Sutro tower

The weekend before last we went to a bat mitzvah.

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These pictures of Sutro Tower were taken while we drove around the city, killing time between the service and the dinner. It was great to have an unexpected afternoon to spend.

The service was lovely, as those things generally are. K’s mother died recently, and this lovely event, where family and friends come together to celebrate a kid growing up and becoming a member of a community, reminded me how important it is to celebrate life events with other people.

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So we’ve made plans to go back and see K’s mother’s brother and sister this May. Oddly, N and M hardly know them, but when I spoke to them on the phone, they seemed happy that we would be coming to see them. We do know E’s brother’s wife, since K’s cousin lived out here for a while and she came to visit him. We know she’s lovely. When I spoke to E’s sister on the phone, she also seemed wonderful and kind. So I’m glad we’re doing this.

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K, of course, knows them. He did see them when he was little. But it seems that not all families grow up like mine did. I spent every summer of my life until I was 16 at my grandmother’s lake cottage in Minnesota, and my kids have spent at least two weeks of most of their summers at my mother’s house, and always saw K’s nearby brother while we were there.

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In other news, N is getting ready to go to Bolivia in late May. She’s planning to travel around South America for “not more than a year.” She seems both very organized and very excited, which is good.

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And M is finishing up papers and exams and drawings for midterms and will be home on Saturday. Spring break, already, which seems impossible.

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I’m busier than busy, which is just fine.

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So that’s what’s new around here.

succumbing

Pushkin and russian museum

I’m succumbing to February, much as I hate to admit it.

Got to get outside — that’s the only way out.

Finished After Visiting Friends, which I liked a lot. My father died when I was four (although of cancer, not of visiting friends), and that feeling as a child of the weight of the missing parent lying over the household, and that you would be disloyal to ask any questions at all — that you had to pretend everything was normal and fine when you knew it wasn’t — was familiar. My mother quickly remarried, which made it feel even more disloyal to think back to times before the remarriage.

It really does seem like life was so much more difficult in those days. People no longer regard cancer as a thing that can’t be talked about. Death is still hard, but I would think you would no longer think things would be made better by not talking about them, nor would you pretend it had never happened.

Although, actually, a person I know who grew up in a very similar situation and is divorced with two kids is marrying a woman, also divorced with two kids, and he seems to have a very Sound of Music sort of idea about the whole thing. I look at his daughter, the youngest of this bunch, and think, you poor kid. T is like some cheerleader for the new family unit. Luckily, their mother’s significant other has no kids at all. I’m not saying this can’t work — just that I think it works a lot better if you allow the kids to have some reservations, or even just thoughts, about the whole blended family business.

Ugh. Also, my head hurts.

l’île Vassilievski

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More from St Petersburg. It was a cold, raw, day, and I was walking around while N finished a paper, I think.

And from farther away —

Neva

Amazing, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, here, it is cold but clear and the water is very blue.

Think I’ll go outside at lunchtime and walk around.

N is making plans for South America, which has me alternately terrified and envious.

Grumpy

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I am grumpy as hell, and I know why.

It’s a long weekend, and I am cleaning the refrigerator and making phone calls.

I am facing the fact. I’m going to do the unpleasant stuff and then go for a walk.

One can’t spend an entire weekend doing housework.

Stripes

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Hmph.

Friday.

I’m going to a retirement thingy today, although retirement is but a far-distant dream.

Apparently the first part is going to be about imagining your new life. I think I can imagine it pretty well, actually. I’d like to imagine it a little closer.

The second part is about social security and is supposed to be helpful.

Wasn’t that amazing abut that meteor?

When I retire, I’m going to Chelyabinsk.

Helsinki

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What I am holding there is a cup of glögg, nectar of the gods. In Finnish, glögi.

Also, my hair is that long again — how does this happen?

And I have the very same glasses! Wow, it really is time for a new pair. That was three years ago.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I am a fan, myself, perhaps because I like chocolate and red is my favorite color, and, probably, because I am not living unhappily alone in a garret. Unhappily being the important word there.

Here is an important Valentine’s Day memory. In first grade, in Illinois, we were given construction paper and scissors and told to make valentines — probably for our mothers. This was a good school, actually — boys and girls learned sewing, cooking, art and wood shop. The school was a nice, kind of prairie style brick building, K-8, named for an important American jurist, with an amazing shop and kitchen up on the second floor. I had no idea how rare a thing that was. In any case, though, our teacher, a nice but elderly woman, was supervising our valentine making, and she told us quite firmly that red and orange did not go together. I remember being interested to learn that there were actually rules about these things, and also not entirely sure that she was right. I have always thought that a bit of orange kind of spices up the almost-too-sickly-sweet red/pink combo she seemed to be advocating. Another combo I’m not so sure about is black/red/vibrant pink, with the pink and red being sort of patterned. I think there was fabric like that around when I was little, and I liked it, but it kind of repelled me.

Anyway, today, in honor of the day, I am wearing a pink sweater and an orange hair tie. That’s just the kind of rebel I am.

Snow from St Petersburg —

Peter and Paul Fortress

I’m just going to keep going until I’m all the way back to the snows of my infancy.

When I was 4 I had my fondest wish granted. I lived in Arizona at the time, and we finally went to visit my North Dakota grandparents during the winter — probably for Christmas. They gave me a red snowsuit and red boots. It was the best thing ever. I remember walking out onto the patio which had been transformed by a huge fall of snow — feet deep, in drifts. I have a vague notion that the Weber grill was out there covered in snow, with a little hollow under it, but that can’t be right, because my grandparents were careful people and the grill should have been in the garage or the basement for the winter. Maybe I only remember it because it wasn’t there in its accustomed place? I remember making angels outside, and then I think I got sick — probably as a result of things that had been going on at home rather than the lovely snow.

We moved to North Dakota that spring, and then from there to Oak Park, outside Chicago, the following spring, where there were also some amazing snows. It seems to me that it turned out that my red boots were not the best, after all. I think you had to pull them on over shoes and they fastened with a button, and my friend Jane had some better ones that zipped and had fur at the top and were easier to manage.

All that seems a little sad, now.

Hmm.