Mutant August Weeds

It’s August.  It’s August?  But we were just counting down the days until school was out.  And making glorious lists of all things possible in summer.  Now, we are making lists of all things that need to be crammed into summer.  Because of that meddling word: “August.”  What can we make happen and what do we cross off the list? Visions of growing a red rose bush against the barn wall danced through my gloved hands as I ripped out all the weeds beside the barn.  That was on Mother’s Day. Mmm… the future splendor of that hidden garden scene.  I planted the bush and my gardening friend planted the bare branch for which the climber could rise high against the barn where red bits of beauty would pop out as I walked through the garden gate.  Succulents would cascade off the window ledge.  Crazy giddy that.

I watered the bush regularly for a couple weeks.  I made a mind-map of where I would let the vegetation be natural and where I would plant wild flower seeds and late-summer blooming zinnias.  I bought the seeds.

Then came crazy old June.

And in mid-July, I eagerly opened the garden gate – anticipating the ocular sensory punch.  It got me right in the gut. Here, fill in any words of shock and disbelief.   Mine: “Huh, I guess I didn’t get the roots.”  Taming ten-plus years of a weed garden will take more than one clearing a season.  I decide to wait until I have a good chunk of time to tackle this.

Come early August, I walk up to the edge and peer into the jungle.  I see a few red specks.  Roses blooming under that tangle.  I see succulents through the sprouted volunteer bush-tree.  And I am amazed by the vegetation.

However, I back away quicker than I approach.  What is happening here?  Why does this look like a giant’s salad bowl?

Time to readjust the hidden garden vision.  I recognize this climber from last year: it will turn red in the fall.  And that will be the red beauty this year. Oh, that glorious summer list.  I crossed off “clean out the mutant weeds” because I crossed off “research mutant weeds to see if they are poisonous.”  Perhaps "mysterious weed research" is on the list for when the snow flies.

Right now, we need to go fly a kite.

Hillbilly Joe

If you read Summer Dirt last week, you'll know that the Malcolm house is fully entrenched in summer. While Bill is buried in the World Cup games, Will and Liam are buried in dirt. A water hose & sprayer has thus far quickly curbed the "I'm bored" statements. It has been a beautiful thing -- until a necessary re-entry into civilization.

We needed to make a quick stop at a doctor's office last week. I interrupted this freshly-Liam-made lemonade moment with "grab a shirt, a book, and your shoes."

Movement ensued! A shirt went on. In the van, I could see Liam reading a book as I pulled out of the drive. Forty-five minutes later and after three other stationary drive-thru errands, I turned into the parking lot of the doctor's office. I glanced at Liam's feet and asked him where his shoes were. Glancing up from his book, "Do I need them?" Will said, "He didn't bring a book either," but he's reading a book. "That's mine."

There were no shoes or socks in the van. Not a single pair of soccer or baseball cleats. The only wardrobe pieces were two bras in the back that I'd yanked off the deck railing as I drove away from the house -- in case any one stopped by the house while we were away, I didn't want them to see my hand-washables drying.

Once parked, I saw a bench in the shade outside the office building. I shooed the boys to the bench. Liam skipped over the hot pavement with a book he had found under the seat. The V-neck of his shirt was in the back. "Hey, Hillbilly Joe, your shirt is on backwards, too!" He just giggled and said, "I guess I'm not very well prepared today!" Hillbilly Joe smiled at the mention of his new name.

I asked for a quick appointment explaining that I had a shoe-less hillbilly son waiting outside for me. The moms in the office laughed, and I received the fastest service ever. I found the boys on the bench where I had left them -- always a welcome sight in these situations.

I don't even want to know how many times this shirtless kid has pee-ed behind the barn since the snow melted.

(Do you remember Summer Dirt?)

Summer Dirt

Summer brings dirt. I love dirt. I love dirt more than summer. Next to the barn, I've knocked down a weedy mess so I could plant a red climbing rose bush next to the old stone wall and the peeling window frame. My shovel slid through that dirt as if the ground was a chocolate cake. That's what a decade of decaying leaves will do for a little piece of Massachusetts: make it feel like a little bit of Iowa.

Some of the boys' school friends spent the afternoon at our house yesterday. They came freshly laundered; they went home a mess. Some of the happiest little messes ever. Between the sprinkler and the fort, jumping on the trampoline and crawling under the trampoline, they were summer's best. Streaked with sweat and water, covered in dirt, and exhausted. The only thing missing was the trace of watermelon juice running down their inner arms, creating a dried river bed contrasting the day's dirt adhesion with slightly cleaner skin created by the juice river.

"Why do I need to take a shower?" Because now I'm the Mom who washes the sheets. And I remember the days when my mom with four kids didn't always push the showers, but at least made us wash the river beds from our arms and the Iowa dirt from our feet.

Thanks, Mom, for letting us get dirty. I'm sure it built-up our immunity system and all that. But really, it was just wicked fun.

(Different places, different dirt...It's hard to beat rich, soft Black Dirt.)

Riding the Strands of Fireworks

A single fuse is lit. A gust of gun powder soars into the sky as one and pops into a sprinkling of sparkling, bright fireworks. It’s not a vision of the 4th of July. It’s the explosion of everyone’s spring activities. Post spring break. Well choreographed are the questions. “Where are you supposed to be tonight?” “Who should you send these pictures to?” “Is this a practice or a game?” “What day does your flight leave?” “Where is your uniform?” “Which baseball shoes are mine?” “Do you have a white shirt and black pants for me?” “What time do you need to be there?” “What you do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” “How many more days are left of school?” And it’s me asking that last question. 21.

Families who have kids in elementary school are riding on the same combustive fuselage.

After a few crazy splintered mornings, I try to get up early enough to have a cup of coffee alone. I play some calm music in the morning. Or, I sit down at the piano for 10 minutes, letting my right hand lead the melody while my left hand struggles for the harmonious chord. I need 6 beats to a measure for a song in 4/4 time – finding the chord always take me a couple extra beats.

Will and Liam have their own morning routines, usually looking something like this. Although Liam can’t play Minecraft every morning, he can read about it.

On this particular morning, Will put down his Ranger’s Apprentice series and read my “story spinner” – what Liam so aptly named my spiral-bound manuscript… gulp… of the Staying Strong stories I wrote some five years ago.  The breast cancer year.

As we leave for school, the rocks call Will and Liam’s names.  And I do not, do not, do not want to herd them into the van.  I want to let them sit there and read, and read, and read.

Yes, we are ready for summer.  When mornings can start with the bean bags being dragged to the fort by the boys.  With a book tucked under each of their arms.