Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Loud Vernacular Horn

While my kids are still in school until next week, summer has hit elsewhere, and already the updates from friends on Facebook include descriptions of trips to Paris and Italy and Mexico. Note the word include but don't think I'm feeling resentful or anything. I have other friends who will spend their summers working or freaking out that summer school hours have been cut once again by the school system. Still others are spending weeks in the PICU at nearby hospitals, whiling away the hours playing Words with Friends while their children are hooked up to respirators and waiting for induced comas to end and seizures, hopefully, to stop.

We won't be doing much this summer other than the usual harrowing trip to Hilton Head Island in July (more on that later) and various day camps for my strapping boys. Since Sophie's seizure activity has stepped up of late, I'm resigned to do a series of doctor visits with her, holding my breath. We'll do a lot of hanging out in our pajamas which is actually one of the best parts of summer. We'll work on a list of stuff we'd like to do and post about that later, but given the amount of fabulousness I'm witnessing in other's lives, I think it's time to pull out the Billy Collins and let him speak for me, once again.


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café, ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in my journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Billy Collins


  1. Come to Oxnard. Nevermind the bovine ring to its name.Bring Sophie--and the boys if they're not at camp. We can drive to a beach in Ventura where the walking is easy.
    And we need to talk about cake. I sold my townhouse!

  2. i do love billy collins' world view.

  3. I can barely make it out to the chicken house. Rome would kill me.

  4. My daughter's going to sleepaway camp for a month, but the only place I'm going is to work.

  5. I just asked Jake if he was staying in his pajamas all day and his reply was, "Absolutely."

    Our summer sounds very similar to yours and hopefully includes our boys and our girls spending some time hanging out together.

    That would be a nice addition to our summer to - do list my friend.

  6. I love Billy Collins, but I just can't agree with him.

    I'm excited to hear about Hilton Head, as I hope to one day vacation there myself!

  7. We're not doing much this summer. No vacation plans.

    Owen will attend his summer program. (We call it camp).

    Bea will be up my ass daily for constant entertainment.

    It will be awesome.

  8. Your photo is precious, love the look on the little ladies face and her stance :)
    Sometimes I truly would rather keep my romantic, dreamy thoughts :) where nothing is spoiled.
    Happy Tea day :)

  9. I just read a friend's blog she is going to Paris then Antwerp then New York then back to Paris and she was all la dee dah like she was so freaking bored with it all. I about crawled to my bedroom and curled up in a little ball. Billy's poem makes me feel better and you. You are wicked funny.

  10. Ah, for me the combination of being a natural homebody and too much travel as a child makes the title of that poem for me not "Consolation" but "MY Happiness."

    Elizabeth and all those who long for something different, I wish you the best possible summer and that someday you can have the opportunities you crave.

  11. You speak to the converted with me, Elizabeth. I much prefer to stay at home.

  12. "Not even Bologna"...LOL! I had a friend who lived in Bologna for a while. That sentence would probably annoy her.

    Unfortunately I can't quite partake of the ease of home because I'm playing tour guide all summer for passing waves of visitors. I need a waitress named Dot in my life.

  13. We are right there with you! After spending a large portion of hubby's salary this year on an educational advocate/attorney, I have bought a large plastic pool at Kmart and intend to spend much of the summer soaking in it!

  14. sorry about sophie's seizures.

    Im with you, Mr. Collins, this summer too :)

  15. The big guy loves Alberta. He was born here and thinks Edmonton is wonderful. To be honest, Edmonton is at it's best in summer, the city has turned green with all the rain and the festivals begin soon. Here is not such a bad place to be. You have the ocean, which I do miss but we do have a beautiful river .

    We sat on our balcony last night, cooling off, sitting amongst the pots of flowers and tomatoes, sitting quietly and I thought, this is good.



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