The Body of Memories-September 11th

I met a friend recently for lunch at a park near my home, desperate for her company and encouragement. Nerves were frayed, emotions out of whack, reserve tanks anything but reserved.

I apologized in advance for my undone condition. As I attempted to articulate my very frail feelings, blaming my 4 am wake-up call after a night of worrying about my new book, her simple response was, “You’re exhausted, Jody. No wonder you’re on the brink of tears.”

“Plus, it’s almost September 11th.”

Until she voiced the obvious, I wasn’t aware that, too, was weighing on my mind. Our bodies have memory and you’re remembering that day.

—–

In September of 2001, my daughter and I celebrated her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City. We’d arranged a 10-day visit with my nephew who lived in Brooklyn and also a meeting with Ruth Reichl, then Editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. The first five days in and around the city were glorious. A drive to the beach and back, subway-riding to Manhattan and the New York Public Library. Strolling through Central Park and jaunts all around Brooklyn. On the evening of September 10th, we met my nephew after work for drinks at a restaurant high atop the Marriott Hotel.

 A tremendous thunderstorm came through that night. We watched in awe from our cloud-high window seats at the lightning strikes, rain storming down in buckets. When we ventured back to the street, we found the air charged with heat and pressed on through the rain. Although we got soaked, we dried out on the subway ride home. (I wrote about the kindness of the people we met that night in this poem.) 
The next morning was the day of our appointment with Ruth back in Midtown at 30 Rockefeller Center.  I remember the voicemail from her assistant,  ‘See you at 11 on the 11th.’

The morning broke with a crystal clear blue sky, scrubbed clean from the previous nights’ storm. And then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.

That September Day

  

The soft and subtle glow of the sun sits right side of my shoulder. Bumper by bumper, we move at a close and constant pace while I relish the music washing over me. Grateful to not be harried and hurrying homeward,  I turn up the volume and conduct the air while I make the most of the slow wheels, asphalt-wise.

The twang of guitar, the soft snare and notes weave together, while a piano taps out a tune as if played by a nimble kitten.  A single voice enters the song, sending me back to a time when my mother sang these very same words. That was a long time ago, but the words are just as poignant today.
I wonder at my fellow drivers, if they’ll shake their heads while I agitate the air in time with the song.  I am moved, inside and out. Broadway lyrics are often deep, deep wells if you listen outside the lines.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When grass was green and grain so yellow.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When you were a young and callow fellow,
                                Try to remember
                                And if you remember
                                Then follow…
And while the world is remembering, as it should, that September Day, I would like to argue that it is good to remember simpler times, happier times, whole-er times. 
 Any September….the kind where the joy of the first day of school and crisp plaid dresses and black and white oxford shoes heralded the season ahead.  The season of fall and school carnivals and hide-and-seek and bike rides and roller skating.
The Septembers where neighbors herded and fed each others’ children, shared swimming pools and picnics, phone lines and fenceline conversations. 
 
At least that’s what I remember. And maybe your world has that kind of joy in it; I rejoice with you, for it is more and more rare. I daresay you are aware of that and praise God for it often.
Why sing? Why remember? 
Because our right here/right now world is tenuous and taut and fraught with fear. But there is a just-as-real and unseen world all around us, a kingdom where those Septembers and Mays and Januarys are beautiful, peopled with whole and happy citizens. 
Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.
     So, in this right here/right now life we move forward because of faith—faith in what we know can be so. Faith that remembers how our God is with is, was with us, and will be with us in all of our Septembers.
     Not because there is no pain or horror or violence, but because there is a healer and a helper and a holder. And we can sing along with rich and full musical lines that help us remember.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    Although you know the snow will follow.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    The fire of September that made us mellow.
                    Deep in December, our hearts should remember
                    And follow.
Let’s sing to each other. Let’s remember. Let’s follow.
~~~~~~~~~~
I have written about the experience of living through September 11th with my daughter Leah when we were visiting New York City.  I wanted to share this today because my mother died on September 11th. In 1984. And she loved to sing.
“Try to Remember” is from the Broadway musical, The Fantasticks, 1960.
I was singing along with Josh Groban’s recording from his ‘Stages’ album, cranked up loud. 
Very loud.

The Kindness of Strangers {a #poem}

“That’s what we storytellers do Mrs. Travers. We restore order through imagination.

We instill hope again and again and again.”
                                                                                       Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

View towards Manhattan from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. photo J.L. Collins

way back then
when no one knew
the world would crack the next day,
we stood there,
tourist trappings wrapped around us
everywhere.
‘howdy’ I said, that quiet night on the subway.
late ride home, guest of the nephew,
no one but he, myself, and daughter, it seemed.
(surely there were others).
“We’re from Seattle,” I announced, 
including my girl
with the sweep
of my hand.  “Visiting him…..”
towards the nephew.

“My name’s Peter. I’m a writer,”
he replied.
‘Who do write for?’
‘A magazine–Newsweek…’
‘oh.’
and me so impressed, not by his job
but his niceness in New York
that carried over to the exchanged emails
(truly!)
and the phone call I got to make the few days later
when, safely arrived at home, across miles of mayhem
and madness
I reached through, asked for him,
and heard him say, “Seattle?–how are you?”
and he cared with his questions and 
I in turn with mine.
He was okay….
recovering in the City that had been incinerated.
We were safe at home (physically) 
but the mental and emotional
healing would take many, many months.
Years. (and there would be scars).
His concern helped.

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the
fright of traveling underground in those lightless places
New York–London–Tokyo
perilously passing you through the layers underneath–
there are people kind, open, friendly,
and no matter where you are
we are all the same–
especially on the subway.

Jody Lee Collins c. 2012
~~~~~~~~~~~~                                                           

In September of 2001 my daughter and I were going to celebrate her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City to meet Ruth Reichl, then Editor of ‘Gourmet Magazine’ and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. We’d spent 5 glorious days in and around Brooklyn and on September 10th in the evening, met my nephew for drinks at Windows on the World restaurant 70 plus floors up, high in Manhattan.  
A tremendous summer thunderstorm came through that night, lightning strikes, rain in buckets, soaking us through. We dried out and took the subway home.
The next morning was the day of our appointment.  I remember the voice message, ‘see you at 11 on the 11th’ , from Ruth’s assistant.  It was a crystal clear, blue sky day. Then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.
When we returned home to Washington, I was in shock for about 6 weeks, although I didn’t know it at the time. 
I couldn’t talk on the phone and cook dinner at the same time. 
I had to be still whenever possible. 
Simultaneous input verbally and visually was overwhelming. 
I walked through the days wrapped in cotton. 
You can read what I wrote after I’d been home a few weeks  here.

Cocooning-{a #poem}

                              A shell of protection, this choice I’ve made
To hide away indefinitely until
This fragile, silken wall peels
Away revealing new life.
The barrier is temporary and thin—
Easily broken when the time is right.
But now I must collect myself
Be still awhile
Take pains with my words, listen more,
Defy the urgency of unnecessary things.
Spinning this private insulation 
Preserves me heart and soul
In these jostling, jarring times.
Whispered prayers for new life
to come as I emerge from this case
of gauzy gray.
Chrysalis–gold.
All that remains
when death and destruction
are burned away and
new life comes on quiet, fragile wings.                             
I will fly, I will land, see the world       
in a new way.

I will remember.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In September of 2001 my daughter and I celebrated her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City to meet Ruth Reichl, then Editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. We’d spent 5 glorious days in and around Brooklyn and on September 10th in the evening, met my nephew for drinks at the Windows on the World restaurant in Manhattan.  A tremendous summer thunderstorm came through that night, lightning strikes, rain in buckets, we were soaked but dried out and took the subway home (I wrote about the kindness of the people we met that night here.
The next morning was the day of our appointment.  I remember a voicemail,  ‘See you at 11 on the 11th’ , from Ruth’s assistant. 

It was a crystal clear, blue sky day. And then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.

When we returned home to Washington, I was in shock for about 6 weeks, although I didn’t know it at the time.
I couldn’t talk on the phone and cook dinner at the same time.
I had to be still whenever possible.
Simultaneous input verbally and visually was overwhelming.
I walked through the days wrapped in cotton and as I was able, gingerly wrapped words around that September Day.