It’s not easy being an indoor predator on a warm afternoon. Outside to the left, squirrels shinny up and down two large trees in the wink of an eye. Off to the right, little gray birds twitch in a holly tree. Just below the open window, two bare forsythia bushes swish in a breeze. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, sits on the radiator and follows the metallic reflections off rush hour traffic on Route 18 across the river.
Still a few crates to unpack – as soon as I find places to put their contents. The drapes were Edith’s. Some photographs lie about color or shine; the drapes are a deeper, lively, metallic green. A few months back, I opened two Rubbermaid tubs and found Edith’s drapes, which she gave me about twenty years ago. In this apartment, which seemed a little cold, the heavy drapes would keep out drafts so I took them to the drycleaner. I wouldn’t have given thirty year old drapes good odds of surviving chemical treatment. I dragged the tubs into the cleaners, necessitating a conference with a whole drycleaning family.
Dad: How old?
Tata: Thirty years. Maybe more.
Mom: How many panels?
Tata: This one’s a different size, I think.
Second Son: Can I go to Kyle’s?
Second Son: Done.
Dad: Hold this panel.
Second Son: Dad!
Tata: Here are two more.
Dad regards each panel with the critical eye of an artist gauging new materials. He turns his gaze to me, gauging my mettle. He stares at the drapes. I dare not breathe. I know I’m worthy, but what if he doubts?
Dad: There is a risk.
Tata: I know.
Dad: Sometimes chemicals alter the color.
Tata: It’s better to know if they’re garbage now than to keep them another ten years and find out I kept them for no reason.
Dad: We’ll try.
Mom: Pick-up Saturday.
Son: Can I put these down now?
Drycleaning wasn’t cheap and I was on pins and needles until I saw five panels I could barely lift on hangers. Hanging them was no picnic, but every cent and ounce of effort was worth it. When I look at the crisp, fluid curtains, I feel as if my grandmother sent me a gift across time – a gift that thanks to a master of his craft keeps us warm and handsomely frames a preoccupied pussycat.