I have not found myself so often in wet and ill-fitting clothes and so much in need of a drink by 6 o’clock for many years. We have a Fresh Air Fund guest with us. Her name is K–, she’s 7, lovely and dark-coffee-colored, missing her two front teeth and capable of great sweetness, sharp observations, and classic 7-year-old obnoxiousness. (I have not had to see a cheeseburger chewed open-mouthed or listen to people being called “doo-doo head” for a long time, and I have not missed it.) She loved watching Wimbledon, especially the Venus-Steffi match, and for all that Venus Williams is an extraordinary athlete and a singularly uncharming public figure, we were glad to see her dark face and white beads exploding on the screen. K– did cheer for her (and was sorry to see those two exceedingly white players, Steffi and Lindsay, in the final) but, in fact, delivered her allegiance solely based on whoever was leading in the match. I wonder what her family in New York makes of our family, or how much they’ve thought about it. Her foster mother and I have chatted, with mutual grooming gestures and appreciation, but I bet she has feelings of uneasy, regretful disapproval, just like I do. (How could you not send your asthmatic child’s inhaler, and why does K– flinch when she spills two drops of orange juice? And she may think, I packed those postcards for her to send home–why haven’t you got your privileged ass to the post office, and by the way, why are you letting her call herself by something other than her given name?) But in the midst of endless juice boxes (and occasional bouts of the kind of whining that makes you think that boarding school for 7-year-olds is not a bad English idea but a good one, unaccountably neglected by Americans) and huge, hot-bodied hugs and runs through the sprinkler and Reader Rabbit computer games and feeding grass to the horse on the corner and viewing blueberries with great suspicion and viewing the ocean with admiration and astonishment, replaced within two hours with a Connecticut kid’s casual pleasure, we are in a very odd and happy and not at all simple time with this little girl and glad that her family sent her or was willing to have her sent, glad and proud and touched that my own daughter, the baby of the family, at 17, is willing to help, willing to offer her considerable warmth and nurturance and willing not to be too disheartened or permanently annoyed by bouts of bad manners on K–‘s part, or by her sudden withdrawals, clouds in the midst of bouncing light.
I can barely get time on my computer–this is the one that works the best for all of K–‘s programs. I guess I will never finish this collection of short stories … at least not in the next week. I keep playing with the last story at least, trying to get the main characters into focus–the mother comes in, the daughter slides out, and I better decide if the lover is, in fact, transsexual.
My one break today will be tennis doubles at 8 a.m. with players who range from arthritic, deaf 84-year-olds (with great drop shots) to stocky, powerful women in their 30s whose bad haircuts and bluff manners would spell lesbian in many places but here, in our little Connecticut hamlet, usually means: married the high-school sweetheart, has three kids and an M.S.N. degree. The only other queer couples I know are the nice queer clergy-people, the two pipe-smoking psychiatrists (guys), and a very sweet older lady who organizes the church potluck and her much younger companion, who are both happy to refer to themselves as “dear friends” and seem to not to mind that Miss M.’s open and tender devotion to Miss H. (I once saw one bicycle over to the tennis court with towels, to mop up the morning’s rain for the other’s match) is viewed as something quite a bit less than Harry and Bertha’s 25th wedding anniversary at the Grange.
Still trying to nail down plans for my mother’s 80th-birthday all-family cruise, Joy’s 50th-birthday party (still trying to get Tracy Nelson to come and sing), and still trying to find a middle for this fucking short story.