The temperature may still hover around 97 degrees; people, somewhere, may be hitting the highways for a last gasp of summer vacation; it may have been just the other day that I was titling posts “Summer Snippets,” but  today the house is emptied of children for the first time in months, and here we are — The First Day of School.

There’s a tall iced coffee at my left elbow, and as far as I’m concerned, the cinematic riffling of calendar pages (a la old forties movies, denoting the passage of time) has just taken place, and has without further ado landed us squarely in a new season.

A cooler wind is blowing through.

Good-bye, sherpa-ing gigantic bag of sunscreen swimsuits water wings towels hair detangler flip flops water bottles hair brush dive sticks snacks to the pool.  Good-bye impromptu trips into the heart of the south side for homemade paletas at  La Estrella de Michoacan.  Good-bye  fairy house in the front yard.*

A cooler wind is blowing through.

Hello, Adult Life, it’s so good to see you again!**

I won’t even bother to list the ambitious plans I have for the three mornings a week that on this, the very First Day of School, seem to unspool themselves so luxuriously.

Suffice it to say:  I shepherded the Girleens, clad in their crisp first day of school outfits, to their respective classroom doors, where they said careless goodbyes and dove joyously into their real lives,  and then I came back home and cranked the volume knob on the stereo almost as  high as it would go.

In that minute, if this house had been a car, it would’ve been a Monte Carlo with fancy rims, the bass turned up so high it rattles window frames and splits seams on upholstery.

You know the kind of car I mean.  I am I am I am I am, the percussive beat proclaims, when you’re stuck behind such cars in traffic.  Alive alive alive — as  insistent as a heartbeat.

Same impulse — yes, I had it.  Even though I’m a frumpy mom of 44,  not some gangsta rapper cruising Moreland Ave south of 20.

Cooler winds are blowing through.

*I cannot tell a lie — good-bye also to the house ringing with the words If you and your sister can’t work things out without yelling I’m going to separate you two for the rest of your natural born lives.

** Famous last words.

In the Trenches

Mildly (it’s to be hoped) entertaining anecdotes about squirrels and cupcakes set in playgrounds aside, I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time in City of Atlanta parks this summer, and being in such places has made me think.

About what?

Oh,  among other things …  littering; our tax dollars; how children socialize and play; how adults socialize and play; why parks north of interstate 20 are better equipped than those south of 20…

But mainly, just about every time we set foot on a playground and Elder Girleen looks around in dismay and cries But there’s nobody here to play with! I think

Where are the kids?

It being summer and all, you’d think that playgrounds would run a close second to swimming pools as places overrun with children.  This turns out — in Atlanta, GA, at least — to not necessarily be true.  Sure, there’s the random nanny or two, and  sometimes a couple Baby Mamas (by that I mean moms with infants who come to parks to compare notes) but kids above the age of say… four?  They’re an endangered species.

You could explain this away by saying it’s hot; or that they’re too jaded for playgrounds — but the thing is, they’re not really anywhere else, either.  Not on the playing fields, or in front yards, or on sidewalks playing hopscotch or riding bikes, either.

They’re all at Day Camp.

Circus camp, rock climbing camp, tennis camp, art camp, nature camp, science camp — Atlanta’s full of them. And though I don’t have a single bone to pick with day camps (you’d have to work hard to get worked up about something so benign), over the summer I’ve realized that  it wouldn’t hurt any of us parent types to actually sit down for  a second and think about the reasons they exist in such numbers, and examine the implications that existence might have for the ecosystem we swim around in.

What is the reason an aimless kid over six is such a rare bird?

I posit:  If both parents have to work outside the home from 8 – 6 year round, you’ve got to park the kids somewhere.

And voila, just like that, the idea of unsupervised, freewheeling, laid-back summer disappears from our world.

Of course, I have selfish reasons for questioning this status quo — due to The Husband’s enforced hiatus from the working world last winter and spring, we refrained from planning much of anything during the summer that cost much of anything, whether it was a couple of weeks of day camp for the kids or a week’s vacation at the beach.  Because of that, we’ve spent a lot of time trolling playgrounds and the streets and pools for things to do, and gee, I wish we’d find more folks who were doing the same.

But selfish motivations aside, all these empty playgrounds might raise a few larger questions.

Do I have the answers?  Heck no, I’m not even sure I know what the questions are, other than this one:  is this really where we want to be?

Lately, I’ve run across a couple of motherhood-related blog topics/essays on the New York Times website that have given me pause.  One, a posting in Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode called “Scaling Back Career for Baby,” included the following comment from a woman who, having just had her first child, was finding that returning to “work” (by which she meant socially-acceptable work outside the home that one gets paid money for, of course) was more complicated than she’d imagined:

I used to secretly look down on stay-at-home moms. I’m not proud of being so judgmental, but opting out seemed like the easy road to me, an excuse to avoid the 9-to-5. If I asked someone I just met at a party what she did for a living and her answer was “I stay at home with the kids,” I’d mentally check out of the conversation. Surely I had nothing in common with this person.

Oh, granted, she’s contrite, and acknowledges her sins. Oh, granted, this divide’s been around since Day One and is nothing new.  But still…

Also on the NY Times website, exhibit two; a recent Judith Warner column, “Insult and Injury,” which took as its turf Warner’s suspicion “that highly successful working mothers suffer a disproportionate amount of scorn when they fail to have the time or available space on their mental hard drives to do things like memorize school handbooks or master Bundt baking,” in which she offers up her friends’ credentials as a”high level newspaper executive” and “a long-time television reporter, anchor and mother of two…” as if only that would make  them legitimate human beings in her reader’s eyes.

The fact that the major debate of modern parenthood is still being framed in this way — and by highly intelligent women, no less  — astounds me.  The biggest question of our time might be not which is better, the stay-at-home mom, or the “highly successful working mother,” but why we have all  have swallowed the idea, hook-line-and-sinker, that economic productivity makes one a more valuable person. That the “work” that takes you away from your “life” is more important than anything for which we don’t get paid.

Because, meanwhile, the tumbleweeds are blowing through —heck, not just our playgrounds and parks, but down our streets — and wouldn’t it be great if along with the adults getting to be adults, the kids got to be kids?  If we all stood up on our hind legs and roared that all this working  just might not be working?  That women who are fulfilled by work they do outside the home deserve more time, and that women who are fulfilled by work they do within the home are just as productive members of society as anybody else.

Possibly the Shallowest Post Ever

It’s probably jumping the gun just a little to start referencing the dog days less than a full week after the official onset of summer, but hey, it’s my blog, and I’ll call things whatever I want.  Besides, these are the go-go years:  everything’s accelerated these days, and if elementary school starts on August 10, well, then, maybe June 25 falls squarely during the dog days of summer, after all.

Dog days or not, it’s hot and drowsy ’round here, and most folks are trying to stay out of the midday sun.  One of the things that has given shape to our days the past few weeks (along with watching the squirrels carry off our produce) has been the summer’s requisite round of swimming lessons, which along with making the Girleens more proficient swimmers (Starfish Two and a Guppy Two, respectively, and Thank God we’ve moved past the Mommy-and-me class level and I no longer have to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” while trying to coax a one-year-old into the water) have meant a heck of a lot of driving for Mom.

Swimming lessons have also led to discovery that there’s a place that makes a mean Vietnamese Iced Coffee on the way to the Emory University Pool.

Emory may be intown Atlanta to most folks, but since it’s north of I-20, it might as well be Ultima Thule to us so it’s been nice to check out a new neck of the woods:  along with the above-mentioned Vietnamese Iced Coffee, we’ve had some great Indian Food, found a new ice cream joint, and experienced… the consignment store.

The consignment store of which I speak has nothing whatsoever to do with either motherhood or writing (not that much of what goes on here does).  In the spirit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, it sells the high-end cast0ffs of (I speculate) Emory co-eds* and currently contains a pair of Kate Spade pumps for twenty-something bucks.  The first time I dragged the Girleens into it (first Iced Coffee; the Vietnamese place is five doors down in the same strip mall) I looked, my second visit (second iced coffee, earlier today) I came in carrying a clutch of half a dozen coathangers bearing dresses I haven’t been able to zip myself into since the birth of my first child.

I’m not a person who usually waxes either nostalgic or rhapsodic over clothes, but one of those dresses was a Betsey Johnson number circa 1998.  I bought it (on sale) soon after moving back to the States from Europe when two years of walking everywhere (we had no car while in Germany) whittled me down to a size one.  Black silk shantung with a cheongsam cut; it fit like a glove.  I wore it twice, quit smoking, and that’s all she wrote — it’s been hanging in the back of my closet ever since.

Actually, maybe I have waxed rhapsodic over clothes before — the leather jacket I purchased on layaway while  in high school (coming in the vintage store where I bought it to visit “my” jacket weekly until I paid it off); the miniskirt I bought years later at the same vintage store, said by the person who brought it in to the store to have belonged to the wife of the owner of Capricorn Records around 1972) — but that was in another country, and besides, the kohl-eyed wench who wore those clothes is dead, at least figuratively speaking.

These days I’m just another mom in bermuda shorts and comfortable sandals, and most of the time, I’m fine with my status as such.  I’ll never wear that Betsey Johnson dress again — so why was my last sight of it as I handed it across the consignment store counter the least bit wrenching?

I tried to keep the kids from wreaking havoc on the shoe display while the shopclerk priced the “goods”; I began to think about how humbling it would be if the store declined to consign anything I’d brought in.

Cute clothes! the salesclerk chirped when I walked back to the counter.  We’ll take them all.

Goodbye, Betsey Johnson dress.  Goodbye, halter dess cut as befits Marilyn Monroe. Goodbye purple skirt with lime green (!) embroidery.

I walked out the door, a child holding each hand, disengaged one to slip my sunglasses back down on my nose.  Who knew it could feel so good, to consign clothes?  I felt cleansed and affirmed both. Cleansed, as if I’d just lightened my load.  Affirmed —but why?

Motherhood is so much about blending in, it seems, and requires so much … toeing of the line.  If anyone knows how to fade into the woodwork it’s a mother.

But it doesn’t hurt, to have it recognized now and then:  once we were all birds of fine feather too, and young, and just learning to fly.

*What leads someone to sell their jewelry on consignment?  I imagine love affairs gone sour.

Cloudy Weather

IMG_2337The sunflowers Elder Girleen planted along our side fence have grown as high as an elephant’s eye.* 

The fig that was a mere sprout two years ago now obscures one of the dining room windows, creating a curtain that only lets in filtered green vegetable light.  

If the squirrels don’t best us, we will have a bumper crop of apples this year.**  

All due to rain.  

Rain.  We’d forgotten all about it, the past few years were so parched.  But  now we have… not a surfeit, but enough.  Enough to put on high alert my anxiety level about whether Younger Girleen’s fourth birthday party, the Happy Hour we were hosting, and basically any other social event for the past month or so would be rained  out.  

Yesterday, the forecast was for showers off and on all day, and because of that, the minute there was a boxy window of blue sky amongst the clouds, I hustled the Girleens outside.  We took the camera with us; it took us half an hour to mosey a block.  

It was 11 a.m. on a suddenly sunny summer day.  The magnolia tree at the church a block away was doing its best to surpass the usual southern cliches of such specimens:  creamy white blossoms upturned like open faces to the sudden sun;  lemony perfume, faintly present. 

We walked, we stooped, we looked, we poked and prodded.  And through all that — we didn’t see a soul.  

Yeah, there were cars driving by, but not very many, and as far as folks walking, working in their yards — nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  There wasn’t even, this being the neighborhood it is, a single window open through which we could eavesdrop on the sorts of things I remember from summer mornings in my childhood:  piano scales being practiced, radios tuned to talk stations, voices raised in argument or agreement.  

It was as if the human inhabitants of this neighborhood had been… vaporized.  Scooped up by a giant hand and set down elsewhere.  

As of course they had.  The giant’s hand is called Work,  and because of that, our neighborhood, and yours and yours, are completely empty from 9 -5.  They may look like Mayberry from 7 o’clock at night on (as ours does), when out come the dog walkers and the exercisers, but at 11 a.m. on a balmy summer afternoon, they’re Dead Zones.  

Because once a neighborhood gentrifies, you can’t afford a house there unless you have two incomes.  Because if mom and dad are both working, the kids have to be at what’s now called “camp” (it used to be called babysitting) from 9 -5.  Because the engine that drives our economy is consumer spending, and you can’t go out spending unless you’re working, and if you’re out working, you’re not at home enjoying the blooms on the magnolia tree, big as baby heads, as creamy complected as Scarlett O’Hara.

I know, I know, that’s the way the world works, but as I was walking hand in hand with my offspring, Younger Girleen’s still babyish hand confidingly in mine, Elder Girleen’s brown paw in and out of mine as she gestured broadly, pirouetted — I couldn’t help but think how wrong  this is.  

Wrong???  You hypocrite!  

For, the past few weeks, since school got out and staying home and being … mostly just…mom has been the name of the game for me, I’ve found myself front-and-center in an existential crisis.  Who am I?  What’s my point?  What difference does it make if I am walking hand in hand with my daughters pointing out the hawk that just transversed the sky, when I could be out making money, pursuing fortune if not fame, and my kids could be in day camp like the rest of their peers, which they would probably like more, and which would certainly have them fighting less (since fighting is reserved for mom and home, not structured places  like school and day camp).  

A month ago, I shifted this blog to WordPress, and opened up a whole new pandora’s box of widgets I could entertain myself with.  

My favorite has been the Category Cloud that sits to the right side of each post and so convincingly illustrates one’s preoccupations.  It makes me think of a particular passage in Peter Pan,*** when Wendy’s mother is engaging in “tidying up her children’s minds”:

 I don’t know whether you have ever seen a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Motherhood looms large in the map of my mind, I suppose, as does This Neighborhood, and my Category Cloud does an excellent job of showing this. Writing assumes more priority than….say, Politics, but Pubs, or Publications (mine), is writ in pretty small type.  And for motherhood to take up such a lion’s share.  There are many who would look at that and just say:  lame.   

But oh, whither the magnolias, their petals easily a duvet for the fairies,  if work becomes the be all and the end all?  Wither the confiding handclasp of my younger child?




Or maybe none of this really says much of anything profound about what I consider most important, and more about labels, which are only… labels, after all.  

*if it’s a baby elephant; they’ve passed the Girleens and are taller than me now, though.

**Does synthetic wolf urine repel squirrels?  Does it repel neighbors, passersby, spouses?  Stay tuned for our next episode.

***Probably it makes me think of this passage because Elder Girleen has been listening to Peter Pan on tape.

That Time of Year Again

Oh, mothers of school-aged children, those odd disheveled creatures! (the mothers, I mean, not their offspring).  Unless they work really really hard at it (or take Adderall) they’re usually a day late and a dollar short.  Their cars are filled with crud and crumbs.  They’re forgetful. They wear ugly sensible shoes.  They are the faint ghosts of whoever it was that they used to be:  sexpots or rockers or type A overachievers.  Until you’ve become one yourself, they’re offputting.  So offhand about things, and Good God, can they kvetch.  

Especially at the end of the school year. Yeah, yeah, we know.  Plates are full, and overfull:  End-of-the-year t-ball picnics.  Recitals.  Awards ceremonies.  Potlucks. Field Days.  Fundraisers.  Committee meetings.   

When you’re a brand-new mom hoisting your first six-month old everywhere in a sling, listening to the end-of-the-year schedules of the parents of school-aged children can be like hearing about Mayberry, or wherever Beaver Cleaver and his family lived — or maybe even hell.  The way parents of school-aged kids spend their time is so different from the way you spend yours.  Hell, if all you’ve produced is a single six-month-old, you’re still probably propping up the illusion of an adult life.  You might even have conversations with your spouse now and then — your child doesn’t talk, or talk back yet.  

And — oops! – there I go, off and running, with that blithe, offputting, parent-of-the-school-aged callousness.

But here’s a secret:  there is much we’re attempting to hide under all that nonchalance.

Yesterday was what was called Portfolio Share at the Elder Girleen’s school, and every family made sure to have at least one parent representative there — to hear the song the class had practiced for them, to be shown the classroom mice and hairless pink eraser-like mouselings those mice produced in April that, along with a pregnant teacher, brought many interesting birds-and-bees type discussions to our dinner table this spring.  To applaud at the “awards” and hand tie-dyed t-shirts the teachers presented to each child in the class.  And o yes, to see the above-mentioned portfolios of drawings and writings and addition and subtraction.  

There they were, the parents, perched precariously on first-grader sized chairs at first-grader sized tables, shoulder to shoulder with their offspring. In suits and ties, in yoga pants.  Cell phones blatting at inopportune moment; nursing babies in the corner of the room or with younger sibling toddlers in tow.

They all had one thing in common.  When they looked at their children, they were completely stripped naked.  Love, fear, anxiety, pride …as they sat there on those uncomfortable chairs, their hearts were in their faces, no matter what cool customers they might be in other areas of life.  

Babies are beautiful, and gee, they’ve got such lovely little toes, but our kids, once old enough to push and pull at us — they unman us.  They keep us real.

As the fifth-graders said at the end of the assembly at Elder Girleen’s school this morning:  

Peace out.

And Happy Summer.  

Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

 Slow rain, long rain, steady rain, all night rain.  Rain the way it used to rain, so very long ago, when Georgia was a place considered lush, and dense with dampness.  A place where the late-spring leaves on the trees were always achingly green. Where those leaves turned belly-up, silvered as fish, to the wind.

Backdrop — such an overused word, we forget its genesis in stagecraft, in velvet curtains dropped and raised, the creak of rigging kin to ships’.  But always, back in those long ago days before the drought, the sky turned the color of lead every afternoon, the wind picked up, and branches began to flail, to rail, against it. A backdrop.  

For now, for this particular spring, the drought is over, and in the early mornings the bewetted peonies in the neighborhood nod nod nod their big round blossoms like drowsy children. They seem constrained behind the borders of their flower beds, the way blowsy women were once constrained by corsets.  They are Rubenesque and overblown, the painted majas of the garden, leaning over balconies and blowing kisses and  — I want one.  For Mother’s Day,  A desire stoked or perhaps instilled within me simply because peonies in pots are currently positioned outside the entrance to Whole Foods. I am nothing if not a good American and, susceptible to marketing, I long to … buy. 

For now, of course, I can’t.  And so instead I admire those that populate the neighborhood.  I admire the way they die back every winter and arise phoenix-like from the dead stalks of last years’ foliage; I love their tightly-packed round buds, perfect Earths made miniature; and the way the ants that trail up and down their stems perform some mysterious necessary function and should not be dissuaded from their work. 

My mother told me about peonies, long long ago, when I was six or seven, probably, along with the names of  all sorts of other things that grew:  forsythia, flowering quince, columbine.

She told me things like that, and then I grew up, and older, and my relationship with her grew quite fraught, as relationships between mothers and daughters often do.  It was years before I gave peonies another thought.  Just as it was years before I gave my own mother a thought, in terms of her being anything other than my mother — for instance, a fully-fledged person in her own right. 

A person whose thumb is exceedingly green, who with extraordinary patience coaxed a garden from a large shady lot of pecan trees and overgrown ivy.  A person who when I was a child clipped St. Augustine grass runners away from where they spilled over the neighhor’s  curbs — so embarrassing  to her offspring! — and planted them in a grassless yard that now, lo these many years later,  is a beautiful green expanse, one her grandchildren take for granted, and walk upon barefoot.  A person who when she walked her children to get ice cream heckled cars that sped down her street because she wanted children to be able to play outside safely.  A person who protests wars and the demolition of historic houses and for most of my childhood dragged me along as she did so. Good God, a person who was enthusiastically talking up Obama while I was still sitting in the election bleachers!   

 My mother makes me count her silver knives and forks after every holiday dinner I share with her, a task I spent decades of my life certain she’d thought up only to annoy me.  But now I know; she does it because her mother once did the same thing, and maybe someday — who knows — I will tell Elder Girleen she must count silver, too. 

Because I already tell my daughter some things.  Iris, I say.  Winter sweet. That there, with the pink flowers, that’s Oxalis.   

It’s such a gossamer filament, the cord that links parent to child.  It binds so tightly sometimes, but then again, it is the thing that keeps us stitched in place, between who we were, and where we need to go.

Clap Your Hands if You Believe

We are at the age: Elder Girleen has left princesses and their overly-sweet attendant glitter and frills far far behind, putting them aside as childish things.

We are at the age: she’s become all arched feathery eyebrows and long strong scraped-up legs, and mind that works and works and works, so quickly that it takes my breath away (would that I had such a mind, still).

We are at the age: for fairies.

Even fairies, poor things, have been painted by the broad marketing brush that colors every stage of childhood nowadays: they populate Target, genus Disney (most specifically, Tinkerbell). Those fairies are of little interest to Elder Girleen, or the other seven-year-old girls who talk fairies over, dissect fairy behavior, and attempt to ensnare them, during recess.

Maybe they (those commercial fairies) are too spunky, too bouncy, too easy. They’re too easily purchased, too easily possessed.

The ones that have cast their glamour over Elder Girleen and her crew are more hypothetical, and thus, more seductive. They don’t like the color red. They might pinch your toes while you are sleeping. They are well-inclined toward girls, but most of the time they can take them or leave them. They are other, they are magic, they are wild.

They are all id, and reckless. They are the part of childhood that’s already passing out of Elder Girleen’s life, so very quickly.

The sort of fairies the seven-year-old girls in Elder Girleen’s set are besotted by resemble most the ones in Peter Pan — and not the denatured Disney version, which rubbed off all the sharp edges and dark corners and left nothing but cute.

No where else is there a better depiction of the engaging and brutal heartlessness that is sometimes part-and-parcel of childhood than in Peter Pan, for it’s a story that, along with fairies of the sort it contains, reminds us that magic isn’t necessarily all sweetness and light.

Which doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Magic isn’t magic if we can get a handle on it, and this is something that our children haven’t lost the knack of knowing.

Of course we don’t ever want our children to want, or to fear. But at the same time, we are so well-meaning, and we sanitize so much!

And how much smarter our children are than we are, to pick the complicated over the easy, the old-school fairy over the new.

Rolling in Clover; or Luck, and Where to Find it

img_21821The more common variant of the saying being like pigs in clover — but let’s not go that far.

But if I had some magic elixir bottled up that could whisk me back to childhood, it would consist of a distillation, an inhalation of the following:

…The scent of the pinpoint-sized white flowers of a privet hedge left to run wild and leggy in mid-June, and the dappled green shade discovered when one crawls behind its interwoven branches…

…The grit-and-spoilage taste of ripe figs, and the way they weep milky tears onto your hands as you pluck them…


…clover, its scent pedestrian, not quite floral; the way it quilt-tops the front yards most of our neighbors wish were lawns instead, a bed calling for a child-sized body to flop down atop it…

So if my childhood (version, happy; there being others as well) were boiled down to its essence, the lovely claret-colored jam that resulted would consist, in part, of the above. As well as southern summer heat, and time spent outdoors doing what I mostly labelled nothing, alone much of the time, even though I had a sibling.

That — what else can I call it but communion? — with nature, even though the nature itself was not all that natural (vacant lots figuring largely in it), was certainly not wild; that freedom — these are things I want my girls to experience.

Oh, I know it may happen in Girl Scouts, when we drive to the mountains, when we make an effort, but mainly, I know, it’s beyond my orchestration, takes place despite me, in the backyard, in the cracks of our life, unplanned.

It has been lamented better and more thoroughly elsewhere, but this fact remains — I live in a neighborhood rife with kids (granted, most of them still infants, given the gentrifying nature of this particular ‘hood) and I have yet to see them engaging in the activity that gave us all such joy when we were in elementary school: walking the neighborhood sidewalks from one house to another, unparented for an hour or two at least. Free to stop and sit the curb and look up at the sky; to look down between our sneakers and track ants traversing dirt clods grown mountain-sized.

Last Friday night the Husband and I lived dangerously, as dangerously as two middle-aged, gray-haired sleep-deprived sorts can, and cast caution to the wind: the two of us slept, soundly, deeply, well, with our bedroom window open wide. To do so was a decision the public safety-minded types among our neighbors — and there are many because when a gentrifying neighborhood such as ours gentrifies enough that it takes two incomes to afford a house, those houses become sitting ducks full of ipods and flat screens and empty of people — would consider folly when feeling generous, and suicide when feeling grim.

Our window open wide. To the sound of motorcycles being raced somewhere not too far away, around 1 a.m. To birdsong, a swelling chorus that, cliche´d as it is, can’t be better described.

Most of the windows in most of the houses in this neighborhood are painted shut. Lack screens. Saturday morning, I lay in bed listening to the birds and watching the dawn come and was struck — not for the first time of course, this isn’t a profundity I’ve come up with here — by how sealed away from life we’ve — all of us — become.

And so.

On Saturday afternoon, I let Elder Girleen walk unattended to a friend’s house a block away. The other mom and I co-ordinated; I talked cars and their blindspots with Elder Girleen before I sent her out of my sight.

Out of my sight, which after all is where so much of what my child needs to learn will occur.

The other mother called me when she started back home; I walked outside and one house down the sidewalk to watch for her to dance around the corner and head down the sidewalk toward me. Sat down on the curb to wait, in the clover the neighbor had an hour or so before tried to mow down.

The luck I found was frayed, pressed practically flat by the mower’s roller. But oh my, it had four lovely green leaves all the same.