Rainy, damp, more March than April and my internet connection is very weak. My desk is cluttered with unfiled detritus. I’ve noticed that my couch, the uber comfortable nest of family life, is looking rather shabby. Bought for another house with a bigger living room, it has always been a bit of an elephant in this living room. Something to be slightly squeezed around especially when the clothes basket goes downstairs or a big box is delivered. For a millisecond I wonder if the money that I just spent on airline tickets “should” have gone into some household item—Ach, the driveway!—but the cloud passes very, very quickly.
I bought airline tickets for Italy.
Oh, I dithered, worried, checked fares for almost weeks. Actually checked our passport even though I was sure they are long from expired. I was anxious with an umbra of the emotional baggage I’ve describe before and the penumbra of financial and logistical worries. Absolutely none of it rational. Then towards the end of last week, the price of our return ticket began to creep up. Like the cliche splash of cold water, my inertia broke and I pounced. New York to Milan and Venice to New York. Both through Oslo. Yes, Oslo. And a day or two in New York on either end to see Cheshire and Chris. I was reminded that four years ago I wanted to spend a summer totally away and adventuring. I have not had the nerve to chase that plan, but this may be practice. And we will be adventuring.
Now the stack of travel books come to life! Where? Northern Italy. Two possible visits with friends. Some time with a rental car. Turin, Cinque Terre, Tuscan towns, Florence, somewhere in a mountain by a lake and Venice. Themes apart from time with an old friend are, of course, art (I’ve already shown Julia pictures of the cathedral in Siena, the multi colored houses of Vernaza and statues, statues, statues.), dinosaurs, something of the spirit and performance. As I begin to plan, I want to visit those places that thrilled me 30 years ago. I want new adventure. I cannot look on everything with new eyes but I can face the ghosts and breathe in sun and the light. Pasta and gardens and ruins.
Romantic rumination to be sure. Indulgence like pastry but with fewer calories.
Last weekend was my Cheshire’s 30th birthday. For the days before, I was grumpy and teary. Those mixed with love, great pride and a little wonder and awe that I had a hand in her life. I went through photo albums, looking for pictures to scan and was hauled into that past. Thrown into all those smiling peopled pictures and what was present just outside the frames. There is such power in badly lit snap of a daddy holding a not quite walking baby girl.
When Cheshire turned 7, I remember that I remembered my own 7th birthday. My gift was the brownie camera that sits on high on my bookshelves today. There was a party in the attic of the two family house we shared with my grandparents. In January those attic rooms were not as warm as our snug second floor flat but not uncomfortable. Cool enough for kids to run around and not feel sweaty. Some of my memory of the day is filtered through the golden-colored family movies my Dad took— pointy hats, pins on a donkey, whip cream cake, cousins before our mothers broke from each other, grandparents, the Kawensky’s and Nahirney’s with whose kids elaborate make believe games were concocted.
I thought of my 7th birthday by way of realizing that the memories of that day were my own and not part of the stories that my parents told. I remember the coolness of the rooms, the crinkle of my full skirt, opening gifts of clothes that were not thrilling because my pudgy body would probably to fit into them, opening gifts from friends that my parents would have not approved and the texture of the whipped cream in my mouth.
Parents hold memories for little children like little treasure chests. Birth stories, first walkings, favorite cups and toys. I have memories of Cheshire’s 7th birthday but she probably doesn’t need my memories to remember—a roller skating party in Bloomington, Indiana. No relatives. Just our tiny 3-person family and the girls from the local Montessori school. I don’t remember presents or the cake although I know that they were carefully planned, especially in those days on a slim law school budget. And there was pizza.
Memory. Some days still a minefield. And yet, I indulge. Buying tickets to Italy and looking through photo albums! Pictures and stories. Rich and happy and full, and if I am completely honest—at least as honest as I can be—I see that the dangerous center of the minefields is the fear that all the rich and happy and full days are in my past. Never again will I have or share or give and be given what was. There is some regret that I did not sufficiently appreciate what was in the present although happiness is a piece appreciation. And I was happy.
I dare to stroll the minefield. I seem to have to. Daring myself not to crumple and hide. Daring myself to not turn away but look, cry and feel the dark fears. And hopefully come out some other side.
Amidst the delirium of strolling through minefields, I planted a garden by mistake.
A few years ago, possibly last year, Julia would do something she knew she was not supposed to do and say, “Oops. It was a mistake.” It was never a real mistake. Some of that could be chalked up to not really understanding what a mistake was and some was due to an intense desire to do that forbidden something while at the same time wanting to please me/teacher/therapist or perhaps do the right thing. I might be giving her moral sense to much credit Usually she would do the ‘bad’ thing—not that ‘bad’ mostly. Well, it was bad when it involved physical aggression—and then come to the power-that-be and call it a mistake and apologize profusely.
So, that’s me and the garden last Wednesday. Flying very high after teaching the first session of my second spring workshop, I went to Builder’s Square to pick up grass seed and lawn food. I had time, I thought I could get a jump on a summer lawn.
Aside: I hate working on a lawn. It is the single piece of home work that I consistently contract out. To me, it is the ironing of gardening. And I don’t iron. So, when the time and inclination strikes, if it ever strikes, I get on it. Quickly.
But there was a great sale on veggie and herb plants at big box. And possibly, if I was not feeling so blissful, I could have passed it by. It is a month before realists and gardeners plant veggies in Wisconsin. I could have gotten away with some radish seeds or brussels sprouts, but I plunged right in and procured tomatoes, basil, lettuce and cilantro plants. Not many. I have such a tiny vegetable garden that . . . well, what harm could it do. It was so sweet to look out the back window the next morning and the next and see my tidy plantings. True, instead of planting, I could have pulled the first spring weeds and gotten a bed or two ready for mulching, but I could not resist planting. And now, cannot resist hoping that the thermometer does not dip too far below 40 degrees, even though it is predicted to not only get cold tonight and for the rest of the week but also snow. A light snow.
Am I the optimist or the fool? Dreamer or sage? Or was this just too strong an impulse to pass up? Was it a mistake? Perhaps draping an old flannel sheet over the tiny bed will get those delicate plantlings through the night. Perhaps such a cover is my own ‘I’m sorry’ for this mistake.