A Day in the Life

3 Mar

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Melissa March 2, 2013Birthday Girls--March 2, 2013

Today, March 2, 2013, was hazy and cold with fog that pressed close to the treetops. I think one gets a sense of that from the picture I took at Kendal, the retirement community where my mother lives. Large snowflakes blew in the wind but seldom lingered on the ground. The bacon and Gruyère cheese strata that Mom and I made the night before went into the oven at 9:45 am. Once it came out it was lowered into Gillian’s basket and covered with towels. When it arrived at Nancy’s house in Danby it was still steaming.

I take the Pine Tree Road route to Danby, passing many of the Cornell landmarks that I associate with my father like the pig barn that used to appear on the right when driving down the road and the horse barn that appeared on the left. Both buildings are still present but I’m not sure of their purpose. One time my father was giving a tour of the pig barn to my cousin from Florida, and he climbed right in the stall with a huge sow, which one is never supposed to do, because they’re so dangerous. They can knock a person over and bite him. As I drive by, I think of the big smile on his face when he finally made the sow stand up.

Once I’m on Slaterville Road, I become slightly nervous. I have never liked this road with its narrow shoulders and speeding cars. A recent memory, only a couple months old, surfaces. My sister-in-law was driving down this very road in the family van when someone in the right hand lane ahead backed straight into her. He apologized and drove her to Bethel Grove Church, her destination. Among other things, he told her that his wife was due with their first child. That was his excuse, I guess–pregnancy brain. I pray I don’t run into any similarly distracted people.

I’m the first one to arrive; that’s what I get for worrying about the strata. After everyone comes, we sit around the table and swap stories. I think I may have repeated some to this group. I am getting to the age where there have been so many people in my life and so many stories that I forget which tales I’ve told to which people. The brunch food is fabulous. Lynn has brought my favorite jello: peach with wine and almonds. Not only that, but the non-alcoholic mimosa is better than I expected. Debbie has brought cinnamon buns–a talent for making sweet rolls runs in the Call family–and I tell her about the breakfast rings that her Aunt Sukey, my mother’s best friend and Big Sister from their sorority days, brings to us every Christmas. The three women in the picture: Melissa, Debbie, and Wendy, all have March birthdays.

Our group is called “Women in the Middle.” It’s a Methodist church group that is sometimes very active and sometimes given to chatting. We are middle-aged, but I sometimes forget there are members younger than me. I am startled when we discuss President Kennedy’s physical fitness tests and I find out that there are a few people who never had to take the tests because the tests were no longer around when they were growing up. We discuss sit ups and squat thrusts: mention of the latter exercise elicits groans. I am not very good at weaving into conversations–I think I must have received recessive genes on both sides of my family for general awkwardness in group discussions.

I am the first one to leave because I promised my mother I would take her downtown to the Friendship Center, a halfway house that is part shelter, part eating space. When I report back home, she packs her tuna sandwiches into the Vibe and we head down Route 13, noting the fog that has settled across the lake. Sometimes it as though God has taken a giant jar and placed it on top of Ithaca. The snow has beautified the city, but despite its white presence I have that trapped-in, cloistered feeling.

When we disembark, I note that the Friendship Center has a pink exterior. My mother obviously did not choose the color. She has certain ideas about the colors one should choose for a house and pink is not in her palette. Inside I see members of the Presbyterian Church whom I recognize, along with members of the community whom they are feeding. This is my mother’s church. Social Services is involved with the organization, as are the Presbyterian Church and the Red Cross. My mother poses with the director of the center, Aloja. He then gives me a tour of the upstairs, where men are allowed to live for up to eighteen months. There is a shelter for women elsewhere in the city. My mother has a passion for volunteer work that exhausts me, but I’m glad there are people like her around. They fill in the cracks that the government doesn’t cover.

The active part of my day ends at Planet Fitness in the Ithaca Mall. I only took a picture of my face before I went in, because I thought a picture of me in my black leggings might be too much for me and for my readers. Once inside, I climbed aboard my favorite elliptical machine with The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, in hand. It may seem odd to read about the rape of a Native American woman when exercising, but I am able to concentrate and no one else there knows what I’m reading about anyhow.

Now I am finishing this piece. It is the end of the day and I am tired. I think that the Beatles’ songs that were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney together are often their best efforts; both of them were talking about themselves in the song,”A Day in the Life,” but John Lennon refers to a car accident that had just occurred and it serves as a kind of backdrop for their individual “days.” And so you have “a day in my life.”

7 Responses to “A Day in the Life”

  1. DH March 3, 2013 at 4:23 am #

    Mrs. Dalloway!

    • I’d forgotten about that book! Actually the rules for classical dramatic structure include action that is finished in one day. That’s one of the reasons I used to teach _Hedda Gabler_. Ibsen followed the principles of unity. Have you ever tried teaching Virginia Woolf?

      • DH March 3, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

        I am lovin the fact that you are talking about cooking and exercising on an elliptical in a health club. Two things that I never saw happen! Much more enjoyable than pitching V. Woolf to undergrads. Yes, I did teach a VW short prose piece once a long time ago, which I think I’ve shared with you: A Haunted House. I think I got much more out of the piece than the students did! But I’ve also done some writing about Woolf thanks to a prof who taught the Modernists. Couple of things: the guy who ran into Rhonda seems less a weirdo and more distracted, not clear if Debbie is a member of your family.
        Nice to have a writing life and days that are not robbed by teaching to write about.
        Another thing I thought I would never see on you are black leggings!

    • Debbie is a member of the Methodist women’s group. Her aunt and my mother are best friends. I did used to wear leggings, but then I gained weight and felt self-conscious about it. The guy was definitely distracted. I do make changes after I read it to the group, so I can add yours in then, I guess I feel bad because I thought you would be able to teach at a higher level once you received your PhD. You have a wonderful understanding of theory that I don’t have. When I say that about the PhD though, I realize that I did not benefit as much financially from it as I expected to, although I’ve never regretted getting that much education.

      • DH March 4, 2013 at 3:57 am #

        No need to feel bad at all. There are other things to life as you are discovering.

  2. claireaperez March 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this…sounds like a great day, really flows.

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