We’re late sleepers in this household come holidays, although that’s not much of a change. John can vary but his daily responsibilities don’t start until almost noon, so he has flexibility. I work late anyway, and while I can’t usually sleep past 10am I can sometimes make it all the way there (sometimes with a bedtime of 4am or later), occasionally past.
So it’s usually Julie who reverts to her true nature when she doesn’t have classes to teach, and this house is quiet in the mornings. And since she doesn’t teach on Mondays this quarter anyway, when I woke up and saw the time started with an 8, it was tiptoes all the way around.
Which is why I ended up in a corner of the basement this morning, trying to get to the furthest, most neutral corner, sitting on a cold floor, grinding coffee beans, which is a noisy business.
And I thought, why do I grind these beans? I’m not a coffee lover; I’m perfectly happy with a cup of Folgers. Can I tell the difference? Probably, but mostly I get a small sense of pleasure out of doing it. Can’t explain it, but I do and I’ll probably continue. Quietly.
I’ve had a few days of this, minihedonism. On Thanksgiving our video conference call worked fine, and for a few minutes I saw everyone’s faces, nephews, siblings, spouses, Mom. It’s not the same as being in the same room, there wasn’t much to say, there were mostly grins and waves, but it was possible and it was done, and I kept grinning the rest of the day.
Then there was the pie. I’m a fan of Thanksgiving pies in principle; in practice, with just the three of us they tend to be wasted and pastry as a nutritional concept needs to be approached with caution, at least for me. But we needed to have one, so I picked apple and relearned that I could get a fair amount of happiness making pie crusts every day, I think. I rarely do it but I picked up the skill a few years ago, after many questions to the bakers I know and many chunks of dough in the trash. A nice pie crust, made quickly, chilled, rolled out to a wafer-thin, flaky, buttery two dimensions and filled with apples is a pleasure of mine, one I need to remember for nonholidays, I think.
And yesterday afternoon, when Julie and John were out getting the kid a haircut, I tackled my wife’s nearly-6-year-old laptop, which had picked up another virus, a mild Trojan that nonetheless was driving her crazy. I could spend a fair amount of time, gladly, dreaming up fancy punishment for the life-wasters who create these instead of using their skills in productive ways — and it drives me crazy trying to figure out how she gets these, since she’s a cautious user — but I rolled up my sleeves and fought that bastard for an hour. I had serious tools on hand if needed, and I was prepared to take that computer back to 2004 factory condition (I’ve done it before) if I had to, but I finally figured out how to preempt it long enough for me to run a scan and kill it. I ran a few more, ensured a whistle-clean hard drive, set up a few more roadblocks for the future, and rolled down my sleeves, mission accomplished on a Sunday afternoon.
There’ve been other things, too, and it may be the holiday, maybe it’s the end of a stressful year, or maybe it’s just age and perspective. Life suddenly seems awfully trivial in so many ways. Climb Mt. Everest if you want, but you will still die and the mountain will still be there, and mostly I hope it gives you some pleasure, a sense of accomplishment, a stunning view, something, because I suspect that’s all it means in the end. I’ve always been a hoarder of moments so maybe it’s just me, but I’m sure starting to appreciate the simple ones, like pie and freshly ground coffee, done quickly and quietly, just for the grins.