Three Dozen Ways To Stay Sane in Chaotic Times

Mom still building sand castles at 70

Well, here in Suzanne Blog Land we ra ra ra about my grandmother, who I must admit is an absolute celebrity, but really the best most important most amazing and incredible thing  my grandma ever did was to give birth to my mother, who, in grandma world, is still two years from being born, but I want to talk about her anyway.

My mother went on a cruise to Bermuda last week. She’d never been on a cruise before, and she’d never been to Bermuda and the whole thing made me feel like I was sending my five year off to her first day of Kindergarten. I kept hoping she’d packed her Dramamine and a first aid kit and wished they weren’t about to put that bell thing on the oil spill that can make it explode, right when my mother happens to be floating around in the Atlantic ocean.  In theory it’s nice when my mother travels, but really I don’t even like her to go down the road for a gallon of milk, I’d rather she just had her milk delivered at home.

Mom with her granddaughter, Lexi

The day my mother left for Bermuda, I picked up the phone thinking, I have to tell mom about blobberdeeblink, but I didn’t know how to call Bermuda, and it gave me a sort of empty, no-floor feeling.   She’s the only one who cares about every little thing in my life, or at least she’s movie star good at pretending to care, and the thought occurred to me that one day I might have a spot of news I just had to tell her, and she wouldn’t be available to hear it anymore, ever.

My mother is a little bitty woman, you could just pick up and carry around , but she’d much prefer to walk.  As a school social worker, she spent most of her life talking kids out of killing themselves, hearing confessions about attempted murders on highway bridges and learning about dads sleeping with their stepkids. It made me feel like I might poison myself, how sad it was, but my mother believes a child needs one sane adult who cares about him, and he can learn to fly straight, and she intended to hold that space.  My mother baked bread, cut the hedge, tended the woodstove, figured out the sump pump, called the plumber and took us shopping for school clothes all in one day.  She managed to save us from pregnancy and drugs by reading our journals and listening in on our phone calls, and she always woke up at three a.m. when we had something crucial to talk about.  She (along with dear old dad) always paid for our education and our travel and took us to church.

Life can blindside you with all sorts of things, a bad break-up, a career blunder, a mean-spirited criminal who snatches your wallet  in the middle of Bombay, but this blindsiding isn’t as bad if you have a good mother behind the scenes, cheering you on and giving you bits of wisdom that are more valuable than diamond mines.   My mother happens to be the healthiest, person I know, she’s always in her yard planting garlic for the first time or cleaning the leaves out of her roof drain in her church clothes, so there’s no reason to believe I have to immortalize this wisdom now, but why not?  As soon as I start writing down the wisdom of Kasha Duffield Kingsbury, the floodgates will open, and I will find one million and five more pieces of wisdom to write about, but for now these will do.

Mom, the armchair sage

More than three dozen things my mother taught me:

If you can, go for a walk every day, no matter the weather; Said walk should involve some kind of prayer; Prayer is always about gratitude; Find something constructive to do; Decide what the center theme of your life is, and build your world around it; Don’t sacrifice your values to serve your loneliness; No matter what age, a teddy bear is curative; A penny saved is not only lucky but smart; Work even if you don’t have to, it builds confidence  and capability;  Often the least expensive, least complicated option is the best one; Borrowing and loaning should be kept to a minimum; Learn the lost art of listening; Always do your own dishes and make your own bed; Attend funerals and weddings whenever possible; Silence is often your best, most resourceful ally; Your thoughts are an eight track tape, learn how to turn the tape off; The lines of a woman’s face tell her story, to erase those lines is to erase her story; Take risks, do things that scare you, and listen to your intuition; Don’t talk about how much money you have; If you’re sad, call a friend or put on a pretty piece of music; Looking forward to something is just as much fun as the event itself; Money can’t buy you happiness; Freedom is knowing you can pay for yourself; A complaint must be accompanied by a plan of action or it is just noise;  Try not to overtax your friendships by talking about your problems; Eat your vegetables first; One glass of wine is enough, but it can be a very full glass; Ice cream can make the whole day seem celebratory; Keep your car at least half full with gas; Sarcasm isn’t that funny; Reuse and recycle; Don’t expect one friend to serve all your needs; Plant a garden; If you can still use it, don’t tear it down or throw it away; Remember birthdays; Bring people soup when they are sick; Write thank you notes when you get a gift or go visiting; Live in the landscape you most love;  There’s a gift in every single thing that happens to you; Say please and thank you.

Maybe Grandma Maggie taught her that, or maybe she didn’t, we might be able to figure it out by peaking at Maggie’s journal. Right now she is in Saint Mark’s place back in 1937 with her new baby and her velvet housecoat and if you want to know what else, read on…  (dictaphone is such an outdated word, my computer spell check doesn’t even recognize it! and when was the last time you heard Manhattan referred to as “town”?)

Grandma Maggie, Saint Mark’s Place, February 22, 1937

Baby again took forever to eat so called doctor, quavering for the first time and this gratified him  as he said  I would have to quaver about something sometime, but assured me  all babies did this from time to time, and there was nothing to do about it.  In afternoon Bobbie Sutton came, said her babies had done same in their day.  She’s conscience stricken because not enough to do on new job but thought would learn to loaf as other girls did.  First hazard had been having to learn the dictaphone, which scared her so she surreptitiously wrote everything out first and then read it into machine.  Spends her time going about seeing what is new in cosmetics and stationary and then writing reports for scores of stores.  M. M home and Donn Sutton, Bobbie’s husband came in.  All had drink, I sewed hem of my dress, which was much admired. Suttons are tired of Forest Hills and thinking of moving back to town for a year or so. Talked of possibility of taking cottage with them for part of summer.  They now have Baptist cook, colored, who doesn’t approve of drinking and Donn says she has him so cowed. he sneaks into the bathroom with his bottles to make preprandial cocktail.  They were bound for the theater so left at quarter till eight.  Baby yelled all evening but slept pretty well at night.

Oh! Poor grandma in screaming baby land. It will get better soon, soon the baby will grow up and be wise and pass the wisdom on to daughters who might just write a blog and tell the world. Until next week everybody…

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