Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Another Visit from Frederick

This winter's weather has been exceptionally brutal.  No, it's not that we've gotten tons of snow (don't let the school system's revised calendar fool you - we used up our snow days on flurries and raindrops, thankyouverymuch.)  Instead, we've had seemingly endless weeks of bitter cold days and gray skies, far more, it seems, than what is usual or acceptable.  January was particularly frigid; February was especially gray.

Suffice it to say, I am desperate for the change of seasons.  Lamenting for the hundredth time yesterday about the melancholy that refused to lift, I suddenly remembered, with a slight lift of my heart, what has pulled me through these end-of-winter days in the past.  I summoned every ounce of Frederick  I had left in my shivering self and basked in the warmth of my reserves:

Aidan and I enjoyed a rare and quiet morning at home last weekend.  I was happy to have his company, but preoccupied with getting dinner prepared for our evening guests.  He wandered off, I turned on the radio, and was deeply engrossed in listening to Radio Lab when Aidan walked in and shrieked - "NPR!  Oh my gosh, this is my favorite radio station!  This is the BEST!"

Um, what?  How much more awesome does this kid GET?

Another night, I went in to tuck him in and discovered him decorating the outside of a blank book (a Bear Book) I'd given him.  He'd decided to write a book of poetry, and read me the first poem in what promises to be a quickly-growing collection... indeed, he is my Frederick.
I love listening to Pax's constant stream of conversation.  A year into speech therapy, you would never believe that the chatterbox standing before you was once completely silent.  He struggles still with "fronting" and "stopping" (leaving off or replacing consonants like "d's" for "k's" ; leaving off sounds like "s" and "l" altogether) which is age-appropriate, but still something to watch closely.  I've grown so accustomed to his language that I don't even notice a lot of the errors, but there are times when I am caught off guard, and usually fight to hide my giggles.  A few weeks ago, Pax was sick with a cold and felt very warm.  I took his temperature, gave him Tylenol, and snuggled him into a nest on the couch.  When Leo and Aidan got home from school, Pax announced to them,
"I am sick.  I have a beaver."
Leo:  "A what?:
Pax, louder:  "A BEAver!"
Leo:  "You have a beaver?!"
Pax:  "No, a BEAVER!  I have a BEAVER!!"

His "beaver" went away a few days later, but I think we were all secretly hoping the beaver would stay, because it was just so darn cute.
My mom likes to describe Leo as a friend-maker everywhere he goes, and indeed, in this sense, he is truly living up to his namesake.  Leo is lucky to have several of the same classmates in kindergarten as he did in last year's preschool class, and there's a small group of them, mostly girls, who are quite close to Leo.  I volunteer in his classroom every week and assist with "writing workshop," where several times now, I've assisted them in composing a letter to none other than my Leo.  The one that came home today, though, is my favorite:
Dear Leo,
You Are the Best 
Mell Bou Evr.  
Love, C____.

Dear Leo,
You are the best mail boy ever.
Love, C_____).

The illustration shows Leo adeptly transferring an important Kindergarten paper into a mailbox, complete with a grinning face and longish blond hair.  I love how seriously these kids take their jobs, and I love how seriously these kids notice other people taking their jobs seriously.
My last bit of Frederick reveling happened last night when I walked in the door from tutoring, exhausted and chilled to the bone.  I'd had a rough day, and Jeff knew it.  Imagine my pure gratitude, then, when I came home to find a toasty warm fire with my rocking chair and favorite quilt awaiting me.... the warmth of the fire coupled with the warmth of the gesture saw me through the cold dark night and into this day....

....where I am surrounded by Fredericks.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love, Loss...

...and What I Wore.  When we went to New York awhile ago, we saw a fabulous off-Broadway show by this title. Later, a dear friend gave me a book with the same title - because, in her words, "I saw it and immediately thought of you!"  I love.  I've lost.  And always, I remember what I wore:
my favorite pair of Sevens, generously fastened together with a rubberband underneath the small swell of my belly; a light pink cashmere sweater with a white tank underneath; and a scarf around my neck decorated with small conversation hearts.  

....thus it is probably this memory for minutia and irrelevant, unimportant detail that somehow perpetuates the weight that is so heavy on my heart each year.  Valentine's Day is forever married to the visceral, clenched-gut memory of losing our baby near Valentine's day.  The pink and red hearts, flowers, banners, and stuffed teddy bears that infest every commercial nook and cranny of our society stops me short every year.  And yet, as the years pass, it is somewhat of an embarrassment to me, to still grieve deeply (albeit briefly).  But if I'm grateful to my body for its muscle memory after I've slacked off at the gym, I must be equally kind to my body memory when it remembers the utter devastation I felt so many years ago.

Some years are better than others; last year, I made chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate dipped pretzels, and homemade truffles.  I distributed them to everyone I loved, and I felt happy.  This year, all  I managed was to buy some festive paper plates and napkins, throw some heart confetti on the table, generously sprinkle their PB & J's with pink and white jimmies, and call it good.

It's especially hard to hate Valentine's Day so much when everyone on Facebook tells you they're having a wonderful Valentine's Day.

And they have the flowers and photos to prove it.

It is a small triumph of my heart, therefore, to rejoice in the happiness we all felt on February 15, when we celebrated Valentine's Day as a family.

My parents and I teamed up on the gift we gave to the kids:  a family date night.  They provided the funds for ice skating at the local skate park; afterward, we took the kids out to dinner.  It was wonderful.  I picked up Aidan and Leo early from school so that we could be at the rink as soon as open skate session started.  Jeff met us there shortly thereafter (conveniently missing the whole wrestle-small-children-into-tight-skates-while-listening-to-them-ask-impatiently-if-I-was-done-yet-could-I-zip-their-coat-put-on-that-glove-mommy-I-have-to-go-potty routine....) and my kiddos took to the ice like Scott Hamilton (Pax = determination), Anton Ohno (speed = Aidan), and Brian Boitano (general coordination = Leo).  We skated so many laps around the ice, rockin' out to the late 1990's music and enjoying the relative calm and quiet of the rink.  True to personality, Aidan refused to listen to any of our suggestions on how to skate better, yet still managed to find his own unique methods of skating (lots of toepick running, followed by long glides).  After Leo grew accustomed to the feel of the ice and his skates, (having taken a few lessons last year) he was equally content to skate as he was to stand and watch the lovely, talented, (mostly female) skaters practicing in the middle of the rink.  And Pax was, by far, the happiest skater on the ice, holding firmly to stacked buckets for balance yet making his way around the ice with impressive 3 year old coordination and skill.  He grinned and laughed, and I was reminded that although it's tough to be the baby of the family, there is something uniquely special and wonderful about always included in what the big kids are doing.

Leaving the rink, we stopped to listen to a great little jazz-ish ensemble of tuba, snare drum (?) trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.  Pax recognized a friend from his music class, and was so excited to go say hello - until we were actually standing in front of her, which made us all laugh.  We headed to dinner at our favorite pizza and beer joint, where we huddled around the tiny table playing tic-tac-toe, drinking Rogue Chocolate Stout and lemonade.  Our food was superb, and we left filled-to-overflowing with happiness, joy, love, and gratitude for each other: for the fun we shared; for finding such mutual delight in skating and dinner; for the contentment and satisfaction we saw reflected in each other's eyes and smiles.

Oh and of course you wonder what I wore for my date.... my favorite wide-legged Sevens; a slim blue-and-gray striped sweater; and a cozy gray cloth necklace/scarf I crafted myself from something I saw on Pinterest.

Dear Cupid, you can keep your chocolates and your roses.  I've got far more important dates to celebrate - over chocolate stout and rose-colored cheeks - with boys far cuter than you will ever be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Story Corps: A Love Story

What better way to mark today, Valentine's Day, than by sharing a love story?

When our family traveled to California this summer, I was determined to try to record a story or two from Jeff's grandparents, whom I love dearly.  From the first moment I met them, they welcomed me into their large and growing family with open arms and open hearts.  Likewise, I was smitten with them.

Although there are so many things to love about them, probably what I love best is their utter and complete devotion to one another.  They have been married for 67 1/2 years, having married "late" when Grandpa was 30 years old. I love and I respect their commitment to each other, to their marriage, to the love that they share.

Old love is beautiful.

June 22, 2012

(Grandpa didn't know I was recording him.  I warmed up with getting him to talk about the Fair for awhile, then somehow we started on this story:)

"In 1938 I went to Italy with my dad and I met this little sweet tooth.  I was in church and god she was good looking and god, I--
She left before I did, so I went out and caught her -
god was I brave!
and we spent about -- oh gosh, well -- it had gotten serious.
She never did tell me that she had TB.
And so I left her with the question that if she started getting well, I would come to get her in a year.
Well in 11 months she died.
So It could have been a whole different program."

---(Anne interjects) Well, I think you got good one, Grandpa. I think you got the BEST one.
[Editor's note:  the timeline seems a little off in the next bit of the story.  Bear with him, though, because the important details are solid. This is an impressive 97 year old mind with strong memory for the details!]

"Yeah.  I do.  I'll just admit it now!  'Cause she's listening now! (laughs and laughs some more.)
Yeah, then we went back in 1938 -- to 1973 and we bought a car.
We went all the way down the line, stopped at all these places.
That was a good trip, boy.
We came out of Austria, moved to Italy -- driving -- and in 1938 I drove with a right hand drive car all the way down the Mediterranean coast and up the Adriatic."

--(Anne)  How did you meet Rita?

"Oh, this is a good one!  We knew this church man, he knew Rita's family, and he knew me and Dad, and ah--
His name was Reinhart.
He  kept pestering me.
He kept saying, "I gotta a coupla girls I want you to meet."
He come by one day and it was drizzling and so I was repairing tools when I had bought the lower end of this ring.
And so he says "I'm going up the mountain," he says ah, "you want to go with me?"
And I says "No, I gotta --" Pretty soon,  Dad was in the shop way back -
"You better go!"
And so I went up and met this one over here (points to Rita) and 8 months BANG the hammer came down on the anvil.
(more laughter)

He had two other ladies, and I knew one of them, and this last lady over here on the Reinman Ranch before you get to the freeway--
 and you know one night she was getting ready to go to church and her car--
somebody cut her throat
and they never condemned anybody.  And I think I can tell them who it is.

There was a young attourney who married into that family.  And he wanted the book to that ranch, and she wouldn't let him have it.....

--(Anne) How many years have you and Grandma been married?

67 years in August.

--(Anne) Quite a legacy.(happy laughter, kids giggling in the background, Grandma's sweet voice talking softly to Pax).

"Well, I didn't start chasing her around till I was 30.  And I think Dad saw it. (Laugh) And he didn't care for it, but he did his chasing around (more laughter)."

Leo pauses to look up at Rita, watches her, grins at her with love exuding from every ounce of his compact self.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love: A Sestina

I started this sestina in 2006.  It is a rare piece of unfinished writing in that it has nagged at me every now and then;  I decided it was time to finish it.  

He has the bluest, most soul-filled eyes
taking in the universe as only he, a child,
can do.  Watching him overfills my heart with joy,
yet the worry, pushes in.  After all, I am his mother.
There are not enough words to express love.
Eskimos have over 200 words for “snow,” yet

I come up short:  I adore; I am smitten; I am besotted; yet
still this does not explain the tears in my eyes
every time I look at him and am overcome with:  love.
Gratitude.  Awe, thanksgiving:  for what we have created:  child.
New life, new person, a promise to the world, my own new name:  mother.
I knew great happiness in my life, but this role fills me with unparalleled joy.

Losing a baby was heartbreaking; conceiving another, eventual joy.
When this next one is born I’ll never be able to imagine life without him, yet
I will always wonder who that September babe was.  I am her mother.
Weeks have gone by and years will pass but still tears fill my eyes
When I remember the time when I was Without Child.
No matter – this tiny, lost stranger will always have my love.

Secretly I wonder about the capacity to love,
the ability, that is – infinite, boundless, unconditional; a synonym, perhaps, of joy.
First I learned to love my parents, my brother.  Then husband, firstborn child.
More babies have laid claim to my heart, yet
The muscle stretches to accommodate each, as I look at them through eyes
that are watchful, that are tender, that shine and reflect my love as their mother.

Who was she, the first, the original Mother?
Stretching back thousands of years – the first to experience maternal love.
Look deep and see the pride, hope, adoration in her eyes.
The accomplishments of each generation must fill her with joy;
too, she sees disappointments, devastations, sorrows, yet
over and over she offers her comfort and her grace, her unconditional love for her child.

When my days eventually come to an end, child,
Know this:  I am so proud.  I am proud, honored, grateful to be your Mother.
I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a friend, and yet –
You - and you, and you, child - are my greatest accomplishment, my love.
Filling up every inch of our home with your noise, your toys, and your selves is my joy.
Each day you offer me an invitation to see life again, a new perspective, through your eyes. 

Yet you must know then, it is this Love,
for you, Child: from me, Mother
that creates the neverending Joy in my heart and love shining in my Eyes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Grace of Superman

I'm toeing a fine line here in recording a moment that is supposed to be rather sacred:  the dinner grace we share before our meals.  In the end, I decided that this was a memory I didn't want to leave to chance, knowing I'd never be able to recreate - or describe - Pax's participation in grace, how far he's come in mealtime, how expressive he is, how much I love this ritual. 

The video is just one small snapshot of the time of day I've come to love best and cherish most, one which I wrote about some time ago, found here

The Grace of Superman reminds us that although the rush of our busy days - after-school activities, homework, play time, bath time, bed time - may feel, at times, like kryptonite - there are few rituals more powerful and more important than the meal that we share; the grace that we offer; the grace we receive.