Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer afternoons

The hairdryer is loud. You think of tasks, the to-do list, the grocery list, the appointments, the laundry, the unpacking, all that must happen this day. You think of the landscaping, and the work of digging out a new pathway and setting bricks, building stone walls all by yourself. You think of paint colors, and how you really should repaint the living room, and then there's the furnace and the water filter system you still need, and all that reading and critiquing you need to do, and you're overwhelmed by it all. The day still only has twenty-four hours, right?

Knock, knock.

"Come in."

"Mommy, how do you spell if?"

"Eye. Eff."

The door closes, and you flip upside down, hot air rushing around your ears. BLT's tonight? Then you can use up the leftover bacon from last night.

Knock, knock.

"How do you spell get?"

"Gee. Eee. Tee."

The door closes again. Should you make grilled pizza again this week? You add fontina to your mental grocery list. And tomatoes. You flip right side up again, your curls going a bit haywire. Cereal, you need cereal. And paper towels. And fruit, since that last watermelon was grossly over-ripe. Sandwich bags.

Knock, knock.

"How do you spell prizes?"

"Pee. Are. Eye. Zee. Eee. Ess."


The door closes again. Your hair is dry enough--not completely dry, but it'll have to do. You click off the dryer, unplug it, and set it in the cabinet under the sink. Groceries, then you have to get to school to meet with the teacher at one.

"Can you read this, Mommy? Can you tell what it says?"

He holds a large sheet of paper, on which is written in blue marker:

"I If you If you g get a 4 tac"

You say, "If you get a four, tack."

"No, no," he says. "If you get a four, take four prizes. How do you spell prizes again?"

You tell him, and he continues to work while you put in a load of laundry.

By mid-afternoon, the enterprising young businessman is set up with a table at the end of the driveway, a half-gallon of lemonade, an envelope to collect donations for the poor, and a bean-bag toss game with a jar of candy for prizes. Like a hawker at Covent Garden in London, he shouts out, "Lemonade stand! Lemonade! Donations for the poor! Bean bag toss! Thirty cents for three bean bags, twenty cents for two bean bags, ten cents for one!"

If only the trees could pull up their roots and come quench their thirst at his little stand. If only the squirrels would pause in their commute from treetop to treetop to toss a bean bag in his carefully drawn and cut bean bag toss poster. If only the stones could change their nature through some alchemy, and hurl themselves into his envelope of donations for the poor.

But they can't.

So you gather a few quarters to play his bean bag toss game, and he carefully tallies up your points on his fingers, and says, "You get four candies!" You don't want the candies, but you take them anyway, because that's what moms do.  The groceries and laundry can wait.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


She should be rewriting a chapter. She should be revising. But the sun shines, the breeze blows puffy clouds across the sky, and the summer is short.

She brings the Gingerbread Boys to the pool, and the younger one has gone to play with his brother.

First, they stand under the buckets that dump as they're filled with water.  Yellow, then the green, orange, blue, and red. They move under the blue mushroom, curtains of water cascading down around them. Next, the palm tree where three spouts shoot water which they catch on their bony chests. They move to the silly face, eyebrows, eyes, nose, and red lips shooting water. The older Gingerbread boy turns the crank to increase the water flow. The younger one giggles, following right behind.

They make the circuit again, and she wonders if she should get out the camera to take a picture. Will she remember this day without an image to carry it? Like that day in Jeju-Do, when they returned to the beach and the boys rode wave after blue wave, and the sky was perfect and the sand was pink. She desperately wanted to take pictures, but the camera wasn't in her bag. Will she remember that day? The perfect colors? The motion of the sea? The arc of the spray? The glee on her children's faces? She has the camera with her today; she should take pictures while she can.

But by the time she looks up, the Gingerbread Boys have become bored with the water spray and have returned to the slide, where they are the only ones in line, so they go down again and again, each time with a big grin on their faces. How tall they are getting. How quickly they're growing up. Would a camera even capture this joie de vivre? She's certain it can't.

She should be revising, but on such a perfect day, she leaves the camera in her bag and decides to etch this image in her mind.