Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The daily

Nina Camic is a Polish-born law professor whose blogs at The Other Side of the Ocean.  She travels all over the world, taking photographs and having adventures.  She also spends time at her farmhouse in Wisconsin, where her typical blog post is . . . a photo of her boyfriend Ed, eating breakfast.

In a randomly-chosen week in February (linked), there were seven such photos.  My son and I had to count three times, because they all look the same.  Breakfast is the same (oatmeal and berries).  The breakfast table is the same (flowers).  And Ed himself -- a shaggy, rumpled man in glasses  -- is the same in every post, smiling tolerantly at the camera while trying to eat.

Up late reading blogs (when I should have been getting my sanity sleep), I puzzled over this parade of breakfasts.  What was she "going for," exactly?  This was a highly intelligent, vivacious woman who -- on any given day -- was having lobster in Poitou-Charentes or visiting orphans in a mud hut in Ghana.  I didn't have nearly as much going on, yet -- as delightful as my boyfriend was at breakfast -- I would not fill a blog with pictures of him buttering his toast.

What was I missing?  It seemed to involve giving ordinary things their due. 

* * * *

On our ill-fated fourth date, Dave and I had a cup of tea before the movie.  Fresh from a visit to the pediatric dentist, I spoke at length about the (seemingly insane) suggestion that my son be outfitted with a metal plate on the roof of his mouth, before the inevitable braces.  Even while saying these words, I sensed that I was acting like a boring mom.  Maybe that's why he didn't hold my hand?
Actually, it was all good.  (In fact, few topics are more likely to charm and intrigue a man than your small children's dental problems.  Try it!)  Despite the fact that my life outwardly consisted of doing my job, taking care of the kids, loading the dishwasher, and going to Target, we hit it off and, for twenty months, have had plenty of things to talk about.
With writing, too, it can feel like grown-ups have few interesting things to say.  Our lives are governed by sensible routines.  On the face of it, there is little to discuss, celebrate, or question.  It's just the same old oatmeal.  Who could possibly care?
* * * *
This past weekend, my daughter wanted to practice riding her bike.  Since the training wheels came off, she has been shuttling down a path near our house, mostly with her dad.  This time, because she was so close to balancing with no help -- a moment I didn't want to miss -- I decided to tag along with them.

The three of us walked to the park.  In the middle, she clutched her dad's hand in her left hand, mine in her right.  I couldn't remember the last time we'd done this, if ever.

"You know what would be great?" she said.  "If you both could lift me up and swing me -- while we were walking -- like this."  She kicked her feet in the air.

"I'm afraid that can never be,"  I said.

"Can't do it," said her dad.

We raised her arms and swung her several times.

"Do it again!" 

"I think you're too heavy," I said.

"Maybe another time," said her dad.

Walking, we swung her up again, making her laugh.

Six years ago, when she was born, her parents' marriage was deteriorating fast.  By age two-and-a-half, she was being shuttled between two houses.  The fact that she could spend a perfectly nice hour with her parents, at the park, was not much in the scheme of things.  It was just ordinary life.

Still, in its own way, it was notable. 

Within ten minutes, she could ride that bike.

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