Sunday, May 13, 2012

Of Mother's Day, Mark Rothko and Jelly Beans

Happy Mother's Day!

Breaking News: Though we’ve only known each other for four months, our relationship is serious. How can that happen so quickly? How can it not, when the object of my unconditional love is my four-month-old grandson? He now smiles when he sees me. I smile all the time, just because he exists.

This Mother’s Day, I salute that baby’s wonderful mother, my dear daughter-in-law Patricia. A shout-out also goes to Gerry and Susan, the baby’s other grandmas; his aunt Martia; his great aunt Betty; and all my dear friends who are moms and grandmas. I also honor my own grandmothers, Lil and Annie, on this day.

And of course I remember with love my mom, Bonnie.

She never got to meet Joel, which is so sad. Because of that, I am serving as grandmother for both of us, soaking up every moment I am with the baby. I sing made-up songs to him. Among our favorites are “It’s Fun to Be Naked,” the “Nana” song and the one where I sing the names of all the people (and the cat) who love him.

Living in San Francisco, being in the middle of family, still feels surprising after almost two years. I remain startled that I did it -- packed up after 61 years and left St. Louis, set out for new territory, moved to this world-class city. Driving up the hill to the grocery, I still gaze in wonder when the skyline and the sparkling waters of the Bay come into view and I still exult: “I LIVE HERE!”

And I am still learning. For instance, did you know that Mother’s Day in Mexico is May 10 every year? I learned this Thursday on the bus when I complimented a young woman on the huge bouquet she carried. “I kept telling my mama that Mother’s Day in this country isn't until Sunday but she wanted to celebrate today, so I’m heading to her house,” she said. Then she kindly wished me a happy Mother’s Day.

It's a Trip: Riding the bus, I’ve also learned that pigeons like to hang out on the small second-story porches of some Victorian houses. Some homeowners place large plastic owls on the porches to discourage pigeons. Riding along, I noticed two porches with owls and next door, a second-story porch full of pigeons, cautiously observing the owls. So it works!

I’ve sung the praises before of riding the bus here. There’s something invigorating about being in the middle of so many different people. One day last week, a German couple sat talking next to a turbaned Sikh. Across from them was an Hispanic family, who stopped to help a Russian woman reposition her bulging grocery bags. Get on a bus in San Francisco, and you will see the world.

You also will see the passion people here have for sports. On the bus, I have seen people toting surfboards, golf clubs, tennis rackets and footballs. Musicians ride the bus too. One guy got on juggling a yard-long keyboard, a guitar, a backpack and a cup of coffee. Those of us on the bench shifted to make room.   

In Other News, as the anchorpeople say on TV, a couple of weeks ago, I went to see “Red,” John Logan’s provocative play about Mark Rothko, at the Berkeley Rep. I’ve admired Rothko’s work at the St. Louis Art Museum and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, but after learning more about the man from the play and the program notes, I wanted to spend time again with one of his paintings.

Rothko didn’t want people to stand across the room from his famous floating blocks of color. He wanted people to move in close, stand just 18 inches away, to better absorb the art and hear – or feel -- what Rothko had to say. I headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and got up close to No. 14 (1960). As I moved into position, a young girl, maybe 11 or 12, standing nearby turned to her mother and said, “I get it.” I willed myself to stop thinking, and after awhile, I think I got it, too.

Good News: More theater is on the schedule. The gifted Bill Irwin is now at A.C.T. in Beckett’s “Endgame” and “Play,” which I’ll see this week when Judy visits. We also will attend a Giants v. Cardinals game – with me all in orange and black and Judy in red. We may also visit the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, about an hour north of San Francisco. Apparently it takes a week to make a single jellybean.

I don’t know about you, but I want to know why! 

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