My darling daughter turned 21, and I got the great pleasure of treating her to a week in London. Of the many highlights, here are a few.
Taking photos of graffiti near Waterloo bridge. Getting a kick out of reading the names on the subway map & recognizing so many of them from pop culture
Playing tourist and checking out the locals.
Cramming in as many amazing exhibitions as our eyeballs and feet would allow.
Being Irish I thought I had a clue about the Celts, but this exhibition was an eye opener in more ways than one.
Only through a bloody miracle and some marginally immoral behavior did we catch our flight for a quick visit back to the West of Ireland. She was looking mysteriously celtic!
I want to carefully carry with me—
Of precious eggs.
Every one has its own space
In my heart.
That my attention
I won’t give each
The time it deserves
To turn and caress
And be mindful of,
That I will jostle the basket
And let one slip.
I want to swaddle them
With soft grass and feathers,
Turn them in the direction of the sun,
Breathe love and understanding
Into their souls.
Hover over them,
Keep them safe.
But like the hen
Who leaves the nest
To stretch her legs
And scratch for worms,
Knowing there is always
The possibility of the sneaking weasel,
I too must learn to let go.
To combat the stir crazies, I took my little fella out to tramp through the woods over the snowpack, joining the dots of deer and fox tracks. He scrambled over, and jumped off downed tree-trunks to his little heart’s content. I noticed the ever-increasing rings of melted snow at the base of trees. Squirrels chased each other round and round the trunk of the giant black walnut. A flash of ginger fur at the corner of my eye was a chipmunk scampering down the old stone wall. The red cardinal perched amongst the brown, yet swelling buds of the forsythia bush, laying claim to his territory. His no less stylish, yet more subdued partner was close by. The Carolina wren scolded from the dogwood. And the darling nuthatches, cheeped softly to each other as they, scampered, headfirst down the trunk.
The other evening as I stood on the lawn watching a silvery sunset, a pair of Canada geese honked from the pond. Not two feet from me a half-awake possum snuffled here and there amongst dried grasses poking out of the snow. He reminded me of a drunk old fella on his way home from the pub.
When I got up this morning the air was ripe with skunk love. An ardent suitor had left his calling card in the night. Perhaps it was the same stylish black and white mop top I’d had to brake for coming home the other night. He was oblivious to my presence, so hot was he on the scent of his ladylove.
Other dozy animals have not been so lucky. The turkey vultures circle over sad heaps of roadkill. So far I’ve counted raccoon, rabbit, groundhog, and squirrel. Time to look up some spring woodland recipes!
The tips of the young willow trees have turned amazing mustard yellow. The silver pussy willows are swelling out of their hard casings. At the edge of the village the sap buckets are hung on the maple trees.
Yes, everything’s still blanketed with snow, but yesterday the first crocuses opened their faces to the sun. The bees can’t be far behind.
Bee! I’m expecting you!
By Emily Dickinson
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—
The Frogs got Home last Week—
Are settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—
You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me—
Just a Hint of Spring
Hysterical chickens squawk from the neighbors yard.
They couldn’t be more chuffed
At having laid the first eggs of the year.
A rivulet of ice-melt
Gushes from the broken gutter—
Add that to the list of post winter chores:
Cut back the dried grasses,
Rake out the flowerbeds,
Push frost-heaved garlic back into the cold earth,
Pull handfuls of chickweed from around the crocuses,
Sit in a patch of early sunlight with just a hint of warmth.
Blogging is not for sissies. It takes time, focus, and hard work if you want to put out blogs that won’t make you cringe down the road. But the rewards are big. As the Write Eejit comes to the end of its first year, I thought it a good time to look back at what it’s taught me so far.
- Nobody just pops out a post worth its salt. Even the folks that seem to effortlessly come up with witty and informative things to say on a daily basis have more than likely been mulling them over for a while. WHITE DEER
- It’s an excellent way to get a load off my chest. Feeling aggravated or ecstatic about something? Why not post a mini rant. So what if I’ll forever be known as that miserable woman who hates her cat. I HATE MY CAT
- Blogging has a way of bringing things into focus. Coming up with topics not only allows me to live in the moment, but also reflect on past events in a new light. GOLDEN MOMENTS
- I get to experiment without having to commit to a specific idea or format. PAGAN MOON
- I’ve rediscovered things about my past that had dropped off my radar. HIPPIE ADVENTURE
- On good days when I post without a hitch, blogging makes me feel like 21st century Warrior Woman. On bad days when I can’t figure out why my password has reset itself, I’m an FTD (frustrated tech dummy). OLD WRITERS NEW MEDIA
- Blogging forces me to set goals and shoot for a deadline, and is a constant reminder to adhere to good writing habits—check spelling and punctuation before hitting “Post”. COTTER PIN
- Blogging helps me take that breath and reevaluate where I am, both in life, and as a writer. MUD SEASON
- There are many talented and inspiring fellow bloggers out there. HIGH JINKS IN THE HAREM
- And when those “Likes” and comments pop up, boy is it instant gratification for someone who spends a lot of time tapping away in no-woman’s land. BLIND SQUIRREL PARENTING
Do you remember the childhood thrill of playing outside at nightfall?
I was sitting in the hammock bemoaning the fact that it was only 7pm and the dusk was rapidly turning to darkness. From down the road I heard the excited shrieks and squeals of children playing outside, and the memories flooded back. Often when my parents had friends over for dinner, the grown-ups, distracted by free-flowing wine and conversation, would leave us children to our own devices.
Out into the twilight garden we tumbled, the dewy lawn cold underfoot and the wet grass sticking to our bare feet. A pale rock suddenly took on a ghostly hue. The silhouetted woods sent a delicious shiver of fear down our spines. Surely there was a witch lurking in there, or a wolf? All it took was one sudden creak of a bough, or croak of a crow coming home to roost to set us running, running fill tilt, arms outstretched to ward off shadowy objects. Our exaggerated shrieks of terror filled the air. Each circumnavigation of the garden ratcheted up the excitement until someone stopped to spit out a gnat, or scratch an itch, or wail over a stubbed a toe.
Cheeks flush from the chilly air, we’d sneak inside to run our fingers around the remnants of the grownup’s pudding bowl, sure that our giddiness was due in part to the rum in the chocolate pudding. Whispering and giggling, we’d shove snacks for our midnight feast up our sweaters and head out into the full-blown darkness. Flashlight bounced across the garden ahead of us, adding an eerie shadow-filled glow to our surroundings. We all knew that fairies were lurking in the roots of the hawthorn tree, or under the weeping willow, waiting to spirit us away to their magical world. Clutching each other, we’d creep into the vegetable garden and raid the raspberry patch to complete our feast.
We were never ready for it to be over, but at some point the adults would call us in to bed. No tooth brushing, just under the sheets with muddy soles, sticky fingers, raspberry and chocolate stained cheeks, and magical dreams.
The Stolen Child
WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
–William Butler Yeats (excerpted)
Yesterday was one of those crisp September mornings you could bite into like a perfectly ripe Macintosh apple. My youngest son, having started first grade the day before, was off for the Jewish New Year holiday. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We grabbed our cameras and headed out to our local stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
Our first leg of the trail runs alongside a dry summer meadow filled with purple aster and golden rod. My son marveled at the insect orchestra. I pointed out the different pitches and rhythms of the grasshoppers and crickets. We watched goldfinches flitting from seed head to seed head, stuffing their beaks. Trios of cabbage white butterflies danced around a mud puddle. A monarch flapped and drifted, seeking out the last flowering heads of milkweed. The air was sweet with the scent of virgin’s bower, the native wild clematis.
When we reached the woodland, the dirt path was packed, dry clay. But pushing up through the leaf mold, we spied several species of toadstool. When I told Milo about the extensive mycelium network that spreads underground from a mushroom colony, his imagination ran riot. He began inventing Rube Goldberg machines powered by mushrooms that sent secret messages down these connecting tubes.
We reached the boardwalk over the marshes and marveled at the variety of late summer flowers—turtleheads, purple loosestrife, jewelweed, bursting pods of milkweed fluff. At the suspension bridge we gazed down into the slow moving depths of the Pochuck Creek, looking for small trout. I think the herons had got there before us, but we did find an owl pellet stuffed with hair and delicate mouse bones.
As we walked back through the woods, it dawned on me that at exactly this spot, six years ago, it had finally sunk in that I was going to have a baby—my youngest son. At 41, with two almost teens, the thought of another baby had been far from my mind. And yet, here he is, six years later, my late summer golden moment. What a gift.
My husband and I had just brought our first newborn home from the hospital. Honestly, I couldn’t believe they’d let us walk out of the place with her—didn’t they know we were completely clueless? The first diaper change was a fiasco that reduced us to helpless laughter. We were woefully unprepared. The fact that our daughter had showed up a couple of weeks early didn’t help. In those first few days, we walked around in a zombie-like state. One afternoon, while I was napping with the baby, my husband slipped out for a breather. When I woke up, he was back with the first gift he would ever give her—a collection of children’s books that he had loved as a child.
That very day, he propped her warm, saggy little body into the crook of his arm and read her The Lorax. And so began our favorite childhood routine. We read morning, afternoon, and night. Basically, anytime there was a bed involved, and frequently when there wasn’t. In the beginning it was all about indulging our own memories of books. But soon we discovered wonderful new classics of children’s literature. And it didn’t take long before the Ikea bookshelf in her shoebox-sized room was overflowing. When her brother arrived eighteen months later, our days revolved around the park, the bookstore, and the library. He even took his first steps, staggering, giggling, through the stacks in the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Toward the end of our second summer living in the county, an event loomed that left me full of dread. Our daughter was off to kindergarten, and the prospect of upsetting our leisurely morning routine—lounging in bed, gasping at the grossness of a Roald Dahl story, or laughing aloud at Shel Silverstein poems—was dismal. I knew that trying to get a cranky, uncooperative kid dressed, fed, and ready for the 8:15 bus was going to put us all in a major snot. Add to that, my determination not to give up our precious morning reading session. Like all good drill sergeants, I came up with a plan. Surprisingly, it worked so well, it became our new morning routine.
The night before I would pull out the next day’s gear (thankfully my kids were never fussy about what they wore). Then, half an hour before I knew the kids needed to be dressed and shoveling food into their faces, I woke them up. This sometimes involved picking them up, semi-conscious, and depositing them in our bed, along with an armful of clothing, various must-have soft toys, and a stack of books. As they snuggled back under the covers, I began to read to them. After about five minutes of a rollicking picture book, guaranteed to capture their attention, they’d be wide-awake. I’d read the next installment of whatever chapter book we happened to be reading—Little House in the Big Woods, The BFG, Harry Potter. Just when I reached a particularly juicy part, I’d pause and say, “Time to get dressed.” Rather than eliciting groans of despair, the kids knew, that was the signal to quietly drag on their clothes, while I finished the last few tantalizing paragraphs. Violá! I had a fully awake, fully dressed, happy crew, ready to face the day with their heads already bulging with stories, and their imaginations firing on all cylinders. An added bonus to all this was that my kids learned to read relatively painlessly, acquired a vocabulary that stopped adults in their tracks, and best of all, a love of books.
I would be fretting about what to do with the Alexandria-sized stacks of children’s book we’ve accumulated over the years when my daughter heads off to college this fall. But lucky for me, my six-year old has allowed us to indulge our morning reading routine just a little bit longer.
You’re a write eejit when you treat your manuscript like your baby.
I’m not the overly sentimental type—or at least I do a good job of hiding it. I wasn’t the one blubbing like a baby at “Mary Poppins” (not looking at anyone in particular, man-mate!) But I confess, when I put my youngest on the bus to kindergarten for the first time, I did feel that mother-child bond stretch out like an over-zealous rubber band, and it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. That wee one that had been clamped to my hip and shin for five years, had just blown me a kiss from the other side of the road and hopped merrily on the bus without a backward glance.
Okay, okay, I hear you groan—not another Mommy blog. Well, yes, but just this once, and only to make my point. (I’m not above exploiting my kids.)
So it’s with trepidation that I prepare to send premier child off to college. What if I didn’t get it right? What if I read all the wrong child-rearing books? (Actually, I don’t think I read any.) But what if I didn’t feed her enough kale or Vitamin D. Maybe I shouldn’t have had her vaccinated, and maybe all those fluoride treatments were a mistake. I didn’t teach her to ride a bike. I didn’t talk enough about sex, or maybe I said too much. I showed, but didn’t tell. Maybe I suffocated her character—didn’t let it evolve naturally. Should I have insisted she not swear so much?
And then I pull myself up short, because I’m being as neurotic about my parenting of my daughter as I am of my books. Can you parent a book? I hear you ask. Yes, most definitely, yes!
You have sleepless nights while it’s in the newborn phase—lying awake for hours wondering if you’re doing it right. You can’t imagine how your baby can ever grow up and demand less of your attention. And then slowly you hit your stride. Sometime you’re cruising along taking every corner like a pro. Other times you’re flailing around like a one-legged roller skater. Sometimes you get to the stage where you just want to throw up your hands and yell, “I quit!” But you can’t. You’re in it for the long haul. And then there are those few and far between days when every, just every little thing, is bloody brilliant.
And as with parenting a child, there comes a time when you have to push that offspring out of the nest. No more editing, looking for stray commas, dangling modifiers. You’ve given it a good talking to and told it to do its best, and never go home with a guy who’s weirder than its brother, and . . . It’s all about giving it wings and letting it fly.