08 July, 2016

Girl Scout

...any way you want to eat them it's / impossible to beat them/ but bananas like the climate/ of the very,
very tropical equator.....

She has an appointment at ten. Sister intends to arrive at nine, be at the office at nine thirty. It's eight thirty and she's not answering her phone. I drive over at 8:45, finally reaching her over the phone.

"I'm just going to take the dogs for a quick walk, just up the block and back, and then I'll jump in the shower and become clean, dried and dressed." I hear her, but I don't believe her.

I arrive, and the shower is running. I pull two gowns from her closet and leave them on her bed, then head downstairs to make some preparations. She's not going to have time for second or third breakfast, and I hope she's had first breakfast already.

Excerpt from the Jackie's World document I created for the person Mother calls "the babysitter."

Schedule, such as it is:Jackie thinks she wakes up early in the morning, by six-thirty or seven, so we’re going to let her go on thinking that, okay? She is almost always up before eight, though, and letting dogs out, giving them breakfast and having her grapefruit half. (note: the dogs do wake her up to be let outside between 6-6:30 but she will often go back to bed)

Breakfast comes in 4 parts: Grapefruit halfHavarti cheese and half a pearCoffee and crossword puzzlesTwo eggs and toast or English muffin

She doesn’t always get to all four of these parts, but can become agitated if any one part is missing. I think she phoned me 3 times in the amount of time it took me to get from my home to the grocery to her home, because she was out of grapefruit. I live ten minutes from her neighborhood, and the grocery is five minutes away from her. So. No more running out of grapefruit.

The most often skipped bit is the eggs and toast. She’s crabbier if she doesn’t eat eggs, but she doesn’t always feel hungry.
After Breakfast 1-3, she’s ready for her shower, if she has somewhere to go. She’s pokey about getting into the shower, but once there, washing and dressing (and doing hair and makeup!) takes maybe 20 minutes. If I put a clean outfit on her bed, she’ll choose a clean shirt and pants from the folded ones on top of her dresser. If I don’t put an outfit on the bed, she’ll put on whatever is on top of her dresser, which might be clean shirts and pants, but often is the clothes she took off last night. I try to put her already worn clothes into the laundry hamper, but I’m not always speedy enough to get to the dresser before she does.

If there’s time before we go out to our comings and goings, she has eggs. I offer her water and vitamins around now, if she hasn’t had them already. She likes the gummy vitamins very much.

She thinks she’s been making the coffee that’s in her carafe, but she hasn’t. I brew it in a ceramic cone and a mason jar, because I don’t understand that stupid little coffeemaker of hers.

"I don't eat the crossword puzzle," she always argues, but it doesn't matter whether she EATS it or not. If she NEEDS it for her good morning, it's part of her complete breakfast.

While she's in the shower, I'm in the kitchen. I found her newspaper. She's called three days in a row, claiming her paper isn't being delivered, asking me to get one for her. I don't know why she thinks she's not getting one. The paper I bought for her on Monday, I found two copies of on Tuesday. Tuesday's paper was on the table. It's Thursday. I unwrap the paper, fold it so the crossword is exposed, grab a pencil, tuck it in my bag. I peel a hard boiled egg, put it in a container, get a small container for salt and pepper, moisten some paper towels, fetch a plastic container of melon from her fridge. Everything goes into the Jackie Bag.

Sister arrives as I'm prepping, talking on the phone. Some very important work thing. Most of her work seems to be about phone calls and meetings. I don't really understand what she does. Whatever it is, it pays a lot better than what I do, which is take care of Mother, write, perform and work at the school or flower shop when I can.

I go to the car to get a gift I bought for Sister while I was on a tiny four-day vacation with my family, find a bottle of water and take it with me to tuck into the Jackie Bag.

"I'll be ready when I'm ready," she snaps, coming downstairs in a floral sundress, snatching her grapefruit half from the fridge. She roots through her silverware drawer, hunting.

"It's probably in the refrigerator," Sister offers.

"What is?" snarls Mother.

"You're looking for the grapefruit knife, aren't you?"

I fetch all three of them from the cheese drawer, where they appear to live now. Aha! This explains the frequent appearance of half the contents of her silverware drawer on the counter. She looks for the knife, gets frustrated, decides to have pear and cheese, and finds the grapefruit knives when she opens the cheese drawer. And the flatware doesn't put itself away in the drawer.

At the table, Mother mangles her grapefruit half, stuffing sections into her face. I hand her a cup of hot coffee, sit down opposite her, calmly, while Sister opens her gift.

"Your gift is in the fridge. I brought fudge for you. You had some last night, for dinner, I think."

"Sounds like dinner to me!" She brightens as she eats her fruit.

Once we've packed ourselves into the car and she finishes the cup of coffee, I begin offering breakfast items.

"I peeled an egg, would you like it?"

"Wow, an already-peeled egg, what luxury." She takes it. I pass the smaller container with salt and pepper, thinking she'll dip the egg. No, she sprinkles the spice onto the egg.

"Here, I have this container- you could sprinkle over that, instead of over your lap."

"It's a black and white dress. It won't show." She takes the plastic dish.

Next, I offer the banana, then take the peel, put it in the container that had the egg, offer a wet towel, then the bottled water.

"What a Girl Scout," my sister observes. No, these are skills left over from my diaper bag days. But I keep those words on the inside of my teeth. No need to point out what Sister has never done, or equate my mother, right in front of her, to a small child.

It does make me ponder, though, about how nobody bats an eye when one straps a human being into a seat, then ignores the resultant screaming with an indulgent smile, and it's all perfectly legal, as long as that human being is under three feet tall.

Elsa Miranda; The Chiquita Banana Song, 1945

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