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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

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It is far too simple to say she is growing up too fast. Maybe it is better to say, too quickly for me to adjust to. It was only a year ago that she had long hair, and a sort of shy grace. Now her hands wave around in the air when she talks, as if she is whipping egg whites with them. Her smile hides behind nothing now, hair shorter and shorter until she gets mistaken for a boy. Well, that's just how people think here, where girls her age still wear a giant bow that perches on the top of their head for the first day of school. She wears a black plastic choker instead. 

It is not the external changes that throw me. She was going to grow into a woman eventually, and as it happens in leaps and bursts I do not feel any turns in my stomach or wishes for her to stay a little peanut, my sidekick off on another rainy day adventure. It's not that. It is the growing independence, the "I'm going to go outside with a girl from my class for a few hours" that throws me. And of course I want her to have friends, especially good ones. It is the fact that she never did this before, this skipping down the stairs alone. It is the closed door of her bedroom. It is the odd absence in the house that afternoon, as I work and write and stare out the windows before starting dinner. It is the feeling that she is gone, even for a few hours. I want her to be independent, I coax her to do things by herself, but the knife cuts both ways. 

That growing personal life, the acres of secrets and ideas and diaries - it gives me a little bit of vertigo. There was a day when I knew everything going on in her head, so I could play damage control, cleaning up the messes and weathering the storms with her hand in mine. But now, she chews on things herself. I wasn't ready for that just yet. 





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