pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: June, 2010

the weightlessness of summer

it comes without notice, like butterfly wings that waft before your face, your cheeks, the bump that ends your nose.

you catch the barest shift of breeze, a fluttering of light, you look up, you realize: something sacred just passed by. it came from who-knows-where, but along the way, it surely graced me.

and so it is with summer, with those wisps and darts of weightless wing. with the moments when the heaviness of all-year-long is suspended, when breeze blows through the screen, garden leaves flutter, light practically sparkles, and you feel your shoulders drop their heavy load.

it comes when dinner isn’t rushed, and isn’t quite at dinner time. but rather wends its way to the table at, oh, minutes shy of nine. and when the table is not the inside one, but rather the old slab of door with wobbly legs, the one that stands and beckons from the summer porch, the room with screens, the room lit part by candlelight and moon, and part by fireflies, blinking by.

it isn’t always here, that weightlessness that marks the essence of summerness. there are days and hours when the rush is still the same, when the thick soup of humidity slows you to a crawl, but still you’re dashing here and there, with no hope of long tall drinks of lemonade, or feet propped up on summer-splattered canvas outside pillows.

but that, i think, is what makes for the deliciousness of summer when it comes, when you catch it, when you’re standing at the sink and you don’t mind that it’s late, because the stars are out, and you intend to amble back outside, to sit and stare into the heavens, to not worry about bedtime, or the ticking of the clock at all.

amid a week of hustle and bustle, and birthdays and gosh-darn tornadoes, summer found me, caught me unawares, wrapped me in its gentle fold, beckoned me, like a crooked finger curling inward, “come, come, savor what my season offers…”

and so, i did as told.

i sliced a fat tomato, pinched a stem of basil from my kitchen windowbox. i sunk my teeth into a peach, let the juice drip down and splatter in the sink.

i opened windows, welcomed in the cool night air. i pulled my summer nightgown from the drawer, didn’t mind that it had holes, was torn just beneath the part where lace meets buttons. i love that old lacy thing, have held it back together with broad white satin ribbons, stitched and re-stitched it, but will not throw it out. nothing says summer’s eve quite like that old white cotton gown, now more ventilated than ever in its 20-some years.

i’ve a sweaty pitcher of pure clear water in the fridge. it’s rich with lemons by the slice and sprigs of mint, both leaving the barest essence of orchard and garden in my glass, and in my every gulp.

all over the house i’ve tucked old milk pitchers and creamers and itty-bitty glass bottles with pickings from the garden. it’s my friday act of benediction, renewing the vows of beauty from the climbing rose, the catmint, and just this week, the yarrow and hydrangea now in bloom.

but that’s just stage-set.

where summer settles best is in the soul. in the part of you that remembers not to worry for the moment. to soothe the long ragged edges. to breathe.

to savor all that summer allows: loose bedtimes, lack of homework, a world erupting full of scent and color. windows open. breakfast, lunch and dinner out of doors. farm bounty that begs no heat, no flame, just a shake of kosher salt and a hungry mouth is all.

did i mention the juicy drippy peach?

welcome summer, blessed summer, the season when, at best, we shed our worries and our cares. and we wrap ourselves in the weightless folds of these sacred slo-mo hours.

this week was big: my beloved “little sister” laura had a baby. on father’s day, bravo! my firstborn turned 17. bravo! my beloved mother-in-law came home from the hospital. bravo! and for so-called work i had to tromp through old historic gardens, lovely gardens, gardens in the rain. and gardens in the pure june sunlight. tis the week of summer solstice, mister sunshine at his utter highest. my hope for all of you is that somehow this week, and the one ahead, you find a moment to pull up a chair to the very best that summer offers, and you let it drip straight down your chin….

love at the grocery store

there were tears at the breakfast counter this morning. oh, not because the flakes got soggy. not because of bad news on the sports page.


it was the news that the big brother, the one who’s far away this week, won’t be home in time for tomorrow’s all-star game.

the little one, you see, is on the team. got voted there by the ones he slugs beside. the lineup of little stars who watch him leap and stretch and tumble, all in the name of making a TV-ready play.

the little one lives for games with balls. has far less patience when it comes to words and numbers. even less if there’s a pencil on the scene.

but give the boy a ball and he takes to it like he was born to make those muscles stretch, the synapses connect, the catching hand signaling the running leg at DSL speed.

i tell you, the kid is wired in ways that baffle me, his mother who could barely walk across a room without finding something there to trip on.

and the kid is utterly deflated that his all-star hero, his big towering eight-years-older brother, can’t be there in the bleachers.

he’d had hopes, he said, sniffling through his almost-tears, that his brother would be the one to call out his name, into the plug-in microphone, over the scratchy loudspeakers, as he approached the plate.

at the little ball park where the game is played, they go for schmaltz like that. good schmaltz, the best schmaltz; they play it up in pure old-fashioned ways.

glancing toward the breakfast bowl, once i saw the scrunched-up face, knew the tears were on the way, i did what any mama would: i dropped the spoon i’d just picked up, wrapped my arms around his shaky little shoulders, buried his soggy face into my fresh white t-shirt, gave no thought to the strawberry bits i would now be sporting in the bull’s eye of my belly.

i held him tight, and wished like anything i could rent a helicopter to get his brother home.

i tried talking so-called common sense, explained that no one knew, so long ago, that he’d be on the team, back when his brother made the summer plans, back when we penciled in the one short week away.

he blew his nose, the little one. slapped on sunscreen, shuffled off to camp. but as i drove him there i heard the sigh, asked, “what’s wrong?” he answered in two short syllables: his brother’s name.

i knew what that meant. i caught his face in the rear-view mirror. the boy was deeply sad, in one of those ways he’ll not soon forget. i can hear it now, 30 years away, the little one will rib his brother, remind him, how, when it mattered, he wasn’t there.

egad. dial ET, for emotional triage.

once i dropped him off at camp, i headed straight to the nearest first-aid station: the grocery store.

it’s often, at our house, the place to turn for makeshift reparations. end-of-a-long-week. half-birthday. any holiday from halloween to little easter. like a madwoman, i comb the shelves, find all sorts of bells and whistles to mark whatever is the moment. you’d be amazed what you find stocked at the all-purpose store. it’s where i spend my paycheck, with nary a second thought. long as it fits in a brown paper grocery bag, it’s hardly an indulgence. just a mama’s fix-it for whatever is the urgent need. and, besides, it’s open all night long, a convenience that’s downright essential when you’re someone who cooks up schemes at all hours of the night. and often on the fly.

i roamed the aisles, searched for all the balm and anti-sting cream that i could find. i started in the cereal aisle. found a limited-issue summer crunch, one with bats and balls to pour into your bowl. stumbled over to the streamer aisle, grabbed red and white and blue.

we’ll do it up, this all-star theme.

called the bread shop once back home (because i forgot to steer the car there), ordered up a loaf of cinnamon swirl, his breakfast favorite.

if i can’t bring on the brother, i can at least supply the band-aids.

it’s all we’re left with, sometimes.

too often.

and in the million other times a week when we flub it up, fall short, run out of steam, chase the little bugger back to bed (with nary a note of tenderness), well, we try and try again. most especially, when we think it counts.

we fill our grocery cart. we tuck away the treats. we scheme and hope.

we picture the little all-star, waking up to festooned room. sitting down to all-star slugger cereal, and swirls of cinnamon and sugar.

we’ll take pictures. tell stories. cheer our lungs out and our throats till they’re scratchy.

we’ll try to fill the stands with all the love we can muster.

and, yep, the seat beside me will be empty.

because sometimes all the wishing in the world won’t bring back the one you long to have there.

anyone else patch together a broken heart this week? what were the balms that worked for you?

of sandy toes and summer pangs…

consider the toes above the official portrait of the start of summer. full of sand, soaked in lake wash. the aftermath of a long hot afternoon romping on the beach nearby with at least two dozen romping boys, fueled by chips and twizzlers, at best a half a PBJ (and that, only after persistent mama pleading). oh, lord, what were we thinking?

i worked from home the other morn, so i could be there for the noisy school bell, the last one of the year, the one that sends the goosebumps down my spine, every time, every june.

the one that says, summer starts here. right now. this whole delicious minute.

when not a second yet’s been shaved, worn, wasted (as if a minute of time could ever be wasted).

when i’ve not yet heard the wail, “i’m bored. there’s nothing here to do.” (glory be to boredom, the birthing place of big ideas, if left to stew for long enough…)

you don’t hear that siren song on day one of summer. not for the first half hour anyway.

and, as always, i wanted to be there to soak it in, to watch that beaming face come bounding out the door, the weightless backpack flailing from my little one’s shoulders.

my little one…..a phrase i might just have to hang up for good, on the hook in the front closet, along with this year’s ratty backpack, along with the lunchbox he’s outgrown, the one with superman’s cape, flapping from behind, the one he’s had since first grade, but now hides if i forget to instead use the plain red square one, if i pack it with his PBJ, and god forbid a love note tucked inside.

it hit me wednesday morn. hit me harder than the fact that my older one is now a so-called “rising senior,” will soon be in his last year of high school.

somehow, that doesn’t make me wobble quite as much as the little one moving on, on his way to fourth grade, the oldest grade of kids at his little school, the starter school, the one where reading’s secrets are unlocked, the one where kids learn about lunch lines and recess bells, the one where mamas hover by the schoolhouse door and aren’t yet greeted by rolling eyeballs, cocked shoulders, the air of you-embarrass-me.

my so-called little one, come end of august, will be–at last/so soon–among the big kids, one of the lanky stretched-out ones the little kindergartners look up to, crane their necks to see above the waist, so seriously do they tower over brand new 5-year-olds trying to find their way, somehow, to the boys’ or girls’ bathrooms, or, wait, was it the nurse’s office they’re searching for?

my little one might be no more.

oh, sure he’ll by my littlest one forever and ever amen. but little by little, the little part is slipping away. he’ll hold hands still–but only if it’s pitch-black dark, and we hear rustling in the bushes. if i slip and call him sweetie anywhere in earshot of another human 8- or 9-year-old, i get the dagger glance. how dare you? the hazel-brown eyes ask, subject me to such humiliation?

but that’s not the whole point here.

the point, mostly, is summer. and how i am longing for the seasonal distinctions that tell me something’s changed, we’ve shed the weighty school year, we’ve slid into the carefree days.

and while i did notice how bedtime hasn’t been a worry these past two nights, and while right now i’ve two sleeping boys in rooms just above my head, i am longing for the kind of summer that i only remember.

i am longing for a summer where my little one needn’t be rushed out the door, and into a carpool, headed off to camp.

i’m longing for the days of old, when caramel-colored little boy legs, all scraped around the knees, with cotton boy-print pajama shorts, came traipsing down the stairs, into the kitchen, and sat down to the sports page and a bowl of cheerios. when there was a fort in progress out back. when once those boys wolfed down the last little O, they’d be back to where they left off the night before.

the boys who inhabit that picture show are not my own, they’re my brothers. and the construction site in that ever-looping frame was the thicket down by the fence, near the gulley. or across the creek in the woods.

i am longing for popsicles, made from kool-aid. or, considering the calendar, the fact that this is 21st-century frozen confection and kool-aid has been deemed 100% artificial and thus bankrupt, i suppose we’ll go with fruit juice, and berries floating down below, before the freezing comes.

i am longing for twilight suppers, lit by fireflies and dripping candles, inside the summer porch, where the breeze wafts through screens, and we take our time, because no one’s in a hurry.

because in summertime, there are no worries. or at least not the way i wish summer to be.

i am, as always, longing for long afternoons curled up in the shade with a book i can’t put down.

i am longing for a fat tomato, and the juice dribbling down my chin, splattering my t shirt, a red badge of summer honor.

i am longing for corn on the cob, each yellow bump type-set across the row bursting with the taste of sun and field and america’s heartland.

i am even longing for long hours to yank weeds from my garden, where the pushing and shoving among the roots and stems is getting out of hand. and the weeds seem to stand a chance of winning best-of-show.

and more than in the winter, spring or fall, i am wishing on a star that my typing job didn’t call me way downtown, so far away from all that summer wishes it could be.

maybe i should call in sick for all of summer.

this is less meander and more just scrapbook. a compendium of thinking from the week. but here’s where you come in….what’s on your list of summer longings, and how will you make dreams come true?

the hard past of day one, summer, was that i didn’t get to stay at the beach with all the other carefree mamas. i had to get back to the keyboard. i left my little one under someone else’s wings. and i need that camp carpool because–despite his protests–camp serves as summer childcare. drat.

finally, a plea for a prayer or three for my dear mother-in-law, a loyal chair reader, who has an appointment with a surgeon come monday, and we want to whisk her straight to bump-free recovery. sending love. of course.

long walks and talks that never end

the end of the long hard story that was junior year of almost college is that, well, it ends.

ends any hour now, actually.

already is gliding toward close, is pressure cloud lifting, is window for words.

words, for my sweet boy and i, are the long-tested glue that hold us, cement us, keep our hearts in connection.

that boy and i have spent long long hours, over the years, deep in the forest of words.

we’ve climbed down to the side of a brook, watched the light dapple through leaves. savored the joy, pure delight, the swapping of stories. we’ve hiked into the deep, plenty of times, marveled at the heft of the tree trunks, the length of the shadows, the sound of the silence except for our words. once or twice, we’ve found ourselves lost, at the end of a trail. or so it seemed, as we pushed back the brush, searched for the sliver of clearing that would show us the way.

i don’t remember when, really, the long talking started. i do remember a young boy, maybe four at the time, walking in circles, unspooling his thoughts as i stood there and listened. we lived in a house with a square kitchen island, and that was the mooring, it seemed, around which he strode and he thought.

i remember the stairs, the ones that rose as if floating on air, no backs and no sides, just up. or down, with precipitous drop. i remember sitting there, for hours on end, watching the slant of the sun as it fell on his face. i remember the tears. i remember the stories. i remember the questions.

i remember the nook in his room, the slant of the roof right over our heads. i remember the leaves of the trees, brushing up against glass. how his room was a perch. a loft for high thoughts. i remember playing with blocks and towering stories.

as far back as i can remember, the boy and i have lived with our hearts inside out. little to hide. no words not allowed.

i suppose i set out to be the sort of mother who always had the “open for business” sign on the door. and in our house, the telling of story, the landscape of heart, is most serious business.

junior year, though, got in the way.

oh, the stories we started to tell. but then, oops, we cut ourselves off. knew we couldn’t go round that bend. not with math books and junior themes, faulkner and fdr twiddling their thumbs, up on his desk.

so for the last couple of months, too often, we clamped it. tightened the lid of the jar, lest stories begin. lest we get lost on a miles-long hike back to the woods that we love, the woods of the words.

the one short jaunt we’ve allowed, on all of these nights of late-night study, is our walk in the dark. around the “big block,” we call it. a study break. a bedtime preamble, literally. for me that is. for him, there’ve been too many nights with no bed in sight, but that’s over now, almost.

he can sleep all he wants.

and we can talk all we want.

just last night we went for our walk. and when we got to the very last corner, the one that turns us toward home, he pointed left, away from our house, deeper toward story.

i indulged. we kept turning corners, away from our house, for a good extra half hour.

oh, there were stories to fill every step. right up to the end, right up to the stoop in front of the door.

and oh, it felt fine to be back in the business of endlessly tilling our hearts.

my sweet boy and all of his stories are back. the long year is over, is ended.

all i need now, for the summer ahead, is a thick pair of soles for miles and miles of story.

it is a blessing, i know, to march by the side of a boy of 16–nearly 17–who still finds reason to walk with his mama, talk to his mama. sometimes, in the dark, i take his elbow, to keep from tripping over cracks in the sidewalk. the top of my head comes just to his shoulders. we’re quite a walking pair, little mama and her towering lad. oh, what a gift to take on the darkness with a boy of long stride, and long story.
what’s your preferred mode for soaking up stories with the someones you love?