The red basket

Stuff. Things. Memories. Do you keep them, why do you keep them, do you really want them or do you have a sense of obligation (= guilt) about them? Would you rather just move on and be who you are now, and forget about the path that brought you here? Do you hang onto things, or to people, for the sake of children or other people down the generational line? Or is that another reason to get rid of things and cut ties?

My mother died ten years ago. My father is in assisted living. My brothers have been clearing out my parents’ last house (not somewhere any of us ever lived). Since my parents themselves cleared out the house we grew up in (and what a job that was), and then there were two more houses, one of which burned down after they moved out but while there was still stuff in storage there, much of the Stuff in my dad’s house is things he dragged home in the last 15 years or so. It doesn’t have feelings attached. And we have all taken a lot of things we wanted already.

Nonetheless, Stuff kept turning up when we all went to the house together. Things we thought had already gone to someone: here is that set of dishes (or at least part of the set). Anyone want them? These wine glasses are worth actual money; should we try to sell them on e-Bay or just let garage-salers feel they’ve made a massive score? Here’s That Thing! Reminisce about the Thing. Do a few minutes of reminiscence suffice, or does someone want the Thing?

Since I live far away and am here only briefly, I’m shipping some Things to myself. I may yet de-accession them once I return to my Actual Real Life. But while I’m here, I can’t really tell whether I really want the Things, or just want to have seen them again.

It’s strange how many different stories there are about things. One brother assured me that a crocheted object was something our mother made for me as a baby. I told him I made it for her, a Christmas present that I worked on when I lived in Paris. I wonder how many other legends like that run through families, where people forget the origins of the pickle dish.

One of the things I think I want is a basket. A large oblong basket painted red. So many times I have looked for it when I needed something in which to take a cake or a casserole to a party, and then realized that it was never in my house, it was my mother’s basket. I don’t know why I never bought myself my own basket. Now I’m going to have the original one that I keep looking for. I hope that will be satisfying. I do wonder if I should just pitch the red basket, here, and get myself a new one at home. But this is what I mean: it’s hard to know, here, what matters, and why it matters.

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RBOC summer

  • All is well, or as well as it’s going to be, w/r/t my dad. One of my brothers is learning about the difficulties of figuring out what questions to ask, and of whom. I sympathize.
  • I will be heading to Family Land in August. I accepted that I need to do this and booked the whole trip all in one go this week, instead of hemming and hawing and spending hours comparing different flights and cars.
  • I wrote 500 words today. Or typed them. I wrote a version of them on Tuesday, but today’s typing of that paragraph led to a certain amount of editing. So I’m counting both days as writing 500 words.
  • Am I done reviewing chunks of translation? Can this even be possible? There must be something else that I’ve forgotten to do there. I will be translating that massive text for the rest of my life, I’m convinced. “Done” is a hallucination, or at least a highly temporary state.
  • I’ve been putting together a list of manuscript-related vocabulary for my fall grad class.
  • We’re a week into July . . . yipes . . . I really do need to think about fall classes. The heat wave of a few days ago has broken and the weather is perfect today. I’d love to do something outside. Preferably not weeding, although of course that is always an option.
  • Weeding would arguably be better than cleaning the garage. Bleaching the litter boxes would be better than cleaning the garage.
  • Things I have been reading lately: D. E. Stevenson’s novels. Early novels of E. M. Delafield, available in an omnibus Kindle edition for a buck. Reading six of them in a row mainly convinced me that Victorian child-rearing left terrible scars on a lot of people, especially Delafield. Since her later novels (Provincial Lady!) are more comic, did she get over it? Or just move on? A. S. Byatt’s The Biographer’s Tale, which I didn’t care for; it felt like a cut-rate version of Possession, which I prefer. Also, L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, a romance with a plain 29-year-old heroine who gets life-changing news and starts telling her horrible relatives what she really thinks of them. Plays with romance tropes in delightful and original ways. Rather gushy descriptions of Canadian forests (which completely omit the black flies), but I skimmed those bits.
  • Maybe I’ll do the litter boxes and half an hour of something else useful and then sit outside with sherry and potato chips.

Filling time

Between extreme heat, and trouble sleeping, and an unhappy gut, I feel like today ought to have been cancelled. It’s one of those non-days, the blanks at the start or end of a month (see the last paragraph here), not a work day, not a holiday, a not-happening day.

I spent six hours reading very old blog posts: Another Damned Medievalist, Medieval Woman, Ancrene Wiseass, New Kid On The Hallway, from c.2004-2006. I guess that’s my “screen time,” not TV. I found some “four things” memes that made me laugh. One of the problems with memes is that they usually go on for too long; what’s funny for a few lines gets tedious when there are 20 or 30 different things you’re supposed to answer.

So here’s my answer to just one: the names of four crushes. David, Eric, Scott, David. Pretty much what you’d expect for a straight woman of my age! I mean, who didn’t know half a dozen Davids?

Jet lag season

I’m not even traveling this summer, and yet I am jet-lagged. I had a bad time sleeping this week, until Friday night I was up till 2:00 and slept till 10:00 yesterday. I expected that it would take days to work back to my real time zone from this virtual Hawaii*. Instead, I was wiped out by sunset, went to bed at 9:30, and woke up before 4:00 a.m. I tried valiantly to go back to sleep till 5:00, and then got up.

Does my body think that summer is the season of international travel and so, one way or another, we’re going to have sleep disturbances?

*See also: https://www.xkcd.com/448/

My favorite breakfast

Heat some olive oil over low-medium heat in a small frying pan and wilt a handful of spinach in it. On top of the spinach, spread 1/2 to 3.4 of a cup of cooked rice (if it’s cold, zap it in the microwave first). Season with salt, pepper, and any herbs you feel like, such as oregano. Make two little hollows in the rice and break an egg into each one. Cover and cook till the eggs are at the desired stage of firmness or runniness. Serves one, but it can easily scale up for more people. I like it with ketchup. Salsa would be good, too.

That Neighbor

For awhile now, it’s been apparent that the people to one side of us were getting ready to sell their house. I’m a little slow . . . they have actually done so.

So when a couple of days ago I went over and bawled out a young man for parking a moving van in the alley, blocking our garage (also a hazard because it blocks emergency vehicles, should one need to come through), that wasn’t the old guy’s son, that was a new young man I’ve never seen before, who was moving in, not the old people moving out.

( I’m not very good at facial recognition. The two men are about the same age, have similar coloring, and appear in the same house: of course I’m going to confuse them.)

This morning I was out early, mowing the lawn (push mower, so not very noisy). It’s going to be hot; I couldn’t sleep; might as well attack some brainless task that needs doing, while it’s cool-ish. But I was (am) pretty brain-dead because I slept terribly last night. Someone across the fence said “Hello, I’m S!” The groggy Dame stared groggily until poor S said, “What’s your name?”

Stilted conversation ensued. She said she hoped they weren’t too obnoxious about the moving vans. I am not sure what I said. They just moved from the city. I said we plan to move soon, ourselves. “Where to?” Further in [direction]. Subtext: don’t waste your time on us, we won’t be here, try the people on your other side, who are more your age anyway. More bright conversation from S, with minimal reaction from me. Maybe she thought she’d met a fellow morning person. I mean, I am a morning person. I just don’t want to talk to anyone before 10:00. Mornings are for being quiet in.

Later, when some caffeine had hit my brain, I realized how very badly I’m coming across to the new neighbors. Maybe I’m setting them up for pleasant relations with the new people, since I’m sure they’ll now be glad to see the last of us.

Better grumpy from the start, I think, than our own experience with the neighbor on the other side. She welcomed us warmly,  with home-baked banana bread, making me think she’d be lovely. Then she spent the next several years calling the town hall to complain about our bird feeders.

Sometime in the next few days or weeks I will no doubt lecture S and/or her husband about bishop’s weed and creeping bellflower. Just to solidify my reputation as the crazy bitch next door.

Slightly brain-dead

Yesterday I turned in my application for promotion, along with a crate (literally) of supporting evidence. Sir John asked a few times why I kept referring to “the crate.” That is what my department calls it; each applicant gets a plastic storage crate in which to assemble paper copies of everything: publications, syllaboi, sample assignments, and so on. It will take at least four months to get through the next stages, possibly longer depending on how many cases the college level has to look at and whether any of them are controversial. The rubber-stamping stages will drag out the process for another six months or so.

But you know my motto: any excuse is a good excuse for champagne. Some members of my writing group accompanied me for a celebratory glass of wine yesterday (the only place open in mid-afternoon didn’t have anything sparkly on the menu). I’ll crack a bottle every time I hear anything. Last night, however, my main celebration involved a novel in the bathtub: Marina Endicott’s The Little Shadows, about three Canadian sisters in vaudeville in the 1910s. It’s divided up into short scenes of 2-3 pages that make it fatally easy to read just a little more . . . and just a little more . . . I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it’s an all-time favorite, but it was fun. I got the recommendation from ClothesInBooks, whose author seems to have similar tastes to mine, both in books and in interest in clothes.

In short, I stayed up far too late and got up at almost my usual time this morning, so I’m a little tired. I plan to do nothing much today (some housework, gym, gardening, more reading). Tomorrow will be time enough to get back to work.

Green stuff, Summer, Projects

Yesterday I graded All The Things and then filed All The Grades. At home I drank sherry, had a bath, and crashed.

Summer started this morning, and despite my protests about being overly married to this house, I started with housewifery. I put out the bags of yard waste from my weekend endeavors, did some more weeding and spraying of bellflower, thought about the way it and the thistles were resisting the Very Nasty Weedkiller recommended by people at the gardening group I attend sporadically, and laughed at them a little more. Clearly they think of gardening as a genteel hobby, whereas the way I do it, it’s more like habitat reclamation. Or terraforming. Some of us just can’t do things the easy way. The clematis, at least, is doing beautifully, and the little volunteer clematis is back with buds on.

I like the thistles, or at least I love the goldfinches who perch on them to eat the seeds; the yellow and purple are beautiful together. If we weren’t trying to move, I’d just let the thistles be. But I don’t think most people want to buy a yard full of thistles.

Anyway, then I did a load of laundry and some ironing, because secretly I like ironing if I don’t have many other more important things to do. My linen will wind up crumpled, of course, because that’s the nature of the beast, but at least it won’t look like it spent the winter in a ball on the bottom of my closet. There are degrees of rumpled.

After lunch I turned to scholarly endeavors for a couple of hours.

I am waiting for a blast of e-mailed temper from my Brother Less Reasonable, since the other one has found an appropriate assisted-living facility to which to move our father. Less has already stated that he is categorically opposed to such a move. But he’s outnumbered. Maybe he’ll realize that that dignified silence might be the better part of valor.

Well, I can hope.

Time for exercise and bill-paying. There will no doubt be TV later. With sherry. Such an exciting (well, satisfying, anyway) life I lead.

Summer!

Not only green stuff, but warmth. Heat, even. It’s true that I have to go to campus twice more, and that I have papers to grade, and will have exams to grade, but we’re so close to the end, and the weather is so nice, that I’m feeling all laid-back and relaxed about it. Working in shorts and sandals doesn’t quite feel like working.

What is all that green stuff?

Fortunately, there is sunlight and something approaching warmth.

Unfortunately, that means the creeping bellflower is coming back.

Fortunately (at least for my back), the returning bellflower is in the graveled bit around the garage where I feel justified in using weedkiller rather than painstakingly digging it out.

Unfortunately, I haven’t even got around to that small task.

Fortunately, I do have this afternoon free, because Sir John is going out (which I had forgotten all about).

Unfortunately, I have lots of worky-work that needs to get done rather soon, and I may be doing that rather than gardening.

Fortunately, I’m still feeling very calm about work.

Unfortunately, I think I might need to feel rather more urgency about it, so that I get on with it instead of blogging and making extra cups of tea and all those other not-working activities.

Fortunately, I probably have good blog-fodder in a series of e-mails between my brothers.

Unfortunately (for any remaining readers) I can’t face going through them to pull out the good bits.

Fortunately for my brothers.

Unfortunately, I think I have run out of excuses.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I have only two more teaching days. Not much prep left, and not even a huge amount of grading, but various other deadlines and ancillary projects (like “buy new laptop”) are now looming large.