Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...

I Peter 1:3

Friday, April 18, 2014


I turned forty two days ago, and for the longest (although we'd made plenty of plans to celebrate), we hadn't made any plans for the actual day. But then Aunt Ellie called to say she'd have my Girl Scout cookies at her timeshare at Massanutten, this week. She wondered if I'd like to pick them up there or meet halfway, and I knew almost right away: I wanted to pick them up on my birthday.

"I'll bake you a cake! What kind do you want?" she asked.

"Do you know how to make my mama's applesauce raisin?" I wondered (because my whole life is pretty much about trying to score apple cake or bread from someone who loves me), and she laughed and said no but that she'd call Mom for the recipe.

Jim took the day off work; I pulled Cade from school; and the six of us made the two-hour drive to Massanutten. Aunt Ellie's been spending a chunk of April in one particular Massanutten villa most all my life. Back in the day, she and my grandparents had back-to-back weeks; I can't walk in without seeing Grandma and Grandad at the table, a board game at their elbows.

It all comes back in a rush, how my favorite thing as a little girl was the generous hot tub of the villa. We'd don our bathing suits and climb in, four or five of us at a time. At thirteen, I started my period for the very first time in that villa, and I remember fretting that, in their excitement, the women would tell Grandad my business. Funny how times have changed; I'll share with just anyone, now: I was days from turning thirteen, and praise be that my body has bled and borne so well.

On my twenty-fifth birthday, I conceived Cade in the villa. The story (in all its irony) goes that his dad had been transferred from Dallas to close-by Harrisonburg, and--since the villa was standing empty during her week--my aunt passed me her key. Jason and I ending up buying a five-bedroom, brick cape cod in the railroad town just behind Massanuttten; we had an amazing, back-deck view of its ski runs. It was the house to which we brought home our baby, the house in which Cade reached many of his earliest milestones.

I'm a little surprised, writing this, that I feel no sadness in my aunt's villa, but no: only blessed history. Only joy in seeing Jim puttering around the applesauce-raisin-cake-smelling kitchen; Cade and Daniel fishing golf balls out of the stream just like my brother and I used to do; my little daughters chasing Madison up the steps and peeking down through the rails on the balcony; Chip finding great amusement in the low thrum of the door stop on a spring.

When we left the villa, the moon sat near and red in the sky. Blood moon, they call it, and at points it looked as though we might drive straight into it. I thought of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon: another gift from Aunt Ellie, who bought the book for my brother when he was a little boy. When Harold journeys home, he remembers: his window is the one with the moon just outside of it. On my fortieth birthday, the moon became a marker for me, too.

At forty, I know the unspeakable pleasures between the dropping of the crayon (or, in this case, my hair clip) and the dropping off to sleep. I've never loved the bones of another like I've loved those of my husband. I'm forty, and I'm on fire. I'm forty, and if it were my time I would die satisfied, but I'm just as glad to live on. I'm barreling into the blood moon, and in this moment, at least, I'm wholly unafraid.

Photo by Anjie Kay

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Swings

I've loved amusement parks all my life. I've written before about my mysterious, childhood fairy-tale-park experience and am leaning toward the idea that it took place in California. We lived in Pennsylvania until I was eleven, but my dad worked briefly in Fresno, and the rest of us spent a summer with him.

My dad's company (Grove, a crane manufacturer) sent its families to Hershey Park every year for free or at a discount, and some of my best childhood memories are from there. After we moved to East Tennessee, our family visited Dollywood and Opryland (in Nashville). I've visited many other amusement parks as an adult.

An amusement park amuses the parents of little ones in an entirely different way than it amuses freewheeling adults. Jim and I have tended to visit fairy-tale or Santa parks because, for far less money, they offer just as much (if not more) for little children. And let's get real: it's difficult (if not downright impossible) for parents to enjoy roller coasters and shows with little kids; the poor parents just end up walking their hineys off (past all the coasters and shows) to get to the kiddie parts.

Having said all that, we bought passes (through the end of summer) to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, this year. Cade started it by asking for a pass for Christmas; both his junior-high band and his eighth-grade class are visiting Busch Gardens in May. Besides, the families of his best friends have passes, so I think he was hoping to hitch some rides. As it turns out, the little kids are all free (the girls through the preschool-pass program), so Jim and I thought: why not? We've visited twice, already.

Saturday, we avoided the Sesame Street Forest of Fun (where we spent almost our entire, first visit) and at one point, found ourselves walking past Der Wirbelwind: the swings.

I love the swings.

Is Clementine tall enough to ride the swings? I wondered. And as it turns out, she is, and so is my three-year-old. I was delighted. A perk, I thought, to Charleigh's being in the 80th percentile for height. So the three of us got in line. I was so excited.

We got a good little ways in before Clementine started actually watching the swings. "Mom," she said, tugging on my shirt, "I do not want to ride those."

"Too bad," I said, "we're already in line."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and parked it right there on the concrete. "I'm not going to ride those," she said matter-of-factly. "I'm scared of heights."

"Fine," I huffed, and taking both girls by the hand, I made my way past all the people behind us and back through the entrance of the line. Jim saw us coming and grinned.

"I knew they wouldn't do it," he said. "I know my girls."

"It's Clementine," I growled (and I may or may not have said something highly dramatic and inappropriate, for Jim's ears only, about her ruining my life).

Meanwhile, Charleigh was saying: "Mama, I'll ride with you. I'll ride the big swings with you." I stood there waffling, looking at Jim: did I really want to enter the line again?

"Go ahead," he said. "I'm not in any hurry. You should go."

Charleigh and I waited in line (again). We buckled into our seats and held hands, and just before we rose from the ground, the operator flipped on the lights. Everyone cheered.

As we were swinging, I said to Charleigh: "I love the swings. I feel like I'm a bird, like I'm flying."

"I feel that way, too, Mama," she smiled, and she squeezed my hand.

And it's hard, sometimes, to be a mommy. I have a strong personality. I was very much myself before I had four children. There are times that I feel missing from myself. There's a "what about me" voice inside.

I love my children. I live for them. I wouldn't give them away or back, and I would lie down and die for any one of them in an instant. Still, I fight to appreciate this (fleeting, I know!) season. I have to work at it.

It's hard. You don't know even if you do, and what I mean by that is simply this: you're not me, and your situation isn't mine. I'm confessing that I struggle, that it's not always as happy as it looks in pictures.

But also, this: every once in a great while, there's a moment that I'm fully and authentically myself, and one of my children is right beside me, taking it in with joy, and that's the very best. There is nothing better. Being fully and authentically myself, by myself, doesn't compare. I'm always chasing those moments. I'm always chasing myself with my children in tow.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Egg

Odilon Redon's The Egg, 1885

"I couldn't take it one more minute,
all that walking around on eggshells,"
she said, and it's a thing I didn't get
until the crunch of eggshells filled
my very own ears. If you think it's
unpleasant to walk barefoot over a
dirty kitchen floor, imagine: crunch,
crunch, crunch, and not just through
part of your house, but everywhere
you go, through all your life: crunch.
I hope it's a thing you never get,
never wake up wondering: whatever
happened to the egg, anyway? And
how can I ever hope to fix that egg
when all the king's horses and men,
collectively, didn't stand a chance?

**writing in community, for the first time, with Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

Thursday, April 10, 2014

True Spring

On April 2nd, I woke to Chip's little hand rubbing my naked back in the right-left-right-left arc of a windshield wiper. I opened my eyes to a thin ribbon of sunshine between the curtains and knew: true spring, and that knowledge was sprinkled with surprise. I realized that, in some small way, I'd doubted the return of spring. I'd doubted.

It had to do with spring's (and even summer's?) being dangled--over and over again--in front of me and then snatched back. In delight, I'd sprung into "spring" several times only to experience the retreat of warm light. I know you know, and I wonder: is it out of wisdom that old men sit and talk about the weather? A fail-proof topic of conversation, the weather.

In writing about the weather, I've written something we all understand. But also? I've written analogy and even parable.

After enough "just kiddings," the hope slides right out of me, and perhaps without my even realizing it. Hope doesn't often spill from us like the gush of soda from a knocked-over glass, after all, but like the trickle of sand through a pin-pricked sack. Job understood this and writes the water-wear of rocks in the same sentence as the destruction of hope (14:19). It takes time to destroy hope.

Over time and after many disappointments, I come to doubt the return of a thing like spring...or the healing of a long-suffering loved one...or (like Charlie Brown) the integrity of a person like Lucy van Pelt. I'll wager you're just the same.

An unknown person wrote: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end," and Cicero (echoing the author of Ecclesiastes 9:4) wrote: "While there's life, there's hope." I'm writing, just now, as someone awakening to many wonders I'd doubted. I'm a person of faith; I am. I want to be, also, a person of hope: a person who recognizes and stops the trickle of any and all good things from my being.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Unblogged Happiness: March Edition

What's that old saying about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb? Well, in the Greater Richmond Area,  March 2014 was more like Lion!...Lamb!...Lion chasing lamb!...Lamb!...Just kidding: lion! It was crazy-making. We had days in the 70's followed by snow and ice storms. Scary enough, my mood somewhat mirrored the weather. It didn't help that we had bouts with what I think were two different stomach bugs.

I wish I could write out, in this space, everything I'm thinking and feeling, but fact is: I don't feel like it's appropriate to do so. I'm learning that--as grumpy as it makes me--there are seasons in which the stories that affect me most aren't really mine to tell.

I missed some amazing shots in March. I'd just dropped Cade off at school, one morning, when I drove up on some deer in the woods in front of our house. They didn't even startle: just stood there in the freshly-fallen snow, looking at me. I'm also particularly sorry that I failed to capture Charleigh, clad in red feeted jamas and pink cowboy boots and running down an aisle in Food Lion. I left my camera behind on several other occasions, besides, but here are some photos I did manage to take.

03/08 - The little kids and I visited the Children's Museum of Richmond so they could meet Daniel Tiger. If you're not familiar with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on PBS Kids, it's a cartoon based upon The Neighborhood of Make-Believe from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. We're fans.

Dr. MeMe. Great shot of the haircut she gave herself.

03/09 - The little kids and I attended a party for our friend Maeve's 5th birthday.

03/09 - A couple more from the "Glinda Shoot."

 03/10 - Birthday, ballet outfit from Auntie Jill the tutu maker. Visit her Etsy shop by clicking here.

03/11 - Day at the Metro Richmond Zoo. I took very few photos; it was so stinkin' hot that the animals hardly moved. We bought annual passes, though, so there will be plenty of zoo photos before it's all said and done.

Not a particularly happy moment, but entertaining in its own way. We never did figure out what his problem was,  despite his going on and on about it. Out of character for my Chip of a yumster.

03/15 - Chuck E. Cheese's. Back in February, when I was blogging about Clementine's circus birthday party, I left out the harrowing part about her manifesting, mid-party!, the very first signs of pink eye. We'd promised a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's the day after her party but ended up postponing until March.

It was crowded, and we lost Chip for a few minutes, but Samwise found him: said Chip was encroaching on someone's game by pounding a giant button (hee hee).

Sam and Clementine. I have a photo just like this of Cade's first time in the car with Chuck E.

I quite like the Chuck E. Cheese's art. At $1 for the frame and roughly $.40 for the art, you can't beat it! 

03/19 - Cade and I survived the science fair again, this year. Both he and Maddie (the babysitter for our small group) earned second-place ribbons.

09/22 - Jim had never been to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and I hadn't been for many years (7? 8?). We know we're not going to be able to vacation like we did, last year, so we bought summer passes. Cade was with us, too, but he and his friend Phillip were off doing their own thing.

The Mom I Want to Be

The Wife I Am ;)

Chip's New (to him) Kicks

Charleigh's face!

A close-up: LOVE it!

 03/27 - Fun in the back yard.

I'm thrilled that Chip can walk around the back yard, this year.

03/29 - Rachel's baby shower. So excited about our miracle of a "lake baby," due in June.

Friday, March 28, 2014

One Last One, for Jason

How about a ride on Monday? I asked.
How about Wednesday? he countered.
I'm flying out to Dallas on Wednesday,
I said. How about Monday? Monday's
my birthday, he said. I know that, I said,
but let's get real. What better thing could
you do on your birthday than take a ride?
He nodded. We'll ride Monday, he said.

And it was that simple, my dream: a little
exchange like a million others; he was
never the person to whom I turned for
deep conversation. He was, however, a
person I expected to be there at my whim
and just the same, thank you, as he'd been
last time, even if years had passed. And he
indulged me (I see that now) out of love.

I didn't expect that losing him would hurt
so much, and I know he didn't expect it,
either, before he died; whatever I said
or did to indicate my affection didn't touch
the depth of it. But I'll tell you what I believe:
I believe he sees and knows, over yonder,
and recognized an opportunity to visit me.
(I was close, having just come off a fast.)

I believe he came through in accordance
to how I perceived him before his passing,
but I see, today: he was deeper and wiser
and just more than I gave him credit for being.
He saw me for what I was (shallow in my
self-importance) and coddled me like a child,
never guessing he'd leave this place so soon
or that, in his absence, I'd know him at last.

**writing with the communities of Poetry Jam and dVerse