Anything Happens All the Time

by Abby on October 21, 2014

I was heading out the door for my morning walk with the dog when I noticed a nattily dressed older gentleman strolling down the sidewalk. “I didn’t take your parking spot, did I?” he asked with a smile. “I used to live on this street a long time ago. Just came by for a visit.” I don’t know what it is about my neighborhood that inspires trips down memory lane, but I’m not complaining. Just like that, an ordinary morning took an interesting turn.

The gentleman introduced himself and explained that he and his family had lived in the very first house built on the street, back in the 1930s. He went on to describe each house and its occupants, by name and profession, in great detail. The two sisters who lived side by side and couldn’t have been more different. The men who rode to work on the streetcar. The man who came home from war blind, but you’d never know it. He knew every neighbor by their voice, and would always grasp his wife’s elbow when they went out, a chivalrous gesture that masked the fact that she was leading him instead of vice versa.

The man painted a scene of long-ago Christmas Eves, when the neighbors would string lights from the trees and gather together to sing carols. The land we now stood on was once an apple orchard, he told me, with a creek running through it where a street now was. I could almost picture the old-fashioned cars rattling down the rutted dirt road.

1940's streetcar; photo: Daniel R. Blume, flickr
photo: Daniel R. Blume, flickr

I’ve always been interested in historic houses and old buildings. In elementary school, I did a project on a historic row of painted Victorian houses in my hometown. I got to meet some of the residents and hear their stories. I snapped Polaroids of the wrought-iron railings and intricately carved wooden moldings. There’s something about stories from the past that makes old plaster walls and crumbling brick steps more interesting.

Back in the present, as the owner of actual crumbling brick steps and cracked plaster walls, old buildings have lost some of their magic for me. I fantasize about living in a home where the doors meet the frames at right angles, with unchipped bathroom tiles and smooth walls free of layers of old wallpaper and paint drips. I can’t look at my house without a running tally of repairs and contractor fees going through my head.

The family that lived in our house back then had 5 children, the man told me. When the father went off to war, the mother and children moved into the basement and first floor and rented out the top floor. My eyes widened at the thought of 6 people packed into our small basement. And I think *I* get cabin fever stuck in this house with 2 kids?! I wondered what kind of boarders occupied my bedroom. Did they soak in the same old iron tub with the same black-and-white tiles, now littered with Spiderman bath toys?

I could have listened to this man tell stories all day. But I had a walk to take, work to do, kids to pick up later. But he had brightened my day by reminding me of something I often forget in my Groundhog Day existence as a harried mom of young children: life won’t always be like this. Not in a “hang in there, it gets better” or an “enjoy every minute while it lasts” kind of way. Just as a simple, basic fact of life: time marches on. I’m not the first person to raise kids in this house, and I won’t be the last.

I have plenty of moments of real magic and joy in my life. I also have days that are long, dull, and/or stressful. I loved this chance meeting with a stranger because it shook up the predictability of my day and reignited a sense of possibility. That’s something that often goes missing for me, along with my phone charger and the matching sock.

There’s a line in the movie, This Is Where I Leave You, that stuck with me. A free-spirited character says to a less free-spirited character: “Anything can happen. Anything happens all the time.” Just step outside your door and you’ll see.

NEWS O’ THE DAY: Speaking of old buildings in Baltimore, the city is hosting its first Doors Open event this Saturday, Oct. 26, when 42 sites from the old Montgomery Ward factory to the Charles Theatre (a former streetcar barn) will be open to the public.

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Don’t Let This Happen to You

by Abby on October 17, 2014

boy with finger stuck in Halloween decoration

Let’s say you have a Halloween decoration — a skull on a stick, so festive! — and your 5yo son pokes his finger through the eye hole just because it’s there and he can. And then his finger gets stuck, so he screams bloody murder until Mom comes running to get him unstuck.

She tries to twist his finger free. More screeching.

She tries ice to shrink the finger. Even more screeching.

She tries soap and water to slide the finger out. Screeching AND splashing.

She tries cooking spray. Just messy.

Finally, she tries Vaseline — also messy, but it works. The finger is finally free.

And he says, “Last time Dad got my finger out right away.” Wait. LAST time?!

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Tiny Tweaks

October 13, 2014

This September marked some changes in our house. Big changes: my youngest child started full-day school for the first time ever. And little changes: I’m getting up earlier to get everyone out the door on time. Before, Riley and I could stay in our PJs till Dad and Miles cleared out, then enjoy a leisurely […]

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Why I Am Celebrating

October 6, 2014

See that photo? That’s a bottle of bubbly I bought myself. (It’s Prosecco, aka “Champagne on a budget.”) I am drinking it out of a glass that was given to me a couple years ago as a present. It’s hand-painted, with rhinestones and a tassel, and it says “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” I’ve never used it […]

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When Did Crayons Get a Publicist?

September 29, 2014

Do you know the book, The Day the Crayons Quit? If a children’s book could be a celebrity, this one would be Taylor Swift. It’s adorable and it’s everywhere—full-page magazine ads, life-sized cardboard cutouts, it’s even got its own Twitter campaign! (#SavetheCrayons) I’ve been around publishing long enough to know that this is NOT the […]

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Handstands

September 22, 2014

The first thing that happened was the yoga class. “We’re going to do something a little different today,” announced my yoga teacher, 15 min. before the end of class. “Who wants to try a handstand?” Despite the groans and murmurs from the crowd, each woman gamely pulled her mat up next to the wall as […]

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Breathing Room

September 5, 2014

I was emailing a friend recently about how much I’m loving my new schedule now that both kids are in school. Real all-day school, I mean, not that 2.5-hour preschool nonsense that barely gives you enough time to shower and shave both legs. I’ve mentioned that I’ve taken on more writing assignments and work commitments […]

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Back-to-School Humor

August 26, 2014

It’s back-to-school time, and suddenly my inbox is flooded with funny takes from parents who are SO ready to have their little love bugs out of the house all day. And YES, I am one of them! This comic strip my mom sent me pretty much sums up my feelings: Look, I adore my children […]

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Change is in the Air

August 9, 2014

As I sat in the shade of the pavilion enjoying the breeze, I looked out over the wide, grassy expanse where the boys chased bugs and threw sticks and climbed trees and whatever else boys do. This is the part of the summer when we have pretty much done everything there is to do and […]

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The Toughest Week of the Summer

July 29, 2014

It’s mid-summer. The pool is strangely uncrowded. The parks are almost deserted. Every other car that drives by is laden with bikes and kayaks. You know what that means… vacation time. No, not for us. We already went on our vacation. For our babysitter. Each year when it rolls around, a mild panic sets in, […]

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