Mary Bogue

Mary Bogue is always wondering about how we walk through life, and sees it as a dance; sometimes we're wearing high heels and doing the tango backwards in a man's arms, other times we're line dancing in flats while picking up after kids, and when we're lucky, we're barefootin' it freestyle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Can See Hell From My Kitchen

If Sarah Palin can see Alaska from her kitchen, I can see hell. No, really. I have seen hell more than once from my view over the sink garden window filled with stained glass items and pictures of time spent in both a front yard of sunflowers and also the streets of Montmarte, Paris.

My first recollection of hell outside my window was when I realized that the foster child I had been planning on arriving would not be the little blond with spools of ringlets and bright blue eyes, clutching a teddy bear. No, my first foster child was 15 years old, had dirty hair streaming down her face, was wearing thick Doc Marten style boots, torn and faded once-black jeans, a chain holding an empty wallet to her body and a shirt with the welcoming message every foster parent wants to see, "Death and Anthrax." What else says "Look, Honey," to the reluctant foster dad, "our first kid is walking up the path to the front door, we did the rght thing," than a scruffy teen with a cigarette package in her hand. I sighed and prayed, concurrently.

Kathleen turned out to be just fine - especially since I gave her permission to smoke her cigarettes. Those of you who know me, are thinking, "WTF?" Ah, think again. You know me. Wait for it...wait for it. Here it comes: "No problem," I answered the question mark on her brow. " Nah, I'm good with that if you just follow my rules you can smoke as much as you want." The social worker looked horrified at me. Her mouth opened and before drool could form, I went on,"just walk out to the back of the property (a mere couple hundred of yards) and smoke behind the wall where the pool filter is..." She interrupted me, "Okay." Without missing a beat, I offered, "use the ashtray only, and when you're done empty the cigarette into the black trash bin, bring the ashtray in and wash it with hot water and soap," she started to speak again. I cut her off, "then walk out back and replace it, come back inside and take off all your clothes, do a load of laundry and take a shower and wash your hair, put on clean clothes and then do as you like. Her eyes were saucer-big. "And really," I finished, "I don't care how much you smoke as long as you do that and buy your own cigarettes. Go for it." Kathleen's eyes closed as she dropped her head to her chest, "I always wanted to quit," she mumbled. That was it, Kathleen never smoked again.

Hell came once or twice more down my front door path. It came one June afternoon when a tall stranger in a dark suit hand-delivered the box of cremated remains of my late husband Robbie to me. I looked down at the box and smiled. You see, I had already given them Rob's favorite hand carved stone box depicting a golden retriever, but the crematorium informed me that not all of Rob would fit. Dazed, I told them to just put the rest in a Ziploc. I think they were ready to faint on the the other end. But certainly Rob would have appreciated it. Good God, he used to joke that he should be stuffed, so he could sit upright in his favorite chair with a remote control in his hand. I thanked the stranger and sent him on his way. In my hands rested the "leftovers" of a man who had been bigger than life, reduced to ashes. There is no going back. You might think you can rebuild a similar man or life, but you can't. Here I am, eight years down the road, and I'm here to tell you it is ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. You can put a pretty bow on the cardboard box, but it still holds yesterday's happiness and tomorrow's uncertainty.

Once, hell came in the form of a "friend" of my late husband. I remember hearing the asshole quite clearly. He pulled up on his motorcycle disturbing the flittering buzz of a hummingbird which darted away. Mr. A-hole sauntered up the sidewalk, leather pants making a susshing sound which grew louder with his approach. He considered himself to be a great friend to my husband, and yet, I had to inform him that Rob had died two years previously. A-hole took it all in, and then, moments later said to me - the still grieving widow, "Ya know, I really didn't like him the last time I saw him..." A-hole left my house with my definition of what a real friendship is. Oh, there were other lessons to be learned that day, for sure. But I was happy to see Hell's personal "Mr. Outreach" leave my my kitchen sink window perch-like view and straddle his "hog," leaving a horrid screech behind.

Hell has also taken a more literal turn as well. We have been under attack by monster fires this last week. California is burning and surely some red-necked (so sue me, come on, really) illiterate is blaming the fires upon our gay population, the rights of same to get married if they should so choose, and let's not forget the right to choose abortion if necessary. Imagine the hell that is for any woman - what kind of a choice is that? But I digress.

I came in late last night from a night of singing torch songs on the other side of town, where the air wasn't heavy with particulates. Upon opening the door to my car, I stepped out and realized that the "snow" on the ground was the charred remains of people's lives, swirling around my lace high heels. It was furniture, jewelry boxes, teddy bears, abandoned shoes, walls, forests, creatures unable to out-run the blistering inferno, wedding memories and family photographs of happier times when children are frozen in time at the age of five wearing their take on a gypsy- princess Halloween costume. It was dreams up in smoke. It was the devil. It was breath-taking, and try as I might, I could not breathe a bit of fresh air. Looking up, the moon hung orange in a smokey black curtain. I tasted the air and as it settled into my hair and clothes in just seconds, it tasted like charcoal briquettes waiting to explode. It tasted like death.

So what's my point? I mean, I must have one, right? Good God, let's hope so! Here it is; we only have this moment which if we're lucky keeps regenerating. Take the time to create a breath of heaven today or tonight. Tell someone something to make their day. Today, I had a business meeting with a young man and I encouraged him to take the phone call which seemed to interrupt the flow of things betwen us. At the end of his phone conversaion he said to the person on the other end, " I love you, Sweetie." I promise, you can be standing in a mound of rubble and broken dreams, but when someone acknowledges or professes their love for you - you are lifted higher and your soul soars beyond the orange moon.

I love you.