Friday, August 29, 2008

Unto Us A Child Is Born

I am currently in a suburb of Dallas, visiting my aunt (Jenny), her husband (Patrick), and their four daughters. Their fourth was born this past Monday at 10:21pm. I had the awesome privilege of being present for her nativity, which took place at home, in a birthing pool. As I consider the culturally normative images of birth--woman reclining on hospital bed, wearing one of those horrible gowns, legs apart, red face contorted, screaming with pain, doctors in scrubs, medical face masks, the husband in scrubs, face mask hanging by one string, saying "push, honey, push"--contrasted with the calm, the candlelight, quiet music, soft voices--the naturalness of Jenny's labor--as the midwife said, she makes it look so easy!--it's hard to believe that the contrasting images describe the same type of event.

Of course, having delivered a baby three times before, Jenny was apparently already a skilled and veteran birthing-mother. So I won't be so enthusiastic as to hope that when, God-willing, I have my first child, the birth will be as smooth and natural as the one I witnessed Monday. But I hope it will be closer to that than to the sterilized hospital births of popular imagination.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Adventures in Housesitting, part 1b

Sorry, but the latest finds were just too incredible not to share. In the refrigerator: a sundried tomato and pesto "torta" (dip? spread?) from Trader Joe's, unopened, expired five years ago. In the cupboard: baking powder with the expiration date "JUN73." The baking powder expired--it wasn't just purchased, it expired--twelve years before I was born.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adventures in Housesitting, part 2: Breaking Things

During the eleven months that we lived in Massachussetts I think the only thing we broke was a large plate. I don't recall our having broken anything at our current apartment--Brandon chipped a bowl pretty badly, but it's still usable. And we've been there about eleven months, also.

My point is, we're not especially clumsy people. And yet, in the two and a half weeks we've been housesitting, we've broken the plastic handle on the fish pond filter, a wooden spoon, a glass, and a decorative ceramic unicorn. Last week, Brandon was watering the plants when a little switch on the hose attachment, apparently weakened from many years' usage, suddenly flew off, leaving the attachment useless and unfixable.

Finally! A more or less valid application of Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will")! I've always thought there should be a Murphy's Second Law--something along the lines of "It will always be the worst case scenario." The difference is subtle, and the laws are related--like the first and second laws of thermodynamics--but I think a lot of people think they see the application of Murphy's Law where truly Murphy's Second Law is more appropriate ...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Adventures in Housesitting

For the past week we've been housesitting for someone, whom we'll call "M." (he'll be gone through the end of August). Our primary responsibilities are watering the garden, taking care of the fish and their pond, and maintaining the swimming pool. It's a pretty sweet gig.

Also, M. told us to feel free to eat anything from the refrigerator--"Nothing is spoiled," he said on July 27, 2008. Those were his exact words. When we arrived at the house on July 28, 2008, we found in the refrigerator several rotting vegetables (and when I say "rotting" I don't mean "wilted"--we're talking covered in mold and liquifying), moldy hot dog buns, funny smelling leftovers, two bricks of unopened cream cheese--one of which expired in March, the other in 2007--and about a half a dozen cheeses in various stages of decay. Strangely enough, there were a couple blocks of cheese completely covered in mold which were still unopened, in the original packaging.

Anyway, I guess that's just what happens when people who used to live with someone else now live alone: lots of food gets wasted.

The other interesting thing that's happened so far is that one day, I was going to fetch the large bucket which M. uses for collecting yard waste, and found that it contained four or five baby 'possums. They were pretty big--about six inches long--and at first glance, cute. Not so cute when they bared their horrible little 'possum teeth. And when we decided to tip the bucket over by the side of the yard to let them out, it was inexplicably creepy to watch them crawl out of the bucket and disappear into the bushes.

Could 'possums be the most hideous animal there is? How do they compare on the ugliometer with, say, Amazon river dolphins, or naked mole rats? Yeah, yeah, I understand that ugliness is in the eye of the beholder--my lovely pet spider of five(? six?) years ago taught me that. But I think it says something about the 'possum that even it's young only make it to "almost cute" status.

In fact, a couple days after we let them loose, one of the baby 'possums managed to climb back into the old bucket, and then couldn't get out again. In just two days' time, its coat had gone from looking soft and furry, to scraggly and hairy. Another of the baby 'possums we found dead in the fish pond, its teeth clenched around the electric wire (which is meant to keep out raccoons). It apparently didn't harm any of the fish. My guess is that it thought the fish would be good to eat, ignored the shocking pain as it crawled over or under the electric wire, found it couldn't swim, and electrocuted itself on the wire trying to get out. 'Possums are so stupid!

And that's about the closest I'm gonna get to a meaningful conclusion. Nonetheless, I take this little writing exercise to be a sign that my brain is recovering from the three two-week intensives I just finished (kind of--there are still papers due. Speaking of which, I should start working on one of them ...).