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The Day Without Driving

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At all.

I didn’t even leave the driveway.

And it’s very odd, but for the last couple of days I’ve been doing really good work, and a lot of it, more of it than I usually do.  I have no idea how long that is going to last, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

In the meantime,  however, some notes.  I do warn everybody that I’m less coherent outside work when work is going well.  You’ve been warned.

1) For years, I always felt healthier and happier in December and January because my father would send me oranges.  I mean serious oranges.  Four big trays of them, weighing in at around 44 pounds.

Then my father died, in 2006, and that year there were no oranges. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, though, there were, because a friend of mine who was checking in on my mother in her nursing home would send them to me. 

My mother died in March, and I thought there would be no oranges this year–but they were, sent by, of all people, my lawyer. 

I don’t know if he just feels sorry for me, or if he wants to make sure I’m healthy in case we go to trial, but it was a wonderful gesture, and I love the things.  Cold oranges and ginger herb tea.   Perfect.

2) One of the things I’d really like to know is if a certain tendency in my life is shared by the population generally, or restricted exclusively to me.

This is the phenomenon of finding that people I have not seen or spoken to in years–and I mean that literally, years–have been spending some of that time not just talking about me, but in constructing elaborate dramatic scenarios about what I was supposedly thinking, feeling, doing, and whatever else, scenarios so detailed and vivid that they make the plots of my novels look pale by comparision.

Then one day I stumble across one of these people and find out that I’m having a fight, executing a plot, or otherwise doing something so heinous that I ought to be ashamed of myself.  Since I haven’t been participating in any of this, I don’t always find out what I ought to be ashamed of myself for.

In most of these cases, it doesn’t matter much–there’s a reason I haven’t spoken to some of these people for years. 

In other cases, though, the whole thing seems completely gratuitous.  They’re people I once knew professionally and might not mind working with again, or people who live in the same town I once did, or people I was once at school with.  I’ve got no enmity towards them, and don’t remember parting on a sour note.

In these cases, the so-heinous thing is often completely off the wall:  I always secretly thought X was stupid (and I can’t even remember X);  I didn’t go to Y’s funeral because I’m a bigot about homosexuals (when I didn’t know Y was dead and had op eds supporting gay marriage in CT twice before it was legal here;  I didn’t give Z a blurb or even answer the letter she sent asking for one (which I never got to begin with).

I bring this up only because this is the season when this sort of thing tends to proliferate, or at least to land on my head so that I can’t ignore it, and I don’t get it. 

Why would anybody spend her time–yes, it’s mostly women–talking about somebody they never see or don’t know very well?   I’m not a celebrity.  

And if there is something  you’re worried about, why wouldn’t you just call up and ask?  Or e-mail? 

The blurb thing especially makes me crazy, because I’m pretty promiscuous about giving blurbs.  If you sent me your book and haven’t heard from me, why not send me a postcard?  Or an e-mail?  Just to make sure it got here, or that it hasn’t gotten buried under trees falling on the house or somebody dying?

At any rate, it’s been a day of not driving and getting ambushed.  And I’m tired.

3) I’m having a weird thing where I just don’t want to do Christmas this year.  Oh, we’ve got a tree, and we’ve got a few presents and the stockings, but I just don’t want to make a fuss about it.  I don’t want a big dinner.  I don’t want to get up early to prepare things. 

I’m not depressed, exactly, but I’m not all warm and bouncy with Christmas cheer. 

It really has been a long and wretched year–Greg’s blindness, my mother dying, the tree falling on the house followed by eight days of no power, and a whole lot more.

What I really want to do on Christmas Day is to sleep in until noon and then have somebody peel me grapes. 

4) I’m still reading the Hannah Arendt.  I still wish I had a mind like that.

Happy solstice and Happy Chanukah for those who celebrate.  Happy (or Merry) Christmas to everybody who celebrates that next week.

Written by janeh

December 22nd, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses to 'The Day Without Driving'

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  1. Because people you don’t know are full of mystery and possibilities, while people you know well are fucking boring.

    Also, they will find out about it and pay you back if you start spreading shit.

    Merry Humbug.


    22 Dec 11 at 7:54 pm

  2. People invent stories rather than call and check to see whether the message got through, because (a) mostly messages do get through, and (b) you feel really weak and whiney “confirming the message”–especially when you’re asking for a favor in the first place. It gets too close to begging. So you invent a reason why someone didn’t do what you asked them to, and it’s not likely to be one that flatters the person who didn’t help you out.

    But look at the year the other way.

    This is the year your son’s sight was restored. It’s the year a tree fell on your house and you lost power for eight ways but came through. And it’s the year both your children will celebrate Christmas with you–safe and healthy in your own home.

    Buy some grapes tomorrow. Open a package or so on Christmas Eve to take the edge off, tell the boys your Christmas wish and leave a grape peeler where they can find it.

    Merry Christmas


    22 Dec 11 at 9:05 pm

  3. I’ve tried peeling grapes. It’s not as easy as it sounds. (And there is no such thing as a “grape peeler.”) In fact, you used to be able to get canned peeled grapes, my mom used them in her ambrosia salad. They’ve disappeared off the shelves, though.

    When my husband published his first book, I sent one (with her permission) to Sarah Weinman, since we knew each other for RAM. She never reviewed it, never said she got it, and I was too intimidated to email again and ask. What if she said it was awful? Objectively, the reviews we got from unrelated people were uniformly good, but I’d rather not know than risk her saying it sucked.

    On the other hand, I didn’t make up any awful stories about Sarah and how she secretly hated me and that’s why she didn’t say anything. I know people do this. I’m always surprised at how people personalize perfectly impersonal reactions. I do it myself, so I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Do I expect other people to be more rational than I am?

    Perhaps I do. I also expect them to be less insecure, to be more like they appear on the outside. I myself often behave as if I had FAR more self-esteem than I actually do. Then I’m surprised when others do the same. Though I like them better for it when I find out. People without insecurity are scary, and can be dangerous.


    22 Dec 11 at 10:28 pm

  4. People like having a connection with other people, and they like stories. Sometimes, the two combine badly. I’d say I was immune, except I had this great story about a former classmate of mine that I thought was true until quite by accident I came across proof it wasn’t.

    I can see both Jane and Lymaree’s view on the asking-for-favour thing. On the one hand, I think, well, no harm following up on it, there must be some simple explanation, and on the other, I think she hated my book, or hasn’t got the time to even look at it and if I insist, she’ll offended or angry and maybe say nasty things about my book….and as time goes by and memory gets fuzzy, my insecure imaginings get taken as real…

    I have very serious issues with court cases depending on memory, not contemporary records of what happened, of events 20 or 30 years ago.

    Oh, and you can do Christmas any way you want. I decorate or don’t as the fancy takes me. In recent years, that’s not decorate, except maybe for some plastic candles in the window for the 12 days.

    This was an incredibly liberating and stress-relieving discovery for me, but it doesn’t seem to work for people living with family members who insist of pounds of garlands and little Santa statues in every room. And you have to be careful who you confide this too, or you’ll get well-meaning invitations to spend Christmas Day with near-strangers who do put up a tree and decorate, but my Christmas Day is already pretty fully scheduled.


    23 Dec 11 at 7:17 am

  5. Oh, and Lymaree? I also often expect others to be the way they appear on the outside. I never questioned this until, during a really bad period in my life. I met other people in the same boat, and found myself thinking ‘Well, SHE can’t have any problems, so what’s she doing here? Look at the way she’s dressed and made up, and her manner! She’s clearly got her entire life together, she probably has perfect health, a perfect family and a really good job and no problems at all’ … and of course I had to admit eventually that I was wrong and all the people who said you can’t judge by appearances were right.


    23 Dec 11 at 7:22 am

  6. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Serene Solstice to you (which in your case is plural) Jane, Orania, Patience, Mrs. DeAndrea, and/or Matt and Greg’s mother.

    I understand why people invent stories – getting in touch with reality is difficult. Sometimes stories create contact with reality, sometimes they insulate from reality, sometimes both.

    I do not understand why anyone would want to peel a grape.


    23 Dec 11 at 12:12 pm

  7. I realized one year that I was the only one doing all the decorating. Nobody else seemed to care, so I reduced our holiday footprint to a couple of poinsettias on the fireplace and maybe some ornaments hung on the mantle.

    This year my husband wanted more festive decorations, and he was willing to participate, so we got a wreath for the fireplace and he decorated the over-mantle sculpture with our holiday cards.

    As for peeling grapes, it’s a metaphor, I think, for excessive luxury, that one wouldn’t even lift a finger or have to bite too hard to eat one. One would have servants to peel them and feed them to you.

    Practically speaking, the canned ones made a nice addition to the ambrosia salad, where fresh, unpeeled grapes would be an unpleasant textural conflict. Now we just do without.


    23 Dec 11 at 1:49 pm

  8. FAR better than peeled grapes are FROZEN grapes. Wash grapes (I prefer seedless red ones), drain, put into a zipper type plastic bag, and pop into your freezer. After 12 or 24 hours in there, pull off a grape or two, pop into your mouth, and ENJOY the little sweet frozen nugget.


    23 Dec 11 at 7:13 pm

  9. Speaking of grapes — I had a very special mother. When I was young, only green grapes were seedless. When Mom gave me RED grapes in my school lunch box, she would have sliced them open and removed the seeds!
    And, since we didn’t have pitted olives, she would make my black olive sandwiches with slices of black olive off the olive pit.
    My own two sons didn’t get that sort of extra-special spoiling when they were growing up. Poor kids! :)

    Kathie Goblirsch

    27 Dec 11 at 7:15 pm

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