Saturday, February 20, 2010


Mid-February and the sky is filled with snow. Ken is making buttermilk biscuits and bacon, Tim is playing Call of Duty on the downstairs TV. I'm in bed with tea and a laptop, wearing SmartWool socks and some flannels. I can see why we give in to the urge to shut in. I remember someone in a writing workshop, where we were talking about settings in novels, saying,"What's wrong with the domestic life?" Be all that you can be right here in the slatted light of your bedroom with tea and laptop and biscuits and bacon on the way. Yeah, my fortune would have me as one of those 500-pound shut-ins who have to be forklifted out of the room. Especially with my husband in the kitchen. (The man knows no cholesterol boundaries.)

Here's what I like to do lately: come back to bed with my chai, open up the NY Times on my computer, and click through all the slide shows in the Real Estate section. Today I was richly rewarded with the whimsical and inspiring story of the West Village woman who makes her living in food and runs the TreatsTruck streetside vending company ("Not too fancy, always delicious"). How lovely--her apartment a perfect collection of all that is meaningful to her: pastel vintage aprons, cookbooks interspersed with jars of FLUFFY for color, handmade vanity in red shellac.

(; NYT photo by Mike Appelton)

My son and I met in the living room for a quick morning chat. I can see he is settling in for a domestic day himself. Hockey is over for the season; he can put away his gear for awhile. I noticed we both had greasy hair and bed-mussed houseclothes. He said he was hungry and I said he should ask his dad to make breakfast. Tim shouted to Ken, "Mom and I would like to request breakfast." And then, "And Mom and I would like biscuits. With gravy." And finally, "And bacon." And then he looked at me with a conspiratorial eye as if to say, "I got you covered."

We're going to write letters today, motivated in part by Tim's late Christmas thank-yous. I haven't connected with my mother-in-law in over a month and I know how much she likes getting mail. Tim has a list: Grandma McClanahan, Grandma and Papa, Aunt Pat, Aunt Sue and Uncle Larry, Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike, Aunt Katrina and Uncle Ed, Owen. I woke in a start last night (my room is cold and I had that post-martini jolt that always hits me after a night of cocktails) and I read for awhile but then, as middle-of-the-night-minds are wont to do, I obsessed. I blocked thoughts of work but fell into a worry-bead pattern of family concern. Who will I call first if something happened to Ken? What is the name of my father's heart doctor? How will we know if Ed and Katrina capsize their boat down on the Mississippi? What is our emergency plan? I was determined, at 4:30 a.m., to come up with an emergency plan for EVERYONE.

I'm sure my mind was reacting to back-to-back outings with Cheryl, Will Powers's widow. She is coming up on the six-month mark without Will. WE are coming up on the six-month mark without Will. She is articulate and sensitive in revealing only a fraction of what her life has been like without the love of her life. One of her stories stayed with me. She described how she and Will would have Friday Nights. Friday Nights they aimed to do nothing outside the home. After a long week of work and obligations their goal was to meet at home, settle in with martinis or some other libation (it was okay if they had one, or okay if they had two, they weren't driving anywhere). They'd make dinner together and set the table (always with a bottle of wine) and then, just before sitting down, Cheryl would turn off all the lights so that their meal was centered by the glow of the table candles. And she described it was like the darkness enveloped them and let everything else fall away. And then they'd just talk and talk until sleep.

In seeking out book titles yesterday I came across the phrase, "Home is the new normal." I tend to avoid phrases like that but in this mid-winter, I can feel the pull: "There is no place like home."