Today’s Thrift Store Haul

At yesterday’s appointment with my spine surgeon, I heard that I am definitely returning to work on Monday. Today I thought I’d prepare for this transition by visiting the best sort of outlet for retail therapy, secondhand stores. I found three shirts, a dress, a jacket, and a pair of pants for $20.65 total:

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I also stopped at a walk-in salon for a hair cut. My hair had gotten so fuzzy and unruly that I was at risk of becoming my own bushy-haired stranger.

Hellebores in Bloom

I relish the early spring bloom of Hellebores, a.k.a the Lenten rose. This year I nearly missed it and was pleased to spot it in bloom in the garden next to the local library:

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Every spring I’m wary of missing Hellebores in bloom, and I’m not sure why I haven’t planted it my own yard. Buying one and adding it to my garden could solve this longing as reliably as powdered sugar and butter can be whipped into frosting.

Another early spring bloom I adore and is not yet a part of my garden is Virginia bluebell:

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Next week my convalescence will progress to physical therapy that is more structured than the simple walking program I’ve been following since my surgery. I hope that this upcoming therapy helps to resolve a disappointing development from last week. For whatever reason, some of my sciatic pains have returned. While these sensations are not as widespread as those from before my surgery, I had hoped that they would not return at all, especially since they’d been absent from the moment I woke up from my surgery.

My surgeon offered me a revelation that stunned me and reminded me of how deeply the human mind can engage in denial of reality. When he visited my hospital room the day after my surgery, I asked him to estimate how long my back problem had existed prior to the surgery, based on what he’d literally seen with his own eyes. He told me that my rupture and other signs of degeneration had begun 10-15 years ago!

Who knows why I assigned so many symptoms to anything but my back during those years. I get legs cramps at night because I don’t drink enough water. My legs will stop hurting if I lose weight. Now that I’ve lost weight, I just need to find the right piece of exercise equipment that doesn’t make my knee or butt feel numb. It hurts to stand in place because the human body was meant to stay in motion. I am not the only woman who gets sciatica during PMS.

Oh well. At least my incision has healed enough that I can return to the animal shelter and take comfort in the company of cats. Before my surgery, I was fond of visiting Morgan, who was wont to ride on my shoulders while anchoring her claws firmly into my coat. At that time, she looked scrawny, with fur that seemed a bit oily. I even had a dream that she was wanted by the authorities in New York City because she had ridden on the bare shoulders of a musclebound tourist and left him with scars down his arms that reminded me of the slash work in Elizabethan clothing.

When I visited Morgan this week, I was so pleased to see that she’d gained so much vigor that she looked transformed, at the peak of health with a fluffy coat:

I’m fixing a hole where the rain comes in and stops my mind from wandering where it will go . . .

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At any place and time on the x,y,z coordinates of my life, I have made disorganized piles of mail, books, receipts, and the like. Five years ago, there was a week when I had winnowed down my indoor junk pile to nothing, yet I was not bereft of one entirely since there was a box in my car trunk in which had been placed wholesale a stack from my previous residence. I didn’t have the heart to open the box and see this portrait of who I’d been when I filled the box in my trunk, so I rode around with it rattling about in my trunk for a few years until I got married and threw it out, unopened.

My junk piles embarrassed me until I started excusing them with a quote from “Fixing a Hole” by the Beatles (as I did in the title to this post). Whatever is in the pile, it patches that hole in my mind which prevents persistent daydreaming. Stated otherwise, seeing the junk reminds me of reality and keeps me from descending into a permanent Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty state.

Today has been one of those days that remind me that for all of the lofty goals we are persuaded to pursue while growing up, adult life is mostly filled with banal tasks, like work that can done on autopilot due to repetition or shopping for things that will ultimately be consumed and discarded in one way or another:

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After I loaded the latest round of consumables into my car, I turned on the radio and heard “Ya Mo Be There” by Michael McDonald. I then imagined my mother hearing that same milquetoast song as she drove away from the same store thirty years ago, her trunk loaded down with the same stuff just with older logos affixed to them. She wouldn’t have the let song play more than 45 seconds, her index finger expertly pushing the button to another radio station while holding a lit Salem cigarette. She’d be doing this simultaneous to shouting “35!” to whoever was driving below the speed limit in front of her.

I have this memory from about 27 years ago in which my mom and my older sister were have a fiery argument over something that none of us can remember now. Maybe it was over a forgettable suitor or an empty 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor that emerged despite all efforts to hide it. In my memory, my sister throws open the front door, bounds down the steps, and then I hear tires squeal as she speeds away. I next go to my bedroom, not ready to hear my mother aghast at my sister’s sudden departure. Instead of complaints, I hear the quick snap of mom slinging her purse over her shoulder, the click of her cigarette lighter, that same door slamming open, and lastly the sound of a different set of tires squealing as my mother speeds away.

When I’ve asked them about this fiasco in later years, I do not hear details about how this chase figured into their battle or its resolution. The air grows heavy and silent, and I remind them once more of something that happened a year before that chase, when my sister ran into the house breathless to tell me that she and mom had witnessed a roll-over accident whose tempo perfectly matched “She’s Only Seventeen” by Warrant (which was playing on the radio as they saw the accident). This happened the very first time Mom let my sister do the driving to the grocery store.

While there is an excess of banality as the years stretch onward, there is also conflict and union with those we love to season those times as well. As my mother before me, I’ve had my fair share of mother-daughter sagas, too. Since neither I nor my daughter is inclined to move faster than is necessary, I doubt there is a road race in our future, but there was an incident that happened when she was 11 years old that was tense in its own right.

When my daughter was born, I thought that my passage into motherhood would be the grand demarcation between a scandalous, well-spiced past and a practical future, sort of a half-baked version of “Tell Me a Riddle” by Tillie Olsen. Like the ex-dissident smoothed into domesticity in that tale, I awaited the moments when I’d sardonically consider,”command performance; we command you to be the audience.”

As smugness leads to error as often as pride goes before a fall, I learned that I was wrong about how motherhood would change me, and this was never so clear as during the incident that happened when my daughter was 11. I noticed she’d become sneaky about using the laptop she’d gotten a couple months before, so I considered that I was overdue in exercising my parental discretion over her online activities. Once I’d opened her laptop, I didn’t take long to discover that she’d been chatting with a Chilean man!

These chat transcripts were full of venting about me. She cast me an off-label-prescribed Anne Boleyn too eager to please my then-boyfriend (who, by the way, is now her stepfather). While her writing showed love for me, it also revealed that she likely has fewer illusions about me than I do about myself. Before she even started her teenage years, she saw me as I was.

I confronted her gently about what I’d read, telling her that it made me realize that she was both precocious and a bit too young to have free reign of a computer (the last part mainly because she had been talking to a man whose intentions were likely dubious at best). I took away the laptop and packed it back in its shipping box.

Almost five years later, it sits at the bottom of a junk pile in my bedroom closet. From time to time, my husband asks me if want to get it rid of it, and I tell him that I’m not ready yet because it helps me fix that hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering where it will go.