Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Last night “Sixty Minutes” talked about eating sugar and “the reward center” in your brain. I didn’t know this was a scientific term, its use taken for granted by the reporter and the doctors on the show. The reward center. I was to understand that eating sugar was addictive and connected to this place in the brain that lights up happily when you reward yourself.

I thought of my father – so fond of his Viennese pastries and his whiskies and sodas – these, I realized, were moments when he could sit down and reward himself. No one else was going to.

“Sixty Minutes” also talked about people who can’t recognize faces, not even those of their own children. And I thought of my first few weeks at my current job and how I divided people by hair color, unable to see differentiating characteristics in the crowd of new faces. And now I could never mistake Melissa for Amy for Rose even though they all have long blonde hair.

My father is dead and my mother is 88 and when I asked her last week if, by the way, Dad had a will she said no, but that she was going to have everything split evenly three ways between me and my sisters and that she’d been paying monthly into a fund since the late 80s that would cover the cost of her cremation. I hadn’t wanted to know any of that.

My mother is having a hernia operation on Friday and my two sisters will each do a bit of homecare. I am not there. I will send an audio book of one of the books featured in the memoir festival. I was going to send her Townie, but maybe I should send her a McCourt book. I wanted to send a pretty nightgown too. And flowers. But I haven’t done any of it yet. I am scared to spend money. It’s awful, but I am. An irrational reflex fear that if I spend it’ll all be gone forever.

Where I am sitting there is a small birdcage with a tiny potted jade plant inside that looks pale but alive. The birdcage – far too small for any bird – but pretty with a domed roof, made of wood painted a pale olive green, sits at an angle on a bed of moss that still has most of its green but is drying out and going brown fast. A bunch of ferns, thoroughly dead, has been thrust between the birdcage and the wall. If I looked further I’d see that dead sunflower in a glass vase, but I turn away and look, instead, out the window. 


lori said...

it's that last sentence, such a perfect last sentence that lifts the whole lovely piece into the air with a gasp. the knowledge of the dead sunflower's existence -- and all it stands in for -- and a choice instead to gaze out the window. it settles on me like a contemplative mood.

Marta Szabo said...

Thank you, Lori, for your generosity. A reader is a precious creature, and you especially. m

Mudd said...

YES — what Lori said!

Actually, the whole last paragraph is beautiful. But that last sentence... the dead sunflower...

"...but I turn away..."

Buy the book! Buy the nightgown!


Dianne Lipson said...

That birdcage sounds like it may actually be a cricket cage. They make these in Asia.

Marta Szabo said...

Thank you, Dianne! How wonderful -- you have shed some light! I had no idea.