Saturday, March 31, 2018

oh, the children in my life!

The wind howled and a cold, almost snow-like rain pounded at everything in sight. In the darkness of a cloudy predawn, I make my way downstairs, greet and feed the little birds, and sit down to a quiet, solitary breakfast. Ed should sleep. I'm the insane one, wanting to get to Chicago as soon as possible.


I have a few parcels, including the "pajak" (that Polish piece of folk art that Karolina wrapped for me in cardboard that threatens to get soggy very quickly) and as I run from the parked car to the bus stop, I have to laugh at how ridiculous I must look -- box flying in the wind, bag dangling with Primrose treats, backpack stuffed with camera, computer, reading material -- all getting awfully wet in the miserable downpour.

How many trips just like this one will I make in the course of my life?

I ride the bus, mentally packing my backpack for future trips: must remember to take ear phones (against passengers who just cannot put down their phones) and always pack an extra sweater, and come to think of it, an umbrella should be in there as well. One that can withstand howling winds.

In Chicago, I pause at the cafe just by the "L" train stop near the young family's home and as I await further instructions, I look around me, now more like a future habitue rather than a visitor just passing through. I like this place.


And now it's time for me to brave that wind, to whisper a thanks to the weather gods who let the rain clouds move on, to walk as quickly as I can, pausing only to purchase some spring color for the young family's home...


... and finally -- to knock on the door and greet Primrose -- she's three days old today!

(The little one has just settled in for a nice snooze...)


She is a calm child and she gives us a solid two hours of holding, hugging, staring, admiring...

(Her parents)


My turn, at last! I wore my softest shirt, so that she could snuggle in it...


Oh, and the pajak made it! Squashed in the Paris metro turnstiles, jostled in overhead bins and under the seat in front on three planes, pummeled by the winds and rains -- it seems none the worse for wear! Hardy Polish peasant stock!


And now comes the other young family, with Snowdrop in tow (sporting a dazzling Easter ribbon, all pink, of course!). It is the girl's first encounter with Primrose. She has talked a lot about this being her very own cousin. She is delighted with the real deal!

She watches...


She then shyly touches...


And finally, after a thorough hand washing, she holds. And Primrose gives a hint of a smile...




My two young families! With another babe on the way...


And one more of my new little granddaughter...


It's the first full day home for Primrose. We leave her to her parents and her new surroundings. No bus for me -- I get to ride back with Snowdrop and her parents.

As we listen to a Snowdrop favorite Peg and Cat song about infinite amounts of love, I think -- yes, that's right. Nothing's taken away, even as another person grabbed my heart this week.

I can't stop smiling at the richness of it all.

Friday, March 30, 2018

I'm back! Sort of.

Some things you expect. The occasional cold day in April. With snow perhaps. Which then quickly melts. Transportation strikes in France. Babies being born.

But then, there are the surprises. A spring so cold, that not a single thing is blooming at the farmette. (Last year, I had a feel of dancing daffodils by the second week of April.)

farmette life-22.jpg

Oh, I suppose you'd call this "hope" -- in flower field facing the south, signs of green:

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Still, it's a laboriously slow start to the season.

Too, you don't expect, upon coming down to greet the baby chicks, to see this:

farmette life-12.jpg

Ed had warned me that they're flying to the rim of the box.
They seem happy to just perch at the edge then fly back down.
But for how long before the wide world beckons?

In fact, until today, Tomato did fly out onto one of the chairs.

That does it: we must contain them! No one had warned us that some chicks really fly high!

Ed puts netting over the top of their box. It doesn't take long for one of them to get tangled in it. That wont do. We raise the sides of the box. They are not happy with us for interfering with their adventurousness.

Well, except for Tomato. Tomato is on the puny side (as compared to the other two), but she loves Ed and Ed loves her back. Unconditionally.

farmette life-20.jpg

Too, you shouldn't expect a traditional photo of a wonderful breakfast. We're low on stuff around the house and I have to scramble to find anything that blooms to place on the table. Breakfast is a slapped together affair. Pleasant, but on the simple side.

farmette life-18.jpg

Of course, the big unexpected event came with the early birth of my second granddaughter -- Primrose (that's her Ocean nickname). I am terribly anxious to see her and I plan on catching the predawn bus to Chicago tomorrow so that I can finally look closely at that sweet face.

I do expect that after this short trip (one day!), a routine will take hold again. An exciting spring routine -- full of digging and planting and grandchildren and happy chickens. In fact, I'm counting on all that.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Paris waiting game

Travel across the ocean brings great pleasures, but it must be recognized that there are downsides. For me, one of the biggest is the time difference that separates me from family and Ed. Back home, everyone's day winds down in the evening. That is when they have time to talk, text, exchange stories in a less harried way. Their down time is my "I really should be sleeping" time -- 3, maybe 4 in the morning. This, even more than jet lag and a busy schedule, accounts for my loss of sleep when I travel. And I wouldn't give up these precious conversations or texts for the world! They keep me going every bit as much as a good night's rest. I try to teach myself to sleep later the next morning. Sometimes this is possible, sometimes it is not.

Of course, on Tuesday night, there was such chaos in my head that sleep was the very last thing I could indulge. My girl was in the hospital and for some reason, I convinced myself that her baby would be born quickly, even though my own labors were very very long. I mean, I was so ready to welcome this child into the world, even if I was thousands of miles away -- she should be born!

The phone stayed close to my pillow and I willed it to ring.

It didn't ring.

On Wednesday, I woke up (well, got out of bed) to rain. I was so sure that this child was about to be born (because, after all, I waited all night for her, thus surely she will oblige by popping right out!) that I did not want to leave the hotel. Yes, I now carry my own portable hotspot, so I have WiFi and therefor messaging and FaceTime and all the other accoutrements of modern life right in my pocket. But texting about a child's birth on a busy street in the rain just seemed so not right that I ate breakfast at the hotel (nice, but not as inexpensive as on the town). A solid one, so that I could save and skip lunch.


... and then I went back upstairs and lay down and waited, with phone resting on the pillow again.

By 11:30, I scolded myself good and hard. Spending the whole day staring at the phone on the pillow is just not a good use of Paris time.

So I set out. Hand on phone, just in case I missed its vibration. (Other hand holding tight to hotel umbrella.)


Still, the walk felt aimless. I had considered going to a museum to see a special exhibition that sounded interesting, but I just was not focused. Except on the phone. I was very focused on that.


I didn't take many photos. It's never easy in the rain. It's even less easy with one hand on the phone (and the other holding an umbrella). But the true reason was that I have the right mindset to take pictures in a place like Paris. It's not an easy city to photograph under the best of circumstances and especially not when you're asking yourself again and again why the phone isn't buzzing.

I sidestepped into a little park where Snowdrop and her mommy and I hung out once, so that she could ride the wee little merry-go-round there. I see that Paris really is forging ahead with spring flowers! People are complaining about the soppy wet spring here, about the cold, about the lack of sunshine, but heck, you've got flowers blooming! We should be so lucky at the farmette!

(Here's a beautiful patch of Lenten roses (helleborus), which aren't true roses - rather, they belong to the buttercup family - but it's one of the earliest blooming perennials, often coinciding with Lent, hence the name.)


I meander into Le Bon Marche, the rather posh and always lovely to look at department store with the great food halls. Everything is geared for Easter (Paques in French). I smile at how different Easter displays are in France. It's really all about food, of course. I consider stuffing a cake into my suitcase, but good sense prevails.


And when I step outside, there's sunshine! This is so often the case in Paris! It rains, it doesn't rain, it rains again.

With sunshine comes clarity: I had been in a little shop, looking at colorful spoons last night when I got that message telling me there would be a baby soon. Soon, but not that soon! Were I home, I would have gone about my business. But being away, my business has suddenly become thinking about what's happening back home.

Still anxious (though where birth is concerned, no news is usually good news; if there was a rush to deliver -- that's when I should worry), but somewhat cheered by the blue skies, I walk back to the hotel.


I have an hour before my dinner reservation clicks in.

And in that hour, I get the text and the photo of Primrose.


I don't know why I should be surprised: I went through this with my two daughters and more recently Snowdrop -- the sudden realization that I am in love with this child! She is beautiful and important and she is theirs and her life will be rich with adventure and she will be loved, so loved!

I walk to my dinner with such a spring in my step! And suddenly taking pictures is fun once more!

(Crossing the Boulevard St. Germain)


At Semilla, I'd asked for a spot at the bar -- it's usually considered the lesser place to eat, but I like it, because the people watching is better there. Today, they decided to "upgrade" me to the place I had the first time I ever ate here -- looking out onto the kitchen.

Semilla is and has been for a while my favorite eating place in Paris and that says a lot. It's perhaps a bit expensive for my budget, but these days I give myself just one great eating experience per trip and this one is it!

There is nothing pretentious about presentations or even really about the menu. It's short, so if you're a fussy eater, think twice about coming here, but the food is always perfectly prepared.

Today, my wait person is young, energetic and enthusiastic and so she gets the full Primrose story, down to the picture that was texted to me. Felicitations, Toutes nos felicitations!

I treat myself to a glass of champagne.


And except for the three hours between 2 and 5 a.m. when touching base with beloveds was in order, yes, I did catch some sleep!

Paris woke up to a brilliant day today! So there, you complainers! (I glance out my window -- cornflower blue.) The sun shines brightly on Paris after all.


On this trip, I've had snippets of Paris all over the week, but today surely is the most relaxed and cheerful snippet. I have a flight out at 4, which means that I have at least until noon to meander without goal or purpose.

But first, breakfast at the very sunny Les Editeurs. (Selfie!)


I walk to the nearby market -- it's a fine one, with all that a Parisian would want for a good meal, but it's not a tourist draw. Stalls of produce, of seafood, of cheese. Staples of a solid dinner.


And then I turn sharply south. To the park! I want to have that meditative stroll that seemed to have been so completely out of place yesterday.

And right away, I'm hit with hundreds of primroses! Other flowers too, but my eyes are on the primroses.


I'm thinking how several of my visits to Paris had Snowdrop so imprinted on them and that this one surely must belong to Primrose. And then I catch myself. No, not ever will it be one or the other or over or under this or the next. When a new grandkid is born, that park, my thoughts, my love belong to all, non stop, all the time.


Primroses and snowdrops -- the garden is large. It can accommodate all.

(A quiet garden walk -- lovely and gentle...)



(No shortage of flowers...)


(This will be the only viewing of the Eiffel Tower on this trip. Snowdrop would have been disappointed!)


(Many of the chestnuts in the park are being replaced by disease resistant elms, but right now you can still find small chestnut groves. )


(Even among the tulips -- the yellow faces of primroses...)


And now it's time to fly home.

One last glance -- from the Odeon, looking down toward the Breizh creperie, Les Editeurs -- all those friends of mine that make Paris feel like (almost) home.


Not too many hiccups on my travel back. The commuter train stalls, but the flight is on time and has WiFi, just in case a message about Snowdrop or Primrose comes my way.  The connection in Detroit is smooth and late late oh so late in the evening. Ed will be waiting at the airport to take me home. What an incredible week! It seems such a long time since I've been home!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

March Primrose

Well, Monday gave me a night short on sleep. Late dinner with friends, late writing, late night communicating with home (confused? I mean the one in Wisconsin) and an early wake up. In Tuesday's morning hours, I had to do a bang up cleaning of the apartment, have one last coffee with a friend, and then a bus to catch for the Warsaw airport (with my sister along for that last conversation).

I will not be back to Warsaw until early fall, but friends whose own apartment will be undergoing a renovation, will be camping out in my Tamka home. I cannot allow for there to be a speck of dust when they move in!

On this cloudy and somewhat cool morning I really appreciate the cafe Stor on the ground floor of my building. It's extraordinarily popular among hip young people -- all day long they sip coffees and infusions and later -- wine, and during more recent trips I've never seen it uncrowded. But in the wee hours of the morning, it's tame and so this is where I meet my friend for our last (all too short) review of life as we have known it in the months we've lead our lives on separate sides of that darn vast ocean. 

I wait for her and to the amusement of the hip young people, I set the camera for the usual...


And when my friend comes, we momentarily take out our cameras again...


... and we drink our morning brews and eat our terribly decadent but very good apple berry cake...


And puff! The hour is gone.

I sometimes wonder how it is that an hour can feel so short...

Up to my place, pick up suitcase and backpack and pajak. What's that?? -- you ask. Well now, my younger daughter has for a very long time requested this piece of Polish folk art. It's made out of paper and it looks like this:


I've laughed it off. Where could I possibly find something that so belongs to another era? But, when my girl suggested that she might want it for the baby's room, well, I got serious and I asked Karolina for help. And now I am lugging (ha! It's actually incredibly lightweight) this ungainly (that it is) pajak and I am hoping against hope that I can tote it on board, along with my suitcase and backpack. I will love Air France forever (well, at least until they cancel on me due to a strike) if they will allow me to sneak this on.

Apartment in order. My sister and I leave for the bus. One last Warsaw scene, of school children, on an outing...


You can't really see them? How about this closer shot:


When you think of the ways in which these kids are set apart from my generation (when we were that age) -- well, it's mind boggling. Possibly the only thing they have in common with my classmates their age is that when our class went walking, we were as bundled up against the coldest temperatures (even as it's not that cold outside) as they are. It's a Polish thing.

But where are they heading, these Warsaw kids? These youngsters, they're going to speak out some day soon about how they would like to see themselves: as Poles, looking after Poles, or as Poles belonging also to a wider European community. (I'm told somewhere between two and six million Poles work in Western Europe, though most say they probably will return to their friends and family back home. Eventually.)

Bus comes, then leaves. Airplane comes, leaves, lands.

And several hours later, I am in a soggy but warm Paris.

As always, on my way to the hotel, I sidestep into the Luxembourg gardens.

What a difference a day (or four) makes! Chestnut buds are fully unfurled. And there are primroses everywhere!


I'm given a lovely room that has both the street view and, on the rear end, a courtyard view. I know it's supposed to rain and rain and rain today. But is that sunshine?


It's wet, it's sunny, it's raining, it's not. Families, children, girls, strollers. My mind wonders to home.


I pass my favorite bakery. A chocolate egg covered with macrons? I must call Snowdrop!


And I do. Motorcycles roar past, people rush in their usual urban pedestrian way, and then the drizzle comes, but still, here I am, standing under the awning of this pastry shop talking to Snowdrop on Facetime about macarons!

But in reality, my attentions, as all our family's attentions are focused on my younger daughter.  She is in labor. Ten days ahead of schedule.

I walk through the Luxembourg Gardens -- so much more vibrant now than four days ago! Trees with leaves, grass -- greener than green, and the flowers! Oh, the flowers! It's all so sudden!


Dinner now. All the while texting, texting. I tell the world why I am texting so much!


Walk home. World's in love. Yeah, it's spring. In love.


Night time. I try (with little success) to sleep.

I sometimes wonder how it is that a night can feel so long.

At 10:18 a.m. Chicago time (so on March 28), nine days ahead of schedule, Primrose is born.

Primrose. Latin for first rose.

A quote from those who know their blooms: primroses are some of the earliest flowers to bloom. In fact, they often bloom when mornings are still dark and the ground is still frozen. Desirable for their tolerance of cold temperatures and for their bright, cheerful flowers.

Mother, father, and exquisite daughter are doing fine. I'm exhausted.