We’re crossing F street and Phoenix asks me for the difference between empathy and sympathy. And this leads to a discussion on two tangential experiences: commiseration and understanding. Watching my children grasp new concepts so swiftly, it’s still breathtaking all these years in. I don’t know what brought these emotional-relations topics on but I can think of some salient, personal examples in our lives, and I share them with my oldest as I feel the steering wheel hot under my hand. I glance across the street at a carved wooden structure; the sun is hitting the swollen river and I’d planned to let my oldest drive us down to class today but we were feeling rushed. Phoenix has his new learner’s permit folded up in his wallet, which he’s learning to take everywhere with him.
Suddenly my work life has ramped up. I have sewing work for clients; I have three freelance writing assignments. I have started developing a pattern line. I have officially been given my first web design project.
It’s funny. I entered the workforce in a semi-serious way under a year ago; now, if I’m not careful, it could swallow me whole!
But: I am careful. Today besides my work, I take the time off of the “me” stuff. I make several hours’ worth of time available for volunteer commitments. If I can’t put aside what I’m worried about, and focus on what someone else might want or need – I am lost indeed.
I stand outside a rain-soggy building for a bit. My husband has bogarted my keys and I can’t let anyone in. People need to come in, need to talk, need to get services. I am friendly enough but I refuse to worry much about the delay. I did my best today and today? I don’t have a key.
Today at noon my husband and eldest were already out of town, on a trip to do their own volunteer work. My son, asleep. His current best friend, a lanky boy of eleven who lives up the street, stopped over to pick Nels up for a swim date. I ask him if he can wait a moment; he smiles and twists his body and says “Sure.” I climb the stairs, open the door, and ask my still-sleeping son into wakefulness. Then I ask him – does he want to jump out of bed and accompany his buddy, to go swimming right now. And of course: he does. He pulls on a long-sleeved shirt I sewed him last month. He brushes his teeth, he asks me to pack his towel. My son is now a young man. He has a phone, he texts me. He mans his own schedule with deference to ours.
It all happened so fast. He was a baby when I started this journal!
It’s late. From my bed, buried in blankets – this selfsame boy. Not too old to forgo cuddling, holding me close, calling me his Little Mama, his Little Beak. No one can speak to me the way my children do. I am unsure if anything smells as sweet as my son’s hair, as his warm and brown little neck. He is still so thrillingly beautiful to me, and I couldn’t have invented it, couldn’t have made it happen on my own thoughts or dreams.
Who’s up for sewing a bikini? Aw heck yisssss
So in a few days we start our Summer Dress in Double-Gauze sew-along. If you’re looking to schedule something for July, consider joining us in the Jalie-kini build! Jalie is one of my favorite pattern companies ever, with a large pattern size range, and an increasingly impressive catalog of print or pdf loungewear, dancewear, activewear, and underwear patterns.
I am a Strong, Independent Woman™ but I am not kidding, on today’s sojourn to Spoon Creek Falls I missed my partner more than once. A mile prior to reaching the trailhead, while pulled over at a remote camping/resort facility to make sure we weren’t getting lost, my eyes fall on an official poster exhorting dishearteningly-detailed strategies to survive an attack by a mountain lion or bear. So when we finally get outside on foot I keep thinking how we’ve been having cougar sightings in town (as well as local Great White Sharks but, I wasn’t too worried about those) and that you can’t hear these creatures, until they’re on you, jaws fastened on your neck. Between the intense heat, the isolation of our location, a busted-ass car, my fears of ravenous predators (including scary hillbillies), and an impending ice-cold swim – I figured I’d be nicely tuckered out by the time I got home (I was right on that account).
The kids were bickering just a little as we disembarked on the trail. It had been a long, hot, and unfamiliar drive – and the kids had caught my irritation that even official directions to scenic locales are often a bit wonky. But when we rounded the first trial switchback, barely off the gravel thoroughfare, the view to the 70-foot falls and crystal-clear punchbowl immensely cheered my travel companions. “This was worth the drive,” my son tells me, skipping ahead. “And that’s an understatement!”
The falls were private, and magical, in a way my camera couldn’t capture (but hey – here’s a panorama anyway). And while we were there – not a soul to disturb us.* Clear water and the reflection of the ripples dancing on the tree trunks.
The kids thanked me profusely for taking them there. I thought to myself how I’m not at all a natural – exploring, trying to find something new. If it weren’t for the kids, who knows if I’d do it at all!
The ascent back to the trailhead is as steep as one could comfortably walk. We’re wearing flip flops so it’s a little treacherous. I tell my son – “Be careful,” and he says, “Why?”
“You’ll fall and sprain an ankle.”
“Fall into a ‘sprankle‘? What is that?” His voice is that same bright, cautious, very alert tone he’s had his whole life. Nels like Danger. What can I say? He’s hoping for something scary, something fourth-dimension and treacherous. He lives for that stuff. You already know this.
As we pull back onto the first gravel road, rehydrated and ready for home, my car odometer clicks over to 205,000 miles. The road isn’t so dusty we have to keep the windows up – thank God, as my A/C doesn’t work. Our trip back to Hoquiam was at turns loud – listening to music and singing along – and at times quiet, contemplative – driving through miles of sun-dappled road, the tree-soaked hills roaring up around our ears. We took Donkey Creek back, to avoid the massive amounts of Friday traffic heading to our beaches.
For a day trip it was pretty special, and I’m glad we made it back – a heat wave, a car with a cracked radiator, and isolated backroads are a little nerve-wracking for little ol’ me! Especially given such precious cargo.
A few days ago I was suddenly struck with the knowledge I had to, had to, get to sewing some swimsuits. In fact, I have this silly little dream of running a little web-thingy whereby people donate the funds for materials, and I make up amazing custom swimwear for young women who are otherwise without a kick-ass summer suit. Like, I’d like to make suits like this for EVERY young woman who wants one! Body image issues are rubbish and a custom suit goes a long way to demolishing them for the season.
But – for now, I’ll concentrate on making suits for family & friends.
First up: skulls and lightning. Because, OF COURSE. A (to my taste) seventies-inspired suit with a surplice bodice.
Ralph and I sit on the bleachers and watch our children in the pool. My son is so tall and so thin but still has that baby face. To me, anyway. Despite the fact he wears his pants at near-waist, his swim trunks are always hanging exactly low enough that it is precisely just-barely decent enough for public attire. He doesn’t seem to mind a bit. He runs up and holds me close and gives me “a hug for safety”, his warm wet little otter-body a welcome grasp.
Our daughter is growing too. Tonight a friend asks, “Does Phoenix need new clothes?” Good god the answer is Yes, and I think I’ll be answering thusly a while. Watching her now her bathing suit looks fit to burst; I sewed it only a few months ago. She shakes the wet hair out of her eyes and smiles at me. She is a tender little sprig and I’m so fortunate to have her in my home.
My mom flies in from the Seattle airport and then drives home; she’s back from laying my Grandfather to rest and celebrating a mourning Thanksgiving with the extended family. Only a little over a week ago I heard news he was ill and now he is gone. My close friends are giving me the support and the consideration I need during this time. I am still considering the loss. I have so much to say about it now, but I do not know if now is the time.
I find myself with few elders, an estranged family, and painful memories.
Oysters on the half-shell in a restaurant. Reminders. My grandfather liked the oddest foods – amongst them I remember hardtack and hangtown fry. Hangtown fry! I am trying to think of something more odious but it is hard. Maybe I will make up a mess of it and do an offering, then feed my dog, who would surely be interested in the fragrant meal.
Tonight is a time for reflection. Trying not to think of the bank account for this evening. A few slim bills for groceries over the next ten days but I was able to pay all our other bills and for that I am grateful.
Black beans soaking on the counter and tomorrow will be another day.
Today my son went swimming on his own. We dropped him off at the Y after running a few errands (cat food! dear lord the racket our felines make if even one meal is late!) and picking up groceries for ourselves. My daughter and I ran home and messed about a while, doing our thing, then made a hot lunch to take to the Y for post-swim. I knew the Little Guy would be hungry indeed.
When my son saw us waiting for him he splashed over immediately, all wet-puppy and lovely. After dressing, he devoured his bean and rice burrito in no time flat. After the briefest turn at foosball (I will never play my daughter again, a week ago she absolutely killed me), the kids ran outside into the (now wind-and-rain)storm, flung themselves into the car. Nels’ impish nose and beaky little face full of joy as he wiggled in his seat.
“I met a girl,” he tells me. “Named Miley.”
“Ailey?” I can’t hear him over the defrost.
“Miley,” he shouts back.
“Oh. Did you like her?”
“Yes. She loves me.”
“Oh really! Well does she know how naughty you are?”
“She doesn’t know. I kept THAT a secret.” He laughs wryly. WRYLY. He’s just a Little Guy!
My son is too little to know crushes but it won’t be long. My daughter already has an awareness. The other day a few ten to twelve year old boys were hassling her. I come outside an hour later and she’d kicked all their asses, AND they were in love with her, she was leading the pack. She’s got it figured.
Back home: children running about the house and wrestling upstairs. Crafting: more embroidery, a present for Nels, and I finished a few of the last tailoring details for a coat of my own.
Tomorrow: I’m up at the Treatment Center a while, and the kids are making Easter baskets with their Grandma. My father’s birthday approaches, just a bit after my son’s. Time for contemplation, even if I’m busy.