Monthly Archives: July 2009

>The Power of Laundry and Polish


As a woman of the liberated sixties and seventies I never thought that at near sixty I would scurry to my writing device, AKA laptop to write a blog post, well hold on . . .  who thought of blogs, the internet, OK other than Al Gore. But to write, in whatever modern fashion, a musing on the power of laundry and polish, that would have been unthinkable to me back in the day. Not this modern woman. And yet here I sit, a second cup of black coffee at my side having finished a round of bed changes and making my mother’s walnut furniture gleam.


I am doing this not because it is Thanksgiving or my in-laws are coming, frankly I wouldn’t do it then. I am doing it because we have rented out our house in the country and in two days the tenants arrive and I think, well they paid nearly all our yearly taxes, that is the impetus for the rental, and they should start off fresh and shiny clean.


I came up here alone as my family has other work, or they are living in another country, I bought that excuse. So here I am after enduring another torrential Hudson Valley pelting rain, house shaking thunder and horizon illuminating lighting. I am here doing housework or what used to be called women’s work. The term changed, but here I am. To be fair, normally the inside of the house falls to my husband, who the kids and I call, Mr. Itchy, since he is allergic to so much outside. But he is honestly in Cleveland and that is punishment enough, plus he returns with a check.


So I am here and happy. The wash is churning, the wood seems to smile, beaming from knot to knot, enjoying much-needed nourishment. I am about to take clippers in hand to snip bouquets for the bedrooms. There is a simple and finite sense of satisfaction that emanates from this work. I don’t think about an edit to move the sheets into passive voice or consider that repolishing the table from the right to the left would yield a more satisfactory “kick”. This is work I just do.


Now I don’t want to be disingenuous about the joy of housework; if this was all I did and did not have the interstitial moment to sit and scribble while the wash does itself, I do not think I could wax so joyful. Terrible pun but I am going to leave it in.


>Generation DRINX

>I am a lightweight drinker. I never learned to drink. Who knew that had to be on the TO DO LIST for life ?

My father was an Irish alcoholic and it worried me, as I seemed to possess many of his foibles and gifts. We had the gift of gab, and rage and humor and strength and irony and sadness. And so I eschewed drinking, thinking that would inoculate me from all the other pejorative traits we shared.

Mostly it meant that I never learned to have more than a half of a beer, or two glasses of wine or a martini. That was until I turned 50. Then I wanted to drink. It was the Millennium and then there was September 11 and then the economic downturn, and we still have a year and a half until this decade is closed. So I began to drink.

My drinking is still meager by comparison to most adults, but it is downright puny when viewed thought the always-full cup of my children and their generation DRINX. My daughter is 24 and my son turns 21 next month. They have been drinking for a while and they often imbibe with a vengeance that scares the shit out of me.

I saw my son boast that he downed 18 beers for his 18th birthday. I see his beer cans in recycling. (We don’t hide things too much in our family) My daughter used to drink more but of late she can’t really hold her liquor. She is tiny as an ant. But I used to I hear her tossing her cookies in the only bathroom in our downtown loft. She has turned her back on the kind of binge drinking or over-kill that seems to equally attract and plague her peers.

When she went to her cousin’s 25th birthday party, she found the girl weeping in the kitchen with a drink stuffed into each fist. The birthday girl’s friends just kept the drinks coming saying, “Don’ cry, it’s your birthday.” My daughter removed the drinks and said, “Go ahead have a good cry if that’s what you want; it’s your birthday.” Atta girl.

I always choose emotions over mind numbing, but then I love a good cry, a pitched battle, epithets hurled with aplomb and lots of make-up banter. I like blood letting, cauterizing wounds and airing the laundry. I love all the metaphors for getting the bad stuff out in the open so the good can flourish.
And I seem to be mighty provocative.

If I am to be honest, I have never been with a man who hasn’t thrown things, broken things and come at me wailing. My kindest, most meek, nice Jewish boy friend ripped the head off an expensive teddy bear be brought me from Zurich in a fit of pique. But my son seems to drink to suppress all his feelings and that freaks me out.

The other night after working 12 hour shifts for eight days strait, he went out with the rest of the tech crew from Project Runway, oh sorry no one is supposed to know so. . . Code name Cheesecake Productions. I was up or half up, doing that thing our parents did and our kids will do, which is waiting with ears and jeans at the ready in case we have to fly to the rescue.

I heard Henry come in. A little stumble and crash into furniture positioned too close for his tall frame under the influence. I said Hi in a cheery voice and he responded. When I asked him where he’d been he got grumpy. He was ready for a hello and nothing more. He hates questions under the best of circumstances but drunk FUGETABOUTIT.

I got up and asked if he wanted food or tea or water. He brushed his teeth, took out his contacts and said all he wanted was bed. His eyes were ablaze in his head, not actually tracking and I could see him list toward his room. I asked again about Advil or water. “No ma I just want to pass out.”

I couldn’t sleep. I am troubled by his drinking, I am deeply nervous about the drinking of his friends, his cousins, in fact, his entire cohort. The over-kill thing terrifies me. Here is a kid who wants to eat no carbs and work out and then drinks more than a dozen beers. Crazy right?

The next day I left for the country without so much as a note. I never do that. And then I felt I acted the way I ask him not to. I was obtuse and extremely not transparent. I called to leave an apology message for running off, but explained that the drinking freaked me out. To my great surprise and to his credit he called me back.

“ Ma this is your issue not mine. I can have one drink or none, or I can get hammered. It is my choice. The other night I got many people, who were much more drunk than I was home. And I got home safe, brushed my teeth and went to sleep. I got up and went to the gym. Now, I am cleaning my room. So get over it. This is your issue not mine. Clear”

“ Well I guess so. But mostly thanks for calling me back and talking to me, cause you didn’t have to do that. You could have just deleted the message and let it go. So thanks.”

I felt better after talking to him, for not keeping my thoughts to myself, but it made me wonder how this Generation DRINX will unfold. I think it is more than my issue. Maybe I can figure it out tonight after a cocktail.

>I Spawn Spoiled

>I Spawn Spoiled, Except in the Garden
July 13 2009

It must be me. I see that all around me there is a trail of spoiled. My cats, my kids, my co-workers and friends; all often seem too coddled and catered to. It has to be me. I must spawn a kind of spoiled hierarchy that I seem incapable of escaping, except in the garden.

I didn’t start gardening with a vengeance until I was 55 years old and by then I had learned a thing or two about boundaries. I had left a bad, abusive marriage; I had started my own consulting business and had plodded through oodles of therapy. Most of this “think and talk work” as my son called it when he was younger, taught me that I had to value myself and shower a little of the love and affection that seems to veritably ooze from my pores for progeny, pets and people onto me.

My big Maine coon cat will only eat white meat chicken and if it is steak he has to have all the fat rimmed and the pieces need to be bite-sized. My son is equally fussy in his carnivore tastes and my daughter wants everything local and organic. My husband will eat preservatives and fatty cuts of meat as he is the youngest from a big Southern family, but he doesn’t like to experiment as much as I do with cuisine and so I hold myself back even when it is just the two of us.

One of my co-workers doesn’t like to write grants unless they are 100% true, meaning she doesn’t do creative wiggling to fit into the mold the donor wants. So I get to do all of those. Hell I do not mean to imply that I am applying for salsa lesson money when we help mothers and kids born in prison. But I am willing to bend the rules a tad. She isn’t. It is a convenient way of getting out of things and not a route I know.

I am the one who say SURE, LET’S GO, I’LL HELP. What do you need? Another blanket, extra food, a ride to the store, help carting a couch up six flights of stairs. None of these is a frivolous example; all emanate from my I am here to help life. But I put my foot down with my garden.

I have half dozen separate gardens in the Hudson Valley and not one of them is high maintenance. Even the roses have to fend, flourish or perish. I love it. Why didn’t I think of this as a mantra when raising kids, picking mates or spoiling felines? The gardens are beautiful and they do spawn new blooms every year, which astound me with their grace and opulence. But there are also some lost by the wayside. The lilies seem to need protection from the deer; the roses need protection from the beetles and the black berries seem to be about to take over the world. Daises, mint, herbs, foxgloves and bee balm sprout in profusion. When it floods they thrive. And when the drought came last year they hunkered down and waited.

OK . . . I weed, I cut grass back, but not often and I water on very rare occasions. Most of my friends are slaves to their quite spoiled gardens and I am happy to report that my plucky garden gives me hope that my cat might live just fine on cat food and my tall, muscled son will continue to grow on a dinner not his number one choice. My daughter will not dwindle and die from inorganic 2% milk and my husband, sweet as he is, can with stand an experiment or two. After all, pizza abounds, so you won’t starve, no matter how spoiled you are.