It’s Beth’s birthday and my mind has finally snapped. I drove into the driveway tonight singing a placid little tune of my own devising with repetitive but enormously soothing lyrics, lyrics comprised entirely of the phrase “la, la, la — duck, duck, duck…” The tempo was allegretto, the mood was upbeat. There were two plastic bags on the seat beside me. One bag held dinner, the other an assemblage of birthday cards and a little plushy yellow stuffed duck named Daphne, my inspiration I think.
la la la, duck duck duck, la la la, duck duck duck
I parked the car and hauled the booty inside. I put Daphne on the table and arranged the envelopes around her. I set the table… two plates, two forks… two glasses of ice-water…
la la la, duck duck duck
I drew hot water from the tap and sort of melted the cubes.
la, la, la, — duck, duck, duck
Dinner was three containers from Whole Foods… a “blackened chicken salad”, some garlicy green beans that didn’t measure up to Chinese food, and “cranberry cous cous” that more than made up for the beans.
la la la, cous cous cous
Beth noticed that her ice cubes were kind of melty and her water was… warm. Sensitive to the fact that I had after all brought home the bacon, well – the chicken – and of course the duck, she was kind enough to freshen her own glass and hold the chiding to the lowest level of disdain. I pretended my water was just right.
She opened her cards… Valentines Day has come and gone, and since then April Fool’s day. Our 20th anniversary is coming up and this is just another one of those damn birthdays with a five in front, so the cards were neither romantic nor uplifting. There was the obligatory Wisconsin cow card… something about having lost the cake recipe but perhaps we would enjoy pie. There was the obligatory cat card, signed by the pets and simply marking the passage of another year with a low key if smart ass remark. There was the traditional obscure but funny card, this year it was about combinatorial mathematics… something about measuring one’s butt size and adding one’s age and coming up with a honking big number (la la la, goose goose goose, la la la, cous cous cous). The last card was some kind of a humorous paean to incipient Alzheimers, but I forget what it said.
la, la, la — duck, duck, duck… the fun didn’t end there!
You see, there was the matter of the gift. While Daphne was charming in a tchotchke-esque kind of way, there was another gift in the front room. I’m not much on delayed gratification or surprises so we had already shared the wonder of this gift, but postponed fully unwrapping it until after dinner.
Earlier today I found myself at the mall, at Lenscrafters, paying twice as much as I should for glasses crafted half as good as they might be, and finally putting the finishing touches on a transaction that had lasted approximately 1500 times the average one hour turn-around time they so boastfully declare. But this isn’t about them, and perhaps a mellow la la la, duck duck duck is in order. The human heart beats between ninety and 108 times per minute. “la la la, duck duck duck, la la la” is a five second lyric, or exactly one hundred eight beats per minute. Coincidence? I think not! But let us get back to the mall…
Williams of Somoma is an interesting place to idle a while during another bout with Lenscrafters, particularly when one’s partner is celebrating her natal date and one has not yet actually zeroed in on a gift to help her through yet another awkward celebration with a five in it. There was this huge juicer… I wasn’t even tempted. Although I have to admit I was awed by the power of a unit that could take whole bunches of large carrots into its gaping maw and expel perfectly awful, if pure, carrot juice at a flow rate per minute that would humble an oil sheikh. They had a cookbook by Nigella, but I was sensitive to the issue of getting a present for her that is really a present for me.
We have some decent knives, but they have wooden laminate handles and over the last twenty years some buffoon has lazily run them through the dishwasher often enough that we have discussed replacing a few. I looked at knives, and where before, when last I had shopped for cutlery there were modest trademarks, a Wusthoff trident barely visible or a Henckels mark and a discretely tiny Solingen printed on the blade, now the blades are covered with logos, and though the polypropylene handles make them dishwasher safe, I was assured the advertising wouldn’t wash off.
What about a spice grinder, I asked? No, they didn’t really have a spice grinder, although we could order one from the catalog. I didn’t explain the immediacy of my need. I left the store and though that later I could drop into Penzey’s and spice things up appropriately.
la la la duck duck duck la la la … The Pottery Barn was right next door to Williams of Sonoma. And I still had time before the Lenscrafters doofi would be done with my order. An eagle eyed sales woman swooped on me as I entered, and I let her know I was just cruising and I’d come find her if I wanted to buy something. A few minutes later I did buy something and I hauled it home and it’s on the floor in Beth’s office upstairs even as I write this. Buying her a rug was a stretch for me. Risky. But it just seemed right.
rug rug rug, la la la, rug rug rug