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It's Nelly's World

A Home for the Holidays (Kitsch/Non-Kitsch)

alec vanderboom

The little things are beginning to bug me. A splinter I can't get fully out, or a pebble in the shoe; a broken filling in the tooth, which the tongue runs over ceaselessly until raw.

Although sometimes I still look out into the diminutive living room of this temporary abode and think: How cozy! And mine! more often these days I just think: How diminutive.

No room to have people over, either for dinner, or for the cocktail party I always itch to give whenever the holiday season occurs: after all, god must have made eggnog, candy canes, and triple-creme cheeses with some purpose in mind, yes? (This recessionary year, the party would have to be BYOMC: bring your own milk chocolate.)

The little things combine into one big steamroller of dissatisfaction: the drawer in which I keep foil and waxed paper scrapes on its broken guides; the shelf on which I keep the quart of olive oil--used forty times a day, on everything--is just a tad too short in every spot but one, the one I miss all the time; the kitchen faucet drips; the dishwasher leaves crud on the plates; only three burners on the stove work; the toilets don't flush very well; the hopelessly ugly and cheap storm door doesn't fit the jamb and must be slammed so forcefully the glass insert shakes loose; there is no mudroom or even hall, so you are greeted by tripping over a pile of shoes, and the mittens fall behind the recycling containers they must sit atop--and thus must be shuffled from one to the other every time you need to use those. Capital among the deficits: no fireplace, no beating heart to the home. And a long winter ahead. But the granddaddy of all these little things is blowing up ever larger: the need to leash-walk Nelly every morning. Which means leaving my son alone in the house, as well as interrupting the 50-yard dash that is the morning attempt to be ready for the school bus.

This means, as I learned last week, to court danger. I leave my son hopefully well occupied eating his breakfast or getting dressed (or so I have requested, at least). I then take off down the road, praying to the gods of quick evacuation. And also of safety: I hope nothing goes wrong. Last week it did.

I had just reached the bottom of the drive when I heard it, heard it with those super-keen ears they give to all new mothers when they leave the hospital: my son is crying. Wailing, actually, in a combination of fear and pain. I can tell this particular admixture precisely.

As I raced up the drive, a thousand ghastly scenarios cinematically unreeled across the screen of my frightened head. When I burst in the door, he was standing there clutching at his throat. (But no spurting blood, as one of those films had showed.) He screamed, with difficulty, "A Lego! A Lego is in there!" At least he could talk, somewhat.

What do I do? How quickly the possibilities occur: Would my neighbor know what to do? She's had three children to raise. Surely one, if not two, had gotten a Lego stuck in his throat too. Would an ambulance be able to arrive in time? Or do I throw him in the car--with the nearest hospital thirty minutes away? Instead, I bent him over double and whacked his back, then did a watery version of a Heimlich, or what I hoped was one anyway. Out it popped.

I would like to say I embraced my son in gratitude upon this happy ending. Which I did. Right before the recriminations began, the aftermath of fear putting me on maternal autopilot: What were you doing putting things in your mouth? You are nine years old!

It was quickly apparent, though, that he had not "put things in his mouth"; he had merely used his teeth as a tool to pull two pieces apart. Just as he's seen me use my teeth as tool too many times to count. Just as I've always done, since youth, when my mother used to admonish me to stop, I was going to break a tooth. I think maybe this is called karma.

Just the same, I am looking forward to a better, more permanent home situation soon. A home of our own. Then I can only blame myself for the little things that go wrong.

The first thing I'll do is put up a fence, so I can let my dog out to walk herself. The second thing I'll do is put some more logs on the fire.

Happy holidays. And looking forward to a new and improved year, for all.