The floors have been swept; the counters scrubbed; the sheets folded with crisp corners and smooth edges. I stand amongst the various old wooden chairs, and tables, and the pale orange curtains hanging at my windows. I am home; and the adept work of my house-sitter surrounds me. The black cat tarries at my feet, softly mewing; and the little brown dog sleeps on the porch outside the back door.
I listen to the inanities of the Verizon Wireless hold chatter. I have circled around 3 times in her mechanical litany. I have been to three Verizon stores and called two more; I am caught in the endless loop of their bureaucracy. They claim that my phone was purchased "at a third-party vendor"; yet their name glares at me from the invoice. They admonish that one employee avers that he tried to help me "but I had left the store"; I volley with the astonishing but true information that the "manager" kept me waiting for 45 minutes while he lallygagged in the backroom, and only offered a temporary replacement by phone to a companion ten minutes after we had left, when he realized that he might have made a tactical error by trying to sell me a new phone instead of replacing the phone that had died. No, he didn't help me, I tell them. We are long past the hope of catching more flies with honey. I am, in any event, allergic to honey.
My vacation leaves me emotionally reinvigorated though physically drained. I have been to Ludington, Michigan and all points in between. I felt the rough, pleasant warmth of sand on my feet, as waves rose and fell, and my tall, strong son cavorted in the warm water of in Lake Michigan at Epworth Heights. I allowed myself the luxury of ice cream, thick with swirls of caramel and chunks of dark chocolate. I fell asleep to the endless, soothing sound of those same waves, and awakened before the sun rose, to drink strong coffee while reading nothing more or less challenging than book five of Donna Leon's series set in Venice. And I ate Mexican food cooked by beaming immigrants in Indianapolis before settling my son at DePauw University and journeying home again. I have averaged 25 miles to the gallon and 25 smiles to the hour. I have learned of the triumphs and joys of 80-year-old twins and the ambitions of a sixteen-year-old scholar. I have heard wisdom a la Cohen Brothers, "it's a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart. .. " and I have justified myself by way of electronic mail to a former client who wants me to do more work without more compensation. I have toasted the twenty-five year anniversary of my mother's passing, and wished a friend's son Happy Birthday, on the same day, by way of public posting on his Facebook page.
My fifty-fifth birthday looms ahead of me two weeks hence; a week later, my Double Nickel Birthday bash at which we will be raising money for the Children's Miracle Network, the chosen charity of the Indiana Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon of which my son is this year's DePauw University Philanthropy Chair. I had hoped that by this age, I might have learned patience, but patience remains a virtue that I possess in only small amounts, the fountain of which has slowed to a trickle and will soon be entirely depleted.
I am still on hold, twenty minutes after commencing my fifth or sixth call, waiting for a briskly and coldly competent customer service representative to locate a replacement Blackberry for the failed one sold to me by a store masquerading as a Verizon store which had apparently converted mere weeks before my purchase to a "third party retailer". I close my eyes. The gentle hum of the central air reminds me that regardless of my bank balance, and certainly, despite the failure of technology, I have comparative wealth.
There is no memory that can supplant the joy of the present; no restless, beckoning ghost that can obscure the prospect of happiness in the future. Some material goods elude me; there are some luxuries of which I can count myself deprived. But I am, on balance, a lucky woman, a turn of events not necessarily entirely of my making. In the end, a relentless determination, combined with good fortune and the sweet attentions of others, has helped me to survive to middle age, and has brought me to the brink of the 55th anniversary of my inauspicious birth. In the meantime, I have showered, and put up my hair, and donned a soft cotton dress. I pad around my little bungalow, with nothing more challenging to do than worry about what to have for dinner.
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?(fn)
fn: by Richard LeGallienne. For the movie, "Friends", Elton John added a middle verse:
I asked a lizard the time of day
As he sunned himself on a moss-grown wall
and the buttercups nodded their smiling heads
greeting the bees who came to call.