One of my favorite moments in the book The Princess Bride is the part where the boy’s father (yes it is a father in the book, not a grandfather) skips a bunch of boring text by simply saying “what with one thing and another, three years passed.” This was not one of my favorite moments when I was reading the book for the first time (after having fallen in love with the movie.) It became a quiet favorite moment many years later when I realized how very useful that storytelling trick is. I can skip the boring bits, simply skim over them, and get back to the important stuff. The only trouble is that no one but me knows I am making a clever reference when I use the phrase “what with one thing and another…” It is not highly quotable nor memorable to most people. It blends into the text of the things I write and no one gets to share a little smile with me and think for a moment about Wesley, Buttercup, and how for about a year when I was twelve I really believed that there was an S. Morgenstern and that I could find an unabridged copy of The Princess Bride. Which means that William Goldman’s own little joke worked on me, so perhaps it is fair to hide a sly reference in my words that no one but me will get. Except you, because you’ve read this, and now you’re in on the joke. It isn’t a big joke, just a little one that makes me smile inside.
What with one thing and another I haven’t had a proper Saturday for a month. The past three were variously disrupted with interesting things, all of which dictated my schedule. This morning dawned with nothing on the calendar and only a list of house things which I’ve been wanting to complete, but haven’t had time to do. So naturally I slept late. Because that is the proper beginning for a Saturday. Then I marshaled my forces (the kids) and compelled all of us to go outside where we made the front of our house look like maybe someone lives in our house. We also harvested walnuts from under the fallen leaves and pears from where they’d fallen on the ground. I discovered that there were still grapes hiding among the vines so we picked those too. I’ve been ignoring these fall things because I was so busy. I didn’t have time to do anything else, or so I thought.
There are many jokes about working for yourself. “Best thing about working for yourself is that you only have to work half days and you get to pick which twelve hours.” It is the sort of joke which is funny because it rings of truth. In theory our lives are supremely flexible because we set our own schedule. In reality there are hundreds of constraints telling us what must be done, when it must be done, and how it must be done. Work and family things don’t blend together, but they do tangle up and often interfere. One thing that has surprised me in the past year has been the re-emergence of Saturday as a housework day. Back when I was not working at business and was instead working on keeping house and raising small children, I used school-free Saturdays as a time to set the house in order and to teach the kids about housework. Then everything got muddled up with work spilling everywhere. But lately I put down the majority of the business work on Friday afternoon and don’t pick it up until Monday morning. It creates a space where I can look around me and realize that I want to sweep the front walk because those grass clippings have been there for two weeks and they’ve clumped up against the front steps so that everyone tracks some into the house. It is the sort of little task which theoretically should just get done in one of the spaces of the days, only the days keep running out of spaces. Or I run out of energy. Often the latter.
I picked up the pears by myself, crouched under the low hanging branches, not willing to kneel lest I discover my knee in the midst of mushy rotten pear. My hair often caught on branches over head, pulling strands loose and occasionally depositing twigs. One of which I discovered later when an acquaintance stopped by, and mid-chat I touched my head to realize that perhaps brushing my hair after the pair project would have been a good idea. The acquaintance was too polite to mention my birdnest-like hairdo, so I just put my hand back down and ignored it as well. Half of poise is deciding that these things are irrelevant. Before that conversation, there were pears, and I was by myself picking them up carefully because wasps like rotting pears and I do not like getting stung. The sun filtered through the yellow, orange, red leaves above me. Sometime next week all those leaves will be on the ground and finding the pears would be much more difficult. My back was aching because I’d done more physical labor that day than I’ve done in quite a while. I was glad because sleep has been elusive as my brain ran overtime considering projects. Devoting myself to clean up and harvesting was setting me to rights in more ways than one.
The kids complained as they pulled the husks off of walnuts. They don’t even like walnuts much and they’d already done quite a bit of work. Though Gleek admitted to enjoying the “cute little worms” she sometimes finds in the husks. The kids don’t even like eating walnuts much, but I do. I sneak them into cookies sometimes or crumble them on my salads. I give them away to neighbors. The walnuts are quite a bit of work because once the slimy husk is removed there is still a shell to crack and the nutmeat to pick out. Lots of packaging and work for something so small, yet having the tree makes me happy and I like having food that grew in my yard. Perhaps I should instead have made the kids help me with pears. They love to eat pear butter, except wasps would have led to kids not helping at all.
The harvesting activites have added to my list of projects for next week, yet they have lowered my stress level by reminding me of things that I love. I can see it in my thoughts and manifested in this post where I abandon the tightly focused presentation of small ideas and instead am content to drift from topic to topic. The whole thing is really one long digression, but then the title of the post should have been a clue. What with one thing and another Saturday passed, which means that this whole post could be skipped by those who just want to hear news of projects. The day was a pause, a side note. It did not forward the plot. The fact that I wrote it makes me remember why I wanted to find that mythical unabridged version of Princess Bride. I knew that the things which had been cut were probably boring, but I still wanted to see them. It was during the same era of my life that I read the 1500+ page unabridged Les Miserables and was fascinated by its meanderings. Sometimes the pauses and the digressions are the point.