Orange Scones

Aunt Lou was a horror. Mean as a rabid badger, stingy as Scrooge, but without the change of heart in the end, and forgetful, that she was evil and that she had breakfast an hour ago.
Each morning at 7:30, she wanted breakfast, from somewhere out in the world. I didn’t want to cook and she I agreed that didn’t want to eat anything I made, so out into the world we went.
My grandfather joined us, out of kindness for me, I shall always believe. He was a delightful buffer: kind, generous, and he laughed at my jokes. But when it came to the first meal of the day, Lou held sway.
She chose from her two restaurant options — I had no say, leaving my morning mantra to be, “McDonald’s or Panera, Lou?”
She would mull the options while I backed the van out of the garage and winded our way through her closely built neighborhood, then turned right onto a main road that took us to the crossroads: left if she said McDonald’s, right if she said Panera.
One sunny Thursday, she chose the bakery, and right we went.
At the restaurant parking lot, getting out of the van was an easy task. She had full faculty, only needing a cane for stability, and Grandpa was independent. Though they were mobile, they were slow, especially Lou. I watched the order entry line grow as we turtle stepped our way toward the end. And as always I glanced into the display case, its wares on full display.
Scones were running low, particularly the orange flavor, and those were my favorite.
I counted in my head. As long as only one other person ordered a scone, I would be good.
How could I point the ambivalent toward cinnamon or chocolate chip instead of the delightfully glazed orange beauty solely displayed in the middle of a silver baking tray?
“What are you going to get, Lou?” I asked her, trying for small talk.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, per usual.
“Grandpa, how about you?”
“Just a coffee,” he answered, his standard breakfast.
Piping in because she demanded attention, Lou said, “I want that orange scone.”
What?
My hopes were dashed by the very person I’d trucked into this establishment, and now I was required to sit and watch her munch my breakfast between her four natural teeth? And it never failed, she always left half of her breakfast on her plate, so the insult continued. I wouldn’t get my choice, plus I’d have to leave a delicious half of it behind.
It wasn’t fair.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That cinnamon roll looks pretty good.”
Lou glared at me before inspecting the case. “Hmm, I don’t know.”
“Remember how good it was yesterday?”
“Hmm. Yeah, I guess,” she muttered, though I knew she didn’t remember at all.
Finally it was our turn in line and the cashier asked for my order.
Grandpa stepped up to order his coffee, then it was my turn to order for myself and Lou. Fortunately, Lou pointed a knotted finger toward the bakery case and said, “I want that cinnamon roll. And a hot coffee, black.”
The baker retrieved Lou’s selection before turning to me.
“Oh, I’ll take that orange scone, I think.” I tried to sound complacent, insouciant. I nearly drooled just watching the pastry being scooped onto a plate.
And then I nearly passed out when the lady pulled a radiant, brand new tray of gorgeous, glistening orange scones from beneath the counter.
Grandpa laughed outright. He knew my ploy and knew I’d been bested.
It’s been 9 years since Lou died, and my grandfather reminds me of the orange scone story at every opportunity. The man has a steel trap for a brain.
And every time he mentions it, which seems to be every time I visit with him, I blush.

Remodeling During the Middle Ages

A book club friend discussed remodelling her kitchen. She’s tried three times for the perfect green tint for her kitchen island.
“Will you try again?” I asked her, to which she replied, “Eh, it’s good enough.”
Pause.
“Twenty years ago would you have gone after the elusive perfect tint? Would you have tried again?”
“It’s such an odd color,” she thought out loud. “It’s the perfect color in the hallway, it makes me so happy, but in the light of the kitchen, it isn’t quite there.”
“Close the windows in your kitchen. Maybe try some blackout curtains,” I teased.
She laughed, preceding a discussion of window blinds and how infuriating they could be. So difficult to clean, never to be white again, certainly.
“I clean them in the tub,” remarked the third of us.
“Me, too!” exclaimed the fourth. “I use a Clorox bath and wipe each slat.”
I died inside, thinking the tedium of that task would bore me to tears.
“How do you dry them?” someone asked. “I hang them, let them dry.”
How quickly conversation devolves when you age. Our topics of conversation are now domestic, never discussed during book club before. Usually we talk about kids and how fun it is to be away from them for a while — how we love them, love them so, but boy, a tiny bit of alone time is a beautiful thing. Racy jokes; smutty books; silly indulgences when the kids are asleep. Where do we eat next? We’re foodies, I tell you. And if the restaurant includes a bakery, well, let’s go there two months in a row.
I returned the conversation to the original topic, this observation of aging ladies. “So, would you paint the island again, if you were younger?”
To which she paused. “Maybe,” she said after consideration. “Probably,” she affirmed a moment later. “But now, the current color will work. I’m not worried about it.”
“But will you peruse the color swatches next time you head to Lowe’s, just in case?” She considered the question. Her brow lifted, her eyes cast downward while she thought. “Yeah, probably,” she conceded, sadness in her tone. She’s had an ongoing project, adding two closets to the interior of her home. She used dead space to create storage, a brilliant solution. But with the construction came the decorating, with paint, lots of paint.
“I try to do the walls, for the feeling of achievement, but then there’s the trim.”
We groaned. The trim, ugh. Talk about tedium.
“I listened to seven audio books while I worked,” she added, her eyes wide, disbelieving. “Seven!”
Because one can’t read when painting, they must have it read. A great arrangement, if one enjoys the reader. Usually the kiss of death is an author reading their own work; authors are writers, not actors, an important distinction. “But no, not this time,” she assured me. “He’s really good.”
Giving in on projects was certainly an aspect of aging I had not considered until my onset of ripening. I didn’t know my arm skin would fall to sweep the floor, either, though I had visual cues all my life; my grandmother’s arms, when bare, were a spectacular harbinger that perhaps a few chair dips wouldn’t harm my triceps.
Did I do those dips? Heck no, those are work. They require things like moving a chair, clearing a space, doing the dip. Moving a chair exposes dirt; clearing the space requires a dust mop at least, a warm sudsy bucket of Pine-Sol Rain is preferred; doing a dip means sweat, which means a shower, taking more of my precious middle-age-lady time when I have this singular day away from the job each week to play out the rest of my life, the house stuff, the teenager and all of his stuff, bills, pets, and the ever expanding pile of laundry tames and beaten into submission.
Sometimes Tuesdays can’t come soon enough because Mondays leave me exhausted. Then I do it again seven days later.
Seems I am truly gerbil-like.

Still Focusing on Focusing; It’s Tough

This morning after a workout at the gym that I pay but hardly visit, I felt fractured by tasks for the day. I have one day off for the week and it’s full. Grocery, car wash, laundry, book club meeting, pick up the boy and his friend after school, take them into town for minor errands they don’t want to make but hey, if they’re together, it will ease my pain — misery loves company, especially from the video game department, so if Bubs is happy, I’m happy in my solitude, perusing store shelves and indulging the impulse buyer within.
On my way to the truck, I realized I was too scattered to think straight. I needed a new mindset in order to focus.
Cue the meditation app I seldom open. It was a day of unique experiences, I guess.
So in the truck, on the road, I’m listening to a silky British voice floating from my phone to help me focus: breathe, let calm reign, settle the disquiet; it’s a full blown 20 day course, it seems.
“Focus,” he coaxes, but I’m mulling my list: grocery, carwash, school, et cetera. Mindfulness is helping only in that I realize I’m not mindful.
Therefore, I pushed Replay on the app and swore to focus, on his words, his instructions; his focus was solely my focus. Oh, except I was driving.
Still, I refused to turn the app off entirely, because, British accent.
I took deep breaths as instructed, mindful of my breathing and his voice; thus I was calmed. And focused. On breathing, and listening, so though my mind was still separated into bits, it was mainly only two bits, floating over the slightly subconscious To Do list. Oh, and driving.
Later, back at home, I sat at my desk to finish a report, finish an episode of The Crown, and design my latest drawing. All at once.
Laptop warming, waiting for instruction to go to Google docs.
TV warming, ready to queue into the next Crown episode, and me, staring at blank Bristol board, placing figures in my mind to draw later.
Scattered. Fractured. Again. But still breathing, though unconsciously.
After the enlightenment, for the rest of the day, I’ve tried to work one task at a time. So while I type, I have one ear open for Bubs as he plays his video game — moms know to listen at all times, even if only halfway. Netflix is on Pause, scrolling advertisements for new shows I need to watch; Netflix says so. Occasionally I peer toward the monitor. And I type, halfway, with lots of typos, because I’m attempting to finish. The quicker I type, the quicker I get back to the Crown and her realm of fascinating shenanigans.
So, still scattered, still fractured, but taking deep breaths now, because I’m focusing on at least one thing if it kills me, though, ironically, it keeps me alive. This is the gerbil wheel my mind rides every day. It’s exhausting. Yet I don’t sleep well, because though my gerbil tries so hard to rest, the wheel turns, distracting the rodent enough to, if not hop back on, then at least watch it spin.
I’m off to my meditation app, for the sleeping lesson. Forty-five minutes of sounds from a laundromat, that’s all I need to focus upon.