in the corners

gardener reed
If you stay in one place long enough and don’t move too fast, you get to know its ways and rhythms.  We used to take evening walks by the river, and I know where the geese liked to rest and the habits of swallows.  But lately evenings have taken me in the other direction, uphill, away from the water, to the pavement.

The middle school parking lot is empty and wide with shallow hills and inviting curves, an appealing place for budding cyclists.  I give Helen’s training wheels little nudges with my feet when the going is tough and watch Reed pedal around.

Around the bend, behind the gymnasium and along the tether-ball poles, a group of three or four kids lolls.  They are never the same kids, but always just the same, somehow.  On bikes.  On scooters.  Eating an orange popsicle.  Not doing anything much.  Never causing  trouble.  Not being exactly good either.  One boy always showing off.

They could be a kid-gang of any era, really.  They could be Little Rascals or Tom and Huck.  And I like that.  I knowing they are a part of the summer evening landscape along with the happy man and his baby girl, the large woman and her golden retriever, the joggers.  I like being reminded that we aren’t all about Are-we-just-teaching-to-the-test? and Is-technology-hurting-our-children?.  We are also about Biking-with-an-orange-popsicle.

Here’s to that.

popcorn in two bites

June 20

My girlsToday we ate popcorn, and I watched Reed eat a piece in two bites: the soft top, the kernely bottom.  I always used to eat popcorn like that.  I ate the bottom first, saving the best for last.

You remember these things when you have kids.  And then, I think, you forget them all over again.  But I would rather not.  I would rather remember it all.





a word on helen

ready to jump


The thing about Helen is, she’s the sort of girl who, when having forgotten the word for something, doesn’t pause or stumble or ask what it is called.  She dives right in and says the completely wrong word with complete confidence.


“I picked some CHARD for you!”

(Cantaloupe.  Clover.)

She doesn’t mind being wrong, that girl, and she never balks.

That’s the thing about Helen.

a word on the potluck

mint tea for three


The wild corner of our garden (I always like the wild corners best) is overtaken with mint, so I stooped and steeped and churned fresh mint ice cream, the first of the season.  But that isn’t what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about potlucks, but the story begins there.  Because the six egg whites in the refrigerator leftover from said ice cream brought to mind brutti ma buoni, and I opened Everlasting Meal to find the recipe.

First let me say that I live in the land of the potluck.  “Bring a dish” is the default and often goes unsaid.  I have always been happy with this arrangement.  It is conducive to parties with plenty of food for the guests and less pressure for the hosts: both very valuable things.  But this time flipping through Tamar Adler’s book (I’ve read it cover to cover at least five times), a small paragraph caught my eye:

There’s great value in being able to say “yes” when people ask if there is anything they can do.  By letting people pick herbs or slice bread instead of bringing a salad, you make your kitchen a universe in which you can give completely and ask for help.  The more environment with that atmospheric makeup we can find or create, the better.

I like living in a world of parties with plenty of food and less pressure, but these days Tamar Adler’s vision seems better.  The world generally (and the Midwest particularly) could use more places where you “can give completely and ask for help.”


growing boy


They say children grow fast, but they don’t at first.  At least not mine.  Helen has been two for at least three years.  Margot has been one for six months.  But Reed will be turning five this autumn.  Five.  All of a sudden.  The pace is picking up, and I don’t see any sign of it slowing.

Last summer, Reed still spent hours each day with his little wooden tracks and toy Thomas.  The living room would be webbed with intricate railways and tunnels and hills.  And now it is not, and hasn’t been for some time.

It’s been months, maybe longer, but I only really realized it last week.  He is too old for those things, now.  And I miss it.  I miss the little wooden tracks in the living room and telling stories, reading stories, hearing stories about trains.

It’s a trite story, but it’s a true one.  And even though I am sad about the trains, I am glad to be taking part in it.

Last week, we walked home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and Reed sat on the back of the stroller.  He held The Order of the Phoenix to his chest just like anyone who has ever loved a book holds it to theirs.

“Are you sure that book isn’t too difficult for you to understand?” I asked.  “The fifth book is pretty complicated.”

“Well,” he said, looking down at the book, “I don’t understand any of them, but I love them.  I like Harry and Ron and Hermione.”

I like that boy, that boy who loves things he doesn’t understand.  I’m happy I get to share these years with him.  I’m happy I get to miss wooden tracks.

Helen: the part about friendship

Around the table, we have been telling stories, true ones.  They are never any good, but the kids don’t know better.  Yesterday, I told Reed about he and Helen at Margot’s age. I told Reed how Helen used to insist two eggs every day for breakfast. How she did that, I can’t exactly remember. One-year-olds have their ways, certainly.

Helen is inching toward three and it shows. Every day her face looks older. Her baby-roundness is nearly gone.  She is growing out of toddlerhood.  It’s happening right before my eyes.  And I am enjoying the girl- the bright, helpful, compassionate girl- she has become.

What they don’t tell you about having kids is the part about friendship.  It used to be Reed tagging along and chatting, but these days Reed has been keen on time alone, this rainy week spending most of his time building in his room and listening to Superfudge.

Lately, it has been Helen.  And she has become a girl.  And I am grateful for the company I keep.  She is, more than ever, a very good friend.

this morning

But today is not a day for picnics.  The new grass pokes out from the snow.  My Pompie used to say that it always snows once on the robin’s back.  That’s what I am told.  I don’t remember.

It is oatmeal for breakfast, still (often followed by eggs).  Reed out-eats me every morning.  This morning he has my phone beside him to listen to a Harry Potter audiobook while he eats.  He is always listening to something.  And Helen is wearing an over-sized dish towel on her back.  A super-hero.  She has a scrape on her nose from falling on the sidewalk.  It kind of suits her.