he was going on and on about – fictitiously – going to steinhafel’s (a big furniture store) or ashley furniture or colder’s and finding a giant twenty-drawer-dresser. and then he would find a hutch to go on top of this enormous dresser. and it would all go in the bedroom – in lieu of most everything else in there, including the bed. he went on about how then i would have a dresser with the vaaaaaaast amount of space i had talked about/pined for/whined over and we would sleep on the rug in the living room on blow-up air mattresses, practicing for our thru-hikes.
he had me in stitches as he described this, in the middle of which i snorted.
now – that is good living – snorting while laughing.
and there – in the fleeting instants of this dresser-fantasy – was one of those moments.
it might be easy to forget – to pass by – the dresser-scheming, the fictitious dresser to fix all my dresser inadequacies, the dresser-to-rise-above-all-dressers – but the belly-laughing and the need to hold my ribs and the participation in the high-brow voice deeming my new fancy dresser worthy – these were not forgettable. and the look on his face – total seriousness, a dedication to making my dresser-dreams come true – was priceless.
you just can’t walk on by without noticing.
the moon was almost full on the way home from milwaukee. we pointed and ooh-ed and ahhh-ed at it. it rarely escapes us, unless behind the curtain of drab clouds that has been hanging around. the stars, the sun, happy lights on fences and porch railings…they make us all dreamy-like.
i’m guessing we notice the little stuff even more when the big stuff is in peril. the way setting sun makes cattails glow. the way pistachio shells still connected but sans nut look like talking heads or pac-man. the way it feels to see a smile on either child. the way his hand feels on the small of my back, steadying me. the way dogdog has started kissing us. a note from someone about an album or a song. the familiar creak on the stairs and the mindless latch-release opening a pantry of food. the eye doctor telling us we “seem pretty good” together. tiny kindnesses and big generosities. going on a little adventure and coming home.
after richard curtis left our dinner together – monday’s post – he wrote us a handwritten note. handwritten…like those notes and all those letters i have saved from my sweet momma or those tiny scraps of paper from my children from when they were little or, really, any time at all.
in his note – ok, not really, but i would surely guess this were there to be a note (and, for that matter, a dinner) – he wrote, “remember…don’t pass by too fast.”
my sweet poppo would be 102 today. were he here, i would treat him to a scotch on the rocks, a good steak on the grill (that he doesn’t have to stress over), chocolate ganache cake, a hot cup of coffee. i would tease him and poke at him, asking him if he remembered to get my momma an anniversary card (for they were married on his birthday and it would be their 79th anniversary and, for some reason, this was always my job through the years – to take on the angst of wondering if my dad remembered…).
i wish he were here.
we were in our airbnb in the little mountain town.
we had just arrived that day. took a walk downtown, had pop-up happy hour on the porch, made a sheet-pan dinner, relished being there.
a warm and welcoming old house, there was a wine bottle stand in the dining room that held books and brochures of the area, menus and hiking trails, places to forge metal and horsebackride, guides to hundreds of waterfalls. good resources to plan our next days.
i randomly pulled out the small book on the end of the shelf and flipped it open. this was the page it flipped to. “how do you like them apples?” because i am redundant (yepyep) and because some things stick in my mind more than others, i have already written about how my dad always said this. kind of a nonsensical phrase, sometimes appropriate in context, sometimes not so much. it is with tremendous fondness i hear or see this phrase. it goes along with “do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?”
i held it open, photographed it, wanted to pack it away in my backpack. i was held – suspended – in a moment with my dad. he smiled from afar and thought he was pretty clever to pull it off.
he wanted to live to 100. if you asked him how he was, he would tell you that he was going to live to 100.
but he didn’t.
i wonder if he’s shaking his head on the other side, incredulous that things just work out how they work out, in spite of our plans, saying, “how do you like them apples?”.
though we loved that they were there – particularly me – we didn’t open the brochures much. we just punted and found ourselves on gravel roads in the woods seeking trailheads and climbing to waterfalls and granite outcroppings in forests of rhododendron, surprised again and again by howdoyoulikethemapples moments.
the table is staged, ready for diners. linen napkins rolled, silverware inside. water glasses turned over and candles unlit. waiting.
block 37 on state street in chicago has at least a dozen eateries, a highrise group built post-2005 of dining restaurants with napkin rolls, bakeries with cupcakes and sticky donuts, coffeehouses and grilled cheese spots. all waiting for eaters. there are shops and there is a residential development, multi-use skyscrapers.
eighteen years ago today. block 37. the yamaha concert grand was on an outdoor stage in the sun in a tree-canopied park when we arrived. boom mics. monitors. staged. ready. waiting.
it was the tour of hope, a giant oncology event sponsored by bristol-meyers squibb. lance armstrong, a cancer survivor and chosen sports hero for those moments, was biking – with an entourage – across the country to raise awareness about cancer and survivorship and hope. and we were there to be part of the rally. the piano and boom were waiting for me.
in the way of not-knowing-when-important-stuff-is-happening, we meandered through the people getting ready for the arrival of the posse of bikers. we sound-checked, we did early photo shoots, we sipped water on a perfectly-perfect early fall day.
it was the day i met him. a dear friend who i’ve only seen in person once in my lifetime. scordskiii became the rock in my world as the years went by and, were we to sit and visit over coffee or sushi or a glass of wine, i suspect the conversation would be easy and constant, filled with reminiscing and laughter, not just a little wonder, and hushed moments in awe of it all. this would be a good thing. eighteen years is a long time.
we are slowly coming out of the cave. slowly. ever-so-slowly. we have actually been to a couple restaurants now. and this day – last week – was one of those times.
the tables at the restaurant were ready and we walked in to find david’s dear friend waiting. they have known each other for decades, though – since they live far apart – they haven’t had opportunity to see each other much. no matter. it is the gift of true friendship. the moments when all time sloughs off and, in awe of this magic, you return to the organic core of your relationship.
we had fried wisconsin cheese curds. it was a farm-to-table restaurant. we were surrounded by relics from farms and warehouses, all dating back, maybe even a century. we sat and sat, talking, sharing. people came and went around us, though no one was seated close.
i glanced at the other tables when we stood to leave. the napkins were rolled and the water glasses were turned upside down. and the dining tables were waiting for the next time people would sit and ponder life, its questions, its challenges and joys, the next time people would share a little space together. the next time people would look at the face of a dear friend before it was time to go.
vincent was there. right off the side of our canoe he swirled his paintbrush and the water canvas became starry-night dreamy. charles schulz was there too and i could see snoopy dancing atop the surface. it kept evolving, even without the help of our paddles. ever-changing.
jaxon was two yesterday. his curiosity, his energy are unmatched. he is fearless. everything is possible and the whole world stretches in front of him. his boundless zeal, like a fast paddle in the water, arranges and rearranges utterly everything-in-life continually. he is not considering how to approach life. he is simply living it. no expectations. just embracing it all – the whole kaleidoscope.
being on the road takes you away from the norm. it takes you out of the bills, the projects, day to day worries or concerns, dealing with health issues. you are suddenly on the surface of the lake – so to speak – skimming along in littlebabyscion, watching the world go by. we get to the city-we’ve-never-visited-before, a city trying to keep up with immense growth. the districts are working on revitalization. we take walks in historic neighborhoods and fall in love with bungalows and big porches. and we wonder.
we sit in a stadium – the first time in many years – surrounded by 60,000 people – the first time in many years – to see a concert – the first time in many years. we marvel at the changes we have felt in those years.
we hug her goodbye. parenthood is dynamic, never static, and motherhood is no easy trail. missing is just plain hard. i try to adjust, to readjust and readjust again, to hold it all lightly. the paddle on the surface of my heart teaches me lesson after lesson.
we wonder about all of them as we drive on – the people out there also driving, the people whose homes we are passing by, the people in the rest area, the people in the local grocery store. what is their life? who are they? what are their worries? what are their joys? sometimes you can feel it, even from the road. we both nearly wept as we passed by a very-rusty-beige-identical-trailers trailer park with maybe fifty bereft homes in an arid dirt expanse of land; treeless, shadeless, plantless, playgroundless, it felt hopeless. every shade on every trailer we could see was pulled shut. we saw no people, though each trailer had a vehicle parked nearby. it was south carolina, not at its best. no pastel-colored historic homes, wrap-around porches or coastal beaches, no palmettos, no golf courses or rolling grassy knolls. just nothing. dirt. except these trailer homes – and we had to try to wrap our heads around the fact that at least there were homes with roofs, perhaps air conditioning to ease the hot muggy heat. the empath cloud followed us for miles until we could shake it loose, putting our paddles into the water and stirring things up as we drove.
we arrive in the mountains, zigging, zagging, climbing. tall trees block the sun and suddenly we are cooler and everything takes on the color green. it keeps changing, this expanse, these days of life.
we’ll hike. every turn in the trail will be different, every view different. the elevation will give us a view of the mountains – out there – and we’ll photograph them to remember. we’ll dip bandanas in streams to cool off and stand by waterfalls taking pictures to remember.
and when we get home, it will all swirl around us – the moments. vincent and snoopy will laugh a little at our attempts to hold onto it. and jaxon will remind us of how gently to hold the kaleidoscope.
i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…
but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.
my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.
goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.
when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.
i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”
after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.
not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.
wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?
texting with our son, who was about to attend a music festival out west, he wrote that i would probably like the artist. he sent a link to the teaser of above and beyond’s song “gratitude“. i followed the link, loved it, jaunted over to the full-length, and loved that.
the everest youtube paused, we followed the soundtrack song to find that new favorite i wrote about in may, “you and me“.
it is not likely we would have just stumbled upon either. there had to be a tiny opening, a tiny window, a door to something new.
explorations don’t have to be gigantic. they can be mini adventures, pocket-sized, teeny-weeny, a moseying into something unknown, a reminder that there-is-just-so-much-out-there. exploring creates a yearning to explore, a synergy of sorts, to keep-on-ing.
mary oliver, in her book, “long life”, writes of “what she calls ‘the little alleluias’ in her days and in her doings.” (frederic and mary ann brussat) those tiny noticings. micro adventures. “nature, animals, the soul, place, and literature.” and sound. and music. and touch. and color. and laughter. and cooking. and creating.
in these days we don’t get far. our roadtrip juju has been poking at us for months now; our last roam was in december. that’s a long time ago for two people who love roadtrips. but work and an intentional budget and, yes, covid, have kept us closer to home. “soon”, we say to each other, “soon.” and then we sigh. the mountains are calling, the coast and points north, family down south, family out west.
in the meanwhile, we scout out other exploring. we paint rocks and hide them. we dance on the deck. we listen to music we don’t know. we pay attention to the girl, the boy, friends tell us about things we might like. we use two tortillas instead of one.
last night we had the best pancakes for dinner. gluten-free. and real-live maple syrup. my niece sent me the link to them. breakfast for dinner. it’s not a trip to the mountains, but it gets us to the foothills of adventure. something different.
exploring is like snickers minibites. sometimes five grams of delicious feeds us.
in stop-motion moments, we stood by the fountains and shot photos. the dancing waters mesmerized us, light waning in the sky under the canopy of big trees. it was peaceful, serene. there was no place we needed to be in those minutes, except right there.
the water danced too quickly for us to discern contours of form. the camera made it possible to see those gorgeous images of momentary pause, water suspended. looking at the photographs – enchanting.
“…as water takes whatever shape it is in, so free may you be about who you become…”
we, in this ever-flowing river, babbling gently like the backyard pond, the mountain stream, or raging like the yellowstone river hurtling through the national park at this time, a part of the continuous-motion movie. our bliss, our concerns, our grievances, the things that distress us, the things over which we ruminate…though they feel to be screeching-to-a-halt, a visual-stop-place where the horizon ends – they continue on and on and life dances around us and through us. life invites us to waltz with it, to two-step, to sing along.
perspective, looking back, it’s all a tiny bit clearer in retrospect. my sweet momma’s words “this, too, shall pass” visit and revisit me. the dance steps we missed along the way are no longer worthy of our dedicated brooding, no longer stop-motion.
dancing water has brought grace of movement – forward. we keep on keeping on in the hazy-lazy-bubbling-frothy-waltzing river.
“…i’ll be there in singing skies and dancing waters laughing children, growing old and in the heart and in the spirit and in the truth when it is told…”
each of us can rack up the could-haves, like in a pool triangle, all stuffed in next to each other and ready to break with a cue. fragile, though. we can look back and think “why didn’t i…?” time and again. we can regret.
i suppose the gift of a new year – and those dang resolutions – is to sort and reevaluate the things that you consider important, the things worth continuing, the things worth letting go, the things worth learning. new practices of things-to-do and new practices of things-not-to-do. the lists permeate our brains and hearts, nagging, nagging.
there is a meme, well, many memes, circulating about betty white. it states something like “you have lived a really good life if, at 99, people say you have died too soon.” i realize that betty was inordinately popular, successful, always at the top of her game. but she was a real person, too. and she had to decide how to live. her positivity and laughter gifted each of us who have watched her or listened to her. in a recent interview she recommended, “taste every moment”. mmm. not at all corny, just a simplicity, a reminder.
we carry this pop-up-dinner table and stools around with us, switching from big red to littlebabyscion and back, depending on which vehicle we are driving. when big red refused to start for our road trip over christmas, we transferred the pop-up stuff into littlebabyscion and packed up to go.
we know we could have eaten at the sweet dining room table in our airbnb in the little mountain town. we ate there several times. but that last evening…we needed just a bit more time on the front porch, a bit more time outside, a bit more time admiring buffalo-plaid-man’s holiday decorations across the street, a bit more time in that town. we set up the pop-up table and stools, put up the luminaria again, lit a candle, brought out hors d’oeuvres for happy hour and, later, dinner. a little more effort, but not really much. everything tasted better out there. each moment.
before we even left home and while we were hiking in those north carolina mountains i thought about the new year approaching. i thought long about grasping onto the opportunity to just go, roadtrip to a new place, changing pattern. i thought about chances to amend, to let go, to reach out, to break the racked-up could-haves. big ways and little ways. i tasted a few resolution-ish moments, trying on for size – acting on – some of those thoughts-i-had.
and even in my first meager efforts – nothing earthshattering, nothing that will likely change the whole wide world – i must say, betty’s right.
20 knew what my response would be – ahead of time – when i opened his smartly-wrapped gift, fancy homemade ribbon coordinated with the wrappings. but the absolutely delectable time – inbetween giggling over a really wonderfully simple-yet-perfect bow while guessing what was in the box and moving aside the inner paper – was full of anticipation. conversely, i could see it in him too. it is life-enhancing. both ways. those moments you wait as someone – who you know well and for whom you have found something exquisitely perfect – begins to open your gift. it matters not how big or small, free or expensive; you just know you paid attention to little details and you cannot-wait-to-watch-them-open-it.
i pulled out the brown paper in its role as tissue wrap and there was an old-old pair of sidewalk roller skates with a set of keys. circa 1950/1960 heavy metal with rugged metal wheels. vintage.
instantly transported back-in-time to the feeling of rollerskating on abby drive, i could remember strapping on the skates up at the front stoop, following the sidewalk down as it turned and then turned again into the driveway, struggling to stay on the concrete driveway ribbon – as we had one of those driveways with a ribbon of grass inbetween the ribbons of cement and skating into that was a sure way to fall. the end of the driveway had a little bump too; you’d have to stop there (stopping was always an issue) and step over the end of the apron. and then, the street. and freedom.
at some point, my big brother took the metal wheels off of a pair of skates and made a skateboard. i can still feel that board under my feet – the rough ride of metal against cement-aggregate mixture. we sought out asphalt, though, back then, it was in shorter supply. over by the long island lighting company on the sound there was a really long curving road downhill all made of asphalt. it was a little bit terrifying. and required either driving there or toting your skateboard on your bike a few miles. so – in our everyday world – rough rides on steel skate wheels was our destiny.
my brother made the next skateboard with rubber wheels and a bigger deck and, though it was slower, you didn’t feel as imperiled on it. he mostly used that one and the blue painted one with the red hang-loose was relegated to me. there is much to learn from a rough-ridin’ skateboard, a ribbon driveway and an apron-bump.
i wish i knew where those two skateboards were.
but finding them is unlikely, as i’m sure they are long-gone. about as unlikely as 20 stumbling into a pair of old roller skates and knowing they would be perfect.