EASTER AT THE LAKE

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Easter at the lake is marked like everywhere with the arrival of Spring. As a child my first brush with the excitement of Spring came with the arrival of crocus peeking up in our yard in Illinois. I would run outside each day and count how many of tiny colored plants had arrived overnight. The blooming crocus overlapped the burgeoning forsythia bushes that framed our yard in yellow which was followed by the daffodils. Once the tulips arrived we were deep into springtime.

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We have the same flowers here at the lake but the event we look forward to each year is the blooming of the cherry tree. The tree sits in front of Quinn’s bedroom window and at some point I declared it “her tree” and nominally dedicated it to her. This did not sit well with her brother who felt this arrangement was preferential because of the arbitrary location at her windows. Later in the season when the enormous rhododendron bloomed giant deep pink flowers outside his window I made a similar declaration for him. He was having none of it and continued to claim the cherry tree which drove his sister crazy.

When we moved into our home we realized that the landscape down to the water held a lot of pitfalls for the lay gardener but it didn’t take a great deal of imagination to see the potential for a grand Easter egg hunt. So when the first Easter rolled around I stealthily snuck outside at daybreak and peppered the yard with colored plastic eggs. The tradition endured over the years as nieces and nephews showed up to help find the one hundred eggs. Each year we came up short because the yard was too good at hiding treasure. In the middle of July while digging up dandelions or turning over a rock a small pink or green egg would materialize and be added back into the bag filled with Easter eggs in the attic waiting for another year, another hunt.Image

When Anne, Rob’s mother, moved into assisted living she spent all of her holidays at our house. We began each Easter with the ceremonial egg dying. It was always Anne’s favorite part of the day. She would start with solid colors and then branch out and joins us as we tried to individualize our creations.Image

“This is my Italian flag egg,” Rob said resting a striped red, white and green egg back into the egg carton.

“This is my Quinnie egg,” I’d say to my daughter’s delight setting down one with a yellow top and pink face. “And this is my Jackson egg,” I’d add pointing to the one with a red top. I’d enhance the colors with pencil drawn caricatures over the subtle colors. Anne soon took up the pencil and started drawing bunny faces on the front of her eggs.

As the years went by we had to make more and more hard boiled eggs because Anne could not get enough. She suffered from short term memory loss that manifested in various forms. One Easter after sitting around the table dying over three dozen eggs with her I selected a pretty assortment of our craft and arranged them on the table in a bowl as a centerpiece. The rest of the family arrived and we all went into the dining room to eat dinner.

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My mother-in-law came in to take her seat and noticed the bowl of eggs and gasped, “Where did all these beautiful eggs come from?”

We all paused and silently noted that her memory had shifted down a notch. Holidays have always served as benchmarks in time. Cultures and families celebrate events and holidays to help mark that time in memory as a reference point to remembering the rest of the year.

“You just made them,” Rob said to his mother very slowly. “In the kitchen a few minutes ago.”

“No kidding!” she said smiling and then clapped her hands at the thought of it.

Then we all laughed and ate our meal knowing that in addition to celebrating Easter we were little by little observing the steady march of time that in the end changes everything.

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DETAILS TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES

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The snow is melting in erratic stages on the terraced land that leads down to the lake. A plastic purple egg is poking out beneath the overgrown Bonsai tree. It’s a colorful reminder of the past year, one of the three missing Easter eggs from last year’s hunt.

I have been walking on crutches for six weeks and find myself only noticing small things that are close but always out of reach. Past the Bonsai on the other side of the lake a pup tent sits embedded into the ice. I’ve noticed the ice fishing in past years as an aside to life on the lake in the winter but this year, from my window seat, I watch the comings and goings of the pup tent owner like I’m watching a child play with a dollhouse. The tiny figurines of other distant fishermen dotted across my visible landscape conjure up ideas about everything in life I feel I must urgently attend to but cannot. Image

The torn square on a comforter that needs a few stitches, pine needles from Christmas still trapped beneath a radiator, a small strip of missing grout inside the shower and a thin layer of dust on the venetian blind. Suddenly all these seemingly little things need my immediate attention. I tell myself that when I can walk again I will take care of these items and more. No stone will be left unturned.

As I imagine the arrival of spring I picture the garden blooming as never before under my thumb. The house and decks are freshly painted. The dock that has been leaning on a broken piling since we moved in will be hoisted upright and repaired under the sheer strength of my arms built up from weeks of using crutches. New oars and bushings will be set into the rowboat that will cease to rest upside down, killing the same patch of grass over and over again. The kitchen cabinets and closets will all be sorted out and the basement that I have not stepped a foot into since the middle of January will have a place for everything and everything in its place.

It’s easy to imagine the care and maintenance of your life when you no longer have the mobility to move through it the way you have become accustomed to. I am not so naïve to believe that inventories that pile up while I am recovering will still be important when my attention shifts back to work, commuting, grocery shopping and laundry. What strikes me most now is the little things that go unnoticed in the average day but become magnified when you can’t even make dinner easily. I have cooked a few times these past two months but the effort always left me drained, like getting up the steps into the car has exhausted me before we even pull away from the curb. I stare up the steps leading down to my house and remember the effortless stride I had used each morning to get the newspaper in the driveway.  Now I lie in bed and think about the paper and how nice it might be to read it if someone was kind enough to bring it to me. Rob always does, along with a cup of hot tea.

The second year of our marriage we had moved into a railroad flat on the Hudson River that sat opposite from the Palisades. We had a neighbor named Mary who lived across the hall from us who was retired and didn’t drive. Each time the weather threatened snow she wailed, “Ohhh, I hope it don’t snow!”

Her lament of  the weather always surprised us because she had nowhere to go or drive to. It didn’t seem to impact her life to any degree. But now, housebound for the better part of this winter, I understand what Mary must have felt like each time it snowed. The snow prevents even the possibility of going somewhere, anywhere.

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In my time home, often alone, I have read eight novels. I also re-watched Anne of Green Gables. When Anne says “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” I laugh about how silly she sounds. Even if you haven’t seen it or read it before, you know everything will turn out fine.  In my moments of despair, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve had a few this winter, I have felt like Anne. My family smiles and reminds me of how silly I sound. They remind me that this is not a permanent condition, the weather is awful anyway and for heaven’s sake, take this time to relax and restore my health. Just as the snow and ice will eventually melt and my foot will eventually heal, all details take care of themselves. Image

FIRE STARTERS OR FLUE SEASON

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Rob’s main criteria in a home has always been security. We recently hired a cleaning woman after I had foot surgery and he ran around the house locking all his valuables up in his darkroom.

“She’s not going to take anything,” I protested.

“If she does, it won’t be my things.”

“You’re being silly.”

“Safe,” he corrected me.

So you can well imagine how happy he was to see that our lake home was wired with an alarm system before we purchased it. The fact that our security company is called Bobs doesn’t seem to bother him. Besides the view, my main selling point has always been a working brick fireplace. Our living room is tiny but the large stone-faced hearth makes up for it. I’ve always found burning logs inside a fireplace on a cold winter day utterly romantic.

As an early riser I used to like to slip downstairs on a Sunday before the rest of the family awoke and whip up a batch of biscuits or scones from scratch. This was followed by a pot of Irish Breakfast tea topped off with the morning paper in front of a roaring fire. It was difficult to get through all the tasks before one of the children discovered me but on one particular morning I almost succeeded. Everything was prepared and in order for the fire to catch and without a lot of bother I overloaded an extra bit of fire starter sticks under the main logs. I stuffed newspaper beneath that and struck the match.

The fire ignited in an instant and by the time I turned around to sit down to my tea and unread paper the room had begun to fill with smoke. Suddenly a loud piercing siren rang through the house and all the inhabitants were awake and shouting. Rob raced downstairs, rightfully screaming with the fire extinguisher in hand. He vigorously doused the blaze, pulled the flue chain, closed off doors, opened windows and within a matter of seconds managed to dig a fan out from a closet to begin blowing the smoke outside. The alarm rang on. Fire engines started to sound in the distance and increased in volume as they collected outside our front door.

Now anyone who ever forgot to open the flue knows that it does not require the assistance of an entire local volunteer firefighting team replete with four full size engines. To make matters even worse, my daughter Quinn stared out at the commotion gathering in front of our house and gasped. Mr. Johnson, the local fire chief, was heading down the front steps.

            “It’s my teacher, Mr. Johnson.”

To have your teacher enter your smoke filled chaotic home with everyone still in pajamas was a fate worse than death for a sixth grader. She started to cry. Jackson who also had Mr. Johnson two years prior ran away and spied the commotion from an upstairs window.Image

            “Get out there,” Rob shouted steering me towards the front door. “You made this mess!”

The happy thought of biscuits, tea and the Sunday Times in front of the fire were gone and I stuffed my bare feet into boots, threw a car coat over my pajamas and went outside to take my medicine.

            “Ha, ha,” I laughed nervously and clutched my coat tighter. “I forgot to open the flue. All fixed.” I shot off a shamefaced grimace and shrugged my shoulders.

The firemen were clustered at the top of the steps like it was old home week and Mr. Johnson peered inside the smoky house relieved that it wasn’t ablaze.

“My husband put it out with the extinguisher.”

He nodded. “Just what I would have done.”  

The infernal alarm finally stopped, but not before every neighbor within a half mile had come outside to see which culprit had roused them so early on a Sunday morning.

Mr. Johnson smiled. “It happens.” He wrote something down on his clipboard and radioed back to the drivers to start pulling out. “Piece of advice,” he said as he turned to leave.

            “Yes,” I answered a bit too eagerly.

            “Febreeze.”

            “Febreeze?”

            “And plenty of it.”

            The next day Quinn skulked into class hoping to go unnoticed when kind old Mr. Johnson called her out and reprimanded her absent mother in front of the entire class.

            “Remind your mother to open the flue next time!” he laughed.

When she relayed the story after school it was hard to feel too sorry for her. After the firemen left Rob had taken Jack and Quinn out to breakfast and then to a museum for the day. I had stayed home and washed the curtains twice, vacuumed the couch with baking soda, polished the floors and cleaned the windows. I also sprayed copious amounts of Febreeze. It was my choice to stay and clean, hoping it would imbed in my brain to never make that mistake again.

As a precaution we didn’t use the fireplace again for remainder of that winter but the following fall with a careful nod to safety I always had Rob check the flue before I lit the first match.

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ALL IN THE TIMING or I LEFT MY LIST AT HOME

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Winter

I have always felt slightly out of step with the rest of America in terms of timing. I graduated from college in 1980 and those of you who are old enough to remember would be hard pressed to find a worse period to enter the modern job market until 2008. After college I worked weekends for a wedding caterer, and I finally received two full time job offers after an extensive search. One was organizing greeting cards in a local pharmacy, which I didn’t take, and the second was working for B. Dalton Bookseller. The greeting card job paid a dollar more an hour but I thought a job in a book shop offered me more prestige. After all, I was a college graduate and I had my standards. I earned $2.90 an hour and after taxes I cleared a little under four hundred dollars a month. My rent was $105.00 a month and I didn’t own a car, so I got by. By 1984, Reaganomics hadn’t trickled down to me yet so I headed back to school to get an art degree- something that would really secure my future.  I mention all this because some of it was timing and some of it was choice, like most things in life. The trick is to make astute choices when the timing is all off.

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Early Spring

Last week I was working out on the elliptical at the gym and listening to music on my phone. HGTV was on the television above me and the dialogue was in closed caption so I inadvertently followed along. The couple on the screen were searching for a first house. The agent brought them to six different houses and inside each one they looked for their list of “must haves.” For example, they wanted four bedrooms even though they were childless.

“We need room to grow,” the wife cooed with a smile.

“I need a two car garage,” the husband stated emphatically, as if he couldn’t even consider a house with a single garage.

They wanted a great room, space to entertain, modern kitchen and baths, a master bedroom and a big yard for a dog that they did not yet own. At one point they saw a house with a fenced in yard and the woman said, “We can get the dog right away if we choose this house.”

“Two dogs,” the man said.

The words “laughter” flashed on the screen and the couple and agent all looked happy.

They considered the street, the schools, the walking environment, the potential neighbors and above all the resell potential. I was blown away. When did this culture of home shoppers emerge, or were they always around but this show brought them into focus? According to Wikipedia, as of August 2013 approximately 98,229,000 American households (86.01% of households with television) receive HGTV. To the remaining 14% of television households, that stands for Home and Garden Television. I am one of the 14%. This is important for no other reason than that I always get the feeling there’s something I don’t know about.

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Summer

In 2000, when we started to search for our first home, once again the timing couldn’t be worse. It was the top of the market and the inventory was slim to none. We waited in a line to see a beat-up colonial in White Plains that needed to be gutted. We contemplated a small house in West Harrison with a cracked foundation and dead rodents in the sink. Some friends in a similar situation moved in with parents and started to stash cash for a better day. Bidding wars and a total lack of know-how sent us to the back of the pack. I saw a small ad in the Penny Saver with the heading: “The Loon Calls. Pull your canoe up to your very own dock.” I dialed the number. I still remember the first time we drove into the Putnam County lake community following the agent in her car

“This is nuts,” I said. “I’m never going to move here. This is a waste of time.”

I saw a man who resembled a member of ZZ Top work on his monster truck next to a yard filled with rusty junk. When we pulled into the garage-less driveway I begged Rob to keep driving.

He sighed. “She’s waiting for us and this was your big idea. We’ll look and leave. Because in the end it’s all information.” Rob often gets the big picture when I don’t or can’t.

We stepped through the front door. There was little to no entryway and we stared at a living room you practically fell into.  The next stop was a child’s bedroom. The walls were covered in fake vinyl wood paneling that had been painted poison green and caulked together with silicon gel. The bath next to that had border wall paper that was peeling off and revealing mold. We walked through to the back of the house and found two picture windows looking out on a wooded lot and a lake beyond the yard. The kitchen had a large island built up against one of the picture windows and the dining room off of it was narrow and small. We didn’t see all the work involved we only saw the lake.

Besides a kitchen and bathroom and at least three bedrooms for our family of four we never had a list. I feel like if we had we wouldn’t have bought this place.

The couple on the show had found their dream home without any compromises and paid the same amount we paid back in 2000. All because they had a “must have” list or because the timing was right or both. True, they lived in South Carolina but you can’t have everything.

I often think back to that day in late May when we walked through the house that is now our home and out onto the lower deck. A warm breeze was blowing through the trees and warming our skin. The lake was glistening below. Our daughter was swinging on a tire swing and our son was lying face down on the dock trying to fish a snail shell out of the water. Rob and I caught each other’s eye and in that instant I now know having a list wouldn’t have mattered.

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Fall

SAMUEL T. CATT: RESIDENT

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A few years after we moved into our lake house a cat showed up. He sat on the front steps and stared into our living room window. It was only later that we realized it was providence.

“That’s Sweetie,” Rob said. “She lives across the street.”

The neighbors were selling their house and after they had loaded up a moving van and were about to depart we went running over.

“Wait! Don’t forget Sweetie,” we exclaimed, holding the cat under the front paws as the rear legs dangled down.

“That’s not Sweetie,” the neighbor said, lifting up a different cat before our eyes. “This is Sweetie.”

Perplexed we dropped the cat and asked, “Then whose cat is this one?”

“Yours,” she said, as the van drove out of sight.

We walked back across the street and cat that wasn’t Sweetie was already sitting outside our front door by the time we reached it.

“Well at least nobody fed the cat,” Rob said.

Our son Jackson looked upward and shrugged. “Does a little tuna count?”

It felt like we were in the middle of a Leave it to Beaver episode.

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Cat out of the Bag

Our daughter Quinn told us the cat was named Sammy which was later changed to Samuel T. Catt: Resident.

“How do you know his name is Sammy?” I asked.

“He told me,” she said.

That was late summer and Rob began a battle of wits with the cat. It was clear that Sammy had no immediate plans to leave town. Each time the door opened he made a move to get inside and Rob pushed him back with his foot or a broom. The cat was undeterred. We started to trick the cat and run around the house to another door. He ran faster than us.

“No cat!” Rob yelled. “I’m allergic for God’s sake. We need to call the dog catcher.” He announced to anyone who would listen.

“It’s a cat.”

“Dog catchers catch cats.”

In truth they don’t. You have to call Just Strays and then they show up and catch the cat, spay them and then return them back to you. They don’t want them. Their mission is to reduce the population of feral cats. Additionally they ask you for a donation to cover the costs. Sammy wasn’t feral, he had a collar, seemed to like people and had a tattoo inside his left ear. When we researched the tattoo number with the cat registry it came up blank. His previous owners couldn’t have been too bright, they tortured the cat with a tattoo and then didn’t bother to list his number.

“Maybe he ran away from his owners because he’s still mad about the tattoo.” I suggested.

Rob took Sam’s photograph and we posted ‘Found Cat’ signs around town but nobody called. When we sat on the deck he sat with us. When we went to get the mail he went too. When we walked down to the dock he came along and watched us swim. When we pulled into the driveway he was sitting on the stone wall, waiting.

Finally it was decided that Sammy would be our outdoor pet and we took him to the vet and bought a plastic cat house for him to winter in. I laid towels down on the floor of the hut and put a water dish inside. Sammy never considered the hut but sat on the opposite side of the glass sliding door and stared into the kitchen and watched us. Even in the rain Sammy waited. He had a sad pathetic look that made the kids and I melt. This was sort of remarkable considering that I have never liked cats. Rob’s sister had five outdoor cats at one time and there’s a classic image Rob snapped of his father teaching us how to handle cats. I should have felt sorry for them but I didn’t. Sammy seemed different. When the temperature dropped I convinced Rob to let Sammy move into the basement.

“I wash my hands of this,” Rob shouted. “This is all on you and it better only be the basement.” The basement rule lasted one day before Sammy had the run of the first floor.

“That cat is not allowed in the bedrooms!” Rob shrieked.

“I agree,” I said and informed Jack and Quinn of the cat house rules. Cat house rules was an apt term for a cat that ruled the house. He spent parts of each day inside the kid’s bedrooms.

“If that cat so much as puts one paw on the stairs up to our room I cannot be held responsible for my actions,” Rob proclaimed.

“Noted,” I said.

Of course you know the rest of the story. Samuel T. Catt not only went up to the second floor but liked Rob best of all because he slept on his chest. It was as if Sam knew just the person he needed to win over, he was that smart. Rob and Sammy entered into a mutual admiration society. Rob trolled shops  for cat trinkets that resembled Sammy from refrigerator magnets to door stoppers and bought numerous cat toys that entertained him for less than a day. Because Sam still spent long portions of each day outside, Rob installed a cat door that only Sam could open with a magnetic key that hung from his neck so he was never left out in the cold again even when we were on vacation. Sam reciprocated by bringing in an assortment of small animals dead and alive as gifts. Rob had the job of removing all the animals as the rest of us ran to high ground screaming. He gave us a snake, numerous mice, birds that played dead and then came to life as Rob went to pick them up and they started to fly. One morning on my way to work Rob called me panicked.

“I can’t leave! Sammy brought a chipmunk in and its running around the living room.”

“Chipmunks are so cute,” I said thoughtlessly on the other end of the line.

“Not when their in the house!” he screamed.

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Sammy under the tree

After an hour long battle with the chipmunk Rob took the cat’s key away. It felt a lot like grounding a teenage child from driving the family car. Sam could let himself out but not in. We forced him to sit outside the kitchen door and wait to be let inside, always checking to be sure he wasn’t bearing gifts. If we knew it was going to rain we called his name and he came running. The benefit of having an outdoor cat was he didn’t use a litter pan and the house didn’t smell. One of the downsides was the dangers he encountered. He started to cost a lot of money as the vet tried to clear up one scrape after another. Towards the end he couldn’t fend off whatever animal was out to get him. Eventually the vet wanted to amputate his leg but offered no guarantee of survival and cautioned us.

“Of course if you opt to do this and he lives, he’ll have to stay inside the house forever.”

The idea of confining him to a 1500 square foot home with three legs was more than any of us could bear. Sam was in agony. I was away and Rob called to give me the prognosis before he and the kids went into the animal hospital to say good-bye.

“There just wasn’t enough time,” Rob wept.

THE NEW YAR TIMES

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Katherine Hepburn’s character Tracy Lord, in The Philadelphia Story refers to a yacht saying, “my, she was yar.” Then she explains to her fiancé, George, what she’s talking about. It’s a telling moment. We learn that he’s not the man for her because he doesn’t know what yar means.  A majority of the audience for this 1940 movie needed to have it explained as well. It’s clear that most of America, like George, is moving with a different crowd than Tracy Lord. Lately I’ve been feeling like that with the New York Times.

The paper gets delivered to our house at roughly five-thirty every morning. You can hear the driver’s car roar around the lake followed by a dull thud on the street as the paper hits the driveway and the engine roars off again. I find the sound comforting  as I press the snooze bar for the third time. It gives me another reason to get up. Rob has moved on to electronic venues so the physical paper is mine alone. Reading the paper from 6:15 to 6:30 every morning doesn’t give you a lot of time to delve too deeply.  Today I read about rolling bar carts.

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My first thought was, “Who uses a rolling bar cart?” I imagined a house so expansive that the cart could have room to roll. I tried to picture the occasions that might call for a rolling bar cart.

         “Oh Robert, would you be so kind and roll in the bar cart and mix us all a cocktail.”

Would you use one for small gatherings as well as large? The article interviewed Alessandro Palazzi, the barman from Dukes Bar in London. “The style is very important, because it is used as a decoration or to show off your drink collection,” he said.

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Well that explains it. My bar doesn’t contain a collection that lasts longer than the length of a party and it’s usually contained on the card table I set up for the occasion. I mused about the possibility of buying a rolling cart as I started to scroll through the pictures displaying the range of styles available. That’s what the Home section is for, to help you imagine the possibility of owning something you had never thought of before like an exotic tree house or a radiator that’s made to look like a ram for only $11,000.

The bar carts were priced from $300.00 which seemed a bit high but low enough so I could still be a player, and went up to $17,500.00. Most were in the several thousand dollar range. I felt like George in The Philadelphia Story.

I thought about the driver who has to get up at 4 AM to get all the papers in our area delivered on time. Every Christmas we send twenty-dollars to our carrier to ensure this great service.  It seems like a tough job. Last year we had a terrible delivery person and the paper didn’t show up consistently until close to nine in the morning. We were on the phone with the Times every day until they resolved the problem. They never disputed our claim and sent the complaint up to the head office. Boy was I impressed, the New York Times really wanted me us as a customer.

But I often can’t imagine why. I always knew the ads were for the One Percent but I think I blocked out the fact that so are the houses, wine, clothes, most restaurant reviews and the vacations they write about. And it seems to be getting worse. I also noticed that full page ads for Tiffany’s, Bonwit Teller or Bloomingdale’s are juxtaposed to  stories about impoverished nations but never next to national or local news. I feel the ad placement is deliberate because expensive items next to the Neediest Cases might be a “tough sell.” Rob thinks the companies just want ads in the first ten pages of the paper and that happens to be the international section.

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On Sunday the second part of the weekend paper arrives. I open up the main section and snap a picture. I make my way through this section and test my ad theory. Then I move along to the Sunday Review where the only ads are for education jobs. I land on an editorial called “Sentenced to a Slow Death.” It begins with, “If this were happening in any other country, Americans would be aghast…” I read about the needless life sentences of non-violent offenders that is costing $1.78 billion dollars for the lives of their collective incarcerations. This is why I read my local paper. The news is for everyone. We have to gerrymander through it to find what we’re interested in.

That doesn’t mean I can’t imagine inching a bar cart around my small lake house and saying, “My, isn’t she yar?” and hope someone is listening.

BROKEN REMINDERS

I have been waiting my whole life for my real life to begin. There is always a lingering distant opportunity of something better. Whenever I travel I see the latent possibilities of what life would be like if I only lived there. I see where I would shop, walk to yoga classes, drop off my dry cleaning and eat. I watch myself through the glass as a happy customer in the window seat enjoying a glass of Malbec with smiling friends. I am well dressed, I am thin, I am popular. I am famous. Then we go home.

It is an odd feeling that certainly doesn’t fill every waking moment but it’s out there. Since late August I have been in Collegeville Pennsylvania-twice, Seattle, Baltimore, and Tampa. Each time I return home I feel three things. The lost potential, relief at the sight of my own bed and the weight of the work that has been left undone. Doing my chores helps to ground me back into my routine. It reassures me that this is my life and it started long ago. As the days between trips add up I start to forget about any fantasy.

Two weeks ago after returning from a trip we put both the yard and house back in order. I stumbled to bed exhausted and stubbed my toe.

“I think it’s broken,” I wailed.

Rob ran downstairs and fetched a bag of ice.

“They can’t do anything for a broken toe,” he said, laying the ice pack over my blue toes and handing me two Motrin.

“Nothing?”

“Just gotta suck it up.”

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After a few days of rest and ice everyone expects you to get back to business. It’s not a big enough injury to curry favor but it nags at you and impedes everyday activities that you still seem to be able to do. You hobble off to work and home again. Only now the dust collects in the corners and leaves pile up outside. You groan at the exertion it will take to simply gather up the pieces of the Sunday paper spread across the living room floor.

My stepfather called and said it best. “A broken toe is nothing more than a nuisance.”

“That’s it,” I exclaimed.

I repeated that all week long when people shook their heads in understanding as I dragged my foot along. “Just a nuisance,” I said, to let them off the hook. They are also tired of my toe.

I collapsed late Friday afternoon on a kitchen stool and stared out at the lake. The distance of the dock is foreboding and off limits. It may as well belong to someone else. I try to remain satisfied with the view but find myself daydreaming about my real life that just hasn’t started yet.

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