most of the time your body will be hidden by sweaters.
 
I don’t think I would be kvetching about the always-chilly weather if I didn’t feel the need for something else San Francisco can’t give me. When I was in New York it was for a trip Tom’s parents were giving to ten-year-old Greta, geared toward her freakish Ethel Merman-esque singing voice and love of musical theater. (They’ve done it for each of their grandkids when they reach this age.) We went to four Broadway shows in four days, and one night they threw me a bone and took us to the Yankee game. Because the trip was for Greta and because we were staying in a hotel rather than at their apartment, I was with her 24/7 and didn’t do my usual circuit of coffees and dinners with friends. It was family only, with Greta and me spending all but one of our days with Tom’s parents and the other at their beach club with my sister Sandy and her family. It made me want to live near them again. Visions of cousins danced in my head. For years I’ve been able to push those thoughts aside, but they are horning in on all my previously decisive worries about what would become of us if we left behind this fulfilling existence we have made for ourselves out West—one that looks different, sounds different, and smells different from the East Coast and the suburban demons we dodged by settling here.
 
Tom is saying something different: What if we moved to Bishop? I can’t even picture it. There are few places harder to get to or from than Bishop, and if I’m feeling compelled to go back East for family that is hardly a solution. Plus I dream of good public schools, and those are not Bishop’s—or California’s, for that matter—strong suit.
 
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this quite a bit and for quite some time before there’s a resolution, but for now I’m packing very light clothing for a month in 95-degree, zero-percent-humidity high-desert heat. And I don’t have to engage in missing Sandy or the grandparents just now because no sooner do we get back than we are heading to Massachusetts in mid-August to visit them in the warm woods. We will have a season of t-shirts, San Francisco’s coldest-winter-that-happens-to-be-summer notwithstanding. Ahhh.

 

The Legacy Continues—Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our fifteen-year-old daughter Liv received her Red Cross lifeguard certification in the mail today. She’s going to watch over the swimmers at Camp Winnarainbow, Wavy Gravy’s circus camp up in Laytonville where she’s been a camper since she was nine. My father would have been so proud.
 
Lifeguarding is a Losee thing. My dad’s generation of Losee Lifeguards was rather more impressive than mine: they were ocean lifeguards at Atlantic beaches; they saved swimmers from being dragged by rip tides into car-sized rocks that would have torn them limb from limb. I, by contrast, was an itty pool lifeguard at Usdan, an arts camp on Long Island. Nobody even coughed the summer I was there.
 
The only thing I ever saved was Tom’s wedding ring. We were sailing in the Mediterranean off the coast of Simi in Greece when it slid off his finger while he swam off the boat. It was especially distressing to him because he never took off his ring, ever, not even when people asked to see it. It was windy and the boat was swinging on a wide axis around the anchor—we dove and hunted all over, but we couldn’t find it.
 
It occurred to me that if I performed a Dead Man Search like they taught me at the Lloyd Neck Bath Club, I might find the ring. Everybody on the boat said Give it up Steph, it’s probably buried in sand by now. But the Losee Lifeguard Legacy was at stake. I started surface-diving in overlapping circles, starting at the farthest point of the boat’s arc. After half an hour, nothing. I looked at my own yellow gold band. Maybe Tom’s ring didn’t look the same underwater as I expected it to? I dove again and pulled off my ring, dropping it on the bottom. (Yes, I realized I was courting disaster.) It looked large, silver, and distorted, like one of those pull-tops from an old can of Coke. Now at least I knew what I was looking for. At the 45-minute point I saw something big, silver, and squarish on the bottom—nothing I would have grabbed for if I hadn’t tried my little experiment. It was Tom’s ring.
 
I hope Liv doesn’t have to save anything more animate than a piece of jewelry, but even if her lifeguard career proves as uneventful as mine, it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. She grew an inch when her card came in the mail; she had it laminated in plastic within five minutes. The same week she passed her test, she got her braces off; I’ve included the evidence here. Everyone says she looks just like me, but what I find so striking is that even though I can see Tom’s contributions in her features, she also looks so much like a Losee—like my father’s granddaughter. I hope he can see for himself.

 

The Little Red Schoolhouse and Me—Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Prepare yourself for a shock: as of today, I am no longer the mother of a preschooler.
 
I’m always the mother of a preschooler. Since I was eleven, or so it seems, I’ve been the mother of a preschooler. Tom and I rank as the Parker School couple with the longest run in the school’s 50-year history: twelve years. There are families with five kids who haven’t had kids there as long as we have. We are the stuff of Parker School legend.
 
People keep asking me how sad I must be. “Your last child is leaving Parker,” they say. “How sad you must be.” The first three times I tried to feign gloom, but I just couldn’t keep it up. What I am is happy. Also, ready. Everybody else’s life moves forward but mine, at least until now. You try to find another family with three girls ages 5 to 15 to go snowboarding in Tahoe with. You can’t. I couldn’t either. I am a vacation pariah. It’s good there are so many of us in this house to keep each other company.
 
I believe Parker will not be sad to see me go. Not only am I its longest-lasting mother, I am also without question its lowest-performing. I have had the fewest jobs of any parent at Parker School: none. I never chaired the Halloween Faire or the annual auction or served as room parent or member of the board. Tom, by great contrast, was President for two years and Vice President for a couple of years before that and is now Secretary and will probably close the place down in about 2050 as Janitor Emeritus. All that time I was being run ragged by the San Francisco Opera, which is truly as much nonprofit activity as any working parent can handle. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
 
So after a dozen years and roughly as many daughters we’re leaving 150 Parker Avenue School and I didn’t remotely do the right thing by it. Yet somehow, every year, Parker School did the right thing by me. I was in love with Parker from our first day to our last. I loved Parker so much I didn’t even care if Parker loved me back. And I never will.

 


New, or Practically New

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  • Fame and Fortune: Currently working on, and shocked to find I’m making headway with, the latter. Partly because of a bit of movement on the former. Perhaps endurance is the key to everything after all.