Last night I had an adventure all by myself — I attended a performance of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra. This was the first symphonic performance I’ve ever been to, and I have to admit that I wavered a bit on attending. While I like performances like opera and ballet (the more accessible ones, anyway; I’m more of a Rossini fan than a Wagner one), I always thought going to see a performance of just music would be… well, boring. Music, after all, is all around us; we can listen to virtually anything we want, virtually whenever we want. Wouldn’t just listening to music get tedious? Should I take a book?
Stacked against that were two things: my decision early on this year to try some new things, and the fact that lately I’ve been listening to music differently. I think this has to do with learning the viola, and I’m not really sure how to characterize the change except that I feel more involved in the music, especially classical music.
So last night I abandoned Dave and the children and took the plunge. And I have to say: it was awesome. My worries were groundless; I was entirely engaged in watching the performers and the conductor, and in really listening to the music, something I do all too rarely as it sits in the background of my life. There were moments when I felt an actual thrill of excitement go through me, the way I’d read about in novels. I was not once tempted to take out my book.
And now it has me all fired up. This morning I’ve been browsing through their other performances for the season and contemplating sneaking out for an extra viola practice.
It was a long hot summer, and so it has been with relief as well as pleasure that I felt the first touches of autumn: open windows, chilly mornings, and ripe apples from our trees. As rain becomes more frequent and the garden more barren, I’ve been enjoying things that thirty years ago would only have been chores. The raspberries are thinned and tied up; the tomatoes have been pulled; corn has been removed and composted, and two-year-old compost dug back into those beds.
I speak in the passive voice, but let’s be honest, here: the hands that did all this were mine. The rest of the household has other things to do.
I didn’t used to enjoy this part of gardening. When I was a kid I liked planting a little and weeding not at all and eating a great deal, but as I’ve gotten older things have changed. Maybe this is part of that wisdom that comes from age (which I’ve heard a great deal about, it seems) — the ability to see the larger picture. When I bake cookies with the kids they like getting things out, mixing, and tasting, but the cleanup they consider a separate task and it is No Fun. I don’t see it that way anymore, and I don’t see pulling tomato plants out as any less satisfying than planting them. In my mind I am already preparing for next year. But for the kids, taking a table and chairs out to the front lawn in order to play house is no trouble at all; bringing it in afterwards is So Much Work.
Although I do sometimes require the kids to help with chores, I don’t require them to like it. For the most part I can accept that their current understanding of the world centers around play, around starting, around Leaping Forward rather than cleaning up. I still vaguely recall the hurry and intensity of childhood. If they would rather do a wagon ride or an al fresco snack than pruning, I can accept that. Especially as it means that someone else is entertaining the baby.
Halloween has come and gone, and other than some last-minute crisis moments with Ryan on which costume he should wear (he ended up being a pumpkin again), it all went smoothly. Drenched, but smooth. We got about six trick-or-treaters in the downpour (the rain apparently caused flooding in other areas). Normally this neighborhood gets a lot of kids; some years there are little lines in front of houses where all the groups of children have gotten backed up. This meant that when we went out there, with Mica huddled under my coat, everyone on our block was giving away candy by the handful just to get rid of it. We came home thoroughly soaked but with an impressive stash of candy.
My favorite part of Halloween may be the pumpkin carving, because every year the experience seems so different. This year we had two pumpkins from The Pumpkin Patch which we went to with Village Free School, and two from our garden, which meant that everyone interested, including Mica, got to have a pumpkin. The boys still refuse to dirty their hands with pumpkin guts but Mica has no such qualms, and dug into the innards with gusto. She’s recently become interested in the art of Throwing Things, and so you can imagine where those pumpkin guts eventually went: everywhere. (It was disgusting but not as embarrassing as when, at a friend’s birthday party lately, she threw a celery stick across the table at one of the hosts. We’re working hard to curb her throwing enthusiasm.)
But the end result was totally worth it, as you can see below. Very reminiscent of an older picture of a toddler checking out pumpkins.
I do not know how to juggle. In this I apparently fail a classic geek test; reportedly a very large percentage of programmers can juggle.
However, I recently decided that it might be time to learn. This was spurred mainly by the days I spend at the Village Free School with the kids. The space is about half baby proofed, so I can’t exactly let Mica wander unattended, especially at her current stage (mobility: 100%; danger awareness: 10%). I end up with large blocks of time simply watching the baby, and that gets boring quickly. Boredom, as I learned long ago in school, is death to any endeavor.
What to do, though? I need something that occupies me without completely absorbing my attention and vision, so obvious things like reading, writing, and drawing are tricky. But tossing a ball, while keeping one eye on the baby? That’s proven distinctly possible.
Then I discovered (thank you, Google!) that you can make your own juggling balls, each one a simple construction of 1/2 cup of bird seed and three balloons, and the idea became irresistible. Last week I took the materials to school (with lots of extras, just in case any of the students wanted to partake as well) and sat down outside to make a few juggling balls. I briefly became immensely popular — not because there was much fascination with making the balls, but because I had balloons. Over the course of the day I must have distributed forty balloons, and the energy level of the school went up noticeably.
But now I have my juggling balls, including some extras (because I know how object attrition works around here), and am (intermittently) working on learning to use them. Perhaps by the end of the year I’ll be able to keep them in the air..?
I hear there are books out there where you’re supposed to record your baby’s milestones: their first word, first step, first smile, etc. I’ve never actually perused one, but I wonder if they include some other firsts: first time deliberately running away when called, for example. Or first time hiding the evidence. Or first rage.
That last may seem a bit pointless, but over time and children we’ve learned to recognize some of the differences in baby cries, and I don’t think young babies experience rage in the same way as older children. Oh, they hate things — I need only remind myself of our most recent 4th of July to be certain of that. But until recently Mica hasn’t seemed to take things personally. The actions of other people have caused her to protest in much the same way as the actions of gravity have. Gravity, by the way, can be a real jerk to babies.
But just recently she’s made that mental leap, which I think — though to be fair, I have no direct access to her brain — is one of realizing that other people make deliberate choices. So when I take the cup of water away from her, just before she completes her task of spilling it on the floor, I am not an inexorable force of nature but a person making a choice. I could be making the kind and rational choice to allow her to play with the water (again); but I’m instead making the cruel and arbitrary choice of curtailing her fun.
Rage is not the same as a tantrum but closely related, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mica has recently thrown herself to the ground in tears several times. I don’t believe this is for effect — she isn’t that advanced — but I imagine it could easily become so if it didn’t make Dave and me laugh so hard every time.