Michael’s mother had a whole set of sayings that, until we started to hear them out of the mouth of a young child, we hadn’t recognized as characteristic. This realization first hit us when Kearney was very small. She was an extraordinarily verbal child, who started talking early, practically in full sentences, and then essentially never shut up for several years. She told stories, kept a running commentary on the world as she experienced it, asked questions, and generally chattered away throughout her toddler-hood. It was enchanting. There were phrases that jumped out in her speech, because they were so obviously incorporated from her time with assorted adults. One of our favorites was when she took to calling our counters “feelthy,” (always accompanied by fierce scrubbing gestures), in a tone-perfect imitation of her German babysitter. She also made all her proposals in the voice of Michael’s mother, each ending with “So how would that be?” Only then did we recognize how often Necie (a diminutive of Denise) used that construction in her own conversation.
Reflecting on the last week caused me to hear that voice in my head. Looking back, the week, though I experienced it as grey and in slo-mo, brought the completion of a remarkably large number of major tasks that I’ve been hauling around on a to-do list for weeks. In a moment of lucidity Thursday morning, I saw how to revise the chapter that has been plaguing me for months, and got a draft completed later that day. For the first time, I think I see a structure for this book that might conceivably work. The coursepack for my upcoming MBA course, after several detours, finally went to print. I finished a first draft that looks promising for the parent recommendation for Shea for college. (An aside: when I asked Shea to let me know what she thought about it, the honorable child interrogated me about whether that was really appropriate, since it’s a recommendation and those are supposed to be confidential. I assured her that, as her mother, I wasn’t about to submit something about her to other people without her review and that the colleges will expect that we will have communicated about it.) I got on the treadmill more consistently, and have worked up to twenty minutes at a time, vertigo notwithstanding. Our telephone service has now been rearranged, to consolidate our DSL, landlines and wireless contracts, including ordering upgraded phones for some of us. (This has been a dark cloud on our horizon for months. Dealing with ATT is so burdensome that there never seemed to be a slot with enough time available to wait out their system to get out of it what is needed. I had manuscripts that needed reviewing, which is the perfect task for staying level-tempered and calm through their waits to talk to a human being, the transfers with their own waits, the contradictory information, etc.) The students in my freshmen class are finally caught up on all the missing assignments and they’re all graded. Etc. We watched a movie we’d had on our list for quite some time (The Counterfeiters) and it had Augie (I suppose it’s August now) Zirner in it, who grew up a block away in Urbana. (Great movie, but depressing. We watched some more old Saturday Night Live, from the set brought by Mark when he came to visit, before bed to end the evening on a less glum note.)
Through all of that, I felt crummy enough that I didn’t notice the completed tasks accumulating. The absolutely terrible job I did leading a class discussion is a factor, of course. There were several occasions where I had to leave meetings or events because of the vertigo and we’re all still low-grade sick, which colored my perception of the week. Will I never learn just how much our physical state affects our moods? Evidently, I’m a very, very slow learner, because all in all, it was a good week. It took some perspective—looking at it through the other end of the telescope, we call that—to recognize what another view could bring. As I was waking up this morning, I heard a voice in my head suggesting looking at the week another way, followed by “so how would that be?” It turns out to have been a pretty good idea.