Concord Monitor and New Hampshire Patriot Review
August 25, 2002

Bookmarks

Rebecca Rule

How to get through that slow, uphill climb

Terry Marotta presents a breezy, 52-essay collection of observations and advice.

In the introduction to her new book Vacationing in My Driveway, Terry Marotta writes: "One minute it's a slow uphill climb through grey days and endless workweeks and floods of unexplained water lapping in your basement. Then blink once, and suddenly it's a long delicious scooter-coast downhill, with blue skies in ever direction and the leaves new and stretching on their delicate web of veins 'til they're taut as tiny umbrellas.

"That's what it's like on this old earth. There are seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow; seasons of loss and seasons of renewal. Often they come on each other's heels, running relay races around your heart. And, sadly enough, you never know which is headed for you next."

Ain't it the truth and don't we know it, especially when we've had a few decades to experience the cycles of dark and bright, the grueling uphill struggles and the sudden cresting to swift, wild, exhilarating, joyous change. Then - bang - we smack into the next obstacle (illness, rejection, a pink slip, car trouble) and we're on the next emotional hill, like Pooh unsure of whether we're halfway up or halfway down.

We try to learn as we go.

What Marotta has learned and what she expresses so well in this collection of 52 essays, one for each week of the year, is that we must take our "vacations" as they come:

". . . an hour here, an hour there. A great many I take when, pulling my car at last into the driveway, I realize that maybe I don't really have to tear inside and start banging the pots around to make dinner. Instead, maybe I can just sit for a spell, and think nothing, do nothing, plan nothing for once, but only look and listen, and maybe hear the faint pulse of the seasons' slow turning."

Memory: a cartoon character sitting on a toilet with the caption, "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits."

I smile over that image; it comes to me when I'm doing nothing much, like sitting on the swing under the tree sipping Earl Grey tea and watching a chipmunk elude the dog by sliding in and out of the stone wall. Marotta's essays, her stories,

remind readers that life flourishes in the moment.

Memory: I'm 12 years old and in the finals of the county spelling bee. My word is "flourish," but to me the judge pronounces it more like "flowerish," which is how I spell it.

Marotta's syndicated column appears in many newspapers across the country including the Laconia Citizen, Nashua Telegraph and Portsmouth Herald.

She lives in Boston but spends her weekends (and sometimes mid-weeks, too) at her place in Meredith overlooking the "lovely, lapping water."

She pays attention to little things: the jingling of a dog collar, the gargling and whooshing of an automatic sprinkler, "the red of a favorite sweater. That tingly first bite of plum, with its bitter-soon-yielding-to-sweet taste. The face of an old alarm clock, whose second-hand trembled and jumped minutely, tense with the coiled energy of its metal mainspring."

Memory: Tommy Makem on his CD Live at the Irish Pavilion singing a song by J. Stewart with the chorus: "A little road and a stone to roll. Everybody needs a stone to roll." It's a song about the little things everybody needs: a sheet to fold, a hand to hold, some old loose shoes, a little good news. It's Terry Marotta's book musically bundled.

When a person pays attention to little things, "vacation" takes on a broader meaning than two weeks in July in a camper trailer a quarter mile from Hampton Beach. Marotta's on vacation all the time.

Written over the course of many years (in some pieces her children are small, in some they are grown), the essays are ordered from January to December and the author suggests you start the book not at the beginning but in the month in which you are reading it. Her July topics include an encounter with a stranger at a sidewalk café, which leads to a discussion of love; the hazards of the summer rental; how a child teaches a mother to set responsibility aside for an afternoon and play under a sprinkler; and what Mom and Dad do and feel when the kids are all at camp vs. what they think they're going to do and feel.

Marotta's breezy style is well-suited to her generous and optimistic world view. The bits and pieces of her life she shares here are perfectly paced for beach or bathroom reading, wherever you choose to sits and think, or sits and read, or even just sits. Her words will make you smile, make you think, make you remember, and maybe (this happened to me) inspire you to tell or write some of your own stories as she reminds you of the sweetness of the moment fully lived.

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