May 17, 2011

Mmmm, smells like Spring!

Is there anything that smells as glorious as fresh-mown grass?

It takes twice as long to walk home as it does to walk to class when it's this beautiful outside.

Other things I love about spring right now: the way dandelions have taken over my neighbors' lawns, the tiny white and violet flowers that peep out from around the grass on slender ballerina-necks, the fact that the tree by our sidewalk has enough leaves to cast a shadow on our yard, the perfect counterpoint between cool breeze and warm sun, the way the air actually feels different from any other season, the giddy energy that wells up in everyone, the clean-washed blue of the sky, the way the light looks at four o'clock, both warm and gentle at the same time.

May 16, 2011

Five years

Dad

We shared
mountains of popcorn
crusted with salt,
coated in butter—
the too-rich concoction,
Mom called it
A heart attack waiting to happen

Summer sausage,
cheese on crackers;
pigs in a blanket—
always accompanied by
a painter’s palette:
ketchup, mustard—

Saltines in soup—
under chili then finished
with melting cheddar,
stringing from the spoon to the bowl
and caught in your beard,
your mustache.

Oatmeal crème pies,
Swiss rolls, sugar babies,
terribly seductive:
a death sentence
for a diabetic, driving
your pancreas into perpetual production

Missing you is a famine,
a stomach too long empty to growl.

-----

I wrote this in Spring 2007 for an intro to poetry class.  It's been five years today that he passed away from pancreatic cancer, which sometimes feels like an eternity and sometimes feels like it just happened.

I think the Anne Sexton quote says it best, though: "It doesn't matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was."  He was loyal, hard-working, trustworthy, a man of his word, selfless, and determined to do anything to help someone else.  He was an Eagle Scout who truly lived the Scout law (A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent).  In fact, I can think of no better words to describe him; I can actually remember him being each of those things in turn on more than one occasion.

When I was younger--when he was still alive--it would infuriate me to be compared to him, because I only saw his flaws.  He was tempestuous when angered; he was stubborn; he wanted to do things the hard way; he saved everything for some future purpose.  Now, I take any comparison, slight though it might be, with pride. I hope to be as good a person as my father was.

May 14, 2011

Slowly, sweetly

Daydreams are always better when your eyes are closed.  When you let your mind spin off in an imaginative road not taken and curl up sideways under a soft blanket as you succumb to the fuzzy warmth of perfection created in your mind, time slips away like air through an open window.

Somehow, I have let myself get caught in a never-ending daydream, where I can see future and past spread around me like a field of flowers in a painting.  And in this imaginary space, with this imaginary future, I see everything as it could be, years and years down the road.

I was baking bread yesterday, and as I mixed the biga into the dough, I could hear myself teaching my future daughter to do the same thing.  "We make this little bit of dough ahead of time, so that it has better flavor.  Then we let it sit in the fridge so it develops slowly, because the slower we take it, the better it tastes and the sweeter the bread in the end."  And it seems that I am telling her, this daughter of mine that does not exist yet, about bread but also about life, about good things that grow slowly with time, that develop and mature and start from bare ingredients but transform into something substantive and nourishing.

May 2, 2011

Perfect Weekend

Last weekend was perfect.

Despite plane cancellations and flight delays, I made it into New Orleans late Friday night.  We dropped my bags off at his apartment, and went out for a drink.  We talked late and came back and crashed.

Saturday, I got a glimpse into life in New Orleans--not the touristy spots, which we skirted with all the aplomb of a native, but rather his favorite places: the park where he goes to run, a nice street full of shops and excellent restaurants and locals, the "fly," a riverside park where we basked in the sun, the zoo...I didn't realize how much we had been outside until we went back to change for dinner and I discovered a perfect V-shaped shadow around my neck where my t-shirt's negative was imprinted in sunburn.  We went to see Lake Pontchartrain as the sun set and then it was dinner at a cute creperie followed by ice cream.  The night finished with a long conversation over a mint julep (me) and a sazerac (him) at a beautiful hotel that looked like it belonged in Gone with the Wind and had a flowery garden terrace for loitering.

Sunday, we woke early and met up with his classmates to go tubing and camping.  I put on sunscreen but neglected my legs, and the end of the day saw that my anterior legs were tomato-colored (even the backs of my feet and hands).  That evening we cooked out, the whole group together, and sat around the campfire telling stories and saying things we were thankful for and listening.

I saw two shooting stars.  We found constellations using smartphone apps and tried to remember misty myths about heroes and hunters and gorgons.  When we went to bed, there were five of us in our tent and I really didn't sleep at all, listening to bullfrogs and four different breathing rhythms and fidgeting sleepers.

Monday we took time breaking camp.  When we got back to New Orleans it was shower and nap time, the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

We had dinner with his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend, then wandered a little more in the air heavy with summer temperatures and southern flowers.  We met up with some of his friends at an Irish bar and racked our brains about trivial knowledge.

Tuesday, we were up early and he dropped me off at the airport.  We hugged goodbye and I could hardly believe that three and a half days were over already.  The miles to home stretched before me like a lament, a heaviness that sank into the pit of my stomach and stayed there despite the defiance of gravity by the plane.  In my seat, I closed my eyes and could remember every sun-kissed moment, could feel it in the tender sunburn on my legs.  In remembering I dozed off, pleasantly deluded that I was still there.