In all three of the childhood homes that live in my memory, my mother had a nest. There was always a special area where she stored the items that came to be emblematic – in my mind at least – of who she was. My father described it in his foreword to her book, Poems on a Refrigerator Door:
Carol wrote most of her poetry late at night in a small bedroom alcove, surrounded by stacks of books and papers that grew untidily from an underbrush of pens, pencils, emery boards and ashtrays.
Like my mother, my father was a skilled writer, and it’s not surprising he did such a nice job describing my mother’s nest. One detail that evaded him this time, however, was her playing cards. My mother was an obsessive solitaire player. When she wasn’t cooking, reading, writing, sculpting or drawing, she was playing solitaire. Sometimes we would have to beg her to stop, so that she could help us with whatever it was – finding a lost sock or remembering the name of a movie we’d seen on television.
“Wait a minute. I haven’t beaten Sol yet. I haven’t beaten Sol all day.”
And she’d play on, until she had the cards in four neat, suited stacks of 13 each.
I don’t really have a nest the way my mother did, and I’m not the cook, reader or visual artist she was. I do have a certain urge to put words on paper, though. And I’ve definitely inherited her tendency towards addiction. Like her, I’m known to have a drink or two from time to time, and I was once a pretty heavy smoker. I’ve inherited her love of solitaire, as well. I can’t remember the last time I played with actual playing cards; instead, I spend much of my so-called “free” time on my iPhone or tablet, flipping over vittual cards, looking to put the red seven on the black eight, wating for that moment, when Sol gives up and the rest of the cards cascade out in bouncing fans, and the words “YOU WON!” appear on my screen, pixels forming triumphant fireworks, and reminding me it’s time to get back to whatever “important” task I was attempting, before taking on Sol.
My mother was something of a purist, and I imagine if she’d lived long enough to see the technology we now take for granted, she might have thought it a poor substitute for real cards. She took pleasure, I think, in the minutiae of all that she did, including solitaire. Shuffling the cards, flipping them sequentially the proper way, were actions that might seem simple to the casual observer. For my mother, however, they were the intricate machinations that brought her closer to peace.