There and back again

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This photo was taken on the way to Michigan from Massachusetts. I think we were crossing the Hudson but freely admit that most of the trip was a well-organized blur.

Last Wednesday, we returned home after driving from Illinois to Massachusetts to Michigan and back to Illinois. The last bit was in an empty sixteen-foot rental truck, along a construction-riddled route, during a torrential rainstorm. Perhaps fickle gods thought Covid 19 too weak a trial for us and decided to strew additional challenges across our path.

Well, we persevered and have largely recovered our respective grooves, Mr. Nerdishly and I. Our cats, who were boarded at a tony kitty hotel that I once innocently (and obviously mistakenly) referred to as the Pussy Palace, recovered their equanimity much more rapidly than I could have hoped and certainly more quickly than I, who needed several sleep-ins before feeling like myself again.

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Since my last list, I’ve finished four books, bringing my total to 139 books read to date.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man (Mary L. Trump; 2020. Non-fiction.)
This was the soundtrack of most of the second leg of our travels (Massachusetts to Michigan); I finished listening during one of our walks once we returned home. I agree with this reviewer: keenly observed, well written, and “the most convincingly empathetic chronicle of Donald Trump I’d ever read.”

A Separation (Katie Kitamura; 2017. Fiction.)
This was well-reviewed by critics but not necessarily by readers, if the mixed reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are an indication. I really liked it, though. It reminded me of The Third Hotel (Laura van den Berg), a book I read and admired in 2018.

The Sorrows of Young Werther (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; 1774. Trans. Elizabeth Mayer and Louise Bogan; 1990. Fiction.)
Yes, he’s troubled and self-absorbed, but I don’t belong to the reading club that maintains we must like the protagonist to like the book. I will say, though, that I am old enough to have wanted to be “quite severe” with Werther, to insist that he get a grip and meet a few more suitable companions. Heh, heh, heh.

p. 9
There is a certain monotony about mankind. Most people toil during the greater part of their lives in order to live, and the slender span of free time that remains worries them so much that they try by every means to get rid of it. O Destiny of Man!

Antigone (Sophocles; 441 B.C. Trans. Ian Johnston; 2016. Drama.)
Read in anticipation of an upcoming Theater of War production.

 

Full of care

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On the road into the conservation area.

Landing in the hospital for a preventable accident is one of the last things anyone wants — ever, I suppose, but especially right now. So we are careful, so much more careful. Careful with the knives. Careful on the steps into the living room and garage. Careful at the stove. Careful in the shower. Careful with the yard tools. Careful behind the wheel.

Careful. Careful.

My husband’s car had been no further than the grocery store for two weeks. It really needs a run, he told me last Thursday. It’s not a thoroughbred horse, I replied, tempering the retort with, But why don’t we drive to a nearby conservation area and back?

To be hurt is the last thing anyone wants — ever, I think, but especially right now. So I am careful. Careful about sarcasm. Careful about criticism. Careful about sharing the news. Careful, so much more careful, with my words. Not so careful that I am a stranger to myself, of course, or to him, but careful enough to cushion the blow a soft apocalypse could deliver.

This will be nice, I added. The park will be beautiful.

We took his reliable and decidedly ordinary sedan to the drive-through car wash. My husband parks beneath an oak, and it is spring. Rain or not, the car needed a wash. Then we took it not for a run so much as a sedate stroll on nearly empty roads beneath heavy clouds.

Careful. Careful!

We had already worked out, and my husband had several meetings scheduled for the afternoon. Hiking the kames on last autumn’s slippery leaves? Not on this finally healing knee. And you don’t want to miss any of your commitments. We saw a few walkers on the backside of the area, but part of that trail abuts the creek, which in spring and summer frequently overruns its banks. A stumble. A cold. No, we must be…

Careful.

The park was beautiful if gloomy and gray. On the way out, we stopped to watch a pair of sandhill cranes, and on the way home we stopped at a store. We were armed with gloves and sanitizer and wipes. Fine, but we must be quick. And careful.

When we returned home, he carried the bags into the garage and wiped down the contents. Did we really need toilet paper? Gently, not critically.

They haven’t had any in weeks, and you can’t be too…

Careful.

He’s right; I know.

After showering, we put away the groceries and made lunch. (Careful by the stove.) After we called our daughters, he dialed into the first of many meetings, and I washed the dishes. (Careful with the knives.)

As the soapy water drained from the sink, I heard the chorus of murmurs that signals a meeting has begun in earnest. He moved down the hall, and I poured a mug of coffee and carried it into the living room. (Careful on the step.) As I looked out the rain-splattered window, a cardinal couple alighted on the platform feeder. Careful. A sharp-shinned hawk has been spending a lot of time in and near our yard. The male passed a seed to the female, and I thought, Be careful with one another.

Jólabókaflóðið treasures

15AFF5D1-EC5A-44ED-93B9-294B3A19FB34My winter break is moving fast! My daughters, who spent Christmas week with us, have returned to Boston, and my husband and I have begun Part II of our two-week vacation. I know I’m not the only parent of adult children who wonders, “Where did the time go?” Today, though, I am choosing book talk over melancholic musings, so here are a few titles from my Jólabókaflóðið haul. More to follow.

Before and after

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How the living room in their apartment looked last Sunday….

A few days before my last post, my daughters signed a lease on an apartment just outside Boston. The younger begins her Ph.D. in physics this fall and will move in once her second summer stint at [insert name of national laboratory here] concludes. As soon as the older completed the extended year program at her elementary school, though, she headed to the new place to conduct a job search.

I served as move coordinator, which explains the gap between posts, and may I just say? I did an awesome job; at least that’s what my three closest friends tell me.

With the appointment to have cable/internet installed tonight, my older daughter and I will have largely completed the mental checklist “Create a home away from home,” so we have begun to relax a bit. Yesterday I finally unpacked my flute and practiced for the first time in much too long; and today before it got too hot, we walked in a nearby preserve. This summer may, in fact, end up looking a lot like last summer: Because her job did not begin until August, my older daughter and I spent several weekdays in June and July 2018 alternating adventures in Chicago with reading, music, and other pursuits. Once she accepts an offer here, we are hoping to do the same in Boston.

What makes this July so much different than last (or any other, for that matter) is that we are separated from the rest of our group by a seventeen-hour drive. Depending on how everyone’s schedule sorts out, I will have been away from my younger daughter for twice as long as I have ever been by the time I can hug her again. And for the first time since the eighties, Mr. Nerdishly and I are apart for something other than business or a funeral. I miss them both more than I miss central air (and let me tell you, I have definitely been missing central air).

In all earnestness, though, as I’ve written before, our family prefers to be together — or at least not too far apart — and eleven hundred miles is too far apart. We are all focused on the moments we are in, however — acknowledging the distance but making it work.

And I guess we will need to get used to it, won’t we? When I return home, it will be just Mr. Nerdishly and I — and the cats. And our daughters will be in their new home — together, which gives me so much comfort — but far from the forever home.

In a Captain Obvious moment, our neighbor advised us that after this summer we will be empty-nesters. Thank you, neighbor. We never heard that before. Then again, if we are still living in the nest, Mr. Nerdishly and I, how is it empty? We’re the original birds, aren’t we? It will be a less full nest but not an empty one. And while we have already reclaimed the “Girl Cave,” we have left their bedroom intact.

Because you will always be welcome, my tiny birds. Always.

And always.

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… and how it looks a week later.

Notes

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Image taken at Cantigny Park two weeks ago.

My school year concluded Thursday. I went out with a bit of a bang this time: A slip near a flooded entrance sent me to urgent care on the penultimate day of our program. Three X-rays, one brace, and two nights of worry later, all seems well. Phew!

Today we located the twelfth of fifteen finds on the geocaching passport we hope to fill before summer’s end.

We also signed up for the summer reading program at the local library. Although we were advised that movies and library programs could also be used to satisfy the requirements ( !!?? ), we agreed among ourselves to stick with books. The summer selection for our family book club is Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.

Two weeks

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Last Friday at Lake Geneva, WI.

Since my last post, the rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, and ruby-throated hummingbirds have returned to our yards, and I have

— reached Book 52 in Robin’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge;

— seen Hamlet at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and realized that last year’s Gift Theatre production may prove the most electrifying and memorable Hamlet I will ever see;

— planted impatiens, purslane, and geraniums and mowed the lawn at least five times;

— reread fourteen of the eighteen chapters of James Joyce’s Ulysses (in anticipation of seeing Remy Bumppo’s Bloomsday) and wondered, “Why?” at least twice during each chapter;

— visited Cantigny Park (much of which is under construction) and Lake Geneva, WI; and

— watched my younger daughter graduate from university.

Route 57 revisited

A037F87C-EEEC-49EC-BD9A-368EBD37828FAs I’ve mentioned, this is my favorite landmark along the 3.25-hour route that links home and campus.

A few things occur to me as I look at this most recent image.

• Three years have passed *SNAP* like that.

• The trip to see my youngest graduate next weekend may be the last one I make to that part of the state for a (long) while. Given what a pain in my back it is, I can’t believe I am saying this, but… I will miss it.

• When my daughters, who had always maintained that they would attend college together, were in the midst of preparing their transfer applications, both had thought they’d like to stay within a two-hour drive of home while completing their baccalaureate degrees. Their acceptance into the state flagship, however, meant that they would be at least 3.25 hours away. For so many reasons, this represented a stretch — for all of us. We’re a tight-knit group who have been through, as they say, “some stuff.” In short, we appreciate proximity. The distance wasn’t a deal-breaker, of course, but the idea of going (even further) away to college did require some getting used to.

This is a little stressful, I confided to someone. Why? she replied. I don’t get it. That distance isn’t “going away to college.” I actually went away to college, she concluded; 3.25 hours is no big deal.

Three years later, I can still recall the sting. To us? At that time? It was a big deal. The exchange had its humor, of course: The speaker attended college 4.25 hours away from home. (Ah, the difference an hour can make. Heh, heh, heh.) After one year, however, she transferred to a college less than two hours from her home.

I think they call that irony.

Happy holidays

P1000477Christmas. Not my favorite. Never has been. Never will be. And for a while there… well, it appalled me.

When we adopted Rosemary in June 2014, it became clear in only a few days that she was one “crazy cat.” As the winter holiday approached, I cautioned that a tree might throw our somewhat calmed kitty back into a frenzy. My daughters reluctantly agreed, and I? Well, I thanked the universe for my offbeat new pet.

In the intervening 4.5 years, Rosemary has mellowed, so I guess I wasn’t surprised when my older daughter gently pined for a little tree this year. I’ve never been able to resist trying to grant my children’s wishes, which are usually so modest and doable; I love making them smile. So, about the tree in my house, I will say this: It made her happy, and when it comes down tomorrow morning, it will make me happy, too.