The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Another Year

So here I am, on the second anniversary of my 29th birthday. A cursory inventory reveals a woman who is slightly better off than last year, a wee bit lighter in weight, a bit more active in things, but every bit as mouthy and independent in thought and action. I hope to bear up well, but as with all things, there are no guarantees.

Taran recently did a blog entry on legacies, and now is as good a time as any for me to think about them, myself. I do not stand to inherit a blessed thing. My father passed some years before with no notification directly to my brother or myself, but I suppose that was just as well. He is a subject best not discussed in polite company anyway, and all I would have liked, that had belonged to him, was his fountain pen. It is most likely in some collector's display now, simply for its age and condition. My wanting of it is complex. Having become a writer myself would do as a simple explanation. The fact that he had a beautiful handwriting is another. I cannot think of too many positive things about my father, and that some do exist helps me to deal with how few there were. And the fact that, in the third grade, lo, those centuries ago, I was never permitted to use ink because my own cursive handwriting had not progressed sufficiently to please the nun who made such decisions is another reason this pen is important to me. We (or those who had progressed sufficiently) used fountain pens because (deep breath here) there were no ballpoints, (certainly no stick pens, felt tip or other such inventions!) readily available at that time. And the fountain pens we did use typically did not have cartridges. They had on-board bladders which would hold a supply of ink that was nearly always almost sufficient for the project at hand. Still, it would have been nice to have. I remember how my father guarded his pen, not allowing anyone else to use it, because another hand would change the shape and thrust of the nib and affect the appearance of whatever would be written hence. It was exactly his.

My mother, who shares the same birthstone as I, wears a gorgeous ruby ring that she has repeatedly told me will not be mine, as she has promised it to someone else. I cannot think of anything Mother has that I would want, and expect nothing as a bequest.

There is no property, no land, nothing of any value I expect to come into at any time during the last half of my life. And there is no land nor property that I can leave to my children -- yet they still have recieved a legacy already that they shall always have. Intangible. We all leave legacies of an intangible kind. Most are unintentional, and while most are unconsciously left, I want to muse about them consciously for a time and make adjustments where I can.

The Robert Bly book, Iron John comes to mind. I read this book years ago and loved it, wrote reviews about it, even sent my note encrusted copy of it to my brother, who may or may not have read it. In the reviews I wrote, I always ended the same way -- that I recommend this book to anyone who is a man or who knows one. I stand by that. In this book, Bly uses a fairy tale as the basis for his explanation (and his recommendations) of the plight of men today. One of the most memorable things I noted in this book was the belief that a boy becomes a man beside a man. A father's legacy to his son(s) was what he was, what he held as important and valuable, his mannerisms, his reactions, his dignity and respect, his manliness. In earlier days it also included his profession; hence a carpenter taught his son to be a carpenter, a blacksmith taught his son to be a blacksmith and so on. These are things that are just "in the air" when men (or a boy and a man) are together, and the younger absorbs these as easily as breathing. Bly realized the value of mentors. Those of us who have no family associations seek out mentors of our own. You know the old proverb, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." We find what we need when we need it.

And -- men or women, aren't we all mentors of a sort? We all leave an impact on those around us, hopefully (but, unfortunately, not neccessarily) for the better. It amazes me that my daughter holds important many of the same things I do - albeit for different reasons in some respects. But I do not find it odd that all my children are very verbal, they all write well and speak well, and they all have, in varying degrees, a certain diplomacy that helps them do whatever they choose in this life with one less barrier than many others. My older two children have a certain joy, almost a giddiness regarding family that their father enjoyed. My younger son has his father's seriousness of mind (and stubborn-ness, which both define as "purpose") We are all leaving legacies.
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I decided this year to bake a cake for myself. I have been invited by a dear friend to share dinner at his house, and I will bring it with me. The sun is beginning to peek out from the clouds, the bands of Hurricane Dennis are nearly passed now, here in St. Petersburg, so it looks like the dinner will not be postponed as I'd earlier thought. That means I had better get into the kitchen and get baking. It will be a vanilla cake, light and fluffy, baked in a bundt pan for easy transporting. I will divide it in half horizontally and, at my friend's house, add the finishing touch -- a layer of whipped cream in the center, covered with a layer of fresh strawberries, another layer of whipped cream. With steamy hot and creamy coffee, it will make a wonderful dessert, and I am pleased that I will be sharing this with close friends. They have seen the changes, over the years, and love me anyway. What more can one ask?



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