Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I am not going to let go of this one so easily…

Yesterday I did get two wishes in the end for a “Happy Women’s Day:” one from a friend who was told to do it (“wish me a Happy Women’s Day already since no one else has!” – he obliged, probably somewhat terrified at my insistence) and the other from a friend who is plugged into a feminist network that supports the holiday on this side of the ocean.

Meanwhile, my sister writes this from Poland:

Women's Day is alive and well in this country. On March 7th already I noticed that a lot of men in Leclerc [a food store] were buying chocolates. Then yesterday, March 8th, you never saw so many people on the streets walking with flowers - those who just got them and those about to give them. Tulips mostly, all colors - yellow, orange, red, pink. A few roses here and there and some yellow jonquils. But not a sign of carnations. It looks like once the socialist Women's Day speeches are gone [this is a reference to the fact that the holiday was once much politicized and the government made a point of underscoring the role of women in building a socialist state], people get to enjoy this holiday. After all, can you really get annoyed if someone gives you flowers?

It sounds quite wonderful to me. Can we perhaps just once in a while be the importers of social custom instead of always sending our own abroad?

I suppose he can have the “bunny” part, though it hardly seems appropriate to call a former president a bunny...

I heard Bush Sr. refer to Clinton yesterday as the Energizer Bunny. Now, I do not mind that a former president promotes a certain brand of battery – after all, former Olympians are all about plugging brands and they get good money for it. Bush was doing this for free, demonstrating his enduring diplomatic panache. A man with the UN written all over his forehead. [Possibly there are some Bush – Energizer connections, but none that I am aware of.]

But I do mind the Energizer Bunny tag being brandished without care or deliberation. I have always wanted to appropriate the label as my own! I am the original bounce-back kid, the one with stamina and grit, Polish peasant stock pumps through my veins as it had for generations before me. I’m the one with ENERGY. I haven’t much to brag about, but this descriptor truly ought to be mine.

As for Clinton? The man is playing golf to raise money. It’s noble, it’s grand, but it’s also golf. And with respect to his health stamina, what can I say, he’s got the time to embark on a full scale fitness program! I have to squeeze things in. He’s 58 and basically out of a job. I’m fully employed and teaching overtime.

Can we share the label? No! If I share it, it will be with someone I find (energy-wise) inspiring. Someone who sleeps even less than I do and appears at peace with this, someone who does not play the guitar at night because of tiredness, but instead, learns a new language and builds a telescope strong enough to detect the Galilean moons around Jupiter. Or, I’ll share it with my grandmother. She’s no longer living and she never finished even grade school, so the telescope-building is not workable, but she had stamina! And grit! And heart. There's a true Energizer Bunny for you.

You’ve changed, my mother told me a few years back…

And I don’t think she meant in a good way. Perhaps she detected some ossification of traits she had wished would go away. Or, she suddenly saw parallels between the adult (more than just adult by now!) daughter and other adult members of the family she wasn’t especially fond of at the time. Quite likely.

I saw hope in that statement. For after all, doesn’t it mean we are capable of change? Regardless of how others judge the direction of it, isn’t it a sign that, with a little twitching, we can actually steer ourselves in a desirable (in our view) direction?

Last night proved that my mom was wrong and so my bubble of hope for a different, better me popped, making puddles of wistful thinking about how I could some day be a person who actually does what she sets out to do.

Because last night, I did what I had done for years and years back in high school, when I was, I thought, less “mature” and “disciplined.” What I did was simple: I stretched out on the floor, leaned against the foot of the couch, took out my guitar and played my Russian ballads. With some Polish odes thrown in. For hours I was there, with my guitar, letting that plunk and warble flow.

Sorry, mom. Once a guitar-playing wallower always a guitar-playing wallower. All that self-improvement I put aside in high school in favor of this rather fainéant activity? It was never meant to be. Some people industriously apply themselves to mastering the next level of whatever intellectual task or project they have undertaken in life and I think nothing of letting three hours slip humming about the sadness of never seeing Alexander Sergeiev Pushkin*, only to move slowly, wistfully into a poetic little tribute to summer

(with apologies for the roughness of my translations)

* What was once, will never return, it’s pointless to feel anguished about it,
Every era has its order, its beauty,
And yet I am saddened, that in this doorway, Pushkin will never appear,
I so crave, if only for a short moment, to sit down over a cognac with him.
(from the Russian poet, Bulat Okudzawa)

** Grasshoppers ran before me in a gallop
From underneath their hooves, flowers burst into bloom
Frogs in ponds lit fires of sound
In the sky the moon set flames of light to stars…
(the imagery in this song is Polish through and through)