Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This is a story my daughter Kelly wrote. She is 11-years-old. I am very proud of her!

A little crow sat on the telephone wire looking down at our garden. We looked out the window and saw the crow go down to eat the buds of the tomatoes. My mom told me to run out there and shoo him away. That day our neighbor told us that birds are eating their buds also. She said, “To prevent that, I am making a scarecrow.” We looked at her, confused, and said, “What a good way to scare them away!”

As born and raised Jersey girls we didn’t know what a scarecrow was. So we looked it up in the dictionary. It said, “A crude image of a person set up to scare birds away from growing crops.” We thought it was something on porches on Halloween. The next day our neighbors put a shirt and hat on their old plow. I told mama that I could make a better one than theirs.

On the next day I had gotten three long stakes and nailed them together. They looked like a cross. Then I brought it inside and put green pants on him, a green plaid farm shirt, blue mud boots, an orange hat, and mostly straw as hair. Then I got dad to tie him to the garage with wire because the garage was beside the garden. My mom and dad thought it was the best looking scarecrow ever. So I said to mama to invite the neighbor over to see the garden, but really to see the scarecrow.

Well, we solved our problem about the birds eating the buds on the tomatoes. But now, what do we do about the deer?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Proper Tools and Press-On Nails

I’ve discovered that the garden tools are for something. They’re more than for looks. Forget what you see in Country Living magazine where they’re tied with ribbon and hung on the wall next to rusty wrought-iron gates and butterfly collections. All these years I’ve had them and not used one of them. Didn’t even give one to the kids to dig in the yard. Kitchen spoons are for that.

No wonder I was dreading weeding the garden. The tools make it much easier. I stumbled upon this fact when I was weeding and found a carpet of crabgrass that was too dense to pull out by hand. The spade shovel, which I had been using for big clumps of weeds, was down at the barn. I looked over there. I didn’t feel like walking back down to the barn considering I was back and forth there a half dozen times already and Kurt was not going to bring it to me. He was busy hammering. He was building an addition onto the barn—a new hay shed. A skeleton of posts and boards was up already. It looked like a giant wooden shipping crate. It was either go and get the shovel or give up and just mow it.

Then it occurred to me. The little garden tool I kept on the shelf in the garage next to the other things I never used like the bone meal and the tiki torch oil was just like a spade shovel, only smaller. What was it for? Could it be used for things other than making holes? I got it out and tried it. It worked! It was a revelation. The weeds came right up. I started making some tracks. Before I knew it, I was on the other side of the pool giving the pampas grass and the hostas some breathing room. Then I dug up the weeds that were choking the blue festucas.

Heck, you don’t even need gardening gloves if you use the proper tools. You just loosen up the offender with the little shovel thing and the weeds pop right out. No more trying to get a good grip on it with your fingers or wearing holes into the fingers of your gloves before the little daisy pictures on them have faded or grinding dirt under your fingernails that you can’t get out without using Lava soap. Forget artificial nails. Those days were over when I didn’t know about the tools.

Why, in my hay-day, when I was single and on the man-hunt, before I lived on a farm, I was famous for my nails and rumor has it that’s how I hooked Kurt. When I showed up on our second date with my nails painted white with black polka dots to coordinate with my little polka dotted shorts and matching jacket and the polka dotted high heels…and then topped it off when I appeared for our Super Bowl party date with my nails painted in the GoGiants logo, I swear, that clenched the deal and he proposed.

But living on a farm, I had to come down to earth in more ways than one and I traded manicures for the farrier. (The farrier, also known as the blacksmith, takes care of horses’ feet) It’s pretty much the same, both involving trimming and filing, occasional soaking and conditioning, regular appointments and tips. And held hostage for a certain amount of time, whether in the chair or on the cross-ties in the barn, this is the person who you yak with. Sort of a quasi-psychologist, you let it all out because there is nothing worse than just standing there, or in the case of getting your nails done, sitting there, in the dead silence while the horse, from time to time, snorts snot all over your shirt or the manicurist clears her throat. So you talk. You share news, swap tid-bits, and gossip. In fact, that was how I found out about Virginia. My farrier told me.

At any rate, Kurt also discovered things today. He stomped past me and reported, “I’ve realized the importance of Mexicans. How come whenever you need something, it’s always on the bottom of the pile?” He was talking about the stack of lumber in front of the barn, chest high, that took us two hours to move there.

“Mexicans are hard workers,” I agreed. “And they work cheap.” Then I looked at the rest of the yard. I was done with the bed around the pool, but there were beds around the house, down the walkway and in the front corner by the mailbox. Tools or no tools, it was not going to be easy.

“Who cares if they’re sending all their hard-earned cash back home?” I cried. “Let’s get them over here! I hear they’re pretty good gardeners too.”

But that was only a joke. We never hire anyone to help us unless it’s something we don’t have the technical knowledge to do and can’t find the information on the internet to learn how. It’s the trade off we make, allowing me to stay home to take care of the farm and our daughter and write my stories. If we called the plumber every time we ran into a problem or the roofing guy whenever there was a leak, I’d have to go out to work to pay for it all and that defeats the whole purpose of this country lifestyle that we love—why, just last night I made a peach cobbler from the peaches Kelly and I bought at the orchard we discovered on our way to the vet’s office. If I was actually working in the vet’s office, there’d be no cobbler, I can tell you that.

Well, maybe now, now that I’ve learned what the tools are for, perhaps I could apply some press-on nails and paint a little farm scene on them. I was thinking of a green and yellow motif reminiscent of a John Deere tractor. Hey, it’s never too late to spice up a marriage. Or to learn about gardening tools.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Metal Man

The metal man came yesterday. He’s different than the junk man. First of all, you don’t have to pay him. He doesn’t pay you either but he will get out there with you and gather up the broken lawnmowers, tobacco shack stacks, and assorted rusty farm machinery the previous owner left for you because you couldn’t see it when he was showing you around the place since it was summer and the grass was waist-high.

When winter came and everything was brown and bare, we discovered those things in our pasture, along with a family dump that is filled with exciting things like old bottles. There are a ton of moonshine bottles, old Listerine bottles with their black plastic caps still intact and aspirin bottles. You can tell a lot from a person’s trash. We speculated that whoever was into the moonshine tried to hide it with a little Listerine and then had a headache the next day.

Kurt was mad when we found the dump. I was too but I tried to let it go. I pointed out to him that most farms have old dumps. What were the people supposed to do with all their garbage in the old days before you could bring it to the Dumpsters down the road? People took care of things themselves in those days. They had to.

What I like finding the most are the broken tea cups with tiny roses on them and the enamelware cooking pots, all dented and rusty. It makes me think of the woman who lived in the house back in the Depression. Did she drink tea with lemon in the kitchen? Did she keep one of the enamelware pots by the bed because it sure is a long way to the only bathroom downstairs on the other end of the house? Maybe there was no bathroom at all in this house in those days? Maybe they had to use the pot until morning when they could get to the outhouse?

What I don’t like finding are plastic containers that once held things like motor oil. There is nothing uglier sticking out from the brush than a bright yellow motor oil container. These things, like spring water bottles, long-necked brown beer bottles and the green plastic Mountain Dew soda bottles came from someone recently who could have loaded them all up and taken them to the dump once a week and certainly should have known better. These are the things that won’t break down and turn into dirt, effectively putting a stop to a natural cycle of things and wrecking the beauty of something we don’t have much left of.

That’s why I moved to Virginia. Because it’s so clean and beautiful here. When I look out my kitchen window to the road that curves past an old white farmhouse, red barns and fields mowed in neat rows that roll like ribbons, it looks fake to me, it is so pretty. And then there is the occasional glint of an aluminum beer can sticking out of the grass on the shoulder of the road. It’s beautiful here but there are people every where who ruin things.

The metal man took everything we could find including an old oil tank and a piece of farm equipment that looked like a sleigh but had plastic holding tanks on the top of it and jagged teeth on a rod in the back. He didn’t talk much. He said, “Lemme git dat chain on dem spreaders and I’ll pull ‘em up.” And that was about it. I wanted to ask him if he felt good, cleaning up the earth like this, but I don’t think he cared about that part of it.

The chain rattled like a charm bracelet as he scooted down the gully. He took a hook and found a pipe to attach it to. Then he climbed back up and looked around. He stretched. He moseyed over to the truck and took a sip of his beer. In his defense, it was a Sunday. I was counting my blessings that I got him over here at all, never mind on a Sunday. And then he tossed the bottle into the pile of junk below where it landed with a clink on something tangled up in a faded blue Wal-Mart bag. I made a mental note to slide down there and get it later.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

8 Things About Myself

I was tagged. I was instructed to tell eight things about myself or else I will have severe consequences such as all my teeth will fall out or my petunias will shrivel up and die. I better do it because I’m not taking any chances with those petunias.

The real reason is I like talking about myself.

1. I didn’t give birth to my daughters in a hospital. I had them in a birthing house with midwives and no doctors. It was the best experience of my life.

2. I breastfed them until they drank from a cup. I would have kept going since my modest 34Bs skyrocketed to 36Cs, and I lost weight without trying; however, the kids were clamoring for food.

3. I won an award for having the most jobs at my high school reunion. Some of my jobs include: dog catcher, editorial assistant, house cleaner, furniture salesperson, bartender, racetrack groom, health food store clerk, snake charmer (only kidding), newspaper reporter, lingerie-and-novelty-toy business owner specializing in full figures, flooring business owner, antiques business owner and tack shop owner. I thought about becoming a cop but my mother talked me out of it because the job was in New York City. Now I’m a writer and a farmer.

4. I won a trophy for dancing on a bar in Hoboken, New Jersey and also for winning a contest about what the library means to me.

5. I have a bowl of ice cream every single night before I go to bed, around midnight. And I don’t gain weight from it. I believe that’s an old wives’ tale. Just don’t overeat.

6. I don’t believe in going to gyms or exercising on purpose. Just get out there and mow your lawn, sweep your driveway, shovel out a pick-up truck bed full of mulch for your garden, pick up all the rocks in your yard, wash your windows, park as far away from the store as you can and paint your house yourself. You’ll lose weight. And you’ll be able to eat some ice cream too.

7. I clean manure in the morning in my pajamas. They are covered with bleach stains and paint splatters. The horses don’t care. I duck if the mailman shows up.

8. It drives me crazy when people come into my house with their shoes on. Think of everything we walk on! Then it’s okay to sprawl out on the rug in front of the TV playing a board game with your child? It’s gross. The Japanese don’t do it and we shouldn’t either.

9. I pick up litter on the side of the road on a regular basis. I keep plastic Wal-Mart bags in my car under the seat just in case I see some. Now and then I get out there with a box of Hefty’s and work gloves. I need one of those adopt-a-highway signs so at least I’ll get credit.

10. I once tracked someone down to another state who stole a saddle from me and with a little investigating and the help of the internet, called all his family, friends and his job and told them what he did. I harassed him until he was happy to mail that saddle back to me. I told you, I wanted to be a cop.

Oops, that was ten. I also told you I like to talk about myself.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Neighborhood Mothers

This story is dedicated to Sharon Bauer, the greatest neighborhood mother of all.

I’m not the neighborhood mother. Those are women who have nothing better to do with their time. They actually want kids to come over and plan activities that are both fun and educational. They think up crafts. They usually take on jobs like Girl Scout Leader or Car Pool Driver. They are the ones who baby-sit for everyone. That’s not me.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. I had two of my own voluntarily. And I think kids are cute. But I have better things to do with my time than watch someone else’s kids. My own kids, one now grown, know the rules. They don’t bug me when I’m writing. They don’t wander into the pasture to pet the horses without supervision. They don’t take drinks into the living room. They take their shoes off when they come into the house and they know I have control over the TV in the kitchen. They basically stay out of my hair.

My husband is the same way. He’s no kid person. He doesn’t dislike them. It’s just that he barely has enough energy for his own. He’s got a full plate, especially lately since we moved three times in three years. Twice across country. We’re unpacking again. And he’s in the middle of building yet another barn and as usual, we’re on a time crunch. Everyone is cutting hay and if we don’t order some soon, they’re going to be all sold out. Since we have no place for hay storage in the horse barn, Kurt is building a hay shed. He’s doing it all by himself with a little help from me. But he doesn’t have much time because he works long hours. So he’s hurrying. He’s out there banging whenever he gets a minute.

Last week I looked out the window and saw that one of the neighborhood kids had him cornered. She’s an older one. Her mouth was moving a mile a minute and Kurt was standing there with his arms crossed. He kept stealing glances at the posts he’d just sunk into the ground. I didn’t go out there to save him. The last time this kid had my ear I couldn’t get rid of her all day.

Sometimes I have to plan play-days because there aren’t any kids in the neighborhood my daughter’s age. It’s the country; there aren’t a lot of people period. It’s not like New Jersey where she ran outside and there were plenty of kids around riding their bikes and their scooters on the sidewalk. Mothers just stuck their heads out the door to take a look and nobody had to baby-sit for anyone else’s kid just so they could play. If you didn’t see your kid, you got on the phone to the neighbor three doors down and asked, “Is Kelly in front of your house?” We all kept an eye out but no one was responsible for anyone else’s kid. When it was time for dinner or you had to go somewhere, you just called your kid in the house and didn’t have to worry if you had enough for someone else or when was the mother going to pick up your child’s playmate so you could go?

But here, because there are no other kids close by, other than the neighbor who talks your ear off, who is a teenager and too old for Kelly anyway, I have to set up play-dates. That means I have to baby-sit and this involves providing snacks, sometimes meals, constant supervision, many interruptions, and occasionally rides from and back to home. In other words, I get nothing done.

And though I don’t relish having other people’s kids over, for some reason, kids love our house. They don’t want to leave. Even before we moved here with the pool. Maybe part of it is the horses. Sometimes I’ll get the pony out and give pony rides because if I have to do an activity, at least I can do one that I like. Or maybe it’s because I talk to them with respect. I look into their eyes and stop what I am doing when they speak to me. It’s a snack house so there’s always something good to eat. I ask them questions and act interested. Sometimes I tell jokes. Hey, they’re already here, no sense resisting.

Little ones kick and scream when their mothers tell them it’s time to go. Big ones try to schedule another play-date before they leave the premises. “Mrs. Van Cleave, is it alright if I come over tomorrow?”

We had a pool party for Kelly’s birthday last Sunday. Well, it turned out not to be a pool party because we woke up to a downpour. I told Kelly we should reschedule but she started crying. She said she was looking forward to it for a whole year. So Kurt said, “Let them come and let’s just get it over with.”

“But they’re going to get mud all over my house.”

That’s another problem. I’m a clean freak and having a house full of kids is nerve rattling. Plus the house is tiny. There is no family room or basement to corral them in. But I couldn’t say no. And so I had 11 little girls in this little house, running up and down the stairs, knocking pictures off my walls, spilling pink lemonade and letting the dog in and out every time the door opened who then tracked mud everywhere. They weren’t bad. It’s just that the place is small. I’ve knocked a picture off the wall myself going up the stairs.

Well, there was one bad one. And I almost escaped unscathed because she wasn’t an invitee but when the mother dropped off her older sister and she looked longingly into the house at the other kids, I felt bad and said, “You can leave her too if you want. What’s one more?” Of course the mother jumped on that.

Two times I had to tell her not to jump on my couch. One time Kurt found her standing on the coffee table. We caught her teasing the cat and she kept going upstairs by herself and milling about suspiciously. I went up there and closed my bedroom door. I kept having to follow this one around.

When the mothers started arriving to pick up their kids, we thought, yay!—we made it! But then I opened my big mouth. Too bad about the rain. I assured everyone they could come back to swim another time. After all, we have the whole summer. I don’t think I realized what I was saying—I was so happy that the party was over.

The girls zeroed in on that. “When? When?” they cried. Before I knew it, there was a play-date scheduled for tomorrow. When Kelly got off the school bus the next day, another one got off with her. Then two more came. Then the phone started ringing off the hook, “Mrs. Van Cleave, I can’t come today but can I come on Wednesday?”

“I don’t know Lindsey, I’ll look at my schedule and Kelly will call you later.”

The phone rang again.

“Mrs. Van Cleave, can I come on Friday?”

“We’ll see Kaitlyn. I’ll have Kelly call you.”

Then Lindsey again. “Mrs. Van Cleave, my mother can’t bring me on Wednesday. Can you pick me up or can I come on Thursday instead?”

“I don’t know Lindsey, I’ll look at my schedule.”

“And would it be alright if I sleep over?”

It appears this pool is a big draw.

That night I told Kurt we have to set some ground rules or else we are going to have our hands full the whole summer. I can already see our place turning into summer camp. But what’s reasonable? Two kids at a time, two days a week? Three days a week? Go for quantity and get it over with—six kids once a week? How will I work? I write and do other work on the computer in the afternoon. I can’t watch kids in the pool and be inside at my desk at the same time. Is it okay to say they can come over any time in the morning but they have to leave by two? I feel like I need to give a reason. Even though I work, I can’t say, “You need to pick them up by two because I have to go to work,” because I don’t go TO work. If I say, “I’m working,” they will ask doing what?

“Oh, I write stories.” That sounds like, oh, I twiddle my thumbs, or comb cotton or pick daisies.

I don’t know how this new town is going to be about reciprocation but in my old town, the kids were always over my house but Kelly never got invited back. That’s what I mean, the mothers, for some reason, think I’m the neighborhood mother. It wouldn’t be so bad if I got a break now and then and had a free day while someone else was entertaining my kid. Especially considering that Kurt and I have no relatives around here and so we never get any time by ourselves. They do! All the relatives, all the grandparents and aunts and uncles live nearby, sometimes right next door. But no, the kids are always here.

Maybe I’m not that smart. Kelly got invited to a birthday party last year. It was from twelve to one. I thought it was a typo. One hour? Just enough time to open presents. I barely got home and had to turn around to go get her again. Now that’s a smart mother—get ‘em in and get ‘em out assembly line style.

But I have to admit, it does make me proud that the kids like coming here. It’s a good sign when animals and kids like a person. There are no better judges of character. Of course I do have the pony.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Feeling Sorry For Weeds

A lot of weeds are pretty and I feel bad killing them. I’m like that guy on the commercial who is standing outside in the rain, crying over the broken lamp he threw in the garbage. He’s not crying because the lamp cost a lot of money or it belonged to someone else and he’s in trouble because he broke it. He’s crying because he feels sorry for it. That’s me. I feel sorry for everything. Even inanimate objects like pillows that don’t match my d├ęcor any more or t-shirts with stains on the front. That’s why I collect plastic containers. I don’t need another one. My cabinet is overflowing with them. They tumble out when you open the door and bounce on the floor and the lids roll under the stove. But I can’t bear to throw them away because I feel bad. As if these things had feelings.

Sometimes I’ll have a garage sale to unload all the junk I feel sorry for. I don’t feel guilty if I can find it a good home. But I can’t do that with the weeds. No one wants them. I stand there spraying the Round Up or I crouch down and pull them out, trying to get all the roots. I feel like a murderer. I feel even worse when the weed is a flower. It doesn’t make sense. I’m buying flowers and planting them everywhere and yet I am decapitating dandelions, buttercups and other little flowers I can’t identify just because they grow wild.

Sometimes I am not even sure that it’s a weed I am killing. Sometimes I am afraid it’s a planted thing the woman who owned this house before me put in and I am yanking it out by mistake. I ran over a ton of flowers with the lawnmower at my old house, not knowing what I was cutting. One year I realized that there weren’t any flowers anymore. Nothing was coming up. I killed them all. Serves me right for being so mean to the weeds.

Some of the flowers I can identify and so I feel confident about not killing them. Roses are easy. Everyone knows what a rose looks like. And tulips. But I’ve killed mums, hens-and-chicks and spiny-looking things that I still don’t know what they were. Sometimes I do the opposite and I inadvertently let the weeds grow because I think they’re flowers. There I am on my hands and knees, weeding the weeds.

Forget pruning. I once destroyed an old holly that towered to my second floor. Just trying to neaten it up. It never recovered. Then there was the raspberry bush that I ran over with my truck but that doesn’t count. It was in my blind spot. I’ve over-watered geraniums, stepped on crocuses and caused a whole bed of tiger lilies to go into shock when I tried to transplant them. And I felt terrible about it.

These things are so delicate and fragile. One wrong move and you’ll find yourself flowerless. Right now my petunias are looking a little green around the gills and I’m panicking, ready to get out the Gardening for Dummies book. But the weeds are the bullies of the yard. They run amok and choke everything in sight. If you don’t get them under control, they’ll climb up the porch steps, knock the shutters off the windows and pry the doors off the hinges to try to get in. But I still feel sorry for them. They get a bad rap. I mean, wouldn’t you become a hoodlum if you were getting picked on? If it was the only club that would have you?

Therefore, I’m considering leaving the weeds. I know it’s unorthodox and Kurt will probably resist being that he has a mean streak regarding inanimate objects and certain live things such as molds, termites and poisonous snakes. But maybe I can get away with it. I can pretend I’m one of those hippies with a wildflower yard. I can get Kurt to put in a rickety old picket fence, throw in some pottery and birdhouses painted in crazy colors and cobblestone paths lined with broken dinner plates with roses on them. Then I’ll just watch it all bloom in a waist-high tangle from my spot at the French bistro table where I will be painting still lifes with my new oil paints.

Ah, who am I kidding? I’m an anal obsessive-compulsive neat freak who is addicted to the weed-whacker. I’m not letting no weeds run amok in my yard! Plus, we’re in that competition with the neighbors and so far I think we’ve got them running scared. Pearl stopped me when I was getting my mail the other morning and said, “Y’all were going to town here yesterday.”

“Ah huh,” I nodded proudly. (We’d spent the weekend doing yard work.)

“I told Eldon, ‘you better get out the bush hog—the Van Cleaves are showin’ us up!”

Ah hah! Just as I suspected, Eldon and Pearl were getting nervous. All our hard work was coming to fruition and the locals were just now finding out that we city slickers, who don’t know a baler from a hole in the wall, are still a force to be reckoned with.

“Aw, we can’t keep up with your yard,” I said, being polite. “And by the way, what do I use to get rid of that chickweed that’s crawling up my foundation?”

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Hoot Owl and Air Conditioning

I’m too cheap to use the air conditioning. Well, the real reason is I hate the windows closed. All winter long I wait until the spring when it gets warm enough so I can open all the windows and get some fresh air and hear the outside noises. Woodpeckers tapping, frogs and crickets and I don’t know what croaking, humming, chirping, rattling, hooting. Even the donkey next door, hee-hawing. What?—then I’m going to close all the windows the first hot day?

In the other house, I could get away with not putting the air conditioning on because that house was a monster with gaps and cracks in all the bead board walls and big windows that might as well have not been there for all the good they did regarding keeping things in or out. A rich person could afford to turn on the air conditioning there. Us, not being rich, I could resist turning it on in all good conscience. In fact, some might have patted me on the back and called me responsible and I’d take the credit even though I didn’t deserve it because the real reason was, I waiting to hear one of those owls outside.

When I was a kid living in Jersey City, New Jersey, and we’d go down the shore to Nana and Pop-Pop’s summer bungalow, an owl scared the crap out of me. I was dilly-dallying around in the yard after everyone had already gone inside for the night. Voices, banjo music and yellow light spilled out onto grass that felt like velvet to me. I was used to walking around barefoot on concrete up in the city. Even in the city and on concrete, kids walked around barefoot because kids don’t worry about practical matters. Kids are free.

When the owl hooted, I was terrified. What was that?! A monster? The boogieman? I ran to the back steps where I put my head down and covered it, afraid to look up. I couldn’t go any further. I was frozen, except for my shoulders shuddering because I was crying. My Nana came outside and lifted me up. How she knew I needed her, I’ll never know. But she got me inside and gave me a can of Shop-Rite cream soda.

Nana and Pop-Pop didn’t use air conditioning either. They didn’t have it. Not even a window unit when I was a kid. I don’t think central air even existed at the time. But no one complained. We kids slept in our underwear and undershirts in a big double bed off the porch. A window separated the bedroom from the porch. If there was any air movement, a breeze would come in that window. The porch was screened-in and the adults sat out there at night in rocking chairs drinking coffee or Reingold Beer and talking loud. Ours is a family of loud talkers. We yell across the kitchen table. We’re boisterous, emotional and lively. Swearing and cursing goes on, in a good natured way, such as, “Jesus Christ Fran,” (that’s my Pop-Pop to my Nana) “Pass the salt.”

Those two were in love. They were married 55 years and after Pop-Pop died of a heart attack playing bingo in the St. Catherine’s church hall, Nana didn’t last a year. She died of a broken heart. Nothing helped. Not even cans of cream soda. I would go over there and sit with her in the rocking chairs just like I did when Pop-Pop was alive but I didn’t know what to say.

I remind myself of Nana sometimes when I am crouching down in the flower bed. The way I lean over and pull out a stray bit of grass is the same way Nana leaned. We don’t crouch all the way down; we bend at the waist so we can keep walking while we are weeding because we have a lot to get done. We need to keep moving. Just like Nana, I have an immaculate yard, organized closets and a floor you can eat off of.

When I tell Kurt, “My crocuses are coming up,” I see Nana stretching over her kitchen sink on her tiptoes to look out the window and saying the same thing to Pop-Pop—“Harry, my crocuses are coming up.” Now if only Kurt would sit on the couch in his boxer shorts in front of the TV and the box fan in the window and circle the programs in the TV Guide that he plans to watch this week…like Pop-Pop used to do. But no, he wants to put on the air conditioning. I’ll keep resisting. I need the fresh air. I need to keep hearing those owls.