Happy New Year, Poor Impulsives!
Look upon these dumpsters and weep with envy! I never know which is garbage day!
This morning, Miss Sasha called from the hospital, where she was most displeased with the cuisine. “Mommy,” she opined, “They’ve got me on a liquid diet. Herbal tea, apple juice, Jell-O. Also: the baby was born at 1:30 by caesarian. I hate my doctor. Grandma and Papa are at a wine tasting and promised to smuggle in wine that wasn’t pre-tasted. Call everyone and tell them the news.”
“What,” I asked, “That Grandma and Papa are on a liquid diet, too?”
“No, that I could use a pizza. DUH!” So I called Trout and Siobhan, who have been Miss Sasha’s mad aunties, are fully on board with my plan to raise this new kid with frequent help from Archie McPhee – because who doesn’t need itty bitty rubber chickens? – and wield credit cards with abandon. I made a few more phone calls, then made the one that made my day.
Tata: Guess what! Miss Sasha had the baby!
Grandpa: Everyone’s good? She’s all right?
Tata: Yup! Everyone’s very happy!
Grandpa: That’s wonderful!
Tata: Hey, Grandpa! I’m a grandma!
Grandpa: You’re a – [wild laughter] Hey, Grandma!
I’ll drink to that.
These are the pussycats of my neighbors. The little red one is named Finn. I can’t remember the name of the giant gray kitty, which is embarrassing. She adores me!
For the past week, I’ve been off work at the unnamed university, where offices are closed. I really needed a break from the confines of the office, where one of my co-workers is deeply depressed and has been for some time. I tried talking to her about depression and how it makes us feel helpless, angry and anti-social. Caught in the feedback loop that is believing something is wrong but nothing can be done about it, she actually argued with me that everything would go on as it had. The best I could do was introduce the topic into conversation, so when I had, I walked away. A minute or two later, the woman who sits next to my depressed co-worker gently put a xerox down on my desk: an article called Adversity Has Been a Familiar Force in My Life. Thus, we trap the depressed in the prison of our denial because their illness calls our health into question.
The family store has been another matter, as Anya and I sometimes rang up purchases and gift-wrapped, as fast as we could for hours on end leading up to Christmas. Since then, the store has been a little more normal. I’m getting ready to go there now. Topaz and Drusy are being very helpful. They’re napping in the other room, as opposed to untying my sneakers as fast as I tie them – unless they’re not sleeping. Pete suspects they’re building a rocketship behind the headboard. I keep saying nobody’s that neat, and I’d certainly be vacuuming up little tools.
The large gray cat used to be part of a matched set of large gray cats. They weren’t just large. They were LARGE. When you have two cats at a combined weight of about 50 pounds you have a reason to fear for your china. And the china cabinet. Fortunately, they were mild-mannered and never nabbed the car keys. Last winter, the other large gray cat took the dirt nap, and recently, Finn came to live with my neighbors, who dote on him endlessly. They described him as a kitten but if he’s a kitten I’ll eat my shoes. I’ll keep my wager to myself, though: Finn’s got it made, and I’m not the kind to let the cat out of the bag.
The building on the right was designed by I.M. Pei.
Yeah. In town, he could’ve gotten much better drugs.
Pete’s a far better photographer than I am, so when I took a pile of pictures from the spot above the river I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get the city in the frame. Ah well. My city, shrouded in fog, disappears before one’s very eyes. The city I loved is gone, anyway, a victim of corporate greed, and my first clue that I should leave was when the artists moved away. I held on, and my city disappeared. For the last few months, it’s been on my mind that this was the place Dad was young, and where life once held such promise.
Ah, a person can believe in the soul of a place even as the lies pile up – not in New Brunswick, but in some places, yeah. Yesterday, Pete and I drove around in circles on Route 9 until we found the right Shore road to take us to the Jackson Mills Mall. We wanted a giant food processor as our present to each other. Christmas has been exhausting physically and emotionally; fortunately, the one song guaranteed to make me burst into tears played on the PA system at Le Grand Chef. Note: smart shoppers give you plenty of room to browse when you’re a soggy mess.
Years ago, the way I coped with losing Morgan was to act as if he’d died, and now he’s engaged to be married to someone I’ve always liked. It’s as if my crystal ball exploded. Pete and I got a really great deal on the 12-cup Kitchenaid.
Pete and I prepared for Italian Christmas Eve for two days, not to mention the shopping and crepe-making that went on weeks ahead of time. It was a long series of firsts for us: Pete’s first Christmas with us, our first without Dad and the first time Daria’s husband Tyler bought sweaters in his own size in actual colors. I’ll explain later. It all worked out fabulously, though at any moment it all might’ve gone straight to hell – but, you know, with a nice bolognese. If you’re wondering: the manicotti was the best of my illustrious career and I’m still shaking my head. Yes, that’s what’s rattling. Hush!
There’s always a story to tell. At the moment, I can’t tell it. I will, though.
Busy! busy! busy! today reworking and revising the menu for Italian Christmas Eve. Tomato sauce for the manicotti is cooling on a back burner. The crepes are thawing. Pete’s dashed out for fresh herbs. We have a thousand things to do today, but they’re all tasks I’ve looked forward to for weeks. I enjoy wrapping presents and rolling manicotti and fussing over details of grilled vegetables on a gorgeous platter. Plus, there’s time for a much-needed nap. On Friday, when I was too tired to lift my arms, I called out for pizza. When the pizzeria got the order wrong, I nearly burst into tears, a ginormous hint that I was long past exhausted. Other than last winter, I’m not the teary type.
Bonus picture of fog hanging over the river and obscuring the city. I assure you that New Brunswick with its bland skyline sits there beyond the water. I can see parts of it from my living room window, perhaps because they’re about a half mile to the left of this section of the Raritan and surrounded by the orange plastic fencing one sees during lengthy construction works. You can’t miss the orange.
I’ve never planned the menu for Italian Christmas dinner before. and it will be our first without Dad. Daria and I are determined to get through it and New Year’s Eve with a minimum of drama. My stomach flutters a bit. Outside, snow may be falling.