Driving at Last

June 14, 2017

On Monday afternoon I drove Lucy an hour down to Tupper Lake to take her driver’s test.

Lucy is 19 and has not been able to drive. From the age of 15 she was away at school, and during her summers home she has had a demanding schedule of work six days a week plus two ski-training practices a day. This meant my own life has been measured out with coffee spoons as I drove her from place to place four to six times a day.

Last year I put my foot down. I would teach her to drive and we would practice before or after her long days, at either 6:30 AM or 8 PM. We worked at this dutifully all summer — an exercise in patience on both our parts (I gripped the door handle and tried not to scream; Lucy tried not to become infuriated by my gasps). Slowly and surely she improved. Unfortunately we were not aware that road tests had to be scheduled months in advance. Lucy left for college still without her license.

This summer we planned ahead. Lucy made the appointment for her road test in April. June 12th in Tupper Lake was the first available date. However, once she came home we had the problem that I was submerged in the hectic last month of my teaching year and had no time to practice with her. That’s when I had a brainwave: our friend Mike!  He is retired and has plenty of time. He is a basketball coach and has lots of patience. He also has nerves of steel.

They drove for hours.

On Monday Lucy and I went to Tupper Lake for the moment of truth. Naturally I was searching for a DMV. Instead, with additional directions from a helpful policeman, we found a small dirt pull-off at the side of the road near a baseball field.

The tester was clearly not hired for his social skills. When we opened our car doors, he did not greet us or introduce himself, merely barking at Lucy, “Get in the driver’s seat!” They drove off without a further word, leaving me standing at the side of the road.

Fifteen minutes later they were back. Lucy was ashen. Apparently the man had barked at her non-stop for the entire drive. She was certain she was failing. She was further unnerved by being repeatedly called “ma’am.” When at last they parked, the man wrote up a slip on his clipboard and Lucy inquired timidly if she had passed. “Yes, yes,” he said brusquely. In fact she had no points off at all.

On our way home we stopped to give Mike the great news. It was a long time coming, but Lucy’s a driver!

Such Exciting News!

June 13, 2017

Not long ago we received a parcel in the mail addressed to Lucy, DH, and me. There were instructions to wait to open it until we were all together. In the box were these tiny onesies. My son Jon and his wife Amanda are expecting a baby at Christmas! Wheee!

I am very excited. I think I have been preparing to be a grandmother for half my life.

My mind fastens on inessentials. I am ready with the Duplos and the children’s books! And: I’ll have to find out what name Judy (Amanda’s mother) wants to be called. I love “Grandma” but if she wants that one, I’ve known grandmothers called Mama, Gram, Nana, Nanny, Mimi, Yaya, and Tita. Allen teasingly called me Granny, as in Granny Clampett. The name isn’t important to me. What’s important is a healthy baby with that sweet baby smell and toothless smile.

Bring on December! I certainly agree with Melanie in Gone With the Wind: “The happiest days are when babies come!”

Not Your Average Toilet-Return Trip

June 12, 2017

Though I had a million other things to do on a rare sunny day, yesterday I went back to Vermont to return the toilets. Driving onto the ferry to cross Lake Champlain I had a definite sensation of “second verse, same as the first” but I couldn’t stay cranky long. It was blue and breezy, the ferry flag snapped in the warm wind, and sailboats skimmed by.

I reminded myself: how lucky am I to enjoy all this beauty. What a privilege to return toilets! Thank you, God!

At last I arrived at Home Depot, unloaded the heavy boxes, and labored to push them into the store.

The kind people at customer service were startled to see me again so soon, but again could not have been nicer or more cheerfully helpful. Home Depot certainly seems to train its employees well. The return was processed without a hitch.

To recap, I had ordered taller, “chair height” (16.5″ to rim) toilets but clicked on round bowls rather than elongated. The rounds are going back and the elongated are on their way.

Next I drove half an hour further to look at a hutch I had seen on Craigslist. It was listed remarkably cheaply. The woman promised that it was top quality. When I saw it, I realized it was not quite as well-made as she believed, but it was perfectly nice and very inexpensive. (Moving sales as the deadline draws near are a boon to Craigslist scroungers.) With some effort, her son and I managed to take it apart and load it into the truck.

Next I was on my way back to New York via the ferry on the northern end of the lake, to visit Lowe’s for subway tile.

It was very hot and after more than four hours of driving I was starting to flag. I stopped at a gas station for my favorite reward for enduring long days: a cup of coffee and a Hershey bar. Somehow the combination of caffeine, sugar, and fat power me on.

An advantage of having cut off my long hair is that now I can rake my fingers through my damp hair and feel the cooling breeze. Aaahhhhh! A disadvantage is that I do this without thinking, and then pass a plate-glass window and see my hair standing on end like a crazy person.

The people at Lowe’s were not quite as cheerfully helpful as those at Home Depot, but perhaps my hair made them suspicious.

My mission was to buy 1680 white American Olean subway tiles. Somehow I had thought all these would fit in the front seat of the truck. I hadn’t realized that this would be seventeen small but very hefty boxes of 100 tiles. I bought ten and will return for the rest.

Getting through Lowe’s took another hour. Then I stopped to pick up some groceries. By now the lift of my coffee and Hershey bar had worn off. I drove the last hour with thoughts moving… very… very… slowly. I got home at 6 PM.

Lucy informed me that the power had been off all day throughout town. Nevertheless she was busy cooking our supper on the gas stove. I drove down to the farm to do barn chores and returned to a beautiful dinner served on the screened porch: herbed chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and cheese. This was a delicious recipe discovered by Amanda.

Behold the chef!

After supper, in the gathering dusk, she and I settled down to read our books in the living room. Lucy had been babysitting the night before until 1:30 AM. I was knocked out from my long day on the road. As the evening light slowly dimmed, we both nodded off.

At 8:30 PM we roused ourselves to stagger upstairs to bed. The power came back on sometime in the night.

My Glamorous Life

June 11, 2017

Yesterday I spent the day on the road, driving to Vermont to pick up toilets and countertops at Home Depot. I haven’t had much experience with big box stores and when I got the email saying my items had arrived, I set out in my truck, figuring: 2-hour drive, 1/2 hour to load, 2-hour drive home. No problem!

How foolish. For one thing, I had never visited Burlington on a Saturday. I only drive to Vermont for medical appointments, invariably on weekdays. The traffic crawled. When I finally arrived, Home Depot was jammed. My order could not be located. The customer service people couldn’t have been nicer. “Would you like to go out for lunch and then return? I bet we will have found your order by then!”

Go out for lunch?! I tried to be cheerful but I was checking my watch. I was supposed to be home and dressed for a wedding at 3 PM. This is when I call on my father internally. Dad’s gracious Southern manners rarely failed, and certainly not in public or with people attempting to provide a service.

I took a deep breath and smiled.

An hour and a half later, lunch-less, I was back on the road, the truck groaning under my order. The butcher block countertops weighed a ton and in loading them I’d mashed a finger; the fingernail was rapidly turning purple. I had toilet pieces leaning against me in the front seat. As I drove I kept my eye on my watch. Late, late, late! Home at last, I raced into the house, washed my hair (mashed under a baseball cap all day) in the kitchen sink, toweled it dry, and jumped into a dress and shoes.

I arrived twenty minutes before the ceremony. The wedding was beautiful.

This morning I discovered that three weeks ago, I somehow ordered the wrong toilets. I meant to order elongated bowls, and these are round. My mistake — I clearly clicked on the wrong link. Now I have to decide if it is worth returning these toilets and reordering. Part of me says, “You will live with these toilets for the rest of your life. Take the time.” The other part says, “Have you ever noticed the shape of a toilet?”

My preoccupations these days are not glamorous — or perhaps even rational.

House Progress

June 9, 2017

I was so busy in the last week of school I haven’t kept up with the progress in the house. The downstairs flooring is almost finished.

(The compressor is sitting on cardboard and there are furring strips lying next to it; Jason, the floor layer, tacks the strips alongside the last row when he stops for the night, I presume to keep the flooring joints tight.)

From a distance, the floor looks fine. Up close one sees that the boards have a lot of wood putty in them, smoothing the knots. I remind myself over and over that I couldn’t afford prime flooring, it’s better than vinyl, and no one stares at a floor. I felt a bit better when a wealthy friend told me his experience with his expensive cherry floor that was installed improperly, heaving and rippling. Even the best doesn’t always work out.

Meanwhile Nick has rebuilt the master bath shower so that it is framed as I had hoped…

… and the children’s bathtub (Americast “fake” cast iron; so much hand-wringing on this decision!) has been installed. The bathrooms are ready for tiling and I will probably get the plain white subway tile in Vermont on Sunday.

We have had days and days of cold grey skies, wind, and rain, which has meant no work outside. Finally on Wednesday the skies cleared. Here are Nick and his father, Mike, putting up soffits on the rear of the house.

Nick’s girlfriend has been painting the interior after her work. Everyone likes the Benjamin Moore Linen White — it is a warm off-white with a touch of yellow. I think it should be called Jersey Cream.

Wednesday she began painting the kitchen with Weston Flax. Typically, with the first strokes I thought, “How lovely!” and with the second and third I thought, “Oh, no! Too mustard!” I closed my mouth firmly. I have decided that the anxiety of making all the decisions on this house has fried my brain. For now at least, the kitchen will be Weston Flax.

Yesterday I was having breakfast when I got a call at 7:15 AM. A truck was at the farm with my kitchen cabinets. What? Apparently they had neglected to inform anyone of their delivery time. I called Nick and rushed to the farm. I know you will not be surprised to hear that when I saw some of the dented boxes, I worried.

Despite a forecast of rain, it was another blue morning and the men immediately started on the back roof.

In between driving Lucy to workouts and going to a financial meeting, I spent most of the day mowing and weedwhacking. As always it was soothing to impose order on the shaggy landscape.

Clouds rolled in but the rain held off. When I stopped to refill the mower with gas or move the sheep, I would glance up at the men on the rooftop.

It is hard to explain my feeling: this must be magic! So many hours over so many years —mowing, picking rocks, dreaming of a house someday… and there it is!

By the end of the day the last piece of roofing was going up.

The rain began to fall at suppertime.

Free, Free, Free!

June 8, 2017

I have passed in all my reports. Yesterday was my last day of meetings. This morning I am going to write two advisor letters before barn chores, and then I am free and my own boss until August 30!

I am beaming.

This morning I made my Summer To-Do List. It is three pages, double columns. These lists are always fluid because I always add things — I have already thought of a dozen more items and reprinted the pages. Some of the chores are big (paint the barn), others are small (flip the mattress back to pillow-top before leaving this house). All of them are things I don’t want to forget. Now they are neatly catalogued and I can relax… and get to work.


Number 22

June 5, 2017

It rained yesterday afternoon and after a trip to town to buy groceries and veterinary supplies, I finally had time to catch the lamb with the bad leg. He’s eartag 22: Pixie’s son, of this year’s first-born pair of twins.

It is mysterious. He definitely cannot touch the leg to the ground, but he continues to eat eagerly — which is why I didn’t drop everything, despite my crazy schedule, to catch him earlier. However, I could find no break. I don’t have experienced hands but surely I would feel the bone grating against itself or the leg bending in places it shouldn’t. The knee is swollen and warm. My guess is that it is a severe sprain. I sat in the rain with the warm, damp lamb and wished I had x-ray vision.

The spring grass is so juicy and wet that all the sheep have loose stools. Their fleeces are stained with manure, and so, soon, was I.

Still, it was peaceful in the soft rain, with barn swallows and tree swallows swooping over the grass and the sheep surrounding me watchfully. I left the SAM splint and vet wrap in my pocket, and took a deep breath.