After a full week of houseguests--okay, they were family, but I'm used to more time to think, cook, write and read alone--I am finally sitting in my kitchen in a delicious in a moment of solitude, letting a rich and pungent French fish stew simmer. I look up to see the outside of my refrigerator, normally spare, punctuated now with holiday greetings from friends, and as I survey those I've posted, I wonder about what may be Freudian slips all over the place.
My pretty blond friend from South Texas (she lives in Dallas now but works with me and is a valued colleague, too, so I let the Big D aspect of her life slide) and her daughter, who is seven, are pasted up by a magnet of my son in his baseball uniform. Maybe I have a secret desire for him to one day marry this adorable little girl so her mother and I can organize a wedding and consume libations at the same time. Her mom and I, for the record, have been requested in our work to perform the emotional equivalent of digging ditches together and have done so happily and with some success, such is our rapport.
For my dear and equally pretty Houstonian friend, pictured with her grown daughter, I have used the magnet that reads: "Leap and the net shall appear." Appropriate, since my friend from Houston and I met at our last place of work--where there were certainly shades of a workplace dysfunctional family-- and got divorced at the same time, and thus have been one another's net more than once. Take the High Road is our motto, though we both need to call one another when we fall short of it. Mercifully, or by dint of effort, this is not the case nearly so often as it once was.
My son's recent and second passport photo is suspended by a tiny US greenback magnet--is this a worry about how much he will cost, or a desire for his success as the entrepreneur he so often expresses a wish to be?
Then there are my same-sex couple with twins friends. They made an adorable family photo this year, and they all look, to my delight, very happy, backing up the sense I've had during my visits that there is a lot of love in their house. The children, toddlers now, have the angelic faces that also foreshadow their looks as adults. And yet, the fridge magnet I have holding them up is an iconic black and white photo of Andy Warhol, in which he holds a hand over his face as though to express shame. Why this one? Maybe I wonder if there are others who might walk into my kitchen and not feel the love. But I know I shouldn't feel shame. I need a new magnet expressly suited to tolerance, because I sure don't have one now.
And then there is the one I bought shortly before my divorce became final. This one says, "It's All About Me." Behind it is a picture of a family on the beach. They, too are a happy family, among the happiest I know. They are all generous and enormously likeable, but at times--okay, especially Christmas--those of us who haven't got that intact, secure unit feel a tad inadequate and more than a little jealous of the long and unblemished history their little tribe of four has built together. But still, good for them.
None of these posting choices was conscious at all, yet each tells me something about myself. I go through this season each year with a sense of dread and sadness, each time reinforced by old patterns repeated. I always wish that I could impose a happier time for myself by having what yogis call intention. But every year of my adulthood brings the familiar sense of being carried along by inexorable annual tide of the same sad stories and their accompanying angry and tearful arguments.
Maybe my fridge, at least, shows some authenticity. Today I really do want it to be all about me, with my quiet and orderly house around me, a good meal on the way, and a hot bath and a good book in the evening that lies ahead.