Holy cow I haven’t written in a while.
I blame winter: my go-to scapegoat, my personal patsy, my fall-guy. Damn season comes around every year–despite my protestations–and doesn’t it just stay for several months?
We didn’t even get entirely dumped on with snow this winter; no crazy ice-storms and subsequent sans-electricity-for-a-week tumult; no need for a generator or trip to Bali. My family got outside, did some sledding, survived the bus-stop mornings with nary a complaint from the girls. I’m the only winter whiner, and I really do try to keep it on the down-low, but winter is a drag for me, especially as it drags on after the holidays. My college friend Jen used to say February was her least favorite month–not only the dark and the freeze, but the misery, as a young, single person, of enduring a month that also gives us Valentines Day and the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue. No disrespect to TS Eliot, but February can be cruel. I like my April.
April is Easter hope and residual March Madness (Go Cats!). April is oodles of color–the eye-smacking yellow at every turn: buttercups, daffodils, forsythia. The pink and white of cherry blossoms and magnolias, hanging roadside like soft chandeliers. The red buds on our front yard Japanese maple and peony: signs of living everywhere.
It’s not that I haven’t lived this winter. But it sometimes feels as if I haven’t moved after a winter has come and finally gone. Even if I hit the gym regularly or go out for crisp walks, I can’t help but feel sedentary, stiff, uninspired.
Over Spring Break we went with friends to the Franklin Institute to see, among many other things, the Pixar Exhibit, which I loved. My favorites were the informational kiosks entitled “Working at Pixar” scattered throughout the two floors. You’d press a button and learn about the woman who’s job it was to add movement to Joy’s dress in Inside Out; press another button and see the guy who made and explains the physics behind the red of Lightning McQueen and the brown, muted rust of Mater.
Press another button and there’s this smart gentleman who developed and is attempting to describe the rendering equation. Let’s see if I got this right: a similar method, called the Monte Carlo, which simulated how atomic particles get scattered inside a bomb, was originally developed for the hydrogen bomb project. But our kind, smart friend at Pixar used his theory for how light is scattered to create awesome-looking, happiness-inducing movies. How’d I do? And how ’bout our kind, smart friend?
So we left the Pixar Exhibit and went to the Brain Exhibit where I couldn’t get over this visual of the brain of a three-year old–neurons connecting like crazy because of all of the new things this child is learning. Next to that was a visual of the brain of a twenty year old, and there were shockingly far fewer lines, A LOT more white area. What? I get that the twenty year old’s already learned to walk and talk, so she isn’t experiencing substantial newness, but dear God, she’s only twenty?! If she’s got that much space, imagine the oceans of white in my brain. Do I have any neurons left? And if so, can they find each other?
Dave and I had planned a day-trip with the girls to New York City for the following day. The recent Brussels’s bombings got me worrying that maybe we shouldn’t go. To think, now, it’s a roll of dice just to hop on a commuter train from Trenton. It kept me up a lot of the night.
But we went, and standing in line for cheap Broadway tickets, we serendipitously ran into my sister-in-law and two of my nieces. They’d chosen just that day to also drive from Philly to Trenton, take the train in, and see a show. We spent the entire day with them: Ellen’s Stardust Cafe, where our waiter, Dave, sang a beautiful “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. Rockefeller Center for a short spell before going to see Finding Neverland, which was magical and made me cry. We hit the three-story M & M store, then we all walked to and through a tiny chunk of Central Park. Caroline noticed, “Mommy, there are people kissing everywhere (icky face)” but there were also people rock climbing, children swinging, big dudes doing aerial flips over a circle drawn in dirt. All that activity made us hungry, so we of course grabbed NY slices at a pizza joint, then stopped into the Marriott Marquis for Shirley Temples before heading back to Penn Station.
Cousins nibbled on M&M’s and giggled with cousins the entire train ride back: lips chapped from the grinning, eyes puffed with exhaustion. I hadn’t seen my girls that happy for that many consecutive hours . . . I don’t think ever.
“Nothing happens until something moves.” Einstein. I saw this quotation on a wall entering Sir Isaac’s Loft at the Franklin Institute. My friend Ashley saw it as well, separately, but brought it up to me while we were watching our kids running around in this playground of chain reactions, pulleys, and prisms: Lexi lifting her own body weight; the other kids transfixed by the gigantic kinetic sculpture, watching balls travel along tracks. So this is how energy transfers.
Nothing happens until something moves. It’s a simple statement that spoke to both of us, probably for different reasons. We didn’t get into it, really. We just acknowledged its truth.
For me, it’s time to get moving and keep the balls rolling throughout next winter, too, because God-willing, it will come again. We can’t let darkness or fear immobilize us. We have to ride the train. Go somewhere. Keep learning, keep writing and creating. Strive for kind and smart. Energy will transfer and neurons will connect. At any age. In any and every one of life’s seasons.