• One Minnesota Writer

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Discombobulation

The Tuesday Night Dinner Project

I am hunkered on the bottom floor of our house writing to the tune of hammering, a nail gun, a saw. Bits of ceiling tile occasionally break free and waft through the basement air like oddly heavy snowflakes. The fireplace is going and I have a soft throw over my shoulders. My old laptop is still good for writing; it stinks for any photo work or looking at colorful websites since its screen is no longer showing me things quite they way they should be. 

I am certain that I will hear pounding in my sleep tonight. And I will be vacuuming ceiling tile snowflakes later today. At least I’m in a corner of the basement that isn’t directly underneath the work being done upstairs.

Our floors are being replaced. The wood we ordered finally arrived after two months. Our living room furniture is mostly piled in the dining room right now, with extra pieces stowed in Abby’s bedroom (one perk of having the kid live in a dorm). I can’t quite get to my office, but that’s okay. The house smells different now that the old carpet has been ripped out and taken away. Good-bye dogs smells, kids smells, old spills that were blotted but never truly left us because liquid has a way of soaking down, down, down and staying. Good-bye tons of old dog hair that worked its way into the carpet beyond the reach of our vacuum cleaner. Good-bye old dust, grit, and whatever else lurked in the old carpet pad. 

I’m breathing better just thinking about it.

All this activity has discombobulated us, made it uncomfortable for a little while. We can’t get to the dining room table and all the counter stools are stowed away till this is done, so even a quick supper after the floor guys have left for the day is not an appetizing or even probable event. As Mick and I looked around at the new wood piled on one side of the empty living room last night, we agreed that we would be eating elsewhere till this was done.

I completely forgot about pancakes for Fat Tuesday, which was yesterday. Instead, we sipped wine, ate bar food, and talked about the day without mention of Lent or penance or Easter. This is no surprise for those who know us. But, as I think about our conversation last night, the one thing that strikes me now is how we talked about whether we were doing enough to give back. It’s been an interesting year so far with our house project and how we’ve been able to afford this. We’ve planned for it, waited, worked; yes, all that. But now we’re here and we wondered if we are in danger of forgetting how it felt to have nothing, to not be able to afford new floors or appliances.  

My roots are solidly in the working class. I spent a lot of years moving from paycheck to paycheck and going without things so I could pay for my son Shawn’s needs. That I am now in a position to write and work on the staff of a poetry journal that makes no money is something that astonishes me every single day. That Mick has a job with tenure – tenure! What an idea! – is also something that astonishes both of us. We are incredibly lucky.

So the idea of Lent isn’t completely lost on us. I’m not inclined to think of penance, but am inclined to think about giving back. I’m not sure how yet; I’m ready for something new. It is starting to feel more like spring, after all, and that is the perfect time to try on new ideas, aim for new growth. I suppose another part of my roots – the ones from being raised Catholic – still put me in this kind of mood on Ash Wednesday. Not that I’m going to rush out and get ashes on my forehead. The stuff coming down from my basement ceiling is enough.

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