Salt shaker

Tags

Let there be salt!  See this little salt shaker, lined up against the baseboard like a prisoner about to be shot?  He has just been liberated!

On the rare occasions I’ve brought salt to the dinner table I have commented, apologetically, as in, ‘I like salt on corn.  And my blood pressure is incredibly low.  Sometimes the nurse thinks I must be semi-conscious, it’s so low. Anyone else want salt?’  No one ever does.  The children may not even know about sprinkling salt on food–they haven’t seen it happen, save for my rare transgressions.  (Do they even know why they love potato chips?)

Salt has been relegated to a cooking ingredient, abstemiously measured into cookie dough, often presented with a cautionary note in recipes:

Or, the salt is simply not present in a recipe, which calls for unsalted butter, and everything else, from pepper to parsley as flavoring.

Craig Claiborne lists sodium counts for his recipes in The Gourmet Diet Cookbook.  As if sodium were criminal, up there with calories.  What about carbs, huh?

It may be dim and rainy, but today we may have salt again. This is big, right up there with the news that eating fat doesn’t make you fat! Gary Taubes has debunked the always mistaken notion that salt is terrible, and you can read right here that salt is okay.

I wasn’t sure we even owned a salt shaker.  But there, tucked into a cabinet, its life spared because it’s pretty, was a salt shaker.  Cathedral-blue glass encased in silver, with a price tag on its underside: six pounds fifty for the pair.  I must have bought them in a London street market–Portobello Road?  Camden Town?  I’ve wandered both, with enough money to buy a scarf or spoon, or a pair of shakers.  Or maybe someone bought them for me?  I don’t remember, and how odd it is that there are whole swaths of unremembered things.  Maybe I’ll make a list of what I can’t remember.

Meanwhile, welcome back to the world, salt.

Timex watch

Often–and not “often times” because this is redundant and yet people will not stop writing it–when I am sad I think of the old poems about sadness.  “Margaret, are you grieving/Over Goldengrove unleaving?/Leaves like the things of man, you/With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring and Fall”)  Also, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” (Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”)

What if I hadn’t read the old poems all those years ago?  What if they weren’t settled in my mind, their soothing sounds and symmetries?  The happy poems are there, too–“Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs…”  (Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”) What if when I felt sad my only reference was the Kardashians’ latest tragic loss, or Kelly Preston’s secret hell? It is much better to feel sad with the old poems in mind.

My Timex is “Timex for Wal-Mart,” versus “Timex for J. Crew,” which is much more expensive. ‘Expensive’ is an upper-class sort of word, according to Joan Acocella’s sources in “The English Wars,” an essay about the changing English language (The New Yorker, May 14, 2012).  I learned that my vocabulary is upper class because I say curtains instead of drapes, rich instead of wealthy, what instead of pardon.  What?  Apparently if I were a middle-class striver I would say costly instead of expensive, dentures rather than false teeth, expecting instead of pregnant.  Also I learned that I am a prescriptivist rather than a descriptivist in my stance toward the English language.  Descriptivists watch the language morph with interest, as if sitting on a riverbank watching a bunch of trash float by.  Isn’t that interesting, they will say, whereas the prescriptivist would want to clean it up.

A sample of flotsam that might float down the river of a writing class:

Everyday I lay on my bed, and often times or a huge amount of times anyways my mom tells my sister and I we had drank too much.

God, I want to clean that up.

I tried going watchless as an experiment.  It changed my life for the better, and I wrote an essay about it that came very close (nice notes!) but was ultimately rejected by Real Simple.  While the essay may in fact be not good, it can stand as one more item on the evidentiary list of my forest-for-the-trees problem: Real Simple wants you to buy objects, not get rid of them.  Why would I write an essay for them about getting rid of my watch?

I love being in the woods, in thickets, in green dappled light, just the sort of trait that makes wearing a watch necessary for teaching class.  We might wander down digressive paths, into the labyrinth–this reminds me of the Parc del Laberint in Barcelona–

but I stay on the track, with my Timex laid out on the table in front of me.

Recently a student’s essay mentioned that he had synesthesia, especially regarding days and calendar layouts, and though the essay went on to detail various transgressions involving cursing, sex, vodka, joints, and Vicodin, the class fastened on to synesthesia as the essay’s most compelling subject.  You have to love a class like that! (No joy is unalloyed, and in the same class I have received contributions to discussion such as, ‘What? I zoned out’ and ‘I didn’t read the essay for workshop, but I’m sure it’s great.’) Onward.  The class adored synesthesia, is the point.

If only the student could have described how he imagined time.  Was Saturday silver?  Was the year a circle, with December and January at the top, as in old books of hours? My personal Mayan calendar has ended; I just turned fifty, and realized I had no expectations for the next part of my life.  The 20s were for wandering, the 30s for babies, the 40s for keeping it together.  The 50s make me think of middle-aged women in white tennis skirts, some of which were rather broad across.  Their legs were suntanned.  They wore short-sleeved tennis tops in pink or green, white cotton visors.  Their hair was dyed blond, they wore pink lipstick, they drank a gin-and-tonic on summer afternoons at the country club.  They looked like they were having fun, more fun than the young moms in bikinis chasing kids around the pool and trying to look still-sexy.  Yeah, I could do this 50s thing.

My parents had a green stone Mayan calendar that an uncle brought back from Peru. It was so ugly that I looked at it a lot.

It’s easier to find sad poems than happy ones, that’s for sure.  The pretty “Fern Hill” ends like this: “Time held me green and dying/Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”  To live in the poem is to exist in a dappled green light or in a magical dark (“As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away”) so beautiful that the dying part doesn’t matter.

p.s. I’m not actually sad, it’s just that I read this Lorrie Moore story in the May 28th New Yorker that is so sad! Sample quote: “Unlike other women her age (who tended to try too hard, with lurid lingerie and flashing jewelry), she now felt that that sort of effort was ludicrous, and she went out into the world like an Amish woman, or perhaps, even worse, when the unforgiving light of spring hit her face, an Amish man.  If she was going to be old, let her be a full-fledged citizen of the old country! ‘To me, you always look so beautiful,’ Pete no longer said.”  Pete no longer said!  That is just killer.  Bring on the hair coloring, I say, and some Burt’s Bees sparkly lip gloss.

The right shoes

Tags

, ,

The Von Trapps planned ahead, wearing sturdy travel outfits and lace-up shoes for their escape through the Alps.

But what if you had to evacuate and weren’t wearing the right shoes?  What if you wore the loafers-without-socks to work today (you still think it’s cool, though it has been a while since you read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in which the eleven-year-old protagonist envies girls who don’t get blisters), which are fine for the walk from car to desk, but not for escaping.  Or you were wearing the feminine loafers (that evoke the Belgian flats with tiny leather bows that the rich moms wore in Princeton, which make you feel very pulled together even in pajamas) that have no arch support and would fall off your feet if you ran.

And then what if you had to run, and especially with a child, as in the nightmarish scene from The Handmaid’s Tale, in which Offred and her daughter run from pursuers:

I’m running, with her, holding her hand, pulling, dragging her through the bracken, she’s only half awake because of the pill I gave her, so she wouldn’t cry or say anything that would give us away, she doesn’t know where she is. The ground is uneven, rocks, dead branches, the smell of damp earth, old leaves, she can’t run fast enough, by myself I could run faster, I’m a good runner.  Now she’s crying, she’s frightened, I want to carry her but she would be too heavy. I have my hiking boots on and I think, when we reach the water I’ll have to kick them off, will it be too cold, will she be able to swim that far, what about the current, we weren’t expecting this.

(I’m reading the book again, after seeing this handmade sign at an anti-Santorum rally–“The Handmaid’s Tale Is Not A How-To Guide”–and I’m only on page 131 so I can’t tell you exactly who the pursuers are or if they are ever identified.) Shouldn’t we wear sneakers all the time?

If you’re running through the woods and get caught, you could be shot, or in the old days you could turn into a tree, as recounted by Ovid.  Phoebus fell in love with Daphne at first sight, and chased her through the woods, until she was so tired she begged her father, Peneus, to trash her beauty so men would stop staring at her and having their hearts burst into flames, and so:

Her prayer was scarcely ended when a deep langor took hold on her limbs, her soft breast was enclosed in thin bark, her hair grew into leaves, her arms into branches, and her feet that were lately so swift were held fast by sluggish roots, while her face became the treetop.

No mention of shoes.  But she had to become a tree because she couldn’t outrun a guy who imagined himself in-love-at-first-sight and yet still thought the following:

He eyed her hair as it hung carelessly about her neck, and sighed, ‘What if it were properly arranged?’

Like, she’s pretty, but if she would just fix her hair…I forgot Ovid was so funny.

Truly I have not been chased through the woods except by fellow children, and I’ve never had to evacuate for fire or flood or war.

There was the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, and I have no idea what shoes I was wearing when I ran into the street. Same story with a 1984 train accident–I may have walked that mile on gravel barefoot for all I remember. Maybe the truth is, when things are dire you don’t care about shoes or sunglasses or umbrellas, and you’d really like to think that come what may, it wouldn’t be so bad as to make shoes irrelevant.

Because for me on a rough day, all I need is my old red supermom shoes:

Husband calls them ugly (okay, all he said was, Thank god you bought them in blue this time).

Dresser

Tags

, ,

I was lying on oldest child’s bed, contemplating cleaning her room, when I noticed how nice the dresser looked, in its new shade of deep purple.

The top of the dresser can’t be shown because it’s cluttered with stuff (such as a plant that looks like a dried sea urchin but is apparently not dead and will never die), and the righthand side can’t be shown because of the filthy guinea pig cage parked in front.  Lately I’ve been studying procrastination, so I thought about that a while as I lay back on the pile of pillows and messy quilts and shopping bags and magazine subscription cards and playbills and towels. It was such a comfortable nest that I didn’t feel like moving.

Apparently procrastination often happens with large or long-term projects, whereas taking care of small, urgent matters gives one a sense of accomplishment.  That’s why we answer emails but neglect the essay we told ourselves we would write about Updike, pornography, and Connecticut.  (Yes, I am using ‘we’ so that I don’t feel so alone in my flaws.)  Indeed I made myself get up to free poor Minnie from her matted bedding–she was the urgent, in-my-face, squeaking problem that took less than ten minutes to solve. I filled her cage with fluffy pine shavings and timothy hay.  The room as a whole would have to be considered.  I had already removed various drinking glasses.  Which category would come next?  Trash on the floor? Laundry?  Or should I attack it spatially, excavating various areas, like the chair in the corner draped with a great textural variety of wovens and plastics.

The article on procrastination suggested rewarding yourself after achieving an incremental goal in a big project. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/jobs/procrastinating-at-work-maybe-youre-overwhelmed.html Maybe I would eat one of the delicious lemon bars oldest child had made after I finished thinking about procrastination. Perfectionism causes procrastination, too–the room will never be perfect, the essay will never live up to its conception, so why not file the bills, or read some grant proposals?

Not that I mind cleaning.  Recently a colleague and I came up with a simple question to determine if you’re an extrovert or introvert: Would you rather be a housekeeper or waitress?  Housekeeper.  It was a lot easier than the 80-question personality test that informed me that I was an introvert.  Surprisingly, when I posed this question to fifteen college students, almost all of them answered ‘waitress.’  They’re studying writing, so I expected that I was dealing with a mob of people who loved sitting in quiet corners reading poems.  Suddenly I felt that I had presumed.

The room could also be cleaned from the top down, the method Barbara Ehrenreich learned when she worked for a cleaning service, as she wrote in her excellent book Nickel and Dimed. http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/nickelanddimed.htm Cobwebs first, then the mirror.  It bears thinking about.

Nail polish

Tags

, ,

Oldest child is home for break! There is nail polish on the living room windowsill, and an injection kit on the counter.  There are protein bars in the bread drawer, wet towels draped everywhere, and lights on until 6 a.m.  What is she doing at this hour, while the rest of us are having our last weird dreams before the alarm beeps?  She is calling out Ann Romney, it turns out, for claiming to have beaten an incurable disease, at http://mslifeisbestlife.com/2012/03/20/a-little-political/.  And really, if Ann Romney has cured MS, I would love to know!  In the meantime, since oldest child is home and we love shopping at CVS, I’ll have to be satisfied with knowing that hair mascara sort of works (just don’t touch the top of my head, which is sticky), and white eyeshadow makes you look more awake.  Back to contemplating the eternal mysteries…

Post-its

Tags

, , , , , ,

I’m having an existential crisis.  I read http://mslifeisbestlife.com/ “The Existential Blog Crisis” and then clicked on the link even though the blog said NOT TO (“round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words `DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters,” Alice in Wonderland, chapter 1). Now I am left clutching at post-its. The wiki on the subject of existential crisis told me to drink plain filtered water.

After I write this I’m going to rearrange it so the sentences are in reverse order.  Then it will make more sense, because I think backwards.  Jorie Graham once did this to a poem of mine.  She sat down at her typewriter (imagine, a typewriter) and typed out my poem with the last line first, and so on.  She ripped the new poem from the roller and handed it to me triumphantly.  “See?” she said.  “Much better.”  It was better.  It was a poem about an existential crisis, set in Belgium.  The poem involved beer, and herring, and a man, of course.  I was really young then.  I don’t drink beer anymore, too bloating.  Jorie Graham once told me I should wear red lipstick.  The man who would become her third husband once said to me, “Can’t you take one more French class?”

The voices in my head, I wish they would stop.  “These people who think they are something, they really are not.”  That’s in my head, too, the first sentence of husband’s gorgeous novella Welcome to Arcadia.  It’s not published.  The secret society of its few readers carry its rhythms around.

On a post-it, I made a to-do list to deal with the crisis.

Note: if my kids were younger, I couldn’t bask in existential crisis because I would be changing, feeding, and carrying about a baby (Is there anything better?  Yesterday I saw many babies being carried about at a wrestling tournament, their big heavy heads being cradled so carefully–oh and then the kids in the tournament were so beautiful, too, even if it was apparent that they wouldn’t all be beautiful when they got older, they looked elastic and glowing and purely themselves, without the labored machinations of adult fashion and hairstyle choices, the acquired bellies and attitudes), or I’d be involved in the deep-psychology gymnastics of toddlerhood.  But youngest child is eight now, so in between Stratego and the playground my brain is free to chatter and spin like a stupid washing machine.

The to-do list.  Each entry can be only one word, meant to invoke a whole host of associations: gym, xanax, ironing, tea, poetry, sheets, laundry, dishes, music, garbage, emails, valentines, candidate, superbowl.  It has to fit on a post-it. The list will cure me. Each item will spring open like a magic box, a girl’s jewelry box with its twirling pop-up ballerina, or one of Barcelona’s treasure caves, a tiny spice market or tapas bar revealed with the raising of a metal door.

‘Write blog post’ was not on the to-do list.  Recently a colleague said, ‘Blogs are for people who should think harder before they start writing.’  Screw that, eh?  If blogs have become marginalized and degraded and generally sneered at, then I’ll write all the more.

Nicholson Baker would appreciate the sensuality of a sheet of paper being rolled into a typewriter, and pulled out fast, with a flat screamish sound.  Has he written about gum, I wonder.  The choosing and unwrapping, the way Trident lines up its hard little gum soldiers in a papery row, while 5 foil-wraps its tall soft sticks in a sexy fanned-out array.  Would he favor chewing gum only in private, or in certain public places like the supermarket and bank, but not at a meeting?  What would he say about the woman chewing gum in my yoga class?  Is all of his writing about existential crisis?

In CVS last week I consulted my shopping list, on a post-it stuck to my wallet.  The woman in front of me did the same–she had three small post-its stuck to her wallet, their corners curling.  Soon they might fall off.  Someone should invent something to solve this problem of post-its falling off of wallets, I thought.  But maybe the post-its are the invention, the list that can be disposed of when the work is done.  The lists that might be lost, causing serendipitous liberation.

Two men invented the post-it note, chemist Spencer Silver and product developer Art Fry.  In telling the creation story of the post-it, Spencer Silver says, “Adhesives are very different to glue. I am sensitive about the word glue.” Typical of such stories, the men recount their eureka moment in 1974 and the trials that followed–it wasn’t until the good people of Boise, Idaho enthused about their free sample post-its that the product was launched successfully, circa 1980.  I love that Art Fry is sensitive about the word glue.

This is the beginning of a communique written by youngest child on post-its, in installments that appeared over a period of twenty minutes.

 Blame the following scatological content on cookies that oldest child baked for youngest child to take into school.  Composed of pastel swirls of sugar dough, the cookies are called Unicorn Poop.  Big hit with third graders!

The truth will out.  I think I just have a sore throat.

Sparkly earrings

I drank leftover coffee the other day, reheated in the microwave.  The frothed milk had gone flat.  It’s plainly sad to reheat coffee, among other sadnesses.

Joan Didion is getting old, too many Americans are worried about their round bellies (Why must we have round bellies if they are so terrible?  Why must we spend time/effort/thinking on the attainment of a taut hammock from hipbone to hipbone?), and oldest child has gone off to college again, leaving me with boys whose chief preoccupations are farting and wrestling. It is drear.

If the boys aren’t actively farting and announcing the fact, they are threatening to fart, commenting on the dogs’ farts, and even writing comics about it:

(Copyright: youngest child.) The OED says of fart, both as noun and verb, “Not now in decent use.”  I’ll say.  Fart does have a long literary history, appearing in 1386 in The Canterbury Tales, and then in Ben Jonson’s 1610 play, “The Alchemist,” the second line of which is, “I fart at thee.”  My boys are of the Jacobean era, clearly.

They wrestle on the couch and the floor, and it ends in tears and howls and me saying stern things like:

“If you don’t behave I’ll make you watch ‘Downton Abbey,” and

“If we have to go to the ER, you are paying the fifty bucks, mister,” and

“Your brother has only one set of testicles!”

None of these has any effect.  I love that wrestling tournaments come with referees.

I will wear my sparkly earrings until the situation improves.  I mean, there’s plenty to be happy about, like quesadillas and sledding.  The problem is that beloved oldest child has gone. “You left me here with them!” I say to her.  I love sitting at the kitchen table with oldest child while she laughs at my innocent questions (What is a hashtag?  What is SOPA?), or we study pie recipes or nail polish colors, or I stab her in the arm (just kidding, #jk, Copaxone joke!), or we decide to go thrift-shopping or make a giant salad or discuss all of the characters in “Melancholia” or The Marriage Plot.  It’s a long time until spring break.

I love my boys, too.  Even though, or in spite of, or maybe a little bit because, they like to fart, then say, “You’re welcome.”

p.s. A friend called me chicken for covering my face in a recent mother-daughter blog post, so here is my face:

Chocolate cream pie

Tags

, , , ,

How to Write a Marketable Book

A Mother-Daughter Blog Post!

Based on our research of actual book titles, we’ve got the formula: towering intellectual figure + everyday object.

Thoreau’s Laundry, Flaubert’s Parrot, Heidegger’s Glasses, Wittgenstein’s Poker ,Beethoven’s Hair. Easy, right? Ideally the object should be one the Intellectual Figure handles every day, to enhance intimacy and mystery (the mystery of, Why the fuck would anyone write about this?). Writing the book is not really the problem, it’s the title.

So to make it easier on you, the writer-to-be, we’ve created a list: Darwin’s Ladle, Asimov’s Spatula, Sartre’s Springform Pan, Kant’s Whisk, Nietzsche’s Coffee Mug, Picasso’s Toothbrush, Van Gogh’s Multivitamins, Monet’s Smartwool Socks, Hume’s Waxed Floss, Gaudi’s Q-tip, Beckett’s Fingernail Clippers, Freud’s iPad, Shakespeare’s Doorknob, Joan of Arc’s Digital Camera, Queen Elizabeth’s Wireless Mouse, Tolstoy’s Brita Pitcher.

Historical inaccuracy? Why not speculate on what Joan would have photographed if she could have! A hipster self-portrait of herself being burned to death after which she tossed the camera away from the fire… Anyway, remember to add hypersexuality, insanity, and death, plus creamed herring for breakfast or whatever weird thing your Intellectual Figure tucks into his or her mouth. We all have mouths, so we want to know this stuff. Add odd habits, such as walking by the clocktower every day at noon, or always washing the left underarm first, or roasting roadkill to save money. Or building teepees out of sticks and calling them magic caves as the apocalypse arrives (apologies to Von Trier–but we would rather roll up in blankets in a closet and suck down some liquor than sit on an exposed hillside without even a sweater if the world was going to end–though the teepee was more picturesque, we grant).

Whoa–pie break. Miss Spinal Tapped made a chocolate cream pie last night, in a successful effort to get her father to eat carbs. He ate carbs! Unalloyed culinary triumph! Now we must have some pie. Anyway, here’s the end of our first mother-daughter-blog-stravaganza, look out for more in the future!

Love, Kathryn & Cade

Magnets

Tags

, ,

My husband and I are switching roles:  I’ll be the professor this semester and he’ll be the on-call parent.  He asked for magnets and an order pad, to track dinner requests, so I lined up some of our magnets.

I’ve been the on-call parent since August.  My workday starts at 8:15 and ends at 2:30, or  else it doesn’t if someone has scarlet fever, or the dog needs a Prozac refill, or we have a laundry detergent or liquor emergency, or a tree fell on the house, or youngest child wants me to make Chinese dumplings and appear at school for international day, or the car needs to be inspected, or someone in Connecticut needs help.  (At which point I call the Middletown Inn, really a very nice place despite husband’s blazing mad reviews on Trip Advisor. He has a temper.  Tip: if you are calling our house to ask for money and a man answers, hang up immediately!)  I have practiced getting in the zone, which resembled the days of following a toddler around the house.  Oh, you want to play with the toilet brush?  Well, then, I’ll just wipe out the sink.  Oh, I’m going to Amtrak instead of the office?  Extra underwear and let’s go.

Every household should have the luxury of an on-call parent, a.k.a. wife or personal assistant.  The gender doesn’t matter.  Usually you just have to keep everyone fed and watered, and sign a lot of papers for school.  Husband has never worked in a restaurant, so I’m somewhat concerned.  He wants to open a wine bar, but that’s because he never had a nightmare featuring restaurant customers as open-mouthed pigs, he never had to read Kant and roll silverware at the same time, and he never felt sweat pouring down his sides under a tightly buttoned waiter shirt as he frantically scooped vanilla for seven hot fudge sundaes. (You think someone else makes the sundaes back there?) 

Speaking of Kant, oldest child and I saw a novel at the library today, Heidegger’s Glasses, and it struck us funny.  Not as funny as when we both became hysterical in the YWCA locker room years ago as we contemplated the bathroom stall manufacturer logo: Hiny-Hiders.  You know, we’re more mature now.  We thought we too could write a novel with a marketable title, and we set to thinking.  More on that later in a special mother-daughter blog post.

It was sobering to be in a library full of books, many of which looked awful (example: When Elves Attack, a novel), and be unable to publish a book myself.  These books roll of the presses like candy bars, and I must be a super-loser if I can’t slip my essay collection into the assembly line. Pathetic.  And I bore myself besides.  I would rather cook a pot of peas than think one more thought, you know?

Speaking of peas, I am undaunted by cooking for five people who each have at least one of the following needs: low-carb, pescatarian, lactose intolderant, must include a star ingredient (shrimp, cilantro, blue cheese, etc.), only eats chicken, is eight years old.  Actually it is absurd, so I play loud music and pretend I’m a particular ‘Nam vet line cook from Baltimore who couldn’t organize a sentence but could slam down plate after plate.  In the zone.

Why do I collect magnets?  According to wikipedia it is a “popular hobby” and I love to feel popular and normal.  Also magnets are “cheap touristic souvenirs.”  According to Russian collectors who are trying to promote a name for us, the conventional collectors of cheap souvenirs, I am a memomagnetist.  The memomagnetist with the largest collection in the world is Louise J. Greenfarb also known as The Magnet Lady.  She lives in Henderson, Nevada, and had 19,300 magnets in 1997.  Louise J. Greenfarb.  Some names are so perfect they don’t even seem real.

Sun and Moon

The last time I read Graham Greene, it was Our Man in Havana, in 2003, in Key West.  Pregnant with Three, I thought, This is the last time I’ll be able to sit by a pool reading a novel for the next seven years.  And so it came to pass.  Luckily it was a good novel, and so is The End of the Affair.  Clarity first, the fancy stuff later, Frank Conroy always counseled, and Greene is a consummate model of clarity:

I looked at Henry’s chief.  He was a man called Dunstan. He had a broken nose and his battered face looked like a potter’s error–a rejected-for-export face.

I keep writing about metal objects when I should switch to pottery or yarn or moss.  Ah, but then the forbidden compels. Sun and Moon is painted tinware, bought in Key West, along with shells, and breakfast among roosters, a walk to Elizabeth Bishop’s house, the sight of Hemingway’s typewriter, flip-flops and Cuban sandwiches.  We have also bought tinware in Austin and St. Paul de Vence, and it reminds me of the ability to travel.

The sun and moon appear incurably unhappy, though they were the sunniest ones in that bungalow souvenir shop.  Maybe we should look elsewhere, I thought, at other bungalow souvenir shops, but one doesn’t want to spend excessive time on souvenir hunting, which should occur lightly and serendipitously, not deliberately and laboriously.  Especially with One and Two sighing and picking up the breakables and complaining of thirst.  I picked the happiest one.  Husband Moon is formidably disapproving, and Mother Sun is vexed. Somehow this reminds me of Husband once telling me I should keep my hair gray as evidence of all that we had endured.  Hysterical. I refuse.

Bright colors give Sun and Moon an air of happiness, and I contemplated its painter, and whether he or she was trying to trick us, the blues and reds distracting from the essence of the piece.  Was it a message that the sun and moon are unsmiling gods?  (After watching “Melancholia,” the sight of the daylit coin of moon is frightening.) In any case, appearances are important and can even cause internal change–just as my supermom outfit makes me feel, truly feel, that I can do four loads of laundry today, fill in the holes dug by blond-fluffy-dog (oh he is lucky to appear cute) that may kill my new roses, run by the post office, clean the cat litter, empty the dishwasher, and cook dinner while running a little domestic hospital for boy-with-a-splint and boy-with-a-cold.  French toast, anyone?  The best French toast can be found in Key West, with chickens pecking in the dirt, jacaranda branches above, hot coffee with chicory.  The world is full of such seductions–

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

That’s the end of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by Eliot, which I saw scratched into the paint of a bathroom stall door circa 1984 in the women’s room in Gilmore Hall at Johns Hopkins University.  Which is exactly why I went to a good college: high-quality graffiti. Oldest child wants to memorize the whole of “Prufrock,” and when she returns from Seattle I look forward to making a pageant of it, with mnemonic hand gestures.