Glass Half Full

Posted: November 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: California, Drink, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Mom | 1 Comment »

In our house love is measured in ounces. Between Mark and me at least.

Our unexceptionally-appointed kitchen has one of those do-hickies in the refrigerator door that dispenses filtered water, ice cubes, and—well, I don’t mean to brag here but—crushed ice too.

It makes me feel like royalty.

Growing up I lived in a lovely house in a beautiful seaside town. I went to an excellent school, and my dad had a good job. We had a Black Labrador, and my mom took painting classes and did lots of gardening. You could call it an entitled life.

But it was New England. Which is to say the richest man in town drove a battered ancient Volvo, everyone we knew set their thermostats to bone-chilling temps in the winter, and my mother didn’t subscribe to a single magazine. She read old back issues our neighbors passed on to her.

It wasn’t until the late-80s that my sisters and I, home for a holiday and desperate to check our apartment answering machines, went to the Apex in Pawtucket to buy Mom a touch-tone phone. Had we never done this, and were she alive today, I’ve no doubt she’d still be dragging her finger along that rotary dial, and swearing every time it slipped and she’d have to start all over again.

When I started going to school in Providence, I got a taste of life beyond the crusty Yankee world. Not that my city friends weren’t New Englanders too. But some of them were, well, new school.

I had to mask my amazement when, while making packets of Swiss Miss cocoa at Diane Prescott’s house—a structure that amazed me in its unapologetic immensity and modernity (not to mention that her mom drove a brand-new bright orange Pacer)—all we needed to do was turn the knob on a tap at the side of their kitchen sink. Amazingly, the spigot produced boiling water, instantly. It was so handy, so indulgent, I felt simultaneously dazzled and dismayed by it. Nothing should be so easy.

Of course, I never let on any of this to Diane. Though I’m sure she did wonder why, at age nine, I was perpetually desperate for a cup of tea.

But now I’m a Californian. Someone who has had regularly-scheduled massage appointments every six weeks, like haircuts. Someone who—before having kids at least—filled empty spots in the weekends by having Asian immigrants slough dry skin off my feet and scrape dirt from my toenails. I’m no longer amazed (or scandalized) when I walk onto someone’s deck and see a hot tub.

I don’t see any of these changes in me as indicators that I’ve struck it rich. In fact, I’d guess Mark and I have less money that our parents did when we were kids. It’s just that here, on the Left Coast, personal indulgences are not poo-pooed. They’re actually encouraged; signs that you’re taking care of yourself, not acting hedonistic.

When my mother visited San Francisco, sometimes between Scrabble games and her scouring my coffee pot I’d suggest that we go get mani-pedis. But she never had any desire to try one. In fact, she seemed turned off by the idea. Like her take on restaurants—”If you’ve got a kitchen and know how to cook, why would you go out?”—she was unshakeable in her views.

Our rental-house refrigerator’s water and ice dispenser is like some weird time-and-place machine. More than once when someone comes over for the first time, I’ve commented on it as I get them water. “We never had one of these when I was a kid,” I say, pressing the glass against up against the fridge door. “I feel spoiled rotten that I have one now.”

I’m laughing when I say it, but I’m really only half-kidding.

The downside to our water dispenser? It’s painfully slow. (Was Diane Prescott’s like that too? I can’t imagine it was.) To fill even a rocks-sized glass takes something like a minute, maybe two. That might not sound like long, but it feels like dog minutes. I’ve missed the better part of brilliant stories our dinner-party guests have told while I was slavishly refilling their glasses. And after packing snacks, changing diapers, and putting on coats—trying desperately to get out the door—I’ll realize I need water for the girls. My momentum screeches to a halt as I press each sippy cup against the door and wait, my blood pressure spiking.

Sometimes when this becomes unbearable I pivot to the sink to slosh water in the cups. Relief! But inevitably I envision the presence of microscopic water-borne carcinogens. I picture myself polluting my babies’ pure bodies. The burden of that guilt is sometimes worse than tacking another five minutes of lateness onto wherever it is we’re already supposed to be.

In the evenings when the girls are in bed, Mark and I convene on the couch. It’s where we exhale after punching the clock for the day. And like a game of chicken, one of us eventually gets up for something—to pee, to flip the laundry, to get ice cream—and asks, usually without thinking, “Can I get you anything?” It’s only when the response is, “Sure. Water would be great,” that we realize what we’ve done.

I joke that our water dispenser should also serve Ritalin. I can’t imagine anyone, even with a normal attention span (unlike my hummingbird-fast one), not finding the process painful. In fact, Mark tends to just use the tap these days. But every once and a while he’ll come back to me and hand me a pint-glass that’s filled nearly to the top. “This,” he’ll say proudly, “Is how much I love you.”

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Glass Half Full”

  1. 1 Mary said at 10:54 pm on December 7th, 2009:

    Oh my god. Thank you for saying it first. We’ll get you a new one for Christmas, as long as you keep handing me down your magazines.

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