We spent December with the kids in Florida. It was good to see another stage of the grandkids, Connor and Ava, becoming themselves. They’re both doing well in school – Connor got all A’s except for one B, and Ava no longer struggles with math, which we are glad to see. Ava is developing a taste for the finer things in life: lobster and fresh raspberries; Connor is an adventurer, ready to plunge on into the wilderness when Papa is thinking about snakes and poison ivy.
We listened to audio books on the way down and back: on the way down it was The Boys in the Boat, the true story of the University of Washington 8-man rowing team that won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (That’s not a spoiler: the author reveals the outcome at the beginning.) It’s an inspiring story about perseverance, surrendering the self and a hundred other things. Maggie and I didn’t know a thing a rowing at the beginning and now we feel like we have the beginnings of an appreciation for the sport. The story was so compelling we actually looked forward to getting back in the boat – uh, car – and hearing more about Joe Rantz and the rest of the team.
On the way back the book was The Nightingale, a fictional story about the women of a French village during the Nazi occupation. It’s an engaging story in a completely different sense. Never mind the whipsaw we had of going from testosterone to estrogen, it’s a slower, quieter story – at least at the beginning, which is as far as we’ve gotten. I like it because it’s finely observed and highly visual; Maggie gets a lot out of food descriptions, which break the story from time to time, but they work because the breaks emphasize the importance of food to people under extreme rationing.
Back in Austin, we are without a permanent home in our “home” town. We’re renting a condo that has just enough space for the essentials, while the rest sits safely in a storage unit. The experience is teaching us what we value and how easy it is to do without all that other stuff.
It’s essential that we do without some of it, because it’s buried in the rest of our stuff in the overjammed little unit. We’ve made one visit to the storage unit, which was like Christmas where you don’t get everything you want. We got a lot of warm clothes, but for some reason the stereo and the winter coats are buried in the back someplace. Time for a trip to Goodwill and the pawn shop to pick up some temporary replacements.
It’s also liberating being in a familiar place with no familiar routine: no jobs, no commitments other that the ones we choose. Nothing to do but enjoy ourselves and plan the next phase: wandering around in Europe for a few months, seeing places that we’ve read about but haven’t visited, for one reason of another. It makes us kind of here and kind of not. I feel like our feet are not quite touching the ground.