Category Archives: family

Sometimes you cry

While in child’s pose this morning I was thinking about the portraits of my children, Sam and Nick, that I have hanging in my studio. (I’d have a portrait of Alice there, too, but I haven’t yet produced one that I like well enough to frame. It’s on my to-do list.)

Pastel portrait of a young man.

©Marie Marfia, Nick, No. 74, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Hanging the portraits inside my studio was supposed to put a smile on my face every day. Nick’s because he’s grinning ear to ear. The photo reference is from a picture I took after watching him open up presents on his birthday. Sam’s portrait is not so cheerful. She’s looking off to one side and her expression is either suspicious or worried or both. This is a typical look for her. I just like it because I think she’s beautiful even when she looks like that.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Sam, No. 75, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Yesterday I looked up and saw those two faces and basically fell apart. I miss them a lot.

They’re off living their own lives. Nick’s 23 and independent and looking for work in Florida. Sam is 26 and trying like hell to have a writing career out in Connecticut. I’m proud to know both of them, I just wish I heard from them more often, a common enough complaint when you’re a parent.

Yesterday’s break down is partly me being emotional at the end of a longish day and also because I recently attended a funeral for my cousin’s daughter who died at age 25.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Alice, No. 68, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

You know what the worst thing about young peoples’ funerals is? There aren’t that many stories to share about them. They just didn’t live long enough. There are only short vignettes about overnight trips with the track team, or a prank they pulled while they were visiting their family two weeks prior. And all their friends are there, all the same age as the dead person. They’re devastated and crying and in shock. And watching the family try to figure it all out breaks your heart.

There should be tons of stories, years’ worth of them. Not just two or three. People are supposed to live longer than 25 years. Especially people who are the children of other people.

Of course I wanted to hug my kids after that. Alice is near by so pretty easy to reach out and touch her, thankfully, but for Sam and Nick I had to be satisfied with emails. Nick doesn’t always pick up the phone when I call. He’s probably thinking I want a progress report on whether he’s found work or not. Sam doesn’t have a phone. I don’t know why, she just doesn’t. She’s an idiot that way.

In the emails I reminded them that I loved them and missed them and they didn’t have my permission to die before me. Not that I have any control over that whatsoever. I just wanted to go on the record as having an opinion about it. Honestly? I’m sure I’ve told them all this before, but funerals for other people’s kids have a way of bringing these issues to the forefront of my mind.

So now I’m debating whether to take the portraits down. I know Nick and Sam are fine and I’ll be fine, too. It’s just, right now, it’s hard. People die, some through no fault of their own. I know one thing, I’m going to hug my kids, every chance I get, even if it’s just an email hug. It’s better than no hugs at all.

I guess I’ll leave the portraits up. Try to remind myself to enjoy my kids while I’ve got them. I’m grateful for that, even if it does make me cry now and then.

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How I lost five pounds in one week

Last week I took a road trip with my brother Joe to see our sister who lives near Utica, NY. Mary and her partner, Jonathan, run Down Dog Farm, an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we planned to visit and help on the farm for a few days.

There’s a whole patch of flowers on the farm. So pretty.

It was a spur of the moment trip and we only meant to be gone Monday through Thursday, but we decided to hang around a bit longer and help them put up their timber frame house. They’ve been living in a barn for the past few years, and while it’s cozy, nothing beats hot running water and the occasional soak in your own bathtub.

I love visiting my family. Last week’s favorite memories include rolling up to the barn at 7 am in Joe’s truck and then listening to him play Reveille on his harmonica. We’d climb the stairs to the loft and have coffee and a peach muffin with Mary and Jonathan before walking with them and their dogs, Maya and Teddy, around the perimeter of the farm.

Staking the tomatoes.

After breakfast, we’d weed the beds or stake tomatoes or harvest vegetables. In the afternoons we toured the Erie Canal, played miniature golf, and sampled beer at the Saranac brewery in Utica. Evenings we played cards or dominoes or Bananagrams.

Every night Joe and I would go back to the motel and sleep like the dead. We were tired but happy. There’s something wonderful about hanging around with your siblings. The chores don’t feel like chores, the outings are a chance to add to the family lore, and it’s relaxing and familiar and precious.

There was lots of work to be done before the actual raising of the timber frame. Mary and I pored over the plans, counting the braces and figuring out which piece was going where. Joe did a ton of routing on the timbers, standing ankle deep in sawdust. I buttered the tenons with beeswax so they’d fit together more easily. Jonathan called the timber frame company with questions about how it was all going to work and sent out an email inviting people to help.

Swinging a sledgehammer.

Sunday came and about 25 Down Dog Farm subscribers and family members showed up. Everyone pitched in to carry the heavy timbers and swing sledges and hammer in the pegs to hold the pieces together. The actual raising of the bents (cross beams with the posts attached) was an elegant bit of choreography, with Jonathan calling out the dance moves (“Lift with your legs! Curl! Stick people grab your sticks! Rope people, pull!”).

Helpers on the bent.

I mostly stayed out of the way, taking pictures and not wanting to be personally responsible for a bent taking a header off the edge of the deck. At the end, though, I wrapped my legs and arms around a corner post and helped to lift the final bent into position. My partner on the post told me, “You are mighty!” and I’ve been basking in the glow of that compliment ever since.

Me and Joe taking the long way home.

I came home with bruises on my thighs, a farmer’s tan and a song in my heart, specifically, “I Hate You All,” which I first heard in 2004 on a road trip with my kids and husband (my daughter Alice has the best play lists). Joe and I took the long way home so we could see Lake Erie, eating the rainbow chard pancakes that Jonathan made us, talking about our favorite parts of the week and missing Mary the whole way. Some trips you just never want to end.

 

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