Friday, August 28, 2015

the ones who know me best.

The other evening after a lucky break working from home for the day, I sat on a blanket with my sister Niamh in Transmitter Park, one of my favorite spots in Greenpoint.  The sky was blue and the most perfect clouds hung suspended above the city skyline.  The air smelled faintly of the sea, as much as East River air can, I guess.  The later the evening became, the young couples and tow-headed kids on scooters from the neighborhood overtook the tourists toting large-lensed cameras and shopping bags from distant designer stores.
As we sipped rosé, we chatted on the phone with our younger sister Megan, who was in the airport waiting to board a flight to Dublin.  Next month she will be starting her Masters in bioengineering at Trinity College.  The baby of the family, the one who knew all the words to the "Star Spangled Banner" before any of us, is the one returning to build a life in Dublin.  We threatened to laugh if she had adopted an accent by the time we visit in December.  It's inevitable she retorted.  She spent the last of her dollars on a book at the airport which left her with none for a glass of wine.  I loved that.  I will miss her weekend visits to our Brooklyn apartment, where she takes up residence on the couch after seeking out her favorite throw blanket.  I don't know if we will still be living on Noble Street when she comes home.  If she comes home.
But for now, there is another sister living on the couch.  Niamh has left her adopted home behind and is home for the month.  Sometimes I think we have been sustaining ourselves on a WhatsApp-based relationship for so long that spending lots of time together in person will be weird, or challenging, or tiresome.  For the most part, I am wrong on that count.  It has been so nice to revisit our jokes and hang out with the cat and share my Brooklyn life with her (even if we are both due for a serious diet come September).
This summer has felt somewhat like the summers of childhood, when my sisters and I would crowd back into my parents' lives (and they into ours) after the last day of school.  We have spent more time together as a family of five -- and sometimes six -- than we have in years.  The days lifeguarding at the community pool have been traded in for more indoor and grown-up pursuits, but it has felt really good to spend time with my favorite people.
First there was Megan's graduation weekend at Goucher College, which Niamh snuck home to attend much to my shocked surprise.  One emotional ceremony, a sweaty move-out and frenzied AC-free road trip, and a few too many drinks later, Niamh was back in Paris for final exams, Megan was taking hundreds of selfies in Lisbon and Berlin, and I was wrapping up my last few weeks at work.  Mum and Dad took off for France not long after and sent lots of photos of the pool and rosé and sunsets that awaited us.
In June, I flew to Paris to see Niamh and after Megan had arrived from Lisbon, we spent two weeks in the French countryside at Monet Les Blanchardieres, my parents' idyllic cottage in the Loire.  Kevin came along just in time for Fourth of July and despite a brutal canicule, or heatwave, we spent many happy days relaxing by the pool and wandering the local markets.  It felt nice to get away and be together in a distant place, and despite the physical and cultural distance, the rhythm of the days still felt very much like home.  I hadn't been to stay at the house since after my college graduation in 2009 so there was a bit of a disconnect between my experience and that of everyone else who visits more regularly, but when 5:00 came each day, someone would pop open a bottle of crémant and we would enjoy the long sunny evenings around the table.  I didn't even have to charge my phone every night.  What a concept!
After a stopover in Brooklyn and an incredibly fortunate scheduling mishap, Kevin and I spent five days on the beaches of Bermuda with his parents.  Though I was sad to leave my scooter and the rum swizzles behind, I looked forward to soaking up the remaining weekends of the summer in the city.  Niamh flew into Philadelphia on the 1st of August and we jointly celebrated my parents' birthdays the best way we know how: a delicious feast, stinky cheese, and carrot cake for dessert.  Dad was a good sport and slaved away over his signature cocktails all weekend.  I don't think there are any lemons or limes left in the state of Pennsylvania.
Since that first weekend of August, the days have been a whirlwind.  There have been ferry rides and subway rides, an inaugural Yankees game, lots of pizza and bagels, rooftop cocktail hour, cuddles with the cat, morning runs, and egg sandwiches.  There have been group chats with Megan about the angst and eventual resolution of her apartment hunt, followed by more angst about that Dublin rain.  Niamh spent a few days at home in-between and I am already looking forward to a weekend there with Mum after Labor Day.
I thought that all the time I would spend with my family this summer would err on the side of too much, but then I remembered that for 18 years these were the people with whom I toughed out the days.  Ten years on and many miles in-between, they are still the ones who know me the best and I feel so grateful to call them mine, all mine.  There is no one I would rather go through life with.
When all is said and done, I think our time together this summer will have been too short after all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

a regular.

Where you been?  Long vacation or what??
Milk no sugar, right?


I hadn't been to the diner on the corner near my office since June, but they still knew my order.  I swooned a little and tried, failing spectacularly, not to smile too much.

The humidity has lifted and I love this city again.  I suppose that makes me a fair weather fan in the most literal sense of the word.  The clear skies and cool breeze has got me antsy for sleeping with the windows open and crunchy walks to the subway, cardigans and scarves and wrapping my hands around a warm cup of tea.  There is nothing like New York in the fall.

But in the spirit of not wishing my life away, as I am wont to do, I am focusing on these waning bright mornings and being able to bare my arms without a chill.  In these last days of August, I'll paint my toenails and pack bathing suits and sunscreen for a trip to Cape Cod next weekend, and close out this memorable summer with clam strips and wine coolers on the beach and hopefully a few more freckles.

I'll certainly be ready for the change when autumn comes.  But I'll be ordering the same coffee because, in this city of so many strange faces, it's nice to be a regular.

Monday, August 17, 2015

an ode to the summertime storm.

It's so hot.  It won't be enjoyable.
That's the right attitude!
I thought we were bringing cheese and crackers.  You should have cut the watermelon into slices.

Thus began my Sunday.  A picnic in the middle of Prospect Park on a 98-degree day was the last thing I wanted to do.  Even with good company, this summer heat is making a grump out of me.  Once I had an iced americano in hand I was a little more amenable... but still hot.  We got sandwiches at the bagel shop and packed a large bag of watermelon after I grouched about how it had been cut.  I was not a happy camper.

After meeting Conor midway between our apartments, we boarded the G train going south and my mood lifted; the meat and cheese picnic box Conor was toting cheered me up.  As soon as we sat down, I noticed a couple with a hefty New York guidebook in hand.  The husband opened their knapsack and pulled out a bundle of clothes.  The wife pulled on a tweed-style jacket while he wrapped a plaid scarf around his neck (arms still bare in a t-shirt).  I had to laugh; of course it was freezing inside the subway car but I couldn't get over how prepared these tourists were.  I made a note to find their guidebook for the next city I visit.

With goosebumps on our bare arms we stepped out of the train and into the neat front stoops of Park Slope.  We made our way toward the coordinates on Kevin's Google Maps app, marveling at technology.  I feel grateful to be at an age where I can appreciate how meeting up with friends required an aforementioned time and place.  It's eerily easy to find the meeting spot when you have the GPS coordinates and a satellite some thousands of miles overhead pinpointing the exact location of the picnic blankets.

We settled under a tree and enjoyed the shade with the occasional warm breeze drifting over the hill.  It seemed as though everyone cleared out the crunchy snack department of his or her local bodega.  An hour later, some of the guys had drifted over to play Spikeball and those of us on the blankets checked our weather apps, noticing a few gray clouds over the treetops in the distance.  The game continued, the forecast was clear, and we were grateful for the cool relief the clouds offered against the sun.

Then, I felt a drop-- not one of those small pricks of moisture but a fat, slobbering raindrop, right on my freckled forearm.  Conor felt one too, then Meg, then Irma.  We began to move cell phones and clothes under the tree as the drops quickened.

Five minutes later the leaves on every tree were blowing sideways and we were drenched, water collecting in our shoes and hair plastered to our sunburned foreheads.  The two weeks' worth of newspapers I had brought were sopping pulp, bags of chips useless now with the rain, and electronics stuffed hurriedly into dry nooks of backpacks.  We were completely disoriented, the mid-August heat and humidity transformed into wind and rain and chills in a matter of minutes.  We laughed at our bad luck and once our heads cleared. went our separate ways to subways and apartments and cars.

As soon as we stepped beyond the park gates, the rain had petered to an unconvincing drizzle and the blue skies had conquered the clouds.  My sister arrived to meet us, dry and warm and confused when we motioned for her to turn back around and head underground.  My feet were dyed blue from my new shoes.  The subway ride back to Greenpoint was freezing cold; I wish I'd had the foresight to pack a jacket and scarf.  But there is something so pure about being drastically under-prepared.  I think I prefer it that way.