At Home

Seven days: at a cottage, at home and looking for a cat

Day 1: Sunday

After 10 days of covering the Toronto International Film Festival, I file my last piece. Two weeks of holidays, the first I’ve really taken this year, begin. I feel very anxious and don’t know how to come down.

Pick up Nick and Erinn in rental mini-van and then pick up the Beast at work and drive to cottage for mini-summer holiday.

Stop at Five Guys in Vaughn for dinner. Decide to not get pop because of all the carbs.

Arrive at cottage at 10:30pm. Drink one glass of wine and fall asleep on couch. Hear the sounds of the others laughing at me because my hands are clenched into little retarded fists and my mouth is gaping. The sound of laughter is like a performance-enhancing drug. Must make them laugh. Proceed to perform dance horizontally on the couch while half-asleep.

Day 2: Monday

Wake up at 8:30am. Erinn has already started making coffee. The boys soon wake up.

The Beast puts on a Hugo Boss suit that his friend gave him. Proceeds to pretend like he is a business man on vacation at the cottage using Erinn’s BlackBerry as a prop. Says things like, The Shanghai markets just closed. I need to check the fucking SNP 500. Do you know what a barrel of crude oil is selling for in fucking Jakarta these days? 

Books come out. Nick pretends like he has a reading disability and says sentences out loud, slowly trying to sound out each word. Although this sounds like the kind of joke that could become irritating after a while, it doesn’t. It only gets funnier.

Change into swim suits and head down to dock with white wine, magazines and books.

We suntan. We remember that there is clay just beneath the surface of the lake bottom. Send Nick down to retrieve dripping chunks of it so we can have a spa day. Proceed to cover body in the clay and dry off in the sun. Skin feels renewed.

Nick pretends to poop out clay. He does it over and over again, each time winning heartier laughter from us. This only encourages him. Next, he pretends to pee using the watering can. It feels like he does this for hours.

Erinn and I take off bathing suits to suntan our behinds. Self-conscious, I strain my neck to see what my naked butt looks like. The sun highlights golden fuzz covering my butt. I strain to see if Erinn has fuzz on her butt. She does not. I try to cover my butt fuzz using my towel. It looks like I have an adult diaper-thong on.

Make lunch of cheese, grilled bread, tomatoes and avocado. Lunchtime conversation consists of gay relationships and gay sex.

Catch up on three back issues of the New Yorker. Finish reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which the writer copes with her husband dying and her daughter slipping into a coma. The Beast asks me if I think of him while reading the book. I say yes.  He says, I thought of you too, when I read it. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. I realize I have never suffered through the loss of a loved one, and wince, knowing that I will. And not knowing how I will get through it.

Go up to the bunkie, which has a glorious queen-size bed covered in a thick, white duvet. Erinn and I fall asleep watching a DVD of the Hunger Games we found in there. The wind blows through the screen windows that cover two walls of the bunkie. Sun twinkles through the trees creating a dance of light and shadow that I can see through my closed eyes.

The boys bring in cocktails at 5pm. We all watch the rest of the movie on the bed together. My stomach feels funny. I fart. They are loud and smell like a beaver’s butt. Like rotten lake water. Like a rancid outhouse in August heat. It’s nice to feel comfortable enough around friends to do this.

At dusk, we head to the dock for a swim. First, Nick grabs the toy guns from the bunkie and brings them with us. I lead the way and let a fart that is so thick that it just sits still in the woods and everybody has to walk through it. I feel a little bad.

Actually, only Nick and Erinn swim. They are like 10-year-olds who won’t shut-up. They are laughing and swimming and doing jokes. The Beast and I sit on the dock with our cocktails, trying to read. We think, This is what it would be like if we had children. Just us wanting them to shut-up all the time so we can read our New Yorkers and drink our cocktails.

Make dinner of grilled sausages and vegetables. Also make butter tarts, which I will eat most of over the next 24 hours. Nick keeps playing with the toy guns. It is really funny.

We talk about relationships, race and faith and family. I feel lucky to be with these three here, at this time. I also feel like I’ve forgotten how to articulate a thought in my head through my mouth. I stay quiet, mostly. My beaver butt makes up for my lack of conversation.

Nick and Erinn dance. And sing. I feel warm inside.

Day 3: Tuesday

Wake up early, get coffee on and start making the breakfast strada using leftover sausages and vegetables. Read more. Nick still pretends not to know how to read. It is still funny.

Eat strada. Play Trivial Pursuit, girls against boys. It is a close game. The boys win by one pie.

Clean up. Light fire in the Franklin. Read. The Beast’s dad arrives wearing a new hat: it’s one of those red hats that the Shriners wear. We decide to go to Henry’s for fish and chips on our drive home. The Beast’s dad tells us to split two portions because they are so big.

Arrive at Henry’s. It is raining. They serve their fish and chip dinners family-style.  For $15 a person, you get an abundance of baked beans, coleslaw, fish and chips. To discourage two people from ordering one portion and sharing it, they charge the moocher a $3 plating fee. We order four portions and eat everything, save for some fries, which were mediocre. Everything else is very good.

Drive home through the fog and rain. My hands clench the steering wheel. I am anxious and depressed. But I’ve stopped farting.

Drop everyone off, return the rental car. Watch A Room with a View. The Beast joins me. We fall asleep in our own bed.

Day 4: Wednesday

First day of vacation at home. Can’t sleep in. Make 12 jars of Concord grape jam.  Ride my bike to College St. and renew my driver’s license and health card.

Do two loads of laundry. Try to find a roll of kraft paper to wrap baby shower gifts for multiple friends. No luck. Buy a double scoop (mint chocolate chip and pralines and cream) ice cream cone and rent the HBO series John Adams, John Cassavetes’ Husbands, and that Marigold Hotel movie.

Meet Matlock: a cat that’s just moved into the neighbourhood. He’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever met. He doesn’t stop meowing and rubbing up against my leg. He even goes up on his haunches, like a dog, to get more cuddles. I consider stealing Matlock, but the thought of hives, itchy eyes and a sore throat prevents me from bringing him into the house.

Grill peameal bacon for dinner and serve on crusty buns with the last of the summer field tomatoes and corn on the cob.

Go look for Matlock. I can’t find him.

Day 4: Thursday

Clean entire house in pajamas: vacuum, dust, bathroom, kitchen, two more loads of laundry.

Find roll of kraft paper at Polish pharmacy around the corner. Wrap shower gifts.

Make experimental dinner of Polish meat-stuffed tortelloni in a butter-sage sauce with quick-pickled cumcumbers and radish salad. Wait for Beast to come home to eat it and admire the house I just cleaned.

Get in fight with the Beast when he comes home because when I clean, he says I passive aggressively pile up his stuff, important stuff, like passport renewal papers, and three years of T4s, and then he can’t find them. This is true. But he shouldn’t leave that shit on top of the piano or on the coffee table. I apologize. I do not get as much attention as I expected from cleaning the house. I’m depressed, I tell him. I need you to make me feel better. Problem is, he too is depressed because he just started taking a night course for accounting for small businesses. He needs me to make him feel better. Neither of us is capable of giving the other what they desire. So we hug and joke about Matlock instead. This actually helps us both feel better.

The dinner is pretty good. The meat in the tortelloni is a bit too “porky” though. Watch two episodes of John Adams with the Beast. Learn a lot about American history that I did not know before. The chances of men like Jefferson, Adams and Franklin all existing at once, in pretty much the same place, somehow makes me feel inspired inside.

Day 6: Friday

Wake up and make coffee and read the newspaper with the Beast in the sunroom. I hear Matlock meowing in the neighbour’s back yard! Matlock! Matlock! Come to our front door and I will let you in the house! I will put a towel down and wear a glove and you can curl up beside me while I read! Matlock! The Beast looks concerned and laughs nervously as I shout at the cat from the window. Matlock doesn’t yet understand English and just runs away.

Meet Stephen and Liz for coffee and give Liz gifts for her baby that will be born in less than two weeks. Tell them that I hate thinking about and writing about food and everything for that matter. I just want to eat food. And never work again. Then I go to the Bloor-Gladstone library and renew library card. There is a $2 late charge on my card for Muhammed Ali books that I got out for work, when we thought he might die. I take out a couple of books that I know I won’t read because decided to reread A Room with a View after having just re-watched the movie.

Buy six pierogies and a cabbage roll for lunch because I’ve stopped exercising or caring about my appearance during my vacation. I also eat a quarter of a watermelon and watch two episodes of Downton Abbey, season one. Feel anxious about not working on my 12-year-old creative writing project.

Make minestrone soup. Look for Matlock.

Get in fight with the Beast when he comes home because he says, “I think I will do some writing tonight.” “Must be nice,” I say, “to just be able to write in your free time because I cook and clean and take care of us in my free time. That is why I do not write.” I feel bad as soon as I say it. I am jealous that he can focus himself and sit still and write for two hours without planning it for months in advance. He says, “I know I can help out more, and I’m sorry that I don’t. You do so much for me. But–and don’t get mad because I say this with love–you do not write because of cooking and cleaning.” “I know,” I say.

Eat soup and bread and a Polish sausage and watch a John Adams episode.

Go to Alex’s house-warming party. Her home and the people at the party are all lovely. Get asked questions about TIFF. Hate hearing the sound of my own voice and everything I say. But don’t stop talking. Shut-up. Just shut-up. There are two dogs and a cat at this house. My allergies act up and I must leave after two hours. Get home and drink two glasses of wine and watch one more episode of John Adams with the Beast.

Day 7: Saturday

Get paper from porch. No sign of Matlock. I thought we had something, Matlock and me, but maybe I was wrong. Does Matlock even exist?

Make wild blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The Beast talks like John Adams while we eat. “I do declare this to be a most excellent breakfast, my word!”

The Beast goes up to make music in his music room. I sit down to chronicle the last seven days. I feel like a spoiled brat for hating everything lately. I feel shallow for all the hours I put into work over the last six days because the work doesn’t feel important. Imagine if I could dedicate all that time to something really meaningful. I know some exercise would help lift my spirits but I’m not ready for that. I think strange things, like, I want to get so fat that I can’t move and can only wear a bed sheet, like Marlon Brando. 

Will go home and visit my mom for two days and take her for drives in the country. We will visit old haunts, like the Apple Barn and the Sparta Mercantile, and maybe go for mushroom soup and egg salad sandwiches at Pinecroft. I will spend a day with my dad, too. Maybe we can go for a walk and just talk. We will make a dinner together, I hope. I am overwhelmed with wanting to know each of these people as best I can. And my brother. Christ. I haven’t seen him in months, and he lives in the same city as I do. And he and his wife are having a baby in December.

I will go out and look for Matlock.


Maybe Matlock represents me looking for meaning! And me wanting not to be a piece of shit!  Me wanting to be a good person, a better daughter, a better friend, a better sister. When I find Matlock, I will hug him and hold him and my eyes will swell and I will sneeze and I will be so goddamn uncomfortable.

I can’t believe I could ever love a cat that I just met this fucking much.

Categories: At Home, Henry's

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1 reply »

  1. Beautiful. Now I don’t need a vacation, having read this. But, if Matlock represents you wanting to be a better person, then what does it say that the closer you get to this goal, the more itchy your eyes will get?

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