a sponge dipped in vinegar

When I was thirteen, one evening during a week-long family reunion we went out as a crew to a drive-in theater. I remember what was showing – Bird on a Wire and Arachnophobia. (Great drive-in fare – and not films I’ve felt compelled to revisit later, either!)

The adults in the family smuggled us in. My brother, sister, a few cousins – we hid in the back of a pickup. The adults were probably half-lit, or at least they hadn’t thought it through. We underpaid, pulled into our spot, and everyone tumbled out. At that point the wary drive-in employees – probably teenagers themselves – came over and required payment for all attendees. I seem to remember it was a very near thing – we almost didn’t have enough. I remember we weren’t able to get snacks for the films. I remember worrying about this. Because I was a kid, and the adults in my life didn’t have their act together.

Today I wonder at my parents, aunts, uncles – that they could be okay with this sort of behavior. It isn’t that they were full of avarice or greed. My family was always the generous sort, and very kind. But I suppose like most other families, their morality was relative. They didn’t care too much about other people, when they wanted what they wanted. Most people behave like that at one time or another.

I’ve tried to raise my children differently. I never wanted them to see me take advantage. I didn’t want them to learn that way of life. Not just because it isn’t kind, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to others. But because it’s a scraping way to live – always thinking of the next grift, hoping for a rescue, hoping to not have to be responsible for one’s share. Hoping things go my way. Feeling “cheated” when Life Happens. An acquaintance the other day – who found a large amount of currency but didn’t get to keep it – because someone else saw them pick it up. And the thing is, for just one moment (or maybe longer) this person thought that money SHOULD be theirs. Because they live life thinking they don’t have enough. Scarcity. It becomes a way of life if you’re not careful.

I don’t want to have that mind. I don’t want to grasp. I don’t want to live in a fearful state, if I can help it.

Today my neighbor shouted at me, as I walked to my car. When I went to see what the matter was, they seemed very upset. They told me our cats had been climbing on their (new) car, and had made muddy pawprints and scratched the paint. I listened, and responded with feeling – “Wow – that sucks.” They talked a little longer – angry, but not telling me anything new.

I told them, I am open to your suggestions.

To my surprise, this person had none. They hinted they would “make” me pay for a new paint job on their car, and take pictures of our cats. (I’m not sure why they wanted to do that, except they seemed determined to have a fight.)

They then told me my daughter had been rude.

This, perhaps, is the only moment I felt my own anger rise. My daughter is unfailingly courteous, and conducts herself with a calm that adults sometimes find threatening. My neighbor was obviously upset and resentful, and had allowed adrenaline and rage to get the better of their faculties.

I held my tongue at this slight against Phoenix, though, while I made sure to listen. Not to argue. I thought of the ten cats or so that aren’t ours, who roam the neighborhood. The ones who climb on our cars, and run around under the deck doing cat-things, and scratch up our stairwell, and kill little birds and voles. I thought to myself what my mind would be like, if I were to get angry about all this and try to find these neighbors out and shout at them. I thought of “townie” life – a neighbor on one side with a sad, neglected dog who cries out during the day. A neighbor on the other who lets their dog wander around urinating and defecating in the neighborhood.

I thought, What would it be like if I were angry about all these things?

I thought, What if I cared about something like a car more than my responsibility to all living creatures?

So, yeah. I can’t help my neighbor much. I let them know I would not consider it rude if they were to make their grounds less hospitable – to shoo the cats. In a neighborhood full of cats as ours is, perhaps a car cover or parking in the garage might be an intelligent solution. I did not share this thought, as it seemed my neighbor wasn’t ready to move past their anger, not at this time.

One thing I thought of: we can keep our cats indoors. I wouldn’t do this just based on someone else’s car, but we had been discussing already for other reasons. In fact, Phoenix and I had been talking about it this morning! So, when I went back over to my neighbor’s later in the day, I expressed my desire to have a harmonious relationship while we lived near one another, and my hope an indoor cat solution might work for all of us (note: they hardly seemed mollified at this offering). 

But, I said – “I’m not sure that will solve your problem.”

Because I can’t really solve my neighbor’s problem. Not their real problem.

But I am glad I don’t have problems like that, myself.

Not today.

in this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it

Yesterday a man shows up at my door and tells me he’d seen my babies walking, and he wanted me to know there was a registered sex offender in our neighborhood. A new one. He showed me a picture. I told him Yeah, you could look that stuff up online and all the local crime too, which I had done. He was surprised (OUT-SAFETY’D, SUCKA!!!) but then returned to talking about this guy. He kept reiterating he saw my babies walking and he thought he’d talk to me. My babies. I wonder how he knows where we live. Then he says he was trying to get the sex offender OUT of our neighborhood. He says, “Why don’t they knock on doors and ask around, ‘Do you have kids?’, and ask if it’s okay if a sex offender moves in?” I have no words. Just, no words.

I thanked the man for his concern. I closed the door. I feel oddly depressed. Later the kids and I had a little talk about strangers and walking about.

Life goes on.

Now this evening it’s dark out and I know where my kids are, but I’m a wee bit uneasy. It’s not related to the guy who showed up yesterday but he didn’t help or anything. It’s as if, at a certain point I have this tingling sixth sense. I walk outside with the dog and see my kids across the street, returning home in the company of an extra kid (who is now here and staying the night). It’s like I don’t rest easy until once again I see my children safe. The kids, all three, run up and inside and make up bowls of dinner (pork fried rice and green beans) and get to some cleaning up: vacuuming and doing the dishes. Phee is soon on her laptop and giggling, playing online with friends.

I wonder when I’ll get used to how sufficient, how competent, my children are. Today they packed up their swimsuits and towels and went out with my mother to the lake. Before they left I asked them to do some housework, and they cheerfully obliged and got the kitchen cleaner than Ralph or I generally do it, talking the whole while to one another in meme-speak, almost unintelligible. At a certain point I just kept adding on suggestions, feeding the cats and sweeping, and can you put this away, and that, and they did these cheerfully enough, since they knew they were off to the lake as soon as I was off to my volunteer shift at the gallery. It’s like I worried all these years about teaching my kids life skills and I have some kind of anxiety hangover.

Sometimes besides feeding and snuggling and taking the kids where they want to go, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to be doing for them. They are exceedingly happy and well-balanced and perfectly okay asking me for whatever they want, which means each day is an opportunity in trusting in something greater than myself. My ability to plan, manipulate, execute.

Family life is a lot easier than I used to make it.

#goodnight

your one & only

Gifts: Flowers, Plant, Señor Mysterioso

Left to right: the plant was a recent gift from a woman in Recovery.
The grape hyacinths a gift from my son.
Señor Mysterioso was a present for my 30th birthday from one of my friends in Port Townsend –
(he has faithfully watched over my kitchen ever since).

***

A few words on a subject. We live next door to my mother now, and that probably wouldn’t have gone so well a few years ago – especially given she is sort of the de-facto property manager, as my aunt owns the house. Yeah I KNOW! Who gets themselves into such a situation?

Well, I feel pretty good about the whole business. We’ve had a few key learning experiences over the years, especially since we moved back to Grays Harbor in 2007 and my parents and the kids began to experience each other more. Both households have put a lot of good-faith effort into the relationship, and that has yielded a strong and loving family experience.

I remember at first my mom could barely handle watching the kids for the hour and a half it would take Ralph and I to go out to a movie. When she did watch them, she’d talk about the event like it was kind of a big hassle. Not the kids, but the work of watching them. Do you know how much this bugged me, my mind the way it was, also the fact I was like OH REALLY IT’S HARD WORK, FUNNY I DIDN’T NOTICE THAT DOING IT EVERY DAY LIKE I DO YOU COLOSSAL ASS, NO ONE GIVES ME A BREAK!!! Yeah… that was me, alright. (#LOLsob) I know she didn’t mean to speak in a way to cause me anxiety and irritation; she was a stressed-out kitten. And so was I!

Then there was just the occasional invasive weirdness. She’d do stuff like offer to take the kids on a walk, citing – aloud – the suggestion Ralph and I could use that time to have sex (um… Ew, mom. Also? Not always my first priority when I have a little time without responsibilities. Probably more like a distant sixth priority. And may I reiterate? Ew, mom.).

So, I wasn’t especially grateful for my mother’s help, conditional as it was. Like a laser-beam I focussed on her limitations, instead of acknowledging several facts. One, no one owes me SHIT. *ahem*. Two, my mom always had trouble with kids including her own, back in the day (hell, she has trouble with Responsibility, period, often feeling claustrophobic). I’m not proud to admit this – but I was judging her the way so many others judge mothers. Three, my dad was sick with cancer and dying, and during this I knew better than most, many of the ways this affected her. You’d think I’d have more sympathy. Finally, although it would be nice if the world assisted parents/carers of children more, especially in those early years, at least where I’ve lived they kinda don’t. Again, I was aware of this by the time we moved here. So why I thought my mom “owed” me more than what anyone else was giving, is beyond me (well wait, I know why – childhood resentments! More in a minute).

The simple but kinda flooring fact is: my mother was the ONLY person in our lives who offered this kind of help with any regularity – even the ladies in Port Townsend were more like, “LET’S TRADE” – and my father, loving a grandfather as he was, seemed happy to have the kids over but didn’t actively try to help my mother much. He let her do most of the worrying, feeding, et cetera.

But from the beginning my parents respected Ralph and I were adults with kids of our own. They honored or even celebrated our journey caring for children they loved so very much, just like we loved the children. That was pretty damned cool and not something everyone has. My parents were also willing to hear how Ralph and I did things differently than they themselves had. I think that takes a lot of strength, or faith. When all is said and done, I consider my parents and my brother three of my biggest EVER supporters. I am really fortunate in this regard.

My father died before I got sober, but things improved between my mother even more when this happened for me. The resentments I’d long held, some subtle, some festering and large, those all went away. This has made a tremendous difference in my life, one I cannot overstate. When it comes down to it, it matters little if the wrongs done to me as a child and teen were real or imagined. I had held them too long and let them operate on me, to the detriment of all I came into contact with. I gave myself the gift of forgiveness. and it’s made me a better daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother.

Living next door to one another, today we have a few courtesy traditions. We are clear – so far (grin) – on whose house is whose. Everyone knocks or rings doorbells, no one just enters. In fact, today after my mom invited me in for coffee, my son came over and even though he knew I was there, he still observed the doorbell-ringing. Class act.

Most days the kids are back and forth, either helping Grandma with her projects – like working on planting or building a greenhouse, or cleaning the fish pond – or just goofing off on errands. My mom helps take care of the kids, something she does with regularity. We can ask one another for favors, and, as far as I can tell, we give and take with willing spirits. The kids are getting some fine treatment. Once a day my mom takes them out for a burger or shake, or chocolate milk, feeds them steak for breakfast, or invites them over for a smoothie and cartoons. Ralph brings dinner over to her house, something he did at the old house but is even easier now. I make coffee when she comes over, stopping my work if necessary. She’s my mom, and I’m fortunate to still have her around.

From the very beginning I let my kids have their own relationship with most people, but yes, even my parents. I’m really glad I did this – it was really a deep-rooted choice for me that at times seemed contraindicated by others I saw around me. I guess when it comes down to it, even back in the day I trusted everyone to be themselves – and I really trusted my kids to form their own thought-life and relationships.

It’s good stuff.

Is that a pedipalp in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

No, we don’t have a new pet. Trust me.

"Spidey"
“Hi, I’m a cuddly living nightmare that seems almost adorable if you look at me while in repose, but then when I move I instantly remind you of all that is horrid in the Universe. BLARGH BLARGH BLARGH”

It’s 10:30 PM and I’ve been balls-to-the-wall most the day. Normally I live a joyous life and I can handle my responsibilities. But today I found myself behind the eight-ball on a deadline. I made my deadline, and for that I am grateful. But I worked myself pretty hard today.

So anyway here’s one thing we got up to today I’m not too tired to post briefly about, my kids ran home cradling a “cute” neighborhood tarantula named… well, you can watch the video if you like.

I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing

So I just have to write this down. Of course.

This afternoon I receive a call and a fellow tells me he saw our fliers around town and he wants to know if there is a reward for the return of our cat. I say, uh well, I guess so, sure, kind of taken aback really. Then he claims he would go look for her and he wanted to know what I was going to offer if he found her.

I KNOW!

I’m gobsmacked. After a beat I ask him well, what do you think your time is worth. He won’t throw out an answer on this and (by now my brain is slowly cranking and I’m figuring he has my little kitty already), I offer him, with kind of amazed laughter in my voice, about half our weekly grocery money. He ups the price twenty percent and I say, Yeah, okay, thank you, and we hung up after he tells me he’s likely to find her.

Yeah, I KNOW!

An hour and a half later he calls again and says me he thinks he has my cat. I was out-of-home but Ralph was primed to make the transaction so I sent him off to do so with instructions.

And lo, it was our cat indeed.

Josie's Home (AKA

Yeah, that Josie. Looking a little off-kilter after five or so days away from home. Who knows where.

Maybe people won’t understand why today – this thing with our little creature – exhausted me, but I’m going to try to write a bit more about the episode then be done. I can think of about three ways this scenario might have gone down. The first is taking the fellow at his word: he bounty-hunts pets and charges for his time. I could spell out the reasons I think this is unlikely. But let me point out, times are fucking hard on the Harbor and that sort of thing is a possibility. There are other potential scenarios ranging from opportunistic to sinister.

What can one say when one is (potentially) scammed? My mom wrote the young man a check so we’ll be getting his name at least (I also have his phone number; adding to the potentially-sketch factor he refused to meet us at his house). Putting a stop on the check is an option but then as Ralph said, “Then who’s the bigger douchebag?” Because you know? We don’t really know what went on.

The whole scenario was bizarre, and now I’m left rather frazzled. For one thing, the anxiety I’ve felt over missing one of our critters has been like a constant tension string and in my very typical fashion, when the cat/child/chicken is safe I have a little breakdown (I’ll be back to normal soon, promise). After the first phone call, to agonize if I would see her today or if it was not her at all and I’d be left to wonder; to feel creeped out by the likelihood someone was using our vulnerability to their advantage. The little kitty is sleeping on a chair a few feet away, a couple scraps of beef in her belly and her fur smelling like strange perfume. And I’m so. SO GLAD. to have her back.

***

This evening J. and I hit Thrift City and, after an incident involving an old-school Argus Mini Palmatic 2 camera that still had film in it (and yeah, it was under $1, so we bought it and I can’t wait to develop it!) and hysterical harpy-laughter and a huge box of MINDWIZARD cards flying all over the aisle, I found the absolutely perfect writing desk. Very sturdy, solid wood, perfect shelf and drawer availability, the ideal height and width, and it amazingly matches my (favorite) overpainted and chipped green chair, and it only smells a LOT musty (ha). Wunderbar!

My Tidy World: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

My favorite things: my “new” (and really, really sturdy and awesome) desk ($15), the smartphone and One Line A Day Five Year Memory Book from Ralph (Christmas gifts), moleskine & papermate (gifts from friends), vinyl purse from Pure Clothing in HQX ($7), silver James Bond-esque cigarette lighter (gift from same friends who gave me the moleskine), and my very trusted, rugged and quickly-headed-downhill Mac named “Balls” (purchased to the dime with an inheritance sum, about five years ago).

I’m very happy about the desk which of course precipitated a reorganization and cleaning of my papers. But my night isn’t near over. I have an incredible mountain of laundry to fold. Don’t worry. I’ll fill you in on every detail.

Partaking Of Love
(Small Stone #3*)

Steaming rice-fried-in-butter
Slowcooked beans and pot roast
At the counter, midnight,
Children warm their bellies

Small stone project

Won’t spent my time / Waiting to die / Enjoy the life I’m living

When things in my life start to unravel from the relative ease I know, I typically feel shame, fear, anxiety, and low-grade depression. The hardest feeling to disentangle Myself from is the shame, the feeling I am At Fault for scenarios that are embarrassing and public (whether I admit them or not) and proof of my failures and – this is the worst part – Could Have Been Avoided were I smarter, more efficient, had I worked a little harder. The car problems, the cats who have colds (Seriously. How can I blame myself for this? But I do.), the refrigerator cluttered, the table not set artfully for company, the sewing work that remains undone, the emails and messages from readers (and a few others) I have fallen behind on (perhaps not to recover), my unimaginative presence and my lack of beauty and worth, a wretch really. There is almost no point to talk about Failure as it is a fact I have failed on many accounts; and to do so, to be honest about my failure, risks the experience of those who’d rush in with Rescue or Advice. Even more scary at times is the knowledge of those who will step in with bona-fide Help. It is one thing to have someone do something nice for you when things are going well (“Thank you!”); it can feel miserable to have prostrated myself, even though done without goals of personal gain, to have someone hand you up and you know there is no repayment, it was merely a gift, simple and devastating. When I consider this I often just wish I could talk and have no one take action except to listen; but I also know I must allow people to follow their hearts and minds.

Releasing Control in my parenting and family life has brought a happier, healthier home and is nurturing children stronger and more joy-filled and humorous then I would have previously imagined. In the times I am weak I see how strong they are and nothing can take away the joy that re-ignites, wells up, inside of me. And after all, I am weak now but it was not always so and won’t always be so. My hard work, although spilled out and squandered and Done Wrong, has nevertheless reaped spiritual benefits both tender and tough. Within me I feel a deep love, an amusing and abiding love, and an interest in other human beings stronger than I’ve felt before. The table may have not looked lovely, but it was loaded with delicious and simple food I made with my hands. I may have been tired but I was still there. The house may only boast the meager (but beautiful) paper decorations of my children, colored with Walmart markers, and the house have little other ornamentation or beauty, but it is the dwelling of myself and those I deeply love.

Today I had the wonderful and simple experience of taking a walk in the sunshine down to the art gallery where my mother was getting off her gallery shift. I like walking in good weather more than ever; the watery light of the sun and deep draughts of our fall air is so familiar and soul-sustaining to me it seems amazing some day I will no longer experience it. At the gallery, the new pieces displayed and the Halloween accoutrement crafted by one of the artists were soothing and inspiring at once. My mother and I took her dog home and then shared lunch at the Italian restaurant – one of those meals so simple and satisfying. We talked and drank tea and enjoyed one another’s company and I felt an expansiveness, having at least done my work of house-stewardship and a breakfast repast for my (very happy-to-receive) children – homemade cinnamon rolls, bananas, and hardboiled eggs from Hoquiam hens. The mug of hot tea in my hand was a modest delight to my exhausted body.

Later I spent forty-five minutes volunteering at the Theatre (as we’ve been doing for a few years now). The conversations were normal and mundane and perfect; older fellows came through the door and flirted and I didn’t feel offended nor afraid.  I took tickets from two of my girlhood friends’ mothers; I was more happy to see them than they probably knew. I have a great caring dwelling inside me and it probably means very little and is worth hardly anything and maybe even it doesn’t show much because I’m afraid of showing it sometimes due to pride and fear. At times like this it is hard to be so public as I am here where I write. I want at times to be my tiny ugly little self and not be noticed by anyone but my family. They are in the final estimation the only beings I feel wholly safe with, as limited as this makes me.

Where do we go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear?

Last night Ralph and I were invited out to the pub where, unbeknownst to me, it was Trivia Night. Do not get me started in a trivia contest. I wouldn’t say I’m competitive because I can’t be assed to care if we lose – but I am rather good and I get hyper as hell (seven years of Nerd Bowl, most of them as Team Captain). Which is incidentally how I was during our wedding day too – hyper that is, I have it on film. So last night was a version of Name That Tune and I nailed about 90% single-handedly, “Love Plus One” by Haircut 100 and Gary Numan’s “Cars” and a handful of relatively obscure Bruce Springsteen songs and some old live Stones and Stephen Stills and Roy Orbison for good measure. And I had to do a little dance every time I got a song right (don’t worry, I varied the dance, for the legions of fans). I was a complete dud for the handful of new country songs that were played – fortunately a few other ladies on the team knew those by heart. We placed 3rd, 1st, 1st, then 3rd and won a shitload of candy which of course I had no interest in.

Today was kind of a little gift, a reminder of just how amazing people are who deal regularly with sleep deprivation and function at the same time. I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have a solid six to eight hours under my belt; today I managed on about three and it hurt. My son and daughter spent the day hugging me and asking how I was doing. We had a friends’ kid over in the afternoon (and a sidewalk-chalk note from another girl who stopped by while we were out); in fact our little informal ritual of having from one to four extra kiddos during the day/evening/night is really a wonderful one for me. Today we took a late Thai lunch and I ordered for the kids and they were happy with my choice. They were such delightful mealtime companions; I don’t know if I’ve had better. Sun-dazzled and beat I drove home and had to ask them a few times to repeat themselves. My brain was a bit sluggish.

Ralph taught class tonight so I was on my own with the kiddos until about 9:30 PM. Tired as I was, it was a delight to sit in the car knitting and watching my daughter play quite energetically on the soccer field while my son wooed several other children on the playground. I waited for as long as the kids wanted to play. They were the last off the playground and we came home for a late dinner and a night in. Too tired even to knit, or maybe even drink.

tonight i’m strutting around with the Mick Jagger rooster walk

The washer’s been broke since Monday. The kids need bookshelves and a desk (their room is a sad little pile of books on the floor, fer realz) and now Ralph is worried we can’t do that because we’ve gotta do this other thing.

One problem, three sets of solutions:

Ralph’s solution is to go online and look up kits and DIY methodology for our errant Maytag. What’s the model number of the machine? Any diagrams? Where can I order kits and for cheap shipping? Many forums exist, many inexpensive kits, but one has to open the washer to see what the problem is…  The washer’s half-full of water which might make a mess. Ralph is balls-deep busy at work, busy enough he’s tired when he gets home (rare for my very energetic husband), and we need to be able to wash our clothes…

My mom’s solution (while I use her laundry facilities in the interim) is to offer her Sears card. She tells me happily we can go in and get a Brand New washer and just pay her off $100 a month, meaning this generous lady would carry whatever interest is charged and provide us with something nice and immediate and delivered-to-our-home.  I thank her for the offer. But:

I have my own solution. Yesterday I walk with the kids down through my childhood neighborhoods (carrying a wrapped coconut flour/zucchini/banana loaf, seriously tasty and full of nutrition, to drop at a friend’s) down to where Retired Maytag Man is, a man I’ve know most my life, he and his wife, dear friends and neighbors and community leaders. Retired Maytag Man is jovial and now quite pot-bellied, a cheerful clear voice and suspenders and a 50’s-fashionable coiffure and quick, calm speech from years of hard-working competence in his field. I used to help him do inventory at his hardware store every end-of-year and would get paid with a couple hundred dollar bills, a delightful ritual on New Years’ Night, and one year while there I remember answering the shop phone and nearly dropping the handset from pain as the volume on the device had been turned up preternaturally loud to compensate for his hard-of-hearing, a little story that makes me smile, the hardware store is long-gone now.

Within a few hours not only has the Retired Maytag Man looked at our washer and leaned against it while draining it effortlessly, he’s also given us a run-down of washer technology when we bought the machine and advised us not to put more money into it, told us we got more years than we might have expected, offered an older but better machine, a gift, gratis. Wow! Retired Maytag Man goes back to his football game to wait for Ralph and I send my husband over with $20 to ask for the neighbor boy’s help (the one next door, not that one, this one, he’s strong, he’s a good kid) and the boy isn’t home so instead the father helps Ralph, including this rather impressive washer-dolly borrowed from Retired Maytag Man and with a minimum of physical effort (especially on my part) we have the washer, and it’s just the same model but not avocado green that the Retired Maytag Man remembers from my own childhood, and he and I talk about my dad just a little bit, and I think how blessed I am to know such people, and the broken washer is on my deck where we will haul it to donate for refurbishment at the used appliance shop.

Ladies, I hope you’re reading. Not a week goes by I don’t get an email or a comment or a query, at-home parents (women) who feel they should go back to paid employment because in some way they don’t contribute to the Bottom Line, and it’s fine, work or whatever, but don’t kid yourself that while in the home you aren’t doing your Part even if that’s what so many people want to put forth. It’s not that I exactly knew Retired Maytag Man would gift us with a washer – that was a pleasant surprise and we are incredibly grateful – but I knew he’d have the exact expertise Ralph and I would want (to repair or not to repair? To buy and what to buy if so?), given especially we like to use old things, to fix and re-fix, not so much the brand new. And part of all this, truly, is the bread I bake and send to the neighbors and the conversations I have on front lawns while out with my children and the grocery store chats and the recipes traded. These are investments as well as being the joyous rhythms of our lives, the two are inseparable.

Because me? I got a good sturdy Maytag washing machine that is besides awesome also fucking adorable.

& I paid with a jar of refrigerator pickles.

***

Seriously though? The more relevant moral of the story is: Retired Maytag Man and his wife are amazing, wonderful people, and this was a lovely, lovely gift.

Apocalypse Now.

Tonight, oddly, our power went out. Middle of the evening. I was perplexed. At the moment it went out, my son woke up from a late nap and cried out; even the lawnmower outside halted.

I was disoriented. I went outside. Ralph was excited. I hung out in the living room with the kids as he finished the lawn. The power was out for about thirty minutes and abruptly came back on while people were still sort of “neighborhooding” it up. Just three minutes after our power came up as I stood outside my house I saw rolling billows of smoke, nasty smoke. People were once again stirring, talking in their lawns. I told Ralph to ride the bike and suss it out; in fact I begged him to remove his bike helmet, his shirt, and grow a mustache first, if he could (he declined).

I only heard one siren, and the smoke died out after about twenty minutes. It was an odd evening, for sure.