Thursday, July 26, 2012

what I think about when it is too hot outside

Ben and I talked about it this spring.  This year will be different, we said.  We will definitely get to the beach more often.  We'll go on a weekday.  We'll make sure of the weather.  We'll get an early start.  This year for sure.

Then Lucie died.  And we got a new puppy.  A puppy who has made great progress since we brought her home two and a half months ago.  But still, a puppy.  A puppy who cannot be left at home for eight hours without going outside or eating.  Mainly, without eating.  I feed Katie every four hours during the day.  She eats each meal like she hasn't eaten in days.  And, really, it takes us three hours each way to get to the beach. A nine or ten-hour day away would be more what we need.  Not that it matters because we can't do it anyway.

I love Rufus and Katie.  I don't know how I would get through my days without them.  When I took them to the groomers last week, I had to call and see how they were doing after several hours had passed with no word.  But they definitely tie us down.  Ben and I are tied to the house in a way that is absolute and depressing.  And it looks like we won't get to the beach at all this summer.  Just like when we lived in Ohio.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

what do YOU think?!

So, yeah, our power went out.  And stayed out for four and a half days.  We could never have imagined that would happen.  It just didn't seem like that big of a storm.  We heard thunder in the distance that night.  It got louder and louder, and the lightning strikes grew closer and closer together.  The wind blew in.  Then the wind really began to blow, and I was glad we no longer lived in a house surrounded by tall oak trees.  In the midst of that, the power went off.  It didn't falter.  It didn't flicker.  It went off and it stayed off.  And the storm blew by.  I swear, it was here for a half hour.  Who could have dreamed it would do so much damage?

The next morning we still didn't have power, but when we went out and looked around our neighborhood, we didn't understand why.  All our utility cables are buried, and the only downed tree we saw was a large branch down from our neighbor's tree in their back yard.  Still, the power did not come back on.  Because I am terrible during power outages, I drove up to Bel Air to spend the day (and possibly the night, if, unbelievably, the power wasn't restored by then) at Julie and Andrew's apartment.  As we watched the news there, I began to understand that something major had happened.  But I still didn't understand why our neighborhood didn't have power.  No downed trees.  No exposed power lines.  But still, no power.

After many hours, I realized that all the food in our two refrigerators was a lost cause.  It would all have to be thrown out.  Oddly, it was a relief to know this.  The only things I was really sad to lose were the homemade things in the freezer.  A tub of chicken stock.  Some grape pie filling.  A little tub of pesto that I had made only the week before.  And here's the thing I was saddest about, and still am - my Ziploc baggie full of chopped parsley.  It's not the parsley, per se, that I mind losing, though, it's the bag.  I brought the bag with us when we moved here from Ohio.  I emptied it, washed it, dried it, and brought it along.  Why did I do all that?  Because of how the bag was labelled and dated.  I know it was dated December 26, and I think the year was 2001, but I don't quite remember that.  I never had to remember.  It was on the bag.

And what did the label say?  Well, it said, "What do YOU think?!"  in Tom's handwriting.  I must have been working in the kitchen while Tom was home for Christmas break.  As I washed and chopped parsley, I asked him to label a Ziploc bag for me to put in the freezer.  That was how he labelled it.  And, without fail, when I took that bag full of bright green, chopped parsley out of the freezer, I smiled to think of Tom's response to being asked to label the obvious.

So now that bag is gone, along with all the other jars and bottles and tubs full of food that Ben emptied out of the refrigerators.  And that bag is what I miss the most.  Everything else is replaceable, you know?  But some things just aren't.

Friday, July 6, 2012

don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

I never think of myself as a child who grew up along a river, but, you know, I did.  Its proper name was "the Black River", but it was just "the river" to us.  My parents told me that when we moved into the big, old house on West Sixth Street, the riverbank cut right behind our garage. But I don't remember that, and the earliest memories I have are of a steep, green bank some distance beyond the garage and the huge old oak tree that grew next to it.  The river curved around and cut off the end of our street, as well, and was narrower and deeper there. 

We were strictly forbidden to go "down to the river", of course, but every summer when the water was low, my dad would take me down the bank and we would step across the exposed stones in the riverbed to the island in the middle of the river.  I remember the island mainly as overgrown and buggy, but exciting simply because it was off-limits to us for most of the year.  Over the years, dump truck after dump truck left their loads behind our house, altering the course of the river, and gradually creating a parking lot for the high school across the street.  The island became a peninsula, jutting out into the widest part of the river.  Easier to get to, but not as appealing.

Our neighborhood was defined by the river.  Because the bank cut in sharply behind our house, there was not room for a West Fifth Street or a West Fourth Street. Third Street and Second Street had bridges.  Heading away from town, the river curved away, and Riverside Drive ran alongside the river for many blocks.  Sometimes my dad took us for hikes along the river, and we were amazed to learn that we could walk all the way to Eleventh Street, where our elementary school was, and beyond, along its narrow banks. 

I was thinking about the river today because I learned that the derecho that knocked out our power for five days this week was actually the second one I have experienced.   Don't know what a derecho is?  Neither did I, of course.  Wikipedia defines it as "a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms". Got that?  A really big storm that comes really far, really fast and is really windy. 

So, the first time I experienced one, as it turns out, was the famous 4th of July storm on July 4th, 1969, a storm that I remember more for its aftermath than for the storm itself.  It was a summer storm.  A bad storm.  One where all the windows had to be closed, and we sweltered in our hot, airless house.  The usual, really.  But the next morning when we woke up, we heard a sound we had never heard before.  The river.  We heard the river.  Although we lived quite close to the river, the banks were tall, and we had never heard it from our house until that day.  The river was rushing and swirling.  It was higher than I had ever seen it, and it was opaque and brown and very, very deep.  It was fascinating and frightening and I couldn't look away from it.  The distant, friendly river that my dad and I threw stones in from the tall bank was gone, and in its place, this new river raged.  The toddler I was babysitting that summer had developed a fascination with water, and I was warned to watch him closely, as he had already jumped into the Vermilion River earlier that summer.  His mother jumped right in after him, but I wasn't going to do that.

So, yeah, I grew up by a river, and I have always lived by rivers, until now, and, boy, do I miss that.  You just never know the things that truly matter to you until you don't have them anymore - you know, just like the song says.