Saturday, March 27, 2010

Supporting the Arts

There was a little of this:

A lot of that:

And now there's this:

A street performer is borne...note the tambourine played with his foot and of course the piggy bank...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Grandpa Tony, my Sicilian grandfather was a produce man his entire life. He started out helping his own father deliver produce to his village in a horse drawn wagon. He and his family immigrated when he was young boy and settled in Portland. As a young man, he and two Italiano partners opened a produce store that maintains a storefront today--no longer a produce market, but the structure is still there.

When I was a child and Grandma and Grandpa came to visit, I was embarrassed to be seen with these people, my family, at the airport baggage claim--had they no cooth travelling with worn produce boxes wrapped in tattered cords? There was no escaping it. Today, I might follow an old Italian home for what that box contained--home grown citrus, tomatoes, and braids of garlic. The peppery salami was the piece de resistance and would become the subject of my dad getting schooled in the value and technique of the thinnest slices possible. The education came with plenty of tastes and no doubt a few icy brews along the way, not a bad trade.

Grandpa was the vegetable man and Grandma had gorgeous flower beds. So proud was she of those gardens, she posed with them and sent photos to us on a regular basis. I thought it curious. I also found it curious that my grandfather recorded the day's temperature everyday, probably for decades. My parents also had gardens, my interest in which was so minimal, I don't know which of them was the gardener or if it was a shared hobby. I suspect they manned their own plots. I do remember my mother announcing on a semi regular basis, or maybe just once, that all of the tomatoes and cucumbers in the evening salad were products of our own garden. Whatever, I wasn't impressed; seemed a little bitter if you asked me, but nobody ever did. I was a delightful child.

Vegetables became only slightly more interesting as I entered adulthood. Once I had my own house, non-vegetable related working in the yard became a relaxing hobby. I mostly tended what was already there, though once I tried to grow tulips--from bulbs. Did I mention that I like immediate gratification? Yeah, that, combined with my ineptitude as a gardener did not give me a bed of candy colored blooms by Easter, or ever, for that matter. First, I couldn't determine which end of the bulb was up, then I couldn't decide if I should plant them consistently, or just toss them in willy nilly and hope they would figure it the hell out. My anxiety over the whole matter became more and more clear when I made it my job to dig the damn things up every chance I had. Were they growing? Were the roots growing down and the sprouts up? What about the temperature and moisture level of the soil? Yeah, that didn't work out too well. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure I have some odd disability that turns images around in my befuddled brain, dyslexia you say? Maybe, but it doesn't happen so much with letters; tulip bulbs and turkey breasts, yes. The few times I have cooked a bird, the simple instruction to place the bird in the roasting pan breast side up has given me great pause. Perhaps my organic birds have not been pumped up to Pamela Anderson proportion, or maybe after I've manhandled the poor things in the sink, they're a tad misshapen, but still. Do you think it's typical to conjure the bird back on it's feet in order to figure out where it's chest is? Frankly that method isn't even fool proof, and the fact that they shove the chopped off neck in some random other cavity, is downright confusing, but I digress.

For Nathan's second birthday, my parents gave him all the accouterments for his very own garden. Tools, container, soil, plenty of seeds...the whole thing. We planted and tended this miniature plot and even saw sprouts come up. I didn't insist that he maintain the integrity of his garden and if he wanted to rake it all up, replant it a hundred times and water it fourteen gallons of water per day, that's what he did. He was two.

Three years later, Nathan and I were working in the teeny tiny bit of soil we have in our current back yard. We were pulling weeds and cleaning up his smidge of a gardening area. In and amongst a fist full of weeds I pulled up a little carrot leftover from the endeavor of years gone by. I may as well have found a winning lottery ticket or some such treasure, the excitement I had for this ordinary root. Let me just say that no carrot has tasted better, ever. From that point, it became my mission to plant a garden with the sincere goal of harvesting actual food from it. Recognizing my limitations, most of our crop is intended to grow above ground, lest I can't control myself to check the progress of the carrots before their time.

I may never get the fixin's for an entire dinner salad from our newly planted garden, but already, there are things growing; sweet things, crunchy things and savory things. If only I can get Nathan to quit eating all the basil and cilantro directly off the plants, we may have a chance yet.

Good Morning Sunshine

"I don't want to go to school, not kindergarten, not college, or anything."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jake and Jasper...Last Day

Tuesday Feb 16, 6am

I was awakened by words at my bedside I feared I would someday hear. "Mommy, Jake won't wake up."

"What? Are you sure he won't wake up or he doesn't want to get up? Is he wagging his tail?"

"Yes, he's wagging his tail and I want him to wake up now."

"Okay, well he is not quite ready, so please leave him alone and he'll get up when he's ready. I'll be down in a few minutes."

Before long, I heard Jake's nails against the wood floor slipping repeatedly as he attempted to get up, or was having a seizure; neither a good thing. I jumped up and ran downstairs to find Nathan laying on the couch with a blanket, something he has never done in the early morning, ever. Jake was nearby in the kitchen, legs splayed out, breathing heavily.

I was transported to a similar scene two years prior when his littermate, Jasper was at the end. I did as I did then and strategically placed two small rugs on either side of him, tucked his feet beneath his body and waited. He struggled to stand, I put myself in the heel position at his right side. We walked this way his whole life and he was great at it; stop, start, run, walk, that dog was glued to my left leg. Contending with arthritis and failing eyesight, the proximity of this position most recently brought security. The morning air was crisp as we stepped into the backyard, he trotted toward the dog run so I retreated into the warm house and to the downstairs bathroom. I heard Shaun on the steps and a few moments later slid the back slider open to find them in the breezeway. Shaun was gently lifting our dog from his own puddle.

Twelve years ago, on that first day, Shaun had held Jasper and the look from them both was full of promise. On this last day, holding Jake in a much more compromising position, the tenderness was still there; but this time my heart sank at the humiliation, confusion, and sadness I saw in both their faces.

Shaun brought in his bed, laid him on it and cleaned him up. I was first taken back by his fastidiousness, then softened, realizing his actual intentions; no one should lie in the rank of their own bodily function. Jake gladly snacked on his favorite--bread--he drank some water and wagged as he always did. This gave us hope. As I look back, I am saddened that we may have let Jasper suffer too long; we finally understood it was time when he refused water even from a syringe.

While Nate got ready for school he told me that Jake would die that day and then he would be getting two cats. Hard not to react to such insensitive words, but thankfully I remembered they came from a logical and usually tender--barely five year old. I had been the one, after all, that put off requests for additional pets with the statement that Jake was more than enough for now.

Shaun had the good wisdom to have Nathan tell Jake goodbye before we left for school; odd since he really had no awareness of what the day would hold.

Lots of phone calls were made, appointments made and cancelled, advice given, grandparents called upon, decisions made. Actually, the big decisions had been made two years prior; just one of the many gifts of Jasper.

It all happened very quickly. We arrived at the Emergency Vet Clinic. We were greeted and accommodated by the same efficient and caring staff that took care of Jasper previously. Jake was taken back for preliminary tests and examination, we waited. We signed things, flipped through magazines, absently stared at the Olympics. We watched two other families bond over the name that each had chosen for special members of their families--nevermind that one was plush and belonged to a three year old and the other was in the flesh, slobbering over anyone in his vicinity. I suppose just an odd coincidence that that name was Jasper...protector, bringer of peace and calmness.

In less than an hour we were brought to a room, the condition - life threatening, estimates, prognosis, decisions, payment and finally, finally our Jake was wheeled in on a gurney for final goodbyes.

I remembered the warm tears that fell on my wrist two years ago. I knew Shaun needed more time. I tried to be patient. I felt guilty and confused by the relief that would come also to me with this end. Odd, relief is exactly what I wanted for Jake, but that I would feel some as a result of his was somehow evidence of my lack of sensitivity. Turns out Shaun was feeling his own brand of selfishness in his desire to hold on a little longer.

Jake laid on his side, still on the gurney, at some point his tail came to rest and he relaxed. Shaun crouched at his head, stroking him, looking into his eyes and feeling the sadness of what we were doing and all that we were losing. I stood along his back; one hand planted at his his shoulder and the other at his hip and consciously breathed deep, cleansing breaths. I knew I wanted to give him the firm touch and the stillness of spirit that I find a comfort.

The vet told us exactly what she was going to do and what to expect. She gave our pup lots of strokes amongst the necessary tasks. Her words and movements slow and rhythmic, like a guided meditation in just the right cadence. She lingered a little at the very end before placing the stethoscope over his heart and confirming he was gone.

We thanked her and collected ourselves to leave. An assistant entered the room, extended her arm toward Shaun and handed him the collar Jake had been wearing, only it wasn't his--it was Jasper's.

Fiesta with Grandad August 2007

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuff Decisions

"Can I have a cookie when we get home from school?"

"Sure, you can have one cookie anytime from the time we get home till bedtime. It will be your choice when to have it."

"Hmmm, this is the hardest decision I ever had to make."