Rachel: What was the name of that one-woman show we saw at the Tarragon?
Susan: With what’s-her-name?
Rachel: Yeah. In the smaller theatre.
Susan: No, it was in the main space.
Rachel: No, definitely in the smaller space.
Susan: No, I remember. The childhood memories? The fairies?
Susan: Right, at the cottage, with the fairies and the neighbour and they tied her to a tree to keep her from rolling into the lake?
Rachel: Yeah. That’s it. And the divorce.
Susan: I don’t remember the divorce. But remember she comes in and starts off by talking about whether there’s an intermission.
Susan: And the neighbour sends her notes from the fairies, and she uses her sister’s record player without permission…
Susan: It was that woman, Susan something – she was the ex of that guy who founded that fancy new theatre company…
Rachel: What fancy new theater company?
Susan: Well, not that new anymore. Maybe 10 years ago now.
Rachel: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Susan: You know: the Distillery District, a focus on plays for actors, all sexy like…
Rachel: Oh, that guy. Schultz something.
Susan: Robert Schultz.
Rachel: no, no – not Robert. Al— …
Susan: Alfred Schultz!
Rachel: No, no, not Alfred…
Susan: Albert Schultz! Of course!
Rachel: And she’s his ex?
Susan: Well, she wasn’t then. They founded it together. And then they split up — not surprising, really, in the theatre world. You know, surrounded by nubile young actors and intrigue.
Rachel: Is that what happened?
Susan: Oh, I have no idea. That’s just conjecture.
Rachel: I see.
Susan: [pulls out phone, begins to type] A-L-B-E-R-T S-C-H … See, Albert Schultz and Susan Coyne! That’s right. And that’s the play, Kingfisher Days.
Rachel: No, no… I’m talking about a different play. With a little girl and the parents are getting divorced. I… I… something.
Susan: I, Claudius! I mean, I, Claudia!
Susan: Totally different one-woman show at the Tarragon! That was awesome!
Rachel: It was.
Susan: With the masks!
Susan: That was totally in the smaller space. I saw that twice. It was fantastic.
Rachel: It was.
Susan: She wasn’t married to Albert Schultz.
Susan: But she went to my yoga studio.
Rachel: This is what happens when two middle-aged women try to remember something.
Susan: A hundred adjectives and no nouns.
Susan: Are you calling me middle-aged?
Archive for the ‘On getting a life’ Category
Rachel: What was the name of that one-woman show we saw at the Tarragon?
We’re eating out of the pantry these days — trying to work our way through what we already have in the house before finally, grudgingly, giving and going grocery shopping. Partly, we’re doing it to try to make a dent in our ghastly grocery bills. Partly, we’re doing it because nobody in this house likes going grocery shopping and so the longer we can wait between trips, the better. Partly, we’re doing it for the perverse thrill of seeing the back of the fridge. Who knew?
But mostly, we’re doing it because we are awash in food, because our freezers and our cupboards and our refrigerator floweth over, bursting at the seams with our plenty. We have so much food that we don’t eat, and so we’re trying to eat it rather than ignoring it and going for the obvious, for the fresh pack of chicken and the baby carrots and English cucumbers.
Seriously, we’re pretty good for food. We bought (with apologies to the vegetarians) an eighth of a cow in September. I let my friend Karen talk me into buying not one but two cases of organic Spartan apples in December (okay, it’s my own fault), and now a half-dozen crisps lie in wait downstairs in the freezer while I ponder whether the remaining dozen or so in the fridge will last or if I should make them into yet another batch of sauce.
(I love the Thunder Bay economy: Stephanie orders organic peaches and teaches me how to can; I show up with piecrust and we each end up with stuff for the pantry. Karen organizes the organic apple order and I drop off a communal cheque from her and me and Derek to the organic apple order people, whose house I can tell from the others on the street because of the hand-lettered “no pesticides” sign on the lawn. Karen pays me back from her till at her stand at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and Derek gets me with a bunch of fives in an ATM envelope at Pokémon club on Saturday, where we all take turns keeping track of each other’s kids. And then Karen and I spend an afternoon making apple crisps while our children run around us like maniacs (we get so obsessed that we lose track of time and end up ordering pizza in for dinner for everyone, which is kind of the opposite of what we wanted), while Stephanie texts me to show off her husband, Carlo’s, recent loaves of bread — he’s become obsessed with breadmaking and I sweet-talk him about it at every opportunity because, well, fresh bread made by someone who’s obsessed . I need to take an apple crisp over there.)
We’ve still got beets from the garden in the fridge, despite my first pickling efforts and having made a couple of rounds of my friend Nat’s infamous beet hummus (also in the freezer). I think we’ve very nearly got through all the frozen ends of bread in the freezer — but we still have flour, and yeast, and a bread maker (and two loaves of challah, which I make in batches of three) and so there’s no point in buying more: I’ll just whip up a loaf with what we already have.
Tonight’s dinner will be steak and quinoa salad: why is it that we have a gallon-jar full of quinoa and yet I never remember it? Toss it with a can of corn, one of chick peas, the rest of the marinated artichoke hearts, a jar of roasted red peppers and the last of the first of the two containers of feta. I get a wee thrill, a perverse sense of accomplishment, every time I throw a jar into the recycling, run a spatula around the inside of another container. The kids could use muffins in their lunches, so I’ll unearth a couple of the dozen or so containers of pumpkin from October’s jack-o’-lanterns and experiment with a batch of pumpkin muffins — if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat them, right? Too bad we just ran out of chocolate chips, but maybe some candied pecans, because we have pecans and sugar … or I could chop up the last of the Chanukah gelt that the kids forgot about and throw that in.
We have three jars of olive oil, because we keep going to the store and buying more, thinking, Don’t we always need olive oil? No, apparently not.
When we ran out of our regular tea, we went through all the fancy (caffeinated — we’re not that committed) teas in the cupboard that we’ve received as gifts over the years and have forgotten about. And they were good. We have chicken stock, and lentils, and pounds of carrots, and frozen pesto, and diced tomatoes, and brown rice vermicelli, pasta fagiole in lunch-size containers, canned peaches, half a cauliflower (oh, and on Friday night I danced such a parental dance around getting Rowan to try just one bite because I think you’ll like it but it’s really up to you because I don’t care that much of roasted cauliflower and he finally did and then ate a small mountain of it and I died happy), some broccoli that will perk up just fine once I stick it in water. We can make popcorn. We have peanut butter and couscous (the kids hate couscous, they tell us, but we’ll keep trying, like with the cauliflower) and 11 different kinds of vinegar and beans, beans, so many beans.
We have garlic.
We are bursting.
It doesn’t feel like restraint. It feels exhilarating, like every mealtime is a game of (no pun intended) chicken with the universe and the gods of plenty always side with us. Like some home ec exercise and we’re getting an A. Like we’re on some cooking show for earnest/foodie homemakers challenged with making a passable dinner out of an aubergine and some capers. And we are so totally on. We are potluck-ready: we’re bringing apple crisp and beet dip and we will feast and shun the store for as long as we can.
What’s in your pantry? How long could you go?
Isaac, magpie that he is, came downstairs with this the other day:
“What’s in here?” he asked, making a Pandora-like move to undo the heart-shaped plastic latch on my youthful memory box, right before I swooped in and relieved him of it.
Because some things — like taking a little tour of what you found important between the ages of 11 and 15 — you just have to do by yourself.
On the Internet.
Without further ado:
An announcement of my Grade 7 musical production of Free to Be You and Me. (I’m in the far right of the right-hand photo, one down from the top, if that makes any sense.) As I wrote in a different blog post, “It was 1983. I was in a class of ten girls, with my first teacher who went by ‘Ms.’ and didn’t shave her armpits. You could say it was my feminist awakening.”
The thing is, about stickers, is that when I was eight and nine and ten (and, fine, I admit it, 18 and 19 and 20) is that they weren’t just everywhere, all the time, like they are today. When I was a kid, stickers actually were a treat, not something that people just handed out willy-nilly every time you went to the doctor’s office or a birthday party or woke up in the morning or got your hair cut. You stood, at the sticker store, with your entire eighty-five cents’ worth of allowance, in front of the racks that held the spools of hope, and you added up all the different possible permutations of the offerings on the five- and 10- and 25-cent racks, and you carefully cut away what you wanted and brought it to the cash register. Stickers were an exercise in math literacy, people, not just something that toddlers paste to airplane windows.
Stickers were currency: you traded them, yes, ad nauseam, but they were also a form of cultural literacy. I remember when smelly stickers appeared on the scene: I was in third grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Iron (Mrs. Gilda Iron, whom I would run into 25 years later the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, and who would say to me, “Weren’t you going to be a writer?” Yes, Mrs. Iron, I was. And I am, and how cool it was that I knew and you knew even then?), put chocolate smelly stickers on our perfect spelling tests, and it was mayhem. Mayhem. And we waited weeks before the powers that be in the sticker world came out with strawberry, and then — hold me — root beer. ROOT BEER! Cinnamon!
Stickers were more fun then. They really were. Somewhere, somewhere, there must exist my fourth-grade sticker album, so carefully curated, stickers trimmed carefully of their excess backing, arranged artfully by category and theme. I took that album to every sleepover, along with the gum wrapper chain, of course, looked forward to forays to the United States of America, where the stickers, like the chocolate bars, and the pop cans and the clothes, were way better.
But now it’s all the same.
The birth documentation of my Cabbage Patch Kid, Vanessa Carmel.
Ah, Vanessa. You were a good kid. I bought you at Consumers Distributing (remember them?) and you came in a standard-issue corrugated cardboard box, but I loved you anyway. I’m sorry that I briefly thought about changing your name to Renée Alexandera, complete with the second E in both names , but then I realized that that would be to somehow change your very essence. You know, you had your quirks:
“I’m a little bit clumsy sometimes, and I can hardly wait until you and I can share each others’ little secrets!”
(In Canada, the Cabbage Patch Kids were bilingual. And they had free health care.)
Little kits filled with tiny stationery. So that you could send “friendly messages” to your friends. Except that I could never really bear to deplete the tiny plastic folders of their tiny little envelopes and so I kept them mostly intact.
I bought these at a store called Something Nice at the Richmond Centre shopping mall, which I passed through after school several days a week on my way to swimming practice. Something Nice was chockablock full of Hello Kitty and Little Twin Stars and My Melody and Moly & Moko all sorts of related Sanrio paraphernalia. I would have lived there if I could have, among all pencils and scented erasers and notepads and pillows and shower caps and all the other truly ridiculous things they thought up that I craved, craved like some orderly, pink, straight-haired life. When I wasn’t buying stickers, I saved up for overpriced Hello Kitty nesting dolls, which I planned to keep intact and later sell on eBay once the Internet was invented.
A real note from a real boy, on a real-life Gestetner form, no less:
Sent to me via balloon-o-gram in grade 10 homeroom on Valentine’s Day. I was overwhelmingly embarrassed and a little bit flattered.
“How’s it going, give me a call at [number blocked out just in case his parents still live there, or, worse, he still does] maybe we’ll get together sometime.
I forgave the comma splice. I called. We chatted. It never went anywhere. But that’s okay — it was a nice gesture that filled me up a little bit in the way that I needed to be filled up in Grade 10.
Silly notes from my fifth-grade best friend. Do you see — do you see — the one to the far left, sealed with the strawberry scratch-and-sniff sticker? I won’t tell you what the notes say because they are silly in ways that only fifth-graders can be silly.
A Hello Kitty sticker, because obviously.
I had half a dozen or so these guys, the little pom-poms with googly eyes on sticky vinyl feet. They all had individual names, like Fuzzy and Jezebel, but collectively I referred to them as “Creatures.” I made little houses for them out of the bottoms of stationery boxes, made them little beds with little bedspreads and pillows. I made them dolls and jigsaw puzzles. I wrote school report cards for them, and I made little tiny boxes of stationery for them, with little tiny envelopes (you are picking up on a theme here, aren’t you?). And I wrote them little teeny tiny books.
Let’s read one together, shall we? Maybe we can read How Things Feel. it’s awesome; you’ll see:
How does leather feel? ROUGH.
How does foil feel? SMOOTH.
How does wool feel? SOFT.
How does cloth feel? BUMPY.
How does metal feel? HARD.
How does tissue feel? NICE. (I’m sensing a slight desperation at this juncture.
This is what Mrs. Iron saw, all those years ago. THIS.
I’m back. I haven’t spent more than four consecutive nights in the same bed since July 21, a feat of bed-hopping I don’t think I have matched since, perhaps, fourth-year university (joking!) the summer I travelled around Europe in 1993 with my friend Julie.
(Coincidently, in this recent spate of bed-hopping, I spent two nights on Julie’s pull-out couch in the lovely borough of Queens, New York, where I slept quite well. Julie, however, did not, poor thing: her 15-month-old daughter, it seems, has some very strong ideas about exactly when and where she will and won’t sleep, and it seems that the hours between 2 and 4 AM are currently designated Not Sleeping Time.)
But. Now. I am home, from journeys that took me from Thunder Bay to Toronto and back again, to Bushwick, Brooklyn, and then Queens and then South Orange, New Jersey, and then the Manhattan Hilton and BlogHer ‘12 and then back to South Orange, and then Toronto (and another not-sleeping toddler), and then Thunder Bay to wash my clothes and pick up my family and then to a tent in the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and home, and then to Duluth, Minnesota, and then to the Wisconsin Dells (oh Lord, the Wisconsin Dells — where Vegas meets water. And a vengeful God. And Republicans. And bumper stickers that say things like “I don’t believe the liberal media.”) and then Minneapolis and then Duluth again and then home, where I intend to stay put for a good long time if I have any say in the matter.
Because, frankly, I have things to do.
Chief of which is to make a to-do list.
I am a list maker. I like lists. I need lists. I feel unmoored without one, purposeless. I need to know that there’s a place where I can record every single task, books to read, movies to watch, blog posts and pitches to write, client jobs, phone calls to make, things to renovate. I scribble things down on scrap paper, cross them off, add new pieces of paper, consolidate the items onto fresh sheets, clip the lot together on the clipboard I’ve had since I was 13. This last spate of travel ended Saturday night with me furiously scribbling items onto four different sheets of paper, collating things I had typed into my phone, going through old to-do lists, X-ing out outdated or done items, running through the house with a toothbrush in my mouth to add just one more thing. And then one more.
(Do I count as the liberal media? Just wondering.)
The idea is that I will eventually dictate the entire list into a Word document and print it out, and there it will be: a blueprint of my life, the plan, perfect, just like in Getting Things Done. In reality, it rarely if ever works that way, and I end up with my various scraps of paper, written with different pens, half outdated, never completed. And while I continue to hold on to the fantasy of the finished to-do list, the ordered life, I may also be starting to let go of it, the idea that I can capture it all in one place, that for even one brief shining moment I will know what it is I have to do with this one perfect life, line item by line item until I am done.
(How do you to do?)
Or, rather, like a dolt I forgot that I had already added the book to my Amazon.com cart and then I added it again later on and then I clicked “buy.” And you would think that the nice people at Amazon.com might want to alert people to the fact that they have two copies of the very same book in their carts, just a nice little pop-up window that says “Are you sure…?”, but on the other hand, you’d think that maybe they wouldn’t want to do so, so as to profit from our ineptitude. (Solution: buy stock in Amazon.com.)
I do stuff like this not so, so frequently. But filling in blanks on online applications does make me slightly nervous — one too many times walking up to the train departure counter or the airline check-in with a ticket for THE WRONG DAY has left me slightly suspicious of my own abilities. Fortunately, the last time this happened on an airline was during the pre-9/11 era, and they still let me on the plane. Probably they figured I was too stupid to do any real damage. (Today, though, I will say that I managed to book an airplane ticket for the correct date AND time. I know this because I cross checked several calendars and e-mail messages a few half-dozen times just to make sure. I even resisted yelling to Rachel, who was upstairs, to come down and check that I had everything right before I pressed “confirm.” Because I knew in my heart of hearts I had it down pat.) (And now God is going to punish me.) (More about said travel plans soon.)
But really, if anyone should have to profit from my ineptitude, I’m happy that it’s Lawson. And if books were like — I don’t know — cookies, or kittens or underwear or anything else where it made sense to have two of the exact same thing, then I would totally keep both copies because they are, individually and collectively, hilarious. Which may be why the book landed at the #1 NYT BestSeller spot its first week out. (Just above the also awesome Rachel Maddow, by the way.) The NYT one-sentence blurb is simply “A blogger recalls her unusual upbringing,” which is just about the driest understatement of the century. I especially enjoyed the chapter in which she recalls her career in human resources and all the whacked people she had to deal with, like the constant stream of men photocopying their junk, or the woman “who had misspelled or left blank almost all of her application”:
She came in again yesterday with almost the exact same application, but with a different name. I turned her down again. Today she came in again and turned in another application with another new name. I asked her whether she was the girl with the first name. She said that was her sister. I told her that I couldn’t hire her unless her name matched the name on her Social Security card, and she asked for the application she’d just given me, and changed the name back to the original one. I turned her down again and pointed out that everyone lies on applications but not usually about their names. When she left she said, “Okay. See you tomorrow.” I’m pretty sure she’s not being sarcastic.
The part about Harry Potter’s vagina is also highly amusing.
So. I’m going to give the book to you, dear readers. I will pack it all back up in the same box it came in and send it to you rather than back to the online retailer from whence it came. Because that would make me — and hopefully you — much happier. If you’d like a chance to win, simply leave a comment below. If you’d like a chance to win and also make me feel better, tell me about some particularly inept thing you’ve done. Or just write “I want it.” you can also enter by becoming a new Facebook “friend” of this blog (up there, to the right. Your right.). I’ll randomly select the winning name next week, say after midnight on June 26. Bonne chance!
When the kids were babies and I was three-quarters (okay, seven-eighths. Maybe nine-tenths) psychotic with sleep deprivation, I used to fantasize about hiring a sleep nanny, someone to come into the house in the early evening and do whatever it took to get them to sleep through the night in their own beds.
And where would I be during this sleep training, you ask? Somewhere else: maybe in the basement, maybe ensconced in the spare room of some understanding friend, maybe, in a pinch, at a hotel. Anywhere except near the screaming and the dreadmiserypanic that engulfed me after being awakened constantly, relentlessly, night after night.
I don’t think there were any actual sleep nannies in Thunder Bay at the time (there was that nurse at the health unit who called me back, twice, to chastise me about even considering letting my baby “cry it out,” but I don’t think she counted), and I’m not sure that I would have been able to stomach coughing up several hundred dollars a night for the privilege of having one (although, really? In hindsight, it would have been worth every penny in terms of preserving my mental health and my shortening telomeres). But I fantasized about them, these Mary Poppinses of the night, fantasized about bunking down somewhere orderly and quiet while someone else instilled decent sleep patterns in my children.
Reader? Seven and a half years after becoming a parent, the fantasy has been fulfilled.
You may recall that Rachel and I took off for Copenhagen at the beginning of May, and that Rob stayed with the children. But I have neglected to mention until now that Rob — who shall henceforth be known as “He who trained the untrainable” — also spearheaded and saw out Isaac’s long-overdue move out of my room and back into his own.
Had I not mentioned recently that Isaac moved into our room in October of *cough* 2010? As in, for the past 18 months, a small child has slept, with varying degrees of soundness, in a little bed next to his mommies’ big bed. Mostly, his tenure of bunking with us has been marked by certain amount of relief, but mostly by grudging acceptance on my part, and often by sheer frustration. For several months, it seemed that he was there by the very skin of his teeth, especially during the weeks upon weeks of nights during which he still woke up multiple times to kvetch about the state of his pillows and the fact that we still would not let him cross the line from his mattress to ours.
(I did empathize with his frustration. I mean, he’d got so far, only to be thwarted at the last great divide: out of his room and into ours, from a stingy air mattress on the floor to a foam bed, to the foam bed topped with the stingy air mattress. Onto which he piled pillows so that he would be at the same level as — if not just slightly higher than — us. Like a cat asserting its dominance. And then, he’d slowly, slowly sneak his head onto our mattress. From his vantage point, the logical next step was obvious: just roll over into the maternal bed and cuddle on up.
From our vantage point, he had to stay on his own bloody mattress so as to avoid scuffing our shins with the slip-proof bottoms of his footed pajamas.
At least, until after 6 AM, when nobody felt like arguing anymore.)
“He is so out of here,” I muttered pretty much daily. And Rachel would nod and look concerned and say, “I hear what you’re saying. You sound pretty frustrated.” Which is basically a line out of the Parenting 101 script that means, essentially, “I’m going to acknowledge your unhappiness in an attempt to satisfy your needs without actually changing anything.”
Her point was that at least she didn’t have to actually get out of bed in order to deal with the wake-ups. I countered — neglecting to acknowledge that it was my idea to bring him into our room in the first place — that we should force Isaac to sleep in his own damn bed, in his own damn room, all through the night, so that we wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night at all. Ever. Of course, I had no suggestions for how to actually make that happen, given that Isaac had successfully resisted all known forms of sleep training for the school of I’ll Do What I Damn Well Please, to the point where we started calling him “Isaac the Untrainable” (a moniker later adopted by our friends for their two-year-old daughter, who was Totally Not Down with spending the entire night in her toddler bed).
But by the time May rolled around, we were both fairly fed up with sharing our space with Isaac. By this point, it had become a habit rather than a necessity, but neither of us could actually stomach the thought of losing the several nights’ sleep that would inevitably accompany the switch.
Enter Rob. Whose basic condition for staying with the kids for nine days while we went to Europe was that he not have to sleep in the same room as Isaac. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with Rob’s own sleep preferences or if it was simply a way to get us to get the kid out, but it seemed like as good an opportunity as any to cut the cord. The clincher, though, was that Rob offered to be our sleep nanny (or should I say “manny”?): You girls go off to Europe, he said, and when you come back, the transition will be complete. Or something to that effect.
(This is usually the point in the conversation where all my female friends with husbands and children — you know who you are — start seriously re-contemplating their life choices and wondering if it’s too late to enlist a sperm donor retroactively.)
Not that I didn’t help. The day before we left, I dug out and hung up (using fun, fun power tools) the crazy bed canopy with glow-in-the-dark stars I had purchased online in a moment of hopefulness. And because the canopy looked a little too stark, I jazzed it up with some red and yellow ribbon accessories. I stuck glow-in-the-dark stars all over the ceiling. And I made up the bed with kid-friendly sheets. And then, Rob went out and bought not one but two crazy-ass nightlights, the four-year-old equivalent of a Zeppelin-inspired sound and light experience. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to sleep in this?
That kid would be Isaac.
Oh, he liked his new bedroom. But he liked it as, he told us, as a place to visit, not a place to actually spend the night, alone. But we persisted, persisted right through the hours and hours of screaming and protesting through the wee hours of the night until we snuck out of the house, shattered, at 6 AM, to go to the airport. Never have I been so happy to get to an airport, to a plane that would take me far, far away from the children. Rob texted me from the airport at 6:30 AM: “Isaac awake. Says to tell you he slept in his bed the whole night so he gets a star.”
I texted back: “Tell him to go fuck himself.”
From there, however, things got better. I mean, Copenhagen. A basic tenet of life is that going to Copenhagen with your girlfriend is always better than listening to your nearly-five-year-old scream from 2 AM to 4 AM in Thunder Bay, Ontario. But each day, we received text updates from Rob on the progressively better quality of Isaac’s nights in The Room. And if Copenhagen was the cake, then the inch-thick frosting was the idea of coming home to a kid to not only (a) slept through the night in his own room, but (b) did so happily and (c) fell asleep on his own without needing or even agitating for someone to lie down next to him.
We’ve been working on the early mornings. Now, the deal is that he can’t come in until his alarm goes off (or, as he puts it, “My clock starts talking to me”). At 6:35 AM, mind you, but this is still an improvement. A few mornings ago, I woke up early to pee and found him lying on the floor outside our bedroom, sucking his thumb and cuddling his blanket. “How long have you been here?” I asked him. “Oh,” he said, “only about half the night.”
“Great,” I whispered. “Come get us when your alarm goes off.” And I went back to bed. In my own room. With my door closed and nobody but Rachel beside me.
Eighty-six plastic bread bag ties, secreted away in our cutlery drawer, rather than being tossed in the garbage the way God intended us to in first place.
Apparently we live in mortal fear of unclosed plastic bags. Or of ever being without a guitar pick.
Excuse me, I’ve got to go find the phone under the rubble; Hoarders is calling.
I just need to tell you this: We’ve been on a wee bit of a soup bender here at Casa Non Grata. And yes, I am aware that that phrase, “soup bender,” may well be considered an oxymoron by some of you. And by “some of you,” I mean those of you with jobs that require them to leave the house and houses that are situated in warm places. And actual lives, perhaps with children who do not wake up before 6 AM. For example.
But for me, hunkered down on the Canadian Shield in January, things are getting pretty wild around the stockpot. So far this month, I’ve whipped up a kitchen-sink version of sweet potato/red pepper purée (sure, throw in that carrot! Got some celery? Why not?), pasta fagioli (so far my favourite), orzo soup with caramelized onions and cheese (Rowan and his friend kept wandering into the kitchen and saying, as I caramelized the onions, “Ew! What smells so bad?” Heathens.), a white kidney bean purée with prosciutto (yay, traif!), and, just last night, a leek and cauliflower soup with (local) elk sausage (and some potato). Tomorrow: yellow split pea.
There is not some overarching metaphor for this: it’s simply about warmth and nourishment, the desire to create something tangible, use up what’s left, transform the raw and the leftover into the sublime. I’ve got a little routine going: each week, I boil up the bones of our Friday-night chicken (because we roast a chicken pretty much every Friday night, because we do, because that is the tradition, and certain people – and by “certain people” I mean, well, me. And my children — like things that way) and make stock, and from stock I make soup in double batches. And we eat some and we freeze some in lovingly labeled containers that I take out and eat for lunch later on in the week. And every so often I encounter someone who looks a little down or tired or in need of some nourishment and I yank out just such a container from the freezer and hand it over. And think, “Eat, eat.” Love in a Tupperware.
And then I go to bed at nine o’clock, full , and plumb tuckered out from all the excitement.
I have spent breakfast for the past two days reading the illustrated Star Wars Character Encyclopedia with Isaac. And by “reading,” I mean watching as he flips through each page and asks, rapidfire, of each character, “Is that good guy or a bad guy, Mama?” I answer, he moves on. Life is simple.
For someone who’s seen only one of the six movies in its entirety and then promptly forgot all about it, I know a surprising amount about Star Wars, as it turns out. I mean, of course even I would get that Princess Leia is one of the good guys and the Darth Vader, not so much. But somewhere along the way I picked up (maybe from a McDonald’s commercial?) on the fact that Padmé Amidila is also one of the good, although I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that she in fact spawned the wee twins Luke and Leia. With Anakin. And then it’s fairly clear that the guys in the Nazi-esque uniforms are probably bad (yes, I’m talking about you, Moff Jerjerrod, supervisor of the second Death Star). Certain bits of information have been force-fed to me ever since Rowan saw the movies a couple of summers ago. Nute Gunray, Neimoidian Viceroy? Bad guy. Palpatine? Ditto. Boba Fett? I knew without looking that he was a bounty hunter. (Although I learned only now that he is an exact genetic clone of Jango Fett, “who brings Boba up as a son.”)
LOOK AT ME KNOWING ALL ABOUT STAR WARS.
It’s crazy, the amount of detail that goes into all these characters’ back stories. I mean, who made this stuff up? Did George Lucas have an army of droids typing like 1000 monkeys at 1000 typewriters to come up with the fact that Balosars’ antennapalps are highly sensitive organs that operate at a subsonic level and appear to give them special powers of intuition? Or that Figrin D’an is a demanding bandleader who expects the best from his musicians, thus earning him the nickname “Fiery”— and that he’s a compulsive card shark? Was this important to the movies? Is this what they talk about at the conventions?
Isaac, meanwhile, has a more pressing question, to which I have not found answers to in this book:
“Mama? Where do storm troopers go to the toilet?”
“Hm,” I say. “I don’t know. Maybe just in regular toilets?”
“I think they have a toilet in their suit. A little toilet. And they go there, and they don’t feel the pee and the poo.”
Can anyone help us out, here? Because I bet there is an answer to this question somewhere in the bowels (ha ha) of Star Wars lore, and someone (not me) wants to get to the bottom (hee!) of it.
(Okay, off to get a life now.)
It’s October. Shut UP. No, really. Not even October: mid-October. I know — crazy.
It’s been like that, lately, where I think something that happened last weekend happened the weekend before. Or the one before that. Or, say, last month. Which was September. And in September, we just got kind of busy. It hadn’t occurred to me that we weren’t busy in the summer but, clearly, I had no idea, what with second grade and junior kindergarten and preschool and babysitters and music and sports and Hebrew school and the like and why do I feel all of a sudden like I live on planet Suburban Mother? Because I do. I live on planet Suburban Mother in
September October and thank GOD for our calendar with its very large squares and stickers, the calendar that is designwise a blight on my delicate aesthetic senses but without which I would not survive.
Excuse me while I go fill the station wagon and get that meatloaf in the oven.
Yeah, so we’ve been Septemberized. I just made up that word. And, actually, it was a lovely month, gone all tickety-boo (cf CALENDAR; also setting the alarm). A lovely month made lovelier by a certain four-year-old’s 180° shift in attitude about extracurricular (not to mention curricular) activities. Last September was dominated by Isaac’s utter misery over preschool, his sheer dread of which permeated every waking moment. But this year? This year, he has scampered off gladly to every new activity and classroom September has thrown at him: five new things in one week, and the kid who held onto my leg and sobbed last year walked in, cracking jokes, only looking up to say, “You can go now, Mommy.”
And so we went.
I should point out, however, that this newfound independence has not extended into sleeping arrangements. In other words, Isaac is still sleeping in our room, curled up happy as can be on a single mattress next to ours. It’s been at least a year, now, minus a brief but valiant effort on Rachel’s part this past summer to get him back into his own room. (“But then we wouldn’t have a guest room,” I protested, completely inured by then to the idea of a child depriving me of a bedside table for the foreseeable future. I needn’t have worried, given that Isaac has historically, and successfully, resisted all known forms of sleep training for the school of I’ll Do What I Damn Well Please, to the point where we started calling him “Isaac the Untrainable” (a moniker since adopted by our friends for their two-year-old daughter, who is Totally Not Down with spending the entire night in her toddler bed).)
At this point, though, I will admit that it might indeed be nice to sleep through the night in my own room while Isaac sleeps through the night in his. Instead, he wakes at some point in the middle of the night several times a week and, depending on what side of the bed he wakes on (get it? Ha ha), requires varying degrees of coddling to go back to sleep. A few nights ago, he wanted Rachel to cuddle him, but reluctantly settled for her holding his hand. Except that (and don’t tell him this) he wasn’t really holding her hand. Realy, he was holding my hand in the dark while Rachel stayed securely on her side of the bed, murmuring aphorisms to him like Cyrano de Bergerac about how nice it was to hold his hand, too. He finally let go, saying, “Rachel, you don’t have to hold my hand as long as you stay right next to me.” “Okay,” she said, and we all went back to sleep again. We’re totally winning this one, obviously.