Returning home, or sweeping without screaming
A friend who shall remain nameless came back from a recent trip to Italy and discovered that her daughter had not gone to a certain virtuous activity. I am not naming this activity to protect all identities, including my own, but it was the sort of activity that parents generally care about and most adolescents do not (music lessons, Hebrew School). My friend was enraged (understandably) and did and said rageful things she had to apologize for later. I tried to memorize this series of events — trip to Italy, return home, confrontation with delinquent offspring, regrettable behavior on the part of the returning parent — as a kind of parable — what not to do when you come home from a journey, having left your household in the control of others.
When I first walked in the door to my house, I saw large crumbs on the floor, not bread crumbs exactly, but partial corn chips, although admittedly some had been smashed into a fine yellow corn chip sand. I thought of my friend and managed not to shout at anyone, but I swept the floor grimly, like St. Catherine of Sienna. She lived in Pisa, by the way. Then, I discovered that “we” had taken in a cat whose parents were away. I like this cat. But he has to be kept apart from the other cats, so a complex netting/gating system had been set up in my absence. I will spare you the complexities of this system, particularly as I am still mastering it, but suffice to say that it makes journeying between rooms difficult: a simple event like getting one’s jacket out of the bedroom requires ducking under one barrier while kicking (metaphorically) one cat away, and then opening the next barrier while hissing and kicking (again metaphorically). This was bad enough last night, but this morning it was more challenging. I did not shout or scream, but maintained a stony righteous attitude, which I hoped the rest of the household knew meant that I, personally, would never live like this (in grime, chaos, and disorganization) if I were on my own or if I were on my own in Italy where I truly belong. There was an almost cat breach; it was averted, and my son was late to school again. Again. Just like before I left. Well, three minutes late, which I suppose is pretty good given that I arrived home from Italy last night at 10 PM after 24 hours of travel. Then, I raced into my own classroom to bore my students with Greek gods, pre-Christian ideology, and Oedipus Rex, allowing myself to read pompously from the ancient Greek which did not astonish them as it would have astonished me at that age — I still remember my favorite professor’s ability to chant Greek poetry, but then I can’t chant like him. Now, I have retreated to my office where I am not 1)writing the last chapters of Mary Shelley’s life or 2) looking for the Rwanda film clip I have somewhere. In thirty minutes, I will be discussing genocide. I have managed not to scream at anyone, but the day is not over yet.