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.
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.
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.
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.
By 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.
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.
Rest in peace, Miss Mary. You will be missed.
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.
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.
My sweet son -
Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.
I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.
You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.
As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.