Thursday, May 27, 2004

Stupid nature!

Bleh. It's been more March-like, lamb/lion weather the past few days, pouring rain, with the occasional premium features of wind, lightning, and hail. It feels like October, if a bit warmer. I'm completely incapacitated by it; the steady drumming on the roof lulls me back into sleep like a little baby. A narcoleptic baby, with a full tummy. Of Benadryl.

It's also disheartening because it keeps me from messing around in the yard. Now that I've finally got all the inside stuff unpacked, I've been trying to enjoy the other perks of home ownership, namely trying to rehab the pitifully neglected garden. The first couple early-spring months were exciting: what would come up? Well, as it turns out, two sprigs of mint and 100,000 bluebells. Which are pretty, but that is kind of a lot of self-perpetuation going on there.

So I've spent several sunny weekends attempting to completely gut, mulch, and replant the little bricked-in beds that wrap around the house. It's a challenge to completely clear a strip and arrange it to my satisfaction...and then stand up and say, "well, that's five feet done." Also, how could "gardening" make me so damn sore afterwards? It's not an Olympic event; hell, the primary activity involves sitting on the ground. People buy special fun floppy hats for this pursuit. Martha can do it without harming her manicure. (Perhaps she can be put on highway landscaping detail?) So how is it that each Saturday afternoon ends with me blotchily sunburnt, coated with a fine layer of grit and unable to lace my own shoes for a day?

My next project is The Lawn. The day after I moved into the house, I looked up from BoxVille to see my next-door neighbor, Brian, zooming past the windows with a mower. Sweetest welcome-wagon gesture ever! I thanked him profusely...and have been surprised and shocked each time he's continued to mow my lawn for the subseqent three months. I am not a complete freeloader--I do ply him and his girlfriend with baked goods in return. But last week I had to admit that the dandelions appeared to be winning. He's mowing ground cover that is green, but has proportionally less and less to do with grass.

So I bought myself one of those weed-pulling step-and-twist doodads. Darcy's husband recommended it; it appeals to his masculine instincts by not only wresting weeds from the ground, but allowing you to SHOOT them from the tool into a handy yard waste recepticle (or, attempt to hit a neighbor child in the butt). I am eager to give it a test firing...though I'm concerned that, should I manage to pull all the weeds, I'll be able to trim the remaining four tufts of grass with scissors. Though I suppose that would satisfy my sense of obligation to neighbor Brian.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Better dead, wait

(Rejected titles for this post include: Red Dawn; Red Alert; Red Scare; Code Red...)

Over in Pamie's blog, she's had a couple mini-surveys this week: "what movies make you cry?" and "what discontinued lipstick shade do you still mourn?" Of course I've had to put my two cents in for both. The former category is pretty much a steep path strewn with butter-and-tear-stained napkins, so I'll let it alone here. But for the latter: Max Factor's "Midnight Mahogany," which I expected to be brown; instead it turned out to be a magnificent 40s Harlot Red. I still have a half-inch stub I save for special occasions.

But it's made me start thinking of my great aunt, who passed away a little over two years ago, at 84. Nannie had always been a pistol, a spitfire, the family beauty. As a child, she insisted she'd been abandoned by "Gypsies," who'd surely return to claim her; as an adult, she looked like Olivia DeHaviland and was known for forcing other drivers off the road in games of Chicken. She loved Jamaica and, inexplicably, the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyworld. She argued with her closest sister, my grandmother, virtually every single day, over everything from who said what to whom in 1957 to "the sound a piano makes." (Don't ask.) Her wedding portrait shows her in a trim suit and a vast, winged hat the size of a lazy susan. Nannie was badass, no question.

Toward the end, after a series of traumatic falls, she spent several years in an assisted-living facility, an "adult family home." Visiting her there was a torment, to me; the place always smelled like fried fish and old age and befuddlement and fear. She and Grammy would attempt to outdo each other for the honor of Most Horrible Prairie Childhood Memory: remember that time our wicked stepmother killed a litter of puppies and made us watch? Well, remember when mother died and dad threw the Christmas tree out into the snow cursing and crying?

But the point I was getting to: Nannie liked to have Her Face On. When her hands shook too badly, she'd enlist my mother to draw in her quotation-mark eyebrows. Once, she offered her a black felt-tip pen for this purpose: "They'll last longer." She could still manage her own lipstick, if someone else held the little compact mirror steady. "Move--all I can see is ceiling," she'd complain, jerking my wrist around.

She had several remaining lipsticks, little smudged and broken nubs she carried around in a grimy purse. And every one of them was a more shocking, fabulous RED red than anything I've ever owned. What could the names of those colors be? Jezebel? USO Tart? Ruby the Riveter? They were amazing. I admired them, admired and adored her for still wobbling them across her lips, bedridden, cramped by multiple sclerosis, octogenarian.

When she died, my mother handled her affairs. A simple cremation, a scattering from the deck of a Washington State Ferry. (Nannie would have liked it: a dramatic burial at sea that also, even if temporarily, inconvienienced the other passengers and made them look.) At some point, though, I asked my mother who'd been responsible for her makeup.

"Oh, I don't know...we didn't bother," Mom claimed. She plainly didn't see the point--why tart up the earthly remains, just before loading them into the crematorium?

But I was appalled. "You sent her to meet her maker without her face on?!?" I cried. "She's going to haunt your ass!"

We're still waiting, mind you. But I will not be surprised in the least if she starts poking dishes off the shelves in Mom's kitchen.