Postcard Perfect

Somehow, against all odds, we picked the exact right day to go see the cherry blossoms this year. Peak bloom was predicted from Tuesday to Friday and the kids had Thursday off school—there’s always a day off in between marking periods—so our original plan was for me to bring the kids to Beth’s office in the late afternoon and to go from there. But Thursday ended up being a very complicated day. There was a fundraiser for June’s school at a local Mexican restaurant and the first meeting of my new book club was at 7:30. A late afternoon downtown outing did not seem feasible. As Beth put it, there were “too many moving parts” for any plan to work.

So I suggested we go in the morning instead but Beth said if she was going to go in late and leave early she might as well not go to work at all and she was too busy for that so we decided to do it Friday after school instead. On further consideration, we realized that by the time June had gotten home from school and napped, it would be pretty late and dragging her on a long walk when she wanted to be asleep was not the best idea either. It’s also worth noting that it was cold and damp and overcast all day Thursday and Friday and high winds were predicted for Friday.

So, Saturday morning it was. I was worried that Friday’s windstorm would blow all the blossoms away and that we’d miss the best few days of the ephemeral blooms, but there was really no other way.

By this time I was thinking nostalgically about how when we lived in the city we used to just walk to the Tidal Basin from our apartment and scheduling the trip around two people instead of four was so much easier. It didn’t help that Friday morning I had a dentist appointment in Dupont Circle with the dentist I’ve been seeing for almost twenty years and I’d spent the rest of the morning down there drinking coffee and reading some medical abstracts for a project I’m going to do for Sara and watching people come and go out of the Circle. I started to get very wistful about my younger and comparatively simpler days, not that they seemed simple at the time. Life never does.

The book club meeting the night before may have primed me for this dissatisfaction. It’s run by the Takoma Park Library and it’s called the Great Big Books Club–big in both senses of the word. I’ve never been before but they’ve read War and Peace, Middlemarch, Moby Dick and The Brothers Karamazov over the past two years. This time around it’s Bleak House (“a cakewalk,” someone at the meeting commented). Here’s the flyer that sucked me in: Overall it’s a good thing I’m doing this. I’ve been interested in this book club for some time but it always seemed impossible. It meets in the evenings and I was always so tired and getting home after dark could be tricky, etc. And then June started sleeping through the night in January and after a couple months of that, I started noticing I feel better, not just physically but emotionally, too. I feel lighter somehow, more optimistic. So I was reading about the book club on the library web site and found out that another mom from June’s school was quoted in the article. I got in touch with her to ask some questions and before I knew it she was offering me a ride and all of a sudden it seemed as if I might actually be able to do this thing.

Aside from fatigue and logistics the other thing that held me back from joining a book club was my fear that I’d want to the be professor in the room and I’d try to take it over. But this book club has an actual professor who comes to lecture at the first meeting to help put the book in context for future meetings. He was very good, informative and affable and good at engaging the eclectic crowd. At one point I found myself admiring his shoes, lace-up oxfords, and thinking they make those for women, too, maybe I should get a pair some day when I realized I didn’t want his shoes, I wanted his job. And then I got a little depressed. But I managed to fight it back. I’m good at that. I do it all the time.

So, about those blossoms… this is a post about the cherry blossoms, right? That’s what the pictures seem to imply at any rate. We left the house at 8:40 on Saturday morning. Both children had complained of stomachaches earlier in the morning but ate breakfast and felt better. We picked up coffee and pastries for a snack to eat there and drove down to the Tidal Basin. Our first sight of the blossoms from the car window was promising. The trees were covered in big, puffy clumps of blossoms. It looked like a postcard of Washington, D.C. The high winds predicted for Friday had never come and the trees were just perfect.

We found parking without much trouble and didn’t even need to use the remote lot. The weather was odd. It was cloudy early and then cleared right before we left the house and then got cloudy again and it just kept doing that all morning until there was a brief downpour, but that was after we’d left. It was chilly but we’ve been to the blossoms on colder days. Late March and early April are most unpredictable so we’ve been to see the blossoms in everything from winter coats to shorts.

We walked all the way around the Tidal Basin for the first time in a few years, maybe since before June was born. Noah had a map and acted as our tour guide, identifying the different species of trees and regaling us with facts about them. He was a bit put out that we didn’t get the map right away so he didn’t have it for the whole walk (and we refused to go back to our starting point to accommodate his desire to do the whole route with the map). Still, considering that no-one got sick, it wasn’t raining, no one fell into the water (despite June’s best efforts) and we had two hours to meander around the Tidal Basin, all decked out in its April finery, I think it was just about as close to postcard perfect as real life gets.