Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Exactly Is "Free Time"?

Free Time, in my world, is an elusive beast that needs to be attacked and wrangled with strategic foresight and, if possible, leather restraints.

With my husband and son out for a couple of hours, I have the entire apartment to myself. This is rare. My husband works from home and my four-year old isn't in a school program. He seemed too young to be in school all day. I thought this was a good idea. At the time.

But "Now" is what is important. There are many options and I must pick carefully. I will not clean a thing. I will not lift even one Lego. The strategy is to do something that I absolutely can not do while they’re home. My husband could've at least given me a little heads up so I could plan. Dali's Persistence of Memory actually means something to me now. Which is completely unintended. I just needed a clock picture. But now I'm drawn in. Free Time is slipping. And drooping.

I could read a magazine. It’s so hard these days to just zone out with a good decorating or fashion mag without my son interrupting. “Mommy, I’m hungry. Can I have a snack.”

It’s already 1:28 p.m. My husband said they’d be back around 3 p.m. What was that? A threat?

I decide to watch “Singin’ In The Rain." My husband hates musicals and doesn't buy my "but, it's so existential" argument. This is a good time to watch. I really just want to see the dance scenes, so I also mend a sweater and my favorite double-breasted opera coat, a real show-stopper that I bought in New York City from a costume shop. It’s winter white with white embossed swirls. And I'm feeling theatrical. But I’m wasting time. I can always sew on my next visit to the Building Museum while my son plays.

Tap dancing. I haven’t been able to tap dance in a very long time. But I don't feel well. And tap dancing may not be the best thing for the onset of flu. It feels good to cross something off the list. Though, I bet a few head and body aches never stopped Debbie Reynolds.

Anyway, Chinese is more important. I think. I’ll listen to the news in Chinese. Or write some characters. I need to keep up my fluency so I can get a job after my son fires me (which he threatens when we butt heads). Something to fall back on in case this mothering thing doesn’t work out.

I know. I can work on my Chinese classes for children or that bilingual children's theater piece that is slowly brewing in my head. A surreal dream-scene from a British mystery I watched very late the other night gave me a great idea. All ideas seem great at 2 a.m.

Was that a key in the front door? Perhaps I'll make a cup of tea.

With my camera-phone, I take a picture of my mended opera coat and send it to my husband so that he can email it back to me. I haven't really worked out all the technicalities of this blogging thing. Another project.

He's disappointed that it wasn't a naked picture of me. He's joking. Or is he? My thoughts turn carnal. Dirty. With the image of the one sure thing I definitely can not do by myself right now firmly implanted in my brain, I hope that Free Time isn't the only thing that gets wrangled with leather restraints ends soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The "I Love Blizzards" People

There are two types of people in this world.

Those who love blizzards. And those who don't.

I'm married to the former.

Actually he loves all major weather events. Some husbands may peek at soft porn when the wife is out of town. Mine tracks animated meteorological radar.

To set the mood, I need only reference a weather map.

He also has strong opinions on the snow removal process. His critique on DC’s scraping and salting technique is long and scientific. “Most people just don’t know when to salt,” he laments. (This critique also extends to those who don’t understand the science behind their car’s defrost mechanisms.)

For the February 5th blizzard, the only shovel available was our landlord’s squat, short-handled, square-edged garden shovel. At this recent memory he shakes his head in disgust. He'll be a happier person if he can just buy a proper snow shovel for the blizzard that is chasing us north to Washington, DC.

Only two days after the last blizzard that dumped two feet of snow on the DC metropolitan area, I’m on snowy roads with son and husband navigating home from a Virginia rock-n-roll roadtrip in a rented two-door sports coupe. (It's all they had.)

Along the way, we stop at five different stores looking for a snow shovel. Not some German-designed lug nut for some specialized snow blower. A snow shovel. At Target, Lowes, Ace Hardware, Costco, Home Depot, not only is the answer "No," but they all laugh at us.

The manager at Home Depot tells us that when a news crew showed up to document the arrival of 200 snow shovels, so did a mob of people fighting over them. When a riot broke out (his words, not mine), they had to call the police.

Over snow shovels.

Let's add a third type of blizzard person - those who panic.

I know my husband really, really wants a snow shovel because he loves shoveling as much as he hates shopping. And we stop at every possible store along Virginia's highways looking for a snow shovel. Shockingly, in this Land Of Plenty we can't buy one. Not even our quaint neighborhood hardware store has some expensive ergonomic, handmade Amish model. We can't even find the usual sketchy character wandering the streets with necessary items trying to price gouge. "Hey buddy. Wanna buy a shovel?" Nothing.

As the snow starts falling my husband returns the rental car. This entails walking a couple miles along a hilly road with treacherous sidewalks buried in snow and ice. This is where he scores. He returns home with a plastic scoop from a broken snow shovel.

"Someone actually threw this away. Can you believe it?"

Yes. Yes, I can.

Like a magician, he materializes an old broom handle. "Good thing I kept this."

"???, ??? ????," I respond.

Out come the tools.

While I'm comfy on the couch watching Foyle's War, the best mystery series ever made in the history of television, he roots through a Tupperware container of screws and bolts, spreading them onto the living room carpet. Next come the drill bits and the old, oily drill.

Into the plastic scoop he drills and drills. And then drills and drills. I take one for the team and do not complain. I've seen this episode already. Twice. Okay, more than that. But that's not the point.

After the drilling and duct taping, he has himself a proper snow shovel. It leans up against our apartment door waiting for the snow to pile up outside.

A blizzard is an event. To be part of it is important. According to the I Love Blizzards people. So, when it happens, I head outside to help with the shoveling. My son makes an ice cave in the front yard. And except for the howling 30 mph winds blowing razor-like snow across my face, it's beautiful and quiet. No cars or busses come down our normally noisy street.

My husband and I develop a routine - he gets down to the ice with the garden shovel then I come along with the snow shovel. Then we switch.

Trying to get a full-body work out, I devise a shoveling technique that targets my thighs as I greet others out braving the storm. They are kindred souls – they who throw themselves into the fray and wash themselves with the brutal force that is Nature.

Or they’re on a beer run. Which I also appreciate.

Later when we're all inside warming up, my husband settles in to watch the weather updates. He finds Doug Hill, the only local meteorologist he trusts with the weather.

"This blizzard has broken DC's record snowfall set in 1899 at 55 inches! That's awesome," he says rubbing his hands together with a devilish, boyish gleam in his eyes.

I know that devilish, boyish gleam well and quickly search the web for a great weather map to share with him attempting to broaden my cardio activity options beyond that of shoveling. Cha-cha.

Oh, how I love I Love Blizzards people.