Thursday, April 9, 2020

Willows and Wisteria - Episode Sixteen - Situationally Theirs

Naturally, they did gravitate to this fresh smelling outside world everyday to explore, sit in the sun, tidy the gardens or run on the gravelled track on Emelina’s grand estate. At least that what they had done when the isolation of their kitchen home had felt too cramped. When what was on television was all about the pandemic. Emelina suddenly liked that Digby had called it the Invisible Menace. It had been given so much airtime, and it was important, that she shuddered just thinking about it. But now, she and Dez were away from the estate. The track had gotten very boring. The gardens needed very little work. The sun was absolutely warm and beautiful in the country, but it had followed them into town. She had heard Dez get up and creep around trying not to waken her. She feigned sleep when Dez tiptoed past the fold out couch. Soon she smelled coffee and decided to stop pretending and get up. She had forgotten her slippers, so Dez had given her a pair of black anklet slippers to wear. They were warm and cosy. 

“I’m up, Dez. Will be right out as soon as I brush my hair and wash my face.” Emmie had to pass the family pictures in the hallway on her way to the bathroom. She hesitated, smiled, then brushed them gently with her fingertips before continuing down the hall.

“What do you want for breakfast Emmie? I’ve got cereal and milk, or bacon and eggs or you can have both? And here’s some oranges in the fridge. You can have an orange too if you want.’

Emmie’s blond hair tied back in a ponytail, she barely looked as if she’d just gotten out of bed. She stifled a yawn, stretched and walked to the kitchen window. 

“You’ve got a great view here, Dez! And a wonderful park with a trail. Can we go there today and explore?” Emmie sounded like a little girl wanting to go for a ride. 

“I thought we were just going to pick up some of my things and go back to your place? But sure, if you want to we could spend the day in town, maybe pick up some burgers or a pizza. All the restaurants are closed except for take out, so we’d have to eat it outside or bring it back here.”

“Why don’t we just stay in town? That does sound like fun. Would it be all right if we did stay another night here? You know, Dez, if we go back out to the country, it would just be to maybe get a couple more things of mine, check and make sure the gardens we worked on are still ok. And there’s really no reason I have to go home.”

Dez, still in her pyjamas, her curly brown hair loose, leaned back against the counter, a mug of hot coffee cradled in her hands. “Are you sure? What about whether Digby and Martha need something?”

“I’ve got my cell phone with me and we’ll be in town if they need groceries. So it might be more convenient. But really Dez, I like your place. Like I said last night, it feels like home. I don’t know that I ever felt that way in my home. Maybe when Mike was alive, but he’s been gone for five years now. So often that house feels so big and empty. Anyway, enough of the sadness. For breakfast, I want cereal and an orange. Rice Krispies and milk….do you have any brown sugar?”

“I thought you were off of sugar! No way I’m going to give you sugar.”

“Sorry, sister dear, I found it. Too late.” Emmie had been going through the cupboards and found things in the same places as their mother would have had them. 

And so, Emmie and Dez spent the day together. Dez took Emmie for a walk through her neighbourhood. Hartley, a moderately sized town, boasted small neighbourhoods, each with it’s own commercial area. In Dez’s neighbourhood, there were a couple of grocery stores and a drug store and were the only stores open. A beauty salon and dress shop were closed while pandemic restrictions were on. The GGB was open for limited hours for bank customers. Perfect Pizza and Hamburger Hut were at either end of this Main Street and were open for take out only. 

“Is that the bank you really didn’t rob?” Emmie was pointing to a squat building across the street tucked between the beauty salon and the dress shop. The Global Grand Banks branch didn’t seem very imposing, but had certainly drawn Emmie’s attenion,

“Yes, ma’am. That’s it. Can you see those two security guards in there. Stanley and Giovanni. They really are good guys. Kind of goofy, but they keep their handcuffs at the ready! I’m surprised I don’t still have bruises from that wild night what - two weeks ago. Seems like a lot longer than that. I can laugh about it now, but that was one strange night.”

“I’m glad it happened ~ not that you were in jail ~ but that we got reunited after all these years. And to think we live in the same area. I’m just outside of Hartley and you live in Hartley. Can we go to that park I saw outside your window?”

“Let’s go. We’ll just keep walking up to that corner and then veer left. There’s an entry to the park there. I can show you the Japanese Garden ~ but you would know about that from the work that you do, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, I know about it, but I’ve never seen it.” Emmie stamped her foot. “I know all about so many things and I’ve seldom seen any of them. To a meeting and then home again. Oh, sure I read and listen to music but ……..”

“Emmie, it’s ok. You’re ok and we’re going to see one of those projects you’ve worked on right now. You really do need to get away from your place, don’t you? This might sound strange. Actually it does sound strange, but this Invisible Menace, may just have a lot of silver linings. We’re friends again. Sisters that actually talk to each other. We’ve been having some fun times this last couple of weeks. You’re finding things out about yourself that would still be stuck if all this hadn’t happened. And I’ve figured out that I can be proud of the home I have. I don’t know. There’s got to be more that I haven’t thought of, but don’t have time for that right now. Here we are at the Japanese Garden.”

Emmie was entranced by the graceful willows, lacy wisteria, little foot bridges and delicate water features. Rather than wondering why she hadn’t been here before now, she just soaked in the atmosphere. The cool green, the fresh air and slanting sun rays that dappled the gravelled paths they walked on. Dez, who came here often, found her favourite bench and sat in those sun rays watching the golden koi swimming beneath a running water pipe. When their hunger overpowered the pleasure they felt in the garden, they slowly wandered back to Hamburger Hut. Wooden benches outside welcomed them into the late afternoon sun while they enjoyed each other’s company.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by
 going too fast ~ you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
~ Eddie Cantor

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

HomeComing - Episode Fifteen - Situationally Theirs

Interest in the outside world wavered, as they engrossed themselves in remaking their inside home, yet often one or the other could be found sitting outside as the weather warmed. Today Desperanza and Emelina sat side by side. They still kept some distance from one another, but because they had shared their kitchen home for several weeks, they felt safe being a little closer. Once in a while, they had even shared a sisterly hug. 

“So Dez, when do you want to get into town? You’ll actually be able to get your own clothes. You must be sick of wearing mine when yours are in the laundry.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I think I told you, a few days ago, that I wouldn’t be able to get back in my apartment until the pandemic was over. Seems it’s not going to be over for a long, long time. When I thought about it, that didn’t seem right. That I couldn’t get in my apartment until the pandemic was over. So I contacted the landlord again. He says he doesn’t recall saying that ~ but I know he did ~ and wondered where I had been this last few weeks. Why do you think he would say that? Was he trying to get me out?”

“It does sound pretty strange, but then this is a pretty strange time. It’s really nice sitting in the sun here on the steps, but do you want to go now. We can check everything out, make sure everything’s in good shape. Do you have any houseplants?”

“OMG! I forgot all about them. I can’t even remember when I watered them last. Some don’t need much water - I picked them for that very reason - but there’s a couple that are kind of fussy. We might need to have a ‘plant funeral’. Seriously though, I really need to get in there and see what the place looks like. I’m not the best housekeeper in the world. Bring your pj’s and toothbrush. We can have a sleep over. My place is only a small one bedroom, but I can pull out the couch for you. It’s bit of a scrunch but works ok”

“Really! I haven’t been on a sleep over for years…..maybe not since I was in college. That sounds like fun. We can see if Hartley is still standing after these weeks of shut down. Most of the stores are still closed, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. But at least we can get a take out coffee some place, go to the park and sit outside.”

Dez was serious when she suggested the sleep over, but she really didn’t think Emmie would agree to it. Her house was so big and gorgeous. Amazing furniture. Art work that had to have cost an arm and a leg - if not two legs. All the land around so beautiful. Dez’s dinky little apartment, as she called it, would fit in what had been their kitchen home two times over. All of a sudden she wasn’t sure she wanted her sister to see where she lived. But there was nothing she could do but back out and say she’d worry about her plants some other day. But then she thought about the refrigerator. Her earlobes turned bright pink and a wave of colour washed over her face. She took a deep breath “Good! How soon can we get on the road?”

“Give me two minutes to get my things for the night.” Emmie had been in and out in a flash. “Ok. I’m ready to go. Do you need anything from inside before we go? I need to lock up. So get in, grab what you need……..oh, I forgot. Everything you need is at your place and that's where we're going.”

Emmie hadn’t seen the flush on Dez's face, or her wrinkled forehead. She was just excited to go on this little excursion. She did notice that Dez got awfully quiet, but just let it go. When they drove up Dez’s street, Emmie was pleased. She had half expected that Dez lived almost in a slum by the way she described it. But the street was tree lined with cherry trees blossoming, their leaves barely budding. Apartment blocks, each lawn manicured, stood quietly on wide green spaces. Flower gardens graced each of them with style and colour. When they entered the building, Emmie was impressed with the muted earth tones of the foyer. Riding up to the 8th floor on an elevator with one side of glass, Emmie was showed a spectacular view the city and the gardens below. The elevator stopped, the doors slid open smoothly on a wide plain hallway. 

“I’m just down here, Emmie. Number 302.”

Dez’s apartment smelled musty. Her southwest facing apartment was quite warm despite closed curtains. And it was a bit of a mess. Dez picked up a sweater here, shoes there, as she led Emmie toward the kitchen.

“Dez! These pictures are beautiful. Where did you get them? I don’t have any of the family pictures anymore.”

Emmie had stopped suddenly when she saw family pictures, beautifully framed and hung, in the short hallway. Dez and Emmie were tiny children with their grandparents. Then Dez and Emmie on a first day at school. The their parents wedding picture. She could barely stop looking at them. She heard Dez call from a great distance.

“Emmie, come on in the kitchen when you’re ready. It’s not too late. I’ll make us some tea. There’s more photo albums in the living room. I’ll show you later.”

Emelina came into the kitchen, running her hand over the old kitchen table that they had eaten at for all the years they were growing up. Dez brought her tea in her mom’s favourite teacup to the table. 

“I don’t have any cookies or anything. I’m scared to look to far into the fridge in case there’s a green monster or two in there. Emmie, what’s wrong? Your eyes are leaking. Is my apartment that bad?”

“No. No. No. Dez, your apartment is just perfect and I haven’t seen it all yet. It feels like home!”

“Come on in the living room and I’ll show you what else I’ve managed to keep. Remember the chair that Grandpa always sat in after supper. He had to have ‘a pipe’ after supper and read the paper. ‘I have to know what’s going on in the world.’ Remember his gruff old voice. He always tried to sound so scary but I never believed him.”

“This was such a good idea, Dez. I’ve been so lost in that big old house, since Mike died, Having all the staff there has kept it from feeling completely lonely. Being busy with the different boards I’m on has stopped me from thinking too much about how my life has just been drifting. You know I don’t really know what I want to do, but I want to do something different. I want to be someone different. Or, no, I want to be who I wanted to be before I married. Does that sound weird?”

“Yeah, it kind of does. Only because we can’t go back to that before place because we’ve learned lots of different things. Different things that are important like all the things we’ve learned along the way. You’ve got amazing artworks in your house. You didn’t always have an eye for art.”

“Mike did. That was one of the many things that attracted me to him. He taught me about paintings and sculpture. He was a good husband and I still miss him. He taught me how to dance.  We could dance like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. At least it felt like it when we were waltzing.’

Dez and Emmie sat up late that night. They pulled out the old family albums, sat outside on the narrow balcony the full moon bathing the cherry blossoms in silver and in general reminisced about their good old days. Dez hadn’t noticed it, but the creeping feeling of shame had left her. One of her plants had died, and she dropped her clothes and shoes wherever she took them off, but it really was home. As the night wore on, they both yawned. “Time for bed” they said in unison with a late night laugh.

The couch got pulled out, the bed made up with ordinary sheets and blankets. Emmie tucked herself in and was asleep before Dez was even in her room. Dez found her own pyjamas, got in her own bed and pulled the covers over her. She slept deeply that night.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place 
where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Place Marks ~ Episode Fourteen of Situationally Theirs

“Music however, would transport them outside of themselves and lift their hearts into its flow, lift their feet off the floor to get them moving and feeling normal again. Emelina believed that with all her heart. When she heard Beethoven’s romantic Moonlight Sonata, when a symphony played the stirring Ride of the Valkyries her heart would melt or soar no matter the circumstances of her life. But if she heard ‘Don’t stop believin’ one more time……It was one thing to hear the music, but Dez’s singalongs were just too much. 

“Do you have to play that over and over and over, Dez? Do you not like or even know any other music?”

“I didn’t know it bothered you, Emmie. I can’t seem to find my earbuds. I’ll turn the sound down. You’ll be in your room anyway won’t you?”

“Actually, no I won’t. I get tired of being ‘in my room’ like I was little child. And just because you want to play your music and sing like you were one of the band? Can’t we find some music we both like?” 

Emmie knew she was being harsh. She really rather enjoyed being in her own room - she called it her own room now, not Digby’s room. It was quiet. She had a lovely bay window and could see the gardens and lawns. Which, by the way, were getting a bit out of hand, with no one to tend them. She would have to check with her yard man to see if he could come to tidy it up. Maybe show her what she could do. That would certainly get her outside and away from Dez’s daily performances.

Dez knew that she hated the classical music always coming out of Emmie’s room. She hadn’t said anything. Yet. But now that her music had been criticized, she thought she just might. But they were grown women and at each other like they needed someone to tell them to just Stop fighting! Dez sighed. Did they have to agree with each other’s tastes in music? They never had before. Maybe they had been cooped up with each other too long. Talking to Digby and to Martha was great. The shopping trip for Martha and Digby was actually fun. But they had both been so played out afterwards. Ever since, everything seemed off kitler. No, actually it seemed more off kilter. Out of balance. Tension had been mounting since they pulled the tape off the floor. They still kept their distance, but they didn’t have defined spaces anymore. They ate at the same table, just at different ends of the long servant’s table. Dez didn’t think putting the tape back would help. She almost laughed out loud at the thought, but Emmie was cranky enough that Dez didn’t think she would see anything funny about that at all. Talking to Digby, more so than Martha, made it clear to both Dez and to Emmie that they weren’t really in this together. Emelina owned this place. Desperanza was merely her little sister who needed a place to stay in this crisis. If Emmie hadn’t been half asleep and feeling deserted, would she have been so gracious? Dez decided to find out if she would be able to get back into her apartment. But she no longer had a job, so couldn’t pay her rent. She hadn’t applied for any of the government funding or even checked to see if she qualified.

Emelina had felt the same tension that Dez had. ‘We are two grown women. Our life experiences are different, our experiences with music are different. Our tastes in music have been different since we were little. Dez has always sung and danced to energetic music. Sometimes even moving to the classical music I love so much. Why does it matter anyway? That damn tape on the floor. I thought that ripping it from the floor would let me feel almost normal. But I was always afraid that I would bump into Dez’s space. I haven’t known where my space was and where her’s began. Then talking to Digby and Martha yesterday just made it worse. It did feel so good to see them and talk with them. Going to the grocery store felt normal and good, if maybe a little strange with some people wearing masks and gloves, but normal and good. Being able to greet people and smile and have it returned. Once we delivered the groceries and came home, something just felt wrong. As though neither of us belonged. It was Cook’s kitchen, Digby’s room and Martha’s room. Dez and I are interlopers. None of it feels real. Like we’ve both been in some kind of weird dream.’

They spoke at once…..”Emmie, I’m so sorry.”  “Dez, Please forgive me.” Tears welling up in their eyes, they started to laugh. 

“Listen to us! How old are we? Of course I forgive you for being so cranky and not liking “Don’t stop believin’’. Dez spun around while she sang the words.”I’d spin you around with me is I could reach your hand.”

“And I forgive you, Dez. For playing that song you love so much over and over and over til it drives me crazy. I’m just getting so stir crazy in this kitchen. I almost wanted to put the tape back on the floor so I’d know where my place is.”

“That’s what it’s all about isn’t it.”

“What is?”

“We don’t know where our places are? You’re living Downstairs when you should be Upstairs. I’m living in your kitchen when I should be in my own apartment in town. You’re sleeping in Digby’s room and you should be in your own room, sleeping in your own bed. I’m in Martha’s room, Martha that I just met two days ago, when I should be in my own apartment, sleeping in my own bed! You’re an employer and a hoity toity person and I’m a lackey and a bank robber.”

“You are absolutely right, Dez. Everything is all mixed up and upside down. So what are we going to do about it, because I do not want to spend my days being out of sorts with me, with you and with…..with……well, everything.”

“All right, let’s make a plan. First, we find out if we still have to be distancing when it’s just the two of us. That’s really getting hard, never knowing when contact is ok and when it isn’t. Now it’s your turn.”

“Let me see……What about…..I take you on a tour of the Upstairs.”

Dez suddenly was quiet.. “What’s wrong Dez? It’s just an ordinary house.”

“It’s not that. It’s just that I have a dinky little one bedroom apartment that I don’t know if I can even return to. I guess I’m a little intimidated. When it’s just you and I in our kitchen house, but when I start seeing You and I in our regular lives, it gets a bit scary.

“Well, then we need to go to your apartment so I can see my little sister’s home.” The realization that Dez was feeling more uprooted that she was, struck Emelina hard. Their parents both gone for many years, cousins miles away, they really only had each other as family. Emelina had poured herself into her work. The heartstring ties between Emelina and Desperanza had almost come undone. 

“In the biggest and smallest I sleep but at the same place I stay.”
~ Dejan Stojanovic,  The Shape