Friday, April 27, 2012

april 27th

One of my favorite family photographs was taken in April of 1991 during our annual "Dad's birthday outing" to the little gazebo in Garrison, NY.

Every spring, either on or as close to April 27th as possible, we would wake up early, make up thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee, pick up a dozen doughnuts and drive up the river to Garrison for a birthday breakfast.  Dad would open his presents (always a bag of sour cherry balls, probably socks and bad kid drawings that would later find their way to the walls of his Barnard office, once a lima bean plant sprouted in my second-grade classroom in a sandwich bag filled with damp paper towels -- because oh how Dad hated lima beans, and oh how clever a present this seemed to my eight-year-old self), baseballs would be tossed, the river would almost inevitably be fallen in to while climbing over rocks, and way too much sugar would be consumed.

But this picture was taken in 1991 and I was in high school and adolescently cantankerous about having to spend an entire morning with my parents and my little brother. There we are, perched on the steps of the gazebo, caught in the late morning light:  Nathan in all his pre-teen gawkiness cradling Dad's old baseball glove in his arms, Mom leaning over to arrange something, me in a jean jacket and bad perm with fingers curled around a mug of hot chocolate, and Dad looking immensely satisfied -- handsome and grinning and turning such a youthful 45, surrounded by people he adored.

And the thing is, I don't think I was really all that cranky about being there -- I think I was happy and playing a miserable angry teenage role, though maybe this is wishful thinking.

I've been trying to imagine what he would be like today, at the ripe old age of 66 and a new grandfather, and am wondering whether he knew (I'm guessing he probably did) that I didn't actually mind being there, contentedly rotting my teeth on jelly-filled doughnuts and his beloved sour cherry balls.

Monday, April 23, 2012

hexagon blanket

Softest, almost biggest blanket ever, and I kind of want to keep it for myself, but no. The whole point of it was to clear out tons of gorgeous one-off skeins of yarn. So here it is on Etsy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

'and i did cartwheels in your honor, dancing on tiptoes...'

I'm not quite sure what it is I love about her so much. Her voice can be bombastic, her lyrics are so often trite, there is little nuance and no subtlety. And yet this song sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it. (And oh, her endearing awkwardness and flaming red hair and ridiculous clothes that remind me a little too much of my junior prom dress...)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

easter table, 4.8.12


I've been thinking about concrete lately, thanks to this Goshen controversy, and how its relatively weak nature (low elasticity and tensile strength) can be turned into something approaching indestructible by imbedding bones of steel at its core.

I've been thinking about concrete and how ugly it is, and yet how a certain kind of visionary can take it in all its brutish ugliness and turn it into something brutally, Dr. Seussily beautiful.

My mother and I were chatting Saturday evening, in the midst of Passover and on the eve of Easter, about the idea of a holiday baby and how nice it would be to have such a joyous day, a baby's birthday, in what is even still a month tinged with loss.

My nephew, at four days old, is having a difficult beginning to things, and thoughts of him and of my brother and his wife have been permeating everything that I do, even (or perhaps especially) from nearly three thousand miles away.

We McNeils are not a religious bunch, despite my amusement and odd satisfaction at the idea of this Easter/Pesach baby. But on Sunday, during one of many panicked and heartbroken phone calls as it became apparent that all is not quite right with my brother's little one, my mother mentioned that she had been out walking.  And she said, in an almost embarrassed voice, that while she had been out walking, she had found herself talking to my father, and to his parents, and to her parents, demanding that they put things right.

My friend Zak, first thing Monday morning, congratulated me on finally being Auntie Em.  We talked about my nephew and his name and everything that is going on. Zak said that with a name like that, you just have to imagine he'll swashbuckle his way through all of this.

Zak went on to say (and with his permission, I quote it here in full because it caught me by such sweet surprise and because such is the beauty of online chatting -- our conversations never disappear), "One of my student employees just told me her dad has cancer and this stuff with your nephew... it's one of those things that makes me wish I prayed. Not because I think it would do anything, but I think it's just such a nice thing to say to a friend who's having some troubles. 'You're in my prayers.' The best I can offer is, I'll worry about you and your nephew, which doesn't have the same generous spirit somehow."

I have been thinking about this ever since, especially after short, cellphone-fuzzy conversations with my brother that leave me searching for better words, for more powerful words, to make this not hurt so much, or to not seem so frightening.  What I would like to say to him, and to his wife and to their tiny Wynn Moses, is that they are in my prayers, and that in the midst of this ugliness, I know they already have inside them all the steel that they need.

Friday, April 06, 2012

this gorgeous thing

Cris and I were chatting in my office the other morning about nothing in particular, in that early morning way that people do. After a few minutes I noticed that her eyes kept drifting upward to look at something  above me. Finally I looked around to see what she couldn't stop staring at and was amused to discover she'd found my stamp holder.

I salvaged it from the library garbage a few weeks back, fell in love with it, took pictures of it and had every intention of finding a good home for it.* It's just so pretty, this battered rusty thing, sculptural and delicate as well as practical.  (At some point in its clearly long life it held dozens of library stamps, back before the age of computers and scanners and printers.)

I saw one listed on Etsy not long after salvaging mine, but couldn't quite bring myself to try to sell it, or even find a good home for it -- so it's been lurking on a shelf near the ceiling in my office.

Cris has liberated it from its dust-collecting days in the upper reaches of my office shelves, though, and is determined to decorate and display it somewhere in the library. (Or rather, she's determined, in her ever cheerful and wonderful way, to make the rest of us take turns at decorating it -- about that, we shall see.)

But for now, at least, I'm just glad that someone else found herself as smitten with this ridiculous, gorgeous thing as I am, and that I alone am no longer responsible for keeping it out of the trash.

* Not my home, which I am trying with limited success to empty of things, not to fill with yet even more things.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

'they trod on the chicken!'

This afternoon, as I was processing Offsite books for pick-up, a woman came up to me at the circulation desk and said, "Excuse me. There seems to be pasta and... and chicken... on the floor over here."

I looked at her uncomprehendingly.  "Chicken?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, and then added quickly, "It isn't mine."

I walked around to the front of the desk and yes, lo and behold, there was pasta and marinara sauce and chicken strewn across the floor. With footprints smeared through it, here and there.

Infuriated, I found a roll of paper towels and a bottle of no-name cleaning fluid and got down on my hands and knees and proceeded to clean up the mess, grumbling under my breath about this being why, in a nutshell, we have a No Food policy and this is a library for God's sake and didn't their mothers teach them anything?!?

Karen came over to see what was going on, looking slightly alarmed at my quiet tirade. I told her what had happened, caught in one of those moments of teetering between laughing and crying, finishing with a plaintively shrill, "And they trod on the chicken!!!"

Karen just looked at me wide-eyed for a second and then burst out with a loud guffaw, at which point of course it hit me how ridiculous I must sound, and so I started laughing too.

It is better to chuckle over such things, I suppose, than to rage over being surrounded by idiots and barnyard animals.