The Woodpile

Woodpile

We don’t have a furnace, but we do have an amish-made wood cookstove that burns about five cords of wood every winter.  Over the last few years, thirteen-year-old Jack has increasingly enjoyed the triple-warming feature of our chosen heat source.  

As Jack’s body has grown, so has his part in the stacking, hauling, and burning.  Some years he even takes on the lion’s share of the stacking in hopes of earning some cash.  Even the small income, however, has not taught him to appreciate the woodpile.

Monday we each had a day off.  I decided to lend him a hand.  After lunch, we each donned work gloves and earbud and started ferrying logs to the woodshed.  

It was quiet work.  Each of us was listening to music, but, as Jack has grown taller, he has also become more introspective. Spontaneous utterances are rare.   He meets most of my queries these days with monosyllabic answers.

As the first cord formed in the shed, however, Jack volunteered the remark on the increase in speed when there were two stacking.  I concurred, adding that it was almost pleasant when you got moving.  Jack retreated to silence again.  I asked what music he was listening to, extracting an answer after repeating the questions several ways.

I entertain no illusions about my hipness as a mother (only my fitness as one), and I was glad just to know a little about Jack’s evolving music tastes.  In the next hour we would chat about his English grade, the computer he’s been working toward over the last year, and his favorite video game.  In the end, the wood stacking warmed each of us, but in completely different ways.  For Jack, it was still just a chore.  For me, it was one more thing in my life that reminding me to feel thankful.

Cursed

Cursed

   Seven-year-old Thing2 and his thirteen-year-old brother Jack take turns sitting next to me when we go to Sunday breakfast at Bob’s Diner in Manchester, VT.  Thing2 is still at the age where he’s easily entertained by shiny objects and it was my wedding ring caught that his attention the other morning.

Waiting for our drinks to arrive, Thing2 grabbed my hand from the table and began inspecting the rings, twist and turning my finger.  The Big Guy told him the story of the stone (they came from his grandfather’s ring) and then of his own gold band (also owned by his grandfather).  

Thing2 tried to pull off my ring for close inspection, but I stiffened my finger and the ring would not come off.  It would twist, but it would not move up my finger.

“It won’t come off,” exclaimed Thing2.   The server had now brought our drinks.

“It’s not supposed to come off,” I said.

“What is it.. cursed?” he asked turning to ancient pop culture and Ringo Star’s ruby ring in the move Help to explain the phenomenon on my finger.  Even Jack had to laugh at the question. Our server took our order and walked away giggling.  

Thing2 was now wedged between my arm and body.  Sun flooding through the plate glass window bathed Jack and the Big Guy on the opposite side of the table.  It was just an ordinary Sunday with nothing planned except wood stacking and hanging out around the homestead.  I had his answer.

“It’s not cursed,” I said.  It’s blessed.

 

A Sharp Dressed Man

Brothers in arms

Seven-year-old Thing2 was invited to a movie with a friend on Sunday.  An hour before it was time to go, he doffed his t-shirt and, wearing only his camo pants began rummaging through the closet looking for his only button-down shirt and tie.

The Big Guy and I long ago adopted the Vermont uniform of good jeans for going out and regular jeans for everything else.  Thirteen-year-old Thing1’s fashion priorities are comfort and cleanliness – in that order.  I don’t know where he got his sense of style and panache. It’s always been clear, however, that Thing2 didn’t just fall very far from our family tree, and he’s not content to put down roots for his own tree.  He’s starting his own orchard.  

The funny thing is, I know we’ve done somethings differently as we’ve guided Thing2 through infancy and the toddler years, but for the most part, the Big Guy and I like to think we’re pretty even-steven with our two boys. Despite sharing genes and parents, however, the two of them are completely different personalities, and we’re often left wondering where nurture ends and nature picks up.

The real puzzle for me, the one I am happy to consider indefinitely, is how the Big Guy and I can have two such completely different little boys in our life and still experience the same powerful love for each of them.  It’s a puzzle, but it’s also a bit of a miracle.

 

Tales from the Scale

Scale

Forgive me scale for I have really sinned.  It’s been at least a week since my last confession.

Before I step on, however, I just want to say that even though my sins are too numerous to list within the next hour – the last week has been a nutritional blur – I have stuck to my fitness plan like a champion (the running part that is).  With that in mind, I hope you’ll agree with me that you shouldn’t raise the numbers too high and that maybe you can give me a pass for listing maple syrup as a serving of vegetables (it comes from a plant, after all).

I’m ready to do some penance, and I really appreciate you keeping the pounds even.  I promise I’ll lay off the crisps and pies for the next few weeks, but I just have to say that while the running rules, dieting sucks.

The Bookmaker

BookMaker copy

Last Saturday, to much fanfare from my family, I clicked an upload button and published my first short story.  Fifteen minutes later, I had my first sale and, somewhat hesitantly, added the moniker of ‘author’ to my Facebook profile.

Hesitation has been the hallmark and stumbling block of my short writing career.  

I’ve wanted to write most of my life.  Only in the last year and a half – on joining the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project – did a professional writing career seem like a realistic goal.  

Over the year as I’ve sketched and posted, seven-year-old Thing2 has written and sketched with me.  He’s filled 5×8 notebooks with trees and robots and star systems.  He’s pilfered printer paper to produce his illustrated, staple-bound paperback stories.  

The weekend before I published my story, I mentioned his endeavors as I was standing in the living room of a friend and writing mentor and his wife.  I had been working on their computers, and my friend was taking the opportunity to harangue me for my hesitation, even enlisting thirteen-year-old Jack to keep me on the hot seat until I hit ‘Publish’.  

“I think you’re scared,” said my friend’s wife.

 “You’re right,” I said and pointed to Thing2 who was hanging on my friend. “You should see the books he makes,” I said.  Thing2 smiled shyly.  I thought I was off the hook, but my friend’s wife smiled, apparently knowing her husband would not be so easily distracted.  “He’s really talented,” I said.

 “And I bet he doesn’t doubt himself,” said my friend.

 “No he doesn’t, I admitted.  

A week later, we were at Bob’s diner.  I was enjoying the glow of seeing my first royalties.  

Jack and Thing2 quickly put my accomplishment in perspective as they setup a game of table hockey, complete with salt-and-pepper shaker goal posts  and a straw wrapper puck. Fulfilling the requirements of my primary job title, I did the mom thing and barked a reprimand.   

Thing2 asked for my notebook, and I gave it to him. 

“Are you starting a new story?” I asked.  He grinned and nodded, staking out the back 10 pages for illustrations.

“Mommy,” he announced, “I want to write a book just like you when I grow up.”

“You’ll be a great writer,” I said.  There wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind or voice.  The Big Guy concurred with the same confidence he expresses when he’s encouraging me.

That’s when it hit me.  Thing2 and I have the same dream.  I see his innate talent, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have his hills to climb.  Each of us will only succeed, however, if we don’t start (or in my case stop) worrying if we have the right stuff and just climb.