Iron-Clad

Washington County Fair, NY

I should  have been putting up the 40 pounds of tomatoes sitting on the counter or cleaning or writing or weeding or cleaning (did I mention cleaning?).  Instead, I was sitting on a courtesy cart on my way from the parking lot to the entrance of New York’s Washington County Fair.  The little imp that sits on my left shoulder is the queen of rationalization and had already come up with a couple of great excuses for the less-wayward imp that sits on my right shoulder (I don’t have any internal angels).   However, as luck would have it, our driver came up with the hum-dinger of all pretext for a day of play –  one I know I’ll use again and again.

Our main reason for going was to see the 4-H exhibits. None of us have any interest in those rides that involve leaving your stomach hovering 20 feet in the air over the rest of your body.  However, we all wanted to ride the ferris wheel – all of us, that is, except for Thing 2.  So, as we climbed onto the courtesy cart, he became the victim of an escalating ad campaign to get all of us onboard with the idea.  The lanky, slightly-older gentleman driving the cart noticed our five-year-old’s plight and took pity on him.

“Know why I don’t like ferris wheels?”  He asked.

Thing2 turned his face toward my stomach (his preferred debate technique).

The driver then told us of a draconian punishment he had endured at the age of nine and at the hands of a father he never saw again.  In somewhat vivid detail, he described how his parent pushed him from a precipice and how a hatred of heights sprang from that betrayal .  My hands moved to cover Thing2’s ears to filter out the story, but I was too slow, and I was to be happy about that by the end of the ride.

” I work with other kids like me,” he went on.  Before we had time to consider the courage it took to evolve from a cast-off to a champion of others caught in the cycle of neglect, he asked, “You know why I like working this job too?”  Thing2 was now listening intently, as were we all. “I like seeing people coming here enjoying their kids.  Not like the kids I work with.  Not like my parents.”  He pulled the cart to a stop in front of the ticket booth and smiled at Thing2 and at me and my husband.

Then, lightening the mood, he asked Thing2, “Know how cows have fun?”  Thing2 shook his head, no.  He grinned at all of us as we stepped out of the cart.  “They go to the moo-vies.”

We groaned and the kids laughed and we waved good-bye as we trotted up to the ticket booth.  Gone from my mind were the tomatoes and housework and writing and all the excuses I thought I needed to be here.  In the end, the only – the iron-clad – excuse that we needed or will ever need was that we wanted to enjoy our kids while we’re lucky enough to be able to do so.

Resolutions

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It’s been a good year so far. So far, I’ve stuck to my new daily writing plan pretty well, and it’s been it’s own reward. The weight loss resolution – it’s still in the back burner, but I’m hoping today’s addendum to Housekeeping resolution 106.b will help turn up the heat on it and my writing and illustration.

Virginia Woolf once wrote that a woman needed money and a room of her own to write (she obviously didn’t have kids when she wrote that or she’d be advocating for five minutes in the bathroom on her own just to think about writing the shopping list). This weekend as we begin to carve out space for the Big Guy’s workshop, I decided to pursue the room and carve a studio out of our laundry/storage/guest area (no, that photo isn’t my entry for ‘Hoarders’ – just my motivating before shot).

I’m great at rationalizing this plan – it’ll clear my crap out of other rooms, more light, same heating bill. But my private rationalization – one that the Big Guy (he’s cool) seems to understand without my saying it – is that, while I’ve spent the summer getting my feet wet, I finally decided to jump In and call myself an writer and illustrator, not because I think I’ll be the next Maurice Senkak or Shel Silverstein, but because I need to write and draw to feel complete. I know I’m not alone in this need, and, even if the laundry is still hanging in my studio by next weekend, the decision to take the plunge matters as much as the way it happens.

A Joyful Noise

We got the date wrong for the start of county fair and decided to head back to the farmer’s market in Cambridge behind Hubbard Hall.  The town center was humming with activity – there was the weekly market in back, craft demonstrations in front, and, inside, the last performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute was almost about to begin.

Every member of our family who could sit still for two hours had seen the production, and each of us eyed the stage door with longing.  In then end, my husband was the one to finagle a place to stand at the sold-out show, and I decided to drag Thing1 and Thing2 to the hardware store.  So I kissed the Big Guy goodbye and bid a temporary adieu to the little piece of paradise behind  the theatre.

We pulled out of the parking lot onto a quiet, residential village street lined with 18th century greek revival homes and community gardens.  It was a perfect August day  – not too hot and just enough puffy clouds to make you think you were in a Technicolor musical – minus the music.

I slowed down and pulled to the side to find something appropriately embarrassing to Thing1 on the iPod when I  heard singing.  At first I thought it was coming from behind us, but I knew there was an hour before the curtain went up.  I looked up from my search and noticed a tall, robust man striding down the sidewalk toward us.  The notes seemed to be coming from him.  He got closer, and we realized that he was indeed the seemingly unlikely source of the jubilant tones.

We smiled at him and he, continuing his scales, smiled back at us, and suddenly I recognized him as one of the opera’s cast members.  My own smile grew wider as I remembered the amazing performance Thing1 and I had seen the day before.  Both of us chuckled as we enjoyed our private performance and we waved and even yelled out the window to congratulate him on his success.

I’ve seen this man in other local performances, and he is not a professional actor, but he gives his audiences – and his art – world class effort dedication and results.  He was fearless waltzing down the sidewalk and singing.  As he channeled the beautiful day through his voice, he seemed to vanquish doubt of any kind.  Nowhere to be seen was any worry that he would not ‘make it’ in show biz or that he might not be perfect that afternoon.  All that mattered at that moment was the day and the song.

He offered this joyful noise to the world, and  we drove away savoring the gift of that moment.  But  three days later, I realized the song’s real gift was the talisman it became.  It is the reminder that there are somethings a peasant can enjoy just as much (if not more than) a king.  Most of all, however, this keepsake moment reminds me how many things we miss when we let fear decide that not being good enough is a reason not to try something new.

Make-do Salad

When I was a kid, my favorite side dish was my mom’s make-ahead salad.  Covered in mayo with apples and bacon, the only thing healthy abut this special-occasion recipe was the word salad in its name.  Then came the eighties and, with it, the nutrition and fitness craze (which I obviously avoided), and the parties were over.  At least, the ones with make-ahead salad were.

My parents – usually healthy eaters to begin with – joined the Fiber Festival and  began making healthier salads part of their routines.  They weren’t as good as my favorite the peas and lettuce mingled with bacon and mayonnaise, but the change did prime my taste buds (and my psyche) for a recipe I like to call Make-Do salad.

I used to think this recipe had its genesis in my garden – I make with whatever I do find that’s ready to pick.  Now, however, I realize that mine is one of millions of versions that all parents and people living near need (most people at some point in their lives) have created over centures.

I inherited the basics from my parents – both children of the depression – and honed it during layoffs, healthcare-induced cashecotmies, and new-parent panic attacks.  It’s probably pretty similar to yours, but I thought I’d share it.

 

Make Do Salad

(Serves as many as needed)

Ingedients

1 c. Patience

2/3 c.  This, too, shall pass

1 c. loyalty

1 healthy dose of skepticism

Season with salt, pepper, dash of sarcasm

(Optional ingedients)

3 c. lettuce

1 Zucchini or Summer Squash

2-3 tomatoes

Dressing

Dress with as much Humor as needed


Directions

Pick and rinse whatever you have in your garden.  Dice small portions to make them seem larger.  Toss. If you’re out of everything but lettuce, add more dressing.  (Calories – varies)

The veggies in this recipe may vary, but I think the most important ingredient is the dressing.  That is the one part of the recipe that each chef has to concoct on their own, and it has taken a long time to develop mine.  But when the salad days are short, it goes a long way toward stretching my resources and sanity.