Fans and frights

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A quick post to say an enormous congratulations to our hometown team, the Boston Red Sox. I was a fair-weather fan, to be sure, jumping on the bandwagon only after the team made it to the post-season. But I got the biggest kick out of this group of crazy, bearded guys who liked to have fun, had an enviable work-ethic, and seemed to love each other. We spent far too many late nights watching (resulting in one 8th-grade late slip this morning), but it was worth every single moment.

Meanwhile, the plea this Halloween in my house was to go not just scary, but SCARY scary, and I failed. We had spider webs, spiders, carved pumpkins, and many hanging creatures with black hair, exposed skulls, and broken teeth - but still it wasn't enough for my children. I even hung a black witchy creature by the back door, which scared me half to death each time I was in the kitchen and the wind blew her skirt across the window. At least one of us was afraid.

I hope your Halloween was fun and tremendously scary.

Pickup game

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The email from my youngest daughter's soccer coach said practice this week would start a bit earlier and "go until dark." I wasn't sure how dark dark should be, but when I arrived, I had to look hard at the girls running up and down the field to find mine. Formal practice had ended, so the girls had divided themselves into teams and switched out a regular ball for one that glowed in the dark. Their ponytails were snarly and their cheeks pink from the cold, but no one wanted to stop. To them, it didn't matter that there was dinner waiting or homework to be finished. They just wanted to play. And so it goes.

It's these informal pickup games that my youngest loves best. At recess, after school, after practice, and between "real" games. All they need is a goal, a ball, and a few children. Age, gender, ability - none of that matters. They're happy when a parent or teacher joins in. Shoes (and shirts for the boys) are optional. I'm in love with this age, with these pickup games, with their snarly ponytails. I know that too soon the fields will freeze, the snow will fall, and these 8-year-olds will be 11- and 14- and 16-year-olds. I'd like to think they might still play this way, that it won't end.

In Brazil, home to next year's World Cup, it never ends. In an article from last Sunday's New York Times: "In Brazil, the ball is always moving. It moves on grass and on sand, on concrete and on cobblestones. Sometimes, during the rainy season, it even moves on water." There's the dream of fame and fortune, of course. According to the article, Brazil is annually among the nations exporting the most players to foreign professional leagues. But mostly, pickup soccer in Brazil is about escape, and about joy. It doesn't matter if the game is played on a strip of grass between highways, on a beach, in a cage, or in a parking garage. "This game ... this is where you go to be yourself," one boy said. True in Brazil, and true on a field behind an elementary school just down the street.

Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

White church, orange leaves

Friday, October 11, 2013

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." ~ Anne of Green Gables

Have a wonderful (long!) weekend.


Smoke from the chimney

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

This is how, if you asked, I would describe our across-the-street neighbor: such a good guy.

He lives in a traditional Colonial house in a most traditional suburban neighborhood. He's my age but is single with no children. In the warmer months, he skateboards to work, and when the waves are good, he straps his surfboard to the roof of his car and goes. He typically dresses in board shorts, even when there's snow on the ground. His shoes of choice are flip-flops and sneakers, and each morning he runs for miles. When he comes back, he crosses the street to pat Clementine the dog, lying in the driveway. He buys boxes of cookies from the neighborhood Girl Scouts and many more tickets than one person needs to the annual pancake festival at the middle school. When he was frustrated by too many cars speeding through the neighborhood, he worked to get a new stop sign installed on the corner.

In the summer, he tends to his vegetable garden, and in the winter, he builds fires in his fireplace, and those fires are the whole point of this post. (It took me a very long time to get there, didn't it?). It's cool, sometimes even cold, now at night when we get home, and thanks to our across-the-street neighbor, that cold air more often than not is filled with the smell of smoke from his chimney. Most nights, in my house, we're too busy to make a fire, even in the dead of winter, and that's a shame. I love everything about fires, including the smell and the sound. I love the orderliness of stacked wood and the containers people use to hold it. And so a goal for the winter: to take the time to make more fires. And in the meantime, feeling grateful for our surfing, skateboarding, gardening, cookie-buying, all-around good-guy neighbor, who already does.

(Photos from top to bottom: Sanctuary; The Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu from Remodelista;;; Catherine Kwong Design)

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