Wrap it up

At winter’s approach, the bushes outside the college mental health clinic were swaddled in burlap. My hair was full of static. Inside the buildings, radiators steamed, boots dripped on old wood floors. I dashed by on my way to history in Swift. I thought it was appropriate that the Baldwin shrubs needed this extra measure of care, a little more fragile than the others on campus, like the students who went there for Xanax and counseling.

Clearly someone knew what they were doing. Our campus was an arboretum. To this day, I don’t know if that’s some kind of official designation or just an apposite. My relationship with nature has been one of intermittent appreciation within a general context of oblivion, but now, with a house and a yard and some small winter vegetable plants, I realize that, like car maintenance and having a dog, I am being sucked into a greater and more complex vortex of responsibility. If I am not careful, in a few years, I will list “killing ivy,” as a hobby.

My husband, also raised in an apartment, has gone from hobby to vendetta. Already, he has broken two sets of shears on the ivy vines behind the house. Then he bought an axe to finish the job and he didn’t wear gloves and ended up with a huge and bloody blister. “Did you not feel or see this coming?” I wonder. A question I can only ask him, rhetorically, in the name of rhetoric, on my blog.

For our anniversary, which lies between crystal and china, we have opted for an electric dog fence. This may seem unromantic to some, but we see it as a gift of life for the dog, who has been known to run out into the street, or across the street to eat the neighbor’s cat’s food, and for us will mean warm, dry feet in winter when we can just fling open the door at 5 a.m.

I am excited that I might be getting a Cuisinart for my birthday and am now actively wishing, hinting even, that one of my children will give me a pen with a magnet for the fridge, to go with the magnetic shopping list pad I find so useful. In this same vein of solid middle-aged, quasi-suburbanness, my husband’s birthday gift to himself was a pair of titanium-framed reading glasses. And as a birthday favor to him I went to Wal-Mart for a ladder and applied my visual-spatial skills to fitting it into my very small car; we do not own a truck. Yet.

My children have fantasies about two holidays we have never actually celebrated. One is St. Nutella’s Eve, which we invented after we came to the sad for some realization that Nutella could not be kept in the house. We decreed there could be an annual binge. St. Nutella’s Eve falls on the last night in February. Join us in 2011, won’t you?

The other holiday for which many plans have been made and never executed are cat birthdays. The cats are 14 and 15 and the girls design meat and kibble cakes that remind me of the Big Mac cake recipes in Woman’s Day, which, no, I don’t read, change is not so swift, but where a friend worked for many years and it was a door to another world that he opened to me. Okay, which is more bizarre: creating a Big Mac out of sponge cake and frosting or knitting one?

Fortunately just talking about the cats’ cakes has been enough to satisfy the urge to create one. Somehow, like your child’s 10th lost tooth, the event comes and goes without being appropriately marked.

My husband, were he to blog, might have written about my birthday cake psychosis which manifested itself at the moment when it became necessary to transport the cake to the park or the leisure center or Bramley’s Indoor Playground. Don’t. Touch. The. Cake. After you have spent an hour drawing Spiderman in icing you don’t want the damn thing smeared or lobbed into the cab. If we had had the storage space, I would have had a cake box with a handle, but we didn’t. And now I have the space but the cupcake years are past.

Around here, if you want your child to know you love them, you bring them a fast food meal to their (fill in the blank with a sport) game or just as a packed lunch. The gold standard is Chick-fil-A. It’s a lot easier than icing a cake.

My friend from Woman’s Day used to live in Alabama, briefly, when he was in high school. We were housemates in college. He never mentioned Chick-fil-A, but routinely added things to our communal shopping list: scrubby thing on a stick [dish brush], Lil’ Debbie snack cakes, R.C. cola, Moonpies, heroin, the first being a necessity, the others a sheer flight of fancy, all equally improbable. We drank Tab.

He was one of the few people to have a car and, back then, driving around aimlessly was a pleasure. He had made a cassette tape, which I still have, though I have no cassette player, OMD on one side and Ella Fitzgerald sings Cole Porter on the other, which we listened to driving down to New York during Hurricane Gloria. Because, as Ella sang of Wildcat Kelly, “I can’t stand fences.”

For the dog, and for us, it will be a good thing.

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