Friday, August 18, 2017

A Jenny Lawson-ish Gift

For the August meeting of the West End book club we read Jenny Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy. We had Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir on our 2015-2016 schedule, so some of us knew what to expect in terms of wit, humor, and honesty.

It appears that reading a Jenny Lawson book had an effect on me. It made me feel free-er to look at myself, my life, and it can influence my writing, if I let it.

As a gift to my readers, and for my husband, I wanted to share a story, “Alarms in the Nighttime.”

My husband has put up with me for 39-plus years of an interesting life. Not as interesting as Lawson’s, but we’ve had our moments. One of those moments came into play for this story, and I let myself run with it. As Jenny would say, “It’s mostly true.” Enjoy.

Alarms in the Nighttime
By Mary Davidsaver

My brain is trying to tell me something important like, “Wake up, the world has problems that need attending to. You need to move!”
     I should probably open my eyes.
     I roll over and mumble to my husband, “Is that another storm warning?” The past evening had been filled with our smart phones going crazy every few minutes with thunderstorm warnings and watches. Most were not too close, but when the Iowa City area had a funnel cloud spotted on the ground I’d gotten into gear and packed up my computer along with my most important notes to stow away in our storm room. My standard procedure for the midwestern tornado season.
     By now I’m aware enough to make out that the loud noise is not coming from a cell phone, and my husband is saying, “That’s the SMOKE alarm.”
     It provides a good jolt of adrenaline. I’m fully awake now and fumbling for my glasses. By the time we’re both out of the bedroom and standing by our kitchen table the awful sound stops. We’re both like, “Where’s the fire?”
     I don’t smell anything. He doesn’t smell anything, and his nose is much more sensitive than mine. We do a quick search of our rather smallish home and come up empty. No smoldering menace to be found.
     My brave husband volunteers to stay up to keep a watchful eye out, or in this case a watchful nose, for anything we might have missed. “I’m awake anyway,” he says. He proceeds to start up his computer and finds the instruction manual for our alarms. By now I’m not going anywhere either, so we start our search to see if we can tell which alarm did the deed. Which one woke us up at MIDNIGHT.
     He says, “You have to look for a blinking red light.”
     “Why me?” I ask. “Because I’m color blind,” he says.
     When we first started dating he downplayed his eye condition to merely “color challenged.” I remember this clearly. This color identification business shifted as he’s aged. What was once a “challenge” has become a badge of martyrdom and a ready excuse to get out of all kinds of color-based tasks. So, I take the lead on this hunt through our darkened house. I stand under each of our six visible alarms (there are three more tucked away out of reach) and patiently count to one hundred hoping my bleary eyes will catch a tiny green dot change to a tiny red dot. And wink at me.
     I make the circuit twice before I discover the offender. It’s in MY room. My personal writing-space room of disorder. I’m, like, thinking about how this room should be any different tonight, or rather this morning, than any other time. I can only come up with one answer—the caterpillar.
     I’m trying to help Monarch butterflies. To that end I welcomed four kinds of milkweed into my garden over the past five years—with little tangible success. This year I became determined to assist some caterpillars through to full butterflyhood. Over the past month I was harvesting the tiny white eggs, complete with milkweed leaf, and raising them in recycled Blue Bunny ice cream containers. My goal: to get them of a size that when reintroduced into the main milkweed patch they’d make it the rest of the way on their own. You see, I was SO sure that the precious eggs and hatchlings were being preyed upon by hungry ants, stealthy spiders, and nasty beetles that I put up with the fuss and muss of having wild things indoors. Well, in my garage. Things were going fine and I’d already released a couple of caterpillars. Then it got hot. Then it got hotter. The poor dears would lie in the bottom of their respective containers and NOT EAT. Not good. (Caterpillars are designed to eat—and do the other thing that’s opposite of eating.) When they tried to escape the over-heated confines of their plastic cells, I had to make the ultimate sacrifice, I brought them into the air-conditioned comfort of my home—specifically, MY room.
     On the night, or the morning, of the alarm going off I still had one caterpillar to go. I was waiting for the right time, for another break in the hot spell. How could I make this last creature go from 79 degrees of cool comfort to 95 degrees muggy torture? I couldn’t be that inhumane. My sleep-deprived brain was telling me that this bug had somehow emitted enough methane, or whatever gaseous byproduct that comes from digesting milkweed, to set off the alarm. Perhaps there’d been a build up over the past few weeks and the tipping point had been surpassed. How do I admit to my husband that it’s all my fault?
     But before I could come clean and confess—I was SAVED.
     My always clever husband presents his own theory. He declares with a straight face, it was still dark so I’m guessing it was a straight face, he says “It was those radioactive spiders.”
     I restrain myself and listen to him explain about how old-time smoke detectors used radioactive stuff to do their detecting work. Combine that with the spiders that travel into the country by hitching rides on bananas, which everyone knows are sources of radioactivity, and you get spiders that can set off smoke alarms all willy-nilly.
     What could I do but agree with him? I was so thrilled to be totally off the hook.
     That last caterpillar went free a couple of days later—and I placed a moratorium on raising any more Monarch eggs—for THIS year.

P.S. My husband read this and he totally disagrees about the martyr thing.

P.P.S. He likes to have sliced bananas on his cereal.

© Mary R. Davidsaver 2017

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