31 July, 2008

what do good friends and kittens have in common?

Come on, it's easy. You can't have too many of either one.

What a day! Part of the time I felt like quite the lady of the manor, with various people running around helping me out, and part of the time I was the sweaty Cook Housekeeper. All in all a wonderful day, ending up with two happy if exhausted girls in the dormitory of Camp Kristen.

The mayhem began with a phone call at 8 a.m. (never my finest hour) announcing that the propane man would be here at any moment to fill the tank. Never mind that the propane company agreed that I needed a new tank, and agreed to move it to the side of the house where John wants it... sure enough, along came the guy with a very long hose and within 90 seconds had filled the tank. This was the service that took five days to book, and countless phone calls between me and the company trying to ascertain whether or not my gasless state constituted an "emergency." Well, 90 seconds later and at least I had propane, if in a tank that leaks and in the wrong place. Sigh.

But I rallied to make some lovely potato salad, a tomato-mozzarella plate with nice ribbons of basil, and then the lawn guys showed up. What luxury to open up the windows and smell that childhood smell of fresh grass! They too made their work look effortless and departed in the reflected glory of petrol fumes and horizontal lines across the meadow. I was just slicing up the leftover barbecued chicken, toasting ciabattas and making a cheese plate when up pulled Becky and Ashley! We all oohed and aahed appropriately over the darling kittens for awhile, but then I was starving, so we sat down and wolfed down our lunch. At one point Ashley decided to bring out Hastings to see if he liked the great outdoors, and I'll tell you what he liked: the smell of barbecued chicken! Between his frantic scrabbling attempts to get at the platter and Amanda's hilarious, pointless repetitive bouncing on her hind legs to get at same, we all simply collapsed laughing.

Just as we finished lunch, up pulled the cleaning service to do their scheduled "reclean," a hideous and unacceptable word, but destined to remove all the spider and cob webs we have been living with since we arrived, the substantial cleaning bill notwithstanding. I sucked it up and asked the crew to clean everything, not just the spiderwebs, and I'm happy to say that the house is PRISTINE. The smell of clean! The cleaning ladies were taken with the kittens, of course, and spent a lot of time discussing their fate. "I'd take that little striped one, but my boyfriend..." and "I'm in love with that gray guy, but my landlord..." Ah well, we don't want to give them away just yet ANYWAY.

We had a nice impromptu chat with Anne, looking blooming and rested, at the red gate (get it?) by the road, as she handed over clean and empty bowls that had been filled with bean salad, chicken salad, whatever, when they made their way to her kitchen. Just as it had been with Alyssa, it seemed hard to believe that she and Becky did not know each other! it's like watching two of my favorite fictional characters meet: two worlds colliding, in fact, two of my favorite people finally being face to face. Anne was her usual elegantly friendly New Yorkish self (her self-deprecating intelligence and charm always speak New York to me), and Becky's warm Southern humor made me realize that it will be the work of about two minutes for her to have all of Greenwich wrapped around her little finger. How lucky I have been to have these two friends in my life, and to have them every summer is a stroke of genius! Becky laughed at the bowls. "She feeds the whole neighborhood," Anne explained, and Becky said, "London too!" Nothing much changes, I guess.

I love the still, still air of Red Gate Farm in the mid afternoon on a slightly hazy day: the maple leaves barely move, the rope swing hangs silently, waiting for a passenger, the fence gleams white and the gate so cheerfully red. So utterly peaceful. We all ended up piling in two cars (guess who rode with me? no one! all the girls thrilled to be together) and went to Rich's Farm for ice cream. That is, everyone had ice cream and I had ice water, not having a sweet tooth as you know. The hot air simply hung over us all, making everyone feel sticky even before the ice cream dripped. Anne had said, "Don't forget to show everyone John's pig goat," and I laughed remembering our last day last summer before heading back to London, when we went for ice cream with Anne and David and John paid a visit to the barn. "Look at that pig! Boy is he fat," John said, and Anne coughed gently and said, "Actually, John, that's a GOAT." A pig with horns? It turns out you CAN take the Iowa out of the boy!

Home to the preternaturally clean house, and some hilarious times playing with the cats in the yard, first, and then when Hastings and Lizzie got scared, we took just Amanda to the meadow. She more than rose to the occasion, developing a most impressive GALLOP toward... the dark woods on the edge of the meadow. Given her way, she would simply disappear into them, I'm sure, and never be heard from again. Not very domesticated, that one. A barn mouser, for sure, if we can find her a barn.

Yesterday was simply WACKY at Quassy Amusement Park, home to Avery's most favorite summer fun and memories. I was a good sport and went on rides that scare me (with the intrepid Ellie in my car, always), and the gorgeous old carousel (in its 100th year, as is the whole park!), then the fabulous water slides and Saturation Station, followed by the needles-in-eyes arcade, and the final horror of fried DOUGH for the girls. I simply looked the other way, and off we headed for our tennis lesson. I have said it before and I'll say it again: anyone who's willing to spend time teaching little kids ANYTHING has my full, absolute love. Val, in his dark, volatile and charming way, completely enthralled Anna and Ellie, and far from merely lending them rackets to while away the hour of our lesson, included them in a great exercise called "Ruler of the Court." Ellie as usual was avidly competitive, while Anna had to be reminded to pick up her racket because her attention was entirely caught by the scudding clouds and blowing firs. Avery was somewhere in between, and I got a handicap, which thrilled me! "Kristen, you have to win two points for every one the girls have to, because you're... taller. Or something." We all laughed and laughed, despite our Extreme Fatigue. One of my happiest memories of the summer: sweaty and exhausted, watching everyone's personalities shine, admiring Val's skill with us all. "Got to bring out the toys, got to make it fun," he said, and I thought how many situations in life that can apply to! If only I could slow down often enough to realize it.

Well, everyone's sacking out here, and it's warm I can tell you, but I'm too afraid of the power situation to turn on the AC, so we're just panting. Will tomorrow bring storms and a movie, or sunny skies and the pool? Mostly, sadly, tomorrow will bring Terminix because Becky spotted termites in the eaves over the kitchen. Drat! And then the stove guys will come with the SOLID GOLD part they have ordered from the one store in the country that carries this part, in California. Of course. By noon I'm hoping to have dealt with those two potential messes and be off to play! Avery keeps reminding me, when I get complacent, that the fence is still lying doggo in the lawn, a testament to the still-unpunished Nasty Elf who pulled it down weeks ago, now. You'd never recognize the old meek me: I have developed into a positively frightening ogre when it comes to complaints! It's not really the me I love... but needs must at Camp Kristen.

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