Ever played rose, bud and thorn? It’s a game where you go around in a group of friends and share what’s happening in your life. A rose is something good, a bud is something hoped for, and a thorn is a problem. Yeah, we’re hopeless oversharers.
My rose today is the weather. I wrote a piece a week ago complaining about the lack of snow in New Haven. The next morning it was 2° with a wind chill of -30°. My roommates gave me the evil eye - like I somehow brought it on. “God doesn’t listen to me.” I ‘d said, defensively.
My thorn is, Anna’s parents are here for a few days and she’s very on edge. She spent yesterday with them but today they’re coming to our suite. I was surprised when I first saw them, they’re straight off the farm (if the farm was in the 1800s). They seemed to huddle together, defensively and consulted each other so quietly that they buzzed like a hive of bees.
Her father, a very tall man, was wearing a plaid flannel shirt under a long, thick, dark gray, Dickies coat (it says Dickies on the pocket) and jeans. He has a medium-long white beard and a black-felt, wideawake hat which he worked slowly in a circle by its brim (I think that would qualify as a comforting gesture).
Her mom, Abeba, the spokesperson for the pair, is a thin woman with mostly gray (used to be brown) hair. She was dressed simply in black high-top shoes, a plain, deep green, floor length dress under a sweater and long, thick, gansey shawl with matching barrette.
When I reached out to take her hand in greeting, she regarded me with a coolness I found unnerving. All the other parents I’ve ever met were friendly, even huggy, on introduction.
“They’re Quakers,” Anna said, (note the “they’re”) like that explained everything. When I looked confused, she reached out her hand, at arm's length, and touched me lightly on the upper arm with her index finger. After a moment she revealed, “That’s a Quaker hug.”
Anna had said they were quiet, “judgy” people - and here they were, in our common room, judging the books on our shelves (With titles like, “this book is gay,” “Good girl complex,” “The big **** *** book”) the clothes on the furniture, the laptops on the floor, the “art” on the walls and the disarray in the kitchen. They kept hat and purse in hand, as if they were expecting a fire drill. They’re a whole new category of houseguests.
At one point, Peter came out of my room, dressed in shorts and t-shirt but drying his hair. Sometimes he showers in my bathroom after working out. He smiled warmly at Anna’s parents and said, “Hi, Peter,” offering his hand to Anna’s father, Milhous (Peter can be very charming when he wants to be). Milhous stood up awkwardly and shook his hand, “Good day,” he said solemnly.
Anna’s mom however, seeing Peter come out of my room, blushed from top to bottom and gave me a look that was worse than any spoken disapproval. The top of my head seemed to grow warm, but a glance at Anna revealed that she was embarrassed to her core, and my blooming irritation faded.
Imagine living under these passionless despots your whole life? I gave her a smile and moved on emotionally. Her parent's disapproval was so banal it was almost laughable.
Anna’s so happy, hilarious, bold and brilliant - the fact that these dour, sour, saturnine, in-the-margin sodbusters produced her - seems random - one of the wonders of the universe.
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Despots: cruel rulers who have total power.
In-the-margin = unimaginative rule slaves