hunkered down in the big city
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.”
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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.
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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.