Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Both/And -- a fuller picture

We usually just call it "paradox."  Richard Rohr calls it "both/and" -- the ability to experience both X and Y, even when they are contradictory.  Keats called it "negative capability... when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."*  Jesus simply was it.

In any event, swimming through this change -- undercurrents of grief grabbing us here and there -- we also remember that we are swimming, riding waves, loving water -- both/and.   

 growth (I felt her today for the first time)
 bad guy cousins 
 George, naturally
my sister played dress-up in this same dress
 Eden's photography: BB
 cousins (the pool was 57 degrees that day)
through Silas's eyes:
honeysuckle about to bloom

 a speed limit sign "falling"
sheen of buttery buttercups

*letter to his brothers, December (21 or 27?) 1817

The Slip of Grief

A month ago we packed life in California and hugged and kissed goodbye.  Ben, Silas, Eden and I walked out on the windy pier and settled in a booth at Ruby's to drink milkshakes and watch the fishers through the windows in the dusk.  Then we nestled into a hotel room, the four of us, to remember we were sticking together.

Schools are in week three of growing familiarity, but the discomfort of newness hasn't receded.  The kids call and cry for me at bedtime, want me close enough to sling an arm around, to smoosh a face against, and all day long reach out to grab, hold, kiss.

I catch Eden with an vacant expression on her face that I've never seen before, and then it's gone.  Ben's enthusiasm moves in waves, flattens still and glossy.  My core softens to crumbly-tender without notice.  Silas's eyes grow glossy in the hallway outside his classroom and his hands fidget.  We are not quite ourselves.

I am trying to learn about grief, to be aware of how it strikes unexpectedly erupts or smolders in anger, brims with craving for comfort and filling.  Yesterday I went to a (uninspiring) talk on children and grief.  
She only addressed death -- mostly horrific, sudden and poorly handled deaths -- but what I heard is that when a six year old loses his bedroom, house, classmates, school, friends, community, going-to-breakfast and pizza-night-with-friends traditions, church, neighbors, and place, that feels a lot like a death, even when his most solid people still hold him, even when there are sweet replacements -- replacements don't displace loss.

They are brave, Silas and Eden.  One day I will tell them this, will tell Silas how sweet and tender his heart is; how he weathered this change with pockets full of treasure-rocks at pick up; how a month in, after looking at CA photos, we both cried from the missing as we put on our shoes; how we left the house together and held hands as we walked up the hill to school.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Dessert Fit for a House

Though we've been here less than a month, we came ready to hunt and familiar with everything on redfin.  We toured dozens of houses -- big, small, old, new, practical, isolated, cozy, communal, crazy, walkable, mildewed, wallpapered, woodsy.  Unexpectedly, we found one that seemed to fit.  We walked through it again and again.  We brought advisers -- second, third, fourth pairs of eyes.  We made lists.   We conversed and cried and questioned.  We wondered and prayed.  We made an offer.  We counter offered, and counter-counter offered.  We struck clarity and counter-counter-counter offered.  But in the middle of that, to break from the gripping intensity of flying offers, I put my phone away and made pudding with Silas and Eden.  I have to credit Silas with spotting the photograph in SouthernLiving (which apparently I read now) and insisting.

On the night of good news -- they did accept our offer -- this was the taste in my mouth: a perfectly comforting happy pudding.  This dessert is extraordinarily delicious right out of the oven or from the fridge the next day.  I recommend making it right *now*

Caramelized Banana Pudding
    from Southern Living, February 2012

  • Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • large ripe bananas, sliced 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • large eggs 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • large eggs, separated 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I forgot this and added some to the egg whites)
  • 48 vanilla wafers (I definitely didn't count) *We ended up with Whole Foods generic vanilla wafers -- 365 brand in a blue box -- GOOD cookies  

  1. Preparation:
  2. 1. Cook first 3 ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly. Add bananas; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat.
  3. 2. Whisk together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, next 3 ingredients, and 4 egg yolks in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until a pudding-like thickness. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
  4. 3. Divide half of banana mixture, pudding, and wafers among 8 (1-cup) ramekins or ovenproof glass dishes. Layer with remaining banana mixture, pudding, and vanilla wafers.
  5. 4. Beat 4 egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes). Spread meringue over ramekins. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.
  6. 5. Bake at 325° for 15 to 20 minutes or until meringue is golden. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Poem for a Cloudy Morning: fingers cold on the keyboard, a list of houses to hunt, a cup of tea, and much packed into that memory called "the house where I lived"

Untitled [A house just like his mother's]
by Gregory Orr 

A house just like his mother's,
But made of words.
Everything he could remember
Inside it:
Parrots and a bowl
Of peaches, and the bright rug
His grandmother wove.

Shadows also—mysteries
And secrets.
Only ghosts patrol.
And did I mention
Strawberry jam and toast?

Did I mention
That everyone he loved
Lives there now,

In that poem
He called "My Mother’s House?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Spring Break Downtown

Unexpected Adjustments

In the last two days, Eden has shrieked and screamed from various parts of the house, the slide, a tree, the sidewalk, the porch swing because of terrifying bugs -- ant, gnat, spider, bumble bee, fly.

In California there are, of course, bugs -- ants, silverfish, spiders -- but with the exception of ant-infestation, they tend to keep to themselves.  Today is the first truly beautiful day we've had -- sunny and mild, air full of grass and greening.  The four of us walked the half mile to check out Silas's new school and along the way Eden became paralyzed several times.  Gnats.  I had forgotten completely about gnats.  When the weather warms, gnats rise in billowy clouds at face level so that walking/talking/running/sitting pretty much ensures one in the eye, nose or mouth.  As soon as the specks hovered near my eyes, I was back in PE class in lower school, sitting on muggy grass with my hand raised above my head, hoping that the rumor was true, that they'd really fly to the highest point of the body.  Gnats.  Now they will be part of Silas and Eden's childhood story.  Silas got one in his nose.  Eden repeatedly stood stock still and squinted her eyes whimpering.

By the end of our time at the park, they were both laughing and pretending they'd swallowed one or had one in an ear.  Eden even laughed (nervously) at a couple big ants and began windshield-wiping her arm in front of her face instead of simply freezing...