Me, Age 36
My Mother, Age 60
My Father, Age 65
My Middle Sister, Age 32
Nephew, Age 6
Niece #1, Age 32 months
My Youngest Sister, Age 29
Niece #2, Age 27 months
Niece #3, Age 8 months
Setting: Living room. Monday night, 9:30 pm.
Nephew has been diganosed with pneumonia and a double ear infection and is confined to the house for the next couple of days. Middle Sister is taking the day off of work to stay home with him, but still wants Niece #1 to go to preschool for the day. Middle Sister lives three streets away from our parents. Youngest Sister lives across the street from our parents.
Middle Sister: (via text) Can someone take Niece #1 to school for me tomorrow? I don't want to take Nephew out of the house.
Me: (via text) I'll do it.
Me: (to my parents) I have to take Niece #1 to school tomorrow.
My Father: (instantly concerned) Whose car are you taking? [sidenote: my car is in the Nashville Park 'n' Fly, waiting for me to fly back down]
Me: ...Can't I take yours?
My Father: I have to go to work for 8:30 tomorrow, and that's what time Niece #1 starts school.
My Mother: Well, can you drop Niece #1 off on your way?
My Father: (heavy sigh) I don't really want to. I guess I will if I absolutely have to.
Me: It's fine, I'll text Youngest Sister and see if I can borrow her car.
My Father: No, you know what? Take my car, I won't go in until 9.
Me: Oh, okay. Are you sure?
My Father: Yeah, it's fine.
Setting: Dining room. Tuesday morning, 8 am.
I am putting my coat on.
My Father: Whose car are you taking?
Me: ...What? I thought I was taking yours.
My Father: I have to get to work for 9.
Me: Yeah, so I thought I was going to take Niece #1--
My Father: You won't be back in time for me to leave.
Me: (blank, because I know that last night we had a completely different conversation about this)
My Father: Okay, you can take my car, but you need to rush right back here.
Me: No, this is stressful. It takes me a while to get the kids in and out of the car when I'm in charge, and I was going to stop at Dunkin' on my way back. I'll just borrow Youngest Sister's car.
My Father: I didn't know you wanted to take my car.
Me: I thought that's what you said last night.
My Father: No.
Me: (calling Youngest Sister) Can I borrow your car?
Setting: Dining room. Tuesday morning, 9:30 am.
I am eating my blueberry muffin and sipping my iced tea.
The phone rings.
It is Middle Sister.
Middle Sister: What did you get at Dunkin'?
Me: A blueberry muffin. Why?
Middle Sister: Oh. I thought maybe I had your meal and you had mine.
Me: Why, what did they give you?
Middle Sister: A sausage egg and cheese sandwich.
Me: (sigh) I ordered a heated coffee roll, I swear. They gave it to me all wrapped up, but it was round so I assumed it was right.
Middle Sister: It's fine, I'll just eat it. I just didn't know if it was yours.
Me: How is Nephew?
Middle Sister: Drinking Gatorade. What are you going to do today?
Me: Work. First I have to take a shower because I didn't take one before going to get Niece #1.
Middle Sister: Okay, I'll talk to you later.
(two minutes later)
The phone rings.
It is Middle Sister.
Middle Sister: EGT!
Me: (alarmed) What's the matter?
Middle Sister: You are not going to believe what Niece #1's teachers just called to tell me!
Me: Oh, no, what did I do wrong dropping her off?
Middle Sister: No, it's not you. They say she's so sick she's laying down falling asleep, she won't even play.
Me: ...What? She was fine in the car. We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the ABCs the whole way up.
Middle Sister: I know! I said that to them! I said she was fine all morning, ate breakfast, ran around singing. Anyway, someone has to go back to get her. Do you want me to go?
Me: No, you can't bring Nephew out.
Middle Sister: I know, but I feel bad making you go again. Do you want to come over here and watch Nephew?
Me: No, because if I get sick and then Dad gets sick I will never hear the end of it. Can't Youngest Sister go? Call her and tell her I'm too embarrassed to go.
Middle Sister: (laughing) Okay.
(two minutes later)
The phone rings.
It is Middle Sister.
Middle Sister: Youngest Sister just poured a bowl of cereal and is sitting down to work. She says you shouldn't be embarrassed.
Me: (sigh) Fine. I will go.
Middle Sister: Can you stop at Dunkin' and get me a heated coffee roll, too?
(hangs up phone)
Youngest Sister: (via text) Don't be embarrassed! Tell the teachers she was fine when you dropped her off!
Me: (via text) It is not even ten o'clock and this day is already ridiculous. Also, I need your car again.
(Denouement: Pretty sure Niece #1 is fine. She just wanted to hang out with her mommy and older brother all day. Because she smiled brilliantly as soon as she saw me, and we once again had to sing the whole way home, and she just kept saying "Me, and Mommy, and Deedee [her name for her brother]" so happy and thrilled, and ran right into her mommy's arms when I dropped her off. I ended up not having to get another coffee roll because my sister ended up eating the egg sandwich because she was too hungry to wait. I have left out of this story the part where there were two cop cars, a fire engine, and an ambulance parked around the corner from my parents' house, blocking the whole street. Also the part where I came home to find two other cop cars in a different location searching someone's house. Also the part where I have to let a repairman in between 11 and 1 today, so I had to rush to take a shower when I got back.
I am now showered. The repairman has just arrived.
I have not done a single minute of work.)
One of the things that I vowed to do, after this election, was to shout louder.
I know that sounds “not constructive,” and liberals are always trying to find constructive ways to do things, liberals are always trying to find ways to communicate with people. But I now live in a red state and I’m so sick to death of Trump people mansplaining to me how I’m too naive to understand how nobody means anything by swastikas and also E-MAILS, God save me from the invention of electronic mail and their determination to mansplain to me, a woman with a career in which I have ALWAYS been governed by important confidentiality obligations, the proper etiquette for work e-mail. I had, before this election, been noncommittal with these people, mostly because I didn’t feel like getting into political debates every time I step out of the house (people here seem to think mansplaining politics is like the weather: an endlessly safe topic of conversation. Actually, they would probably like to mansplain the weather to me, too). But now I have decided that what I need to do is shout louder. I think there are more normal people in this country than crazy and horrible people, but we get drowned out by all the shouting, because we tend to want to speak in reasonable tones like grown-ups. So. No more. I’m shouting louder. I live in this red state, too.
Anyway, the women’s marches were good shouting-louder moments, as is all of the civic engagement I see online every day. This is our country, this is our democracy, and we have our right to shout.
So I went to the local Democratic Party meeting, because I want to know what I can do to make this red state less hellish to live in. Over drinks a few nights ago, one person, referring to my blue state upbringing, said, “It must be so nice to live in a place where you have rights.” YES. IT IS VERY NICE TO LIVE IN A PLACE LIKE THAT. I recognize now how privileged I was and I want *everyone* to get to grow up with rights. I want to be trying to help accomplish that for everyone.
The meeting was actually really interesting. They started by asking us what we were worried about, which of course was this massive flood of “EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE.” Everyone was like, “Sooooo do I need to be more specific than ‘massive free-floating anxiety that we’re all about to die’?” A couple of people sounded off on the fact that we need to feel more comfortable saying we’re Democrats. I was relieved that I am not the only person constantly being accosted for not being a Trump person every time I have to meet someone new. I was also relieved at the turnout, at how many Democrats there were. The turnout at all Democratic events down here has apparently at least doubled since the election. Other people want to shout louder, too.
At one point, though, in the flood of concerns (they were things like “civil rights,” “reproductive rights,” “gun control,” “immigration,” “religious freedom,” “voting rights,” etc.), someone raised their hand and said, “The problem with the Democratic Party is we care about everything. If you ask Republicans what they’re about, they’ll say: lower taxes, less government. We need something like that.”
Okay, first, I think that’s a lie. They’ll *say* that but it’s a lie. They want less government except when it comes to women and people of color and LGBTQ people and non-Christian people and then they want ALL THE GOVERNMENT up in every inch of people’s business. But they would *say* that, and it *is* nice and pithy.
So we spent some time trying to come up with a nice, pithy summation of Democrats. Several people were like, “Democrats: We Care About Others.” Or “Democrats: We’re Nice.” I think the one that really resonated at the end was a proclamation that Republicans might be about less government but Democrats are about individual rights, and I think that is not such a bad summation.
The other thing that I thought was interesting, though, was that when people found out I was a lawyer, several of them said, “I wish I was a lawyer. We need lawyers.” The thing is: I am not an especially useful lawyer in this time. But also: I don’t think I have ever in my life been especially proud of being a lawyer, but I was thinking, over the weekend, that in the midst of the entire systemic breakdown of our constitutional system, some of the people I was most proud of were the lawyers, not just the ACLU doing what they did but the immigration lawyers running to work, pro bono, through the night. A constitutional crisis happened, and the lawyers? They showed up. We’ve done a lot wrong in legal education but, by and large, I’m proud that we seem to have turned out people who got the lesson we gave them, about the privilege that it is to practice law, about how much society needs fair-minded lawyers to speak up for the rights of those who don’t have voices. I teach my students as I was taught--the importance of the rule of law--and I am proud to be watching them stand up for it. Laws can do terrible things, of course--TERRIBLE things--and it is definitely not foolproof, but...yeah. We teach them to fight, within the system, to work hard and shout louder in the courtrooms of this country, to shout louder on behalf of everyone who can’t, and they did that this weekend.
So, I don’t know, tl;dr, things are such a mess, but I am grateful for how many of you, like me, have been forced to show up and shout louder. Because we can hear each other now, from every corner we can *hear* each other. The shout gets louder.
Once we landed and got through silly customs, we found ourselves waiting around for our luggage. To kill time, we went in the duty-free shop and bought Icelandic water in fabulous vodka-like bottles. And I stopped at the ATM to get money. It was amusing to take out 20,000. Although it was the beginning of us realizing that everything is super-expensive in Iceland. We also found a little heart-shaped charm on the floor and amused ourselves with thinking that it represented someone’s abandoned heart. Probably Sherlock’s. So then we wrote a sad AU where Sherlock and John were both abandoned pieces of luggage.
( Day Two!Collapse )
Off bright and early again the next morning, and our first stop was this incredible waterfall that you could walk behind. Although I did not think anything about this looked the least bit safe. We were expected to clamber up and down these tumbled piles of rocks, and everything was soaking wet and the ground was such sucking mud that my sneaker got stuck in it and came off my foot and I uttered this pathetic little cry and flailed at S. S helped me balance and I perched my foot on a rock and waved ineffectually at my shoe in the mud until L stopped laughing and taking photographs long enough to come and help. “This is a dangerous place,” I sniffed huffily. “You’re not on the path,” he pointed out. Which was apparently true but whatever, that path was very poorly marked.
( Day Four!Collapse )
In the morning we woke late to find T still there, even though the plan had been for her to leave early. Shenanigans with trains meant that she had decided to drive to Birmingham. So we breakfasted together—cereal and croissants with bergamot and Seville jam for normal people; Marmite for L—and then left for Birmingham. N drove with T; I drove with L and S and we mainly discussed fundraising techniques for schools because we’re just that cool.
Eventually T called and we decided to arrange an exchange of N at a little pull-off on the side of the highway. N would come with us sight-seeing in Birmingham, T would go work, and we would meet back up again in the afternoon for a visit to Cadbury World. We had been following T up to that point—during which she turned out to be the anti-Garmin—but now we went back to GPS.
I had read that the Birmingham Library had a rooftop garden with views of the whole city, so we headed there. The library is an extremely impressive building covered in some kind of abstract steel artwork. Suffice it to say I can’t imagine any American city in this day and age spending money just to make a library look striking. But it seemed very Birmingham, which overall had lots of really different and interesting buildings. And the interior of the library was as impressive as its exterior. It was huge and sprawling and very modern but done well. The Google-headquarters-inspired way of setting up a space can seem awful most of the time, but this library had a really good design time and it was super-well-done.
Of course, my goodwill toward the library vanished immediately upon getting in the elevator, which was the World’s Slowest Modern Elevator. I actually think you must have to pay extra to get a modern elevator that moves that slowly. They played us little lines of poetry every time the doors shut but all in all I’d rather have an elevator with a respectable speed than lines of Dickinson or Eliot. Maybe it’s so slow so as to promote use of the stairs, because we did walk back down.
The top floor of the library had a glass observation deck and a Shakespeare room. Down a couple of floors from that was the rooftop garden I’d read about.
The garden was lovely. The weather wasn’t the best in the world but it wasn’t actively unpleasant the way Iceland had been. I stood along the edge and looked out over the city and tried to just enjoy how noisy it was. I love the way a city sounds and I get to hear it so seldom these days. I was keenly aware I was going back to Mississippi soon, so I wanted to try to lock the sights and sounds of Birmingham into my memory.
Which of course was when a voice next to me purred, “Beautiful view, isn’t it?” Not Benedict Cumberbatch. Really, world? I made some vague, noncommittal response and then luckily L saved me. Clearly, that had been my Ordeal.
While on the roof, we touched based with T—interrupting her very important meeting accidentally—and realized we had another hour to kill. So we decided to eat at the café at the library. We basically all had jacket potatoes and L had an Earl Grey tea, which they labeled “EGT” and that was basically my favorite thing I’d seen so far in England.
The gift shop at the Birmingham Library was one of the best I’d been in but I was having the small silent meltdown of New Englanders everywhere when confronted with slowness. But I think I actually did a decent job. “No need to fold that,” I said cheerfully as she painstakingly folded the t-shirt I’d bought. She kept folding anyway. It was like that scene in “Love Actually.”
The whole incident had brought out our Boston-driver-ness. If you want to know how long it takes a Boston driver to acclimatize enough to British driving to start criticizing other drivers as too slow, the answer is less than 24 hours. The fact that Birmingham is under an astonishing amount of construction and flummoxed the GPS didn’t help matters.
But, eventually we reached Cadbury World and, hilariously, we wouldn’t go the wrong way in the parking lot to get to the empty parking space because the only rules Bostonians respect are rules about parking.
Cadbury World was way more crowded than I’d expected. It had all these huge sprawling parking lots that were crowded with cars. I had not been expecting that at all but it’s basically a theme park. Upon entering, they immediately present you with three candy bars, and then you are ushered into a rain forest, where you learn about cocoa trees, if you pay attention, which we did not. Eventually you reach a replica of London in 1824, when Cadbury opened his first shop. A costumed lady complained to us about how her husband spends all his time and money at the men’s club where she wasn’t allowed to go, and then flirted with L, because: L’s Ordeal.
From there we were ushered into a theater to learn about the history of Cadbury. Fun fact: Cadbury did many things to aid the war effort during World War II. They didn’t elaborate further. Illuminati. Clearly.
After that it was on to the next theater, where they warned us to be careful if we had back problems. But we weren’t strapped in or anything, so I wasn’t sure what was about to happen. The movie started, and it was all about how chocolate gets made from cocoa beans. As our guide walked us through harvesting of the cocoa beans, a sudden blast of air puffed at our ankles. “What was that?” asked our guide, and then moves on. Sooooo, no idea.
It eventually became clear that we were meant to be cocoa beans when our guide described shaking the beans and the benches on which we were seated suddenly started vibrating and shaking us back and forth. Seriously, someone thought of that. Frankly, it makes me want to start hanging out with the Cadburys. They seem like fun.
It all runs together after that. There was a bit with fresh liquid chocolate shot through with the topping of our choice. And a bit we where we were introduced to the random sexiness of a Flake commercial (favorite bit: a random lizard crawling over a random telephone) and to the rabbit that sells the caramel one. And a ride with no real purpose that just drove us through a landscape that included a phallic cactus shivering in a sweater (and that is not just the Penis Museum talking). And they let us squeeze three into one row on that ride, which you’d never get in America. And then we saw an animatronic gorilla playing drums to a Phil Collins song. The Cadburys are on something really, really good. (Probably good chocolate.) And they also had one of those games where you press buttons in a sequence and they said most people can do 8 and I did 13 and was super-proud of myself.
And the whole time, no matter how fast or slow we moved, we were surrounded by this enormous family. I have no idea how many people were in this family. They kept multiplying. Apparently they were incapable of staying together, because they kept suddenly shoving past us to catch up, or ducking into or out of lines.
The tour ended—as all tours do—in a shop, where the chocolate was so cheap by American standards that we bought whole armfuls of it. By combining orders, we spent 20 pounds and I got a “free” teddy bear for the niblings.
Then we walked a little around Bourneville, which is the village the Cadburys set up for their workers to live in. And then it was decided that I should drive back with T, which meant that navigation was horrible in the other car without me. After an Ordeal for T involving backing up to make way for the same returning construction vehicles that had complicated our drive while going that morning, we reached T’s house, where P had made chicken parm, inspired by my mentioning it that morning. The chicken parm had a sauce with everything thrown in and it was delicious. Then we spent the rest of the evening watching YouTube Cadbury ads and BBC program previews.
A while ago--maybe a month ago--a fellow Inceptionite recommended a story on the Penumbra podcast centering around Juno Steel, with the endorsement that Juno's love interest was very Eamesian. It took me a while to follow the recommendation. Fictional story-telling podcasts (kinda like anime) are not usually my thing. I have a hard time focusing on entirely audio media; I'll realize my mind wandered and I missed major points. So I tend to only listen to brief educational podcasts when I'm listening to podcasts. And, also, I didn't know if I wanted to jump into another thicket, considering, well, my Yuri on Ice experience, that I wanted to love so much and then didn't. I didn't want to try to love something else and then be disappointed again.
( More on JunoCollapse )