I see that the temperature is supposed to go down into the forties tonight. This morning, I threw open the windows to chase away the heat and the humidity that has hovered in the air since May. The flies appear to have been listening to the weather forecast: A group of them has taken up residence in the kitchen and I find it fair sport to chase them with a dishtowel. It’s a battle I often lose.
A couple of days after I lost the War of Tug
with Destructo, my eye started flashing—a quick burst of lightning that disappeared immediately.
The flashing began on an inconvenient day: the day of Filibuster’s photo preview: The studio owner greeted us warmly at the door and seated us upon a plush velvet couch before a gigantic movie screen.
She dimmed the lights.
My eye flashed.
There was a projector connected to a laptop. Amid sentimental music, Filibuster appeared, here sitting on a bench; there, leaning on a gate, a gorgeous perennial bed serving as backdrop.
From out of nowhere a cat leapt upon my lap and began kneading my stomach like it was pizza dough.
“Is he bothering you?” The owner inquired.
My eye flashed. “No.” I extracted a claw from my stomach and patted the cat warily.
It was a long show. Eighty-eight pictures that we had to tediously compare side by side, considering each smile; each expression; each freckle. I wiped my eye.
“Mom,” Filibuster hissed, when the owner stepped out of the room for a moment. “Are you crying?”
“No! My eye’s watering.”
My eye flashed again. “Dunno. Maybe I have your cold.”
When the show ended and the lights came back on, we placed our order—the cheapest package in only one pose. “Will that be all?” She blinked disappointed eyes from behind her glasses.
We returned to the car and I called the eye doctor. I was told to come in immediately.
* * *
The doctor snickered when I told him about my War of Tug. He dilated my eyes; he took pictures of my retinas. He shone light after light after light into my eyes. “Look towards the ceiling. Toward the wall,” he pointed. “Now to the floor. Other wall.”
“It looks OK,” he said, handing me a card for the retina doctor. “But watch it. If the flashing worsens, call the specialist immediately.”
This storm in my eye has continued for three weeks: A sudden flash of lightning; unemotional tears gathering at the corner. “I think I’ll follow up with the doctor,” I told my husband yesterday. “Try to get in this weekend, just in case.”
“You need to come in immediately,” I was told when I called.
“No. Really. I just want to have a follow up,” I said. “I’m sure it’s fine.” The flashing hadn’t worsened, after all. It just hadn’t gone away.
“I can’t. I’ve got…” I had to get Filibuster to school for a night class. I had to get to my writing group.
“You’ve got to get in here. Today.”
My confidence waned. I pictured the fluid in my eye slowly seeping away; pictured my eyeball flopping out of its socket; pictured sudden blackness.
I cancelled my writing group and arranged for my husband to take Filibuster to school. I drove to the office, panicked, mentally preparing myself for retinal surgery, during which, I gathered, the specialist would shoot the equivalent of a hot glue gun towards my eye to tack inside everything back together.
More drops. More dilation. More lights. “It’s still OK,” the doctor said again. “You have a floater that’s trying to detach. Look here.” He flipped on the lights and pointed to a diagram of the interior of an eye. Looking at it, I felt sickish; The backs of my knees pulled, the way they used to when one of my kids got badly hurt. “Every time that floater pulls, you see the flash.” He muttered some scientific name for the condition. “I’ll write it down. You can look it up on the web.”
“That’s OK,” I said, my stomach twisting. “I’ll take your word for it.”
“Once it detaches, the flashing will end. You still have the specialist’s card?”
* * *
This afternoon, Squints and I went to the farm for our weekly pickup. We weighed potatoes and tomatoes; eggplant and green peppers. We loaded our bin with dandelion greens, eggplant, lettuce and garlic. Squints went to the You Pick board. He read aloud: “Two quarts green beans… a pint of okra… a pint of cherry tomatoes… hot peppers…shoot!”
“We have to pick soybeans.”
Ever since soybeans have gained popularity, people have taken to calling them endamame. But call it what you will, a soybean is a soybean and a body can take only so many of them before it wants something more interesting to munch on. “How much?”
“That’ll be the last of them,” I said hopefully: Picking two quarts of soybeans takes time.
“I hate this,” Squints said. He began picking at the end of the row.
I headed further down. The beans were starting to thin and lose their leaves. A ladybug perched on a curled leaf. A cricket sang sweetly, pausing whenever I spoke to Squints, resuming a few moments later.
“This is boring,” Squints sang under his breath.
I spotted a muddied pair of bifocals on the ground. I picked them up and laughed at the reminder of yesterday’s eye appointment.
“V and Filibuster get out of everything.”
Again, I saw something on the ground: There was a bottle there; a bottle with yellow marks on it. I leaned in further. Something was going into the neck of the bottle. It was a…“Hey Squints! There’s a turtle here! As big as my hand!”
Squints ran down the aisle towards me. “Where? Where?” I noticed there were only a handful of soybeans in his container.
I pointed. “Right there.” His neck stretched from his shell; it pulled and pulled towards the soybeans, reminding me of the floater pulling upon my eye.
“Cool! Is it a snapping turtle?”
“I don’t think so. We should move it,” I said. “They’re going to plow these soybeans under soon.”
“How we gonna’ move him, Mom?”
“Scoop it up in one of these quart containers.”
From the green beans, a woman overheard us. “Do you know what a snapper looks like? This area is known for snapping turtles.”
Not exactly. Growing up, I watched an ancient snapping turtle emerge every year from the Cuyahoga River to lay her eggs on the banks of a nearby pond. That turtle was large enough for a child to sit upon. This one was tiny, in comparison. Even if it was a snapper, what harm could it do? “I don’t think it’s a snapper. But if you hear us holler, you’ll know.”
She laughed. “I’ll call 911 if you lose a finger.”
My confidence faltered.
“Squints, we should put a long green bean in front of the turtle. See if it snaps at it.”
“OK, Mom.” He handed me a bean. “You do it.”
I took the bean; lowered it slowly before the turtle’s mouth. I backed up a little. Lowered the bean a little. Backed up a little more. I was certain the woman was watching.
Squints squinted and leaned forward, hands on knees. “He’ll pulling inside his shell, Mom! He’s scared! Get him!”
I felt the woman’s eyes upon my back; pictured her hand upon her cell phone. “Maybe we should just tell the farmers?”
“Come on, Mom. Here.” Squints lowered a soybean branch before the turtle; He refused to emerge.
In one swift motion, I flipped the turtle over and scooped him up, capping his transport neatly with a second quart container.
We showed that turtle all around the field; introducing him—and ourselves—to complete strangers before releasing him at the pond.
On the way home, we stopped at a farmer’s market where, for fifteen dollars, I bought a box of tomato seconds to make into spaghetti sauce.
And as I gathered basil from my garden to stir into my sauce, I noticed that the strawberries haven’t yet gotten straight on the weather: Five green berries waited hopefully upon the vine.
As I returned to the kitchen, the gusting wind threatened to blow out the flame beneath my pots of spaghetti sauce. I closed the windows and turned the sauce to low.
And I find tonight that I’m thankful for dimpled tomatoes and my sad, flashing eye; I’m thankful for cool weather and the promise of spring; I’m thankful for the surprise of a turtle among soybeans. And I’m especially thankful for the blankets that will warm me this night.
Labels: Boys, Buying Locally, Community, Consumption, Country life, CSA, Daughters, Environmentalism, Family, Farms, Gardening, Nature, Ohio, Raising Children