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folk dance of life

March 28, 2012

We’re back home, still steeped in that coming home giddiness that kicks in right as our tiny plane banks low enough to spot the first scrubby pinyon and juniper trees rollicking over curvy hills. Green on brown. Home.

Why yes, we are at Pier 39: the zenith of San Francisco tourism.

Seagulls are posed, obviously.

If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I’m *so* becoming a dog walker.

The memorial was held on our last day in Berkeley, a festival of relatives and ghosts.

A pack of young cousins blurred by, shrieking and laughing, playing their role as the young upstarts, the ones who still believe everything remains the same forever; the ones who rely on parents to deposit them gently in bed after being worn to a nub by their own exuberance; the ones whose very selves are the shiny vessels into which we adults pour our hopes and dreams.

I remember being in that club of cousins, being fast and light in my kid-suit, bonded in solidarity with anyone who shared the same set of grandparents. My cousin Janie made me laugh ’til I peed my pants. Rachel Jennifer, Amy and I, proudly and gigglingly, hand-lettered newspapers featuring our fictional fall guy, “Dum Dum,” and distributed them amongst the parents. Amy’s brother Josh, cornered me in his room and fired off a question my heart was pounding to get right. His record player spun every little thing she does is magic, and he demanded: “what’s better – rock and roll or disco?” This was formative stuff.

Back then, the parents were a generic and benevolent bunch, reliably found occupying couches with drinks in hand, available for feedings and the depositing of our ragged bodies into a pile of sleepy cousins. The grandparents were impossibly old and duly special, always happy to receive hugs from their grandkids when we finally slowed down long enough.

Being at Grandma Joyce’s memorial, seeing my wonderful mother choreographing the celebration of her mother’s life was like being handed a memo that reads: everything changes. What changes? Well, now we’re the benevolent bunch in our adult-suits. We can be found on the couches while our children swirl in and out of focus, stopping only to grab an olive off our plates.

This passing of the generational baton reminds me of folk dancing, which Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Herb loved. While you’re constantly moving within the formation of dancers, you always have a place and your next step hurtles you somewhere purposeful. Eventually it hurtles you towards old age and death (in the very best case scenario), and even my beloved parents will die. My parents! This is a truth that I keep scraping off the sides of the bowl, trying to incorporate its immutableness into the mix, but it’s too slippery for my heart to hold.

In my bravest, most ballooning-heart place, this notion helps me rejoice in the small things, in the masterpiece of an apricot blossom, or the warbly, off-tune soundtrack that is our delicious and messy life. To rejoice in this extended family that grows and contracts, and in the people that make me both a mother and a daughter.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 8:23 am

    beautifully written. yep to the breathability of the changes.

  2. March 28, 2012 8:49 am

    “keep scraping off the sides of the bowl..” oh my.

  3. March 28, 2012 9:08 am

    Beautiful, Rachel.

  4. Christy permalink
    March 28, 2012 9:47 am

    Oh, that made my heart squeeze.

  5. March 28, 2012 10:31 am

    Great post. I always have to decompress after such a visit. There’s so much to think about. I’m glad you had a good trip! xo

  6. ike permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:34 am

    So beautifully written and so true. Yes change is inevitable but also so possible

  7. March 28, 2012 11:53 am

    So very true. My cousins and I did all sorts of things too. One being putting on dance shows (The Osmonds anyone?) for our parents, who had drinks in their hands while watching. I liked that part. Brought back very special memories for sure! I am sorry to hear of your Grandma’s passing, onward and upward for us all. :o)

  8. Dan permalink
    March 28, 2012 11:54 am

    Wow, honey such powerful and heartfelt words….you are writing so beautifully! Love, Dan

  9. Jessica permalink
    March 28, 2012 2:14 pm

    Very beautiful. And very true. This is one my my favorite posts that you have written, both for writing style and content.

    Some of my favorite childhood memories are running around with my cousins too. Lipsyncing to Neil Diamond’s Jazz Singer. Oh my.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    March 28, 2012 2:32 pm

    Tears girl. Tears.

  11. martha permalink
    March 28, 2012 6:48 pm


  12. Emmanuelle permalink
    March 28, 2012 8:27 pm

    This post illustrates every quality of your wonderful, lively writing, so personal and yet touching effortlessly to the universal. Maybe thanks to that particular mix of strong, inexpected, unique images that you seem to stumble upon without thinking, and a gift for weawing them in and out of deep feelings that resonate secretely throughout the tale, like music. And there we are, vibrating with them.

    • Emmanuelle permalink
      March 28, 2012 8:28 pm

      “unexpected” :o)

    • Emmanuelle permalink
      March 28, 2012 8:30 pm

      and “weaving” ;o)

  13. Melissa permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:10 pm

    can’t wait to read your book!! for real, as avi would say.

    and i love how well you straddle the bay area and durango . . . and that your kids get the best of them, too.

    i am starting a new bereavement group soon and have death on the mind more often–it’s such a trip and yet the only thing that is certain.

    you capture your process so beautifully, and in a way that is universal, too. thanks for sharing.

  14. March 28, 2012 11:13 pm

    Geez, Louise! Yet another posting that made me cry. Damn, you’re a great writer!

    My partner keeps saying that he thinks a big community square dance would be fun. I can’t figure it out, because I keep thinking we’re young (and hip). And we are (sort of), but we belong to that in-between generation with three growing kids and three aging parents + step-parents.

    Maybe it’s not about getting gussied up in dresses with crinolines and suits with bow ties and doing the do-si-do. Maybe he’s on to something. Maybe he meant something more.

    It’s always a delight to read your writing. Thanks for sharing this!

  15. March 29, 2012 6:36 am

    Breath-taking and beautiful. Thanks for sharing this writing. I don’t know, but I think the dog-walking gig might just have to wait a lifetime or two. You’ve got something else to do.

  16. March 29, 2012 10:03 am

    Heart sqeezingly beautiful.

  17. March 29, 2012 10:09 am

    love the folk dancing imagery… and now i’m going to think about rock and roll instead, so i don’t cry at work.

  18. March 30, 2012 10:57 am

    so happy you’re able to find joy in the little things. and this line: “you always have a place and your next step hurtles you somewhere purposeful” is beautiful.
    i think you might be on to something with dog walking.

  19. March 31, 2012 12:13 am

    This is so beautifully, exactly, perfectly true and perfectly captured in your magic pen.

    On another note, I listened to the podcast (Juniper napped for 2 hours in her stroller outside!) and…oh, so many things, but…you never talked about your magic pen. Where did you get it and when?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 31, 2012 2:52 pm

      My magic pen. That’s very nice.

      When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher, Mrs Georgia Peterson, who liked the writing I turned in for creative writing assignments, encouraged me to write. I spent much of the next few years pounding out stories on my parents’ typewriter in our basement, or scribbling by hand in notebooks. All of my characters were young, semi-orphaned girls with weird hidden secrets (too much V.C. Andrews perhaps?). I was sure I would be the youngest published writer, y’know, publishing my first book at say, ten. I also was always a voracious reader.

      And then a million things got in the way (read: boys and my social life) and I got distracted, until post-college. But, part of my magic pen is LOTS of reading, a constant narrative in my head, carrying a small notebook everywhere, a strong desire to write (read: obsession) and a lot of hard work.

      xo Rachel

  20. April 1, 2012 12:03 pm

    Lovely memories and a beautiful metaphor. Your descriptive choices conjured up some of my own best emotional memories of growing up running about with cousins. For me, this phrase – ‘…swirl in and out of focus, stopping only to grab an olive off our plates…’ smacks of how I remember being a kid at family functions, too busy having fun to truly appear anywhere, and what we now also watch my cousins’ respective children doing. Thanks for sharing your memories and reminding me of some of my own.

  21. eringoodman permalink
    April 1, 2012 8:09 pm

    Gorgeous, Rachel. Thank you.

  22. April 3, 2012 11:23 pm

    “This is a truth that I keep scraping off the sides of the bowl…” Wow, such great imagery and can totally relate as I was making brownies about 10 minutes ago. Feelings that so many people share so eloquently written in such a short concise essay. Nice job Rachel…a home run.


  23. April 9, 2012 3:16 pm

    Like everyone else, I am drooling over this line: “This is a truth that I keep scraping off the sides of the bowl, trying to incorporate its immutableness into the mix, but it’s too slippery for my heart to hold.” Insert dramatic sigh. Oy! Those writing chops. So impressive.


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