Birthday season


We were frustrated.

Love my hat though.

The Son missed his SAT testing date (too much throwing up), lost his retainer ($400), and was not having the baseball season he imagined for himself (a little bit his own fault but not entirely).  I wouldn’t have known most of this except there are so many portals to check, assess and navigate, I really had no choice.  There was a highlight, however:  Mr. Halfstory and I examined our unsatisfactory shower situation – which has the same temperature and pressure as spit – and suddenly remembered: you can adjust the hot water heater.  Amazing!  Years ago we’d set it to a “child-friendly” temperature and had never reassessed.  Our children were never scalded!  We feel good about that.

One particularly irritating day I consumed:

I would recommend these only in moderation.

Of course, we did have five birthdays to celebrate.  The Son’s cake:

None of my kids like frosting (appalling) so I instead decorated it with little signs to remind him of his loving mother.

Then the girls got thumped by a well-coached team in the playoffs.  First round.  As a friend and I often mention, our youth-sports-centered memoirs will be titled The Ride Home.

But enough about all that.

I am almost through with Life After Life, by one of my favorite authors, Kate Atkinson.  I saw her read from One Good Turn years ago and she seemed remarkably normal.  Actually, that day she seemed annoyed and tired; her talk was at 10:00am on a Monday and there were maybe five women in attendance, all of them – including me – looking like sleepy housewives.

I do very much like this book, although – wow – my head is spinning from its structure and complexity.  Ursula is born and reborn again and again (which means she dies repeatedly and in different ways) into the same family, each time living a bit longer and, of course, making different choices, resulting in varied outcomes.  It’s fascinating and inventive stuff and Atkinson is the perfect author to tackle this.  That said, it’s an exhausting journey, and, true to Atkinson form, one that has razor sharp humor and disturbing violence, often in the same paragraph.  I love how she reveals character depth in subtle ways.  Sylvie, Ursula’s mother, is loving and icy (possibly just a product of her generation but I’m not that generous).  Pamela might be an ally or a distant sister and Hugh, Ursula’s father, is her constant star…so far.  I don’t trust Atkinson, but this is a good thing.  A reader does need surprises, and well-written ones are always welcome.

Mr. Halfstory and I recently saw a bit of live theatre (it’s fun to type that), Black Watch, produced by ACT in San Francisco and showing at the Armory on 14th and Mission.  Small detail:  my mom used to drive us by this building when we were misbehaving.  It was abandoned at the time.  (Oddly enough, a few years back it was sold to a porn film company, but I don’t have further details on that.)  We would roll around in the back of the car, fully aware she was mad, and she would slow down and tell us it was an orphanage and she was going to leave us there if we didn’t Knock It Off Immediately.  I encourage you to google it; it’s a medieval torture chamber building.  Good times.  Anyhow, Black Watch is the story of Scotland’s famed Black Watch regiment and the events surrounding its deployment to Iraq.  I can’t pretend to understand why men go to war or want to go to war.  Or, for that matter, why they ever want to fight for their mates, especially when they are often responsible for constructing opposing sides in the first place.  So that part of it was completely foreign to me.  However, the staging, the performances and the timely subject matter shouldn’t be missed.  Plus, you get to go inside what used to be my orphanage home.