Openish in the liminal space

standing on the threshold between two realities

liminalI went to two events recently which made me feel more OK mentally than I’ve felt in a long, long, long while.

This is not to say that I hadn’t felt glimpses of this before. Eating lunch on April 6 with friends Carol, Karen, Bill – all of whom I’ve known since kindergarten. Also, Michael, who I only met 35 years ago. This was 13 days after my second vaccine shot, so I was still feeling tentative.

On May 1, I had a date day with my wife, seeing the tulips in Washington Park, visiting Peebles Park, and eating indoors for the first time in 15 months, which made me a tad wary.

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library had a small reception for our Literary Legends for 2021 this month. The accomplished Lydia Davis signed my copy of her collected works back in 2013. I knew Gene Mirabelli 30 years ago as a mentor of other writers, in addition to his own prodigious output, and, remarkably, he looks about the same.

I got to chat with both and their families and later introduce the authors. This felt… normal. In another time, this might have been No Big Deal. But in light of the last 15 months, it felt like, to quote Joe Biden when the Affordable Care Act was passed nearly a dozen years ago, a BFD.

It helped that the day was PERFECT. Not hot and humid, or chilly and raw, or rainy, since the event was held in the garden of the Bach branch of the APL.

Then I had a delightful conversation with the two librarians, Christina and Deanna, about why I play my CDs in birthday order, which, because they are librarians, made sense to them. It’s SO good to be understood.


Then on Father’s Day, my wife and I attended church in person, as opposed to on Facebook. We were asked if we felt ill (ill and well sound the same with a mask) and were seated n socially-distanced “pods”. But it was in the building. No one could sing except the soloist; I discovered at least one other person besides me moving their arm as though they were singing the individual notes. Hearing Trevor on the organ in that space was a vast improvement over listening to it on the laptop.

In the sermon, the pastor used a word I had heard only on a single occasion before. The same pastor talked about liminal space.

From here: “The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin root, limen, which means ‘threshold.’ The liminal space is the ‘crossing over’ space – a space where you have left something behind, yet you are not yet fully in something else.” An example would be “that time in the early morning when you are floating in and out of sleep.”

Or from here: “In certain spaces under certain circumstances, you’ll experience a feeling of things being slightly off. An altered reality, if you will.”

So we are in a liminal time. Not quite back to “normal”, as much as some folks want like to believe. Vaccine reluctance in some parts of the country could – strike that; probably will – bring on a surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19. We need to protect the children who haven’t had the opportunity to get the vaccine, which is why APL still requires masks indoors.

But we’re getting there.

N is for Normal

My biology/homeroom teacher told me straight out that my father was “CRAZY” for leaving his job at IBM.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, it was NORMAL for the mom to be home with the kids. My family wasn’t normal. My mother worked outside the home for as long as I can remember until she retired a decade and a half ago.

First, she was in the bookkeeping department at McLean’s department store in downtown Binghamton. Then she moved less than a block to Columbia Gas, where she was reportedly the first black person to work as a customer service rep. When she moved to Charlotte, NC, she was a bank teller for First Union bank.

No one has ever suggested that my father was anything like “normal.” In fact, my biology/homeroom teacher told me straight out that my father was “CRAZY” for leaving his job at IBM of six years (that he hated), especially for a position with Opportunities for Broome, an OEO government job (where he thought he was making a difference). Government jobs come and go, but once you’re in the IBM family, you were set for life. (IBM decided it actually DID start having to lay off people in the 1990s.)

So, normalcy isn’t always that appealing. It’s been used as a cudgel to block all sorts of individual and collective rights.

Conversely, I AM sympathetic, as I watch the trauma over the worldwide economic crisis when I hear people ask, “When will things get back to NORMAL?” Likewise, the “crazy” weather generates a similar response. People are desperately looking for a sense of stability/sanity.

I have to wonder if “normal” is coming, or, as I suspect, we’ve come to a “new normal” of stormy weather, fiscally and meteorologically.

As Bruce Cockburn sang: The trouble with normal is it always gets worseLISTEN.

Maybe Normal is just a town in Illinois.

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

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