Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Live and learn.

I missed church this past Sunday but I had a good excuse: we have houseguests and they refuse to get up and feed themselves breakfast. Actually, they refuse to feed themselves anything. Also, they’re whiny, demanding and incontinent. I’d worry the last observation might embarrass them in print but they are also illiterate. As are all of their friends.

It’s spring and spring is Kitten Season. This sounds awfully cute until you realize Kitten Season lasts three months whereas Unspayed Female Cat season lasts forever, and all those feline pheremones are working overtime. At shelters and rescue places the kittens arrive in waves. If they arrive with a mother cat she does the heavy lifting with respect to rearing them. If, like my houseguests, they arrive as two week-old foundlings, a human has to step in. I tend to respect mothers of all stripes but I have never felt such respect for a mother of another species.

My God, these cat babies are relentless. When you only weigh 220 grams and your stomach is the size of a lima bean, your meals need to be on-tap constantly. Were I a lactacting cat this would require its own degree of effort but when every ounce of nutrient needs to be measured, mixed and heated, and each feeding is going to require several bottles, it’s another level of effort entirely. To every one of my friends who chose to bottle-feed over breast-feed, I’m here to tell you: you worked far harder than I did.

Because the bottle and its contents are a distant second to what these kitties were expecting five times a day, they yell. And yell. And yell. And since their lungs are small, the yell isn’t attracting the attention of our neighbors just yet, but it does have a uniquely…piercing quality. There will be one particular tiny scream which seems to mean “What the $%@* is this %#&@! I spit this nipple from my mouth!” and the scream which follows immediately is obviously “Where the $&*@ did you put my food!”.

Finally, grudgingly, each kitten deigns to ingest some beige smelly liquid and promptly pee on my leg; at which point, I put it down and pick up one of its siblings to repeat the cycle. If for some reason the cat doesn’t automatically pee on my leg, I take wet tissue and rub its lower abdomen in a way which mimics its mother’s rough tongue until I stimulate the urinary reflex. The resulting spray puts me in mind of the dancing fountains at the Bellagio hotel in Vegas, only with more volume and less precision.

This procedure begins at six in the morning, takes about an hour and repeats every six hours, so you might forgive me my absence at church.

[Also, without a mother’s vigilant grooming, the babies smell like a ripe hamster's cage -- noticeable even with my compromised nose -- so they require daily baths. This isn’t exactly on-topic, but I like to give you the full effect.]

Once they get settled onto the nipple and are grunting, burping and dribbling formula on to my hand, I can relax a bit. I can look around. Sunday morning, I looked around and saw pink draped over a chair in the office. A month ago, Daughter was given a Hanna Andersson hand-me-down dress in carnation. The mother who bought it loves pink dresses. Sadly, her daughter cannot abide pink nor can she abide dresses so the item had never been worn. Looking at the fold marks when I took it out of the bag, I doubt it was tried on even once before the daughter declared her loathing of it. Why my friend didn’t return it I don’t know but hey, more for me, right? I brought it home, tried it on Daughter. We both beamed. As I went to fasten up the back one of the beautifully matched buttons flew off into my hand. No problem, I thought, just let me sew that back on the dress right now.

A thorough search of the house proved I owned nothing resembling carnation-pink thread. Okay, I thought stoutly, just let me put the button in my wallet, in with the change, and I’ll buy thread this week.

I have spoken before of my feelings about the Stupid Errand. This wasn’t a Stupid Errand as much as an experiment in inertial physics. There is a sewing store minutes from Daughter’s school. It’s actually between our house and her school. I drive past it five days a week. They have free parking. And still the button sat in my wallet for three weeks. Some days I would forget it was there until I opened the change pocket of my purse and saw the button pinkly glowering at me. Other days I would remember the button as I was driving past, but didn’t feel I had five minutes to spare to actually go in and buy the thread, or that I simply had to be at the gate when Daughter erupted from her classroom so she could moan “Oh, you’re here already. That means I can’t play. Couldn’t you come back in an hour?”.

But most days I would see the shop, remember the button and have the time but still, the sheer ease and convenience of the chore would lull me into a warm rush of procrastination.

“It’s such a very stupid and small errand!” I would think as I drove past the notions store time and again. “I’ll do it tomorrow!”.

This last week, after pulling out the button one too many times to feed a parking meter, I finally made myself buy the thread. I think I even barked aloud, “Oh, just pull over and buy thread, you idiot!”, but the car windows were closed and no one knew my shame. I went in, I held the button against thread, I found the right thread, I paid for the thread and was out again before “Stairway to Heaven” was done on the store’s Muzak.

Sunday morning, having finally finished feeding and kneading the kittens and having put my kitty-urine sprayed pajama bottoms to soak in the washing-machine, I decided to sew on the button. I grabbed the dress from the table, I grabbed the thread from my purse, I grabbed the button from the wallet…

There was no button in the wallet.

There was no button in the purse.

There was no button in the car, or the trunk, or my jeans, or my jacket, or the purse I never wear but maybe was wearing one day in the last three weeks and forgot.

Once Consort and Daughter returned home, I determined there was no button in Consort’s jeans, jacket or car. While it’s true, I didn’t check our safe-deposit box at the bank, the crawlspace under the house or the wallets of strangers, I still think it’s safe to say I lost the button.

I checked the dress; there was no extra button on the seam, and the size of the buttons makes them something of a statement on the dress, which means I now have to replace all six of them. I now have to go back to the notions store and find a button which is the right size, thickness and color and sew them all on, which I think we all agree is going to be a larger and more odious chore than the original chore of: 1) Buy thread and 2) Sew on button. And this was all so avoidable. If I could just have kept track of that stupid button.

So maddening.

But what is more maddening is how long I’m going to find this maddening. When Daughter was born, my company sent me a gift card for Baby Gap, which went nicely with the Gee, the-Internet-doesn’t-need-quite-so-many-companies-based-on-really-stupid-ideas-as-we-thought pink slip I received. Since Daughter was the beneficiary of an insane amount of sartorial largesse, I tucked the gift card into my wallet for later. For months, I would see it every time I grabbed a credit card and I would think “Does she need anything?”, and then I would remember how we were thinking of converting the storage shed into an auxilliary closet for her, and I would close the wallet. When she was nearly a year old, I needed to buy a shower present and thought “…Baby Gap! Gift card! Finally!”.

You guessed it. Gift card go “Poof”.

It’s been six years. Six years.

It still bothers me.

The waste of money bothers me, but more than that, the almost magical quality of the disappearances gets under my skin. The card existed in a single place for months and then it did not. The button never left my change pocket and then it did. These facts are both irrefutable and enigmatic. What does it mean? Where did they go? Is there a worm-hole in my wallet? Are the purse sprirts angry? Do I sleep-walk with my purse? Or sleep-clean my purse? If so, why do I still have the one Polly Pocket shoe that’s been in there for three months?

And here is where I left this blog entry for two days. Because my impulse is always to find the Big Picture, the Overarching Thread, the Thing to sum up an entry; my Raison d’Screw-up, if you will. Over the past two days, when not feeding Daughter or feeding kittens or driving places or averting my gaze from the button-needing dress, I would sit at the computer and puzzle over the literary corner into which I had painted myself. I would puzzle until the peeping from my little houseguests grew demanding enough to require bottle-warming.

Last night after the news, as I was numbly popping a bottle into yet another tiny pink gaping maw, I said to Consort, “I’ll do this tiny-kitten fostering once, but I don’t think I’ll do it twice. This is an insane amount of work.”

“Hm-hmm,” Consort responded, but he’d just found a “Family Guy” rerun on cable so chances that he’d actually heard what I said were somewhere between nil and zero. I, however, had heard what I said and immediately thought “Oh, of course you will, Quinn. If you turn down something which needs your help, you’ll hate yourself. But more important, if you turn down newborn kittens next time, that would imply you actually learn from previous experiences.”

In that moment, I had found the common denominator between missing buttons and pissing kittens. I never learn from previous experiences. I never learn anything. Not once.

It was an epiphany. I am the living embodiment of failed dramatic structure. I have no narrative arc. An acquaintance who found The QC Report fairly recently has this adorable and misguided notion that I am growing and changing as a person, and that I am just impishly keeping this fact from my readers.

As much as I would love for someone to think I am weeks away from my appearance on “Oprah” where I tell you all how to be the very best person you can be [I’d start out by telling the audience how coral lipstick is never flattering], the fact remains: I don’t learn. I don’t improve.

I still use q-tips incorrectly.

I still carry seven packed bags out to the car at the same time and I’m still shocked and irritated when I drop one.

The tea is decaf, but it’s still in my lap.

Just this morning, I drove past the notions store where I bought the thread and now need to buy the buttons. Being as I had put a second button from the dress into my wallet, I considered stopping. I noted there was a parking space right outside the front door. But then I thought, “Oh, it won’t take long. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Serenely, I drove on.

11 Comments:

Blogger John, famous in Siberia said...

Many men have noticed women do not learn from their past experiences. Men who have learned from thier past experiences know not to point this out. :)

I was wondering, at first, what the relationship was between kittens and buttons. Fine writing Quinn.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous k said...

Dude, it is NOT "not learning from experience." It's "thoroughly testing a hypothesis."
I could say other things, but, no.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh I'm so glad I'm not the only person in the world with this modus operandi. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in this world!

3:30 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Did you check the bag with the thread? Maybe the button ended up in there, since you had it with you at the store when you bought the thread. Otherwise, I'd say you probably left it at the sewing store counter when you bought the thread. Maybe it'll magically be waiting for you upon your return.

I am ever-hopeful for the happy ending. Even when experience leads me to expect the contrary.

12:02 AM  
Blogger miss cavendish said...

I put a button in my school satchel a few days ago. Yesterday as I was unloading my books I heard something ping on the floor somewhere, in some room. Last night I sat up in bed, now wide awake, realizing THAT WAS THE BUTTON!! It is nowhere to be found.

And the Gymboree credit from the Xmas gifts that didn't fit three years ago? Gone. The minute I loaded up the Gymboree counter with cardigans and barrettes (read: nonessentials) and opened my wallet to "pay" with it.

6:26 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Here's an idea. Email Hanna Andersson and see if they'll send you a replacement button! I'll bet they will! And you won't even have to park your car to do that! :)

6:27 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Karen, you're all kinds of clever. I just went and checked the website and found the dress isn't on there anymore. But for one brief instant, I was out of the button business, and I thank you for that.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous skerrib said...

On the contrary Quinn, you've simply learned that a lack of procrastination only makes you lose things...so why not keep procrastinating?

7:03 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

FWIW, just because the dress isn't currently on their site doesn't mean they don't have the buttons. The dress should have a unique identifying code on the tag that they'll ask you for so they know which dress it is. It's worth giving them a call just in case. You know, when you get around to it...

7:46 AM  
Blogger chicken said...

I have to say...I also suffer from the same inability to learn from my past. Every SINGLE morning, I am genuinely surprised when the alarm goes off, that I have to go to work...even though I have been employed now for about 15 years. I also fail to learn that no matter how late it is when the low fuel light goes on in my car...I will STILL be running later in the morning...and it will STILL be on. These are things that I refuse to learn.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

I dunno - this might have been a funny post, but I couldn't tell becuase, well, it was just so close to home, it rather hurt! Now I've had an epiphany, too...but I don't know what to do about it! aaaagghhh!

Well, at least we all know you should call about that button before daughter grows to tall for that dress!

9:07 PM  

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