A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A NON-WORKER
The rain beats furiously against the window, interrupting a restful, dream-filled sleep, in which I am floating in a sea of acceptance slips, signing book contracts, and arranging to fly to California for the Carson show. The menacing buzz of the radio alarm clock goes off every ten minutes, the exact time it takes to drift back to sleep. At 7 a.m., there is no good reason to be awake. I don't have to attend school; nor do I have to leave for work, a bone of contention among those in my family who fervently believe that I should make them a hot breakfast before sending them out into the real world.
Misery, the fifteen-year-old dog who has lived up to her name, lays her large, shaggy head on my pillow, and pants morning breath into my face. The bluish glare of her cataract-coated eyes warns me that she will not be held accountable for what may happen if I don't let her outside immediately; a realistic deterent to further lazing in bed.
By 8 a.m., the house is quiet once again. Even the pounding rain has tapered to a fine drizzle. My four-year-old grandson Ian, dropped off by my daughter, walks into the kitchen to announce that he is "here", as his eleven-month-old brother, Jesse, babbles nonsense from the playpen. The baby's voice has the penetration of a well-known grease-cutter.
It's Monday morning and another non-work week is about to begin, during which time I will babysit two lovable, but precocious boys, run business inventories on two computers, manage a three story home, and do freelance writing; and count my blessings that I don't have to go to work.
By the time I gulp two cups of coffee, and complete three fourths of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Jesse's insistent soprano voice is reaching high C. I consider doing a warm, grandmotherly article on minding toddlers, but when Jesse leans over the playpen and spits up on the dog, my enthusiasm wans.
The next hour consists of what my "new age" daughter calls creative playtime. That translates into letting the children do whatever they please. I am as modern as the next person, but after Ian poster paints the white formica countertop in black stripes, insisting it's his pet zebra, free expression ends. Jesse's creativity is limited to the realization that his diaper is detatchable, presenting endless possibilities.
By noon, I've put the house back together, made lunch for the boys, driven Ian to nursery school, and tucked the pit baby(so nicknamed for his tenacious grip on breakables) into bed for his one treasured nap.
Two hours later, I've compiled inventory, mailed overdue bills, and sent manuscripts off to the literary meat market, while the Apple IIE works its internal magic with the numbers I've posted into it. I've hung up three times on a telephone computer robot, who wants to know my vital statistics, and bought a year's subscription to Field and Stream, in order to make the salesperson leave.
While the Apple is printing out evaluation reports, I type a short story into the IBM, inspired by the momentary peace and solitude. Engrossed in my work, I don't realize that Ian has been dropped off from nursery school, until he plops a hideous(I never said that) green lump of clay sculpture on my keyboard. Seven pages of manuscript disappear, lost forever in that mysterious story-eating gray box; just when Mary was lusting after John.
The type of calmness that sometimes precedes insanity washes over me. I make Ian a healthy snack, not laced with cyanide, and even manage to tell him how much I missed him.
"You didn't miss me, Grandma," he says. "You're the one who took me there and left me."
I'm tempted to say, "You're right," but I hug him instead. Ian settles in for some violent cartoons, and the siren-like wail of the pit baby marks the end of creative writing.
The teenager, made into an only child by the absence of five grown brothers and sisters, storms into the house. She throws her books on the table, raids the refrigerator, and gives me a twenty minute discourse on her first day of high school; heavy on boys, light on scholastics. She informs me that much as she would love to watch her nephews for me, she must get to the Mall at once. Owning only four new outfits, she doesn't want to repeat herself in a five-day school week. Everyone(related to the infamous "they") will notice.
By now it's 4 p.m., and my manuscripts are still in the mailbox, soggy from the misty rain. The mail carrier, over five hours late, neither knows, nor cares that I wait anxiously each day for acceptance/rejection slips. An hour later, I spot him running down the street, new on the job and obviously frightened. Misery, in a rare moment of bravado, must have given him a toothless, raspy snarl, for now the mail dropped in haste on the unprotected porch stoop is as wet as the outgoing mail. It's mostly brown envelopes, signifying returned manuscripts, and I'm in no mood for rejection. I'll open them later.
As Jesse methodically empties all the kitchen, cabinets and drawers, I concoct a simple dinner of chili with beans and brown bread. Dining with small children will either cause compulsive eating or pseudo anorexia. Ian detests all healthy food, and Jesse concentrates on feeding his supper to Misery, whose sense of smell has deteriorated to the point where she indiscriminately devours scraps of bread and shredded napkins.
The last hour before my daughter comes to collect her sons is spent re-stocking the cabinets, brushing crumbs out of the dog's eyes, picking up the fifty or more toys that Jesse has hurled from his playpen, and bathing the boys. Ian has an inborn aversion to having his hair washed, and Jesse likes to scuba-dive, giving me heart failure and more gray hair. By the time their bath is completed, and the bathroom is under water and smells like wet dog. Misery, in her senility, refuses to relinquish her spot on the soft rug next to the bathtub.
Their mother arrives and asks the same daily question, "Were they good?"
I give the same answer, "Perfect!", and she carts them home. I am alone; at least for another twenty minutes when the breadwinner comes home.
My husband walks in the door with that "don't even ask me about my day", look on his face, and heads for his recliner. The pile of damp, warped mail catches his eye, and he rummages through it.
"Hey, I think you might have sold something," he says. "Don't you want to open it?"
I move in slow-motion, back pain radiating down my legs from constantly plucking Jesse off the staircase, and listlessly open the SASE.(self-addressed stamped envelope) "Look at that," my husband says, glancing over my shoulder. "You just sold another article, made $150.00, and you never had to leave the house." He grabs his paper and settles into his chair with the martyred look of a man who has battled rain, fog, and bumper to bumper traffic to provide for a wife who sits home and nonchalantly collects honorariums and checks. I hate that look.
After a full ten minutes of savoring my sale, I trudge back to the IBM, free to write for three more hours. But by now Mary is no longer lusting after John.