a town with wings and no feet

My trip to Port Townsend, taken almost a year after we moved to HQX, has come and gone. I enjoyed myself doing what I like to do; taking a leisurely schedule and breaking bread with a handful of dear friends. I was oddly relieved to see that very little felt different; the town was just as it was, warts and loveliness both. Business owners will still doing their thing and restaurant menus and offerings remained the same. The weather competed for Grays Harbor in terms of winter blah (although my logical mind knows this was only a kindness bestowed on me by the weathergods to soften the soaked mossy reality of my new home). My friends’ lives hadn’t suddenly taken wing without me. The children I’d so missed hadn’t changed so much as inserted about 6″ in their middle somewhere. Port Townsend itself did not evoke wistfulness or sadness so much as seemed a comfortable, parallel dimension of home.

There were cosmetic differences. Ladies seem to have traded in their Danskos for Merrells. An acquaintance’s art shop had moved downtown and Swain’s checkout counter had moved up in the store. On Saturday I went to a yoga class and re-connected with that aspect of the community, which I discovered I’d missed very much. In both Friday and Saturday night’s gatherings I was inspired by the community I’d known with their impulsive creativity, a bubble that expects, experiences, and serves itself a high quality of life indeed.

I spent almost no time alone this weekend which was highlighted by a little incident on Sunday afternoon. Two o’clock found me outside the Model T Pub and Eatery in Hoodsport with my vinyl green suitcase and my sock knitting (Nels’ Christmas socks, still unfinished). It’s cold – very cold, but brilliant and sunny. I don’t want to go inside the pub (a pleasant place) because I want to see my family when they arrive. As I knit away, yarn ball tucked in my pocket, a man emerges from the restaurant and into the sunshine to smoke. He looks like Grays Harbor stock – handsome but weathered, black jeans, cowboy hat, and biker jacket. “Knitting!” he drawls, surprised. “You making gloves or socks? Whyn’tcha make me a pair?” I show him my son’s socks and he replies, “Well, I can’t wear wool. And I can’t wear colored clothes, you know, dye. If I wear dye, it soaks into my skin and makes me sick. Of course, I’m sixty-five now, so maybe something’s changed…” He goes on to talk about his truck – a Mazda like mine that’s just had repairs – and his son who happens to be a mechanic in Port Townsend. He talks about himself and his life as if I’d been standing there waiting to hear, which in a way I had.

Our discussion is interrupted by the arrival of my family. By the time I’ve put my suitcase in the car he’s stepped back inside for another beer or coffee. I wish I would have said, “Nice talking to you!” because I like those interactions. I like having a break from thinking about my own life’s plans and experiencing the realities of others, of strangers.

On the drive home my husband queries me about my trip; he asks after our friends, what the surprises were. My kids insist I reach back and hold their hands. They’ve missed me. When we get home Nels, still feverish and strange from his Saturday illness, directs me under the covers of my bed to “cuttle” as he calls it – folds his hot little arms around my neck and kisses, kisses, kisses me. I can wrap my hand almost all the way around his upper arm. The house is messy and tomorrow we have to travel again but for the moment I feel great being home.

car trubble

HQX, 8:15 AM on Saturday
Ralph took a photo walk this morning; he’s been checking out a camera from the college.

Yesterday didn’t go so well. Sure, it started out great. I’d planned a brief Portland roadtrip with Sophie to visit my brother (and maybe my sister too, if the schedule worked out). I woke very excited about a sunny-weather trip. I spent the morning with my kids (both off school for Professional’s Day) cleaning house and giving them their Spring Cleaning, a fun little ritual where we clip nails, clean ears, and do an extra squeaky-clean full body overhaul, the three of us splashing in the tub. Sophie brought out her two green vinyl suitcases and we packed. She rattled off the itinerary for our trip to see Uncle Billy. We went to a six-kid playdate at A.’s while I helped two girlfriends with Halloween sewing.

Then, leaving A.’s house just a tad bit later in my schedule – my car wouldn’t start. And in a, it’s-not-just-the-battery-nor-even-the-starter way. I got a ride into town and decided to feel in despair. My dad came back out with me to A.’s and we confirmed the diagnosis that I was kind of screwed.

By 4 PM I was still in Hoquiam (not happily cavorting with my brother), having paid most of my Portland budget to No No’s Tows. The roadtrip was scrapped. I had a hard time telling Sophie this because I was upset, she was upset, and I didn’t want her to “read” more upset than there needed to be.

At about 4:30 things slowly began to improve. The van – after lots of helpful suggestions and understanding plus phone calls from A.’s house – had made it to our trusted auto shop. My mom, kids and I went to our favorite cafe and I had some fresh coffee. My mom bought me a few homebaked cinnamon rolls to take home. The waitress at the cafe brought in hand-me-downs she’d reserved for Nels (OK, that’s just so sweet). Mom and I made a date to meet up for some sock-knitting tips at the LYS the next day.

I headed home, thankful for kind friends and family, knowing Ralph would be there soon to meet me and try to cheer me up.

"mom said it was a taut psychological thriller."

I finally caught the cold that my brother, my mom, and my son have all suffered through. It is manifesting for me in a congested head cold and very stiff, raw, (but not painful) throat. I am luckier than the rest of them – so far. Ralph has sternly admonished me to rest.

Nevertheless, last night I couldn’t sleep easily thinking about my husband’s roadtrip today (he, Nels, and my brother are going to Portland for a couple errands and to drop the Princess off for house-hunting). In true Fisher / Hogaboom style we’d planned on packing food so that A. they wouldn’t have to take the time to find a place, park, and dine; and B. we could save a little money (my brother also loves this last as he is feeling anxious about upcoming expenses). Of course, Billy had to add to the fare: a carrot (I shit you not, that’s all he had). Ralph made up some roasted garbanzo beans last night and was planning on stuffing the last half-loaf of french bread (made fresh Thursday) in the basket and calling it good.

I didn’t want Ralph under-fed and over-caffeinated so this morning before the boys left I’d made them a half dozen oven-fresh pita for the beans (I am rockin’ the pita these days), garam masala tofu, hard-boiled eggs, a few slabs of blueberry and strawberry sour cream coffee cake, adding a few apples and ice water. And the jewel of the lunch: I gave to them our one perfectly-ripe peach I’d picked up from the Olympia Farmers’ Market and kept shrined in its own paper bag, untouched, for days. This thing practically peeled itself and I took a tiny taste this morning – perfect, spicy, melt-in-the-mouth.

After the boys left I cleaned up around the house while Sophie played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Playstation. What a child she is! She can play and save video games (far better than I; I have no interest however), clean her room, brush her teeth, mess with my iPod playlist (her current favorite is Dolly Parton’s “Touch Your Woman” – Jules, I know you’re going to appreciate that), and make rather sophisticated suggestions for the day’s plans. As we left for the library she double-checked her book list and donned her apparel for the day – in her words, “Panties, then pants, a shirt, and the frog costume”, this latter being a lovely but well-worn hooded towel / froggy-eyed piece handed down from a stylish PT friend. I have also secured a sushi date with my mother for 12:30 where Sophie can further practice with chopsticks.

What else I’d like to do today: take the girl to the new Harry Potter movie. She’s still little enough she consents to sit in my lap and I can smell her and hold her close. Nels and Sophie smell like their father (yes, that’s a good thing) which amazes me because they are different people. Their intertwined dearnesses are all part of some kind of conspiracy those three have that keeps me in loving bondage to them for most my waking hours.

breaking exit velocity

Roadtrip With Hello Kitty!
Roadtrip! Today my mom, brother, husband, children and I headed to Olympia – mostly for fabric and sewing purchases. My mom bought us lunch and post-shopping snack – how awesome is that? I didn’t eat a snack but I did bring home some amazing cinnamon bread for Wagner’s.

Mom Portrait, By Billy
I just want to say that the only reason my mom took us on such a long trip – 11:30 AM to 6 PM – was that Billy was along. She likes spending time with him more than with me. Because they are dating.

I love hanging out with the FOO. Sometimes certain members are a right pain in my balls, but mostly, I like spending time with them daily if I can. Today my poor brother and I had to run and keep Nels and Sophie at bay in Music 6000 while Ralph was “grinding his axe” (i.e. playing a guitar out of tune, to try out a pedal) and headphoned. Why did we get Nels to monitor in such a valuable commodity shop? I was glad Billy was there, besides for his company.

Nels, Out.
Nels fell asleep on the drive home and still, about three hours later, is out.

Sophie, Pensive
Sophie napped too but, once home, stripped her shoes off and started coloring. She and Billy like taking pictures together.

(And just for my secret thrift-whore housewifery buddy – here are my recent thrift store purchases on Flickr – I really do love the inexpensive and fun thrifting to be had in HQX!)

on the road again… [ kegger at my parents’ place! ]

Yesterday my father, mother, and their wee little dog loaded up in their homebuilt motor home (actually a converted logging crew bus with black-purple and gold detail, solar power, and an elevated roof – it’s a trip) waved, and headed off for a 2+ week trip to Montana – the Tetons, Yellowstone, friends.

My brother gave long, sincere hugs goodbye. I felt just too rotten to do that so I pretended I didn’t feel bad and held Nels on my hip (my god… he’s three years old! I don’t really have the baby-on-hip thing going on anymore, do I?). I occupied my mind thinking of how I was going to steal their lawnmower for a few weeks and pick up some of my mom’s flower starts. But really, I felt just inexplicably shitty and couldn’t get away from it; as they drove off I thought, well it makes sense I feel bad. My whole life we’ve been a foursome; we’ve always been together. And as they left I felt a keen separation as I will when either parent succumbs, and I wonder when that will be. My mother at least is mostly convinced my father doesn’t have much hope of holding out much longer; his chemo treatment is losing efficacy and there isn’t a backup plan after it stops holding the fort. Daily I go back and forth between letting them do the thing their way and just supporting and loving them; or inserting myself more aggressively: asking them to seek more opinions, going online and looking up experimental treatments. Daily I yo-yo between being allowed to accept his death and the peace and sadness this brings, and fighting for more life. It’s an odd state of being that protracted illness and long-looming death can beget.

I also harbor this sneaking suspicion those sneaky bastards that are my Mom, Dad, and brother know something I don’t and are keeping it from me. Like that the doctor only gave him a few weeks to live and that’s why they’re having this roadtrip. I wouldn’t put it past that trifecta of non-communication. Last week he was so not-sick after his chemo I grew alarmed and point-blank accused him of not having treatment Tuesday, which he denied. Five minutes later I then ambushed my mother, coming inside the house with my kids: “Did dad really have chemo yesterday?” Her innocent and surprised reply, “Oh yes,” was clearly honest. He just lucked out and wasn’t very sick. The first time in six years we’d seen him feel good post-medicine, and I’m suspicious about it.

It’s hard sometimes to remember that it isn’t the cancer that makes him feel so bad, it’s the medicine. I can’t believe he’s even gone through it for all these years with scarce a complaint (to anyone else; I know my mom gets a more full story). Sadly thought, it’s also the sickness that contributes as he can get depressed. The depression changes him. I have known and loved him thirty years and up until he got sick I’d never seen anything like the depression, I would not have thought he had it in him. I don’t talk him out of it, I talk to him. Sometimes he barely answers. I have found if I keep talking to him eventually he pulls his head out of whatever mire he was in and answers me. I go home, then come back the next day.

I like being active; on their trip, I email them. I work on a care package to send general delivery to whatever township they name. I thank Sweet Baby Jesus in his Golden Fleece Diapers that we moved here. It has been so nice spending time together and I love, love watching my children with my family. Yesterday at breakfast my father and my son sat together and my dad helped him eat breakfast and they fit together like peas in a pod. Nels put his hands up to grandpa’s face and said in surprise, “You have glasses Grandpa!” and tenderly stroked his face. My father acted casual (his M.O. even at his most demonstrative) but his entire body leaned towards his grandson and they touched frequently. My dad wiped strawberry preserves off Nels’ face and said, “Oh, I let you get some on your shirt. Your mom’s going to be pissed.” I ignored this. Then he said, “You’re mom’s going to have a heart attack, she’s going to have kittens.” so I looked at Sophie and said, “Should we get some kittens today?”

At the table I said to each of my parents: “Ralph and I think you are a good grandpa. And we think you’re a good grandma.”

Buen viaje, mi padre y madre.

the times we had

Today the kids and I took a day trip to Pacific Beach and now I want nothing more than to do something like this every day. The weather was so warm, so stunningly sunny and all of this fell on the most lush and beautiful countryside I’ve ever been a part of. My children were so happy to be taking a trip and we were listening to Andrew Bird’s “Armchair Apocrypha” (I finally caught the bug from Ralph who is listening to it incessantly). The soaring orchestration of the music and the sunshine, heading out to the beach my father recommended yesterday while he was (once again) at the hospital getting his Special Poison and my two very, very precious children in my car – it all kind of overwhelmed me for about twenty minutes as we drove and listened to music loud and us silent.

Lunch was packed in a basket; another basket held enough extra clothes, towels, and sunscreen to make sure nothing much could ruin our excursion. The beach itself was beautiful, the sand like warm silk and hardly anyone else in sight. We wandered up the river outlet, looking for sand dollars and my children being happy with literally any significant or not-so-significant find.

Nels beachcombed very specific items: a startlingly green slimey stripe of seaweed, a smooth oblong sandstone rock (why this one was special I don’t know), a lovely spiral shell, and a thick leaf with a bruise on it. He carried them over a mile of wandering – I finally helped put them in his hoodie pocket (later on the drive home he politely asked for them to hold). Regarding the four inch strip of seaweed he led me all the way to the river outlet and asked me to put it back in. By this point it was 100% encrusted with sand. As I gently tossed it in the water it magically became new and I realized he’d led me to exactly the spot he’d first captured it.

We finally made it down to the Ocean Proper and after some wading I sat and watched my children run and laugh and make their own games up. The air was just incredible; salty and warm and refreshingly wet. The one other family there disappeared into mist and for a large swath of my view it looked as if we were at the End of the World with no one else.

My daughter hurt her hand playing; we made our way back to the kids’ boots and then the car, a cold rinse off (next time, bring quarters for hot water showers), fresh clothes, and bundled back inside, refreshed and invigorated. For ten minutes or so we lunched in the car (cucumbers and carrots with hummus, whole wheat rolls with string cheese, and an apple) and I put the music back on and we drove home.

Days like today are a paradise of their own.

’cause the temperature’s too high / going way too fast

It’s only 7:10 in the morning but already a few things have happened.

First, the cat stepped on my face this morning. Precisely and gently, in an attempt to get mornin’ lovin’, and I felt every pad in her cold little foot. Have I mentioned nothing grosses me out more than the thought of a bottom of a cat’s foot? Have you ever wondered why when you get a cat scratch it takes forever to heal? Fucken germs, man.

Second, Ralph and Nels left this morning for Port Townsend and the annual Rhody Run which takes place at 11 this morning – 7.46 miles, w00t! And a few hills thrown in and Ralph runs with Nels in the stroller. While my boys were up this morning (Nels seamlessly adjusting happily to being up two hours earlier than the norm) my son came and got in bed with me not once but twice. Speaking of mornin’ lovin’, how nice that was! It seemed like mere moments after I acknowledged I was having trouble with my son’s behavior, he and I started getting along a lot better. The second time he came and snuggled with me was post-breakfast, and he put his cold hands and feet right up against me. And I love him so much I let him.

It is raining and shite today – putting a damper on my plans to take Sophie out with the bike (we’ve been biking daily with the good weather). Plus I just noticed Ralph seems to have hijacked the fry bread which I’d planned on eating – black bean tacos for breakfast. You heard.

Now: second cup of coffee, heck maybe even a morning half-cig. Why not.

"I have a skeleton to bring to life." "That would be me!"

What is it about the city where any time I plan something there I’m sure it’s going to go tits-up? I fret we will be late (even though I leave with adequate time to get there), I’m sure our event tickets won’t be recognized (they always have been), that my wheels with catastrophically fail and somehow I’ll be stranded with no help in sight (never happened). In any case the night before our trip to Seattle for Bodies the Exhibition I couldn’t sleep well at all, having minor anxiety attacks over the 5-hour roundtrip drive and who knows what else.

So this morning at 9:00(ish) Sophie, my brother, and I head up and I stop for coffee and gas and after that we make rather excellent time. Good thing too as parking in the city… meh. We eventually find a space that gives me a postage-sized room to maneuver and after a few minor detours we wave our tickets at some attendants and are allowed into the almost pitch-black rooms and softly lit displays of human anatomy, all plasticized but still somehow gooey looking.

The exhibition itself mostly made me sad. I couldn’t help feeling that no matter how classy they tried to dress it up as “science” basically this was a circus, a money-making enterprise. My brother reported getting hungry while looking at the layers of meat (“like really good jerky”). For me it just bolstered my vegetarianism. It wasn’t disgusting or anything (OK, some things were slightly off-putting, especially the teratoma and the slices of diseased organs) but the flesh of the specimens reminded me of the cats we dissected in highshool anatomy and those, those were gross.

Sophie is solid. She can recognize the shapes of organs, even at the displays that had somehow chemical frozen blood and arterial structures with no surrounding tissues. She was a bit distressed at dead babies but soon moved past it emotionally. I think. I at least get some inkling of what the spleen does through the small placards (“The entire volume of your blood travels through your heart in one minute”) but am glad she didn’t ask much about it because I still don’t quite “get it”.

We head out of town and miss any traffic.

I attempt to avoid my brother by a pretend cell phone conversation. Kidding, kidding.