Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Spring!

I saw a forsythia bush in bloom today. I thought I'd post this essay I wrote several years ago. My family is starting to get nervous. Anytime now I might try to pack them into the car for a drive.

“What a glorious day!” I exclaim for the fourth time in less than an hour. Springtime is here. Blue sky, sunshine, warm days. Although it’s usually impossible for me to decide on a favorite anything (book, movie, dessert), I can easily say that spring is my favorite season. And I say it a lot.

“Just feel that sunshine,” I order anyone who happens to be outside with me. “Isn’t it fabulous?” My eyes are closed, my face tilted upward, my arms outstretched. It’s almost a religious posture.

The grass is getting greener every day. Crocuses and daffodils are blooming. I have purple and pink hyacinths by my front door. At least once a day I get down on my hands and knees, awkwardly lean out over the flower bed and drink in some of their smell.

And any moment now the forsythia is going to burst open. I love forsythia. (My kids are rolling their eyes.) I love those long, willowy fingers of golden yellow, pointing towards heaven and their Creator. It makes me cringe when people curb its wild growth, trimming it into a neat, boxy-looking hedge. The little bits of yellow that manage to survive this massacre just don’t show up like they were meant to. Over the years I have schooled my family on this subject. It’s been pretty easy with the kids. If you’re brought up from birth with a certain idea, it has a good chance of sticking. I’m pretty sure none of my kids will ever dare to take a hedge trimmer to a forsythia bush. They think it’s a commandment. I worry a little about my husband though. He’s a trimmer by nature. He gets it from his parents. They’ve maintained a beautifully shaped hedge alongside their front walk for decades.

I’ve learned to watch for the forsythia. It used to catch me off guard every year, seeming to erupt all at once overnight. But now I watch for it. And it’s about to happen.

I’ve been known to take members of my family on what I call mystery walks or mystery rides in the car in order to show them something I want them to see. The first time I did this the kids were so excited. Of course, they’d convinced themselves and each other that it was Chuck E. Cheese’s that I wanted them to see. Their little bottoms bounced on the seat as we turned in the opposite direction from Chuck E. Cheese’s.

“She’s just trying to trick us!” they exclaimed to each other. “We’re really going to Chuck E. Cheese’s!”

You can imagine their reaction when we arrived at my destination: the building site of a new large and beautiful house of worship (L.D.S. temple) our church was building. I had honestly thought it would be really fun for them to see the progress that was being made. They all bawled. And I got mad. Needless to say it was a big disappointment. To all of us. But some good did come of it. Now, when it comes to Mom’s mystery rides, their expectation level is really low. So low, in fact, that once in a while they actually enjoy it a little more than they thought they would. Naturally they’d never admit this.

Often the object of my mystery ride is to view an exceptionally grand specimen of something growing somewhere. Like a forsythia bush. One midsummer day I told my daughter to get in the car.

“I want to show you something,” I told her.

“Mom, it’s a forsythia bush, isn’t it?’ she said accusingly. “I know it’s a forsythia bush.”

“How ridiculous,” I told her. “Forsythia isn’t even in bloom this time of year.” She visibly relaxed.

“Well, I know it’s going to be something dumb,” she assured me.

“I have never taken you to see anything dumb,” I defended myself.

We pulled up in front of a yard that looked quite ordinary, except for the absolutely giant free-standing rose bush in the middle of the front lawn. It was as tall as the garage and was covered with dinner plate-sized pink roses. Okay, maybe salad plate. She rolled her eyes at me and sighed, but I could tell she was impressed.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on all of my favorite forsythia bushes around town and today is the day. Spring has officially arrived. And this year, I even have a forsythia bush of my own. We planted it in the backyard last summer.

A few weeks ago I was talking on the phone about forsythia with my sister who lives in Virginia.

“You can cut branches and bring them in the house and force them to bloom early, you know,” she informed me.

“Oh yeah? Well, not if your bush only has six wisps!”

Maybe over the years my forsythia will spread into hundreds of untamed fingers of yellow blossoms. If I can just restrain my husband. Last summer I mentioned to my mother-in-law that Kent had planted a forsythia for me. Her response: “Well, just make sure he keeps it trimmed.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just Get Rid Of It!

A few nights ago I attended a class on home organization. It was taught by a good friend of mine named Susan. She’s easily the most organized person I know. Not only are her closets organized, but they’re attractive to look at. If I were her, I’d probably be tempted to leave the doors open all the time: Someone’s coming up the walk! Quick, open the closets! Someone open up the laundry room door!

I’m not exactly an ultra-organized person, but I am a person with relatively few belongings to organize. I like it that way. And it makes me come across as fairly organized. The other night, Susan was encouraging us to get rid of fifty per cent of our stuff. If I got rid of fifty per cent, I’d be in trouble. However, I did come away inspired to make the belongings I do have look nicer in their closets, drawers, and cupboards. Thank you, Susan!

I wrote the following essay about nine years ago.

I’ve often said that given two hours, my husband and I could empty the entire contents of our home onto the back lawn. Kent rolls his eyes whenever I make this claim, but really, I can’t see it taking us all that long. I’m not a saver. We simply don’t have a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff would drive me crazy. Kent does seem to have been born with the saver gene, but I’ve done my best over the years to curb the tendency. He brought a few choice items into the marriage sixteen years ago that are still with us. There are the wool socks his family brought home from Finland in the 1960’s. There are the plastic yogurt containers from Germany (don’t even bother asking), and there is his vast collection of gym shoes. We called them sneakers where I come from. He had more pairs of gym shoes – mostly basketball shoes in those days – than even an N.B.A. player could reasonably feel good about. These days it’s running shoes. Why can’t he get rid of them when he’s worn them out? I don’t know. It’s beyond me. You ask him.

I remember a character in an Anne Tyler novel I once read. She called herself a Clutter Counselor. For a fee, she would come into your home and, with an eye not fogged by sentimentality, get rid of all your junk from attic to basement. I could do that, I’ve often thought. My teenage daughter recently told me, by way of a compliment she insists, that I’m the least sentimental person she knows. She happens to be a saver. She learned at a young age to periodically rummage through the waste baskets, looking for treasures I might have accidentally discarded.

I’m not all that bad, though. Even I know there are some things that must be saved, such as birth certificates and other important documents, family photos, a few samlpes of the kids’ school work, the wedding album… Until recently, this stuff has been stored in the master bedroom, under the bed. Houses these days seem to be designed and built with so little storage capacity that even someone like me finds it inadequate. And just knowing this stuff was all crammed under our bed made me crazy. Periodically (not as often as I should have), I’d haul it all out from under there, dust it off, run the vacuum under the bed, then regretfully push it all back.

Last winter Kent built shelves into a large closet in our upstairs hall that had formerly housed a washer and dryer. Finally I had a place for all that stuff that was under our bed. I got it all organized neatly on the new closet shelves.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels to have nothing under this bed!” I’d exclaim to Kent on a nightly basis. “Look under there!” I’d insist. “Nothing!” Every day for the first few weeks I’d get down on my hands and knees and peer under there. Daylight on the other side! For a while, I even vacuumed under there regularly because it was so easy to do. “Have you looked under the bed today?” I’d ask Kent. “Go ahead,” I’d encourage him, “there’s nothing there.” After a while he started to glance at me with a strange look on his face every time I said this. I guessed I was overdoing it.

I finally got my chance to declutter someone else’s house a couple of summers ago. We were visiting my parents and the kids discovered the eaves across the front of the house. I hadn’t been in there for years. No one had, by the look of things. They’d only shoved more and more stuff in without taking any out. Once I got started, there was no stopping me. By the end of about three days, I’d gone through everything. After making a pile for my sister, one for my brother, and one for my parents (there was nothing I was even tempted to hold onto), we hauled at least ten garbage bags to the dump. It felt so good. To this day, they haven’t missed a thing. And I didn’t even charge them.

Today I think I may have discovered the reason why my husband started giving me those strange looks every time I mentioned the void under our bed. As I passed through the bedroom this morning, I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the toe of a running shoe peeking out at me from under the bed. I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to investigate. Besides, maybe it’s better if I just don’t know.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Neapolitan Easter Eggs Are Here!

Last year at about this time, my daughter gave me a wonderful treat. She had come over late at night to retrieve something from our house. We had all gone to bed already. She picked up whatever it was she was after and left in exchange a few seasonal egg-shaped candies wrapped in pink and brown and tan foil in a little dish on the kitchen counter. I found them first thing in the morning. What a nice surprise! The wrapper said “Neapolitan” on it in a cutesy font. I unwrapped one. It was made up of three layers: milk chocolate, white chocolate, pink chocolate. I took a bite. Mmmm. You really got that Neapolitan flavor. I popped the rest in my mouth. Before I knew it, I had eaten the rest of them, and all before breakfast. I called Carolyn, thanked her, and asked her where she had gotten them. Someone had given them to her at work. She’d try to find out where they came from. Probably some specialty shop, I’d said to her. They’re probably pretty pricey. They were all I could think of for the next two days or so. I really wanted more. When Carolyn saw the person at work who’d given them to her, she mentioned how much I’d liked them and that I was hoping to be able to buy some to satisfy my craving. Were they a local product? Sure, the person told her. They were from Wal-Mart. Carolyn called me up and we laughed about it. You know that really cheapy-chocolate seasonal candy made by a company called Palmer’s? Well, that’s what it is. I bought up bags of Palmer’s Neapolitan Eggs every time I went to Wal-Mart all the way through the Easter season. I carried them in my purse and gave them to everyone I knew so that they could try them, too. They were a big hit at the high school baseball games.
It’s Easter time again. I was so excited when Wal-Mart put out their Easter candy. I searched the shelves. I searched them again. No Neapolitan Eggs. But they do have them at Macey’s grocery store. I’ve started buying up bags. I hope I can get enough to last at least through baseball season.