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Sirens and Smoke

Tuesday. Primary day in New York, which meant I was hoofing door to door, trying to get a targeted list of voters to the polls. I was making pretty good time, too, when I became gradually aware of sirens, first one, then more, until the entire city sounded like it needed help. One by one, people started slowing down, looking around at each other as if one of us had the answer to the chaos. It was Howard Stern who finally filled us in, drifting quietly through an open window, and we collectively looked up at the sky.

I have never told this story. My husband knows that each year on 9/11 I shut down, avoiding work, the news, social media; he has no idea why it hurts, why I’m so “emotional.”  I left New York not long afterwards, the campaign trail sending me to the Midwest. I’ve returned several times to visit but still have not been able to bring myself to Ground Zero. There are still times when I pause upon hearing an aircraft, en route to a nearby landing strip, begin to slow for descent. And after all this time, I still look to the sky when I smell smoke.

It was T, in all his toddler glory, who made me pause, forced me to focus, to remember. We’ve been learning about the Star-Spangled Banner this week, which coincides with the festivities surrounding the bicentennial of the War of 1812. He cannot get enough of that song – we went through dozens of versions of it, listening and singing along, learning the lyrics line by line. “Try that one! What’s this one?” It was inevitable that we would come across footage from September 11th. I knew as soon as he picked the next clip what it would contain and I hesitated – it would have been so easy to tell him that one didn’t work, or distract him long enough to choose another. But I have never lied to him, and it was time for me to let go.

“We can watch this one, baby, but it may make me cry. I don’t want that to scare you.” “Okay, Mommy.”  So we watched together, with Alan Jackson playing in the background.  “Why is that building on fire?” “A plane ran into the side of it.” “What is that dog doing?” “He’s helping the police find people who were hurt.” “Why is that fireman so dirty?” “He worked really hard, it was very smokey and dirty.” “Who are those guys?”

Everyday Heros

Everyday Heros (unable to locate original photo credit)

“Heroes, baby. That’s what heroes look like.”

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Remember

 

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It’s a Sports Life

One of the many things we love about living in Baltimore is the wide array of sports – everything from Preakness to Orioles magic to professional soccer, even a few runs of the Grand Prix.  As I write this, I’m sitting with my boys watching a pre-season Ravens game.  Obviously I’m not the football fan in this family.  But I’m willing to make the sacrifice of a few hours out of a rainy Saturday evening for J, T and their dad to spend some quality time together.  J starts his junior year of high school in a few days and is, each time I see him, that much closer to becoming the man we’d hoped him to be – kind, compassionate, hard working.  And to see T emulate him, cheering on the good plays, shouting encouragement on the bad, makesi me proud for the part I’ve had in raising someone who’ll be another strong role model for T.  Just one more reason that, for us, sports matter.

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Brotherly love...

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in family

 

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This Old House

It seems whenever there is too much going on, DH and I have the inate ability to just tack on more.  This go-round, we are in the midst of getting ready for vacation when DH gets the urge to finally finish the upstairs hallway.

A few years ago, on the eve of Hurricane Irene, we were hunkered down with then-five month old T when we heard the unmistakeable sound of dripping water.  We soon discovered the source, coming from the roof through the ceiling in T’s room, placed some buckets and crossed our fingers.  The aftermath of Irene involved replacing the now-soaked horsehair plaster ceilings throughout the upstairs, as well as the electricity that shorted when it got wet.  The final piece, a five by five section of hall, sat exposed to the roof rafters for THREE YEARS.

I love our house.  And hate our house.  I love to hate it, and sometimes hate myself when I’m in the midst of hating it.  But I absolutely cherish the history of our home and neighborhood.  I moved many, many times growing up and into adulthood; we are now blessed to live on a street with multiple neighbors who actually grew up on the same block.  We bought our home from a gentleman who was raised in it and still lives on the corner.  And I am beyond excited to celebrate the centenial of our house next year.
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Yes, the horsehair plaster that covered splintery pine lathing strips to create walls was beyond disgusting.  As was the black soot from the chimneys, which fell from the ceiling and covered EVERYTHING.  But it amazes me to see how these rowhouses were built, pieced together with the adjoining house.  To peel back the layers (and layers) of wallpaper.  Pull the floor to the original hardwood and wonder what long lost coverings filled the voids left behind.  Find little tidbits of the past in the walls and ceilings – square nails, broken china, a spoon.  My husband indulges me as best he can as I plead with him to “be careful!” pulling floor boards so they can be repurposed, or find a spot to put our found treasures- now carefully wrapped with a note to future owners – before he covers whatever hole he’s created.  It’s about karma, really, and respect – that Old Lady was there way before us, and will continue her reign long after we are gone.

For now, another project done.  If the pattern holds, the dust will have plenty of time to settle before my next chance to peek into the past.

 

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Finding Moments

It’s been a long, crazy weekend here.  Grateful for sun after three days of rain and the coolest spring I can recall since moving here, we kicked off the weekend with strawberry picking at one of my favorite farms.  Saturday morning was a raucous game of soccer, or as close as can be had with a bunch of three-year-olds.  And still drunk on blue sky and warm breezes, we came to realize that nothing would make the weekend more perfect than a night spent under open skies.

Really, there was no “we” in that realization.  I have this idealist vision of camping, memories of my mom cooking a huge breakfast on a griddle while my dad helped me and my brother find worms and nightcrawlers for fishing.  When I was a kid we spent a lot of time in campgrounds and took first our truck camper, and later Winnebago, all over the country.  I’ve either blocked out the bad parts, or it was AWESOME.  I dream of a pop-up camper; so far the furthest I’ve gotten is convincing my husband that sitting around a campfire and sleeping in a tent a few times a year won’t kill him.

Anyway we packed up Big Blue, got the dogs and kid in the car (J, at sixteen, was just way too cool for camping),  and headed outside the city.  Of course by the time we got there, set up camp, scavenged enough wood to start a fire, made dinner and made our way back and forth to the communal bathroom several times, T was so exhausted he was crying to go to bed even before making “fo fo’s” (marshmallows).  As the fire started to burn out and the temperatures dipped, we noticed we didn’t have the tarp for the top of our tent.  We huddled together on the air mattress that managed to spring a leak since the last time we used it, staring up at the stars through our unimpeded view.  And finally, finally, the squirrels, deer, bears, mountain lions, and other guests stopped their partying long enough for me to fall asleep…only to wake and repeat the chaos of toddler-caring, fire-making, food-preparing and the rest of it.

Batshit crazyBy the time we packed up I was more than ready to go.  T had been whining non-stop for nearly two hours, I found myself repeating and REPEATING simple directions such as “stop throwing rocks!” and “stay away from the fire, it’s hot!” and I wanted nothing more than to be home and the sweet solace of T’s naptime.  And I’m sad to say that, while I strive to use kind words and toddler-level reasoning with him every day, by the time we got in the car my frustration and short temper were starting to spread like toxic mold.

We did make it home, an uneventful trip except for the ginormous spider I found crawling on my shirt (seriously, I almost died).  A too-quick nap and T was awake and still acting up, incapable of listening out of shear exhaustion.  But as I tried to get some of the laundry started and dishes washed and camping carnage put away, I kept passing him lying, quite peacefully, on the couch, watching a movie.  And I recalled that it can wait, all of it.  I have not doubt that pile of greasy pans will still be in the sink after he goes to bed, or even tomorrow morning.  But for this moment, of T being three-and-a-few-months and just the two of us lying together, watching Toy Story, still smelling like campfire and sunshine, I have no such guarantee.  So I took it, and he put his hand on my head and smiled, and life was good.

Camping.6.2014

 

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Miss Mary

It’s with sad heart that I say my neighbor passed away yesterday.  Miss Mary was the curmudgeonly matriarch of our little strip of Baltimore, having lived in the same home for over sixty years.  She raised her family there and would often lament the changes to the neighborhood over the years – the fact that you could no longer look down the street and watch the oyster ships come due to new construction, or that all the mom and pop shops had closed down and you couldn’t get a decent loaf of fresh-baked bread.  Despite her grouchy countenance, she would often humor my requests to identify what certain buildings used to be in their former lives (the office across from us was an auto shop, the bar on the corner always run as such) and regale me with stories of “the old neighborhood” and its inhabitants.  Over the years we went from barely acknowledging each other (her standard treatment to newcomers on the block) to exchanging treats – my freshly canned tomatoes, her homemade rice and meat “peasant balls.”  I still have some of her jalapeno cornbread in my freezer.

I don’t have any pictures of Miss Mary.  Fitting, really, since when I told her I was on a quest to find photos of the area in celebration of the centennial of our home (built simultaneously with three consecutive blocks of rowhouses for the workers of the nearby canning factories) she replied “oh, we never did that, took pictures.”  I hope this one does her memories justice.

500 S Glover Street, Baltimore

Credit unknown

Rest in peace, Miss Mary.  You will be missed.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Remember

 

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Milestone

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The Blue Beast hit 200,000 miles this morning!  Of course I pulled over to take that picture. ;-) Here’s to another 200,00 miles of errands, soccer games, vacations, and memories.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Spring?

Man I hate winter.  The cold, the snow, the slippery roads, taking an extra thirty minutes to get out the door because of all the layers, not being able to open my windows or dry my sheets outside without losing an eye on their frozen corners.  Ugh.

T and I were looking at some pictures on my phone the other day and I realized that, the day we hauled the wagon full of stuff down to the Toys for Tots donation spot (in December!) we were wearing sweatshirts.  And shortly after that, the deep freeze set in.  Ugh again.

But today…Today was glorious.  Foggy at first, then sunny warmth that invited a long walk with the dogs and many trips down the slide.  T got a bike for Christmas and, except for the day he decided to ride it down the stairs, it has mostly collected dust over the past few months, waiting for just the right moment for him to make it FLY.

Just a few more winks...

Just a few more winks…

So I take this day, the first of Spring, to declare the end of my annual hibernation.  Sure, the next few weeks could bring more snow and sleet.  But I’ve had just enough sweet air to get me over the hump and my loving husband just brought me a Bud Lite Lime Mango-Rita (seriously – it’s a thing!).  So suck it, winter – there’s a new season in town.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in family, Remember

 

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