I’m delighted to announce the next title in my series of collected stories written on the MTA!
I write about New York – and everywhere else!
Wake me with stillness in the morning.
Start the coffee, let the water run cold.
No need to measure out the beans into the grinder,
the water to the pot.
It’s a day to be reckless, starting softly.
I will pay attention to the measure later,
But not now.
The sun lights up the fire escape copper and slips across the Concourse, splashing up against the Courthouse gold, the wave smacking the sides of the elevated train silver snaking across my horizon.
For just a few minutes, I’ll drink the coffee,
As if nothing amazing were going on outside.
N.B. The original deadline has passed, but I will be glad to read submissions through February 20. Thank you to everyone who has expressed interest in this project!
I am pulling together pieces written after the death of a parent. My focus is not the grief, the sense of loss, the terrible sadness, but rather the simpler things – my dad carved the turkey on Thanksgiving, my mom was the only one in the family who did that thing, my parents always had the whole family over on July 4, everyone relied on my dad/mom to help with something.
When your mom or dad dies, everything stops, everything changes. It’s that “day after” that I want to explore.
I am interested in how adults fit into the roles vacated by their parents. What changed, how did it impact your life, how did you feel suddenly not to have mom or dad with you to work things out? Talk about your new role in an old family. And it can be something so simple as having to clean out your mom or dad’s things and finding something about them you never knew or that helped you understand the kind of person they were.
If you lost your parent/s early on, I’d like to hear about how you fashioned your own role as an adult or as a parent, without having them with you.
This is about the intricate and universal workings of family – regrets, learning, problem solving, daily life, and most definitely, love. I want to read about what you learned about your parents and yourself by suffering this loss – but not necessarily in a strict narrative.
Ultimately, I am looking for something beautiful.
Initially, I will be reading all the submissions, looking for how closely they come to the above guidelines, and how unique and memorable the voice. I may enlist another reader but it would not be from among the selected writers.
I will be selecting only 18 or so writers.
No images of any sort will be used other than a simple cover image.
Please present your best work. Non-fiction, short fiction, poetry, drama – all welcome. One selection per writer please – if more than one piece is submitted, I’ll read just the first one.
Length – roughly 1000-1500 words, but both shorter and longer submissions will be considered.
Please use LATE ORPHAN PROJECT and the name of your genre in the subject line of your email. No snail mail submissions. And do not attach documents – no attachments will be opened. Each piece should appear in the body of the email.
Use TITLE by AUTHOR NAME but no other complicated formatting, followed by a 6-sentence author’s bio, and the full name, birth and death dates of your mother and/or father, and the city where they were born.
January 15, 2016
I envision a collaborative project to present the best writing I can find on this difficult but illuminating topic. Thank you for entrusting your work to me. I am very sorry for your loss.
There’s a ritual to making a bed.
The headboard tall aginst the wall,
A pattern of walking around: from left side to foot to right side to foot to left side and back.
Smoothing out the sheets,
Tugging up the blankets,
Placing the chenille bedspread just so, the pillows can be hid.
It’s as if the whole exercise were to confound the viewer to think nobody’d slept there;
That this was never a place of vulnerability, of fragile dreams, of terrible fears,
Nobody’d lay awake, turning and pulling
Against the too tight tucked in linens.
Walking around, side following side,
Left, foot, right, foot, left, foot, right,
Footfalls in place,
Creating a dry moat in pattern around a preserved and austere,
But empty castle keep.
Come in to find shelter,
Come in to take rest,
You are the first,
No one of your kind before.
And at daybreak, leave no trace you’d ever been here.
Make the bed.
Thank you to my colleague, Loren Rhoads! Happy Halloween to all – and a restorative All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
I thought I had Kondo-ized my apartment last spring when I wrote about the 40 Bags Challenge and my take on how Marie Kondo’s mantras applied to me. I embraced letting go, I recycled like a crazy person, I made a bazillion trips to the Goodwill Store, the clothing giveaway box in the building’s laundry room, and NY Public Library – all in a deliberate attempt to unclutter my living space. And then, I thought I was done.
But lo, I had only scratched the surface. I really don’t have anything near what I could honestly call clutter, but oh my, do I still have stuff. It is weighing me down when I need to fly. It surrounds me and makes me crave the inertia I feel when I sit on my very comfy couch, watching reruns of Law and Order. I take off my shoes, my feet become one with the rug on the floor, and I look around to find many, many familiar things – even after letting go of around 65 bags of stuff during Lent.
It’s all about the inertia that I am causing. I rest, I am calm, I am safe, I have no burning reason to get up, get dressed, and get out of my living room. I’m cushioned by stuff – still. When I come home, my stuff flows and pools around me like those empty plastic balls the kids jump into when you go to playrooms.
Specifically, I have an embarrassment of dishes. I have four separate sets of dishes, if you don’t count my mother’s china which is stored in Michigan. The set I use every day is made of cheap plastic. Some dishes are souvenirs from McDonald’s, some were on sale after Halloween a few years ago, and three pieces came from one time I thought if I was going to eat my lunch at my desk at work, I should have dishes. Dumbest idea ever – why would I want to wash dishes at work when I could order takeout and eat out of the containers?
The next set is comprised of the remnants of six clear glass plates I bought when we first moved to Washington Heights almost 20 years ago. I have three left – they mean a lot to me. And they are still really popular alternatives to the everyday plastic.
Then, I have the set of six place settings and a serving platter with a New York skyline border from 2001. I bought them right after the attack on the World Trade Center to commemorate the Twin Towers’ place on the skyline. I have mugs that match and the bowls are really heavy, but perfect for big servings of pasta.
And finally, I have lovely china from my kids’ great grandmother. When they sold her house, the china traveled across the street to the new house, where it sat mostly unused until the new house was sold decades later and it all came to me. The china has moved twice since then and I have lost a number of plates and a few teacups – which under normal china conditions would be a deal breaker. But this massive collection was once 14 complete place settings with service plates and extra teacups. I still have 21 teacups, 14 lunch plates, 14 bread and butter plates, but only 9 dinner plates. I’ve used it all twice in nearly 20 years.
So, I can’t tell exactly what makes me want to keep things I never use. I agree that variety is key to living a rich life, but I have so much that I never use and now, it’s got to go. I have sold my home and I am replacing a very spacious two-bedroom apartment with a minuscule, pied a terre studio. If I don’t use it, I don’t take it with me.
Channeling my new-found Kondo organizing skills, I have been taking things into my hands, giving them a little kiss goodbye, thanking them for their service, and then letting them all go. Clothes, linens, coats, papers, magazines – all thanked, all gone. I have cleared out two whole kitchen cupboards already and two shelves in each of two more cupboards. Drawers will be easy because I already have Baggie-ized my office supplies with pens in one Baggie, paper clips in another. and my clothes are now 7 bags fewer than I had a month ago.
I am still downsizing, tossing, giving away, throwing away, and I have learned some key things:
I went shopping for a new couch today – I’m not ready yet to buy a new couch, but it’s coming up. Now I have a massive sectional sleeper sofa that could fit in the new place but I would have to sacrifice a lot to make it work. The saleswoman was pretty insistent and a little grumpy and confused at my questions. She’s probably working in a job that isn’t satisfying, And she probably has too much furniture, all bought at an employee discount under some obligation to the store.
I am moving on. I know I will be very happy knowing that I am keeping what I use and giving away what I don’t use. I can honestly say I no longer need to see collections of objects in order to be happy and feel safe at home. I can remember the nightshirt, the dishes, the books – I do not need to keep them stored around me.
Marie Kondo says that if something is so desperately important to you that you cannot let it go, then why keep it in a box in a cupboard or closet. Bring it out, enjoy it. I’m ready to do that.
Long crazy day
busy hectic stupid kind of day
where you just need a time out.
I found an empty church on the east side,
and watched the sacristan clean up the votive candles,
cleaning out the spent ones,
sweeping a bit.