Friday, October 30, 2015

My Heart is in the Kitchen

My heart is in the kitchen, stirring oatmeal, scrambling an egg, cutting up his avocado. It's in there with the scratched linoleum begging to be swept, by the recipe box I inherited from my grandmother. It's in and around the jars of fermented salsa, the bone broths that make my house smell of an old world.

My heart chops up garlic and it scrubs out pots. It pulls out knifes that are never sharp enough to prepare meals that are always simpler than the recipes, ingredients forgotten at the store or in the cabinets.

My heart unloads the dishwasher when it can't find a child to do the deed. It wishes that the stove was gas and that vinegar and baking soda didn't require quite so much elbow grease. It wakes up in the morning to brew Maxwell House and in the evening it's there to plunk ice cubes into a glass for a tall, weak gin and tonic.

It makes it's way into the bellies of the people I love through roasted chickens and buttery mounds of sweet potatoes.

My heart waits there among the amused cast iron and the oft- misplaced measuring spoons. Beating and waiting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good Is Enough

We're "good enough" people. People who aren't inclined towards perfection. We have small ambitions. We're easily pleased with our efforts. 

Yesterday in the few moments after Tom came back from church and before I had to head to work, we worked outside, putting sections of the yard to bed for winter, letting Sena stoke a fire with damp leaves. Our goal was not lofty. We have no expectation that our yard will ever look like the visions I find myself pinning late at night when the house is still and quiet. But a few hours and a half dozen hands can make it look a little tidier, and that's all we ever really need. For things to be okay.

The mentality leaks into all facets of our lives. Our hobbies and parenting. The way we eat. The dinners I cook. The cleanliness of our home. Our finances. We aim for good enough, and it serves us well. Tom plays his homemade banjo knowing there are improvements he could make, seeing the flaws, but nevertheless, happily, proudly, often just a little too loudly. I post pictures that speak to my heart without concerning myself for long about their technical shortcomings. We are imprecise people.

This weekend I was talking to a friend about homeschooling. The past few weeks I have taken up a new mantra with old origins: "But first do no harm." Instead of worrying about all the things I'm not doing or about the myriad things I am doing badly, I'm concerned mostly that my children's love of learning is not dampened, that their happiness fills the crevices of their days. 

There will always be people out there doing things better than I do. People who stick with their plans, who abide by schedules and who make checklists that actually get completed. I am not one of them, and Tom isn't either. For better or worse, we seem to be raising children who follow in our non-competitive, unexacting footsteps.  I see it in the way Sena does math, the way Gus plays soccer.  It's a trait that will not always serve them well, but sometimes it will be just what they need. It will let them be content with what they have. To accept accept themselves for who they are. It will allow them the freedom to try and fail, or sometimes to try and quit. And they will be prepared to move on and try again. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Home Scenes

Normal looks like disheveled sofas and a boy with a bed head begging to watch more television much to his mother's embarrassment and dismay.

It looks like abandoned journals and water glasses, and  homeless chords snaking across water damaged free furniture.

Normal looks like sweaters at the ready for fluctuating temperatures inside a house that is almost always too hot or too cold according to my mother. It looks like chairs that are never pushed in and remnants of breakfast yet to be put away.

It looks like spilled toys, piles of overdue library books, and a vacuum always at the ready. Normal looks like baskets filled with diapers and forgotten apples, sun hats and plastic dinosaurs, but never a single wipe when you need one most.

Monday, October 19, 2015

This Weekend We

After our trip north, I spent a few days recuperating. Bags to unpack. Piles of laundry.  A bit of a cold. Exhaustion from all the aforementioned. Everyday I told my kids that we were going to go to the beach. The light outside my windows beckoned. And yet four days passed with me venturing out very little. I would hear the kids playing beyond the closed windows, but I didn't join in.

Friday afternoon I finally got myself straight. We explored our familiar coastline. We did those things we do every season, crawling over fallen logs, inching across dirty bay sand, wielding sticks as swords, soaking in the air and sun on the bits of expsoed skin.

The next day we drove to Claire and Andrew's to meet a new cousin-in-law, to engage in some old fashion acorn wars, to roam fields, to feed ducks and collect their eggs.

By the time I came home from a mushroom foraging workshop on Sunday, I felt like my reserves had been restored. October had soaked into my core, leaving me with the contentment coupled with nostalgia the season brings.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Other People's Places -- Geoffery and Joanna's

I like to visit crowded, cluttered houses. Houses full of antiques and memories. Things a bit bizarre, often beautiful. Found. Gifted. Passed down from hand to hand, home to home.

Everywhere you look, your eye finds somewhere novel to land. You ask questions and uncover stories. Those white boxes with clean lines and Scandinavian wood can't hold a drippy candle shoved into a old Chianti bottle to this. 

Never have two people's styles merged as perfectly as Joanna and Geoffrey's. Maximalist to their cores.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Northeast Tour

It started with eight people of various sizes, packed into a Brooklyn apartment, piles of bodies and blankets and pillows strewn about after late-night cheese boards and plenty of gin cocktails served in the perfect vintage glassware. It made way for bagels and lox in the morning, served with briny capers, slivers of red onion, and pots of French press coffee. Then off to wander the streets of Cobble Hill, poking in and out of bookstores and novelty shops, warming as the autumn air lost its crispness and left us feeling the last traces of the season past beneath hats and flannels not suited for the rising temperatures. 

We loaded the van back up to head up the coast through terrible northeast corridor traffic, and we were reminded that the East Coast in a never-ending megalopolis. We vowed to avoid 95 in the future at nearly any cost. But when we arrived on Boston's South Shore to pizza, pulled pork, and IPL's, the harrowing journey was soon forgotten while kids clamored about the house with friends they hadn't seen in years. I sat on my friend's porch, enjoying the ocean's salty air and the clapboard sided houses I could make out through the darkness. 

In the morning we ventured to two beaches, oceanside and then bayside, a mere handful of blocks apart.  We found stone crab shells and spied Boston in the distance, walked along piers and foraged Concord grapes. I could have stayed for days, but was spurned on by the desire to see still more friends, to meet their newest child, to hear their stories and to drink their wine. 

And so we spent the next two days adventuring with my friend Shannon and her family. The last leg of our trip began at Minute Man National Park, where we let kids climb trees and boulders as we crept along the trail at such a glacial pace that we had to abandon plans to explore the historic bits and pieces in an effort to avert exhaustion and hunger strikes from the under three crowd. Once back at their place, the kids played to their hearts content while I picked my friend's brain about the novel she is querying and the second one she has just begun. Her determination and discipline left Tom and I both a little jealous and completely inspired. 

The next day they took us into the city, and we braved crowds at the New England Aquarium and Quincy Market, where we feasted on Ipswich clams, lobster macaroni, bacon wrapped scallops, and Boston cream pie. On our trek back to the cars, we stumbled upon a Columbus Day parade, complete with protesters, who I might secretly side with while also feeling that their efforts could be best spent elsewhere. 

That evening, we headed back south, feeling excited about future trips and writing projects and life in general, but also sad to have rushed from place to place, not getting enough time with anyone anywhere. Missing friends who have scattered, wishing that I could spend more late nights playing Cards Against Humanity while our children sleep in cozy rooms above us.