Thursday, June 3, 2010

A squirrel of one's own

From way back in the memory junk drawer, I recently retrieved an image (or a song, or whatever-it-was) of Martin Short playing the bizarre Jackie Rogers, Jr., a performer always on the verge of being buried by his own pretentiousness.

What sticks in my mind like a paper clip is a song he did: "Pardon me, miss, but I've never done this/With a real, live squirrel."

I remembered the original, smarmy song from the Mike
Douglas Show, one of those '60s things that sounds predatory and creepy now (a "real live girl?" As opposed to a blow-up doll?). It was like something playing in a bar on Mad Men. Well, OK then, what's the connection to me as I sit here over coffee (God, it's too strong, give me more) contemplating my "new" surroundings?

I've never had a real live office before. Never. The room I've worked in since I started writing with a computer in Year Zero isn't really an office, it's more of a utility room. There are cheap bookcases everywhere, crammed and cluttered with other people's stuff. My husband is a kind of controlled hoarder (controlled by me, I mean) who just sort of exudes or emits this stuff, little coils of wire, black plastic things, used twist ties, boxes that haven't been opened since 1972. He keeps instruction manuals for appliances that have long ago bit the dust. On top of that, one of his desks with an old obsolete computer on it was pushed against the wall, never used, just stored.

The stuff that was mine wasn't work-related: craft boxes full of felt and beads and feathers, and and and. The place had become a catch-all.

What happened was this: our usual screaming territorial battles escalated when he went into semi-retirement and spent even more time clumping back and forth between the main part of the house and the garage. This meant clumping right through my non-office, the only room with an access door, a door which had to be slammed heavily (or so he believed) every time he clumped on through.

It was getting bad, I mean, really bad. He just didn't see that there was a problem. Why was it disturbing me that he ran a power saw in the garage, when there was a whole wall between us? Why was it bothersome that he had blathering ad-infested talk radio on full-volume as he worked because he's deaf as a cucumber?

I just ground my teeth a lot and put up with it until he suggested something.

"You know the bird room."

"Yeah. The bird room."



"I had this idea, but I don't think you're going to like it."

"Try me."

"What if we switched your office with the bird room? I mean, put the bird down here. This would be his bedroom. Then you'd have your own private room upstairs and I could do anything I wanted in the garage."

It was one of those idiot-simple solutions that no one had ever thought of before. Jasper is the most spoiled 3"-long bird in history, with a cage that takes up 1/4 of the room. Wouldn't he be happier downstairs where he could have his own bedroom and be part of things? Why was this so unthinkable?

When my long-grown-up kids found out about this, they looked almost offended. "Whaaaat? What are you going to do that for?"

Move something in the house? In the house?

"Sure. The bird needs a change."

This may have had something to do with the fact we're finally putting some money into the place and getting a new bathroom and new windows and stuff like that. I hate change, and my first reaction was unease, even dread, but I was absolutely gobsmacked when the change was made relatively smoothly and without mishap.

Instead of fuming and tripping all over and missing the stack of 750 padded mailers in the old place, I find I. . I. . .

I like it here.

I have a view, which I never did in the old place, unless you count a wall with a huge tacky bulletin board on it. It's all cedary, layers of feathery green which right now has a gentle drizzle sifting through. On nice days, if they ever come, I'll have sunlight. I can see birds flitting about. In 25 years here, I have never looked out this window. I never had this perspective, ever. It was wasted on a dumb bird.

The room kind of wraps around my desk (a huge desk which I love, and which was in storage for years before I realized I could be using it). These are my books in the bookcases, not frayed copies of Shell Busey's Home Ideas and How to Repair Practically Anything.

It's just. . . my stuff, my space. I feel both humbled and exalted. The energy is completely different, almost cocoon-like (when I feared it would be claustrophobic). My old amplifier from 1973 is gone, replaced by a sleek model that looks like it might have come from this century.

There are carpets, which softens the sound of everything. I like it.

I could go on and on about all that "room of one's own" stuff. And I wonder now if I'll be able to concentrate without all that clumping and slamming. Will I miss the hissing arguments, his posing as a bloody saint wronged by a heartless, selfish bitch? Well, we can still do that in Ikea when we can't agree on a lamp. (Snarling at each other in public is especially enjoyable.) And have a few Swedish meatballs with gravy in the cafeteria while we're at it.

The good fairy came (or maybe the sanity fairy), and now Pinocchio is a real boy. I never thought it would happen. And hey: what's that I see leaping from branch to branch in my stunning new view? Could it be. . . a real live squirrel?