Kofi

When Tom and I met, we quickly established that the daily need for excellent coffee was something we had in common. It was early in our tenure that we discussed the insult to coffee that is a commercial Bunn hot plate and pot.

I was living in a small studio apartment on the Upper East Side and to lessen the deleterious impact of daily Starbucks on my limited income mostly drank coffee that I made with my stovetop moka pot. He was a consultant in DC and could afford to buy his morning cappuccino but wished for the convenience and quality of a good home espresso machine. Also, Tom hates to overspend, and a daily Starbucks is really just that.

We met in May of 2004, and by December, Tom was pretty sure we were each other's one. So for Christmas, he gave me the present he'd sort of been wanting to give himself, figuring we'd both benefit from and love it: a Rancilio espresso maker and a Nuova Simonelli grinder (in a darling cherry red because the red one was on sale; see above point about overspending). 

We set them up on an old breakfast table chair from my parents' early years in a corner of my tiny kitchen. The placement required us to squat while grinding the beans and brewing the espresso, but the coffee was delicious, and we both loved this promise of a future together. 

In 2004, Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the UN. Can you picture him? What a wonderful man with such a wonderful, kindly face. He and his UN team won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001; Annan was celebrated for "having revitalized the UN and for having given priority to human rights." 

Tom and I both admired Annan and for some reason that now escapes me, other than that the word and name sound vaguely similar, took to calling our coffee, Kofi or Kofi Annan. "Would you make me a Kofi?" "Oh, I'd just love some Kofi Annan right now." 

When Annan retired in 2006, we would address each other as Secretary Ban (Annan's successor) in requesting Kofi. I can't tell you how many times I've texted Tom from bed: "Secty Ban, may I request Kofi?" It's been harder to update to Secretary Guterres (who took over for Ban at the end of 2016) because his name is longer, but we try to keep current. Always, there is Kofi. The shorthand brings a smile to early mornings, a nod to all we've created and enjoyed together over the years. It also serves as connective tissue during the harder times, the dark spots of marriage that weave through the years too.

When Mr. Annan died yesterday, I felt deeply sad. Sad for the loss of a fine diplomat who spent his life trying to make the world better and more peaceful. Sad that he had to watch America pull out of the UN Human Rights Council and act in such ugly and bigoted fashion. I imagine Mr. Annan was disheartened by what he saw happening, that he thought back to being in New York on September 11 (as I was) and remembered how at first this country came together in unity and with kindness. Sad that a daily part of my life was in some way gone.

I saw the news yesterday morning as I struggled to wake up. One eye open, I tapped my phone to check the time and saw the alert that Kofi was gone. I texted Tom, "Kofi died. :(" 

"What? Oh, the real Kofi." Half asleep too, he'd thought I meant our espresso maker.

"But he will live on in our kitchen."

Yes he will. In peace, dear sir.

The banjo and Mister Rogers

Despite my lack of musical ability and deep musical knowledge, I have always loved stringed instruments and any great choral group. I spent years falling asleep to George Winston's piano, have never met a double bass I didn't love, and nearly fall to pieces when I hear Ode to Joy sung properly.

Tom's grandfather and also one of his first cousins were/are professional musicians, and we rather hoped some of that ability would make its presence known in our kids. From an early age, Jack seemed he very might well have gotten the gene. By four he'd asked for a piano, washboard, accordion, and recorder. At five, he pleaded to take violin lessons, and regularly wished to visit our local music store to sit with the guitars and banjos. 

Violin didn't last, but his interest in music has (he vetoed any choral involvement to my chagrin, however), and for the past eighteen months or so, he's taken saxophone lessons. Sometime during the past year, he added piano, and seems to love and have facility with both. 

One of the best surprises about the summer camp the boys went to was the strong musical tradition, including the space made for and celebration of current campers and counselors who play and sing. The farewell ceremony included not a few performances of all manner of size and instrument, all of which were moving.

Both kids really enjoyed that aspect of their summer experience, and Jack came home with a serious desire to take up the banjo. Ol's counselor played and was such a wonderful, kind inspiration and friend to both boys, so I imagine that's where this fire was sparked. I arranged for a trial lesson and told J he had to choose between sax and banjo as three instruments was one too many for now. 

I think he's a string kid at heart because it was ultimately no decision at all, and he has not stopped strumming his new beauty (for which he is paying a full quarter!) since it came home. The banjo is so cool, and I am just loving this new soundtrack. 

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I simply must beseech you to see Won't You Be My Neighbor? if you haven't already. A documentary about Mister Rogers, it is so very moving and dear. The kids and I saw it today (they loved it too), and I cried four times. I didn't clearly recall watching the show as a child, but seeing King Friday XIII and Daniel Striped Tiger and Lady Elaine brought back such clear images of them from my past. I imagine Fred Rogers would be so dismayed by the state of our country today, so sad at the devolution of general kindness and conversation and hearing and listening. It's a really fine film. I hope you see it.

Hello, hello, we're all back: camp and a protest

Y'all, driving to and from Maine (from MD) in six days in a rented van in order to pick up your children and their extensive baggage from and say goodbye to sleepaway camp after six weeks is not for the feint of heart. It is not a trip I will replicate anytime soon.

That said, J and O were blissfully happy at camp and cannot wait to return. J cried and cried during the closing ceremony, and my heart was full of gratitude for the joyous, adventurous summer he and Ol had. Neither missed screens or electricity. 

The celebration of boys and their development, of nature and living intimately and compassionately in it, of simplicity and togetherness, of tradition and of emotion and connection was palpable in every memory shared, joke recounted, and bit of growth noticed. Plus, Jack gained 8 pounds. This camp is a very special place, and we all look forward to returning next June.

Once gone, we found a live spider in Ol's trunk, some of their clothes seemed shellacked into grotesquely dirty homages to day spent in dirt, some of their possessions are flat-out gone, J jubilantly showed me how his Nalgene bottle had survived being run over by a truck, and Ol matter-of-factly informed me that his record for wearing the same pair of underpants topped 11 days. I'm ill. Don't even get me started on dealing with their finger- and toe-nails. Vomitous! And y'all, I am not a germaphobe or clean-freak. 

Long story short, camp scored 100% but we will return home in different fashion next year. 

Shortly after completing eleven loads of laundry and settling back in, the one-year anniversary of the heinous white supremacist affair in Charlottesville arrived. I am telling you, life never stops. This year, the "fine" supremacist folks planned to march not only in C'ville but also in DC. Hell no. Yesterday (Sunday) morning, I donned seersucker shorts and pearl earrings (tee hee) and headed downtown to march with a dear friend against the bigots. 

We counter protesters were many, an energetic, compassionate, fed-up motley crew who simply are not interested in tolerating racism, fascism, trump, or any shitty, backwards shit here. In addition, the police presence was huge. I admit that my stomach hurt a bit as we approached Lafayette Square where the Right's rally was officially located. But we saw not a one, and at last count, I heard that no more than two-dozen racists showed themselves. 

 racists encircled in yellow

racists encircled in yellow

All in a day, or a week as it were.