I thought last summer was the most amazing summer of my life, but looking back through the pictures from this summer, I’m convinced that this one may have been the best.
We visited Hart’s Brook Nature Preserve, where we tasted a dozen varieties of tomato grown by expert botanists, and we saw a snake eating a frog! That day we enjoyed apple cider donuts at Westchester Greenhouse, and had fun exploring the fields and tractors out back.
I participated in a political rally organized by ImprovingBirth.org. About a hundred women gathered in front of Beth Israel Hospital with signs and chants to promote women’s freedom of choice and better education around birth, for better outcomes.
I took an art class in Brooklyn and made a beautiful, living terrarium. This was rare, dedicated “me time” with a creative product as a memento, and a new skill I could use again and again. Here’s a collage of the class that shows my terrarium in the bottom left corner:
My parents came to visit. The whole family went to Stepping Stones Museum. That week I also visited the 9/11 Memorial, which was on my list of things to do for a long time. I hosted my parents’ friends from Australia for dinner and made my famous stuffed peppers.
We explored a cemetery near our house that I’d been curious about for two years. Some of the tombstones are more than 200 years old. There’s history in my neighborhood. Though Adela attended an unveiling with us once, this was her first exploration of a cemetery, and not for any sad reason. To her, it was just another environment to discover.
We went to Greenburgh Nature Center with almost all of the moms from Adela’s pre-pre-school class. It was the culmination of our self-determined cohesion that lasted after the program ended. Class had met every Monday, and we decided to continue meeting Mondays for most of the summer, at different playgrounds or people’s houses. In addition to outdoor enclosures for bald eagles and owls and hawks, the Nature Center has an indoor live animal collection, where the children were able to pet chinchillas, snakes, turtles, lizards, and hedgehogs. We also enjoyed a small butterfly enclosure with tons of monarchs landing on us. I had as much fun as the kids did–maybe more. Look at my face in this picture:
We visited our good friends upstate and went fishing as a family for the first time. My husband got a video of me trying to release a squirmy fish from the line. He took a still from the video that shows me sticking out my tongue in a horrible face that I’ll never be able to live down. Our daughter learned a lot of new language and skills that weekend. We even came home with a child’s fishing pole that I’d hoped to use again this season, but never got a chance to.
We went blueberry picking for the first time, in Massachusetts. We went swimming at a water hole, and I regret not diving in, but sometimes you’re just not in the mood to get your head wet.
We went to a Mets game as a family and met Eli Manning. It’s the beginning of daddy-daughter bonding over sports. We as parents both hope it lasts, because he’ll get to share his passion while I will probably claim some “me time” while they attend sporting events or watch on the big screen. I like meeting the athletes and sitting in box seats; I just don’t tolerate crowds and noise like I used to.
We went to the Bronx Zoo as a family. This may be a common pastime for many, but we only went once, and it was special and memorable—especially since we’d made up a song with the following lyrics, and sang it all the time until we finally went:
Mommy, Daddy, and Adela
Mommy Daddy and Adela Ru
Together we go to the Bronx Zoo
So, when we finally went, it was the fulfillment of a prophecy and it was exhausting. Some of my friends have memberships to the zoo and go all the time. I’d like to go more often, but not that often. Adela was scared green by the carousel, and it will be nice to revisit and see her enjoy it next time (hopefully). I’ve never ridden the monorail, and I’d like to, in spite of or maybe because of the recent psycho stunt a guy pulled when he jumped off the monorail into the tiger enclosure and lived to tell the public, “I’m not crazy. I just wanted to be one with the tigers.”
I planted a garden. This is something I’d conceived of probably as early as 2008 when I started hunting for a place to live with private green space. I had the option of using Big Apple Edibles to “install” a garden from the bottom up. A friend had given us a generous invitation to use their services. As it turned out, the basic service varied greatly in price from the full service, which would include a necessary fence to keep out deer, since we are in the deer’s migratory path and our neighborhood is adjacent to a forest preserve. So, along with the huge project of cleaning up the property buffer at the rear of our property, I took it upon myself to establish an 8′ x 14′ garden where there previously had been lawn. I turned over the earth myself, scoured local nurseries for organic seedlings to plant, and built an elaborate fence around and tent covering the whole thing. My daughter was by my side every step of the process, and it was a fantastic fresh-air activity for us to do together. The pleasure of eating the vegetables that succeeded is immeasurable. We’re still enjoying tomatoes almost daily in October.
I tore my ACL and my meniscus and did about 9 weeks of physical therapy all summer. That sucked! I did quite a bit of hiking with my papoose in spite of the injury, but was not as ambitious or active as I’d hoped to be at the outset of summer.
Why would I replay the highlights of my summer for you? Because, details and destinations aside, what made it the most amazing summer was seeing all the sights through a two-year-old’s eyes…. and ears and nose and mouth and delicate fingers. I don’t know if every parent feels this way about their own kid, but ours is marvelously sensual. To watch her get to know her world through taste and touch and smell is just a wildly sensational trip for me!
When I started shooting with a macro lens a handful of years ago, I knew I’d found a good medium to express my vision; my child, as en extension of myself, is like another macro lens, that enables me to see the world up close and experience it in vivid detail—more than my own naked eyes could ever see unassisted.
I just want to feed her hunger for tactile stimulation by showing her bumpy gourds and furry caterpillars and ice cold ponds. I want to teach her the skill an amazing music teacher taught me: how to dissect the layers of the soundscape and be an active listener, able to parse out the individual instruments in a symphony—either a musical symphony or an impromptu symphony of environmental sounds. I have a strong agenda to impart a love of nature to her, and it seems to come easily, which delights me to no end. I want to grow her brain and multiply her synapses and thrill her and soothe her and endow her with a diverse and healthy palate.
I want another summer like this one. I want another child to do it all again with. To keep me young and experiencing things for the first time, making the mundane seem miraculous. I’ve always sported insatiable curiosity—if I see an intriguing door, I just have to open it, or an alluring ladder, I just have to climb it—and the suburbs, believe it or not, are an adequate playground for these exercises, with child in tow.