In other words, this blog is not endorsed by Lego. Besides the fact that they are a big Waldorf no-no (pretty much the exact opposite of a Waldorf toy), there are plenty of reasons why you want to avoid bringing Legos into your home.
Now, I was a girl raised in the eighties and early nineties and so, though my brothers played with Legos, I myself missed the boat on them and was instead engrossed in all kinds of “girl” toys like Barbies and My Little Ponies and Care Bears and all that useless middle class plastic tripe. I “never liked them”, “wasn’t into them”, and no one questioned any of that.
Now, I have a daughter and two sons and some of you probably know that I have come to loathe gender stereotypes in my adulthood and make it my personal mission to raise my kids with as little of their influence as possible. It’s harder than it looks. I’ll be damned if I sit back and let society tell my kids who they should be, what they should act like, and what they should play with based on their gender. I. Will. Be. Damned.
So, it’s no surprise then that a toy that was off limits to me as a child is one that I feel especially compelled to bring into my home and introduce specifically to my daughter. That and I feel that Lego somehow weaseled its way into the public mind as being tied to math and engineering skills. I vaguely remember my elementary school using Lego sets at one point or another to teach us…I dunno, spatial awareness or something. Nicely played, Lego, just offer every elementary school in the country free Lego kits for their classrooms and you just bought yourself a ticket to ride. (No, I’m not cynical at all:)
Well, we’ve been living with Legos amongst us for a few months now, cohabitating with them, and I can tell you, its no bed of roses. There are a lot of terrible things about Legos and lots and lots of reasons NOT to even open up that can of worms for yourself. Please learn from my example. Here are the reasons why you should NOT get your kids Legos.
1. They are expensive! To even buy the smallest possible set for like a little car or something, you are going to be dropping 12-15 dollars. But they are not going to be satisfied with the smallest set or one or two sets. Once they get a taste for Legos, they start wanting the big sets and lots of sets. It begins to add up very quickly.
2. The mess. This category should really be expanded to have a bunch of subcategories because this cannot be understated. So much of each day now is dedicated to picking Legos up off the ground. Legos are like magic. You pick up the last one and suddenly ten more appear. As a side note: this might not be so bad for those with older kids. My oldest is six, so not so good with picking up after themselves yet.
3. Choking. My older two are fine. However, Miles, the baby, the insatiable floor-scrounger, is another story. If I had a dime for every Lego I pried from his little drooly mouth…
4. Frustration. Again, this is really a younger kid thing, but my kids really are not old enough to play with Legos. They don’t have the dexterity, patience and spatial intelligence to put together Lego sets or to fix them when they break, which is often. This ends up causing a lot of tears (emotionally immature) and yelling. And in my home we already have enough of those things.
5. Losing. Despite all of the time I spend each day picking up Legos, Miles is much faster at throwing them and so many of them simply get lost. So it shortly becomes impossible to re-construct the sets after one time. I actually got a set or two at Christmas that I think never got built in the first place before a lot of the pieces got misplaced. I try to have a special drawer for all of the instructions but good luck with that. Now we have basically a giant basket of all of the Legos and just basically end up constructing our own Frankenstein versions which, believe me, are not pretty.
So, in conclusion, Legos suck for various reasons. The end.
(I should put a disclaimer here, though, that I think by the time they are 10 or 11, they would have the skills to construct and fix their own Legos. Also, if you have a real good system in place where you keep each set separate with its own instruction book, in like plastic containers or something, Legos might be ok. Maybe.)
“What was so bad?” Greg asked. “Remember when we went to Play-it-again-Sports? Miles was just like that…only at the library.” I said. That helped it sink in. Greg and I were both then picturing Miles as he was on that day, running quickly down every aisle, not looking back to see if we were following him, almost getting lost multiple times and molesting all of the sporting goods. “Miles,” Greg said to his little bobbing head as it passed, “You gotta chill, brother.” Greg and I are always telling our kids to chill. It’s sort of a joke because, well, they can’t chill and we know that and when we say it to them, they are all but clueless as to what we are even talking about anyways. It’s just one of the ways that we ease some of the tension with each other during our day to day life with them. Trust me, without an in tact sense of humor, we would all be mired in misery and stress with no one near to throw us a line.
I wasn’t thinking. That’s why I took them to the library. When it looked like it was going to solidly rain all day, I thought the library would be a good place to go as we needed books and I had some serious fines to take care of. Plus, we’re a homeschooling family. The library should be like our home away from home, right? The last time we went to the library (maybe three months ago?) it was ok. Miles was different back then. He hadn’t yet become the quick-walking devil-may-care version of himself that stealthily loses people without looking back. He hadn’t yet become super squirrely when you tried to restrain him and balk and writhe and scream until he was released again.
I knew all of this…sorta. But I wasn’t really taking the understanding of his new nature and mentally transferring it to the library setting like I should have done if I was smart. It only took a few seconds, though, for me to realize my mistake after we got there. I pushed him out of the elevator to the children’s book section thinking, like last time, he might just be content to ride in the stroller, when suddenly and violently it became clear that he was not going to be sitting for another instant in the stroller. Then when his feet hit the ground, the look on his face and the glint in his eye were what finally brought the message home. The thought finally broke through loud and clear, “This was a mistake” shortly followed by another thought, “We need to leave quickly.”
Just as I thought it, though, I saw Ruth and Joel heading for the computer area and pulling on headphones to start up some of the games they carry. I got some books as best I could, keeping my peripheral vision on Miles at all times and every few seconds stopping what I was doing to dart after him. Meanwhile, the older two started having issues with the computers and started asking, loudly, for my help. That was when the cold sweating started. It was one of those situations that, as a parent, you learn to avoid but sometimes find yourself in anyway. Those impossible situations where you are in way over your head and you need to leave as quickly as possible but are somehow trapped by circumstances. The exit and the car at that moment seemed so far away. In this case, I had to convince Ruth and Joel to walk away from the computers which, I could tell by the zombie-fied way that they were starring at their screens was not going to be easy and somehow check out the books I had grabbed with Miles running all over the place.
I finally convinced the older two (was it the desperation in my eyes? the pleading in my voice?) that we indeed needed to leave NOW. All we had to do then was make it to the desk and check out. “Joel, can you push the stroller while I carry Miles?” This was my solution. At least to getting to the check out desk. Standing there and actually checking out would be the hard part.
We pulled up to the desk and as soon as I stopped walking, Miles demanded, through body language that couldn’t be ignored, to be put down and he again took off like a shot. Ruth started cackling and running along after him with Joel not far behind. I glanced nervously around at the librarians and other library patrons to see their reactions to my kids carnival-esque behavior. No one reacted at all. That’s how you know it’s really bad. But I was thankful anyway at not having to confront any scowls or eye rolls. I kept my eyes on them tackling each other near the dollhouse as the librarian, bless her heart, checked out my books as slowly as possible. I swear. Every time I am there struggling with my kids to just leave as quickly as possible, they need to write down every scuff and tear in the book or something isn’t working on the computer or they have to go into the back room to check on something or something. It’s so painful. I stood there sweating in earnest now all over my body. “It’s hot in here,” I said as I watched Ruth pick Miles up by the waist and carry him away from a plant he was trying to manhandle. “Let me get something from the back room,” the librarian said. I took the opportunity to run over and grab Miles in an attempt to keep him on my hip for the rest of the exchange. No such luck. As the lady came back, he writhed to break free again and ran across the room, cutting off an older lady as she made for the entrance. There’s a scowl. I grimaced and hunched my shoulders as the librarian presented me with a water-damaged book and explained that I now own it and have to pay for it. I nodded quickly, like “Yeah, yeah, whatever! Just hurry up!” “It happens with little ones,” she said. Really? I thought sarcastically as I watched my kids cutting off more people as they chased each other around. I know this lady was trying to be nice and throw me a bone but the cold sweat was seriously getting to me at this point. My coat felt like it weighed about thirty pounds.
We finally finished up and burst out into the grey, unseasonably warm January afternoon and I at last breathed a huge sigh of relief but also of awe. Not at myself for making it out of the library alive. I breathed a huge sigh of awe at how impossible that situation had been, at how ridiculous my life is with three young kids sometimes. At how much, though we are a normal family (for all rights and purposes), there doesn’t seem to be space for us, at how much like a sore thumb we stick out. Often. Maybe, as I’ve come to ponder to myself rather frequently, this points at a societal ill, or a few (the place of children, the value of families and women, the break-neck competitive pace we all exist at, etc.)
I sighed once more as life started revving up again, that moment passed, and the kids, perpetual motion machines, started racing each other towards the car. Social activism aside, I made a mental note: no more library for Miles. At least not for another year or so. Maybe he’ll be more socially acceptable by then.
don’t you just hate it when you see a really fast moving spider…I mean, I’m talking a real speed mover of a spider…and then you lose track of it? next thing you know, you start feeling things. things like crawly things on you and you think it must be that spider. that’s why it was in such a frenzy. it was really chomping at the bit to get at you but biding its time until you glanced away and it could make its break toward you? (rational side says not likely. un-rational side says, “they have made worms’ meat of me!” and also, “then WHERE is it, then???”).
lemme take a swig of beer.
there. cleared my head a bit. getting a little paranoid around here. spiders are on the move this time of year. start to get real active and multiply. in the day, pretty laid back. night can be a different story in spider land.
reminds me of the ticks we’ve been havin’ around here ever since our camping trip south of the border (of Michigan and ohio, that is) where we seem to have picked up quite a few ticks. that was two weeks ago but still today we found one on the dog’s ear and yesterday ruth reported at one point during the morning flurry of activity that miles had a spider in his hand. now, being a mom and knowing what I know, though it sounds odd, I took it seriously because I know that ruth doesn’t lie and she’s very observant but I did wonder what in the hell she meant by a spider in his hand as I couldn’t really see miles being stealthy enough to actually bag a spider and hang onto it. a few moments later, I wondered no more as ruth spotted the “spider” once more crawling nearby on the floor. a tick, of course.
many people don’t know that ticks are in the spider family. sure, eight legs and all that. they do look like miniature spiders if you happen to have a chance to see one up close which I have had the chance to do a lot of late. I captured it with tape, sealed it up in there and popped it into the little Tupperware bin we have got going. our “tick collection” I say. we’ve got four trapped in there so far, stuck in tape and contained where they can’t penetrate anyone’s skin. one of ’em I had to pull out of ruth’s head with tweezers. I mean….yuck. and shiver. and grimace. right?
but besides ticks and spiders and epidermis dwellers and ceiling spinners I wanted to write about how the whole konmari thing is total b.s. with a capital B and a capital S. because here’s the thing: two months ago, I would have sworn on my freakin’ left shin bone that these curtains I bought for our living room brought me joy. at that point at that time of year, I would have placed my hand on any holy book you like and taken an oath that they were the freakin’ KEY to happiness. yet now I feel slightly nauseated when I look at them. ever have that? where you feel utter disgust with your past self for ever deigning to bring something like some olive green curtains into your life in the first place?
see, that’s the problem with konmari. half the time I want to curl up and blissfully snuggle with the things that surround me, they feel so homey and right. other half the time, I want to take a blow torch and light up all my damn smothering overabundant shit like the 4th of july until it’s nothing but a pile of ashes. ever feel like that? like you actually hate all of your belongings? like even to the point that they might be secretly conspiring to smother you to death in your sleep? I sure as hell do.
and on that happy note, I’m going to bed. but I’m keeping my eye on you, olive curtains…
i have just finished washing my breast pump equipment and a couple of bottles i had to dig out and dust off. what’s the occasion? ha.
the occasion is that, in an unlikely turn of events, joel has been bottle/formula fed exclusively since this past friday and will continue to be so until next monday, when i am no longer on the antibiotics that are trying fervently to rid my body of a heinous festering wound that developed early last week randomly and proceeded to get worse and worse. i finally ended up with some minor outpatient surgery and a prescription, in my hand, for ten days of no breast feeding and a strong course of antibiotics.
“i can get drunk every night for ten nights,” i told my mom in line at cvs to procure the meds that would render my breast milk useless, toxic, no good, junk. may as well fill it with booze to boot. if only it were that kind of vacation.
but being sick with kids is no vacation, nor is anything that adds to your to-do list. such as washing bottles, mixing formula, warming bottles, etc. i mean, i was barely keeping ahead (yeah right) of the game before i had to somehow find the time to add all of this on to my agenda. kids don’t care if you’re sick. they can barely register that you are also a human being with needs and feelings let alone that you might, for some reason, be uncomfortable, or that you might need like two seconds without having to jump up and get a snack or save joel from plummeting to an early demise down the basement staircase. (i started off as their host when they sucked away at my nutrient supply from in-utero and they continue to suck away at my very life force. yet, ironically, at the same time, they seem to add to it tenfold, so there’s the balance i guess. they take and take, but, standing at a distance, they still give much more than they steal away from you, all said and done).
and if you think that just because i’m getting a “break from breastfeeding”, that i’m actually getting a break from breastfeeding, think again. i still need to pump and dump multiple times per day to try and keep my milk supply up so that when the ten days are done, joel can easily jump right back on the breastfeeding bandwagon without missing a beat. so, until further notice, i’m breastfeeding a machine. it’s not quite like clasping a living baby to your body, but what can one do? i shouldn’t complain. if this had happened while ruth was a baby, i’m sure she would have been in the midst of a ten day hunger strike. at least joel will take bottles.
how’s it going? the phrase “like i need a hole in my head” has been floating through my head at various points throughout the day lately, if that at all sums it all up for you. in short, it’s going…..ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! ahem. not bad. joel is taking to formula quite easily, and even knows what i mean when i ask if he wants a “baba”. it makes me a bit nervous wondering if he’s getting enough fluid or proper nutrition, but because it’s only temporary, i don’t worry too much. ruth is coping in her usual fashion whenever anything is out of the norm, pushing any feelings or thoughts down deep,deep inside so that they bubble up again later and manifest as any number of outrageous and insane behaviors (dear eric clapton, please let three pass by quickly and be forever buried in my memory, never to be revisited again. amen). so, that’s always a nice addition to whatever else you’re already trying to cope with (ass pain and formula feeding on top of every day life).
and what has this fiasco taught me? surely, there has to be some silver lining, some saving grace, some wisdom gleaned. number one is the obvious: never leave the first appointment without oral antibiotics (in other words: trust yourself, not a doctor, with your health, be assertive, not a push over, jesus, grow some balls already…). more generally, appreciate your health because, though we are much more than our bodies alone, we depend heavily on them. much more heavily than we usually appreciate until something goes wrong. and we are all at the mercy of our physical experience on this earth. so, be good to yourself (and eff anybody who is not good to yourself (‘cept your kids…you are their personal punching bag:)).
side note: what the heck formula people, with these nighttime feedings? for the birds. dunno how ya’ll do it for 6 months or more. the crying, the getting up, the warming of the bottle…much easier to let the kid latch on and then just drift off into brad pitt land again.
more on all this later. it’s been quite the fiasco.
if you’re evil. and you sometimes muse to yourself silently (and even sometimes out loud) as your spouse disengages from your daughter to read a seed catalog or fails to engage at all after coming home from work but instead launches himself into the shower and then straight into dinner, that, “thank god i’m around. things would really fall apart around here without me. what would they do without me here?” you would fume about it, but be secretly self satisfied and feel like all is right with your tiny world, in which your role is queen and everything is carefully orchestrated around you like a symphony.
but then, you might, like me, get a very rude wake up call to your own insignificance if you, say, feel very nauseated to the point that you are laid up on the couch unable to do much else besides groan and roll onto your other side, like i was yesterday, and dad takes over. but he doesn’t just take over, no. he does a stellar job. and this is after working nine and a half hours at his real job. what the fuck?
i could hear ruth laughing, not a chuckle, no, a full out belly laugh, as they ate dinner together. greg put on his silly voice and didn’t mind her sitting on his lap, something that i despise as of late and fills me full of self-pity (“i can’t even eat my dinner in peace!” i say indignantly). he prepared her favorite foods (macaroni and cheese and left over sloppy joe) and to say that i was not missed at the table would be an understatement. i groaned again, louder, but no one noticed. then, greg began to ask about her day. “here we go,” i thought wickedly, sure of my job security as her personal translator, “he’ll be hollering in here any minute to figure out what she’s trying to say. she’ll get all frustrated and start crying. it’ll be delicious.” but no. at one point, he thought she said that she walked through a big door when she really said that she talked to a big girl, but he shortly figured it out and they were off and running, holding an a and b conversation just fine, thank you. i guess i’ll “c” my way out. they went on to dump all of her toys out on the floor of the bedroom, something mom is too anal to ever do, play downstairs for an hour or so, again, more toy-dumping, all the while laughing and talking loudly, chasing each other around and just having a real swell time.
well, imagine my surprise, sitting there near death on the couch, scarcely moving, like a sloth, as i witnessed all of this going on, to realize that greg is not only the bread-winner in the family, he is also a better stay-at-home parent than me. i suddenly realized that if i wasn’t there, god forbid i catch the plague and die a horrible, painful death, they would be…fine, gasp, without me. it’s like that movie, right? it’s a wonderful life or something? well, it’s a shitty life when you’re about to vomit up your stomach lining and on top of that you suddenly come face to face with life without you, and it’s just grand. plus, greg would probably remarry someone hotter and younger than me and who is a full-time pediatric surgeon or something stupid like that, who doesn’t have anger issues or hang-ups from her childhood, and who ruth will come to regard as her real mother as she’s so young, she probably wouldn’t even remember me.
wow. these are the things that can happen when a pessimist spends too much time ruminating alone on a couch.
today, i feel much better, thanks, and spent the morning cleaning like a mad person, my cure-all for depressive moods. but, really, it is good to know that greg really can step it up, much more than i tend to give him credit for. and it is good to stop feeling so high and mighty about my role as mother supreme. we all know i’m far from perfect. and, i dunno, what was the moral of that movie? the wonderful life one? i don’t think i’ve ever watched it all the way through. but, if that guy got a glimpse of what i saw yesterday, it was probably that life goes on, with or without you, and really, people will be fine one way or the other. the only reason to go on living is really just for your own merry amusement. in other words: enjoy life. we don’t know what it is, but there are plenty of things about it to enjoy, so let’s do that.
right now, i am enjoying my morning coffee, and this humid fall morning and the sound of a robin outside in my yard singing. let’s meditate on that.
sorry, all you foodies out there. much love. however, i do feel the need to step out of my box for a minute to share with you a recipe that is awesome, a recipe that i haven’t made in over two years, but used to be a staple for me, ever since i learned its secret from a good friend’s former boyfriend who was a vegan, and also 1/8 lebanese, or something. the first bite reminded me of a round belly, of gentle kicking under the shirt, and also, the salty air of the coast of maine, wading through fog-soaked vegetation, isolation, in other words: summer 09′. it is time to revisit my roots.
the recipe list, as for all lebasese dishes, is surprisingly short and simple. how can so much flavor come with so few ingredients? trust me.
1 cup lentils
6 cups water
2 onions, diced
a butt load of olive oil (1/4 cup)
1 bag spinach
the juice of one lemon
salt to taste
the first thing to do is to pour the 6 cups of water and 1 cup of lentils into a pot over high heat, bring to a boil, and then turn down, partly cover, and simmer…for a long ass time. the bag on the lentils says 45 minutes, but maddy was always the authority on the done-ness of the lentils, so don’t ask me.
oh, i guess i should explain maddy. in the summer of 09′, i spent 2 and a half months living off the coast of maine as a contractor for the u.s. fish and wildlife service working on a seabird island. the island was actually two islands, “the brothers”, each tiny and picturesque chunks of rock jutting out of the seabed. that summer, maddy and i were the 2-man team that worked “the brothers”. we did seabird surveys, set traps for predators, monitored the nests of some nesting black guillemots, drank a beer every evening and talked, talked, talked. anyone who has done field work knows: the relationships you form with people you do field work with are much more intense than your everyday friendship. maddy and i were a culture of two, quickly filling in roles to each other: friend, co-worker, partner, sister. people used to say we acted like a married couple. we bickered, bantered, knew each other’s habits, tendencies, and rituals.
anyways, another thing that anyone who has done field work can tell you is that dinner is the most important part of the day. no time sheet to punch, no one around to tell you when you have done enough, the beginnings of dinner preparation mark the end of a work day, time to relax and forget about the lurking weasel who is after bird eggs, the guillemots on their nests with new peeping chicks, the atlantic puffins and razorbills off the coast bobbing along, waiting to be counted. they would all wait until morning.
maddy, having arrived in maine from a string of previous field jobs, and having spent two years in france, teaching english, had a descent amount of recipes under her belt, and also an experimental attitude towards food and cooking that i found greatly freeing. most days, i took her lead and was the resident chopper, grater, stirrer, and sous chef. this soup was the only recipe that i brought with me that i felt was good enough to share. and once i did, it became our weekly or biweekly staple, with maddy tweaking bits of it here and there, until we both walked away with the permanent memory of the soup poured over our brains, the roar of the atlantic ocean in the background, the calls of seabirds, the smell of seaweed.
in any case, while you are boiling the lentils, you can begin heating up the olive oil over high heat as well, dice the onions (maddy would also add a clove or two of minced garlic, up to you), and dump them in. this is a simple recipe, but this is the labor intensive part. you have to continually stir the onions until they are caramelized, which takes about 20 minutes or so. if you let them sit there for more than a minute or two, they will burn. what is the difference between a burnt onion and a caramelized one? a burnt onion is black, and a caramelized onion is a dark brown. you are basically deep frying the onions in olive oil to a near-burnt state. see below.
it is helpful to begin the lentils a bit before the onions as you kind of want them to be done at around the same time. if you need to, you can just put the onions aside, as i often do, being so bad at timing, until the lentils are done.
i say here again, i am no expert when it comes to lentils. that was all maddy. when it is just you and one other person, you find that you fall into your own little niches, take on various duties and responsibilities that, if the other person ever stepped in to do them, would feel way wrong. i never tested the lentils. maddy never fried the onions. however, my tactic copies what i saw her do, which was to scoop out a few lentils and eat them.
anyways, once you determine that your lentils are in fact done, add some salt. the amount is up to you. i grew up fearing salt and have become somewhat sensitive to it in my older age, but maddy loved the stuff, and showed no fear (she would add 1/2 a teaspoon). it really does bring out the flavor a bit. then, dump the onions into the pot with the cooked lentils. yes, all the oil too, you don’t want to waste a drop.
the rest is super easy. you add an entire bag of spinach to the pot. add this a couple handfuls at a time, as it will wilt and shrink way down. you can add as much or as little as you’d like. you’d better believe that, in maine, maddy and i would never have used all of our spinach in one shot like that. no, it was a precious commodity and was not to be squandered. i like baby spinach versus full-sized as it makes for smaller bites of spinach, but it’s up to your discretion.
the last thing to add is the “juice of one lemon”, for which i clearly use just lemon juice. however, if you wanna be a bad ass, then go on with your bad self and juice a lemon. how much again, is a question of personal preference. in maine, we didn’t have lemons or lemon juice, but would zest oranges, and add some of the orange juice. truth be told, i like the flavor of orange zest in here better than lemon, but am too lazy for zesting these days. i add about one and a half tablespoons of reconstituted lemon juice.
stir it all around for a few seconds and you’re golden. if you wanna leave it on the range for a bit longer, you could do that, too, if you wanted to blend all the flavors around for a while (although, i think it is important that the spinach be “just cooked”, rather than totally mushified).
enjoy. in maine, when our noses were cold from the dampness of the ocean, we would sit in our canvas chairs, bowls of steaming lentil soup in our laps, NPR on in the background, as always, and press our faces into our soup bowls, breathing it in as we ate. afterwards, we would place any leftovers in the cooler we had wedged under a big rock outside of our tiny cabin, our refrigerator. then, we would wash our faces, a nightly ritual, and go to sleep on our bunk beds.
it is interesting to me how a recipe that was originated probably hundreds of years ago in lebanon made it’s way to me, here in dearborn, where it was perfected and evolved on an island off the coast of maine, and reminds me of the salt of the ocean, floating seaweed, takes me back to that summer when my nephew was born, when maddy was like my spouse, and also, of being pregnant with ruth.
it just goes to show you how food is so much more than just food (this is where mc donald’s falls short). it is passed down through generations like fables, changes hands like antique china, evolves with each person who handles it, and is a memory imprint of aroma, taste, feeling, thought.
i know i’m about to sound like scrooge, but: “spring break is over!” (yay). now there are no school-aged kids mucking about during the morning and early afternoon hours at the parks, running to beat each other in line at greenfield village, the little dears. they are safely tucked away back at school where they belong (evil laughter). ruth and i are able to get back in the old routine, leisurely moving from one piece of equipment to another at the parks, taking our time, watching people come and go from their houses, preoccupied with work, life, their eyes glazing over us. we are part of the background like a tree or the sky. i like it this way.
“how are you doing back there? are you ‘dood'(good)?” i ask ruth who is behind me in her bike seat patting my back as i pedal. “yeah,” she says. we are on our way to donutville, u.s.a. up on ford road for a breakfast doughnut. i have lived in this neighborhood for three years and it has taken me this long to really get a feel for my neighbors and to get to know some of the different stories unfolding under each roof. as i said, on this side of town, people keeps it real. there is no block party with halal hotdogs, moonwalks, and gossip. it takes time to weave your way into the fabric of life here. (i think that greg, ruth, and i are more like a hot pink synthetic fiber amongst a thick blanket of strong cotton and wool naturally-dyed fibers, but whatever). i see the usual people maintaining their lawns, a few mothers with small children out beating rugs in the backyard, the one guy who smokes on his porch is out smoking on his porch. i’m sure they know who i am at this point. “there she goes, on her way to donutville,” they might be thinking, if they have been using their powers of deduction by the wax paper bag we often carry back with us and the smell of deep frying grease we exude behind us. we pass by ruth’s “beam” ( a telephone pole not yet put upright, but lying on it’s side on one of the aprons down the block from us that ruth practices balancing on).
we sit down at the counter facing ford road with our usual: a glazed chocolate doughnut for ruth, a small black coffee for me, and watch the traffic whiz by, listen to the local news blaring too loudly from a tv mounted behind the counter, chit-chatting about this and that, observing who comes and goes. there is the smell of coffee on a burner, doughnut grease (so thick it gives you heartburn just smelling it), and a lingering faint hint of cigarette smoke from all of the decades that smoking was allowed in such establishments. a few mail people come in, uniformed up, taking a break on their route, older men in small groups, talking politics. a lot of people just run in to grab coffee and leave immediately. ruth likes to spin on the stool.
after that, we make our way over to one of our regular parks and find it pristine and empty. ruth dapples in swings, then progresses to the slide, and then picks up some rocks and then announces,”home.” after loading her back into the bike seat, i notice that one of my mittens has gone missing, but i don’t fret. we’ll just pick it up tomorrow along our route.
after muddling around in the kitchen, tossing chickpeas into our food processor, with classical days on 90.9 on in the other room, ruth pushing a stuffed animal around in a stroller, i realize that, “we’re out of tahini.” ( a vital ingredient in hommus, my daily staple. i eat it on whole wheat arabic bread with a pile of spinach on top. it has enough raw garlic in it that my skin gives off that bitter aroma through the pores). i announce to ruth that we need to go on an adventure for tahini. “no tahini,” she says, but lets me put her shoes and coat on anyways and buckle her into her car seat with minimal struggle.
we take our place amongst the mid day shoppers, that is to say, the retired and the unemployed. i let ruth pick out the broccoli and throw things into the back of the cart. we get not one, but two (i like to have a back-up) big jars of tahini and a fresh loaf of arabic bread. the check out people probably know me as the annoying lady who picks out the obscure vegetables that need to be looked up in the code book. the cashier tries to say “hi” to ruth who just stares at her expressionless, sizing her up.
“thanks,” i say as we make our way out the door and then back home. hommus for lunch and then a nap.
when did life take on such a small scale? i pick up toys instead of do yoga. in lieu of hunting jobs, i hunt clothes for ruth, activities to sign up for, the damn diaper cream. i don’t swear. instead, i make endless funny faces for ruth, her lunch, phone calls when she sleeps. i steep in showers, letting my brain melt out my ears, down the drain, emptying my head. but the clutter builds up again too fast. the clutter of concern, of worry, of thinking and planning.
we move through our small circuit like molasses, our feet solid and firmly planted. here.