Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inch Twelve: This Week

Not many words this week. Because a picture indeed is worth a thousand of them. Probably more.

Ramona and her parents are here this week. But we all know who the star of the show is.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Inch Eleven: Sixes and Sevens

Our house is all at sixes and sevens.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

Until late Tuesday night, the living room and study were bare to the sub-flooring. The furniture is out in the hallway and jimmied into other rooms. We are replacing the original carpet (which just turned 50 this spring) and the new carpet got laid on Tuesday. Jeff, the installer, was there when I left for work that morning and there when I came home late from legal clinic at 9:00 p.m. The carpet is in, but most of the furniture is still out in the hall.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

In addition to taking out the carpet, Warren also painted both rooms this past week with the paint we bought two years ago for that very purpose. We bought it so long ago that we'd forgotten the colors. Fortunately, we still liked them. And fortunately, they go well with the new carpet.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

All of the first floor windows are bare. The ancient drapes hit the trash. Armed with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, I took down the vertical blinds in the kitchen as well.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

All of the walls are bare and the paintings and pictures are stacked in the bedroom that Ben, Alise, and Ramona will be using. In fact, lots of things are stacked in the bedroom that Ben, Alise, and Ramona are using. The artwork is dusty and needs to be wiped down well before going back on the walls. Well, to be honest, everything in the house needs to be wiped down well. We have decided not to put the artwork back up until the week after next.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

There were boxes stacked in the other spare bedroom to be taken up to the attic. Those boxes went up on Sunday and the box of blocks and the box of marble blocks came down. I still need to wipe the dust off of those boxes. Now there are other boxes jamming the second bedroom and we will deal with those later. Like in June. The large case of resonators is now under our bed.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

In emptying the study and living room, I was forcefully reminded of just how much stuff we live with every day. Most of it is Warren's stuff, including some furniture going back three and four generations. But some of it is my stuff too. Seeing and moving so much of our stuff makes me want to get rid of more stuff. Even the china—the set my uncle sent back from post-war Japan to his younger sisters, my mom and my aunt Ginger—is stuff. Right now the china is taking up a third of the kitchen table.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

It is early in the week still and my punch list to get me to Saturday is deceptively short. I know, though, that each item represents an expenditure of time and effort. After all, there's all that stuff.

Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

It will get done. And there will be new stuff come Saturday: toys and books and a stroller and the stuff of a young family.

Because Ben, Alise, and Ramona arrive on Saturday.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Inch Ten: Apron Up!

I recently read a post of Facebook about aprons. The gist of the post was about how women of a certain generation always wore them.

Both of my grandmothers were of that certain generation.

Grandma Nelson
Grandma Nelson, my dad's mother, always wore an apron when I was growing up. The only exceptions were when she was on her way into town (to the grocery, to church) or outside doing the dirty work a farm requires. Even after they sold the farm and moved to the outskirts of a small village, she'd often be in her apron. When we showed up for Sunday dinner, she'd be in the kitchen, sheathed in an apron, frying chicken and checking the beans. I even remember her in other kitchens, especially those of her sisters, with an apron on. Look back, I now wonder. Did she bring her own? Did she borrow one?

Grandma Skatzes, my mom's mother, wore an apron every single day from the time she got dressed in the morning to the time she went to bed. Oh, there are a few photos of her without an apron on special days—holidays, certain birthdays—but those are rare. And even in those photos, I suspect my aunt Ginger snatched off my grandmother's apron at the last minute for a "nice" photo.

I am an apron person myself, a habit I got into years ago after spotting more than one work outfit stepping into the kitchen and starting to cook. Now I reach for an apron automatically. On days when I am busy at home, I may wear the apron much of the day until I finally look down and realize I am still wearing it.

I have two aprons that are my go-to aprons. There's the blue United Way one, with spacious pockets. It hits me mid-thigh. There is a longer one, almost to my knees, no pockets, but striped with colorful lines. The striped one is 38 years old, a relic of the year at college when I worked in the campus coffee shop, the C Shop.

I have another apron that I keep hanging, but rarely put on. The cloth is faded purple flowers, with pistachio green trim. It has some stains on it. These are old stains. It has pockets, smaller than my blue apron, but big enough. It barely covers my hips, but that may because of its origin, as its original owner was much smaller.
Grandma Skatzes

That apron was one of the last existing aprons belonging to my Grandma Skatzes. It is handmade, most likely sewn by my mother, who gave it to me after my grandmother died.

Grandma Skatzes has been dead 36 years, Grandma Nelson 32 years. All those aproned sisters of Grandma Nelson are gone too. My mother only occasionally wore aprons, usually hostess aprons that tied around the waist and were worn more for style than anything. My aunt Ginger never wore aprons either.

But there must be an apron gene there somewhere that skipped a generation and landed on me.

I have been known to say "Apron up!" to friends. And sometimes I say it under my breath when I get ready to bake.

My grandmothers would have been pleased.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Inch Nine: Travels

Friday late afternoon found me dodging cars on the I-270 outer belt, en route to Port Columbus. I was not flying anywhere; Warren was flying back home after a two-day conference in Manhattan.

This was the first trip to New York he's made in recent years without me. My friend Katrina moved to Houston soon after our doll-sorting escapade in 2012, and so New York no longer holds the same appeal it once did. Warren and I had talked about my going along, but the thought of my seeing the Metropolitan Art Museum or walking around the city while Warren attended his sessions paled without Katrina.

I beat the plane by some 20 minutes. That was a bonus. I got to watch a family, four adults and one wriggling, perhaps about 10 years old, anxious girl wait for Tyler, coming home on leave. They had balloons and signs and the little girl kept waving an American flag impatiently. When Tyler finally appeared, the little girl let out a delighted shriek. Others in the area, seeing a  young man in military fatigues being covered by hugs and kisses, started clapping, one man even standing up from his fast food meal in the food court to applaud. Tyler turned bright red.

Warren's plane came in at the most distant gate from where we were allowed to wait, so I had plenty of time to watch arriving travelers stream my way. Some were met with hugs and kisses and thumps on the back. Others strode by intent on reaching a car or a shuttle, their eyes focused on a faraway point. Finally, I saw Warren at about the same time he saw me. We waved and I smiled: a familiar face, a well-loved face, my husband's face.

There is an ineffable sweetness to homecomings. The visitors from afar have arrived, the son or daughter or parent or spouse have returned, the circle is complete.

Two weeks from today I will back at Port Columbus, waiting for a different traveler to arrive. This one will be curly headed and walking, although she had little hair and was not even crawling the last time we met. This one will be accompanied by two adults, both of whom are dear to me and one of whom I have known all of his life. And this one will be coming home to Grandma April's house for a whole week.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Inch Eight: This Year's Garden

We are two days into May and the weather continues to be gray and wet and cold. The Olentangy is running swift and high, what with all the recent rains.

The only garden around here right now is in the percussion room (a room others of you would describe as a family room) on the folding table set up before the sliding glass door. Table lamps provide the heat and despite the gray gloom, seedlings have sprouted.

This is my sixth summer in this house, my sixth year of gardening. And oh, what changes time brings!

In years past, I have had an odd assortment of gardens, my reach always exceeding my grasp. There have been pumpkins and broccoli, zucchini and peppers, and tomatoes always, everywhere.

An observation: There are only two of us living here. And one of us does not like tomatoes.

In years past, I have marked August and even September with canning and freezing and drying and processing the goods of the garden, filling the freezer with bags of this and that, filling the shelves with relishes and salsa and tomatoes.

In years past, there have been so many tomatoes that even with giving them away, I could not keep up with the flow and so lost a sizable portion every year to rot. Somehow I could not fathom, in the cold spring when I started the seedlings, that eighteen tomato plants were too many for a household of two, especially when one of us does not like tomatoes.

This year will be different.

Blame the cold weather, blame the harsh winter, blame my erratic energy levels, blame the Revlimid, but I started the seedlings late this year. I did not start eighteen, twenty, thirty tomato plants. I started (deep breath) six. Six. I started some peppers (a few). There will be a basil patch for the bees again, although I will probably raid it once or twice to make (and freeze) some pesto for a winter meal or two.

This year will be different.

I am not canning this year, an announcement which startled a friend into saying, "Not even tomatoes?" No, not even tomatoes. I want to spend the summer watching the bees in the basil, not standing over a steaming canner.

The PF bloggers out there—the Compacters, the frugal writers—often touch on the topic of living within one's means. While Warren and I do a solid job of living within and often below our means, it strikes me that I have never made the garden live within its means. I don't mean as a monetary proposition. Trust me, I am not growing $64 tomatoes. But to the extent that I plant far beyond the needs of our household and the needs of other households, to the extent that some of the garden goes to waste despite my best efforts, the garden lives far beyond its means. And to the extent that the garden can and will rob my energy, my time, and my ability to keep up, the garden is an extravagant old rake.

No more. I'm cutting it off, suspending its allowance, canceling the trust fund.

This year will be different.