April Vacation – Day One

Look around you and you’ll see a collective look of terror in the eyes of mothers across the country. Millions of mothers woke this morning (hopefully) prepared to enter battle. Like finely tuned machines, the organized mothers planned a week full of fun activities and the mothers with extra loot in the bank booked a vacation to a destination full of sunshine and beaches. Hell, I imagine that millions of children will even be visiting Mickey Mouse this April vacation. I am not one of those mothers.

April Vacation.

Here in Maine, it’s not entirely warm yet. The ground is slightly mucky and there are still a few random piles of granular snow clinging to the earth. The sun is warm, but that breeze is actually bone-chilling for my tiny little Kate. It’s true. She’s thrilled to be outside and stretching those little legs, but the minute the air begins gusting at the top of our hill, our tiny little toddler emits a howl that rivals the wind.



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We’ve been outside doing a bit of post-Apocalypse restructuring. No, I’m sorry, that’s not true. I’m completely exaggerating. We’ve been outside performing a bit of spring clean up. You know…the standard fare when it comes to yard work – raking, dog poo search and destroy missions and perennial inspections. I cleaned up the children’s garden a bit, did some pruning and raked the wood chips into some semblance of order. 

  

 As I dug down into the cold brown soil, Kate sauntered over and squatted down next to me. “Dirt, Mama?” she wondered.

“Yes,” I answered. “See these tiny green leaves?”

“Weaves, Mama?”

“Uh, huh, those are our flowers beginning to grow again.”

Her eyes lit up with excitement. “Fwowers, Mama?”

She leaned in and performed an exaggerated toddler snort near the dead stalks of last fall’s coneflower then smiled as if she had whiffed magically fragrant rose. I snapped the old, grey stems and handed them off, providing her with her own skeleton bouquet.

I dug down into the cold dark earth and found a rather sluggish earthworm. Kate was terrified. For her, that worm’s pathetically slow writhing on my palm was akin to the sighting of a giant and hairy man-eating tarantula. Oh, the shrieking that ensued!

What do to…what to do…?

Let me just say this – having added graduate school to the already tight family budget, we’re not able to hang out with Mickey Mouse. To be honest we’re not really even able to go out to lunch without feeling the pinch, but Kate doesn’t “do” worms.

I feel guilty.

They’re watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on television. They’re playing educational games on pbskids.com and Super Mario Kart on the Wii. I printed out some springtime craft ideas which led to their current coloring of sparrow and bee shaped paper airplanes. They are honing their fine motor skills with their crayons and safety scissors.

The other moms are taking their girls to Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique.

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My little guy caught the cold that his sister had. He woke with a cough and an ear ache. We snuggled on the couch; we scheduled a game of Super Mario Kart for later so that I can take some time to do some required reading and writing.

I’m being selfish.

Our local library has events set up for vacation. Things like Robot Day and a wildlife rehabilitator will be visiting with his animals. We’re going to do those things. We’re going to spend time together and they’re going to like it. Mommy doesn’t do Disney.
 

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Long Pond

This piece was written in response to the photo prompt at The Red Dress Club: RemembRED.

Your assignment this week was to write a memoir piece inspired by this picture of a garden hose. In 700 or fewer words, show us where your memory takes you

 
I watched the spray from the hose rise in a twinkling arc over the tomato plants. Fat drops of water rolled from the end of the sprayer and splashed onto my bare feet. The water was shockingly cold in the heat of the morning sun. I looked down and watched the cold, almost painful drops land on my foot. A puddle formed around my toes and made the soil of his garden muddy. My feet were dirty, but he didn’t care. I dug my toes into the earth and absorbed its muddy warmth.

I reached over and plucked a ripe, red cherry tomato from the vine and popped it into my mouth then followed with another. When I’d arranged a tomato in each cheek, I called to him and flashed a beaming smile. He turned from tying a tomato plant to its stake and laughed at the sight of my bulging cheeks. His laugh was magical, spreading warmth and washing me with happiness.

“When are we going to go fishing?” My voice sounded muffled and hollow as my words pushed their way around the tomatoes filling my checks. I stood holding the hose in one hand, watering his tomato plants, and poked at my puffy cheeks with the index finger of my other hand. The skin on my cheeks began feeling like it was stretching, so I bit down on the tomatoes, breaking through the skin and washing my tongue with their sun-warmed sweet and sour interiors.

He never yelled at me and his hands never hurt. He shared his time and paid attention.

“You want to go fishing, huh?”

“Yup, and I’m gonna catch the biggest fish ever!”

He laughed, and then left the garden to enter the cellar. The dirt interior was like entering a cave. The ceiling was lined with fishing poles. He knew just where mine was located and pulled it down, along with his own. The tackle box and oars followed and were pushed into the bed of the truck. We always drove the short distance across the street and down the hill to the boat.

At the shoreline, I stood with the gear and watched him turn the boat over and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished into the damp weedy shoreline as he slid the boat into the water. “Come on,” he’d say, “Watch the mud.”

I gingerly stepped to the boat, walking along the clumps of grass and trying to avoid the blackened mud that sucked at my sneakers. The boat shimmied as I stepped onto the rear seat and made my way to the bow with my arms out in an attempt to balance. He’d pass the oars into the boat, then push off and climb in just before his feet met the water.

The water slapped against the side of the boat and the lily pads dragged at the bottom, trying to slow the momentum of his push. We’d pause there while he arranged the oars and I’d pull at the flowers growing from the lily pads, finally pulling one of the long slimy stems from the water and allowing my fingers to drag through the wake as he rowed me around Long Pond.

Those short summer weeks – always too short, were strung together by days full of nothing that were everything.

Our last day spent fishing together happened in 1998. I was no longer a little girl.

I watched his hands flip the boat and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished through the damp weedy grass of the shoreline. His progress had slowed over the years and, that day, his feet didn’t escape the water when he pushed the boat from the shoreline.

My throat tightened and my eyes burned with the threat of tears so I turned and plucked a flower from among the lily pads. I dragged my fingers through Long Pond and realized that I was beginning to say goodbye.

My One Special Guy

This morning I watered this year’s pitiful excuse for a garden and, as is often the case, I watered in silence as the kids played inside. Silence. It makes me think of Frank Costanza screaming, “SERENITY NOW!”

Actually, I do my best thinking when I’m watering the plants. There is something about the trickling water and the morning sun warming my skin that always brings me back to my first special guy. He watered his garden in the morning, letting me spray the tomatoes and play in the water that dripped from the hose. He rarely scolded and often chuckled. He taught me to make homemade pasta, how to fish, and eat an entire bag of cherries in one sitting. He taught me how to say “bicycle” in Italian. He taught me to sit quietly with my own thoughts. From him I learned the fine art of comfortable silence. He taught me how to laugh. He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person, who you longed to be around for no real reason except that he was good. He taught me so much about life and I never said thank you.

Uncle Joe, kneeling with baseball bat

All summer, I’ve continued watering the sad, fruitless plants in the gardens, despite the fact that they have yet to produce a single thing. Uncle Joe was with me as I watered the gardens today. As I fell into into my serene, thoughtful chore he entered my thoughts. I miss him.

I moved the hose to the children’s garden that we started earlier in the summer, and began watering the (bean-less) bean plants that are slowly crawling up the tee-pee. I laughed to myself as I recalled one of the rhymes Uncle Joe taught us as children. Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more… And there they were. Beans. Yes, he was there with me. I hope that he heard me say thank you.