There are days that seem endless with activities and events. Weeks that go by without a minute to stop and sit down with my family all at once, or even one at a time. Dance classes, swim practices, play practices, meetings, meets, games . . . they all take a toll on the family and on each individual. Especially at this time of the year, when things all start to pile up, I start to think about how beautiful it would be to leave it all behind. Get out of everything, go live in the middle of nowhere, forget the world and the activities. The probability of that is minimal, at best, but a girl can dream. Until that dream comes true, I relish in the extraordinary of ordinary days.
Actually, what I think of as ordinary are the exception. The days when we can hang out at home, having nothing to do at all. This weekend we actually had a couple of those days. A swim meet that was supposed to happen was cancelled, and then we had MLK day. Two days to do very little. I listen to the girls play, knowing that I should take them to the movie, or sledding, or to the library. But they are enjoying doing nothing at home; building with Legos, playing with Barbies and American Girl dolls, drawing, painting, writing. I love listening to the girls do all the things that don’t get done on other days.
Of course, along with that comes the arguing. I mean, the girls are only 15 months apart. And Katy, my beautiful daughter with Down syndrome, is really good at playing the victim. She is cute and little and VERY good at manipulation, and she uses that power for personal gain. So I play referee and judge, remembering that Libby, my beautiful older daughter, has to deal with The Manipulator on a regular basis.
Even the arguing, though, is beautiful, considering that there are many days the girls don’t see each other for more than half-an-hour. Ordinary days are splendid, even with the fights and the mess, the yelling and the tattling. Because that means we also get giggles and hugs, talking and secrets, artwork and heart-to-hearts. So I will relish in the magic of ordinary days. These are the days I will remember when life goes off the rails, like it always does. These days are what make up a happy life.
“One of the odd things about middle age, he concluded, was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them, like allowing friends to drift away through simple neglect.”
After reading Empire Falls by Richard Russo I cried. I was so sad it was over, so sad to leave Empire Falls, Maine, that I actually wept. The characters are so real, flaws and all, that I miss them. It took me a few days to pick up another book, and that NEVER happens to me.
On my Read Across The U.S. Quest, this was my first book. My novel for Maine. And it was a wonderful book with which to begin. Russo sets a perfect stage, and fills it with wonderfully rich characters. To him I say THANK YOU!!!! And, I’m so sorry I haven’t discovered you sooner!
Empire Falls, Maine has seen better days. The town, once prosperous under a successful textile mill owned by the Whiting family, has been closed for a couple of decades and the few businesses still open are hanging on by a thread. This includes The Empire Diner, a restaurant run by Miles Roby and owned by the last of the Whiting family, Francine. She promised the diner to Miles upon her death as long as he ran it for her, forcing him to leave college, when his mother was ill. In this, he feels his fate was sealed.
Miles is the protagonist of this story, a man in the middle of his life. He runs the diner and his life without passion, although I loved Miles. He is in the middle of a divorce, one that he doesn’t want but isn’t willing to fight, mainly because of his daughter, Tick, who is dealing with high school and those rocky waters. We even get to watch as Miles’ father, Max, runs off to Key West with a senile priest and the offering money, something that is met with very little surprise by Miles and his brother, David.
Readers are privy to flashbacks, from both the Whiting clan and Miles himself. Miles own memories help him deal with old wounds, making him also confront his current barriers. Tick also has to deal with the upsets of small town life and adolescence drama. In the end, it is a need to heal Tick that forces him to leave town.
This was a wonderful book with which to begin my journey. It was a perfect look at a small Maine town, written by a writer who uses his pen to paint a wonderful picture. Unfortunately, Vermont wasn’t such a treat. But that’s a story for another day.