Sunday, September 25, 2011


Knitting for someday baby. Come soon.

In the style of Hemingway’s six word piece, I thought this would be enough. I wanted it to be. But I felt that I needed to say more, the story behind the story.

I need to tell you about her, the baby that I hope will someday come to live here with the three of us.

You would think that after a certain age, one would tire of imaginary friends, having long since outgrown their usefulness. Yet most days I see her somewhere in my midst or think of her. Her features are unclear and her age changes depending upon the day of the week, the time or the activity that I am engaged in. We make reference to her often here, especially when the boisterous boys in my house begin their bantering. Sometimes I follow their witty offerings back and forth as if at a tennis match, other times I wish for another girl in the house to even things out and provide a bit of balance.

If you wish hard enough for something, with all of your might, will it come true? I picture her, the clothes she would wear. I try out dozens of names as if they were clothes on a paper doll. Esme, Tabitha, Maisie, Mariposa, Tatum, Mathilda, Sabine, Tullia, Beatrix, Etienne, Tesserae. Fitting them together with middle names like Jane, Gardner, Grace, Paige, Maeve, Patrice and Bea. This is my fall back activity, the undercurrent to everything, the puzzle that keeps my brain occupied.  I pore over name books and websites thinking I may stumble onto a magic combination, the words that will bring her to me as if they held the same weight and power as Abra Cadabra or Hocus Pocus. Sadly I am not equipped with a wand, and we’ve already pulled a rabbit out of a hat. (We’ve got two. Three dogs and a cat.) And in some ways they’re like children. When we’re goofing around we often cradle the dogs like a baby, kiss them, hug them and snuggle. And yet I feel like there’s something more, something missing. I wonder: Has she been born? What does she look like? Will she somehow make her way to us through a series of related events about which I have no idea?

Or has our family reached its limit, with three of us who laugh, cry, read, eat, and love together? I have always believed the song I’ve sung since I was little, three is a magic number. When we hold hands everyone is touching everyone else. But I remind myself of the children’s stories I have read, remembering that there always room for one more.

Perhaps I should be happy to have made my way out of the land of sleepless nights, spit up and diaper changes. Looking forward I know that it won’t be long until our teenage son makes his solo flight to
his new life. Other mothers tell me that high school passes by in the blink of an eye. Are we really ready to do it all over again and become parents to a wee babe? I wonder and I worry. I wish and I wait. Mostly I wish for someone tiny and sweet who will wear handknit hats, socks and sweaters; dresses, ruffles and bows in her hair. Until she insists on overalls.

The entertainment factor wasn't why I had my first baby, but it definitely popped up in consideration of the other two. Never do I laugh so hard than at my children. In a good way. Usually they get the joke and laugh along with me. Except the other day when Luca made a bike jump in the front yard and went over it in slow motion. He failed to see what was so funny about THAT. But we all giggled over this conversation at bedtime the other night:

Luca: “Would you want to find money or a baby raccoon?”
Me: “A baby raccoon.” [Not really.  Money, any day.]
Luca: “Me too. I love baby raccoons.”
Barno: “I don't like baby raccoons.”
Luca: “Would you rather lose me or the guinea pigs?”
Me: “Guinea pigs.”
Luca: “Me too. Would you rather lose a dog's ear or a whole dog?”
Me: “A dog's ear.”
Luca: “Me too. I love our dogs.”
Barno: “I don't like dog's ear.”

Written down it lacks a certain...something.  Like the muffled hysteria of a mother trying not to get her kids riled up at bedtime.  Because as funny as I find them, I still want them to go to bed.  On time.  Without incident. Without extra water trips.

Tomorrow Barno spends a whole day at preschool for the first time ever, because... I'm starting a job.  Out in the grownup world.  Not full time, hell no.  Baby steps, people, that's how life is accomplished.  I'll be working only three days a week but for those three days my youngest, my baby, will be taken care of by a trio of ladies who might be getting paid better than me and will probably pay him more attention than I can manage for longer than a few minutes.  But still.  I am surprisingly veklempt at the thought.  He's been my constant appendage for the past three and a half years; I might tilt when I walk through the office halls tomorrow.

But that's why there's yoga, and paychecks.  To make us feel better about our choices, to make us realize that soon I'll walk upright as if nothing was missing.  And nothing is.  It's time for him to learn that other people can cut the crusts off his peanut butter sandwiches just as well as I can.  It's time for me to learn I have skills beyond cutting crusts of sandwiches.  And I get to wear grownup clothes, which will be fabulous for at least a day. Bye-bye, baby. Love you, baby.  See you at quitting time.

Next Week’s Word: Moon 

Monday, September 19, 2011


I am not a good mother to plants. I let them suffer until an untimely death, and then I shrug and toss them into the compost pile. I wish I had a greener thumb; I wish plants and cut flowers thrived in my house and lasted longer than the bag of potato chips I buy every Sunday, which lasts until...Monday.

I do better with things that can tell me when they're thirsty. Like the dogs who have mastered the art of looking reproachfully at their empty bowl. Or the kids, who have mostly learned to get their own drinks. The guinea pigs can squeal like nobody's business, and the largest horse, Carly, has a glare that can reach all the way to the bedroom where I'll feel it in my spine. No forgetting those animals.

But plants – poor plants. Sorry, plants. Maybe someday I will have a bit more space in my brain for you. Maybe someday I'll play host to an array of plants – violets, orchids, tea roses – settled in a tray of white pebbles, each in its own hand-painted pot, each sporting new growth and smiling blooms. But for now, please accept my apologies and know my neglect is not malicious. Rest in peace.

With the start of school for two of us and holiday planning in not-too-far distant future, there have been some sleepless nights recently. Often those bouts of insomnia put you in touch with inspiration, and somehow ideas that come in the wee hours are brilliant and fully formed. Almost as if by magic. Despite feeling tired, we are desperately trying to lay claim to the last bits of summer right now, taking advantage of every moment to soak up each spare sun ray.
It occurred to me on one of those thrashabout nights, that what I want to have next summer is a lemonade stand--but for grown ups. Let’s say you’re dropping off a child at a playdate, then stop on by for a glass of something cold. And if you’re planning a bike trip, try to steer your group past my house, nothing appeases your thirst like a sparkling beverage.

I’ll have several drinks to choose from: cordials, syrups, and elixirs that can be splashed in some seltzer or lemonade for a little something special. Come try a little rhubarb, mint or ginger. Each concoction created in our kitchen, with more than enough to share. Would you like a tall glass or a small one? Most will be reclaimed jars; some wide mouthed, some that used to hold jelly, but all make a satisfying clink when you toss in a few cubes. And I’ll make sure we have a freezer stocked with ice cubes a plenty.

So this winter as you wrap your hands around another cup of tea or mug of hot chocolate, try to remember what it felt like to be warmed by the sun, and how thirsty you were after being outside for so long. Know that next summer you’re always welcome to stop on by for a cold drink. I’ll have sprigs of mint and lemon verbena for a festive garnish, some cut up citrus fruit that you can toss in just for fun. The sun will make the ice jewel-like and beautiful. A refracted rainbow in each glass.

As the snow piles up outside my door, it will blanket the grass and flowers. Life will be a little quieter with time for reflection, dreams and desires. Sipping from these thoughts will keep me going through the endless winter months. I can almost taste it now.

Next Week's Word: Baby

Monday, September 12, 2011


I wish for a claw footed tub the way some people used to desire indoor plumbing, a vintage bike the way some people pined for a Model T to replace their horse-drawn wagon. Something inside me yearns for a simpler time and so I try to surround myself with old-fashioned devices. I long for ones that feel sturdy to the touch like tin cookie cutters passed down from a grandmother to her beloved progeny. These are the treasures that move through the generations, hand to hand to hand.

Feeling that heavy weight in my own palm instills me with a calmness that flimsy plastic just can’t conjure. There’s a trust there, as if something that has worked for so long will always be dependable. In some circles the word heavy may mean difficult or burdensome, in others the meaning may be substantial, durable and enduring. For always.

Yet even the biggest and strongest anything is not guaranteed to last. A plane can topple a skyscraper, a flood can leave houses in ruins. What you thought would always be, is suddenly no more.

Even after the worst catastrophes there are survivors, certain items that remain. Somehow they become even stronger for having lasted. These are the items we pass down with reverence. The ones that are of use--like teapots and juicers--become desired by future generations, not the silly rings and things that have been locked up in a box. Of course they will survive. But day in day out, the items we use have a story connected to them. It gives them a luster, a particular history that deepens the patina. They glimmer and glow with a shine not seen by everyone. If you are at a flea market or antique shop, look for it. When you see it, you’ll know.

In this day and age it seems silly to be in love with typewriters, fountain pens, rotary fans and hand mixers, yet these are the things that give me pleasure. Each is so much heavier than their modern day counterparts, which is reason enough for people to shy away from using them. But these items bring with them a story, each were created in a time when craftsmanship mattered. In today’s world lightweight is becoming synonymous with disposable. Use it for a short time, throw it away, end of story.

Even so our lives cannot be filled with heavy things, sometimes a little levity is needed. Bubbles, dandelion puffs, pink clouds floating and a long list of others lift my spirits when I need them most. Holding on to a cluster of balloons and flying high above it all sounds magical. In the midst of the noise and swirling chaos the tap of a typewriter key centers me, the click of a shutter helps me focus. They remind me to keep my two feet grounded, my two wheels touching the earth below.

To reference a quote held dear by our friends “We love the things we love for what they are.” These words written by Frost so long ago speak to me of those things that have survived, that become special because we love them. They become imbued with our memories which can only give them a heavier weight, a gravitas that will help them endure. For now and for always.

Yesterday, Sunday, September 11, we harvested potatoes. I planted these potatoes in the rain last spring, in tall grain bags that I weighted with dirt and a quarter of potato. I planted a few in the horse paddock, small hills of dark dirt. I added more dirt, and more as the summer went on and the potato quarters sprouted into bushy green plants. A month or so ago the plants all died and I thought the Great Potato Blight had recurred in smaller form. I shrugged off the disappointment. Yes, planting those things and tending them, even at a minimal rate, was a lot of work. But we could go to the Co-op and restock. We'd still have potato soup, roasted potatoes, potato salad, mashed potatoes. We would not starve. We would not die.

But still. It stung, just a bit. A gardening slap in the face.

Saturday night I came back downstairs after putting a child or two in bed. In the sink: four potatoes. Dinner was long over and preparation for the next meal wasn't scheduled to start for another ten hours. The potatoes did not belong. Except, maybe...

“One of the horses dug up some potatoes,” M reported from the porch, a gentleman farmer in black rubber boots and a headlamp. We went back out to investigate. M dumped one of the potato bags and five more Yukon golds rolled up to the surface of the dirt. What I had mistaken for disaster was only the natural process of growing potatoes. And now we have a harvest.

On Sunday I was good for a few bags, but the weight was too great and I let M take the job of lifting and dumping all that used dirt onto the ground. B and I sifted through the muck with our hands. It was sunny, warm but not hot. Blue sky after the fog burned off. Not quite the brilliance we had ten years ago, but close.

For dinner we ate roasted potatoes, red beans and rice, salad and apple crisp made from the apples we'd picked earlier at the local orchard. We sat at the picnic table with friends and family. We shivered a bit in the coming cold. We were happy to be together, with potatoes.

Next week's word: Thirsty

Monday, September 5, 2011


Reasons I can't sleep on any given night:

1. I'm hungry.

2. I'm worried about famine, nuclear threat, and friends with cancer.

3. I have a deadline that I'll meet with no problem but part of the process of meeting the deadline is worrying about it. So I do, late at night.

4. Children are sick, or might be sick, or expressed some version of sickness right before bed and now I wait tensely for the first sounds of sick.

5. Someone said something angry to me in the past twelve hours. I know this is ridiculous. I am 36 years old and should be well over ingesting other peoples' anger. But I like it when everyone likes me and hate it when one person doesn't.

6. We're broke. I mean, we aren't broke, but again, part of the process of staying not broke is worrying that we're broke, so I do. Late at night.

7. There's a storm outside and maybe trees will fall on us. So I stay awake and plan escape routes.

8. More than two other people occupy my pillow.

9. M is running a marathon in his sleep. And cheats by trying to trip the runner next to him. I'm the runner next to him.

10. I can't stop thinking how tired I'll be tomorrow. How hard it will be to maintain some semblance of order in the house.  Those of you who have seen my house will laugh at the idea of order within, but trust me, it could be so much worse.  And will be if I don't get to sleep soon.

11. It's hot.

12. I forgot someone's birthday.

I wish I could sleep as soundly as my dogs do when they manage to sneak onto the bed and stretch out in the occasion of morning sun. I stand above them and look down disapprovingly while they pretend they are far, far away, but really I'm envious. Of their stillness of body and mind.

 In this bed:

We do lingering
We do mismatched sheets and pillowcases
We do dog cuddling
We do handknitted blankets
We do comforting
We do naps
We do sneaking in just one more chapter
We do laughing
We do hot water bottles
We do recharging
We do writing and planning
We do escaping the world
We do breakfast for dinner
We do listening to the rain on the roof
We do family read-alouds
We do watching late-night movies on the laptop
We do dreaming, hoping and wishing

Make love not war is honored here.

Note: To see the inspiration for this post, click here.


Next Weeks Word: Heavy