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A Story


Jackson Gillman, Stand-Up Chameleon

All in Due Time

late spring 2003

Jackson Gillman © 2003

skip to epilogue


     Neither Susan nor I are very good at keeping to timetables. Take for example, our kitchen. “What kitchen?” you might ask. Granted, it is a gorgeous big room with lots of skylights and windows that look out on our expansive lawn and gardens. We practically live in this space. But don’t kitchens usually have stoves, dishwashers and cabinets? Well, they’re coming. They’ve been coming anytime now forthe past two years. In the meantime, we’ve been making out well enough with our temporary sink, single hot plate and toaster oven. We do have a large refrigerator -- the cold, cyclically whirring heart of the room proving that this is indeed the kitchen. The pantry annex is in the same location as before in this ancestral homestead of my wife’s family. For the time being, it has bookcases that hold our larder. Oh, and we do have a dishwasher. For over a year now. It’s still in the box and is our focal bit of cabinetry. Kind of a timeless, cardboard retro look. It’s quite handsome and handy really, holding our little sound system and whatever else happens to need a flat surface.

 
Our “kitchen” of 2+ years

     So, why have we lived as though we’re in the process of moving for over three years? Well, we are moving in a way -- towards an exquisite, practical and perfect kitchen. These things take time to plan you see. In Susan’s case, this could take a lifetime. But fortunately there’s a deadline to put this project in high gear. High gear, mind you, involves stacks of catalogs, graph paper, wood samples, paint samples, countertop samples, all of which have no prayer of fitting on the dishwasher box. They have their own extended range over where the range might be, or the trash/recycling area will be, or who knows? All in due time. But, that is the new impetus for this kitchen to ever be actualized. A due date. Yippee –- we’re having a second baby! We middle-aged duffers intend to squeak another one by Mother Nature.

     We both emphatically insist that the kitchen must be finished well before we try to feed another mouth in this makeshift kitchen with only dorm-room cooking appliances. Thank god! Not just for the baby, but for the potential liberation of the dishwasher. It’s hard for me to believe that I’m saying that. I’ve never needed or wanted a dishwasher. For my decades of bachelorhood, I managed fine without one. The rest of my living spaces might have been a total disaster, but the sink area was always tidy. I hate dirty dishes. So, I never had any. My method? No, not paper plates. I even recycle envelopes, for earth’s sake. I simply use one plate, one mug, one knife, fork and spoon. When I’m done with anything, I wash it. What could be simpler?

     I tried to impress Susan with the efficient beauty of this system. You never have to face a backlog of dirty dishes! Well, they say opposites attract. Susan doesn’t want to bother cleaning something after every time she uses it. And she needs to start fresh with anything that’s going to be used for eating. So what does this mean? It means that when I unpacked our kitchen boxes, I shrewdly took out only a handful of the bowls and small plates knowing my wife’s habits. I made the mistake however, of taking out the entire silverware tray. As a result, wouldn’t you know that every utensil will be used and piled up dirty before there’s any need to do the dishes. There were only three of us, including me still trying to use the one utensil method, and there would be a counter full of dishes every night. It drives me nuts. I’ve coped very happily with this kitchenette of ours but now I’ve been looking forward to this dishwasher’s unveiling more than any other part of this kitchen project. In fact, I have my own ideas of what a perfect kitchen would have.

     Typically, you take a utensil out of the drawer, use it, load it into the dishwasher, wait till it’s full, wash it, unload it back into the drawer, and start the process all over again. You need separate storage when it’s not in use and you handle each utensil several times. The perfect solution from someone who never even wanted a dishwasher? Get two! Think about it. You take clean dishes out of one washer, use them, and put them in the other until that’s full and washed, then reverse the process. The idea makes me swoon. You think the idea has a prayer of making it into the plans for the ideal kitchen? About as much as having a commercial juicer, steam power-washing and a drain in the floor. Well, maybe some lifetime I’ll get to design my own dream kitchen. In the meantime, as I said, there’s another bundle of joy and dirty diapers to prepare for.

     Unbeknownst to me, Susan‘s welcoming preparations for another dream child had begun long ago with the creation of a tune. Inspired by the birdcalls on a mountain hike, she began to whistle back to them and over the course of a few daily hikes had a melody to welcome a new baby. On the day the tune was completed, she collected four spruce cones representing her intent to add a fourth member to our family. Our intent was mutual, but we were surprised at how soon the pregnancy was confirmed. Delighted too, of course, except for my typically male response of feeling abruptly deprived of that rare pleasure of concertedly trying to make a baby. Anyway, it was then that I learned of Susan’s tune and collection. How wonderful to discover such charms in my mate. After that, the spruce cones came to sit on the kitchen windowsill as a reminder of the dishwasher, I mean child, to come.

     Fast-forward eight months to the imminent birth of #2. Our daughter, Jillian, was early. All of Susan’s mother’s deliveries were early. We anticipated the same promptness this time around and were frighteningly unready with our living space in such disarray. Jillian’s birth inspired lots of songs for me; a whole show in fact –- “A Dad’s Eye View.” This baby prompted several new prenatal ditties, the first one reflecting our unpreparedness. It’s a variation of a Cat Steven’s song:

It’s not time to make a change, just relax take it slowly
There’s no rush, there’s still time, there’s so much you have to go through
Find a groove, settle down, if you want -- change positions
You are young, we are old but we’re happy…

About not coming too soon, we were serious.

     When all three of our different due dates passed, along with everyone’s guess for the birth date, we were surprised, relieved and then anxious. I had blocked two weeks on either side of the earliest due date to not take any long-distance gigs. One that was originally booked for May 10 however was changed to May 31. Although it was as local as could be at the Wareham Library, less than a mile from the hospital, it wasn’t one that I could gracefully pass on to a colleague if need and baby arose. The show was a rehearsed collaboration to be performed with 18 young violinists in recital. If I had to bail, there was no chance of postponing this grant-funded project.

     The first long-distance gig I had on the books was in central Maine on June 3 for a group of teen parents. Since I was specifically hired for my “Dad” show, again, it wasn’t a booking I could pass on to someone else. The money from that show was also urgently needed to pay for other overdue things -- bills.

     Hence, Susan and I were nervous about what would happen if the baby didn’t come before the end of May. Another prenatal song that Jillian and I had been singing to Susan’s belly needed some new annotation. To the tune of “Barges”:

Baby, we will soon be meeting you
We will look into your eyes of blue (Susan and I both have blue eyes)
Baby, you're a treasure we will hold
We will love you till we're very old (not that long away for us old fart parents)
While we are waiting we will sing this song
You won't be in there very long (that's what we thought a few weeks ago anyhow)
Out of this belly you'll be squeezing through
We will all be here to welcome you (I don’t want to miss this birth for anything –
I’ll cancel if I have to)

The Cat Steven’s parody needed tweaking now too:
It’s about time to make a change, shake a leg, let’s get moving…

     A friend from my Therapeutic Storytelling class was very empathetic to our condition having had a baby head into a third week of overtime. She confided to me what the solution she and her husband came up with. They Noriega’ed him out. She had to remind me that when the Panamanian dictator holed himself up in his compound, the American military launched a non-stop barrage of blaring music, alleged to include the Barney theme song. Apparently Manuel opted for incarceration versus insanity and surrendered without bloodshed. So what was my friend’s inducement method? Hard rock music blasting through headphones placed on the overripe belly. Gee, it sounds like potential fetal abuse to me, but apparently it worked as the baby decided to quickly escape the assault with only the typical amount of blood shed. To this day, the child displays an abhorrence of Warren Zevon.

     I relayed the story to Susan on the morning of May 31 before I left for the violin/story performance. We had a good laugh as we brainstormed ideas of what music we might choose, knowing that we would never actually resort to the method which I redubbed – “Nori-egging” ‘em out. Susan, Jillian and our little procrastinator came to the 11:00 a.m. concert.

     The meeting room of the library had very live acoustics. Do you realize how loud and piercing 18 violins can sound in a relatively small room? On the parts where I had to speak over the ensemble, I had to really crank up my wireless sound system to be heard over the din. Perhaps our little one was worried about his parents laughing earlier about the “blast ‘em out” scheme and feared that this was the start of the ambush. Many of those fiddlers were under ten years old, and you know the potential for the fingernails-on-the-blackboard effect. In all fairness, the consort was very good, and they did justice to a number of very snappy dance tunes.

     Well, guess what? Soon after, Susan notices the contractions taking on a new rhythm and getting fiercer by the hour. And 1/2 hour before June, ta-dum! –- Avery Elazar Gillman made his vocal debut. Now it is anyone’s guess whether he was trying to say – “No more scratchy fiddles PLEASE!” or “Hey, I want to DANCE!”

     The performance was videoed for the local cable TV station so a recording of the concert exists. Maybe I’ll play back some of the songs at later times in his life and try to judge his reaction. Feel free to ask me, say five, ten years from now.

     Given the fact that Avery was late, what was remarkable about his arrival was that it was during the one 12-hour window when I wouldn’t have had to cancel a gig or leave Susan before we settled back home two days later. What gracious timing. Well, he doesn’t take after his parents.

     Remember that kitchen that HAD to be finished before the baby? Given all of life’s curves, design changes, and inevitable contracting delays, guess when the installation begins? Right on the heels of Avery’s heel prick. We are going to have to move out of our kitchen/living space and consolidate into the other part of the house. We’ll create a temporary kitchen off of the bathroom for however many weeks it will take. We’ll borrow a mini-fridge, and continue to use our trusty toaster oven and our untrusty hot plate. (We’re on our fourth one now – they seem to have a planned obsolescence of about six months.) We’ll manage. Come visit and see for yourself. What would we like for presents? Nothing for the baby please. Just bring food. And your own dinnerware.

Epilogue

   

     Today, nearly five months after Avery’s birth, we actually have a full working kitchen. Here’s what happened this morning… A truck pulled up to our house. Jillian announced, “The inspector is here.”
Susan corrected her and said it was not the inspector.

“Oh, then it’s Cape & Island Kitchens.”

“No.”

“Oh, then it’s Mike, the Electrician.”

     Our three-year old daughter knows all of the workmen who have been traipsing through our kitchen over the past year. It in fact was Tom, the plumber, coming to finish the gas hook-up for our cooktop, after Mike the electrician went through hoops to wire the ventilation hood now that Cape & Island Kitchens has removed the one piece of wood trim that prohibited the inspector from passing us. It’s been a long, slow road but tonight Susan cooked her first meal on our top-of-the-line Wolf cooktop. She’s gotten so accustomed to cooking on one slow electric burner that she was out of her element when given the luxury of four high-speed burners. Whereas in the past, she rarely burned things or had anything boil over, in a short few minutes, she managed to boil over things on no fewer than three burners. Suddenly that $10 hot plate didn’t look so bad after all. Gratefully, this last one actually lasted more than the previous three’s norm of 6 month’s planned obsolescence. Perhaps we should frame it and put in on the wall as a reminder of our three years of dormitory-style cooking.

before…
 
after… (click for a larger view)
   

     Come visit us for a garden pesto dinner and see how fast we can boil over the noodles and burn the squash. It’s really easy to clean up though and the charred smell clears really quickly with our great ventilation hood. Or feel free to bring your own food. We can set our high-tech oven to start heating it up at any time during the next millennium while we show you around Point Independence and take a walk down to the shore. (Just as soon as we figure out the timer on the 50-page manual for the oven.)

If you do bring your own dish for us to heat up, I’d be more than happy to clean it afterward in…

…the long awaited dishwasher!

 

   

 


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