The Toilet Paper Explained

A long time ago (beginning of March), in a galaxy far away (across town), I made a run to Costco (Ground Zero). This is usually Hubby’s job but my super efficient self had to get gas anyway. I pulled into a front row parking spot that sunny morning, congratulating myself on arriving before opening hour and turned on the radio for a rare five minutes of relaxation. I thought it was odd to see a crowd gathered near the warehouse doors on a Tuesday, but with Costco you never know. I shrugged a couple of minutes later, gathered my shopping list and headed over to stand with the happy campers and stare at the rollup doors the way my cat stares down a can of tuna.

The woman closest to me gave me funny look. Not a happy one. Like maybe my fly was down or I had mustard on my face. I looked around and realized that she was the line leader for everyone there. Behind her stretched a trail of people gripping empty shopping carts down the entire length of the building. Huh? Since when does everyone get in line? Costco is famous for the wide open cattle range that it is. Every man for himself. It works.

Not on her watch.

I glanced to my left and a gentleman stood there with an amused smirk and crossed arms and I copied him and got myself comfortable. People are weird.

“I’m not getting in line,” I told him. “There’s enough stuff for an army in there, what’s the rush?”

At opening time, another amazing thing happened. From the exit door, three employees walked out and, facing the line of customers, held up their cell phones and began to shoot video. They shook their heads in disbelief as the line began to move into the bowels of the store. The employee who opened the door began calling out to the passing people, “Take your time, folks, there’s plenty for everyone. Be polite, please. Thank you for staying calm.”

What in the world? It must be quite a sale. Too bad whatever it was wasn’t on my list.

With one raised eyebrow, I followed the last of the line into the store. No. That’s not true. I waited for the end of the line to show up and it didn’t. The whole parking lot was migrating towards me now, so I just waved my card and conducted business as usual. All aboard.

I zipped up the sidelines where no shoppers ever linger. I’m no amateur. Tossed the goods into my cart without skipping a beat, which is how I always shop. Get in. Get out. Tea time.

I came skidding around a corner five minutes later, halfway done, and darned if the line was still in formation and stretched in the opposite direction, the length of the warehouse. Perfectly serious faces, perfectly empty carts.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled at the line. I was monitored from all directions as they let me through.

“Get some more troopers back there,” an employee hissed into his walkie, scuttling by.

I craned my neck in a brief attempt to understand when Karen plowed triumphantly by, her cart full to overflowing with…toilet paper. If you are unfamiliar with a Costco-sized package of toilet paper, just know that it takes only two to prevent all further items going into your cart. These tissue towers won’t even fit under the cart. Karen had three and the front basket where the babies go was stacked with sanitizing hand wipes. The look on her face implied she was only warming up, but where was she going to put her groceries? Down her bra?

The next man went by with a Jenga-worthy stack in his cart and I heard him say, to no one in particular, “I own a business.” His tone was defensive.

Then a little old lady passed me and saw my shocked face. She only had a single plushie in her cart but said apologetically, “Well, I don’t really need any but if this is the way things are going, I may as well get me some now.”

I had no clue what was going on. I did not get this memo. I was a little freaked out.

I flung the rest of my groceries into the cart and dashed to the check-out where I had the place to myself. That alone is a creepy experience. The clerk behind the beep beep machine wore a resigned look. One braced for the inevitable. Long suffering and just a bit in shock.

“What?” she said, scanning items, “no toilet paper?” I gripped my cart in an effort to remain calm. Was I making a terrible mistake?

“What’s happening?” I asked her under my breath, not sure I wanted to know.

She stopped scanning and just stared at me. There was no one else in line. She leaned forward and said, “Well, I’ll tell you. Last week, three of our trucks were stalled out east due to bad weather. Happens all the time. These just happened to contain our toilet paper. So, for a couple of days, there was a big empty space where it goes.” She stood taller. “It’s not like we weren’t going to get it any minute, we had to keep the space open.”

I thought for a beat. Costco never has empty spaces. Product is continually shifted to maximize sales.

“Anyway,” she continued, as she swiped my items from left to right, “A rumor went around that there was a shortage. So when the trucks finally arrived, there was a run on it.” She paused. “I get it if people were out but I mean, you can buy the stuff anywhere. We all decided they must just love our brand or whatever, but it’s happened every single day since. Cleaned out faster than we can put more on the pallets. No reason why. We have plenty. We won’t run out.”

She looked towards the cattle drive and shook her head. “Do you need boxes today?”

I declined her offer, thanked her, and bolted.

I was almost to my car and a lady went by and laughed, “What? Where’s your toilet paper?”

I was prevented from replying because three different cars were inches from my body, poised to take my spot as soon as I pulled out. The parking lot resembled Disneyland on a get-in-free day. A steady surge of humanity kept flowing into the warehouse, trapped in the toilet paper tractor beam.

At this point, you have to know some things. One, I did not in any way need toilet paper. And two, I was contemplating unloading my groceries into my car and going back for some because I didn’t want to get left behind. I felt deprived, anxious, needy, and fearful of the future.

“What if? What if?” asked my mother’s voice.

Well, I answered, “if we need some, we’ll buy it at the 7-11 on the corner. If the planet runs out, squirt bottles for everybody.” It was time to go home.

Ewww,” said the voice.

“The Europeans are way ahead of us as it is. Hush.” I sat in the car and took a nice deep breath. “And if we didn’t need any, then everyone here is going to feel a bit silly a month from now.”

Ahem.

The One For Vi

I know four ladies in the same family, each a generation apart from the next, something like dominoes or nesting dolls, each individual contributing to the larger fun of the game. They are each a hoot.

But would not necessarily be pleased that I told you so.

Particularly Vi, the oldest of the bunch. If you take Vi out to breakfast she will pay. She will ask the waitress to make her coffee extra hot and send it back if it’s not. She takes her coffee the way she takes her life in general: bold enough to make you sit up straight and pay attention. None of this sugar and milk nonsense.

These four generations of ladies share a common denominator or two, and the most entertaining one is their general stubbornness, or as I prefer to call it, “the determination to go forth and conquer”.

I have a separate relationship with each of them and whether I tell a story on the one year old or the 84 year old, the other generations smile and nod and insist “isn’t that just like her mama!”.

Yes. Yes, it is.

In 2014, Ronda, Vi’s daughter, asked me to write something up and speak at Vi’s funeral services. Not that Vi was feeling poorly, mind you. But Ronda wanted to be prepared. In 2015, Vi asked me if I would write up a little something for her funeral. Not that anything was amiss. But you never know.

I laughed and offered a compromise. “Vi,” I said, “Instead of waiting till later, how about I write about you now? That way, you can make sure it’s accurate.”

This pleased her, of course. Not that my writing is objectionable.

Vi was in hospital frequently over the last few years because her blood pressure refused to cooperate and it sent her into fainting spells. I asked her to make me a blog about her experience there. She was delighted at the prospect and was as helpful as possible. She would tell me all of the horrible things the doctors did to her each day and finish with, “You know you can’t write that, right? Don’t you dare put that in your blog.”

“But Vi!” I insisted, “I can make you famous! I can make you a rock star!”

She laughed but she wasn’t buying it. She retained full veto power and wielded it from her perch on the pillows until there wasn’t a hospital story left.

I’m still not sure what, exactly, a smart lady like Vi saw in a silly thing like me, but I suppose if she was willing to have me in her hospital room while total strangers worked her over with instruments of torture, she considered me “in”. With a wink and a nod one day, she informed me that calling for an ambulance brought dashing young men right into her house to tend her with first class service. “So much nicer than driving yourself,” she insisted, “that’s the way to go.”

I might try fainting myself sometime, to see how that works.

Vi’s family was everything. We passed the time talking about them. She took great delight in the fact that I was a nanny for her great-granddaughter and listened forever to my stories about “that little toot”, as she called her.

I finally wrote her blog, “Elderflowers and Rosebuds”, to celebrate the connection between generations and the love and hope that is passed down from grandparents to toddlers. It was a subject we were both passionate about. Please read it.

Vi passed away last week at 93 years young. The eldest of these four precious women went on her own terms, in her own bed at home, and will be missed dearly. There has been a lot of loss lately, in case you haven’t been watching out your window. And no one is having funerals.

We all need somewhere to put our grief. Here is my little piece of comfort. Feel free to add yours below.

The JARR Farmhouse

The JARR Farmhouse comes to us from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but post regularly on Instagram anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air to take your mind off the kinda-spooky-never-ending rain, the longer-than-humanly-possible house arrest, and the you-don’t-know-who-coughed-on-that produce aisle, look no further.

Whether you have a jar of dirt or an acre of land, you too can grow fresh produce with a little ingenuity and patience. The way these ladies figure it, if they can do it, so can you. The idea behind this style of gardening is to keep pests to a minimum and the planters movable.

Here are today’s tips for tomorrow’s harvest.

Cinderblock containment.

Cinderblocks make fast, easy garden boxes. Plant flowers (marigold, chrysanthemum) and herbs (rosemary, lavender) that repel pests in the holes and fill the center with your soil and root plants like potatoes, ginger, and onions. Using cedar wood shavings as mulch is also a natural pest deterrent. If gophers are a problem in your area, lay down a sheet of welded wire first, then edge with blocks and fill with soil. If you need to add a cage to keep the deer, rabbits, birds, or raccoons out, the cinderblock is a sturdy base for your tent poles and chicken wire.

Cinderblock and planks.

Green goodness.

Add a few planks to the cinderblock and take your planting vertical. In the base is your watermelon and pumpkins (they will grow out beyond the base) and layered on the benches are a variety of containers. A smaller version of this idea is placing the containers in your sunny kitchen windows. Most pests have a hard time reaching anything up high like this. Leafy salad greens don’t require a lot of root space and can be planted in more shallow containers. Root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets need more soil to grow in, so choose deeper pots. The ladies plan a trip to the second hand shop as soon as it opens to scout for fun containers. Personally, I like teapots and old work boots as planters. You do you.

Climbers need a grip.

Any of your climbing viney crops, like peas, cucumbers, and runner beans are planted next to anything that will hold their weight when they produce. It can be a simple as this twine lattice or as sturdy as a chain link fence you have along your yard. You can repurpose everything from an old ladder to a pallet for your climbing garden.

Wheelbarrow berries.

Nobody loves strawberries more than slugs and snails. An elevated planter, without obvious paths to the prize is a genius solution. Strawberries are also happy in hanging containers and don’t need much room. Keep your delicacies safe from tell tale holes and eat the berries yourself!

Sprouting jars.

Chia, barley, and wheatgrass seeds lend themselves to making sprouts in jars. They make a great salad topping and green smoothie goodness. For tips on sprouting, see my blog here.

Mobile munchies.

Some plants demand containers. Really. If you are unsure of your eco zone, especially if you are chasing the sun as the seasons turn, putting your tree in a pot makes sense. This is a dwarf nectarine. Move the pot to meet the sunshine or avoid a heavy frost. Most varieties of berries and mint are downright invasive if not kept in a pot. You were warned.

Coming soon…!

No way am I leaving without showing you this little fluff. In a future blog, we will devote ourselves to chickens and other critters, the other fun parts of The JARR Farmhouse as it evolves. Have yourself a happy little garden, even if it’s a pansy in the window. Be sure to follow @the_jarr_farmhouse on Instagram to watch the crops come in.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:11

The Mural

The mural joined us in the fall of 2006. It was painted in acrylics over the space of a few weeks. The finishing touches emerged, swirling into corners and bleeding occasionally onto the ceiling and spattering, no matter how much I scolded, onto the floor tiles we had chosen deliberately for our oldest child’s room.

He was the firstborn of five offspring and it took us that many attempts at reproduction before it was apparent that none of the little versions of ourselves in any way resembled each other or danced to any drum but their own. He drew his first lizard at two years old, with a crayon, on the back of his granddad’s giant sheet of unwanted street plans; a purple curvy amphibian basking across the black and white, straight and narrow, professionally engineered road map.

During grade school, what began with a proper mother’s encouragement grew into a secret mother’s certainty that her eldest child was a creative genius. It was as quickly quenched when all parties concerned were summoned into the middle school office. No one could understand how a sullen, doodling pre-teen could sit in the back row ignoring the teacher until called out for it; said pre-teen answered the questions correctly, aced the test, and doodled his way back out the door. No one could decide whether this was an academic or an attitude problem.

But my son’s art got better.

In high school, he enrolled in an art class and dropped it again after one week. It took three more semesters before he came to an understanding with the teacher and stayed in the class to play with different mediums. One day I went to pick him up from water polo practice and found the team huddled around a player, intently watching my eldest. He had dared the player to shave his head and in return, my son, using a black sharpie, drew an intricate Maori design on it that completely covered the scalp. With neither a beginning nor an ending, the design was both a prank and a masterpiece.

And my son’s art got better.

Meanwhile, our small home underwent a third and final renovation. The baby was almost ready for kindergarten, and bursting the seams, we added a new garage, den, laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom. While it was under construction, our eldest decided to live in the rafters of the new garage. He laid a plywood floor, moved crates of clothes up to it and wired some lights. He had no use for a ladder. He swung himself up like a gymnast and enjoyed his privacy. In this aerie, his art advanced to include nudes, interlaced fingers, fantasy-scapes, cyclops.

And during the last semesters of high school, he graced his brand new bedroom with a singular mural. It developed like a polaroid, integrating shapes from his night terrors, from our garden, from a place deep in his mind that sparked colors and vivid imagery that he interpreted in paint.

Always spontaneous, always unexpected, his art got better.

After he graduated and moved out, when it was time to repurpose his room, the mural was painted over in comforting soft pale green. A cover that, in hindsight, I think I wanted to caress the mural with, and preserve it along with the painful period of growth it represented. To plant it, perhaps, beneath moss and clover and allow it to become humus – eventually, fertile ground that attracts roots.

I mothered the mural because I could not mother the man-child.

His art is always getting better. No matter the medium, his signature style is stamped into it. He wanders the world, collecting no moss, pushing straight lines into flowing curves and painting them brilliant purple.

Top Five Faves from 2019

I can’t believe it. 2019 is rolling to a close. I hope you have each decided on a creative way to ring in the fresh 2020. Perhaps with a thankful list of all the little things that brought you joy, perhaps with a sigh of relief that some things are now behind you. Or perhaps like a certain sister-in-law, determined to do a Polar Bear Plunge on the first fresh new year morning with a leap into the salty Pacific. To each her own.

Taking a peek at my website, I can see that I tried a variety of new things this year and I want to encourage you to spread your own wings, too. It’s okay to knock on doors, just to see who opens them. Bring a couple of girlfriends along, in case it’s a trap full of Imperial Stormtroopers, but most of the time, it’s just a group of Ewoks and a Baby Yoda or two. (What if there’s more than one? EEK!)

Since you’re staying up past your bedtime tonight anyway, here’s the countdown of our Top Five Blogs of 2019 to read.

5. The Blues is about depression, what feels like, how it works, and that you are loved.

4. Eldercare Where? is about transitioning through our different life stages and giving particular thought to our elders’ circumstances.

3. Pie Giveaway Time! was a fun blog to run and I’m planning a lot of giveaways next year! Stay tuned!

2. Vaping, School, and Your Kid is as labeled and full of links and photos. Parenting is not for sissies.

1. Stalked by the Empty Nest was the opener for 2019 and contains all the emotions of change.

I wish you joy and courage. I hope you do hard things and grow stronger from them. I want you to carry your laughter into battle because we are all in this together and I need to hear your giggles beside me.

Love your people, lend a hand, nourish yourself with all good things. May your light rise and brightly glow into the new year.

The Break-Up

It’s not you. It’s me. That’s what I’m supposed to say, right?

I’m supposed to be tense and feel guilty, find some public, neutral place to break this news to you and then slink away.

*sigh*

Look, we’ve been together for years, but it’s just not the same anymore.

We used to have so much fun together. We tried new things, rearranged the furniture for no reason at all, went dancing. You have always been there for me. Anytime I needed you, you were there, even if I just wanted to watch TV for a while. You never cared if my hair was a mess or my stinky socks landed in a corner.

You taught me so many things about myself. You reflected my insecurities and strengths and without saying anything about them, you gave me room to grow and adjust. Not everyone is so completely accepted.

I admit now, there were some parts of you that I wasn’t interested in, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I’m not criticizing you, everyone is an individual and no one is perfect. I loved you for you.

And let’s be honest. There were only specific parts of me that interested you, as well. I know that. I get it. Between us, we had an abundance of material to maintain our relationship. We both gave to it. And we both let each other down once in a while. But we always hung in there during the tough times and made it work. I want to thank you for that.

I’ve heard people say, “You’ll know when it’s time to go.”

And that’s true, but hard to understand until you’ve arrived there.

This year, everything between us was an emotional rollercoaster.  There were times we blew hot or cold and weeks where we just weren’t on speaking terms. Relationships go through that and it’s normal and I wouldn’t have thought much of it in the big picture, except that deep down in my bones, for a long time, I knew that we weren’t going to make it.

I can’t really explain why.

But over time, a numbness crept in and I stopped fretting over us so much because it hurt and I didn’t want to live like that indefinitely.  I looked for other ways that would make me feel happy. Just to see if there really was another way to move and think and breathe.

There always is.

It’s not that you changed dramatically, but time marches on. This isn’t so much about “you changed” as much as it’s that I don’t smile when I see you anymore. Even if you changed dramatically (and I would never ask you to be something you’re not), I wouldn’t be interested.

But the change is inside me. Perhaps I am finally learning what makes me smile?

And that I really want to smile over this big, beautiful life.

This thought is why it all circles around to land on my doorstep.

I isn’t you after all. It is me.

As soon as I release the idea that I have to blame someone or something, there is only truth and peace. This is actually the way it is and it is okay and I made choices and I can keep making choices.

Yes, if you must know, here at the end of all things, I have been cheating on you a little. The guilt doesn’t hurt like it should. I’m just tired of waiting for you to be attractive again.

The fact that I feel no emotion when I say that is very telling. It sounds heartless.  But that’s the point. My heart is no longer in the game. 

And that is how I know for sure.

The emotional rollercoaster has been disabled and dismantled.

There is no longer a game in me for you.

For a while, we were exactly right for each other, and we will always have that.

You don’t need me, either, though it may take you a while to believe that truth.

I’ve already cleared out my stuff.

Thank you for everything. I wish you well.

Good bye.

This piece is about me quitting the gym after a dozen years. But…I mean, I could have been writing about gluten.

Meteors, Grunion, and Other Unicorns

I’m lying on my back on the new outdoor deck we built this year (by “we”, I mean “Hubby”), staring real hard at the night sky. The Perseid Meteor Showers are on this weekend because my recurring calendar says so, and after years of trying to locate it, I have to say, “Bah, humbug.”

They don’t exist.

Not in the Star Wars fantasy that I’m imagining it to be. I’m expecting a version of lightspeed proportions and the stars are just sitting up there, laughing at me. And that’s okay. The air is cool for August and the little chorus of frogs in the creek have gone to bed, replaced by the occasional screech from an invisible owl. The kids, knowing full well that they can’t control the heavens via remote control, went to bed and I feel a little disgruntled only because these are the same guys who insisted that grunion are worth staying awake for.

And grunion aren’t real, either.

A grunion run by the light of a full moon, traced by following Instagram commentary at 1am on a warm summer night, is a fun way to entertain guests. These elusive little silvery fish swarm random beaches to spawn and if you have a fishing permit, you can catch the buggers by hand and put them in a bucket. What you are supposed to do with them next is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t matter, because no one buys a permit because no one is ever going to find a grunion, let alone touch one, and you spend the wee hours of the morning running from beach to beach with a flashlight and end up at an IHOP getting coffee because it’s the only thing open.

Is that a meteor? No. It’s an airplane. It must be lost. Could be a satellite, maybe.

When I was a kid, I sat up one Christmas Eve, staring out the window, desperately trying to convince myself Santa was real and knowing full well he wasn’t. But, presents. So when a plane went by, red light blinking, I said, “Well, there you go, he’s on the job.” And that would’ve been that, except for after another couple of minutes, an actual UFO went by, defying categorization, and years later, I wonder if it was a Stealth Bomber. I mean, we’re in San Diego.

It’s as possible as the owl that just crossed overhead, a deep black shadow beneath a paler black sky. Massive, silent, beautiful.

Not Santa, so much.

I had a conversation with my kid in the car the other day, and mermaids came up, purely in a scientific way. I mentioned that it was more possible that unicorns were real than mermaids and proceeded to explain the whole lung vs gills issue, followed up with what I thought was an obvious flaw in the system: they must be a fish and only mammals have hair. A real mermaid would have gills, no hair, no nose, and bugging out eyes on the sides of a flatter head. Maybe we’d driven past a Starbucks. The image wasn’t pretty.

This is why my kids don’t hang out with me.

There. That had to be a meteor. It went by fast, over there, in the corner of the sky where I wasn’t really watching. But something moved. Or I blinked. It could have been a shooting star. Oh, whatever.

But a unicorn, that works for me, because my daughter does the tours up at the Safari Park and everyone knows that the scimitar oryx has the body and horns of a unicorn, when it turns sideways, just so, or maybe loses one horn in combat. I’m pretty comfortable with a unicorn myth.

Well, it’s so far past my bedtime that I should start my morning laundry. My back and neck are getting tired.

Wait. What was that? Over there? Oooooooooohhhhhh………

See?

Symbiosis

laughter sprinkles from the kitchen
kettle hissing, cups of steam
honey, lemon, or milk?

curled on couches
cushioned conversations
whispered confessions
giggles

you just never know
well that’s what I heard
we’re here for you

me too

trace the pattern on a napkin
over and around, over and around
and sigh in response to conundrum

pillars under clay roof tiles
bedrock settles
windows thrown wide to the weather

friendships steeping
symbiosis
mosaics in a teacup

Dump It to Crumpet

There was a time when driving to the dump was high entertainment. It was a multi-media event. You could sell tickets. They did.

When I was a little girl, my dad let me ride along on trips to the city dump. That was back when they did dumps right. He drove his giant pickup truck up the dirt slopes to the area where backhoes and tractors were creating a lovely series of canyons to fill. You paid your five bucks and backed up to the smelly pile of refuse and added your own trash to it. I would sit in the cab, head hanging out the window, and watch in fascination as people lined up and started throwing items into the growing heap. Sometimes my dad would empty his load and then toss in someone else’s donations.

“Look at this,” he’d say, “they just threw out a perfectly good chair.” Now it was ours.

The smell at a dump is unique and tangy. It fills your sinuses with something between compost and dead cat. The tractors keep things percolating so it doesn’t get out of hand. The sounds of diesel engines and seagulls fill the air. Seagulls will scavenge anywhere and eat almost anything. While you would be hard pressed to find rats in the constantly shifting landmass, the birds thrive.

When it was time to go home, I sat on dad’s lap and steered the truck while he worked the pedals. Six-year-olds are welcome to drive at the dump. Everything’s already destroyed.

They just don’t make dumps like they used to.

Excuse me. “Disposal facilities”.

Trash is now sorted inside of three-story concrete bunkers where the seagulls can’t see it, and while you must still remove items from your truck yourself, you are encouraged to dump and run. No time to linger and enjoy the show. To get a nice deep whiff of that wonderful pungent tart and sour air.

I looked over to the hazardous waste area. Workers in gloves and coveralls tossed giant TVs, computer keyboards, empty propane cylinders, and…hey! that’s the exact same bread machine I have! The one that makes your loaves square instead of round. Someone tossed it? What a waste.

I mean…I guess waste is the idea here. Waste disposal. Got it. Don’t have to like it though.

Watching them work was like watching the Three Stooges pack for a move. They were doing something I have always wanted to do: take that machine that just broke on me in the middle of something super important and THROW IT ACROSS THE PAVEMENT WATCHING IT BURST INTO TINY SHATTERED BITS OF SORRY.

And these guys are getting paid to do it. Awesome.

They are the only thing standing between us and the Dark Ages.

The recycling facility next to trash collection sorted plastics from metals from paper. Conveyor belts carted them into the air and spit out bundles at the other end, five feet cubed. Some cubes were crushed milk jugs, abstract art; white with bits of random color. Soda cans came out impossibly interlinked, a cube of shiny aluminum brilliance. It was fascinating.

Management shooed me away from their art gallery and for all I know, saved my life in the process.

I came away with some favorite thoughts:

  1. I am re-confirmed in my opinion that, in this large living America, less is still more. So much of our trappings are disposable. Simply outdated, unused, or unloved. Less things. Try not to have so much in the first place.
  2. The recycle idea is wonderful. Re-gift. Re-purpose. Don’t toss it, see if someone else can use your bread machine. Shop at thrift stores. Donate freely. Circulate your stuff. Sharing is caring.
  3. It is deeply satisfying to watch old homework, random junk mail, and nasty utility bills get thrown across the room one. more. time.

 

Shaken Awake

Has anyone seen the 90s?  The 1990s…end of the century…any of this ringing a bell?

I recall the hubbub about Y2K and laughing it off but sort of curious whether, if it went and knocked out technology, we would be able to live off my fabulous garden and three hens.

Answer: yes.

The year 2000 came and went. I  looked up for a minute and marked the occasion with a shrug, but the 1980s were so fabulous, it sort of made up for skipping the decade between.

I spent the 1990s raising zippy little kids and we lived in a little feisty bubble that extended only as far as our little red wagon could carry us: elementary school around the corner and preschool around the other corner. We didn’t have TV by choice, but rented VHS movies from the library (also around the corner, or “river bend” as Pocahontas explained), watching Disney movies, science videos, musicals.

I have a lot of video footage (that’s when video came on film, people, you could measure it in actual feet) of my kids singing  their “ABC”s and learning how to somersault (you bend over until your head touches the ground, then your sibling runs up behind you and gives a mighty push) but nothing on the rest of the planet.

I can’t tell you who was president then. I have no idea what the fashions were. If a food craze or fad diet swept by, it must have bounced off our bubble and landed elsewhere, because we were focussed on not choking on a Lego.

But on September 11, 2001, I was shaken awake (alive?). On my birthday no less. Not that turning 34 was such a deal. We had an alarm clock radio that woke us up at 6am every day with the news, (that explains so much…if you whack the snooze button, mission accomplished and you still have no idea what’s happening on the planet) but this time the sounds coming from that little box were absolutely foreign.

So much so that we flew out of bed and into the living room, turned on the TV and adjusted its crooked antenna. On the east coast, in New York City, one of the twin towers had been hit by an airplane. Just as the shock of what we were seeing hit, another airplane flew across the screen and into a second building. Right in front of us.

It couldn’t be real. We stood there, frozen, not breathing, as black smoke billowed into the Manhattan sky.

Minutes dragged by. I never changed out of my ratty lavender bathrobe. The kids wandered the house. I changed the baby’s diaper on auto-pilot. The TV announced that a plane had smashed into the Pentagon. I looked through the window at our clear – deserted – morning sky.

These weren’t accidents. I cannot think of a more surreal moment. It might as well have been a zombie apocalypse. Eventually, Hubby had to tear himself away and go to work. Just to feel normal. A voice in your head says, “If we go through the motions of a regular day, this will turn into a regular day”.

The kids foraged for Cheerios. A large truck pulled up in front of our house, and I stumbled out and signed papers for a delivery of gray blocks. The driver and I had no words. We exchanged looks that said, “Did you hear what they just said? Can they have possibly gotten this wrong? What’s happening?”

Or maybe it was just, “Lady, drag a comb through your hair already.” And he left. My phone rang. The baby cried.

After yet another plane crashed in the middle of a field, I have to wonder how, or even why, I got the kids to school that day. Perhaps the 1990s routine was that strong. Can you still tie your shoelaces if the world is blowing up?

The answer is yes. My world has blown up a couple of times, and all I can think is that the human heart is supple and tenacious, and if there’s a breath in my body, I’m going to tie my shoes and stand up. If only because – suddenly – so many others could not.

It felt like a physical punch to the stomach, and it was years before I could cry over the magnitude of such loss. Loss of life. Loss of innocence. Loss of a decade.

I can’t remember the 90s. I’ve misplaced that bubble. But I remember the day I was forced to pay attention to the planet again. And I think I learned how to somersault.