Feuersbrunst

It happened! I got my first blog request! A friend wasn’t satisfied by my second last post’s cryptic allusions to the fire in our house. She wants the whole story.

Who am I to deny one of my 15 loyal readers? So here we go.

Two days before I went in for Chemo 3 – I was resting on the couch in our first-floor guest room. The husband told me he was going running and left the house. A while later I was shaken out of my reverie by a god-awful smell that I couldn’t identify. My first thought was that maybe hubby had come home and was working with some chemical like paint remover in his basement workroom. When I got to the stairwell, I realized the stink was coming from above, so my second thought was the sauna in the upstairs bathroom – which the husband usually turns on before he goes running.

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Sure enough. I went up and opened the bathroom door only to see two walls in flames from floor to ceiling. The sauna wall was burning. So were the wooden cabinet, the towels, the curtains, and a bunch of mostly plastic containers with shampoo, shower gels, sauna oils, toothpaste, creams, and cat food. I guess that explains why the smell first seemed more chemical than fire-like. I slammed the door shut.

What does a person do in this situation? I ran back downstairs, found my cell and dialed for emergency help, but unfortunately, Austria has three different numbers for medical emergencies, fire and police. Was it 122, 133, or 144? I tried to remember the little rhyme we used at school with the young kids and got it totally wrong. I’d love to hear a recording of my talk with the ambulance guy. I only clearly remember telling him “Yes It’s burning! It’s burning!”. Luckily the three emergency numbers are all connected and so the message was passed on.

While talking on the phone, I made my way to the basement to get the fire extinguisher. I can’t say whether distraction or panic made me walk right past it – within a few inches and with it practically being on display, all alone there in the corner of the hallway, where it has been for the past 20 years. Instead, I looked around our messy workroom until my thinking cleared up and I looked again in the hallway. There it was! Like magic!

On my way back upstairs, I wondered how to use a fire extinguisher, having never done it before. All I knew was that there was a pin to pull first – like on a hand grenade. I stopped at the first floor to lock Dog Four outside on the screen porch because the smell was so noxious, and then went upstairs. All the electricity was out up there so I had to feel for the the pin in the dark and pull it out. I opened the bathroom door for a second time and as a big cloud of black smoke washed over me, I grabbed the tube, aimed, and squeezed the trigger.

Whoosh, woosh, woosh, woosh, woosh. In about five seconds, there were no more flames to be seen. I could hardly believe how well it worked! But I also realized then that I was in danger of smoke inhalation, so I closed the door, left the extinguisher standing there, opened up a bunch of windows and ran back downstairs to the porch. I took a bunch of deep breaths of fresh air. Then, very intelligently, I had a cigarette.

What now? The firemen hadn’t arrived and there were no approaching sirens to be heard. So I decided to go up one more time and check if the fire was really out, first wrapping a towel around my face. Opening the door for the third time, there were still no flames, but an even bigger black cloud flew past me. This time I heard water running and very briefly considered how to turn it off. But I knew I didn’t have time to go groping around for . . . that little wheely thing that shuts of the water supply. (Does that thing have a name? Neither the husband nor I can think of one in either German or English.)

I kept holding my breath and bolted again. According to my cell phone log, I then called the husband. Something I don’t remember at all, but he tells me his cell was ringing when he got back from his run and saw the black smoke coming out of the bathroom window. From that same log, I know that just eight minutes had passed since my emergency call and so maybe nine since my first seeing the flames. Nine minutes that now seem like a flash in the pan or a lifetime. I can’t decide which.

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The husband immediately went up to try and turn off the water and at the same time, the fire trucks started coming – four of them! one from each of the four surrounding villages – plus police and ambulance and emergency doctor and fire inspector and sundry other vehicles – at least ten in all. After four months of letting NO ONE in the house without a Covid test, about 20 firemen and women traipsed in, only to find a fire that was already out. They managed to shut off the water and monitored the site. They ripped out some of the wall and ceiling, checking the roof beams and for any ember nests. They took our statements and then two EMT’s took me to the parked ambulance to check for smoke inhalation. At first they figured I would have to go with them to the clinic for a few hours of observation, but I guess I convinced them I was feeling fine. Maybe it was when I happily exclaimed with excitement “Hey! I have never been inside an ambulance before! This is cool!”

So those are the events as best we can remember. Now to the weird stuff:

  • My husband told me I was awesome – twice! And in front of witnesses!
  • Just two days earlier, in a zoom conversation with two dear high school friends, I admitted that – after covid and cancer – yes, I did sometimes ask the cosmos what it had in store for me next. Now I know – it planned to set my house on fire.
  • I learned in the aftermath that the real damage doesn`t necessarily come from the fire, but from the smoke, water and soot that follow. The representative of a professional cleaning and repairing company estimated that we would have to renovate the entire second floor, along with repainting the bathroom, WC and guestroom on the first. They figured it would all come to about $40,000. Included in that estimate were new floors and roof windows. And a deep-cleaning team would come in to deal with the soot. Part of their work would be to take ALL of our clothes for special laundering as well as all of our books, games and DVDs which were packed up and carted off. We will get them all back next week, free of soot and smoke stink.
  • I had made myself a long list of house projects that would keep me busy during my first year of retirement. bty Over the five weeks after the fire, I watched a team of professionals – cleaners, floorers, window installers, plumber, carpenters, electrician and painters – come in and tick off my projects one after another at an amazing tempo. All we had to do was schlepp furniture and our masses of junk from one room to another to clear the way for them. As I followed their progress, I felt almost excited – I caught myself giggling on the inside about how great this all was. All I had really lost was some toiletries and twenty-year-old bath towels, and here I was getting practically a whole new house. And someone else was paying for it all! I joked to people that “if I had known this would happen, I would have torched the bathroom myself!” But then I started to think that I should stop saying that when . . .
  • . . . the household insurance took its sweet time in officially declaring their coverage of the repairs. We had gotten winks and nods and partial okays, but nothing in writing. Then rumors started that our case had been “randomly chosen” for investigation of insurance fraud. We joked that maybe our house was bugged and started having loud, badly delivered and canned conversations about how traumatic and scary the fire was, how lucky we were that it wasn’t worse, how weird it was that an appliance we used almost every day would suddenly go up in flames like that Who would have ever thought . . .?!
  • After 6 weeks of this, we finally got the written confirmation of coverage. And then, yesterday, these letters arrived from the Austrian Ministry of Justice, Criminal Division, addressed to the husband and me separately. It took me a nervous while to decipher the German legalese, but the upshot was this: they were informing us that the investigation of negligent arson . . . not by us two, but by “unknown perpetrators” was being closed. In other words, we weren’t personally charged with anything and those charges were being dropped anyway. A classic Austrian solution to a sticky situation: “No problem! Problem solved!” While reading this letter, I also added a new word to my German vocabulary when they wrote that there was no “Feuersbrunst”. I think they just meant a large fire, but the archaic meaning of “Brunst” has to do with the increased and audibly noticeable excitement in the animal kingdom that comes in the spring. So I first translated this term as “fire horniness” or maybe the less crude “fire giddiness”. It is somehow fitting because . . .
  • . . . my own reactions to this whole experience have been downright bizarre. It is not unusual for me to shut off all emotion during a critical event or moment of crisis, but normally, they come out slowly after the fact in fits and spurts. In this case . . . nope, nothing there. Most of my memories bring no feelings of trauma or panic, but something more like bemusement. I remember using the fire extinguisher as being sort of cool. Made me feel like Rambo. Instead of feeling loss, I keep smiling about all the refurbishing going on in my house. I love redecorating and I get to do just the fun parts, with all the yucky work and heavy lifting being done by someone else. I wonder at the sheer size of the silver lining of this minor, non-disastrous close call. And let’s face it: compared to cancer, this was all just a tiny bump in the road, not to mention an almost welcome distraction from the chemo.

So, in the end, if I had to describe my feelings about this entire event in one word, it would have to be “fire-giddy”.

And I’m very glad that the insurance company and Justice Ministry don’t know this.

Ugly Chicken Update

As readers will know, I wrote a while back about my slightly deformed and unfeathered chick, Quasi the Second. At the time, I showed the pictures to expert chicken keepers, among whom the general consensus was that this bird would not be long for this world.

But she kept bopping along despite being ostracized and banned from the henhouse. Despite almost drowning in the duck pond. Despite the massive second wave of red fowl mites that had the husband cleaning out the henhouse in a Hazmat suit wielding a blowtorch.

Take a look at her now:

Okay, so not exactly a beautiful swan, but also no longer the world’s ugliest chicken. And more importantly, still hanging in there.

Speaking of loners and survivors, check out the latest “New infections in the past 14 days” map of Austria.

See the little green speck in the bottom right corner of the country? The only district in the entire country with no new infections? That’s where we are.

Our ears are filled with the crashing sounds of second waves all around us, but, apparently, we’re still hanging in there.

Ten Ten Twenty Twenty

 

I like today’s date. I like the sound and the numerical symmetry of it. Seems like a day to do something with. Something memorable. Maybe start something new or end something that has gotten old. Or both.

To get some inspiration, I turned to the Google and quickly arrived at the NationalDayCalendar.com website. Here’s what I found:

Apparently, angel food cake, handbags and costume-swapping all have their own holidays. I wasn’t aware of that, maybe because none of these things particularly interest me. I also don’t decorate cakes, play chess or ride motorcycles. All that leaves is yarn and mental health, but, fortunately, there is currently no crisis in my life for me to crochet my way through.

I would like to know, though, why there is a coffee stain on the calendar. And why is it circling the 11th instead of the 10th? And why do the week rows on this calendar start on Tuesdays and end on Mondays? These are mysteries I would like to get to the bottom of.

Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

 

The Last Times Begin

 

On Monday I woke up and officially began the last week of my summer vacation. More shockingly, I began the final week of my last ever summer vacation! Next time this year, my 39-year teaching career will most likely be over. And if you don’t have work, you don’t have vacation, right?  Weird thought.

Of course, I should add here that I am notoriously bad at making predictions, so when I say that I am beginning the last year of my teaching career, you could be forgiven for a tiny bit of skepticism. I am, after all, the person who spent the better part of 2016 telling everyone “there is no Math” that would get Twump to an election victory. I also wrote in early July this year that I had an expanse of lethargic nothingness ahead of me, but now, in retrospect, the summer was full, and it sped by. I had my last week of my cure in Salzburg, followed by an even better cure week at my aunt and uncle’s in Tyrol, followed by a week of golf lessons (the  muscle aches from which I am still feeling!) followed by a week of relaxing and hiking in Carinthia. Here is a random sampling of impressions from those days:

Other activities during my final summer vacation included a lot of home projects (most of which came down to “putting shit away”). I did a six-hour braiding session with younger daughter and attended a performance or two of the older one. I supervised the building of blacksmith shop in my yard. I befriended a barking rat (my name for Chihuahuas). I ate two family-sized bags of Cheetos and then briefly considered immigrating to Australia when I read that the Dominos there is giving out free pizzas to women named “Karen”. I monitored the DNC and the RNP (“P” stands for “Pukefest”). I read two and half books and made two and half new friends. I requested my absentee ballot. I did lots of laundry and no ironing. My dog and I together lost 8 pounds.

 

It’s now Friday, which means I am officially into my last summer vacation weekend before work starts up again on Monday. From here on in, it’s going to be a long string of last times: My last preparation week, getting my last work schedule, my last first day of school, going on my last team-building excursion with the kids, making my last attendance/homework lists and year plans for my four English groups, attending my last “Start Weekend” with all the parents, designing my last chores wheel for my class . . . . And that is all in the coming two weeks. Assuming I resist getting talked into extending my stint, by the end of the year, this list of last times is going to be really long.

And then I will be done. For good.

I predict.

 

Things Change

 

There have been some developments in the things I related in previous posts, so I want to update them in a somewhat rambling and random way, starting with:

Remasking

After a lot of speculation and delays, the government here has gone ahead and reinstated the national mask wearing order for stores, banks and post offices. Despite the starting date being set for today (Friday), many people began earlier – as in right away after the announcement, including us. Two days ago, we spent almost 3 hours in IKEA getting our daughters furnishings for their apartment. It was the longest time I have ever spent in a mask. I found it surprisingly suffocating. Then it occurred to me that long before Covid, just being in an IKEA with its massive crowds always made me feel that way, mask or no mask. Anyway, we don’t know the true reason behind or the end date of the current policy, but the general opinion among friends is that the government decided it was necessary to remind the population about how we should be behaving. With things opening up, we had gotten too relaxed about social distancing, etc.

 

Cure Continuation – With Conditions!

Speaking of opening up, the health center I went to for my cure can now start taking patients again. I just got the dates for my third cure week which was cancelled during the lockdown – it begins next Wednesday already. When the confirmation came, there were three extra forms attached about all the Covid restrictions and regulations. I had to sign them (i.e. basically swear to follow the rules) and send them back. I have to arrive there by 10:00 am on the first day in a mask, get a Covid test, and then self-isolate in my room for the rest of the day till the results come in (usually early evening the same day, they say). Masks are to be worn indoors at all times. I am not allowed to go to any other restaurants or cafes in the town. I can’t socialize with anyone who does not live in my household – so that means everyone – and I can’t have visitors. The list of rules goes on and on . . .

It is hard to imagine that this week will be as therapeutic as the first two were. On the other hand, I have been saying that I don’t know a single person who has been tested and now, in just five more days, I will know one person. (I hope they aren’t still sticking swabs way up noses.) I imagine y’all will be hearing my thoughts as I sit in my room alone waiting for the results. It’s a good thing, too, that this will not be the only travels of the summer.

 

Staycation

The onset of summer vacation was delayed this year as the first week included three somewhat obligatory social gatherings with my coworkers during which all the tensions and melodrama and plot twists of the school year were rehashed ad nauseum. So, instead of the usual end-of-the-year, 1-day system crash (traditionally spent on the couch in the company of a box of aspirin, a pukey bowl and the remote control), I went through a prolonged sort of joyless malaise with no travel plans and no energy to come up with ideas about how to fill the seven weeks stretching out ahead of me. I finally booted myself out of it a few days ago, starting with a call to the health center to schedule my cure week. That quickly led to plans to follow it with a visit to my aunt and uncle in Tyrol. After that, there will only be a week at home before taking off for our annual hiking trip in Carinthia. Then there will be just one more week at home before . . . no . . . it can’t be . . . don’t want to even think about it . . . Something seems wrong about the math here. Within a day, the summer went from being a long empty expanse to being all filled up with plans. I’m confused.

 

Clutter Box

I guess it is a good thing I didn’t plan any major projects for the summer. Instead, I dove into one of those little things that has been on the back of my mind for months. Everywhere you look in my house – on every shelf or piece of furniture or windowsill or counter space – there is . . . stuff. A small proportion of the . . . stuff . . . is actually put there for decoration. The vast majority, however, is supposed to be somewhere else, but just got left there by someone in this household. Every so often, I go on a decluttering rampage and begin sweeping all these surfaces clean, sorting all the stuff, returning some of it to where it belongs, throwing some of it away and finding new places to store the rest.

When I am done, there is always about a handful of undefinable things left over. I can’t throw them away. They look like they could be part of something, but who knows what? I imagine some future time when the husband asks me “Have you seen the gizmo for my gadget? It’s a small curvy piece of black plastic with some holes in it and a doohickey on it?” And I, having tossed it out, would have to avoid eye contact while saying, “I have no idea whatsoever what you are talking about! Never in my life have a seen anything remotely like what you are describing!”

So, instead, I throw these thingamajigs in the “Clutter Box”, just in case. I tell myself that one day I will make a piece of modern sculpture out of it all. I will title the finished product “Bob” (and then keep it in a plastic box in the basement storage room).

 

While doing the above, I also managed to somehow declutter my mind. I got rid of or stored away all the little pieces left there by other people during this crazy year. I cleared a path out of malaise and into the enjoyment of summer.

 

Hope for the Future

Not only is the future looking brighter now, it is looking brighter orange! On a whim, I checked my junk food website and was delighted to see my favorite thing in the world is back in stock and ready to be delivered. I pounced. With any luck, they will arrive before I leave for my cure. In the case that all the Covid regulations ruin the week, it would be nice to have a back-up therapy at hand.

 

 

Quasimodo Returns (and Just in Time!)

Have you ever wondered at what point a pizza simply becomes too big? I thought that last night while out for dinner in a nice Italian restaurant in Graz. Honestly, the diameter of this thing was about 6 inches longer than that of the plate below it. Needless to say, doggie bags were required.

The reason the hubby and I were in Graz was that my elder daughter was throwing a 20th birthday bash in our house. Once she had received permission to have the party, she proceeded to tell us that we weren’t actually invited, but no worries, we could stay in her apartment that night. That was nice of her, I thought. Well played. Or maybe, not. Everything was spotlessly clean when we arrived there. We trashed the place and drank her vodka.

That was my third trip to Graz this week. On the second one, I finally met up with the sisters-in-law again and handed over the penguin. Based on the reaction, I think he has found a good home.

 

On my first trip to Graz this week, I took my daughter along with one of her friends (a former student of mine!) out for lunch. We negotiated a sort of mini-management deal as this friend has a lot of connections to the art and music scenes, knows a lot about the business side, and wants to help Mitzi promote herself better. Two days later, Mitzi had a one-hour gig at an open stage bar and raked in $80 in pay and another $180 (!) in tips. After hearing this, the husband decided to show up next week with his accordion and see if he can do the same (and then quit his job to be a street musician). As far as I know, he only knows how to play 5 songs and four of them are not suitable for polite company, so I am not sure if this is a good plan.

 

Anyway, back to today. The husband and I returned home again this morning to survey the post-party carnage. What we found was a house looking pretty much the same as when we left it. In fact, the only evidence that a party took place at all was the overflowing glass recycling bin and some half-empties on the kitchen counter. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. This was just further evidence that my children aren’t children anymore. In fact, one of them is no longer even a teenager! Why didn’t anyone warn me that this was going to happen?

Thank goodness I still have one problem child left to worry about.

Remember my four new chicks from spring? Well, there is something seriously wrong with one of them. He is only half the size of his siblings, he seems kind of deformed, and he is not growing feathers. We keep consulting the Backyard Chicken Bible and it tells us not to worry as long as he is running around and eating – which he is. But, still, he is the ugliest piece of poultry I have ever seen. You be the judge:

 

The Karens

 (A White Mother of Black Children Reflects on Privilege)

 

It has become nearly impossible for any informed American to ignore the subject of white privilege in these turbulent times.

But for many, I suspect, the question has remained distant, intellectual, or abstract. In my case, it has been intensely personal. I have discovered myself to be completely and utterly ambivalent about it.

Two realizations keep recycling through my brain and confusing me. The first came after watching a few seconds of the video of the murder of George Floyd (which was all I could take) and then thinking, with utter abhorrence, “In this scenario, I am not the neck. I am the knee.”

The second realization was that I have spent the last 20 years ferociously wielding my white privilege like a shield for the sole purpose of protecting my black daughters. But my ability to do that is now coming to an end. The older one has begun her new life in an apartment in Graz and the younger will be moving out and joining her in about six weeks. They will have to go on living without my shield.

I won’t be there to silence passers-by.

I won`t be there to make the train conductor think twice about asking for their tickets in a suddenly different tone.

I won’t be there to stop strangers from touching their hair.

I won’t be there when the neighbor downstairs tells them that they walk too loudly.

I won’t be there when the policeman asks them for their identification.

 

No, they are going to have to go through this world mostly on their own now. And what a world it is.

– – – – – – – –

My learning curve about racism here and in the United States has been a long one. I look back at some of the statements I made in lecture halls and can only shake my head. I remember discussing a “groundbreaking” article about how economic success in life has as much to do with luck as with talent or drive. I felt at the time that it was important to challenge the prevailing myths about self-reliance and “picking yourself up by the bootstraps” and dishwasher-to-millionaire American success stories. It didn`t occur to me at the time that access to “luck” had racial preconditions. That was about the time when we were planning to start a family.

Years later, when the anti-foreigner movement was underway here in Austria, I argued that “foreigner” was just code for non-white races. I said that, in contrast to Austrians, Americans had dealt directly with the topic of racism and were starting to come out of the other end of the tunnel. I thought. That was about the time when we were considering international/interracial adoption and wondering if it would be fair to the child.

From there, I had the revelation that the concept of “race” was merely a social construct and not a real thing. After all, if you go back far enough, we are all Africans. While raising my children, however, I discovered that race was only a construct for white people. For others experiencing the consequences of race-related belief systems, it is a real thing. And a danger.

And now, after George Floyd, I have finally realized that true equality means this: As long as the construct of race remains real for some of the people, it remains real for all of them.

I am the knee. I am the white woman calling the cops on a Central Park birdwatcher. I am the person who saw a suspect in twelve-year-old Tamir at the playground. I am a Karen.

 

This very morning, I discovered that new slang term (“the Karens”) in a New Yorker article. I told my husband about it and he found it a bit too amusing. He immediately googled for more information. Later, during breakfast, I asked my daughters if they had ever heard of the term. There was an uncomfortable silence and a meaningful look passed between them. Then the elder daughter answered.

“Yeah . . . we didn’t want to tell you about it. We were afraid it would upset you.”

 

The Anarchy of the Chicken

 

I brought my morning coffee out onto the screen porch today only to look down and see the door to the chicken yard wide open. About half the flock had gone through it and were milling around and looting the vegetable and flower patches – places they had no business being. Still in my bathrobe, I quickly donned my rubber boots and left the house to quell the insurrection. As I came down the garden steps, all the chickens, including the ones who had stayed inside all came running toward me with their sharp beaks and superior numbers. It freaked me out a bit, but I told myself “All they want is their equal rights to food and water.” I had been slow to wake up and was the source of their current hunger. And I could fix it.

They milled around me as I filled a pitcher full of corn kernels and then scattered it inside their yard. Half of the chickens had the sense to run back inside through the open door. I corralled the rest of them in with some careful blocking and quiet shoo-shooing. Once order had been re-established, I surveyed the flock to make sure they were all present and accounted for and that none had been harmed. I was especially happy to see all four chicks doing well.

Of course, I had other options. I could have sicced the cats on them. I could have furiously nabbed the wayward chickens one by one and tossed them back inside. I could have decided to build a bigger, nastier fence to keep them penned in (or out, as the case may be). I could have cowered in the basement in case they made it all the way to the front door of the house while hysterically phoning friends and telling them to reassert my dominance. I could have tweeted angrily, calling them “thugs”. I could have had someone else clear them out brutally and then walked to the henhouse with a copy of “The Backyard Chicken Bible” held upside-down and posed for a picture. I could have proclaimed myself the Law-and-Order Chicken Queen.

 

But it turned out the way of understanding, kindness, and sharing was the better one. I gathered four eggs today and there are surely a lot more to come.

 

 

 

Empty Nests

My four-week stint (or eight, depending on how you look at it) of experiencing unemployment has come to an end. I just had my first day back at work. The Hummingbird School has survived its own initial incompetence in crisis management, and starting Monday, (most of) the kids will be coming back. To comply with all the requirements set by the government and school board, we had to prepare a whole new physical environment in the classrooms – new nests, so to speak. Gone are the couches for lounging and the big carpets where we sat for circle discussions. Gone are the balls to play sports with during the recess. Gone are all the chairs in the small kitchen. Gone are the Montessori materials that get passed from hand to hand or are not conducive to being disinfected. Gone are the glasses and pitchers of water in the classrooms. Gone are the computer stations for common use. Gone are the musical instruments and board games. Instead, the room is filled with socially distanced, individual desks where the students will sit for most of the morning. In the front of the class there is a space for me to stay put and – for the first time in my career – teach lecture-style to a captive audience.

We’ve divided the students into 4 groups of roughly 10 kids apiece. Two of the four will come each day on an alternating schedule and each group will have it`s own entrance into the school. The ones who will be filling this empty classroom will disembark from their school buses in masks, enter the building, and immediately wash their hands before going to the classroom. They will take a seat and only then remove the mask.

I confess that I feel uneasy in more ways than one about these first steps into the new normal. While planning with my team members, we talked about whether it was a good idea to assign yet another text about their experiences in the lockdown and distance learning. I suggested that the kids reread the reports they handed in near the start and then write about what changed over time. In my case, I worried about feeling confined at first. Now at the end, I find I don’t really like the idea of leaving the house if I don’t absolutely have to.

I wonder if this feeling is normal. Clearly, I have had it easy. Between my spacious house and big garden, my family situation and hermit genes, it’s not like it has been hell. I’ve honestly enjoyed having my whole family around me, not to mention so much time that I stopped monitoring its passing. (“What day is it today?”) I could have continued on like this indefinitely.

But this is not where we are at here in Austria, so I guess it is time for me to come out of my hiding place. The rest of my household is doing so too (if somewhat more eagerly than me).

Whereas the school nest shown above is about to be filled up, my home one is emptying out. Last week, our refugee son moved to another village to be near his brother. The plan is for him to transfer to a school in Graz for his last year. (There is a long story behind these decisions that I won’t get into here. I will only say that I hope he will be happier and more productive with this new living situation.) Yesterday, my elder daughter moved back to her apartment in Graz after two months with us. She took my daily concerts with her. That leaves just one – my youngest daughter – who will be taking her graduation exams starting a week from now. Her original plan for a work/travel gap year got nixed by Corona, so she will be starting university in the fall and, of course, moving into the apartment with her sister.

It was while listening to a conversation between the daughters about decorating the place and the timing of Lily’s move, that the realization finally washed over me. They were talking July – or August at the latest. “Wait!” I thought, “It’s almost June already!” Too months from now, it will be just me and the husband and a whole lot of silence.

Somehow I thought “reopening” would feel different.

 

A Motherful Day

 

While on our daily dog walk, Nice Neighbor Lady told me that her son refuses to celebrate Mother’s Day, saying first that every day should be Mother’s Day and second, that it was a Nazi creation. It’s not, but after that, I didn’t have the heart to tell her how wonderful mine was.

It started early with two new flowers for my garden and then a trip to my sister-in-law to pick up a washing machine (along with a whole bunch of other furnishings) for my daughters’ new apartment. From there we went to a (socially distanced) family gathering where I got to see my mother-in-law for the first time in two months. Since the golf courses have reopened, her life is back in order again. We couldn’t stay long, because my daughter had to get back home for a performance. It was a Mother’s Day Concert being livestreamed from the nearby spa featuring local musicians. I don’t want to brag too much, so I won’t say that she stole the show. Instead, I’ll quote a few of the WhatsApp reactions from friends and my sisters in the States:

“Amazing!”

“Wow. wow wow wow. She’s killing it!”

“Oh. My. God. So beautiful.”

 

Right before leaving for the concert, my husband called out to me that my favorite chicken just hatched a new chick. (She actually let the other hens do all the brooding work for 19 days, and then took over for just the last two. Crafty girl!) Right after the concert, my Skype started chiming and I got to spend the next hour with my own mom. And finally, shortly before going to bed, my daughters posted on my Facebook page, including two of my very favorite photos. Here it is – or at least a doctored version with names changed to protect the perps:

What a wonderful day full of momstuff, sisterstuff, daughterstuff, and grandchickendaughterstuff!  To spread the joy, here are two songs from my favorite singer: