Jeez Louise

wile e coyote

I always thought if you skidded you went sideways, but I didn’t go sideways on that horrible day of icy roads and freezing rain that we had last month in northern New England.

On that day, with conditions so treacherous the state ran out of tow trucks, my car didn’t go the way I asked at all but jackrabbited instead , straight into a tree.

Never mind that I was turning the wheel.

Never mind that I had braked with extra care.

But if the car didn’t go sideways over the last two months, just about everything else around here did – even before we got to the seven feet of snow.

For one thing, everyone in my family got sick and some of us got Technicolor sick.

I was one of the lucky ones: My kind of sick just had me laid out like Lenin in his tomb for most of our family vacation, aware only dimly of various kind family members circling through to bring me food I could not eat.

Then, for the week following, I couldn’t sleep, because my air passages were so packed with what felt like concrete.

Then, for two weeks after that, I couldn’t wake up.

Also, for most of those weeks, I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t iron, though ironing has always helped me calm myself in the midst of every kind of personal shipwreck. I would LOOK at the iron propped on the windowsill and sink, ‘How do you suppose that thing works?’ I would LOOK at the TVs darkened screen and think, “Weren’t there some sort of beguiling images or something that used to emit from there?

And there is more: My little grandson broke his leg badly enough that he’ll be in walkin’ like Captain Ahab ‘til the tulips come up. 

My sister fell and broke her pelvis.

And I caught two toes on a piece of medical equipment at the doctor’s office – in the doctor’s very office! – painfully spraining them both.

Someplace in there, chiefly out of a sense of compassion for my salt-and-sand encrusted vehicle, I pulled into our local carwash, but did so such a way that the two guys manning the place began yelling and waving their soapy long-handled brushes around wildly.

Why? Why were they yelling? They were yelling because though I had glided nicely into place, settling my wheels just so in those two wheel-receiving troughs they have, I had then proceeded to throw the car smartly into Reverse and step on the accelerator.

Then, in the ensuing panic, I stepped on the brake and leaned on the set of four buttons that open all the windows.

So now every time I go to the car wash, the guys there take one look at my approaching vehicle and start yelling right away. “Neutral!” they go, waving their funny brushes. “Put it in Neutral!” They get so worked up every single time jeez Louise.

But me, I just look at it like this: At least I didn’t try going in sideways.

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Back to Reality

Sometimes you get home from a week away and find that the pipes have all burst.

That happened to us one winter. We went to my sister’s in Florida, leaving a 20-year-old house-sitter here with the cats.

Her phone call to us three days later was so sweet:

“Well,” she said “things are fine, really. But it’s 33 degrees in the living room and the cats and I are under the electric blanket in your bed.”

She was such a dear. She was from Austria where for all I know it’s 33 degrees in everyone’s living room.

Or maybe being just three months in the States, she thought this was normal for us.

“Thirty-three degrees!” David yelped when I conveyed the news to him. “The pipes are going to burst !”

This was at 3:00 in the afternoon and even down in Florida we knew that temps back on our northerly shores were headed down to zero.

The pipes burst all right. It was New Year’s Day and we couldn’t get hold of the furnace man in time and when we came home the whole first floor was under water.

It wasn’t that bad this time.

This time we came home from our week on Kiawah Island to rain and 56 degrees. Our floors were just fine however. And our nice neighbor Henry had brought in all our mail and kept an eagle eye on the needs of my zillion house plants, still enjoying summer camp on our screened-in porch.

The problem we faced – or rather the problem I personally faced – is the problem I came home with, and isn’t that always the way? My problem continues to be a computer riddled with viruses and an external disk drive so oddly configured by well-meaning amateurs that even the guy at the Apple store couldn’t discern what was on it. I can’t use the new Mac Book until I can bring 30 years of writing over. So it’s back to a period of speechlessness for a while as the files are being ritually cleansed and then brought over, because really how much can a journalist produce just using her smart phone and I-Pad?

I realize that in the last week I have written more about my family than is my custom and am grateful to all who bothered to read it all. We were all together except for Carrie’s wife Christine, ‘Mama’ to those three young children while Carrie is ‘Mum.’ Chris just couldn’t take the week off work and we sure did miss her. Hopefully she will be with us next time, in five more years, when Eddie will be 13 and David 10 and little Callie 5, and who knows? There may even be other little ones by then.

Carrie took this picture of little David at Olde Charles Towne Landing where she brought both boys for an outing while we stay-behind adults worked together to mind one 13-pound baby.

He asked his mother to take it, which almost never happens. He wears an expression on his face her I find very interesting. I can’t say in what it means but it strikes me as oddly reassuring. He looks so content, and assured of something….

Do the young see more than the rest of us? Does he see the day when his little lisp will vanish and he will tower over his parents rather than vice versa? Can he imagine the day when he will perhaps speak at the funeral of these grandparents he spent a week with in the summer when he was five?

Who knows what lies ahead, whether leak or flood or cascades of virus? We are kids ourselves, in the backward -facing seat of that classic old station wagon. We see only where we have been, and thank God for that.

Nice Try

I had to run to the lake yesterday to get my diary and the crucial planner I had somehow left there and yes I’ll admit it: I had my bathing suit on under my clothes JUST IN CASE the sun on the deck was  warm and I could sit there for a pleasant time and catch up with myself. The day was sunny throughout the six-state region, sunny when I left home, sunny when I got back 7 hours later. The only place it wasn’t sunny  was that small bit of geography where our summer cottage is. “Are those clouds up ahead?” I kept thinking as I drove farther and farther north. They were clouds all right and by the time I reached our place it was raining.

Soooo I looked at my watch, grabbed the diary and the planner, turned right around and started home again and sure enough just before I crossed into my own state the sun came out.

There’s a rest stop right there which is really nothing but a State Liquor Store and a shed with some vending machines. It was all I needed. I pulled up in front of this picnic bench, took out my diary and my planner and the book I read in the 15 seconds between the time I lie down and sleep overtakes me and spent a lovely 90 minutes, happy among the gratefully peeing dogs and the squashed-underfoot cigarette butts. ‘Bloom Where You’re Planted’ isn’t that what they used to say in the 70s? I took that advice yesterday and it worked out great.