Fantasy Island

He could show up…in my fantasy…

Tonight through Friday, I choose to dwell in an alternate, fantasy universe.

In this place, flying horses are gently anchored at sunset, docile, innocent, faithful – certain of a safe night and a sweet sunrise, when they will be freed to soar again.

And in this place, I cook an enormous Thanksgiving meal, with appetizers of paté on brioche with cornichons and mustard, smoked salmon and cream cheese with capers, marinated shrimp, cheese and grapes, strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar, a perfect, moist turkey with crisp skin (I’ll try spatchcocking it, for the first time, which is sure to turn out magnificently, because this is my FANTASY, remember?), mashed potatoes and gravy, whole berry cranberry sauce (not the abomination of the canned stuff, cylindrical, jiggling – we  have RULES here) sweet potato and carrot puree, peas and onions, brussels sprouts with bacon and a salad with dried cranberries, pecans and blue cheese crumble with raspberry vinaigrette, dinner rolls with butter, pumpkin and apple pie and wine, a meal that will last all weekend, with many, many platefuls to be assembled, warmed and served to …..

my imaginary gentleman caller.

Not Mike – that wouldn’t be fair, to call him back – but someone new that he’s approved of, or sent, even.

Someone to prop up this two-legged stool our lives have become, in this manless house.

I’ll wear my Thanksgiving dress all day, because you never know when a man on a flying white horse will show up. Could happen, here on my fantasy island.

I am in the process of cooking that enormous meal, preparing everything that can be done ahead of time, for our second Thanksgiving on Friday, after the first on Thursday at the brother’s in-laws, the first large family Thanksgiving my daughter will have ever experienced.

Then we’ll do our meal-just-for-two, with vats of hopeful leftovers waiting for my imaginary new man: leftovers that will last beyond Friday night, when I’ll hang up the dress; leftovers, uneaten by any man, that will sustain us through the weekend, when, back in the real world, I will bring out out the drop cloth and take on the big project, painting the front room.

Hilarity (and multiple additional trips to the hardware store) will no doubt ensue.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may your fondest fantasies come true.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a flying horse to catch.

When my equine flight lands, you may find me in the kitchen.

Stirring, pureeing, peeling, mashing and basting, I remain,

your loyal, lonely, faithful, hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

Resilience, or, Time to Turn Off the Water

I realized there was one faucet I hadn’t turned off…

“Do not go gentle into that good night,…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

 – Dylan Thomas

It was 20 degrees (Farenheit) this morning. Some of the first snow still has not melted.

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A few weeks ago I remembered to shut off the water to the outside faucets, and to unscrew the hoses – which I left (not neatly coiled) on the ground. The hoses might freeze but HA! the pipes won’t.

I’m the last house on the block with a lawn completely blanketed in golden leaves, because my day for the lawn guys was Friday, and Friday was the day it snowed. They’ll come this week for the last round of lawn maintenance (“Fall clean-up”) this year, and they’ll do the gutters too.

Mike used to do the gutters, and insisted on going up on top of the house even when he could barely stand up for more than 5 minutes. It’s a guy thing, I guess. Like shoveling snow. He did that too, until he nearly fainted again.

I must have been thinking about that when I was puttering around in my flannel nightgown  on this cold, (but sunny and lovely, in that low-slanty-light, late autumn way) morning, when I wandered into the downstairs bathroom, off the kitchen, to ponder the state of the peeling wallpaper.

And was stopped in my tracks by that cutesy turkey towel, and the little scarecrow-in-a-jar Mike and I bought on some long-ago fall excursion, staring at me. I got them out right after Halloween, in accordance with the Thanksgiving Rules (no Christmas decorations, or Christmas music, until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Over the River and Through the Woods, Now Thank We All Our God, We Gather Together: GOT IT?)

Oh dear. It appears there’s a faucet I haven’t quite managed to turn off.

Tears.

Not sweet, sentimental, “aww, remember? Isn’t that cute?” tears – these were real tears, coming from sudden, unexpected burst of despair.

Oh-oh.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Anne, maybe it is finally time to see someone (“see someone” being that dodgy euphemism for “get a therapist.”)”

I’m one of those people who thinks I should be able to snap out of it on my own. Figure out what’s setting me off and fix it, right? Have some backbone, clean something, paint something, get crackin’ cutting those logs in half –  you’ll need them for the fireplace soon. Feeling sick? Blue? Get your ass outdoors and go for a brisk walk.

Or, at least, head over to the fitness center and work it out.

Which I did, and I feel better. Much better.

I also figured out what hit me this morning, and why seeing that towel, and the gorgeous gold leaf-blanket all over the lawn, turned the tear-faucet on. It’s the same thing that happens every year when autumn slips away.

Not that I don’t love what’s coming next, ho, ho, hark the herald and all that, but I always feel cheated – I want more of these crisp, blue sky, golden fall days.

The best seasons are always the shortest.

That must have gotten wrapped up in my subconscious with losing Mike too soon.

He wanted to make it to October, so he could die under a bright blue October sky, but it didn’t work out that way. He died on a hot August night, almost exactly at the halfway point between the 18 and 24 months of time the oncologist had estimated he would have.

His birthday is in October, and now both he and October are gone, and the last blaze of autumn is frozen in the yard, the trees are bare and the gutters need cleaning, to keep the ice dams of winter at bay.

I pulled myself together before I came out of that bathroom, so my daughter wouldn’t see I’d been crying again, and noticed that my favorite grass in the front garden, IMG_20181113_130206.jpgwhich had been completely flattened by the wet snow, had bounced back.

It bloomed very late, the last week of October, with pretty pinkish tufts of fluff at the top.

Then, almost as quickly as it had bloomed, it dried up, but still stood there, adding structure and height where other flowering plants and shrubs had drooped or died back completely.

And there it was this morning, revived, out from under that hummock of wet, heavy snow, standing tall again. All by itself.

The lawn guys whacked it off very early last spring, when I wanted to enjoy it’s structure for longer, but it came all the way back.

Well, dammit, I thought – if the grass can do it, so can I.

I’ll enjoy that tuft of grass until it gets flattened by snow again, and then I’ll enjoy it in the spring until it gets cut back again, and I’ll delight in it when it comes back and blooms late again. World without end, amen.

That beautiful slanty-light sunshine is supposed to last through Friday, so maybe there will be a few more brisk walks before the cold and snow set in for real.

Until then, I remain,

Your spine-stiffened, spigot-stopping, about-to-embark-on-another-paint-job,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

Good China or, the Thanksgiving Rules

We’ll use the Good China anytime we want.

We brought it out at Thanksgiving and created a resplendent table with it, and the silver, and the stemware. Once a year.

Although I am a child at Christmas, full of anticipation and wonder and the magic of the tree lights sparkling in the dark, Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday.

All I have to do is cook, drink, eat. Not necessarily in that order.

At the end of the meal, after the coffee and pie, and the signature mashed potatoes that only Mike could make, we shared a marathon session of dish washing, by hand (in the dishwasherless days before the remodel) and then the plates would go back into the round, plastic, zippered bags with the quilted floral pattern, separated by those little foam circles that were supposed to keep the plates from chipping.

And the stemware went back in its box, each glass with its own little cardboard compartment, stowed carefully on the shelves in the cubbyhole at the top of the basement stairs.

But when Mike got sick, and we knew that each upcoming Big Holiday would likely be his last, we decided, fuck it, let’s use the good stuff now.  Any time we want.

And we wondered, why did we keep it all packed away all year anyway?

The whole idea of bridal “china patterns” now seems sort of quaint, or twee, or adorable in that way that brides are allowed to be adorably annoying, observing the rituals that really belong in the nineteenth century and before.

We have ten place settings. Ten. And we never had more than four family members over for dinner, and that, very rarely (long story, book, I’m working on it).

But really, who uses ten formal place settings anymore, in their home? Most homes now without formal dining rooms? (although I hear they started making a comeback with builders and their clients a few years ago. Sounds good to me. Invite me as a companion for your extra man – I’m a lively conversationalist and I never miss a chance to overdress!)

But now our child and I continue to use that fancy china regularly, two place settings at a time.

And I try to use the Good China as a reminder to be thankful, not once a year, but daily.

Another widow has “gratitude Fridays” so I’m going to try “thankful Thursdays” – and one of the exercises I want to commit to observing is writing a thank-you note a week to someone. Just to express gratitude in a concrete way, and maybe to share those here.

Recipients of thank-you notes I’ve written tell me I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even thought of turning that into a side business – to help those hapless, adorable brides who’ve gotten themselves in too deep and can’t come up with a single original thing to say to the gifter of the tenth full place setting. I can help her with that.

(I’ve also written a few thank-you notes that I never sent, on the order of, “Dear Mrs. Moneybags: How gracious of you to respond to my phone call with a letter, informing me that the organization I had hoped you’d support deserved its demise for its silly habit of asking poor families to pay only what they could, and instructing me that such foolishness should be abandoned posthaste, and good riddance to those poor folks. Right here in our town! The nerve!” Or something like that.)

But since we have The Big Holiday in the area of thankfulness coming up, I think I’ll save the weekly notes for after the holidays, when people aren’t expecting them.

In the meantime though, there are some Thanksgiving rules, which, unlike the practice of using the Good China only once a year, cannot be abandoned.  To wit:

  1. No Christmas stuff, especially NO CHRISTMAS MUSIC, until the day after Thanksgiving. We will not bury Thanksgiving in tinsel, or wreaths or red bows, or early-bird Black Friday deals, nor will we deafen ourselves to it by subjecting ourselves to Mariah Carey screeching, “All I want for Christmas is You” or Michael Buble crooning, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Puh-leeeze.  (We will address the subject of acceptable and unacceptable Christmas music on THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING. Which will not be spent standing in line outside a WalMart fighting over who gets the biggest big screen TV).
  2. Cranberry sauce must be homemade, from whole berries. No can-shaped gelatinous blobs on a plate, for God’s sake. Have some RESPECT, dammit. It’s EASY. Seriously, just read the package instructions on your Ocean Spray. Water, sugar, boil, berries, pop, pop, pop, chill. Done, yummy.
  3. Although I do not require anyone else at my table to perform this allegedly death-defying feat, I will make and consume stuffing that is ACTUALLY COOKED INSIDE THE TURKEY. Pepperidge Farm is the only acceptable stuffing mix. Non-negotiable.
  4. NO TURDUCKENS. See, “Have some respect,” in number 2, above. This goes triple for deep frying on the deck outside. Are you out of your mind? Haven’t you seen the Allstate ad about how many people burned their houses down committing this gastronomic atrocity?
  5. Mimosas. Mimosas are required. See “cook, drink, eat, not necessarily in that order” above. Rockettes, lip-synching broadway stars, marching bands and giant balloons are actually fun when viewed through the gentle mist of a Mimosa. Just don’t say the other Thanksgiving “M” word (the one that comes before “Thanksgiving Day Parade”) when channel surfing over to the the Chicago parade, because that big store they march past will ever and always be Field’s. Dammit.

I better start making a grocery list and polishing the silver, for our second round of Big Holiday with just the two of us, our child and me.

I’ll continue using the Good China every day, as a sign of gratitude for our memories of Mike, and faith that more Good stuff is coming, for just the two of us, our child and me.