A friend of mine (who is a doctor) recently wrote in her zine that people who write about upsetting experiences and negative emotions have lower incidence of illness as well as fewer symptoms and side effects from disease treatments. So, since I’m on a roll about my general crankiness this week, I figure why not make it three-for-three and really build up my immune system (and here I was wasting all that money on Chinese herbs, zinc and elderberry).
Yesterday did not begin well. On Wednesday, E and Z had decked themselves out in several articles of M’s camouflage clothing which they mined from the foothills of Mt. Laundry. They looked cute, in a disturbing kind of way—Z in green sweat pants, with cammo shorts over them (because I wouldn’t let him out of the house in just the shorts), a cammo t-shirt, dark green button-down, Rambo belt and John Deere cammo baseball hat; E wore olive green cords (on top of plaid shorts for some inexplicable reason), a long-sleeved cammo T-shirt and a black US Army baseball hat (for the record, I want it to be known that I have in no way shape or form played a roll in bringing all of this military goodness into my home, except possibly the long-sleeved shirt and shorts, which may have come home with me from a friend’s hand-me downs).
When we all got home from parent-teacher conferences that night, M repossessed most of his gear, and Z proceeded to cry, wail and gnash his teeth for the ensuing hour, with a brief break for the reading of two chapters of The Pearl and the Pumpkin. Upon waking Thursday morning he immediately lit into his melt-down, as if the intervening ten hours of sleep had been just a hiccup in his cry-a-thon. I managed to get everyone dressed and out the door without wearing any articles of contraband (it was Pajama day at preschool and therefore should have been an easy morning for getting ready, but all of my kids unreasonably refuse to wear their jammies in public), but not without several more minor meltdowns over things like jacket choice, mitten options and car seat selection.
Needless to say we were very late and had to contend with crowded parking lot and coat room conditions at preschool, but finally I handed off my charges and proceeded to the office, only to return four hours later to retrieve said progeny for a trip to the dentist (rescheduled from last August, as it fell in the middle of our vacation). Dentist visit went well; teeth looked good (unlike M, E and Z have always been relatively cooperative about nightly brushing—I did not mention that I do not have it in me to attempt morning brushing with them…shhh). I was able to hand back the vinyl bag the hygienist handed me, taking only the tubes of Crest (which, once my kids try it, will probably turn them off of Tom’s of Maine forever), stupid flossing sticks (for teeth set widely enough apart to render flossing kind of unnecessary—besides don’t those things just spread bacteria from one tooth space to another?), and new toothbrushes. Unfortunately, on the way out, they scored Mylar Halloween bags and a couple handfuls of stickers (would our dentist bills be less if they did not buy all of this crap to hand out to our kids? Do they really need a sticker for just sitting with their mouths open for ten minutes?).
Afterward we headed to the health food store, where, when I lifted my full grocery bags off the counter after I paid, I knocked a bag of Jacob’s Cattle Beans which the customer behind me was waiting to purchase, onto the floor, and the bag split along the side seam, sending beans in all directions. After apologizing profusely and making I half-hearted attempt to clean them up, I went to the grocery store, where I was to meet C and hand off the kids.
On our way into the store the twins spied the car cart and proceeded to have a fist fight over who would get to sit in the spot with the horn on the wheel (whoever invented the car cart ought to be shot numerous times in multiple, non-lethal places). As I attempted to calmly and quietly straighten them out the people waiting to redeem their cans and bottles smiled patronizingly at me. “I have two grandkids,” one guys said, “I know what it’s like.” Fork you. I managed to sort them out, making Z who was causing all the fuss sit on the seat with no horn, and we avoided further fisticuffs as I collected my groceries and went through the express lane. C, late as usual, met us in the parking lot, I gave him the kids and the groceries, and, when informed that he would not have time to pick up milk at the farm, went back into the store for milk (running into the guy from the redemption counter in an aisle, who smiled patronizingly at me again and repeated his grandchild platitude). From there I went to the library, where I spent a quiet half hour reading Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson, which is most entertaining (although the regular references to full ash trays are a bit disconcerting, until one reminds oneself that this was the 1940s).
After the library closed I went to my friend’s weekly knitting and craft night, imbibed on braised greens pie, brie cheese, cookies and mulled wine, enjoyed chatting with a diverse group of women and even got two birds closer to the felted flock I’m creating for Christmas. Arriving home rather late, and feeling a bit tired and cranky, I found that only the perishable grocery items had been put away. As I rummaged in the bags, looking for the Calendula cream I had bought, a bag of popcorn fell to the floor and split up the side, emptying its contents on the floor, in an eerie replay of the earlier bean incident. I recovered about three-quarters of the bag and scooped it in a Tupperware, but swept up the rest for the compost (thinking about how if it were The Long Winter, Laura and Mary surely would have picked every kernel out of the dust and hair, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t).
I decided I may as well put away the rest of the groceries, feeling irritated that when I’m home alone with the kids I manage to cook for them, clean up and get them to bed at a decent hour, while when C is alone, he takes them out to dinner, puts them to bed late and can’t even bother to put away the groceries. As I finally crawled into bed, around 11 p.m. (which is a good two hours later than I need to go to bed in order to get up when I need to get up in order to get to preschool when I need to get to preschool in order to get to work on time), it came to me that I might have once read that Shirley Jackson, whose mysteries I read ravenously when I was younger (I only recently discovered she also wrote about motherhood) had committed suicide, and that’s why The Haunting of Hill House or maybe Come Along With Me was never finished, and this thought kept me awake and troubled—how could someone with so much talent and with four kids want to take her life? How old were her kids when she died? Was it even true? (I resisted temptation to go downstairs and turn on the computer to find out; but I did look it up today and found out that, though she did not commit suicide, she did die of heart failure at age 48, which is itself tragic, of course, and that Come Along with Me was the unfinished book published by her husband posthumously. I also found out that though I thought I had read all of her books, I only had read the ones my Mom had in our bookshelves, and that there are several more out there to add to the list).
A day that started with crying and ended with gloomy thoughts—though with a few bright spots in the middle, most notably some Me time and an evening among friends—a day not unlike many days around here.