01 February, 2007

a fragile evening

It was one of those afternoons and evenings that make me realise how spoilt we all are: a warm home to come to, the three of us to pitch in and help each other out, and nothing real to complain about, just a general feeling of malaise this particular Thursday evening. What I've come to recognize as the "Thursday evening syndrome." Everyone is still surrounded by the responsibilities and pressures of the week, but there's one more crucial day to get through before we can collapse. We moved it up a day last night and all just sort of collapsed last evening.

I had an excellent comedy class and walked from Covent Garden to the park to see if Avery was riding in the ring where I could see her, or around the Mile where I couldn't. The sky was just turning dusky blue with airplane trails crisscrossing, and as I put one foot in front of the other, I could feel something shutting down. I can conclude only that I got a stomach bug in my lunch on the way to class. It was a chore to get to the ring, and there they were riding with all their might, Bill giving Avery all sorts of trouble and as a result she was being separated from the group and made to work madly on some skill that wasn't going well. By the end of the lesson, and all the horses and riders were trooping across the Bayswater Road, she looked like she'd been pulled through the eye of a needle. I listened to the clip-clop of the ponies' shoes in the mews on the way to the stable and it sounded melancholy! Don't know why.

We met up with Becky and she kindly gave us a ride home, and for a moment I wanted to be one of Becky's children, go home with her and be taken care of. Alas, I checked with myself and sure enough, I was still the mother, and wife, so we came in to darkness, because John was out. "I have loads of homework to do, Mummy, so I'll get started right away," Avery promised, only we discovered that her backpack was in the car, with John. Minor panic. "Let's just switch around bathtime with homework time," I suggested, but "No, when will we have dinner? I can't get my homework wet, you know, and..." And of course we had been planning to run get a pizza and try La Caricatura again, but the thought of leaving the house, shivering to the restaurant and waiting politely for things to happen on someone else's schedule seemed the bridge too far. "We'll get pizza to bring home," I decided, but suddenly my stomach was not cooperating. Got Avery into her bath and lay down with a hot water bottle, and then John appeared saying he didn't feel particularly well either, and did I think he had a fever?

John decided that he needed to think about his work party the night before, and admit that maybe everything isn't all cheery all the time. I don't think it's a good idea to give the impression to a child that coping and being cheerful has to be a 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week attitude. Every once in awhile you can say, "That sucked," and move on. He was so brave, I thought, to go to the party, and it's all right to admit it. Plus he's spent all week preparing numbers to make an offer on a house, and then he did, and the estate agent has not responded, which totally freaks him out. "I can't tell if it would be good news if they accepted the offer, or the most scary thing I've ever done in my life," he admitted.

And Avery, I don't know how she does it. Day after day of such strenuous school work, and play auditions, and violin lessons, and struggles with the English teacher and her impossible standards,and Latin to memorize, only to spend after-school time in the cold fighting with a two-ton animal, and then more work at home. I keep thinking she'll crack, and lie down on the floor with her feet kicking. But she doesn't.

So bath, homework, forgettable pizza. Why do I think it's a crime to skip dinner, even if I don't feel well, AND I didn't cook it? No idea. We tucked Avery up with multiple hot water bottles, and all sort of just... opted out. I decided a good slug of Alka-Seltzer couldn't hurt, and we settled down to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," and his guest was the chief astrophysicist at the Rose Science Center, at the Natural History Museum in New York! Who happened to be a dad from good old PS 234, Neil de Grasse Tyson. I remember that his daughter in Avery's class used to say, "My dad knows about stars."

A truly larger than life figure, immensely knowledgeable, totally full of himself, with a never-exhausted desire to explain it all, to everyone. I remember one school potluck dinner at our apartment where Neil ended up with a pillow from my bedroom to explain something, and he himself standing on the kitchen counter, and using his waistcoat embroidered with stars and planets to illustrated yet another point. "We astrophysicists tell it like it is," he would boast. "Spots on the sun? We call them 'sunspots.' A big hole that's utterly, endlessly black? 'Black hole.'" He has a new book out, that would be incredibly depressing if it weren't so incomprehensibly true. It was such fun to watch and listen, and remember back when the girls were so little, kindergarten, in another city, another school, another life.

I'll try to get a photograph this weekend of Avery's new haircut: nothing drastic, just a good trim. Then it's a school birthday party, and a concert Sunday. We're on the mend.

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