April 8: Baseball is back! Yes, the temperature hovered near the 40s last night, the wind blew relentlessly and the Washington Nationals lost. But when the players trotted onto the field for the opening ceremony, when red fireworks exploded in the sky, and when Nate draped his arms across my back as he arrived at our seats, I felt just fine.
April 9: My friend Jennifer had planned every bit of her funeral service: the hymns, the readings, the choir anthem. She had spoken proudly of her historic church, her years in the choir and her many friends. The funeral service was lovely, and I drove home along the Potomac River in the mood to cherish life.
With Rimsky-Korsakov on the radio, I noticed everything: the Washington Monument emerging from the trees on the route from Old Town Alexandria to the capital city; the boats moored along the river; and the runners and cyclists following the river trail to Mount Vernon. I kept going and looked at the Lincoln Memorial across the river and the beds of daffodils transitioning to tulips. I saw the forested island near the Kennedy Center and the Capitol in the distance. I’d seen it all before, and yet today I was entranced.
Several times a week, Kevin rides his bicycle on a 19-mile loop that encompasses a lot of this. I thought I understood his commitment: we all need exercise, right? Now I truly see what Kevin already knew: we need beauty too.
April 10: I love watching professional golf. Maybe it’s the lush green grass, the colorful golf attire, or the sunshine and views. Actually, though, I think I love watching professional golf because it brings out the best in me: rooting for every competitor to make the best golf shot of their ability and leaving outcomes to the vagaries of course, weather and luck.
Today’s Masters Championship tripled my joy. First, I watched my hero Rory McIlroy finish a magnificent final round by improbably sinking a chip shot from a sand trap. Woo hoo! Then his playing partner, 25-year old Collin Morikawa, did exactly the same thing. I hollered again. Finally, the TV camera swung back to McIlroy, who had flung his arms high in exuberant joy and celebration with Morikawa.
These golfers are competitors. They are competing for money, prestige, rankings. And there they were, transcending all of that: profoundly happy for the good fortune of someone else.
April 11: Last week, our oven died just as I was about to bake my weekly loaf of whole wheat chocolate chip banana bread. I frantically texted a neighbor. Sure, they replied, we’ll turn on the oven for you.
Today I stirred up another loaf, but instead of carrying the hot full pan back to my house, I asked if I could hang out with their little daughter May while the bread cooled briefly in its pan. Sure, they replied.
I popped back over to remove the banana bread from the oven and set a timer. Then I carried a basket of train tracks down to the basement to play with May. “Let’s clean up first,” said May. “Good idea!” “Let’s read a book next,” said May. “Wonderful!” “Now let’s play trains!” she chirped. “My favorite!”
We assembled the wooden train pieces in curves and circles, ramps and bridges. We created new routes and pushed the train cars about while making appropriate train noises.
May’s father called down the basement steps. “Your timer went off, Carol Ann. You can leave.” Wait, what? I called back up the steps, “Do I have to?”
April 12: Now that I’m a substitute teacher, I have regained my love of Spring Break. I decided to make a day trip down to Colonial Williamsburg, one of my all-time favorite places in the world. My fifth graders had just taken a class trip there and I yearned to return to the place my Dad had taken us so many times.
Equipped with a precise schedule, a picnic lunch, and a hogshead of excitement, I stepped back to the 18th century in the years surrounding the American Revolution. (But we’re all friends, now, right?) I listened to skilled actors embody George Mason (who drafted an early version of the Bill of Rights) and the Marquis de Lafayette (who politely answered questions about his old buddy Alexander Hamilton). I learned about cabinetmaking, tobacco growing and casting pewter. I admired museum galleries of decorative and folk art. And in the shadow of the Governor’s Palace I bumped into a family from Falls Church, whose son has the same 4th grade teacher that Nate did 18 years ago. (“Maybe you’ll substitute for me this year!”)
I ended my day on the Market Square enjoying a fife and drum performance and, eventually, at the patio bar of the Williamsburg Inn. There I chatted with a pair of local teachers also enjoying such a lovely moment.
And I remembered: today is my Dad’s birthday. I imagine him smiling at me. And, Dad, I tip my tricorn hat to you and to all the fun we had.
April 13: Three days after our old washing machine gave up the ghost (it was a bad month for our appliances), its successor swaggered into place. It is large, deeply electronic, and slightly eccentric. (If you can think why I’d need to run my washing machine remotely — and who will sort and load the laundry — let me know.)
Our new washing machine is also sweet. In contrast to our dryer, which emits a slightly annoyed bleat when it’s done, our washer twinkles a little tune. After the fourth load, I counted: twenty-five cheery notes in a distinctly 18th century pattern. Could I have heard that tune yesterday in the pipings of a Williamsburg fife? It’s certainly fun to think so.
April 14: A sunny bench beckoned me to linger outside our library. Oh, I had laptop work to do indoors, but I also needed to finish Lincoln on the Verge for our book group. Easy choice.
I’d read the book in three sittings: to Arizona, from Arizona and now in placid sunshine. I was transfixed by this masterful nonfiction account of Abraham Lincoln’s thirteen-day, 1900-mile train trip to Washington, DC, and his first inauguration — all while states seceded from the Union, a new Confederate government was forming, and assassins waited everywhere. The author Edward L. Widmer wove all these strands together along with miniature biographies of the cities and hamlets where he stopped and accounts of Lincoln’s 101 (!) speeches on the way.
The author reminded me that Abraham Lincoln, confronting unimaginable crisis, “responded as he always did, by standing up to his full height and doing his job.”
We know how the story ends, and I always weep. The calendar once again came back to me: today is the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. I hope I will always stand up to my full height and do my job.
P.S. And Dianne, Jeremiah and Loyd all independently sent me photos of their minor league games. If you go to a minor league baseball game (or a sporting event of any kind), consider sending me your photo and I’ll post it!
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