Bourbon, cupcakes, tennis, and psychedelic leaves during the pandemic
The cocktail of the day is a little number called Fancy Free. I’m enjoying it in the back garden, which I’m only now calling a garden. Before it was the backyard. I didn’t dare call it a garden. It was something that always mocked me. It hurt me. Every time I came out, I felt chagrined, ashamed. Shame, in fact, is what welled up in me. Why?
To explain or describe how much of my life has been dictated or undergirded by shame would be going too far for this article. It would also be boring. So, I’ll refrain.
Here I am, then, in the back GARDEN, and it’s a garden, for real! And I’m doing gardener-like things, like telling my 22-year-old son to be “careful of the garden” as he hits his tennis ball against the back of our sun-splashed Spanish Mediterranean house during these Covid-19 days when the tennis courts are closed, just when he was developing a groove with tennis. Or when I ran to the Lady Banks climbing rose to find several balls stuck in the criss-crossing branches and noticed with dismay the shower of tender, new rose leaves on the soil below.
“Bo!” I said. “The garden! Be careful of my garden!”
It’s fun to say that, even though it make me feel kind of like an old lady. Lol.
We also installed a bidet in the toilet today. I ordered the Toto Washlet, a toilet seat that heats and washes your rear and front after doing your business. It looks a little weird, which is disappointing. When I burst into the bathroom upon returning from the store, I saw this weird bulky thing that looks like something in a hospital or nursing home. Truth be told, it’s pretty ugly.
But, it’s one-fourth the price of the entire Toto toilet-with-bidet, and now that I’ve tried it, I think we’re keeping it, as weird and ugly as it is.
I did it for my daughter, Nina, who has cleaned her bottom after pooping her entire life. It’s why she takes so long in the bathroom. When she was a little girl, she couldn’t imagine wiping only with dry toilet paper and then pulling up her pants. From the moment she was potty-trained, she’d ball up a ribbon of toilet paper, get up, go to the sink, get it wet, return, and clean her bum good and well.
Nina is going to UCLA in September. She’s gone. She’s moving into the next phase of her life. I should have bought her some kind of bidet long ago. Now, at least, she has it for the summer before college, and for vacations home.
Assuming she will really begin college in the fall. Assuming she will really move into one of the dorms she ranked on the online form she completed when she accepted the (incredible) offer.
All bets are off, as all of us, globally, know.
Senior year at Berkeley High is off. There will be no steady stream of senior pranks that have been tradition at BHS for decades. No prom. No graduation as far as we know. No last day of school. Those giddy days of spring semester, sunny afternoons on the lawn with friends, deep breaths of relief, senior year… she will never know them.
Of course, there are worse things.
And, she’s enjoying being home, with her best friend next door, who’s also furloughed from school. Our two families are pretty enmeshed, although the girls aren’t going into each other’s houses. The two of them are next door now, on the other side of the mossy fence. I can hear their voices over the pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat of Bo’s tennis ball.
Daisy the ever-faithful hound is sprawled on the terra cotta flagstone at my feet. My Fancy Free cocktail is melting. Wind is ruffling the branches of the spruce, of the cedar, of the Chinese Elm, of the orange tree above my head. It’s cool, but not too cool.
It’s a brilliant spring day here, after two days of rain, one of them pretty severe and pouring, which filled up a drain pipe to over-flowing and then found a seam in the roof and began pouring into the pantry cabinet in the kitchen so that the next morning all three shelves contained cans, jars, and bags of pasta swimming in water.
Bo went out the tiny window in his sister’s closet to get on the roof. Our neighbor heard us messing around on Sunday morning and came to help. Eventually, we had a ladder, a hacksaw, bits of drainage pipe, zip cords, wire cutters, and who knows what else, and we jerry-rigged a solution that worked. Water no longer pours into the kitchen. However, there must still be a vulnerable seam on the roof which we’ll deal with at a later date.
Birds are singing and trilling, and it’s 5:42 p.m., and the leaves on the Chinese Elm are so young, fresh, and new that they shine, reflecting light like diamonds laced through the tree. The branches toss and toss and shine, and I say, who needs psychedelics when nature is this astoundingly, bombastically pretty.
Of course this is a terrible time. Of course it’s terrible. But, I can’t help but notice how relaxed everyone is around here. I like that my family is home and close around me. I like that I don’t have to travel miles and miles and miles to work, burning a tank of gasoline every six days. I like that the skies are clean, the clouds so white skudding across an azure sky. I like that the city across the bay sparkles, that the buildings are white and shiny, the edges etched in black. I like the roads clear.
Obviously, if we get this horrible virus, I will be sorry I found anything to be grateful for in this dire time. I will feel like I got my just desserts. But, I’m not saying it’s not terrible and tragic, what’s happening. Obviously it is. I’m not saying I’m not afraid. Over the weekend, I was very afraid. When I read about the musician Adam Schlesinger dying of this thing, I was afraid. He is my age. I search and search, and I can’t find what pre-existing health conditions some of these folks had — folks who were 39, 45, 26, 19 when they were struck down by this mean and arbitrary virus.
We are reading Moby Dick tonight.
I already told the kids. And B, their father.
I am making oven-fried chicken (this one), macaroni and cheese, sauteed chard with rainbow stems. I am making iceberg lettuce salad (a wedge) with blue cheese dressing, in honor of my father, who loved blue cheese. And if I have time, cupcakes.
And then, we will read the first chapter of Moby Dick. Because my UCLA-bound daughter is horrifically under-read, especially in American literature. And because I spent the first three weeks of the pandemic lockdown watching movies nightly and began to feel sick from the cotton-candy diet of fluff (not that they weren’t serious, important movies, but a little variety and yes effort is needed now).
Moby Dick, which almost no one, it seems, realizes is quite humorous. Moby Dick, which is amazing. The kids seem to be going along with it. I think they understand that I’m actually helping them. That they will never read Moby Dick without me. That although they must pretend to be horrified and to fight me tooth and nail, they really, deep inside, are elated to be home, to be read to, and fed, and cared for. To be together. All of us.