I have an anorak. (I know, I can't believe I'm telling you this either). Anyway. I have an anorak that I've owned for more years than I care to remember - though I still think of it as new …ish. Granted in The Valley there's not much need for a jacket most of the year, so anoraks don't get much wear. But I keep my anorak because it's useful. It can roll up into a wee ball to pack in a suitcase if need be, and emerge almost wrinkle-free to fend off any unexpected downpour.
I have a tendency to keep clothes. I don't think I'm miserly, but I'm specific. It's just that when I go to buy something, I find it's pretty much a variation on something I already have.
So I keep what I'm comfortable with, and get rid of things that look worn, or are not practical, or make me unhappy.
When I was a kid it was easy to work out when to get rid of stuff, because I grew out of it. But then I became an adult and I didn't change shape that much. Sure I get a bit fatter or thinner, and I got pregnant a couple of times, but I didn't ever grow six inches in height over the summer or have my feet suddenly change a couple of shoe sizes.
I remember when I was small, back in the old country, watching a TV show, and the posh lady presenting the show was talking about the great importance of a new stylish winter coat. She was very, very serious about it. A new winter coat was an absolute must for any self-respecting woman.
It made me worry about my mum, who I was pretty certain would not be getting a new winter coat - not with four kids to feed. What would happen to her? Would people gasp when she walked down the street? Whisper about her on the busses and shake their heads in sympathy? “Look at that poor woman. She appears to be wearing last year's Winter coat.”
When I tearfully mentioned my concern to my Mum, she was remarkably unfazed - in fact, she smiled and said that she liked her current Winter coat, and there was ‘always something.’
As I grew, I realized what she meant. It wasn't just winter coats but bikini bodies. Thanksgiving turkeys/ Christmas dinner/ Easter hams/ Mother's Day/ Father's Day/ Weddings/ Christenings/ Funerals/ Minimalism/ Maximalism/ How to modernize a bedroom/ Living room/ Kitchen, Hairstyles for the under 50s/ over 50s, Books you absolutely must read right now.
Because no matter what you do, there's a never-ending stream of how you could be doing it much better.
I'm helping Fergus to pack and I'm terrible at it. He's flying to Scotland tomorrow because he is working front of house at the Gilded Balloon during the Fringe, and visiting relatives beforehand. I have previews here in LA first, so I'll follow later.
Ferg is a California boy, and his answer to stuff is to take what seems sensible and to apologize, panic, and then find a solution if that turns out not to be enough. So when I remind him that in Edinburgh in August it's possible to have all four seasons in one day, he shrugs and tells me he's packed a couple of long sleeve shirts and a jacket.
I look at his shirts and trousers, socks and pants, all tidily laid out for packing and it seems wrong. Where is the outfit he might need for mountain climbing/ scuba diving/formal dinners/ all sorts of random shit that he almost definitely won't need but should have just in case?
I worry he should pack more stuff. But when I point that out, Ferg says that in Scotland they have shops. And also washing machines.
And he is right.
Mark comes in to check that Ferg has all the travel adapters, chargers, and cables. Mark is a cable/ electronics packing guy who periodically bulk buys batteries. I used to say to him, “if there were a civil war and batteries became the currency, I do believe we would be the wealthiest people in this whole kingdom.” Since 2020 I don't say shit like that anymore.
“Travel adapter?” says Mark.
“Yep.” says Ferg.
“Currency in cash in case you can't use your card?”
Ferg checks his wallet and nods. “Uh huh.”
“Yup. And yup.”
I try to think of something to ask him that he might not have, but there's nothing I can think of.
Later that night I confess to Mark that I'm convinced there's something I've forgotten.
“You are always like that,” he says, “It's your not-enoughness. You get it when you've something on your mind.”
I was about to deny it. And then thought about the day before when I'd seen a client, made six jars of peach jam, froze another three pounds of peach slices (the peach tree in the backyard is a rampant overachiever), finished a written treatment, made dinner for me, Mark and the boys, did two lots of laundry, and yet still sat down at the end of the night and said, “I feel I've not done much today.” And Mark, who had been fitting new batteries into the remote control at the time, had snorted and said, “Is something bothering you?”
And a little too quickly I had replied, “No.”
God dammit, he was right. My not-enoughness. It is me. Older than my anorak and twice as familiar. The nagging feeling that I've somehow not got it right, and that somebody somewhere has secretly got the whole answer to every part of life sorted. And that person is definitely not me. So I need to work harder, stress, think, do stuff to make everyone around me safe.
I get it when there's something else bothering me. And it's stupid because safety is never a given and not the same as stagnation. And life is for living anyway. And no matter how well prepared you are, stuff happens, and being alive is all about the stuff happening. That is how we learn.
And there it was. The thing I'd been forgetting. The most important thing - To tell Fergus not to sweat about the small things, because there's “always something.”
Also that although he's a proper grown up, I am his big daft mother. So I will always worry, even though he's completely capable. And I love him. And I'm proud. And I want him to have his adventure.
So I told him. And he laughed and he hugged me, and he showed me that he'd packed his anorak and reminded me to pack mine. Cheeky bugger!
It's been a long time since I physically grew out of something, but I have now. Screw you, not-enoughness, and also screw you posh lady on the telly from around 50 years ago.
It's fricking roasting outside and so I don't need a new winter coat. Not now and perhaps never. Let people whisper on the bus. Let them shake their heads at me in sympathy. Let them claim I'm not a self-respecting woman.
And when it does rain as one day, it inevitably will. I will be absolutely fine in my new..ish old anorak
Till next week.
Los Angeles previews
Edinburgh Fringe Festival Shows
Hello there my wee NFTV kitchen pals,
I have to say old TV has a lot to answer for. People talk about the dangers of