Uppermost house: My happiest to-do list

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

My wife Karen was away recently on a mission of higher education. A mission to try and cram even more wisdom and understanding into a brain that she will lament (even in the midst of understanding biochemistry) probably has too many miles on it already.

Inevitably, despite her prolific organizational skills and her detailed packing lists, a few items didn’t get strapped to the roof of the car and as the missing things became apparent during unpacking at her destination the e-mails began flying my way through the ether with brisk instructions.

Sometimes, the communique’s were straightforward one-line fragments which were easily complied with: “Yellow flip-flops, upstairs closet”, while others were of the stream-of-consciousness variety that required repeated reading, an occasional phone call, perhaps a magnifying glass or thesaurus, and possibly the interpretation skills of our daughter (away at college in Virginia, speaks fluent mom).

One evening, I came home after a long day at the office to find the cats all lathered up over some minor food-dish infraction (which they were certain was malicious on my part) and the most fragmented list yet from my beloved Karen.

In anticipation of a visit I was to make the following weekend, the message was titled “Stuff to bring/Karen” and it began well enough with “Your wonderful self!” but then lapsed into the kind of can’t-you-just-read-my-mind-run-on wife-speak that makes me squint as if I’m suddenly staring into bright sunlight even though it’s a dark evening and I’m just sitting here on the living room couch with my laptop and nothing on but a dim lamp: “Coffee scoop/clip in bottom drawer. Dig deep. Sm. atlas of states and state maps. Mole skin in the bottom bathroom drawer. It's still in the plastic wrapper. My skin toner? Usually blue in a tall bottle. I have 3 bottles somewhere in a bag, I think upstairs in bath closet. Only bring one. Small standing lamp. Reading clamp lamp. I hate darkness.”

And thus, it ambled on for one long and excruciating paragraph, typed with a hint of panic and brimming with odd abbreviations and clever misspellings and punctuational lapses and out-of-context interjections and crammed in the middle, yes, even a recipe request: “If you have time, could you make up a batch of those chocolate cookies, mexican snickerdoodles.?Use real sugar, coconut for fat etc. I have powder real cocoa(Geridelli)Make sure there’s enough flour. They are very fast to make. Not sure if I have flour there. Oh, if you go to the store anyway…”

And so, for the next couple of hours, list in hand, I rummaged around the house collecting various and sundry esoterica, went to the store (anyway) to buy flour (there wasn’t enough), and then returned home and baked mexican (sic) snickerdoodles (over-baked them actually — like hockey pucks).

And as I flitted from one barely decipherable task to another, dropping the requested items in a laundry basket, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. No, I wasn’t always successful finding what my dear wife wanted, but it didn’t matter. As I went from room to room, rifling drawers and peering deeply into the innards of closets I kept shouting her adorable nickname with an exclamation point, “Oh, Side Dish!”, and then I’d just laugh, which sometimes scared the cats since we were alone in the house and so my outbursts seemed loony to them. But I wasn’t loony, I was deliriously happy: there wasn’t anything I’d rather be doing, or anyone I’d rather be doing it for.

My wife’s long and disjointed requisition ended with, “2 Bath towels, 2 more wash clothes, 1 hand towel. Doesn’t matter. I love you. Karen.

I love you, too, Side Dish.

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