Saturday, February 14, 2015

The expectations game: Pajama day

As I browse facebook today, a Saturday, I feel the panic rising in my throat. The panic that develops as a result of reviewing the catalog of inspiring things my friends have already accomplished and are continuing to do on this Saturday—while I am still in my pajamas and contemplating not getting out of them all day. Shuttling kids between Olympic level training sessions; grand vacations to exotic shores, smiling faces gathered at a delightfully unknown brunch location—this is what I see on FB. And all I want to do today is read, and sleep, and watch TV with my kids. The weather isn’t helping me motivate to do more (cold, snow / rain = wintry mix). But beyond that, the fact is that I am exhausted. Not that I’ve done anything particularly strenuous this week. The usual stuff of every day modern life: gym, work, meetings, a workshop, feed the family, music recital, remember to leave money for the piano teacher, sign report cards, realize the kids have already outgrown all their warm clothes, prepare the tax stuff for the accountant—all ordinary stuff. I struggle with the feeling that I am wasting precious time by even considering that I can wave the white flag today and just chill. This is the expectations game that I play with myself. Even as I write this I know I am not living up to my expectations for myself. This post should be illustrated with cute, clever images of the kids and me in our states of disrepair and slovenliness. I should be posting this on my blog, to increase my digital presence (a new year’s resolution thus far unfulfilled). Why I am wasting the time I have writing this? It is irrelevant in the discourse of modern life or working motherhood—each topics with more gifted and insightful emissaries than I. In fact this topic is over saturated. Why should I bother to add my voice? I guess my question to myself is, is it OK to “waste” a day? To let the day unfold in a disorganized and unproductive way? Do I need to write my list today, and keep it? What happens if I let go? Will the children become deranged? Will the apartment fall in on itself? And what about that long list of things that never get done? What will happen in life if that list just remains intact? I participated in WNYC’s New Tech City “Bored and Brilliant” project. I would recommend the podcasts for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. The benefits of boredom on the creative process were extolled. Of course the challenge is allowing oneself to be bored in our over stimulated culture. I am reading the “Sweet Spot” and in that book the author, Christine Carter, PhD. Describes a life where good habits lead to more productivity and more free time. But try as I might, I can’t find the regular routine she requires to hang my newly productive habits off of. My life seems like I am reinventing the wheel every day. I don’t know why? In “Play Big” Tara Mohr writes about finding your inner guide and controlling her negative voice. I want to do both those things but need time to finish reading this book and to complete all the exercises. In “Your best year yet” the author Jinny S. Ditzler provides a framework for establishing well founded goals for the coming year. Ultimately you define 10 goals that address a 360 degree view of your life. But 10 seem too many goals for me, if running a home, working a job, raising children and participating in your community are add ons. I have 10 but think I will whittle them down to 5. So at this point it is already past midday, and I am still in my PJs. I don’t know if I’ll keep the PJs on all day. But when they come off—it’ll be because I want to do something that requires a more formal dress. I’ve flown the white flag. My expectations for productivity today are low, expectations for boredom, freedom, and enjoyment are high.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life & Death in Ground Zero

Lower Manhattan, New York City 2001

I live in the area that we have come to know as “Ground Zero”. It was not called “ground Zero” in 1999 when my husband and I decide to buy a loft here. Then it was called “Southern Tribeca” or “Lower Manhattan”. It was a good neighborhood for families because the Public Schools were among the best in the city. Real estate was reasonably priced as the area was underdeveloped. We felt like pioneers.
My husband, Alan and I lived in the shadow of the World Trade center but it was not really a part of our lives. I would go to the concourse from time to time to do a little shopping. I thought the daycare facility in the WTC might be convenient if we ever had children. The impact  that the WTC would come to have on my life was unimaginable to me on the bright fall morning of September 11, 2001.
The two towers have come to symbolize not just this city’s skyline but a life style, a sense of invulnerability and privilege that has been lost. Their destruction is a time marker for all of us, before 9/11 or after?
The story that follows is true, it happened to me. I have written to document for myself and later, for my son, the strange, horrible, miraculous and beautiful events of Sept 11 and beyond. I was an unwitting and unwilling participant in history--the christening event of the new Millennium. From my perspective history is observed not by a scholar or journalist but by an ordinary woman. The fact that I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child on September 11 only heightened the drama, if that is possible, and gave the event more resonance for me. I experienced the double whammy of new Motherhood and posttraumatic stress.
Since the attack I have thought about how I will explain the events to my son, Luca. My hope has been that in writing down my recollections I will gain a perspective, which will enable me to tell this story to him.
We are back home now, on Murray Street. Life has regained a feeling of normalcy I am learning to be a Mother. I have done a great deal of this writing in the dark of night, during Luca’s late feedings. During those moments I sit with nothing but the glow of the computer screen and with the groans and beeps of heavy machinery outside our window clearing the debris from the site of the WTC. I hunt and peck my way across the keyboard looking for answers and documenting my new life. Sometimes, in those wee hours I have felt that the darkness would ever end, but most of the time I have seen the dawn and I know that mine are stories of hope and birth, not death and despair.
Within these walls nothing seems to have changed but outside these walls the world is a very different place. How we choose to live in this new world has yet to be seen. This story is about how the old world ended and how one pregnant woman struggled to create normalcy out of chaos.


Life & Death at Ground Zero: Part 2

October, 2001

Dearest Luca,
The following is the story of what happened on a day in September 2001, right before you were born, and on the days following. It is a true story and you were a participant, although you can't remember it. You are much too young now to understand what took place and what it means. I am writing this so that some day, when you are older, you can read it and witness the historic events through my eyes, which were your eyes while you were within me.

I awoke on 9/11/01 37 weeks pregnant with you, late and moving slowly. I was tired, bloated and achy. Your dad had already left for work, so I had the place to myself.  I stepped into the shower  the warm water felt great on my sore back. I tried to gear myself up for another day at the office. I was counting down to your birth and my Maternity leave.
            Aside form the usual aches and pains of late stage pregnancy I was feeling fit. I still exercised several times a week. I walked a lot and still worked late. I had a lot to accomplish before you were born. I had a staff to organize and a department to maintain while I was away. I was thinking about all these things as I showered and the soothing waters baptized my great belly. As I stood in the shower worrying about my day at the office the world outside changed forever.
            I was in the kitchen buttering my toast when I heard Jane Hansen of the NBC local affiliate break into the Today show to say that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I ran to the TV in the living room, and was immediately horrified by the sight of the blazing building just three blocks away from me on my TV screen. It felt so unreal; the scale of the towers was so gigantic that it was impossible to judge the extent of the damage from the TV shot. A beat later I heard the screams of sirens and the blasting sound of horns as fire engines, police cars and ambulances snaked their way through the choked streets towards the disaster. They were driving against the traffic on Church Street outside our window. It sounded like they were stuck, grid locked. They wailed like a frustrated infant, trapped.

Your Aunt Karen called first.

Linda, are you ok? Are watching TV?

I can’t believe it. It must have been a small John Kennedy plane. I can’t image how a pilot could get so confused, it is incredibly clear today.

Your Dad called while I was on the phone; I told him I would call him back. How unconcerned I was! Was I in shock? Denial?

Listen Karen I’m ok and I’m really late. I need to go vote.

You’re voting? Are you sure you should?

Yeah, we have a Primary here and I need to perform my citizenly duty.

All right then citizen. Go vote.

I was still planning on going to vote! Looking back at my reaction, I think I sensed that everything was different now and despite that, I was desperately clinging to the world of ten minutes ago when preparing for Maternity leave was foremost in my mind and I appeared to have control over my life. 
            I got off the phone and looked at the TV screen once more. The scarred tower was vomiting black smoke into the clear blue sky.  As I sat transfixed by the image on the TV, I saw the explosion of the second plane colliding into the South tower. I heard the blast three blocks away and I felt a sonic wave pass through my home and body. I physically experienced the sound of the explosion, it is hard to explain, no blast blew through our southern facing wall but I felt the specter of that blast. If things had gone differently, just slightly, if the plane engine had not hit the roof of the building across the street before it hit our roof, the trajectory could have been such that it would have crashed into our building instead of resting on top of it. The shock wave that I felt pass through me was a premonition of things that could have been, and were not thanks to fate. 

I ran into the back of the loft, suddenly afraid of the windows that line the eastern portion of our living room. I called your Dad. I was still in my robe, my hair was wet, I felt utterly unprepared for disaster.  I was crying, I tried to speak intelligibly but I felt the panic overtake my body. My heart was racing, 
"Get out right now," he said. "Walk North on Church Street, on the west side of the street, and don't look back. Don't look at it, Linda."
Another call came through. It was Karen again  "I can't talk I have to go. I can't believe this."
"You should stay put," she urged.

            I quickly got dressed; I didn't put on my makeup, although I did brush my teeth. I looked around for our kitty, Otto. I saw him slip into the closet, and grabbed for him, but he dove into the deepest, darkest recess. My huge belly prevented me from getting into the closet. I realized that I would I not be able to carry him very far anyway, so I made the decision to leave him. I had to get out.  “After all,” I said to myself, “I will be returning home.”
I walked out the door, clutching a paper towel square. This is a silly thing. Maybe it is just the way I dealt with the horror and loss of security or the fact that I am very superstitious. But I had that paper towel square in my hands, drying my tears the entire way up Church Street. When I saw the subsequent horror I promised myself that I would not loose that stupid paper towel square until I could throw it out in my own garbage can at home on Murray Street.
            Once on the landing, I was greeted by our superintendent Adam. He was in emergency mode.
“Get in the Subbasement now Linda.” He said to me. His tone was commanding, something I was not accustomed to from my Super, I saw something wild and panicked in his eyes. He is a man of vague eastern European origin, I surmised then, because of his attitude; he had seen disaster before, perhaps even war. Was he from Bosnia, I wondered?

            Sub-basement? Stay put, or walk away? I stood in the entryway for an instant, not knowing what to do. Whose advice should I follow? “Listen to your husband,” I told myself. “Leave.”
            I took the stairs down to the ground floor. I was afraid to take the elevator for fear something else would happen and I would be trapped. I rushed out the front door and what I found outside my apartment building. Made me stop dead. A large piece of one of the plane's engines lay on the street in front of my building. "No fucking way!" I remember saying to myself. I walked over to the largest piece across Church Street, in front of the Burger King. Yup, that was a piece of one of the planes on my street, in front of my home. It had knocked down the Murray Street sign and had broken the street light. The lamp hung precariously from its electrical cord. My heart was racing and I heard a high pitched whine in my ears. As I looked around me at the people standing in the middle of the Street my vision was so clear, the edges of objects seemed sharp enough to cut. There were no more cars on Church street, only pedestrians, looking up to the South I could not stop myself. I looked up at the giants, bloodied and burning. I looked up at the smoke hemorrhaging from them, the flames shooting out of the gashes, and I saw a shower of paper sucked out of the wounds. The paper fluttered in the wind. At that distance, it looked the size of the confetti that rains down on champions when they drive down Broadway after winning a World Series or landing on the Moon.  But there were other, more substantial objects descending from the towers. These objects had weight and fluidity. They flailed in their decent. They were people. My stomach turned. I felt like Lott's wife who, against her husband's admonition turned to look at Sodom destroyed and then was turned to salt. I felt like salt. In that instant I remembered myself. I was pregnant; I was responsible for a life other than my own. I had to get away and get somewhere safe. I turned north and walked away from the wounded twins. I would never see them again. I would never see how huge they were. How they blocked out the sky and yet were almost invisible at this proximity. I walked on the west side of the street as Alan had instructed me. I kept saying to myself and to you “We are ok, we are ok.” Over and over this mantra was my lifeline, a thin invisible thread that I clung to as I dragged my swollen body uptown toward your dad and safety.
As I walked further away from the devastation I realized that it was a spectacular day. The kind of day that makes you  wish you could play hooky from your obligations. A wonderful early fall day, clear and cool. The air was crystalline and invigorating. For any other reason, it would have been bliss to be out walking. The incongruity of the day and the event made the sight more terrible. It was a high visibility day; anyone who had a view of lower Manhattan could lookout and see the horror unobscured.
I walked at a modest pace, given my physical limitations. One foot in front of the other, each step felt unreal. I didn’t feel the weight of my pregnant body. Strangely I felt light, like I was walking on the Moon’s surface with heavy boots to keep me from floating off into the great yawning abyss. As I walked I noticed people standing in the street staring up at the catastrophe, I walked past lines of people waiting for public phones, I walked past people crying, people consoling each other, people trying to get their cell phones to work. I walked to Canal Street in order to catch the C train but the attendant standing at the top of the stairs said the train was not running, no trains were running. I asked about the N or R. Maybe at Prince Street?
I continued to walk. At Canal Street I took West Broadway. I walked through Soho. People emerged from chic shops and bistros to stare at the smoke plume streaking the downtown sky. People were standing in the middle of West Broadway, traffic had stopped and it felt like a movie. One of those disaster films like "Independence Day". I think I  was the only person not facing south. As I walked North I looked into people’s eyes, they did not see me and my pregnant belly, they all looked above my head at the smoking, flaming carnage. I felt invisible. Luca, this is something you will never understand, but as a very pregnant woman in the Summer months I was very noticeable. People would jump up to give me a seat on the Subway or let me take a cab they had just hailed. It felt very strange to be so unnoticed.
I tried repeatedly to call your dad on my cell phone but the signal was "not available." That sounded ominous!
At Prince Street, I turned off West Broadway, and remember looking back at the towers smoking and in flames before I lost sight of them and thinking "That is going to be hard to fix." I would never see them standing  again. At that moment I had no concept that they would come down. It would have seemed impossible. They were invincible. They were mythic in scale, which endowed them with supernatural characteristics. be continued.

Life & Death at Ground Zero: Part 3

 Continued from Part 2

I descended into the subway. I waited for a long time ; at least at the time I thought it was a long time. I now realize it was a wonder that I got a train at all. As I waited, I spoke with some young women who worked in an office building in the financial district. They were young, early 20s and very distraught. How could this happen? The young women didn't know what was going on either. A deranged looking large man with headphones was screaming that "they" had attacked the White House. The young ladies were concerned. I didn't believe the crazy man. He said he was listening to the radio news, but we were underground in the subway, where was he getting his signal?. "He's crazy" I told the young ladies. My need for normalcy was so strong I couldn't believe the obvious was true, that this had not been a series of accidents but we were under attack. I don't know if it was the hormones or if it was my self-preservation technique, either way I did not believe. After 20 minutes or so a train came, and we boarded gratefully. At last I was on my way to see your Dad.
            The subway car was not as crowded as you would expect. Not at all like the last helicopter out of Saigon. We all sat in stunned silence. Not the self-involved quiet that one finds on an early morning subway, where everyone is too sleepy to make noise. This was a mournful silence, full of meaning. We all knew what we were thinking about. The ride was slow. Eventually we came to Union Square. I got off the train because the subway car operator informed us that the trains had stopped running. It had always been my experience, up until that moment, that when the loud speakers say the trains are not running, if you wait a while, they start running again. So I walked over to the 4 train that stops in that station to see if it was running. The landing was a mob scene. I became apprehensive about my pregnant belly . I was afraid of being crushed or jostled roughly. I saw a woman with a baby in a stroller try to get down the stairs and felt panic for her. After a few moments, I decided to give up my wait for the 4 train. I came up into the station and found yellow police tape everywhere and officers telling people to get out, they were shutting down the station. I went to a pay phone to call Alan and tell him where I was. But it was not working. I went to another payphone, and still no dial tone. They had shut off the phones! I began to panic. What was happening?  I remembered that there was a police station in the subway station, and I went there. "Officer, I am nine months pregnant, I haven't spoken to my husband in over an hour and I need to call him."

"Come in."

I walked into the precinct, bright fluorescent light and Formica counters. Full of nervous activity. The TV was on and I could see the towers smoking, Wait. There was only one tower.
"Did one of the towers fall?!" As I cried out, the second tower fell. As the floors compacted on one another like the withdrawing of a vertical tide I saw the end of civilization, I saw the murder of thousands, I saw the demolition of my home, the death of my cat, Oh God what was happening. I screamed. The police looked nervous,
“Lady you got to calm down. Get her a chair.”
They probably thought I was going to deliver the baby right then and there. They brought me a chair and a glass of water, and then phoned your Dad.
            My poor husband, who had not heard from me since he told me to leave the apartment more than an hour earlier, was calling hospitals. He did not know if I had left, if I had gotten out, or what condition I was in. To say he sounded relieved to hear from me is an understatement.
"Tell me where to meet you"
"In front of the Barnes and Noble"
"I'll be there right away."

            The officers took the phone and tried to calm me down.
"Your husband's coming for you?"
They looked relieved. I was so caught up in my own troubles that it didn't occur to me then that they had lost comrades in the collapse. They were stunned by the horror and overcome by grief, but kept it together. They were "on the job". A police officer escorted me out of the now deserted and silent station. He had the token booth attendant unlock the gate and we ascended the subway stairs into the bright light of Union Square.
"Your Husband is going to meet you here, right?" The officer asked.
"Yes. I'll be ok. Thank you officer." I replied. He turned and walked down the stairs into
the darkened Subway station, I walked across the square to 18th Street.

The city seemed as if someone had turned down the volume. People were walking more slowly and there was fuzziness about everything. The only loud sounds were emanating from the occasional car or van parked with the radio blasting the news. There were groups gathered around these information centers listening in rapt silence to the reports. There was a van parked in front of the Barnes and Noble. A group of five stood listening, quietly exchanging their views. I tried to find somewhere to sit. Alan worked on 45th Street it would take him quite a while to get to 18th. There was nowhere comfortable to sit so I slid down to the sidewalk as gracefully as I could with my enormous belly. I sat in the bright sun, wishing I had a bottle of water, but not wanting to get up (I knew that effort would take more than just me). I must have looked pathetic. A woman asked me if I was OK and didn't seem to believe me when I said I was. She looked very relieved when I told her I was waiting for my husband. I felt so lucky to be able to say that: I am waiting for my husband. Your Dad was safe and alive.  I knew there were so many who couldn't say the same.
            I looked across the square into the downtown sky, A huge cloud of smoke and debris filled the area where the towers had just stood. I began playing a game with myself that I still play to this day, "Could you see them from here?" I ask myself continually. Would I be able to see the Towers from this perspective? Their absence is impossible to observe. Their loss is invisible. They were obliterated so completely, so efficiently, so finally. I feel like I didn't have a chance to memorize their place in the skyline, even though I had seen them there for most of my life.
            Luckily I didn't have much time to obsess because your Father showed up in just 15 minutes! He was riding a bicycle. He could not have appeared nobler to me if he had arrived on a black steed. He was my hero, my knight in shining armor. He helped me up and we hugged a delicious warm loving hug. Nothing else seemed to matter for that moment, not the world in chaos, our home destroyed, our city scarred, the future unknown and scary, we were together and safe and everything else was expendable. I know it was selfish but it is how I felt. I felt so lucky. I had brushed death and destruction and my family had emerged unscathed.
"You got here so quickly."
He had commandeered a bicycle from a delivery guy at a deli in midtown.
"This is your chance to be a hero" he told the man. He gave him his driver's license as collateral and the man let him take his bike. He had started off on foot leaving his office on 45th Street. Running against the tide of people headed North. He ran in the middle of the street to avoid the fleeing masses. After 12 blocks he realized this was going to take forever, that's when he thought to borrow a bike.

Now that we were reunited and relieved to be together we were reminded that we had nowhere to go. We certainly couldn't go home. I needed somewhere to rest, I felt lightheaded and as if my body were made of lead, an interesting combination. I felt disassociated from myself,  I was observing myself. "What will she do next?" we were refugees.

We thought of friends who lived in the neighborhood. We decided to call and ask if we could come over. Alan went to a payphone with a line of 5 people. I tried the cell phone. I had no reason to believe it would work because it hadn't all morning but it did. Our friend Kurt lives in Chelsea he told us to come over right away as soon as he heard my voice. Alan and I walked over to their loft, Alan rolling the bicycle beside him.
            Kurt and Cassandra are very social people and they always seem to have a house full of friends. Today was no exception; their home became a safe harbor for many of their friends who lived outside Manhattan. All access in and out of the city was closed so many people were trapped. Cass' brother was in town on business from Alabama. We all sat in front of the TV transfixed watching the collapses over and over; the whole thing was too absurd. I could not believe that the towers were gone. Thousands were dead. The Pentagon had been hit. Planes were being brought down. We knew that we could not go home, did we even have a home? Alan wanted to ride the borrowed bike down to our neighborhood and see what the situation was. Although I wanted him with me I too was eager to know if our home was destroyed, what had happened to our neighbors in the basement? And Otto? Alan took the bike and rode downtown toward the smoke and destruction, he promised not to take any risks.
            I tried to call family and friends but it was impossible to make calls out of state. I had several messages on my voicemail at work from family worried and asking me to call them. I changed my outgoing message to say that I was all right and where I could be reached. I spoke to coworkers who were in the office. They were relieved to hear from me, they had been very concerned by my absence, they all knew how close to the WTC our apartment was. I spent much of the day watching the news coverage on TV and trying to call my brother.
            Alan returned, he had gotten as far as Reade St before he was turned back by the police. From that vantage point he could see that our building was still standing and the windows even seemed in tact. That was amazing news. Otto must ok, our neighbors were alive, and we had emerged from this tragedy remarkably well. I was so grateful to be alive, that Alan was safe and our home seemed ok.
            As the day wore into night people began discussing the repercussions of the event and what had led to it. A friend of ours said that he had heard that the planes were carrying Anthrax. I panicked. What was Anthrax? How did it kill? Was it contagious? Could I have been infected by it while I stood outside looking at the buildings? Was I infecting all my friends? When had I last felt the baby move? I was panicking. I had to lie down. I didn't feel you move. Oh my God when had I last felt the baby move? Was Anthrax infecting my body right now? Had it killed the baby already? I needed to calm down. I asked Alan to get me some juice. All I could remember was that in the many pregnancy books I had (at home) I had read that if you haven't felt the baby move for a while to drink some juice and lie on your left side. I did and waited, and waited. People kept coming by to see how I was. I didn't want to be overly dramatic so I told them I was tired and trying to take a little nap. My attention had been so focused on the events that I hadn’t noticed your movements for hours. It seemed like forever but finally I felt a little kick and then a series of hiccups. Thank God, you were ok. I wasn't going to worry about Anthrax anymore (at least not that day).
            I was stunned, I felt unconnected and vague. I knew I had lived through something terrible and that our lives would be disrupted for quite a while. I knew the nation had been dealt an awful blow and that our lives as Americans would be profoundly effected. The day to day implications were foremost in my mind. I kept reminding myself of how lucky we were but I also remember thinking: this sucks, I'm about to have a baby, when am I going to be allowed to return to my home? I was walking wounded.
            When I finally lay down to sleep late that night my body felt heavy with exhaustion, it sank into the air mattress on the floor in Kurt and Cass' loft and found little comfort. I closed my eyes hoping to welcome sleep and I saw in my mind's eye, like film being projected inside my eyelids the bodies falling from the towers. Falling and falling. The film in my head would rewind and they would fall again. Flailing and falling. I opened my eyes to clean the sight out of my mind, but when I closed my eyes there they would be again. How I fell asleep I don't know but eventually I did. I had that much more to be grateful for.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Take the Snake Back!

This 4th of July I was struck by how the noble graphics heritage of our American Revolution ("Don't Tread on Me" snake,"Tree of Liberty", Boston Tea Party") have been so successfully appropriated by the rabid right in this brief year, to the point that the proud visuals have almost lost their original and true meanings for me. How do we
re-appropriate the icons of our early American heritage? How do we return their
true meaning? Designers! Let us resolve to TAKE THE SNAKE BACK!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sweet Dreams Spray

How to help your little ones when they have nightmares? I read a great idea somewhere a few years ago, the idea was to make a "bad dream spray" which in an effort to be positive I have renamed "Sweet dream spray" it is essentially lavender water that I put in a really beautiful spray bottle and I spray that around the room with great ritual, banishing all the bad dreams and monsters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Chicken Soup Remedy for Those With Little Patience

Published New York Times: October 28, 2008

“SMELLS great!” is music to the ears of anyone who labors in the kitchen. But the equally powerful, unsung music is the way those efforts sound.

Now that the chill has arrived — in both weather and stock market — I notice that when I’m cooking, my audience draws near, taking up residence in the next room before dinner is ready. They have cocktails, play music, talk. But they’re listening for the kitchen. Hearing someone cook for you is the culinary equivalent of a bedtime story, the promise that “Once upon a time” will lead you, tucked safely in the crook of a grown-up’s arm, straight through to “And they lived happily ever after.”

When I was growing up, I listened, too. All the time I thought I was watching television or doing my homework, I was actually charting the progress of my dinner and the mood of the person making it. The first sound was my mother pulling a frying pan from a bottom cabinet. When she banged it onto the floor in disgust, it meant all the pans piled on top of it were sliding into disarray. Cabinet door slammed.

The sound of the tap on, then off. Knife blade hitting cutting board, knife handle down on the counter. Nose blown: the onions were diced. The refrigerator door pulled open, the suction sound of it closing shut. Television news in the background. The tinny unraveling of a sheet of Reynolds Wrap — rip! The length fitted, jangling, over a broiler pan.

It’s amazing how you fill in the blanks. How a curse meant a burn, a discontented mumble meant someone on the news had said something she didn’t like. How the sudden absence of sound meant she was looking out the window over the sink, thinking about her day instead of the dinner.

I fight with the same stack of unwieldy frying pans. I slam the same cabinet door. My slippers sound a soft drag and slap on the floor. The curses for my burns are followed by ice cubes clunking out of the chute in the freezer door. That innovation postdated my mother, who, faced with the prospect of an over-frozen ice tray, would break off a piece of an aloe plant and rub it on her skin. Though I couldn’t hear it, I knew that was exactly what she was doing.

Maybe because we lived in a house, she had the illusion of space, so she wasn’t aware that anyone was listening. Or maybe because she found cooking so boring, she couldn’t believe anyone would be interested.

Living in an apartment, I know better. I can sense my family listening for the whoosh of pasta hitting the colander in the sink, the fork and spoon clanging against the sides of the ceramic bowl, tossing. When I walk through the door, bowl in hand, they see what I’m carrying before they look up.

But I am also aware that the charms of the kitchen symphony wear thin if they go on too long. Hungry people are not, by definition, patient people. And that includes the cook.

This is one reason I’ve never attempted my mother’s chicken soup, a process that starts with raw chicken and giblets and eventually involves peeling and cutting a turnip. (Don’t ask.) After the broth rests overnight in the fridge and the fat is skimmed, and after the matzo balls are made and they float around in the reheated soup for five or six hours, it will knock your socks off. By which time I will have eaten my arm.

A few years ago I clipped a shortcut chicken soup recipe from Gourmet. It requires about two hours but seems instant compared with two days. You start with a purchased rotisserie chicken from which you strip the meat, then put the skin and bones into a pot with broth, vegetables and herbs. Strain it, add some shredded chicken, more vegetables and rice. Simple enough.

But on my first try, I had two problems. I didn’t like the taste of the chicken’s marinade (stick to the simplest one you can find; for this purpose, a chicken marinated in nine ingredients was like a woman wearing too much perfume) and I didn’t have any low-sodium chicken broth in the house, so I used regular. Also, the recipe did not — for my taste — call for enough liquid in the pot, so I ended up with an unappealingly dark soup choked with salt. I found, when I opened the refrigerator the next morning, that the rice had absorbed almost all the liquid, leaving a chicken porridge that required copious amounts of water to be edible.

The second time, though, with some adjustments, it was downright terrific. (Don’t taste it in the first hour or you’ll be unnecessarily disheartened; this soup is a late bloomer.) It was a huge hit with everyone who ate it, so much so that I’m probably deluding myself to think that it smelled like my mother’s.

I will get to her recipe one day. And between the time and the turnip, just imagine that soundtrack.

Chicken Soup With Rice

Adapted from Gourmet magazine

Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

1 2-pound rotisserie chicken

3 celery ribs

1 large onion, quartered and left unpeeled

6 fresh parsley sprigs plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

4 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth plus 2 cans low-sodium chicken broth

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/2 cup uncooked long or short grain white rice.

1. Remove meat from chicken, reserving skin and bones. Coarsely chop 1 celery rib and place in a 6- to 8-quart pot along with chicken bones and skin, onion, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, both chicken broths and 6 cups water.

2. Simmer, partly covered, for 1 hour. Meanwhile, shred enough chicken meat to yield 1 1/2 cups (pieces about 1 inch long and 1/4 inch thick), reserving remaining meat for another use. Cut remaining celery ribs into 1/4-inch dice.

3. Pour chicken broth through a fine-mesh sieve into another large pot, pressing hard on solids with back of a spoon, then discarding them. If necessary, skim fat. Add carrots, diced celery and rice.

4. Simmer, partly covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and rice is very soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken and chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Yield: About 2 1/2 quarts.