Letter from America
By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell.
I was having a difficult time concentrating this week. No, I was not ill and I had nothing in particular on my mind. That was the problem. When I sat down to write this week’s piece several days ago, I simply could not think of a topic of interest to me. I have faced that predicament before, so I began to write by employing the word “perhaps” to begin my initial sentence. You might not be aware of this, but typing the word “perhaps” at the top of a page is a sure-fire technique to jumpstart the first draft of a school composition, undergraduate-level college paper, essay, or blog entry. It has never failed me in the past. However, in that attempt to write, “perhaps” was as far as I got. Seventeen minutes after striking that “s” on my keyboard, I had already wandered over to YouTube, where I finished watching half a dozen videos of random groups of people performing the “Harlem Shake.” You might wonder how I then so effortlessly moseyed over to Wikipedia, where, for another quarter-hour, I educated myself about the population of Luxembourg (509,074 as of 2012, for those of you who might be interested), and learned that David Bowie’s wife, Iman, was born to a gynecologist mother and an ambassador father. One glance at a photo of this exquisitely fit supermodel caused my stomach to rumble. Pumped up with determination to satisfy my hunger pangs with a healthy meal, I made myself a bowl of granola with sliced banana. Upon uncapping the bottle of skim milk in the refrigerator, I discovered that it was just “off” enough to make me gag. Another ten minutes wasted, and I realized I had to go to the grocery store (where one can while away an hour or two, especially if vendors are offering free snacks or if one runs into a friend one hasn’t seen in 18 years, as happened to me on that excursion).
In my defense, I did have a couple of distractions this week. My sister Susan was visiting from Virginia. She brought along her dog, Una, a delightfully non-yappy Morkie who decided that my writing area—specifically, my bed—was the ideal spot to hunker down for her holiday, but only when I occupied it. I could not very well ignore the sweet pooch, could I? So, during one attempt to write, I instead shared with her some interesting websites on which her kith and kin are featured, an experience she seemed to enjoy as much as I did. Thanks to that mutually satisfying exercise, it became crystal clear to me—oh, and I made it abundantly clear to her!—that, should I ever acquire another dog, I will not purchase a Morkie; there is just no telling whether the puppy will grow up to look more Maltese than Yorkshire or vice versa. I like predictability in my purchases. However, gazing down at her inquisitive little face, I did assure her that, if I were to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, I would definitely consider driving home with one of her extended family. Una seemed relieved, but I had wasted yet another good portion of one day in ministering to her psychological well-being.
Now, no visit from my sister is complete without spending at least one afternoon-into-evening with two of her four adult sons, who often take the train out from their respective Manhattan apartments to my suburban digs. Preparation for a dinner date with these two young men, who are both six feet four inches tall, requires the laying in of a prodigious quantity of food, which is depleted shortly after they remove their winter coats but before they kiss their Auntie Cara hello. My nephews are entertaining, I must admit. In fact, I so greatly relish their company that it was easy during their visit this week to lull myself into a false sense of complacency. After all, when they depart after dinner, I told myself, I will have ample time to get cracking on another weekly submission. Yes…right after I watch the two-hour Season Three finale of “Downton Abbey.” I was not about to miss that, but, Oh! The shock! The horror! Matthew dead. It can’t be. Poor Lady Mary! Poor newborn baby boy! This cliff-hanger of a development merited long-winded discussion and plot dissection with others until the wee hours.
Activities of daily living, of course, also cut into my writing time this week, and a person has to sleep, too. Am I not correct? Well, to be honest, not even the ZZZZZZs materialized in the past few nights; I was kept awake with thoroughly unsuitable article topics dancing like out-of-season sugarplums in my head. Come to think of it, those mental gyrations closely resembled an internal version of those videos of the “Harlem Shake,” as they were altogether graceless and without any rhyme, rhythm, or reasonable expectation of creating an enduring impression.
So, here you have it: Today’s “Letter from America,” begun 15 minutes ago, contains only the minutiae of one person’s week. Perhaps I should apologize. (Oh, and perhaps that last sentence is how I should have started this epistle.) On second thought, of what value is a letter without a few unexciting tidbits of information? This one is chockfull of tidbits! Moreover, in this letter, the sender is neither hitting you up for a loan nor making demands of you for repayment of money you borrowed. There now, isn’t that nice?
All my best,
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