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Summer of ’95

In the summer of 1995, I volunteered on an excavation at Tel Miqne/Ekron in Israel.

It was, in most respects, an awful experience. My first square turned up nothing but mud. The students in my second square spent all their time complaining and/or sick. The food was unimaginably horrible (hot dog and French fry casserole, anyone?). And my area supervisor was sufficiently porcine that fourteen years has done nothing to soften my memories or improve my opinion of him.

So, that summer adventure was not so hot. On the other hand, I did get to spend 8 weeks in Israel, I did see the whole country, and, in hindsight, I did get to use a 25 year-old body for hard labor before the rust set in. I say in hindsight because at the time I took that body for granted. I squatted for hours on end. I hacked at the ground. I used a sledge hammer to take down a wall. And my body did it all with very little complaint.

Unlike now. I’ve spent another two days in the garden, and I’m beat. My yard is officially “killer” not because it looks good, but rather because it has nearly killed me. Yesterday I decided to finish framing Simon’s play area in the back yard. This involved laying out 16 timbers and anchoring them with 16 stakes pounded into the ground with a mallet. Fifteen of those timbers required a dozen or fewer blows. One got caught up in rock and root, required dozens (hundreds?) of blows, had to be relocated five times, and required massive digging before I managed to get it in.

When I finished it, I felt triumphant. I declared myself Queen of the Yard and the baddest member of our household. Then I went to pick up a cup and watched my right thumb go into a muscle spasm at the effort. I can only imagine that all the pounding stressed it in a new way; for by today even holding a plate or making a fist was enough to set it to quivering.

Today I dug out most of the jonquils lining my sidewalk and planted 24 little containers of ajuga. I also moved some of the mulch from our tree work into the play area. And I was supposed to prep the guest bedroom for a new coat of paint and plant 8 buckets of lamium. Didn’t happen. Not going to happen. I am too beat, my hands are too stiff and sore, my thumb is still wobbly, and come Tuesday I’m going to need a functioning right hand.

Sigh. This makes me feel irritatingly, incredibly old. My body at 39 doesn’t look that different than it did at 25, but it sure has taken a performance hit. Today has made me think of the summer of ’95 many, many times, and made me wish I could have appreciated my physical resilience in the moment. I thought of it so much that I even brewed a cut of Moroccan mint tea and drank it—-piping hot—under the mid-day sun, just like I did all those summers ago.

Despite these thoughts, today was filled with very little nostalgia. I’m delighted it’s ’09 and not ’95.  For starters, watching Simon push his own wheel barrow across the lawn in the late afternoon to “help” us offered more pleasure than anything I did fourteen summers ago. For seconders, Simon’s looking up at me from his bath tonight, seeing me in my pink pajamas, and telling me I was “kee-ute” was nicer than anything I heard fourteen years ago. And thirdly, my body may have been stronger fourteen years ago, but my resolve was not. Today I can’t imagine why I didn’t stand up to the abusive area supervisor or at least request a transfer out of his area. Shaky thumb and all, late thirties beats mid-twenties hands down in my book.

One Response to “Summer of ’95”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Unfortunately, this seems to be the way the body works. Sometimes it gets very frustrating but the determination factor plays a big role and I personally get so much satisfaction from the completed task, whatever it is, that it makes the aches and pains worth it.

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