Thursday, October 07, 2010

Halloween lessons

October is here, and since I’ve been an adult that’s always been a happy month. The weather in Atlanta is perfect in October, with bright blue skies and light winds. My birthday kicks the month off with well wishes from friends and family, and it’s a great time to read outside, to clean the garden up for winter, to enjoy the company of friends at festivals.

There was a lantern parade along the beltline on October 2nd, and I took Dot out at dusk and we stood on the Edgewood overpass and watched giant puppets, a spinning globe, and dozens of Chinese lanterns pass. Our friend Steve was down in the parade taking pictures, and he took one of us as he walked under the bridge; though the light wasn’t great and he was at a weird angle, I hope it turns out. I’ve been winning a lot of professional prizes lately; hopefully I will be lucky in photography as well.

The husband has also been lucky, and now has a job. It doesn’t pay much, but he’s working at a bankruptcy firm – they are the sorts of legal offices hiring these days – and we did so need the extra income. All my hard work is winning me awards, but no extra money; I feel secure in my position, but that doesn’t pay the daycare bills. So the husband went to work and we hired The Babysitter, who now picks up the girls each day from school and gets them dinner.

October is of course the Halloween month too, with a great parade through my neighborhood, and all the little kids around tick-or-treating. Dot is enthusiastic about her bumblebee costume and Diana hasn’t decided if she will be a monkey or a witch yet. Tony, Andrew, and Joshua are down in Disneyworld enjoying the park decked out in its gothy finest. The guys took the kids to a pumpkin patch last year, and I’m hoping we can do that again this year.

I love Halloween more and more as I age, and I appreciate its lessons more than any other holiday. At Christmas, you only get presents if you’ve been good, and those presents are really determined by your parents’ income. At Halloween, you march up to the doors of others and demand treats, and you get them. You can skip over to wealthy neighborhoods if you so choose, if your own is only tootsie rolls and lollypops, and get candy bars. You can dress up and be whatever you want to be, get what you asked for, and if people are mean or bothersome, you can toilet paper their house. Contrast this with Christmas, where the supposed “fun” is walking around in the cold singing songs about someone else’s idea of god, and you can see why Halloween is a clear winner in the fun department. Stay up late, eat stuff that’s bad for you, dress to terrify, and beat down the doors of those around you and demand sweets. Hooray for October, hooray for Halloween.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Poke Sallet Summer

It has been another year, and I have to admit now I'm off regular blogging altogether. Despite my best intentions, Twitter was the last nail in blogging's coffin for me. It's much more easy and fun to use Twitter on my phone, and I so rarely have contemplative time to myself anymore that would lend itself to writing.

My daughters are now two and four, and everything I do in the world is for them. The oldest is now fully herself, making up stories, flying kites and catching bugs in jars. The two year old is in full revolt against the world, not understanding why the ground gets her favorite things dirty, or why a dish should break when she drops it. They bring me much joy and comfort, even though it's often difficult. I am lucky that the husband is a good parent. It is his fourth year now without paid work, despite his recent graduation from law school. Word of his passing the bar has come and gone, and yet still there are no jobs; unemployment here in Atlanta sits at just over 10% of everyone, and we all know it's not his fault. Still, the lack of money wears on us both.

I have planted the largest garden yet this summer, stealing land from the inattentive brown lot next door. I built an eight foot long potato bin and a 12 by 10 raised bed for corn, pumpkins, beans, peas, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. On the upper deck I have continued to grow onions, garlic, radishes, and carrots. Every day I go out to the raised bed and smash squash beetles and their larvae with a little rock. Yesterday the girls helped me release a lot of live ladybugs we got in the mail to eat other bad insects. Everyday I bring in a handful of peas or carrots for my girls to eat. We have plenty of food, it's true, but I worry about nutrition and the quality of the food we can afford. The potatoes I have laid in in anticipation of a rough winter.

Invariably, when people who know food come to see my garden, they praise the variety I've packed into such a small space. "You even have poke sallet! How clever!" They say. Yes, I have poke sallet growing in the back on the raised bed, and all along the side of my house. The weed wandered in and I chose not to pull it a couple of years ago. I don't have the heart to tell the poke sallet admirers the truth: I think of the native green as starvation food. I can imagine my ancestors' thoughts when they put poke on the menu: 'It's only a little toxic. Perfectly edible if you boil it three times and throw out the water.' Things are bad, but we're not eating the poke yet. But I'm not picking it out as a weed, either. I'm hedging my bets, you see, especially with that oil spill all over the gulf.

We never did get up enough money to recover from the damage the flood last fall did to the house; the air conditioner is on its last legs; we have struck a deal with the credit cards companies. We never go to movies or hire babysitters. Yet there are always clothes for the kids and other sorts of help from the husband's parents, and for that I am grateful beyond belief.

My uncle has also been out of work for nearly a year, and others we know as well. Still, our house does better than some just by virtue of my career, which is going rather well. If we are broke and don't eat out, it's because I have chosen to have children. And I don't regret that decision at all. They are the best things in the world, and I am never happier than when curled up with them and the husband, sleepy and stomachs full of food, one way or the other.