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Archive for the ‘chores’ Category

“Oh, yesssss. Yes, Henn-rrrryyy! Bite me! Ooh-wn me-ee-ee!”

Bridget was at full volume as I chewed my way across her ribs.

She’s an alto. Her voice, at full volume, could peel the paint off the ceiling of the Metropolitan Opera.

I long ago found a tender area—just under her breasts, just above her belly—and I was working it, intent on giving her a deep, memorable bite for each orgasm she had given up so far. Trouble was, I kind of lost count. Who can keep track of so much shouting?

So instead, I decided to approximate by chewing one row across in an odd number—I estimated seven—and then a second row back in an even number—estimating six—all in a nice symmetrical pattern.

But that symmetry would be lost if she kept shouting as I bit her. I would have to add more bites, which might in turn add more orgasms. A never-ending spiral.

Not that it was such a big deal. I just happen to like symmetry. It was my own fault for losing count, really, as I was a little distracted. In the back of my mind, I was fantasizing about something new I wanted to try with Bridget.

As my teeth sank slowly deeper into her flesh, as her screams and shouts filled my ears, I allowed my mind to wander to my new fantasy. I lifted my mouth on lucky number thirteen, and surveyed my traces. Bridget panted. I smiled. These would be nice souvenirs.

“Please,” she panted, desperate. “More . . .”

“Yes, of course.” I gave up on biting and symmetry, moving on to other activities until my ears could take no more blistering. We fell apart, panting, She was soon asleep, snoring and sprawled on my bed. I lay awake, pondering my fantasy.

The next time she asked me out, I sprang it on her. “You want to get some dinner, and boink?” she asked. “Boink, boink, boink!”

“Dinner sounds good,” I replied, gulping. “But can we forgo the boinking? I want . . .”

“What?”

“May I bring the kids?”

I’m sure she hit the floor. Bridget knows I have a very firm rule. I keep my life as a parent far removed from my dating life. I do not want my kids to meet my lovers. I do not want them confused about who is and who isn’t “Dad’s girlfriend” and, in their minds, potentially a new Mom.

So far as the kids are concerned, Dad is just . . . Dad. Dad presumably goes back into a box when they are gone, waiting to reactivate upon their return. But Bridget has me thinking.

She asks me about the kids pretty much every day. She remembers details about them that even I can’t recall. She tells me about her godchild’s every landmark. Through her updates, I have come to feel that I know this child I’ve never met. She respects my rule, and she cares about my children.

I’ve also been pondering the future of my life after divorce.

I’m not at all interested in finding the Next Big Thing in a relationship. I don’t want a wife, or a new mother for my children, or anything like that. I’m a great parent, I tell myself. I can do this without muddying the waters with another adult in the mix.

Even so, it is hard work. I am grateful for every bit of help I get from friends, wishing my family lived closer. I regret that the kids have to grow up that much faster to compensate for the absent parent.

I’m smart enough to know that this is a unique time in my life, and in the lives of my children. And that makes me wonder: who, among the people I have met since my marriage ended, would I want in my life ten years from now? Who among those people would I want to integrate into my life with the children? Once I thought it over, I decided that Bridget made the cut.

I have no idea what our relationship will be in ten years. I have no way of knowing. But I do think we’ll remain constants, in some way or other.

It helps that we have a fake past.

We realized early on that during our college years, by chance, we had danced in the same club in the same town. We might have met back then. We might have been friends ever since.

We decided to adopt that false history as our cover story. If anyone asks, we met all those years ago. We’ve been friends forever. It’s a better fit than the real story: we actually picked up one another on Craig’s List. We met at a bar that same day. We went Dutch. She came over to get laid. I gave her two hours and then kicked her out. Who knew it would stick?

My fantasy took root one afternoon when she stopped by to drop off some things from a Costco shopping spree. “Just a few things,” she said, “to get you through the weekend with the kids.”

That afternoon, the kids were zoned out to Cartoon Network. Bridget called from the lobby. “Hey guys, I’m going downstairs to get a package,” I said.

“I’m coming!” Collie replied, jumping up.

“Me too!” Lillie said.

“No, please,” I stammered. “It’s just a few things . . .”

“I’ll get my shoes,” Collie replied.

“Me too,” Lillie said.

“Okay, fine,” I said, resigned to the inevitable. “A friend of mine is dropping off some stuff.”

“What friend?” Lillie asked, pulling on her socks. “You have a lot of friends, Dad. You need to use a name.”

“It’s Bridget,” I said, gathering her shoes. “She has some groceries and stuff.”

“Is she a weenie?” Lillie asked. “Weenie” is her term for anyone who might be considered Dad’s girlfriend.

“Be nice. Don’t say ‘weenie.’”

“Okay,” she giggled as I tied her shoes.

“Lillie . . .”

“I won’t!”

“Good.”

Bridget was surprised to see me as I arrived with a cart and two children. “Well, hello! Let me guess, you are Collie, and you are Lillie?”

Collie grinned. “Yes.”

“Yes,” Lillie echoed, “And you are a weenie!”

“Yes, I am a weenie,” Bridget smiled. “And you are a poopy head.”

“No!” Lillie laughed. “You are a weenie and a poopy head!”

“No, I’m a weenie and you are a poopy head. I’m Buttercup, and you are Blossom. See, I have black hair, and you have red hair. Weenie and poopy head, Buttercup and Blossom.”

Lillie was struck silent. Lillie! Silent!

“Here, help me unpack,” Bridget said to Collie. “Take this.” She handed over a tub of Cheese Balls. It was nearly the boy’s size.

“Whoa, this is huge!” he exclaimed. “Look, I’m holding it over my head!”

“Well, it weighs about two pounds, dear. It’s all air.”

“It’s huge!” He looked at the tub of Cheese Balls as though it were his first Emmy.

“It is huge, but if you don’t put it down, you can’t help me with the Fruit Loops.”

Lillie looked at Collie. “Fruit Loops?” they shouted.

“Hope their mom doesn’t mind,” she said to me, pulling out an enormous box.

“Ooh, she’ll hate that,” I smiled.

“Gee, you think?”

Lillie held the box aloft. “Wow!” she managed.

The kids helped me to bring up a cart full of stuff, but there was more to come. Bridget waited downstairs.

“Jason! Jason!” Collie shouted. “Look at these Cheese Balls!”

“And the Fruit Loops!” Lillie followed.

“Whoa, where did this come from?” Jason asked.

“Dad’s friend!” Lillie said.

“Bridget!” Collie added. “You want to meet her?”

“Uh, sure, where is she?”

“Downstairs!” Collie called, running to the door. “Get your shoes!”

“Oh, okay,” Jason replied. “Wait up!”

Collie helped me to push the cart we had just emptied. Jason stuffed his hands in his pockets as he approached Bridget’s car.

“Oh hi, you must be Jason.”

“Yeah . . .”

“I’m Bridget. How are you?”

“Fine.”

“Were you playing Madden?”

He smiled. “Yes . . .”

“Are you playing the team or the owner?” she asked, handing him a carton of Ramen noodles.

“Team.” Jason looked at me. How did she know this stuff?

“That’s a good game. You know ‘X-Men Legends?”

“No . . .”

“It’s awesome. You saw the movie?”

“No . . .”

Bridget punched me. “What kind of father are you?” Lillie laughed.

“I just . . . hey, I try,” I protested. I looked at Jason. “You see, the X-Men are a group of mutants who try to be good, though everyone thinks they are bad . . .”

Jason shook his head. “Dad, come on.”

“Don’t worry,” Bridget said to Jason. “You’ll see it.”

Jason shrugged. “Cool.”

I realized something that day. Raising kids can take a village. When I find good villagers, I need to let them help. Three children are a lot for one man. And so it was that Bridget crossed over my boundary, at my bidding.

Bridget came into my innermost circle. The kids.

I kept a close eye on things.

We took the kids to see Corpse Bride; for dinner, she suggested the kids compare Subway to Blimpies. Lillie preferred Subway, Jason preferred Blimpies, and Collie pretended that Corpse Bride was too babyish.

We took the kids bowling. We all scored high. It helped that we used bumpers on the lane.

We had a birthday dinner at a local sushi restaurant. Bridget’s birthday is the day before Jason’s. We combined the party and kept the waiter busy.

For her birthday, I gave Bridget a photograph of myself in college. “Here’s the evidence,” I said. “We’ve known each other a long time.”

At Christmas, I allowed gifts from Bridget under Bucky’s tree. Lillie opened a bag full of Hello Kitties from Bridget. “Wow,” she laughed, opening the fifth wrapped Kitty, with many more to go. “Bridget must really love me!”

“Who’s Bridget?” Richard asked me.

“A friend of ours,” I said. “Mine and the kids.” My ex wife noted that Bridget gave nice presents.

The other night, Bridget came over for dinner. Afterward, we played Clue with the kids. Game after game. Lillie stuck to Miss Scarlet, as always. Jason was indelibly Colonel Mustard. Collie switched Professor Plum for Mister Green, then switched to Mrs White. He tried every trick to work the angles.

Bridget watched the children’s faces and made careful notes in her detective’s handbook. She knew the murderer first, but held her deductions close to avoid guessing the children’s secrets.

After the kids were in bed, I discovered a split of champagne in the refrigerator. “You brought this?” I asked.

“Uh huh.”

“You ready?”

“Uh huh.”

I opened the split and poured two flutes. We clinked glasses.

“Happy anniversary,” I said.

“Happy anniversary,” she smiled.

Two years ago that night, we met for the first time. Legend has it we danced to New Order long before.

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Twins

During Memorial Day weekend, I fulfilled a longtime desire by bringing home identical twins. Swedish, no less.

The twins were just as pretty as they come: pale, lean and tall, with long legs that just don’t stop.

I found them online. When I saw their photos, I knew I must have them. Getting them to my home was surprisingly easy.

I poured wine as we got acquainted in the living room. I did my best to be cool, but there was no doubt that I was eager to get them into my bedroom.

I had to hold those legs tight and screw them right.

After a glass of wine, the twins were on either side of my bed, looking gorgeous and ready to go, just waiting to serve my every need.

I could not take my eyes off the two of them, soaking in their naked glory.

I could wait no longer. I made my move. I had to top them.

I put a lamp atop each of my Swedish twins.

“Oh man, I am in love,” I murmured.

My new nightstands are smoking hot.

A trip to Ikea had yielded lovely bedside tables—assembly required—and lamps with steel bases and very satisfying pull chains.

Since moving into my apartment, I have largely made do with cast-off furniture, most of it stuff I have never much liked. Over time, I have tried to replace the essentials with items better than those I had chosen on the fly when originally setting up housekeeping as a new bachelor and single parent.

The first thing to go was my full-size bed, with its black cast iron headboard and footboard. My ex and I had given up this bed years ago. It had been our first step up from having a mattress and box spring on the floor, and we had moved up again when we moved to the suburbs. All three of our children were conceived on this bed. It became my bed again when I moved out of our house. To me, it felt like sleeping on rocks.

“Sorry about the uncomfortable bed,” I would apologize to my new lovers.

They looked at me blankly. “Your bed is fine,” I was told. Maybe it was just me. The bed had too much history. I wanted it gone.

At the time, I was dating May. May, who is very resourceful, found a solution to my bed woes. A friend of hers was moving in with her fiancé and no longer needed a high quality bed she had recently purchased. It was mine for the taking. This put my marriage bed out of commission. I offered it to Cindy, who offered it to her roommate. The roommate was very happy to have it. Only one problem: May’s friend was moving imminently and I was about to leave town.

The task of transferring the beds fell to Cindy and her roommate. They rented a van. They took my new bed from May’s friend and installed it in my bedroom. They took my old bed and installed it in the roommate’s bedroom.

I came back to town to discover my new bed awaiting.

My well-storied bed was retired to stud, off to new adventures at Cindy’s place. Everyone was happy. Only now, the nightstands rankled. They were also remnants of my marriage.

One night, back when we were trying to conceive our first child, my wife Lucy was doing bong hits and watching television.

She shouted for me to come running.

Was she ovulating? Did we need to make a baby?

“Look! Look at that nightstand!” she exclaimed.

There, on the Home Shopping Network, was a black wrought iron nightstand with a glass top.

“Won’t they look great with the new bed?” she asked. She clanked the headboard with her bong for emphasis.

“Black metal,” I replied, peering at the screen. “And we do need nightstands.”

“Give me the phone,” she said. “Those suckers are mine.”

They arrived via UPS. As I assembled the tables with an Allen wrench, I grew to hate them. They were ugly and looked dangerous. What were we thinking? I thought. We are trying to make a baby, and we bought a glass table? Still, the tables survived three children and the remains of my marriage.

Only one of them survived Cindy’s’s rotation of the beds. Somehow—and I don’t know how—I lost a nightstand on the night Cindy exchanged my beds. Was it broken? Did her roommate assume it went with the bed?

I didn’t care. Good riddance, I said. Too bad they left the other one.

Except that, you know, nightstands are handy.

My remaining nightstand was crowded by my lamp, phone, pencil holder, clock, candle, book and a photograph of my children. My bourbon rested there. On date nights, it held condoms and containers of lube.

Anyone on the other side of the bed had nowhere to put anything. This had to change. A true gentleman provides a nightstand for sleepovers.

And now I have that. Sleep in my bed, and you can keep your bourbon and your eyewear handy on your very own table. You can read by the light of your very own lamp.

Finally, the last vestiges of my marriage are exiled from my bedroom. Now the objects there have a new history.

Here is the bed May found, delivered by Cindy. One either side of the bed are the nightstands and lamps from Ikea. On either side of those are rescued comfy black chairs. On the opposite wall are my built-in chests of drawers and bookcases, filled with non-fiction, alphabetical by author, L-Z. The walls are painted the soothing color of sea mist; I have painted walls this color in every place I’ve lived in the past decade. The art on the walls is original and good stuff. The large ficus tree that usually resides here is summering on the terrace. It will be back in the fall.

This bedroom feels more and more like my bedroom.

Now, about the living room . . .

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Spinach

I have a very practical rule concerning my lovers and my children.

Never the twain shall meet.

Half of my week is devoted to parenting. Dating and sex are relegated to the remaining days of the week.

The calendar hews my life in two. My rule is a logical extension of that.

My goal is to keep things simple.

The kids do not need a new mommy, and I don’t want them to be anxious about the role “daddy’s girlfriend” may have in their lives. It’s also best if they don’t form attachments to someone who may or may not be in my life for the long haul.

It’s good for my lovers too. They have enough to deal with in dating me; nothing is gained if someone is up nights worrying about whether or not Lillie hates her, or what Collie meant when he said, “You are not the boss of me!”

Such a good rule.

How stupid, then, that I bend it.

Anna has met my kids twice in the year plus that we have been dating.

Once, when we were recovering from an early “off” in our on again/off again relationship, I invited her to dinner with the kids. I thought it might help her to understand the other half of my life.

She was very quiet during the meal. The kids pretty much ignored her.

The next time was last summer. She called one afternoon as I was getting things ready to head to the park. She was already in the park, dancing with the disco skaters near the bandshell. Why not meet up?

Sure, I thought. Why not?

We found her dancing, sweating and happy. The kids like watching the skaters, and thought it was cool that I knew one. She bought them ice cream.

As we walked together afterward, Lillie referred to Anna as a “wienie,” her designation for any woman in her father’s presence.

Anna would later speak to me, at tedious length, about my failure to sufficiently reprimand Lillie for using such a rude term.

“You weren’t actually hurt by that, were you?” I asked.

“No, but . . . well, my mother would never have allowed me to say that.”

“I don’t ‘allow’ it, but it’s natural for Lillie to stake her turf. Anyway, don’t you call your mother a ‘control freak?’”

“Oh, that’s not the point,” she huffed.

For the sake of propriety, I did ask Lillie to please refrain from calling my friends “wienies,” at least within earshot.

A couple of months ago, Anna sent me a note with an offer.

She was willing to come over one evening a week to watch the kids and prepare dinner as I worked or relaxed.

The offer was very generous . . . and totally unacceptable.

I don’t think she meant her offer to be manipulative, but had I accepted, Anna would have surely come to be seen as “daddy’s girlfriend.”

Her evenings with us would have ingratiated her with the children, giving her an identity as “Anna,” not merely a “wienie.”

It would have the effect of making her a regular part of my family life.

Much as I would have loved the help of another adult, I had to gratefully decline.

A couple of weeks ago, she came back with a scaled-down offer. How would I like it, she asked, if she came over and showed the kids how to make won tons?

“What, you want to make our dinner?”

“Yes. If you aren’t comfortable with that, I can show you how and leave you the stuff to make them. It’s very easy.”

I thought about it. “You know, I’m sure it is okay for me to invite a friend over to make won tons. Thanks, that would be lovely. How about next Thursday night?”

“Great. I’ll be there at six.”

A few days before the dinner, Anna asked what the kids thought of the plan.

“Oh, I haven’t told them yet.”

“You haven’t told them? Don’t you want to give them an opportunity to think about it? Maybe they will have a reaction, or want to talk with you about it. It’s their home too—you have to respect that, Henry.”

“I do respect that, but I don’t think this will be such a big deal to them. I think I can prepare them on Thursday.”

“But what if they don’t want me to come?”

“They won’t take this that seriously. And anyway, it’s not their decision. I invited you. I’m the grown up. You are coming. It will be fine.”

She questioned the wisdom of forgoing advance notice that she would be our guest chef. But I am the children’s father, so there it was.

She emailed me a list of items she would need for the menu, asking me to check off all I had in stock.

On the appointed Thursday, Jason was going to miss our dinner. He had after-school plans with his mother, and would dine with her.

As we walked home from school, I told Collie and Lillie that my friend Anna was going to come over to teach us how to make won tons that night.

“Can I help?” Collie asked.

“I hope you will!” I said.

“And me?” Lillie asked.

“Yes, we’ll all help.”

“But me first, right?” Collie insisted.

“No, me first!”

“We’ll all take turns. Anna will help.”

I had to work to keep her in the picture.

The kids were across the hall playing with their three-year-old neighbor when Anna arrived.

She was carrying five or six bags of groceries and utensils.

I kissed her cheek.

“Good Lord, did you clean out the store?”

“Well, I knew I would need a few things.”

“Wow. Well, just so you know, Jason won’t be joining us tonight. He’s with his mom until nine or so.”

She looked crestfallen. “No Jason?”

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be here before you leave.” I was surprised she was so disappointed.

Anna unpacked the fixins for homemade macaroni and cheese (“as a back-up”), strawberry rhubarb pie (“do the kids like rhubarbs?”) and won tons. The dough, like everything else, would be made from scratch.

She had prepared about a gallon of filling—enough for about a hundred won tons.

She had chopped a cucumber salad, and sautéed spinach in garlic and oil. I tasted the spinach.

“Whew!” It packed a mighty wallop.

“You like it?”

“Yeah! It, uh, may be too spicy for the kids, but it’s just right for me.”

I poured a glass of water, taking care to sip it casually.

“Good. Now, you do whatever you need to do. I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

I snuck to the bathroom to refill my water glass, twice, then sat at my computer to write as she cooked.

She boiled pasta, stirred a roux, and put together macaroni and cheese. As it baked, she chopped strawberries and rhubarbs.

A little before seven, the kids came home. “Is dinner ready?”

“Not yet, sweets. Remember? Anna is going to show us how to make won tons. Come say hi.”

“Is it my turn to help?” Collie asked.

“Umm, in a few minutes,” Anna said. “And hi!”

“I don’t like won tons,” Lillie asserted.

“Yes, you do,” I said. “You always have.”

“I don’t tonight.”

Anna stooped to her knees. “Maybe what you mean to say is that you don’t like finding me in your kitchen. I understand that. I told your dad that if you didn’t want me here, I would go home and leave the dinner for you to eat. But I would like to stay. Is that okay with you?”

That’s a little over the top, I thought.

Lillie rolled her eyes, laughing as she walked off. “Whatever!”

Anna stood.

“She’s five, you know,” I said.

“She hates sharing you,” she conjectured.

Collie missed none of this. “Is it time for me to help?”

“Yes, Collie, you can help me to make the dough.”

“Goody!” He fetched the rolling pin.

While they set to their task, I sat on the couch reading books with Lillie. She cuddled close, holding her blanket.

Now, this is a nice moment, I thought.

After a while, Anna called from the table. “Henry?”

“Yes?”

“This dough didn’t turn out very well. I’m not sure why—it’s just too crumbly.”

“Oh?”

“Can you go to the store to buy some won ton skins?”

“Any idea where they might keep them?”

“Look near the tofu.”

“Okay.”

Lillie and I put on our shoes to walk to the store.

The sky was clear, so I didn’t think to put on jackets. A chill breeze was blowing strong off the Hudson.

It was approaching eight. The kids are usually in bed by nine.

The closest store didn’t have won ton skins near the tofu. I asked the store manager, who paged the stock manager. No won ton skins.

We walked three blocks over to a Korean deli.

“You are making won ton soup?” the lady behind the counter smiled.

“Uh, yes,” I replied, trying to sound like a sophisticated round eye.

“I hate won tons,” Lillie asserted. I took her hand in mine.

“I’ll show you where to find them,” she said, raising the hinged counter. She led us to a freezer in the back of the store.

“You want square or round?” She dug up two large packages, flaked in ice.

Heck if I know. “Um, both.”

“You must be making a lot of won tons!”

“I hate won tons,” Lillie asserted.

“Hush,” I said, tugging her hand.

Back home, we encountered a change in plans. Anna proposed that we serve the macaroni and cheese, and allow the kids to eat the dozen or so won tons she and Collie had made in our absence.

This was a good idea.

I loaded the kids’ plates with macaroni and cheese and won tons. I served Anna and myself a nice helping of spinach and macaroni and cheese; I took an extra serving of spinach.

“It’s so good!” I said.

The kids were finished, characteristically, in about four minutes.

“We made a dessert too!” Collie told Lillie.

“. . . for later, when everyone is finished,” I added.

Anna soon served generous portions from a strawberry-rhubarb pie large enough for a Sunday church meeting. Whipped cream was sprayed onto each plate.

Collie made a sizable dent in his serving. Lillie picked around the rhubarbs.

When they looked stuffed, I dropped my hands on the table. “Okay guys, let’s get you ready for bed.”

“Already? Where’s Jason?”

“Yes, it’s late. Jason will be here soon. Let’s move out.”

The kids stripped to their underwear and brushed their teeth. Anna did the dishes. Collie returned to say goodnight to her. Lillie declined to do so.

I tucked them in with kisses.

“I love you. Thanks for helping with dinner.”

“I love you,” they chimed.

“I helped more than you did,” Collie whispered to Lillie.

“Shut up! I went to the store with Dad.”

“Enough!” I whispered. “Bed time.”

Anna was on the couch when I returned.

I slouched, affecting exhaustion. “Bourbon?”

“Oh yes!”

I fixed two glasses, one small, one tall. The lesser was offered to Anna.

“How do you do this?”

“Practice. Cheers.” We clinked glasses.

Jason was running late. He knocked a little before ten.

“Hey baby,” I kissed him. “You hungry or ready for bed?”

“I’m tired, so . . . oh, hi.”

“Jason, this is Anna. She made dinner tonight.”

“Hello, Jason.”

“Hi. Well, I’m going to bed. Night.”

“Night, baby. I love you.”

“Nightloveyoutoo.” He staggered to his bedroom.

When he was out of earshot, Anna raised an eyebrow. “Did he know I was going to be here?”

“No, I forgot to tell him.”

“I see.”

We talked a bit more as Anna finished her drink.

“It’s late,” she said, standing. “And we both have to get up tomorrow.”

“Yes.” I embraced her. We kissed. “Thanks for dinner.”

“Yes, well . . . glad you enjoyed it.”

“It was very good. And gosh, loads of leftovers!”

“You can freeze the won ton mix. You can make patties of it too.”

“I will.”

“Okay, well, good night.”

“Night.”

I locked up after she left, and turned out the lights.

I checked the kids before bed. Lillie always kicks off her covers.

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Take all your problems
And rip ‘em apart

Carry them off
In a shopping cart

And another thing you
Should’ve known from the start

The problems in hand
Are lighter than at heart

Collie was listening to the White Stripes, a little too loudly, reading the lyric sheet as he sang along.

Lillie was in the hallway, playing stuffed animals with our neighbor Holly.

Jason and I were cooking dinner.

Earlier, as Collie and Lillie read Pickles over Pittsburgh, Jason was inspired to cook chicken and dumplings. So now, as the chicken simmered in stock, he chopped celery as I chopped onions.

“Dad, you are a very good cook, so don’t take this the wrong way,” he ventured, “but if you were going to open a restaurant, you would need to know how to make more things.”

“Well, thank you for the compliment. I don’t plan to open a restaurant, but you are right: it would be good to know how to make more things if I were a professional chef.”

“Right! Like you make good fried chicken, and good burritos, and good hamburgers . . .”

“. . . and a killer Thanksgiving dinner, thank you very much.”

“Yes! And that barbecued chicken, the one you wrap in bacon, that’s very good. But a restaurant needs to have, like, seven pages on a menu, and you only have, like, four or five.”

“True. I wonder what I would like to learn to make? I don’t know how to cook Indian, that would be good to learn.”

“I like Indian, but we can go out for that. Is this enough celery?”

“Uh, yes. Toss it in the pot.”

“Okay.”

I gave him some carrots to chop. He focused on cutting them for a while. Then he mused, “I wonder what I will do when I am seventeen.”

“You mean, like Rachel?” His half sister Rachel is seventeen, and newly graduated from high school.

“Yeah. I think I would take off a year too. I mean, I’m also going to be seventeen when I finish high school, and that’s younger than most people in college.”

Rachel has decided to work and save money, at least for a semester.

I had lobbied for her to go directly into college, but she prefers to wait until she is eighteen. Besides, as she reminded me, I had taken some time after high school to save money and apply to better colleges.

Her mother’s family doesn’t have money, and with my divorce, I am struggling. It’s hard for me to argue that she should race into college with no financial backing.

“What would you do for a year?” I asked Jason. “Oh, and cut those carrots smaller. Remember, they have to go on your spoon.”

“Well, maybe I would cook. In a restaurant.”

“You do like to cook.”

“Yeah. And if you opened a restaurant, I could manage it.”

“But I’m not opening a restaurant. And I thought you wanted to cook?”

“Dad, you have to hire people to help you. You can’t do it all by yourself. You might be the cook, but someone has to hire people. That can be my job.”

Lillie was sneaking a small box of Cheerios to share with Holly. “When I am in college, I will be rich!” she said.

“I hope so!” I smiled at her. “Then you can give me money.”

“Only if you pay me back!”

“Lillie, no one has money in college,” Jason interjected. “You have to work all the time.”

“Here, cut some more carrots.” I said. “Those are ready for the pot.”

Later, Lillie helped us to form dumplings. She picked up dough in her freshly-washed hands, and rolled out marble-sized balls that Jason dropped into the broth.

“Dad, can I work in your restaurant too?” she asked.

I pointed a thumb at Jason.

“You’ll have to ask the boss.”

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Jason was engrossed in his homework. Collie and Lillie were across the hall, playing with their three-year-old neighbor.

I took the opportunity to do some laundry.

In the laundry room, I ran into a new neighbor who had acquired her apartment as many of my neighbors have—she inherited it at the death of her grandparents.

She was folding sheets.

“Those are beautiful sheets,” I admired. They were crisp and white, with embroidered details.

“Aren’t they?” she smiled. “Let me tell you about these sheets.”

My neighbor had cared for her grandmother in her final years; her grandfather had died a few years before.

One afternoon, her grandmother asked to be helped from her bed so that the sheets could be washed. She wanted to sit in the living room until the sheets were clean and the bed made again.

“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in the bed?” her granddaughter asked. “I can make the bed with other sheets.”

“Oh no,” the grandmother replied. “I don’t have any other sheets.”

She told her granddaughter that when she and her husband fled Germany during the war, they carried only one trunk.

Among the contents were the sheets on her bed. The sheets my neighbor was now folding.

“So for fifty plus years of marriage, they had only one set of sheets?” I asked.

“That’s right,” my neighbor nodded. “My mother was conceived in these sheets. And now I sleep in them.”

“Incredible.”

I hoped that my neighbor had not noticed my own wash.

As we talked, I had folded two loads comprised entirely of sheets. Sheets for my kids beds, sheets for my bed, sheets for my parties.

So many sheets.

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Homebody

Someone was in my bed. Instinctively, I snuggled close. Scrawny little thing, this one . . . who is this? Oh, my baby daughter Lillie. Guess she made her way to my room at some point.

I get up to start the coffee and get breakfast going. I’ll blog while the kettle roils. Between holidays, kids and travel—not to mention my new blogging habit—I have fallen behind on household chores. I need to get on the ball before the arrival of Christmas guests.

Yesterday, I cooked three meals, doing all the dishes. Breakfast: bacon, eggs, grits, choice of juice. Lunch: choice of sandwich, raw carrots, lemonade, tea or water. Dinner: salmon cakes, fried potatoes, apple sauce, fruit juice or lemonade. I made a round of grocery shopping to see us through the weekend with all the basics, spending $140.00. I bought a poinsetta.

I helped Jason with a homework project that tested the limits of how well I can fake my knowledge of sixth-grade science. My eight-year-old son Collie and I played several rounds of Mad Libs, in which you must supply words to fill in the blank for absurd stories. The noun that always makes us laugh is “skunk.” Collie, by the way, is not named for the breed of dog—it is short for Columbus, an old family name. Lillie and I filled several pages of her Peanuts coloring book. She loves Snoopy. I identify most with Linus, but I have a crush on Marci. I like her glasses and the way she refers to her girlfriend Peppermint Patti as “Sir.”

Lillie and I also played “Rock Star,” one of her favorite games. She assembled an audience of stuffed animals for the performance. She played guitar, I supplied drums and backing vocals. She performed ten new songs, each titled by a number. You can’t sing along if you don’t know the words.

Number Six

If you open up your eyes/Look behind you and see me/I’ll always be behind you/Until I see you again

Number Eight

When I love you, I will always love you/On the ground, on the ground/When I’m grown up, I will always love you/When I’m dead, when I’m dead

After the performance, we signed autographs. I finally caught up on laundry, after six loads. All folded and put away, but for a pile of unmatched socks. Do I blame the dryer for stealing the kids’ socks, or do the unmatched losses migrate to their Mom’s house one by one?

One pair of black panties. Not Raven’s, Marla wears none . . . maybe Cindy’s? I put them aside. A pair of blue boxers. A bit large for me . . . Jake’s? Todd’s? The worn elastic sends them to the garbage chute. The guy who lost them here should have lost them long before. Do my parties need a lost and found bin?

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