Friday, July 25, 2014

Kids and Birthdays and Memories and Life . . . You know, your basic Kitchen Sink!

I've been slammed by a hit of depression this week, but I'm hoping I've put most of it behind me. I do wonder how much hormones have to do with these swampy patches. Solidly past menopause, I nonetheless suspect one last whip of its scorpion tail -- anyone else experience this? Really hoping I move on from this stage soon -- you know, to that phase that's always just around the corner, the place of contentment, satisfied achievement, happy competence, etc. etc. . . . Long, long ago, the early or mid-70s, I suspect,my girlfriend and I watched one of those made-for-TV movies, this one about a group of women friends who, beginning in their 20s, would meet for lunch, long intense conversations catching up on their lives, and at some point in each visit, would repeat a variant of the phrase "When we're 30, we're going to be. . . "; "When we're 40, we'll know what we . . . " ;"When we're 50, we'll be settled with. . . ".  She and I used to paraphrase over the years, laughing wryly, and both of us have long ago recognized that there's no point assuming that "When we're 70, we' l l. . . ."

One can hope, though, no?

Meanwhile, it's Birthday Time in our family, and I have much to be Happy about. Our oldest (daughter) and our youngest (son) share the same birthday, as I've mentioned here before. Coincidentally, we've had reason to peruse and edit both their resumés over the last few weeks, and it's been an odd and gratifying experience. So accomplished, such a wealth of experience, and above all, so Adult! I remember their original birthdays so well. . .

And I have two little anecdotes to share, one relating to each of them.

First, my daughter. She texted me a few days ago about arrangements for this weekend's visit --she's dropping off our granddaughter who we'll have to ourselves for a week, after we have the weekend with Little Girl and her Mom. I texted back, wondering if Daughter had her childhood copy of Charlotte's Web because I thought I'd like to read it to Nola, who's coming up to 6, this fall. B texted back that they'd already read CW, but perhaps she could bring Book 2 of the Narnia series, as they were just finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

If I agree to this selection, it will be the 3rd, 4th, perhaps even 5th time, that I've read the book (Prince Caspian) aloud, given that I read the series first to my younger siblings decades ago, and then to my own children as they were ready.Whichever title I end up reading next week, I couldn't be happier that I'm reading to a 5-year old granddaughter for whom it will be (at least) the third chapter book she's listened to. I had somehow imagined that Nana would be the first to read a children's novel to her, but I'm not in the least disappointed to have missed out on that. Rather, I'm thrilled to learn that my daughter's already picked up the torch.

Nola loves to sit with a video on Netflix or Youtube while her Dad or Mom makes dinner at the end of a day. She's keen to find out what games we have loaded on our phones or iPads (Nana and Granddad are pretty sad prospects here, I have to say). And her immediate career goal is to be a Pop Star, driven by steady attention to tunes coming from any media possible, with or without video enhancement.

But she's also reading, and she loves to be read to. She can picture a story in her own mind, no external imagery required. She can contend with a vocabulary that is more complex, (and more arcane, as well, in the case of the Narnia books) that what she normally hears in an everyday environment -- indeed, she loves adding new words to her lexicon, "awkward" being one she was peppering into sentences while we were in Italy.

This makes me happier, really, than I can tell. It puts this little one in a long line of young readers and listeners, and my mother, Nola's Granny, would have been so pleased to know how her love of books has carried on. So it might be my daughter's birthday today, but she's the one who's given the gift, the one that keeps on giving. . . .

Second, my son. He may have forgotten the conversation between front seat and back seat on the long drive from Bari to Peschici last month. I almost had, myself, until this lovely piece that Lisa re-posted recently from her archives reminded me. Like hers, my all-grown once-upon-a-time-baby boy showed me that what we do as moms/parents does get appreciated and remembered (we might know this, at some level, but having it articulated when least expected -- aaaahhhhh).

On that drive, I'd let my son sit in the front with his dad, not only in deference to his longer legs, but also because Pater, no more tech-savvy than myself, had rented a car without GPS, and Z had an iPhone with a huge data plan and a chatty Siri. Never mind that chatty Siri neglected to point out that the "scenic route" we chose instead of the default, more direct trajectory was currently under construction, heavily potholed and so narrow that reversing would be regularly required to accommodate oncoming traffic. That just gave us more time to catch up after weeks apart, myself and my daughter-in-law talking wine estates and food and Italian culture in the back seat, the guys talking the same plus basketball and World Cup soccer and why Pater should get with the iWorldofTechnology in the front.

The conversations often overlapped, of course, and then I'd have to lean forward (my hearing aids were lost before the trip, you might remember), and Z would have to crane his neck 'round to aim his words to the back seat. Somehow, at one point,something in my conversation with DIL reminded me of Z as a boy, and I raised my voice to catch his attention, reminding him of the way he would know, as young as 4 or 5, exactly which pair of shoes he wanted to go home with.

It was a bit of a ritual back then, the new shoe buying. Even though he was our fourth, and I'd relaxed in so many areas, I was all about having proper shoes, properly fitted, and there was a particular, dedicated kids' shoe store that we always went to. Z would walk with me to the section of wall that displayed the offerings in his size, and he'd spot them. And once he'd identified the Holy Grail shoe for the season, he could not be dissuaded, and I quickly learned not even to try. He was always very co-operative about making the choice from within the established parameters (he wouldn't, for example, fall for a sandal if he knew we were shopping for a high-top sneaker), but once his affections were engaged, he wouldn't shift. (His older sister, on the other hand, even through her teens, could be counted on to return a pair of jeans she'd sworn undying love for -- almost every single time, within a day or two.)

Z had been reminded of this propensity before, but he indulged my retelling. And then he went one better. On one occasion, he reminded me, he had been torn. As usual, within minutes of getting to the store, he'd known which pair best suited our guidelines and his personal aesthetics. But this time, there was an outlier, a rival for his affections. He could see right away that they weren't quite as practical -- besides the teacher-required leave-at-school gym shoe, and the rainboots that somehow got left in the closet almost as much as they got worn, his pricey leather runners or court shoes, whether high-top or low, were his only everyday shoes. With four kids, that was what the budget stretched to, especially given how often they had to be replaced for fast-growing feet.

He got all this, and he was always a pretty thoughtful guy, but he was struggling a bit before he definitively made "the right choice," and put the perhaps trendier pair down, followed me and the sales clerk to the cash register. And there must have been something in that quiet struggle that made me shrug away the budget and take home two pairs of shoes, for the first time (and, I'm quite sure, last; it was a precedent worth quickly negating).

In the car last month, he wasn't remembering all the lead-up, of course. That came back to me, from a mom's perspective. What he remembered was getting home, going straight to his room with his new shoes, lacing them on and, with the door shut against discovery, jumping on the bed to air out his exultation. His hearty late-twenties chuckles as he recounted that bed-jumping told me how fresh the memory was, how important my long-ago decision was.

 And again, another gift that keeps on giving. It was always an effort, back in those busy days, to find time to take one child out on his own, but I worked at engineering that special shoe-shopping date, among others, with my boy. I remember the quick calculation that went on as I walked the few steps to that cash register, and I know that something got left off that month's list to make room for a second pair of shoes. So it's beyond gratifying to know that these moments, a mother's small actions, have happy reverberations two decades later. And that her adult son would share those generously, rounding the circle.

As Lisa says of child-rearing in her eloquent post,   It’s not just that you can’t tell if you are doing it right, it’s that you don’t get to say what any indicators that you are doing it right might look like. So it's wonderfully satisfying and reassuring and absolutely, astonishingly happy-making to know that I must have done something right because Look! Look what I helped make!

Happy Birthday, B and Z! Love you, Miss you, Very, very Proud. Have a wonderful day -- maybe even jump on a bed (this time, one I didn't pay for!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Doors of Peschici

You'll have noticed that I'm trying to bring my blog back home, so that some of last week's Five Things Friday were pictures of how the garden is doing after its month of neglect, and of a throw I finally finished knitting. And I posted on Monday about a twilight date with Pater riding through Vancouver on our new bikes. But I still have so many photos to share, thoughts to organize, and tales to tell about our month. My plan is to continue to intersperse these travel posts with posts that write (from) home. Hope that suits. . . .

Throughout the Centro Storico (the old city, the historic centre), in which we were staying, marvelous old, heavy doors guarded the entrances to the whitewashed stone houses of Peschici. Once again, imagine a very patient Pater waiting just down the narrow cobbled road, while I wield my camera. . . .
 What you can see most clearly in the blue door of the collage (top of the page) is that many of the doors in Peschici feature a tripartite organization, so that the inhabitants could, presumably, check out their visitor without having to open right up. Or simply receive a delivery without letting in too much heat or cold or rain. Clever.
 Yes, some of my offspring react oddly to the camera. Thank you, son. . .

 This ancient, simple efficiency testifies to a lifestyle,  speaks volumes, the tree from which its wood was once hewn still so visible, the roughness of the tools equally obvious. Someone has gifted it with a coat of red paint once, long ago, but now it bears only a fleeting memory of that brush. . . I find it very moving, somehow.
 And this . . .

 And this

Back at home, after one too many raccoon explored its possible way over our threshhold, the door left open in the summer heat, Pater is on the hunt for screen doors. Meanwhile, my daughter's clever partner made one himself, knocking together a simple, efficient, and decent-looking model in a few hours. That simple efficiency and the fact that he used wood for his frame connect that door to these, for me at least. Again, Here and There, Then and Now. . .

Yoga today, a run, some work on my course outlines for Fall term, some knitting (really would like to have a baby blanket finished before Grandchild #3 arrives), reading, just a few items on today's list. What are you up to? Thought about doors lately? Or weaving travel memories into everyday life? Or any comment at all that lets me know you're out there.  . . .I do enjoy our conversations, and I thank you for reading.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Date Night: Vancouver Cycling at Dusk . . .

By the time Pater finished his Strata Council meeting our last night in Vancouver, it was past 8:30, and I assumed our plans for a possible pedal on our new bikes were off. But no. The man came home with considerable enthusiasm, so I mustered some energy, put my book down, strapped on the new helmet, and wheeled my ride down the hallway to the elevator and thence out onto the street.

The bike path that runs right by our apartment is separated from the busy road by a deep curb, so I felt really secure as we joined the intermittent stream of cyclists riding across the bridge.Vancouver's such a gorgeous city in the summer, and last Wednesday followed a run of sunny days that had its inhabitants relaxing into the extended warmth. With the slight cooling of the long evening, the light promising to hang around until almost ten, the beachy fringes of the heavily residential West End, Yaletown, Downtown, False Creek, and Kitsilano, were full of singles, couples, happy groups, walking, running, cycling, picnicking on the grass, playing volleyball on the beach, chatting on benches, or sprawling comfortably wherever a quiet spot could be found.

We headed off the bridge and around toward the Kits beaches. The crowd was mostly young at Kits Point, gathered in clusters, a bit of eating, a bit of drinking, a bit of smoking, a happy buzz of many overlapping conversations, the occasional bike flung down at the edge of a blanket, dogs of every size and description chasing sticks into the water or nipping at another's collar or lolling, exhausted, on the grass. We took a wrong turn, perhaps distracted by the people-watching, and found ourselves dead-ended at the off-leash dog beach.

Turning around, thinking we might head out to Spanish Banks. Pater instead got the brilliant idea that we could stop for an ice cream on Granville Island. . . . Quite frankly, I think he's been trying to up his romantic ante ever since I teased him about a questionnaire one of my daughters had passed along. One of those silly things that gets circulated on Facebook, it quizzed how "awesome" one's boyfriend/husband was. My guy, like my daughter's, had scored very high, but he'd been stung a bit when I'd hesitated over the question of whether we still went on dates often, or at all. Of course, as you know if you've been reading here for a while, he and I share many lovely activities together, dinner and/or a movie a regular feature, not to mention the great travel. But I pointed out that we didn't "date" in the courting sense of him planning a special activity. I hastened to add that, as a feminist, I recognized that our approach was fair, and that I was happy with our overall pattern, but that in the spirit of the questionnaire, our nights out together might not be considered "dates."

Now, you might be secretly agreeing with Pater that I was being a bit tough in my interpretation. . . . I'm not even sure I was right. But ever since, he's been working that word "date" into his framing of activities. And I am not complaining. And I was definitely not complaining when we cycled through Granville Island -- me a little bit skeptical that we'd find a place to buy an ice cream there at 9:00; him perhaps equally skeptical, but very pleased with himself when he spotted a sign for Gelato at Bridges. One chocolate, one pistachio cone later, we'd enjoyed a very pleasant 15 minutes sitting on a bench, watching boats cruise under the bridges, the little passenger ferry disgorging regular blasts of walkers to animate the terraces and sidewalks and roadways framed by the wonderful old industrial architecture of this special place.

By the time we got back on our bikes, we'd planned our route home, an easy 8 or 9 kilometres along a wide, paved, seaside path shared by cyclists and pedestrians. Oh sure, there were a few spots that got a bit bottle-necked by dawdlers, and a few times when racing cyclists came too quickly round a corner from the other direction. But to be able to ride 10 or 12 kilometres on a warm summer evening along the waterfront, with almost no exposure to cars? Pretty spectacular.

The route itself, a regular favourite running route of both of us, passes underneath the three bridges that span False Creek, which could give it an overly urban-industrial vibe. Luckily, though, these sections are exceptions to the general mood of the path which is mainly park-like, on the edge of residential complexes of low to medium density on the south side of the creek, moving to high-density adjoining Yaletown on the north side. Throughout, especially through Leg-in-Boot Square and the condo clusters near Granville Island, there is beautiful landscaping. In some places this is as simple as green lawn over a series of berms, all shaded by a wealth of trees, but in several spots there is a horticultural magnificence that a gardener has to stop and note. Brilliant combinations of tall grasses and echinacea and cardoons with their sturdily bristling purple globes. Lilipads and bullrushes giving way to deep pink rugosas at the edge of large ponds, small lagoons. One turn invites you through a canyon of flowering shrubs, the next opens into a wide flat space bordered by a community garden where neighbours chat as they put their tools away in the shed, ready for another day's weeding.

And all the landscaping decorated by the changing light of end-of-day, the sky breaking up the sun's fading light into a crayon box of dream possibilities.

Once the sun started to drop, though, it plummeted quickly, and after we'd curved our way past Science World's light-studded dome, we had to take extra care with visibility -- both watching out for oncoming cyclists and making sure that others could see us. Before we head out again, we plan to pick up the flashing red lights to attach front and back, as those seemed to be most effective in telegraphing a bike's presence and trajectory. Still, being part of that happy, moving crowd, all united by the call to activity outdoors in a magically warm summer twilight. . . . the sound of glad chatter, bouncing off the particular acoustics of a seaside city, the whirring motion of bike, fast rider, another bike, and then the contrasting rhythm of a mother cycling at a speed to match her 10-year old son's skateboard, the chuntering sound its small, dense wheels made along the pebbled aggregate, the piercing cry of a toddler up a bit too late, complaining on its dad's shoulders. . . .Oh, it was a date, my love. It was a date indeed. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Summons: Peschici Church Bell

 Last Sunday, you might remember, I wanted to share a video of the bell ringing its call to worship just above and beyond our rooftop terrace as we sat adjusting to Peschici's stunningly blue skies. I was thwarted by technology then, and had to resort to angels, but I tried again this week, back on home ground with my PC. . .
et voilà. . . . Church Bells Ringing. . . .
and ringing. . . .
and ringing. . .
How does Pater keep on reading?
Hope you enjoy! Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five Things Friday

It's been months since I've done one of these Five Things Fridays, but it does seem a good way to catch up a bit with some of what's on my list, between Here and There:

1. Here. The garden, of course, was overgrown when we got back from our month in Europe, and much weeding and pruning and general direction was required for many wayward plants. But delight abounds, nonetheless. The romneya couleterii, for example, which I understand is often called a California tree poppy, and is much more common in that state. . . . here, it's still relatively unusual, and I love it's crinkly, dramatically large white petals and that golden globe at the centre. So cheery! And although it grows outside our fence, the deer don't tend to chow down on it. Another big plus!

2. There. In Peschici, I was delighted to watch my kids and their partners as aunts and uncles and my granddaughters as cousins. 

 3. Here. Also happy to see the Oak-Leaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia Snow Queen blooming -- it really lightens up a shady part of the garden. And although it's inside the fence, the deer managed to chomp it down to almost nothing summer before last, and it blossoms, as hydrangeas do, on old wood, so last year was a write-off. But it's bounced back very nicely (and Pater's added a rope-line all around the yard to make those pesky deer jump really, really high should they want a meal here).

4. There. Door details -- I'm a sucker for these. Poor Pater: perhaps you can imagine how slowly we progress down some streets, me trying to be a tiny bit discreet with my camera but unable to resist grabbing these images. . . .
 5. Here. I finished my Rams and Yowes throw way back in June, but it was last seen here being steeked. It's all cozily edged and blocked and just waiting for the first chilly fall day, so that its comfort can be fully appreciated. Even in the July sun, I'm loving it!

So there we are, Five Things, Here and There, and it's Friday, mid-July. Let's all go have a Lovely Weekend, m'kay?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Traveling light and City Cycling

We just got home from buying two bikes for some city cycling. I'm excited about that! We cycle daily on our little island, of course, but the entire circumference of the dirt road is only 4 kilometres, and our biking there mainly limited to riding to the ferry.
I've been a bit anxious about city cycling, but we've done a bit more each year in Bordeaux, even once or twice on those Sundays in Paris when streets are closed to cars. Vancouver, meanwhile, has been adding more and more cycle paths, and our condo is right on a route that takes us over a bridge via dedicated bike lane, then all along the city beaches for a decent distance on safe paths. Can't wait to get out and try them out. In fact, if the meeting Paul had to rush off to finishes early, we may even take the bikes for a spin tonight, nifty new baskets and all.
Otherwise, we're leaving them behind and heading back to the island in the morning, hoping this fabulous weather lasts long enough for at least one more good swim before the rains set in. No complaining, though, as the gardens need a good watering and forest fire season is in full swing. . .

I'll leave you with this inspirational photo of my son and daughter-in-law, last featured in this post, cooking up a sumptuous feast for the family. Why inspirational? this is how these two showed up for our drive back to Bari after a week in Peschici. Those backpacks they're wearing? Contain everything they brought for a ten-day stay in Italy! That included looking decent for dinners at the wine estates they visited. Impressive, no? As light as Pater and I travel with our carry-on cases, I couldn't help envy this freedom.
Do you cycle in the city? If not, did you once? Do you cycle at all? Did you when you were young? Or answer any question about cycling or backpacking that you can imagine I might have asked....I always like to hear from you, truly!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kitchen, Family, Words and Pictures

A gruelling family (extended, his side) session yesterday. Not to be talked about here, but just to register that I am distracted, at a minimum. The blog comforts me, though, so here I am....

As a distraction/attempt at healing last night, we went to see Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in Words and Pictures. You should too. So good in so many ways, plus it features considerable Vancouver scenery and our favourite "big family brunch" spot....

We're off to Ikea this morning, trying to make choices for a way overdue reno of our condo kitchen. This gives me an excuse to post pictures of one of the apartments we rented in Peschici ( all three that we rented were outfitted with IKEA kitchens). These all suited the old buildings very well, and helped me firm up what I'm hoping for in the condo.

Plus, posting these photos of my son and daughter-in-law putting together a meal that all ten of us enjoyed together reminds me of the other side of the family balance sheet. Ups and downs, good and bad, happy and sad, it's a roller coaster ...


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