Flowers for the Soul

At dawn I snuck out of the house. At eighteen I was sneaking in with the light. How life has changed!

Grocery shopping is fun with kids. Especially when you drive into town and find that someone forgot shoes. My daughter, the young Imelda Marcos, has more shoes (and better) than I have owned in my entire life and yet she can’t remember to wear them. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many times she’s left her shoes at other people’s houses and come home barefoot. Then again, maybe you would. She’s probably left a pair at your house. The pixie seems determined to follow in her sootsteps, literally. Luckily, they also leave shoes in the car constantly so if we dig under the seats two or three shoes usually turn up. They’re bound to fit someone.

Before anyone can leave the car we review the rules. There’s an oath to be sworn.

“How do we behave in public?”

“Like human beings.”

“And what are we NOT going to do?”

“Scream.” “Cry.”

“And?”

“BEg.”

“Excellent. What else?”

“Fall on the floor and act like idiots.”

“Exactly. Will there be running?”

“No.”

“Will we act like pirates, punks, mangy mutts, aliens, swarms of killer bees -”

“No! It’s hot out here.”

“I know what little lawyers some of you are. I want to be sure to cover everything.”

“We’ll be good! Can we go in now?”

“You have to promise.”

And, after all that, they are good. Most of the time. When they’re not we leave. Immediately. No threats, no discussion. It’s over. I’m tough.

I hate being tough. So much easier to go while they’re sleeping. Quiet. The car radio still doesn’t work but – surprisingly – my mind does. As I pulled into a parking spot I found myself admiring the sunrise over a big boring box of architectural disgrace and wondering at things larger than myself. I grabbed a cart and looked down at my list. The realization hit me full force. I don’t want any of these things. Eggs? Sugar? Flour? Who cares? Who. Cares. This wasn’t a list of my needs. It looked like a list written in another language to me right then. I didn’t write it. Someone else must have. Had I written it, it might have said:

  • time
  • freedom
  • a studio
  • plane tickets
  • chai (latte)
  • intimacy
  • understanding

Not all this domestic nonsense. Someone bumped me with their cart, interrupting my thoughts. Just as well. The first thing I saw in the store though were flowers and I was reminded of my pal Sheila’s wonderful poem. Sheila’s poem had reminded me of this old friend of mine:

If thou of fortune be bereft,

And in thy store there be but left,

Two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,

Buy Hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Moslih Eddin Saadi

I will have flowers. Whether I can afford them or not and even if no one ever sees them but me. I will.

They were the gaudiest flowers I’d ever seen. Day-glo colored roses. I wavered. There were gladiolas in slightly softer colors. Not quite as hideous as the others, but my mother always hated glads. She said they reminded her of my sister’s funeral and so I came to hate them too. You know what though? I have no memories of my sister’s funeral. Diana died thirty-four years ago today. Why not celebrate her? I put the yellow gladiolas in the cart without ever looking at the price tag. Then I went in search of eggs.

Another really swell thing about shopping for groceries at six in the morning? No one else is shopping then. I had the store, with its newly stocked shelves, all to myself. I had the cashier, with her disdain for canvas bags, all to myself. Here’s a special note to all you checkers and baggers in groceries across America: It’s not that hard and you’re getting paid to do it. Roll your eyes at the wrong tired mother trying to leave a little space in the landfill for her children’s children and you’re liable to get a fat lip. I didn’t have any kids hanging off me at the moment though so I just laughed as she struggled with my floppy bags. I had bright yellow flowers in my cart. What did I care what she thought?

My girls came downstairs as I was fitting the flowers in a vase. “Are those flowers for you, Mom?” my pixie asked. Yes. They are.

Ghosts Appear and Fade Away

Sometimes I sleep. Okay, it’s three in the morning right now but sometimes I sleep. I’m not a complete insomniac.

Who am I kidding? Yes I am. I have slept like the rest of the world at times. You know, the full eight hours in the dark. But since I can’t remember a night like that in two years I may as well give up. I am an insomniac. Incapable of proper night-time activities. Namely sleep.

I used to make excuses. I took great offense to being called an insomniac. The word has an ugly ring to it. People take medicine to cure it. I was NOT an insomniac. I was simply living in the wrong time zone. ( In Cork children are going off to school right now and tourists are getting ready to kiss the Blarney Stone. I have no idea why, but they are.) I’ve also claimed to be an unrecognized genius since loads of famous geniuses are rumored to have slept little. No real evidence to support either the rumors or my possession of a superior intellect (it’s okay – you can laugh now) so I had to stop telling that one. My favorite reason for not sleeping was that I was exploring polyphasic sleep. Till I read this: An example of polyphasic sleep is found in patients with Irregular Sleep-Wake Pattern, which may be caused by dementia.

Well. That’s not very nice. I DO NOT have an irregular sleep-wake pattern. In fact, I have a fairly regular sleep-wake pattern. I sleep four hours. Last night I went to bed at ten and woke at two. Very predictable. Very regular. Very not demented. People worry themselves over my lack of sleep anyway. I rarely admit to being tired during the day. Invariably someone will suggest I go to bed at night. As if that would help. I get advice on teas to drink, pills to take, livestock to count. Take a relaxing bath. Drink warm wine. Lie on your stomach. I get emails in the middle of the night saying “Go back to bed!”

They are missing the point. I’m not tired.

Here’s what I tell people now. “So my circadian rhythm doesn’t look like yours. Get over it.” No one likes to look prejudiced. Or have to ask what a circadian rhythm is.

Anyway. (It’s early. Imagine a clever segue here.) I got the sweetest sleep deprived message ever to grace my inbox on Sunday. An apology for having sent me a song about myself. And it is about me. I’m convinced. It’s an old song – 1983! But I wasn’t sleeping much in 1983 either. I remember thinking “How did they know? How could anyone know so much about me? We must be kindred spirits. This song is so obviously about me. This must mean something. I have to meet this Australian man with such beautiful words to describe my angst, my self… I’ll write to him!” And so I did. And so did thousands upon thousands of other girls, insomniacs or not, I am sure. Girls are silly that way. He never wrote back.

I still love the song. I should have just posted the lyrics the other day instead of my long, rambling nonsense about thinking too much. It captures the thoughts of the thirteen year old me roaming through silent, shadowy rooms as well as the thirty-seven year old me sitting here pecking away at keys in the dark. Thank you, Kim.