This weekend, we made a pact to try to stay off our computers as much as we could. Brendan succeeded entirely, which was no surprise, because he’s not as addicted as I am to the computer in the first place, and also, his laptop went mysteriously dead yesterday morning.
I was less successful, but I had a good reason to be online. My mother had a serious operation on Friday morning, and her blood pressure fell very low afterwards so they’ve kept her in the ICU, so my computer has been my lifeline to her and to my sisters. We had all wanted to jump on planes to Arizona to be with her, but she adamantly told us not to come, so we three all hovered around our email programs on separate continents, Susan in Holland, Emily in New Zealand, and me up here in New Hampshire, about as far from Arizona as it’s possible to get and still be in the continental U.S.
Our mother came out of surgery and began sending us cogent, hilarious, poetic bulletins as soon as she was awake enough, typing with her pinky fingers on her iPod. All three of us sisters kept the round robin of emails going, checking in as often as we could. There’s a golden hour, or maybe half hour, every day, when the four of us are all awake at the same time, Emily just getting up, Susan on her way to bed, my mother and me somewhere in the middle. It’s a narrow window: Emily’s having breakfast and rushing to get her four kids to school; Susan’s tired from her day of working hard and mothering her two kids and eager to get to sleep. We all love it, though – that feeling of temporal simultaneity in the virtual computer world.
My mother will be 76 on Wednesday; I’m turning 50 next month. My two oldest nephews, Eben and Luca, who were newborn babies about a week ago, are teenagers now. The mysteries of aging and a lifespan only deepen with time; there’s a startling disjunction that begins at about 30 and widens with every decade. How can I be 50 when I’m still 15? How can my little sisters be so damned old? How can I ever live without my mother in the world? The next generation is coming up fast; all too soon, before we can blink, Susan and Emily and I will be the old ones, the ones having serious operations, the ones the younger people will have to face losing. And our mother will be gone. I can’t fathom any of it.
It was quite a weekend, and I didn’t succeed at all at staying off the computer. But the attempt to at least stop trolling the Internet forced me to do other things, summer things, things that reminded me of being much younger, that brought back that sense of summer, the bottomless, open, bright and empty days, oceans of sunlit hours. We went kayaking on the lake, paddling past the rocky, piney little island where Brendan camped as a little boy with his brother and friends. “It seemed so far away back then,” he said. We dove in and floated in the bathtub-warm water, low from the drought, but still clean and sweet-smelling and silky on the skin.
We played Scrabble all afternoon in the summer barn, the windows open to the thunderstorm. At sunset, we sat on the stone bench down in the meadow and watched the light change on the mountains. We took long walks along the road by the lake, bought paper bags full of vegetables, local wine and cheese and ice cream, homemade sausage, and berries from the farm stand over in Maine. We went up Foss Mountain to look out over the whole mountain range and valley; we sat on the slab of granite at the top and watched two little boys pick blueberries, eating more than they managed to save. We took deep, quiet late-afternoon naps, sprawling barefoot on the couches.
We’re spending 10 long days in the house Brendan was born in. All of his early childhood history is here. It’s a cozy, welcoming, homey farmhouse surrounded by mountains and woods. Almost nothing has changed here, physically, since Brendan was born. Being surrounded by his family’s happy past is always comforting, but this weekend, it was especially so. I remembered being 8, 10, 13 in the deep summertime, buried in long hot days that ended with bedtime when it was still light outside. Waking up the next morning, it was all the same again, and would be, it seemed, forever.
Farm Stand Pizza
On a ready-made or homemade crust, spread pureed, cooked-down Roma tomatoes mixed with olive oil, minced fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. On top, spread a good layer of shredded mozzarella. Meanwhile, roast sliced onion and red pepper in olive oil on a cookie tray till they start to caramelize. Spread them generously on the pizza, then add a layer of sliced fully-cooked sausage. Bake in a hot oven till the cheese is melted and bubbling.