After doing a home exchange with a couple in Minneapolis last weekend–
something that became possible in 2010 when we ran ads looking for an exchange for my sabbatical year…ads that ultimately yielded no viable international exchanges, but which did turn up one wonderful nibble from a travel writer who lives three hours south of our home town, and it is she and her husband with whom we’ve now swapped houses a couple of times—
our beer cellar (aka “the fridge”) is well stocked with stouts and IPAs that our rube selves can’t purchase here in our outstate burg but which we can lay in during trips to the metropolis. We had a great time in the Big City, swimming at an idyllic beach, sleeping with air conditioning units in the bedrooms, eating tremendous Thai food, enjoying visits from sister-in-law, niece, mother- and father-in-law, dreamily licking scoops of Norwegian Chai creaminess at a gourmet ice cream shop.
Additionally, after a first creaky week of trying to remember how it is we all relax together, summer quickly hit its easy stride; thus, the last month and a half has been full of mellow togetherness. Allegra likes to have her hair braided. She’s played a lot of soccer. Paco, who decided he loves JRR Tolkien because they share a birthday, has been reading The Hobbit and planning his Halloween costume as Frodo (the most intricate part of which will involve deer hide feet with doll hair glued to them). He also earned a huge bruise on his forearm last week at archery camp. Once I realized I could read my future by gazing into the depths of that bruise, I bought the kid a camouflage-patterned arm guard; the big payoff of this purchase is that I now get to approach him several times each day with false alarm, hollering, “WHERE’D YOUR ARM GO? I CAN’T SEE YOUR ARM! HOW WILL YOU EVER GET DRUNK WHEN YOU’RE 22 AND DECIDE TO GET A BUGS BUNNY TATTOO ON YOUR FOREARM WHEN YOU DON’T. EVEN. HAVE. A. FOREARM.? THE COMPLETE LACK OF FOREARM IN YOUR LIFE IS THE SADDEST STORY EVER TOLD!”
He forgets to roll his eyes at me because then I take him swimming.
After that, he helps Byron make even more batches of “Olympics Opening Ceremony” ice cream (we plan to move the tv out to the deck, eat grilled pizzas, sip dark and hoppy beers, and, yup, soak ourselves in three kinds of ice cream as we watch all those Phelpsian ripped abs cut their way across the Olympic pool).
When we’re not eating and drinking and swimming and home exchanging, we’re planning our upcoming three-week road trip to the East Coast.
So far, this hardly sounds like a Litany of Complaints, does it?
I’d best get down to bitching.
Here’s a bad thing: the fruit flies. They swarm our kitchen and muddy my beer.
Yes. Yes. I hand you a tissue now for with which to dab at your compassionately-weeping eyes.
Moreover: it’s hot and humid as Satan’s boy bits packed into a Speedo, yet there is not even the upside of my skin looking dewy and youthful. Rather, I simply look tragically slick and in need of a full-body wet wipe.
Oh, and let me not forget: I can hardly bear, in such humidity, to have fabric touching my body; ergo, I minimize Fabric Touchy by wearing tank tops.
Yet tank tops are a hard look for a soft lady to pull off.
So I go to Pilates class. Where the Pilates Drill Sergeant makes us flip over our Bosu balls and do moves like this:
Except I am not this taut, focused specimen. Rather, I am the freckled lady in the back row sporting a huge Frowny Face and emitting an admirable string of swears, not the least of which contains the curse “…may you be baptized as a Mormon posthumously.”
Then the day after Pilates class, my glutes are sore like a Mormon reading this post, and pretty much I can’t even sit down onto the toilet without bellowing, “You may not have a forearm, Paco, but at least your arse is free of protest, so count yourself lucky!”
Poor kid only ever understands every third utterance coming out of Mommy’s mouth.
Beyond my aching tukis, there’s the fact that six of my–wait a minute, counting here…seven plus three, carry the two–roughly ten fingers are currently burning with the after effects of weeding stinging nettles, sans gloves. Listen, if I can do push-ups on an upside down Bosu ball, you had better believe I can yank out a few thistles bare-handed.
I can also whine about the pain for a full day after encountering the toxins.
Moses Henry, but such a sting! After the first nettle took a pinch, Paco made me head into the house and wash my hands thoroughly before he applied an antibacterial bandaid.
(See how I’m the anti- helicopter parent? Everyone wants to rant about overprotective, hovering parents these days, but I confound that line of thought by turning my children into the parents. You may address all letters of congratulations regarding this tactic to “Clever Buttsore Mommy Jocelyn.” The mail carrier is well acquainted with that salutation and drops off a bag of fan mail daily at noon. It is a very small bag.)
Just when I think that the prickling fingers and screaming rear cheeks are as bad as it can get, I hop into the shower in an effort to squeegee off the top layer of sweat, only to squeal
at the eeky pain of raw skin being pelted by forceful water.
As it turns out, the hot and the thick blanket of air and the gardening and sweating have resulted in a heat rash in the places where my elastic waistband has touched my flesh.
Indeed, my equator is a dotted line of Magellan’s explorations from belly button to spine.
Ain’t nothing that highlights a girl’s soft white underbelly better than a slash of angry weals.
The upshot of these complaints, from fruit flies to humidity to screaming hamstrings to electrified fingerprints to a belt of red torment, is that I feel completely justified making repeat trips to the beer cellar.
As I reach for a refill, my mind wanders to how lovely the gardens are right now, so chock full of flowers I started from seed months ago; it marvels at my body for being strong enough to face a Bosu ball; it nods appreciatively at the food that beckons the fruit flies; it considers how cool and clean I feel after the refreshment of a shower; it thanks the elastic in my shorts for holding up against all challenges.
It’s almost as though