Saturday, October 27th, is Katie's birthday. She would have been 31.
Last year, for Katie's 30th, we went to Cali Manest, a city in the Carpathian Mountains, where Katie was holding a regional training session for IOCC. We ate mici at a roadside stand, went for a hike into the mountains that Saturday afternoon, went for a long walk along the river the next day, had dinner at a local restaurant where an accordion player was fronting a rock band (think Weird Al meets Slayer), and that Sunday morning slept in and watched a Scooby-Doo marathon on the Cartoon Network.
Cali Manest is known in Romania for its natural sulfur springs, and anytime we walked through the lobby, we got a good whiff. As we walked along the river, I thought I had never seen so many trees in full autumn bloom: patch upon patch of more yellow, red, and orange. There was a riverside market where we bought walnuts, then weighed the pros and cons of getting a strange intestinal bug in Central Romania before eating the whole bag. It was cold, I remember, and we hadn't received our stuff shipped from the States, yet, so we were wearing layers upon layers, and bought another layer at the market for good measure. We also bought some futbol gear to give to the nieces and nephews. Or maybe we didn't buy them but just thought about buying these big Steaua-Bucharest towels. I remember we had to take a bus back to Bucharest, it was taking forever, so finally we took out the laptop and watched episodes of The West Wing until the battery ran out. When we got back to Bucharest it was late and cold and the only place near the bus stand to buy food was at a pastry shop that Katie liked, Fornetti's, where she would sometimes buy four or five croissants stuffed with salty white cheese, with a long espresso, up on Unirii Square, during work. When we got back to the apartment, we went for a walk up to Amzai Market to get some water for the night, and some apples.
But those leaves. I've been thinking about them these last few days. Indy is finally turning to autumn, with some cold days. I ordered some new clothes last week from Old Navy (our stuff hasn't arrived back from Romania yet), layered them this afternoon, and went for a walk around the neighborhood, thumping through big piles of leaves covering the sidewalks. It's beautiful here, gray, cold, crisp, the sorts of days when Katie would have worn flannel head to toe over long underwear, t-shirts, long t-shirts, gloves, boots, and one of those stocking caps with sideburns that tie under the chin. When we hiked into the mountains on her birthday, we took books with us, and found a place to sit and read for a while. This big dog followed us, staying about twenty yards behind. We got to playing fetch with him, then sort of shooed him away, and he went running back down the trail, stopping every once in a while to throw his paws out spread-eagle and dig deep into the leaves. It was a great dog, kind of Chet-like in its enthusiasm.
I remember Katie was stressed about work, and bummed that she couldn't keep her mind on the book because she kept thinking of things she had to do for work when we got back to Bucharest. I had wanted to throw a big birthday party for her in Bucharest, but I think Cali Manest was definitely the sort of birthday she wanted while abroad. If we had been home, I think she would have been okay with inviting her friends and family, but she didn't want people who worked for her to feel like they had to throw a big party. I remember thinking that was really thoughtful of her, selfless, which is a word that people use often to describe Katie, but it was a generous and local act of selflessness, which was so especially her, you know? They threw a party for her that first evening of the conference, anyway--made her a nice card, bought some cool local pottery, and I remember she was really touched.
I was thinking on my walk today that I should start a list of upbeat, small, and especially memorial things to do on Katie's birthday and encourage everyone to contribute. I'm keeping the sort of grand-gesture items off of this list (e.g., plant a tree, go work abroad, volunteer your time), and thinking Katie-specific and Katie-local. If you get a chance to add to the list by posting a comment, that would be great--this list is by no means complete(!).
Let's everyone keep each other in our thoughts this Saturday.
1. Take a nap.
2. Take another nap.
3. Watch Lost In Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or many episodes of Weeds (goes really well with #1 or #2).
4. Brew some San Francisco Spice tea.
5. Carve an ugly pumpkin.
6. Meditate. Do Some Yoga.
7. Wear some fleece.
8. Tell this joke. Wait ten minutes. Then tell this joke.
9. See what sort of job opportunities might be available with USAID in Namibia.
10. Listen to The Judds, Iris Dement, or This American Life.
11. Buy some green apples.