Friday, March 29, 2024


When I entered the Exhibition Halls at the Seattle Convention center Friday afternoon, it felt like time travel into the past. I was the guest of United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) at its huge annual conference—held in Seattle for the first time in thirty years. My late husband, Jay, had been active in the Institute, and every several years I accompanied him to its annual conference held in various cities throughout the country. I always loved it. 

While Jay taught workshops, participated in panels, and attended meetings throughout the four-day event, I had fun on my own: socializing with spouses of his colleagues, strolling through exhibition space to watch demos of unbelievably high-tech equipment, and collecting swag—lanyards, pens, flashlights, and candy. When I wasn’t at the conference site, I visited museums and sights of the host city, and always enjoyed a wonderful evening social life because Jay had so many friends in the industry.

I was invited to this year’s conference to help celebrate the long-awaited release of the fourth revision of his Stage Rigging Handbook with its new revising author, Shane Kelly. After the book event and lots of hugs and handshakes, one of Jay’s long-ago colleagues accompanied me into the vast exhibition space. After several stops at exhibits to say hello to a few people I still know in the industry, I realized how out of place I felt. In the half-hour it took me to walk home, I became increasingly upset. At past conferences I had happily basked in his shadow, but I’ve been a widow almost ten years and have worked hard to reinvent myself as a stand-alone. I have no place there now.

I woke up Saturday morning thinking about the Conference with a strong urge to return to it, but wasn’t sure why. My guest pass from Friday allowed me admittance a second day, but weeks earlier I had committed to a choral concert Saturday afternoon. The concert would feature a world premiere of a new work by a local composer with whom I’m acquainted. He had made a point of inviting me. I contemplated breaking my commitment, but knew I’d feel bad if I did so. On auto-pilot, I plodded through my morning, including participating in chair yoga at my community. Melancholy, weepy thoughts kept floating through my head as I went through the yoga moves. When I got back to my apartment just before 11:00, I decided to write about my feelings to understand why the emotional turmoil. As I began typing, suddenly I realized what I had to do.

At 11:40 I stepped out of the Lyft car and into Seattle Convention Center. I set my phone’s alarm for forty-five minutes, so I would have time to get back to my apartment with ten minutes’ transition before departing for the concert. Traveling up three escalators to the first Exhibit Hall, I said aloud: Jay Glerum. Jay O. Glerum. You are here, Jay. As I walked from exhibit to exhibit, pausing, watching, contemplating, I continually repeated: I feel your presence, Jay. You are here Jay, yes!

I walked by the booth of a company Jay had been partial to and paused to look at its displays. I couldn’t help thinking about years ago when some of his favorite pals would have been there. Glancing at the huge and crowded swag table, I did a doubletake. Friendship bracelets! Inspired, I looked at my watch. Could I make a bracelet in ten minutes? 

A young woman approached. “Can I help you find beads?”

“Yes, please. Uh . . . J - A - Y,” I just need three.”

“You’ll need more than three beads to fill a bracelet . . . or else, settle for a keychain,” she said, laughing.

 “OK, then let’s also find G - L - E - R - U - M

 “Well . . . E is getting hard to find, but there’s gotta be at least one here—uh, yup, got one!”  She began to lay out the letters and add enough surrounding beads to make it bracelet size. “Oh, uh . . . wait a minute, I know that name! He’s famous. There needs to be an  O, doesn’t there? It’s Jay O. Glerum, right?”

It was the perfect closure for me. Jay continues to be revered for his lifechanging contribution to stage rigging safety. That a twenty-something working at a swag table recognized his name was the perfect gift. I will not be back, Jay, but YOU are here forever.

I will always remember that moment. Returning to my apartment with ten minutes to spare, I departed for the concert with a lighter heart and wearing a brand-new bracelet. 

Monday, March 25, 2024


I will never not miss walking in my former neighborhoods--the relatively rural suburbs of Bothell and Lake Forest Park. During the daytime I was always aware of animal life--there was always something to listen to, from hawks, robins, and eagles to crows, geese, and sparrows. Squirrels, both gray and red, could be heard scolding during the day and owls hooted or cayotes howled at night. 

It was impossible to forget we shared the earth with all God's critters. Not infrequently I'd stop to admire a spider's astonishingly symmetrical web or the teeth marks of active beavers working along the Sammamish River. 

Now that I live in a densely cemented urban neighborhood, I hear sirens more than any other sound, with seagulls, pigeons and an occasional crow being mostly the only birds sounds.  I still stop to admire and investigate interesting sights when I'm walking, however. This scene stopped me cold in my tracks! Had the feet of a monster been cast into this pipe?  Five toes each on what looked like two claws were sticking out of the middle of this pipe stacked at a construction site.

On the same day, I noticed other things, too--more natural, perhaps, but especially evident because of the location. The light and shadow on the vertical surface of a building in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood caught my eye. I paused to take in the contrast of light and shadows on the side of the structure. It was a lovely momentary gift of visual delight in a world of concrete. Just seeing it made me feel calm.
And then I looked up. Pure blue sky with a hint of contrail diagonally slashing across it was stunning.

There is beauty everywhere, if only we can see it. Sometimes I am absorbed by my own thoughts, my own dilemmas, problems, and busy-ness that I don't see anything but the figurative 'do list' that I carry around with me everywhere. When I meditate, I think of the people in my life who bring me joy and delight, but can easily forget to look up and around . . .  beyond the cracks and detritus of urban sidewalks to see the majesty (and even monster feet!) hiding out in plain sight. Note to self: LOOK UP! 

Monday, March 18, 2024

From the ARCHIVES: 2004 (before FaceTime)

At last I have what I’ve been coveting—a long distance relationship. My love, an almost three-year-old named Katie, lives in Minneapolis, and I am 1,700 miles away. Today on the telephone she asked, “Grandma, when are you coming over to my house.”  And I, hard-pressed in March to put my anticipated June visit into a timeframe she could understand, felt my heart leap with gladness. While I don’t wish even a smidgen of sadness in her life, I was thrilled to know she was pining for me. Oh, the joy of reciprocated love!

I have had just a handful of visits with Katie, many of them short. I compensate, as most grandparents do, by surrounding myself with pictures, so she prances across my computer screen at home, and grins from my tack-board at work. From the comments my cubicle-visitors make, her dimpled, contagious smile is a good antidote to taking our corporate business too seriously.

Challenged to build a relationship over the miles, I’ve done all the standard “grandma things.” I even made her a picture-book for her first birthday depicting our daily lives in Seattle. (My favorite is the posed shot of her grandpa taking out the garbage.)  But how does a grandmother bond with her grandchild when the grandma’s squeezy hugs and cushiony lap are so far away?

When Katie was just two, we had our shortest visit ever—just hours long—on the occasion of her baby sister’s christening. We spent much of our visit chasing each other in the reception area of the luncheon place. First Katie tried to catch me as I pretended to run as fast as my big, thick-wasted grandma-body could. Then I pretended to try catching her while she ran as fast as her little, diapered, toddler-body could. I don’t know who was more tired when we were done, but we both had a wonderful time.

A week later when her father took her out to a neighborhood restaurant for breakfast, an older woman with short gray hair similar to mine walked past their table. “Grandma, come back here!” she called out, and when the woman didn’t respond she called out again with urgency. Her father tried to explain that the woman wasn’t Grandma, but Katie wasn’t convinced. I thought my heart would break when I heard that, but oddly, within the same week a small boy in a supermarket cart called out to me, “Grammy,” as I passed him. His mother embarrassedly shushed him. “Does his grandma look a little bit like me?” I asked.  His mother nodded. I surmised that he probably didn’t see his grandma very often, either.

Only recently has Katie wanted to come to the phone when I call her parents. We have brief but deeply satisfying conversations in which we continue a game we’ve developed over several visits. I put on my silly voice and say “Egg, egg, egg,” just like the finger-puppet bunny says when it’s on my finger, and she laughs. It’s as cause-and-effect predictable as the moon and the tide. Grandma says “Egg, egg, egg,” and Katie laughs. I have to take what’s mine.

During my January visit this year I noticed how much she enjoyed the occasional cookie that her parents allow her, so I shipped homemade Valentine’s cookies to Minneapolis. Because I was worried that the postal trip would turn heart-shapes into crumb-shapes, I folded each cookie in its own waxed-paper wrap. A few days after the cookies were all eaten, Katie opened a kitchen drawer, took out the roll of waxed paper and laid it on the kitchen table. When her parents asked her what she was doing, she told them she put it there “because Grandma needs waxed paper.“

That anecdote probably makes me the only person in Seattle who gets teary-eyed at the sight of a roll of waxed paper. But we have made such progress! Tonight, after a round of “Egg, egg, egg,” on the telephone, when Katie asked me when I was coming to her house, I realized we’d reached a new level of our relationship.  Dear little girl, I’ll be there as soon as I can, and I can hardly wait.

Copyright © 2024 Sara J. Glerum