Thursday, June 30, 2011

are we having fun yet?

It's funny to be facing July Fourth weekend feeling like I've nearly forgotten how to have fun. Back in the day I was actually quite good at it. I roller skated like a fiend, jumped rope, pogo sticked and played endless games of Authors and Old Maid, Clue, Score Four, Masterpiece and Monopoly. I splashed entire days away in the Palma Ceia pool, loved racquet ball, hit a few golf and tennis balls, rode a tandem bike, rode the waves in a 14-ft Hobie Cat sailboat with my dad, gathered shells on Sanibel and Anna Maria Islands, dove for scallops in Tarpon Springs and even water-skiied across crystal clear Kingsley Lake. Just thinking about those times - and that girl - is fun. And a reminder that there's more where that came from.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

along for the ride

We've been starring in our own version of CARS around here with two teenage Volvos giving out in the same month. The kindly mechanic finally told us he didn't have the heart or the conscience to make another repair on either one based on their value. So now there's a new kid on the block, a frisky blue Toyota Forerunner, circa 2006, with a mere 31,000 miles on him and an extended warranty for parental peace o' mind. The kids are in heaven. Our sedan was in such bad shape that it actually had to be towed in to be traded in. The station wagon, though, we drove to the dealership. There was a pang as we left her, remembering all of the miles spelunked as a family and then what a trusty steward it was of our high school drivers who considered it the nadir of coolness. There were memories of the groceries hauled, trips to the vet, the mall, the beach, to elementary school, Sunday school, sports practices, through the drive-through line at Chik-fila. The wheels of life turn, turn, turn. The key is in keeping track of the smiles per gallon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

peachy

Mom and Walter brought me some peaches from Clover on Friday, sweetest things imaginable. I thought I'd make Walter a cobbler for Father's Day and one for Mike and the boys before Italia and I left for orientation at Chapel Hill. So I dug out my trusty recipe and then had to laugh out loud. It's typed up on Merrill Lynch stationery because that's where I worked that summer with the greatest southern lady ever - Lynda Medlin - who said it was so easy she could make it with her eyes closed. I mailed the recipe to my sister because we were both in love, both trying to learn how to cook and both loved to write. You can tell how many years have passed, because it involves typing, letters and daydreaming! Here's the preamble to peach cobbler that I scribbled to Michele to set up the recipe lo these many peach seasons ago:

It's 4:40 in the afternoon and you're pulling the last sun-dried cotton sheet off the line. Sprigs of hair are falling out of your bandana and your gingham blouse is damp with sweat. But your man is due in from the fields (hospital, law office, classroom, etc.) any minute and you can't sit down in front of the Hunter fan with a cold glass of lemonade as much as you want to. A woman's work is never done and her man comes first. That's why you run yourself a bath, put on your best ruffled blouse and pleated skirt bought last summer at the TG&Y in Siler City, dab Evening in Paris behind each ear and start putting supper on the table.

A three-bean salad is already prepared and chilling in the icebox. You grease up your seasoned cast iron pans and stir up enough batter for a dozen corn sticks (any extras can be tucked in his lunch tomorrow), and put them on to bake, then get going on the stuffed peppers. Why the size of those things could win a blue ribbon at the Cleveland County Home Extension Show! Next it's time to steep the tea and mix up a gallon or so in that big old glass mayonnaise jar Mabel was kind enough to save you from the Ebenezer Baptist Church covered dish supper last month. Strong and sweet - just like your man - and about the only thing likely to quench his thirst after a day as hot as today. And for dessert, being summer and all, he'd be disappointed if your homemade peach cobbler wasn't bubbling away in the oven:

Cobbler

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup self-rising floud
1 cup milk
2 cups chopped peaches

Melt butter in large baking dish. Mix together sugar, flour and milk and pour over melted butter but do not mix. Spoon fruit over the top. Bake approximately 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

moment(ous)

On any momentous occasion, there's usually a particular moment that stands out, capturing the spirit of things. Amid a sea of green caps and gowns, from high up in balcony seats, it wasn't easy to spot our graduate at her commencement ceremony. Once I did, though, my eyes stayed glued to the back of her head. The retiring athletic director gave a warm and meaningful keynote address. Even though you email, text, Skype and love to talk on your cell phones, he advised the class of nearly six hundred, never forget how precious it is to send a letter. At that very moment, Italia turned around and looked straight up at me, a smile lighting her face like a chandelier. It was like a serendipitous secret message for just the two of us because we both love a note. Writing one or getting one. We both love pens and paper and stringing words into a message. We even made notecards for her friends for their graduation present. It's one of a gajillion things I'm going to miss when she goes away to college. The poking around in a great stationery store. The quest for cute postage stamps. The sharing of a rainbow of Sharpie markers. The beautiful cards she makes for her friends. It's not going to be the same, but I'm sure we will email, text, Skype and talk by cell phone. And there'll be precious letters, too.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

everyday masterpieces

More than six million people view the portrait of Mona Lisa each year at the Musee du Louvre in Paris. A masterpiece painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance, it is probably the most famous painting in the world. I haven't seen her in person, but hope to one day. Dear ones who have tell me that it's an experience they'll treasure forever. Granted, most aren't on such a grand scale, but we've all got a masterpiece in us. A lady who lived around the corner created a beloved, nationally recognized garden. For my client, it's the family recipe pimento cheese that she's selling in 200 stores now. My friend Sandra sings beautifully and creates the most poignant videos. Then there are the little masterpieces painted each day without a second thought: a nurturing meal, flowers from the yard tossed together in a happy bouquet, a call or note that lightens a heart, a child out in the world who feels loved, just because of you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

go climb a tree

Every summer should include some tree climbing, both the literal leafy kind and the metaphorical tree-of-knowledge kind. Best of all would be enjoying a book up in the branches, in a tree house or even a hammock. Pass the cold lemonade and a good mystery! Today is the last meeting of the Bookendipity Book Club at Rama Road Elementary and Italia and I have had the best time compiling a list of summer reading ideas for the 4th and 5th graders. It includes old school series like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys along with some newer gems listed below. Makes me want to pull a wicker chair out under the magnolia tree and read until the fireflies come out. If you need me, that's where to come looking.

The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick
A boy is building a boat and refuses to give up despite heartbreak and setbacks.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
In this fantastic series, four friends go on adventures to solve big mysteries and learn about themselves.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Hugo lives in a Paris train station in this amazing book that is told mostly in gorgeous pictures.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
This is a fantastical tale about a mouse who is in love with music, stories and a princess.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Set in the Great Depression, Buddy goes on a journey to find his father with lots of twists and turns along the way.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Sal is a 13-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her mother.

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
May was a "big barrel of nothing by love" and this is a story about how her family adjusts to life after she's gone.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
She's magical and strange and mysterious, and is shunned for being different.

(info on precious bookcase here)

Monday, June 6, 2011

in full bloom

If friends are flowers, Katie is a bright pink peony. The kind you dream about all year until it bursts into joyful bloom sometime around June. Just by being in it, she makes a garden of delight out of this old life. A bouquet of us daisies and day lilies, gardenias, hollyhocks and hydrangeas gathered to celebrate her last Saturday and here's a petal or two of why we love her so much and why - if you knew her - you most certainly would, too:

1. she's a fabulous writer . . . getting a note from her is like a present
2. she thinks teenagers are especially wonderful creatures (which makes her an extraordinary high school guidance counselor and a saving grace to beleaguered parents)
3. she puts her whole heart into each moment
and what she's doing in it
4. she loves her children and husband madly . . .
and her University of Virginia Cavaliers
5. she has a wicked sense of humor and loves to laugh,
especially at herself
6. she makes you feel like the most important person in the world
when you're in her presence . . . and even when you're not
7. she's a high-beam flashlight during any dark night of the soul
8. she's got a wellspring of loving goodness inside
that never seems to go dry
9. she doesn't get caught up in the pettiness of this world,
which makes her a bit of heaven