Gwen (my neighbor who knows something about just about everything) and I went to Costco last week. We go twice a year and the spring trip is the most important one to me because it’s when I get my cheap vodka to make my raspberry liqueur. I’ll get to that in a moment but first I have to say that I love these excursions with Gwen.
We take Gwen’s Murano. My Toyota is 21 years old: the driver’s side door handle is broken and in order to unlock the driver’s door I have to crawl in from the rider’s side—so I only lock it in dodgy neighborhoods. The seat belt recently got so frayed that it got itself permanently stuck so I cut out one of the back seat belts and rigged it up to the front. The trunk leaks. The electric system is screwy and the brake lights come on when I turn on the headlights so until I get that fixed, I can’t drive at night.
None of those things especially affect a trip to Costco on a weekday morning but you can probably imagine that Gwen’s Murano is more comfortable. Costco opens at 10:00; we leave at 9:45 and get there shortly after it opens. So do a hundred other people. We each grab a cart. We’ve already had the following conversation:
“How much time do you need?”
“Half an hour. Forty-five minutes at the most. You?”
“Twenty. But you take the time you need. Did you bring your cell phone this time?”
Once, before I had a cell phone, I asked Gwen if Costco didn’t have a clock.
“A clock,” she said. “How quaint.”
We both take off. I try to be as single-minded as possible because I can get into a lot of trouble at Costco. Forty-five minutes is really too long for me. It gives me time to linger in the candy, liquor, and seasonal aisles. I get my vodka, toilet paper, jar of avocado oil and bags of frozen chicken. Gwen and I meet at the registers. Gwen pays and while she grinds her coffee beans, I write her a check (A check, how quaint) for the amount of my purchases.
The reason for bringing all this up is that I have a small window–raspberry season—to start my liqueur and this year that season will most likely begin the day I leave and finish the day I get back from my trip to England. Two of the things on my To Do list involved getting the vodka and then finding someone to strip my raspberry bushes twice, rinse off the berries and plunk them into the alcohol.
It feels like no less than three dozen people need to get into my house while I’m gone. I’ve had to get keys made for everyone. There’s Tim who takes care of the garden. He’ll be over to water, to stir the compost, and to mulch everything within an inch of its life. Sue will be over to clean the house. Madelaine, who is storing most of her worldly possessions in my back cabin, is moving to her new place when I’m gone and will need to get to her furniture. The raspberry ladies need access: the aforementioned Sue and my friend Andrea who I go out “drinking” with once a month. Drinking is in quotes because Andrea has a Rusty Nail and I drink a Scotch. That’s it. We call it Drinking. Or to indicate that we might this time get really wild, we say “Drinky-Poo.”
In addition to supplying my friends with keys, I have concerns about the permanent residents in my house, the cats. So far I don’t think they know anything is up. I brought the suitcase down weeks ago and it’s been standing innocuously in the bedroom. I brought it down mostly for me. Even when I was a little girl I packed and unpacked and packed again for weeks before the departure date. But this weekend I think I might open it. It’s gotten to that point in preparations when it makes more sense to toss something in the suitcase than to write it down on the list of what to pack. The cats aren’t going to like this phase.
The big trade-off for my cats when I’m away is that they get their cat flap back. When they were younger and could come and go as they liked, they liked to bring wild things into the house. Inside my house I have caught many birds in my bare hands and set them free. I have also trapped many a rat, picked it up with a hand covered with two gloves and two plastic bags and deposited it still in the trap into the garbage –all the while screaming.
The deal-breaking incident was the night Winston brought in a huge rat that the cats played with until it was exhausted and wounded but still managed to crawl up the shower curtain and fall into the bathtub where I found it the next morning looking very dead. I suited up to dispose of it but when I pulled the shower curtain away, it jumped up in fright and ran down the length of the tub. My scream opened the skylight above my head. Read my full Rodent Incident Report.
After that incident, the cat door was permanently closed and the cats were forced to go through security before they were allowed in the house. When I am out of town, I re-open their old door so they have some recompense for losing my services as doorman. My biggest concern about the cats is not that they will bring in wildlife. For one, they are too old. Secondly, if we go with the theory that the rodents are gifts to their owners, I’m not going to be around. My biggest concern is that Winston who is something of a Costco size cat will not be able to get through the cat flap in which case he will drive the house sitter to distraction with his whining, not to mention his leaving Costco size deposits in the litter boxes for her to clean up.
All this cuts into the anticipation of a trip. Give me enough of this kind of stuff and I start to think, “Well maybe I just won’t go.” Then I say to myself, “One of these mornings you’ll wake up and it will be the day you leave for England. You’ll get on the plane and settle in with your book, your writing, your knitting, your snacks, and all your paraphernalia and if you’re lucky, drive your seat mate to ask for another seat. You’ll fuss around, eat dinner, take a xanax and pass out until the plane lands at Heathrow. All this will be behind you.” Then I take a deep breath and carry on.