In my townhouse, I opened Mom’s Christmas box and found, as promised, a collection of tablecloths and matching napkins she’d picked up at the parish thrift store in Florida. All the women down there are unloading their 1940s trousseaus: I will be the happy recipient of years of carefully preserved linens. But I will use them and wash them and probably never iron them. I will wear them out.
I own a TEAC reel-to-reel tape recorder that I’d insisted upon purchasing while I was still in college training to be a disc jockey, a vocation I never pursued. Why? I don’t know. Once I left upstate New York and was back on Long Island, my father packed up the house and my mother and fled to Florida. Even though Uncle Dave assured him he would get a better price on the house if he waited another year, he would not. It took Nixon longer to leave the White House then it did my father to get out of Long Island.
Instead of getting the FCC license I needed, or at least a receptionist job in a radio station, I took a job for a magazine publisher in New York where, if I applied myself, I might learn how to type well enough to work for the Ladies Home Journal or Parade. I rented a basement apartment in Queens and for a few months bustled back and forth across the Queensboro Bridge tucked into a back seat of an express bus.
One night, I arrived home, tired and disenchanted, to find my diploma stuffed into the mail slot of my dark one-bedroom. It was the last time I cried. I had not taken to the typewriter; the other secretaries were high school graduates from Staten Island who wanted to marry their Italian boyfriends, and there was no one I could be friends with. Except my boss, who was young and had a degree from St. John’s. But he also had a wife and baby and I’d turned down an invitation to sleep with him.
Then my landlord kicked me out, wanting the apartment for his son. When I lost my job and started collecting unemployment insurance, I moved to Atlanta. But I still didn’t know how to make a life or what to say to people when they ask what my goals are. What are goals? I have none. I have nothing but the knowledge that a woman needing my help died because I could not give it to her.
But that’s not true, is it? I have an unopened basket of treats and a box from home. And so I did something I have not done since I was a very little girl. I counted my blessings. I have a nice boss and a cool apartment that’s beginning to fill up with the kind of odd things I like. And I have a large doobie from the Bakers who could have been friends and would have been friends if they weren’t moving to Seattle in less than a week. I’m getting closer, wasn’t I?
Now I lit the joint and floated through a charming haze of early Fleetwood Mac (Bare Trees) and sweet smoke. One thing pot does for me that I really appreciate is that it kills my appetite and gives me energy to dance and do housekeeping so, instead of eating everything in Mr. Eberhard’s gift basket, I hung new curtains and ironed cloth napkins. When the tape ended I watched TV until midnight and fell asleep knowing that when I woke up, my living room would be cosier than the day before. And my little townhouse would feel a little closer to home.