Friday, November 18, 2005

Not a drop to drink

LISBF and I met up at my house around 7:45 last night, quickly devouring the 18 piece wings dinner that I brought home from BW-3. Afterward, I offered him a wet wipe. Kind of a joke between us because he doesn't understand why I sit at the coffee table, cleaning my hands with five or six wet wipes when I could just use the sink.

From the kitchen, I heard his voice, with a bit of "uh-oh" in the timbre, "LCN?" He walks quickly to the bathroom, "LCN?" And back into the living room, holding his sticky hands out in front of him ala a surgeon on ER, about to be gloved up ... "There's no water."

We both look down at the pile of used wet naps I've discarded on the coffee table. "Want a wet wipe now?" I ask.

After calling the water department, going next door to verify that their water was flowing like the Amazon, checking to see that the water bill had been placed in the "paid" pile, and calling the water department again ... I really had to pee.

We waited for the water department guy to show up and take care of what he guesstimated would be a clogged meter. When I saw him walking around the house, I ran out to see what was the matter, and whether we should load up and drive out to LISBF's for the night.

I'd been shut off from lack of payment. "But, that's impossible" I stammered "... it's in the 'paid' pile!"

Apparently, there was a flaw in the system.

So first thing this morning, I went down to the municipal building to pay the $23 balance on my account ... and the $37 re-hook-up fee. Which, I think, involves sending someone out to my house to cut the tag off my meter.

A high price to pay for my forgetfulness, but it's worth knowing that I can once again pee freely.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Far Away Places

My mother is the sixth of nine siblings, raised on a mint farm in the Midwest. The farmhouse and some surrounding acreage was sold out of our family about 18 years ago. The current owners are putting it up for auction in December, and last weekend they held an open house. Seven of the nine siblings and several of their assorted offspring, myself included, visited the family homestead for what is likely the last time.

My Grandpa died when I was 8 years old. My memories of the farmhouse are few. I hovered near my mother the entire afternoon, not wanting to miss a single story, flash of recognition or recalled memory.

The house was starting to go downhill when we sold it, and it would appear that the current owners have done nothing in the way to try and make repairs. One wall along the side of the house is so badly rotted from water damage and a tree growing into the house that the windows have broken out, their sashes have bowed and crumpled and the ceiling in the kitchen is caving in.

But it was the same oven. The same cabinets and countertops. The same laminate floor. Even the curved banquette remained, although it had been moved to the sunporch.

A downstairs bathroom in the middle of a remodeling, was missing parts of its floor and all the tile had been stripped from the walls. But the inside of the tub was still painted purple. And the swan decals my grandmother affixed more than 50 years ago were still on the cupboard doors.

A plastic clown switchplate in the room that used to be the nursery still hinted at the circus animal scene on the wall and bigtop stripes painted on the ceiling by my grandmother.

A shred of rubber from an old tire swing, and a rope still tangled high in the trees ... a rusted old boiler ... gouges in the wood hallway from rollerskates ... a nick in the laminate, caused by my mother at the age of 14 (something she confessed to for the first time only Sunday) ... so many remnants still remained.

One of the biggest shockers was discovering Aunt M's player piano in the Piano Room, so dubbed because the room had been home to the baby grand piano, which now sits in Aunt G's living room. When Aunt M asked the realtor about the player, she responded "it came with the house, it goes with the house."

My mother, sister and I were among the last to leave, having been on the property for nearly three hours and leaving a good 15 minutes after the 4p.m. end time of the open house.

Just before we left, Lil' Sis and I followed mom to the Piano Room. She cracked open the cover and began to play.

I recognized the tune as one of many I'd heard her play numerous times as a child, Far Away Places. It wasn't until she'd finished, and turned toward us with tears in her eyes that I understood the significance of her decision to play that particular song.

"There's a line in that song about castles in Spain," she said, turning to my sister. "And you've seen that! You've seen castles in Spain!"

My mother is the sixth of nine siblings, raised on a mint farm in the Midwest. She grew up with a mother who told her she was too ugly and bookish to ever find a husband. She's now one of three siblings to have been married more than 25 years ... the only three of nine not divorced.

How many times did she play that song to save herself? To convince herself that she would one day grow up and move far away from here? To dream of a life of possibility, wonder and happiness? How many times had she played that song in this very room?

My Grandpa died when I was 8 years old. Until Sunday, my memories of the farmhouse were few.

I will not forget the look on my mother's face when she closed up that old player piano and turned toward her two daughters, to give both of our hands a squeeze, before she walked out of the room.