Summer 2014: Cotton Candy bigger than your head, “poodle socks” and Irish Dance medals, and enough mini-road trips to make us preferred members at the local car rental.
[There's also stuff going on, stuff in the world that is hurting my heart and igniting my activist spirit, stuff with my teeth that's requiring a root canal, and stuff on the stage involving Mozart and glorious music... but mostly, we're trying to focus on these lazy last days of August.]
Be back shortly; we’re still summering.
One more night in Evansville, and we’re getting melancholy about leaving the homestead. It wasn’t just the glorious evenings on the screened-in porch, it wasn’t just the hours at the piano, it wasn’t just the tractor rides [where "tractor" = "riding lawnmower"] with PawPaw, it wasn’t just the gardens and the woods and the pool and the toy nook upstairs… it was everything (and more) combined to give us a peaceful easy summertime visit.
We’ll miss you guys.
…but not yet. We’re still sitting here, enjoying the scenery and the laughing children. Good stuff.
Sorry, it’s been hard to keep up. The weekend was a blur of driving, resting, driving, dancing, driving, visiting, visiting, driving. Emma conquered (for now) her hardest dance challenge so far, placing first in Slip Jig at the Columbus Feis. We’ve had concentrated (with laughter, activity, and eats) cousin and auntie and grandparent time. Now we find ourselves at this glorious point in our trip where we’re exhausted enough that we need to slow down and savor. Happily so.
Em and I have been taking some time at dusk to read on the porch until the light dims down and the cricket-y tree flies drown out our thoughts. She’s still a far from insatiable reader (whereas I’m usually reading three at once, trying to pack in just a few more pages), but she’s diving in a little more deeply, and I’m trying to help her find an easy rhythm and routine.
It’s a magical world out there.
Hope you’re enjoying it, too.
The first afternoon was spent, as always, barefoot on the front porch swing with JoJo and PawPaw. It’s a happy gigglefest as we settle into the long languid hours of games, green, and grandparents; summer vacation, Southern Indiana + Sonnystone Acres style.
Wish you were here.
Long Beach, NY. July 2014
Their smiles are always so huge at the beach.
The first time I saw the ocean, I was about the age Emma is now; it was like the world opened up and told me a secret. Since then, it’s been my joyful thoughtful place, a reconnecting spot for my soul.
When we are lucky enough to sneak away for a beach day (this one’s just an hour by train), I’m so content and comforted to share it with the family. Their smiles. Their giggles. They could run in and out of the waves for hours upon hours.
These days feel decadent and easy and simple and happy.
This morning, I’m frustrated at the national news. It’s a simmering frustration that wants to boil over into anger, into hopelessness (my daughters will grow up in a country without sensible gun laws, without women’s rights, without fair voting laws, where Corporations are People, laws and politics are decided based on religious interpretation, and we engage in pointless, expensive, and endless war? No. Let us not speak of politics; it’s too difficult to even have a discussion in this “you’re either for us or against us” age that encourages divisiveness and ignores the possibility of intelligent debate)…
I need to step away, and into the simple, into the things we share. Quiet afternoons at the library. Running through sprinklers at the park. Long naps with the sun streaming through the blinds. Fresh watermelon. Witty messages from clever friends.
Today, we’re stripping down (some of us more literally than others; Eliza is an around-the-house nudist) and stepping away from the fear, the frustrations, the divide. Today, we’re living in the microcosm, and hoping for brighter days ahead.
Never forget, friends: I love you even when we disagree.
I support you even when our choices are opposites.
I value you even when I don’t understand you.
Let’s bring back civility and thought, shall we?
Dear friends, are you doing anything fun this weekend?
It’s still a five-mass singing weekend for me, but the weather is supposed to be bright and hot, so I’m hoping for happy relaxation and a walk through the park in the in-between times.
Missing you much, and wishing you perfect summer days and nights; I hope your adventures are lovely.
* * *
The Cinemaidens* watched the movie Mortified Nation** this week, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about the ways we (or maybe not all? maybe just the more soft and sensitive ones?) find ourselves and create ourselves and beat ourselves up and look for connection and feel alone and pretend to be big and doubt ourselves and just keep going, with scars and bruises and unexpected strength. And I wonder about those people that seem unbothered and un-fragile; I wonder if they started out that way or just learned how to build and steel themselves with stronger edges?
I want to say that being a teenager was hard.
I want to say that being an adolescent was hard.
No…I want to say that being a person is hard.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own vulnerability.
And the ways I reach out, and the ways I cocoon.
The ways I’ve really screwed it up and the ways I’ve gotten it right.
My anxieties and my confidences.
…and as I’ve been thinking about it all, amazed at the lingering vividness of random memories, I’m again thinking about the way I live, rather out loud and passionately, but with a need to go underground and re-set for long periods. It’s saved me, or at least kept me sane. Being so close to my emotions is intense sometimes. It’s brought me unexpected alliances and long heartfelt conversations with near-strangers and the occasional head-shaking judgement from people noticing that I’m not normal.
Which is really ok. Of all the things I’ve aspired to, normal was never one.
- – -
* The Cinemaidens is an awesome group of gals who get together every month-ish to watch and discuss a documentary. Kind of like a book club, only without so much advance work, and with the addition of themed cocktails.
** Mortified Nation is about a group of people that get up in front of an audience and read portions of their childhood journals.
*** I’ve kept a journal most of my life. Sometimes more than one at a time. I never re-read them, and certainly don’t think I’d do so onstage.
As a family, our evening schedules aren’t always in sync. Usually one parent is at work until bedtime or later, so on the nights when the rest of us aren’t running to dance or tennis lessons, dinner is an informal affair for the kids, followed by tv-time, book-time, play-time, and for-the-love-of-all-things-holy-please-go-to-sleep time. (During the school year, there’s also bath-time, but as previously mentioned, I’m more inclined to let them become dirt bombs during summer.)
The evenings when we’re all home and unstructured are a special treat. You can find us riding scooters or bikes to the playground, going down slides as it gets dark, and shooting hoops as night settles in. By the time we walk home, the energy of the day has changed, a quiet has set in, and we’re feeling very much together.
Sweet stuff, free and easy.
We’re at this point: a cranky and snotty summer cold for Elz, while she watches her sister happily run away to Museum Camp every day. Only mildly deterred, the Little and I have put in some time at the zoo (the best thing about having a membership to a zoo within walking distance is that you can leave in under an hour if you’re all penguin-ed out), afternoons in Central Park (seriously the best, filled with pockets of magic and calm; I’m trying to expand our walking paths this summer in the name of new adventure and picture opportunities), and lots of popsicles.
This summer I’m not worrying about how quickly the popsicles melt, or how quickly the clothes and the kids are covered in syrup and stain. This summer I’m not worrying about Elz’ violent aversion to washing her hair, or preference for going barefoot. This summer I’m just hoping they can run their grubby little tails off all day long, falling exhausted into bed at the end of imaginative and easy playdays.
She’s fascinating to watch, to listen to, right now. She changes her name (In the last week, she’s been Ariel, Townie, Debbie, Leela, and Disco, just to name a few) and creates clever narratives. She reads me books and writes our names next to self-portraits. She plays with dolls and runs an imaginary bakery/ice-cream shop. She’s stubborn and a little bit naughty, smart and funny.
I hope she gets over this cold soon. Summer days are simultaneously too short and too long to be troubled.
Today’s song: Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat), by Digable Planets