The Strange Virus has left. I slept in a little this morning, figuring I deserved it, then shuffled the kids off to piano lessons. There was much moaning about this from McKinley, who is 9 going on 17, thanks to the influence of his older brother Bert. He wants to play guitar, and thinks his teacher is lame.
Rather, she is incredible. And McKinley isn’t so bad at the piano game, either. When he sits at her piano, which admittedly sounds angelic compared to ours, his fingers begin playing all sorts of things he’s picked up from the aforementioned brother. He does this in between actual pieces he’s playing for his lesson, and he does this whenever his teacher has momentarily paused in giving him guidance. It’s maddening for me! “Lesson manners!” I remind him, but she just smiles back at me. She understands, she tells me, she had one like this, so full of life and energy. And today she asked him the title of this one thing he’s played over and over until my ears hurt.
“You won’t like it,” he tells her.
“That’s okay, what matters is that you like it,” she smiles, ever so generously.
“It’s Death Clocks Thunderhorse,” he rambles off, then makes some heavy metal air guitar motions. I roll my eyes.
“Okay, I’ll see if I can find the music for it, so you can learn to play it CORRECTLY,” she smiles again, this time her evil-piano-teacher intentions revealed to me by the glint in her eyes. McKinley is oblivious. She’s very good.
Renee got back from her four-day trip to Washington D.C. with friends on Monday. The highlight of her trip was seeing baby ducks at the Botanical Gardens. No surprise there. She was also very impressed with the hotel, a Holiday Inn, because the kids ate free for breakfast AND dinner. There was also a pool, and she had packed three swimsuits in anticipation of this, only to be deeply disappointed that there turned out to be no time for swimming. Instead they walked all over the place looking at museums.
I had told her that when she got back I would take her to a pool so she could go pool-swimming. Poor thing, she’s grown up swimming in a mountain river. Now all that she wants is to swim in a pool. Go figure. But I came down with the dreaded Strange Virus, and was out for two days, during which not only did she have to entertain herself, but she did NOT get taken to a real swimming pool. Now that I could walk up the stairs without my head swimming, it was time for me to take her to the pool down the road.
This I did not want to do. There was so much that needed to be done, I’d missed Monday going to Charlotte to pick her up, and Tuesday and Wednesday with the Strange Virus. My day had already been set back with the rescheduled piano lessons. Since she also wanted to make some chocolate chip cookies (this girl is always planning something) I thought maybe we could do the cookies today, swimming tomorrow. Much girl-grief ensued with this suggestion, which escalated to a small argument in which I got testy and she got upset, crying, “I’m sorry, Momma,” which is really code for, “I’m sorry but will you please give me what I want anyway?” So I called the pool. They’re not even open yet. And of course she doesn’t want to go swimming in the river, which is right across the road and absolutely divine for swimming in.
So we made cookies instead. I had become stressed. I was thinking about my garden. How I’m always behind with planting. How the weeds are everywhere. She wanted to make the “Best Ever Chocolate Chip Dip Cookies” and I wasn’t even sure what she meant by that. We got out some cookbooks, reading over different recipes. This one used three sticks of butter. No, thanks. This one used ricotta cheese. Whatever. Like I just happen to have ricotta cheese in my refrigerator because I might want to whip up some homemade ravioli or lasagne or chocolate chip cookies. OK. Next recipe. Double Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. Score! Renee LOVES mint, and we have lots growing, well, everywhere.
Renee was really into making the cookies. She did a great job, and enjoyed herself thoroughly. I enjoyed helping her. When we spread the dough onto the cookie sheet, she revealed her secret plan for what a “”Chocolate Chip Dip” cookie would be–one that had a chunk of chocolate hidden in the middle! I was impressed with her innovation.
After the cookies came out of the oven and had been appropriately devoured, she changed into a scarf wrapped about her and began singing about her cookies. They were magical cookies she had decided, and she talked with me at great length about this, peppering our conversation about belief and magic with outbursts of glorious song. “This is just the best day,” she told me. I had reverted to weeding the front flower bed while she sang to me and was now covered in wretched grass pollen that made me feel as I was on fire. “Yes, it is a beautiful day,” I told her, “and I’m going to go inside and relax for a minute or two.”
I washed off and laid down for a little while. I was not in the best of moods, regardless of my delightful daughter, regardless of how the rain came up while we were cooking in our outdoor kitchen, a sudden breeze wafting over us, regardless of the peonies, geraniums, and borage I had picked from my garden and set on the table earlier. Sometimes we are just in a foul mood, no matter what beauty befalls us.
So I went to the garden, chiding myself as I transplanted collards and basil and rhubarb, the last of which I put at the back of the garden where it could grow big and unfettered and perhaps form a sort of border against the weeds that inevitably encroach upon my garden. I checked on my lettuces, which are doing swimmingly well, and my broccoli, which is looking good. My tomatoes were stunted by a late frost but are coming back. And I still have more tomatoes to put in the garden. Also in the ground are potatoes and onions. And the beans I planted a few days ago. So maybe things aren’t so off in the garden department. And the peonies are blooming. What could be better than that for a May afternoon?