188. Lace Handkerchiefs and Canned Tuna

I am so tired these days. So is my husband. Our anniversary is a week away, and our mutual present is a new water heater.

We’ve told ourselves stuff like Hey, you can’t put a price on a hot shower. Which is true. And A will use his lung power to make sure we do whatever it takes to ensure that his tsunami level foam baths are hot enough to send him to Sleepsville after. So we are not shirking this water heater replacement, but my God, given how commonplace autism is in New Jersey, I wish people who do this sort of crucial work in our houses were a bit more understanding of how impossible it is to balance high needs, remote learning, working from home, and constant rituals with the HOURS-long window of time the utility company gives us for the workmen to arrive and do the job. I’ll sum up how today went by saying that the water heater guy doesn’t think much of us, but we can’t help it. Oh, and temps are in the tweens tonight, but the faucets are running stone cold. I am reminded of “What Katy Did At School;” in the fictional (I hope!) boarding school, the water in the wash basins would freeze overnight, and the girls would have to crack the ice with their shivering hands to wash their faces in the morning.

This year has been a loo with a toilet that rocks, and that has a broken flush handle, a door that won’t lock, and that has black winged gnats dive bombing you while you’re trying to finish your business AND a Zoom call without letting on what you’re doing. If we cannot make the demands of the utility company align with A’s pandemic-era rituals and routine, we may not have a functioning water heater before the holidays shut us in even more. AND there’s no showering at someone else’s house because COVID.

Since I can’t make any of these things happen faster or be less harrowing, I’m going to segue. I’ve been taking refuge in foodie podcasts, and want to bewail the fact that, in a really old podcast about food, where Adam Gopnik was a guest, I fell violently out of writerly love with him. He was making an argument that in the food world, stating that cultural appropriation is bad is as sinister as saying you don’t care about food sustainability or heirloom varieties of vegetables*. WOT?

Whyte people always say stuff like this about foods (or yoga) from our parts of the world, but then they go ahead and understand very clearly why they cannot call sparkling drinks from any other place Champagne. So really, it’s like the pornography argument–everyone except the legal system seems to know what it is.

I am so disappointed in Gopnik-ji, as my husband and I always referred to him. No more ‘ji.’ He shall henceforth be known in my household as Adam LostMe. You can call it Cancel Culture, or The Empire Writes Back (which is an awesome book on postcolonial literary theory) or whatever you want, I has it towards Adam.

My new favorite podcast, and the hosts are not very prolific, because they are as overwhelmed by pandemic parenting as I am, is called The We Got To Feed Y’All Podcast**. The hosts are two sisters who talk about meal planning. But they talk about a lot of other things too, and their kids demand snacks, and the doorbell rings and it’s the UPS guy, or the chickens get into the house, or they fall apart laughing at how few childhood meals they remember because their mother worked so many hours. I adore them. One time their mom heard them talk about a particular air fryer so much, she ended up buying it for herself, and they were so jealous. It was hilarious. I listened to old episodes while out walking, and had to keep stopping to laugh. I cannot wait for their mom to come on the show and be a guest. I feel like it’s going to be like herding cats, and I keep praying it will happen.

I’m going to mom brag about R. He got his first college acceptance email! He is so sweetly shocked about getting in anywhere that I can’t help wanting to squish him. Why don’t we see in ourselves the treasures other people so often do? I read a couple of his college essays, and they were so damn moving and beautiful, I had tears.

While we wait for the Evil Empire to quit hogging the news cycles, it is heartening to know that vaccines are finally amongst us. I doubt my family will be at the front of the line any time soon, given that we aren’t considered very crucial to society. So pretty much we will be doing more of the same for the next few months. But it’s easier to wait knowing that some shift is possible. While trying not to become numb to the mortality rates, it is also difficult to keep that smile plastered on as I try to make sense of how truly bad things are. Never did I imagine we would have to journey in this much isolation in our lives.

I wonder sometimes what makes my husband and me have to pass through so many cosmic hoops of fire. Were we too content? Too much noses buried in books? Perhaps it was all those teabags my husband kept filching from grad students, replacing them with lousy store brands. Or maybe it was that time I fell asleep during a Swamiji’s pravachan.

You guys know I am mixing the grave with the humorous because I am feeling sad and alone. You know what makes it a little less awful? Seeing how people show up for us. Our neighbors can’t come over and do anything, but we’ve been communicating through smoke signals for months. One of them loaned me a book, and we catch up via texts every few weeks. We exchanged little gifts with a younger family across the street over the summer, and this past week, when R was shoveling snow, the dad came over to help. He understood that my husband was wrangling A, and didn’t try to make sense of what was fair, or why we do things the way we do them. He just helped. I was amazed at how he made mincemeat of that section where the driveway meets the road. You know how sometimes you run the risk of leaving straight lines on either side of the driveway, and the tunnel of snow is really hard to get a car through? I am horrible at that part, but between him and R, they did a beautiful job.

For the water heater replacement, our neighbors are going to have to move their cars out of their own driveway. It’s a long story. Not only did they already do it once, they will be doing it again next week, and they stood outside and cheered my husband and R on while they shoveled the path (theirs) which the workmen will need to use.

It’s the small moments. I miss people. I even miss in-person workouts at the gym. And I deeply miss my spa days. I miss getting a sitter and going out…

Off to have vaccine dreams. I wish you a safe rest of 2020. Don’t do anything infectious, and seriously, if you do, don’t tell me about it. Even though the cosmos deems us resilient enough to keep pointing and laughing at, I ain’t strong, and I don’t have the bandwidth to censor myself. And then we’ll have COVID related friend drama, and we’ll have to spend the aftermath making up. And we don’t even know yet if we’ll be doing that with lace handkerchiefs and Merchant Ivory costumes (because the world regressed so much while we were sequestered), or with tank tops and rippling biceps (because we are now Linda Hamilton and the world looks like someone fried it). With gym equipment being so hard to come by, you’d have to use canned tuna and whatnot (from that doomsday stash you always fail to mention) to do arm exercises. Do you want that risk? STAY HOME.



*Kimball, Christopher, host. “The Baking Revolution.” Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio, Milk Street Radio, 28 Oct. 2016, https://www.177milkstreet.com/radio/the-baking-revolution.


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