will there be bears?

“Will there be bears?” I asked.

John shook his head and explained that they would be spending their boys’ night a few minutes from our old bearless suburb across the Bay, and probably 100 yards from the main road on which you can find a CVS and Round Table Pizza.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“OK, well….be careful out there.”

“You be careful, and have fun. Don’t worry about trying to do too much, you can sleep for hours if you want to.”

John had provided the opportunity to go camping with them, and I was admittedly less than pleased. I think you could describe the look on his face as half confused, a quarter surprised, and a quarter not-at-all surprised as I explained that I was unhappy with the invitation because now I was put in the position of having to feel bad about saying no, and I would rather just not even be asked in the first place.  It made sense at the time.

My friend Margie has a cheeky little napkin hanging on the bulletin board in her kitchen that says, “I love not camping.” I point at it when we visit, and quote it often, and I quoted it again when he asked.

Oh how I want to want to camp. It seems to be a popular thing for people to do and the snacks would be right up my alley…I hear there’s often chocolate and marshmallows AND bacon.

But after realizing the weekend’s arrangements were likely best for everybody, I was excused from going, and from the jobs of monitoring stick usage, dirt abatement and maintaining a 40-foot perimeter around the campfire. The guys loaded up their tent and stove and other supplies I did not recognize. John pointed out the ingredients they left me on the counter for my own “in the house” s’mores, and headed off into the beautiful sunshiny weekend for a night in the wilderness.

We waved at each other enthusiastically and I dashed up the stairs, ready to tackle my list. Of course I had a list; I wanted to use this time wisely.

I had just under 24 hours and a few simple things to do:

  • Clean out and organize all rooms, closets, bookshelves, and areas that could possibly contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs
  • Fully prepare for the start of school, short of packing lunches two weeks in advance
  • Give self manicure and pedicure
  • Catch up on DVR’d shows (that, my friends, is a legitimate to-do)
  • Plan meals for the week, nay, the month
  • Read backlog of magazines
  • Return backlog of emails
  • Think about exercising
  • Finish reading The Help then go see The Help in the theater, and of course…
  • Re-start, finish, and finally fall in love with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I am almost positive that I had NOT written:

  • Make and eat entire box of pasta salad
  • Run out of things to read on the Internet, because you have simply read it all
  • Don’t read any books at all– I mean it, NO books
  • Watch Hoarders, then feel yucky after
  • Watch romantic comedies until your eyes hurt, and feel way worse than you did after watching Hoarders
  • Argue with the cat about her incessantly stealing the drain things out of the sinks
  • Take picture of the cat with the drain things, because even though it’s so annoying, it’s kind of cute
  • Argue with the cat about her trying to remove the vent grate with her tiny little claws at 2:00 am, which unfortunately is shortly after you will finish watching a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, and not one of her better ones.
  • Paint nails and allow to dry while laying motionless for the length of DVR’d Gossip Girl season finale
  • Rediscover long-dormant and impractical love of French house music
  • Use minimal math skills to evenly space out consumption of the three Hawaiian sweet rolls that are in the kitchen
  • Become overwhelmed at how many areas in house contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs

Though that is most certainly the list I did not write, it is the list I diligently completed while the boys were frivolously frolicking about in the woods.

bloomers

 

 

I’ve logged enough hours with Wills and Kate this last week that they should be able to do me a solid, and issue a royal decree that it is officially summer.   

I followed the media coverage, and sat on my bed dutifully watching my recording and weeping a little bit, like you do at the weddings of all your friends. John happily excused himself to make dinner, leaving me to my celebration, while the boys drifted in and out the room asking questions. They could not believe how long everything was taking and I hadn’t even told them about the first 200 minutes of pomp I had already watched. They asked about the trees in Westminster Abby and I reported as if she had told me herself, that Kate is very outdoorsy and was really going for an English Garden feeling. Then they asked about the carriage and the footmen, and all of the fancy outfits on the clergy, and it was decided that John should probably get that cool tall hat if he’s gonna get anywhere in this ministry business.

When it finished, and with great sadness and blurry eyes, I deleted the wedding from the DVR in order to make room for May sweeps. I then ventured into my yard to reconnect with the people I know in real life and enjoy the glorious weather.

Zach and I even went outside in the morning before school the other day. It’s Teacher Appreciation week, and we were asked to cut flowers from our gardens to contribute to bouquets for the extraordinarily deserving and saintly pre-school teachers. An absolutely lovely idea. Now if we only had a garden. Thank God for the flowering bush outside, that I can take absolutely no credit for. Its vibrant pink flowers bloom generously just in time for teacher appreciation every year. 

John took Zach to the store the first day of the week and they gallantly delivered beautiful and professionally tended red roses. I thought on the second day, I’m going to go to my garden, aka flowering bush-I-do-not-know-the-name-of, to select some lovely home grown blooms. Zach and I stood at the bush with my pruning shears. They are pruning shears one day a year when I stand at that plant during Teacher Appreciation Week. On every other day, they are the office scissors with the orange handles.

Only this week did I discover that we also have roses growing in the yard. In spite of me, we have roses. The bush must be just far enough away from the basketball hoop to have survived this long. Right now there are four blooms – full and dark red and wildly fragrant. If you put your nose to them, you would undoubtedly note the universal smell of great-grandmother. When I found the roses, I insisted the boys come over for a whiff. They looked nervous and asked if something was going to come out of the petals to get them. Perhaps they do share my wariness of the great outdoors after all.

Just a few feet from the valiant rose bush, is the spot where the Venus Flytrap of a horribly mean cactus is disappearing.  We have a guy who’s making that happen. We don’t ask questions; I don’t want to know how he makes it go away, he just does it. He takes care of the problem. I feel like the mob boss wife of cactuses. While there was remorse for the tree that fell in the storms a few months ago, and even the blooms we cut from the bush in the morning, I have no feelings for the cactus. Its needles were like tiny daggers, and we lost many a baseball to it. It didn’t take long for the kids to realize that when it comes to boy vs. cactus, cactus wins. I was certain it was eyeing the children hungrily. Since the thing has started disappearing in sizeable chunks, two baseball carcasses have surfaced.

My brother, the person in this world with who I am most genetically linked, gardens and grills and does things that require regular trips to stores that specialize in fishing poles and tents. He can grow anything, and to counter his stressful schedule, he lovingly tends his suburban crops. It has to be absolutely perfect weather to get me excited about eating in the yard because there are about 40 extra steps to serve an outside meal. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. You have to clean bird poop off the table before you can sit down outside, and I have never had to do that in my dining room. However, when there are twinkle lights up, I find it much easier to lounge at the table, waving bees away from my grilled veggies and listening to the boys happily chatter without the distraction of the stuff that waits inside like homework and dishes.

So hang the twinkle lights, hose down the poop table, smell a rose, kill a cactus and call me Duchess of the Yard, it’s time to be outside again.

a tree falls in side yard

Last week, I pulled into the garage without noticing that the tree that once stood taller than our house now lay across the side yard. John came home an hour later and gave me the report as I stared lamely at him. At first I couldn’t even picture what tree he was talking about…I don’t venture to that part of the yard much, I guess. (You would think we lived on 30 acres instead of a regular suburban smallish lot). But I finally figured out that I knew quite well about 5 feet of that tree, somewhere near its middle top.

It once grew majestically outside Zachary’s window, with a narrow trunk and long graceful branches that would thwap against his window in the wind or create sinister looking shadows in the night. I don’t know what kind it was, but it was a resting place for many a bird who would chirp their greetings to Zachary inside.

Zach went to his room to look. “There aren’t any branches there anymore,” he said, “That’s where the birdies were.” I thought about the birds too, but was hopeful he either wouldn’t notice, or would celebrate the fact that they wouldn’t startlingly crash into his window anymore. His sweet face looked sad, and the way he said “birdies” made me want to go buy him a pony.

John stood outside surveying the situation. The tree had fallen into a wacky corner of the yard, missing our neighbor’s fence by a few feet. The neighbor stood there too. “Now I have to look at your boring, window,” he told John with his usual charm.

The subsequent days have passed in a flurry, and the tree continues to lay there, beached. Every time the subject comes up, Zach mentions the birds. I have to stop talking about it altogether because every time I do, he flashes me his big brown puppy dog eyes, and I instinctively move toward the candy shelf for a distracting treat.

A few months ago, my parents had to have two of their three front yard trees removed, because alas, the old trees had died…suffering what I imagined a stoic and noble passing befitting of a couple of fine Modesto Ash. Now that, I did notice. I gasped when I drove up to their house for the first time without my old leafy friends there. The home base tree of my childhood, right there near the corner – gone. The hide-and-go-seek tree at the far end – dunzo. My parents have since picked out replacements, but they are baby trees, and I don’t think I could very effectively hide behind one, unless I shed a dangerous amount of LBs.

We’ve taken down diseased trees at the church, and today on my way to work, I saw what looked like a 20-man hard-hatted crew perched on some poor soul’s roof, collectively eyeballing a huge Oak tree. By the time I drove home, half of it lay in the street in front of a wood chipper.

Now, I’m eyeing the palm tree in the backyard. The wind has brought down these pieces that resemble huge pencil shavings, and frankly it looks weird standing next to the uppity, haughty redwood. There’s the orange tree in the back corner. Sure, I like the idea of a fruit tree, but I’ve never actually eaten one of its oranges. My guess is that I’m so much of a city girl that I can’t possibly imagine that any plant life that I’m responsible for could produce actual, edible fruit.

I’ve come to realize, people are weird with trees, me included, which even I find odd since I refuse to camp. Trees are scary or friendly or wise depending on what Disney movie we are watching. They serve as literary metaphors for everything from life to growth to the passing of time, and if I were more well-read, this list would undoubtedly be longer. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been on my reading list for about 5 years, but I would be willing to bet that’s chock full of smarty pants examples.

I cannot stand that horrible book, The Giving Tree. I so loved Shel Silverstein’s provocative and intoxicating A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, that I would memorize the poems and recite them for whoever would listen. My copies, with my name written in my 3rd grade script, sit on Jake’s shelf, and are now favorites of the boys as well. But The Giving Tree sucks big time. Spoiler alert! The kind tree gives and gives and gives until it is taken down to a stump for the selfish brat of a protagonist to sit on in his old age. The only moral I take away is don’t be awful, or you will end up tired, alone and confused on a stump.

Heck, the trees in the Bible are kind of a big deal – there was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that Adam and Eve couldn’t resist, getting them kicked out of what up until that point, had been a pretty sweet living situation. Jesus invited little Zaccheus down from his tree so they could break bread. And of course, there was Jonah. Jonah sat and waited futilely and with spite for an entire city to suffer God’s wrath. As he sat there pouting, sweating and waiting, probably still reeking of whale innards, God gave him a shade tree, which promptly withered and died. Jonah grieved and ranted and, much to God’s annoyance and utter frustration, showed more feeling for that day-old tree than he did an entire population of people. And again we learn, don’t be awful or you will end up tired, alone, and confused on a stump.