Sunday, June 27, 2010
School for me is finally over. After having spent this past semester researching the effects of Slow Media, it was ironic that I was never allowed to slow down myself. Every day was spent working, caring for my pets and family, and spending as many moments as I could possibly squeeze in studying. I knew that when I finally turned in my last paper I wanted to do two things. One was to read Aimee Bender's new book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I had been waiting several years for her to finish it, and these past few months had been filled with too much required reading. When I finally was able to immerse myself in her words, I was treated to this little gem: "Once, we'd arrived home to a snail at the doorstep and she said it was a sign to slow down, and she took a walk around the block at a funereal pace, saying there was something in there for her if she just took her time. She came back just as vivid-faced as ever. Thank you, little snail, she buzzed, lifting it up and placing it in the cool shadows of a jasmine bush." The other treat I wanted was to take my family out for ice cream. I had heard that our local shoppe had concocted a new creation which involved filling the center of a soft-serve cone with a hot sauce of your choosing. M and T finished their bowls quite quickly; I ate my cone ver, very slowly. At each bite I kept expecting to hit the center. When I finally did, it splooshed everywhere, including all over my shirt. I didn't care in the least - I knew we were doing laundry the next day. I was quite content to sit there and savor each and every bite, no matter how messy it made me. Happy Summer!
"What do we do," asks L, "during the daytime in the summertime?" He's swinging in the chair hammock strung on the porch by his dad barely half an hour before. He isn't complaining, isn't worried, reveals no sadness that school came to an end a short week ago. He's curious. Only that morning, we had returned from three days of camping with friends. Lego robot camp had ended the Friday before. What comes next? "We do this," I say. I sit in my porch rocking chair with an open book, M gathers supplies for a just-down-the-road fishing trip, T pretends to battle various demons upstairs in Boys' Room, and B stomps around our blow-up pool, naked as the embarrassment he is far too young for. In the summertime, we slow down. We feel the heat. We watch the garden grow leggy and then squeeze out miraculous vegetables; we follow the flowers through bloom and rot. We go to bed late. We lay in hot, sticky, vapory soup wishing for breeze. We think about winter and can't quite imagine snow and frozen roads. That evening, with the oldest boy in the tub and the younger two arguing over which movie to watch for Family Movie Night, I try out the chair hammock. It's almost uncomfortable. My neck is stiff from sleeping on the ground; leaning back feels like a threat. But I risk it. I relax into the weave. I slow to a near stop. I glance up at the hanging flower pot above me, on fire with bright orange blossoms I don't know the name of. Until a boy calls for me to come.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Saturday was our wedding anniversary: eleven years. Eleven years ago we stood in my parents' yard while a plane flew overhead and drowned out the vows we spoke - only M and I could hear each other's words. A tiny black bug crawled up my creamy dress, unperturbed by witnesses. Afterward,M and I hugged in the front yard. "We did it," we kept saying, as if we'd finished a marathon when we'd only really just begun. Marriage suits me. I like the comfort, the dog-eared jokes, the plans we make for far into the future. I like having someone around willing to take off the cover of the septic tank, dispose of trapped mice bodies, and assemble furniture. The top of our wedding cake still sits in my parents' basement freezer, just a couple dozen feet from the patch of grass where we were married. I brought it out to the lawn for a picture and steam rose off the white butter frosting, off the flowers forever in bloom. After remarking on its durability and swatting many small fingers away from what would surely be a gastronomic disaster, I wrapped it back up in its tinfoil bed and replaced it in the freezer. Tradition dictates you eat your frozen bit of cake on your one-year anniversary. We missed the deadline, but I like the idea of a small piece of that sweet day surviving in the dark cold. Still lovely when you bring it out into the sun.
For so much of the year in Vermont we battle against the elements: wrapping out hands around a hot mug, throwing a shawl or two over our shoulders, wearing layers upon layers to keep out the chill. But for those all-too-brief summer months when the temperature seems to skyrocket, then a reversal is in order. Everything must be cold, cold, cold. Our tea is iced, coffee cups contain cubes, and our soup is made with tomatoes, peppers pulped to perfection. I love gazpacho, and in the summer our blender is our best friend. Wait a minute, maybe I should say the ice cream maker, because home-made ice cream is luscious and lovely. Or maybe I should say something more basic and necessary like the freezer. In the summer the freezer is absolutely essential. If we're really desperate we can just open up the door and stick our heads right in. It does a great job of keeping our popsicles cold - which must quickly be eaten before they drip everywhere in the warm summer sun. The taste is like coldness encapsulated, making you instantly reach for another and then another.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
A phantom Andi, a notandi, roams New York City. This woman wears heels with no lingering pain, she instinctively knows how much eye shadow is too much, and she makes a lot of money. For notandi, alone time is not something marked in red on the calendar with lots of underlines; alone time is the norm. Except, of course, when she feels like company and then a packed rolodex - wait, notandi owns a blackberry - provides a list of names and numbers to call, people who can meet at bars without long, complex negotiations with their spouses. Notandi has no idea what to feed a chicken. The last time she cooked a meal it was to impress her mother four years ago. If someone handed her a baby she'd jiggle it for a minute or two and hand it back with a barely disguised smile of relief. Before I fell in love and moved to a dirt road and surrounded myself with children and animals, I had Big Plans. New York City was my oyster and I was going to smother it with marinara sauce and swallow in one gulp. I love my dirt-road life, but sometimes I wonder how notandi is fairing, if she wishes she could go barefoot more often, if she's eating a tad too much ice cream and drinking a wee too much wine. This is not a story of regret. The boys and I saw the last Shrek movie yesterday and while I recognize the temptation, I am not about to sign a contract for a day of freedom in exchange for the life I have now. But. Sometimes, as I'm refilling water buckets and sippy cups, tossing hay and smearing peanut butter over bread for the millionth sandwich, I envy notandi. I envy her freedom, her confidence, her money, her certain type of success. And then a boy hands me a lopsided heart and a good man kisses my forehead and I ease away from thoughts of a parallel life that seems so glamorous, so easy compared to what can feel like never-ending clogged toilets, weekend rain, garden weeds and boiled noodles for dinner again. There is beauty in boiled noodles, there is comfort in feeding the creatures you love so very much. And the rain makes the onions grow tall.
Most mornings on my way to work I pass by this certain woman on her daily run. I have never actually met this woman, though I always look forward to seeing her determined face and the way her long ponytail swings out behind her in sync with her stride. She has become a familiar part of my daily routine; she runs in rain or shine. From the comfort of my car I can only guess what she is like, but I feel as if I know her well. When she runs she is her true self, leaving behind the aspects of life than can weigh her down. For a finite amount of time she is free from constraints, there is a lightness in her step. I only wish I could stop the car, get out and join her. There would be no talking or pleasantries, perhaps only a smile and the sound of our shoes hitting the pavement as the road stretches out before us.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
My mother can name the species from a simple trill whistle miles off. Then she might go on to explain what they eat, the habitat they prefer, the color of the eggs they lay in a nest shaped just so. Me? B pointed to a green and blue bird at the pet store the other day and said, "Chicken!" I patted his head and murmured, "Close enough." Birds are not my speciality. I can't whistle either. Now we have baby birds living in a house on our house. The mother flies in, the mother flies out. We try to leave them alone, but when we can't bear the tug of twee aliveness, we softly open the door and peek at the two skinny necks, the impossibly fragile beaks that open at our intrusion, thinking we are a source of food. My mother says these are chickadees. To me they look like insubstantial chickens, but I trust her.~a