Monday, August 31 2020

christmas lights, planning a new garden, and meeting the neighbors



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday, from my tired brain to yours. Here’s to my favorite weekday morning tradition - seeing how many cups of coffee I can have in my stomach before I have to talk to any human beings.

It’s a beautiful day today. We’ve enjoyed a balmy high seventies with almost no humidity all weekend. There’s a big hunk of construction machinery drilling the pavement outside our house, and I know Rodney is going to have free entertainment all day. The house is spotless, except for a single wet spot in the living room carpet that was formerly an anger poop, courtesy of Queen Ziggy. I can’t figure out why, but I know it was my fault. And something in her eyes told me that if I had to ask why, then I wasn’t ready to ask for her forgiveness. Girls can be so complicated.

Sip. We had a wonderful Sunday. After leftover pizza and church at the dining room table, we headed outside into the backyard for some chores. There’s something about the early fall that triggers our craving for outside work. We even plan for it. “Let’s save that for when we inexplicably get excited about outside work this fall,” we’ll say.

Marissa wanted to hang some Christmas lights in the backyard. She secured my approval beforehand. “They’re technically Christmas lights, but they don’t look very Christmas-y,” she explained, tactfully omitting the detail that they were the dangly kind. You know - the kind that look like little glowing icicles?

“I know it’s kind of silly,” said Marissa. “But it makes me happy. I just want to do it. Is it too… college dorm?”

I put my arm around her shoulder patronizingly. “It’s our college dorm,” I replied.

As Marissa finished up her summer holiday decorating, I took on the very glamorous task of disposing of the rest of our wilted summer garden. Dead tomatoes, dead thyme, dead parsley - the black garbage bag of judgment doesn’t care who you were in your earthly life. When it arrives, it harvests us all the same.

Marissa pleaded. “Even the lemon tree?”

“It’s dead,” I said coldly, flipping the pot upside down into the bag, crimping it with my foot.

We have big plans for the garden next year. As I took a break with some coffee and a cigar, Marissa showed me a rough sketch of the raised garden bed she wants to build next year.

“So if you could pick one plant to really invest in,” she said.

I interrupted. “Pumpkins.”

Marissa lost her train of thought and began to laugh. “Can you imagine?”

“Let’s just go all in on tomatoes,” I suggested. “They’re pretty versatile, and they do really well here. Could we also do lemons?”

“The problem with a lemons is they need to come inside in the winter,” said Marissa.

“Oh but I bet they just thrive in California,” I exclaimed. “They have it so easy. Too bad they don’t grow here like walnuts.” I kicked a walnut shell across the grass to emphasize my point.

Our new neighbor and his daughter emerged from their house. Marissa called Rodney over.

“Hey dude, do you want to meet the new neighbors?” she asked. Rodney dropped what he was doing and wandered over to the deck. He wasn’t subtle.

“HEY NEIGHBOR!” he yelled, spinning in a circle. “IT’S RODNEY. WHERE ARE YOU!”

The little girl called out to him. “HELLO,” she hollered. They proceeded to have a friendly shouting match over our driveway. Rodney began to pick up toys from around the yard and hold them up for her. She started listing off her favorite shows on Disney plus. I can tell they’re going to be best friends.

“Dude, you guys can yell at each other any time you want,” said Marissa, smiling.

Lucas and I had a side conversation over by my garbage cans. I asked him about what he was up to, and how they were settling in. He leaned in, looking worried.

“Were those gunshots I heard the other night?” he asked quietly.

“That’s what everyone is saying on Nextdoor,” I said. “But it’s hard to tell sometimes, with all the drag racing going on.”

Lucas’s heart sank. “Drag racing? Is that also a problem here?”

I did my best to back peddle and alleviate his worries. I tried to explain that this summer was kind of an outlier with all the civil unrest going on, and that we had much less gun violence last summer. I tried to explain that this area was getting quickly developed, and the city was starting to at least take the racing problem seriously. But I still felt guilty about breaking the news to him so crassly. There are few feelings worse than when your words, meant to comfort, just make somebody more worried.

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” said Marissa. “Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. And at that moment, he was probably just concerned about what you were saying, and now how you were saying it.”

Lucas turned to his daughter. “OK, my lady”, he said. “I guess you need to put on some clothes or something.”

She looked up at Rodney. “I’LL TALK TO YOU LATER RODNEY,” she yelled. “I HAVE TO GO PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!”

“OK!” Rodney yelled back. “GO PUT CLOTHES ON, NICE TO MEET YOU.”

As Lucas scooped her up, he broke out into song. Even when I close my eyes, even when I FALL ASLEEP I still miss you baaaabe, the tune disappearing into the house.

“Great - now that’s going to be stuck in my head all day,” said Marissa.

I nodded. “He’s got pipes. That fall asleep is a hard note to hit, and - by God, he hit it.”

For dinner, I made hash. Inspired by some leftover chorizo and random tupperware full of diced red onions and cilantro, it took on a Southwest flavor profile.

“This is my favorite hash,” said Marissa.

“You just like it because it has cilantro and red onions,” I laughed. She’s easy to please.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day today.