Preservation

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A few moments frozen in time from just about the most perfect few days ever.

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While I carefully keep the margins of the kids’ lives wide and open, I’m not as good about giving myself the same protection. This week was a reminder that our adult-selves also need space around our responsibilities to remember who we are and to breathe deeply.

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Ten years old. Holding her stuffed animal. On the precipice of jumping from 4th grade to 6th grade, and totally able to do so- but here, time stopped for moment, so much still a little girl, lost in her own thoughts.

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As the kids say on Instagram, #nofilter.

Full(ish)

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It dawned on me last night that this is the very first vacation of my adult life that is simply about relaxation and enjoyment— every other vacation or trip I have ever undertaken has been to visit family, to attend a wedding, to be sealed, to speak or to appear somewhere. All those things are good things- but until this week, I have never just been somewhere, by choice, for the sheer joy of it. I adore travel, but there has always been a purpose, besides just “happiness.”

We’ve had no schedule. We’ve had no plan. And it’s been spectacular. This is why people like vacations so much, isn’t it?

Because of the tenderness of the sun-burnt and freckled faces in my care, yesterday we opted to visit the aquarium in lieu of another day in the sun. Bean has lamented his lack of aquariums since his 3rd grade field trip was canceled, Abby is always eager for science-y experiences, and Jeffrey is amiable and likes cuttlefish.

A massive lightning storm and downpour caught us in the car on our way back to our place, and as we pulled into our spot, a brilliant double-rainbow arced from the ocean far out over the island and disappeared onto the mainland. The sun was low enough in the sky that it was safe for us to be on the beach, and we walked down the boardwalk towards the deserted sand.

After a thunderstorm is a magnificent time to hit the beach. The sand was dimpled with raindrops, and cool under our feet, and the beach was empty as far as we could see. Clouds arched into the stratosphere, their glowing white cumulonimbus towers hitting the anvil shape as they leveled at the atmospheric ceiling. The full(ish) moon peeked barely over the steely eastern horizon, as the sun bowed behind is, turning the clearing sky a pink and yellow fire.

Bean ran right into the ocean with all his clothes on. Again.

It’s clear the ocean is his happy place. It’s mine, too. I suspect it might be for all of humanity. The unending power and rhythmic cresting and falling of the waves, the connection to the timelessness of the ongoing cycles of tides, the dependability of the moon waxing and waning, the waves never ceasing, the sand always piling up and eroding out from under our feet. No matter which ocean, no matter which beach, no matter which coast on which you find yourself, the constants of ocean, of season, of moon and of rhythm are rocks on which you can hang (and heal) your heart.

I stood on the edge of the continent, thinking about the sand under my feet, eroded from some of the oldest mountains on the planet, run down through the rivulets and unknown dark and secret places, to be here, kissed by the salty Atlantic. Warm sea foams around my ankles, and I watch the bubbles pop as the wave draws back, and the sandpipers run forward. My children mimic the birds, teasing and chasing the waves, except Bean, who stands, arms akimbo, staring at the wild sky, waves crashing around his belly.

No matter where we may ever live, this is one of the places we call home.

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p.s.
Jon was called to the other coast this week, much to our dismay. We tried everything possible to cancel/move/change, but both his professional and our family plans were not movable… so he’s at the Pacific, and we’re at the Atlantic. We agreed to meet at the beach on either side of the continent yesterday. He may have also ran in while still in his clothes.

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Salt Water

13690864_10153765355625963_3471727603672140044_nIt was near dark, and she wondered if it was just smarter to wait until morning to walk down to the beach with the kids. They’d been to the beach before, but they had no memory of the icy Pacific with her dad, years before in their toddlerhood. She’d spent most of the day driving south, watching the land change from the hard red clay of Virginia to the pines and soft grass of the low-country, while pointing out the draping, grey Spanish moss and waxing poetic about Carolina barbecue.

Travel was a double-edged sword for a kid with autism. Her other kids were pros at buffering and helping, and the trip had been largely uneventful, but the moon was well over the horizon when they finally unloaded the car and traipsed up the stairs to their  room. Her daughter pointed out the moon wasn’t actually full, but waxing gibbous, and she wryly contemplated of how proud her father would have been. (She quickly looked up ‘waxing gibbous’ on her phone, and her daughter was right- for that night, the moon was 97% waxing gibbous. Of course.)

Screw conventionality and dinner. She told the kids to get their flip-flops on, they were going to the beach.

Crunching over the sand of the boardwalk bridge that carried them to soft sand, the crash of the waves grew louder, and she caught a glimpse of the wide steel-grey level that was the horizon. Her heart leapt. How could she so easily forget how important this is to her? She grew up on California beaches, where the water was icy cold,  and the undertow fierce. But as soon as she tasted the salt on her lips, she was home.

The kids stepped gingerly on the soft sand, and laughed with joy. “Take your shoes off.” she suggested, and reached down to pick up her own sandals. The sand was powdered-sugar fine and already cooling in the night air. She smiled at the exclamations of delight as the kids set their feet tenderly on the unfamiliar ground. The full(ish— she reminded herself) moon lit the deserted beach and sparkled on the dark water.

They walked towards the water, her son with autism, usually hesitant about new sensations, was effervescent with excitement. His smile lit up his face and he couldn’t tear his eyes from the waves- he dropped his shoes and ran straight towards the sea. Fighting back a moment of panic, she bit her tongue, and let him go. Fully clothed, he ran straight into the Atlantic, arms outstretched, head thrown back in utter, embodied joy. She blinked hard. The other kids glanced at her, she nodded and smiled, and they ran ahead.

At the tide-line, her daughter stopped to gather some shells- unsurprisingly, she’d brought a box and some collection bags and labels. Bemusedly, she reminded the girl that they had all week for that, and it might be easier in the morning. She encouraged her towards the waves and getting her feet wet. The shells would be there tomorrow.

And so would they.

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High Summer

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Where to even begin? The silence has stretched out now for months, and it’s not just been a silence in writing, it’s been an odd and interesting imposed silence in my mind, too.

In my interactions with- and in my ways of moving through the world- my silence is a pretty accurate gauge of how important or big my current processing is. This applies to the happy, as well as to the terrifying. When things with David were disintegrating, I alluded to it, but it wasn’t until the dam broke and I couldn’t keep it together any longer than I started talking openly about the pain. When I was dating Jon and I knew this happiness was different and he was Important, I didn’t say a word publicly. The same with this spring, when I had a very scary scare of scariness.

Because I cannot handle suspense and I read the spoilers first: I am fine now.

Because medical stuff is just not that interesting, the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version: During routine testing, some “abnormalities” were found in my stomach and on one of my lungs. I like both those organs, and you get lightheaded and woozy when you hear words like “dense spot” and “pre-cancerous.” I underwent more tests than I knew existed, and thanks to amazing doctors and fancy magnetic machines, we got super-detailed results. It’s awesome modern medicine can check in such detail without being invasive- however, it turns out, sometimes those pictures do show when it’s time to actually get invasive. Lucky me.

In May, I had surgery. Afterwards, all my pathology came back clear. No more abnormalities, everything was healthy. Yay!! I’ve been recovering and healing ever since, and I’m just about good as new. Really. See? Ignore the teenage zombie in the background.

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So that’s really just a long way of telling you *why* Jon moved heaven and earth to get us Hamilton tickets in New York in early May. As I’m heartbreakingly watching the turnover at the Richard Rodgers, I’m even more amazed that we pulled it off, and that we got to see all the original principals.

Now, onward…

The world is pretty scary right now, isn’t it? I don’t know how many times our hearts can break. I feel helpless and frightened, and then I find threads of hope, and I hear Mr. Rogers saying “Look for the helpers…” and then I wonder how many times are we going to do this to each other? as the unanswered symphony of “why?” echoes out into the universe. Our capacity to hurt each other is ghastly, but then, our capacity to heal, lift up, and to change is the balm and hope for the future. We can do better. I know I cannot solve the aching of the world- no one can. But I have committed to doing better in my own small life. I will be kinder. I will reach out to the actual humans I encounter in my life. I will be more aware of iniquity and racism. I will speak up. I will try really hard to challenge my comfort zone. I will teach my children. I will lift where I stand, and I will do it better and more consistently. I don’t know what else to do, because being paralyzed with fear isn’t working.

We had a giant tree in our backyard bust itself lose from the earth early one Saturday morning, and take a flailing trip over the fence and into our neighbor’s house. Thankfully no one was hurt, and our neighbors are super cool people who happen to have the same home-owners insurance as we do. Made the process of cleanup much easier and simpler. Bean was beside himself with giddiness when the arborists arrived with the chipping machine. Even more fascinating were the guys who loop the ropes over the tall branches and string themselves 30 feet up while swinging chainsaws. They earned their money. Now the south side of our house gets a whole lot more sun. Thinking about a garden, then I think… nah.

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Tiberius, now 160 pounds, celebrated his first birthday. Well, he didn’t give a flying bat, but the kids froze a hamburger patty in a block of ice and gave it to him on the front lawn. All were happy- but they forgot to take the ice out of the Tupperware, and so Ty also had a Tupperware snack along with his meat popsicle. We aren’t telling him about his Very Special visit to the vet next month. He’s going to be a load of fun in the Cone of Shame.

Jon and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary, but it honestly feels more like a lifetime. Everyone’s favorite evil uncle Willy came to visit for a week, and that was awesome. Stephen graduated from high school, and we’re pretty proud of him. He’s an aspiring writer, so his story is not mine to tell.

Abby has some news. After batting around the idea for years, and always feeling the time just wasn’t quite right, we are finally letting the schools advance her a grade. She’s moving from 4th grade to 6th grade this fall. She’ll be at the same school as Bean, and he’s super excited. They can ride their bikes every day, and while they’re two and a half years apart in age, they’ll only be one grade apart in school. Neither of them are remotely bothered by this fact. I’m hoping being able to take pre-algebra and earth science and a music class will all help Abby be challenged by school again. It’s been a long time.

Also? She cut her braids off! Big changes for the youngest among us.

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Bean has been on a growth tear. He’s suddenly decided he wants to try new foods, and he’s very specific and determined. Don’t get me wrong- English muffins with peanut butter are still the predominant staple. However, he seems to have noticed other people eat other things, and he’s been curious. He recently announced he wanted to try Chipotle, since Jeffrey likes that food. He said he didn’t want it little kid style, but with all the stuff “regular people” get on their food. You cannot overstate how quickly we got everyone out the door and to Chipotle. He ordered a carnitas quesadilla, ate 1/3 of it, and said “It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t gag.” High praise indeed from Bean.

On July 4th, he ate FOUR ears of corn on the cob. I think the joy might have stemmed from the little corn-stabbers I got him, but either way- a fresh vegetable! It only took 12 years.

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Jeffrey has become consumed with football. Honestly, I didn’t really expect him to be so passionate about it- it’s a ton of really, really hard work. He’s been at practice every day this summer- it’s not “official” practice- that doesn’t start until August, but the coaches hold clinics all summer, and he’s not missed a single one. I don’t make him, I don’t wake him up- this is a 14 year-old kid who willingly gets up during his summer vacation and goes to practice in the dirt and heat for 3 hours every weekday. That’s some dedication, and I’m pleasantly surprised at his determination.

Oh, he also had tubes put in his ears a couple weeks ago. The difference is *amazing*. He can actually hear now! Turns out he wasn’t just ignoring us- his timpanic membrane wasn’t flexing properly, and now it’s like a miracle. His first comment? “Wow, the toilet flushing is SO LOUD!”

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As the seasons are changing in our family, Jon suggested I take the tiniest bedroom, now vacated by Stephen who heads to college this fall, and make it a home office. It really is a tiny room, barely big enough for a twin bed width-wise. None of the other kids wanted it- apparently they like sharing space. Lucky me! So Jon and I have spent the last week or so cleaning out, sorting, storing, donating and painting, and I now have a room where I can write.

I wanted to make it inviting and comfortable- I can close the door when it’s time for serious work, but so far, the kids and Jon and the dog all filter in and out, and the big comfy chair I drug in is constantly holding someone. More impromptu conversations and laughter have happened in the last week than during the whole rest of the summer. I think this is going to be everyone’s favorite room.

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My thrift-store mojo seems to have returned- I found four new second-hand bookcases, and I suddenly have the problem of not enough books! Frankly, there are at least 14 bookcases in our house- is that normal? I don’t know. But I get to hit the used book store and not feel guilty because book shelves don’t need fluffers, they need books! Back to my point, I found a gorgeous petite glass-fronted antique book cabinet at the Salvation Army for $100. I have named her Wallace, and she is in the corner of my office, now holding my precious antique books, where they will be safe from dust and dog slobber.

Long ago, Crazy Chicken Annie told me to make sure I surrounded myself in life with only things that mattered deeply to me. She said it would change how I moved through my home and the world if I didn’t have stuff just to have it, but to keep and truly love the things in my environment. She was right, by the way. I have been refining this notion for years, and in the office I have really enforced it.

I very carefully curated everything I brought in- each book had to be a book I had read and loved. Each item was weighed and judged. And it makes a difference. On the shelves are my grandmother’s button box, Charlotte’s mother’s knitting basket, a rock from the Pit River in California where I last camped with my dad, a wooden toy I bought in Germany before I had children, now almost Velveteen-Rabbit-level loved. I have my own box of precious letters and cards, a flower Marissa gave me years ago, an oil-painting of a chick by my dear friend Annie, my great-grandmother Hattie’s creamer, a picture of my mom holding me when I was a baby, and of my dad dipping my toes in the Pacific when I was two years old. Ticking importantly on my desk is the Big Ben wind-up alarm clock that sat on my grandma’s nightstand forever. There is David’s crystal ball, right next to sealing pictures of us with our family through Jon. It’s everything.

I’ll just leave you with this picture in closing, because seriously. We couldn’t find him. We still don’t know if he’s responsible for the wheelbarrow of pink flamingoes.

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A Whirlwind Trip to The Richard Rodgers Theater

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Recently, while we were discussing the future and the things we hoped for, we agreed having experiences made both of us happier than collecting material things. I recognize the privilege in that stance; it’s only because our material needs are met that we even get to make that decision. But they are met, and neither of us wish to amass more stuff. I just didn’t realize Jon had taken me so to heart.

For Mother’s Day (of which I have a complicated, leaky, basket of feelings) I was given an insanely whirlwind trip to New York City, and two tickets to Hamilton. Remember what I said about not trying to get tickets? Clearly, my own house doesn’t read me.

There wasn’t time to do any planning, or even to get a hotel- it’s about four hours from DC to NYC, and we basically threw food at the kids, called our friends to check in on them, and jumped in the car. This is a perk of having responsible teenagers, and I give Jeffrey all the credit in the world for holding the home steady while we jumped and ran. (He also has the promise that the next ticket we secure is his.)

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What a vibrant, beautiful and wild city! It was surreal, driving in the very first time- seeing the iconic skyline, and all the names and images that are so seared into our identity as Americans. I can’t wait to go back when we have more than seven hours. My main impression? For as big a city as it is, it’s surprisingly small! That, and people are really nice.

We walked up 7th Avenue towards Broadway, and found the theater district. I always imagined “Broadway” as a literal street where the theaters lined both sides; nope. It’s a neighborhood, with the theaters on side streets all over the place. I asked Jon, “So what’s ‘Off-Broadway’ mean when *all* these theaters are ‘off’ Broadway?!” We don’t really know. Any theater people?

We had just enough time before curtain to get a quick (and I mean quick) bite to eat. Found  little place on 8th Avenue and 46th Street, and then walked back over to the theater.

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Tell me that’s not Mr. Incredible. He deserves that halo of golden light.

People were starting to line up, and there were still hopefuls walking the line asking in vain hope for extra tickets. I remember doing that at Grateful Dead shows a long time ago- though it was far easier to get into a Dead show. We were standing by the stage doors. This is actually where all the actors and musicians and stage crew enter- no fanfare, no blockades. Just the dude in the blue jacket.

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We watched the actors and chorus walk and enter the theater.  There wasn’t a huge crowd gathered, just a few folks and those of us in line. There was a boy of maybe 11, who had a sketch book with drawings he’d done of the actors- he was trying to get them to sign it. Without a single exception, everyone he approached was kind and smiled, stopped, and signed his sketchbook. We saw Christopher Jackson, Okieriete Onaodowan, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Alex Lacamoire, and two members of chorus stop and talk to him. It was kind of unreal. No private cars, no velvet ropes. Just regular people going to work. And basically, no one bothered them.

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These are the #Ham4Ham doors, and that’s the standby line. The woman in the green dress is standing right at the entrance. It’s surprisingly small- but I think that’s the case of almost all the theaters- and really beautiful.

When you walk in, there are concessions and swag- they run out after the show, so a lot of people were crowded around trying to get stuff before they found their seats. Jon grabbed a ball cap, but we already have the book and the soundtrack, so we headed to our seats.

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Walking up to the mezzanine level. It’s a gorgeous theater; I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. There is a second concession stand on the upper level, so you can avoid the rush down in the lobby, for next time. You can order drinks, too, if you like drinks.

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The stage and set are superbly beautiful. No curtain at any time during the show- everything is done with lighting. The seats are tight- Jon’s tall, and he had to lean his knees off to the side, but are otherwise soft and comfortable. I don’t think it is unusual.

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I’m not being bombastic when I say my face hurt from smiling. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe we were actually there. I couldn’t believe that morning I had been in DC and now I was sitting in the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City. In an actual seat. And it was about to start. The insert in my program told me we’d be seeing the original cast (with the exception of King George III The Fourth). I was beside myself. I called home quickly and Jeffrey was making English muffins for Bean. All was well in the world for that moment. I shut off my phone and settled in.

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By intermission, I had cried off all of my makeup, and my nose and cheeks were red. It’s a good look. It’s apparently the Hamilton look, because I wasn’t the only one. It was even worse by the end. I sat, dumbstruck, by what I had just experienced. But we didn’t have any time to dilly-dally, as much as I would have liked to hang around. We had to get back to DC and 3/5 of our kids waiting at home. We walked the fifteen blocks to catch our ride out of the city, and were through the Lincoln Tunnel and headed south by midnight.

Here’s what I wrote the next day when some friends asked for a rundown:

Seeing it live is imperative to the whole. The cast album is utterly amazing- and we’ve all be singing along for months and know every note, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s clearly meant, as an artform, to be taken as a whole. See it. Get to NYC, see it in Chicago or San Francisco or LA. Enter the lottery, get on the email list for whatever opening city is close to you. But if you love the music, or you love theater, see it.

I have a different impression now of certain characters in key moments. There is an intimacy you don’t get with just the music. The characters are richer, and there is so much nuance and depth- which really shouldn’t be a surprise, given it was created as a whole. The love between the four friends is much more prominent, the intimacy between Laurens and Hamilton, the comedy of the Farmer Interrupted, the petulancy and visible descent into madness of the King, the strength and comedy of Angelica is much more forthright, there is background chorus and support that make you go…”Ohhhhh…

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. I mean it. I know he jokes that he’s just writing about a genius, but whatever that thing is that has no name, he’s got it. He just shines- and he’s in nearly every scene- it’s way more than his singing part. I have no doubt that not only will he repeat, but that he’ll do it again and again. His character is going to win him everything.

I have had a massive crush on Daveed Digss- and he deserves every last bit of the adoration and praise. He is dynamic and funny, brimming with life. Christopher Jackson, however, commands the stage like no one else. He walks out there and you physically feel it. It was brilliant casting. I wasn’t quite expecting just how powerful a presence he is. And his voice… he takes the room. Every time. For this reason, the Tony will deservedly go to him.

Renée Elise Goldsberry is superb. I kind of don’t know what to say beyond that. The Schuyler sisters harmonize as you’d expect and hope- but there’s no doubt who is running the show. There’s also an intimacy in her portrayal, and a sensitivity to the tension she’s under, which again, isn’t completely captured by simply listening. Of course not- it wasn’t created that way.

The chorus, often dressed in white- you’ve seen the shots- (I think there are only 24 members of the cast, including the primary players) are an unbelievably integral part of the play. They add context, and at some key moments, a level of understanding and beauty which completely surprised me- and made me cry. The chorography is spare and there are no useless movements- every inflection contributes to the story. The lighting and staging are all austere, and it makes it particularly effective against the simplicity of the stage and the modern nature of the story telling.

Basically, it’s a rare offering in the popular art world- it’s even better than all the hype and press. It deserves every last bit of praise, and it stands up to the critiques and cultural criticism without shame. It is a work of beauty. LMM and the artists with whom he surrounds himself have brought together something which defies description and moves you to awe, the way only sublime art can.

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One Moment

tumblr_static_beautiful-dandelion-wallpaperThere is the normal flurry of morning chaos. Children filter out the door at different times for different schools and different classes. There is the smell of burnt toast (still trying to calibrate the new toaster to “perfect”), the dog pawing at the glass door to be let out for his morning constitutional, the always-rush to find the missing shoe, or the hoodie, or the sock with the penguin on it. There are heavy backpacks, imperfect packed lunches glanced at with resignation and slight derision, the search for a library book, the last-minute dragging of a brush through reluctant hair. Then the door closes and it’s quiet.

My youngest turns ten in two weeks. We don’t have sippy-cups anymore, and all of our plates are made of something breakable. The fingerprints on the walls are now much higher, and the smudges on the glass door are mostly from the dog.  I can leave a cup of my favorite cinnamon tea on the table, and the danger comes from the dog’s tail, and not curious little hands unaware of “hot”. The laundry overflows it’s wicker banks, but football and soccer jerseys have taken the place of pink-and-purple loads. The Elmo bath crayons have been replaced by Right Guard and Stridex.

I don’t miss the baby years. There are parents who are happiest when they have tiny ones, who love the intense hands-on devotion required when everything is small. While I note the passing of time with some nostalgia, my heart does not yearn for a return. I remember how hard it was, and how it felt to function on fumes. No, I don’t wish for it. I write to mark the tides, and to solidify my own awareness of the fleeting nature of all things. I love the passage of my children from small children into young people who have wicked senses of humor and tremendous creativity, and with whom I can laugh and talk and sometimes cry. But this, too, shall pass.

The choking football laundry will not always be spilling down my hallway, and making first chair for trumpet someday will be a memory instead of a proud announcement. Just like the plastic dinner-ware, someday this will be sweet nostalgia. The rooms in a house that often feels too-small with five boisterous kids and a giant dog, will, one by one, empty out. And while I am excited to turn the first empty room into an office, there are only so many offices one can be excited for… Too-small will gradually become too-big.

It’s just the way it goes.

With too-big will come other joys; I believe this, but I cannot yet conceive of how they will look and feel. Just as I couldn’t imagine the butterball of a ginger baby turning into a teenager who towers over me, or the baby who cried for years turning into a musical virtuoso with a sharp wit, or the bundle of pink easiness turning into a sensitive wunderkind of science,  I cannot grasp what is yet to come- and that’s fitting. Living is for the now. I pause a moment to savor what I have today, and be grateful for what brought me here.

Today, I enjoy the quiet. It’s a respite before the door flies open again this afternoon and children tumble through, shedding and steady flow of backpacks, papers, instruments, sweatshirts, and half-eaten lunches. There will be quibbles for my attention and the cupboards will be raided for snacks and Mumford and Sons or the Hamilton soundtrack will join the chaos. The quiet today is a pocket, bookended by boisterous, messy, chaotic life. I am aware that someday, those poles will reverse, and I believe there will be beauty there, too.

The One True Toaster

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.43.47 AMThe toaster is serious business in our house. I’ve had the same toaster since before Jeffrey was born, meaning it’s survived moves from San Francisco to Washington state, to Washington DC. It didn’t come into it’s hard-service years until Bean transitioned from milk to toast- and we’ve been sitting on the toast phase now for about {12y(365d)(3mpd(2e))} 22,280 English muffins/slices of toast. That’s just for Bean. Occasionally other members of the family enjoy toast, too- so it’s fair to imagine this brave little Toaster serving up this family, in all it’s incarnations thus far, upwards of 30,000 toasts.

And it’s dying.

Slowly… every so slowly, it’s been dwindling in it’s abilities, going from robustly crisping and browning our breads to the point where now, even turn all the way “6” it can only achieve an anemic tan and slightly floppy toast. The Toaster is dying. Long live the Toaster.

To give you some idea of how Important the Toaster is, when we travel, Bean wants to take it with us. He honestly worries about what he will do for toast when he leaves for college. When we stay with friends or family for visits, he stresses about their toasting abilities, and again wants to bring the One True Toaster along for vacation. While guests in Williamsburg, my friend had made sure she had peanut butter (no bumps) and jelly (no bumps) and we brought our own English Muffins. She prepared Bean’s toast for him in her (perfectly fine and working well) toaster, and he quietly sat looking at his food, one lonely bite taken. “What’s wrong?” I whisper in his ear. He looks upset, but he’s trying to be polite, “Their toaster is wrong. It doesn’t do it right.”

Years ago, Jeffrey jokingly said I should probably buy a backup of our Trusty Toaster. We laughed. It’s no laughing matter now- because the Toaster is dying, and they don’t make our model anymore.

I sat down to look up toasters, and Bean immediately and seriously joined me reading product-reviews on Amazon. He had his Kindle out and was setting up a “compare” screen. He was concerned with levers, buttons, toast settings, and weighed in with opinions of what was necessary and what didn’t matter. He doesn’t need a countdown screen, but he needs a Level 3 toast to be a nice even golden brown. (Did you know there are websites that will show you samples from different models on different settings? There are.) He wants to have a level to push it down because he likes the satisfaction of the click when it sets and starts to heat. He needs FOUR slots, not two. He likes chrome with black, not straight chrome or white- those combinations are “wrong”. He doesn’t mind using his wooden toaster-tongs to retrieve his muffins, so he doesn’t need an eject button. It was a bit of a lark at first, but it became clear this boy was dead serious and this was no laughing matter.

After reading several articles on toasters and umpteen reviews, we decided on the Cuisinart CPT-240TNFR Elements 4 Slice Toaster. It will be here Friday, and if it’s satisfactory, we will be ordering a back-up for him to take to college in 6 years. He even offered—bless his heart—to contribute from his own money to have a backup toaster this time- I suspect he’s miffed I didn’t buy a backup of the One True Toaster when I had the chance, and he won’t make that dumb mistake again.

The toaster is dead. Long live The Toaster!