Saturday, January 14, 2012


            Tim and I aren’t big on New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to say it’s because, when we notice a problem, we move to fix it right away instead of waiting for January 1 of the following year. I’d also like to say we don’t have lists of resolutions because we don’t need improving; unfortunately, that would be a lie. (Sorry, honey.) The root cause of our lack of interest in the short-lived post-Christmas spate of virtue? New Year’s is just another day chez Fitz, coming and going without deviations from usual bedtimes, dropping balls, bowl games, alcohol-fueled revelries, and hazy, headachy days-after.

            This year, however—not on the first, but around the fourth or fifth—I promised myself (okay, resolved) something. I vowed to play my piano at least 52 times during 2012.

The engagement piano
            “Playing the piano” is relative, of course. I’m not a good pianist, never was. No talent for it whatsoever. Ten years of lessons from the saintly (and/or tone-deaf) Mrs. May Flowers (no, really, that was her name) left me with the ability to read musical notation, a working knowledge of which key each note represents, and an abiding love of solo piano music. Except for the years 1972-1980, there’s been a piano within 30 feet of me when I’m home.

            My first material gift from Tim—he himself was the first first gift—was an ebony petit grand; the engagement piano, we call it.

The engagement piano, repaired and
with legs reattached, and oak bookcase
from Schenectady frame a selection
of Tim's paintings in our living room
            When we moved to Oak Island from Schenectady, the only possessions we brought were the mattresses, Great-Aunt Helen’s cedar chest, an 1859 boot-jack chest, two oak bookcases, our clothes, our books, Adolph the cat, and the piano. (The Mayflower guys dropped the piano going down the stairs from the Schenectady apartment, and lost half the bolts that attach the piano’s legs and pedals. One of the cedar chest’s four pillow feet disappeared, too. “Let’s look in the truck,” Tim suggested. “Oh, no,” the moving man replied. “They won’t be in there.” Tim suspects there’s a Flying Dutchman-like van chock-full of bizarre bits and pieces eternally traveling the Interstates of the U.S. and Canada.)

            Anyway. I haven’t played much the last several years, and not at all since I started blogging. Even though I suck—to call a spade a spade—I miss it. The resolution-ish inspiration struck me on a day Tim was out helping a friend set up his new computer. More computer repair and revival jobs mean more blocks of time when it’s just me and the cats to endure the mis-strikes. I played about 40 minutes that day, and again this past Friday afternoon. And it felt really, really good to reconnect with something I love. Which is the point.


            Another promise I made myself—this one before Christmas—is to limit my computer just-diddlin’ to mornings. I try not to turn the damn thing on more than once a day. (Yes, we unplug our machines when they’re not in active use. Saves energy. How vital is it for Microsoft or Mac to be at the ready at all times? I mean, if you’re not working for NORAD, or anything like that.)

Knitting projects multiply
            This frees up evenings for knitting, another fun and productive use of time. Projects are multiplying—preemie caps, baby blankets, more penguin sweaters, and mittens and hats to be donated; a made-to-order scarf and another vest for Tim. I’m having a ball (pun intended). The staff of Wilmington’s JoAnn’s Fabrics loves seeing us cruise into the parking lot.

             About those mittens and hats. I’m working on a set for a child in my friend Barb's remedial reading class at Southport Elementary. Her mom (the child’s, not Barb’s) just walked out at the beginning of the school year, and dad is overwhelmed with the demands of parenting three kids under the age of eight. So the school—which doesn't have enough to do what with No Child Left Behind busywork, providing two hot meals a day, instilling values, and, oh, yes, education—is trying to mother these kids. It breaks my heart, the stories Barb tells in such a matter-of-fact voice. When I asked her what books she'd like us to contribute this fall—a twice-yearly tradition between us— she looked at me and said, "It's gotten more basic than that. I need food. The kids are hungry." Then I think about the skillions of dollars being poured into political campaigns to make sure nothing meaningful changes—Obama hopes to raise 100 million toward his re-election this quarter; while profligate Republican buffoons spend wildly to vouchsafe themselves a place at the ultimate trough. Meanwhile, little kids, here in my own neighborhood, are so hungry they can't concentrate on learning how to read. One $2000 Saville Row or Brooks Brothers suit would translate to a lot of juice boxes, fruit snacks, and peanut-butter crackers.

           Appalled? Want to help, since it’s a sure bet government isn’t gonna? Do two things. 1) Contact a teacher-friend or the local Communities in Schools organization to find out what the undernourished, ill-clad, under-loved children in your bailiwick—and there will be many—need most: and 2) Never, ever, vote for an incumbent.


Seed catalog sampler for 2012
The seed catalogs are rolling in, enticing me with their promises of future delights. Why I allow myself to get roped in every January is a mystery, given my spotty success with growing from seed. Must be my masochistic streak. Or convenient memory.

            On the surface of it, seed-starting sounds easy. And apparently it is, for millions of gifted gardeners: less so for the rest of us. From what I’ve read, a basement, bothy, or greenhouse where temperatures hover between 55° and 65° is required; or, lacking one of those, a spacious, sunny room with huge, deep-silled windows. Or perhaps an under-used Hollywood bathroom. (As if.) Regular readers will recall my own jury-rigged light-table set-up from last winter (see “March Wrap-Up,” Mar. 28). Unfortunately, since I now plan on using the piano as Steinway intended, it’s back to the drawing board. Or maybe I’ll wuss out and buy transplants this spring.

            Regardless, the allure of glossy, four-color seed catalogs hasn’t diminished one iota. Good thing I’ve cut back on computer face-time.

Can Kathy really grow potatoes?
Last week, my first ever Irish Eyes Garden Seeds catalog appeared in the mailbox. The company hails from the center of Washington State, between the Cascades and the eastern high desert. Normally, that would raise all sorts of red flags, as neither “mountains,” “desert,” nor “West Coast” comes close to describing the climatic conditions of southeastern North Carolina. This catalog, however—which I perused cover-to-cover in one sitting—offered pertinent words of advice to Southern and Eastern gardeners, openly acknowledging our existence. Thus encouraged, I immediately fired off a lengthy email begging for help in my continuing quest for a decent potato harvest. Am waiting with bated breath for a reply. 

Yes, it’s still winter, but hope, and fresh starts, and spring, spring eternal. Thanks for dropping by.


1 comment:

  1. Who needs improving? It can't be me! Now your telling all of our secrets. I guess the honeymoon is over. Your not really as bad as you say at playing the piano. I'm Posting this as a comment instead of walking out to the kitchen only to shame people who don't post comments into doing so. Love You Honey