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A Zig-Zag Weekend

Monday, April 11, 2011, 14:18 EST Leave a comment Go to comments

I was all over the place this past weekend. Not physically, though I did venture out yesterday afternoon for a few hours of socializing, far away from house duties. Not emotionally, though there were some good and some not-so-good moments to the weekend. It was mentally that I was a little scattered. I almost called it an up-and-down weekend, but that wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t sure how to describe it until last evening, when I sat down at my sewing machine to do some mending, and it hit me: it was a zig-zag weekend.

It should have begun Friday evening, as I had planned to do grocery shopping and prepare for a day of cooking in advance of my first dinner party in the new place. But I was listless and unmotivated, so I took the opportunity to poke around town and figure out an alternate route to my house from the south, find the public beach area on the big lake, and identify the various town roads that run into Connecticut. I did something productive when I finally settled in: cleaned my dining room floor, polished the silver candlesticks, and set the table (one less thing to do on Saturday). I stayed up later than I should have, playing games on my BlackBerry while I lay in bed, waiting to feel drowsy.

I have a routine on Saturdays, and it commenced when I awoke. Eat breakfast, take a shower, put laundry into the washing machine, clean the bathroom, flush the boiler, bring trash and recyclables to the barrels in the garage. Then I hit the supermarket on a quest for items I seldom buy: cabbage, red potatoes, sour cream, caraway seed. The menu for that evening, in honor of one-quarter of my ancestry and the predominant ethnicity in my town, was a Polish dinner of fresh kiełbasa (Polish sausage), homemade pierógi (a sort of Polish ravioli) with both potato/cheddar and cabbage fillings, and carrots with mushrooms. I have made ravioli from scratch and knew it was time-consuming, so I set aside the whole afternoon to cook.

No one will ever accuse me of being June Cleaver, but I can find my way around a kitchen pretty well when forced. And there is something about making dough that is therapeutic, almost exhilarating, like working the soil in a vegetable garden. I love the rhythm of kneading the dough and feeling its texture change until it’s perfect. That’s the fun part; the rest is the tiring part. I won’t go through the blow-by-blow details, but I will say that the next two hours were a continuous flurry of peeling, shredding, chopping, boiling, draining, and sautéing with a large cutting board, a chef’s knife, a skillet, a kettle, and two large sauce pans going at the same time, not to mention a pasta machine. (Don’t let the word “machine” distract you from the fact that this is a hand-cranked device, but it is an infinite improvement over the alternative, which is spreading out a floured cloth on your table and then rolling out dough with a rolling pin. Pasta dough is denser than, say, most cookie dough and must be rolled much thinner, ideally about 1/16″. I have never hand-rolled pasta dough and hope to complete my time on this earth without ever having done so.

Anyhoo, my guests contributed to the international flavor of the meal by bringing desserts (Chinese and Italian), and when all was said and done, the guests gone and the dishes in the dishwasher and the leftovers stored in the refrigerator, I declared my first dinner party in years and years to be a fabulous success and then collapsed into bed.

After all that work and then an evening of being the hostess with the mostess, it was probably inevitable that yesterday would be a bit of a let-down. I slept in, unloaded the dishwasher, and then got myself going just in time for an afternoon concert in an old New England-style white clapboard church a few towns away with some of the women from one of the Meetup groups to which I belong. The performers were Flyin’ High, a quartet of female voices singing in the barbershop style, and even though I’m not a big fan of barbershop, I enjoyed it a great deal. They were fantastic and animated singers with a variety of different kinds of songs in their repertoire, everything from show tunes to rock songs to hymns, all done in barbershop arrangement. When they sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” I remembered being in another church a long time ago, listening to another group sing the same song, and I got a little melancholy.

Then on the drive home, a song popped up on my mp3 player that made me realize that no matter how unique a challenge we might face, someone somewhere has faced the same thing:

Last night
Once again I had the dream
I tossed and I turned
That old feeling’s still the same
It was so real, I woke up cold and sweating
I wondered, did I call her name?

In the dream, she was right there with me
Right there with me in the bed
She said, “Bobby, come and kiss me
“Never leave me,” is what she said
But when I reached out to hold her
Oh, I woke my wife instead

Once again
Once again, I had the dream
Six years since I’ve seen her
Ain’t no doubt about what it means, no, no
I tried hard not to think about her
But all she left me was this dream

All she left me was the dream
All she left me was a dream
A dream
All she left me was the dream

I dreamed I called her name
I dreamed I held my baby in my arms
Oh, what a dream

— Robert Cray

Ordinarily, I would be done for after that. But something strange happened without my even trying. Instead of wallowing in self-pity over what I don’t have, I found myself thinking about what I do have: good health, many friends, a close-knit extended family, a son who turned out pretty well despite all my parenting mistakes, a stable job working with good people, a house of my own, and the most amazing man whom I love and who loves me back. Oh, and the Red Sox beat the Yankees last night to salvage an otherwise lousy sports weekend.

That’s what I mean by “zig-zag.” Many twists and turns, but all pretty much on the same plane of good feeling. That in itself is something to be grateful for. There will be other times when I do wallow, days when everything feels wrong. The next time that happens, I hope I can remember how I felt this past weekend.

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