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In two weeks, you have gone from toddling to walking. When I first arrived, your favourite activity began with "Wa?" as you reached up for my hand not to guide you but to steady you as you led the way up and down the hall, from bedroom (where the stuffies and the laundry basket are) to living room, where the other toys are). Now, you just pick yourself up and go, assuming I will follow (you assume correctly). You're also less interested in toys and want to play in the real world. My purse and its fascinating contents are best.
Realizing that I've never been the one with the big need that required coming round and accommodating and adjusting. I was always the one who confronted my misgivings, challenged my fears, came round, accommodated and adjusted. Which may be why it feels so odd and "demanding" to me now. I have to convince myself that I have a right to say I want this, even if I'm not sure how it will all work out. As though I have to be certain of the outcome in order to be justified in making my appeal. We have some talking to do.
Cut four medium peeled potatoes, one small onion and one medium carrot into pieces; pulse in processor until finely chopped. Add two eggs, 1/3 cup flour (can be gluten-free), 1 tsp baking powder, 3/4 to 1 tsp salt and a few good fine grinds of pepper. Process until the texture of porridge. Dump mixture into a strainer over a large bowl and drain off some, not all, of the liquid. Fry flattened tablespoons of the mixture on both sides until nicely browned in 1/8" vegetable oil in a good heavy pan over medium-high heat. Latkes!
One four-letter word brings a household to tears. Today, as though you had been doing this for ages, you blithely lifted your arms to be picked up and said "Mama?" After months of Dada this and Dada that (meaning both Mama and Dada), and all of us intently saying Mama to you in hopes that you would repeat the word back to us, you chose the moment I walked in the door to toss off this verbal feat with the innocence of babes. Oh wait. You ARE a babe. An "I'll do it when I'm good and ready" babe.
Full full full. Of love and joy and naches fun kinder. And wistful longing. With a heaping cup of purpose, a few teaspoons of tears, a dash of fear. I have no idea how this recipe will turn out. But it has all my favourite ingredients and it will be made will love and tenderness, baked in a VERY slow oven, turned carefully until beautifully golden on all sides and served on the prettiest china. Or maybe it will get a quick sear over high heat and we'll burn our fingers picking off the delicious crusty bits around the edges
It was the best Chanukah ever, after 33 years. Soup and knaidlech, brisket, farfel, chicken, broccoli, salad, two kinds of latkes, dessert - all demolished and groaned over. But more than the food, it was the children of ideal age, and the friends grateful for another year together, and the addition of an elder generation (Esther!). Seven menorahs, beautiful harmony, Michel's condensed Chanukah story. Caleb and I lay under the kitchen table and he sang me bits from his choir songs. Mia played with the toys her father loved 35 years ago. Only one thing broke. Even cleanup was a breeze.
Last day frazzles. Lunch here, afternoon there, dinner in a third place, a final goodbye to Mom at night. For all the time, it is still not enough. Or rather too much condensed into too little time. Several months' worth of visiting, shmoozing, cooking, celebrating, eating, talking, hosting, care-taking, baby-sitting, etc. in just over 3 weeks. The thing that's really missing is HOME. MY home. Where all my hats hang, and my love resides; with all my stuff exactly where I like it, my reading chair and lamp, my food, my tub, my desk, my clothes. Coming soon?
Home again, home again, as lickity split as nondirect air travel will allow. I love the waiting time, the anonymity, the giving up to schedules beyond my control. Movies (Bridge of Spies, Mr. Holmes) and books and crosswords and email and some Jumble and a podcast or two of This American Life and a little Italian. A couple of Scotches, some pistachios and chocolate, and a double seat all to myself. Je suis comblée. Except for inconvenient neck pain...Trueblue friend drives me through pouring rain and hubby arrives home from work just as my key hits the lock.
We get a little high and suddenly it hits me that I want to read him what I have written. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, a little cognac in hand, I read the preamble and Chapter 1 and as I do, I find myself disengaging from the words, speaking them as though someone else had written them, and surprised at how good it sounds. Like something off a bookstore shelf. Afterward, he has the same reaction: "It sounds like something a real writer would write!" Grin. I'm awed to realize that I am crafting something that could be good.
So new, this notion of sharing concerns about structure and character and plot development with him. Of course, he has a vested interest, but still. I didn't expect him to engage so enthusiastically. Bodes well for support in the process, which has been woefully interrupted by travel and reorientation but will resume shortly. Likely on a new laptop of the fruity variety. Exchange rate be damned - this is my future we're talking about! Each step concretizing the commitment, conquering the fear. Like taking a deep breath, lowering my centre of gravity, and pushing off down a slope on crosscountry skis.
Just keep writing, just keep writing. In English, in French, in Italian... 100 words, letters, notes and scribbles. And in between, soups and salads, muffins and cake, and a batch of limoncello to enjoy with biscotti still to be baked. Cooking is the perfect zen activity for thinking and releasing creative juices. Pilates and walking to stay fit. Work to pay the bills. With time for holiday and birthday fun, and of course, ongoing conversation about the future and where and when and how, learning how to speak my truth without worrying too much about how it will be received.
After all that shilly-shallying and dilly-dallying, it took a nudge from D to get me to the Apple store and a challenge from M&B to keep me from going home with empty hands and more questions. And now here I sit, with my high-tech laptop on my low-tech handmade laptop table, enjoying Retina display and backlit keyboard and speedy zoomy everything as though I'd had one for years. Very pleased at how I sat down, set it all up and was soon emailing, messaging, FaceTiming, surfing, downloading, reading and working. My brain feels younger already.
As though I thought it would be smooth and simple, I just started in like I knew exactly what I was doing, but every day now involves setting aside some time for a chat with Apple Care and sweet people who are helpful (and sometimes sound like they're talking to me while doing something else in the kitchen) but say things like "reinstalling the operating system should fix that," which you really don't want to hear right after shelling out a couple of grand on a new machine right out of the box. Not even from someone sweet and helpful.
Adjusting again to the distance, the time zone inconvenience, the unrequited texting. Plenty of busy to fill the hours and keep the wistful at bay. Cooking and baking, two kinds of Italian lessons, learning a new computer, reconnecting with people on this side, making and sending holiday gifts... But I catch myself sighing deeply. At the same time, sleep comes easily and I don't spend too much time spinning. Amazing how adjusting the frame in my head changes how I see the picture. Knowing we will be leaving is reassuring, even if we don't go. But we most likely will.
Thought it was all good but spoke too soon. The wandering - more like flighty - cursor has returned (or left again). Do I type too quickly? Hah. As I write that, she zips up to just before "wandering." The annoyance is so much more magnified by different expectations. You don't mind babying along an old machine because she's old, after all. But the new one is not supposed to need any babying. And yes, it's a first-world problem, but I don't actually believe in wearing a hairshirt until every last person on earth is fed, housed, cared for and employed.
Purple turns to grey, but the numbers keep being added and I'm not finding the discipline or attention and can't seem to carve out the time I know I must. Distracted by distractions, off my game, off my schedule, needing more lists than usual (or is it needing to pay more attention to the ones I have). Woke up at 7 and ended up 5 minutes late for a Pilates class I was 2 hours early for. This never happens. D being home when he should be at work throws me more than I realize. I need my days alone.
Paying attention and realizing how much time I spend cooking. For good reasons. I want the food I make, I like the economy and the challenge, I love the process. It is like gardening, and as I have done with the garden, I take so many more chances now. Less a slave to recipes, allowing what I know to guide my choices. Doing like B does: read, watch, scan, then make something original. But I end up with a much cleaner kitchen. :-) I find myself thinking of her frequently and fondly without even trying, missing her sharp eye and ear.
They come for dinner and spill surprisingly candid beans over Jewish comfort food, prepared on purpose to help with his blue dogs. She was born in a Japanese internment camp, but he's the one with depression in his genes. He has always come across as cheerful - but confesses that the Prozac is no longer working as it was. A new drug has just been added, but he doesn't see a psychiatrist. And although their 43-year marriage is solid and loving, he worries that she is growing weary of this. Scared, too. She still has difficulty calling it by name.
Computus interruptus is officially over, as in, I have no more excuse for not sitting down to write. New laptop with (argh) reinstalled operating system now has a well-behaved cursor, and the slightly defective tv I purchased to use as an external monitor with my old slightly defective laptop has been replaced by a spiffy new HD dedicated monitor and heck, I'm even getting the hang of some of the Mac keyboard shortcuts (my fingers go in the right general direction, but my brain has to place them correctly - sometimes it's just guesswork). Eight hundred words coming right up.
Shopping on the Saturday before Christmas! We laugh at our madness but go to the mall anyway to get me some new duds for my birthday. It starts with sweet little fur-lined suede boots that I can stick my bare feet into on the way to Pilates, and includes a packable down coat in shiny olive green with a hint of emerald (good thing I like it cause it's the last of its kind at that price in any color in all of Macy's) and legwarmers and a chenille hat and scarf. I look and feel like a teenager.
I thought I might be able to learn When I'm Sixty-Four on the uke in time to perform it (lowering eyes in shame) on Facebook for my birthday, but not sure that's going to work. So I switch to the piano, which comes so easily, but still I'm hunting and pecking a bit for the right chords and combinations and then I realize I don't really like the way my voice is sounding and I'm sorry I haven't been singing in a choir all these years because it is an instrument and it takes practice. More than ItsyBitsy Spider.
Loneliness sets in. The missing-people kind of loneliness I feel when I get pictures and texts and emails that make me want to just go over and say hi and have a drink or a coffee or take a walk or make a meal together, or just hang in the kitchen with kids coming in and out, or watch a movie, or sit on the floor and make block towers for knocking down, or read books with a little warm body in my lap, perfectly shaped to fit between my crossed legs and curved torso, our bare feet touching.
Backwards weather makes it colder by 20 degrees here than back east. The Mississauga lawn is as green as our Interbay golf course. But we are wearing more clothes. Hah! Solstice passed in a gust of rain and wind (with brief and glorious sunny breaks) and candles had to stand in for a beach bonfire. But we were cozy with chicken soup and chili and of course scotch and tea and a fresh batch of biscotti and Ray Donovan brooding, beating and betraying his way through season two. We still find him more likable than his bony, pinched face wife.
I can't fill the holes, but the rest of the birthday landscape is dotted with sweet traditions and new adventures. Morning coffee alone, then mimosas and biscotti with kind friends who speak from the heart; choral music and coloring in my new grown-up coloring book; sweet, briny, meaty oysters with Muscadet and a sliver of pale sun breaking through the rain on the waterfront; an impromptu acceptance of a surprise invitation to be feted, fed, wined and talked at; and finally to bed and bedding...and a few more episodes of our latest binge. With chocolate, of course. 64!
It's a quiet Christmas day but that's fine. In fact, too many phone calls and catchups interfere, but it's only once a year. And I should have called earlier, anyway. Books and sheets and more wine and glasses and a brand-new electric blanket that is even better than we hoped it would be. So are the Cougars, who play in heavy snow in El Paso (!) while I color meditatively in my coloring book. Who came up with this brilliant idea? Now of course I need more pencils because nothing is just one kind of red or green or purple.
And once more into the fray...I pack up the 2-week-old laptop that I still want to love without reserve and head to my appointment with a Genius at the Bar. Diana is her name. She confirms something wonky and hands me a brand new laptop in an unopened box. The installation is easy, the data transfer so smooth, and I cannot reproduce the problem after 15 minutes of typing. It feels like a successful therapy session and I am feeling generous and gracious towards my partner again. Sadly, the feeling does not last. Little do we know...
Who knows these mysteries, indeed. What food or bug or random virus found its way into my digestive tract, and why was it the same as the other three times, when nobody else got sick? Thank goodness my body remembered the feeling and my brain remembered the information and I had the good sense to lie on my back and not faint when the nausea hit. I had a little chat with my vagus nerve and it behaved, but ultimately my stomach rebelled and expelled what little I had eaten during the day. Relief, sleep, chamomile tea and dry toast.
I'd be laughing harder if I were a little less embarrassed. After all these years of frustration, suffering the Curse of the Wandering Cursor, I discover today, with the help of a patient, clever and non-judgmental senior Apple Care advisor, that the problem is my bead-filled computer gloves! The ones I love and have been wearing for years...duh. So it never was the old laptop, it was just me and my beloved gloves. I loves my gloves!!! And they have been the culprit all along. An ever-so-slight adjustment is all it took. All better now.
Everyone purging in an end-of-year frenzy to clear, tidy and start fresh. As always, one person's junk is another's find, and marriages are made in heaven on Buy Nothing. My lovely crockery canisters take up too much room and I can't see what's in them. I pass them to Laura, then Marjory offers me mason jars that remind me of the spaghetti jars on the mustard yellow shelf on Northcliffe, which travelled with me for so long I wondered if beans and rice and legumes did in fact last forever if properly stored. They stayed behind in PineHill.
I was there when he turned 40, and then 50 and even 60, but I was never of the right age at the right time to really get what he was feeling and now that I get it, he's not here to talk to. Although truth be told, my contemplation of the finity of it all usually leads to an enumeration of the many blessings and renewed determination not to waste another moment (still, moments do get wasted) whereas his was more of the "one foot in the grave" variety. He did make some changes, but with her, not me.
After a December of record-breaking rain, the year ends in sunshine and we go walking on the beach. Something gentle for both of us who are still not 100 percent. He doesn't have to remind me how I will miss this. And the green daffodil shoots gamely heading upwards through the soil in the balcony planters. Everything is becoming more meaningful and dare I say poignant: I find myself already beginning to distance myself, preparing to take my leave. It doesn't feel like going "back" or even going "home". In fact, it most likely will be something completely different.
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