Road Trip 2021 Day Four (Immeasurably Perfect)

I couldn’t create the perfect day, but I found one today, as fresh as a fried perch straight from the lake. True, it started with my dog kissing my face at 5:20 in the morning, but I was already awake. We walked along the lakeshore trail, still moist from twenty-four hours of rain, as the sun made its way into the sky despite the looming clouds.

I fixed my tea and granola in this tiny cottage and put on my bike kit. Blue, blue, blue: helmet, jersey, bike—trying to fight those clouds. And though Google Maps has no idea what a hill looks like, promising me the ride would be “mostly flat”, I knew better. This is the same ride I did with my dad growing up, on my old BMX, my Huffy ten-speed, just nine or ten, and just like then, I pedaled my ass up and down the many hills on Lake to Lake Road.

Now, at forty-three, I can feel the weight of those hills. The weight of what is left behind at the lake or what waits before you when you make it home.

And I made it home. Though I have visited several times between moving to Denver at age eleven and today, this was the first time I came upon my tiny childhood town on a bicycle. On a bike, you can stop every ten feet. Every five feet. You can feel the mist in the air at the same moist moment that you feel the tears streaming down your face, so overwhelmed by how this little town is almost exactly, in every way shape and form, just as you remembered it. How you remembered walking up the hill to this elementary school built more than a hundred years ago. How your childhood was saving every last dime to buy a piece of 5-cent Bazooka gum or 10-cent fireball from this market. How the curve of the road meant the curve to Dewey Avenue, and this grandiose house built by the construction company two doors down that is Still. There.

How they painted it green now, how the tire swing is missing from the maple but the maple still stands, how the stone wall with the steps down to the street that froze over in the winter for a sledding hill will never be gone. How Flint Creek is as muddy as the day it was born, frozen in winter for ice skating, ripe with frogs and snakes in summer for endless wildlife fantasies.

And you could be here with me, reimagining those summer nights on the upstairs screened porch. Riding your bike up and down the hills, all the way to Canandaigua Lake. Living in a different time.

The perfect day doesn’t end at 9:00 a.m., when my teary-eyed, Amish-sighting bike ride concluded.

It continues with fresh biscuits and apple butter from yesterday’s farm stand. With my girls being agreeable with each other and today’s adventure: Sonnenberg (“sunny hill” in German) Gardens, another childhood favorite. With adventures through a Japanese, a pansy, a rock, an old-fashioned, a blue-and-green, garden.

Throw in a nineteenth-century mansion built by the founder of Citibank, and we have ourselves the perfect locale for beauty and peace, plants and prosperity.

On a road trip, they are together, not isolated in their rooms. They touch plants and share stories and talk, and it’s like they’re little even if we’re about to send one to college. And there is a magic in this walk that can’t be captured in a photo, in a blog post, but only in a grown-and-flown mama’s heart.

A magic that flowed through them as, surprise and joy to us all, we came upon a street fair in the center of Canandaigua. Mythili bought hand-made soap, Rio and Izzy found earrings, Bruce bought a new coffee mug, and I found the perfect wood-carved gift for Fabian. More than the gifts to local artists was the gift of a crowd. Post-COVID crowds, live music, the joy of being vaccinated and free from worry.

How hard it is to be an American, and how easy.

How simple, that within ten square miles, you can see scenes like this, tourist me, and scenes like this, Amish living their independent-yet-free lives.

And that is not the end of my perfect day. My perfect day is this lake where my mother, afraid of water because her parents never taught her how to swim, signed me up for swim lessons at age four. Not in a pool. Not in a rec center. In Canandaigua Lake, where today, the clouds broke free and listened to my blue-morning-beckoning, and brought you this lake, this view, this seventy-five-degree perfection of glacial meltdown between these perfect hills, my childhood hills.

That is my middle child, offering her perfect smile on this perfect day.

That is me, blue on blue on blue, offering my two fingers of peace from my Finger Lake, offering you this memory, this perfect day.

Take it. Tuck it away. Eat your Pontillo’s New York Pizza before it gets cold.

And travel the country, the world, while you still can, where you still can.

Find yourself your own perfect day.

Road Trip 2021, Day Three (Canandaigua Love)

words cannot describe 
how much these hills feel like home
(what was once my home)
an empty highway,
a rural life, cloudy skies
and. oh yes. this lake.
you can’t picture it.
so let me draw you a map.
my Finger Lakes love.
yes, it’s just a store.
you can only imagine
what a store could be.
Colorado born
yet half my childhood is
upstate New York bred
can you taste the plums?
fresh from the roadside farm stand
just pop them in. wait.
you’ll be here with me.
choosing the best ears of corn.
loving, loving life.

Remote Learning Perks

September travel?

we can learn geology

and visit arches

we can buy peaches

from the orchards where they’re grown

relishing their juice

yet COVID follows

with at-capacity parks,

a shut-down ghost town

my motto follows:

be prepared. pack sushi, fruit.

drive towards the sunset.

find the world’s curves

where the sky clears away smoke

and we can just. breathe.

Happiness. Baked.

When I read that post, its remnants sticking to my mind through every one of five hours of punching, sifting, salting, sugaring, and rolling, it feels like I wrote it yesterday. About a time that must have been a million years from today.

This is what a pie is: Something you search for. You don’t settle for the red-and-white cookbook recipe. You listen to your grandmother’s whispers and buy the best flour. You find the words straight from a famous chef’s mouth and shape them into your own, one melted-butter beating at a time. You might have to freeze that pastry for ten minutes or pound it till it listens, but that smooth stretch over nine inches of glass, your daughters laying out lattice and shaping a thumb-and-pinkie catch? Nothing is more beautiful than that.

This is what a pie is: Thanksgiving. Because you clear out your everyday items on the counter to make room for its presence on your holiday table. Because you wait the whole year to spend five hours in this tiny kitchen measuring flour, slicing apples, and cooking up hand-picked, July-we-lost-you cherries (frozen and saved by your mother for this moment) to place this gratitude upon your table.

This is what a pie is: An imperfect crust. Your magazine chef keeps telling you that it should flake, not melt. That it should lie flat, not be perfectly stretched across the bottom and sides of your pie pan. That you should freeze it for two hours before you touch it. You don’t listen. You melt butter, your eight-year-old cuts diagonal lattice strips, your eleven-year-old melts the crust with her hot cherry pie mix, your ten-year-old gives up on shaping her open-topped pumpkin, which melts into a misshapen goo anyway. And yet, they still scramble for scraps to dip in cherry juice and apple-cinnamon deliciousness. So not what it should be. And so what it is.

This is what a pie is: Love. When you don’t have it to make, you long for it. When the year has passed and summer months in an un-air-conditioned home make the idea of turning on an oven for a day unbearable, you look forward to the fall. When the year rolls back around to our national holiday, your tongue lingers on the hope that its crispy, smooth, cinnamon sweetness will hold you for as long as you promised your heart. You love that pie. You admire its beauty, its ability to bring your three getting-too-big girls into your kitchen, begging to be first to make their own, to fight for their chance to pound, roll, spread.

This is what a pie is: Happiness. Baked.









Labor Day

baby stops mid-hill
after fifteen miles, done
she’s still my winner


i will wait for her
as we end this Labor Day
she is my last one


my beach day Denver
filled with beautiful sun girls
swimming and cycling


dreams are made this way
blue skies, wood-fired pizza, sun
and spinning tires


confluence meets park
bike path meets Vittetoe fam
we meet our happy


summer’s end flowers
and a zip line that beats Spain’s
best spent allowance


unions gave day off
for sleeping in and waffles
life’s a rented dream


i think in haikus
in between Monday cycles
that bring creeks and joy


The Sun of this Sunday

they take bottles of clear liquid
wipe the sinks, mirrors, toilets
while we toil with decluttering
and four levels of vacuuming
all before eleven when we
snap ourselves into the tiny car
and drive along sun-streamed streets,
the leaves dancing before us,
letting loose green and gold shade.
we stop and walk to the apple stand
and buy small imperfects
that their hands grasp, juice dripping
before we’ve even ordered souvlaki gyros
to sit on the bench in the shade
and eat with Greek lemon-chicken soup
(i’ll never remember the name).
they skip back to the car
a menagerie of dresses and pants,
and trick-or-treat street awaits
as they measure their steps on the map
sucking in the sun of this Sunday.
we move on to the store that started it all,
the giant scoops of homemade dreams
melting along the sides of the cones
and as we buy our drinks for another day
we move to the library, their singsong voices
unable to contain their excitement over books.
we stop for gas, pack tomorrow’s clothes, lunch,
and evening seeps in to the autumn afternoon
they sit down to veggie sliders
and question our music
and ride their bikes into the night
and remind me
how simply perfect life can be.

Unemployed Words

if words could work
i could buy the right food
food to feed them
food to nurture the Earth
rather than strip her of
her natural beauty

if words would work
we could respond yes
throw our three-dollar-dinner
into the wastebasket
and forget the one week and
ten dollars left till payday

if words could cure
the tears would be smiles
and they could have
the ice cream cones of their dreams
instead of the cheap flavorless popsicles
that melt before they can get a taste
of the world with my words.