Monthly Archives: August 2017

The End of an Era

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a restoration of a photo of her young children, now the end of an era.My mother’s house in Massachusetts had sold, and I was desperately searching the shelves to take away something to remember all the sweet times over the twenty years in that place. Tears welled as I took a final glance around, said goodbye, and went out the door for the last time.
“It’s the end of an era,” friends kept telling me, when I arrived home sad and dazed. I thought about that. I tried to envision all my personal eras: childhood on New York’s Long Island, college and graduate school upstate, two decades in business designing my world as Silk Oak, and the years spent raising my babies into adulthood. But the “end of an era” meant far more than simply the loss of this time and place. Something bigger was ending.

For as long as I can remember, there were adults in my life I looked up to, ones higher up than my parents. There were important people who took care of us and I trusted them. Kind Doctor Strauss, the firemen who stopped our boiler from exploding, the tall policeman who occasionally visited PS94 to talk to us about safety, my teachers, … my President. The ones who had my best interests in mind. I felt safe and secure because I was in what my father called “the best country in the world” and we had really strong leaders. Later, I got to vote for some of my leaders. How amazing when the ones I voted for were elected; how much faith I had when the other team won, that we would still be lead judiciously even though under another brand of wisdom. Those days when I casually wondered what a World War must have felt like, or when I didn’t have to consider that I might possibly be a next target of racism or discrimination – that was an era.

Losing my mother’s place where I loved spending long weekends is sad. Losing the ceramic bird and beautiful white blankets my mom said I had to leave behind for the new owners is mildly heartbreaking. But losing my security and the trust that my leaders are looking out for me – this is indeed the end of life, as I’ve known it.

 

What does “the end of an era” mean to you in your life? What helps you deal with disappointments and worries in the world today?

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Blooming and Blossoming Aunts and Uncles

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photographs a lotus pond thick with lotuses at all stages of life.I’m running out of aunts and uncles. Last week my beautiful, brave Aunt Ilse died. Now I’m down to one aunt and one uncle. Plus another aunt who is really my first cousin once removed. Somehow, while I was mooning over all my cousins’ children’s babies wishing I could hold a grandbaby of my own, I hadn’t noticed the shifting of our family tree.

It used to be there were enough of them to fill every holiday, enough aunts and uncles to have favorites. My cousins’ parents. They weren’t at all like the parents of my friends. No, these adults were mine, as in My Aunt Bope and My Uncle Max. They showed an interest in me; perhaps they were seeking similarities to their siblings. If I did something remarkable, like get married or have kids, they gave me gifts. They gave my children gifts. They always seemed happy to see me. And at each stage of my life, I’ve loved being in their company. But over the years they’ve been disappearing.

There were only a few days between the joyful family event that brought my tribe traveling west to Colorado and then south to Ilse’s funeral in Florida. In between, in Ithaca, I met up with my photographer friends at a lotus pond. We took pictures of young shoots emerging from the muddy pond bottom, new pointy-leaf buds, and unfurling blooms already pinked out or still green like their stalks. Some of the flowers had petals opened wide and falling. There were old dried up, naked pods standing tall or bent downward. The pond was thick with lotuses at all stages of lotus life.

Stages. Changes that happen between life and death. The shifts I’ve made from thinking in terms of my tiny shrinking family (my single child left, one remaining uncle, one of this and one of that…) to considering the whole family forest. My cousins and my cousins’ children are now aunts and uncles. They branch out with partners and step-kids and “extendeds.” Thanks to all their blooming and blossoming, our tribe continues to grow.

And maybe it will be my funeral they gather at next. Or maybe, I’ll soar up into the sea of clouds above the magnificent flowering earth, and be the one to outlive them all.

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An Unexpected Moment of Joy

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, at peace, watches the sky and is grateful to be exactly where she isA feeling came over me like a brain wave. A flush of contentment, an inner spread of bliss. Like sweet fortified wine seeping through my entire system.

There was no reason for this. I’d traveled from Ithaca to Denver via Detroit. I should have been cranky. And I had been most of the day. But then, fifteen hours after boarding the early morning plane I found myself sitting on a folding chair on the lawn outside Temple Emanuel in Denver, with my sister and cousins and a hundred or more strangers hanging onto cellphones, children, and dogs. Under a graying evening sky we sat, listening as the temple’s cantor played her guitar and sang like an angel, and asked us to rise-if-able, and be seated, and rise-if-able again and greet those around us.

This was not a scene I’d usually find comfortable. But sitting there in the gentle breeze I forgot about how many hours I hadn’t slept. I forgot about the harsh descent into the dry brown desert surrounding Denver International, and the haze that hid any possible view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. My sore back and restless leg syndrome grew faint and almost disappeared. Soon it no longer mattered that I couldn’t see the mountains or any decent-sized body of water. Something in the music or in the air had squelched every ache and disappointment. I melted back into my chair and smiled at the kids playing quietly with dogs as the cantor continued her songs. At peace with the world, I watched the sky, grateful to be exactly where I was.

I even joined in some of the singing.

And even though the people were singing in praise of God, and even though I myself had not spoken to God in many years (or even checked in briefly to see if anything had changed in our relationship), I’m pretty sure if I lived anywhere near that mile-high-in-the-sky city of Denver, I’d be going back to the Friday evening services at the temple every week to recapture my moment of pure, perfect happiness.

 

When and where did your unexpected moment of joy happen?

 

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