love people. take pictures. write things down.

photos and words by Caroline

Month: November, 2012

are we there yet?

When Wyatt’s mother got home from work the other day and relieved me of my nannying duties, I overheard her offer to make her son some pasta. Although Wyatt was excited to see his mother again after eight hours apart, her question caused his posture to drop, face to crumple, and little voice to whine, “Is it gonna take a long tiiiime?”

“This is his new thing,” I commented.

Earlier that day, I had mentioned to the three-year-old that I could cook a pizza in the oven for us to have for lunch, and he opted instead for a microwavable corn-dog, even though pizza is his absolute favorite—the reason being that he has figured out that cooking something in the oven takes considerably longer than cooking something in the microwave. Even as I was placing the con dog on a plate, he was quick to instruct me, “DON’T put it in the oven!!”

Whenever we get in the car drive anywhere (which is a process in and of itself now that coats and hats and gloves are invovled), I can always expect to hear from the backseat, “Is home far awayyyy?”

The farthest from home I take him is to library for story time–which is a whole twelve (!) minutes away. The only way that he doesn’t complain about it being “far awayyy” and it taking “a long tiiime” to get there is if we listen to his favorite country song…on repeat. Right now it is “Hard to Love” by Lee Brice, which I actually (thankfully) enjoy. All summer it was “Pontoon” by Little Big Town and I think it is safe to say that I will never listen to that song again, despite how catchy I thought it was in June. Even though we drive to the library every Wednesday, his brother Will’s school frequently, and the bakery every morning that he wants a doughnut and I want more coffee, Wyatt asks if said location is “far awayyyy” everytime I strap him into his carseat.

It is as though Wyatt has just now become aware of the concept of waiting. He never complained about waiting for things before, but now he seems to be in the inevitable “are we there yet?” stage. When he had a lunch date planned with his grandfather, he said to me, “I want Grandpa to be here” every ten minutes from when I arrived at 8:00am until his grandfather finally arrived at noon. He looks at me as if I am the one who makes things happen. When he tells me he wants to go outside, we go outside to play. So when he tells me he wants Grandpa to be here, Grandpa should be here, right?

I often find myself acting in the same way. I eat dinner when I want to, go to bed when I want to, and get annoyed when people aren’t available to hang out when I feel like being social (which is most of the time.) I am terribly impatient. I don’t have a nanny to whine to, so I tell God, “I want this to happen.” I should probably be working on some applications for grad school, but I can’t seem to get started because I know it’s going to take a long tiiiime. Also, I would rather be out drinking wine or running or porch-sitting at Rachel’s than be home with my computer.

Speaking of which, where is home anyway? Is it the place where I wake up every morning and keep my favorite books and journals?—or is it where I grew up: a split-level with a yellow lab, a giant TV, home-cooked meals and a loving father’s echoing laugh? Is home far awayyy?

Most people figure out the “home” question eventually. When you marry, move out for good, build a family of your own, find a real job, or life throws you some other game-changer in terms of supporting yourself, you have a new place that is home. There is no more in-between stage where you can say “I just got home from work” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” and mean two entirely different places.

Mastering the art of patience is in itself a long-term process. Maybe it’s a combination of the American dream meets “the grass is always greener”, but so many young people I talk with want to be more and do more, but aren’t sure where to begin—or end, for that matter. We are patient until we get what we think we want, only to find ourselves asking again, “Am I there yet?” An artistic friend of mine who works at a photo studio longs for the life of a construction worker, who works all day with rough hands and tired legs. Another creative friend of mine works all day washing windows, and is currently looking to work at the front desk of a quiet dry-cleaners, so that he can sit and read books through the cold winter months. My friend who works as a project manager wants a job where she is not stuck behind a desk all day, and I envy her because she gets to wear heels and pencil skirts to work and contributes to a totally hip local business.

In terms of career and productivity, I think an overwhelming amount of people feel stuck. That must be why there are so many self-help books about being productive and doing more with your life. Because in the 21st century we aren’t patient. We want to get things done, and move forward, as long as it doesn’t take a long time. We could use some patience, and a whole lot of faith, but we continue to chose the microwave. Give me money, happiness and a feeling of self-worth, but DON’T put it in the oven.

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blackouts.

A couple of hours ago I received the text from my Mom I had been waiting for all week: “We have power!”

“Yahooo!!!” I responded, because my family in the suburbs of NYC had been without electricity for 144 hours. (I was also without power earlier this week, but this was only because I blew a fuse while trying to simultaneously use a space heater and boil water for tea in my electric kettle. )

As a kid, a power outage is one of the most exciting things that can happen. Hotels may be more exciting, but only if they have a pool and/or hot tub and your parents let you watch the TV from your bed. While my enthusiasm for hot tubs and TV in bed had not decreased, my longing for the adventure of walking to bed with a candelabra like Belle in Beauty and the Beast no longer remains. Even in my brief hour with no electricity, I was annoyed that I couldn’t plug in my soon-to-be-dead computer. Which seems completely ridiculous considering that my family went without power for six whole days.

I think that everyone, maybe even the kids, will think of power outages differently post Hurricane Sandy world. Halloween was cancelled, and no kid wants to miss out on the one night a year they get candy simply for being four feet tall. A nine-year-old I mentor through Kids Hope USA thought Hurricane Sandy was a literally hurricane of sand, and that conditions weren’t as bad by the time it got to Michigan because there simply wasn’t as much sand here. She was so genuinely concerned about the people that it did effect that I didn’t have the heart to correct her, although I probably should have.

Even if you are still a die-hard blackout fan, you have to admit that the anticipation is the best part. Hearing the thunder, watching the lights flicker, helping Dad put batteries in all the flashlights, and wondering if you will get to stay up later because no one knows what time it is are all more memorable than a simple night or two without power. Unless a tree falls on your house or you spend the day making a huge snow-fort, people stay inside, read, play Monopoly, and cheer when the lights turn back on, which they always do.

In 2003, something amazing happened. The power went out, but it wasn’t because of a storm that threatened people’s lives and properties. It was the unexplained northeast power-outage. I was thirteen, my brother Andrew and his best friend Ryan were eleven, and my sister Abby has just turned eight.  It was a time before thirteen year olds (or eleven year olds, or even eight year olds for that matter) had cell phones. It was a time when I owned a bright purple boom box with an antenna that I played my favorite CDs on, which were The Beatles 1 and the soundtrack to 13 Going On 30. It was August, so my siblings and I sat outside on the front lawn, gathered around my boom box, and listened for updates on the mysterious occurrence. The power had been out in the New York metro-area all day, and no one knew why. Maybe it was the mystery that made it all so exciting. Maybe it is the nostalgia of all of my siblings being together, sitting outside in the hot summer, talking to neighbors as they passed, watching the evening slip in to darkness.

It must have been Maureen, Ryan’s mother, who suggested we go for a walk to the park. I say this because it was also Maureen who suggested we ride our bikes to the end of the pier on September 11th, 2001. From there, we could see smoke rising from the south. At eleven, I was old enough to go but still not old enough to understand.

We walked on the boardwalk and through the park. We weren’t afraid, but it was very quiet and very dark. We could see the stars. I later discovered that srat-gazers in New York City could see the Milky Way for the first time in decades. We looked out to where we could normally see the lights on Long Island, and the water might as well have been the Atlantic. We ran in to an old woman who had a telescope pointing towards the sky. This is the part when my memory gets rusty. Was it an old woman with a creepy grin or a friendly grandmother out with her grandson? Was it a magnificent telescope set up on a tripod, or was it small and accordion-like, such as a ship captains’?  I do know that the woman showed us the stars. We even saw a planet—Venus, maybe—and we were amazed. We thanked her and I knew that I was experiencing something magical, that I had seen another world just by going for an aimless walk in the dark.

Parts of the boardwalk we walked on that night are now drifting into the Long Island Sound, torn up by the high winds. A few days ago, Abby described my hometown as a “disaster zone,” with hour long waits  at the gas station and “so many power lines down. It’s insane.” The adults want a warm shower and to get back to work and kids want their Halloween candy. The teenagers want school for the socialization (and probably some Halloween candy as well), but are enjoying being allowed to have co-ed sleepovers at the houses that have heat.

The strangest part of being in Michigan during this craziness is not that it makes me nostalgic for power outage stories, but that it makes me wish I was in New York City, because I still think of New York as my city. I want to stick with my family and my hometown through this hard time.

Instead, I’m just watching.

Here’s what I’m looking at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/01/us/sandy-POD-index.html

descend/knock

when entering woods

(another October is over—)

a woodpecker knocks back, hello

“If only I could give you

the moments I have alone.”

 

maybe, here–

we could get married?

go home, watch movies (in the same bed.)

 

and name our daughters after trees.

 

I am happy here, you know,

with my New Collected Friends.

I’ve taken all of their photographs

(holding their dogs and their dreams)

 

but do you want to come over?

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