Photo: It’s cold and not nice out, but you know what? I was out and grillin’ on Saturday. Ribs, red potatoes, and baked beans (doctored up with some bacon, garlic, red pepper and onion). It was like, yes. Except that the BBQ sauce I used was a bit salty? I wasn’t too excited about that. Personally, I prefer a dry rib to a wet one anyway, but The Husband and Little Bears can’t live without that sauce! I think I’ll make my own sauce next time instead of getting a bottle. That’s what I get for cutting corners…
My neighbors did their annual backyard burning this weekend, gathering sticks and other debris from their yard and setting them alight (and then, using the ashes for gardening… I think?). They invited us to bring over any of our stuff, including our Christmas tree, which we did. Little boys brought over their motorcycles and frolicked in the spacious backyard while we adults conversed. I was in-and-out doing other stuff, which I’ll get back to in a bit.
This burning thing is a foreign concept to me. I lived in the suburbs growing up, but it wasn’t so suburban that we could get a “fire permit” and just burn stuff in our backyard. But around here, it’s a very common thing. You can literally go online, get a permit, put your ish in a pile and burn it (with your gardening hose handy). This seems… really dangerous to me? But then again, I have a healthy fear of fires.
So does one of my sons, apparently.
Major thought that the fire was a very cool thing. He wanted to bring sticks to it, get close to it, dance around it, smell it… he really thought it was awesome. Minor? Minor wanted to put it out. Not in a whiny sort of way… he didn’t cling or cry or make a huge fuss, but from time to time he’d go to an adult, tug on a pants leg and request that we put water on the fire. Everything was under control (Until the Christmas tree, which went up in a giant and scary fireball), but still, Minor gave it a respectful distance and kept an eye on it. That’s my baby. Won’t have to worry about the youngest setting the house on fire… Honestly, I think that Major liked it because he thought he was “camping.” He called it a “camp fire” all day. We tried to explain, but once that boy gets something in his head…
This was the first time we’ve spent quality time with our neighbors for a while, and I’m reminded about how fantastic it is to have good and understanding neighbors. They are Boomers, with kids our age who live out-of-state, and they could be mean if they wanted to. Or, at least unavailable. But they’re not: their door is always open, their always giving great advice, and they are always willing to lend a hand. In fact, while we’ve been dreaming out loud about expanding our stone fence in the front yard, they actually offered us the stone to do it. Because, you know, they just have left over stone hanging around. No really, I’m serious. They used to have a stone wall that they demolished, but they kept the stone! Now, we’ve gotta get it and haul it back to our yard, which will be a feat, for sure. I’m actually not sure we can do this… I’m going to save that for another post.
It has been nice to come out of hibernation in general. There have been gatherings, spontaneous and planned, there have been playdates outside, and there have even been friendly conversations around the neighborhood. Sure, it’s New England, so the friendliness goes but so far, but at least people are back to the minimal expectation of niceties and friendliness. Even the boys, now that they are regularly getting fresh air and exercise, are being kinder to each other and to me. I’m getting a lot of “I love yous” from both boys, which is just the best!
Now, I hope I can take all of this positive energy around here and bottle it up because, dear reader…. my in-laws are coming to visit this weekend….
but they aren’t staying with us. They are staying at a local motel or something. They are really only hanging out in Massachusetts for about 24-hours. My sister-in-law just had her third boy, so my in-laws are pretty distracted and want to go hang out with him. Thank you, Lord!
I can do this, right? Anybody can do anything for 24-hours, right?
And I have plenty to do to keep me distracted. I’m still working on the sleepsack for the school auction (I probably have another week’s worth of work on it), I am making another sleepsack or little nephew number three (still in the quilt stage of that) and then there is my short story for Ploughshares, which I finished last week and gave to a few trusted readers.
I got some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten. And this isn’t from people who love me and feel obligated to give me positive vibes. This is from real writers who give me the good, the bad, and the ugly. But what I got back has been overwhelmingly positive. I feel amazing and scared at the same time. I really want to work to get this story right (and I don’t want to break what’s good), and now I feel a little pressure. This is my best so far. That means I have to keep improving. It’s hard to keep pushing past your personal best. Moreover, it’s hard to meet and exceed expectations once you show other people your best, you know?
I’ve been working on this fiction writing delusion for three years (more than that, really, but these three years have been focused and with earnest), and I feel like I’ve actually seen real and tangible progress in the last 6 months that is encouraging. I’m finally able to put together coherent stories now, with characters who have real presence. Something is clicking!
I doubt I’m going to win this contest. But I am proud about what I’m about to submit (I have plenty of work to do on this piece before then, though!). And if this piece is not accepted, there are a few other markets that might take it. I think this is the one… the one that’s gonna get published somewhere. Keep your fingers crossed for me, dear reader!
Little boys are back at school, Mama has work to do, and the world keeps spinning and the yard gets greener. For all of the bad news in the world right now (my heart aches for Baltimore right now), I hope that there is a brightness in your corner of the world. In the coming weeks and months, I hope that you’ll consider giving to whatever disaster relief will be needed for the people of Nepal. The pictures out of there are horrific, and the stories being told by survivors are incredible. BBC World News is doing outstanding coverage if you are looking for a good source. If you are a person who believes, I hope you’ll say a prayer on behalf of the people over there. They’ll need more than that, obviously, but while we’re waiting to know what the real needs are, asking for help beyond our power is a good place to start.
Until Wednesday, take care.