Beth got home from her travels two days after North and I did. In her absence we did a small grocery run just to tide us over and got gelato one day and Starbucks the other. I watered the thirsty garden, which had not thrived in our absence, but had not died either. It has recovered somewhat. The herbs are all doing pretty well, particularly the basil; the cherry tomatoes are producing fruit, but slowly; the kale is fine; the lettuce was starting to bolt (so I harvested it all); the zinnias and sunflowers are healthy-looking but growing more slowly than the neighbors’; and the cucumbers are struggling. There’s only one of five that’s flowering and may produce cukes, but I give it about a 50/50 chance because it’s very small for late July.
I also mowed the front and side lawn, dealt with a maggot infestation in the compost bucket, and weeded along the fence on the sidewalk side. That’s what I was doing when Beth showed up in the front yard Friday afternoon, luggage in hand, and kissed me over the fence. It was good to see her. That night we ate homemade pizza all around the same table and played Love Letters.
Saturday was Beth’s and my anniversary—the summer one. This one marked thirty-six years since our first date, back when we were impossibly young, two years younger than Noah is now and three years older than North. It was a low-key observation. We didn’t exchange presents, just cards, because we’re going to see Willie Nelson at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday as our presents to each other.
That morning we had an all-family check-in with North’s individual therapist and then dropped North off at Brookside Gardens, where they were meeting Sol and some of their friends for a walk in the botanical garden, followed by a late lunch at IHOP. Beth and I had a chance to catch up at home until it was time to pick them up. We all had dinner out at Cielo Rojo, followed by more gelato at Dolci Gelati. I had the mushroom and bean enchiladas, and half a scoop of red velvet with half of scoop of almond praline, all of which I recommend if you’re local.
On Sunday we went berry-picking at Butler’s Orchard. We got almost five pounds of blueberries and five pounds of blackberries. We quit a little short of filling the blueberry bucket because it was a muggy day, and we didn’t want North to overheat in the compression suit they were wearing under their clothes. The good news about the suit is that North says after wearing it for a few weeks, it has reduced their back pain.
Beth and I independently of each other sent Noah photos (she of the tractor that pulls the wagon of berry pickers to the field and me of the sign you see when you leave that wishes you “a berry good day”) and asked him to guess where we were. This is a game we play when we’re apart. Just as when we were there picking strawberries right after he left in late May, we were missing him. But unlike then, we know when we’ll see him next. His internship ends at the end of this week and then he’s spending a week with my mom and sister in Davis, and then he’s coming home to conduct his job search from here.
As always, in the berry fields we listened to parents instruct their children only to pick ripe berries and fondly remembered when we were the ones saying that to our little ones. My favorite iteration was “Remember to only pick the blue ones. That’s why they’re called blueberries.” North repeated back to me when we started to pick blackberries, “Remember to only pick the black ones,” they said. “That’s why they’re called blackberries.”
We visited the snack bar where North got a pretzel, and the farm market where we got pasta, cheeses, peaches, nectarines, a slushy, various baked goods, and caramels. At home I froze about half the berries and made a blueberry kuchen. The crust burned around the edges and on the bottom, which was surprising as I’ve been using the same recipe once a summer for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, it was a berry good day.
The Week In Between
Monday Beth and I were back at work. (I had not worked the previous Thursday or Friday because I was badly jet-lagged, Sara didn’t send any work, and I didn’t particularly want to work on any of the low-priority tasks I had on my list.) Beth, who usually works at home, had to go into the office four days out of five last week, so that was odd, not to have her around.
I wasn’t around either on Tuesday because I had jury duty. I took my laptop, three sections of the Post, and a book with me, but I hardly needed any of it because I was called to voir dire almost immediately. Whenever I have jury duty, I think it would be interesting to serve someday (I did get on a jury for a drug case once in the 90s and it was interesting) but not this time because it never seems to be a convenient time. When I learned this trial was for a child sex abuse case, my stomach dropped a little. It sounded like it would be wrenching.
During questioning, I didn’t deliberately try to get off the jury with my answers, but I wasn’t chosen. I don’t remember this from previous times I’ve had jury duty so maybe different judges do things differently, but this time you got to hear which attorney struck you. I was eliminated by the defense. By one o’clock I was free to go. I had lunch at a Chinese place and made the long journey home on the Metro, going almost from one end of the red line to the other, and arriving home after three-thirty.
I worked a little when I got home, but not much, as the day had been surprisingly tiring. Part of it might have been traveling in the heat. We had an unusually cool June and then we were gone for almost the first two weeks of July, so when we got back to typically hot, muggy D.C. area weather, there was no easing into it and the first week at home was kind of a shock.
The next weekend we had two family outings. We saw Barbie on Saturday afternoon and went to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on Sunday morning. Beth and North went to Silver Spring ahead of me, North to go to therapy and Beth to go to the Silver Spring farmers’ market. The two of them had lunch at Cava, and I was supposed to meet them in the theater lobby. But I missed my bus running back into the house for my headphones and then I took a less familiar bus route and went too far, so I got there almost fifteen minutes late. They’d gone into the theater, where I met them, but the previews were far from over, so it didn’t matter.
I had read quite mixed reviews of the movie ahead of time, but I really enjoyed it. Beth has been very stressed at work and we have both been feeling a little heavy-hearted for reasons I’m not going to get into, and Oppenheimer seemed out of the question, though we did consider it, as well as Elemental and Joy Ride. Something kind of light-hearted and fun but not without substance turned out to be just right.
Sunday morning, we went to see the lotuses and water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The lilies are in bloom from late spring to early fall, but the lotuses have a much shorter bloom period. Each individual flower lasts five days before it falls off leaving a seed pod behind—they look just like those weird pods from Teletubbies—and there’s only two or three weeks a year you can see them blooming. The lily and lotus festival had just ended the day before, but there were plenty of flowers left.
We haven’t been to see the lotus flowers for thirteen years and I almost didn’t suggest it for the same reason I often don’t when I think to go—it’s hot and the bloom period often coincides with blueberry season and if we only have the stamina for one outdoor activity, the one in which you bring home many pounds of berries seems preferable. But I did suggest it and I’m glad we went because it’s lovely. We also saw some tiny turtles in the water and two Great White Herons in the water and a tree, plus a red-winged blackbird, and we heard some frogs croaking, and apparently from what the people ahead of us said, just missed seeing a muskrat.
We’ve been home now almost as long as we were gone. Our harvest includes:
- Cherry tomatoes, lettuce, kale, basil, chives, and mint from the garden
- Thirty-six years of togetherness
- Tickets to see Willie Nelson
- Two buckets of berries
- Partial pain relief for North
- An almost completed internship
- The opportunity to serve the people of Montgomery County just by showing up if not serving on a jury—that’s what they tell you anyway when you’re excused
We did not harvest:
- The experience of serving on this particular jury
- Any water lilies or lotuses because that would be wrong
What have you reaped this July?