Wild Grapes

October 8, 2015 § 2 Comments

Wild grapes are the best scent of fall.  Pumpkin is fine, I like pumpkin very much, but nothing says fall to me like clambering through the woods and catching that elusive tang of wild grapes ripening somewhere nearby.  The annual hayride at Zelinkas is coming up soon, so I’ll probably ride the wagon all the way into the woods and then jump out (setting a terrible example for the young children… “Kids, do NOT jump out of the moving hay wagon.”) and tramp around the forest looking for the grapes and all the other ephemeral childhood memories hidden within the Z’s woods.  So many ghosts of my friends and myself, running through the trees, playing Manhunt and Soccer and Orphans, telling secrets in the rowboat on the pond, daring each other to eat a tiny bite of the horses’ molasses-sweetened grain.

Although autumn in Pennsylvania is pretty as a picture and twice as interesting- what with the constant fluctuation between delightfully blue sunny days and “let me snuggle under a blanket with a book” dreary gray rain- I have to keep my mind in summer mode for a little while longer.  Costa Rica beckons, a mere month (and 6 days) away.  Jess has been in NEPA from Costa Rica for the past week or so, and we’ve been talking about our plans for me and Channing’s visit, and how I’m going to build sand castles with little Alana and drink mango margaritas all day long.  And do yoga overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Insta-worthy, indeed.

November is shaping up to be a wonderful month.  My little niece Yeardley will be turning 1, and I’ll probably pop down to Erica & Bryan’s for her birthday party during the first week of the month.  Channing and I leave for Costa Rica on the 14th for five days of sun, sand, and fedora.  And by the time I get back, Thanksgiving will only be a week away.  That means pies, cakes, and whatever slightly more technical desserts I decide to bake this year.  Last year, I made every single dessert my family enjoyed on Thanksgiving, and I am rightly still proud of myself, especially for that chocolate torte.  I also still have the burns to prove it.  “Forever Scarred (From Caramel Sauce)” will now be the name of my autobiography.  Sadly, the Michigan family probably won’t be making an appearance in PA for the holiday this year, because I don’t think Jul will be up for 18 hours in the car when she’s three weeks away from giving birth.  She’s having a little boy in the beginning of December, and I’ve already told her she’s not allowed to name him James. (My favorite boy’s name… after Jamie Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, of course.)  Cathy and I have been having virtual Taylor Swift jam sessions on Facebook.  Mainly we just post lyrics on each other’s wall with a bunch of sobbing emojis.  It’s not nearly as fun as real life.  She needs to come back home.  Who even likes Michigan, anyway?  Dang it, Michigan!

If November looks to be fun, well, September and (so far) October definitely were.  I started September off in the best possible way: by spending Labor Day weekend down at the beach in Longport.  Gin & tonics, sunset bicycle rides, and lots of reading books on the beach.  My aunt and uncle spoil me when I’m down there, and I love them for it.  Later in the month I went to the Breaking Benjamin concert at Montage with Mike and some friends. Breaking Ben played a lot of their older songs, so we were all singing along at the top of our lungs.  It was a great show, except for the $15 beers once you were inside.  A few Sundays ago, (yoga) Erica and I went on a bike ride on the Back Mountain Trail.  Or, to more accurately depict our day, I should say we: ate giant burritos at Chipotle, drove through Starbucks for sugary caffeinated beverages, and then decided it might be a nice thing to ride bikes for two hours.  There is a method to our madness, but I am not quite sure what exactly it is.

On one of the more humid September days, Ron and I went to a swimming hole near Laflin. It was a pretty little spot, tucked into the woods after a fifteen minute drive down a rutted and winding dirt road.  Luckily his Jeep is a beast.  The hole is made by a creek that slides down some rocks into a large, almost perfectly circular pool, then spills over another bank of rocks at the end.  When I sat on the rocks at the edge of the water and looked up, all I could see was a round little cup of blue sky, encircled by the tall green pines.  It was deep too; neither Ron nor I could touch the bottom in the center.  I asked him if he thought there’d be any water snakes, and he said, “No, of course not, the water’s too cold for them.”  So we swam around for a while and got out when the sky started turning gray with coming rain.  As we were standing on the rocks, discussing the odd conversational style of his ex-girlfriend, I noticed small ripples on the surface of the water.  “Ron,” I said calmly, “what is that?”  “Probably a…fish?”  He peered at the water.  And then we both saw it.  A water snake, gliding sinuously through the pool, heading in our general direction.  I shrieked like a steam engine (a girly move on my part…the snake was literally nowhere close to us) and ran up on top of a giant boulder where I could see it coming if it decided to eat me.  Ron gave me eighteen heart attacks by going down to the water and saying he was going to try to pick it up.  Apparently he has handled water snakes before.  I told him I considered him a great friend, and I enjoyed his life advice and our long, rambling theological discussions, but if he came near me with that snake, I would murder him, and the 5th Commandment be darned.

He did not pick up the snake.

Near the end of September was the long awaited PAPAL VISIT.  I went down on the bus with Kevin, Rich, Paul, Pete, my mother, and a few dozen other people from our church.  We didn’t even make it through security.  We got stuck in a huge line of people for three hours and then ended up watching the Mass on television at the Comcast building. But it was strangely moving, being in a completely secular place, surrounded by thousands of people who are all saying the same prayers, participating in the same Mass with you.  We went out to the parkway to receive Communion.  So I’ve received Communion that was consecrated by the Pope.  How many people can say that? (Also I got interviewed for the Citizens Voice because of it, and now I’m a local celeb.)

To start October off right, Channing, Jess, Missy, and I had dinner at Thai Thai.  The red curry was as delicious as ever.  We’ve done brunch at River Grille a couple Sundays in a row as well.  Sunday afternoon football on the television at the bars is always the best part of September.  I don’t follow it as much as hockey, but every time it starts back up, I’m reminded of how much I really do enjoy it.  Football around here is a BIG deal.  And if I still feel a little stab of pain every time I hear someone mention Eli Manning and the Giants, well, that too shall pass.  Fly, Eagles, fly.  Another nice thing about September was spending more time with my older brother.  Dan is recently single, and we’ve been hanging out a lot more than we used to when he was visiting Christina every other weekend.  Although I miss her, I have to admit it’s been hilarious good times to go out again with Dan and see old friends, be goofy in the Babetski way, talk about life and love and being grown-ups in this wide, wide world.

I guess if there’s a point to this rambling post, it’s this: my family and friends are an incredible gift to me.  I have felt such spiritual silence in the past few months, such a weight on my soul.  I just keep going back to the basics of my life, saying to myself in the words of St. Pio: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  Use this time to stay close with your family, to build your friendships and shine your nerdy little light out into the world.  I am happy here in Wilkes-Barre; I want to spread a little of that happiness and peace to the people I love.  And if that sounds cheesy, well, I’ve always been a romantic at heart.

Here’s to fall in the Northeast.  Let’s go run around in the woods and find some wild grapes.

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