Thursday, June 24, 2010

My galactic hair

George Malcolm: half white, half black, with messy tousled hair, rumpled and tugged between kind of curly and extremely curly. Once, a year or so before, he'd been at our house and he'd pulled out a lock of his hair and used it to teach me about eddies and helixes. It's a circular current into a central station, he'd explained, giving me one to hold. I pulled on the spring. Nature is full of the same shapes, he said, taking me to the bathroom sink and spinning on the tap and pointing out the way the water swirled down the drain. Taking me to the bookshelf and flipping open a book on weather and showing me a cyclone, then a spiral galaxy. Pulling me back to the bathroom sink, to my glass jar of collected seashells, and pointing out the same curl in a minature conch. See? he said, holding the seashell up to his hair. Yes! I clapped. His eyes were warm with teaching pleasure. It's galactic hair, he said, smiling.

From The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
By Aimee Bender

Photo: Wikipedia

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The fan and the snob

My brother Pedro was the first to show interest in futbol. He is 8 years younger than me, so for a long while I was a part of what is likely the only family not at all interested in a sport that is a passion in Mexico. 

Then, I met my husband Luca. Very early on he explained he was from Milan, and that Milan had two teams: Inter, and AC Milan. He was a fan of Inter. He showed me the logo. He narrated a brief history of how both teams were constituted. I nodded.

Inspired, I told him it might be fun for me to be a fan of AC Milan, figuring it could make for a more interesting family dynamic. He looked at me silently for a while, with one of the most solemn expressions he has ever mustered. “If you did that” he finally replied “you’d be going against three generations of Penati tradition.”

“Forza Inter”, I said.

Once that had been established, I dedicated considerable effort to finding this sport interesting. I have failed over and over again.

Imagine, I tell Luca, the degree of evolution required to take a piece of wood, transform it into a violin and have that somehow become a Bach concerto. Or contemplate the imagination implicit in going from a coffee bean on a tree, to harvesting, toasting, grinding, adding boiling water, straining, and arriving at the heady, sensual drink we all know and love. I mean, who conceives these things?

So all things considered, I explain, having 11 sweaty men follow a ball, kick it around, and sometimes head bump it is kind of.... well, Neanderthal –ish.

Far from seeing it my way, Luca hurls the only insult he’s ever directed at me. “Dushka. You are such a snob”. 

Since then, my only brief but promising flicker of interest in the game happened at the Milan airport, where running down a staircase I caught out of the corner of my eye the Dolce Gabbana ad where players were photographed in their underwear. Who knew soccer required such stringent physical conditioning.

On Saturday, May 22, 2010 Inter played against Bayern Munich in Madrid. The winner would win the Champions League, the most prestigious trophy for clubs. We all got together at Luca’s parents’ house in Milan. I stared at the screen, determined to show an ability to follow this obsession that consumes the man I love. I fixed my eyes on the ball. Players ran to the left. Players ran to the right. Players ran to the left. I fell asleep.

During my nap, I jumped up twice to screeching screams of GOOOOOOOL! My husband went to the Duomo to celebrate Inter’s victory (along with 100,000 other people), the first such event in 45 years.

The next day, he bought Inter t-shirts, flags, socks, sweatshirts and a scarf. I encouraged the shopping spree, looking on adoringly.

Alas. The bottom line is that soccer is the place where I will always in the sidelines. Or, will I?

Luca watches games from the sofa in our living room. I tell him I will go into the kitchen to prepare something for him to snack on while he inhabits this mysterious, far away place.

“No, bring a book and come sit by me” he says. “You bring me luck”.

Photo: Luca's grandmother. Photo taken on her 100th birthday, the day Inter won the Champion's League.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A long life

I’ve always associated longevity with good fortune. It’s what I wish on those I love and the reason I do my best to live a healthy life (OK. Besides vanity.)

My husband’s grandmother turned 100 years old this week. And I can tell you, she’s had it. She has seen all her friends (and their children) and most of her family (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins) die. She is a widow who misses her husband terribly, and who lately curses him for leaving her here alone.

Her age has become a sentence. She lives in a world she no longer understands, one that has left her behind. Everyone she loves has built a life that (she feels) only includes her out of a sense of duty.

She is a woman of great dignity, slender and silent, who would rather eat alone than “invade” her son’s life (and she did indeed eat lunch alone at her dinner table, day after day, despite her son begging her to come upstairs, for almost 20 years.)

She was completely independent up until recently. She lived alone until she was 98, going to the store and cooking for herself until she showed signs of short term memory loss that led her son and daughter in law to fear she might wander off or leave the stove on.

She now lives in a home where she is the oldest. She is the only one who still takes the two flights of stairs that lead to her room and who refuses to go to the doctor. She shuns all forms of medication, even vitamins. She drinks no water, only a glass of red wine with meals. Of all her traits, my favorite is her lack of interest in being tactful. A few years back, her grandson told her she looked beautiful. His tone, although completely void of cruelty, was flip. The immediacy of her razor sharp response (along the lines of “go to hell”) left him reeling.

I love life. Sounding negative about having more of it feels counterintuitive and not very gracious. But I wonder how much of what I now consider crucial to my well being I would still have 60 years from now. I wonder if I wouldn’t be feeling more of an ever-present sense of loss than any feeling of gratitude or triumph.