Louisiana, TSA and a disembodied hand, kitchen

Ok, y'all, I was gone and then I returned and now I'm sort of gone again, but I had to check in, not least to tell you a funny tale.

Last Friday morning, before the sun was up, I flew to Louisiana for a quick visit. My sister, who as you probably know lives in Italy, had been in the Dominican Republic with her Italian family for a vacation. When they returned to Florence, she and her children (my nephew, Leone, and new niece, Virginia) flew to Louisiana to see my parents. I just had to take advantage of our being in the same country to see Elia and Leone and meet Virginia. 

Virginia and Leone have the same birthday. She is four months old and he's that plus three years. I'd not seen Leone or Elia since last August, so really, being home was such a treat in so many ways. Not least because there was no snow in Louisiana nor any fumes from floors being refinished. And because crawfish season is terrific and fun. 


Naturally, because there was a new baby, we had many visitors over the weekend. One, Mom's dear friend Susan, has known my boys for years now. She is well aware that he is fairly obsessed with what some might call junk but which he calls treasure. And because she runs a museum and the warehouse next door, she has been able to indulge Oliver's treasure-hunting desire by letting him putter around inside the cavernous store. 

Susan came bearing gifts, including a few from the warehouse. One was as perfect as they come: a disembodied mannequin hand missing the top knuckle from its middle finger. Susan thought she'd found the missing piece and so into the box threw that digit. However, that turned out to be a lady's finger with a pink-painted nail, no match for the thick masculinity of the hand.

Everyone in the room about fell out, and I could not wait to bestow these gems upon Oliver. I packed them carefully in a box and nestled that inside my carry-on, sort of forgetting that the Lake Charles Regional Airport is quite possibly the most stringent, nit-picky, rule-following airport in all the world.

This morning as Mom and Elia watched me attempt to go through security, they were first surprised when I was told to step aside for a pat down because the back of my skull showed up in suspicious code-yellow on the security monitor. I wasn't even wearing a ponytail.

While I waited for a female agent to administer my head search, my carry-on bag set off the x-ray alert as it passed through the scanning tunnel.

"Ma'am, we need to search your bag."
"No problem," I replied, thinking that the hand probably looked a little weird on the scanner.
"Do you have anything fragile or sharp in here?"
"Well, I do have a St. Patrick's Day-themed Garden Gnome for my son who both happens to love gnomes and trolls and was born on St. Patrick's Day. His hat is sharp, and he's breakable." It also happens that the leprechaun gnome is puking a rainbow into a pot of gold which is obviously one of the reasons I bought it for Oliver.

"Anything else?"
"I also have, and this is going to sound weird, a hand in a box and a loose finger too. It's from a mannequin. My son likes weird things."

THANK GOD this occurred in Louisiana, y'all, because had I been, say, in Iowa, I am just not sure this all would have gone over as well.

Comments from the TSA agents (who, by the way, had felt my head and declared me safe) during the good ten minutes all this took:
"Well, I'll be. Look at this hand."
"If you need a hand, you don't need to look far."
"Can I give you a hand?"
"Give yourselves a hand for finding this!"

Meanwhile, Mom and Elia are on the other side of the glass, and we are all texting back and forth furiously and trying not to literally fall on the floor or be too obvious about the hysterics we were in. 

"Ma'am, I'm going to let you pack these items back up," one agent said, and as I found out later, before I approached the examination bench to repackage the barfing gnome, severed hand, and dissonantly delicate but also severed finger, Mom snapped this photo.


I was, not surprisingly, the last to board the plane. And we have all been laughing all day. Oliver, needless to say, is thrilled with his treasures. I'm just glad they all made it home safely.


We are finally in the homestretch with the renovation. Due to my ordering knobs but only finding out they are backordered UNTIL JUNE when I called to ask why they'd not yet shipped (the customer service rep said, "Would you like me to check our stores for you to see if they can fulfill your order?" Um, YES! Then she said, "I'm so glad you checked." And I am still thinking "Wasn't it your job to let me know of said backorder?" but whatever), I only have twelve of the fifteen I need but should be made whole soon. 

All the painting is done, the backsplash is nearly complete, all but one light is in, the appliances work, and the floors are looking great. 

The kids and I moved into a friend's house tonight (T home in our basement with Nutmeg) as we cannot access our bedrooms this week because of the refinishing and will move home on Saturday, just in time for Oliver's birthday. 

For now I'm off to bed. Sleep well, friends. 

Movies and a book and kitchens

Even fun and exciting things sometimes grow old, and such is the case with our renovation. Since the plumbing debacle, I have tried north of 30 paint colors and just received word that one of our countertop slabs broke during fabrication. This throws a bit of a wrench in our schedule, the goal of which has always been to be done and back into our house for Oliver's birthday on March 17. And we still have floor refinishing to endure. And I am racing to and from Louisiana later this week to see my sister and nephew and meet my new niece, and Tom is leaving town for three days next week, and then my parents are coming for Ol's birthday, and really, when will it get warm outside?

I am trying to be zen, but I am so tired. And Jack is having a tough year and there is only so much I can do, you know? It feels like nothing ever slows or eases, not for terribly long anyway. And the Evil Yam Turd and his crew are just so sick and awful and destructive.  

It is all going to be so beautiful though (and infinitely more functional). I mean, how charming is my window treatment fabric?! Blackberries for Nanny, flowers and figs, and those darling grasshoppers. And in the meantime, escapism. 

T and I have been watching movies in anticipation of the Academy Awards tonight, and I have to say that although we've not been able to see a few of the contenders (Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and Phantom Thread), our favorites are Darkest Hour and Get Out. If Gary Oldman doesn't win best actor, it will be an abomination. God, he was transcendent.

I know Lady Bird has been all the rage, but for the most part, it just left me sad. I didn't feel a connection with most of the characters, and I couldn't imagine letting my child head to college with such a gulf between us. Of course, you just never know others' relationships, but still. I had a similar reaction to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: great expectations followed by a sense of letdown. Frances McDormand, an amazing actress and one of my all-time favorites, seemed a touch one-dimensional. I don't know. I just wasn't enthralled. Sam Rockwell seemed almost a caricature, and Woody Harrelson (another of my absolute favorites) seemed to turn so quickly. I much prefer him as Haymitch. 

I've told y'all how much I applaud Get Out, and last night we watched Darkest Hour. Boy oh boy, was I transported. I am endlessly fascinated by Churchill and the world during WWII, by the evil and courage and strength and never-ending hope and determination. History is both humbling and so instructive, offering lessons and beacons of light as we make, and remake, our ways through travails and humanity. Here's hoping we survive the horrific confluence of Rat Poison Turdface + the internet.

In the meantime, if you're done with films, please read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I'm not done but am fully entranced and hate to put it down when I must. Ok, the children call. 

Really good reading (Karl Ove Knausgaard), kitchen update

Since I can remember, which to be fair is only since about the age of 6, I have so enjoyed having older friends. High on the list of both options and favorites included my parents' friends, and even my Nanny's. I attribute this to never quite feeling like I fit it with peers my age, finding comfort in those who'd lived a bit longer, made it through various gantlets (who else wonders about gantlet versus gauntlet? See below for a deeper-in-brief understanding.), and shrugged aside what no longer mattered or should.

Being that I am nearly 42, I cannot for the life of me recall why I started this post this way. I mean, it's all true, but where was I going with my older-friend (discussion)? And why, after nothing more than a question from Jack regarding (a fifth) dinner, have I forgotten my direction?

I attribute this both to being nearly 42 and to having been home with a sick'ish child for two days while also being in the midst of our renovation and having a 3rd grade class play to attend to. Plus trump. He's generalized anxiety at its worst. Robert Reich, who I heard speak last night, feels we have much work to do but also should feel lots of optimism. We must get back to the common good, the unwritten moral obligations we each feel for others, for those are the threads that bind. Here's hoping.

In any case, good reading. 

There is always too much good reading to ever actually complete, but, if you love being swept away in deceptively simply observation of places and people, I beseech you to make time for Karl Ove Knausgaard, a Norwegian writer who lives in a tiny town in Sweden. 

I suspect that being friends with KOK would be difficult. He seems quite the artistic dervish really. Naturally, he is ruggedly handsome, perennially windswept and tan. And he smokes. But I am besotted by his writing, by his ability to see where he is and make you feel that you, too, are there. Smelling what he smells, meeting who he meets, smoking as he smokes. 

He first came on my radar three years ago, when he published in the New York Times a masterful travelogue/essay/memoir-lite about travel through North America. He managed to traverse some epically barren places, but my god did I shortly want to go where he had gone. To see the combination tub-shower-wall that seemed it couldn't have fit through the door but also couldn't have been crafted in that room. To experience the silence and space and immense rurality of some of the places he visited. In the country that is my home, and in the one that is my immediate northern neighbor. 

That piece stuck with me, not least because I consider myself nearly hampered by my observations but here was a writer making beautiful of it. And then I read about his enormous, multi-volume autobiography, and picked up "Autumn." The Guardian loathed it, considered it twee and horrid, but honestly, I loved it. I love the way he describes a wall or a spill of blood or a church or authenticity and the way we all search for and are drawn to it. Is KOK self-indulgent and dramatic? Maybe. But is his eye impeccable and is his hand deft? Without a doubt.

And then, last Sunday, this roguish Scandinavian took us to Russia via not enough pages in the New York Times Magazine. Not having read Turgenev's “A Sportsman’s Sketches," (1852) I can, nonetheless, feel I understand that which Knausgaard remains drawn to: "modest, aimless" stories that manage to portray so much, perhaps even the whole of the story.

There is something utterly magnetic in Knausgaard's rendering of place. Something completely authentic and crucial. Something essential. The everyday. Life.

I can imagine that for some such writing is mundane. But to me it is magical. And while I in no way want this to seem aggrandizing, I wonder if the magical in the mundane is maybe what can get us back to a truer sense of the common good. 

What if we first met each other as teammates? For example, my kitchen renovation. I need a team and I have one. My team is young (30s) and old (70s). They speak English and Spanish in varying degrees of fluency, and no, that doesn't wholly map with age. They are from this country and beyond. They live in cities and they live so much farther out. They are single and they are married. Some are grandparents, some are gay. I do not know where their political affiliations rest, but I do know that all of us respect the others' talents and that each of us can and do work toward a common end. We share a bathroom and a microwave, a lunch break and many hours. I watch videos of their children's musical concerts, I see photographs of their grandbabies, and I hear the woes that teenagers and college freshman bring. I think that were something horrible to befall us here, we would keep each other safe, even if that meant risk.

That is the pattern that has been revered, never completely was, is not, but could be. It is what writers like Knausgaard are drawn to and record, it is what Reich implored us to bring back, and while I still don't totally know why I started writing about older friends, I wonder if that thread is related. What we keep and what we shed as we age and our values come together and focus.

Oh, and even though I did just find termites in our deck (FFS), our kitchen is coming along swimmingly, thank gawd. The two far left cabinets in the second picture will have glass fronts too- coming...