Love the one you’re with

Pristine

I’m a bit disturbed that in my once-yearly visits to Port Townsend I continue to be beset by ugly thoughts and feelings – each time I visit. Yesterday and today, in fact, I experienced the strongest negative feelings and thoughts so far. All my baggage, sure and whatever, and maybe I’ll write some of it out sooner or later, but that’s not my point. The oppressiveness of it all threw me for a loop. It was like my brain had all this static noise.

And I didn’t have much time to process. Within about five minutes of driving into town I was at a party and spent almost every waking second after this around other grownups. I didn’t have time to defrag. I did my best to be present for my friends, who along with their children are deeply precious to me.

The friends, the kids? AWESOME. I felt high as a kite to be around them. That might have been the Stumptown coffee, too.

Darts At The Undertown

After hot chocolates and hot coffee we walked down to the beach. The children played and played and played, showing no boredom and only a total interest in the beach and one another.

A Place of Interest, #3

And they agreed to assemble so I could take a group picture. This is because guess what, tomorrow they will all be about six inches taller and with more or less teeth and telling different stories and doing different things so we wanted to get them, just grab them RIGHT NOW.

Preparing...

Assembling...

Almost There!

El Grupo

El Grupo[grimacing]

At some point some of us had to move onto a warm place with hot food. At this separation, Phoenix cried mightily. But in the way of small kiddos she was very happy only moments later on our way to lunch, stopping for a comically incorrect-sized kiddie ride – one she used to ride on as a tot that is, I suspect, not much longer for this world.

Triumph

The kids sat at their own table and Cynthia, Jodi and I got to catch up. I ate this huge-ass chile relleno. I’d hoped for the Noodle House but that was not in the cards. Maybe next time.

Like The Punchline:

As we ate it got darker, and colder, and darker…

So my daughter and I said goodbye to our friends and to PT and warmed up the car to hit the road.

On the way home, the little girl fell asleep (“Mom, may I take a snooze without interruption?”). We’d sung the entire drive up (Jazmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber, volume at 11) but it was nice to have time to myself on the drive back and I was glad she got some rest. In fact, both drives were very pleasant for me and I usually hate having my ass in a car.

Andrew Bird, and the twisty-dark of Highway 101:

Ode/Speed

On The Way Home, Phoenix

24 hours and there-and-back.

I’m ready to take a hot bath at home and cuddle up to the warm and beloved bodies in my life.

Port Townsend Gloom

Beach
(Small Stone #21*)

Beneath my feet, deathly chill, the shock traveling up through my legs.
Today I don’t mind.
I’m one with the elements.
Cold and fierce.

24 Hours
(Small Stone #22*)

My son puts his arms around my neck and buries his face in my breast.
“You were gone such a long time!”, he sighs.

Small stone project

I walk through walls. I float down the Liffey.

Friday night we came home and a friend of Ralph’s had left us a few vinyl albums, including one by Dirty Three (also: a carpet shampooer, which Ralph made use of this afternoon; carpets rolled up, house bare as a toothpick, cats happily sprawled on clean expansive carpetspace). Listening to the Dirty Three takes me back about a dozen years; life in Port Townsend in a Victorian houseshare, the rainy weepy greenery outside and how I longed to be alone in the big house, not bumping into roommates and feeling obliged to share stories of our day in the requisite politeness those situations seem to require.

At first I thought this little tourist seaport was the most romantic place, a venue ripe with intensity and wildness and waves on rocks and small crabs and sea otters, roses everywhere and winding roads up hills and to the sand, a place that would infuse you with untamed feeling and make you fall in a fierce kind of love. I now know it was me in love already, before I’d even thought of moving there, pining for my boyfriend and each weekend one of us would drive to the other like clockwork. During these couple years he lived in some little space in Olympia or Tacoma and on weekends wherever we were we’d go shopping in a snooty neighborhood grocery store, I’d pine for copper-bottom pans and Ralph would be more sensible about what kind of things we could buy, maybe a sliver of expensive cheese or a bottle of wine less than ten dollars and then a movie out. For a time Ralph lost his car so he took my truck and weekdays I biked to work along the water through the fresh wet air and into the steaming loud clangs and humidity and oft-foul smells of the pulp mill I worked in. Good work too, and I was gifted; soon raise after raise and a promotion as the first female foreman, a young woman and then a wife and mother, but I get ahead of myself because:

My loneliness in those first two years, listening to Dirty Three and Björk and Nick Cave against the rain-swollen windowpane. I’ve always been a social person and rare have been episodes in my life I’d call Friendless, but I did not fit in with the other townies who were my age, many of them waitstaff or massage students or Peter Pans of some sort, saving up during the year and travelling or sinking it all into some wooden boat, mostly getting up to pub crawling and tumultuous trysts. Here I was making an engineer’s salary, the first year out of school more than my mother had worked up to her entire career, and I didn’t want a Boyfriend or a Drinking Buddy, just some friends to share my life; I found not a single one for two years.

One weekend Ralph fell ill and couldn’t possibly visit; he was so sick he couldn’t get dressed. With only gladness and adventure I happily took a cab to Tacoma to care for him for the weekend, in his old Hilltop house with a few other musicians, half of them the requisite self-absorbed assholes, our tiny bedroom we camped in, a little futon and a folding portable table for us to eat noodles on and it cost $150 for that little car ride. When my coworkers heard how I’d spent my weekend they joyfully spread the story and it became something they’d tease me about; people love anecdotes like that, compartmentalizing our relationship as being only Young Love and only a Good Thing if a bit Foolish.

But I pined to be with Ralph and I lived for the weekend and it sucked the life out of my week days no matter how brightly and attentively I’d focus on my Work and attend work parties, yes, where you ate appetizers and drank to fill up the loneliness! (Make no mistake, I was not the only one suffering.) I wrote in my notebook, I remember, the day I found out my father’s cancer had returned, October, grey lonely streets bereft of summer tourists and Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely”, the sky was drenched in sun and rain and sorrow.  I felt my life was in a limbo but before me stretched out Work and Money and maybe someday a shared life with the young man I loved but you had to Earn That somehow, and I didn’t know how.

And I remember not so much later the sunny day in the tiny little studio, view of the water and the ferries and the sun-dazzled cliffs of Fort Casey across the sound, and I was cooking chile verde all day to share with Ralph when he’d get home, I was just learning to cook in earnest, soft tortillas folded and waiting and my now live-in boyfriend home in a few hours, and I’d had a night-shift and slept a while and felt ill and thought I’d take a pregnancy test just in case, and I can still remember the feeling of incredulity and surprise and joy and nausea all at once in the little bathroom, not even room for a shower but a small tub with a bower extension, and the lemon-yellow walls and clean windowsills and seaglass catching the light.  I could never handle cooking that dish ever again, but I didn’t tell Ralph we were pregnant until I took another test at the Health Department, just to be sure.

And then life lifted us up and up and up like leaves and scattered us and my adventure began in earnest and I left behind that rainy and lonely residence forever.

Sea serpent on beach

the groupie who gets out the pjs and reads a bedtime story

Ten to eight years ago when my husband was fronting his most earnest and ambitious music project yet I prided myself on attending every concert they had. Come hell or high water, long hours at my job, a broken-down car (I think I availed myself of a one hour cab ride once) I made sure to be there (I remember a particularly grueling trip driving to Spokane, playing a show – unpaid – and driving back, in one day. Wait, there’s more: we had five of us in my little Mazda truck, including all the band gear. And none of the guys brought money for food – I paid. I think we went to the Outback Steakhouse somewhere in Desert Hell Fuck Hole, WA. When we got back at 4 AM or whatever Ralph helped his guitar player do his paper route, because the guy was wrecked. This is all 100% true and indicative of aspects of rock-band life). It was aggravating sometimes to support some of the types of shows and venues that went down. But I loved every minute of his performance. I loved his music, and I remain so impressed and inspired that he can write – and perform – the way he does. For me, this is something as close to magic as I can credit – creating something out of thin air, making people dance or cry.

I wanted to be there every time he played, for his sake and my own.

Things have changed since then, and tonight I’m reminded of the largest difference: our two children. Although a wonderful local friend here in Port Townsend found a childcare option for our kiddos (who we take to shows unless, like in this case, it’s 21 and over), it was so obvious to me tonight watching the children cavort with their babyhood friends at a grange dance that my daughter – who a few days ago was at the southern terminal end of the Western United States coastline – would not best benefit from a hang-out with a handful of kids and a movie night while her brother fought with her over popcorn and occasionally tried to murder her. She needed me or her father, full stop; and since her father was going to be up on stage reaping the acclaim (and possible airborne panty missiles, yet I kid) of his fans, it was going to be me.

And I was right. After we drop the bandmates off uptown Sophie, sad and forlorn like a wilted nightflower in her ivory and black silk dress, suffers through renting a movie and heading back to the hostel and my preparations cleaning out the car, stripping her and getting the bath and night clothes ready. By the time I’ve gone to the upstairs kitchen, fixed her a bowl of fragrant oatmeal, and brought down a few books to read she is curled up asleep in the corner cot of the six-bed room. Waving the bowl of hot cereal under her nose and she revives, her eyes sleepy and red. She is ravenously hungry and eats, then reads the books I brought her. She is bone-tired, but centered – even smiling, and I know I made the necessary choice.

Now, sitting in a dormitory while she showers, typing my handful of words (this month’s novel effort will have to wait), I miss my friends at the show, and I’m sad I couldn’t be there for my husband. But I do know he knows I’m inspired by him; and as for our many and awesome friends I hope they all know how much it means to our family to have them show up – because sometimes even the most die-hard fan can’t be there.

tienes siete anos hoy

This Morning, At Seven Years
Sometimes I think your brother got the better deal. By the time I had him I was over a few things: namely, the identity crisis of giving up career and status, the need to have things entirely my way, and an irrational fear of infanthood. I’d like to believe I am a work in progress. I am doing my dutiful best to improve as your mother, leader, and mentor.

Sadly, though, while I have been doing all this self-discovery you are growing up. You benefit from my unadulterated, fierce love and the energy you bring to me – but you are also the recipient of my many mistakes.

I know you. You love to sing and you love to hear me sing. You love many of the things I love: sewing, listening to music at top volume, taking baths (together!), watching B movies. You like many things I don’t: Disney princesses, jokes about bodily functions, Regina Spektor.

You love swimming more than anything else I can think of right now. Any time your head emerges from the water you are smiling. Your skin tends toward dryness so I’m always lotioning you up after you swim. Last time I pulled out the Gold Bond – very effective but with an unappealing medicinal scent – and you groaned, “Oh no!” I laughed because I should just throw it out and buy you something new – it’s so “mom” of me to continue slathering it on you until it’s run out and it’s so “you” that you complain but allow it.

You love reading, especially graphic novels. Sweet ones, quirky ones, violent ones – anything you can get your hands on.

You are kind to animals. I was looking through our many photographs of you and your love for animal life is remarkable. You carried our new kitty home the summer day we picked him up, you attempted surgery on our traumatized chicken, and you are completely at ease with creatures large and small – knowing our pets’ many moods and proclivities better than the rest of us. You’ve told me you want to be a veterinarian someday. I can see if that’s the path you choose that you will be well-suited.

Just these last few weeks you’ve taken to sleeping in your own bunkbed. You’ve also not always been willing to cuddle or sit on my lap when I want. I’ve decided to look forward to and absolutely treasure the moments. Luckily, they still happen often. This morning when you woke you came and found me and climbed into my arms while I sang you “Happy Birthday”.

Sun-Kissed
Why don’t you be a little blonder and cuter? Because it’s NOT POSSIBLE.

Punkin + Punkin
Having children means the revival of the punkin-patch. Thanks for being a constant source of renewed joy in life’s little pleasures.

Summer Babies
Is now a good time to mention you not only cuddled your brother a lot but helped out with the cloth diapering tons, too? I owe you back-pay, I admit it.

Surly Fish
Marine Science Center; I had Nels in the Didymos on my back and I was enthralled with the both of you.

Tiniest Little Undershirt
The way your lip is pooched out in this picture reminds me: you used to suck your thumb! For four-point-five years.

Fort Worden, Again:  Peace Portrait
You and your friend C.; you were wonderfully suited to one another. Your daddy has always been awesome at fixing up your hair.

Of "Muffin"
I bought you this mattress, and all the bedding, and you loved it. Name of the little creature you’re holding (that you crafted in church camp): “Muffin”.

Fort Worden
Up at the Fort, ready for action.

He's Going To Outweigh You Soon
On yet another hike. Don’t tell anyone there’s like, a six foot drop under your feet. You guys were fine.

"Of The Forest"
I found this coat abandoned on some playground; you wore it for years. The hat you still have; it actually fits now.

Last Day, Port Townsend
Port Townsend, our last day. You were both ready for (more) adventure. Nels was getting over pinkeye.

Helping In The New House
“Is there a ghost in my house?” You helped us pick and move into the place on Eklund. You approved of the purple house across the street.


We ride public transit a lot more now that we’re in HQX. You and your brother are experts!

Bagel Hunter!
Cooking in the Eklund kitchen; well, I cooked, and you’re about to eat. I loved the sunlight during the spring.

Untitled
Que bonita! Remember when we went tree-trimming for swags, and had lunch at Galway Bay after? You probably don’t, but your father and I do. That’s pizza on your face, by the way.

Sophie Swimminz
Doing what you love: swimming. These days you can swim the width of the pool and are learning back- and breastroke. You go off the diving board rarely and reluctantly. You enjoy doing headstands and having me throw goggles for you to hunt and retrieve.

Lake Quinault Explorers
Out at Lake Quinault. You and Nels, a precisely-tuned engine of play.

eyes on the prize
Soccer! We never missed a game this summer. You are an excellent defender.

Morning Love
This speaks for itself.

Tonight’s birthday dinner choice: Alexander’s Restaurant.

Thank you for being a true inspiration. You are the smartest little thing in our house. I look forward to many more days with you; as many as you have to spare.

too little too late?

I would have loved to blog my vacation trip to Port Townsend – from Wednesday through Friday – with the kids. However my cottage rental had internet fits and I wouldn’t be bothered. I do have a Flickr photoset available.

My living room is in the process of being painted: a deep orange and deep pink. Yeah, you heard right! It looks great (methinks), reminds me of a cantina, and I’ve had “Mexican Hat Dance” stuck in my head each time I walk through.

happy weaning

Make Way For Duckling

Just like that, you are weaned. Like the three years that prefaced the last morning you nursed, breastfeeding evolved beautifully to meet both our needs. This morning instead of watching you nurse, I hold you in my arms and you quietly stroke my face. Later that evening at your request we hide ourselves in the bathroom and I paint your nails a bright red in honor of your third birthday. I hold your tiny toes and you look me in the eyes and say, “I love you so much, Mama.”

With pure dumb luck I fell into the category who finds breastfeeding deeply satisfying on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels. So to move away from this relationship feels major; I sometimes feel we’ve known one another forever. And for as long as I’ve known you, nursing has been so instrumental in the way we connect.

Baby, I am so blessed to have had you. You above all taught me what it means to nurture. We nursed through two pregnancies and one miscarriage. We nursed in the evenings, mornings, at restaurants, in church, and in the bath. You nursed the morning of the arrival of your baby brother and shared the breast willingly with him. We nursed through the scary illness you had at fourteen months when you couldn’t even keep water down; nursing saved you from many other would-be illnesses and eased many transitions.

Nursing kept me laughing and let me put my feet up more often than I would have without it.

Now at this milestone you emerge confident, and I have the deep satisfaction of knowing I didn’t rush your babyhood for either of us. Yesterday you climbed into bed with me and after a few quiet moments you looked up at me and said, “I used to nurse with you in the morning. Do you remember this?” as if it were ages ago, not a few days. You were obviously so comfortable with this change, while I got one of the first of many moments to come where I act casual and give a quick hug; tears well up and I blink them away. I am so happy to see you confident and growing. But just yesterday you were still my baby at my breast.

Happy weaning, Phoenix. My little Beak.

3rd Birthday, Sophie / Phoenix

Fort Warden

Kiki!

Hysterical, 1

Hysterical, 2