Friday, March 28, 2008

The Ghost of Pop-Pop's Banjo

This story is in memory of Harry Brower.

There are pictures of strangers hanging up on my walls. People come in and say, “Oh, is that your great grandmother?” I say, “I don’t know who she is but her eyes follow me when I am vacuuming. I think she likes me.”

If her spirit is floating around, she knows that her picture will never be discarded again. Now that I have her, she’s mine. She might as well be my great grandmother.

I don’t have anything from my family. My mother should be the poster child for the throw-away society. She’s not sentimental about things like I am. I don’t have a single rattle or a ruffled dress from when I was a baby. Not a tooth, not even a lock of hair. You’d think she would have at least saved some hair since she always talks about the hair: “She came out with a head of black hair. I mean a head of it. The nurses put a bow in it and handed her to me. I said, ‘Whose baby is this with all this black hair?’ Then Nana pointed out, ‘You know, your in-laws have dark hair.’”

The only thing I have is what I personally saved from high school. Which wasn’t easy because she’d get rid of things when you weren’t looking. Everything else, gone. I might as well have just been hatched and dropped onto the earth yesterday because, except for photos, there is no documentation that I ever existed before I came of age and left home.

There are no photos of ancestors like most people have. There are no hand-stitched samplers, homemade quilts made with the torn sleeves of brothers and the hems of Sunday dresses or crystal punch bowls heavy with lead. In my mother’s defense, we lived in tiny apartments in the city. We lived in four railroad rooms with a fire escape we kept the broom and mop on and pots and pans that were too big to keep inside the oven. There were no closets. There was no place to store anything. But you’d think she could have at least saved just one of my school papers. A mimeographed connect-the-dots on a sheet of paper or a multiple choice test with my name scribbled in backhand like the way I used to write it, full out, including my middle name, Debra Frances Kelly, until Sister Grace Gabriel put a stop to that nonsense and I learned I might as well be a left-handed dunce if I kept it up.

Before my mother gave away my pop-pop’s banjo, I used to wonder how these things, the pictures of the strangers that I buy, anniversary plates with gold bands and hairline cracks, crocheted doilies shaped like snowflakes, got into antique shops. Who would part with such treasure? Sometimes there is no family left and the real estate agent calls in someone to come and clean out the place. But there can’t possibly be so many family-less dead people to explain all the antique shops packed to the gills, so clotted up with the evidence of other lives you clutch your purse to your breast so you don’t knock anything over and maneuver yourself through goat paths to try to find a piece of jadeite someone overlooked or a great deal on something because the shopkeeper didn’t know what he had.

Then my mother, under the pretense of being fair to all the grandchildren, gave Pop-Pop’s banjo to her cousin Billy, who lives somewhere in another state. No one knows where because no one really knows him. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy. He seemed nice the one time I met him. But no one’s met his wife. No one’s met his kids. No one has any idea how to get in touch with him if we wanted to check on that banjo to see how it’s doing. Which was why my mother did it. Control. We all went a little crazy when my mother gave that banjo away. But there was nothing we could do about it. She was in charge and that was that.

You might be thinking, what’s the big deal about a banjo? When I hear a hundred songs, I think of my pop-pop playing that banjo. At every shindig, every family get-together, every party, that banjo would come out. On Saturday nights at Nana and Pop-Pop’s house the kids clamored for it like they begged for Mister Softee if he didn’t take it out soon enough. Pop-Pop sat in his chair, propped up against the bathroom door, below the iron door knocker of a little boy with his pants down. He’d sing Pennies from Heaven, Ain’t Misbehaving and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. His daughters, our mothers, would cry, “Sing Daddy’s Little Girl!” We never saw any other banjos. No one played the banjo. Only Pop-Pop. This was up north.

And then it was over. Pop-Pop keeled over while playing bingo at St. Catherine’s Hall and Nana didn’t last a year after that. The family kind of grew apart. There was no reason to get together. I never heard a live banjo again.

Then I came down here to Heaven on Earth, Virginia, and I found out that I am in a big bluegrass area. I am in a place where there are banjos galore and every time I turn around I see the ghost of my grandfather’s banjo, sitting on his lap, and those first few chords, dun, dun, dun, dun. I think, if I had the time, or if I had the banjo, I would like to take lessons. Nana and Pop-Pop would love that. They’d love it down here. Not only for the music. But this farm. How my crocuses are coming up outside my kitchen window just like Nana’s did. All the Irish and Scotch people—I had no idea—and their food, some of it disgusting, just like Nana’s—pig’s feet, ham sandwiches on white bread with both butter and mayonnaise, fish cakes. Laundry on the line in order by color and type. Lawns that look like they are cut with toenail clippers. Rocking chair porches. I look around and I think, oh, they would love it down here.

One day I saw a banjo in an antique shop. It hung upside down by two nails driven into a wooden beam. It was stringless and slung with cobwebs. I thought, this is going to happen to my pop-pop’s banjo. The cousin who acquired it is elderly himself. What happens when he dies? His grown kids have no connection to that banjo whatsoever. They don’t know how important it is. They probably don’t even know where it came from. When they empty out the house, they’ll call in a real estate agent who will ship all the stuff to the antique shop and there it will sit, in some dusty corner, where someone will almost knock it over with her pocketbook and she’ll wonder how a special thing like that got into such a place. Maybe, if she’s like me, her heart will break a little and she’ll buy it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mind Readers

Horses can read minds. I know this because Bullet knew exactly what I was up to the other day. After I worked him, I decided to put him onto the trailer because he hadn’t been on it in a long time and I thought it would be good to refresh his memory. He had always been a good loader but for some reason I had a feeling that he was going to resist. I was right. He planted his feet and refused to budge. But I was ready. I had a package of Ritz crackers in my pocket. I was planning to give him a few anyway. As soon as he got on, I was going to give him some so he’d associate the trailer with something good. Then I was going to take him off and let him go. Nice, pleasant experience. Good reinforcement. But nope. He wouldn’t get on. I took the crackers out of my pocket and crinkled the sleeve they came in. Bullet pricked up his ears. I took a couple out and ate them, munching noisily. He inched closer. I held one out to him but all he would do was stretch his nose out as far as it would go so I ate that one too. Frustrated, I thought, “I’m going to throw you back into the round pen!” Suddenly, as if he heard the threat, he climbed up with a big bang and I rewarded him with a cracker and a pat.

(I work the horses in the round pen. I make them move in different directions, at different speeds, like the boss horse moves the herd. It teaches a horse to respond willingly because he learns that you are his herd leader.)

The other horse Harley is a nervous goof ball and if you go out to catch him and approach him like you’ve got something on your mind, he’ll take off and scoot away, tossing his head and kicking up his heels. If he could speak English you would hear him say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, you can’t catch me!” He’s just having a little fun. Not unlike the Joker on Batman. Which is why Kurt can’t stand him. Kurt needs a more serious horse like Bullet. Kurt calls him “The Bullet.” Bullet is a no-nonsense barrel horse with reining training. Most barrel horses when they’re running home run right through the gate and over hill and dale before you can get them to stop, they’re going so fast. Bullet, because of his reining training, crosses the timer and does a sliding stop. He skids on his butt in a cloud of dust miles before the gate. The audience gasps. He knows how to get the job done. In Batman, he would be Bruce Wayne with a touch of the Catwoman because he’s so good-looking.

The last time Kurt tried to catch Harley, he came storming in the house and threw the halter on the table. “You go and get that bastard!” I went out there and put my hand on my hip and rolled my eyes. “Now cut it out,” I said, like I was bored. “Stop being so silly.” He stopped in his tracks, turned around and plowed over to me. He slammed on the brakes and I believe he would have jumped into my lap if he could have. “Okay, you win,” he said. Well, he didn’t actually say it but maybe I can read horse minds as well as they can read mine because I know that’s what he was thinking.

In a way catching Harley involves a technique similar to the reverse psychology I use on Kelly. When she asks for my opinion on which shirt she should wear or what she should play with, I always say the opposite of what I want her to do because she’s going to choose the other one. Since I started working with Bullet, Harley keeps getting in the way. He’s jealous. He follows me around, nudging me, daring me to catch him because I’m too busy right now.

When I let Bullet out of the trailer, Harley loped over to see what he was missing. I took the opportunity to grab him and put him on the trailer. I slipped Bullet’s halter over his head, loaded him up and gave him a cracker. Then I thought about how much I love them. But they’re mind-readers so they already know that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Can Hear You Knocking, But Nobody's Home

The Jehovah’s Witnesses came today. Just in time for Easter. I’m not one who avoids interesting encounters and lively debates; in fact, it gets me going. “Here, com’on in and let me give you a cup of coffee,” I said to a Jehovah’s Witness the first time one came to my door twenty years ago. I let her come every week to try to convert me but then we got on the subject of tarot cards, which, since I was hanging around with a bunch of hippies from the health food store where I worked, I owned at least two decks at the time. Ironically, these tofu-eating friends were the ones that turned me onto the cards and taught me to be open-minded and non-judgmental, thus, inviting the Jehovah’s Witness inside in the first place. But when she told me the tarot cards were the work of the devil, that nipped our little coffee-klatching sessions right in the bud. I was having too much fun reading everyone’s fortunes. Plus, then I heard about Christmas. I stopped inviting her in.

I saw the lady get out of her white mini van with a little tote bag that doubled as a briefcase and a purse, and watched her shield her eyes from the sun and look up at my house, sizing it up. Ut oh, that one had Jehovah written all over her. I looked around quickly. Where to hide? Where to hide? What door was she going to come to? I darted to the dining room. No, no, she could come around the deck and see me from the sliding glass doors. I considered the laundry room but what if she came to the back door and pressed her nose up to the glass? I scooted into the kitchen, ducked and waddled below the line of the windows to the pantry. Now I was stuck in the closet, looking at the cans of crushed tomatoes and a can of pig brains that I bought from Boone’s General Store as a joke for when my family comes down.

People really eat this stuff down here. There are some weird food habits going on. It’s not just the good stuff like peach pies and biscuits-and-gravy like you hear about on TV. There are pink hot dogs with coleslaw, Spam and deep-fried chicken gizzards. Why, you can walk into any Get N Go and find a big jar on the counter filled with pink-colored, pickled eggs for a quick snack. It reminds me of jars in science labs that are filled with pig fetuses and eyeballs floating in formaldehyde. The pink eggs are on display right next to the unbreakable combs for 59-cents. They are just like a box of donuts on the counter.

One time, I myself, had weird food in my refrigerator. My freezer was stocked with mule elk and deer meat wrapped in white butcher paper and labeled with a black Sharpie. This was a gift from my real estate agent. Though we had good intentions and periodically moved the packages around and picked them up and read them, we couldn’t bring ourselves to actually cook any. Turnip greens is one thing. Mule elk…I don’t even know what a mule elk is.

I peeked out of the closet and saw the top of the lady’s head go by the kitchen window. I jumped back. I wasn’t coming out till she was gone. I outgrew the tarot cards years ago but the fact of the matter is, I just woke up from my nap and truth be told, I’m a little cranky when I just wake up. I didn’t even have my coffee yet. Plus, this Jehovah had it against her from the start. Why lead her on? The Baptist ladies had already been here. They even gave me a beginner’s bible and a chocolate cake. And then there’s the Christian minister down the road who reminds me of Pastor Lonnie from the old place and who was so nice to us when we attended Christmas services that I think about going back every Sunday. A Jehovah who comes knocking out of the blue doesn’t have a chance. No offense. I’m a hard enough case as it is. Especially without any coffee in me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jamie's Lil Dumplins

Jamie hit on something really good! Her Lil Dumplins are selling like hotcakes! And no wonder--look how cute they are! She takes custom orders too, so if you want a Lil Dumplin with something special on its head, just let her know. If you want to see really cute stuff from my cute girl, go to her sites:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some Life

Yesterday Kurt’s guy came to fix the siding that had blown off the house in the last storm and put up the gutters. These are things that Kurt has the expertise to do himself, but with working all the time, he couldn’t get to it and so he sent Randy over.

Randy and his helper were here for about five hours. When they arrived, I was sitting out on the front porch smoking cigarettes and talking to my girlfriend on the phone. Since I’m a loud talker, I believe he heard my entire conversation. I think he heard about how big mine and Kurt’s feet are, my opinion on the chances of Kelly having clodhoppers like us and the emotional damage inflicted upon me when my mother made me wear huge black oxfords with my red-plaid school uniform even though all the other girls were wearing loafers and how they made my feet look even bigger especially since my legs were like bean poles. I knew I looked bad, but now that I’m thinking about it, I probably looked like Betty Spaghetty. I’m sure Randy heard all this.

And I know he heard me complain about the stray hair I found on a certain part of my body that I never noticed before because my eyesight is going and I’m still buying the Wal-Mart glasses. But then I got out the magnifying mirror and discovered a whole array of horrors that no decent person should ever have any idea he has. It’s not right. (That’s the bright side of losing your eyesight as you get older—you are blissfully unaware of the wrinkles, hair, suspicious discolorations and humungous pores that you’ve acquired since the last time you had time to examine yourself in a magnifying mirror, back before you started having kids and got horses.)

And he surely heard the juicy story, and perhaps even stopped to listen, about how Helen Chitwood allows ducks to live in her house since she kicked the husband out and maybe she’s a lesbian, not that I have anything against lesbians, but maybe she is one because she and her BFF have taken to shaving the back of their heads Rosie O’Donnell-style and there’s never any men around. They are out there in Helen’s yard in suits and masks like Hazmat people doing something with the bees. There’s a sign by the mailbox that says, “Honey 4 Sale,” and the BFF always answers the door when you knock to get some.

At any rate, Randy the Handyman heard all of this as he was hammering and sawing on the side of the house. He got a good earful all right. Then I went out back and got the pony. It must have been a wonderful sight. It was a beautiful, sunny day, just perfect for messing with horses. There I was in my long blond hair and cool cowboy boots with the metal tips on the toes. There was the pony in his black-and-white patches looking like a circus pony he’s so pretty. But pretty is as pretty does so I threw him in the round pen. I sent him around and made him turn and change gaits so that he knew I was the boss and he better respect me. Then I hopped on him and rode him all around the hay field where he had acted up the day before. This time he was an angel. A little workout will do wonders.

After I got done fooling around with the pony, I went in the house and ate lunch. Then I stuck my head out the door and asked Randy if he needed anything because I was going to take a little nap. Later when I was reviewing my day, I imagined that this guy must be thinking, “That chick has some life.” He was probably thinking that I live the life of leisure, gossiping and playing with my horses, taking a snooze when I feel like it. And I have to admit that I do have some life. However, I also realized that I just make it look easy. These are all the things that Randy did not see:

I got up at 5:15 and threw a load of laundry in while I read as many e-mails as I could and had a cup of coffee. Then I got Kelly up and going. I fed her, brushed the knots out of her hair while she screamed and accused me of child abuse or at the least, of being a mean mother. I fed the dog and cat, climbed upstairs to hit the snooze button on Kurt’s alarm three times because it was giving me a headache, shook him twice and told him it was fifteen minutes later than it really was. Then I weeded the flowerbed in the front of the house while we waited for the school bus to come.

After Kelly was off, I fed the horses and picked up three wheelbarrows full of horse manure. I straightened up the barn, swept the aisle and filled water barrels. I moved some bales of hay from the back of the hayshed to the front. I emptied out the buckets under the leaky skylights. I fixed some wire on a fence. I fed the barn cat and picked up a half digested wild animal she regurgitated. I pushed the dually wheelbarrow with a flat tire down to the manure pile to dump because it was filled with rotting weeds and rainwater and I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore getting deeper and deeper. (The air compressor is in the house and too heavy for me to bring outside and the bike pump is mysteriously missing. So I pushed it with the flat.)

After I was done with the barn chores, I moved the pile of lumber that was in front of the barn that Kurt was now finished with and that had been sitting there, rotting, (more rotting) in the way, since last summer. I put on my gloves and loaded it all up into the bed of the pick-up truck. Some of it was too heavy to lift so I had to get one end up on the gate and then push it up the rest of the way. Then I backed up as close as I could get to the side of the garage where I unloaded it with all the other junk lumber he doesn’t know he has and where it will continue rotting until my nagging kicks in.

I cleaned the house from top to bottom including sweeping and washing floors and vacuuming. I folded Kurt’s gym clothes and put them on the shelf where he packs his gym bag. I wrote out some bills. I took the garbage cans to the Dumpster. I went to the post office. I made phone calls to the insurance company, the dentist’s office and the school. I wrote, including a piece for someone’s website. I made supper. I helped Kelly with her homework. I kissed one boo-boo and made two threats. I carried firewood in the house and filled the wood box. I cleaned out the ashes in the woodstove and carried the ashcan and a bucket of water out to the gully where I dumped the ashes and poured the water on top. It sizzled even though the fire had been out for two days. I got kindling while I was out there. I cleaned up all the leftover pieces of wood and plastic gutters that Randy left behind. I swept the front porch. I picked up two buckets of dog poop. Then I helped Kelly saddle up her horse and I watched her. I got inspired and decided to work with Kurt’s horse. Which now we’re getting into the fun part again. But you see what I am saying. I only make it look easy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wood and Weeds

Two days ago we were out there doing wood. Kurt was splitting it and Kelly and I were loading it into two canvas bags we keep for wood carrying and hauling it up onto the deck near the sliding glass doors where it will be easy to get when we run out. We carried the bags to a red wheelbarrow at the top of the stairs and then rolled it the rest of the way. The hard wheel on the wheelbarrow went bum, bum, bum, bum, over the wooden 2 X 6 floor. The wheel on this wheelbarrow doesn’t have air so it never goes flat. This is the wheelbarrow that we normally use for things like mixing cement or potting soil. It’s got a shallow metal basin pitted with rust and low metal handles with rubber grips like bike handles. It’s not the most comfortable thing to push because of the hard wheel and how low it is. You wouldn’t want to be using it long term.

The one I use on a daily basis has a nice, air-filled tire and two long hardwood handles smooth and shiny from me using it so much. If I keep the tire filled, it bounces easily over all kinds of terrain. I fill this wheelbarrow with manure three times every morning. Sometimes I use it to transport weeds or bags of grain. I keep an empty supplement bucket hanging on one of the handles that I fill with junk I may find out in the gully—I was tired of sticking shards of glass and muddy plastic fragments in my pockets and then forgetting about it and washing them in the washing machine. So I thought of the bucket. It is even good for putting your hat in if you get too hot while you’re picking up manure. When I was sneaking cigarettes out behind the tobacco shed, I hid the pack in the bucket. It’s good for all kinds of things.

But my favorite wheelbarrow is the dually. I got that one for Christmas one year. It came with a big red ribbon. It is big enough to put a pony inside. It is yellow plastic and has two tires, hence the name dually, and two massive wooden handles you can barely get your hands around. It is the big mama of wheelbarrows. You don’t have to bend at all and it rolls like it’s on shocks. The only bad thing about it is it’s hard to dump because of the two wheels. You can’t just flip it over and shake it back and forth like I do with my regular manure wheelbarrow. I use the big mama for hay. Hay takes up a lot of space. Once a week I fork up all the loose hay in the shed where I break open the bales and bring it outside for the horses. If I didn’t have the dually, I’d have to make many more trips. But I can fit a lot in there. I have also used it to bring Kelly places. She hangs her legs and arms over the sides like she’s in an old fashioned bathtub and cries, “Go faster!” We tried to get the Big Stupid in it one time but he got all giddy and excited like he was caught on the couch and jumped right out and ran around the yard in circles with his tongue flapping and his tail clamped onto his butt.

I also have a miniature wheelbarrow. I bought it for Kelly back when I was trying to break her in right, when she was three and still believed me when I said picking up horse poop was a lot of fun. It is an exact replica of my red metal wheelbarrow but about the only thing you can use it for is decorative purposes. I have it half buried in the mulch in the flowerbed in front of the house and I plant petunias in it because they spread and it looks like someone was pushing it and then it tipped over and all the flowers spilled out.

Today I pushed the regular manure wheelbarrow up front and filled it with weeds. Even though we were stacking wood just two days ago and burning it like there was no tomorrow, it’s seventy degrees now and there is something crawling around the foundation that looks like chickweed but I don’t know what it is. I know it’s not lawn, that I can tell you.

You never get a break on the farm. One minute you’re doing wood and the next minute you’re pulling weeds. Sometimes it even overlaps. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get an ice storm. They’re already announcing the school closings on the TV. Eldon is out there right now pushing the spreader, weeding and feeding the lawn. I don’t know how I’m going to break the news to Kurt. I could try telling him getting wood and pulling up weeds is a lot of fun but he’s not three-years-old anymore. He won’t believe me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bad Weather

I’m a weather wimp. I know you’re supposed to be used to it when you live on a farm. You’d think I would be since I am out in it all the time. It doesn’t matter what it’s doing out there. If it’s raining or snowing or so cold the hairs in your nose feel like fiberglass, I’m still out there carrying flakes of hay and buckets of grain. There are certain jobs I can get away with not doing when the weather’s bad, but at the least, the horses still have to be fed.

I think I have it bad but my friend in Iowa says it is so cold up there that when the temperature drops below zero, it stops being cold. Everything gets still and farmers are tempted to unzip their coats and take off their hats. Some of them let their guard down and they plant seeds too early or jump in the pool. These are the ones who are found days later encased in blocks of ice. Whole families chip away at them using ice picks and hammers and then they thaw them out by the woodstove and make them promise to never be so gullible again.

The wind is the worst. I just got done chasing a piece of vinyl siding down the road. Then I couldn’t get the garage door to stay closed. Even two cinder blocks and the iron head of a sledge hammer wedged against it didn’t keep it shut. I found a boulder and pushed it because it was too heavy to carry. Luckily it was right behind the garage so I didn’t have to go far. When I got everything jammed up against the door, I realized the Big Stupid, aka Motley, the dog, was inside.

The wind was one of the reasons we left Oklahoma. I didn’t know about the wind when we moved out there. That’s supposed to be Kansas where the Wizard of Oz happened. But in Oklahoma, the wind blew all the topsoil away and tumbleweeds the size of small ponies, all the patio furniture and half the roof bounced across the hard red dirt that was left behind on a daily basis. If I had any inclination of moving back there, where there are rodeos galore and all the men wear cowboy hats even when they’re just going to Wal-Mart, wind whipping nips that idea right in the bud.

When the weather is bad in the country, the electric is iffy. Most people have a generator. And we do too but it’s in the shop even though it’s brand new because it’s probably made in China like the rest of the junk we are forced to buy nowadays. The last time I was in Wal-Mart, buying Kurt a belt, I was determined not to buy anything made in China. Usually I am in a big rush and I don’t have time to get out my glasses and turn the thing over, trying to find out where it’s made. Just finding the price is hard enough. But this time I pawed through every single belt on the shelves, throwing them over my shoulder where they landed behind me in a big pile on the floor. I could not find a single belt in his size that was American-made. I said to myself, “What am I in, Hong Kong?”

Up north, it’s not the end of the world when the electric goes off even though they think it is because they can’t use their hair dryers or their high definition TVs. They scream their heads off and threaten to sue. But they don’t have it as bad as they think because they still have water. Most people up there have city water. But in the country, we have wells and since the pump works by electric, we lose the water. You can’t flush the toilet, you can’t finish rinsing out your hair if it was all full of shampoo when the electric went off and you can’t do the dishes. Which is a big problem since the dishwasher is always full when this happens and there are no more clean forks.

After I got back from chasing the siding down the street and getting the garage door to stay shut, the electric went off. I had nothing on in the house. No radio, no TV, I wasn’t running the vacuum. But all of a sudden, it was dead quiet. Still, like Iowa gets when the temperature goes below zero.

You don’t realize the sounds a house makes even when it’s quiet until there is no more juice. It skids to a halt. You don’t hear the humming of the refrigerator which you never noticed until it stopped or the drone of the digital clock. You don’t hear the heat pump kick on. It gets cold fast. Luckily, in the country, most people also have a woodstove. For some people, even though this is 2008, it is their only source of heat. We use our woodstove to save money on the electric bill and also because I like the way it smells and the way the smoke looks coming out of the chimney. It looks like the cover of a country music CD. And whenever the electric goes off, at least we can stay warm.

I ran right outside and gathered up some sticks for kindling. It seems appropriate that the wind knocks the electric off and also makes all the dead branches fall into the yard for starting a fire. I got the fire going and then sat at the dining room table reading a book in front of it. Even though it was still day time, it was hard to read. I thought about how people didn’t have any electric in the old days, and how some still don’t, here in the country. No wonder why they went to bed early. Not only can’t you see, but there’s nothing to do. When Kurt and Kelly come home from doing errands, I would suggest we play a game of checkers. Or talk. That would be funny. We talk all the time. But we talk while we do things. While Idol is on. While we’re reading our e-mail. While we’re carrying our pajamas to the bathroom to take a shower. Would we suddenly feel pressured because that was all we had to do? Maybe we’d go to sleep. But if we went to bed too early, the fire wouldn’t make it through the night and we’d wake up at two in the morning with frostbite. Maybe I’d make an egg on the top of the woodstove. By all rights you should be able to cook on top of it. That should be right up my alley. Very country-like. But forget it. No water. I’m a clean freak. How would I clean it?

After I got out the candles, the house roared to life. The refrigerator came on, the DVR on top of the TV powered up, everything started beeping. Kurt and Kelly came home with Dairy Queen because I had called them on the cell phone to say don’t think I’m cooking any eggs on the woodstove. And then it started raining. It was an icy rain, hitting the windows hard and bouncing off the deck like a broken strand of beads. I jumped up and started the dishwasher real quick. If the electric went out again, at least we would have clean cups.