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Hey 21! Phoebe's All Grown Up!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


 I was thinking last evening about how very, very different the weather was on the evening of July 10, 1996. It was cool, cool enough to slow the crickets down and make me stretch one of Bill's great big fleece pullovers over my head and heaving abdomen. I sat heavily in a cedar Adirondack chair, long since rotted away, and submitted to a video interview by Bill, holding a camcorder on his shoulder (remember those?) It was bigger than his head. He was asking me questions about how I thought our baby would be: what she'd look like, whether she'd have long legs like his or short ones like mine.

July 10, 2017. Now THAT is ugly. In the most beautiful way. I was frantically picking wax beans in the garden, trying to get a meal before it hit. I failed. My favorite weather: the leadup to a thunderstorm. I HAVE to be out in it.

At the time I was a bit annoyed, as only a full-term pregnant woman can be, that he would subject me to this interview, and I told him he had to avert the camera while I puffed through the contractions, dammit! I didn't know it then but I was in active labor, and technically probably should have been at the hospital. When I did get to the hospital they checked me and started rushing around like their gowns were on fire, but it was to be another 12 hours of fabulous back labor before Phoebe made the scene. I pretty much knew there was no big rush. There was an herbed chicken with sweet potatoes roasting in the oven, and a pint of ice cream in the freezer that I intended to eat, because my midwife had told me they wouldn't let me eat once I got to the hospital. Well then! I had the hardest 24 hours of work in my life ahead of me, and you have to eat to work like that. We didn't go into town until midnight. Phoebe arrived at 11:41 AM July 11, 1996.

I watch that prenatal interview now and I'm so glad we have it, because so much more than what I hoped for that mystery baby has come true. I couldn't have dreamt a baby like that one has turned out to be.

"Good" doesn't quite capture this light, does it?

We all went out on the deck last night to bask in the after-storm light. I was so overcome I was unable to speak. This is a new thing with me...I stutter when the light is good. I stutter when I see deer doing good things that need to be photographed. When a worm-eating warbler shows up at the studio window, as one just did. I literally cannot form any words. I see Bill and Liam looking at each other and then at me, the way the Jetsons looked at Rosie the Robot when she'd get a short and go on the fritz and throw her metal claws up in the air and spin around in circles like a big clanky phalarope.

I know my brain is changing as I age, and this sudden incapacitation in the face of great beauty is one of the early heads-up I suspect. Or I could call it rapture. Yes. Let's call it rapture. 

All this beauty gave me to contemplate about what can happen in 21 years. One moment, you have a squirmy little girl with a tuft of copper on her head who can't even sit up

so you fake her taking a great balletic leap as she lies on a blanket

 and the next you have a lissome woman at your side, who is not only standing up but walking alone.

Phoebe is both an object of contemplation and a muse.  She is also my friend. As is her brother. At this point, they are giving me far more than I give them (well, if you don't count Bowdoin's spring semester bill gaaaaaackkkk). Together, they plug me in each night, help keep me going.

Playing the Jungle Gym game with a very young Jemima Jay, the kids cracked up when Chet Baker inserted himself into the scene. You have your hands out. Pet me then. Pay no attention to the little bird on the basket. Do not even look at her.

This sustaining love they both receive and give has only grown through the years. 

When she could still outrun him... (October 2014)

and when she no longer could. (June 2017)

When she got back from Panama, the longest time she'd ever been away from Liam, from us, from home. 

That love between them is my favorite thing about these kids. 

On this, Phoebe's 21st birthday, I wanted to celebrate her, and I could easily spend all day posting photos and writing captions. But I thought I'd pick out just two things to celebrate. And those are the love between her and Liam and her maximum bird magic. 

It started early, with Charlie Macaw.  This bird, whose vise-like bill could crack a Brazil nut, decided Phoebe was her baby. And all babies need attention and preening.

Phoebe knows that better than anyone. She is who made Jemima the character she is. As my DOD always said, "Attention makes the pup." It's been borne out again and again. Ask Chet Baker. Ask Jemima. As fate would have it, Phoebe was home during the critical socialization weeks of this jay, giving her the undivided attention that gave her confidence and strength of character.

Did this love and affection cause Jemima to be hopelessly imprinted on humans? Nope. Not by current indications. More on that later. Data is still coming in in great batches.

Can you love a wee little jay and still set her free? Yep. You can. 

Can rehab be fun? Yep. It is (except when it's not.)

 I present Phoebe and the Amazing Inflatable Blue Jay.

On your birthday, Phoebe, I wish you all the happiness in the world. I wish you best friends and delicious food and beautiful days. I wish you the sustaining love of your family and bird magic, every day.

I wish you joy enough to leap for.

Keep those snaps and texts coming, baby. I'm on my way. 

A Zickefoose Wedding

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Of all the rituals we humans carry out, weddings, I think, are the loveliest. Weddings are about promise and hope, about looking forward and believing the best of each other. Weddings celebrate the leap of faith we take when we mingle our fortunes with those of another, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

Holly and Josh, July 2, 2017

It's no small thing, this making of promises, and we assemble everyone we love around us to witness as we put on ritual costumes and gather ourselves for the big leap. When I'm sitting in a wedding crowd, I scan the people around me as the vows are said, wondering what thoughts are rushing through their minds. For no one can hear two young people take those vows and not think about how those weighty, until-death-do-us-part promises have manifested, or will manifest, in their own lives. I find the whole thing fascinating, bemusing, affecting. But if I ever was, I'm not a wedding weeper now. I just settle back and dig the scene, the slight individual variations on this constant theme of everlasting promise and hope.


My beloved brother Bob Zickefoose and his wife Bonnie were celebrating the union of their daughter Holly with Josh this magical day at the Irvine Estate and House Mountain Inn in Lexington, Virginia. What a place to hold a wedding!! The day was soft and warm, the evening was deliriously cool, dry and beautiful, and a fresh breeze was blowing across the patio and dance floor.

The view went on and on. 
There was no place else you'd want to be, and that's saying something.

All afternoon, I had the immense privilege of watching my three nieces and nephews-in-law wrangle their adorable babies. I was humbled and nostalgic as I witnessed their everyday, every-moment feats of good parenting. To be a toddler's parent is to subjugate oneself to the needs of an often irrational, always adorable small small human.  Here, Christy with Ben.

Josh (my niece Katie's husband) with Simon. 

Melting yet?

Cate (Ben's big sister) watches Max and Will break-dancing, flinging their legs around and under their anchoring hands in a mad buzz-saw circle. Cate, I'm with ya, girl. No doin' the coffee grinder for me, hell to the nope. 

Liam shows how you dance with a baby in a convenient sling. 

I absolutely adore this shot, for its unposed beauty, for the interaction between my niece Courtney and her sweet Charlie; Charlie's dad Tyler leaning in; the smile passing between Cam and Courtney's wee daughter Amy; the smile on my niece Clare's face.  Wow. Hold an iPhone up over your head so you can't even see what you're getting, and see what you get. Sometimes you get a painting.

My sister Nancy boogies with Claire, Cate and Amy. Nancy was not ready to go back to the hotel at 10:30 pm. I love that about her, love watching her get those little girls shaking. 

There were little girls in dresses everywhere I looked. That alone would get me up that mountain.

There would be a few tears, but only a few. There was too much fun to be had!

Cate (Christy and Will's wee girleen) was being noncompliant; not exactly bad but not real good; setting off on her own despite her parents' spoken admonitions. I followed, just to be safe. Finally she turned around to head back to her folks and gave me my favorite shot of the trip.  Fairies are real!!

Yep, I'm bad. But nobody minds. I'm good at it.

 My date for the event was tall, blonde and handsome. I'd waited 17 years for him.

He was worth the wait.

Come over here and let me get your eyes against that smoky Blue Ridge. O beautiful boy!

I could hear the Seldom Scene's sweet tenor harmonies in my head. Blue Ridge...Do you call to all your children like you've been calling me? Blue Ridge...Why are you calling me home?

Ahh, now that makes me weep. Do click on the link. Listen to Jonathan Edwards' and John Duffy's voices fly across the mountains! Let it keep playing for "Wait a Minute." Oh my gosh. Good bluegrass...gets me in the rootsy feels.

Because I am the Science Chimp, it was only  a few minutes before I was summoned in to identify a large moth that had found its way into the dining hall. 

Polyphemus! Huge batty miracle of the Appalachian night. Oh!

I carried it outside--it was like carrying a cool, mechanically flapping bird--and released it. After a few false starts, it warmed its flying muscles sufficiently to rise into the air and circle against the Blue Ridge landscape during the wedding ceremony! Something beautiful, released and joyous. No metaphors there, nope.

And sharp-eyed Max found the first regal moth I'd ever seen under a railing outside, and ran to find me. ZOMG. The little child shall lead us. Woot!!! Bear in mind this thing is about 5" long. 

Well, to be precise, I'd seen a regal moth, but not wearing this fabulous King Clown outfit.

You may recall its weiner-sized caterpillar, the Hickory Horned Devil, from a previous blogpost. 
Click on that link, and you'll get the whole life story of the regal moth, as well as a 2010 vintage pic of the family pickin' pawpaws! It's a classic.

Ooga booga booga! his only defense

Being Science Chimp 1 and Science Chimp 2, Liam and I had to sneak off before dinner and find some wild food. 

Around the edge of the property, wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius), native to Asia, were competing with native black raspberries (above) for space, and mostly winning.

Exotic or not, the wineberries were absolutely delicious.

Seeing my son in dress clothes slowly reaching through the thorny tangle for berries to feed his skirt-bound mama did a lot for me. Let me just say that skirts and dresses are USELESS. You can't do anything in them. Ugh. I will wear them for a few hours when required. Then it's back to the sturdy boots, pants and socks, which take me through the vegetation unscratched.

These things are GOOD!! Somebody said he looks like Malfoy here. Well he may, but there's not a cruel or evil bone in this boy's body.

Wineberries: for better or for worse, they're definitely winning here. We ate them all ourselves. Yep, we did. And we didn't feel guilty, well not very, because the food we were about to get was so darned delicious. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We were here not for giant moths, delicious food, or dancing fairies. We were here for Holly and Josh's wedding!

My brother Bob Zickefoose emerges with the bride.

And Josh walks her back into the hall. Everything is changed from this day forward.

And just before that magic moment and a lovely ceremony, Bob's son Aaron and son-in-law Josh K. played and sang some Beatles and Chet Atkins tunes. It was home-made music and it was wonderful to hear "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "I'll Follow the Sun" in this setting. And then my brother Bob sang a special song for the couple. I believe he borrowed the voice of an angel for the occasion. My updated iPhone always crashes now when I launch the Video function, so I missed the intro.

Bob and our sister Dancin' Nancy. 

Bob played the 1964 vintage Guild he bought when he was Liam's age. It's the only guitar he's ever owned, the only one he says he's ever needed. The fretboard is deeply grooved with use. Three stout screws and some glue hold the long-broken head together. Five more screws keep the bridge one with the guitar's cracked body. But it still keeps true. And true is what my brother is, in word, voice and deed. 

Father-daughter dance.

Late night cousin dances

The five Zickefooses. Barbara, Nancy, Micky, Bob, and me. How lucky can you get, to have such people in your corner?

I made this post for my family, but for you, too, because it was all too beautiful not to share. Here's to new beginnings and children well-raised!

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