avoidance techniques

I should be cleaning the house. My parents and grandmother arrive tomorrow and there are still beds to be made, floors to be done, etc. etc. Not that it really matters. They won't see how clean everything is but will just be glad to be here. But by instinct or by tutelage, I need it to be clean. That's what you do for guests. And who wants to sleep in a place with dirty floors and dead flies on the windowsills? ( I make our house sound filthy, but really, we get a lot of dead bugs on the window sills because people don't use screens here. The doors and windows are hinged on the outside, and open out, so screens are impossible.) (This also makes it quite comical opening doors, for along time I always pulled the wrong way, even in my own house.)

But I am putting it off and sitting here, typing in kitchen, looking out at the dull, drab sky and wondering what the weather will be like when my parents are here. This is my grandmother's first and maybe last trip-of-a-lifetime, and the weather needs to be good. At least a little good.
Our freezer is full of delicious vanilla buns (a sweetbread pastry made with vanilla, butter and sprinkled with crunchy sugar) and yogurt bread (all thanks to my super-woman mother-in-law!) Martin and I will be sleeping in our little guest-cottage which will be fun. Sleeping in your own garden can offer a new perspective.

We will have a full schedule: a trip to Cracow, Poland, an antiques road-trip, family dinners, a trip to the east coast to see the famous Baltic beaches and the royal summer house, shopping, berry picking, and any other number of things depending on what energy we have left. We also just need to relax and be together, drink tea and catch up on one year apart. It will be impossibly short, and it will crush me to say goodbye. Life is so short. Bittersweet. But I will savour the sweetness for every moment, and try to have a child's mentality and forget the impending goodbye. They will be here for my birthday, after all, so what more can I ask?



1 : the sum of the qualities and potentialities genetically derived from one's ancestors

2 : the transmission of traits from ancestor to descendant through the molecular mechanism lying primarily in the DNA or RNA of the genes

It's been steamy hot, high temperatures and high per cent humidity. I dressed to go out to work one morning in the garden. In a short while of pulling weeds and turning earth I was sticky sweaty and irritable with the flies that left the horse barn to come and fly about my face. I returned to the house to dig up the shorts I found in the "throw away pile" (when people throw away good useful clothes because they can't jam them into their suitcases).

Marching out of the house to do weed battle once again, I had an amusing realization. I have turned into my mother.

Not so much physically -- the Busenius side (my father's) is by far dominant in that regard -- though when we are together there would be no doubt we are mother and daughter. For the likeness I am referring to, a "transmission of trait", seems quite nebulous.

I'll explain.

As I was walking towards the flower beds, I laughed aloud as if someone placed a mirror before me. I could see my mother in the garden working: Running shoes (you can't heft a spade properly with sandals), socks, shorts, tank top. Muscular legs, bug-bitten (with a slight allergic reaction to each bite), broad straight shoulders with a slight hunch at the back of the neck (this goes back to my grandmother). Dirty hands (I can't recall her working with gloves) and a deep, almost effortless summer tan. Strong of back, strong of will. She is a workhorse, and there's no insult in saying that because I am, too. She keeps a beautiful garden and neglects the houseplants. (My houseplants are often brown at the edges, although I can't claim the years of hard work she's put into her garden.)

Martin said recently that I had a "farmer tan", a working tan, I guess, that leaves various tank-top lines, belly and upper thighs pale, white, or at least shades lighter than the shoulders, forearms, face and knees. I am ashamed to admit, when I was young, I was a bit embarrassed about my mom's working tan. We lived in the "California of Canada" (I say this oozing sarcasm and irony) where it was body beautiful all summer. I didn't realize as a child that real people didn't have perfect bikini tans, because real people have to work and raise children and do things besides lay in the sand or drive around in a speedboat. I just remember being slightly embarrassed that my mom's tan ended where her gardening shorts did. Now I look back with admiration that she didn't bow to the preening facade of others, and was simply her natural self. This I guess I take after, too. I haven't worn much makeup, or any, really, in years.

Now I guess I start to sound full of that opposite kind of vanity--looking down on the vain. I am describing what went through my mind as I was walking down to resume weeding.
I began to think of other things of heredity or family culture. My brother and I use the word "interesting" as a variable tool of conversation. "Interesting" (you are stupid) "interesting" (that's really interesting) "interesting" (I am actually not listening to you) "interesting" (I am bored)... the list goes on. As a family we have violent tendencies, not cruel but sometimes brutal. We laugh in the same explosive raucousness, doubling over if we really get going. We are strong, able, athletic, with that thick softening that can belie toughness. My brother, sister, and I are throwbacks to our Slavic roots -- born blond, dark-eyed, darker-skinned.

Now this probably quite boring, I realize. But having spent a year apart from blood family these things come up clearer and with more importance -- more draw, maybe the desire for connection. My trip to Bosnia in the spring made me think of these things, too, being surrounded by people that looked like my brothers. I guess it's always easier to see who you are like when you aren't with them.