The weather here has been so glorious the past few days it's almost all I can think about. And talk about. I think my life revolves around the weather more than I think it does. Getting outside into the sunshine this weekend was like a dream. We had my family over for Easter lunch and got to spend most of the day outside. My mom made that beautiful strawberry shortcake!
I'm off to the woods before the rain starts up again. Back in a bit!
My sweet sissy did a little house tour and interview with Andy and me the other day for a home design web site she is working with called Houzz. I loved the questions (and I love Andy's answers) and I love the the pictures she took. She tape recorded the interview we did and said our voices (hers and mine) sounded so similar that it was like listening to one person talking and laughing — and not either of us, but our other sister, Susie. Hah! I busted out laughing when she said that. Awesome. Anyway, always so much fun working on stuff together. Click on the link in her post to get to the tour. Thank you, Julie! xoxoxoxoxo
We have two impossibly gigantic, Rackhamesque oak trees across the street from our house. Now denuded of leaves, their branches almost look like huge black feathers waving in the wind, especially this wind; it's been storming for two days. A week or so ago I had a dream that a tree fell from across the street into our yard (naturally, it was a different tree — that is, based on the place from where it fell it should have been one of the oaks, but because it was a dreamtree it wasn't anything like the oaks). I'm certain the dreamtree was much smaller than the real trees. It just missed the corner of the house. I believe that if one of the oaks falls, it will land on our roof.
Our luminous niece/goddaughter came to spend the night. We fed her pizza and waffles 'cause we're cool like that, or rather, she fed them to us. She made homemade pizza for dinner from scratch, proofed the yeast and made the dough and rolled it out and topped it off. I sat on a chair in the kitchen and talked her through it and it was so much fun. We watched Shirley Temple in Heidi and I knit and we talked about Lapponian reindeer-herding dogs (since she asked me what my second-favorite breed of dog is), and looked at pictures of them. I was worried the power might go out last night because of the wind, so I brought her a candle to keep near the bed just in case she needed to get up. It's hard to believe she is thirteen years old already.
I'm making curried lentil soup tonight, and we bought good semolina bread from one of my favorite bakeries. I'm working on a new cross-stitch sampler that I am redonkulously excited about. I realize that would sound like an oxymoron coming from the vast majority of people on earth.
Here we are, in Chicago, waiting for the arrival of a very special baby girl. The phone rang last Tuesday afternoon, prompting a flurry of suitcases, phone calls, housesitter arrivals, ticket purchases, last-minute instructions, and general running around the house in small excited circles, like side-by-side triple axels with barely stuck landings. But we somehow managed to make it out of there just fine. Zing!
Arriving, we found that baby had decided to wait after all — very good baby!!! Once again we are waiting for a phone to ring, letting us know that she is here! It's Monday morning at Andy's parents' house. The house is incredibly quiet. Andy's parents both left for work early this morning and now Andy and I are here alone, goofing off and passing the time, fussing with the temporary mini-nursery, folding baby clothes, playing with the kitty, walking around the lake, bouncing on the yoga ball, daring each other to see what baby formula actually tastes like, setting up baby monitors and bottle sterilizers, knitting tiny heartwarmers, trying to figure out how the baby sling works, trying to figure out how the baby carrier works, trying to figure out how the television works, checking the phone again, talking about our hopes and dreams, sitting on the back deck watching geese fly overhead through the cold, crisp air. It was not too long ago that this subdivision was a farmer's field.
On the verge of motherhood, in some ways I feel like I am suddenly, ironically, back in my own childhood. The sky looks the same as it did then, and also like nowhere else I've lived. The leaves look the same, the bare trees look the same, the leaves smell the same. The color of the light from the streetlights is the same. Passing through Oak Park on the expressway the other night I cried in the car, thinking of my dad and missing him more than I could say, thinking of how he was always here, always, always at home. Before this past summer, the last time I had been in Chicago was ten years ago, shortly after he passed away. He died in Oregon, but that never seemed right. One afternoon during our visit here last month, I sat in the park across from my old house for several hours and stared at it, and it looked just like my dad to me, and it looked like me, and it looked like my family. I felt like I was looking at people. Our life was so thoroughly there, in that place. My parents lived on Forest Avenue for almost thirty years until they moved to Oregon in late 1998 to be nearer to my sister and me (we were already there). For several reasons, I wasn't able to come back then, that autumn when they were moving. The house is in a cul-de-sac. It was strange to have to sit like a stranger, across the street in the park where the swings used to be; it was the same point from which I had looked at my house a thousand times before, pumping my legs back and forth on the swings: house closer, now farther, now closer, now farther away. I didn't dare get too close this time. I felt like I could walk off the sidewalk and right up the front stairs into the past. But I didn't want that. I could hear acorns falling from the hundred-foot-tall trees. I walked a few blocks down Linden to Thatcher and the edge of the woods, my first woods, and looked in at them. My dad had dragged us there to go walking around all the time when we were growing up, and we had mostly hated it. Go figure. I was told never, ever to go into them alone. And so I didn't this time, either. But I missed him, and wished he were here now, for all of this.
Andy's parents live farther out of town now. The suburbs stretch farther than they did when we were kids, the neighborhoods out this way a strange mix of farm fields and gated communities. I love the prairie grasses and the cornfields and the cattails that line the sides of the road. I love the the bare, black oak tree branches against the blue sky, the way the downtown skyscrapers rise like mountains. I love the rusty El tracks overhead, the busty pigeons, the wide, wide sidewalks downtown and all of the people and buses and taxis. I love the museums, the planetarium, the Art Institute where my parents met, the fancy old apartment and office buildings. I used to work in one of them, on the corner of Michigan and Madison, but that was a long time ago; I'm a tourist now. I'm absolutely amazed at and intimidated by how many expressways there are, how many lanes of whooshing traffic, how many people and malls and stores, how many things to eat. Andy is sitting in his dad's recliner at this moment, reading a book about hot dogs and eating from a gigantic wax-paper bag of cheese-and-carmel popcorn from Garrett's, which he walked into the room carrying on one arm, like a baby.
We wait, and dink around the house, and pray, and wait.
In our family, people were always making things and selling them. All the time. It was just what our People did. Our dad was very entreprenurial. He was a musician by night and a commercial artist by day (I don't even know if there is such a thing anymore), but in his spare time he was always inventing something and selling it through mail order. The one I remember best was the light that you put on the top of your car antenna that went on whenever you were talking on your CB radio. That was an awesome one. My mom, too, always had businesses while we were growing up — she made and decorated cakes to order for friends and neighbors (our little sister, Susie, is now a professional pastry chef and wedding cake designer), she sold bread-dough baskets and wreathes, she made jewelry. I had my first business at age 13, when I sold model horse accesories (blankets, saddle pads) that I made out of felt and embroidery floss through a classified ad in a model horse magazine. My sister Julie is one of the most amazingly creative people I know. For many years she has designed a line of greeting cards; they are now sold at Target, Whole Foods, and Cost Plus. (But don't ask her about them because she will get all twitchy and modest about it; I know this because I just this very moment tried.) She recently opened an Etsy shop with her own very Julieish style, which I love.
I swear, I didn't plan this metaphor yesterday, but you know what they say about apples. Not falling far. My most excellent and exquisite niece Arden, Julie's daughter, has likely inherited more creative talent from both of her parents than anyone in the universe (says her proud auntie). But she is her own girl, and she has very specific interests and a unique style, and now her very own Etsy shop, too.
Remember this post, when we were learning to make a granny square? Four years ago. Sigh. That went way too fast. Way too fast.
I think I'm going to make an apple pie, but I might look for a different apple pie than the apple pie I usually make. I love apple pie. This apple is a Jonagold. I don't know if I've ever made a pie with Jonagold apples? I like sweet apples. My grandpa ate a yellow apple — I guess it was a Golden Delicious apple — after lunch every single day. He peeled it with a sharp little paring knife at the kitchen table. When I went to Italy when I was in college, I walked into the room at our pensione (which was somebody's very old apartment that they'd turned into a sort of hotel) and it reminded me so much of my grandparents house, with a little square oilcloth-covered table, that I promptly burst into tears. The strangest thing was that my grandma's house had a very particular smell — kind of like Italian cooking with just a hint of mothballs — and earlier that same day, on the train from Munich to Rome, all of a sudden I had smelled that exact same smell. And I'd never smelled it anywhere else; my grandparents were gone, their house long sold. So when I later saw the table I just cried.
My grandpa was the fastest eater I've ever seen. My father was constantly yelling at him to slow down. But he ate an apple a day and he lived until he was in his late eighties, I think. Every time I eat an apple I think of him and his yellow apples. Always yellow. From the "pepper store," which is what we called the Italian greengrocer he liked to go to. I think it was this one, in Elmwood Park. Caputo's. I see from reading their history page that the founder was from a seaside town in Italy that was close to where my grandpa was from. I wonder if he knew that. He probably did. Those guys liked to stick together.