Believe in supporting the arts?

I do. I believe in supporting the arts. I pay a lot of taxes and the horrible people who decide how to spend them are taking money away from all the things I care about and giving it to rich people and the machinations of war. It kills me. What can I do to support the arts, as a lowly, relatively poor person who has no say over tax expenditures? I like to buy things directly from artists when I can, but what else might I do?

There’s another way. You can provide direct support, monthly, to an individual artist and have an immediate effect. A real effect. No, it doesn’t help elementary school kids get to have art class at school (you can donate supplies, teachers always welcome help!), and it doesn’t do anything to move the system, but by helping an individual artist, you DO support the arts.

Marnie Galloway

My daughter Marnie is such an artist, and has launched her Patreon page seeking patrons. For as little as $3-$5/month, you can contribute in a real way. She is seeking patronage to help “offset the cost of two days of childcare a week to work on two new projects: researching and developing a new graphic novel, and creating a local, site-specific experimental comics project here in Chicago. These are slow, long-term projects that need hours in libraries, hours experimenting with materials, and hours dipping pen nibs in ink that would definitely be disrupted by tiny, curious, banana-covered hands.”

Here is her Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/marniegalloway) and if it goes to the ‘Posts’ page, just click the ‘Overview’ button to read her pitch. With just a couple of clicks, you can set up a monthly donation of your choice, and she has some lovely rewards to accompany each level of patronage.

Be a Medici. Be a patron of the arts, by which I mean a specific artist. And specifically, by which I mean a beautiful artist named Marnie Galloway:

Marnie Galloway is a cartoonist & illustrator working in Chicago, Illinois. She was born in Austin, Texas and studied philosophy & logic at Smith College. She has previously worked as an offset press apprentice (’08), a letterpress studio assistant (’09-10), an art director at Muse and Cicada magazines (’12-’15), a co-organizer at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (’13-’16), and as co-host of the podcast Image Plus Text (’15). These days she divides her time equally between making new books and doing freelance illustration. She lives in a Moomin-esque yellow house with her husband Tom, her newly-toddling son Ilan, and a beastly cat named Al.

stuff

I can never use that word ‘stuff’ without thinking of George Carlin’s brilliant monologue about stuff.

I’ve never been a huge fan of lots of stuff, if only because we moved all the time and I no sooner unpacked some stuff until it was time to pack it again (and sometimes just to flee and leave it behind). Stuff gets weeded out pretty quickly in that life. And what’s so funny to me is that when I moved here in October 2012, I did not have any  stuff at all, just my suitcase with clothing, and some boxes of books that arrived later. So everything that sits in my house right now has been acquired since then. Every fork. Every knickknack. Every coaster. Every doodad, every poetry magazine, every lamp. Everything. And of course 80% of it was bought with my daughter Katie — her in the immediacy of her terrible, terrible grief — her encouraging me to get the nicer thing, not to cheap-ass-plastic myself, for once to have a nice thing. And so all of my things have her soaked into them. Her tiny little smile (how did she even muster any of that, a month after losing her beloved daughter???). Her getting out of bed and going with me, her help making lists of things I’d need, tasks to do. She is so fully a part of almost everything in my house.

Just a very quick shot before the young couple took it away….

I bought a way too big dining table, chairs, and bench. Too big for the space, but in my mind I was buying a very nice set that my entire family would gather around, never mind that the space was too small to extend the leaf. I was buying a very nice set that I could pass down to one of my kids. I was buying a very nice set that I imagined would be the center of wonderful times with my precious family, and when I bought it, I imagined Katie and her husband and the children they would surely go on to have sitting around it.

A mix — poetry folks AND book club women. Cheers, dear Anne! Hi Karyn, and Rebecca, and is that Ben? I always loved having you all gather around my table.

That didn’t happen, and it was really too big for the small space, but that doesn’t mean that the table wasn’t the center of a lot of wonderful times. It has been laden with food for poetry group parties, and book club dinners, and buffets for a cheese group I ran a few times. It held my sewing machine as I made a quilt for Oliver, and then for Ilan, and then for Lucy. It held a beautiful, large glass bowl — red, washed with vivid gold streaks — that I sometimes filled with glass balls, or a tall gold hurricane candle holder, or pine cones, or clementines (and let’s be real: sometimes it got filled with mail and assorted junk).

I’d been thinking about getting rid of the table anyway, and getting a small table that was much more suited to the space, and I would’ve felt the same things watching it go out the door for that reason as I feel today, watching it go out the door in preparation for my move.

just gone.

And now it’s gone, into the brand new home of a darling young couple who want it for the same reason I did, so that at least feels very good to me. It wasn’t my family heirloom table after all, but it will be theirs. That pleases me. The space is empty and swept, and the rug rolled, and I’ll use the space to stage loaded boxes and small furniture in preparation for the move. It’s nice to have an empty space large enough to move the packed boxes out of the way.

It’s inevitable that I’m thinking about Katie with every box assembled, every inch of tape applied, every precious object wrapped carefully. I haven’t even had time, yet, to bear thinking about living so far away from her that I can’t just swing by and see her or help her, or see precious Oliver and luscious Lucy. I can’t think about all that yet, and anyway right now it’s all I can do to manage thinking about her helping me buy all these things I’m taking with me. I honor my promise to myself to take them all with me, and I made that promise in large part to honor her sacrifices made for me, when I had nothing and she had just lost her most beloved dream and didn’t even know how to keep breathing. You’d think there would be tremendous comfort in a kind of “well, I’m taking Katie with me” kind of way — and of course when I place all these things into my new home, I will again think of her as I always do when I touch each thing, or sit on my couch or in my leather chair, or when I look at my beautiful bedroom furniture, or the chair in my bedroom that she encouraged me to get just because it pleased me. I’ll still and always remember her in that way. But at the moment, as I’m preparing to leave, the comfort isn’t there yet. I just touch the ways we both felt when we shopped for them.

Stuff. It’s just stuff and it isn’t at ALL just stuff. (I mean, some is. I don’t have to feel sentimental about the organizer for my silverware.)

notes from the mother in the middle of the night

In a few hours I will take my suitcase in hand, and Katie and Trey will drive me to the airport. Usually, when it’s time to go, I feel a twinge and an ache to leave my daughter but I’m also looking forward to getting back to New York, to my own life, knowing that Katie and I will be in regular touch with each other, and that I’ll see her as soon as I can.

This time, though, it feels unbearable to leave. It feels impossible, really, and without being maudlin about it, I’ve been crying for so long I’m feeling like I’d better get a glass of water or I’ll dehydrate. It’s that kind of feeling where your chest literally aches, where you feel a giant hole in your middle, an emptiness, something is gone and you don’t know what to do. Where the hole feels like you might fall in and everything around you will fall in too, the world will get pulled into the hole because it’s so deep and black and filled with gravity.

It occurs to me that my sweet daughter is feeling a much worse version of this, for her own sweet daughter. And I’m indulging my pain and grief like a baby — wah wah wah, poor me — when I have the opportunity to come back and see my daughter again, I can call my daughter on the phone, send her emails, read hers back to me, hear her laugh and cry. She doesn’t have that possibility with her precious daughter.

And yet my pain is quite terrible, for my dear daughter. See, she’s this very sweet girl, quiet in a particular way, with the sweetest little smile, and a deep deep kindness and love for her family. She’s eloquent but she doesn’t know it, and she’s solid as a rock. I recently learned that my blood grandmother’s last name was Steele; I never knew that, I only knew that her name was Clara. My last name is Stone, it was my grandfather’s name too. I am of Stone and Steele, and I’m pretty strong but Katie’s strength makes me pale. She has the strength not to look away, the strength to get out of bed and to laugh, every once in a while. The strength to let that sweet smile come to her lips now and then, and to let tears roll down her cheeks.

I know I’m not really leaving her all alone here. She’s with Trey, and they’re so good together, and helping each other. But I’m the mama, and even though she’s 30 years old, and married, and settled in her life, she’s still my sweet little girl and she’s hurting more than she’s ever hurt before.

Life is so difficult at times, and the pain is deep. In the quiet of 2am, it’s so easy to touch all the losses of life, to remember the pain that finally eased off and became bearable, that wound its way into ordinariness. Even though this song is about a different kind of loss, the tone of it, the feeling, feels just right to me in my heavyhearted night. It’s Bob Schneider singing the acoustic version of Losing You:

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God almighty. I am grateful to be here, I am grateful for all the experiences of life, I accept them and want them, and this pain now, this grief, this watching my beloved girl suffer so much, it’s hard going. It’s hard. It hurts, it fills me up and takes away my words and leaves me dumb.

I’ve always loved this picture of Katie, because it’s characteristic of her. She’ll sit like this, listening to people talk, filled with her thoughts. I’ve looked into those green eyes so many times over 30 years, I’ve brushed and braided that thick pretty hair, I’ve dried her tears and kissed her cheeks. And now there’s not a damn thing I can do, and it’s excruciating, mothers, it is.

It’s a crying night, I suppose. I imagine that before she went to sleep tonight, in the bedroom right underneath the one I’m in, Katie cried a lot too. Two mothers crying for their daughters, so much love and pain in two big hearts.