Saturday, July 31, 2010

unfinished note from mid July

Each evening, I gather stalks of spearmint, and the last of the raspberries, and a handful of nasturtiums. The spearmint leaves, I stuff into a large pitcher of chilled water. The raspberries freeze on a cookie sheet. The nasturtiums fill a small pear-shaped vase for the table. For tomorrow. Before bedtime, I gather the frozen berries into a bag. I pour lemonade and juice into popsicle molds. The mint tea tastes mild, but it will taste even better tomorrow.

In the morning, I fill the old glass milk bottle with fresh water and two packets of hibiscus and passionfruit tea, and the tea trails red streamers through the pretty bottle on the windowsill as it brews. I hate to cook when it’s hot, and none of us likes to eat much. We live on cool drinks and ice.

Children are home for the summer-- home in earnest, now. Little League play-offs finished two weeks ago, and the first flurry of playdates has passed, along with our summer ambitions for projects and gardening. We slow to the molasses-pace of hot July days, days mostly too hot even for the beach. Children sleep late in the morning, then adhere themselves to the furniture—they adhere themselves with books, books, books, and I find it hard to complain about their love for reading. Brendan devises new self-powered competitions each week, races between marbles or plastic baseball caps or fantasy baseball teams, all on the living room floor. Madeleine takes up a sewing project or two, as long as it doesn’t require too much concentration. Brendan decides he will become a professional smoothie maker when he grows up, as well as a professional ball player. Madeleine cares nothing for growing up—but the paper dolls she designs look more like teenagers, these days, long necks, narrow waists, modest bustlines, short skirts. The child could not care less about her own hair, but she is picking clothes more carefully.

In the quiet hours while the children become reading-fossils, I am working to buy a house: filling out forms, gathering facts, checking with mortgage people and real estate people, making notes for Scott while he works.

I know we need to get ready to show the condo. We puttied the crack in the windowsill, Brendan and I. Madeleine left her chair to clean and organize the kitchen cabinets, which she loves to do because she can stand barefoot on the counter and examine the dark recesses. I will organize a top-to-bottom deep cleaning, soon enough, but today we remove the surface dirt from the stove and counters, and from Brendan’s workbench.  

At some moments, I convince myself the whole house-buying process is a house of cards and surely all this work will be for nothing. At other moments I remind myself this is what financial life feels like for so many of us, and what it felt like for our parents and our grandparents. We will stretch ourselves and our resources and our hopes as far as we can. I continue to juggle my jobs as part-time nanny, part-time professor, freelance writer and summer mom.

I slip outside to water the poor withered lettuce plants, and the breeze cools the porch. Off with the air conditioner. We open the windows and doors to the fresh air, instead. I offer the kids popsicles, mango and lemon, and decide which glass of tea I’ll drink first, mint or hibiscus.