Thursday, January 05, 2006

An Accomplished Lady.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been such a colossal under-achiever in school. [Unless the person reading this is my daughter several years from now, in which case I was a diligent and thoughtful student who spent her spare time reading Dickens to the elderly.] Maybe I could have saved myself a lot of confusion, dead ends, and auditioning for the part of The Unappealing Wacky Best Friend in an unfunny sitcom had I buckled down and followed friends to Ivy League schools. On the other hand, if I had, I would now be thinking things like “I busted my hump at Yale for this?” My life has grown so small the things I manage to achieve take on disproportionate grandeur.

Does anyone else out there feel a sense of accomplishment over things that are either completely out of your control or don’t matter to anyone but yourself? I know, intellectually, I should find value in the big things: being a loving partner, a good mother, living a life of integrity and kindness. All of that business is certainly nice, but if I want to change the tone of my day all that's needed is seven envelopes needing stamps and a stamp sheet with exactly seven stamps left on it.

Look, world! I am a good person! I needed not one more stamp than I had!

Also, and I don’t want to inspire too much envy here, but I can fold fitted sheets. Not all the time; I have to be completely attentive, or else I create what amounts to a flowered marshmallow which I then shove into the recesses of the linen closet -- an ecru embodiment of my failings. But, on a good day, I can do that trick with the corners and create a flat little rectangle of success. I get so inordinately proud of it that I want to decorate the living room around it. I want to take it with me when I walk the dog.

NEIGHBOR, WALKING HIS DOG: Hi, Quinn…Um, what’s that in your hand?

QUINN, WALKING HER DOG: Oh, this? Just a fitted sheet that I folded.

NEIGHBOR: I thought it was a really elegant bag for picking up dog poop.

QUINN: (Laughing gaily) That would be absurd! Tell me, have you ever seen such a flat fitted sheet? (Turning my hand in a graceful arc so the neighbor can see how uniform it is)

NEIGHBOR: (Looking nervous) Is this some sort of hint? Because, you know, my wife and I, um, we don’t…swing. Not that you’re not an attractive woman, but...

Later, I would end up writing an apologetic note of clarification.

Something else that pleases me for hours is when I get the leftover/container equation right. If I scoop the last bit of Tofu Something into a Tupperware container, and there is a quarter of an inch of room on the top, my pride expands to fit the room. There are, at last count, 637 storage containers in my kitchen, and I PICKED THE RIGHT CONTAINER!!! Technically, only seven of them have matching tops that can be located at this exact moment, but I STILL PICKED THE RIGHT CONTAINER!!! I could have picked the container which holds a tablespoon of food; I could have picked the one which can comfortably hold a goose, but I PICKED THE RIGHT CONTAINER!!!

I find reasons for the rest of the evening to open the refrigerator and gaze happily upon my creation. Never mind no one in the family actually liked Tofu Something and that I will end up feeding it to the dog in two days; it will be dumped into the dog food bowl FROM THE RIGHT CONTAINER.

Exact change is a big one for me. I can float on a cloud of goodwill and self-confidence for the better part of a morning if I have exactly enough for dental floss and cat litter and not one penny more. This means, of course, I will have to break a five for something else that day, thereby creating change, but it doesn’t take away from the highlight moment of the morning:

“…Four dollars and thirty-seven, thirty-eight…thirty-nine cents! YEAH! Who’s your MOMMY!” In the grocery line, I have to restrain myself from doing the Cabbage Patch.

You want to talk about feeling like one of life’s winners? Try having your small child eat something new without first demanding it be sent out for chemical analysis. Not long ago, Daughter was fed something new and unfamiliar. She put it into her mouth, chewed and swallowed without informing me that:

A) It was weird,
B) It had onions, and she hates onions,
C) She thought she was getting a stomach ache.

Daughter even allowed as how it was "kind of good" and, unprompted, ate a few bites of salad without preemptively leveraging a larger dessert for doing so. For one brief shining moment I saw myself smiling sagely on the cover of “Parenting” magazine, under the headline “Quinn Tells You How to Happily Eat Dinner as a Family and How to Raise Polite Respectful Children Who Will Voluntarily Talk to You When They Are Teenagers”. The fact that she wouldn’t eat the exact same meal a week later was nothing more than a speed bump on the road to petty achievement.

But, like all drugs, the sensation wears off, and I am left longing for more. Even as I write this, I am mentally casting around the house. Is there more than one bottle of ketchup I can marry, thereby creating the satisfaction of making refrigerator space? Should I put my unused and disorganized needlepoint thread from old projects into color-coordinated bags for easy access?

No, wait! I can do a hot-water, bleach load of white socks, white shoelaces and Daughter’s white tights. Strangers might never acknowledge we no longer resemble Okies on the run from the Dust Bowl, but I will have accomplished…something.

Oh, that’s good.

I gotta go.


Blogger Mel said...

You know very well I can't fold a fitted sheet and so I shall spend the rest of my evening fretting and hating myself in the shadow of your Greatness.

Thanks. A lot. Really.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Could you post a diagram of that fitted-sheet folding technique?

Much obliged,
Creased Sheets,


11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought fitted sheets only were folded when you took them out of the package. From then on, don't they just get semi-folded/rolled up?


An Underachiever

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Mindy said...

Hahahahaha, how fun to learn that someone else also gets such satisfaction out of "the little things" I always feel blissfully satisfied whenever I actually organize my linen closet or my tupperware drawer (mind you neither happen often). Even though I know the neat piles of sheets or the neatly stacked bowls next to the neatly stacked lids won't last long, it feels really good for a few hours. :)

9:25 AM  
Blogger Chewy Mom said...

Well, since you are in need of another task to pat yourself on the back for, how about you coming over here and folding my fitted sheets, which I wadded into balls last night. Or put my leftovers, into the right sized containers--something I can NEVER do!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Please let no one think I manage to fold ALL fitted sheets, or fit food into the right container ALL the time. Thanks to two out of three members of my family currently enjoying the stomach flu, I have seen all of our sheets in the last twelve hours, and many of the fitted sheets have that "I wound them around my arm" look.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

We collect Box Tops for our sons' school and I get that wonderful feeling when I cut them out, nice and straight on all sides, and then slide them into the Box Tops ziploc bag, which is the one thing in my house that is always in the same place. I stop for a moment and savor the conquest until something draws me back into reality.

That's when I know something is not quite right with me.

Your Okie reader with the dingy socks

5:10 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Quinn,

I guess having children and running a household makes us discover a lot of "hidden talents." I believe that we get to appreciate quite a lot of those small victories and accomplishments now that we are in our parents' shoes.

Great post! Long live the parents. At least long enough to see that our kids do better than us.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because you have given me so many moments of laughter, I give you this for your next low moment:

Go and throw out the expired tylenol, cough syrup, and the empty-but-one-pill antibiotic jar from your medicine cabinet.

The virtuous glow should have you humming little tunes for days :-).

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

The fitted sheet thing really made me laugh.

I worked at a youth hostel in NYC a few years back. One of my duties was to fold the fitted sheets. It's virtually impossible, so I just rolled them up into neat (or not-so-neat) little balls.

I'm really curious to see one of these folded fitted sheets...

4:32 PM  

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