Dad

Today I thought I would post in honor of my dad. Fathers and daughters have a very special bond, and I count myself one of those lucky few who considers her father one of her closest friends.

The father-daughter bond starts to form in the early moments of a daughter’s life when she realizes–even in her most colicky moments–that she is being held by a person she can trust. Here is a person who will love her when she screams like a banshee and smells like baby poop.

It continues to grow as he teaches her things like sharing and how to ride a bike and why boys never call when they say they will and the meaning of life (that’s a tough one, but he always makes the answer seem so easy).

And the bond tightens with each winter he takes her sledding and each summer he shows her how to ride the waves.

It blossoms more as he shows her how to care for animals and how to appreciate nature (Dad always knows the best rocks under which to find the salamanders).

And Dad always loves her no matter what. Their bond doesn’t buckle from the pressure of her first dates with boys he doesn’t wholly approve of or from driving lessons where she nearly drives his car into a pole.

He stands beside her after graduations. He sits patiently through countless recitals (many of which involve the recorder, which isn’t even a real instrument). He wipes away her tears after break-ups and gives her hope that all men aren’t awful. He carries her over-abundant things during move after move (each one, he swears, will be the last he helps with). He tells her she’s beautiful even when she feels ugly. He listens to her fears and doubts and tells her to be positive and strong because he believes in her, and she should believe in herself, too.

And for that she is eternally grateful.

Finding the Secret to Gardening

I haven’t a clue how to garden, but I’m working on a story for Texas A&M right now about their community garden. They have these amazing gardens on campus, part of which are designed to feed the hungry. In the process of working on this article, I found out about a plant sale on campus where herbs and small vegetable plants were on sale for dirt cheap (pun intended). I’m talking basil plants for $2 and lettuce plants for a buck!

I felt the little green leaves calling to me as I stood among the black plastic trays taking photos. Having tried before but failed, I had to buy some and re-try my hand at gardening. Maybe Texas will prove a better place for my green thumb to blossom. Aren’t gardens to vegetarians who like to cook the equivalent of what giant stereo systems are to frat guys who like party? So, I picked out some lettuce plants, some basil, rosemary, swiss chard, artichokes, and brussels sprouts, and set out to meet my destiny.

Little box, big dreams

Technically, this should come easy to me. My mom’s mother, my Baba, has a yard that is a wonderland of fruit trees and plants. She lives in a not-so-great neighborhood, but her house has always been a tiny oasis in that area: she grows perfect tomatoes, prize-winning-pie-worthy cherries and berries that I’ve never even heard of.

Naturally, my mother has also inherited this tendency. She frequently brings home plants she’s found on the side of the road. The leaves on these discarded shrubs are shriveled and brown, but somehow, my mother’s magic touch will turn them verdant, ready to live again. We had so many plants (many of which were “saved” from the garbage truck) at my home growing up that my friends could identify our house by all the foliage in the window–they even began referring to our living room as “the jungle.”

This weekend, Patrick is going on a boy’s weekend, and I’m going to try to plant a garden. Wish me luck, friends. I hope I don’t wind up killing these beautiful little plants. If you have any advice, feel free to share it here. Lord knows, the world doesn’t need any more dead plants on the side of the road, and my mother doesn’t need any more plants in her living room.

Dance Like No One’s Watching… Because They’re Probably Not

It’s easy to be afraid of alone. And self-reliance isn’t always one of my strong suits. When it comes to my own life, I can’t pick out anything without needing a second (or third or fourth) opinion. I suffer from a severe case of buyer’s remorse nearly every time I make a purchase. And if you haven’t already noticed, I’m back to the old blog background. (My dad, who’s my go-to guy for almost everything, hated the new look, so I, being the obliging daughter, changed it back. I may find a new look later.)

But sometimes alone can be a wonderful place. Lately I’ve been running with friends. My friend Dean provides me constant motivation on runs and never complains when I slow him down. And my new friend Marianne makes a thirty-minute jog seem like five thanks to our great conversations. Tonight, however, I ran solo through downtown Bryan.

I had a lot to think about and be thankful for during this alone time. First and foremost, I was thankful for my dad, who has had some health problems lately. I’m so far away from him and my mom here, but I’m learning more about standing on my own two feet in Texas (which ties back into that whole self-reliance thing I mentioned early).

I was also thankful that running through this town, I saw friendly faces that I recognized, people who waved to me as I passed. There’s something comforting about this place now. It took more than a year to feel settled here, and while I wouldn’t call it “home,” I can safely say Bryan/College Station has its charm. Some of the people I’ve met here are among the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever known.

I saw this video not too long ago, and I think it’s pretty neat (and I really want her slippers). You may have already seen it, but if you haven’t, enjoy.

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In other news, my mom is so amazing. She emigrated here from Poland when she was 18, and occasionally (well, more than occasionally), she mixes up expressions. As we say in the south, bless her heart.

Today I was talking to her about how stressful things have been lately and she attempted to tell me in her own way that you have to make lemonade when life gives you lemons.

Instead she said: “Sometimes you get thrown towels, and you have to mop up the dirt.”

Another “Dorothy-ism” for the books. Just one of the many reasons that we love her.

I better go get mopping.

The First Ride

It’s amazing how the human mind works. I have distinctive memories of various moments from my childhood, and I find it fascinating that I’m able to remember so many seemingly mundane occurrences.

I can easily recall the day I finally learned how to ride a bike. I didn’t finish my dinner that night, and as a result, I was promised no dessert. After dinner, my dad took me outside to continue our two-wheeler training. My parents had attached an old broomstick to the back of the bike so they could hold on and keep the bike steady. My dad would occasionally let go of the broomstick to see if I had gained my balance. Most often, I realized he had let go, and the bike would topple over. I’m sure it was 90% psychology, 10% physical coordination.

That summer evening when I finally succeeded at riding the bike without assistance, the dessert rule went out the window. When the ice cream truck came by, I got my treat.

I’m not sure what changed in my mind at that moment I started pedaling. I’m not sure how I went from fear to faith in such a split second, but after that, riding was easy. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was exhilarated. Again, I have to attribute this to the boundless potential of the human mind.

I have a lot of thoughts on parenting when I conjure up this particular memory as well as a lot of thoughts on being a kid again. Yesterday was the first day of school here in town, and I’ve been hearing parents’ stories about letting go. There are many mixed emotions for parents as they see their children grow up. They want to protect them from hitting the pavement when they learn how to ride a bike, but they also want to see them flourish. They want them to feel the euphoria of a great ride. It’s so easy to want to reach out and grab that broomstick when you start to see the bike wobble, but I’m glad my parents let me learn to trust my own abilities to ride on my own. And I’m glad they are always there to pick me up whenever I fall.

Solstice

Today I have another animal story. Once again (and I apologize for not knowing the outcome), I’m not sure if this story will have a happy ending.

I was walking to my car at an A&M parking lot today when I saw a girl hovering over something in the dirt beneath a tree. Under her gaze was a baby bird, holding on for dear life after falling from its nest. The bird had feathers, but it didn’t appear quite ready for flight. The mother bird sat on the tree limb above squawking for her baby. It was really heart breaking to watch.

The girl and I wondered about what we should do. Red ants were starting to attack the little bird. I had a newspaper so we put it in front of the bird and he scooted onto it. We called the vet school on campus, and they were willing to take the bird. My new animal-loving friend put the bird, newspaper and all, in her car and drove him to safety.

I don’t know if the little bird will survive. Watching him suffer was painful, but I pray he is safe now.

On this first day of summer, I can only think about new transitions. I think about the time I left the nest, the safe protection of my parents’ wings, to venture out into the real world. They could only watch and have faith that I would fly and not fall. This bird left very much by accident, but perhaps because of the kindness of strangers he will survive and thrive. This is all we can hope for: that the kindness of others will keep us safe and strong throughout our lives as we transition from season to season.