Anne Notations

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Curry. As in … "curry"

One of these people is trying not to cry. Can you guess which?

It takes but a tiny gesture to turn a mom's frown upside-down.

When I got back from Stop & Shop this evening, I checked my email and lo! son Kevin had sent me a summary of his weekend at college so far. He already has a posse of friends, mostly girls (no raised eyebrows; Kevin is one of those guys with tons of girl friends, as opposed to girlfriends), and has gotten to know guys on his dorm floor. Says he has been busy every minute. And, so sweet: He assured me he is choosing a healthy diet. "I'm actually eating an apple as we speak."

Looking back at the entrance road to Curry College from the main green.

A twisting, bumpy high school path brought Kevin to Curry, a small private college in Milton, Mass., seven miles from downtown Boston. He applied there almost as an afterthought, in February. We visited in April on Accepted Students Day and liked what we saw, including small classes, a very active and congenial Communications Department (his probable major), and lots of support for students with learning disabilities and ADD. Also, a beautiful campus.

Families pull their cars up to the freshman dorms.

We arrived Friday morning at said campus for freshman move-in. The weather gods blessed us with a crisp, sunny day and low humidity, and a team of burly student-athletes quickly transferred Kevin's bags and duffels to his new home. His window is on the first floor at far right.

Roommate Luke has been on campus for two weeks, attending preseason football practices, so the room was already well organized. We had Kevin's side unpacked and fixed up in a jiffy.

I was happy to learn that the bathroom is one door away and the unit's Resident Assistant (upperclass student), an affable guy named Chris, lives directly across the hall. The room itself is small but efficient. Guys have so much less STUFF than girls, anyway.

The academic quad includes the library (left) and classroom buildings.

We were on campus most of the afternoon, minus a hop over to Braintree for lunch and a few more dorm items from Bed Bath & Beyond. What a beautiful place Curry is.

The new student center is the gem of the campus. It houses the cafeteria, basketball gym, fitness center, mail room, campus store, and offices for various activities; and is located midway between north and south campuses.

An outdoor barbecue ended the day for most of the freshman families.

Yes, I miss my youngest child. I even miss the sight of him sprawled on the couch in front of the television. I miss his dry sense of humor and his compassion. But he's only 55 minutes away. It's Kevin's turn to start the next chapter of his life, this time on his own. The kid is all right. And his mom will be, too.

Back at home, alone with Daisy, I tried to focus on the beauty all around me, like this sailboat returning to its berth in Brushneck Cove, complete with seagull honor guard.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Table for one

Just because you're eating alone, you don't have to settle for grazing right out of the fridge. Or so I told myself today – my first day living solo, and I mean ever in my life. (Egads.)

Michael has to work all weekend in Connecticut, and our chicks have flown the coop. To keep myself on track, I made three meals. Schedules, within reason, are good things when you're left to your own devices. It seems to me that living alone, I could easily let my weekend home life deteriorate into an anarchic blur of sleeping, reading, snacking, gardening, and Internet. I'm on guard!

Breakfast: Activia yogurt, fresh raspberries, small slice of wheat toast spread thinly with lowfat Philly cream cheese. Bigelow peach green tea with a spoonful of clover honey.

Lunch: Slice of rye toast spread with tuna salad, topped with big fresh tomato slices.

Onward to dinner.

The basil in my back garden has waxed tall and lush while I've been housebound with my (now receding) pneumonia and bronchitis these past three weeks. I picked a big bunch and washed it. Mmmm, that smell... like a summer day in Italy.

Oh good. I have two key ingredients on hand.

Meanwhile, defrost some chicken breasts. Love those $1.99 sales.

Add olive oil to basil, garlic, and parmesan, and whir. I worship my ancient Cuisinart. How ancient? More than 20 years … and countless batches of hummus.

Set the table. Make two-bean salad (canned goods to the rescue) with balsamic vinaigrette and thin-sliced onion. Pick red Sweet 100 and orange Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes in the garden.

Now, isn't this civilized? Observe how a wedge of lemon dresses up a plain old glass of ice water. Not feeling up to a glass of Chardonnay yet. Maybe next weekend.

After taking these photos, I sat down and actually said grace – and meant it.

It's a good thing I like the looks and taste of this meal. I'll be seeing it again tomorrow and Monday for dinner, with some of the chicken also in a salad for Monday's lunch.

Whew. Survived my first day in the very empty, overly spacious, but comfy nest. My first day of a truly new life. One day at a time.

A dog's tale

By Daisy

Since the older boy named Andrés moved out five years ago, Kevin has been my special kid. Every day he has fed me my supper and taken me for a walk. Sometimes twice a day!

I like to think I taught him to love animals as much as he does. Sure, he used to love stuffed animal toys, but after he outgrew them I was Number One, let me tell you.

We are pretty much a mutual admiration society.

This week I knew something was up. The front room of the house was filled with boxes and duffel bags and plastic bags and shopping bags, all crammed with things I didn't recognize and clothing whose scent I did recognize. Definitely Kevin's.

It made me nervous. We've had a lot of changes around here in the last two years, and usually a commotion like this means another one of my people is going away. I really hate it when that happens.

Two years ago my girl Melinda left and stayed away for months at a time. People talked about "Syracuse" and Otto the Orange. Whatever Otto is, it can't be as cool as a dog. Every time she came back home for a while, I stuck close by as she watched TV on the couch. Melinda is the champion at scratching the itchy spot on my back, right near the top of my tail. Ahhhh.

Then my older boy, Andrés, who hadn't been living with us for a while but came over almost every week to visit, moved to someplace called Ohio. Now I only see him a few times a year. It's not fair. He used to be my best bud, before Kevin.

Last year my alpha man, "Pop" as the kids and I know him, stopped living here during the week. At least he comes home most Friday nights. Boy, do I get excited when I hear the sound of his car engine pulling into the driveway!

Even with three of my five people gone, this past year was all right because I had my main caretaker, "Mom," at home after work. I pretty much follow her everywhere she goes around the house. I sleep beside her bed on a comfy cushion. Gotta make sure she is OK at all times.

Kevin was with me the most this past year. Every afternoon I could hear him walking up our front porch steps after he took the bus home from school. I literally howled for joy when he unlocked the door and came inside! Ah-woo-woo-wooo. He was never too busy to get down on the floor and play with me or ruffle my fur and hug me. That guy kept my tail wagging.

Yesterday morning, Pop stowed the stuff from the front room in his car. This didn't look good. Mom commented that boys sure were easier to move than girls – a lot less to pack, she said.

Then Kevin called me over to where he was sitting in a chair on the porch. I jumped into his lap and he hugged me and stroked me. Usually I would be ecstatic and lick his face. But instead, I felt even more worried. What was going on? Brrr – I shivered.

They all left in Pop's car. Many hours later when Mom and Pop came home, Kevin wasn't with them. Just what I'd been afraid of! Pop had a new purple decal for his car window, and those two kept talking about something called "Curry College."

All night I waited for Kevin to come home. A few times I checked his bedroom. Why was it neat and tidy? No clothes thrown on the floor? Uh-oh.

This morning I'm still waiting for my boy to come back. Mom has been extra nice, petting me a lot and taking me for a nice slow walk along the beach. The mailman came a little while ago and gave me a dog cookie; woof, I love those.

But I won't be able to relax until I hear those familiar footsteps on the front porch – the ones that mean my Kevin is home. When I do, I am going to let out the biggest and happiest howl of my life! Just you wait.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A fine whine

I'm so sick of being sick.

Bronchitis. Pneumonia. In my third week now.

Two antibiotics have struck out, most recently the famed Z-pack, which was guaranteed to fix me up. My fever is back; the chest pain, coughing, and congestion haven't stopped. I can't lie down in bed, but must attempt to sleep upright in the recliner downstairs.

Tomorrow I'll call Dr. C and hope he can see me and try something else.

Note to self: Stop Googling and reading information on "antibiotic-resistant pneumonia." It won't help to scare myself to death!

Add to my physical discomfort the guilt I feel for being only briefly (three days last week) available for my new job, and I'm one big mess of stress.

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." Dear Julian of Norwich, I will try to believe it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Turn, turn, turn

This ol' graying dog knows how to age well: Get plenty of rest.

A friend asked in his blog recently:

What is your true feeling about getting older, staying attracted (or attractive) to your mate, and what's your general sense of how women are treated when they venture into their 30s and 40s?

First of all, I think it's a shame we waste mental and emotional energy worrying about being physically attractive as defined by society's standard du jour. On the other hand, I realize competition for mates during our fecund years is hardwired in us and magnified by the popular media.

Perhaps I was deluded, but I continued to feel OK looking in midlife. Yes, I was overweight, except for several shining years in my mid 40s when I did the medically supervised Optifast diet and felt like Da Bomb. But even with those pounds back on, I didn't feel grotesque. I continued to wax flirtatious. (Hmm. Maybe that was grotesque.)

Now I'm over the hill or the hump; postmenopausal, whatever. The hormone train has left this station for good. The weird thing is, and please listen up, young'uns: IT'S FINE. When the crazy hormones ebb, so does the time-wasting obsession with looks, sex, the "chase." Construction guys no longer stare when I walk by? Thank God. I'll always be "Ma'am" and never "Miss" to store clerks? ¡No hay problema! I would have sworn in my libidinous 20s I would never feel such equanimity about the fading of my bloom, but it turns out that to everything there really is a season.

At 58, it's my season to try a new career challenge, enjoy the empty nest with the last kid off to college next week, experience being a grandma, relax in the companionship of my husband and friends and relatives. And I can do so without being preoccupied with how I look, what people think, when I last had sex, how high the heels on my shoes are (answer: low), how much cellulite is on my backside, and whether I "dare" get into a bathing suit.

We live a few hundred yards from a beach, and you better believe I'm putting my trunk-junk in my big ol' Speedo and going in the water. I had my day as a nubile young thing rockin' a bikini. Now I am the happy lady splashing like a manatee alongside our aging mutt and bumptious granddaughter. Whee!

Please read this Grace Paley poem. It shows – brilliantly, wryly, honestly – what I have tried to tell.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer of twenty-ten

It has been the summer of insufferable humidity. At 7:30 this morning, the Providence Journal's news blog reported:
We're in for another swampy day today as the humidity is once again higher than the temperature. At this hour, it is 70 degrees and the humidity is 94 percent.

Now, the temperature is at 80. And climbing.

How did people survive without air-conditioning? Also: What happened to New England's famed clarifying sea breezes? Huh? I could live in Florida if I wanted to spend my summers indoors, ducking the humidity.

Speaking of weather, it has been a summer of several good, crackling thunderstorms, including one that was preceded by a dramatic roll or shelf cloud traveling quickly toward and over us from the west. Shivery stuff.

It has been a summer of transitions, with more on the way. I said farewell to my longtime workplace on June 30 and plunged into the job hunt, with support and advice and, perhaps most important, structured exercises from an experienced outplacement firm. Sarah, our counselor, combined witty charm with no-nonsense instructions to make sure we stayed busy and honed our resumes and interviewing skills. Note to anyone who hasn't been in the job market for a long time: Everything is different, from resumes to competition. If you're still putting "Objective:" at the top of your resume, you've got it wrong.

It has been a summer of reckoning for childish things stored in the U-Haul cubicle. Melinda's Bitty Baby, "Clara," went to a little girl in Woonsocket via Craigslist. My daughter is far less sentimental than I. Me: "Melinda, is it all right with you if I pass along Clara and her outfits to someone?" Melinda: "Who?" Me: "Clara. Your Bitty Baby from American Girl." [pause] Melinda: "Oh. Sure. I'd forgotten about her." Two huge garbage bags of stuffed animals and Beanie Babies, each toy once fiercely hoarded, named, and cherished by the very young Kevin, went to the Salvation Army. Kevin's complete collection of Hank the Cowdog books: off to the library book sale. Getting rid of the kids' once beloved toys and books isn't easy for me. I've had to override my tendency to anthropomorphize – "Oh, it's Mama and Baby Raccoon! I hope they will stay together" – as well as my sentimental attachment to these totems of sweet times.

It has been a summer with time for fun. Peter and I went to Boston's House of Blues to meet my lovely friend Vel (we first met at the Star Wars convention in 2005) and attend a concert by Jack White's current enterprise, The Dead Weather. Vel scored VIP access, meaning the three of us were admitted before the rest of the horde and snugged right up against center stage.

Holy excitement! Afterward, I was able to meet my Facebook friend Mary, a talented artist, and her husband John, who runs a cool sandwich place in Lowell, MA. A perfect night out.

It has been a summer that has already brought an exciting opportunity to try a new job (for at least six months) that uses my writing and editing skills, and also exploits the vast accumulation of otherwise useless trivia stored in my head. I was to have started at Hasbro Inc. today, but ....

It is a summer when I somehow got bronchitis and pneumonia. Specifically, I have been sick for the past four days. I am now the proud owner (and consumer) of enough pharmaceuticals to stock a small clinic. Hoorah for antibiotics. (Nurse: "You'll have to stand up. We inject this in your, um, gluteus maximus.") At any rate, my new boss is understanding, and I will be starting the Hasbro job as soon as I feel better.

Still to come: Departure of the beloved children for college in a few weeks. How will I manage without their lively conversations? -- oh, wait. I mean their constant texting with their friends. What will I do without the crumb-covered dishes and crumpled napkins left on the living room tables, flip-flops arranged in a festive obstacle course around the house, tedious requests for cash, open cosmetic containers overtaking the bathroom counters, moans of "There's nothing to eat!" (uttered while staring into a full refrigerator), and a kitchen sink piled with used glassware?

I think I will manage just fine.