Category Archives: family

Quilt Trading

Although I don’t have a comforter, I own 2 store-bought blankets, one of which is the infamous, 70’s polyester indestructible f***ing pink blanket, reserved for outdoor movies at the Hatch Shell in Boston. The other is a more conventional cotton number that is on my bed, but before you start a gofundme for blankets, know that I am not bereft of warmth, and that I don’t need to depend on my occasional night hot flashes. What have served as my blankets and bedspreads (do people even use that word any more?) and, yes, comforters?

Quilts. Specifically, ones made by my grandmother and my mother. Most of them are at least 30 years old, but there are a few younger ones. At least one, what we used to call a car blanket, is older than me. You put it in the back of the station wagon to pad the four kids rolling around back there unbuckled on long car rides. Then we pulled over on the side of the road to eat bark in caves. Go ahead and laugh, I’m still alive and use it as a picnic and beach blanket.

My Memere passed away in 1994, and my mom is now 88 and has Alzheimer’s and has lost a lot of her sewing ability. But I still have their quilts, and by proxy pieces of their happiest moments. As a kid my Memere made us summer quilts and winter quilts. When I was a teenager, she took requests, and I asked for with one with horses, which I still have. I received a larger one as a wedding present (it’s the one on the far right in the top photo). The marriage dissolved at the 20-year mark, but the quilt is still around — a little worn in places, but it still works and still has the tiny stitches Memere lovingly sewed all those years ago. Then my mom picked up the quilting bug, and so I have a smaller fun quilt she made that folds into a pillow for those trips to see movies at the Hatch Shell. She made it after coming with us a few times when she visited. She was so excited to find the pattern. It’s a perfect annex to the pink blanket, and more recently has started to serve as a warm place to sit in my wood floor for meditation. Then when her grandson came along, she showered him with several baby quilts and then a quilt for his “big boy” bed. As a teen, he got another quilt with colors he picked  himself.

My mom found a bunch of quilt tops Memere never finished, so she started on those. Those are amazing twofers because they have the stitches and love of both. My favorite is made up of Memere’s handkerchiefs. Back in the day no respectable lady was without a handkerchief. She had many of all designs — scalloped edges, birds, flowers, and even states. After I divorced, I changed out my wedding quilt for the handkerchief one. When I moved last year, I noticed that some of the delicate handkerchiefs had holes and were worn. I told my mom, and she still had some of Memere’s handkerchiefs and sent them to me in the mail.

My preferred fiber arts activity is crocheting, which Memere also did; despite my rich legacy, sewing for me is a utilitarian skill — buttons and small holes primarily. For a good year, I looked at the quilt and then looked at the replacement handkerchiefs, felt fear in my heart and then picked up a book or the remote and told myself I’d tackle it another day. So many tiny stitches all in perfect straight lines or perfect curves! So many tiny stitches. I liked the idea of adding my stitches, but I also didn’t want poor Memere to roll in her grave when they came out all big and uneven. My mom continued to encourage me and tell me it didn’t have to be perfect, which is easy to say for people who make perfect stitches. I knew she was right, though, so I started asking her about the steps, and what I had to do. Finally, I took a deep breath and dove in. The easier part was removing the damaged handkerchiefs. A seam ripper and several episodes of Modern Family are all you really need and are quite cathartic. A little more challenging was picking new handkerchiefs, placing and pinning them and sewing around the edges. I started that last winter and just recently finished. I bought some time by declaring the summer too hot to work on a big quilt that has to be spread on your lap.

I rested on my laurels a bit, but those darn seasons keep coming and soon it was winter again, and I had to stare down the barrel of the actual quilting — this is the free-form thread that either follows the along with the pattern of the fabric or can just be an outline of an object like a heart. Unlike the stitches around the border of the handkerchief, which are not the focus of the quilt and can hide on the sidelines, the quilting itself is like the front and center cheerleader, at the top of the pyramid, doing a split. Did I mention I favor crocheting? But my mom kept telling me to not worry and just put the stitches anywhere and have fun. I told her I might even use bright, colored thread, just for kicks. She was delighted. On this snowy Presidents Day I took the plunge — making the initial “L” for mom and Memere’s names (Lorette and Lumina), and then I’ll spell out Memere and Mom. Wish me luck (you can already see “Memere” ain’t gonna fit in that space)!

quilting

So while the handkerchief quilt is being repaired, I put my old wedding quilt back on the bed, but it too was fraying and in a way that is not as easily repaired — “easy”! Ha! While I have a decent quantity of quilts, only those 2 fit on my queen bed. Just buy one, you might say, and I might say, after all this time, I’ve been spoiled and am a handmade quilt snob. I’m not putting any mass production quilt on my bed — it might give me hives — or heaven help us a “comforter,” which is hot and heavy, and not in a good way. What can I say? I’m a delicate snowflake flower.

Then I thought of my aunt who caught the quilting bug and does beautiful machine quilting. She laughingly declares she doesn’t have the patience for hand quilting, and after quilting the letters “L” and “M” today, I am totally in her camp. In our little quilting world, machine quilting is on the edge of blasphemous, but I’ve seen her work, and it’s stunning. I also love her passion and that she is carrying on the tradition in her own way. I thought I might commission a quilt from her.

Before I could though, my sister said she had a quilt that mom made that never really fit on her bed, and that it was actually making her sad because of mom’s decline. Was I interested? She sent me a picture.

It was perfect. It’s my mother’s Quilting Opus — made of 56 squares that feature a different quilt pattern, with fabulous names like log cabin, bear’s paw, crazy house, and windmill. So the quilt made its way to me — no hives, just gorgeous, artistic comfort.

quilt3

And the trading doesn’t stop there. My brother has a few decorative quilts my mom made to hang on the wall, and when I moved to my current apartment, he gave me one that he didn’t have room for. I’m still deciding on the perfect spot. I’m sure as we reconfigure our homes and lives, we’ll continue to trade, swap, and share the quilts.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of crazy quilting to do.

Photo: Left to right, my sister’s weding quilt, the handkerchief quilt, and my wedding quilt.

Nod to Elton John: This Blog Has No Title

I’ve been sitting here trying to find a pithy title to this blog. And then Elton John’s song popped in my head:  This Song Has No Title.   When I say popped, I mean up from the recesses of my adolescent brain. I haven’t thought about this song in years, but the album it’s on, Yellow Brick Road, is part of the soundtrack of my youth — it was etched into me before I understood music could do that. It was my sister’s album, and she listened to it a lot. And I loved the double album artwork, so I as I gazed at it and read the lyrics, I listened to it when she wasn’t there. As I listened to the song just now, after at least 40 years, I air pianoed in all the right places. It seems relevant still:

“And each day I learn just a little bit more
I don’t know why but I do know what for
If we’re all going somewhere let’s get there soon
Oh this song’s got no title just words and a tune”

I’m stalling. I’ve been taking a class called “White People Challenging Racism: Moving from Talk to Action,” and just so there is no misunderstanding, we’re against racism and are looking at our white privilege. The way it’s worded and in today’s Cheeto flea world, I want to confirm that it doesn’t mean we are challenging the legitimacy of racism. So all you MAGA people, move up or move on back. Preferably get a clue, but that’s probably not gonna happen. And Black folks, we’re trying to work out our white junk so we can be better allies to you and make sure our baggage fits in the overhead compartment.

And I want to talk about it, but it’s messing with my head, making me look for words, which for a writer is like being a carpenter without wood. I’m angry, sad, puzzled, tired, exposed, struggling. Where the hell is the wood?

I’m a good white person. I need you to know that, and that’s part of the problem, see? This isn’t about good white person = non-racist. I can be a good person and still have racist ideas and thoughts and assumptions. And I’m squirming and struggling against the idea like one of Pepe Le Pew’s victims. I had the great fortune of having a best friend in college who let me into her Black world. I am an empathetic person by nature. I got it, I believed it when she told me how life was for her being Black. We analyzed when she was a new lawyer at a big Boston firm. Was the interaction because she Black? a woman? Low lawyer on the ladder?

I grew up working class, from immigrants. First generation on one side, 2nd on the other. College was a goal, not a given. I worked all during college, two of those years about 30 hours a week. I graduated with tons of loans, worked in nonprofits — a professional who was not out to make money, but a difference. I did not own property until I was 37. It was in an affordable, but less desirable Boston-area town. My then husband and I didn’t have parents who could give us a down payment, so we took the money out from our 403Bs.

I know white privilege exists on a systemic level. I can’t have listened to a Black person’s experience and doubted it. Ah, so comfy, from my “less privileged” place. I didn’t have money or social standing. I’m good, I’m cool, right? I’m not like those clueless rich white people. Am I?

I defer to my alter ego Blanche, because she likes to laugh at me when I’m being stupid. She sits at the bar drinking gin and taking long contemplative drags on her ciggies.

Blanchesmoking

Poor, Blanche. She just fell off her stool, she’s laughing so hard. Luckily, she’s a tough bird. She’ll be OK. Plus, she likes laughing at me, so she wants nothing better than to get on that stool and in position for my next misstep.

Blanche says, “You’re white, girlie. Hide behind your ‘working class, immigrant’ shield all you want. The fact is, no one has followed your sorry ass in a store, even when you had no money to spend. No one ever thought at work that you were only there because of affirmative action. Once they meet you, your coffee slurping may annoy them, but that’s just being a bad office mate. You uncomfortable? That’s sounds about right.”

Blanch takes a long drag on her ciggie and looks me in the eye as she stubs it out, “You ain’t perfect, babe, let it ride. I’ll stop laughing when you talk sense.” She downs her shot and slams it on the bar. “Or not,” her smokey, throaty laugh echoes in stale air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditions Have to Start Somewhere

I used to playfully envy my ex — his people hailed from the next batch of ships after the pilgrim’s landed, and they had a fancy family tree to prove it. I on the other hand had 2nd generation immigrants on my mom’s side and 1st on my dad’s. I would marvel at my mother-in-law’s stories about how her great-uncle was a photographer (hello, invention of the camera) and brother to Thomas Moran the painter. I had a French Canadian great-grandfather who was a poor farmer in Quebec. A little better was my Dutch great grandfather who was the captain of a passenger ferry. I was never a person who envied other peoples’ wealth, but I did envy their pedigree.

Luckily, all that envy has dissolved — with my divorce, my maturity, and just witnessing firsthand that pedigree isn’t necessarily better. I’ve learned that the more important thing is, do people around you love you, and will they give you wine and cheese willingly if you ask for it?

I mistook pedigree for traditions that matter, and traditions, such as the continuation of wine, cheese, and food with lots of butter are worth holding on to as long as you can. But families age and change; your beloved only child has absolutely no interest in the spritz cookies that defined your childhood Christmas experience and that you painstakingly make each year; so now just you and your sister eat them. He prefers the Nestle Toll-House dough you buy at the store. But truly, I’m not bitter. And parents get older and eat like birds, which is good because most of the traditional menu would make their primary care doctor put us on an “abusing elders by high salt and fat holiday food diet” watch list.

This year my family reached that point of hey, traditions are cool until they no longer serve, so what should we do this year?

I paraphrase “The Graduate” and the career advice the middle-aged neighbor gives Ben: “One word: plastics.”

Our new tradition should be one word: corn.

Like our epic tale of Beocat, this tale starts with an impossible task. To celebrate a Christmas when there is a new venue, the attendants all need to be picked up, and the holiday falls on a Tuesday in the middle of a work week. Oh, and there was a medical emergency just days before the holiday. (Everyone is OK!)

On Christmas day, my sister realized she had no vegetables to accompany the short ribs she was making in the crock pot. Or did she? Resourceful as ever, she dug around in her pantry until she found a can of creamed corn and a can of corn. Score! A quick trip around the internet revealed several viable recipes, some with cream cheese and bacon, also things my sister had on hand. Turns out folks in the South love creamed corn casseroles, cheese and corn, bacon and corn, corn and corn — it’s some kind of tradition down there. So my brother-in-law hunted down more cans of corn from the only store open on Christmas day, the CVS, and we were in business. Perhaps we have even started started a new tradition. Seems like there are plenty out to choose from, and it doesn’t take a pedigree to try them. It just takes a small panic and a stocked pantry.

Even if we don’t make it a new tradition, my sister said she always wanted to be the kind of cook who could look into her pantry and make a meal out of it. Congrats, sis, you can cross that off your bucket list.

Corn photo credit: State Street Farmers Market in Tennesse

 

 

 

 

It’s Quite Vivid

I’m all about making things fun and easy, but I amaze even myself sometimes. If you are a regular reader, you may know I’m struggling with how to wrap my arms around getting more involved in social justice and learning more about racism and white privilege. You know just small, little things like that to help beat back the Cheeto flea and his turd minions.

Part of the problem is that I think I may have used up most of my intellectual curiosity and prowess in my 20s and 30s, what with my subscriptions to Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s (no, not Harper’s Bazaar, the smarty pants Harper’s). Then family duties called. Lapsed subscriptions were replaced with other reading. While I firmly believe that reading to your children gives them an excellent foundation for being a functioning adult with critical thinking skills, there is also a small part of me that also believes reading the Berenstain Bears 100 times over the course of several years causes permanent damage to a functioning adult’s critical thinking skills. You do your best to pick only the books you can stand to read that many times, but inevitably, the Berenstain Bears book and its kin come into your life, and like the dog who goes right for the person who dislikes dogs, your kid will pick the crap book every time.

So where was I? Right, fun and easy. So the related other part of the problem is that when I try to decide, should I read a depressing book about how messed up institutional racism is? Or the book for my book group, which is non-fiction and usually not quite as depressing as racism, but still serious and requires concentration? Or that trashy historical romance novel I just downloaded for free on Hoopla?

Guess who wins? I know. I’m the worst. Blame the Berenstain Bears.

But I’m nothing, if not wily and persistent. I had read the last historical novel by the white writer I liked and when I tried several new ones, based on Hoopla suggestions, I couldn’t get through them. I may read historical romance novels, but I do have some standards. The heaving bosoms need to belong to a strong female character and need to be part of an interesting historical plot that is based on truth. I went through many lists of writers, and one of the suggestions included a Black historical romance writer, Beverly Jenkins.

Well, hey now. Could I get a two-fer out of this? I need to learn more Black history anyway, and the book I’m currently reading Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era, is quite educational, and I’ve been stuck on page 36 for a while now. I know, I know, I’m the absolute worst. But I have a mission to fulfill, so I downloaded a book called Vivid. Vivid is a female physician of color who travels from California to a Black community in Grayson Cove, Michigan; they need a doctor and no one else will hire her in 1876. They also only hire her because they think she’s a man–she uses the “no first names” trick.

(As a side note, I just saw “On the Basis of Sex,” the movie about the early career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who nearly 100 years later after Vivid, made it into Harvard Law School and was top of her class, only to also not get hired. So, you know, there’s that. But the movie is good, so go see it, my fellow snowflakes!)

Vivid is well-written, entertaining, and not only chock full of historical details of Black people in the 1876,  Beverly also lists pages of resource material at the end of the book. Paydirt! There really were Black women doctors in the 1800s, and there were all-Black communities being established in the U.S. Sadly for my gay friends, they are no gay characters in these books, but if I find any good gay historical romances, I’ll let you know. Most of Beverly’s books I’ve read take place in all-Black communities, or in cities like Philadelphia because, as she notes in the end of one of the books, it played an important role in the Black race’s history. I’ve read about the 1800s and the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal church, middle class households, ranching out west, poets and writers, and more. In other words, I’ve read about human beings being human and their specific struggles because of their color.

One of my favorites, Midnight, is set in Boston on the verge of the Revolutionary War. In it the main free male character talks about being captured by the British navy and being forced into naval service–it’s called impressment and was legal in Britain at the time. And you know those Brits–they like to carry their rules around with them to other countries, whether the other countries agree or not. Not long after reading about it, I was able to tear myself away from fascinating Beverly to my read book group book, Heirs of the Founders, by H.W. Brands, about the second generation of American politicians. An early chapter describes how in 1812 two elder statesman, Henry Clay and John Calhoun, were trying to persuade their congressional colleagues and President Madison to wage war against Britain in response to many transgressions against American sovereignty, including, you guessed it, impressment.

So, I rest my case. And I know I can’t be satisfied with just Beverly and her meticulously research novels and heaving bosoms, sigh. I’ve got more reading to do, and I also signed up for class in January called, “White People Challenging Racism.” But for the moment, I need to find out what is going to happen in the next installment of the Grayson Cove, Michigan town. Seems were going to learn more about Dr. Vivid’s brother-in-law, Eli.

And, thank you Beverly, for your wonderful books. Here is a brief bio from Wikipedia: “Beverly Jenkins (born 1951, Detroit) is an American author of historical and contemporary romance novels with a particular focus on 19th century African-American life.[1] Jenkins was a 2013 NAACP Image Award nominee and, in 1999, was voted one of the Top 50 Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by the African American Literature Book Club.[2] Jenkins’s historical romances are set during a period of African-American history that she believes is often overlooked. This made it difficult to break into publishing because publishers weren’t sure what to do with stories that involved African-Americans but not slavery.[3]

150430_blog-photo_bev-jenkins

 

Merry Christmas

There, I said it. It’s a holiday, so I hope you are spending it the way you would like. I’m with my family, so you’ll have to look for my witty banner next week. Wait–that wasn’t a side eye to my family. I swear.

I will give you my friend’s holiday-related post which I thoroughly enjoyed. Bumble vs Winter Warlock  anyone?

Anywho, here’s a picture of my tree–that’s all you’re getting this week. Kisses and lots of eggnog and cheer for you!

The Great Art Heist

Last month my dad got sick and then ended up in the hospital for a low blood count. As his discharge neared, my family went into red alert mode and started sorting out which sibling needed to be where for coverage when he came home, and oh, he was coming home with a catheter. I volunteered to come on the weekend, and although I can be squeamish, I am also a mother, so honestly, my squeamishness is probably more of a state of mind than a real thing. But he’s my dad, so, I volunteered and got assigned … art show pick-up duty.

Wait, wha? Luckily my friend had texted me a week earlier saying her mom really liked my dad’s art show. And I was like, what art show? The art show itself wasn’t unusual, he paints a lot and does 1 or 2 shows year. It’s just that he usually tells us about it. I couldn’t decide if the sickness had made him forget, or he’s 90 years old, or, most likely, is the worse artistic self-promoter on the planet.

In any event, my coworkers were giving me weird looks and repeating slowly, “So your dad’s coming home from the hospital and you have to leave work early and drive to another state to … pick up his artwork?” You could almost see the thought bubble above their head, “Don’t have a medical emergency with that one — sibs only trust her with inanimate objects.”

But, the show must come down, so my sister also volunteered, and soon were emailing with the woman who coordinates the space. It’s in a common room in an assisted living, and she said there were 16 or 17 pieces.

Um, OK. I have a Toyota Corolla, but my dad packed and brought the paintings himself in his car which is not really any bigger than mine, so we decide to drive his car. Yeah, we got this!

Of course the artist was feeling better and giving very pointed directions on how properly stack and transport the paintings to anyone in earshot, whether they were picking them up or not. It involves card board separators and stacking them back to back, then frame to frame. Saturday arrives and of course, it’s raining — a hard, steady, gonna-get-your-pretty-paintings-wet rain. Nature can be a real jerk sometimes.

The sit-com shenanigans began the minute we arrived at the assisted living lobby.

“Hi, we’re here to meet Jane,” I said brightly to the receptionist.

“So am I,” she responded in a slightly exasperated tone. “She’s late!”

I was a little confused, but I thought, well, maybe Jane works there and coordinates the art. A few moments later, Jane, a tall blonde woman in her early 30s swoops in with the rain, shaking drops from her rain coat.

“Jane!” the receptionist and I exclaim together. She quickly apologizes to the receptionist, and then turns slowly to me, with a blank look on her face.

“It’s me, Sandy and my sister.” Nothing. “We’re here for the art.” Nada. “Are you Jane White?”

No, of course she isn’t. And just like that, they pay no more attention to us. OK, then.

Not long after an older, white-haired lady shows up and it’s our Jane. Great. I’m just happy to have someone who knows the ropes, because the people here don’t seem to know anything about Jane or the art. My sister is looking at her wondering how this little old lady is going to help us at all. Jane goes off to find the luggage rack she usually uses to stack the art, and my sister and I head upstairs to start taking down the pieces. We end up making a good team, I take the art down and put it in a large trash bag to keep the rain off it. I was too impatient to do more than just fold the end of the bag over, but my sister happily, and I might add, painstakingly taped each bag closed. That rain was really not going to get in.

After a while Jane came back. She usually takes the shows down during the week — we were taking it down a few days early because that’s when we were available. It seems because it’s the weekend, the large rack she usually uses is nowhere to be found, and no one seems to know where it is. She did find a smaller one that seems kind of rickety, but it’s all we have, so we’ll make do. We chat while we’re working and we learn she is 86, and yet she keeps saying what an inspiration my dad is because he’s 90. I think they are both pretty inspiring. My dad, however, can be a mass of contradictions and is stubborn, and even in the face of other artists telling him they like his work, he continues to deny it’s any good and he’s terrible with people. Yes, that’s why they ask you to have a show, because you suck and they hate you. We explain this side of him, which of course is news to her. It always is.

She seems like a nice, positive person who has a sense of humor, so I decide to throw my dad under the bus.

“He didn’t tell us he was having an art show.” She of course then lists all the things she did to promote the show, including sending a PDF flyer to him to send to friends and family. I assured her at least her newspaper and other promotions worked because my friend’s mom learned about it and came to see the show.

We have stacked most of the 17 art pieces upright like books on a shelf onto the rickety cart. Jane and I start to push it carefully to the elevator to get it to the first floor. There are a few people sitting in easy chairs on our way, but no one challenges us. I joke with Jane that we’re like two art thieves making the big heist, pretending to be the gallery coordinator and the artist’s daughters. We both start laughing about that. I decide I want to be like Jane when I grow up.

We manage to get the cart outside. The good news is the walkway to my car is mostly covered, protecting us and the art from the rain; the bad news is the walk is really long, especially when you are pushing a too small cart, loaded down with your father’s treasured art. We’re laughing and struggling, and just before we get to the end, the cart falls apart, and half the paintings slide off. I manage to hold them upright with my body and start laughing even harder. Also, hooray for the plastic bags. Jane joins me because, at this point there really is nothing you can do except laugh. Well you can call your sister upstairs and say with a barely straight face, “Um, can you come down here? We have a situation.” I was so grateful Jane was so good-humored and not anxious or upset. As I waited for my sister to come down and stared out into the rain, I thought, this would really suck if Jane weren’t so cool.

My sister comes down and it takes her a minute to realize I am holding up the entire contraption and art with my body. We switch places, and I back up my car just to the end of the walk.

Of course, it’s still raining hard.

But the art is securely taped up and soon we have it loaded into his care and in her car, and I’m wrangling the cart back together.

We decide that we can do better to take the remaining pieces ourselves and leave the little cart where we found it, so it can collapse under some coats or luggage. The “little old lady” has a number paintings with frames under her arms and is marching down the stairs with them.

We wave goodbye and head back to my dad’s house. He is impressed with the secure tape, and believe me he’s not easy to impress. He seems happy the art is back. He had the cheek to comment how no one from the family went to see the exhibit. See why I threw him under the bus? Just so I could defend our honor. “Jane said she sent you a flyer to send to family and friends; I can’t go to an exhibit I don’t know about,” which sent him into a sputtering admission that maybe he hadn’t sent it out. I told him my friend’s mother did read it in the paper and saw it, and he was genuinely surprised. You gotta love this guy.

In the meantime, another friend of his came by to pick up art she wanted for a show she was putting together. This guy doesn’t need a home health aide, he needs an art coordinator. He claimed he didn’t have any more art shows in the making, but I don’t believe a word of it. I set my Google alerts for any mention of John Deden exhibitions, so I’ll be ready for the next art heist.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting Room Sendoff

My sister and brother-in-law had warned me that my dad’s follow-up eye appointment would take a while, perhaps even several hours. But I wasn’t worried. I had cleared the day to give them a break from the parent care-giving duties that had kicked up a notch in the past several months. Plus, I thought the previous appointments had been long because they involved a procedure. This was a follow-up appointment. Even if we waited for an hour, we still had time to swing by and pick up my mom and go to dinner. How bad could it be?

My optimism is a really a fascinating thing.

At first it was typical waiting. They shuffled us from one waiting room to another for a couple of eye tests the doctor would need. Fair enough, and I kept thinking of it as passing the time we would already be waiting, and it would bring us closer to the actual appointment. We waited maybe 20 minutes for each test, and each test took about 5-10 minutes. So far, not so bad. And we got there early, so I was thinking we were actually ahead of the game.

I work in a large academic medical center. You’d think I’d know better.

After about an hour or so we landed in what we came to think of as the Final Waiting Room. The inner sanctum, the final boss fight. It was smaller than the others, and there was only one seat available when we got there. Soon after a woman got up and left, so we sat together. Time passed. My dad and I chatted pleasantly, had spells of companionable silence. We tried to get some of his favorite news websites to come up on my phone, but nothing would load at first. When they finally did, it was the mobile version, which was unfamiliar to him, and he couldn’t find the articles he wanted.

Outside the late fall afternoon light started to fade. I checked my watch. 4 pm. Still time to see the doctor and pick up my mother.

Suddenly a newcomer swept in and started chatting, asking questions. The spell of quiet of the Final Waiting Room was broken. The woman was new to this doctor, and she was quickly told by the old-timers that the wait could be 3 or more hours. They were mostly sanguine about it, and were soon telling stories of past waits like we were huddled around a campfire, which considering how dark it was getting outside, would have felt kinda nice. My dad and I are introverted in those kind of situations, so we just listened. But then people began sharing their appointment times. I perked up, expecting our 2:30 time to be the earliest.

I sometimes wonder if unbridled optimism is something that needs to be treated medically.

People started chiming in: 1:45 pm, 1:15 pm, 2 pm, 1 pm. Turns out there were two of us with a 2:30. I marveled that the energy in the room had not changed. People were actually kind of laughing, as if we had cracked a code. We had no idea when we’d get called, but at least we knew the order. The assistant came into the room and called out a name — it was Mr. 1 pm; we all cheered for him. The assistant looked surprised and a little uncomfortable. That’s right, lady, I thought, we’re all in this together now, so you just keep calling those names, and we’ll be just fine. The talk turned to recipes and food, so I tuned out (read about my glorious food fails). Outside, the predicted storm had begun with a steady rain.

The assistant came in and called Ms. 1:15, and now we were really getting into it.

“Goodbye!” “Good luck!” “Have a great weekend!”

The woman next to me leaned over and said, “I feel like we should have handkerchiefs.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So when Ms. 1:45 got called, we waved our hands like handkerchiefs, and sent her off properly like the Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton.

At 5 pm I asked my sister to tell my mom we were running late. At 5:30, it was finally our turn. There were only a few of us left at that point, but the pretend handkerchiefs waved just as energetically. We got sent off, the doctor was happy with my dad’s progress, and we did, eventually, get to have dinner with my mom.

I just looked up at the Eckhart Tolle calendar I have, and this month it says, “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your now and your projected future. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”

Wise words — I would only add that waving handkerchiefs in the now works too.