Telling: Altars & Artifacts



They've promised us we'll be in our kitchen by thanksgiving. We've indulged in fantasy: Turkey, stuffing, bisquits, steamed spinach, butternut squash. But this is not the first completion date they've promised. They speak with such ease and assurance, as if my uncertainty was completely unfounded. "We'll wrap it up Friday. We'll do that Monday. No haven't got the right saw here today, we'll take care of that tomorrow." Of course it will be done, of course it will be, but not today, not now. The list of things that need to be done has shrunk. Still there are things on it that have been on it for months and every time I mention them I'm assured: That's nothing, we'll take care of that. That'll happen next week.

I'm sick of next week. I'm sick of empty assurances. I want to roll out biscuit dough on my counter. I want the long slow smell of roasting meat. I want to take my books out of storage and fill my bookcase with their promise. I want the possibility of privacy, a house not full of men.

I'm sick of having to check their work for them, to have to point out again and again what they have still not done right. The woodwork needs to be sanded. How complicated can that be? They continue to test me, to make me be the one to say, it's not done yet, there are still rough edges here and here and here. And the cracks have not been filled there and there. Still not. As I pointed out yesterday, and last week and the week before and was assured each time, "Of course, we'll take care of that, no problem. We'll finish that up tomorrow."

I begin to understand the definition of "Finished." Something is finished when the need to have it done becomes stronger than the need to have it done right.

We're not finished with this project yet, but we're close. We're close.

"No," Watt says, "You're caving. Don't do it. Hold out." Accomplices in this, it is our need to have it done right, at least to a certain degree of rightness that sustains the project. This alone. All other desires conspire against us.

Thanksgiving conspires against us. We must re-construct the fantasy or the battle will be lost.

A Mother's Journal

field notes from
1997 - 1999