Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In which we examine the fact that a thing is not just a thing

There. Balanced checkbook, paid Visa, all online. Nice and neat. The socks, though, are still unfolded. I lost focus this morning, putting the second load in the washer. Those white "World's Softest Socks" are supposed to be washed inside out. It sort of makes sense, and I have been proud of myself for doing such a finicky thing until now. Actually, I had forgotten to turn the black socks, too, when I did the first load.

The more you own, the more comes into your house every day, the harder it is to keep it all organized. Closet so full I'd taken the extra plastic hangers out and hung them in the guest room closet. What the closet is full of is clothes I don't like. Some mornings I can't stand a thing I own. Idly shopping last week in a travel store I saw these underpants for travel. You are supposed to take two pair and go around the world. Wear one, wash one. I suppose what makes them worth $14.95 a pair is that they dry quickly. What an appealing idea, to pare down to that. You think it would somehow neaten up your mind, too.

The drawers in my chest are full of things I don't use. Many of them have sentimental value, like oh, hey, an Obama campaign tee-shirt with his face and Springsteen's on it, that says "Born to Run." I love that kind of double meaning and remember the day I joyously bought two of these. We were eating on the patio of a Mexican restaurant on High Street when a van pulled up across the street. Some college-type kids had been waiting there a while. The driver opened the van door, and began pulling out boxes of tee-shirts. Over I went. One for me, one for Tom. He gave his to Cassie last Christmas, I think.

So there is my shirt. I don't like to wear tee-shirts with faces and words on them anymore. Just a matter of preference, but rather strong, since it's my body. Nevertheless, I am very fond of this shirt, which reminds me of the beautiful high of the last days of that campaign, of voting, of the count coming in, of the inauguration ceremony capped by Pete Seeger in a flannel shirt and wool hat leading everyone in "This Land is Your Land."

Those were glorious days around here anyway, for in our close circle there was no disagreement. Now it has just become governance, meetings, discussions, compromises. I was disheartened that we are to continue in Afghanistan, though I admit I don't understand the ins and outs of that problem. I relate to the children of soldiers waiting for Daddy to come home. I relate to Daddy coming home without a leg, with PTSD and addictions.

As for the boring business of governance, The Times columnist David Brooks wrote about this the other day, saying that one of the myths we need to get over is the idea that someone can walk in and solve a problem. The problems are of long-standing, he said, and they've been worked a lot up till now, and the clay has hardened.

But you would think a person could remember to turn the socks inside out. Yes. What a refreshingly simple task. Then again, I am a 67-year-old piece of clay.

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