June 30, 2011 § 9 Comments
Those two words belonged to my Italian grandfather, Nonno.
My brother, sister and I rolled our eyes at the mere mention. Who would want to do the same thing over and over and over?
Plus his routine was so…routine. For exercise he walked laps around the kitchen counter (a hundred tiny circles).
He lay in wait for the mailman, and then, when he was sure the small truck had moved on, he would collect the mail, flipping through it as he carried it up the driveway.
This was the part of my grandfather’s routine that caused my mother to
get a PO Box. As a frequently-rejected fiction writer (a term which applies to any fiction writer) the double-disappointment of receiving that terse “not for us” and my grandfather’s sympathy, “Oh, Gloria! Rejected again. Why don’t you just give up?” was more than she could bear.
Midafternoon was punctuated by the snap of playing cards being arranged on the counter for a few hands of hands of Napoleonic solitaire.
Looking back, I think with greater kindness of my grandfather’s maddening
repetitions. Long retired, his routine moved the day forward and gave it shape. Examining and commenting on the mail meant he was still in the game, if only as a heckler. The handling of the Italian playing cards was a way of touching home.
I even see a bit of my grandfather in myself.
Every night before going to bed I do what I call, “the three things”–probably to avoid admitting that it is “my routine.”
At any point I could chose three different things. Or add a fourth. Or drop one. But as I learned from Nonno, you don’t mess with “the routine!”
These are my “the three things.”
I stretch. I got the exercises out of a book that assured me they would cure carpal tunnel syndrome. As far as I can tell nothing short of a total hand transplant would do that. But the stretches feel good. And they give me an excuse to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling.
Hidden in the random strokes of some long-ago plasterer is the torso of a woman. You’d see it too if you spent as much time as I do staring at that patch of ceiling–and I often find myself looking suddenly up at my dog.
When I lie prone, Moo sees me as a much closer relative. She either, very casually, walks over me going to the kitchen, or starts a tussle–in which case I beg Ray to call her over. She is a much more capable dog than I am.
Thing two (although I do them in no particular order, I’m not that routine!) I clean the kitchen. Woo hoo! There’s some excitement! But routine isn’t about excitement, is it? Cleaning the kitchen leaves the dishes washed and the counter clear for the new day ahead.
Thing three, I open the journal with the pen stuffed between the pages. Just as I put up tomatoes against the long months when there won’t be any in the garden, I put up the day.
Later, when this day has vanished from memory, I will open the journal and it will be there, a little skeletal, but not gone–like the Italy my grandfather reclaimed as he spread his playing cards on the counter.
So what does routine have to offer me and you, and even the kids who roll their eyes?
Here’s my list: it calms, comforts, provides an excuse to pick up memory and hold it in my hand; it makes me feel as if I’m in control, it creates endings and beginnings–it does almost everything except cure carpal tunnel.
What do you do every day and what does it do for you? What is your