Monday, June 25, 2018

Singing with Dad

Sunday was the nativity of John the Baptist, a feast I don't ever recall celebrating before. Something new in the liturgy? One of those days you notice every few years, when it falls on a Sunday?

We sang "Shall We Gather at the River," a hymn I always associate with summer tent revivals — and not one of my favorites. To me, it sounds "Protestant"— a non-ecumenical term to be sure but the only one I can come up with. It's not the kind of hymn I sang as a kid, one with verses in Latin. Singing it has always made me feel a bit strange and out of place.

But now I have an antidote for hymns like "Shall We Gather" or "How Great Thou Art." Whenever we sing them now, I imagine Dad standing next to me, belting out the melody in his rich baritone. Dad was the Protestant in my life. He went to tent revivals and Wednesday night services as a kid. He knew the score.

So I follow his lead, sing out loud and strong. I can almost feel him nudge my elbow. "See, Annie," he winks. "That's not too bad, is it?"


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Friday, June 22, 2018

Drizzly Day

Copper and I are having a hard time getting out this morning. Neither one of us wants to brave the rain. And since I was counting on a walk to provide the inspiration for this morning's post ... I'm late here, too. The doors are open, but the bodies aren't moving.

What I've done instead: write, edit, prepare a story to publish Monday, try to finish one I started earlier this week. And in between: tidying up, doing laundry and making beds.

It's the kind of day I'd like to spend reading a book straight through from start to finish. Or organizing a closet. Or maybe even napping.

But there are errands to run, an article to finish and, if it ever clears up, a walk to take.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Longest, Greenest

There's the dark, shiny green of the holly, and the springy green of the grass, still relatively weedless this time of year. The ferns add texture. Running my hands over their fronds is the way green feels.

But mostly this longest day is about how green looks: light through oak leaves, the ancient rusted tint of begonia foliage, tall green stems in the garden bearing day lily buds and brand-new coneflowers.

Out front by the mailbox a new garden bed sprouts tender morning glory stems and leaves twisting around twine, salvia, verbena and baby zinnias, too.

It's a riot of green out there, a show of life force. I want to revel in it.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Up, Up and Away!

We took Celia to the airport this morning. She wanted to be early, and she was. I watched her move through security, chatting with a fellow passenger as she put her laptop, shoes and carryon into the bins. And then ... she vanished.

Home now, I think at first that I can't go in her room, but I'm pulled there despite myself. There are the cast-offs — the shoes, clothes and books that didn't make the final cut.  There's the cover to Jane Eyre, one of her faves — she has the book itself. And there's the box I brought home from work on Monday. Something tells me I'll be filling it soon and mailing it to Seattle.

For the first time in a long time, 2938 is an empty nest.  The youngest has flown the coop. My heart flies with her.

(The girls out on the town this weekend.)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Seismic Joy

I like the thought of jumping for joy, of arms raised, fists pumped; of running in circles because you don't know what else to do with yourself; because there's just so much good feeling it won't stay put, must bubble out — all the physical expressions of positive emotion.

I didn't know until yesterday, though, that when enough people jump for joy at the same time, it can actually cause an earthquake. Not a monstrous one, but one that can be detected on seismic read-outs like the one above. Apparently this happened on Sunday in Mexico, when cheering fans erupted with jumping and dancing when Mexico upset Germany in World Cup soccer play.

And it's not the first time. A seismograph a block away from where the Seattle Seahawks scored the winning touchdown in the 2011 Super Bowl registered what it called the "12 Man Earthquake" or "the Beast Quake." (This from my favorite weather site, The Capital Weather Gang.)

I bet there were some mini-tremblors in D.C. week before last when the Caps won the Stanley Cup. And I'm not ruling out seismic activity in Lexington, Kentucky, in late March or early April of  1978, 1996, 1998 or 2012, all recent wins of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tourney.

Human-made quakes? Why not? They underline our connection with the earth, our influence over it, that it shakes and shimmies and trembles with our joy.

(Seismograph read-out courtesy Washington Post Capital Weather Gang)

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Loss and Fullness

The deck, the morning after our Father's Day celebration. Here's the fish griller that Claire used to cook the salmon.The new hanging plant I bought over the weekend, its purple blossoms cascading over the rim. There's a half moon of package sealing that came off when I opened the tub of deer repellent to sprinkle on the flower bed.

The white bucket in the back yard holds the pétanque balls we used to play a few rounds of that game before dinner. Appolinaire was the champ, despite the fact that he'd only heard of pétanque minutes before we played. Maybe French-speaking folks just naturally excel.

Scattered around are the big sticks Claire's dog Reese picked up and dropped. Copper sniffs them, wary still. This time last year we had just met Reese, a small ball of fluff. Now he's a 100-pound "baby."

Further back into the yard, the new picket fence panels gleam. One day they'll be as weathered as the ones they replace.

Thinking about loss, about fullness.  That from this home, this yard, three little souls were launched into the world.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Last Day, Redux

To be the parent of young adults means getting used to the filling and emptying of the house that gave them birth. The house didn't really give them birth, of course — I did. But sometimes it feels like it did, the rooms have so absorbed the people who grew up in them.

This old house has gotten pretty good at it by now. People move out, then in ... then out again. The house accommodates it all — I just hang on for the ride.

Today is the last day of school in Fairfax County, a day my kids once celebrated with shaving cream fights at the bus stop, a celebratory fast-food lunch and the ceremonial viewing of one of our fave family movies, "The Music Man." I hear the buses already, revving up for early dismissal. Soon they'll be disgorging young'uns into an endless summer.

It doesn't seem so long ago that I was meeting my own girls down at the corner. Now Celia (front row, left) is about to move in with her friend Jessy (standing right next to her), who lives ... on the other side of the country.

It's a grand adventure for all of us, the ones just starting out and the ones who've lived long enough to marvel at it all.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Whistle Them Home

It was after 6:00 p.m. yesterday and the children — two boys, one  girl — were angling for some park time.  "You can play outside for a while, but you have to come in when I whistle for you," said the mother. Maybe she was in the middle of cooking dinner, or had just changed from her work clothes. Or maybe she works at home, as I did when the girls were young.

But the whistling, that was unique. No texting, no agreed-upon time to be home. Just wait for the whistle. A bit canine,  to be sure. But deliciously old-fashioned.

Where I grew up in Lexington, only one family had a dinner bell. Other parents just cupped their hands around their mouths and yelled for their kids to come home in the evening. "Johnnnnny! Sallllly!" (Children had primary reader names back in those days.) These ersatz bullhorns are the original communication device, are they not?

And they did the job.  The kids came running home.

(These tunnels — I call them "snake eyes" -- are near the park where the kids were playing.) 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Lies Beneath

Every so often comes a cleaning chore that makes us bare our souls, that drives us into the hidden places where we've stuffed photographs and papers and maps, and makes us pull them out. Every so often a cleaning chore comes that makes us ashamed of ourselves.

For me, that one comes today, when the Stainless technicians come to shampoo the carpet.

I am, first of all, ashamed that the carpet is in such bad shape. Copper has grown more anxious as he's gotten older and has developed the habit of scratching rugs when he's upset. His bladder control ain't what it used to be either.

And then there's all the stuff I've been storing on the floor in the bedrooms. This is how I've absorbed the papers and photographs from Mom and Dad's house —by transferring them directly from underneath their beds to underneath mine.

I marvel at how much I can cram into corners and closets — and how easily it slips out of awareness when not in my direct line of vision. But today it's right there, difficult to ignore.

So Stainless Carpet Cleaners will come, and Stainless will clean and Stainless will leave. But the stuff will remain. And dealing with the stuff...  is up to me.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Summer Skin

It's out there, exposed, demanding coverage. Once sleeves are short and legs are bare, invisible  protectors must come to the rescue: the creams and ointments and sprays. Sunscreen, 30, 50 or even 70. Mosquito repellent, too.

These are fine, indeed necessary, but you often don't have them when you need them. Already I've had chiggers, mosquito bites, a touch of poison ivy and two spider bites.

So bring on the remedies: the calamine, hydrocortisone and witch hazel. I'd forgotten about that last one, but dabbing it on itchy skin is not only soothing but also an olfactory trip to the past, to childhood's itches and scrapes and the more basic first-aid that fought them. (Is there anything else that smells like witch hazel?)

Now, let's see if it makes me itch any less. It's summer, and the living is easy. Until you roll up your sleeves.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Lucky Thirteen

Just because we had a triple crown winner three years ago doesn't make Justify's victory in the Belmont on Saturday any less impressive. He was only the 13th horse to achieve such a feat in the last century. The first was  in 1919, there were three in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, three in the 1970s ... then a 37 year drought till American Pharoah won in 2015.

Justify's jockey, Mike Smith, says the colt has an "old soul." Not sure about that, but the horse was subtle, sneaking up on us in the midst of other exciting spots news. The Stanley Cup finals, the NBA finals, the French Open, the World Cup. But he didn't come from behind to win. He led all the way around the mile-and-a-half track, and he made it look easy, which is how all great champions do it.

Celia and I watched the race together in the basement, and we were both whooping and hollering. I like to think I schooled my girls in the important things of life: the thrill of horse racing, especially when a Triple Crown is at stake; the importance of hard work; and the need for enthusiasm.  Especially the latter.

(Photo: This low-res pic made possible by Wikipedia)


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Friday, June 8, 2018

Caps Win the Cup!

It took me a split second this morning to remember, and then the joy washed over me again: The Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup! They have coolly and methodically mowed down their competition. They have run the distance, they have prevailed.

Does D.C. need this or what? It's been decades since we've had a sports championship of any type. And just in general, things are tough in the "swamp." We're the seat of government in an era when government is contentious. Our traffic is horrendous, and we've had four weeks of rain.

But last night, all of that was forgotten. Ovi hoisted the Stanley Cup, smiled his gap-toothed grin, and made some sort of utterance that was part howl, part growl.

Last night wasn't about words, though. It was about sounds and images. Firecrackers popping. A sea of red in Capital One Arena and throughout Chinatown (which I cruised beneath on Metro less than two hours before they won).

Today the whole region woke up a little happier than it did yesterday. Yes, it's just a bunch of guys who skate around and chuck each other with sticks. But it's our guys. And they won!

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Journey

Walking has its charms, many of which I've detailed here. It is good for the body and the soul, a moving meditation.  It is also, I thought on an early stroll this morning, a reflection of the inevitable changes we endure.

I use the word "endure" because so many of these changes are not ones we seek or desire. They are just life, with its comings and goings, its highs and lows. Colleagues leave, jobs change, bodies falter and fail.

Walking is all about moving through space, about not getting too attached to any viewpoint or position. It's about the journey and taking what we can from it.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Simply Outdated

Walker in the Suburbs sends out no newsletters and keeps no lists. It accepts no followers and receives no comments. This is because Walker in the Suburbs is published on a hopelessly outdated template that its author hasn't the time to upgrade or change.

But there is a silver lining. Walker in the Suburbs will not be sending you an email asking you to update your privacy settings. It will not be worrying too much about the European Union's GDRP, which I had to Google to spell out — that would be the General Data Protection Regulation plan.

Walker in the Suburbs is not quite as outdated as my old phone pictured here. But it's definitely in a digital backwater. 

Simplicity has its rewards.

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