With our recent move out of the Land Of Microsoft and Amazon and into a small town and a house built in 1900, I’ve backslid–coincidentally with a pandemic–into the distant past, like as far back as the 80s, even. At this rate, I’ll be grateful to have zippers by year’s end. Not that I can zip any of my pants, anyway.
Update on Inadvertent Downsizing:
No microwave: we left our wall-mounted microwave behind, and we’re hesitant to use one in the “new” house: lights sometimes work and sometimes don’t, digital clocks freeze and start flashing when we’re gone, and old ashy smudges spew from some wall outlets.
No electric water kettle, which I’ve long used more than any other appliance: ditto on electricity.
No toaster or toaster oven: the Man I Married threw ours out on his last dump run before our previous house went on the market. He threw out a lot of perfectly good things but carefully saved my sourdough starter, driving it a few hundred miles swathed in towels and ice packs. Hard to fault a man who does that.
No television: not that we’ve had one for years, but the lack of one now disconnects me from heightened and unhelpful hysteria over the pandemic, over wildfires, over hazardous air quality, over racially motivated violence and resulting protests and riots, over the death of our nation’s finest leaders, over the failure of leadership by others. Facebook is better for hysteria, anyway, because we all get to yell, plus porcupine videos.
No streaming or cable or subscriptions in order to watch modern programming. Hence, I don’t understand most cultural references on Facebook by friends, which isn’t as awkward as not understanding them in person at parties. I have no idea who most “famous” people are, which would make my biannual People magazine binge at the dentist a sad thing if the dentist had magazines or a functioning waiting room anymore.
No library books (since libraries are still closed), which has been my “gym” workout for years, as I carried stacks of library books up and down our hill. I might actually have to start reading my own books from my own shelves.
No library DVDs, my longtime go-to for watching programs a couple of years after everyone else. No cliffhangers for me, even when I used to be able to move up the library waiting lists of thousands: I knew what was under Jamie’s skirt a long time before I got to see Outlander. This was not a disappointment, unlike, from what I hear, the Game of Thrones finale (seriously, could they not have let the woman win?).
No Redbox rental down the street for DVDs of movies made this decade; sometimes it’s worth a two-buck rental to see at least one Oscar contender before the winner is incorrectly announced.
No vacuum: it’s still at our old house until closing, my excuse for not cleaning our floors of what seems to be a century of crud. My possession of a broom and mop is irrelevant.
Not a single friend in my new town.
No landline phone for the first time in my life, and I never seem to be near my cellphone when it rings. If I am, chances are I turned the ringer off the night before and never turned it back on. It’s more of an audiobook player than a phone.
No nightly fear that my son will hurt himself, someone else, or me. No chaos. No security gates, locks, cameras, and motion detectors. Just mundane texts with him, such as his needing help with a password for his birding website or letting us know he’s applied to work at Big 5’s gun counter.
No water pressure: I could learn a new language while waiting to fill the dog’s water dish. But I prefer to stare off into the backyard and think about cleaning the window.
The dryer does not ever turn off.
Without effective fencing, I can no longer let the dog outside on her own first thing in the morning. I belt on my robe, shove my feet into moccasins, and stagger outside with her on a leash. Unexpectedly, I don’t mind this mini-excursion every morning. I check out the weather and the canal, looking for nutria and rats, and feel superior because nobody else is up. (The truth is that my neighbor across the street drove off to work well before dawn.) I’ll get back to you in January on whether I’ve started to mind my pre-dawn sidewalk jaunt.
At a time when I can’t distract myself with pubs and cafes, visits with friends, and classes and readings and movies and plays and lectures, I also can’t pop a cup of lukewarm tea into the microwave, can’t have perfect toast pop up or water boil while I’ve wandered off to do something else.
I have to stand over a pan with a slice of bread in it or remember that I have the stove on high when I want to make tea (which is constantly).
I can’t just let things run themselves.
I have to pay attention.
This doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing. After all, what else do I have to do? Toast has never tasted better, partly because I don’t always wash the pan, so I get the flavor of whatever I last cooked in it.
Living without standard conveniences during a months-long quarantine has helped me to feel centered at home—not stuck at home.
I have a print newspaper subscription for the first time in decades, which turns out to be the sanest way to get my news and information in this time of unprecedented insanity. Plus, Dear Abby.
I know the name of my mail carrier.
I am dependent on a friendship with my husband in a way I’ve never had to be, since we have no one else here to lean on. Good thing we just graduated from a year of marriage counseling.
I savor the simple joy of a new mattress. We were surprised that the local mattress store let us exuberantly flop around with impunity on a half dozen mattresses—with masks on—during a pandemic. Ash from nearby wildfires swirled around the entranceway, and there we were, one of us mimicking restless leg syndrome so profound it bordered on calisthenics while the other rated how much their side of the mattress jiggled.
My neighbor across the street explained to me how chickens mate when I asked why her hens had bald spots on their backs.
I told my neighbor across the canal that I was pretty sure there was a nutria in our canal. “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen ’em,” he said, unlit cigarette bobbing between his lips. “There’s a larger female and a younger male.” Here I was still trying to figure out whether “nutria” is singular and plural, while he can tell their age and gender from a distance, when they are half-submerged? To me it just looked a log headed rapidly against the current.
I have time for introspection and my own profound thoughts, like how did I never know that roosters have no penis, or any sticky-outy thing at all? How odd that cocks are called cocks when an actual cock has no cock.
And to the notion that we need every modern convenience to come down the manmade canal, I say, “Cockamamie!” Just don’t take my Rabbit wine opener: the only kind of bucktoothed bark-muncher I want in my house.