Vignettes from my book, Diving Right In
One warm Friday, next door neighbors loaned us their pruning tools and helped trim bushes and then brace up a leaning fence. I was so glorying in that rare evening of domesticity that a housemate and I put on aprons and got to work. Soon we had bread pudding, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pudding. Their wine went well with our warm desserts.
Friends and 1 shared growing-up rituals. I have fond memories of Christmas Eve, when we’d get up to go to Midnight Mass. When we came home, we’d have cocoa and open a box of chocolates and even drink wine. With my own children, we have gone to an early evening service on Christmas Eve, and had goodies afterward.
I wanted more ritual, so I started one! I rarely buy ice cream (“It’s not healthy”) but we all like it. So the night before the first day of school I bought a half gallon and we pigged out. I told Nick and Katie we’d do that each year. Another tradition is that we go out to eat when they get their report cards, if up to snuff. One thing we’ve done often, but probably isn’t a ritual, is canoeing, with me sitting back and them paddling, which suits us all just fine. I’m in charge of feeding bread crumbs to the ducks. We like picnics too--it’s one of the rare times I’m open to lunch meat and pop and potato chips; junk food wins when we picnic.
How Do You Know If You are Loved?
A close friend, her husband and I had driven east to Snoqualmie. We found a friendly river (lots of rocks and rippling water.) We three sat on the boulders eating our fruit and sandwiches. Ahna was sharing childhood memories. I asked if she felt loved. “Oh, my, yes!” “How did you know?” She replied, “He grinned at me!” Such simple, yet such rich words.
I watched myself the next few days with my children; we talked, laughed, went on outings, but the deep intimacy that shows itself in grins was rarely there. I had to ask myself why! I suspect that grins, as opposed to laughs, need the soil of relaxed, unhurried hanging-out time. As several past and present housemates could attest, “hanging out” is not my forte. I’m “Type A” — high energy, results-oriented! Nothing wrong with that when things need to get done, but when the “project” is closeness, it’s time to shift gears!
I notice I’m more likely to be in a grin-producing situation when I’ve chosen to relax and put aside any need to ”accomplish” things. Thus, when Katie and I are looking at her drawings from Archie comics, or I’m sitting on Nick’s bed hearing about Fire Explorers, my consciousness is THERE, and my unfinished projects are out-of-mind. Then I’m free to be light and relaxed, the perfect conditions for warm looks/ teasings/ grins of camaraderie, and knowing you are loved.
The fleas are gone (a black Lab plus two cats makes summer flea spraying mandatory). Now there’s a rat, one that Katie paid money for! It is making a home in her room along with a fish tank, two gerbils (Bruddle and Sissle) and a hamster, JoJo. (A month later, her pet rat died. Deb removed it from its cage, and Chris dug a deep hole. Katie wrapped it in a box and buried it. Her friend gave Katie two flowers. Oooh, what a dear thing to do!)
Movies on Short Notice
One thing my son and daughter and I enjoy together is movies. So I bought seven tickets for $20, and we’ve seen Stand By Me (so good I stayed in the theater and saw it next showing); Crocodile Dundee (fun like Greystoke was); The Great Wall; Twist and Shout (poignant), and Peggy Sue Got Married. After it, we talked about what things WE might do differently if we went back in time several years.
Often we decide on 25 minutes’ notice that we all three are free, and we scramble into the car, even deciding from the Sunday paper half way onto the freeway which movie we’ll see. Last time, I was short money to see the movie we chose (not the 7 for $20); I took the chance that Kathryn, who lives in the house WE lived in for 7 years on Capitol Hill, could loan me $20. I rang her bell, and 19 seconds and two laughs later, we three bounded down the steps with our $20., pellmelled down the foggy alley, rather exuberantly, and got 6-for-$18 tickets at Harvard Exit. We made it just in time with the biggest tub of popcorn and the styrofoam cups of tea they provide.
It feels like we have another family ritual, stuff we’ll talk and laugh about at future Thanksgiving dinners and on walks 15 years from now.
These are from my 2007 book,
Diving Right In: Reflecting on Life's Adventures.
To purchase the book of 85 poems and 180 pages of vignettes about all areas of my life while I was raising my teens alone, order it at http://pleasuresandponderings.com/dri.htm .