You Shake Their Hands Off

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sister, let us blog:

I. In the street, I see many things and take pleasure in seeing them. A pair of shoes with the price tag still attached resting on a parking space divider. A long-abandoned house with its own garage and thicket. Police tape wound around a sagging phone pole. Manicured lawns and lots gone to seed. Broken sidewalk, fresh concrete. Fat gray squirrels accustomed to human company scamper up trees for the sheer excitement of leaping. This morning, I came to a corner where an elderly woman and her young nurse stared across the street at two bunnies chasing one another in circles.

II. Yesterday, I was lacing up my shoes when the clouds burst open. I was certain the little rainstorm would not last long so I climbed on a ladder and put up a lavendar rice paper lamp shade in my bedroom. It does not fit exactly. Then I put up a faintly orange lamp shade in the kitchen. It is the wrong color and fills me with joy. Hallelujah.

III. On this day of all days, we must hope for an afterlife in which all souls are greeted with kindness and compassion despite those souls’ earthly deeds. There is no beauty in retribution and no hope in a world where we are motivated only by fear of eternal punishment. I can think of no greater justice than the archangels having a long talk with Hitler, insisting he spend eternity sharing a lunch table with Moses. What could be worse for history’s great and petty villains than being forced to see the humanity of their enemies, every day, with french fries?

Let us hope that waiting for us all – if something does await, of which we cannot truly be assured – is the happiness of reconciliation with those loved and loathed, and a really good sandwich.

IV. In a large sauce pan, mix one cup sugar, one cup water and one cup white vinegar. Sprinkle in a bit of salt. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Peel and slice three to five medium cucumbers and place in a wide, flat bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the fragrant liquid over the cucumbers, pushing the slices down into it. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight or longer. You can add fresh herbs, small onion slices or even beet slices. The pickles are good on sandwiches with cream cheese, on crackers as refreshing snacks or as a cooling side dish with spicy foods. I make these every summer since one of my favorite former housemates taught the recipe to me. Also: raw cucumbers make me burp.

V. After the rain yesterday humidity hung in the air as the temperature rose. I walked around town, intent on stopping for a few things at the grocery store but first I walked to the family store and the new toy store. My sisters have a toy store. How awesome is that? Well, except it’s not air conditioned and inside, holding my niece Sunny, my brother-in-law was wilting. My nephew is three and a half now, so he talks from the moment every morning when he opens his eyes until he grudgingly closes them every night.

Tata: Would you like to come to the grocery store with me?
Ezekiel: Yes, it’s a supermarket. I’ll bring my guy and I’ll take a picture of you and me with the camera in his backpack and look this fires and goes woooooooooooosh! Can you pick that up for me? These are my shoes. They’re blue and I like blocks are we going to the store –
Tata: Do you mind?
Steve: Mind what?
Tata: A sudden ability to hear yourself think?

Ezekiel and I walk next door to tell Anya our plan. As we walk in together – me and a three-year-old – my sister’s eyes go wide.

Tata: We’d like to go to the grocery store –
Ezekiel: Supermarket!
Tata: – if you wouldn’t mind.
Anya: Good luck! And you, don’t give Auntie Ta a hard time!
Tata: He never gives me a hard time.
Ezekiel: I sometimes give my daddy a hard time.
Tata: How do you feel about fresh fruit?

For some reason, that line’s a killer and everyone averts their eyes. Ezekiel is still young enough that he would let me hold his hand if his hands weren’t full of a space-traveling fire fighter with a woooooosh-going weapon-thingy but crossing Route 27 can be a serious business. Ezekiel is not really interested. Suddenly I realize what my sister will do to me if I do something stupid and Ezekiel gets a splinter. We cross the street very quickly. Ezekiel is talking the whole time. He picks a carriage I wish I could fit into but I can’t buckle the belt because apparently I was born before the safety hysteria cut off date. Fortunately for what’s left of my dignity, the three-year-old doesn’t correct me and do it himself.

We vrooooom! through the aisles, vrooooooom! this way and that. Anya and Ezekiel are vegetarians so we have a fantastic time in the fresh vegetable aisles when I find berries I can’t identify and start blurting to strangers.

Tata: Have you seen these before? What are they?
Ezekiel: I threw my banana into the cart? I’m putting out fires in space?

I’m waiting for counterpoint and harmony.

Stranger: I’ve got a horse right here, his name is Paul Revere –

When we get to the cash register it dawns on me I’m a beige middle-aged crazy person stuffing my groceries into a beach bag while a blond, blue-eyed and very fair little boy talks and talks in the carriage I plainly don’t know how to operate and the cashier is looking at me, at him, at me and at him.

Tata: He’s my nephew.
Cashier: He’s adorable – and a handful?
Tata: He’s my nephew.

I returned him to his parents with a banana. He loves bananas. Anya seemed surprised he didn’t beg me for M&M’s, which is just silly since he can’t read.

VI. A man walks up behind me in the convenience store and reads the back of my Niblick Henbane t-shirt.

Man: Just say “OI!”

I laughed. He could be a perfectly nice man for all I know but reading me my t-shirt is not clever. I pack up my recycled paper towels and make a musical reference.

Tata: Arrivederci, Roma!

Weeks ago, I said when I finished other paper products, I’d switch to the recycled paper towels and report back, in case you have an attention span. I now do most of my light grocery shopping on foot so buying paper towels in bulk at the grocery store is difficult to transport. Tuesday morning, I’m intent on going to Costco to check out what they have but I don’t hold out much hope of finding recycled paper products, so I’m prepared to make a fuss.

In the meantime, Anya pointed out that her impression of recycled paper towels is that she opens a pack and poof! it’s empty, which could be frustrating. Still, for me, it’s worth it, the pros and cons.

Can I get an amen?

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