Is it strange to feel nostalgic for times before I was even alive?
A good chunk of my childhood was spent pretending to be a pioneer — I had the bonnets, the buttoned dresses and pinafores and bloomers and lace-up boots. I’d spend weekend afternoons sitting behind a well-worn wooden desk, chalk and dust hanging in the air of the one-room schoolhouse. I’d lead groups in reciting “The Village Blacksmith;” I can make a doll out of yarn or corn husks.
Watching “True Grit” (I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book), I felt gripped by this strange longing to go back to something that seemed familiar — to this time I’d never really been. Like déjà vu for the soul. It’s strange to have memories that make you feel like your own ghost.
It made me think of this song by Monsters of Folk:
Our rag-tag meet-when-we-can book club finally got together again, post-holidays for a discussion of “Let The Great World Spin,” by Colum McCann, and pound cake, which Michael made from my favorite cake cookbook, “All Cakes Considered.” <— Amazon lets you preview pretty much the entire thing, so you can find the recipe on page 45.
I was feeling pretty run-down, despite it being just the first night of the week, but I’m glad I picked myself up and spent a few hours in the world of tight-rope walkers and prostitutes. It’s tradition to go around the circle and rate the book 1-1o (10 being the highest) to kick off discussions, and LTGWS got pretty high marks. Lyrical writing and the interwoven stories that were sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking won us over.
The book opens with this quotation:
“All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is.” — Aleksander Hemon, The Lazarus Project
Those words, which form the basis of this exploration of different disparate but interconnected lives focused around one day in 1974, when Philippe Petit tightropes between the World Trade Center towers. But I think it’s also an interesting lead-in to our next book club read, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” — a nonfiction account of how one cervical cancer patient’s tissue sample opened up boundless possibilities for medical research, and the ethical issues they raise.
On the topic of good reads, Joe and I both enjoyed this article on the science of human nature (to be a social animal). I read a lot of science-y articles about what makes a person happy, and this thesis made sense to me. There is a book club tie-in, because it does mention how being a part of a group that meets even just once a month elevates one’s sense of well-being.
Right now, I’m looking out the back windows in our den and I can see giant, fang-like icicles on our neighbor’s back eave. (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word “eave.”) This is mildly upsetting for two reasons:
1. It’s absolutely frozen outside. On my walk to work, my mug of hot coffee became iced coffee and I spent five whole minutes thinking about how I could knit myself thigh-warmers (I imagined them like leg-warmers, but things that wouldn’t have even been cool in the ’80s.)
2. If I can see the back of our neighbor’s house, it means our summer/fall fence project will be more like a spring/summer fence project. Twenty-ten was all about the demo work, 2011 will be about building and finally getting space to garden.
I daydream about our future backyard on nights like this, and then I find a link to BACKYARD SCRABBLE in Sunset Magazine. If we can’t even get a fence up over the course of three months, this seems out of the question, but I had to share it:
Sign me up for summer.
Once upon a time, I decided I should use computer passwords that make me smile.
‘Cause, you know, you tend to have to type in your password first thing in the morning, and you’re all groggy because the coffee hasn’t kicked in and then you type something that makes you smile. A good idea, right? Yeah, until the I.T. guy has to install new software onto your computer while you’re off at a meeting and you find yourself writing (don’t laugh) under your password on a post-it.
I remember first school day eves better than most rituals of my childhood. The way it felt to be totally organized for a few hours — school supplies lined neatly up on the carpet, so I could just take all the possibility in. It was exciting, that freshness. Even though I went to the same school for nine years, there was this sense of being on the verge of something, of reaching benchmarks.
I think tomorrow I’ll have Joe take a picture of me standing on our stoop with my new Drake University briefcase filled with my books for the first day of graduate school. I haven’t laid out color-coded folders or sharpened pencils, but I do feel that I’m coming up on some exciting chapter, to get all cliche. I’m looking forward to meeting people in my classes, to being challenged in a new way. Ask me again how I feel the night before my first accounting exam and it all might be a different story. But for tonight, I’m that little kid again, laying out her clothes and hoping she’ll sit next to a new best friend on the first day of school.
This weekend has completely spoiled me:
1) Joe’s on furlough (yep, another week of unpaid vacation from the paper) , so I actually have a husband to hang out with, for once. We even played Monopoly.
2) I got to dress up (makeup, hair in rollers and everything) TWICE — once at a University event Joe and I capped off by stopping in to Cafe di Scala for drinks and gusto pizza, and another at our dear friend Arin’s 30th birthday soiree.
3) We finally filled the frames that had been hanging with weird model placeholder photos with our own photographs from our wedding. After a year and a half, we’re still doing some basic moving-in things. I like that our house is changing a little at a time, though.
Plus a mishmash of other lovely things that will be fodder for future posts.
Today, we went over and Joe and I made beer tea with Joe’s sister, Ellen, and her husband, Andy. Joe and Andy started homebrewing together, and so wanted to experiment with some creative flavors. Basically, they just steeped a few ingredients in hot water and we’d taste them to see if they’d make interesting beers. It was an afternoon of juniper berries, sarsaparilla, lemons, basil, ginger and just about anything else we could think to dunk in hot water.
I’d like to taste a lemon basil shandy this summer. I can already feel a warm June night where we eat outside and pair it with my mom’s recipe for amazing lemon chicken. These are the kind of daydreams that help melt away those middle-of-January-in-Iowa chills.
Oh, and totally loving that now that I work in higher ed, I get MLK Monday off work.