Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Katie Cole and I were best friends from Kindergarten until the day she moved away in 4th grade. Here is what I remember about her:

1. She wore her blonde hair in two braids every single day.
2. Her mother's name was Priscilla, and she had a little sister named Sarah and a one-eyed Dachshund named Oliver.
3. One day I was sitting next to her on the school bus, and I lied to her about a grade on my report card because I wanted her to think I had done better than I had.
4. Both her parents grew up on farms in Iowa.
5. There was a big bump in the road in front of her house, and I always made sure to ride my bike over it when I went to play.
6. One day on the playground, she said something mean about me to a group of girls, and I went home and cried at the kitchen table with my mother. I forgave her the next day.
7. I sat in the bathroom and cried again the day she came to our house with her parents to tell us they were moving cross-country. Almost immediately after, or so it seemed to me, they were gone.

Two of my children each have a close friend who is moving far away in a month or so. Unlike my experience in the bathroom, both have known about the moves for a little while, and I hope this will make it easier. But they will miss their friends and will remember them when they're grown. I feel sure of that. But which memories will they take with them? I hope to find out when we get there.

Friday thoughts

Friday, June 7, 2013

The details of the story I'm about to tell you elude me, such as the store I was in or what I was looking for, but about a year ago I was in a store looking for something, and the woman (very young) who was helping me suggested I look online. I must have stared at her blankly for just a second, because she said, "That means the In-ter-net," as if I were 110 years old.

I remembered this last night when I was thinking about the Internet and how I'm still sometimes amazed at being able to look up anything I can possibly think of at the exact moment I think of it. (Coming across something I'd never think of in a million years or know anything about also is good.)

Last night I was thinking about Mary Oliver and began to read through some of her poems. I have several favorites, and there they all were, just by typing her name. Here's one I particularly love because of the last line. Amazing thing, that In-ter-net. I hope you have a happy (almost summer) weekend.

The Summer Day, Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(Photograph: Baby grasshopper by Jack Hochfield. National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012)


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Part 1

Six years ago, when we bought our house and did a renovation, there was very little left at the end for landscaping. We had budgeted for some "hardscaping" - a stone wall along the driveway, a smallish bluestone patio in the back, and a very small bluestone landing by the side door. Plantings were minimal, mostly because of cost, but also because I wasn't sure what I wanted.

I knew what I didn't want, though, and that was color. I consistently tore pictures from magazines (this was pre-Pinterest) of all-white and green gardens, and I thought they were beautiful. I'm not a big color person to begin with, so this was easy.

Part 2

Very slowly, over time, I began to add to the garden. They key to Part 2 was my good friend and neighbor who also is a professional gardener. We'd wander through nurseries and sometimes bring home a hosta, a boxwood, or some Solomon's Seal. She'd often stop by with a shovel and a bucketful of something she'd divided from her own garden or a client's, always white. "These will sulk for a while," she'd say, "but just wait."

Part 3

My mother's house was about to go on the market. I thought about how my children always asked if they could pick a Lamb's Ear from her front bed, I think mostly because they liked the name. I thought of her rose bush by the front door. I thought of her garden out back that had become overgrown but once had thrived, and which my mother had loved.

So we put on our boots and went back to see what was there. And what was there were peonies. Peonies that were not in bloom. I tried hard to remember what color they were but couldn't. I also couldn't leave them behind. So we dug them up and brought them home.

Part 4

For a while after the peonies were planted, nothing happened. Nothing happened for long enough that I began to think they hadn't survived the trip from one garden to the other. But then, this spring, buds began to appear on one of the plants, and one day those buds exploded into bloom.

A few days earlier, I had been talking to my 11-year-old about a big decision he had to make. I had asked him to try to explain to me what he was feeling, and he said, "I don't have the words."

That's how I felt when the peonies opened. They made me both happy and sad, but mostly happy. I took a picture with my phone and emailed it to my sister. She made me promise that if we ever move, we'll take the peonies with us, again.

One last thing: My all-white garden now is splashed with a deep, hot pink. That was the color I couldn't remember. Of course.

The peonies cut from my garden.

Home from the library

Monday, June 3, 2013

I haven't yet come up with a perfect system for reading (or, rather, for buying or borrowing books). Typically, it goes like this: I'll be at the computer late at night and realize I have a list of books in my head or written down somewhere that I'd like to read. I'll skim through reviews on Amazon and then order them all at once from the online site our public library maintains. Because of this, they usually come in and need to be picked up all at once. But I can read them only one at a time, which means I rarely get through the stack before they're due back, which in turn leads to another flurry of emails and inevitable library fines. There must be a better way, or at least I need to read much faster.

With that said, this is the stack I've just picked up (and as I write, I realize there's a common theme running through all of these):

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. A single mother searches for the truth about her daughter's tragic death.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. A father prepares for the wedding of his daughter at his family's New England summer home.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. A fed-up mother disappears, and her daughter sifts through clues to find her.

She Left Me The Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me by Emma Brockes. A daughter travels to South Africa to try to unravel her mother's mysterious past.

So here I go. Trying not to panic.

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