Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sunshine through the window

I didn't see the dawn this morning, too many dark grey clouds menacing the horizon. As I sit here on the bed and write the room is suddenly filled with light. The sun shines through the windows and glances off diamond bright raindrops on the leaves sending rainbow prisms like jeweled shards in all directions. I'm cold but my fingers are warm from the heat rising off the laptop base. So are my legs where the case rests on them. After so many days of mist shrouded horizons and claustrophobic gray cloud cover, the sun is a welcome sight.

A whisper of wind tickles the leaves on the trees, shaking the raindrops in all directions. A car whooshes by in the street sending the rain in fountains up and over the curbs. The water will be gone soon and so will the sounds of another light spring rain, the ground and streets, roofs and trees drying in the sun, feeding the thick puffy cottonball clouds drifting lazily past to empty themselves on another part of the world.

Today is a day of work and chores, catching up on writing and cleaning the kitchen -- my least favorite task. I wish I could find some way to cook and bake without having to clean the kitchen afterwards. Disposable plates only work to keep the dishwashing down, but I am concerned about how much waste is generated. I have at times eaten right out of the pots and pans, but the pots and pans must still be washed. The counters still have to be cleaned up, the floor swept and mopped, the dust bunnies trapped and exiled, windows cleaned, utensils put away, inside of the microwave wiped out, the garbage sacked and taken to the alley, and on and on and on...

When alchemists were busy turning lead into gold they should instead have been focused on finding a way to create a beautiful meal with their minds, set it on a lovely set table, the remains dispersed and the kitchen left sparkling. Of course, making, serving and clearing a meal by using the mind means you wouldn't really have to have a kitchen, but it helps to have a place to keep the refrigerator to store the food. Somehow I don't think a refrigerator will ever become a must have item for the living room or the bedroom, although it might be more convenient getting food during a movie or in the middle of the night without barking your shins on every surface between the bed and the kitchen. Still, with the power to materialize and dematerialize food and serving dishes you wouldn't need to buy or store food, thus rendering obsolete the need for a kitchen.

I received an email from another one of my cousins the other day. Reading her words made me remember a time when our families were so close. We spent holidays and summers together, shared countless family meals, tragedies and triumphs and visited back and forth so often they seemed more like sisters and brother than cousins. We shared so many adventures and experiences and they all came rushing back to me as I read her email. Like the time Ellen's dad, Uncle Bob, yelled at me for putting a plastic jewel in her navel one summer when we were putting together our annual beauty pageant. I made her an "I Dream of Jeannie" costume from a frothy yellow tea dress my mother found at Goodwill, complete with gathered hem at the ankles and a sort of tiara of cardboard covered with cloth and sequins to go around her beautiful long golden ponytail. The jewel was part of the outfit but my uncle just didn't get it. That year Ellen represented Iraq and to me Iraq was the land of genies and magic and jeweled navels, so much different than the Iraq that comes to mind today where soldiers huddle in grave-sized trenches in the sand under a sky of brass and glare ever mindful of the stutter of gun fire or the arcing laser flare of tracer fire or missiles that light up the night sky, a place where your enemy could be a child or a woman huddled over her bundled child only to pull out a gun or set off a belt of plastic explosives beneath her voluminous robes, a place where death is a bloody-eyed, dry mouthed demon nourished by destruction.

It is difficult to remember those simple times when our summers were full of planning our annual beauty pageant, scavenging glass jars and containers from the local dump to clean up and use for awards, practicing singing, dancing and baton twirling for the talent competition, or commandeering the basement and, eventually, my uncle's garage for dressing rooms and a stage. We didn't worry about Vietnam because we were focused on living and creating happy memories. The only death that brought us to tears was the dog lying by the side of the road where it fell after being hit by a car. The only blood we saw was from a paper cut or scrape when we got too rambunctious. The only heat the warming rays of a summer sun that kissed our skin with golden bronze.

It has been close to 20 years since I saw my cousins. They have had children, married and divorced, welcomed grandchildren into their lives and moved on, but once in a while we all return to the memories of those pageants when all that mattered was turning the beauty in our imaginations into lasting memories of golden summer days when my uncle yelled at me for putting a plastic jewel in Ellen's navel the year she represented Iraq in an "I Dream of Jeannie" costume made from a frothy yellow tea dress my mother bought at Goodwill.

Those days seemed as far away as my family, as far from me as Iraq is from peace, but Ellen's email brought them back to me just as the sun breaking through the clouds brought back the warmth and light I have missed these past few days.

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