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And a dreamy new year

1 Jan

We spent the final days of 2011 on the farm in Tennessee with frost covering the ground each morning and a fire in the stove each night. Four baby goats were born in the week that we were there. Two survived. The neighbor shot a doe in the field across the road and gave it to us for nothing in return. Each day we took walks with the dogs and a fat cat named Ellington who thinks he too must be a dog. On one hike up to the spring we found frogs living in it. As in, the water we drink. We left them there and were later chastised for not cleaning them out when we had the chance – how were a couple of thirty-somethings from LA supposed to know?

When we ventured out it was to visit the local pig farm or the Tractor Supply Company. These were funny moments for me, lounging on the bench seat of our souped up Crown Victoria. Yep, we rented a cop car. Anxious as the thing made me, it ate up the country road, rolling along beside great expanses of farmland with perfect ease. In the end I got close to even liking the thing.

After the boys were in bed each night we took to gin and tonic and a game of hearts. Each time we played later into the night, stopping when our scores had reached the bottom of the page. And on New Year’s Eve we drank champagne out of pilsner glasses and played well into 2012.

What I’ve been thinking about for the last few days is how all of this time, with its space for breathing and naps and sitting around the table, has got to stand for something really fantastic in our lives. Mostly I’ve been turning my wheels about how to convey it in the least schmaltzy of ways. I’ve come to the conclusion this may not be possible, and I’m writing it anyway.

Within our seven sleepy days in Tennessee we witnessed a microcosm of experiences so appropriate for the turning of the year. The precious cycle of life our children observed in the birth and passing of animals on the farm, the definite union between all of us and the vivid forest landscape, the modest pace of living that swallows you up and slows you down. These are the hopes that I hold for my family all year long, and work to preserve in the shelter of our household. Spending the final days of 2011 in the arms of such a place has set the tone for the year to come. Each time we arrive here, on my aunt’s farm, we know that we will bring a piece of this home. And lucky for 2012, we’ve done it again.

This season’s promise

3 Oct

Driving down Pacific Coast Highway last weekend I found myself staring out of the passenger side window at the countless storefronts lining the street. Each tiny shop window gleamed with promise of the possibility held between its walls. I felt an anticipatory sort of excitement as I considered the treasures, the beauty, the art that waited just behind their doors, and wondered whether anyone had ever driven this same road and experienced a similar attraction to the curious unknown hidden just out of reach. At that moment the world seemed full of possibility, of unnamed potential, and I held the key to imagining the limitless bounds of it all.

This, I thought to myself, is one moment that I will strive to remember. Not for the sake of returning to this place someday, not to purchase the fabulous vintage sofa on display, but rather because for one fleeting second I felt as if I were seeing the world as if through the starry eyes of my children.

Our earliest years of life are so blissfully perceived through the rosy lens of the imagination, and with Halloween fast approaching I am reminded daily of this fact. On this one singular day we allow ourselves the pleasure of transforming into the stuff of our dreams, into the realm our wildest imaginings. Astronaut, police officer, scuba diver – these were some of the popular choices in our household this year until my boys settled upon vampire and werewolf.

Which now makes me wonder – when did I stop believing? Believing in the impossible, the unrealistic, the not-for-sures? While I entertain a far many more what-if’s than my sweet reasonable husband, it is true that with age I have pulled closed the door of imagination so it’s now just a crack of streaming light that gets through. Only during moments of playtime, of daydream, of restless ambrosial hour sleep, does the imagined come alive for me again. And it’s heartbreaking, in a way, since I know that so relatively few years ago it was the five year old me who worked voraciously to complete the unending daily tasks of a superhero, princess, and veterinarian.

So this year I am recommitting myself – not to the psych ward, thank-you – but rather to the suspension of disbelief, to the simple acquiescence to all that is possible in this world and in others. This year, I promise, I will believe in promise itself. And I hope that you will too, with each and every storefront that rushes in a blur outside your window.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

Anticipating September

14 Sep

Amidst the lingering daylight of long summer evenings, week long vacations, weekend getaways, swim lessons, art camp, and summer school, I find myself anticipating with joy the month of September for one solitary reason…school supplies!

My heart flutters an extra beat at the thought of browsing aisles filled with crisp cool sheets of lined paper, nostalgic rows of peechee folders, and empty binders just waiting to be filled with fresh lessons, learning, and knowledge.

There’s a scene from my favorite movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, that always floats about in my mind at this time of year. Tom Hanks writes in an e-mail to autumn-loving Meg Ryan that he would “buy her a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils”, if only he knew where she lived. What a perfectly novel idea for a gal like me. My husband did this twice, the first time with a dozen tan Ticonderoga lead pencils wrapped in a yellow ribbon, and the second time with Prang colored pencils staked into the soil of some potted daffodils like a happy little rainbow picket fence.

I suppose this must bear witness to the fact that I am, at heart, ever the eager student. Stepping into the role of MPA president this year, I was blessed with the gift of re-organizing the volumes of paperwork accumulated by the last president over her glowing three year tenure. I have no doubt that those of you who don’t know me suppose that I’m speaking sarcastically here. But you would be wrong. I really, truly enjoyed the eight careful hours that it took to sort, stack, collate and staple the tangible evidence of so many people’s cumulative hard work. I reveled in hole punching each sheet and filing it behind the appropriately labeled index tab. It was an honor to be trusted with such precious records. And they are. Precious, that is. To me and so many others.

Because what this weathered hand-me-down filing box packed full of paper, notes, and numbers is proof of is that one thing which we all, as parents, hold in common: our deepest, most innate and immeasurable love for our children. The work of so many volunteers, so many hours, and for what? For the sake of our children. It is a remarkable myriad of parental talents that brought these volumes to rest here, beside my desk, therein affording me the opportunity to step, once again, into my favorite role: student. A student buying school supplies.

I hope that there are at least a few of you out there who can identify with this joy, albeit a bit odd. There is one thing that I can guarantee, however. If you watch the faces of your children as you accompany them into the air-conditioned bliss of your local office supply store this fall, I’ll bet that through the giddy grin on your child’s face the kindergartener within you will recognize her own. In the case of my family, I venture to bet that my smile might still be the brightest of the bunch come September.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

Between liftoff and landing

7 Jul

I’m in the air right now, somewhere between Nashville and Detroit, where we will connect to our final destination, Los Angeles. Home. And I’m wondering whether any of the other thousands of people aboard hundreds of airplanes around the world might possibly be experiencing the same sort of tiny miracle that I am at this very moment.

Aboard the smallest and saddest Delta aircraft that I have ever set foot on, I sit in row 7 of 12, sandwiched with my husband between our two boys. Angels, it now seems to me, holding us aloft in this great billowing atmosphere.

Moments ago we sat glued by gravity to the tarmac, glued by longing for the farm, our hearts glued indelibly to the memories we’d made here. As our old plane reluctantly picked up speed, we waved Tennessee goodbye and were lifted into the blinding white of a cloud. Our faded aircraft creaked and shook with age or uncertainty while I, myself a bit dubious, cheered silently “I think you can, I think you can, I think you can.” White gave way to blue, and rocking turbulence settled into the peaceful stillness of five hundred miles per hour.

As I released the white knuckled grip on my son to peer out the window, a gasp pushed it’s way from my lungs and I heard myself say to him, “Look son, it’s heaven!” And he agreed.

Heaping scoops of white piled upon white floated effortlessly outside our tiny window. We looked down upon the glorious seams of silver that lined each wooly pile, kissed purple, pink and blue like the tinted quaffs of sweet old grandmas.

As I looked to the right at my husband and youngest son, and to the left at my five year old gazing with wonder out of the window, I breathed in the magic of the moment and, as mothers are prone to do, told myself never to forget this moment.

To use a quote from my husband on the 4th of July (because I just can’t imagine a better way to say it myself), I have the feeling that “right now there is nothing wrong in the world.” Flanked by all of my angels, still tacky from the humid summer air, there is a knowing – a deep and undeniable certainty – that this is exactly the feeling that I had hoped we would bring home with us.

Because sometimes, leaving a piece of yourself behind is just the thing you need to remind you that home is exactly where you are.

On Tennessee time

2 Jul

A friend sent me a book in the mail a couple of months ago that I’ve been waiting for the right moment to crack. 12 hours after settling in on my Aunt Renee’s Tennessee farm, where life is slower and days are longer, I parted the pages of “29 Gifts” by Cami Walker and began to read. And cry. And read and cry some more. I cried in gratitude for the gifts that are here and easy to see. And those gifts that, maybe, take a bit more insight to recognize.

Rewind 48 hours to Tuesday morning. 5:15 alarm. Boys up and to the airport by 6:30. Through security by 7:30. Coffee and breakfast burritos done by 8. Arrive at the gate at 8:02. Gate closed, flight missed, dreams of smooth travel dashed. I can’t say exactly what it was that lifted all consciousness of time from our minds that morning. Maybe in spirit we had already arrived on the farm. Maybe we were meant to explore the wonders of LAX that day through the eyes of our boys and drink milkshakes at 9 am (yep, we did). Maybe that plane held moments that were not meant for us.

Whatever the reason, there is one thing I do know for certain. What is meant to be will be. That day I was meant to longingly watch our plane fly away without us. I was meant to sit on the carpet drawing crayon stick figures with the boys. Our noses were always meant to press up against the greenhouse of airport windows as precious bundles of luggage made their way onto plane after plane. I was always and forever meant to snuggle my little ones as we finally lifted off eight hours later than planned.

After a few begrudging hours, it was clear to see that all of these moments were, in fact, part of our greater adventure. Gifts, if you will, that had arrived unsolicited, but were received with gratitude in time.

Today I offer as my gift a reverie of thanks for those who have steered this farm adventure into the annals of family history. Because, really, this is one not to be forgotten; for reasons both sweet and sweeter.

I thank-you, Michelle, for giving me the gift of this book. Thank-you, Aunt Renee, for giving me peace and the farm, white linens and mason jars. Thank-you, my boys, for filling those jars with lightning bugs, and my heart with light every day. Thank-you, Kevin, for being the man that makes us all so safe, all the time. Thank-you ,Tennessee, for your patience and calm. And, thank-you, missed plane, for reminding me that bliss can be found in every step and misstep.