Something to consider....

A dear friend, who's known me (ulp) more than a quarter of a century, wrote this after reading through this blog for the first time,

" Do you know what is interesting though - that occurred to me as I read them and thought of just seeing you - is how you seem more breezy, blunt, caring and also matter-of-fact in person - and then on these blogs - caring throughout but also much more contemplative, less assured, less edgy and more observer."

I have to think about this. This friend happens to be an extremely meticulous observer herself, so I have to really ponder this as truth, and figure out what it means....Anyone else who actually knows the real me, as opposed to the virtual one, I'd love to know what you think.


We interrupt the self-pitying navel gazing...

for a message from a neighbor.

Many, many afternoons after I pick up Dido from school, or, in the case of what we'll kindly call our summer "schedule", retrieve both kids from their two-day-per-week day camp, we stop on the way home at a place we call the General Store. It is not actually named General Store, and the lovely couple who run it are not actually named, as I tend to refer to them (mostly to clarify for the H, who can barely remember my name, let alone two names of two men he's only met once) General Store J----n and General Store H---. My children adore this place. It closes early most days, and we nearly race there (we would drive faster if I were not living in fear of speeding tickets in two states) to get there before closing time. Mostly, the kids like it because there, I let them choose snacks I typically ban: Doritos, crappy ice cream sandwiches, even an occasional soda. The store doesn't have a huge selection of healthy snacks (though they're adding some, as one of the guys proudly and sweetly pointed out to me the other week) and sometimes, I think a little junk food at the end of a long day is just fine. But I think the kids also like it because they feel a connection to it: it's near our home; the owners treat them with love and respect; they feel both empowered and safe there.

Yesterday, we got to the front door about 3 minutes after closing, but the guys were sitting up front apparently having a meeting and, as ever, graciously, sweetly accomodated us. Instead of sitting inside where the Babe could smear ice cream sandwich goo over every (just cleaned) surface, we moved to the front porch, where we were joined a few minutes later by an even-later, post-closing patron; he'd missed lunch and purchased some salads to down before heading off--wherever. His pickup was parked at a rakish angle to the front door--he too had raced in, hoping not to be disappointed.

He was probably in his fifties, and gracious about my kids racing back and forth on the porch as he tried to eat and relax. The kids were being pretty good, but arguing about sharing their treats, and highly resistant to my suggestion that they simply sit down. He watched me for a bit, as I attempted negotiation and occasionally sighed; he made a comment about his own daughters, now teenagers, and then said, very simply, "You know, don't you, how rich you are?"

Often, I forget. Thanks to the stranger from North Hillsdale for the reminder.

Part II

The sad truth is, like Her Bad Mother, I cannot write about the rest of the strangeness. Unlike Part I, the improbably story of finding unknown family here in the back woods, the rest of the strangeness was all bad, full of pain and hurt feelings and probably some much-needed personal growth, too, because they usually all travel together...but that doesn't mean it was good or kind or wished-for. I am, to use cryptic and uninteresting words, still processing it all.

Meanwhile, here at the ranch, uh, farm, I am having my first moments--now turned into days--of regret, indecision, and overt, teary sadness about our move. (Hey, I have some problems feelings my feelings, so maybe it just takes me a while? And maybe it's related to the emotional beat-down of last week? ) I'm not sorry, exactly, to have moved, but I have been feeling desperately lonely, completely inept, and downright woeful. Some of it, I think, is also about the turn in the weather: not just leaves are falling, but temperature, too, and it reminds me of short, dark, cold days to come. The breeze and the loamy smell of wet leaves that greet me on my morning walks this week are replacing the ethereal waft of ripening apples. I signed up for all this, of course, in moving here, but I fear it, too.


Strange Days, Indeed

First, something lovely. Every morning, almost, I walk Pasha the puppy and sometimes Tinker (our fourteen year old border collie mix old man dog) up our road for a while. We usually end up taking forty five minutes or so to walk a couple of miles, with plenty of time for sniffing (them) and waking up (me) on the way. Our road travels up hill (our house is already at 1100 or so feet, but the road rises more than that behind us,) past an enormous gentleman's farm owned by an amazing couple who have been so welcoming and kind to us that we sometimes pinch ourselves, past another old farmhouse with a beautiful Dutch-style barn, and finally starts downhill, changes abruptly from asphalt to dirt, and wanders through an enormous stretch of land still owned and farmed by a family that's been here for generations. Early in the morning, heir cows pasture far off the road, but you can hear them lowing, which always makes Pasha perk her ears.

One neighbor, on the paved section of School House Road (and indeed, the old school house is right across the street from us,) has a couple of old, feral apple trees in his yard; they seem to have been purposefully planted, like relics from an old orchard, but they stand alone near the driveway, with no other trees around. Another apple is improbably roadside, and I've been watching its fruit all summer. When I first noticed them, the apples were tiny, crab apple size, but they're now nearly big enough for eating and starting to color. Today, the dogs stopped right beneath the roadside tree, and I instantly knew why. As soon as I inhaled, my whole body filled with a lilting summer scent, so sweet and floral that it seemed impossible.

Continuing on, I found the first colored maple leaf fallen on the ground, and later today, when we were driving across Massachusetts for our very fun field trip to the Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Dido said, "Mom! Look! The first leaves are turning color." Not many, not yet, but he was right.


That's the good part, not the strange part. The strange part started with lots of breakage: plates, glasses, a silver baby cup mangled in the disposal, culminating in a collapsing shower door shattered all over the H and Dido in the bathroom (they're fine.) I've written before about how things breaking always indicates or presages a period of some kind of instability, and this one was no exception.

My mother arrived in the middle of it for a nice, if somewhat too harried visit. (When am I not too harried? I'd like to know.) We were all so happy to see her, delighted to share our amazing new home with her, thrilled that she seemed to soak in the place and all the characteristics of it that make us think she'd love living here. We had our usual arguments (they are, ever and always, exactly the same--why IS that? We'd both like to know.) but it was a good visit nonetheless. Her first night here, we had a dinner party with some friends we adore and thought she would, too. One of them grew up in the same town as my mom and dad, and is around the same age, so I knew my mom would enjoy either reminiscing or dishing, depending upon how she related to L (our friend.)

Within moments of L's arrival, a bomb fell. Her aunt was my father's stepmother. We are, in some strange way, cousins. This is odd and coincidental, of course, but also thrilling. There is so much I don't know or don't remember about my dad (who died when I was seventeen, for those who don't know) and I have had dropped in my lap someone I really enjoy who knew him as a young man. I am still reeling from this news. L was very close to her first cousin, my dad's stepsister, who died when I was quite young. I don't even know how to write about this because it feels, as my mother said, like something you would scoff at in disbelief if it happened in a novel.

Stay tuned for Part II.



Sunday was a glorious day--beautiful weather, cool and clear, perfect for exploration and meandering, and, apparently, for a foul storm of moodiness for the H. The kids and I cleared out and left him to stew and work until he felt better, or at least, companionable.

We went to a local farm where the Babe got to feed a baby goat with a baby bottle, no less, and let's just say that I think we'll be going back. The place had a taco stand, and an ice cream shop, not to mention fresh produce for sale, so it was a monster hit for each of us.

Upon returning home, the H's clouds were still a little black, but we hung out outside together on the new swing set and made do. Pasha the Puppy (now nearly as big as our old dog, Tinker) was tethered on a long lead to prevent her from chasing the cat into the woods (their favorite joint activity.) The H decided she wouldn't run off (sometimes, it's true, she doesn't) and let her off lead. He went inside to get a glass of wine, while I watched her....chase the cat into the woods. I followed them a bit up the grassy bank that leads up the hill from our house to the edge of the (dense, as yet unexplored by us due to fear of deer ticks) forest. I stopped at the brush lining the larger trees, distracted by a wild blackberry bush--I picked one and it was unbelievably sweet. I wanted to share these with my family--started picking to find four perfect ones (not many were yet ripe) when I felt something prick my sandal-clad foot. I looked down to see my right foot aswarm with yellowjackets.

"Stung! Stung!" was the only thing I could say as I ran screaming down the bank, slipping and sliding and kicking off my sandal as I fell. I ran in the back door to the kitchen, clutched the counter and screamed some more. (As someone who's experienced the pain of unmedicated labor--at least for a little while--and a herniated disc, I can say with authority, this was worse.) My poor kids started to cry as I grabbed for the baking soda and a large steel bowl, poured some soda in, mixed some water and plunged my foot in. Dido got some ice for me and we added that, too, as the whole family looked on in horror. As I stood there, now whimpering, I felt something scratching my leg, inside my jeans. I haven't disrobed that fast since reuniting with my college boyfriend after a two week separation. The stalking wasp flew around the kitchen for a bit, prompting the H to chase it wildly with a flyswatter (thanks) while I continued to ice and soak.

I got off light, considering I stepped directly into a ground nest--only four stings, three on my foot, one on my leg. They hurt, a lot, for about 24 hours, and now just itch. I will never go near our woods without muck boots again.

Welcome to the country, sucka.