I haven’t slept in my own bed since I kissed Jack goodbye on July 10 and headed off to Petersburg for my summer camp gig with the kids at Jacob’s Ladder. This year we were in residence at a junior college with dorms. Dorm beds are for the young. If we’re there again next year, I’m taking an air bed.
The day I left camp, I shot up to DC to catch a flight to Kansas City for the National Storytelling Conference. Marriott beds are lovely! Three great sleeps in a Marriott bed.
And then home to the ongoing disaster zone. In all fairness, I should state that we do now have a roof and ceilings. We are, however, still tarped and plastic sheeted over windows and doors, and two weeks ago when I walked into the house, I remembered why I never bonded with tropical vacation paradises: You never feel dry. I turned on the one a/c unit that cools the half of the house that is still enclosed and cranked up the ceiling fans. Within two days, it felt safe to inhale deeply. But I’m not able to sleep in this house if I am alone, and while I was still in Petersburg, Jack left for three weeks at Penland, in the mountains of North Carolina.
I know I’m being irrational. Plastic tarps are not that much different than insulated glass. Someone bent on intruding will intrude, and Jack’s snoring presence nearby doesn’t change that fact of life. There’s a clause in the Serenity Prayer about “things I cannot change.”
Insulated glass is, however, an effective deterrent to raccoons, possums, and foxes, all of whom hang out in these woods, all of whom know what catfood smells like. I may once have been Hearty Peasant Stock. At one point in my life, I thought Little House on the Prairie sounded like the house of my dreams. But that point in life is decades behind me. Roused from a deep sleep by the boorish manners of a ravenous raccoon, my tendency is to burrow deeper into the blankets. And that’s exactly what I do when I hear a raccoon and Jack’s home, because he awakens alert, and ready, knowing exactly where he kicked his shoes off, carrying a clear mental image of exactly where he stowed that one-inch dowel on which is writ large, in black Sharpie, “RACCOON STICK.”
Raccoons are the reason I haven’t slept at home since I got back from Kansas City. Every evening around dark, I head into Center City, where my sister-in-law lives on the second floor of what was once a luggage factory. She folded out her sleeper sofa for me, and that’s where I’ve been sleeping for the past two weeks.
Tomorrow, I head out to Penland to meet up with Jack in time for the annual art auction, where we join 200+ other volunteers to help throw this party every August. Jack usually reigns supreme over the potscrubbing sinks, and I pitch in washing dishes. It’s always fun. Exhausting. We sleep very soundly, even on those institutional beds with 50-count cotton sheets and lumpy pillows.
Just now, thinking about this long weekend spent in the company of a teeming mass of right-brainers, many of whom feel like extended family, I am caught off-guard by tears welling up and a sweet wrench of homesickness when I think about all those auction pieces on display all weekend long. It occurs to me that not only has my home been severed and splintered and in transition for over a year, it has also been denuded. I recently read this aphorism by Ezra Croft, who said it better than I can: “People need art in their houses. They don’t need Bed Bath & Beyond dentist office art. They need weird stuff.” Ninety-five percent of our weird stuff is in storage.
Penland, here I come! Then home, and in the words of the great diarist, “And so to bed.”