Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boots and Gloves and Winter Things

I sit on the top step each morning and pull on boots.

Each morning for the past five weeks, I sit looking into the chilly stairwell that leads down to my front door. I tug the laces of the first boot. When I have tied the laces, I place along the baseboard of the landing the slipper I just removed. Taking off the other slipper, I store it next to its partner. I pull up my sock to make it easier to work my foot into the second boot. I tug at those laces and tie them securely.

I am ready to grip a nearby door jamb and stand on the top step where I have just been sitting.

I am not yet ready to gather up the satchel where I keep a pair of dress shoes for my work day. First I need to open the coat closet in the hallway and find my blazer among the other jackets. Then I curve my fingers to hold the sleeve ends of the sport coat as I slide my arms into the thickness of a down parka.

Are my gloves in that satchel with the dress shoes? Most likely. No need to put them on yet because I will need to dig out my apartment keys from the pockets of my topcoat when I get downstairs and out the front door.

On the bottom landing I step around the rubber pails positioned to catch drips from an ice dam above that stairwell. Some mornings I know to pick up a long-handled snow brush to clean the roof of my car. Some mornings I scoop a mug of ice melt to help make the walk to my car a safer one. A scraper is waiting for me on the backseat of my car in case a dusting of snow is hiding a coating of ice on the windshield.

When I get home from work ten hours later, I will need to reverse a lot of the steps I just outlined. I will likely have inched my car between two others in the parking lot, listening to the crunch of ice beneath my tires. I will have looked up at the windows of my second-floor apartment, some of them curtained with icicles.

When the evening begins and the kitchen is steamy with prep for dinner, I will not be wondering what I wonder at other times these past five weeks: Why have I written so little? Why have I read less than usual, making paltry progress in library books that have already been renewed once? Why am I getting to bed well before ten o’clock some weekday evenings?

Mornings come early in an historic winter in historic New England.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mardi Gras

My brother in New Orleans is moving through the rituals that will carry him to Mardi Gras in four days.

A man in his late sixties, he does not choose to leave such rituals to the younger residents and visitors who each night watch parades roll through the Crescent City. Experience is something that gently guides my brother and his friends through this marathon. On tables in their homes, they have framed photographs of sunny smiles that they wore when they used to mask in troops twenty, thirty, forty years ago.

There is no outrage or scandal that they would hesitate to hint at if someone asked about the people in those photographs.

It is like yesterday to some of them who recall the balls and parties into which they ventured themselves as younger residents and tourists. Long before Stonewall, a hierarchy of New Orleans personalities prescribed the rules by which anyone younger or prettier laid claim to a thrilling sense of belonging and acceptance.

Neither my mother nor my father was a natural at this time of year in New Orleans. My mother sewed costumes for my brothers and me. My father found one of the safer parking spaces blocks from the parade route. Neither my mother nor my father, though, knew about the kind of world into which Mardi Gras could seem an entrance.

Neither would be the mentor that my brother and the other people in those framed photographs sought. Sought and, in circumstances worth a round of drinks to hear, found.