I don’t have a set route when I walk. I pretend my sneakers are divining rods searching out photos instead of water. At the end of my walk I play Rorschach with the aerial map of my walk on endomondo. I have walks that look like donuts, infinity symbols, squares, and lap pools. One day, when I got home and the Mister asked me where I walked I said, “I walked a route that resembles the ovarian system!”
I also have a route that resembles a gigantic kidney bean. It’s a little over 2 miles with a fair amount of hills. Depending on how fat I want to make the bean, I also walk by a house where people may sell drugs from the garage.
The house by itself looks like one belonging to an elderly couple. Grandmotherly clutter dots the porch and planters. An unstable wrought iron fence supports an assortment of cottage flowers and roses. Some of the flowers aren’t real. It is a brick house with enormous white shutters and a long time ago I did see an elderly couple puttering.
The cars, the frequent visitors that come and go quickly, and the garage makes the house look like one belonging to a different generation. I would frequently see the same couple of men chatting in the garage, sometimes with a woman. They didn’t appear to be typical fans of English country gardens.
One day on my walk I noticed bags and bags of topsoil next to flats of flowers ready for planting. The woman and both men were standing in the front yard looking at the lawn, obviously planning something. Over the coming days I saw them dig up the front lawn in a way that didn’t seem to make sense. By the end of two weekends, the flower-filled holes had borders of white rocks. I didn’t know what to make of it, until one day I walked by–very slowly–and realized one of the rocks spelled out a word. Now.
As quickly and discreetly as I could, I tried to make out what the rest said. I was only able to make out the bottom line. Goodbye for now. The rest of the sentences were a jumbled mass from my spot on the street. You’d need to be airborne to read the whole thing, and for the briefest of moments–less than a second, really–I debated the wisdom of bringing a ladder on my next walk.
A few weekends later there was more planting. I took the kidney bean route again and noticed the new line was numerical. 1920-2013.
Goodbye for now
A memorial garden, then.
We drove by it one day on the way to one of our final baseball games.
“I’m pretty sure they sell drugs from that house,” I mentioned to the Mister as we drove past. He agreed. “And that’s a memorial garden. It says Goodbye for now and then the dates.” He made a sympathetic face followed by some generic sympathetic murmurs. “I’m going to find out the story behind that garden.”
The way I figured, anyone who inspires a memorial garden must be at least a little interesting.
One day I was walking the kidney bean when I saw the woman crouched over the 2013, pulling at old petunias. She looked my age, though it’s possible she was younger. It was obvious we had lived different lives. Her shirt rode up her back while she pulled, exposing the soft flesh that folded over the waist of her shorts. She had her hair pulled back in a messy knot near the top of her head. Pieces of hair kept hitting her eyes; it bothered her. She didn’t wear gloves.
I walked past her and headed home. I stopped after 10 yards. Debated. Looked back and watched her pulling some more. Started walking again two steps forward and then turned on my right foot and started walking up the hill again. I stopped when I was in front of her and smiled. I said hello. She seemed surprised. I can imagine. She smiled back, unsure.
I introduced myself and complimented her on her yard. I asked her if it was a memorial garden for a loved one. She said it was. Her grandfather died and she planted the garden for him because he loved flowers so much.
“He was a plant doctor. A botanist, you know? He couldn’t get enough plants and flowers.”
I looked around the yard with a new appreciation for the overflowing birdbaths, potted plants, and overburdened trellises and arches.
“So, anyway, he was my best friend. He’d been sick the last few years and I moved in to take care of him. I guess I got a little emotional when he died. He’s probably so pissed off at me for tearing up his lawn. You can’t even read what it says unless you’re in a plane. I wasn’t thinking about that when I planted it. I wasn’t thinking how hard it was going to be to keep up, either.”
“Well,” I said, “I bet he appreciates the sentiment. And you can read at least some of it, or I wouldn’t have stopped to ask you about it. Besides, the message is for him and I’m sure he can read it just fine from Heaven.”
I took a gamble with that last sentence. For all I knew, she was an atheist. My rambling seemed to mollify her anxiety about the garden somewhat, so I didn’t offend her too much with my–admittedly juvenile–resort to talks of Heaven and afterlife.
She talked a little more and I listened a little more–her grandmother likes to come out and look at the garden–and eventually I turned to go back home. I once again gave her my condolences; she once again started crying. She thanked me for stopping because it made her happy. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, feeling guilty because I stopped partly because I was nosy.
Two weeks later, after having walked some spaghetti, a couple of donuts, and an infinity, I made my way past the plant doctor’s house. The woman was outside talking to the men. From across the street our eyes met. She broke into a huge grin and stood on tip-toes to wave at me as if from a very long distance. I did the same even though we were only, physically, 25-feet apart. Then she turned back to the men and resumed her conversation and I kept walking the round side of a kidney bean.
“If I had a lot of money, I would by a mansion and get a Lamborghini and build Iron Man suits and have lots of parties.”
“Mom, never underestimate the power of a potato chip.”
On little brothers and yellow cards
“Really, Nico? You got another yellow card because your brain ‘went cuckoo’? Yeah, well, you know what type of brains go cuckoo? Brains on drugs. Are you on drugs?”
On what to do when your brain has a lot of words that want to come out
“Nico, I have the perfect solution. When your brain has a lot of words that want to come out, DON’T LET THEM COME OUT UNTIL RECESS. It’s kind of simple, really.”
On birthday presents
“Mom, tonight when you go to Target after I fall asleep to buy my birthday present, I would like for you to get me an N-Strike Nerf gun and an extra pack of bullets. You’ll find it on the end-cap next to the bikes.”
On June 4, 2013
“Today is my last day of being 8. I’m a little excited, and a little sad because I’m never going to be 8 again, and I have a lot of great memories of being 8.”
The Birthday Interview
- What was the best thing about being 8 years old? Having my first sleep over and playdates.
- What are you looking forward to about being 9 years old? The 4th grade
- What is your favorite color? Green
- What is your favorite song? Black and Yellow (News to me. –Mom)
- What is your favorite TV show/Movie? Anything on the History Channel.
- What is your favorite book? The Shark Wars series
- What is your favorite food? Tacos
- What is your favorite dessert? Pumpkin pie
- What is your favorite thing to do? Play video games
- What do you like to do with your family? Watch dinosaur documentaries
- What do you want to be when you grow up? A Paleontologist
- What do you do really well? Read
- What do you wish you could do better? Math. I only got one 100% on a math test all year. The rest have been 90%-93% and that kills me.
- What is something new you would like to learn? Paleontology (Is there anything left for him to learn? –Mom)
- If you could have one wish, what would it be? Tons of money to do everything I want to do, like make Iron Man suits
“Mama, it’s totally not fair! Mikey says when we grow up I can’t build my space museum next to his dinosaur museum because it will ‘create unfair competition.’ I told him my space people won’t bother his dinosaur people.”::::::
“I was born to do this.”::::::
“‘After’ is, like, my nightmare. It’s the hardest word I have to spell. ‘After’ and ‘four’. Four is my other nightmare.”::::::
“Mama, I told the kids at school I was late because I had a largic raction to my ani..tiziobiotics and they were, like, ‘What’s a ani..tiziobiotics?’ I was, like, ‘Seriously? You guys need to study the dictionary.’”::::::
“But, mama, I don’t have time for neat letters!”::::::
On yellow cards (low level demerits)
“Sometimes, mama, my brain goes cuckoo.”::::::
On yellow cards: One more try
“Okay, not cuckoo. It’s just sometimes so many words are inside my brain and they just can’t wait to get out.”::::::
Nicholas has been waiting for this moment for three years.
Above is a picture of Mikey in the 1st grade during spirit week. Every year the school has a week of lunacy where the kids have crazy hair, wear their clothes backwards, dress to represent their heritage, show up in pajamas, represent their favorite sport or team–the themes change slightly every year, but crazy hair day is a given. For three years Nico has watched Mikey leave the house with crazy hair and for three years he has wanted in on the action.
Here is Mikey this year, two short years later. He didn’t look like a Dr. Seuss character this year. He looked like a werewolf or a vampire according to a few of his friends, which thrilled him. This is also the first year he had a specific look in mind. He wanted slicked back super-blonde hair with a red streak down the middle. The blonde hair paint was too close to his natural light brown so it didn’t show up as well as we hoped and his hair is too short to slick back dry (it has to be dry for the paint), but overall he was pleased.
As for Nicholas? Well.
He wanted a rainbow of colors, but I had him limit it to three. You know, keep it subtle. We went blonde all over with blue tips and a red rim all around the base. The red rim was his idea. He didn’t look in the mirror until there was a finished product.
His response: OOOOOOOOOOOHH, DUDE!! I LOOK FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!
These two had me walking the aisles of Rite Aid searching for hair paint and waking up at the crack of dawn to style their crazy hair so it looked just so. I foresee a future of strange haircuts, tattoos, and piercings. That’s fine with me as long as they stay clean/sober, are upstanding citizens, and graduate with honors from a top tier school. If they get academic scholarships, I’ll pay for the darn tattoos myself.
The shark tooth shadow box I bought on Thursday, while very cool, is more to cover the fact that while I am still in my church clothes, Nico and Mikey flew out of their own and into grubby t-shirts the second their shadows touched our front door.
“Would it kill you two to stay in your nice clothes for just 5 minutes?!”
Happy Mother’s Day, 2013!
p.s. PIBC (book club) news. We can discuss The Shoemaker’s Wife on Wednesday of this week or next week. Which works better?