Happy 25th Anniversary Berlin!

Happy Friday everyone! During the last 10 days or so, we’ve been enjoying another road trip around Europe during the kids’ fall break from school. Although I have yet to evolve a stress- and anxiety-free way to enjoy these longish, multi-country excursions with Stefan and the kids, they will undoubtedly still go down as one of the best parts of our time living in Italy.

This journey ended up taking us to interesting places that aren’t only historically significant, but that intermingle with our own families’ histories as well. We found connections in Dachau, Prague, and Vienna, but it was our visit to Berlin and its infamous wall that once separated democratic West Germany from communist East Germany, that was especially meaningful for me, and not just because this weekend marks 25 years since it fell. My family emigrated to the US from communist Cuba, and it was both comforting and frustrating to uncover just how similar the German and Cuban experience has been. As in the case of East Germany, the communist government in Cuba has erected obstacles, much like the very long and winding Berlin wall, which have split families apart and isolated a population.

That’s probably why I was glued to my little TV set in my college dorm room in 1989, teary- eyed at the sight of East Germans insisting on passage through the wall. A still very young news network, CNN, was broadcasting all these jaw-dropping images, and I remember calling my mother to ask if she was seeing what I was seeing. We sat there in silence on the phone just flabbergasted by the moment. Most of the East Germans weren’t interested in staying in West Berlin, although some had surely been yearning for that freedom for decades. Instead, the majority just wanted to be able to go where they wanted to go, see who they wanted to see. Shop, eat, visit with family and friends, and then head back home.

Somewhere between the long silences, we decided that my mom should just come over to my dorm room, so we could watch the coverage together. She was there within the hour and we watched as the gates opened and hundreds of faces poured through. Some were crying, others yelling happily, yet others looking completely astonished, as if they couldn’t believe this was happening at all. We were overjoyed for these Germans, as we saw a sister run into the embrace of a brother waiting on the West side; a group of teens, in all their late-80s gear, dance on top of the wall; and an East German soldier smile widely and give a rose to a girl on the other side, as if no one in the whole wide world was more relieved than he was. It was quite emotional up in that university high rise apartment. In part, of course, because the parallels to our family, stranded behind the formidable waves of the Caribbean instead of a cement wall, were far too clear. We couldn’t help but wonder, what if…

 

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

IMG_0504

The part of the wall that has been preserved with murals commissioned right after its fall, is part of the East Side Gallery. The neighborhood now feels like the Lower East Side of Manhattan, grittier and cooler than the rest of Berlin, but just as sophisticated and modern:

IMG_0517

 

This one’s for you, Mami!

IMG_0524

 

Leeloo’s come up with a very endearing new habit… listening to history through architecture. “Mom! It’s like I’m there and the soldier is giving the girl the flower!”

IMG_0519

IMG_0514

IMG_0520

 

For my Italian peeps/ Per i miei amici italiani:IMG_0512

 

This image evokes a way of life with which I’m quite sure my relatives are painfully familiar:

IMG_0528

 

How do you say “perestroika” in Spanish?

IMG_0536

IMG_0516

 

Somebody made sure that I didn’t get too romantic about the whole thing with this insightful graffiti, in Spanish nonetheless! (Sons of bitches. Stop lying. We haven’t learned anything.)

IMG_0541

 

Yet, a girl can keep dreaming. IMG_0545

IMG_0546

 

I like that Leeloo serendipitously added her face to the hundreds in this scene, re-playing what I saw on my TV in ’89. She’s got quite a few cousins that I can’t wait to see pass through their own wall someday. Hopefully, not another 25 years from this anniversary.

IMG_0547

 

 

 

 

Falling Again

As I sit here in front of my open second floor window, the delightful smell of wood burning in the distance is wafting into our home office, a signal that colder days are surely right around the corner. Although today it’s mostly sunny and 75. A little lizard is happily basking in the sunshine streaming in through our screen. The neighbors, way across the fields, are the ones burning wood. I’m not totally sure why, but I love the smell anyway. The acres in between us have been buzzing with tractor activity as the farmers work, day and night, to get seeds in the ground before the cold arrives.

IMG_0348

 

IMG_0364

Just this morning, as I was hanging a few things out to dry on the line in the backyard, a military-looking Land Rover with the windows banged out, drove up onto the adjacent field, one that was overflowing with chick peas just a month ago, and out jumped Luca, the guy responsible for all these crops. He whistled a melody loudly as he walked towards me, in an effort not to startle me in the quiet of the morning I think. Once we saw each other, he yelled over a cheery “Bongiorno Gina!” (Good morning Gina!) I told him I had noticed all the hard work going on all over the property this last couple weeks and he shared that the fields around our house were being planted with wheat today. On cue, a tractor, driven my his brother, went by in the distance, dropping seeds out a giant funnel. “In bocca al lupo!” (Good luck! or literally “In the mouth of the wolf!”) I shouted to the fields as he continued on. “Crepi!” (“May the wolf die!”) he said giving a quick glance back at me.*

IMG_0345 IMG_0328 IMG_0343

But back to my sunny window, the seasonal reminders visible from my perch over an active farm are varied and plentiful. Aside from the nonstop planting that’s going on now, there were the apple and pear trees just beyond the backyard that provided buckets of delicious fruit in September. (It would probably take us a few years to figure out how to really take advantage of it all, and how to do it before the calabroni (giant bees) beat us to it.) Then, there were the wildflowers of September that lined all of the gravel roads throughout the hills. Red poppies, cow parsley, dog rose and spear thistle were the ones we recognized. The vendemmia (grape harvest) that I mentioned last week, and the harvesting of all the other crops happened as Fall officially began. The Persimmon tree in the front yard blossomed in October, just like last year, when we were surprised by its dark orange fruit after returning from Halloween in the States. It’ll be the last fruit that we’ll see until Spring brings back the cherries that freaked us out earlier this year. But the pink, red and magenta roses that still cover what used to be the horse stable and barn are still blooming this month, and should be going until the first frost.

IMG_0335 IMG_0350

You can’t help but be moved, emotionally and physically, by the rhythm of it all. And I don’t just mean that the beauty of nature can effect me, although it definitely does. Being this enveloped by it, seems to have strengthened the notion in my head that we’re just another part of this giant creation, one that is just as susceptible to its seasons as these crops and trees. And when I’m truly in sync with this truth, I feel less stressed, more calm, knowing that I’m following a cadence that’s existed for milennia. Simultaneously though, nature’s  incredibly efficient time-keeping, propels me into action, much better than any clock or calendar ever could. In the sense that I feel compelled by it to get out there – get those hikes in, eat on the patio, ride my bike, pick that fruit, wear those skirts, etc, etc, before the next season ushers me indoors for months!

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 9.31.52 PM

Leave it to the Italians to have the brilliant idea of placing Stations of the Cross all along a rather steep and arduous path in Parco della Chiusa, a lovely public park near our house! (Click to enlarge.)

Before we know it, Halloween will be here. And for this family, it’s usually a downward spiral of activity from there, one that we usually recover from in March some time. This year, it’ll start with Halloween in the Czech Republic, then Thanksgiving (if we can find some willing Americans to share it with us!), then four important birthdays, followed by a family trip to Paris, then back home to Philly and New York for Christmas and New Year’s with the family and friends. My normal tendency is to see all of this before me, and start to panic. Instead, however, I might try taking a lesson from Mother Nature as I sit here breathing in that wood smoke, and note that each of these things will happen in its turn. In between, the plants will keep growing, the seeds germinating, the sun will go up and the sun will go down, over and over again. There is space to breathe in there somewhere, so that all of that goodness can be enjoyed instead of just worried about.

So here’s to a beautiful Fall everyone! And hopefully a nice, slow entry into winter and all the holiday merriment that comes with its start.

* (The internet says this Italian way of saying good luck may have come from rural life in another time when a wolf would have been a danger to a farmer’s animals. Going into the mouth of the wolf would have been about going towards or being in danger, so the appropriate response is to hope the wolf will die, so the danger will go away. There’s another popular way to wish some one luck that involves going into the business end of a whale. No idea how they came up with that one!)

 

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to Living Here and There! Before we launch back into things, it seems fitting to re-cap just a bit of what’s been going on over the two months since Christine and I took our summer break from these pages. After a busy June and July, the kids and I were just about to take off for our first trip back to the States in almost a year, and Stefan was off to Brazil to visit his brother.

Upon arrival in the US, we were met with a monsoon of love and attention from our family and friends who had planned all sorts of togetherness for us. There were orchard visits and pool days, long catch up sessions and family dinners, a visit to the warship New Jersey and Washington DC for Zoel, obligatory trips to our favorite big box stores, Target and Michael’s, – oh, if the Europeans only knew – and just a wee bit of singing and dancing too. And thankfully, there were also three days of hanging out with the folks on the other side of this page.

Wine-enhanced, candlelit dinner in the gazebo, check.

Long lunch on Michele’s terrace, check.

Sunday dip in the pool with the whole bunch, check.

Hike with Noah, Zoel, Leeloo and Luca, check.

Inspiring writing chat with Christine, check.

IMG_9730
IMG_9709

Ray, Christine and me!

IMG_9751

Banks of the Hudson River.

Back in Philly, a Flower Tea Party celebration a la Cubana feted Leeloo’s 8th birthday, with her 20+ cousins and “cousins” taking over my parent’s house.

IMG_9941

 

IMG_9850

75 cupcakes by the generous and talented Erin Nadeau!

IMG_9949

Mad Hatter Hat decorating!

IMG_9929

Best part of August for the kids… visiting with Nana, Abuelo and cousin, Milo!

IMG_9837

Stefan Salad, made for the first time without Stefan.

IMG_9849And before we knew it, it was time to say our goodbyes again – definitely the hardest part of this choice we’ve made to live abroad. Just 20 hours, two taxis and two planes later, we were pulling back into the vineyard in Casalecchio di Reno, greeted by flourishing fields of sunflowers, wheat, chick peas, plums, wildflowers, and of course, grapes. The feeling of having arrived home was definitely in the warm country air that day, not only because it was beautiful and because this is the place where the four of us have decided to hang our hats for the time being, but because papa (also known as Stefan) was there to welcome us after his trip to visit Uncle Sebastian (also known as tonton.) Three and half weeks was a long time to be without him and we were all happy to be back together again.

IMG_0020

Straight off the plane and into the fields. Ah!

IMG_0024

A little bit of Philly visited us at the very end of August in the form of my childhood friend, Andy and his lovely family, assuaging our leftover longing for the people back home. With them, we went back to visit Lucca, one of our favorite Tuscan towns, were we rode bikes atop its ancient wall and through the piazzas, chancing upon a vintage car show where we were able to get up close and inspect the beautifully detailed interiors and gorgeous exteriors.

unnamed-1 unnamed

Our friends were even here to send Zoel and Leeloo off to their second year of school in Bologna!

IMG_0111

And what a difference a year makes! There were no morning jitters this time, unlike last year. Instead, we easily slipped back into our comfortable routine and were excited to rejoin our little international community after almost 3 months of not seeing anyone. The school yard was buzzing with parents and children just like the September before, but now instead of hearing booming noise, Italian words (and English, and Spanish, and French…) were discernible. The kids ran right over to their friends and launched into recaps of their escapades while Stefan and I were just as warmly greeting with Ciao’s and Bongiorno’s, Hola’s and Bonjour’s.

IMG_1921

So far, the start of middle school for Zoel and third grade for Leeloo has been beautiful. Rarely have I been so pleased with the efforts made by their teachers to get them motivated and curious at the start of a new school year! As a result, both of them have dialed up their efforts, and it’s been amazing to watch their determination to get new concepts and improve were they can.

While they’re at school, Stefan and I continue to move our projects forward (some of which I hope to share with you here over the course of the year!), sometimes only inch by inch, but forward nonetheless. After drop off one sunny September morning, we got to participate in our second vendemmia (grape harvest.) With clippers and plastic buckets in hand, we hit the fields with our neighbors and happily freed giant succulent bunches of grapes from the overtaxed vines. Earlier in the month, the director of the vineyard had walk us through all the steps they take to process the grapes and store their various kinds of wine, making our small part in the journey that more meaningful, and the glass of pignoletto frizzante that we had with dinner that evening that much more special.

unnamed-3

IMG_0166

IMG_0170

unnamed-2

IMG_0050

A few days earlier, Leeloo made herself at home on the wheels of the giant machine that shakes the grapes off the sturdier, younger vines.

IMG_0247

As we move into the heart of the Fall season, we’re planning some trips, projects and events that I look forward to chronicling here for you, along with the beautiful things that we find  here in the country and on our charming Bologna streets. Thanks again for coming back to join us!

IMG_0276

School’s inner court yard with leaves falling on PE class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Charm on the Atlantic Coast of France

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 5.50.48 PM

Marrying a French guy has turned out to be a pretty good deal over these last 17 years. One of the perks has been getting to know the bits of France where Stefan’s family has roots like Paris, Marseilles, Cannes and Provence, but nothing had ever lured us toward the Southwest until this month, when a family reunion of sorts, for a special birthday, led us to the Bordeaux region. When Stefan mentioned where we were going, we had a laugh over vacationing in a wine region, because that’s exactly what we need… more wine. We didn’t think much more about it, knowing that we’d be flying into three days of scheduled festivities, and so wouldn’t have much say over where we visited or what we did.

We had no idea that Bordeaux also includes an area of small ocean towns surrounding the Bay of Arcachon, and Europe’s highest dune located in Pyla-sur-Mer, our final destination. We were surprised on the way from the airport to our hotel as the roadways became smaller and smaller, soil transitioned to sand alongside them, the smell of salty air swirled in through the windows and finally the sight of the dark blue water of the Atlantic Ocean started streaming past us. Where were the vineyards and the French country villages? We were staying at the beach?! Yippee! I was reminded of past arrivals in beach towns from  Wildwood, New Jersey, that I mentioned last week, to the North Fork in New York, from South Beach in Miami to Cannes in the South of France, all very different, and yet, at some level, absolutely the same. It must be the rhythmic movement of the waves and salty breeze that immediately calms everyone down and slows life’s relentless (and maybe unnatural) pace for all who enter these coastal territories.

The car pulled up on a roundabout of La Co(o)rniche, a Philippe Starck designed hotel, beautifully ironic given the sentiments expressed on Stefan’s recently released I Used to Love YouDespite the song lyrics, even Stefan had to agree that Starck had created a comfortable yet modern, peaceful yet entertaining space that fit well within the rugged nature surrounding it. Over a 4-day weekend in this lovely part of the world, we climbed the dune to discover a giant forest that spanned out as far as the ocean on the other side of it, we road the waves on motor boats to visit pretty nearby villages like Cap Ferret, where we were treated to some of the freshest seafood we’ve ever had (the area is known for its oysters, which unfortunately none of us eat!), and got to spend time with a wonderfully eclectic group of family and friends. Sometimes traveling with no expectations is truly the best way to go! IMG_1082 IMG_1175

IMG_1179IMG_1142IMG_9284 IMG_9274

 

 

 

 

Summer Nostalgia

When I was a kid, our family summer vacation always included going to the beach, and then doing next to nothing for a solid week. During the rest of the year, my dad’s schedule involved working 10-hour long days, usually six days a week, and my mom’s consisted of holding together everything else during those long days (and nights.) Given this, it’s not at all surprising that vacation meant parking ourselves under an umbrella on a hot, sandy beach with a cooler filled with sandwiches, soda and beer, and absolutely nada on the agenda. That kind of full stop is what I’m craving right now as we race past the middle of summer, with 2 trips out of the country, a few road trips, 3 sets of guests, and more than a few local events under our belt, and with much more to come before the end of August rolls around.

All of this movement has me thinking about one of my parents’ preferred locations for their restful summer pause from the stress of everyday life, Wildwood, New Jersey. If you’ve never been, Wildwood is a one-of-a-kind East Coast beach town populated by 1960s art deco motels, many of them conceived with a design theme like the Casa Bahama or Lollipop Motels. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 9.07.50 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 9.08.27 PM

It’s just a 3-hour drive from Philadelphia, but we’d get up extra early to pile all of our things into the Buick, and make it to the shore before lunchtime. I remember the excitement in the car as we neared our destination, and started to smell the fishy air of the bay and feel the warm, salty breeze coming in through the rolled down windows. Vacation began at that very instant. We packed our sony walkmans, mad libs, tiger beat magazines and invisible ink fun pads back into our sacks, knowing that soon we’d be winding through Wildwood looking for our colorful ocean side motel.

There was yet more anticipation as my dad went into the motel office to get the keys to our room. Which floor would we be on? Would we be near our cousins? Would the strangely alluring ice machine be closeby? Would we face the pool? The beach? Would we have a balcony? Which bed would my sister and I get? Would the room have a kitchenette? It was enough to keep two little girls giggling and bouncing around the giant backseat of the car for hours. Luckily for my mother, it was over in minutes, as we raced after my father to uncover all the mysteries held by our motel room. By that time, the cousins had probably arrived and were doing the same. A lot of running back and forth between rooms usually then ensued as our parents lugged in our bags and beach gear.

Shortly after a quick lunch at the motel’s diner and a change of clothes, we would all climb the stairs down to the beach to set up our spot for the day. Beach towels were arranged side by side, two or three umbrellas were driven into the sand and opened, the cooler was strategically placed between my dad and uncle, and our bags of multi-colored buckets, shovels and sand sifters were dropped close, but not too close, to the adults. And that was it. There we would exist, between the motel and the beach, the beach and the motel, for five or six days. Well, that was almost it.

We’d be deliciously exhausted by the sun, sand and water every evening, but managed, at least 2 or 3 nights out of the week, to make it over to Wildwood’s Morey’s Piers, a seemingly never-ending wooden boardwalk, packed with rides, games, food and t-shirt stands. I only wish I had a picture of the totally rad air-brushed baseball shirt that I got on the boardwalk in 1980… light pink sleeves and a white torso, a black and white checked background on the chest, my name in graffiti emblazoned over the top, complete with sparkling stars. In addition to getting totally awesome shirts, we tried our luck at picking yellow plastic ducks out of a spinning pond for prizes, devoured delicious funnel cake and cotton candy, and then tried to keep them down while spinning on the super loud music express train.

But in the morning, we’d be back at the beach with nowhere to run to, nothing on the schedule at all, no monuments, no historic sites, no lunch reservations, no crazy dinners, no event start times, and no summer homework. It was great for us kids, but frankly, we probably would have been fine anywhere school was out. I realize now, that for our parents, it may have been an even more special place, and the perfect way to rest their bodies and minds. They were too far from home and work to be weighed down by their normal responsibilities, yet the surroundings and people were familiar and comfortable. They weren’t tethered to a smart phone beeping with messages or news from the world outside the beach. All they had to focus on was not losing their joy-filled kids and keeping the overflowing cooler in the shade. Magic.

I’m very grateful for all the things were able to do and see over the course of one summer, but next time around, I’m going to keep Wildwood in mind, and make sure there’s at least one week of the summer just like it. For now, we’ll have to steal some lazy moments when we can, like this rare occurrence from yesterday, all of us sitting at the same time, in the same place. Magic.

IMG_9439

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bouvarez Countryside Inn is Open for Business!

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 7.41.59 PM

(Click to enlarge photo.)

The pignoletto frizzante is appropriately chilled and bubbly, wedges of cantaloupe are topped with prosciutto di parma, mortadella, salame, and bresaola are arranged on platters, the cheese plate is full and the fresh bread is cut, one of Stefan’s summer salads is tossed in his delicious vinaigrette, and music fills the house and yard. It’s summertime at the Bouvarez house, and our first group of guests arrived this morning. We had our test run for the summer season last weekend when our very good friend/soul sista, Natasha, came for a quick visit. But this week, our Caribbean cousins took the overnight train from Austria, childhood friends ventured onto the continent from London, and our unofficial godchild and his momma made their way from Brooklyn USA via Amsterdam. And once again, every room is filled with people and things, and one long, satisfying meal, enlivened by the kind of  conversation you can only have with people you know well, seems to stretch into the planning and making of the next meal.

Along with their belongings, these friends and family bring their tales of far away lands and people, their first person accounts of what’s happening in the old neighborhood, stories about the dramas and comedies unfolding in different corners of the world, descriptions of travel and discovery, and news about the ideas and events captivating those around them. I suppose therein lies an unspoken transaction… countryside for conversation, fresh air and foods for connection, nature’s beauty for news from outside the boot. Frankly, I think we might be getting the better deal, but don’t tell them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campo Estivo? Summer Camp?

IMG_8316For the first time in six years, I am not signing anyone up for summer camp! I haven’t spent a single minute on finding interesting ones, working out schedules, doing paperwork for sign up, or monitoring deadlines while coordinating with other parents to see who’s going where.  And it’s not that there aren’t any options here. On the contrary, it seems there are more and more families with working parents that rely on the “campi estivi” to get through the summer just as we do back in New York. Tennis, soccer, swim and other sports camps, as well as more artsy or outdoorsy ones and mixed camps are all options in the Bologna area. But in this country, there is also widespread use of the “nonni” camp, otherwise known as lots of quality time with the grandparents. For many kids in our region, Emilia Romagna, this means a quick departure to seaside towns like Rimini, Ravenna, Cervia, Cattolica, etc, etc, as soon as school lets out (for public school here that was June 6!) to visit with the nonni for the summer, and “take the air” (there’s a widespread belief that kids benefit greatly from the cooler sea air of early June). Parents usually make the one-hour drive on weekends to reunite with their children and the grandparents in June and July, and then take a family vacation together in August.

Unfortunately, our nonni are across the ocean at the moment, but we’re skipping camp anyway! During the school year, we often run from place to place following the ever-packed schedule of activities, so these few months are the only time of year that the kids have to just BE. We’re looking forward to lazy days when nothing’s pre-planned and we can spend our time doing as much or as little as we want. The kids are finally both old enough to entertain themselves for hours, leaving Stefan and I part of the day for uninterrupted (or mostly uninterrupted!) work, but then we’ll also get to spend part of the day together. There’s plenty to do on this vineyard, plenty of places to explore outside, and no shortage of activities indoors. We also have a few trips lined up, including a few weeks in New York and Philly, and a steady stream of friends and family that are coming here and we can’t wait to see! The only downside to this plan is that it takes us a bit out of the Italian world we’ve gotten use to, and into our own little English-speaking cocoon. We’ll have to balance that out with playdates, dinners and Italian movies in the Piazza!

So although it was tempting to enroll them in camps that focus on things they didn’t get much time to do this year like music, science and theater, we’re opting out of organized activities for these next two months and hopefully resting and re-setting our bodies and minds with a whole bunch of unscheduled goodness.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 2.20.33 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Camp/Not Summer Camp Summer

In just a few weeks, the school year will come to an end here in the northeastern United States and many kids will head to summer camp. (More than 11 million children attend some kind of camp each year.) Some go to sleep-away sites–rural, privately run bastions of midnight pranks, artificially sweetened care packages and coming-of-age ‘firsts.’ Others will attend day camps, and follow a routine similar to, though much more informal than, the one they have at school. Summer camp is big business here in the states and another area of culture and childrearing that Americans have made competitive, somewhat elitist and a debate.

Not that I think that summer camps are bad places, mind you. Noah is signed up to attend a few weeks of various day camps this summer. One is an outdoor survival camp–a Native American inspired week of foraging and thinking about spirit animals and building shelters from mud and sticks in the woods along the Hudson River. Another camp he’s excited about is Shakespeare Camp–an education arm of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Noah will end the summer with a week of baseball camp (the least interesting of the bunch to me), but the one that brings him together with a few friends and teachers from school–always good connections to rekindle towards the end of the season when Noah’s not ready for vacation to be over. Without fail, seeing his friends and his favorite teacher (and having fun with them), makes the inevitable end-of-summer-beginning-of-a-new-school-year transition a little bit easier.

IMG_4117

After camp.

Not that I want to be thinking about the end of the summer yet. For heaven’s sake NO. I am ready for long lazy days of doing nothing (and HEAT)–which is why I sometimes wonder about this idea of summer camp. Growing up, I never went to summer camp. Each year our family went on a two week vacation around the fourth of July (usually to Cape Cod or Prince Edward Island in Canada) and then we spent the rest of the time at home. We didn’t really even do playdates. Granted I had three brothers to play with and swim with and, of course, catch frogs. Noah’s an only child, on the other hand, and while that comes with its own set of benefits, consistent companionship isn’t one of them. I like that summer camp allows Noah to enjoy some down time with other kids so he’s not just hanging out with me and doing adult things, which is typically his preference.

I also agree with the gist of this article I read a few weeks ago titled: Deceleration: How Radically Slowing Your Pace Can Make You Smarter. Generally, the author writes about the importance of slowing down our lives and our days and our hours, not just to reduce stress and improve health and enjoy of life more, but also to increase one’s ability to understand and engage with the world.  i.e. TO MAKE YOU SMARTER. Activities like spending time in nature or a few hours looking at the same piece of artwork or taking an entire afternoon to watch the clouds and then the sunset are life changing because by their very nature they are intrinsically different occasions than the ones we usually engage in to pass the time. When we slow down and focus on less action-oriented stuff, space opens up inside of us for a perspective shift; for a crack to break open in the shell of everything that we’ve been taught so that the light of what we know can shine through.

In the article above, the author writes about kids taking time at summer camp to do (not do) these things but this summer our family will be taking some time on our own to investigate this deceleration–without other kids or scheduled meal times or macrame in the afternoon. We’ll spend several weeks at the very end of the summer on Cape Cod (our favorite place on the planet) not doing anything at all.

IMG_4313

Nauset Light Beach. Eastham, MA.

Mother’s Day…Brought to you by Facebook!

10

Mami and me. Stylin’ in the 70s, probably on a Mother’s Day!

If it weren’t for social media, which for me usually means that ubiquitous Facebook, I might not know what’s going on outside this vineyard half the time. I think it’s debatable whether or not that’s a good thing, but when a big U.S. holiday like Mother’s Day pops up out of the blue, I think it’s grand. (Italy has a Mother’s Day but it’s not until later in May.) I don’t have a very good memory for these sorts of things (Unfortunately this includes important birthdays and anniversaries too!), and frankly, I’m not sure how I managed this information before Facebook. In the case of this past weekend, I was lucky that some friends started changing their profile pics to a photo of dear ol’ mom as soon as Friday night, giving me ample time to process and react… even shoot a little video of the grandkids for my momma, which I would post here if I didn’t think it would instantly decay your teeth with its sugary sweetness.

Strangely, I think I paid more attention to Mother’s Day from afar then I would have if I’d been in the U.S.. Along with Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day, I tend to think of these as Hallmark-created holidays, engineered for all of us to spend money during loughs in the retail world. Owning a store for a few years, cemented this idea even further, as I saw all the effort that goes into keeping people buying when there’s no special occasion. While I’m on the subject, doesn’t it seem like we’re supposed to buy more and bigger presents for these secondary holidays every year?  And why does honoring mom need a special day anyway, when in fact, we should all be doing nice things for mom all year long? No one has done more for you, right?! Without her, you wouldn’t even be here, so let’s face it, a bouquet of flowers and lunch once a year, ain’t gonna do it. However, even with my bucketload of cynicism about it, I enjoyed the online celebration of all the moms I know, and some I don’t, more than I would have expected.

I suspect it’s because social media gave me the chance to pop into all those holiday luncheons and parties that people organized, and tune into all their kind sentiments, without having to participate in the advertising and consumerism that normally goes along with the day, and I didn’t have to actually attend any of these lovely events I saw scrolling by my screen. I say that with much love for all my family and friends who generously host the good ones, but with the knowledge that sometimes you get roped into going to the bad shindigs because of proximity, not because you actually know the hosts well, or even like them. I don’t miss those latter events at all, but I do miss those closest to me, especially when I see them gathering to partake in festivities together. When I see a picture and not only do I know everyone in it and can make out exactly where it’s been taken, but I can also place myself in the scene that I know so well, sensing the noise level, making out pieces of conversation, knowing what the air is like, almost feeling the touch of a warm cheek as they kiss me hello, smelling his aftershave or her perfume, melting in another one’s hug.

Sigh.

Although I often curse Mark Zuckerberg’s creation,  in these nostalgic moments, I feel lucky to exist at a time when this real time connection via thin air is possible, these moments when I get to see my people smiling and happy together, and get to share in a little piece of the party from 4000 miles away, even one in honor of a holiday made up by a greeting card company.