I recently wallowed in a solid week of company – people galore! Well. a tiny band at any rate, all duly vaccinated. In the days since then, I’ve drawn on spring, and its white blossomed trees to see me through. But while the crowd lasted, they buoyed my spirits to the brim and over.
This began on Easter Sunday. My contribution to the parade was to don an orange shirt and a tie of orange, gray and silver diagonal stripes.Tim drove me into Chicago where we picked up Ann and headed to my brother’s. To avoid the choked expressways, we took the Outer Drive and reveled in the unaccustomed scenery, not least the shirtless joggers and cyclists. The Drive is surely one of Chicago’s glories. If you’ve come and gone without experiencing its visual pleasures, you haven’t really been here.
At Steve and Johnnie’s, scattered about the driveway in lawn chairs, were my brother, my sister-in-law, and her dad, the three of them luxuriously inert, sun dappled, and nuzzled by an April breeze. We were, all of us, giddy to be together and unmasked again after so long.
I’ve extolled Johnnie’s cooking so often in these pages that I’ll mention only the newest delight, a southern, lemon ice box pie. As to the rest of her holiday table, conjure up the most rapturous Easter meal you’ve ever consumed and sweep it to the floor, china and all. It couldn’t compare. Naturally, as is my wont, I managed to assault my tie with a dab of candied sweet potato.
After the gargantuan feast, we waddled into the parlor and swapped stories for hours. The hands down winner was Johnnie’s sidesplitting true account of a sort of resurrection rabbit. I’m tempted, but it’s best told in person, and it’s hers to tell.Much later than we intended, Tim drove us back to Munster, where Ann stayed with me for several days.
Monday, the weather was still balmy, as Tim and Lois joined us on the gazebo for take out from Tzatziki and an enormous cherry pie. While I’m frequently on the phone with each of this merry crew, the joys of face to face proximity were heady and welcome.
The next three days with Ann were a warm renewal with a soupcon of squabble for spice. After fifty years, if two people haven’t developed the squabble into a benevolent art form, how can they call each other friends? And Ann is that rarest of ideal house guests, amusing, undemanding and appreciative. Her presence is vital and comforting. I’m always sad to see her go, and once she has, the house seems empty.
On Friday, I had lunch with my cousin, Donna, and her daughter, my godchild, Kay, two of my favorite companions. For some reason, Kay seems blind to my faults and finds me more interesting than any two people could possibly be. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Donna, however, has known me since we were tots, and labors under no such delusions. I’m still not complaining.
Luke appeared the following day, brightening the yard and my day with his care and expertise. He’s in the midst of college finals and working for a landscaper. I needed a few things done, but I told him they could wait. He never waits. He always makes time for me. Once, he told me that working in my garden is an escape for him, a bit of therapy when things are closing in. Also, I know he likes me. I like him, enormously. We respect each other over a six decade age gap – and he never turns me down.
He set to work first cleaning Ozzie, the smaller fountain. Then he attacked the skylight windows on the cabana. If that roof had a steeper pitch, a decent rain would clean the skylights, but that didn’t occur to John and me when the cabana was built. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to the contractor either. I was concerned about Luke’s safety and told him to abandon the project if he didn’t like the looks of it when he climbed the ladder. Instead, he hopped onto the roof and scrubbed away.
Next, there was a dead Japanese maple to be dug up. A gentle rain began, and by the time Luke had chopped out the thick roots, his shoes and the knees of his jeans were black with mud. It rather became him – young man of the earth. I had one last task for him. He left his shoes by the back door and came inside.
I’d seen a vase in a catalog which shall go unnamed. I don’t need another vase, but its irregular shape and amber color spoke to me. I shouldn’t have listened. When it arrived, the box was so large and heavy that I had to roll it inside. I cut the box open and found a second one. More cutting and, like a nest of Russian dolls, yet another box. I tipped out my treasure and thought, “My, it’s big!”
I wrestled it onto the coffee table’ It seemed to be swelling before my eyes, a corpulent amber beast, squatting on the table. I tried it here and there about the house, but the only result was a backache. No, it was either buy a bigger house, or send the damned thing back.
To my chagrin, there was no return slip. My chagrin multiplied when I called and was told by a robot, “Customer Service does not handle returns.” Much time and many expletives later, a return slip and shipping label were printed out (by Lois, after I had given up in disgust. She took one look and declared the vase the ugliest thing she’d ever seen. It wasn’t quite that, but this house wasn’t big enough for both of us).
Luke packed up my leviathan and we set off for UPS. But this was Saturday and though we arrived mere minutes after two, a smirky clerk shook his head at us behind a locked door. I left my treasure with Luke, and by now, he has sent it on his way. Perhaps a race of gay giants, hoping to accent their decor . . .?
My house is silent now, but my head still echoes with the happy voices of those who keep me sane.