I wouldn’t recommend taking a trip to DC during the 4th of July holiday. Whoa, the crowds and heightened security. We didn’t really think it through and missed all the fireworks that we had planned on seeing. We decided not to stick around for the big display at the National Mall, and instead waited for fireworks that was planned for the end of a minor league baseball game near my cousin’s house where we were staying. The thing is, you never quite know when a baseball game might end. Of course this one went extra innings…and it kept going…and going…until we finally gave up at 10:30 when thick fog started rolling in. No fireworks this year, but it was a great holiday weekend just the same (by the way, do go here if you ever get a chance).
This summer feels different. Busier, hectic.
The entire month of July is booked solid. The kids are in camp every day for 6 weeks because of the job, and since camp is longer than school hours, their days are full. They’re having the best time, but I do miss sleeping in on mornings and lazy days at home for week-long stretches at a time. Picnics in the park. Zooming around the neighborhood in scooters. Running through playground sprinklers to cool off. Trips to the museum, just me and the girls. How did these simple summer pleasures already become a thing of the past?
It used to be that time slowed down in the summer, partly because of unstructured days (and let’s face it, a little boredom), but this summer we wake up each morning and pack swim suits and lunches and rush out the door, often to humidity and heat that envelops us as we make our way through the neighborhood. And when I get back, I head right to work.
The big change that’s different this year? Independence for our new middle schooler. I thought I’d be a bit more nervous letting her walk to and from camp by herself every day, but the thing that I thought would be a big deal turned out to be a non-event. As it should be. And this is how we start letting go.
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We didn’t mean to spend only 3 hours in Philly, but last weekend was one of those weekends where we tried to be spontaneous – but failed rather spectacularly. Mark and the girls had never been to Philly before, and while I did travel there for business on 2 occasions in the last 18 months, it was a typical business trip in that I spent all day in meetings. I saw the city through the backseat windows of cabs, but remember making mental notes of wanting to stop at all sorts of places.
It’s pretty remarkable that the city is a mere 2 hour drive away from NY. The kids felt a bit disoriented after we got out of the car because we usually step out into the country, the suburbs or small towns after a 2 hour car ride, not another big city with tall buildings and busy streets. The first place we headed after parking the car was Reading Terminal Market because, well, food. The thing about places like the Reading Terminal for me is that I love the bustling liveliness of it all (that’s sort of a nice way of saying, heeeyy long lines and overcrowded aisles), but I’m often completely overwhelmed to the point of being rendered useless in making any kind of food decisions. The appeal of something like the Reading Terminal is that there are so many choices and everyone can satisfy their own particular cravings, but that also potentially means getting on four different lines. The kids have to eat though, so most of the focus is spent on getting food for them. Do you know that feeling when you’re hosting an event and you’re running around making sure that everyone else is happy and taken care of that you just sort of forget to eat, but then regret after it’s over that you didn’t have enough of the amazing food you served? Yeah. Adding to the overall chaos, I was dealing with a pretty bad emergency at work so was pretty much glued to my phone and didn’t end up eating anything at all.
After lunch we headed down to Independence Hall to look at the Liberty Bell. Fifth graders have been studying American History all year, so the girls were pretty into it. Except…we saw this huge line snaking through the park and down the block as we approached the area where the bell is. This is completely the result of my ignorance but I thought the bell was more open and we could simply stroll up to it. In our attempt to be “spontaneous” we did zero research and neglected to find out that there is a security process involved. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, nobody in our family wanted to wait in line. We did, however, walk to the end of the park and saw most of the bell from a distance through the plexiglass enclosure from the fence.
“What are all those people waiting in line for when you can just walk over here and see the bell through the glass!”, I overheard an older gentleman say. I’m feeling you, man, I’m feeling you.
We continued to meander our way in and out of the historic buildings and gardens surrounding Independence Hall. The girls were complaining about the heat though (it was 80 degrees which was a rather big, sudden jump in temperature) and the long distances we’d been walking so far. Our parking meter was soon up by that time anyway so we made the long walk back to the car to drive and explore a different neighborhood. When the walk took much longer than we anticipated, we split up and Mark sprinted to get to the car in time while I looked for an ice cream shop for the girls.
While waiting to pay for cones at a shop I get a call from Mark. “I got a ticket. For parking 8 inches into a handicap spot. It wasn’t very well marked and there was nothing marking the curb.”
“Ugh,” I say. “How much is the ticket?”
At that point, we were tired and felt defeated and after a quick poll in the car, decided that we all just wanted to go home. As we were driving towards the highway, we drove through the cutest neighborhood and while we wanted to stop and have a coffee in a quaint cafe somewhere and pop into some shops, the thought of trying to find parking and paying the city of Philadelphia any more parking money put us in a decidedly grumpy mood. So we left Philly the way I left during my last trip there – seeing the city through the window of a car.
It took the entire ride home through heavy traffic to shake off the mood we were in. Mark went as far as saying he didn’t know if he wanted to go there again, which is silly of course because we’ll give Philly another try, but I’ll admit it was a relief to drive down our block and be home. Settled in with takeout food from some of our favorite neighborhood joints and big slices of leftover birthday cake, all was well again.
Posted by Jenna | 20 Comments
Some more photos from our Spring Break trip to the Northwest.
It seems like it takes as many days to catch up from a vacation as the number of days you spend away. The importance of getting away from daily routines, no matter how long or far you travel to escape them, seems like a necessity more than ever, but I’ll admit – it’s disruptive in the sense that I always underestimate how easy it’ll be to swing right back into things. A week in and I still feel “off”.
But I suppose that’s the idea of a vacation, right? You don’t come back quite the same. A good vacation is returning to the more mundane and tedious aspects of daily life with a fresh perspective. Or one would hope. But it also takes work because it’s easy to slip back into the nonsense that you needed a break from in the first place.
These days, I feel like I’m walking a bit on egg shells. Emotions are unpredictable. It’ll be the one year anniversary of my brother’s death in 6 weeks, but the months proceeding that day were also difficult times. I’m reminded of this everyday lately. Certain dates are burned into my head and I check them off one by one as we pass them on the calendar, exhaling with relief to have gotten past them. But almost a year later, “moving on” hasn’t been possible for a few specific reasons that I can’t talk about. I just want that part to be over; I never thought I would find myself here. But I suppose that’s how life often works. It can veer down a path and fling you so far off from where you thought you’d be. How we deal with the cards we’re dealt with is up to each one of us. But I’ll survive because I’m a survivor.
It’s almost midnight. Another birthday, another milestone to check off the calendar. I’m secretly happy that my birthday doesn’t fall on a day where I’m in the office – not because I wouldn’t like to spend it with the people I work with – I would. But I want to spend it alone more. Does that make my transformation into an old lady, complete? I’m close! I can feel it! But 6 hours alone before the girls get home sounds like the perfect way to spend a birthday to me. Because then there will be dinner and cards and cake (Miss C made me fill out a cake survey the other day) and let’s face it, celebrating our birthdays is just as much for them as it is for us at this point, am I right? I can already tell…I’ll miss it when the kids are gone.
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Seattle in April, instead of August. When we arrived, it was all budding trees and cherry blossoms, fields of tulips and other Spring flowers. The NW always blooms a bit earlier than NY, but because of an unusually warm Winter, everything came up early this year. Lucky us. We got to see the Tulip Festival an hour North of Seattle in Skagit Valley, something we wouldn’t normally see since our yearly trips to the NW usually come in August. We’ve seen photos of the tulips fields from local Washington friends who visit yearly, but there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself. Driving in the car, approaching the farms, you can see the variegated strips of color from the distance. The yellow tulips almost glow from afar.
The tulip fields are spread out in the valley nestled between farm stands and other agricultural fields. Roozengaarde is the most “commercial” of the fields in that there is a small entry fee to get in, while the others are literally right off the road. The tulip and daffodil fields were a bit past peak when we visited, but the display garden, while landscaped, was worth the price to see all the varieties and colors of tulips.
It was also fun to see different flowers at all the farmer’s markets including Pike Place since we’re usually treated to dahlias in August; this year we saw tulips, daffodils, and lilacs. We haven’t been to the NW in Springtime since we lived there in the 90s, so it was refreshing to come during a different season to remind ourselves what Washington is like at a different time of year other than Summer. Thanks for a Spring preview, Washington. Can’t wait for NYC to catch up with all its flowers and blooms.
Posted by Jenna | 6 Comments
Took a short road trip last weekend and was dazzled by Fall colors on the drive upstate. Just 2 hours north and it was like a different world, particularly since we came home to weirdly muggy weather for this time of year. Driving back home was like turning back the clock as we got closer to the city – greener trees and higher temps, but maybe the perception of time slowed down is ok. You know once Halloween hits it’s an accelerated rush towards the holidays and I’m not in any hurry.
In Ithaca we visited a big farmer’s market which I had never been to before. It was good to go someplace new in a town that has so many past associations. I spent a good deal of time here when we used to have long summer breaks in art school and I’ve camped out in nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. It’s beautiful out here with lakes, forests and waterfalls. Driving through the back country roads towards Ithaca where there’s nothing but farm country reminds me of those years when gas was cheap and we had nothing but time. Driving, for the sake of driving, with music blaring and windows rolled down seem like a luxury now. This part of the state reminds me of my brother too. He spent a decade attending schools and later working at Cornell and I used to love visiting him at the Vet School. He’d show me jarred animal organs floating in formaldehyde in the labs and we’d go visit the cows and horses in the barn. What I remember the most though was the barn cat. He had multiple toes, something like 8-12 toes on each paw, and he was a sight. I always point out the store where Ed adopted my cat for me to the girls whenever we’re up here. It’s a funny story, really, of the night that Tobi spent with him before he was driven down to the East Village where we were living back in ’97. He was tiny, just shy of 3 months old, and wasn’t particularly thrilled to be plucked out of the litter of cats. That night, my brother dropped a heavy typewriter in the living room a few yards away from Tobi and it sent him in a panic under the sofa where he stayed until he had to be pried away for the drive down to my house. Tobi was scarred for life and hated my brother since then. Cats, unlike dogs, can hold long grudges it seems.
For the past couple of years, our short trips upstate involve family and visits to a nursing home. It’s hard not to get sad during these visits no matter how nice the facility is and I find myself choking back tears whenever we leave. It’s a reminder of our own mortality too. We’re getting old alongside our parents and we’re all grappling with physical changes that we can, but also can’t see. Some things are within our control and we can change our lifestyles to shape our future, but it’s also just a roll of the dice with genetics and pure chance at play. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, but life isn’t always fair, is it?
Posted by Jenna | 5 Comments