Betsy slammed into my apartment absolutely ready to lick the world, or at least to take her exercise to a whole new level. I was still in my pajamas; she wore her new form fitting exercise pants in black with a green stripe down the side. She was definitely poised to win the fashion parade.
Please pay attention, she said.I must eat at 6:15 on the dot, because I have a meeting at seven, and…and….and. I’ll eat anything called food. Follow your bliss.
Jim was at work to save lives for the next twenty-four hours. I said Okay.
Out my back window fat snowflakes plopped down again, eager it seemed, to postpone what was already April 4th, not understanding, because they are snowflakes and don’t understand anything, that you can’t postpone days, months or years. They just arrive and you do the most you can with them. Betsy will pack up her day to the absolute limit, and she and Fiona will still (although Fiona is almost fourteen years old) still read together before sleep, a ritual all agree is a wonderful thing.
As for me, I pack up my day a little, too. For one thing I had to listen for Scott to check my oxygen machine to make sure it would work though the night, when I use it. Another thing I have to do is have lunch with Bunny, who just got back from Florida, something I could add was a dumb idea. I also have to go to my dentist, Dr. Polgar (snorkler, gardener, collector, photographer, multi-talented) who will give me an orientation on my new fluoride machine. I know it is really a solid plastic device intended to keep me busier than I am already, but it gives me a sense of being stuck in a survival assembly line. I can also say that they had to make models of my jaws so that I think it might be green and look like a set of false teeth without the teeth. Beyond all that I must read All’s Well That Ends Well today and prepare a meal to be eaten at exactly 6:15. Let me tell you the menu. It will be butternut soup, bulgar and brown rice pilaf and salmon patties. How it all piles up!
How different it is from my own personal olden days, when it never occured to me to make the most of my time. In particular there is a picture in my mind of four little girls looking a bit grubby, wearing the cotton shorts that had only been available for two or three years at the time. We sat under the apple tree in Alice’s yard with a pile of rhubarb we had just picked in the center of our group. It was very sour and it made us giggle, and we chewed on, because to tell the truth it had a cooling effect on the heat of the June day. Later on we would pick green apples, but they were still too small, and in any case the rhubarb was there to enjoy. I wonder what we were talking about, but probably we worked on developing the story of “House”, a long running serial production where I played the part of Big Sister, the role in my own family demographic that was all-powerful. I never once gave any thought to the idea that anything I did was either productive or useful.
The next generation is not much more noteworthy. It was in the beginning of first grade when the school called to say that Chuck was late every day. We decided to follow him one morning, because the children still walked to school in those careless days, and to see if we couldn’t discover the reason for his tardiness. Sure enough he started out with purposeful strides. He swung his lunch bag, never moved in a straight line, never looked back to see us behind him. And then he squatted rather suddenly, appeared to be motionless, and motionless for a long time. At last, bored by the wait we finally caught up with him and asked what he was doing. Watching ants, he said. Sure enough the aunt hill overflowed the crack in the sidewalk, one trail of ants ran out toward the street and one went to the lawn on the other side of the walk and another moved back to the ant hill. He pointed out an ant carrying a dead friend and another tugging a white crumb. He told us all about ants as he had observed them. How lucky, we said, That you found the ant hill. He was forgiven at school and we all learned something, too. We learmed that sometimes laziness is an active occupation.
Where did everyone go wrong thinking that progress meant purposeful movement. Looks like the ants have been teaching us, but you have to admit that they haven’t built any cathedrals or discovered any oil for energy.