My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.
I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”
“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”
She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.
It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”
“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.
“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.
“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”
“DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.
I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.
“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.
My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!”
Ah, sweet victory!
“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!
Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:
Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.
The play was amazing!
The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…
Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…
Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:
My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…
The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.
Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.
We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.
Good thing they won!
I awoke to the sound of our son (aka Jiminy Cricket) opening our bedroom door. An early riser, he was the first to realize that powerful winds had left us powerless. He was making the rounds of all the bedrooms, leaving flashlights for everyone on their bedside tables.
Schools were closed for the day for the kids, but my husband and I had to get to work. It was a harrowing trip that involved rerouting several times because of road blocks, driving through a roadblock, and twice driving under a tree resting on power lines. Meanwhile, the kids spent the day shivering in a house that was cold, dark, and without water. My daughter’s was delighted to get out of the house that evening to go to her quartet practice…
We went out to dinner and then killed some more time at a bookstore, all the while compulsively checking the Dominion Power website on our phones to see if power had been restored to our neighborhood. When it became clear that we would spend another night without power, we stopped off at two different grocery stores to find enough water to drink and to flush toilets.
My daughter and I camped out in the living room next to a cozy fire…
…but woke up shivering in a house that still had no power.
It’s amazing how quickly we lose the will to be civilized when there is no electricity. Dirty dishes piled up in the sink. Clothing was discarded on the floor. Tissues were used then left on the coffee table rather than thrown into the trash. Worst of all, we became like rats in a cage, snapping and snarling at each other for no good reason.
We tried to restore our humanity at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where we caught the end of the remarkable Terracotta Warriors exhibit…
Back in Charlottesville, we dropped one son off at a friend’s dad’s office to work on a project and my daughter off at church, where her Sunday School class was serving dinner to the homeless guests who are there for PACEM. After taking the opportunity to fill jugs with water to take back home, my son and I decided to have dinner at the newly-opened J Petal: a Japanese crepe and Thai ice cream restaurant.
We picked my daughter up and as we drove back to the house, I began to whine about the prospect of having to spend another cold night without power. I felt immediately chastened when from the back seat my girl piped up: “Think about the people in Puerto Rico…Some of them haven’t had power for 6 months. And then, of course, I thought about the homeless people who have to worry about keeping warm and having enough food and water to eat on a daily basis. We came back home to lights, heat, water, and a renewed appreciation for the simple things we take for granted. It was hard to fully enjoy it, though, knowing that friends around town were still without power and thinking about those for whom this situation is not just a temporary inconvenience.
On Monday, Lit Hub published this piece by my sister, in which she talks about “Returning to Writing After a Stage Four Cancer Diagnosis.” I shared it the same day on Facebook with mixed emotions that included both trepidation and relief.
When Annabelle first learned that she had Stage Four lung cancer this past spring, she only confided in our oldest sister. This is how our family rolls. We blunder through life trying (and often failing) to navigate the intricate web of secrets and lies we construct to protect each other from the truth. Months later she finally revealed her diagnosis to my younger brother and me in a masterfully worded email that led us ever so gently to the terrible conclusion. After reading her long email, I sat reeling. I was struck by the fact that even in that moment, she was trying to take care of us, just as she has all her life. She somehow managed to reveal the heart stopping news in such a way as to reassure us that this was not the worst thing in the world, but an unfortunate blip on her horizon that she would get through.
When I talked to the sister who had borne Annabelle’s secret by herself for months, she said with a rush of pent-up emotion: “I’m so glad you know now, because it was horrible to be the only one to know. But I’m so sad you know, because now that you do, I know you can never be happy again.”
Until the publication of her essay, Annabelle had been slowly titrating the news of her diagnosis to family and friends. It took her multiple attempts to tell my parents. I think they are in such denial that the fact hasn’t actually sunk in even now. I have had several painfully uncomfortable conversations with my mother in which she’ll casually ask, “Is Annabelle sick or something? Do you know what’s wrong? It’s not cancer, is it?” Each time this happens, I call my sister to ask her if she was perfectly clear in explaining the situation. The last time it happened, she said, “I JUST got off the phone with her and we discussed it. She definitely knows.” I think my mother knows, but doesn’t want to know.
It was a relief to post Annabelle’s essay, because like our oldest sister, it was hard for me to carry on as if nothing was wrong. But now that it’s out there, how do we carry on?
Annabelle’s essay begins with a quote from her novel Tiger Pelt, which is partly inspired by our dad’s life: “Fall seven times, get up eight.” That’s what Annabelle’s doing with her usual (unusual)? strength, humor, and grace. That’s what I’m going to try my best to do. But now that we all know, what else can we do?
I met up for lunch with a couple of friends at Feast, in Charlottesville’s Main Street Market. Before I headed back to work, I stopped off at a stall to buy a couple of things.
I gasped involuntarily when I saw that my two items added up to 6.66 on the cash register.
“666!” I exclaimed in horror.
“I don’t like that number either,” the kind angel behind the counter said. He voided the transaction and rang it up again so that it would add up to $6.65.
*Incidentally, cast your eyes over to the right…I’ve been at 666 followers of this blog for a couple weeks now and it’s giving me the creeps! Here’s hoping that another kind soul takes pity on me again and changes that number soon!*
In the evening I took the kids to see Black Panther. My son and I discussed the Utopian and Dystopian aspects of Wakanda and the moral ambiguity of Killmonger all the way home. The younger two in the backseat plugged their ears with their fingers and rolled their eyes all the way home.
We helped set up for the PACEM homeless shelter…
We finished watching the first season of Stranger Things…sooo good/sooo creepy!!!
Goats are traditionally associated with Satan, but for a group of five parents and seven girls ranging in age from 12 to 13, spending the afternoon playing with baby goats at A Better Way Farm was heavenly.
As we were leaving the house to head to the farm, I found my daughter in the garage staring pensively at an old guinea pig cage leaning up against the wall.
“Should we bring the cage…just in case?” she asked.
No. No, we shouldn’t.
Ethical Question of the Day: Your beloved little angel is being attacked by a hair-eating goat. Do you: a) save her or do you b) continue snapping photos while cackling like a demon?
Clearly, I’m going straight to hell.
On Friday we went to our friends’ house to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The grand finale was the lighting of sky lanterns, which we tried to send up to the heavens with our wishes.
With each launch I made a fervent wish…
OH MY GOD, PLEASE LET THAT LANTERN KEEP RISING AND NOT LAND ON THE NEIGHBOR’S ROOF!
OH MY GOD, PLEASE LET THAT FLAMING LANTERN THAT JUST FELL INTO THE AZALEA BURN OUT BEFORE THE SHRUB BECOMES COMPLETELY ENGULFED IN FLAMES!
OH MY GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET THAT NICE MAN I JUST MET AT THIS LOVELY DINNER PARTY SELF-IMMOLATE AS HE TRIES TO LIGHT THE FUEL CELL ON HIS LANTERN!
My daughter and I spent the day at a local high school for her Destination Imagination tournament, where I served as an appraiser for a category in which she was not competing. (“Wear a funny hat,” they told me)!
What’s Destination Imagination? my sister asked.
Well…it’s an activity for kids who…aren’t athletic, was my daughter’s coded explanation.
My family and my friend and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox that evening…Those are some crazy talented artists!
We made a flash visit to Arlington to meet up with some of my family, including my sister & her crew who were down from Princeton. We went to our nostalgic favorite, Peking Gourmet Inn:
A repost in honor of Valentine’s Day…
Thanks to our church, which hosted a Parents’ Night Out yesterday, my husband and I were able to go out on an extremely rare date night. Our daughter fit the target age for the participants, and I somewhat eagerly enlisted the boys to be helpers. My husband brought the kids from home and I left work so that we could all meet up at the church at 5.
As we signed the kids in, the kind adults who were supervising the evening asked, “So what are you guys going to do on your date?”
“Uhhh…we’re not really sure yet,” I admitted, “but I guess we’ll go out to dinner.”
“Where do you guys usually like to eat?”
I’m pretty sure they weren’t asking about our dashes into Subway between soccer and piano practices, or to Panera on a Saturday in the middle of a day of running errands with a minivan chock full of kids…It’s the kind of question that would be easier to answer if a date night was something that happened more frequently than say, the appearance of Halley’s Comet in Earth’s atmosphere.
The last time we had a regular date night was fifteen years ago, when we were married with no children. We were both singing in the church choir and practice was on Thursday evenings. I was pregnant with our first child at the time, (the boy who is now 6 feet tall), and I was always ravenously hungry. We would go to Ruby Tuesday, which was both close to our rehearsal, and had a menu that met both of our needs. While my husband demurely nibbled at his salad bar dinner, I would devour every last bite of one of those Pantagruelian platters groaning with three different kinds of meat. You know…the kind that would only be appealing to obese middle-aged men and me in my pregnant, callow youth.
Yesterday, as we got back into the car, we giddily pondered our restaurant options as wondrously as if we were contemplating a rare and precious diamond. We made a spur of the moment decision to go to an Italian restaurant, because we can be crazy like that. We showed up at 5:30 with all the other geriatrics.
As I sat there in the warm and elegant ambiance, I drummed my fingers impatiently, my eyes darting around, wondering if the bread would arrive in my lifetime. After gulping down the bread and an appetizer that we rashly ordered in our expansive mood, we were both full.
“I guess it’s too late to cancel the rest of our dinner, right?” I asked.
We had a couple bites of our main courses, but took most of them home in boxes. This would have never happened in our Ruby Tuesday days! After polishing off my meat slab platter, I’d still be picking croutons off my husband’s salad.
Dinner was done and we still had a couple of hours to go before we had to pick up the kids. The restaurant is right next to Trader Joe’s, so that’s where we headed next. We got into an intense debate about the merits of Trader Joe Honey Nut O’s versus Honey Nut Cheerios.
“Their version tastes much better than Honey Nut Cheerios,” my husband told me, “It’s less sweet.”
“Well, it may taste better, but the misplaced apostrophe is burning my eyes,” I replied.
As we rang up our purchases, we still had an hour and a half before we had to pick up the kids.
“Well…what should we do now?”
“Oh, I know! Let’s go to CVS and pick up my prescriptions and get Epsom salt,” my husband said.
“OK, Gramps! Let’s do it!”
As my husband was paying for our purchases, I remembered I had a $5 coupon attached to a CVS receipt that was floating around in my purse. I pulled it out and tentatively showed it to the cashier. “Would we possibly be able to use this?” I asked doubtfully.
“Sure!” she said as she tore it from my receipt.
As we walked back to the car, we were both jubilant. My husband said, “I can’t wait to try my Epsom salts!” I said, “I think this might just be the best day of my life. I feel like I just won the jackpot! This is the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually been able to use one of those CVS coupons. I’m so inordinately happy, I think I could dance a jig right here on the sidewalk! Could you smell the scent of victory, crackling like ozone in your nostrils when I got to use my coupon? Because I sure did!”
Flush with my unexpected success, I had another idea…
“HEY! Let’s go to the CoinStar at Harris-Teeter!”
We drove over to the grocery store and my husband obligingly lugged in the heavy container full of change that I had stashed in the car.
Have you ever used CoinStar? It’s mesmerizing to watch the sum grow from piles of pennies that have just been lying around the house. We didn’t want the magic to ever end. After emptying our container, we pulled out every last penny from our pockets and wallets until the clinking of the coins finally stopped.
“Wow. This is the best date ever,” I said with a sigh of contentment, “First, the coupon and now this!”
It was now 8 o’clock.
“We still have half an hour. We’re supposed to pick up the kids at 8:30.”
“Yeah, but I’m sure it will be fine to pick them up early. And then we can get home, so I can try my Epsom salts.”
And that’s what we did.
And it was good. Really, really good. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky…
Read the rest of Starfish, by Eleanor Lerman here.