I can be perfectly content living with day-to-day clutter: clothes in a basket, mail on the desk, odds and ends piled up on the kitchen counter- until it’s time to leave home. Somehow, getting on a plane is equated with finishing every piece of business, paying every bill, cleaning out the refrigerator and re-writing my will. It’s a hedge against never coming back, a gambit to keep the plane in the air, reassurance that the people who might have to come in and set my affairs in order will not be overly taxed. It’s not something I get anxious about; it’s just something I do. In some sense it’s an added bonus to travel- I get my ducks in a row. Rich, on the other hand, will walk out the door with things in worse shape, as a result of packing and grabbing what he needs, as long as he gets to the airport two hours ahead of time. I’ll risk missing the flight so long as I leave the place just so.
Last Thursday we were leaving for just a little 48 hour jaunt to St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was, however, the first time I’d left the Chicago house and the cats since moving. Because my neighbor, who I don’t know very well, was going to be watching the cats and guinea pig and finches, it was all the more important that the house be spit-spot on. The neighbor and his wife are childless, extremely tidy and have a very cool but minimalist decor. They are not cluttered up with dead foxes and a lifetime of children’s art projects.
So I was watching the time and right on schedule, making sure the litter box was virtually sterile, a new, not-slimy bag of carrots was in the clean frig for Millie, plant debris was swept up (why are ficus deciduous even when they’re in the house, dammit?). The dish washer was running and I was finishing the last load of laundry, ready to flip it to the dryer before the ordered cab arrived. I was wiping the kitchen counters down one last time when McCloud started to "Yeeeooow!" loudly and repeatedly and then I heard- water running. Where there shouldn’t be water. I turned and saw what McCloud saw: water pouring through the ceiling of the entryway.
The washer tub overflowed. Something that happens in most households every once in a while as a sock goes on the lam. But in most houses the laundry is not on the THIRD floor. I screamed up the stairs, "The washing machine!" and Rich yelled, "WHAT?" and the phone rang to tell us that Yellow Cab would be there in 6 minutes.
I don’t think two people have soaked up that much water in five minutes, ever. Water was two inches deep in the laundry room, flowing out into the hallway onto that new expensive wool carpet, and pouring through Rich’s closet on the second floor, soaking all of his business suits. Down on the first floor the alarm system that we haven’t figured out was flashing some kind of red warning. Both cats sat in the hallway looking very concerned as their litter box floated around the laundry room. We emptied the linen closet and mopped up what we could. Yelled. Swore. Ordered each other around.
The cab honked repeatedly, we grabbed our bags, raced out the door and I shoved the keys through the neighbor’s mail slot. We both sat in the back of the cab, panting and shaking our heads. At the airport, Rich directed us to the hotsy-totsy exclusive security line for those that fly constantly. The line was still long and the people in front of us were muttering that "just anybody" thought they could get in line there and what was the point of being titanium if you couldn’t even get frisked without the riff-raff looking on. Some hapless fellow walked by and asked if it was the check-in line for Alaska Airlines and my better half decided to tell him that this was the line reserved for us special folks. I turned to shoot Rich the look, the mind-your-own-business-and-get-off-your-high-horse look and that was when I noticed that he was still wearing his pajamas. And his Yooper snow shoveling hat. And that he hadn’t shaved.
We got off to a rough start. I didn’t take my tripod, partly because I forgot anyway but also because you can’t take them through security and we weren’t checking luggage at that late point in the game. (Curiously, on the way back, I carried my new, very long, very bright, very pointy umbrella that I received for my new membership at the Gardens and security didn’t bat an eye. Obviously, they skipped the James Bond movies during TSA training.) Then the plane was delayed for two hours so we sat in the perks club, several chairs between us, and I glared silently at Rich in his pajamas. Finally, he got up and went into the men’s room and came out looking like a human being and life went on.
The exhibit was more than I had hoped for and the gardens are easily among the finest I have ever seen. At night, those regal glass herons standing, back-lit, in a pond of water lilies and ferns- oh, so fine.
We went back the next day in the sunlight and that was icing on the cake. We went to an afternoon movie matinee at this elegant old-fashioned theatre that served wine and popcorn with real butter. We had a barbecue with Rich’s A-B colleague/friend. We got up yesterday and went to the Soulard Farmer’s Market, the oldest continuous farm market in the country. I bought spices and garlic there and when we pulled Rich’s bag out of the overhead after landing back here the entire plane instantly smelled like way too much garlic. Three giant heads of garlic got smashed in there and it was overpowering. People began looking around and sniffing, I looked at him and he looked at me, I smiled and once again eased four feet further away and pretended I didn’t know him.
We got home in time to watch THE GAMES. Now that OUR boys (How ABOUT those TIGERS!!??!) have brought it home, we’re cheering for the Cardinals because a) the Tigers can beat them and b) we see A-B World Series tickets in our future. I guess we don’t really need to discuss Saturday football. It’s enough to quietly savor certain victory and defeat.