Saturday, June 25, 2011

...And the Livin's Easy...

One of my husband's legacies for our kids is his love of the band Sublime, the 90s reggae/ska/punk/rock band from Long Beach.  My girls know most of the words to most of their songs and last summer, as a family, we deciphered a lyric from "Garden Grove" that had eluded us ("I got the deuce-deuce in the trunk of my car"... which I had been singing as "Blue's Clues" and Marlowe thought was "doo-doo"... both of which are G-rated compared to Bradley Nowell's .22).  There is a sound in their music that is so uniquely Southern Californian, simultaneously laid-back and in-your-face, like a tatted-up Chicano offering you a coolie from the chest while telling you about his uncle who's doing time.  You're a little scared, but you feel lulled into staying a while.  

Although each of their songs sounds like summer to me, the big daddy of them all is "Doin' Time," which riffs off the old Gershwin son "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess." When I hear the first strains of it, I can see ice cream trucks rolling through hazy San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods, kids running barefoot through crabgrass, heat rising like a mirage from the asphalt streets. 

Summertime... and the livin's easy...

I've thought of this song over and over since my kids got out of school on the 16th.  As they've shed their school schedules and the weather has warmed up, a lovely hum has taken over our lives.  The clock has slowed down and the mileage on my car has only increased by 8 miles over the past four days.  The lingering hours of daylight have given way to spontaneous pool parties and endless trays of cut-up fruit or popsicles in lieu of real meals. Their friend from down the street has become a 4th sister, and the pack of girls zigzags up and down the hill, from her plum-treed lawn to our pool and back again.  My writing time, which I had thought I'd have to give up by virtue of my kids' very presence in the house, has actually increased.  While they're in the pool, I sit at my table by the window and type, half-listening to their mermaid games and splashes, soaking up the summer sun by osmosis.  Today was their first lemonade stand and I'm sure it will become a neighborhood staple, with its icy sweet ade and dog biscuits. 

Last night, as Raf and I sat in the dusky evening light, I said, "It's been such a good summer."

"It's only been a week," he said, cautioning me that the kids could get bored any minute and the lull of having no real plans could become a living hell with three stir-crazy kids.

And I know that, but let's just take it slow for now.  We've got time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Last week, when I went to Sherman Oaks to get my hair done, I remembered why I drive so far every few weeks to get my hair (ahem) "back to natural."  My hairstylist, a very pleasant older woman, reminds me very much of Rafael's aunt: caring, nurturing, feeding.  She is impeccably on time and there is never any drama.  When I arrive, she is ready for me and we share a few pleasantries, then it is quiet enough for me to read my book or magazine, and my hair is perfectly colored, trimmed and blown out in an hour.  Plus, she's next door to Starbucks.  All told, it's a delightful experience each and every time.

And so last week, as I waited for my roots to return to a color better than gray, Parvan quietly handed me a cup full of mulberries.  "Just like last year," she said.  "They're back in season."

I took the first bite and I remembered them, all too well.  Last year, I had called her in a panic to please do my hair before Max's funeral.  I didn't know her, but she was conveniently located and highly recommended by a friend.  Grieving, I just went with it, called her, set up an appointment.

While my hair processed, I answered sympathy texts and listened to sad voicemails, but I could hardly talk.  Mostly, I just cried.  Quietly, Parvan came over, humbly offering me a plate of juicy red and purple mulberries from a tree in her yard. I remember that I had to wear sunglasses because my face was so flushed and tear-stained.  "I've never had them," I said, sniffling.  "Are they good?"

She shrugged sweetly.  "Try them," she said, nudging the plate at me.  

Mulberries have small berries along a 3- or 4-inch stem, and they are sweet without being too tart.  Almost like a cross between a sweet red grape and a blueberry, but not as juicy.  I devoured them, even as tears pooled over the plate. I'd sob, and eat another, then sob some more, then eat another.  Even I knew there was nothing more to do.  Just go with it.  Be with this moment.  It will pass.

And somehow a year has passed.  I only know because Parvan's mulberries are back in season and now Max's grave has a headstone.  I find it interesting that my grief has a taste, but it does.