Where is my sandwich?
Sunday, August 4 2013
The children in the basement could be heard squalling and giggling early this morning (before 7:00am), so we had to shut our bedroom door as well as the door to the cat platform overlooking the living room (where the kids quickly relocated themselves).
Later, after I'd gotten up, the kids were expressing interest in the a camp chair we have hanging from a chain strung between two pine trees in front of the woodshed. It's designed to swing back and forth, but not dramatically so. So I cleaned out the chair and reinstalled the various poles necessary to give it structure. When it proved to be a hit, I went and fetched the other such chair out of the garage and hung it from the chain as well. "Push me, push me!" the kids demanded (mostly impolitely), and so I pushed them until I tired of their ungratefulness and lack of manners. They range in age from three to six and, with some small exceptions, seem to be going through a tyrannical phase reminiscent of Joffrey Baratheon.
Later, after walking the dogs in the forest, Gretchen returned and made a large and complicated brunch centered around waffle sandwiches with homemade vegan cream cheese in their centers. There was so much stuff to put out on the east deck picnic table (all of it competeing with ten place settings) that I arranged a way to put multiple levels of dishes on the table, with some dishes intruding on the air space of other dishes. This was necessitated to some extent by a brand new cast-concrete umbrella weight I'd just extracted from its mold (a five gallon bucket). It had a long piece of PVC pipe sticking out of its center that rose past the height of the picnic table and I needed to cover it with an overturned mixing bowl in order to make use of its precious real estate. I also temporarily put a slab of bluestone on one of the planters to provide additional counter space. Mostly all I did during the brunch was marvel at how much maple syrup the children (and at least one of the adults) was dumping on their waffles. How could anything that drenched with sweetness be edible? Evidently it wasn't; a lot of the syrup ended up being washed down the drain. As a kid, I knew from an early age not to waste maple syrup, which I was raised to understand to be precious, expensive commodity (if it was available at all).
After brunch, a subset of the kids and adults went for a walk in the forest, a logistical sausage-making operation if ever there was. And then we all decided to go swimming at Big Deep near Woodstock. We took three vehicles, one for each of our families. The Gretchen-Gus-Eleanor-Ramona family typically loads into a car within the space of 30 seconds and is then backing out of the diveway. This is not the way a human family loads into a car. Typically a human family requires the special strapping-in of various children up to the age of, I don't know, 21, a process that is typically interrupted by squalling demands to go potty, provide snacks, or of promises for future amusements. As Gretchen and I sat there waiting for the vehicles behind us to close their doors and start rolling, she became increasingly frustrated. What the hell was taking so long? If you, dear reader, have kids and have ever made anyone without kids wait for you while you got your shit in gear, you, dear reader, have been hated, if only temporarily.
We moved as a slow caravan north on Dug Hill Road, past the Ashokan Reservoir and ultimately northwest on Zena Road. I was in the lead, limited by the need to keep the other vehicles visible in my rear view mirror. A couple speckled fawns crossed Dug Hill Road in front of me, but I was going so slowly that they were never in any danger.
At the last minute, Gretchen and I decided to go to Little Deep instead of Big Deep, partly because Gretchen claimed she'd never been to Little Deep before. Little Deep is just off Zena Road, at the place where the Saw Kill turns conclusively westward and no longer follows along Zena. The advantage of Little Deep is that it attracts fewer people, although today its parking lots was almost full.
After an astoundingly-long unloading of the cars (and all we had was towels, children, and dogs, the latter of which leapt out of the car immediately), we walked back along the river. After some confusion, we settled down on the bare slabs of bedrock on the river's edge and then waded into the water. It was very cold; too cold for me. I didn't really want to put my feet in it. But Gretchen went for a brisk swim, as did Ramona. Some of the kids went into the water a little ways, but others complained and whined and acted as though a huge injustice was being visited upon them. And it wasn't just a few of the children who were being a drag; a group of people nearby had a tiny dog that didn't play well with others and would have none of Ramona's overtures (some of which were admittedly more about the pizza being eaten by the nearby humans). But there were other dogs (and at least one stray freerange child) who were friendly and perfectly happy with our company.
A sudden cloudburst arrived complete with thunder and lightning, sending us fleeing back to our cars. Eleanor doesn't like either thunder or rain, so I did my best to get her and Ramona back to the car first. The children, of course, took much longer to load. So by the time they were strapped in and ready to leave, the rain had stopped, the clouds had vanished, and the sun had come out. Lynne thought maybe we should return to Little Deep, but ultimately we decided to return home.
Gretchen and me at Little Deep. Photo by Dina.
Gretchen, Dina, and David the Rabbi all went down to Stone Ridge for an hour or so to attend some sort of art opening type thing with a guy Gretchen promised would be "their kind of Jew." Meanwhile back at the house, Gilaud tried to take a nap and Lynne supervised a complaint-stymied game of Twister (the classic game of accidental personal space violation). Every so often the oldest of the kids would demand that mother come over and give her a push on the chair swing.
Earlier the kids had spashed most of the water out of the little kiddie pool that Gretchen and I had set up as a cool-down option for Eleanor (though she's never used it). So I filled it up again and the splashing resumed. I should mention, by the way, that one of the kids was absolutely freaked out by the idea of slugs and demanded that his mother carry him across the lawn so he wouldn't have a possibility of stepping on one. For the most part, the mother enabled these demands. That kid clearly doesn't stand a chance when the prepper shitstorm goes down.
After the others returned from Stone Ridge, I gave a tour of the greenhouse, both upstairs and downstairs. The kids, some of whom had whined and complained and not wanted to go on the tour, were now delighted, particularly when I went down through the trapdoor in the floor into the nearly-empty cistern and looked up at them from below. (One of the kids with serious Joffrey Baratheon issues seemed to decide after this that I was some sort of trained monkey, making all sorts of unreasonable demands from then on.)
As awesome as the basement was, the upstairs seemed to delight the kids even more. They all hopped up onto the futon with squeals of delight and began kicking things at random, necessitating requests for moderation from the parents. Some of them became so relaxed that they started silently flatulating, giving the air the unmistakable fragrance of human feces. As we left, a good number of the kids wanted to exit via the pet door, which was okay with me.
The brownhouse was also of interest to the children. Wait, they wanted to know, I'd actually built my own bathroom outdoors? The girls actually wanted to try it out and, though initially reluctant (just because of all the spider webs and dead flies), I eventually told them they could. They headed off to use it, accompanied by a somewhat anxious adult and then soon returned, having concluded that it was more like a port-a-potty than a real bathroom. And yes, on some level they were correct.
Originally Gretchen and I thought everyone would be leaving at around 4:00pm, but then Lynne wanted a beer and David wanted coffee and then the kids all started demanding sandwiches. Gretchen, who had originally thought having eight additional people in the house would be okay (and that, as David the Rabbi had promised, the kids would somehow "cancel out"), had had enough, and she went off to our bedroom to curl up into a fetal position. I'd had about all I could take too, but my solution was to add some 160 proof vodka to my SmarTea. I ended up sitting out on the east deck while the kids whined and complained. To my ear they actually sounded like a parody of whining, but it was the real thing. One of them wondered what the hold up on her sandwich was, demanding (and this is an actual quote), "Where is my sandwich?" Meanwhile the long-suffering parents were carving up the avocado I'd recently bought for myself and incorporating it, along with Gretchen's homemade cream cheese and homemade bread, into sandwiches for their ungrateful progeny. It's amazing how deep into one's food stores a single unplanned meal for four children can dip. It was as if we'd been attacked by a swarm of locusts.
But for me on some level it was just amusing. The vodka definitely helped me see it that way. I was sitting there with my drink making acid retorts as the kids whined and squirmed and, in one case, climbed up onto the glass-topped picnic table to escape the chance of contact with Ramona's tongue. "Yeah, um, right, don't go up there," I said. "But Ramona! She's going to lick me," the child complained. "Oh, it's just like Darfur," I replied. That was for the benefit of a nearby adult; none of these kids knew anything about the tragedies that befell Northwestern Sudan in 2003.
Eventually Gretchen came down from her room to go through the motions of being a happy host seeing her guests off. But she was not in a giving mood, so when one of the adults asked if he could have her beloved copy of Baratunde Thurston's How to be Black, she said no. And when his wife wanted to harvest basil from our two basil plants, she politely said no to that too. And after all of that, when the parents tried to get the kids to look Gretchen and me in the eyes and say goodbye, only some of them would. Not all the kids were little shits; the youngest (a four year old) made a point of hugging both Ramona and Eleanor goodbye.
The great thing about being overrun by so much humanity is that when it leaves, you really know the value of having your house to yourself.
Later this evening, Gretchen watched a movie entitled Identity Thief about an obese woman who steals identities as a way to support herself (and what happens when one of her victims tries to clear his androgynous name). Though it wasn't a great movie, for some reason I watched the whole thing. There were a few funny parts, but it was severely hampered by the absence of any sort of chemistry between the conventionally-attractive victim and the gargantuan identity thief. Hollywood clearly doesn't know what to do with fat women, even when it grants them grudging sexuality. There's a sex scene involving the identity thief, but we're spared any shots of her unclothed body.
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