21 February, 2010


There’s a particular sound that Sorel Boots make when they’re being walked in by bare feet. It’s not like they know my socks are missing or even that I’ve just cut the irritating tag off the back of my pajama pants in honor of my birthday. It’s good to take time for the special things and since today is my day, instead of rushing at my normal first-thing-in-the-morning, top speed, migrating-bird-flying-for-home pace to get outside and make the rounds picking up yesterday’s dog poop before it freezes so deep I won’t find it until my sneakers hit it at the next thaw, I picked up my pink scissors and snipped. I’m glad of this because that tiny poke right at the top of my coccyx bone startled me every time I bent over. I have to admit though that after this time luxury, I didn’t take the additional extra seconds to find my special striped wool socks before I thrust my feet down inside my boots.

With a little reflection - which I have time to do because yesterday’s poo is frozen solid and I’m trying to figure out whether kicking it out of the ice will make my boots stink later – I realize it might have been a good idea to put on those socks. I bought them for myself as an early birthday gift a number of years ago, when I was visiting in California and wool socks had the biggest markdown because the only people who’d wear them in ninety degree weather are the ‘Woolies’. These people (I hope self- identified because I don’t want to be a bigot, not even by accident) apparently wear Birkenstock shoes with heavy socks all year round. I’m not that much of a hippie anymore so I mostly gravitate to the sale bin because I really need the markdowns. At the bottom, underneath the skimpy, multi-colored bras and no-cheek undies were the wool striped socks I didn’t put on today. At the time I was glad the basket was back in the corner and hopefully not visible in either the round surveillance mirror above me or the three-way next to the hundred and ten dollar ripped jeans hung so the real sizes for real women were crammed in the back. None of the sales girls came rushing so I assumed my eyes brimming over wasn’t apparent to anyone but me. It's just that the stripes and the wool carried such a rush of love and loss and more love.

Once, a long time ago, when I was clambering around on roofs in Vermont in my Sorel boots  (which are the only boots that really keep you warm enough to be the only woman on the job because everyone is waiting for you to be a whiner and you can keep all complaining at bay if your toes aren’t frozen) I had a role that I treasured. I was the one to straddle the peak of the roof. We needed to get ropes and ladders up and over there safely because the drop was forty feet off the back end and the snow was too deep not to swallow you if you fell. The Solar Energy collectors had to go up that week or we would have been violating our contract. I was so afraid of authority figures that working to keep agreements was way more important to me than even my toes.  That day I was wearing a pair of striped wool socks over my skin and inside my Sorel boots just like the ones in the sale bin in California. My now-ex (but at the time unbelievably-head-over-heels-in-love-not-yet-) husband had given those socks to me not only as a birthday present but as the very-first present ever from him. This is significant because he had a thing about spending money. In fact, he had such a thing about it that when I wanted to get him an FM radio receiver for his birthday I got a whole bunch of friends to sign the card so he wouldn’t be mad I’d saved up the money quarter-by-quarter, ever since he’d given me my socks. By the following October I had enough. With all the signatures on the card though, no one (unless they were some sort of psychological Einstein) could have told who paid how much. So his birthday was a wonderful success. He wasn’t mad at me because I gave him the gift and he had the radio he really wanted. My socks were a different story. They could have even been on sale back then because stripes weren’t so popular yet but I didn’t care. I slept with them every night because the wool smelled so good to me and the fact of them felt so good to me. I also wore them every day on the job. They’re probably why I’ve had such good fortune. I used to be known as one of the first women in Solar energy and I either wore or brought those socks with me to every conference when I was asked to speak. Eventually they had big heel holes so I retired them to a place of honor in my bedside table drawer with my goat-feet nippers and a few other treasures. These socks though, the ones in California, after I dripped memory-salt-tears on a few of the other sale items, came home with me. Unfortunately, today they’re in my drawer because after taking the time to cut the tag on my pajama pants, I was in such a hurry to get to poo-pick-up outside that I didn’t put them on.

I’ve turned fifty-five today and it’s gorgeous out. Bare feet in boots or not. All this musing has taken quite a bit of time and if I’m going to squeeze all the special things into my one special day I have to hurry. So, head down, plastic bag in hand, me and my boots make our way up the path. I really feel that in order to fully enjoy my day I have to make sure that no one accidentally tracks dog poop into my house because I didn’t pick it up. It’s right about midway up the yard that it hits me. Someone stole my Rainbow Flag! (I need to be scrupulous here and tell you that I actually discovered this yesterday but it rattled me so much since I had to go to work that I forgot. I rediscovered it today. It’s kind of like Peter Pan discovering his first lie. He felt the punch over and over as if he’d never felt it before. So here I am again, only today it’s my birthday, and I’m working so hard to finish my chores so I can start enjoying it.) Someone stole my Rainbow Flag! Right off the fence where I carefully wired it so it would never blow off, even if the wind hit gale proportions. I love (loved) that flag. I’d wanted one for years, but  they’re not easy to find -- I guess the world is filled with people like me who want to celebrate inclusion. Even when I was a little girl I loved rainbows. Dorothy went over one and found her way home. The symbol uses all my precious colors and when humans look at it, we all know we’re of one tribe. My Rainbow Flag is (was) especially important to me since I’m proud of all the Gay people I love. Not because I care one iota who, where, when or how they choose to be sexual but because knowing how to love in this world seems to me an enormous achievement. Whenever I look (looked) at the flag I hung, I get (got) filled with a sense of wonder and gladness about being a person. Being able to love matters. And for me, seeing my flag helps (helped) me remember this.

But my Rainbow Flag is gone. I know it didn’t blow away. I’ve checked every detail. The wires have gone missing too. Whoever stole it left me just one tiny corner so at least I don’t have to worry that I’m accidentally turning a natural disaster into a crime. My Rainbow Flag was carefully removed and then ripped at the last bit where the wiring was too perfect to undo quickly. It’s a relief to know that I’m not being a bad person by making assumptions. My Rainbow Flag has been stolen.

It’s a shame really. There’s a lovely link of connective tissue between the Sorel Boots, the striped socks I’m not wearing, and the Rainbow Flag I’m not seeing. It’s a love link -- family and memory and gladness all woven around with grief and missing. Kind of like the Rainbow mix of colors. Not everyone resonates with every color. But the mix. Who could not feel awe when the rain turns to sun and the wet ground starts to steam and the clouds open just enough to birth a rainbow? My children are like that. This exquisite mix of all things. We all are I guess. It’s hard to imagine, though, for the person who stole my flag. They couldn’t possibly know that I think of my son whenever I look at that flag. They couldn’t possibly know that through my son I think of my now-ex-husband. They couldn’t possibly know that if my youngest daughter was the one I thought of with the flag, it wouldn’t link me to the same people and that I think (thought) of this with wonder and love whenever I look (looked) at the lovely color blend in my flag.

It really stinks to lament on a birthday. So instead, I’m going to say thank you to the mean person who stole my Rainbow Flag. You don’t go into a Church and steal the cross.  You don’t go into a Temple and steal the star. You don’t go on someone’s lawn and steal the American flag. You don’t steal someone’s mailbox. And you don’t walk in my gate and steal my Rainbow flag. But. Since you did, I want to say Thank you.  ‘Thank you,’ because you made me feel so sad that I turned the grief into a golden egg and laid an idea I’m really excited about.

Where my Rainbow Flag hangs (hung), I’m going to put an enormous canvas. I’m going to declare myself every possible thing there is to be. And I’m going to use the words that matter so much to make this idea a reality. I’m hoping to make this so other people can write words here too. We can start out with a ‘Thank you,’ and from there move into all the words for all the things that all of us can be. This way, if we’re all everything, we can stop hating some people for being some one thing and others for being some one other thing else. So right this minute, on the morning of my fifty-fifth birthday, when I see again that someone stole my Rainbow Flag and I didn’t wear my striped socks because I was in such a hurry to celebrate, I’m going to start my project:

Now that you’ve stolen my Rainbow Flag, I’ve decided that from now on, I will be no one thing. (Not that anyone else is ever anyway.) So… I’m Gay. I’m Bi-sexual. I’m Trans-gendered. I’m Heterosexual. I’m non-sexual. I’m super-sexual. I’m partially sexual. I’m all of these. I’m none of these. I’m every ethnic difference ever thought of. I’m Jewish. I’m Muslim. I’m Catholic. I’m Protestant. I’m every religion that ever was. I’m no religion. I’m long-haired. I’m short-haired. I’m every physical difference. I’m no physical difference. I’m every possibility. And I’m no possibility. If you want to join me, please put your words here with mine. Thank you again.

Phew. Now that I’ve joined everyone and no one, I’ll wish myself ‘Happy Birthday’ and get ready for the party. My children are coming over and I need to get out of my pajamas and put on some socks.

6 thoughts:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post as usual. I hope you enjoyed your Birthday, sorry to be a day late in congratulating you! You got to 55 before me, but I am right around the corner. I think those that know you will also see a rainbow flag flying from our soul. Happy Birthday Andrea. Keep sharing your special gifts with the world.


jclemons said...

Sorry about the Rainbow... Like Bill says we all know that it continues to fly from your soul.
I join you in being all and none at the same time.... Peace to the one who dared tread on your space and take your flag. He/she/it/they must need it so much more than you or I can imagine.... Save me some space on that canvas... AND I will begin a tie dyed peace sign to hang beside it....
Hugs to you my friend.

Mia Wolff said...

Andrea--I sent you a happy birthday on facebook--but I don't think it got to you--so, again, belatedly: Happy Birthday!
I think you might like reading Walt Whitman if you haven't already. You are talking about the same thing. He also addresses the spirituality & importance of words.
love Wolff

dianactpeaceful said...

Wonderful, Andrea... the socks... the flag... the poor blind person who stole it... the THANK YOU!!!... the love... the birthday... your children... the writing of every single thing we are in inclusion on your new canvas... I would write "I am a Passionate Pollyanna!"- this is not a curse! This is a goal, and as close to the angels as I can dare to tread.

Andrea said...

I'm so grateful to all of you for reading and for writing. Each comment I read helps me fly into the next short piece I write.

Anonymous said...

OHHH sorry about the Rainbow Flag!!
Happy Birthday Cuz! Love you! Please keep writing. I am reading......Ellen