Not dead yet —

. . . just insanely busy with summer projects at work.

M has gone to visit N for a week or two, leaving us in a dry run for our new empty-nested life.

I keep wondering where she is, then remembering.

Garden looks great — plans to make a new bed or so, which should hold cutting flowers and vegetables.

I reread the Possessed, and liked it as much as I had the first time. What I like is what I’ve always liked — she looks back and makes sense of her life like you make sense of a piece of literature. For some reason, it seems like such a necessary thing to do — that I feel this way is perhaps odd.

I’m now in Mountolive, the third of the Alexandria Quartet. Delicious. These can only be read in the summer, I think. Anyway — it seems to me that you read Justine, and it’s good, and then you read Balthazar, and realize that you had no idea what was going on at all, an impression which becomes even clearer as you read Mountolive. It’s like Rashomon — in Egypt.

Have you read about the Russian spies? The most hysterical thing to me is this quote from the New York Times, which is not quite right because the exact version of the article that I read in paper is not available online: Speaking about the spy named Mrs. Murphy (yes, Mrs. Murphy), a neighbor, Mrs. Cipprio, says: “They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas!”

Indeed.

World cup

M and I have been watching the world cup.

We were sad when the US lost, and sort of uninvolved when England and Mexico lost — well, Germany just looked so energetic that it was hard not to like them a bit, and we sort of liked the Argentinians’ shirts. What’s with all the hair, though? They seem to be trapped in a different decade. Yes?

K thinks soccer is a stupid sport because the score is always so low and because people roll around on the ground and pretend to be injured and because, he says, there’s all this build-up and nothing happens.

I sort of like it, though. Basketball is just a bunch of running back and forth inside. Baseball is, admit it, boring. Football is just absurd — the only thing it has going for it is that it’s fun to be outside in the stands in the cold drinking coffee or whiskey. Especially in baseball it seems to me there’s a lot of buildup — getting players on base — and then somebody strikes out and it all comes to naught, so I don’t see why K likes that and not soccer. And actually, it’s fun to actually play flag football, but the kind they play professionally is just stupid. People really are injured. I think I also like watching soccer because N used to play, so I’ve sort of learned to enjoy it.

Anyway.

This afternoon M is off at the gay parade — another spectator sport — and I’m at work finishing up some stuff from last week. Is this what it will be like next year? I’ll have nothing else to do and be forced to come in to work for entertainment? Hmmm.

I’ve been rereading The Possessed, by Elif Batuman, which most people I’ve recommended it to have liked much less that I have. Members of the book group I’m in at work have found it “intimidating” and “boring.” So I’m reading it again to see if I can figure out why I liked it so much. In the first place, it really is funny. I guess I can imagine people thinking that she’s too clever by half — she is clever, and you get the feeling that she’s used to writing for a rather specialized audience — one that values cleverness. She’s got a sort of confident but self-deprecating tone that I find endearing, but can imagine others not much liking. I think you’ve also got to be interested in literature and the study of literature, too — she compares, for instance, a recreation of an ice palace built in St Petersburg to the first half of what she calls a conversion narrative — the part of a novel or a poem that is later discounted by the second half of the poem of novel: the novel about the adulterous romance (Anna Karenina) that is disounted when Anna is thrown under the train, Vronsky leaves for Serbia to fight the Turks (“the novel is absorbed into history”) and Levin goes to his estate to find God (“the novel is absorbed into spiritual meditation”). Or, in the case of Maurice Sendak, Pierre stops saying “I don’t care” (so satisfying!) and repents and says “I care” (so boring.)

I see this time around that it’s the story of her growing up, really, and doing so in the context of a lot of reading. Being a person who was thrilled beyond measure to find, in Ulysses, a way to make ordinary life into a book, it’s easy to see how this speaks to me.

Okay — onward with my issues of classification. I want to be home in an hour.

Tired, so tired

I am sort of exhausted, and yet because I have been away and there’s so much to do, I really should get right to work.

And I will.

I had to take N to the airport at 5:15 this morning, which is contributing to the tiredness.

I miss her so much. I see that on its own a leaf has been turned. She’ll visit us, but she doesn’t really live with us any more.

It’s good — it’s very good — but I love her so much.

Looking back at my own life, though, I see that from the time I went to college until I had kids of my own was a time that I was pretty separate from my family, but then after having kids there was a kind of gradual closing of the gap. That seems natural.

So —

M is flying out to spend a week with her next week, and I will see her again in August, and I think I may try to persuade her to spend a week with me at the beginning of September, maybe exploring the Gaspe peninsula, between when she moves out of her apartment and when she has to be back at school.

I see now that I’ve got to grab weeks here and there to spend time with her.

And while I really am looking forward to having lots of time next fall — K and I may even go to Mexico with some people who know someone with a house there, and really even being able to reliably get to work by 8:00 will be nice — I am going to be a total wreck after saying goodbye to M. It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

If you can bear even more nostalgia, Alice linked to her favorite post today, which caused me to think of mine. It’s about listening to tapes in the car while driving the kids, and oddly enough I was in the car with N this weekend when Love me Two Times came on the radio and N asked me, “Do you remember those tapes we had?” And of course, I had been remembering them too.

Graduation

So, the tests have been taken, the book handed in, the mortarboard appropriately decorated and today she graduates.

N flew in yesterday. It is great having her here — immediately the house was full of her friends. I came home yesterday to find the two E’s sitting in the living room watching The Gilmore Girls. Where is N? I asked. She was upstairs taking a nap. Last night we were up til one playing hearts. Now it feels like summer.

The house is nearly clean. I got flowers at the farmers market yesterday. The garden’s looking okay. I think we’re ready.

Paper plates

M is upstairs furiously drawing tiny minute scenes of a sailing cat’s life. She had an assignment to write a children’s book and decided that she would actually write a children’s book — on signatures with elaborate drawings on each page, 2 signatures to be sewn together, 2 copies to be bound with fancy endpapers.

It will be lovely. I personally worry about the physics exam. She would have an A for the class if she did well on it. Of course, if she fails she may spend the rest of her life up in her room drawing tiny minute drawings while her mother brings her trays of food.

It is possible she has inherited some of K’s more Asperger’s-like qualities.

Party planning is going well, in that the toilet is fixed!!! I had no idea how much it would increase quality of life to have a functioning toilet on the first floor. Here’s the deal — a lot.

So now there’s just the matter of cleaning the house, figuring out the menu, shopping and cooking. It actually looks like it’s going to be a sort of smallish group of less than 20, which is good because it’s projected to be sort of cold — so if everyone comes inside we will all fit. That’s good.

I actually like having parties, once I get over the horror. I will make N and M help me cook. That will be fun.

And then there’s the graduation itself, which is on Friday.

That will be fun, too.

I believe I am figuring out the source of the crabbiness. Partly it’s about M going away. Partly its about the worry of having things — parties, summer travel — floating out there unresolved. But a lot of it is about working in a construction zone. Day after day there is banging and drilling. People are wearing ear protectors at the reference desk. It’s wearing. Yesterday for some reason exhaust was being piped into our office, so we all had to scatter off to other open desks around the building, which meant calling in the IT people because there s no universal login to any computer. It’s just a pain — it’s all a pain and there’s way too much to get done before we move and everyone is crabby and frenzied and feeling put upon.

Annoyingly, those in charge don’t seem very moved by our plight. They did not respond well when I told them we were being poisoned. I think it may be the case that they themselves are overwhelmed by the whole business. Which I think just means that we are kind of on our own to solve our own problems. This is fine — we can certainly handle that. It’s always this fine balance — you have to handle your own problems which is fine until they decide you’ve done something they don’t want you to do, and of course, there’s no way of knowing what those things are until you’ve done them.

This is the problem. Those in charge are peevish themselves. I understand why, but it does make things a bit difficult.

So there’s that.

Anyway . . .

Party planning

We’re in the midst of planning a small party for M’s graduation.

We, well, I, have put together a nice evite, complete with a picture of M. This is a first — I usually just use some template. So that’s good.

Next, working from rosters of schools and childcare places she’s attended since she was 6 months old, I have cobbled together at least a phone number for nearly everyone. Not sure if they all still work, though.

Now I have to call several people and hope that they still live where they used to, and also get M to figure out who else she wants to invite and then figure out how she’s going to do it. The dreaded FB would probably work. M hates it.

Very complicated. If it just turns out that it’s only my brother and N and a few friends, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

And then I’ve got to get the grass cut (it’s very long at the moment) and figure out what we’ll eat. Music — Harriet, we’ll probably use your excellent summer compilation.

Oh, and I’d better get the running toilet in the downstairs bath fixed — this is why it’s good to have parties, actually.

And there we are!