Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Find the Diary

I told Sara that I would return her diary today, and I did. "Don't worry, you'll find it on your bed when you get home from school; and then I want you to quietly put it away and stop taunting Nathan with it."

How unfortunate for Sara that today is the day that Olga, housekeeper and domestic mainstay, makes one of her bi-weekly visits. All she needs to do in Sara's room is vacuum. To do more would be impossible. Once I got everything up off the floor, this was the state of affairs on Sara's bed. How is it that kids this age are happy living in squalor? So, I'm chucking stuff up onto the bed, and I see a little snip of pink satin peeking out from under her closet door. I open the door and am confronted with a MOUNTAIN of CLEAN LAUNDRY. Now I find out that every week, I'm washing, drying, folding and delivering a basket of fresh clean clothing to her room, and she is simply tipping it out topsy-turvey onto the floor of the closet so she can put another week's worth of dirty clothes into the basket. So...her dresser is...what? Empty?

I piled up all the clean laundry of several weeks into the basket and put the diary way down in the bottom. She will look for that diary all over her bed, but she won't find it until she puts her clean clothes away.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Dumb, Dim, Damn, Doomed Diary

No, actually, Sara, I still make the rules. Any questions?

I am at the end of my rope with Sara's diary. Now, I thoroughly support journaling. Sara comes from a long line of diarists, and it's important for a kid her age to have a place to vent. I also thoroughly condemn reading other people's diaries. My mom read mine if she found them- figured she had the right to know. It used to make me crazy, and she STILL brings up the things she read sometimes. But this has brought me to the edge of reason.
Here's how it goes:
  • Sara takes out the diary and a bright pink gel pen with a fuzzy thing on the end of it. After recording her neon unbosomings, she locks it up and checks to see whether her little brother is watching. Of course he is. Little brothers have a sixth sense when it comes to sisters' diaries.
  • Sara makes a point of telling me that the special secret lock on her diary isn't even the diary's TRUE lock. There's a special trick to opening it, according to her. Nathan listening? Yes, he is. I warn her that she really ought to put up fewer billboards about the damn thing if she wants it to stay private.
  • Nathan makes a full frontal assault on her room and comes out squealing with victory. Little Brother Coup #198: Dairy has been STOLEN. Naturally, this is followed by pinching of pressure points, smacking and head butting.
  • I retrieve the diary from the scrum and tell Sara to find a hiding place for it. I point out to her that, every time she talks about it, she is throwing chum into shark-infested waters.
  • "Oh, Naaaaaathaaaaannnn! I have a new hiding place for my diiiiiiiaryyyyyy.... Somewhere you'll never find it!"
  • Guess what? He found it. Opened it. Read it. Only the first entry, of course. The point isn't actually to learn the secrets of his sister's heart; it is to let her know that he answers her challenge and ups the ante.
  • Return to earlier bullet point on pressure points, head butts, etc...
  • Now the diary has a new hiding place. "Mom. Please. Just tell me where you put it." "No diary for 24 hours." Mom, I need to write in it every day." "Write on a separate piece of paper and tape it in the diary tomorrow." "I'll bet I could find it if I looked for it." "I'll bet you could too, but you're not going to look for it."

I was in a hurry, so I didn't really hide it much. I just put it in my bed. Like, under the covers. She would never dream of taking my bed apart. I'll give it back tomorrow with another admonishment: just put it away, take it out quietly without the fanfare, write in it and put it away again. You're making this way too fun for Nathan.

Anne Frank did not have these problems, I'm sure. Only because she didn't have a little brother.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disgraceful Levels of Navel Gazing


I've hit a bit of a writer's block, due to the very deep and persistent questions that have been plaguing me lately. Then I think, "Well, I can't write such self-centered blog entries." (as if blogging, by its very nature, isn't totally self-centered)

I have a brainful going on at the moment. Here's the nutshell version. Maybe, if I'm lucky, the nutshell version will suffice; I will write them here quickly, and here they will stay.

1. Why is it that, every time I spend time with my family (I mean the one I grew up with), I leave Wisconsin feeling like a total waste of space? I set foot on the ground in the Midwest and I am twelve again in the minds of everyone there. Am I stuck with that?

2. Since I am convinced that there is no eternal life, how do I reconcile myself to my dad's death?

3. If I believe that we live on in the values we impart to others, what do I already have from Dad? What's my spiritual inheritance?

4. Are there other things I should be trying to take on board? Things he would have liked me to do better? What can I reasonably expect to adopt at my semi-advanced age?

5. (I pondered this all day today while I was skiing.) At what point is it OK to turn away from challenges and take the easier way? If I choose the slope that I know I can ski well over the one that will scare/challenge/improve me, is that bad? Or good? What does either choice say about how I live my life?

6. Once you lose the parent to whom you were closer, do you develop a new kind of relationship with the remaining parent?

7. How many kids are going to RSVP for Sara's birthday party next weekend? WHEN will they RSVP? Will it be soon enough that I know how much food to buy?

In Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley is condemned to roam the world after his death, trailing chains made of all the earthly concerns that held him back from being a better man during his life. Is that me? Why wait until I'm a ghost? The chains are here already. I suspect that a Scotch and a hot shower will not release me, but it's the best I can do just a the moment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Packing, Unpacking, Repacking

My purpose in driving back to Utah from Wisconsin was to bring a selection of choice items from our old home. Upon examination of what I came away with, I would call some things useful; some memorable; some sellable; some... just puzzling. In the hurley-burley of packing up the house, many things have come with me more by accident than design. Some things remind me of Dad and make me feel lonely for him. He could never throw anything away. Neither could his mother. Consequently, I'm finding layers of family jetsam that have not been explored in a really long time.

Checklist: The Big Stuff

Sara gets the double bed: old, but pretty maple. She thinks she is a queen. I think we also have my parents' nuptial box spring...

Nate gets my father's clapped-out boyhood desk. Paint smears, coffee rings and gouged oak notwithstanding, he is totally happy. His lava lamp has pride of place on it.

The cedar chest that lived in the basement and was crammed full of old photos now has a new life as a table in my rec room.

The old pressed tin camelback trunk that sat mustily in the basement in Wisconsin is now sitting mustily in the basement in Utah, waiting for me to figure out what its new role will be.

The Stuff I've Transported for my Cousin

I'm the mule for the six boxes of assorted correspondence and family reunion photos. I can't face them: thank goodness my cousin has the endurance to sort through all this crap. A cursory sorting-out revealed letters from second cousin Callie to third cousin James, inviting him to visit in the summer of 1935. My grandmother's school compositions. All the gift tags from the wedding presents my grandparents received in 1924. Photos of my great-grandmother's BFFs from 1910. My cousin is coming with a minivan this spring to haul all these goodies to her home in Colorado, where they will frustrate her for the next 15 years at least. Enjoy!

Boxes of Strange Treasure

There are a number of these. I promised Simon I really would sort them a few at a time; and when I do, I'll blog an inventory of randomness. I have manged two boxes so far.

The Train Box (cushioned by an afghan that Agnes W., the lady who was the answering service for Dad's medical practice many years ago, crocheted for us after she retired)

It's full of electric trains, of course. Dad's childhood trains from the 1930s, and some others he picked up later. We used to get these out and set them up when I was little. I love the rolling stock. That goes on display on shelves in the rec room. Switches and controls? Forget it! When Mom said I could have the trains, she warned, "Be careful about the controls! They get hot and shoot sparks! If anything starts smoking, turn it off!" Oh, I remember, all right. It always added an element of danger to playing with the train. Shit. Even the electrical tape holding it all together is from, like, the '50s. Sorry, Dad. I know you would be mad, but....I threw out all that stuff. I hope that doesn't make me a bad daughter.

Mixed Box of Trash-ure #1

Old paper doilies? OUT! Dad's Pediatrics notes from medical school? OUT! Cute picture of Dad from the 30s? KEEP!

There was also Mom's old coat from the 1950s. She says it was the first thing she bought with her own money after she finished nurse's training. I love it: brown cloth, lined with mouton. What, by the way, IS mouton? Isn't that "sheep" in French? It feels like fur, not wool, though. Anyway, it's warm and I'm going to wear it.

Most intriguing, a photo album that must have belonged to my grandfather when he was a young man and dating my grandmother. So 1919, 1920... Surprising, candid shots of things like my great-grandmother playing with the family dog. My great-grandfather pruning his peach trees. Every other photo I've ever seen of these people has been posed. I mean REALLY posed: formidable; frowning; Teutonic.

This is my grandfather in his college chemistry lab in 1919. The caption reads, "No, the tube from the wash bottle is NOT in my mouth!"

And this is my grandmother on her college graduation day in 1919, apparently.... doing the Happy Dance. Anyone who knew my grandmother would find this display of exuberance ...um... startling.

My grandparents were young once. Who knew?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reno: 550 Miles

I'm home again, and I was so grateful to find myself driving down the Wasatch Front that I almost cried. I couldn't really cry, of course, 'cause I was driving that big-ass truck and I needed to keep my eyes on the road. I allowed them to prickle a little.

Guess what? All the usual bullshit of my personal American cul-de-sac hell was waiting for me, right where I had left it. Simon bought a big-screen TV with Blue-Ray (and no, I didn't want a TV - he went and bought it anyway) and now he can't get it configured to our wireless. This resulted in a ranting spouse who wonders why he can't ever get anything to work, EVER. I make soothing noises and help him pore over the instruction manual, all the time thinking, I rushed home for this!?

Since it is Presidents' Day weekend, Simon is busy and stressed. He managed to get off work a little early today, though, so we could take the moving van to its drop-off point. I called a couple of times to check on their hours, but got no answer. Finally, I called Budget HQ and asked about the designated location. Were they open? No problem, said the nice lady. Even if they aren't, you can leave the truck, put the key in the drop-box and they'll take it from there.

So, smack me when we arrived at the drop-off point to find that it is no longer in business. Boarded up. Rusty chain across the driveway. I thought Budget HQ might like to know. So I told them. While parked awkwardly in the adjacent forecourt of a used car dealer. Much to the amusement of the salesmen, who gathered at the front window to watch me give that nice lady hell. I'm afraid I didn't hold back. "No worries," she says, "I'll find you another place to drop it off." I don't want another drop off point. I want to be finished with this and go to Baskin Robbins before it closes to pick up Nate's birthday cake for tonight. After a few minutes on hold, she is back to tell me that all of the other Budget drop-off points in Salt Lake are closed for the day (it was 3:30 PM), so I would need to make the 70-mile round-trip to Budget in American Fork.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Not. I told her that she was going to extend my drop-off deadline. She isn't able to do that. She is very sorry, but solving problems is not in her job description. And I can't talk to a supervisor because there isn't one. She sngle-handedly runs Budget truck rentals out of a trailer in Paducah, Kentucky. She doesn't, really; but I asked her if she did.

The truck is due back at 8 AM on Monday, and of course nothing will be open tomorrow. So there's no way I can get it back on time; first, I have to call around and find a Budget place that will accept the vehicle before I can take it anywhere. Screw it if it is a few hours late. They won't be able to add charges to the account, 'cause as soon as we got home, Simon cancelled the credit card.

I've been home for 24 hours,and I need to get outta here. Reno is sounding good to me right now. Anyone need anything hauled? I've got a truck...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nebraska is Big

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Ah! Finally! Internet access!

But it's difficult for me to concentrate, 'cause access to a TV is also a novelty, and the AKC Dog Show is on. I'm not a dog lover, but I like to watch all the breeds. You know: why would anyone have a pet that can't see and that has no visible feet? In fact, I have two TVs. I guess that, if I'm going to show up at a hotel without a reservation, they are going to foist their most expensive available room off on me. It's a suite. Practically an apartment. I could argue the point, but I'm too tired. And at Day's Inn, even the pricey rooms aren't too bad. The desk clerk was pointing out the pool and jacuzzi as well, but I sure didn't bring a suit. I didn't even bring a change of clothes, except for my funereal fashion selections. I will be glad to take off this shirt when I get home today. We're going on day...six.

It has been a long trip, topping off a long week: journey, visitation, funeral, packing, cleaning, moving, long drive home. So much to tell, it's overwhelming. Later, in pits and pieces.

Today was all about driving. Des Moines to Cheyenne. Nebraska goes on for-e-ver. I remember the first time I saw southern Utah, I thought, "My God, look at all this barren wasteland." Now I love it all. Not just the parks and monuments, but the BLM land and everything else except that God-forsaken stretch between Price and Green River. If I lived in Nebraska, would I grow to love it? To see the hidden beauty of the endless prairie? I tried to see it with an open mind today. After all, what else is there to pass the time? Oh, look at that beautiful clump of willow!

[This is mean, but WHY are so many of the handlers in the dog show overweight? The dog trots along and the handler waddles alongside.]

I amused myself as I drove along by playing a little game. It's a pathetic game; but aside from shouting things like, "Hi, Maria!" when I drove through Omaha, and "Whoo-hoo sunset! Go, sun!" later in the evening, there was not a lot to entertain me. I would hit "Seek" on the radio, and the first station I landed on, I had to stay with until it died. I got to listen to a lot of Country, of course. Glen Beck, as I was driving through Lincoln. Oooooh! I've heard so much about this guy! I was ready for controversy and anger, not boredom. He's DULL. Glen Beck says the same things over and over, with long, dead-air pauses in between. "So, Barack Obama says.................... Barack....... Obama.........claims.........He claims that.........It is his assertion that........" I was glad that the signal for that station was pretty weak. NPR came to the rescue as I was at the dullest part of the dull drive; kept me awake. Finally, as I was driving into Cheyenne, I got a sermon about the nature of demons and how they possess humans or animals.

Tomorrow, I just need to get across Wyoming and make it down Parley's Canyon. Watch: I'll make it all the way across the Great Plains, only to die 20 miles from home on that crazy race track. I wish I could drive it when it's off-peak: like 3 AM.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dad's Gone

Mom just called me to let me know. I'm feeling surprisingly wooden, as I have through this whole thing. I think I'll go to bed, so I don't have to think about it.