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Yesterday evening I was lying on the front livingroom floor alongside the recently reupholstered Victorian settee. Alongside, and on the floor, because the settee was occupied by Hamish the Corgi. Hamish peered down at me happily, big ears casting wide shadow. I was staring up at the ceiling light and thinking about Hank. Hank owned a warehouse that he called an antique shop but the rest of us knew the truth. You could go in and shop, but the likelihood of leaving with anything was slim. Hank’s stuff was N.F.S., despite the inviting OPEN sign on the door.

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Hank sold us that light. We stood under its near eternal hanging place in the rafters of the warehouse, the three of us, necks crinked, eyes raised, and commented on its probable age. Hank reminisced about his acquisition of it. We listened. Hank talked at length about its probable value – far in excess of the modest price on its tag. We listened. Hank walked away to talk with someone else. We waited. Hank wandered back. Matt talked about our old house. Hank listened. I was skeptical of the lamp’s age, value, and material composition. Hank listened. I named a price. Hank was amused.

After a period of time, Hank firmed up a price and gave us a pay slip. We were to hunt down his wife to exchange fungibles for luminaries. No one was more surprised than Hank’s wife that he sold something. She took our check quickly, ink undried.

Yesterday evening I was lying on the floor with dog ear-shadows and light-memories and a Yeti mountain bike rode by, Sweet Tibbit trotting along behind. I waited, listening to the squeaky sound of rubber tires on hardwood, negotiating tricky turns in the kitchen. The bike, the WideEyedSpouse aboard, went by again. As did Miss Tibbit

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Such is the WideEyedHousehold on a Wednesday evening in November. Such is the WideEyedLife.

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Flocks

Outside the fall rains finally arrive in Buffalo. The vees of honking geese that crowd our skies in October huddle in clusters of grey and white blobs today. Sometimes a vicious hiss leaks out from the mass. I give them a wide pass.

Inside the campus skyways, I smell wet wool, paint from the constant renovations, and French fries. I stick to the 2nd floor of the buildings, walking windowed bridges from one end of campus to the other. I’m my own parade through the arts, humanities, and law neighborhoods. Rain slashes the skyway windows, making them cozy. I need an armchair, ottoman, and book to set up a comfy encampment. Duty calls and I keep moving: work to do, money to earn.

I’m on my way back from my cross-campus errand when I hear soft, high singing coming from ahead of me – many small voices not in tune or in sync and the trample of many feet. I guess some of the birds came in out of the rain. I round a corner there they are, wee-birdlets in rain jackets, jeans, leggings, and boots. They are singing a song and holding hands with each other and with their minders and most of them have their arms out, swooping and soaring through the wide skyway outside of the library.

This is good, that the little birds are warm and dry, and that they learn to soar in the halls of the university.

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Kitchen Transcendence

I meant to take a nap. Sunday afternoons are for napping.  Especially rainy Sunday afternoons. Really especially rainy Sunday afternoons that were preceded by a two-mile morning run in the park during a down pour. Blech in all directions on that little event: run (yuck), run for two miles (yuck), run in the rain (yuck).

I looked at Hamish the Corgi and he gazed back at me, content laying in a sea of his own shed hair. We sighed at the same moment. Time for the Oreck Fun Police.

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Together, with Miss-Tibbit-the-Useless, we dusted and whirred around the downstairs. Miss Tibbit curled on the red tufted settee in the front parlor. Hamish lounged on the orange passion flower upholstered Victorian settee in the living room. Each dog picking the furniture piece that best set off their shiny, shedding fur. I put away boots, hung up coats, dog towels, and discarded umbrellas.

I straightened pictures, cleaned up eviscerated dog toys guts. And I vacuumed. And vacuumed. And vacuumed. Tip: dogs shed. You’re welcome.

When it was all over, the last hairy tuft sucked into the Fun Police maw, the Sunday paper and I settled in at the kitchen table. I turned off the loud music, put on some of my new blue lipstick (color name: Frostbite – maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s hypothermia), and tuned into the Amazon Classical for Concentration (or whatever) station.

It was nice. The legs of the WideEyedSpouse were visible, dangling from under the Mighty Pathfinder in the garage. Dogs were sleeping. The Fun Police was parked back in the municipal garage. And I was clipping coupons. Just the good ones. A dollar off a defrizz serum. Two dollars off hand lotion. Three, three dollars off razors, my goodness, and then…the back of my neck started tingling.

I looked up, scissors open and ready to clip, and listened. A warm cello sound strand came out of the living room and wrapped around me. My back sparkled, my heart pounded, and something full and wonderful and gloaming rose up from my middle and into my head and down my arms.

I sat alone in my clean house, at my kitchen table, hair-unbrushed, scissors-poised, lips-a-blue, and I burgeoned with a joy of life too vast, too awesome for me to hold. I could feel it swirl through me and out into the universe, leaving me still in my soul and so glad to be alive in that moment.

Thank you J.S. Bach for your Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major. Thank you Yo-Yo Ma for your playing.You made a humble moment transcendental. Your gifts are appreciated.

Sequestering.

“Ma, can you hear me better now?”

“What?”

Evidently not.

“Ma,” I said, “can you hear me better? I got a new phone and it should have better sound.”

“Well, I guess so.” She didn’t sound convinced and I could hear her phone shuffling around.

We talked for a bit. The WideEyedDad’s birthday is coming up. They’re still unpacking 40 years’ worth of giant Victorian house Attic Stuff into their Retirement Bungalow. There are, as you might expect, frustrations in the process. Treasures rediscovered. Rediscovered and not to be disposed of. One family’s trash, same family’s treasure. So, birthdays are tricky. The last thing a retirement bungalow needs is more Stuff.

At a certain point I lost my mom’s attention. I heard the phone shuffle again and her voice was distant, “They’re here,” she called.

“What, oh, ok. They’re here!” I could hear my dad’s voice arriving and passing by. “What do you think they want?” he asked. He sounded a little excited, tone high and lifted.

“Probably it’s your new SIM card,” my mom said. She had a tone that was sort of like, of course it’s the new SIM card, what else? Personally I thought it was a little weird. You don’t think about your nearly retired parents getting a new SIM card delivered by UPS. Shouldn’t it be prescriptions or something? “Or,” she mused, “it could be the cookies.”

Ok, I thought. Things are getting strange at the retirement bungalow.

I heard the whomp of a steel front door opening. The whomp of it shutting.

Then, nothing. It was like I wasn’t even there, on the end of the digital phone connection, not the end of a line mind you, but the end of a very long journey through buildings, people, dogs, space, atmosphere, windows. Well, the end of a miracle really, but anyway, I was a briefly forgotten element in the thrill of UPS arriving at the WideEyedParent’s Retirement Domicile. I imagined my mom looking out the front window to witness the UPS delivery.

“Geez,” I said, “you guys need to get out more.”

“What?” my mom said all absent-like.

“You really need to get out more.”

“We get out All The Time,” my mom told me.

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1974. They were 15 years younger than I am now. How can that be?.

The pretentious saudade sandwich.

“How much bread do we have?”

I pawed through the rumpled empty-ish but not quite bags of bread on the bottom shelf of the fridge. That’s the anti-mold area. “Four slices.”

And that’s how it started. Simple enough. Four slices of stale but not yet sticky or fuzzy New York rye with seeds. (Tip: rye bread takes FOR-EVER to get moldy in the fridge. It hardens first. Always edible with some mandibular exercise.) I’m pretty sure the staleness would have been called for if this had been a hipster recipe and not happenstance. Let’s call this the first whiff of pretension. Staled New York Rye.

The WideEyedSpouse grabbed his refrigerator pickles off the shelf-that-is-not-broken on the fridge door. He made them from scratch with local-grown pickling cucumbers purchased from the youngest son at a family farm stand at the local farmers market. Another pretension aromatic wafting through the kitchen.

He plopped a few tablespoons of Trader Joe’s something-sickeningly folksy all-natural mayo into a bowl with an assortment of smoked peppery things from the spice cabinet. The mess became home made adobo mayo or some such nonsense.(Do I need to invoke the P-concept?)

The Spouse crumbed some traditional feta. Come on. Who has a hunk of feta cheese lurking in a slimy brine filled tub in the fridge?

Then the meat. And here is where we hit the pièce de résistance of annoyingly pretentious sandwich. A month or two ago the Spouse long smoked kind of lot of pork loins out in the back yard. Cherry wood smoked them. He portioned them and froze them so that there are wee logs stacked across from the gin-and-tonic-ice trays, under the space stacked with smoked pulled pork packets.

Well, he defrosted one of those little smokey logs and sliced it super, tissue thin. The whole downstairs reeked of home-smoked meat.

He layered the stale bread, adobo mayo, tenderloin, pickles, feta, tenderloin, mayo, bread into a revolting looking stratigraphy of irritatingly foody ingredients. I looked at it sideways. It could not be good – all that different smoked, fermented, aged, whatever all over it…

I took my wine – Bajo (a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo)  – that should NOT have gone well with pickles, and settled at the kitchen table. I prepared to be brave and sipped the wine.

And then it was over.

(I’m beginning to weep a little as I write this…)

The pretentious sandwich was, probably, the best sandwich I ever had. And friends, it can’t be repeated. The second attempt will be imitation. Imitation at best. The pickles will be different. The bread not as stale. The wine not exactly the same. Is this…the Portuguese saudade I’m feeling deep in my heart area? Over a sandwich? Friends, I think it might be.

I’m going to go rummage in the fridge.Hopelessly.

21.

You would think that the 21 year wedding anniversary gift was paper, since the sticky tab shopping list on my desk today stated clearly, in capitals, with black ink, “toilet paper.”

We both would’ve missed it if Google calendar hadn’t sent an email. I reminded the Spouse and he paled. “Did you plan anything?” he asked, looking sort of like someone who smelled a storm on the wind. “No,” I said. “Should we have?” he asked still looking kind of squirrelly. I shrugged.

Some years call for the pomp. Some don’t. The Spouse and I, we’re in it together and counting years is fun but they don’t matter. Not always. Not like the day-to-day love.

You know what matters? In my rush to get home, to see the Spouse at the end of a day or servitude to The Man, I failed utterly to pick up some toilet paper.

 

The Kraken came to Buffalo.

Hamish the Corgi and Miss Tibbit-the-Useless forced us, absolutely forced us, to go to the land of whale hunters, pirates, beach plums, and Range Rovers. Hamish felt that his territorial expansion needed more activity in the Northeast. Miss Tibbit thought she sniffed something interesting coming from Boston-ish.

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We rented a house, packed ALL of the bikes and some of the wine, and aimed the Mighty Pathfinder at Cape Cod.  Hamish remembered that he cannot swim at Sheep Pond in Brewster. He remembered that a body can’t drink wave water on the beach flats of Crowe’s Pasture in Dennis. Sweet Tibbit watched ants march across the kitchen floor toward her food bowl.

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WideEyedUncleB graciously hosted the mass of us for an afternoon in Scituate. “Hack!” Miss Tibbit coughed with purpose above his living room rug. We waited, alert and conversation suspended, for more. Later, the Spouse reported that he was prepared to catch pukies in his hands. “Great,’” I said. Later, I found the Spouse swabbing Tibbit-pukies from WideEyedCousinA’s pantry floor in Norwell. “That dog needs a bandana,” WideEyedCousinM stated, looking at Miss Tibbit. “This dog needs a hot dog,” she thought back at him, staring pointedly at the platter on the table.

Then, on a food and pirate outing, I saw something interesting resting lonely and dusty in a jeweler’s case. The Kraken. Red eyes gleamed from the base of a giant, swollen freshwater pearl. Angry sterling tentacles curled. My hands shook and I tried to stay cool. “May I see that ring, there in the front…” I asked, shoving aside some lady blocking my view.  No really, I physically pushed her giant purse out of my way and being attached to it, she followed. WideEyedLinda wandered over, fascinated I think that I heard the Kraken’s song. “I’ll get that for you,” she said in my ear. The Kraken heard her and tightened on my finger.

Here I sit back in the Buffalo domicile. My patchy sunburn peels. The smell of sea air fades in memory. Dogs lay sleeping, twitching with happy memories of sandy low tide flats scattered with dead crabs and Cape Cod stinks all over the place. The Kraken is with me, eyeing my world with its gleaming red gaze.

Why can’t vacation be always?

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