Saturday, March 30, 2013

Walking through the nearby town of Delémont can be dreamy if you let it. If you don't, it's just a walk.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, but what with the icy cold and snow blowing our way I dare say I don't much believe in tulips and daffodils and hopping bunnies. Our Swiss bunnies are doing no hopping this weekend - they are freezing their ***** off in their dugouts (I mean tails, of course).

And so we walk (mostly to keep warm) over charming bridges and ancient towns in search of warmer stories to tell.

I hope they are not long in coming.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Caroline makes cupcakes ...

the world feels warmer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The words I am groping for are ... not again!

Friday, March 22, 2013

It would seem that spring has begun to think about staying.

For the Russian and me, this is our first year creating our very own yard. You'd think we'd be thrilled - and we are - but he says of an evening, "You really ought to decide which kind of privacy trees you want on the west side of the yard so we can get them planted."

Which kind, which kind. Ugh.

We were in 5th gear all last year in the decision making sector, but seem to have slipped back into first, or is that reverse? 

I'm thinking evergreens - the tall, pointy kind you see in France and Italy - to shield us a bit from the new house being built behind ours. Just a few off to the far right. But that apple tree is in my way!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The night I arrived in Venice I was to pick up the pianist at the docks. I had just spent my five hours wandering the city streets, shopping for locally made leather boots, and watching Venice go about its business when my phone beeped.

[Meet me at Fondamenta Nuove at 7:30]

My fingers shivered out a response in the frigid wind, and I made my way back to the hotel to leave my bags and ask for directions.

To get to the docks I would have to walk through streets a meter wide or less in the near pitch dark. On the back roads of Venice shutters close as soon as night falls, and the shadows of people disappearing over bridges and around corners are all you see of a humanity that teems and swells in daylight hours.

I wrapped my scarf about me and joined the spirit world, hearing nothing but the occasional lapping of water against docked boats - the clicking and scratching of my shoes on the cobblestone streets. Otherwise silence.

When I arrived at the dock, there was no one. No boat and no people. 

[Where are you? I'm standing at the docks!]

I looked to the left - I looked far to the right.

[What do you mean you're at the docks. There's no one here.]

But then - off to the left in the distance - I spied a sinewy finger of smoke rising up about head-high. Squinting, I could make out the shape of a person, of which world I could not tell for sure. Perhaps I should investigate. Perhaps it is one of the old masters come to welcome the pianist to the docks with me.

My phone beeped annoyingly. [Come, darling! I'm waiting!]

I hesitated, taking a few steps forward and then scratching to a halt. [Come!]

Perhaps something was protecting me on that chilly Adriatic night; perhaps that which lurked in the darkness was better left undiscovered.

Turning on my heels, I made my way in the opposite direction and eventually over the great bridge. Off in the distance I could see him typing a message on his phone, could hear mine beeping incessantly in my pocket; I paused at the top before descending and looked back. A shadow pushed away from the wall and disappeared beyond the iron gate.

I shivered.

And then my feet clicked down and toward my waiting friend.


Monday, March 18, 2013

f o r g e t   m e   n o t

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It took me quite some time to realize, not to mention admit to myself, that a love for flowers and the beauty of nature is not synonymous with having a green thumb. In fact, it doesn't even mean you like gardening. The truth is I'm a romantic gardener; and like many things in life, I like the idea of it more than the activity itself. I'm open to applause for I feel it was a stretch in humility for me to accept that. (The Russian is clapping with all his might.)

So when all those spring flower bulbs appeared on the supermarket shelves two weeks ago, I exercised a heretofore unknown ability to choose wisely, asking myself the pertinent question of "Will I really plant this?" Because, and I bow my head in a slight gesture of shame, I used to buy and let die on the dugout shelves. Such a bad gardener I am.

I do not own a shovel - I do not own gloves. But I do have cute boots that I think coordinate nicely with my pajama pants; this is particularly important for romantic gardeners, since we plant when the whim overtakes us rather than when we are actually dressed for it. We use kitchen spoons for the shovels we do not own - a milk pot instead of a watering can. Are you proud of me for admitting this?

I allowed myself two packs of bulbs, White Grape Hyacinth and Lily of the Valley, and planted them this morning since they had already begun to bloom in their tiny plastic bags. Miniature flowers were struggling to break free of their prison, stretching roots out far and long in search of a place to take hold. They were not following the directions on the back of the box, as all good bulbs should; they were not waiting until I planted them between April/May to bloom dutifully in June in a sunny and well-watered area of the yard. My bulbs are unconventional; they resist rules; they would wear cute boots and pajama pants if they could.

Only time will tell whether their need for freedom has sealed their demise for this season, but something there is that needs to grow. Something there is that needs to be set free. How I understand them...

Friday, March 15, 2013

He is Baberaham.

We came home on Sunday morning all gussied up with nowhere to go. 

"Wait! We can have one of the kids take pictures now that you're dressed and looking fine," I said, running to my office to get the camera and begging my 12 year old to start shooting.

"Don't you want to shave first?" I asked. "And fix your collar. Where's your leather cuff? Spike up your hair a little, darling, please!"

He smiled and acquiesced, dutifully posing and smiling in all the positions we asked him to. 

My eldest descended the stairs. Dad... that beard. You know, you kind of look like Abraham.

"A sexy Abraham," I piped in. "Because he's rather a babe."  

He's Baberaham!

And that is how the Russian moved onto a new threshold in his life. With the wisdom of the forefathers, and the sex appeal of Sean Connery (yeah, he doesn't agree with that so much) - this man is the anchor of our lives, a shelter in a time of storm, he who will get wood from the shed when it's below freezing and snowing outside while we keep warm indoors, defender of the family philosophy and stalwart grocery shopper (sales only). To him our lives, fortunes and honor!

Note from Baberaham: Girls are always looking at their clothes, even after twenty years (see picture).

Monday, March 11, 2013

In my home office, my sign may as well read GESCHLOSSEN.

I think I'll buy a GEÖFFNET sign and see if anyone stops by...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

m o r n i n g   f r o s t

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My kids have friends - and their friends have moms.

These moms are in the kitchen first thing in the morning, spreading butter on bread and checking behind ears; these moms are up and dressed before the cock crows.

And then there are my kids - and their mom, who stays up late at night, who works on projects other than housekeeping, who waits for (get ready for this) her coffee in bed every morning.

It's true - shame on me - my kids wake me up in the morning with the java, and they know to make it strong if they want smiles and hugs before they leave for school. They tiptoe into my room and call out a sweet greeting, open the curtains and give me a snuggle. Tell me, would you make your own coffee if you were getting that?

Imagine the blow yesterday when I entered the kitchen to tidy up after the morning rush and stumbled upon this: DECAF. Horrors! And it had been torn open and used - that can only mean one thing.

The deception was too great to bear. I made myself a double ristretto, and then a double espresso just to wash away the memory, throwing back a jamocha for good measure.

From now on, all the decaf will be locked away in a safe place - out of the reach of children. That's a federal warning from the Mother Ship.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It was one of those nights.

The Russian had taken the little girls to see their brother's hockey game, and I was left with my seventeen year old finishing up the Chicago-style pizza I'd made for dinner. As an expat in it for the long haul, you learn to make all kinds of comfort food yourself, including creating the perfect imitation of Giordano's pizza.

We sat and picked at our olives, laughing over our Tuscan wine and staring out at the lights across the street.

"Let's go driving," she said. I shook my head and whined: It's cold outside. And dark. And there's nothing - and I mean nothing - open in town! 

"We can see if anyone is throwing anything good like that!" You learn in this place to make your own fun.

We pulled on our huge parkas, stuffed ourselves into the tiny Polo with no power steering, and went looking for trouble. None was to be found in Perrefitte (population 464). None on the west side of our town, either. But as we gathered speed to ascend the hill to the east side, we spied quite the local event. Fireman practice! Not bad at all for a Monday night!

We pulled the car around and sat watching. After a full ten minutes of standing by the ladder and doing what we can only assume was deliberating over which way to properly carry the equipment, we were forced to give up our faith in the local emergency system. Basically, if you've got a fire in your house in this town, it's going to be awhile before they get there. 

I flipped on Bruce Springsteen as we drove home, letting my mind wander back to long drives down California's highway 101. In the little Polo with no power steering, with no tape deck and no CD player, we YouTube our tunes; and in that little rolling haven one thing came very clear: if you got a dollar in your pocket in this small town, it ain't goin' nowhere, rest assured.

Monday, March 4, 2013

In this podunk town lives a star, but the only thing that gives her away is the utter elegance with which she walks through town. She lives a quiet life, hidden away in a most possessive valley that rises up on all four sides with mountains and ravines lest she choose to up and leave us behind.

And she could, if she wanted to.

But though she was once in the arms in John Wayne and in the lens of some of the world's most prestigious designers, though her hand in marriage has been solicited by a royal count, her own personal catwalk led her right back here - to this podunk town.


Her story shall be told.