Monday, May 9, 2011


Head, shoulders, knees and toes… so goes the song I remember from childhood and often sing on Wednesday mornings, much to the delight of the toddlers at my Library storytime. They know those body parts and are happy to point to them, as fast-paced as I make the tune. Looking back to those days of my own youth, it seemed so easy then: a name and function for each part of me, no debates or disputes. Then I got older and started to realize that it’s what’s inside that counts, the stuff you can’t really point to that actually matters.

For awhile I thought that it was brains that mattered most. I was considered an egghead in school. I was class president, always had perfect attendance. I graduated second in my class with several scholarships to an all women’s college. In high school I was driven, and didn’t date much. (Boys don’t make passes at girls…)

College meant being on my own and learning to balance my head and my heart. This was something new to me. Before I woke up everyday, went to school, came home and did my homework. Now I only had myself to answer to and sometimes I found that going to the park on a beautiful sunny day rather than going to class was actually the better choice. Yet if I had it to do over again rather than pursuing my academic studies, I would definitely take more art classes. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all of the knowledge that I gained back then, but I can see with the clarity of hindsight  that concentrating in one area (putting all my eggs in one basket so to speak) didn’t actually prepare me for this life I’m living now. I love to write, take pictures, knit and bake. If I had experimented with the arts back then, maybe I would have enjoyed myself more. Not that I can change things for me, but I do try to stress some of this with the teenager in my house who seems destined to follow along a similar high school path.

The question of which one to listen to--head or heart--often arises for me, but there’s no debating the fact that they are both necessary. In “The Wizard of Oz” the scarecrow asks for a Brain and the tinman a Heart, I feel like I have both of those in abundance. But at this stage in my life I might have to side with the lion and ask that all-mighty all-knowing wizard for some Courage.  I wish for the ability to be brave enough to be more selfish, to pursue my own interests. I work in a service industry where I help people find information. Often times I feel as if this is what I was born to do. Though helping people can get be a bit wearying at times and when I least expect them the meltdowns occur.

I hacked off my hair in a fit last night. Looking in the mirror I’m hoping to find Courage to live with it. So what if I can’t put it up in a clip, pigtails are much more my style anyway. And in some ways my head feels lighter, as do the cabinets and drawers I have purged and reorganized this weekend. I’d like to discover the Courage to move on into a new personal decade, leave some baggage behind. But as my body grows older and changes occur I wonder if I will ever sing “Head and Shoulders” with my own little one again? My head knows it will be okay, but my heart isn’t so sure yet.
Last week I forgot to pack L a sandwich to eat for dinner on his way from karate to baseball.  I also forgot his baseball mitt.  And I forgot that England is five hours ahead of us, not five hours behind.  Which caused a significant upheaval to the interview I had scheduled at a certain time.  On Saturday I forgot to add string cheese and yogurt-in-small-plastic-bags to the grocery list depended upon by M and his mother; the boys will not be pleased when they open their lunch bags at school today.  Yesterday there was a certain word I couldn't remember, a perfect word, no other word would do.  I would tell you what it was but I never managed to come up with it and now I can't even remember what I needed it for.

When my grandmother was first slipping into the warm sea of dementia we laughed at the treasures we found wrapped in tissue and tucked in drawers.  Photographs, pens, stones, orange peels got the same treatment as jewelry and coins.  She'd worry us and amuse us with stories of bearded strangers storming into her house and demanding tea.  Most of her sentences remained unfinished after her death over a dozen years ago, thoughts forgotten midway through, left to fend for themselves among the misfiring synapses of her addled brain.

When I am addled, I do not laugh.  I get angry, and I worry.  I worry about that same fate falling to my own head.  The loss, the absence, the vacant opthalmological windows.  Of course it's more likely that my calendar is the culprit, the reason behind my forgetfulness.  May is...busy.  All the other months are training - May is the marathon.  Soon will come June - picnics, playgrounds, hot dogs on the grill, the fair, open windows - we just have to get through May.  And then, hopefully, my head will recover, relax, release, and rejoice.  Until then, dear reader, be kind and lower your expectations.  My head, it is doing its best.


  1. Getting your head in the game- I love that expression- simple origins but so true. Wait until menopausal fuzz brain- sigh!