A Morning In May

When you sit by an open window while the lilacs are in bloom you can be easily tricked into thinking the world is a perfect and wonderful place. Perfume in the air transports. Ignorance is bliss. The windwoman sings you her wonderful ripply song.  But ignorance this morning is impossible. People protest, and shout, and stand. Things are burning. Good things and bad things. The belief that things are better than they once were is up in flames. It's hard to imagine what will be born from the ashes.

 This week, I discovered a new resource called Open Library. I found it looking for a book called, Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli.  I was looking for Bright April because Carla Hayden, the fourteenth Librarian of Congress said that it was her favorite book in a video celebrating the New York Public Library's 125th birthday. According to Wikipedia, Bright April, published in 1946 was the first children's book to address the divisive issue of racial prejudice, a daring topic for a children's book of that time.

I won't pretend to have helpful words during a time such as this. George Floyd should be alive right now enjoying a beautiful May morning with his family. But instead he is dead because he was killed.  Let us disrupt systemic racism, resist easy answers, and talk to our children about race and equality. Justice for George Floyd.


The Covid19 Life

I hear the voice of Jim Dale in the other room reading to my children. 
I spread orange marmalade on my warm toast. I drink hot coffee from my favorite mug. 
Look at all the things I have. 
And yet I feel like crying. 
Our part of the world is breaking apart and we wonder what it will look like when it's put back together again. 
It is easier not to think about the future. 
Then add rain. 
Showers brings too near a physical representation of how we feel on the inside that is not welcomed even at the prospect of flowers.
Its easier to push aside the dread while the sun shines. 
The rain confirms your worst fears. 
I attempt to stay in the given moment and remember the good health of the people in my home. 
We are so strong and so fragile.
Humans are so strong and so fragile.
Our planet is so strong and so fragile.
We are both at the same time. 
And yet fragility seems to be the last one standing many days. 
I made chocolate cookies today and it felt like I lassoed the moon. They were sickeningly sweet. 
I rage cleaned the tub while listening to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 
For some reason I didn’t feel the usual high from the exertion of completing such a task. 
Maybe it was because I only cleaned 70% of it. 
Maybe it was because of the mean thought that tells me if I spend time cleaning my house 
with my spare forty-five minutes, it means that I won’t be using that time to achieve my goals, 
and I must not really want to achieve my goals because I'm choosing to clean instead.
 But how can I really achieve my goals with a repulsive tub in the foreground?
Interesting how a person’s brain works.
My spouse says that he doesn’t think he is getting enough work done. 
So I said, well maybe you shouldn’t work in the kitchen, it being the high traffic zone that it is.
I agree that he is allowed to vent. But for some reason, I feel somewhat responsible for creating 
an unproductive atmosphere. Is that making it about me? This is very possible. 
And so I rage clean the small room off the back where life remants have been collecting, 
to help create an insulated work cave. One factor that contributed to my guilt is that 
there is a part of his job where he has to scour through thousands of pieces of digital chemical samples.
 It's the work that his bosses don’t like to do and work that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole
 and so I feel bad for him. He does it for our family, mostly without complaint. 
I know I shouldn’t go so far as feeling guilty, because he still has a job. 
He isn’t one of the 20 million people that no longer can claim employment. 
I have a job too. But I don’t have to scour through small bits of data, so distracting me while at work
 takes smaller toll on productivity. But maybe that isn’t true. I am trying to write a short novel. 
It’s the personal goal I referred to earlier. But it's really hard to finish it. How do people do it? 
I heard Margaret Atwood explain in a Master Class Instagram advertisement that “distractions are the
 biggest hurdle facing a writer.” She said it really pointedly; like, don’t even bother trying to accomplish 
anything if you have distractions. I don’t want to give up but it doesn’t seem I have much of a choice. 
She very well may be more gentle once you register for her class, but who knows?
I’m so tired of hearing people, say what day is it? All the radio hosts are saying that. 
 Literally I heard three different people say that today on the radio. Check the calendar, people. 
It’s not that hard. I know this stay-at-home situation is weird but it has also become kind of old news now.
 This is our situation. And it's time to put our game face on. 
I bought a new game for the family to play and no one wants to play it. That's cool.
 It was more about online shopping than anything else. I'm sure we will get to it one day. 
And I'm sure when we do play the game it will be the cause of many tears and insults and strife, 
so maybe it's better that no one wants to play it. 
Joy comes when my twin sister and I realize we have been drinking the same brand of coffee 
during the days of social distancing. And it comes again when we describe the same coincidental
 t-shirt purchase from an online retailer. The victory that our psyches have not been socially distanced 
carries me through a few hours of not fretting about the future. 
Often my days are marked by two anchors; a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine
 in the evening. I never tire of these daily milestones. As if auditioning for the lead in a coffee commercial, 
I breathe in deeply the aroma of my coffee. And like Paul Giamatti at the beginning of the movie, Sideways 
 I close my eyes and take teeny sips of my wine in search of oak or blackberries or whatever
 even if its being poured from a box. I don't want my friends the drinks to leave me because 
the moments in between are complicated. As my coffee loses its heat it signals that life’s 
business is pressing in around me, unavoidable. 
I read headlines that the return to school in the fall is going to be complicated. 
I will be working at a public school librarian and the thought of safely gathering a group of
 first graders on the rug for a story sounds impossible. What will we do? 
What kind of shape will we all be in at that point? 
I am reading aloud Anne of Green Gables. Last night, we just read the chapter where Anne
 comes in first place on her entrance exams to Queens. 
Mathew knew all along this would be the case. 
The joy of fiction overwhelms me in this moment. 
It is the most beautiful escape. 
Yesterday, I finished The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. 
This book is deeply moving and an education of the highest order. 
The characters grip your heart until they become a part of you. 
I feel like I am plagiarizing something when I write that mini review, but it is so true. 



When people ask me if I like being a twin I often reply, "yes, but of course its all I've ever known."  I could write volumes about what my sister means to me as a friend and family member but sometimes the relationship is best expressed as having someone to embark with on a semi-preposterous adventure and be able to pull it off. This past Friday morning the two of us mothers and five children between us drove down to Ocean City, NJ. Our goal was to visit a place that brought us much amusement as children and to share it with our own.  The place is largely untouched from when we were kids and so it succeeds in bringing the same kind of cheap yet meaningful thrills that it always has. The familiarity yields great reward. We don't have to think about where to go, or what to do because the prescription has always been the same.

 The two of us share a spontaneity gene. In our minds, a carefully laid plan can bring on its own set of anxieties and so the thought of throwing everyone in a rental car for such a trip brings a variety of freedom and excitement that makes summer feel like a genuine adventure. We searched far and wide for a beach rental to house our crew for the night to no avail, so the only plausible alternative was to head back north and stay over in NYC, right? Right! After four and a half hours of fun in the sun, pizza and birch beer, porpoise sightings, salt water taffy, and the tilt-a-whirl we hop back in the car and head for the Lincoln tunnel. Two hours later we are pulling onto West 97th street, find free parking out front and step in to our lodgings for the night.  The hotel was really more of a hostel and providentially and affordably perfect. All seven of us slept comfortably thanks to the friendliest staff in town and a few pallets on the ground.  In the morning Lenny's Bagels welcomed us as did the Westside Market for everything a body could need for the last leg home.

I nearly forgot to tell you about the other companion on our journey. His name is Samuel West. We owe so much to dear Sam. He faithfully narrates Phillip Pullmans Grimm Tales for Young and Old for us and the trip really couldn't have been possible without this friend of ours.  He's quite a flexible chap and I recommend bringing Mr. West with you for any trip planned in the near future.

  We completed our mission safely and generally unscathed. I will not bore you with the finer details in an epilogue to this story. But to keep things a bit honest I will say that some sleep was lost and that the eldest of the youths has always struggled with this sort of deficit and began to show some signs of behavioral decline in the immediate hours and days after.
  I will also say it was worth enduring and that I am thankful we took on this challenge.


On gratitude

The thing about social media that I hate is the breeziness of it all. Oh just a few pictures here of an exotic vacation. Oh and a few pictures there of a gathering financed by family heads so that children and grandchildren can congregate with nary a worry. No big deal. This kind of stuff happens all the time right? Wrong. Firstly, it is has never been easy for me to be light and informal. I was a serious child, and then became a serious adult. I try to participate in certain forms of social media when I channel my easy going self. I post things that may also appear glossy and enjoy the glossy posts of others.  But in my natural more broody state what I hate the most about social media are the constant questions I ask myself. Are you grateful for what you have? Are you content without all the beautiful things? And sometimes I have to realize, no I'm not very grateful. In the summer in the Cambridge when it feels like everyone has evacuated the hot city streets for their cottages in the country, it is hard for me not to think about how much better my life would be with one of those places too. It makes me miss my mother who would be throwing my sister and I lifelines of help, both emotional and physical.  It is likely she would be hosting these sorts of moments for her own family. It feels like we lost everything when she died, and the things that she took with her like stability, love, assurance, kindness are gone forever and ever. This is not true. But it sure feels true.

I have much to be grateful for. The city of Cambridge offers middle school students free math mornings from 8:30-11:30 and my own very reluctant middle schoolers are enrolled. Yay. It has been beautiful outside. I have a cat, a family, a sister. I have libraries. I am in good physical (not to be confused with mental) health. My kids got to swim with Canadian geese yesterday.These are real blessings. Everyday I want to see these things and be glad.

The library came up with this game for adult summer readers and I am having so much fun.
I wish us all more gratitude (and luxuries..shhhh).


How to make mochi and live deliberately

If you give a thirteen year old a cookbook he's going to make mochi. When they make mochi, they are going to want some ice cream to go with it. This is what we have been up to this summer. Myles checked out three ten pound cookbooks and has been pouring over them ever since. He made mochi today, and vanilla ice cream and a then dairy free version, for a family dietary need. He and I have been like two partners waltzing through summer. Stumbling over each other's feet, finding our stride, and happy enough at the end of the day for from the effort of surviving the first days well enough. We hosted our 1st annual Auntie Camp. Myles was the lead counselor. He led littles on treasure hunts, selfie photo shoots, and water balloon games. I couldn't have done it without him.

What does it mean to live deliberately? This is what Myles asked me this morning when we visited the site of Thoreau's house in woods by Walden pond. And so we contemplated that question. I do know are minds are torn asunder by distractions of the physical and non, and so I alluded to that struggle. And then prayed that the pond could offer its own answers.