In the house where I grew up there was a large, walk-in closet at the top of the stairs. The closet might have been a tiny second-floor bedroom at one time, when the house was new and lodged more people. As a kid, I spent lots of time there, behind a curtain of dresses and winter coats, lounging on an old, quilt-covered trunk and reading. I read “Ballet Shoes” and “Anne of Green Gables” and later “Winesburg, Ohio” and “Walden,” while I fought off the static pieces of silver tinsel that escaped from the stored boxes of Christmas decorations. Read more
Winter boredom reached a crescendo in my house when my kids started playing tennis in the living room. You know it has been a long winter when the kids start practicing swings indoors and bouncing balls off the wall. My son walks restlessly from room to room cradling his new racket as if it were a teddy bear. He is impatient for the start of the school’s spring tennis season. Read more
“That’s not a word.” It seems that I am always saying this to my kids, in disapproving tones.
Most often it is because they are mispronouncing something. Then I tell them: we are not entitled to pronounce words incorrectly just because we think it sounds better. This is the argument that my son, with his musical ear, likes to try. The main idea, I reply, is to talk so people understand what you’re telling them. Read more
I’ve hung the new, 2015 calendars in all our rooms. Each one has a different theme and set of glossy photos. There’s the one with shots of wildlife and another with glorious beachfronts. Then there’s the one with cartoons from The New Yorker. Each one tracking the days, telling us the next saint’s day, or school vacation, or phase of the moon.
And, I have already dutifully scrawled on the times for the next doctors’ appointments and piano lessons. Counting the days…. Read more
We had a Christmas tree all picked out in August. A perfect little white pine conveniently located on the incline of the road bank on the old farm. There would be no trudging through snow or thicket this year, I thought. No need to resort to the Boy Scout tree sale down at the gas station in Hancock. None of the contortions that are required to bungee cord a prickly spruce into the trunk of my Honda Civic.
Of all this I was certain until a few weeks ago, when a tree trimming service, the hire of the electric company, cut our tree down. Read more
I wasn’t looking to return to my past life (always a risky enterprise) when we went to my daughter, Lily’s, Junior High All-State choral concert. But it was inevitable when the music festival was held at the high school in Cortland, NY—the town where I went to college in the mid ‘80s.
I hadn’t been back to the college or town (which I had never realized is actually classified as a city) since graduating in 1989, choosing to cruise past on I-81 when travelling upstate. Read more
I keep fumbling around, feeling for the car keys in my pockets and then I remember: they are in my son’s pocket. For a moment I have forgotten I have given them to him and that he is going to drive me home.
Sam, at 16, is now officially my chauffeur since getting his driver’s permit last week. And I am joining the ranks of white-knuckled parents everywhere with the surefire feeling that there should be a brake installed on the car’s passenger side. Not that Sam is doing badly—I’m sure he will become a better driver than I am—it’s just his quick turns that make me brace my whole body. Read more
We are suspended between summer and fall—in the gold and green pause—just a few seconds before autumn begins.
My friend’s son asks: “Would you rather have a million dollars or be able to see one spectacular thing every week for the rest of your life?”In the game of “Would you rather…” what does the word spectacular mean to a teenager? What does spectacular mean to you? And just what does spectacular mean to me? Read more
It has been a summer of pests.
In June, I inaugurated the season by contracting Lyme disease. I suspect this occurred on a seemingly innocent walk to check out the beaver lodge under construction at a nearby pond. It was my good luck, however, to discover the deer tick rooted in my leg. I yanked it out but not soon enough; I developed the telling “bulls-eye rash” of tick- borne Lyme disease a week later. Read more
Few things captured my childhood imagination more than rocks. I spent hours searching the roadsides for quartz pebbles. I collected ripple marks and treasured the small, imperfect fossils I found on the railroad tracks. I saved the pieces of coal I found in the path of the town plow. But best of all were the large, exotic boulders in the pastures and woods where we hiked and played. Read more