One week shy of posting my October blog found me still searching for a topic. Usually, by now I’ve written the first draft and revised it twice. Why? Because I do most things early. Not simply on time, but early. I’ve been late only twice in my life. Once, when after a major snow storm my car and I became stuck on an upgrade behind a bus, and I arrived at work twenty minutes late. The principal drew a red line under my name on the sign-in form. Bless her heart. My other foray into lateness occurred when I was born. I’d been expected to arrive on the 28th or 29th of March. I appeared on April first, perhaps because I’ve always been shy or because coming out has always been traumatic.
I know we’re only 12 days away from the election, but I don’t want to blog about that. It’s not a question of being emotionally exhausted by the daily reports about the inhumane, profane acts of a president who is marching the nation away from democracy and toward the boots of fascism. It’s more an issue of realizing I need to press the pause button and take several deep breaths. How much chaos can I absorb and remain buoyant? How many anti-trump polemics can readers endure?
During this Covid-19 period of self-imposed isolation, I’ve discovered I have an intense need to stay busy, and I’ve honored that need with an almost religious fervor. I’ve kept up with all my routine household chores as well as with others I never knew existed before now. I’ve dusted everything that doesn’t move ever so carefully, and then I’ve felt perplexed days later when I’ve noticed I needed to do it all over again. Who knew dusting wasn’t a once-and-done job? Who knew there were so many different ways to use Q-Tips? All of them legal, mind you.
I believe my dedication to busyness began when I was in the eighth grade. One early spring evening, my mother declared, “I want you to find a volunteer job for this summer. You’re not going to sit at home and watch Bandstand every afternoon.”
Oh no! What about Justine and Bob, and the Jimenez sisters, some of my favorite dancers? What about my crush on Arlene Sullivan? Oh well, I had to admit that imitating the teens on Bandstand hadn’t improved my dance skills at all.
In retrospect, my first summer gig, working as a candy-striper in my godfather’s medical office, had its rewards. It was there that I experienced a crystal-clear life-changing revelation. I concluded I should not pursue a career in medicine. Adhering to the rules spelled out in the last HPPA form I signed, I’ll spare you the details.
From that summer on, I’ve remained busy, happily so. My desire to be perpetually occupied is aided and abetted by my spouse. Viv works constantly in the yard and garden. She mows the grass, grows veggies and flowers, trims the shrubs, sweeps the patio, keeps the mini-pond’s pump in working order, all between breakfast and lunch. When the winter becomes too cold to support human life, she toils in the basement, a.k.a. the warehouse, where she repairs and repaints all the garden decorations and bird houses in need of restoration. Had she lived in Michigan during the nineteen thirties and forties, Viv would have fine-tuned manufacturing automation and given Henry Ford genuine competition. She would not have lived in Dearborn, and she would have challenged Ford’s racist policies.
This past year we’ve welcomed new neighbors to our street, and the under-ten-years-old population has increased with the addition of nine little people. The afternoons are filled with shouts, screams, and visions of mini-bikes whizzing by. Two of the precious kids live across the street from us and five-years-old identical triplets live next door. Let me repeat that. They are identical.
Because I know how important a child’s name is as a function of establishing his/her identity and autonomy, I’d like to be able to distinguish one triplet from the other two. Let’s face it, remembering all three names is one task. Distinguishing who is who takes it to another level. I so want to ask their parents to make name tags for each of their daughters, or to have them get their names tattooed in a prominent place.
To further illustrate how very identical they are, when another neighbor’s little grandson was asked what he thought about the triplets, he answered, “Who? You mean the girls who have the same face?”
I rest my case. I also rest my efforts to figure out a blog topic other than the election. There is no escape from the harsh realities of a pandemic and an unhinged despot.
Dear readers, some of you have cast your ballot already. I trust your wisdom, your desire to vote the current President out of office, and your determination to hold on to our democracy, as imperfect as it is. When I look at the videos filmed at trump’s rallies, and I see hundreds of unmasked people standing close to each other, screaming their support of anger, racism, and anti-intellectualism, I remember the words of Anne Frank.
“IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, I STILL BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY GOOD AT HEART.”
My friends, you don’t have to stay as busy as I do, but please stay well.
©Renée Bess 2020
Renée Bess has written five novels and co-curated an award-winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars. Her next book, Between a Rock and a Soft Place, will be published in February, 2021, by Flashpoint Publications.