Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sailing Small Vessels

A picture is worth a thousand words, they rightly say, but how many of those words are lies? How many more thousands of words lurk outside the frame telling a story not captured by the light and shadows?

On Sunday we sailed a wooden ship on the creek. I left the chairs pulled out from the dining room table, the vacuum still plugged in to the wall so I could walk to the beach with them. So that I could enjoy the surprising winter warmth.

The beach was full for a late December day. Filled with families on day trips. Three blonde little girls in bathing suits braving cold water.

There is no denying that it was beautiful. But I didn't take pictures of Gus's frustration. The way he panicked each time the boat didn't sail the way he wanted it to. The fit he threw before I banished him to the other end of the beach. And I certainly have no pictures from when the nice couple from DC called over to me from the boardwalk 50 yards away, telling me that Arlo had followed them on their walk. I didn't capture my mortification that gave way to fear, realizing how terrible things can happen in the blink of eyes that are easily distracted by the confusion that comes with four children. These things remain outside of the images.  These things and thousands and thousands of other words and moments and feelings and mistakes don't make their way here.

The sail boat is from Seaworthy Small Ships, my friend's family's business. They sell them directly online, but also sell them through Best Made Company, which is chocked full of pretty things. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

So This Is Christmas

Time passes so quickly, and these pictures are just one of my many futile attempts to slow it down. Or, if that is not possible, at least to remember it. Otherwise, the years they pour on to each other. Impossible to distinguish. Memories of children blend into one another. Babies not yet born appear in scenes they have never witnessed. It all becomes a dreamlike trance. "It was at grandma's house, but not exactly grandma's house."

On Christmas Eve we pulled Gus and Arlo's mattresses on to Sena's bedroom floor, and eventually, after dozens of trips to the bathroom, they slept together, waiting for the arrival of saint they still want believe to be real even after coming to the conclusion that he probably isn't. In the morning, they waited again, this time for the arrival of my parents who wanted to watch as they opened stockings and gifts.

The gifts were dominated by books, blocks, building kits, and dinosaurs. And I hope that their wishes, humble as they were, came true.

Later, we drove across town to my parents' house, and I opened gifts with my siblings, and we ate puffs and scrapple in a house shrouded by fog on disconcertingly warm Christmas day.

I spent the afternoon cooking with my mom: short ribs, roasted Brussel sprouts, rainbow carrots, pearl onions, seedy bread, and mashed potatoes. At six we sat down with my grandfather to give thanks and to fill our bellies.

We had hoped to experience the Christmas full moon, but the fog had other plans, and so the night ended relatively early. I feel asleep exhausted to my core, lamenting another Yuletide seemingly over before it began. Sad to see it go, despite dreading its appearance on the calendar every single year.

My ninety-one year old granddad with his five earthside greatgrands, and one who is still tucked safely inside my sister Claire, ready to join the herd next year.  Another fine example of Arlo giving up. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015


It's Christmas Eve and I still don't feel the fullness of the holiday spirit. I blame the temperatures and the humidity and the open windows. Christmas is supposed to feel like Northern Europe or Vermont. There is supposed to be snow, despite the fact that I have never actually experienced a white Christmas.

But I ate Christmas cookies for lunch and last night we slept in red footed pajamas. Pajamas that I am still wearing well past noon.

And last night we ate shepherd's pie with friends and we exchanged presents, and the bigs kids all spent the night at my parents' house, and I enjoyed a few childfree hours. And it was merry, and it was fun, and it begged to be repeated in years to come.

But now my house is in disarray and I should go start searing short ribs for tomorrow night's feast, and a bit of panic about gifting blind spots is starting to infect my subconscious. And still I sit, worrying about the magic of Christmas that may have been lost when I let my two oldest children stop believing in Santa. When I started to steer them away from the toys they so thought they wanted, while explaining the concept of landfills and sweatshops.

Tonight we will drive around looking at Christmas lights on the way to my aunt and grandma's house. The tables will be loaded with the sugariest confections you have ever seen. Crab soup will simmer on the stove, while people balance plates of food on their laps in the rooms my mom and her sisters grew up in. Hopefully two small children will fall asleep on the way home. And we will tuck the two older ones away in their beds shortly thereafter. We will quietly pull on presents from hidden corners, and pile them under a tree that is too dry for my liking. I'll wrap the presents that somehow got neglected and I'll stuff stockings and I'll eat the cookies Arlo will leave out for Santa. I might make myself a drink with Tom while I  try to clean up the messes that I simply don't want in my Christmas morning pictures.

And tomorrow, when we wake up so early that it will probably not yet be bright, all the spirit I felt was missing will pour in through those open windows.

Monday, December 21, 2015

This Weekend We // Winter Solstice

This weekend we spent one of the longest nights of the year huddled with friends around cheese boards and boardgames. Around a fire, forgetting the words to songs we've sung a thousand times. Remembering first impressions and lasting embarrassments. Kids crawled over hay bales and tractors, chased by chickens and dogs.  For a moment, we fell into the most classic of gendered stereotypes, while men chopped wood and women prepared lunch.

We piled into cozy corners of the house, nine deep where I laid my head among the snores, sighs, and coughs of children and adults, exhausted from work and play.

This year, like every year, I hold on to the promise of more light coming in to each and every day, pushing out darkness, ushering in new joys we can't even conceive of yet.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Other People's Places // Claire and Andrew's Farmhouse

For the past year I have been trying to get my sister Claire to let me come in and take pictures of the old farmhouse she shares with her husband, his big old chocolate lab, a fat old fat, and a flock of fowl. She always protests. There is always another project she wants complete before I do it. She always wants things a little cleaner. A little more organized. This summer I snapped a few pictures, and then a few more this fall.  There are so many other cozy corners I want to capture for posterity, and maybe soon I will get up there to do just that, but for now, I will share what I have. Because I love that house, and I love that these pictures tell stories of the life they live.

Claire, if you don't like these, you're just going to have to invite me over sometime soon. And when you do, you better make monkey bread.