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Cleaning my World

The first shade of green lawn always looks the freshest. It’s almost unreal and I like walking around barefooted in the morning outside the back door while the sun greets the day. The smoke from my cigarette rises in bright white swirls in the cool air. It’s my alone time, pre-morning chaos. Soon everyone will be up wanting something. Coffee for Steve, breakfast for everyone, lunches for later. Last minute requests are suddenly urgent – papers that need to be signed, clothing that doesn’t fit right, lost ball caps. I am useful in the morning.

Just as quickly, everyone is off with a quick kiss and my work day begins. Spring means extra work with windows, doors, walls, and everything that needs a thorough cleaning. Clothes need to be changed out for warmer weather and shopping lists need to be created for summer clothing. I love my job. Caring for others is very gratifying. But sometimes, I dream of more. I know more is dangerous for some people, but just a little more at a time would be helpful.

Since Edie shared her writing secret with me, I have had a nagging feeling about my sporadic journaling. Sharing my rambling thoughts on my little world is much smaller than what Edie has created. She managed to develop a whole world. Maybe that’s the key. If you make it up, it can be as big as you dream.

Edie and I had a nice talk after she showed me her office. Artie thought the writing was okay as long as Edie didn’t spend a lot of time doing it while he was home. I was a little jealous of her and told her so but she reminded me about her lack of babies to care for and I understood better. We all judge each other’s lives against are own. But no one ever will agree to swap lives. We hold on to our own little issues because they belong to us. Maybe I could spend a few minutes today writing these thoughts down. I don’t want to forget them since they might be the secret to more ideas. But first, it’s time to tackle the baseboards!

Roman Lemonade

Edie and I had not talked about whether she wanted the other girls to know about her writing, so I didn’t bring it up at the next card game. We were at Judy Anne’s and her theme was daffodils. I had no idea what that meant but I knew that she had beds of the most yellow daffodils springing up around the two trees on her front lawn. I didn’t really own any yellow tops so I opted for a light turquoise dress. As it turned out, nobody except Judy Anne was wearing yellow, so I didn’t stand out too badly.

As usual, her table was gorgeous. Judy Anne could teach a class in how to dress a table. She always manages to make it look formal but fun, balancing her well-made sweets on cake stands. She had quite a collection. I always feel like I should wear white gloves when I visit her house.

A crystal punch bowl was set up at the end of the table with delicate glass cups. Judy Anne described her punch as Lemonade with a kick. It sounded delicious and was addictive. She had frozen a ring of fruit in a mold and floated it in the bowl. While we played cards, there was little small talk or gossip. The more competitive of our group had made that a rule long ago. As the afternoon wore on and we sampled more Lemonade, the talk increased. The last hand or two definitely saw a drop off in interest.

The last part of every card party ended up with all of us nibbling off small plates and sitting around the living room. It was a transition back to our real jobs.

Edie had picked up a book that was laying on the coffee table. She was skimming an page on Ancient Rome. Judy Anne was enjoying the pleasant feeling of a well-thrown card party (and multiple glasses of lemonade) and started to kid Edie about the boring book she had found. Judy Anne laughed and confessed that she had bought it just for looks and had never even cracked it open. I realized that Edie was probably doing research for her new book and when she looked up and saw me looking back at her, I smiled. Edie smiled back and asked Judy Anne if she could borrow the book, letting her know Artie was very interested in Roman mythology. Judy Anne laughed again and agreed.

I wasn’t sure about what to think of Edie’s behavior. It was her secret to keep and not mine to share. I’ve kept secrets before and have a few of my own also so I think I’ll let her reveal her alter ego if and when she is ready.

Only the Lonely

My days are pretty busy. Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is grocery shopping, and the rest of the week involves all the other tasks of housekeeping. Every other Wednesday was a card party day and I did manage to squeeze in a few calls to my squad during the week; some days I barely had time to sit down with a cocktail by 3 in the afternoon. I wondered about Edie’s days and how she spent them. There couldn’t be much work for just two adults and Artie was away flying a couple of times every week. I would have shopped more or even visited museums with my extra time if I were Edie, but she didn’t seem to leave her home very much.

I know she reads because there is a big stack of books from the library on her side table in the living room. Her home is exquisitely clean but she never mentioned baking too much. A regular round of sweets would ruin her terrific figure anyway. Edie was a little mysterious; not as mysterious as Zettie Louise, but still, I was hoping that she wasn’t suffering from the curse of the suburbs – loneliness.

Yesterday, I baked a batch of Lemon Ricotta Muffins and placed four into a cute little basket with a brand new tea towel. I scoped out Edie’s house off and on all morning and didn’t see the car move, so after lunch I walked down with my basket of goodies. After answering the door, she invited me in and I told her that I should have called first to see if she was busy, but she waved a hand and told me to come on in. We sat at her all white kitchen banquette, sliding into opposite sides. I presented my muffins and Edie gratefully thanked me and offered to make some coffee. Her gleaming percolator was already set to go on the stove. Wow, I would have had to dig the grounds out of the top and pour out the old coffee for a new batch. It must be great to be always company-ready. We made small talk while the coffee perked. I didn’t really want to beat around the bush for my information, so I took a deep breath and blurted out my question about what Edie did all day. She was momentarily shocked by my question but regained her composure. Edie quietly got up and silently returned to the task of getting our coffee ready. She filled the creamer and placed the sugar bowl next to it on the table. She poured coffee into a porcelain cup and placed it quietly in front of me. The saucer held a dainty spoon. I could live like this. My mug of coffee at home usually got a splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar but sometimes the teaspoon was from an old set of cutlery that might not match the everyday set. I silently fixed my coffee while trying to figure out if I should apologize for the question. Edie looked thoughtful as she fixed her cup, sat down across from me, smoothed down her skirt and said “Well.” I told her that I didn’t mean to insult her and she motioned for me to wait. We stirred and sipped for a few minutes. I could tell she was thinking about something important.

Edie rose and asked me to join her. We left our cups and I followed her into a small sunroom off the back of the house. It was bright and warm with peach walls and filled with white shelving and furniture. There were a couple of shelves of paperback novels on the bottom of one of the units that seemed out of place, but I wasn’t concentrating on the titles. Edie had redecorated the sunroom as a ladies office. It was dainty and beautiful. On the little desk was a typewriter and a stack of paper, a pile of typewritten pages and some large envelopes. I looked at Edie.

She reached over and handed me the first few typewritten pages of a manuscript. The name of the book was Virtuous Venus and the author’s name was R.L. Newquest. I read the first three paragraphs and realized that it was a dime store romance novel. I looked at Edie and asked her if she was typing someone’s books for them. She smiled slyly and answered that they were her books. It took me a moment but I smiled and then laughed with surprised. Edie laughed too. Mystery solved. Edie was a romance writer in hiding!

A Farmer’s Life for Me

Steve often told the kids stories about visiting his uncle’s farm in the summers of his youth. There were tales about hard work, getting up at dawn and great meals prepared by his aunt.

Stevie’s teacher asked for volunteers for their class trip to the farm and Steve thought it would be a great chance for the “men” to bond. Knowing that farms generally are muddy in the Spring, have fragrant undomesticated animals and work left me out, but I knew that tromping through the muck, semi-milking cows and laughing at livestock was considered great fun for young boys.

On the morning of the trip, the guys dressed in boots and jeans based on the previous two days of thunderstorms. I made sure that they had a hearty farmhand breakfast to send them off and Steve drove over to the bus lot with Junior. Daisy was a little teary-eyed that she couldn’t go but I whispered in her ear about the possibility of a trip to the pharmacy after school for ice cream. She smiled knowingly and drank her juice.

When Daisy and I came home from our treat, I was greeted by a giant pile of muddy pants, shirts and boots at the back door. Steve and Junior must have stripped down to their skivvies when they came home. Daisy went to her room to play and I followed the giggling I heard coming from the bathroom. Steve had little Stevie in the shower. A smaller pile of underwear lay on the floor. They didn’t hear me at the door so I left them to their work to start dinner.

Over pork chops and mashed potatoes, Stevie regaled us with tales from the trip. They went on a hay ride, milked cows, ran with goats and managed to get as dirty as possible. I silently wondered what the clothes of the little girls in the class looked like. Was it possible boys deliberately tried to get as dirty as possible? I threw the farm clothes into a separate wicker basket to try and wash in the morning.

Junior fell asleep easily and after tucking in Daisy, I checked on Steve. Apparently, farm life was tiring. I found Steve sitting up sound asleep in his chair in the den. I guess those tales about working on the farm pertained to visiting them also. I gently lifted Steve’s drink glass from his hand and encouraged him to go to bed. “Sun up” would be here soon enough and he needed to go back to work in the morning.

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of my Hat

Brunch at the club; such a treat. The children sit up straight and keep their napkins mostly on their laps while eating. Steve looks extra handsome in his good blue suit and my coral pumps are delicious looking.

When a past debacle at the club resulted in no more chicks on site, this year there were bunnies. In the main room, there were cages with a bunny wrangler. Daisy was in heaven. She had to stop at every cage, pet every bunny, rename them, and then lecture us on what she learned. Daisy has a great memory and big eyes that melt your heart when she looks up at you. We stopped at the little girls room to clean up and met the guys at our reserved table in the dining room. Harold and Mags sat with us and Harold asked Junior serious questions about his math skills in anticipation of getting his next job at the bank. Stevie giggled and told us he was going to do odd jobs for Zettie Louise forever.

It smelled so good I immediately regretted not dieting all week in anticipation of eating more than usual. The buffet was full of everything you could desire and the desserts went on and on. I wasn’t sure that I would have room for them, but planned to just get a bite or two of each main course choice and side and save at least room for a nibble.

While we ate, a magician roamed the room pulling quarters from unsuspecting ears. When he arrived at our table, he bent low and spoke to Daisy. She nodded and smiled. The magician pulled out her chair and took her hand to help her stand. Everyone in the area stopped eating while he performed a couple of funny card tricks with her. After that, he took off his top hat and had Daisy hold it with her eyes closed. The hat was upside down and the brim was right next to her face. The magician counted to three and a pair of eyes peeked out of the hat, followed by some big eyes and a twitching nose. The rabbit laid its nose opposite Daisy’s and his whiskers caused her to open her eyes and stare right into the face of a rather large bunny.

It would have frightened me but Daisy giggled as the bunny continued to stare into her eyes. Good bunny. Everyone clapped and the magician pulled the rabbit out of his hat and gently placed it on the floor for Daisy to pet. What an experience!

Daisy chatted happily all the way home. Junior was annoyed at her for not crying when she opened her eyes to see those rabbit eyes staring back. Daisy has an innate calm that will serve her well in the future. I look forward to seeing her handle her life as well as she handled that trick today.

Glamoury

I could see the exact right pumps in my mind – a light coral, something that would brighten up my skin under my hose. Easter was always a chance to invest in my pastel collection. I confess to keeping a section in my closet devoted to the shades of Spring. I tend to keep my hatboxes above them as a reminder of the adventure of dressing up.

I’m not a glamourous woman, but I can lean toward glamoury. I know the right ways to hold and wear my gloves to exude a French air. I can even hold a clutch purse without looking like I was holding a big rock. I don’t get too many chances to show off my more formal side while taking care of the children and Steve. Really glamourous women probably don’t have to get down on all fours and scrub their kitchen floors or remove gum from the hair of a little girl who blew a bubble gum bubble too big.

Mags was my true glam model. I once counted the black dresses in her closet and stopped at double digits. In fact, she even had three white dresses that she decorated with spectacular antique pins when she wore them in the Summer. Three. White. The one white dress I had was a shirtwaist and it was perfect for picnics as long as you didn’t sit on the grass.

I did pride myself on my shoe collection but would never have as many as I liked. I often had to show restraint and choose between two I wanted to buy. A glamourous woman would probably choose between two in her closet at home. I must have a little Cinderella in me.

As for jewelry, I play it safe for daytime wear. My wedding band and diamond give me a warm feeling whenever I look down at them. I keep them particularly clean doing a ton of dishes. I wear earrings off and on but my earlobes are delicate and the clips sometimes hurt. I like a cute bangle when I am running errands or shopping. If I could think of a better way to store them all like they do at the jewelry department, I would buy more.

My necklaces are sometimes a lazy mess and they find a way to wrap themselves around each other. The sparkly bling likes to show off and tends to comfortably shine in my jewelry box, making it hard to choose what to wear. Maybe I should adopt a classic look and wear some “signature” pieces but that might not satisfy my need to just add a random piece or two to my collection “just because.” Just because, I’m glamoury.

Spring Ahead

My previous angst over the state of my life had taken a back seat to the baby dreams of Gail and Edie. I self-talked through a lot of thoughts about my own life and came to the conclusion that I should do the same thing that we recommended to Gail and Edie – relax a little. The anguish of the actual worrying was keeping me from enjoying the first signs of Spring. I noticed the tops of some crocus bulbs popping up and realized that life was busy around me and new life was possible in many ways.

I followed my time worn answer to boredom – I cut a new recipe out of a magazine for dinner. I don’t like to try out anything too wild on my family but I had noticed a recipe for a moist stuffing recipe that contained more cream than normal. It was filled with herbs, onion, apples and celery. The picture showed a beautifully puffy bread dish. I chopped and measured exactly to insure that it would look the same way after it was baked and served it with pork chops. It was comforting and Steve and the children liked it. I was pretty pleased with myself. It made me think that frustrating moments in life should be followed by initiating something new, like a baking or cooking technique. That may explain why I have become such a good cook and baker. I rarely indulged in sweets but liked the effect baking something sweet had on others. Smiles could be generated easily at the sight of a beautiful cake and adults regularly become children when offered cookies. They are happy moments and it always pleases me to cook for someone else.

Maybe my Spring should contain a big new baking project. My intense examination of brownies last year resulted in my to-go recipe for those. The question was only what to focus on.

A Love Of Letters

My recent experience with Abigail’s letters left me thinking that maybe I should start small. Her thoughts were powerful and personal and helped her husband endure the absences. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to write a letter to my sweetheart. Except for a childhood penpal, the obligatory thankyous, and notes from camp, I wasn’t a big letter writer.

But it had been so long since I had written a letter to Steve, I had trouble starting. It was true that I loved Steve but I think the everydayness of our lives sometimes interfered with remembering how lucky we were to have each other. Putting him first everyday was difficult with two children who demanded more attention. And the children were louder.

When we were first married, it was so easy to plan every day around Steve. His favorite foods were always on my mind, his clothes were always clean and pressed for him, I would gladly watch whatever show he wanted to listen to. Just being with him made me happy. I needed to recapture some of those feelings. I flipped through our old albums. We were so cute. My hair was perfect in so many shots. I must have spent more time on it then. I dressed a little better. I could certainly do that again. I saw more me – an extra piece of jewelry, my beloved shoes, the matching purses. All me and still me but now there was less often me.

Before I wrote this letter, I need to reclaim myself. I would dress a little more like the “old” me and see if that would help. A few days after starting my experiment, I saw some changes. Steve loved the way I smelled; I had started wearing cologne again. I brought back some of the old me that made me feel younger again. I inadvertently smiled more and even caught myself humming while dusting. Mags mentioned that I seemed a little different but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. It was nice to reclaim some of that power.

Eventually, I wrote my love letter to Steve and it was easy. I easily recounted that I had fallen in love with him for all the good qualities he still had. Even better than that, I fell back in love with myself along the way.

If Women Ruled the World

I am completely convinced that if women were allowed to rule the world, all things would run more smoothly. Needless to say, we didn’t play cards at Gail’s. There was bound to be a different experience after Gail and Edie emerged fro the kitchen with their splotchy faces. Edie looked adorable. We all have different faces when we cry.

After everyone realized that something was wrong, they turned their full attention to Gail and Edie. For an hour or two, we heard the plight of two women who both wanted babies. There was less sympathy for Gail since she already had a few children and every mother understands baby fever and what that need feels like. The pros and cons were discussed thoroughly. The cons didn’t seem to dissuade either of them. Labor is serious business and it was important for Edie to understand the changes that occur in your body when pregnant and have to think about enduring labor. Nobody was too graphic; just enough to insure that Edie would give it ample consideration.

I think I saw Edie mature a little that afternoon. She also became more a part of the group. It was lovely to see everyone try to help her make a good decision about becoming a mother. With Artie away so much, Edie would have to be lucky also. The ladies prioritized what was important that day; the cards could always wait. In a way, it seemed as if everyone’s future was in the cards.

Baby Dreams

Having female friends is a priceless gift in life. The group I play cards with – Gail, Mags, Judy Anne, Sarah and now Edie – would tell me the truth if I really needed to hear it. The years we lived here in Montgomery Park have allowed us to see our children grow up together as we bloomed as wives and mothers. Although Edie is a little younger than us, she is fitting in well. Actually, her youth motivates me to keep up with my beauty regime more faithfully.

This week’s card game was at Gail’s house. Due to her brood of littles, there is always a wayward toy part or pile of crumbs somewhere it should not be. I always arrive early to help her with any last minute chores. Gail seemed quieter than usual; a sign I know that something is bothering her. I stopped her for a moment and asked if we needed to talk before the others arrived. Proper protocol for our group is to arrive 5 minutes after the stated start time so we had several minutes before the doorbell would ring. Gail was still stinging in her heart for another baby and every month without one made her a little sad. It’s hard enough to feel chipper at that time of the month, but an extra burden for Gail. We talked it through a little and Gail eventually had a little sad smile on her face. The doorbell rang suddenly but it was too early for our group. I went to answer it and Edie was at the door. I invited her in and she followed me into the kitchen. I have to remember to let her know about the 5 minute rule.

Gail greeted Edie and Edie’s eyes moved to the pictures of the three children on the wall. Gil had hung pictures of each of the children and next to each baby picture, Gail kept an updated picture of the kids. They were all adorable. Edie kept staring at the wall while Gail and I set up the food on the dining room table, moving quickly back and forth to finish the set-up. Gail has beautiful silver and loves to use it when she is the hostess. When we finished, Gail pointed at Edie’s back to get my attention for her to look at Edie. Edie was still staring at the baby pictures. We both moved toward her slowly and when we stood at her sides, we could see tiny tears under her eyes. Edie apologized when she realized we could see her crying. Of course, we both told her not to worry about it. Edie turned toward Gail and burst out in tears that she wanted a baby. She fell into Gail’s arms crying as the doorbell rang.

I excused myself to answer the door again as they hugged each other. It slowly dawned on me that two baby-dreaming women had found each other. After everyone arrived, we stopped to eat and Gail and Edie moved themselves to the side to eat together. They looked very cozy with their heads together, especially when they laughed. The group spent a long time discussing the pros and cons of becoming a mother. That would make a good story all by itself.

Reminiscing about babies always makes me wonder if I should have had more myself. My children were a little old now and there would be a gap between the first two and a third. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through it all again either. My life was getting more free with Daisy in school now. Maybe I was being selfish, but I didn’t think I wanted more children either.

From the looks of everyone after we finished eating, the decision on babies was to relax. That’s what I mean about women. When a decision is needed, we know what to do. Discuss the issue. If a decision isn’t needed, wait for more information.