I’m Here to Make Friends

One thing I did not expect about parenthood is how weird it is to be an introverted parent. Between hours spent at the playground, a grueling birthday-party schedule, and the dreaded preschool parent social, it’s one forced interaction with my fellow parents after another. I don’t want to talk to strangers about raising kids, I just want to stare off into space for a little while. Is that so wrong?

To make matters worse, my introverted husband and I somehow managed to produce a dyed-in-the-wool extrovert. For my daughter, every stranger is a future friend. The likelihood of someone being anything less than completely delighted to meet her is so remote, so far removed from her experience, that it doesn’t seem to enter her mind as a possibility. Before her second birthday, my daughter started shoving me over toward other parents at the playground, exclaiming, “This is Mommy!” Then she would grin encouragingly at me, as if to say, “Go ahead! Make friends!” So when our Assistant Director, Amy Goldstein, encouraged me to run for Arlington Town Meeting, the biggest drawback wasn’t the late-night meetings or the rambling testimonies of aggrieved townspeople, it was having to spend more time talking to new people.

My neighborhood of East Arlington has changed a lot in the five years since we purchased our half of a two-family. A lot of these changes are great! What was a deserted Hollywood Video is now a vintage store and a restaurant. What was an empty foreclosure is now a newly-renovated condominium. There’s a new path to Alewife Station, new crosswalks, and new bike lanes. And a lot is still changing: our little extrovert is going to be one of 1,000 new students entering Arlington schools in the next five years, wentering the raceetlands that prevent our basement from flooding are in danger of being developed into condominiums, and there’s even a proposal to put in a traffic light right where I’ve been saying there should really be a traffic light. My precinct has a bunch of open seats and not enough “young” people. So I agreed to run for Town Meeting Member.

The first uncomfortable step was to attend a small gathering of citizens in my precinct to learn about the process of running for Town Meeting. The second uncomfortable step was to get signatures from registered voters in my precinct. And you know, people were really nice. They were warm and encouraging. They said they had seen me around and were happy that I decided to get involved. And hey, as an emotionally-intelligent introvert, The New York Times tells me I can succeed as long as I’m willing to stretch that comfort zone! Never mind that this 2015 piece cites the success of Jeb Bush, who subsequently withdrew from the race after months of bullying from noted extrovert Donald Trump. I’m not running for President of the United States. I’m running to be one of 252 people who attend some meetings.

Election day is April 2nd and there’s still a lot to do: postcards to send, meetings to attend, hands to shake, babies to kiss. It makes me think of the reality show cliché where, in the throes of competition, someone faces the camera and explains that the only thing that matters is winning, declaring, “I’m not here to make friends!” Well, it’s true that I’m running to win. I’m here to represent East Arlington, including young residents who might be too new, too busy, or too timid to get involved and share their voices. But maybe I’m also here to make friends

A Soothing Sense of Order and Peace

Did you know that there is a color of the year, every single year? A committee chooses “the color” for the upcoming year and dictates the color scheme for clothing, makeup, home goods, you name it. Now that is power. Business Insider reports that the process involves trench coats, suitcases, and confidentiality agreements.

marsala

The color of the year for 2015 was Marsala.

I first learned about the color of the year in college, when I had an Art History professor whose wife was on this mysterious committee. If you’re like me, you wait patiently for the color announcement each December and text your husband about it immediately. And if you’re like my husband, you don’t text back.

It’s not that I feel a need to follow trends or blindly obey authority; I find the entire phenomenon fascinating. You may think you’re choosing your new pants because you like the color, but what if the choice was never really yours in the first place?

Well, the benevolent overlords at Pantone have announced the color of 2016, and–whoa you guys–it’s two colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity. That is, a warm, soft pink and a cool, light blue. Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, explains, “Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.” Does that sound paternalistic? Shhh. Just let it wash over you, like an embracing rose tone, or a tranquil blue.

Like a word for which you just learned the definition, once you know about the color of the year, you’ll start to see it everywhere. Will you buy something Rose Quartz or Serenity this year? Chances are that you will, whether you like it or not.

Rose Quartz and Serenity

2016 vision board for the Delpha-McClure family?

On Costumes and Creativity

One of the most valuable aspects of studying art in college was the confidence it gave me in my ability to make things. Is there a creative problem to solve? A vision to be realized? I can make it happen, or at least enjoy trying. I recognize this courage in Tufts students, especially around Halloween. From the Film and Media Studies Kickoff Celebration, to TUTV’s Horror Fest, to the Art Gallery’s Halloween Party, the campus is brimming with imagination and ingenuity. For creative types, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

When my mother was in college, she spent her summers making costumes for an opera company in Chautauqua, New York. She loves to recount stories of her summers in Chautauqua. Example: A friend of mine announces on Facebook that she has decided on purple chiffon bridesmaids’ dresses. My mother replies, “There is nothing more heavenly than a violet chiffon! That’s what I was wearing when Pavarotti invited me to his hotel room!”

Halloween 1986

Rainbow Brite, 1986

It’s not surprising, then, that I had some seriously fabulous Halloween costumes as a kid. A store-bought costume would have been unthinkable, and preparations started weeks in advance. Together we would browse pattern books and select fabrics and embellishments. It was the 1980s and fabric stores were packed to the gills with sequins, beads, and tassels. What a time to be alive!

halloween 2009

Rockford Peach, 2009

When I was nine, A League of Their Own was released, and I quickly became obsessed. I listened to the soundtrack cassette as I wrote angst-filled, feminist essays in my diary. I read a novel based on the screenplay many times that summer, and my mother arranged for me to meet a local woman who had actually played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She must have been in her 70s and was extremely gracious about having a third grader ask for her autograph. That year for Halloween, my mother made me a Rockford Peaches uniform. It was her masterpiece. She pulled out her 1960s-era Catholic school gym uniform and used it to make a pattern. She drew a Rockford Peaches logo on Aida cloth, hand-embroidered it, and sewed it to the front. It was incredible. Luckily, I was an extremely tall and chubby 9-year-old, so I was able to wear this costume on Halloween again when I was 26. I was the toast of Greenwich Village.

halloween 2013

Amelia Earhart, 2013

halloween 2014

Green Dinosaur, 2014

I may not be as good a seamstress as my mom, but I do make my daughter’s Halloween costumes. We plan them weeks in advance, using the internet to do research and source materials. I take a more sculptural approach, using glue, felt, cardboard, and paint where my mom used fabric, patterns, and embroidery, but the spirit is the same. The sky is the limit for my daughter’s Halloween costumes; she can be anything she wants.

The Trouble with Jellyfish

A friend offered to babysit and my husband, Scott, and I giddily set off for a date. It felt indulgent and luxurious. We were leaving the house at dusk! Scott had planned our evening, only telling me that before dinner, we were going to see “an art exhibit about jellyfish.” I was skeptical, but he seemed pretty excited about it. We took the T to Kendall and walked a short distance to Le Laboratoire, which presents innovative ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations. It’s like the ExCollege in gallery form. The front window read, “The Trouble with Jellyfish; Mark Dion with Lisa-Ann Gershwin.”

Trouble with Jellyfish

“Mark Dion!” I exclaimed, “I coordinated his ArtisTalk at Harvard! And we saw his exhibition at Mass MoCA.” Scott looked at me blankly; he wanted to see the exhibition because he had recently read Gershwin’s book, Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. It felt like the perfect intersection of our interests, and the interactive exhibition was informative and charming. Dion created a Victorian parlor with jellyfish prints and fossils on loan from Harvard, providing background on the cultural history of jellies. There’s a tank of moon jellyfish from the New England Aquarium, which is always the most dazzling part of an aquarium visit. A video lecture from Gershwin explains the causes and consequences of jellyfish overpopulation. A pair of funny short films and installations, created by Harvard students in collaboration with the artist and marine biologist, propose solutions to deal with the abundance of jellyfish. We laughed, we learned, it was the perfect date.

The exhibition runs through January 2, so check it out!