At the beginning of the year we had no hot-running water and drove a car we’d nicknamed “the Piss Mobile.”
The plumbing: that was hilarious. It had broken beneath the slab foundation of our newly-acquired house sometime in 2013. Water pipes that rust to death beneath slab foundation houses are apparently the Apocalypse Now of plumbing problems so, while we struggled to come up with a $10k “fix it!” budget, we showered at the gym for a year and a half.
Actually, this was a godsend. For one thing, we finally used our gym memberships. For another, the gym was only five blocks away, so as inconveniences go it wasn’t bad. Old ladies with purple hair and boundary issues tried to engage me in conversation despite the fact I was wearing only boots and a towel. I managed not to kill the never-ending supply of gossipy suburban chicks whose favorite pastimes included 1) loudly ridiculing every woman of their acquaintance, and 2) hogging all the hairdryer outlets.
Sometimes I forgot my towel.
Sometimes I forgot my mind.
Sometimes the gym forgot hot water. Those were the darkest times of all.
This was all, of course, much better than my previous mode of existence, wherein we lived in a section of Sacramento that had far more heroin addicts than gyms. People would throw their used needles over the chain-link fence—and we were continually inundated with abandoned cats.
This was where the Piss Mobile had originated. An acid-scarred 1990 Honda Civic (a mercy gift from our better-off parents) it had borne many a rescued cat in its belly and saved many a lost and fluffy life. Over two years we had rescued, fixed, and homed (or, if too feral, fixed and released back into the dull and unlovely wilds) fifty such animals. Such activities both tore at and warmed our hearts-but, despite frequent cleanings, the Piss Mobile was no luxury ride. Towards the end of 2014 it developed an oil link and was banned from my then-garage. With the Plumbing Project of Doom hanging—lo!—above our heads, a new (or even gently used) ride seemed out of the question.
Here at the end of 2015 we have two new cars, two spanking new jobs, and Actual Hot Water. We feel almost guilty: like weirdo-nerd rock stars-but it feels good to have things go well for awhile. The decisions we made together as two laid-off/unemployed newlyweds rolling pennies for gas in the heart of the Great Recession have finally borne the proverbially fruit. Though America as a whole resembles a dystopian future (complete with mass shootings and a threatened Trump presidency!), this tragedy-ridden year has one perverse silver-lining: it makes us grateful for what we do have—in real time.
Here, in no particular order, is a kaleidoscope view of experiences that stuck in my mind in 2015. For this mental exercise it may help to know that I visited France in July and work in Sacramento, California’s state capitol.
A Kaleidoscope of dark and light:
–In winter, hundreds of robins on the capitol lawn, lifting off, at dusk, into the pink-tinged darkness.
–A homeless man, so forgotten and hungry he devoured the kibble the capitol staffers left out for the neighborhood cats.
–My husband, shirtless and arm-waving, gleefully chasing Boromir back to his shed after B. thought he heard me opening the back door.
–A day after the San Bernardino shootings: my co-workers and I flinch as one as a car backfires three stories below us.
–In Napa, evacuees from the Lake County fires, gamely trying to respond to a survey as their pets look on from crates and flat-beds.
–Our hummingbirds—Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell—delighting my husband as they visit their new feeders.
–Crying: because scared of a new job, because uncertain about children, because tired, sick, in love. Because a book is wonderful—or else extremely, extremely bad.
–Laughing: because the new car is an all-electric “Liberal Guilt Mobile,” because the plumbing is ridiculous, because my husband’s get-rich-quick scheme. Because of new friends and bad spreadsheet projects. Because a book is wonderful—or else extremely, extremely bad.
–In France: a rosé the color of fruit punch.
–The joy as my mother beholds Mont. St. Michel for the first time. (She isn’t one for big displays, my mother. As she beholds the mount she gushes: “WOW!!!”)
–The relief when French friends are okay after the terror attacks.
–In Normandy: soft rain and hard cider. (Drinking the latter out of over-sized teacups.)
–The sound of church bells in Bayeaux as we arrive at our destination.