29 April 2008
My mother has lived in her house since 1972. I remember when we moved in: I had just finished sixth grade, the grass hadn’t been cut in years and there was a row of hemlocks along the sidewalk that completely blocked the house from the street. But there was architecture to the yard - low walls of river stone bounding untended flower beds, lovely pink dogwoods that bowed down to the ground, a cement fountain near a decrepit fish pond.
Over the years, my mother has tended every square inch of the property. There are curving pathways edged with hosta, flowering shrubs, perennials galore. A grape arbor abuts the garage, a row of raspberries borders the vegetable garden, there are blueberry and currant bushes. She’s composted forever: kitchen scraps go to one pile, and fallen leaves to the “rhino pit”. The hemlocks are long gone and the street side of the house is visible, but from the side porch, you can see no other houses.
When W. and I bought our house three and a half years ago, we started to address our own garden. We took out a wild rose that had smothered two big azaleas. We moved shrubs that were too close together, and others that were just in the wrong places. I’ve ripped out countless wild daylilies while reclaiming a hillside flower bed. And nearly every time I’ve gone to visit my mother in the spring or summer or early fall, I’ve returned home with a plant or two, or a carload.
This past weekend, I spent some time at her house. Much of the time I was tending to her, and monitoring my daughter, but for an hour on Friday, while the hospice aide was watching my sleeping mother, I puttered around out in her yard. I dug up a bit of this, a little of that, and took it all home to plant on Sunday.
I have a tiny piece of a fancy blue hosta, a couple of volunteer boxwoods, and some sweet woodruff. There are coral bells and creeping sedum and candytuft and bleeding hearts that originated at my grandmother’s house. I found a little doublefile viburnum, maybe three feet tall, under my mother’s huge one. A divine and feisty woman from across the street had once passed on some of her peonies and irises; I took a little of each. I dug up a mess of variegated solomon’s seal – a plant that someone else had given her. Along her front walk, out of place and threatening a yew, was a volunteer evergreen that I can’t identify – but I potted it up anyway.
It so pleases me that I have these pass-along plants. It connects me and my land back to my mother and hers, and to my grandparents too. It connects me to my mother’s friends and neighbors, and to all the other people to whom she’s given bits of plants. And when I walk around my house and through my yard at the end of the day, it feels like home.
26 April 2008
You know how lint collects in pockets and the corners of the laundry room? It collects in my head too. Here are some random lint-like tidbits that I am compelled to share with you.
I was contemplating buying a skirt on eBay, a Hanna Andersson skirt for the girlie. The listing stated that it was 100% cotton, but I asked the seller whether it was knit or woven. This was the answer:
I'm going to guess a knit. How would I tell if it was either? The tag does not specify. Sorry that I do not know exactly. Thanks.
I forward the exchange to my sister, whose good advice was:
Don't buy it. You shouldn't be supporting a moron.
Miss M. and the twins from next door are picking a movie to watch. "How about Snow White?", says one. "Nah, too kissy" says Miss M.
The chicken we got for dinner last night came with a "Farm Verification" label, complete with a code to plug into their website, so that we could find out where the bird was from. On the website, an address and a map popped up: the chicken came from Pennsylvania, 190 miles away - not locavore, though close. But that more meat had such labels.
Have you heard about the Indian car company called Tata that's up and bought Jaguar and Land Rover (and Pininfarina)? I am now constitutionally incapable of passing a Jaguar without saying, usually aloud, "bodacious tatas".
25 April 2008
Isis had a post the other day that made me run straight home to review my iTunes library so that I could filch it. The notion is that the perfect pop song is 2 minutes and 42 seconds long.
It turned out that, out of the 4072 tracks I have in iTunes, only 17 of them were exactly 2:42. Of those, five were Christmas songs, and two were kid's music, so I really only had ten.
- "I want to vanish" by Elvis Costello & Anne Sofie von Otter
- "Success" by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
- "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell
- "If Not For You " by Bob Dylan
- "Taya Tan " by Pink Martini
- "The Song Is You" by Frank Sinatra
- "Por Eso (Me Olvido De Ti)" by Brave Combo
- "The Book Of Love" by The Magnetic Fields
- "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" by Chris Thomas King
- "So Young " by Ron Sexsmith
Since Elvis Costello (né Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus) ended up on my list twice, does that make him the best pop songwriter out there?
Interestingly, I have NO overlap with Isis - though I'm sure I have some of the same songs (and I know I have similar taste in music). There are undoubtably a lot more 2:42 songs on disks in my cellar that have never been burned into iTunes.
24 April 2008
Ages ago, Becky tapped me for an "eight things" meme.
- I spoke to Joel Grey on the phone a couple weeks ago.
- I once went through a revolving door with Paul Simon.
- Jeff Buckley told me I have beautiful skin, with my husband standing right there. W. thought he was hitting on me.
- Once upon a time, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and I talked about going to visit the Metropolitan Musem of Art. It didn't happen, but I think he must have children all over the country - he's got an unlikely seductiveness.
- As a child, I asked Margot Fonteyn for her autograph - and she said no. To a child!
- I sat across the table from Lou Reed in a lawyer's office a long time ago.
- Edward Gorey once signed a Playbill for me.
- When I was about five, I sat on Bill Casey's lap when he was running for Congress. The photo made it into the local paper. I am vaguely mortified, 'cause he was a bad man.
If you like, consider yourself tapped, and spill your own brushes with celebrity.
23 April 2008
|Thank you, Sarah, for your friendship. I know that, were there less geographic distance between here and there, we'd be close friends, and I cherish that.|
|Thank you, Andi, for your gushing. I find you excellent as well, and I hope that it is spring in the Northern lands soon.|
|And thank you, Lightening, for your bloggy support from the other side of the world.|
22 April 2008
Over the weekend, W. and I went to a local nursery to get a birthday present for his mother. One thing led to another, and we ended up coming home with a star magnolia. We dug a great hole, enriched the dirt with good black compost from the town dump, and watered it well. More than most of the other things I've planted around my house, that magnolia stellata feels like a permanent addition to the landscape, probably because it's the first time we've bought a balled and burlapped shrub. Usually, I'm cheap and buy tiny little perennials by mail order, or dig things up at my mother's house and shlep them home, or I just rearrange the shrubbery that came with the house. I hope it thrives.
In addition to planting my own little tree at home, I helped plant ten trees afar. Julie's started a campaign through the Nature Conservancy, which you can participate in by clicking on that widget to the left. Or click back to Julie's and do it through there.
If you don't want to get your hands dirty, and you don't have any money to send to the Nature Conservancy, join Al Gore's We Can Solve It campaign.
Or share another suggestion in the comments.
21 April 2008
I could sleep for a week and a half.
I realized yesterday that over the past two weeks, I've slept away from home five nights. Five out of fourteen doesn't sound like much, but it was in three different places and spread out one night at a time (Saturday - Wednesday - Saturday - Tuesday - Thursday). It meant that something was always missing because I kept changing bags (the headphones to my iPod, the hairbrush, a Metrocard, the keys to my office). It meant anticipating what I'd want to wear, to read. It meant general discombobulation.
Yesterday, I got up and drove to my mother's house in the morning, picked up my six year old niece, took her and Miss M. to a matinee, and then handed them off to W. He took them back to my mother's to drop off the six year old and then returned home with Miss M. I stayed in the City, wandering around and visiting a friend, killing time before the evening performance. And even though it was the last performance, I left at the second intermission, because I. just. had. to. go. home.
I have an endoscopy on Wednesday. I am looking forward to it - because it is first thing in the morning and I get to spend the rest of the day in bed. Who'd have thought an endoscopy would be something to desire?
19 April 2008
Over the years, W. has given me lots of gifts - Christmas, birthday, Valentine's Day, there have been more than twenty years of events to mark. I still have the gray and black silk scarf that was the first present he ever gave me.
Plenty of times, he's given me something that he really wants for himself (don't we all?) - like more kitchen knives than anyone really needs.
But there are two things that stand out, two things I still have and that I regard with great fondness.
For Christmas one year, many years ago, when I had a low-paying non-profit job and he was free-lancing and we had no money, he bought me a pair of scissors. Just a pair of scissors. But they're hefty, sharp sewing shears with a comfortable red handle that well fits my hand. At the time, and for some time thereafter, I needled him endlessly about the scissors. But, I've grown an inordinate fondness for them and it pleases me to pick them up when I embark on some fabric-centered craftiness.
The best, though, was on Valentine's Day 2002. My sister had her second baby in the late evening on 2/13/02. A couple of hours later, my brother-in-law called to announce the birth. It was about 2:00 in the morning, and it was now Valentine's Day. Because we were awake, and because he was bursting with excitement knowing the perfection of the gift, W. fetched his Valentine's present for me. An iPod. The first generation iPod. It was well and truly a wonderful gift. I'd been lusting after it, but I was too abstemious to indulge myself. And his palpable exhilaration added to the all around thrill of that moment in the wee hours of the morning. I loved that gift. I loved loading it up with music and hitting shuffle and going to town. I love it.
I still have that iPod. Its battery is nearly shot, but it works fine when plugged in, so this past Christmas it became the all-Christmas-music playback device. I can't ever part with it even though it's no longer in daily use.
Some gifts are just right - sometimes immediately, and sometimes because they grow on you.
What's the most idiosyncratic gift you've ever gotten?
This post was inspired by the Parent Bloggers Network and GetInHerHead.
Labels: Parent Bloggers Network
18 April 2008
Jen had a lovely lovely post the other day, seven windows of my soul. It was provocative, the kind of post that gets you thinking about your own soul windows, and demands to be filched.
I think of that first view of the ocean, when returning to Maine for a summer vacation. And sitting on the beach at Robert Moses in the cool of the morning, coffee in one hand, donut in the other, smelling the good sea air.
I remember dancing at my wedding, up on the kitchen counter, late at night to Prince singing Sexy M.F. And I can't walk by Tiffany's without thinking of W. and our first kiss at 57th and Fifth.
I remember stroking Miss M.'s cheek when she was first born; I was still on the table, and W. was holding her near my head. And of looking down at her little blonde head those many nights (and days) when she fell asleep in my arms.
I recall the window of my Fountainebleau room, with the little iron railing framing the view. And I'm enthralled with the view from my office window, which looks just a little like Paris.
My mind is full of snapshots, full of memory, full of small windows into my soul.
Others have shared their own windows - do you have some too?
jen with seven windows of my soul
Jessica with Eleven windows
Tracy from Tiny Mantras
Defiant Muse from Musings...
Kaliroz with windows
BarrenAlbion with seven windows of my soul
Arwen with windows to my soul
Somewhere in the suburbs with windows
Karen with eight windows
Jennifer with Seven views
17 April 2008
Me, asking about her day at school: What did you have for lunch today?
Me: What kind of meat?
Turned out to have been pot roast - cooked, indeed.
Verbatim text message received from my husband, relaying a conversation he'd had with her over dinner when I was elsewhere:
Is that ketchup? No it's
cocktail sauce. What's that?
It's kind of like ketchup, but
with horseradish in it. Oh, we
can't kill horses!
Labels: Miss M.
16 April 2008
Okay, not really. But maybe a little bit.
I got an email last week, from a marketing person at Lands' End, inviting me to a product launch. I don't know how they found my blog, but the note showed that the person had taken the time to at least skim through some posts, saying "I know you are currently very busy with your mother (who is in our thoughts), but thought if you wanted to or even had a moment to break away, this might be something nice for you."
So I went.
I'm kind of partial to Lands' End anyway - I remember them selling foul weather gear and duffel bags when I was in high school and I still have a red duffel bag that I used in college that is in surprisingly good shape: it does not look 25 years old. And for awhile they had nice simple maternity clothes but they seem to have discontinued that line - good thing I'm never getting pregnant again!
Anyway, the event was at lunchtime two blocks from my office, so I trotted over to see what was happening. I was going to go two blocks to get lunch anyway. They had sandwiches & cupcakes & wine, and a display of kids clothes for next fall. The clothes were cute, but then they always are. I chatted with a couple of people and left, collecting my goody bag on the way out the door.
The prize? A new lavender backpack for the girlie, who we registered for kindergarten this afternoon.
Thanks, Lands' End. Your timing was impeccable, though unplanned.
And now I need a glass of wine, what with all the kindergarten angst.
15 April 2008
My mother was an art history major at Smith. The long-tenured professor in the department was a renaissance man, one Clarence Kennedy. In addition to his scholarly interest in Greek and Italian Renaissance sculpture, Kennedy was a photographer and a friend of Edwin Land. Land, of course, was the inventor of the Polaroid camera - but Clarence Kennedy was the man who coined the name "Polaroid" for his friend.
In 1956, my mother took a photography class with Kennedy, using Polaroid Pathfinder cameras that had been donated by Polaroid to the college.
Each week they took instant pictures, exploring various themes to capture motion or pattern or emotion. At the end of the semester, she created a portfolio: small horizontal pages in a little ring binder, a photo or two on every other sheet. That portfolio has always resided in my mother's living room, along side the albums of baby pictures, her college yearbooks, scrapbooks of family vacations, and coffee-table-type art books.
Last weekend, one of her college classmates was visiting, and in the course of the afternoon, the portfolio was brought out. They flipped through it together and talked of Smith and about two other classmates who appeared as models – one of them became an EMT, the other lives in Pennsylvania. Later that day, I took the portfolio upstairs and scanned the whole thing. If I get my act together, I may "publish" it as a Blurb book. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pages from the portfolio.
Possibilities of the Film:
11 April 2008
Simply Nutmeg started a meme recently: Filch It Friday. I'm filching from Kathy Likes Pink, who posted excerpts from her town's police blotter the other day.
The police/fire/ambulance blotter is often great reading in a local paper. I always make sure to check it when on vacation in a little town. And no one in my family has ever forgotten an item that appeared in the paper in the smallish town I grew up in: "A large cardboard box was seen moving down Main Street".
Here's the Fire Department blotter from my town for last week, redacted as necessary, emphasis mine:
8:29 a.m.- The FD responded to an automatic mutual aid call to XXXXX for a smell of smoke at the XXXXX Elementary School. After an investigation the origin of the smoke was found to be from an outside burn at a commercial property on XXXXX Road.
6:02 p.m. - The FD responded to an automatic residential fire alarm at a residence on XXXXX Lane. The alarm was set off by accident by a relative of the homeowner.
8:28 p.m. - The FD responded to an automatic commercial fire alarm at the XXXXX Middle School. The alarm was set off by workers in the school.
10:54 a.m.- The FD responded to an automatic residential fire alarm at a residence on Devoe Road. The alarm was set off in error by the homeowner.
6:40 p.m. - The FD responded to an automatic mutual aid call to XXXXX for an automatic commercial fire alarm at the XXXXX Elementary School. The alarm was set off by a custodian cooking.
Happily, the Fire Department did not actually address any fires at all. But what was the custodian cooking?
Labels: Filch It Friday
10 April 2008
I knew I was going to be out late last night, for work. In a moment of stunning selflessness, my husband called his sister and asked for a favor: a night in the swanky NYC hotel in which she works. Bingo.
So, I left the theater at about 11:00 in a chilly drizzle, checked into the hotel at 11:30, poked around every corner of the enormous one-bedroom suite with one and a half baths, opened every curtain to reveal the cityscape from the 42nd floor, soaked in a hot fragrant bubble bath, and slept well in the king-size bed unimpeded by kicking child or snoring husband.
In the morning, room service delivered fruit and croissants and coffee and the newspaper, and I sat on the windowsill in the sunshine - eating my breakfast, peering into distant windows, watching the gnat-sized taxis dance about below, and reading the paper.
Then I packed up my bag, turned in my key, and headed out into spring.
Nine hours. I almost feel human again.
07 April 2008
In a Past Life...
I was a Mute Viking. I lived in Germany. And I was Hung For Treason.
The "quiz" only asks one question, "What's your current profession?" What I want to know is who hangs arts administrators for treason? Or, going in the other direction, what is it about mute Vikings that they come back as arts administrators?
04 April 2008
02 April 2008
I spent last night at my mother's.
Around 8 am, I got this text message from my husband:
Miss M. slept all night in her
own bed. She said that she
dreamed you were walking in
the sky smiling down at her.
Two more chicks hatched
overnight. I'm leaving for the
city at 2:30.
It totally made my day. Every morning, I ask her if she had any dreams. Usually she says no, and sometimes she claims to have dreamed about a stuffed animal (which always sounds like she's trying to shut me up by just telling me something). But the night I wasn't there? She dreamed of me. Of course, if I had been there, she wouldn't have had to dream me up because she would have climbed into our bed at some point and wrapped her limpet self around me.
Meanwhile, I didn't sleep well at all. I was up in the middle of the night making lists and notes for my sister to use when she met with the hospice intake nurse. Eventually I went back to bed, and fell asleep, only to have the alarm wake me up from a vivid dream in which two of my teeth had spontaneously crumbled into tiny shards.
My sister and brother and sister-in-law - and my mother - met with the hospice nurse this morning. Tomorrow, they'll deliver a hospital bed and portable toilet and wheelchair and oxygen. She's barely eating, and sleeping a lot. She fell yesterday and couldn't get up, and either sprained or broke her ankle in the process. She's not even reading the paper anymore, much less railing about grammatical errors in the Times or malfeasance on the part of hospital administrators.
Calling hospice in wasn't an easy call, but it was an inevitable one. And it's kind of a relief.
This is my 500th post. How did this happen? Thank you all for reading and commenting and being.
01 April 2008
Every year, the pre-school class at Miss M.'s daycare hatches eggs into chicks. It's a big event: all the little kids from the other classes come to visit the eggs and then the chicks, everyone knows what day they're due to hatch, and after the chicks have been hanging out in the classroom for a while, the kids go on a field trip to return them to the farm from which the eggs came.
Hatch day this year was supposed to be tomorrow. But sometime yesterday, a couple of the eggs developed cracks and bulges. We arrived to pick her up, and found the whiteboard outside the classroom emblazoned with:
Quote of the Day:
"Maura look! The
eggs are starting
Miss M. had been the first to notice.
This morning, there were two bedraggled little chicks, some more eggs with cracks, and a gaggle of little kids hovering over the incubator. All's right with the world, even if it still doesn't feel like spring.