Thursday, February 22, 2007

February Harvest

Here’s what not to do when one of your major uncles dies and you are minutes from going to the visitation at the funeral home: do not try out new waterproof mascara with microfiber. In fact, make it a policy to never even use waterproof mascara, particularly when it has ingredients commonly found in raincoats.

I can’t decide if I look more like a four year old who got into her mother’s make-up stash or if I look like a mime. Either way, it is not good, though possibly the freaky quality of my eyelashes might distract the bereaved throngs from their grief for fifteen seconds while they speculate about what manner of insect has crawled onto both of my eyes.

This major uncle was a farmer with a love of history, conspiracy theories, and the farm where he grew up and then grew his own family. He was moody and given to loud outbursts of displeasure when something was not to his liking, but he was also personable and funny and handsome. He had things he believed in: rules, lines you didn’t cross, respect you paid. He was the last of the older generation of males in my life to call me by the childhood version of my name, and I liked that. There might not have always been displays of affection or even acknowledged appreciation between us, but hearing him say that softer version of my name somehow always made me feel connected.

Of course he also called me Nose Picker with some regularity, but we won’t speak of that.

In that way that when I hear the word “house” I picture something white with a picket fence, when I hear “farmer” I picture him: shock of hair sticking out of the back of a seed cap, overalls, ruddy weather-creased face, thick, strong hands.

His farm was the backdrop for some of my happier days. Though the outdoors makes me sneeze, it is where I romped in hay mows, rubbed my face on the fur of livestock and barn cats alike, and where I learned that hamburgers and Green Giant corn do not miraculously appear in my grocer’s freezer but actually come from a farm somewhere. One July I was with him and his oldest son in their pick-up, surveying corn not quite ripe for picking, and he said with great pride to my cousin, “Look at that. That’s ours,” and it clicked for me, those hours they spent on the tractor, in the farm lot, testing corn at the kitchen table, plowing, planting, harvesting, hauling--all of it adding up to a job you could be proud of, that you could own because it meant something. It was tangible. You could taste it.

And so now my spider eyes and I are off to say goodbye to him and to try to offer comfort to my aunt and cousins, though there is no comfort for this unexpected loss. Instead, like with any death, there are now just memories and photos and the stories that will be told to remember what the dash between 1947 and 2007 stood for. There is also the very real possibility that for my aunt, my cousins, his grandchildren, and those of us who grew used to August sacks full of his season’s yield, that corn will never again taste so sweet.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Shining

The Scottie and I are housebound after the big snowstorm that blanketed most of the Midwest yesterday, so it’s a quiet kind of Valentine’s Day. Earlier today, the two of us went out and trudged a heart-shape into the snow, took a picture, and sent it to Z. Technically, the Scottie watched from a place where the snow was not higher than he is, but he did bark encouragement.

There’s something wrong, possibly, with a 40-year-old woman who still watches school closings on the news with the same hopefulness of a second grader. I have colleagues who are annoyed by snow days because they interrupt the learning process and mess up the schedule and are not productive. But I am of the belief that they are good for the soul. There is something delicious about wandering around, well past the hour of decency, in your pajamas because you know no one, not even the mail carrier, is going to stop by.

That said, after two days of being housebound, either me or the dog is likely to turn into Jack Nicholson in The Shining. My money is on the dog. He wants his walk despite his wooded lot with pond and seemed unnecessarily disappointed in me yesterday when I wouldn’t turn the snow off.

Z and I were sickening this weekend. It was a perfect weekend, the details of which I will keep between me, Z, and the Scottie dog, though there was a moment in McDonald’s when we kissed while waiting to place our orders, and some young guy looked like he had lost his appetite. I may feel like a sixteen year old, but I forget that what the rest of the world is seeing is someone middle aged (and in this instance, decked out in the wintery-est weather gear) who should not be allowed legally to kiss her boyfriend in public. Particularly after a four-day lovefest, which has left both participants looking hollow-eyed and shrunken, like the Mer-people under Ursula the Sea Witch’s evil spell in The Little Mermaid. In fact, I’m amazed legislation hasn’t been passed to public displays of affection in anyone over 35. If I weren’t me, I’d be thinking, “Yeah, yeah—move it on home to your Craft-matic adjustable bed, you old fogeys.” But we were on the way to the airport, and so I felt entitled, bewitched Mer person or not.

One detail I will share is that the Kama Sutra chocolates were well received, though given that neither Z nor I are particularly good at yoga or gymnastics, we opted not to try out the scenes depicted there on. There was some concern that the TSA might flag him if they saw this contraband in his suitcase however.

It’s interesting the new paths I find myself cutting these days. Historically, this has been the one day of the year when I felt entitled to be extra cynical and dismissive of sappy greeting card sentiment and Kaye Jeweler commercials, and now, here I am, out in 15 degree weather, marching around in a foot and a half of snow making heart shapes. Heart shapes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lowered Expectations

Last week, a precocious kindergartner at the school where my mother works began a conversation with her teacher in that way you do when you assume the person to whom you are speaking has had exactly the same experience as you. The conversation starter was this: “You know when you poop your pants on purpose and your grandma gets mad….”

This delights me (mostly because I am not the grandmother, I suspect). I love the lack of self-awareness, the belief that of course EVERYONE has done just this thing and understands the repercussions.

And so I begin this blog….

You know when you buy a pair of low-rise jeans, even though you know you shouldn’t….”

It is typical of me to finally buy into a fashion trend when it is on its way out, and while I know my body is not suited to it from various aesthetically displeasing experiences in dressing rooms across America, I found a cheap pair of jeans I liked and they just happened to be low-rise, and now I have become one of the those Midwestern-shaped women who spends her day hiking up her pants. . . . while shopping, while teaching, while talking to the Vice Chancellor of Information Technology. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am a child of the 80s and as such jeans belong somewhere right at or slightly above the navel. I am not a mother, but I am most comfortable in Mom Jeans.

And we won’t even speak of the ill-advised underwear I bought to accompany the jeans. No we won’t.

Z is in the air, winging his way toward me for a long Valentine’s weekend, though come Sunday it will seem like the shortest weekend in history. He has already been delayed by a couple of hours, and I’m annoyed that an airline snafu is cutting into my time with him. I’m half-tempted to call Northwest and say, “Work with me people!!!”

As luck would have it, I’m at the Dog House for the rest of the month, babysitting, while my Scottie’s parents are off on a cruise of South America. My fantasies of putting the house to good romantic use have already been dashed. The nice thick white carpet in front of the fireplace that would be good for a picnic--or let’s be honest, making out--has been ripped up and replaced with very trendy hardwood and no area rugs. The hot tub is broken. It’s 3 degrees out, so the sweet walks on our old, friendship-only stomping ground cannot be re-dedicated to this new incarnation of us unless we bundle ourselves up like the little brother in A Christmas Story. I’m beginning to suspect the Scottie Dog is not going to approve of the two of us in a romantic relationship, and I’ve already begun envisioning all the ways he will try to break us up, kind of like Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills did to Brian Keith and their potential new step-mother in The Parent Trap. He’s a good dog, but he is an only child.

Also, you know when you order a box of chocolates from England for your sweetheart that depict various acts from The Kama Sutra and then you start to second guess yourself and wonder if what initially seemed funny and mildly naughty is really just in poor taste, reeks of desperation and might make the object of your affection go off you completely? Yeah, well. . . .

That’s it. I am officially lowering my expectations for the weekend.

But I am NOT wearing the low-rise jeans.