February 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye to the Trees

My Nana Pat had camellia trees all along the side of her house, and even though it was kind of scary under the trees on the dark path between the house and the fence, I loved it there when the trees were heavy with pink blooms.

I love the tight little bundles the buds make, and I love the way there are so many petals that they have to throw themselves to the ground to make room for each other. I promised myself that one day when I grew up and had a house of my own, I would plant camellias-- fuschia, white, speckled-- and pale pink, of course, because that was Nana's favorite color.

It never crossed my mind that my lovely new house might be in the forest in Massachusetts and that maybe camellia trees wouldn't bloom there. I've been fretting over this for the last six months, and I'm still trying to figure it out, but camellias must bloom somewhere around there because the Harvard Arboretum is having a camellia exhibit:

March 1, 2, 2008 - Massachusetts Camellia Society’s 179th Annual Exhibition, Noon-4, camellia japonica displays at the longest continuing exhibition of camellias in US. Live musical performance and information on Camellia care. Camellias for sale. All welcome. Free.

Information on camellia care! I am in luck-- except that I'll have to wait to attend the 180th annual exhibit next year.

Still my curiosity about the camellias lead my brain down other paths: What about the gingkoes? The dogwoods? The sycamores that make a pollen-laden archway above Central Avenue? The loquat? What about the fig? I am a huge fan of the fig! I have a history with these trees, and what will happen to that history when I am no longer hanging around their foliage like a wild fruit?

And then I realized that we have three of our very own trees we won't be able to truck across the country, and one of them is Buckaroo's placenta tree. Buckaroo was born at home, and his placenta was planted in the soil of a mandarin tree that we bought when I was preggapotamus and two days past my due date.

The sales lady asked when I was due, and I cheerfully said, "two days ago."
"I think you better get out of here," she said, and she wasn't joking.
Little did either of us know that I'd have to wait another eight days for the boy to arrive.

The other tree is a potted Meyer's lemon that grows the itty bittiest lemons ever. They are the perfect size for squeezing in a cup of hot tea.

Our friend Cynthia says she will care for these trees and we can visit them any time, and they will look much happier in her garden than they do in our neglected yard at the moment.

Then there's the ficus I bought when I was in college in Chico. It's older than Sweet Potato, and it's still alive! It's the one plant I have managed to keep alive (R has been responsible for the trees) for any extended amount of time. I bought it a beautiful blue pot and trained the branches to wind around each other. I've even been known to dust the leaves, and I am not a tidy person.

I just realized that I never named my ficus. I'm going to call him Phil. My mom said she will take care of him for me, but I'm not sure I can trust her. The last time I left her with some Italian herbs while I was away on vacation, and when I returned she said, "I killed them," and handed me three empty pots.

February 21, 2008

Update on the Move

I just realized that all of my pictures of the lake in The Woods were taken during summer. I'm going to have to ask the in-laws to send some photos of the frozen lake to remind me that it's not, in fact, perpetually July in Massachusetts. Dare to dream!
R's mom was there last weekend and said the kids had cleared a spot on the ice and were skating. It had never occurred to me that one would have to shovel a heap of snow before skating upon a lake. They never show that scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas or Bambi.
So, we've contacted the local high school out that way, and they sent us a packet of information and a college-like list of courses and course descriptions from which Obo is to choose. Oh, Lorday. That's going to be an adventure. Some of the electives are Latin I and II, Communications Technology, and Earth Science (yep, it's an elective). It is not California. Obo has placed art at the top of his list, and we plan to encourage him to join drama because he is quite anxious to give up the clarinet and so dramatic about it, too.
Sweet Potato will be going into DUN DUN DUN middle school. Oh, how I hope no one steals her fluffy burgundy ear muffs and throws them in the stinky garbage can like Jeff W. did to me. Somehow, it has become the moment that represents my entire middle school experience, and the sad part is that the boy was probably doing me a huge favor. I did love those ear muffs, though. Anyway, back to Sweet Potato: We haven't heard from her soon-to-be school yet, but we're encouraging her to play timpani in the school band because apparently (R informs us) there is not likely to be a piano in the school ensemble. Sweet Potato is not pleased.
However, there's a summer reading list on the school's website, and we're both excited to tackle that.
R has worked it out that he'll take off two weeks in the middle of June to manage the move, and he's decided against the cross-country road trip-- Sweet Potato will be disappointed. His company is going to let him work from home four days a week until the beginning of October when he'll take off another two weeks before transitioning into the new job he will be (fingers crossed) starting.
I'm so happy R will be working from home for the first few months-- except when he's working in California, but I plan to have visitors then-- Plus, R has promised me GPS for the car because he loves me despite my inability to read a map.
Finally, we've been told that Keene, New Hampshire, is a fine place to visit when needing a coffee shop/bookstore fix, and R says maybe we can go every so often and stay the weekend. Well, actually, he said I could go by myself some weekends to write and that kind of thing. He's thinking that'll be cheaper than my buying-a-second-home-in-Town plan, of which I was so proud. He's right, of course, but I haven't crossed the plan off of my To-Do list yet. Also, he's coming with me to Keene because it's not half as fun to drink hot chocolate alone.

February 20, 2008

The Girl is Hip

Sweet Potato in her new glasses. They're aqua on the inside. Very stylish!

Wheaty Wheaty Winky

Yesterday R and I had a big date day. We've had very few hours of alone time since Buckaroo was born last April and Obo came to live with us in July. We do love our children, and sometimes we need to take a little break from them so that we may love them more.

Buckaroo has been easier without me (his primary food source) around for longer periods of time, so we asked our friend Fay to watch all three of our children, so we could loll around and do pretty much nothing for four whole hours, and she agreed! Bless her soul, as my Nana Ivy used to say.

Off we sent the brood to Fay's house for a long afternoon. It was lovely. The loveliest lolling ever, and later we even went out for Thai food, and, despite my better judgement, I drank a Thai iced tea (I'm not supposed to have dairy or caffeine or wheat for Buckaroo's sake, but sometimes a girl has to live life on the edge). It was delicious, and the food was tasty, too.

It's when we arrived back at Fay's house that disaster struck (sorry, Fay, if you're reading this; I have to go for the drama). While we were away, in the frenzy of taking care of not only our three children, but three others as well as two of her own-- angelic woman-- Fay gave Buckaroo a single cracker, and all hell broke loose.

Buckaroo is allergic to wheat. We'd thought as much because he gets a rash from wheat in my breastmilk, but we'd never tested out the theory with the real deal, and now there's no need for testing. Buckaroo woke up from his nap when we arrived, and his eyes swelled nearly shut, which would have made him look kind of cute, as if he were winking at us, except that he had a flood of mucus running from his nose which wasn't at all cute, and he was screaming hysterically.

R took him outside while I tried to call the doctor. The advice nurse said to call 911, which seemed a bit extreme to me until she said that his airway could close, and then he'd stop breathing, so that's what I did. A whole houseful of paramedics arrived, and I had a dagnabbed time trying to explain how I knew Buckaroo was allergic to wheat when he'd never actually eaten wheat before. When that was all sorted out, they told us to take Buckaroo to the hospital.

Meanwhile, poor Fay cried in the kitchen.

All the time I kept thinking "Really? 911? The hospital? For a cracker? Are you sure?" Yes, they were sure. So, Buckaroo had his first visit to the emergency room.

He's fine, obviously, or I couldn't be so flip. He still looks a bit winky in the right eye, but it's almost gone now. Obo and Sweet Potato were miserable, and Sweet Potato gave us a long lecture in the car on the way home about how important it is to warn the other children that the paramedics are about to arrive. When we went inside we all had a long family hug.

R and I were hoping the Buckaroo would outgrow this whole wheat and dairy allergy stuff, but now we're not so certain that's going to happen. It's a bleak little food future for the wee sprout, but I guess he doesn't know that. In fact, today I gave him a sip of my green lemonade (made with lettuce, kale, apples, lemon and ginger), and he loved it. He even got a green foam mustache.

Oh, and Fay babysat Buckaroo for us again today, and they got along fabulously-- no tears for either party as far as I know!

February 15, 2008

The Buckaroo Song

He's our little buckaroo, and we love him.

He's our little buckaroo. We love his big sister, too.
He's our little buckaroo. He's got a monkey on his shoe. He's our little buckaroo. He's our little buckaroo. He's got a face like the moon. He's our little buckaroo. We love his big brother, too. He's our little buckaroo, and we don't know what to do when he's crying-- boo hoo-- He's our little buckaroo. He's got a cow that goes moo. He's our little buckaroo. His eyes were kinda blue, but now they're kinda brown. He's the cutest baby in town. He's our little buckaroo, and we love him-- our little buckaroo ooo ooo.

This is a little ditty we made up for the baby boy when he was just a wigglet. It's sung slow and country-like. R made up another song, but it's more like speed metal.

We've changed the lyrics around here and there. Sometimes the brother comes first, sometimes he's got a giraffe on his shoe and he's wearing cow pants. His eyes used to be blue, so we had to change up that line a bit.

Buckaroo loves his music, and this song almost always cheers him when he's riding in his car seat-- his least favorite place to be-- and the big kids make it a call and response kind of thing, very sweet.

February 9, 2008

The Near Debacle

"Did we have a conversation last night where I assumed we were going to save for a second home in Town, and you said you wanted to make our perfect home in The Woods and never leave-- or did I dream that?" I asked R.
"We did not have that conversation last night," R said.
"Oh, I guess I dreamed it," I said with relief.
"We had that conversation Monday night," he said.
"Ah," I said vaguely.
I've been wandering around telling anyone who'll listen that R and I have planned to live in The Woods while we save up to buy a second home in Town (not sure which town), so we can eventually make The Woods our summer home.

Apparently I did not tell R, though, and he was very confused when I mentioned it.

"Why would we want to build our dream home in The Woods, and then turn around and leave it?" he asked, and then promptly fell asleep. The strange thing was that I fell asleep, too, and managed to forget that snippet of conversation completely until yesterday when it seemed like it must have been a dream. I was sure we'd had an early discussion about this plan, and in our discussion we were in agreement.

"Why would you want to move away?" R asked.

"So we could live near The People," I said. R mentioned recently that only twenty families live on our side of the lake during the winter months. That's a quiet, snowy lake, and I really like people. Sure they make me insane sometimes, but I just can't stay in a bad mood when I'm chatting with the checker at Trader Joe's or even the barrista at Peet's.

"I thought you were excited about living in The Woods. It's just like Auburn."

Auburn, California, is where I grew up, and it's not quite the same. There is very little snow in Auburn, and I never ran across a bear-- a mountain lion once, yes, but I was a bit farther up the road in Meadow Vista. Besides all that, my entire childhood I couldn't wait to get the heighdeeho out of Auburn, which is what I said to R.

"You don't want to move to Massachusetts," he said. "You're going to be miserable, and you're going to blame and hate me."

"No!" I think I may have started waving my arms wildy at this point. "I want to move to Massachusetts, but I don't know if I want to spend the rest of my life there."

"Then where do you want to spend the rest of your life?" He asked.

That is the material point, as Mr. Darcy might say. I have no idea where I want to spend the rest of my life. I have a friend who said that she always felt sad that she wasn't passionate about her career or extra-careercular activities, and I felt thankful at the time that I've always loved to write. Now, though, I see that it's also difficult to feel. . . not homeless, but directionless.

That same friend feels very passionate about the town where we live, but I did not choose to live here. I ended up here because I followed my ex-husband (who was not yet my husband) after college. It was his home town. It's not a bad place to end up, really-- good weather, lovely view of the city, yummy restaurants-- a bit on the pricey side, unfortunately, which brings me back to where I started.

I think I just haven't yet stumbled upon the place where I feel drawn to live out my days, but wherever it is, I'm pretty sure there are people there, and I'm reasonably certain that there's a house with a picture window where I can watch all of those people wandering the neighborhood with their children and their dogs. I also think there might be a bookstore and a coffee shop around the corner.

"I'm just saying that I might be perfectly, blissfully happy in The Woods," I said to R, "but I might also like to have a house in Town someday."

"Someday?" He asked. "Someday. Not within the next five years?"

I shook my head. I can handle five years with the bears and the snow and the fisher cats. It's possible. Perhaps I will come to love The Woods and think of them as my woods, in Mary Oliver-like fashion:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

"Wild Geese" Mary Oliver

February 6, 2008

Freecycler's Delights

I don't think I've mentioned how much I love Freecycle. First of all, I get rid of all kinds of goodies without having to leave my home. This is especially handy since we're unloading just about everything we own before we move to The Woods. The hard part is trying to determine whether something is worth the effort of trying to sell for a few bucks. This seems to be my monkey brain's favorite subject lately. I sit in the living room, inspect everything we own, one item at a time, and think:
1. Do I want to keep this? The answer is yes 99 percent of the time.
2. Do I want to pack it and haul it across the country? Usually a no.
3. Can I sell it? Maybe.
4. How much is it worth? No idea.
5. Should I look up the price of something similar on the internet? I don't have time right now.
6. Should I take a photo of it and post it on Craigslist? I don't have time right now.
7. Should I wait and sell it at our big yard/estate sale? Maybe
8. Should we have a yard or estate sale? Hmm. . . .
9. What is an estate sale? No idea
10. When will we have this sale? In the two minutes between when we don't need our stuff and when we leave.
11. Should I just Freecycle it all? Yep yep.

I try to think of my Freecycling as an act of selflessness rather than an act of laziness.
The problem is that there are all kinds of goodies people are giving away on Freecycle, and I can't turn them down. Sure, I'm only going to use this (scrap of carpet, twin mattress, dog cage) for the next four months, but it's free, free! Who can resist?
R can resist. Every time I show up with the new thing I've fetched, he gives me a look of disapproval, but he never mocks me, and that's why I love him.
Obo digs Freecycle, though. Whenever I say, "We've got some errands to run," Obo bounces in his seat a bit and asks, "Are we going to drive around and take stuff off of people's porches again?"
That's the part I think is really cool. Right now, all across the U.S., people have bags of used treasures on their porches-- sometimes marked with strangers' names on yellow sticky notes-- just waiting for some happy Freecycler to take them away.
Sometimes the treasures have stories that go along with them. One Freecycler told me that one of the jars in the set she was offering was missing because her husband used it to take in his sperm sample after his vasectomy. I didn't really want that one anyway.
And just today when I gave away my old red Earth shoes I couldn't resist telling the Freecycler who took them that I was wearing those shoes in Italy when my husband asked me to marry him.
"But we're moving across the country," I said. "I can't take everything with me."

February 4, 2008

My Valentine Shoes

Last weekend R and I strolled downtown, and R decided to buy some swanky shoes at the little mom and pop shoe store. We went in, and I spotted my favorite red Earth shoes. I have a pair that I bought about four years ago and have worn nearly every day since then. I don't even care whether or not they match what I'm wearing-- there's just something about red shoes that make me feel jaunty.

Buckaroo was sleeping on my back in the Ergo, and the sales lady (young and pretty, plumpish with long dark hair and perfect bow lips) came over to ooh and ahh at him.

The young sales woman went to help R with his purchase, and while he was trying on shoes I mentioned that maybe I could get a new pair of Earth shoes for Valentine's Day. The saleswomen thought that was a funny valentine gift, but I said, "I've given up trying to be surprised, and at least they're red."

R said if I wanted the shoes I had to leave the store, so I could at least act surprised when I got them on Valentine's Day. I promptly announced my shoe size to the room and walked out.

This is where the story gets interesting as I found out when R breathlessly rushed into the toy store where I was shopping down the street.

The plumpy little saleswoman helped R with his purchases, and as she was ringing them up, he asked, "Don't I get a Valentine's Day discount?"

"I've got your Valentine's discount right here," she said, pointing to her perfectly lipsticked smackers. R was dumbfounded. Surely she did not mean what he thought she meant? Then the saleswoman bagged up his shoe boxes, walked all the way around the counter, and stood as close to him as she possibly could while handing over the bag (with my shoes!). She stopped, looked up at him and made doe eyes.

R grabbed the bag and ran-- or at least that's what he says he did. I think I believe him.

When I told all my girlfriends at Jane Austen night (a hit!) they said I should call the mom and pop shoe store and complain to the pop. The little upstart could be driving away customers.

When R told all of the guys at work what happened, they wanted to know which store it was so they could meet this woman for themselves. R thinks mom and pop won't be losing business any time soon.

February 3, 2008

Casper & Me

It has recently come to my attention that my maiden name is also a racial slur. I don't know if I'm just really that naive, in serious denial, or totally out if it-- probably a bit of all three-- but even after walking around with it for thirty-six years, I still had no idea.

I was googling my name one day, a little self-esteem booster I like to enjoy every so often, when I discovered some sort of rappy song lyrics using my name as an epithet. How rude, as my cousin Krista used to say-- actually, she said "How wude," as she was only three years old.

I asked R if he was aware that my name was used in this manner, and he all but said, "duh."

Just in case there might have been some grevious mistake I looked up casper in the urban dictionary, and there it was next to honkey. Foiled again.

Here's the thing: I love my last name. It's Dutch, originally from the Persian Caspar, and it means treasurer. One of the three wise men was named Casper, I'm told. One of my ancestors was present at the birth of Jesus, and even though I have some real issues with the guy, that's fairly incredible. Also, there's the happy little ghost. What's not to like about him?

The first time I got married, I gave up my last name and took his-- also a perfectly lovely and distinguished last name. Then when that marriage didn't work out so well, I regretted the decision and swore it wouldn't happen again.

Then I met R, and when we decided to try the whole marriage thing he was quite adamant that we have the same last name, but I had given up my name once before, and it just didn't feel good. After much haggling we agreed to take each other's last names.

So, when I found out that my name has this other connotation I was horrified and briefly considered changing names, but then I thought about how R agreed to take my last name when he knew all along that it was slang for whitey. Not only that, but he also knew that almost every man he met for the rest of his life was going to harrass him mercilessly for taking his wife's last name, and he took it anyway because he loves me. It makes me feel all mooshy inside. If he can take the harrassment, I can handle the knowledge.

Besides, in time I'm sure the connotation will fade, and my descendents will not have to worry at this dilemma. Also, I am aware that there are worst names to bear; I went to school with a well-endowed young woman whose name was Titsworth.