There is a part of me that doesn’t like to be rushed or hurried. This is the part that I refer to as “my entire body.” On Monday afternoons, I hurry and rush to ready the house for the arrival of my daughter Anna’s piano teacher. My wife and I aren’t terribly extravagant people, but we shell out to have someone come to the house and make our kid sit up straight and speak in sentences. We pay him in chickens, thanks largely to our budget plan which is taken from reruns of Little House on The Prairie. Cleaning up for the piano instructor is always a challenge. The only time we’re actually at home during any given week is during the same hour that the piano lesson takes place. Somehow, the house is always a wreck, despite the fact that our family only sleeps and brushes our teeth here. Each Monday I come home and accuse unseen burglars of wrecking our little sanctuary. There are a lot of screamed queries to the heavens (“Why? Why would someone break in and leave dishes in the sink? Couldn’t they have at least cleaned the bathroom?”). The biggest step is getting the moving mountain of unfolded laundry to take a hike and glacially slide its mass to another room. I find myself, Moses-like, standing before the clothing pile shouting
Move laundry! Allow my people to get around your ponderous bulk!
Once the laundry is sufficiently stowed, or stuffed into a closet, there is the matter of the household smell. Grace, the spontaneously exploding beagle, has her own funk. She snuggles with her stink, cuddling it close to her. Unfortunately, Stinky the Wonder Dog also shares her tremendous gravitational field of malodorous misanthropy with the rest of the house. We were out of any kind of air freshening Fabreeze today, and I got nervous. No Fabreeze spray for boating accidents, nuclear disasters, or elderly, rancid beagles. I turned to the only thing sure to mask the stink. Deep Woods Off. I bug sprayed the blazes out of my house. It worked. The house took on the smell of summer camp and reminded me of …I’m not sure. I accidentally sprayed Off in my face and everything is foggy.
Our piano is a strange beast. As newlyweds, Lori and I gladly accepted the offer that if we agreed to take in the piano it was ours to keep. Huh. That’s how we got Grace, too. Several days after we said “yippeee!” to the offer ( or whatever newlyweds back then said), a group of Hobbit movers showed up at our house with a 1960 Wurlitzer baby grand in tow. There it sits, waiting to help our child with lessons in maturity and culture, and help us not purchase any other furniture because the daggone thing takes up our entire living room. Most years we end up putting the Christmas tree on top of it. Grace sleeps under the piano, her stench eating away at the finish. Like Grace, it’s ours. Part of our family story. Even if I do have to keep shouting, Moses-like, at the laundry pile “Don’t eat the piano!”
On the job, I’m a model of concentration. For the most part what I do is interesting, if only to me. The work involves staring for long periods at chromatic, pulsating lights and trying not to convulse, or pass out. My concentration is like that of a three-year old repeatedly smacking a cinder block with a butter knife. Intense, purposeful, not useful to society at large. When the sun sets on each day of work (which I wouldn’t realize, because we don’t have windows in the basement), my mind wanders. Not necessarily to the novel I’ve been bragging about not working on, or family activities about to take place. Nope. My automatic go-to daydream, my raison d’Walter Mitty, starts with the Waltons. More specifically, what would the Waltons do if you took them out of the Great Depression and plunked the entire shoeless family down in Mid-town Manhattan.
The Waltons was a 1970’s TV show depicting the life and hard times of a rural Virginia family during the Depression and World War II. The show was the creation of Earl Hamner Jr., the man also responsible for the 1963 Henry Fonda cinematic chestnut, Spencer’s Mountain. Basically, the Walton clan couldn’t get out tragedy’s way and weekly would experience a house fire, barn fire, general store fire, mattress fire, or some combination of all of the above along with the family cow spontaneously combusting like a Spinal Tap drummer. My mind, like aggravated gelatine, constantly goes back to “What would the Waltons think?” Sometimes at work, griping about DOS programs, I’ll say to myself “Well, at least this software would blow John Boy’s mind.” Okay, my thoughts wander a little at work. You can’t just apply this time machine game to any old TV show. Every “What would they have done on Little House on the Prairie?” question, for instance, ends up with Nelly Olson being mowed down by a car. I try not to play this game very often, resting in the knowledge that they’d end up like everybody else. Wearing shoes and constantly on Facebook saying good night to each other.