Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Campout People

Large rocks culled from the woods encircled the fire pit.  A neat stack of wood stood between two aspens.  My sister washed dinner dishes—enamel spatterware plates with matching mugs—in a tub of sudsy water.  Her husband tended the fire and listened to the Indians game playing on the portable radio.  A wheeled cooler held milk, eggs, cheese and sausage for their morning breakfast.  Thick sleeping bags were spread invitingly on the floor of a three-room tent, extra blankets at the ready.  My daughters and their cousins sat around the campfire, tiny fingers grasping sticks heavy with marshmallows.  I took the proffered chair—a log from an oak tree that had recently fallen—and accepted a mug of cold cider from my sister.
“Look at this,” Leslie said, showing Mom her grilled cheese maker.  “You just put the sandwich in there and toast it over the fire.” 
“You guys sure know how to camp,” Mom said admiringly.
“Yeah, I’m so glad you use the property,” Dad added. 
In the three years since my husband and I had built on my parents’ forty-acre farm, the idea of camping out in the woods had never crossed my mind.  Now, it suddenly did.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ptolemy’s Map

Part of my son’s homework today was to draw a map of his neighborhood.  Pencil tucked neatly behind his ear, he paraded up and down the sidewalks lugging a thick Williams Sonoma cookbook to serve as desk and a clean sheet of white copy paper.  At each driveway, he paused briefly to make a quick sketch of a house and to fill in the last name of the people who lived there.  The job finished, he returned home an hour later, proudly presenting me with his map.
I was so ashamed.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

A Toast to Starbucks

I saw a blip on Yahoo the other day about how to make the perfect piece of toast.  How stupid, I thought, not bothering to click on the link to read the article.  Are people today really that helpless that they need guidance on making toast?   And then I got into my car and drove to Starbucks to get myself a cup of coffee.
Last week, I went to a market specifically for raw milk.  I looked at the price.  “Too expensive,” I told my daughter.  And then we got into the car and drove to Starbucks to get ourselves a cup of coffee.
* * *
“Two large coffees,” I said, holding my hands wide apart, to indicate the size I wanted, putting an apologetic little smile on my face. 
I admit it: I know the Starbucks lingo.  But I pretend not to.  I have never ordered a tall, a grande, no, not even a venti.  I distance myself from the terms; pretend to be a foreigner.  I act as if I don’t really belong to the culture of Starbucks.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baseball Tryouts

Deep pot holes collect snowmelt. Crocuses, purple and yellow, spring up, lifting tiny, hopeful faces towards the sun. Hyacinths, daffodils too, reach tentative arms from the soil. For once, garage doors are thrown open wide. Kids ride by on bikes, scooters and skateboards. Colorful chalk drawings fill driveways. Starlings gather at the top of a leafless tree, chattering at the dogs on the sidewalk. Despite the chill in the air, a boy helps his father wash his truck, soapy water trailing down into the street. Released from winter’s icy grip, people emerge from their homes, pale and bleary-eyed and hopeful.  Eager for summer, they rake flower beds, spread fertilizer, cut away dead reminders of winter.
Across the street, hopeful ten year old boys try out for the baseball team: red bats…blue bats…black bats…silver…all with that unmistakable ping when they make contact with the ball, a sound as undeniably a harbinger of the season as the spring peepers that will sing me to sleep tonight. 
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Memories Lost

            “How about this one, Mommy?” 
I looked up from the clump of coreopsis I was weeding.  My eight year old hopped barefoot on the blacktop driveway.  Clutched against his chest was the vase I had inherited from my grandmother; cut blue glass bleeding into clear.  Almost certainly an antique. 
Every time I arranged flowers in that vase, I would run my thumb along the side, thinking that Grandma's hands had touched the exact same spot.  The vase held more than flowers.  It held my memories of my grandmother: The way she bought her first pair of jeans when she was in her fifties.  How she took her coffee with a cup and saucer.  The way she sang in the car after she and my grandfather had taken my sisters and me out to Ponderosa.
But who can resist the smile of a child, especially one’s own?  “OK.” I returned to my weeding. 
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Coming Clean

I lost myself in getting there.  The houses got smaller, dinger, closer together.  Cheap businesses sprang up between them like plastic flowers: A quick cash joint.  An adult video store.  A Laundromat.  An apartment building loomed.  Trash blew across the street from an overturned garbage can.  But still I pressed on, oh virtuous me.

A man stood at the entrance of the shelter, black hat on, gold stud jammed into his nostril.  He huddled in a thin jacket against the February wind, texting one-handed.  I wondered how he got the money for that phone; wondered how he could justify the monthly expense.

I’d put what the church had asked for—drinks for 40—in the plastic bin I usually reserved for grocery shopping.  Save the earth and all that.  The man watched me struggle to lift the bin from my trunk; watched me swear as the bin smashed my fingers.  I eyed him warily as I approached the door.

“Straight ahead.”  He nodded at my donation and opened the door.

I stepped inside and looked around.  “It’s for the…” 
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