I didn’t schedule my appointment with the doctor for Fat Tuesday intentionally. I also didn’t expect to walk out telling myself “I’m fat and it’s Tuesday,” but that’s a little how it has worked out. I’m not FAT…I’m heavier than I expected the scale to tell me I was. I don’t know if I was expecting politeness out of her, or if I was merely delusional, but I weigh more than I thought…ten more pounds than I really, really, really wanted to be told I weigh.
All that fish in the freezer, all the steamed vegetables that usually weave their way through the Lent menus will be out in full force as of tomorrow. Today it’s too late to change my mind about the pork chops, and too late to feel badly about all the ice cream we (in anticipation of the sacrificial diminution of culinary pleasures that doesn’t end until Easter Sunday) consumed with a little too much gusto. Our friends allowed us the honor and privilege of sharing our family life with them, and that comes with lots of food and the laziness good company and winter elicit from us…we are glad they didn’t come a week later when pickings would have been slimmer and we’d have sadly passed the carrots and celery around.
Yesterday afternoon, J made his way down to the basement to help me with laundry. The living room looked as it had before the guests came. The couch was in its spot, as were the chair, the side table, the coffee table. The downstairs bathroom was spotless, as if four people had not been sharing it for four days and three nights; the laundry was slowly being washed, dried, folded and put away. There were no dishes to wash and, had we not been certain that we’d had visitors a mere few hours before, it would seem as if we’d imagined it. The house was tremendously quiet, and J kept waiting for them to return.
I don’t know if we have become more sociable. I think we simply had people we love and feel comfortable with around us. I don’t know if the mood would have been the same with others…if we would have been as successful with different people. We’ve had visitors before, and the mood has been strained or tentative. I think we were all happy to be together and willing to enjoy things as they were. J tuned into this particular feeling and was exactly as he likes to be: master of his own time and regulator of his interaction. Grandparents want the grandkids to show themselves, to validate their presence with their acknowledgement. J doesn’t respond well to this type of pressure, even when it’s kindly meant.
We now have hopes that we can do this…that we can be like other people in the sense that we can socialize with those who, like my friend and her family, will understand the interesting position we are in. They asked questions without the hesitation of strangers; they were curious in a healthy way. They didn’t treat us like we reinvented the wheel or discovered a cure for cancer…they just accepted that we are ordinary people with an extraordinary hiccup in the middle of our existence. My friend, who has known me since time immemorial, isn’t in awe of the fact that I can do this even though she knows my many foibles. Neither one of us was intent on getting proof of extraordinariness…and so we didn’t even attempt it, but we made a fantastic cheese sauce for home-made gnocchi.
Isak Dinesen writes in Out of Africa about how even bad years for rain are blessings because there is an esprit de corps that arises, a common thread of memory that runs from one person to another about the bad year. She talks about her visitors to the farm, even those who never return, and she uses the expression I will not let thee go except thou bless me. We ate too much this weekend; we drank wine and chatted congenially as we had not done in a long time; we had eight people in one house and the noise that goes with that; we had children ranging from early teens to early twenties, video games, computers, cell phones, boxing gloves, Slinky, cats running up and down the stairs, people sneezing because of cat hair, allergy medicine being handed out, mother saying “wash your hands,” children rolling their eyes…and J smiling pleasantly and heart-feltedly in the middle of it all. We even managed, I promise you this is a fact and it can be verified by the stunned children who witnessed it, to take a quick nap on a Saturday afternoon.
My husband and I talk about 2010 as a bad year. And it was. All hell broke loose and we came out on the other side with all the accoutrements of comfort that J depends on, and which we’ve grown accustomed to…we thought we would never recover; we thought we had PTSD. Yesterday I was reading and I ran into this: It was during those long days that we were all of us merged into a unity, so that on another planet we shall recognize one another, and the things cry to each other, the cuckoo clock and my books to the lean-fleshed cows on the lawn and the sorrowful old Kikuyus: ‘You also were there. You were also part of the Ngong farm.’ That bad time blessed us and went away.
I know J remembers the weekend. I can see it in the smile that he displays as I mention things we did while our friends were here. When he sees the picture my friend e-mailed of him, J will be enamored of it…in part because he looks beautiful, very much like himself, and because he will recognize the smile in it. I think this is one of those moments in his life that he will recognize anywhere when it comes to mind. I think he knows he did something fantastic this weekend…he gave us a gift…