August 29, 2010

Long, Hot, Busy Summer

Posted in Holidays tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:53 pm by Liliana

Walking by the lake

Walking by the lake

This has not been a summer to sit in the hammock and relax – not for my family, nor for me.

It has been a wonderful, eventful and adventurous summer.

But it has not been the kind of summer I have always idealized – long, lazy days of idling, reading, talking, napping, cooking, swimming, thinking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had that kind of summer since I was seventeen years old. But I always have it in the back of my mind, a vision to relish and idealize.

These are some of the things we did do this summer:

I am sure that I am forgetting something, but right now, I can’t think of anything else.

The fact is, I am on vacation this week. I am at our cottage near Lake Michigan, relaxing and idling to my heart’s content.

This is how I hope to spend the time.

  • Sitting on the front porch for hours, drinking coffee and looking at the birds pecking seeds from the bird feeder.
  • Walking by the lake in the early mornings or at sunset.
  • Swimming in the warm lake water.
  • Talking to my daughter about the newest books she’s read and the latest songs she’s been singing.
  • Reading.
  • Buying fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
  • Cooking something new and unexpected.
  • Congregating at the long dining table with my family, eating a beautiful meal.
  • Talking.
  • Watching a good movie at the old movie theater, eating tons of popcorn.
  • Walking to our favorite ice cream store on a hot afternoon. Eating nothing but coconut ice cream.

Happy Summer to all!

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July 20, 2010

Sisters

Posted in Family, Friendships, Home, Women tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:42 am by Liliana

Sisters - dressed for Halloween

Sisters - dressed for Halloween

My sister and her family are living in our house this year while my brother-in-law attends graduate school.

We have been together for a couple of months now, and all has gone well.

Still, Branka and I are very different people. She is outgoing, gregarious, in constant need of company. I need a lot more quiet time. Spending a few hours at night reading in my room, is for me, both a mental and a physical necessity.

I think my sister was counting on having me around more. Last night, when we were taking our evening walk with Kaya, she mentioned that she had forgotten about my need for solitude. After all, we have not lived together for a very long time.

I felt a bit sad and guilty, anxious that I was neglecting my little sister. I tried to explain. I get my energy from burrowing deeply within myself while meditating on the thoughts and writings of others. Branka sustains her energy from personally interacting with others, understanding their needs and finding solutions to their problems.

Surely there is a place for each of us in this world.

June 10, 2010

Mark Twain and I

Posted in Books, Travel tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:19 am by Liliana

Mark Twain and I

Mark Twain and I

From my earliest childhood, I loved to read. My favorite memories are of sitting in some dark, snug corner, straining my eyes, losing myself in a reality very different from my own. Any book, comic, pamphlet, magazine – anything with words or pictures (or both) – was fair game.

I don’t know how old I was when I first discovered Mark Twain. It was love at first sight. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn became my favorite people in the entire world. I loved the mischief, the humor, the danger, the exotic atmosphere of the land that I knew nothing about. I loved the English names of the people and curious words like Mississippi and Missouri. I loved the sense of adventure.

Years passed. My parents, sister and I traveled to the US and I went to college in New York City. I moved on to other writers and other worlds. I hardly thought of Mark Twin in those days.

But during my senior year of college, while deciding where to go to graduate school, a professor suggested St. Louis, Missouri. And that word, Missouri, brought with it a flood of memory. I applied, was accepted and got a scholarship. All the stars were aligned just right for me to travel westward, and I decided to get my degree there and then move back to Yugoslavia.

The first month in St. Louis I met a young man named Jeff.  We went to movies, theater and poetry readings. We talked about philosophy and argued about Nietzsche and Heidegger for hours.

But the way he won my heart was by suggesting, on a whim of a moment, in a middle of an ordinary school day, that I miss my Milton class and that we drive the couple of hours to Hannibal, Missouri. This is the town where Mark Twain lived as a boy and where he set two of his most famous books.

Jeff had a very old, ugly and beat up yellow car that he called – the frog. We drove the frog down the banks of the Mississippi and I looked out in wonder. Here I was and this world was real. Mississippi. We walked all over the small town of Hannibal and it seemed frozen in time. It was touristy, and tacky, but I loved it. The old houses were small, the rooms miniature and childlike – fitting for memories of a young girl. We ate fried trout at the Becky Thatcher diner. We had ice cream in the Tom Sawyer ice cream parlor.

I never made it back to Yugoslavia.

March 20, 2010

My Little Reader

Posted in Books, Children, Family tagged , , , , , at 7:12 am by Liliana

Nena - my little reader

Nena - my little reader

When my children were young, we had a little, green, two-shelf bookcase in our family room. It was low enough for the kids to to reach anything they wanted to take, and it was full of colorful picture books. All three of my children love books. But while Mike and Sam love to read in order to acquire new information, for Nena books and stories are an end in themselves. Long before she could read, the pictures, letters and sounds of words themselves captured her imagination.

As a toddler, Nena would come down from her room early in the mornings, and the first thing she did was pad over to the little green bookcase. She would take out as many books as she could, make a little mound and sit on top of it. Then, comfortable and happy, she would pull books out from under her bottom, one at the time. She would look at pictures, and tell or sing to herself what she believed to be the story. If she wanted more information, she would bring it to her dad or to me, settle herself in our laps and patiently listen while we read. Nena could sit like this for hours.

Nena hasn’t changed her attitude towards books over the years. Books are her portal to a world that few of us can see or imagine. She is twenty one years old now, and about to graduate from college. Frequently, when she comes home to visit, I will find her in her room. All around her, there will be piles of books and she will sit in the middle of them, that dreamy, faraway look still in her eyes.