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hunkered down in the big city

December 26, 2011

Greetings from 0 feet, aka: sea level, in Berkeley, California, where they call this winter.

Col has been amassing exotic California specimens – eucalyptus bark, trumpetvine flowers, azalea petals. “Can you hold these please?” he asks before scurrying off to grab a leaf. A leaf! The Bay Area is full of green leaves just hanging around as if participating in winter is voluntary.

flowering rosemary metropolis

I too seem to be unable to refrain from helping myself to the California botanicals. Within every neighborhood stroll there is a persimmon dangling plumply within reach, or shiny lemons, or maybe a bay leaf exuding “spicy green forest” like a plug-in scent without the endocrine disruptors.

Oh, and wild turkeys pecking around the Berkeley hills while fleets of Priuses purr by.

Sadly, I passed last week’s bronchitis to the kids (and Dan, who is still in Durango, due to join us soon). Poor babies! It’s like the emphysema ward of the hospital around here, or the shareholders meeting for the medical marijuana dispensary. Cough, cough, cough. Rose, possessing the full-term bronchials that she does, never cracked a fever. But Col, who’s sat in many a grim pediatrician office while a sad-mouthed doctor explained shruggingly: chronic lung disease, has been hammered.

My cousin Janie made a house call and gave both kids acupuncture. With needles. For reals. They love-hated it.

Fever of 101 and a rare smile.

This is the year that Col learned how to both spark a lighter and a match.

It’s okay, really. All this sickness means that life has been this very slow, quiet affair. You kind of get the idea that there are people out there bustling around nuttily in a pre- and now post-Christmas frenzy while we all sit around reading the next chapter in James Herriot’s Treasury for Children (which is a lovely book in which the most exciting happening is a draft horse trouncing the competition in the “pets division” of the British county fair).

Also for fun, we ask my mom’s iphone questions like, “how long was Charles Lindbergh’s plane?” (“You would like to call Molly Zinberg Lane?” the phone confirms.).

Rose’s latest entertainment is to corner people in household passageways insisting they say the “magic word” before passing through. “It starts with ch,” she’ll tell you. And it’s not until you’ve rolodexed through a dictionary’s worth of “ch” words before she’ll announce proudly that she stumped you. “Nana! The magic word is train.”

*** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** ***

Back in Durango, where we let the kids open presents as they arrived under the condition that a thank you letter be written before opening the next one (unless the gift-giver was present to receive gratitude), Dan and I kept remarking on how decently it all went (last year not so much). It was slow-paced and digestible each unwrapped gift starred in the next day or two of play.

Dan and I put together art boxes for both kids, filled with supplies – totable and decoupaged with their names and cool animal photography.

The kids each got a pair of rabbit-fur mittens, tanned and sewed by their uncle Cory. Nice handiwork, Cory.

Dan’s brother Cory and his wife Elena raise rabbits for food. Elena will send photos of the latest rabbit litter with the caption, “aren’t they cute?” And by the end of the summer, they’re clubbed and laid out in the freezer.

We had a fantastic solstice celebration. Woods. Snow. Fire. Sun. Buddies. Hot dogs. Rum-spiked tea. Hula hoops.

*** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** ***

I’ve been going to bed with the kids (and Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna – historical fiction is totally my new genre) at 8pm. There’s always a small, pajamed body next to me, as there is now, sighing and snuffling (and coughing) into the moist Berkeley air that shelters green and ripe and flowering things even in late December. I am thinking of all of you and your families and traditions and holidays and I’m feeling grateful for your continued friendship and readership.



20 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2011 2:12 am

    Aw, so sorry your family has been sick. :( But it’s wonderful for me to read your words again after taking a leave of absence from my blog reader. So cool to see what you all are up to and your interpretation of life. Enjoy your time where winter is so different!

    • December 27, 2011 2:16 am

      Oh, and I forgot to say that my son has seen my acupuncturist, too. He had needles the first time, but got freaked out, and after that my Doc will just press on the points with his fingers. Very cool. I need to get him in again soon.

  2. abozza permalink
    December 27, 2011 6:32 am

    Sounds like a wonderful holiday, despite the sickness. I’ve got the bronchitis, as well, mixed with a sinus infection. It’s meant an “interesting” celebration for me. :) Gorgeous gloves for the kids and love the art kits! Hope everyone feels better soon!

  3. Tammy permalink
    December 27, 2011 8:15 am

    Thank you for sharing. I remember those years of cuddling with everyone while they healed. I thought it would last forever. I love the art boxes and the solstice celebration and especially the images of the Berkeley winter -I can smell the green from here in my dry, cold Vermont winter!

  4. December 27, 2011 8:48 am

    Hello, Hope everyone is better real soon. When my children were little and growing I would give Sage tea three times a day for coughing, sore throat, etc and it would quite them and have them better in no time. You may already know this but just in case you did not I thought I would share. Peace and wishing your family a wonderful New Year!

  5. December 27, 2011 8:51 am

    Your solstice celebration sounds perfect, and I’m loving your descriptions of the Berkley “winter.” I’m glad you have the chance to balance out the beautiful Durango winter with some of the lighter stuff, and I’m sure time with the family doesn’t hurt either! I’ll send wishes for continued healing, a safe arrival for Dan, and a great visit.

    Oh, and I’m grateful for the continued material to read. Still my favorite!

  6. December 27, 2011 10:52 am

    I know that being sick sucks but your relaxing and quiet holiday season sounds dreamy. Ours was filled with way too much stuff that normally doesn’t belong in our lives. And those rabbit fur mittens…yes please!! They are super awesome. I hope everyone is on the mend soon!!

  7. Anonymous permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:12 am

    Loved reading this latest blog. Haven was taken out by acute bronchitis just before xmas and missed 8 days of school, and had a fever for 9 days. CRAZY. Love to you all and sending big hugs. May our paths cross again one day:)

  8. Melissa permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:33 am

    Hope everyone is on the mend soon and you guys have a great stay in the Bay Area . . . I was just feeling super appreciative of the weather when out working in the yard the other day–it really is amazing. xo

  9. Melissa permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:44 am

    ps. speaking of local dispensaries, we walked by one on San Pablo the other day and Avi asked what it was–Leeor and I tried to figure out a way to explain before he said, “I wonder because it looks like there could be a merry-go-round in there,” and we had to laugh.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      December 28, 2011 11:12 am

      *cracking up about merry-go-rounds*

  10. rose permalink
    December 27, 2011 12:28 pm

    we all got colds for christmas too. after i let go of my expectations of how things were going to be this year, we all settled into a peaceful quiet holiday.

    i lived in alameda for a few years a long time ago and (having grown up in the inland northwest) i spent my first winter there in utter disbelief. By the second winter i was complaining of the cold when the temp dipped too far below 60.

    enjoy those balmy breezes…

  11. December 27, 2011 2:23 pm

    Oh, poor Col. I can relate to the coughing. Although not nearly as prematurely born as Col, my little Tristyn has such a hard time fighting off any sort of bronchial yuckiness. The last 2 nights, after feeling my heart break listening to her cough uncontrollably for 2 hours, I’ve pulled her out of bed and threatened my husband with a trip to the ER unless he can help me figure out how to Make. It. Stop. (Hubby is much more calm under pressure). Both nights, we have thankfully found just the right combination of Vicks vaporub, honey, fisherman’s friend cough drops and pillow propping to allow her (and mommy) to sleep. May 2012 bring you health, happiness and silly formed carrots.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      December 28, 2011 11:15 am

      So glad you found the right combo – that coughing is horrible, especially in the night. It’s times like this (when Col and Rose get the same bug and he is so much more affected than her) that I remember that beneath his strong exterior lay some vulnerable, preemie lungs.

  12. December 27, 2011 2:28 pm

    So sorry your sweet babies haven’t been feeling well:( My kiddos also have a love-hate relationship with our acupuncturist…haha! Looks like you all managed to have a lovely time in spite of being under the weather. So many beautiful moments in this post…I’m so glad you shared them with us. ~ Barefoot mama

  13. December 27, 2011 10:54 pm

    Love you guys! At least your getting it over with now instead of on the beach. Dad’s got it bad now, so we’ll see if we all get to share it like last time. BTW, did you know that you’re website… snows? Nice!

  14. martha permalink
    December 28, 2011 8:14 pm

    We used your recipe for egg nog one night last week and literally guzzled it out of the jar, it was so good. Thank you. Enjoy the lovely winterless Bay Area – what a heaven. I lived there in the early 90’s and always felt so mixed up about the mildness and greenery, relishing it with guilt? and missing/not missing cold, ice, and snow. Well, now I roost in upstate NY where tonight it’s 16 and the wind is just howling through the bare branches. Enjoy your trip and best wishes for 2012 (buttressed by 2’s as it is, I keep thinking it’s going to be a safe year). And thanks for your blog which I always enjoy.

  15. December 28, 2011 8:48 pm

    Bedtime at 8:00 sounds lovely. Why am I still awake?

    Also, though I don’t eat hot dogs, I like the idea of hot dogs in the snow. A picnic in the snow! With a fire! I wonder if they’d allow that sort of thing in Prospect Park….

  16. December 29, 2011 1:40 am

    sorry for the illness, hope the upside comes soon for all!

    clubbing rabbits…ouch. i know nothing about rabbit harvesting, it just sounded more , um, maybe more long and drawn out of a death than chicken harvesting.

    we have also loved james herriot’s book this past month, and are going to try the adult stories…hopefully not too over the top.

    being warm sounds blissful, rachel, stay well:)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      December 29, 2011 4:51 pm


      I’m pretty sure the rabbit harvesting is quick and easy (think baseball bat). Adult James Herriot books? Ooh, glad to hear about that.

      Stay warm up North!

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