Sunday, August 28, 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Thirteen

We've been having a lot of "weather events" as the news calls them. I secretly love weather events because it usually means we lose power and my kids have to unplug and actually talk to me for more than a few minutes. I like when they have to sit around and listen to lots of radio static by candlelight. It's spooky and old fashioned. Add some lightning, sirens and heavy wind and it's a weirdly connected family moment.

This weather began with the earthquake. I've been using that as a barometer to assess exactly how weird or normal my friends and family are (the results are falling very heavily on the weird side) I was folding laundry while chatting on the phone. The kids were in the yard. Christopher came in just as the earth moved - the table seemed to be tipping and I felt a shudder beneath my feet. The call dropped. My immediate thought?


Who else? I had seen The Exorcist, I knew he shook walls and floors before announcing his sinister presence.

"Feel that tipping?" I asked Christopher, "what is going on?"

"What tipping?"

I should say he's a teenage boy, and he was eating over the sink at the time. If you've ever been or ever taken care of a teenage boy, you know that when they eat, they go into a zone that not even an earthquake can shake them out of. Literally.

"The whole house is moving!"

"Huh. I don't feel anything. (still chewing) "You all right, Mom?"

"How can you not feel that? Everything is MOVING beneath our feet!"

He laughed. "Mom, it's okay. You're probably like hungry or something."

And he went outside, another sandwich in hand.

We had a few days of nice weather, then Irene. Here, in South Jersey, we had several tornado watches to go along with it all. In the middle of all these weather events, on Thursday, Emma turned thirteen. Her party had to be postponed when they closed most of the roads, but I was thinking how apt a metaphor it is to turn thirteen and have an earthquake, tornadic activity and a hurricane accompany the event. It's such perfect literary symbolism in a setting that I'll bet most editors would have us tone it down as being too obvious.

At least, I'm hoping it's setting, but most likely, it's foreshadowing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Late Summer

Things are underway here for Emma's birthday celebration which is really more of a birthmonth celebration - her bd seems to stretch from mid-August to the first week of school. (Around the Fourth of July she begins asking for things, saying, "But it's soooo close to my birthday..." )
Her bd also means summer is nearing its end which is always bittersweet. I'm not sure I actually believe that last sentence - everyone always says it, but I never want to see summer end. Summer is my absolute favorite season and seems about as long as a three day weekend. But in honor of its end, it's time for a seasonal assessment. These are the three top things I remember about this summer:

1. We went to Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway. I never knew there was an Exit 0, but on the way to ride go karts (see #2) we decided to travel south just to see Exit 0. I thought it was the perfect name for a YA novel.
2. My kids can talk me into almost anything. I was taking THEM to ride go karts. I brought the camera and drinks, never expecting that they expected me to actually go around the track with them. I am seriously not mechanical and these particular go karts had the look of reimagined lawn mowers. "I am NOT getting on that thing," I remember saying. Five minutes later, Philip and Emma waved as they passed me on the track.  

3. I didn't plant a garden this year, not officially. I have perennial beds of oregano and sage that I weeded a little, but I didn't do the customary tomatoes and peppers and zucchini. I kept meaning to, but time has a way of slipping past, and it never got done. This morning, I went into the backyard and found pumpkins growing where I had buried them last fall - the seeds apparently took and there are vines all over the place.

I'm keeping that surprise as a really hopeful sign for the coming year. That may sound strange, but having taught for so many years, I tend to think of the "new year" as beginning in September with new classes. And those unexpected pumpkins I'm keeping as a good omen.

What did you do this summer that you remember the most?  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Postcard Blog

Here's what I've been thinking about lately: gators, swamps, lizardy things that scamper everywhere, and hillbilly hand fishin'.

That's right - in the middle of August, my best friend from college and I decided to celebrate three decades of friendship on the outskirts of Orlando. We're not doing the Disney thing. We did go to SeaWorld because it's one of my favorite places on earth, but this is kind of the inverse of Disney. It's way more nature-y, and let's just say that's a learning experience for me, a person who views camping as a kind of disorder.

This is the swamp  lake outside of our condo:
which seemed lovely enough with the family of mallards drifting past and the paddle boats. I definitely wanted to take a paddle boat out and go around the perimeter of the lake until I read this sign:

Florida wildlife? What does that include? Would there be mallards and people fishing if there were alligators? My friend, who has a shady history of talking me into things I wouldn't normally consider (actually, that's one of the things I like best about her) assured me no ducks would coexist alongside alligators. Wildlife, she insisted, meant things like fish and the little lizardy things. I believed her. Sort of. So I asked at the desk.

There are alligators in every body of water in Florida they told me. Why worry? They sleep at the bottom and won't bother you. Only worry if they come up on land when you're down there.

Come up on land? What? Maybe we should have booked in Disney. I didn't worry long because that's when a man with a heavy Southern drawl began talking about catfish and hillbilly hand fishin' - which I thought was some kind of regional joke.

 It's real. Apparently, it's a sport that devolves humans from using tools to catch prey. You reach into the depths of a muddy creek with your hands and grab a fish until it bites. You then pull the fish out of the water that way. It's so widely known that there's a show about it. I'm not kidding -

I can't imagine walking into that water with the sleeping gators at the bottom and your hand as a lure, but it's something I won't forget about this vacation.
Oh, and the thirty plus years of friendship is pretty great as well.