A week or so ago, I made fruitcakes with my friend C who, because she is English, actually knows how to make a nice fruitcake. She’s also good with other brandy/dried fruit kinds of food, like mince pies. I would write more in praise of the fruitcake, but somehow I don’t think I’m going to find a lot of sympathetic ears. That is because Americans have mostly only seen — and played frisbee with — those leaden disks studded with scary, glowing green and red things that masquerade as fruitcake. A real fruitcake is an entirely different affair, essentially a very nice, spiced cake, full of dried cherries/apricots/raisins, topped off with a few artfully arranged almonds and then drenched in brandy. Really, how could anything drenched in alcohol be bad? (Okay, I can think of a few things — really large men drenched in alcohol sitting on your front porch: bad.) Anyway, I’m not here to prostletize about fruitcake, except to say that my husband loves it and it keeps C going for the entire time she is at the Modern Language Association meetings in December.
Rather than fruitcake, I really want to talk about my friend C, who is a Victorianist, and has a great job as an English professor at one of the universities near where I live. I have known C almost my entire adult life, beginning when we were both in our early twenties and in English graduate school. That she went on to become a scholar, and I went on to join a profession full of argumentative monkeys, has not made any difference in our friendship. I love hearing about her job, and I love checking out the materials of her work.
While we were making the fruitcakes I noticed something sticking out of her (very chic leather) bag and she was nice enough to indulge my sort of weird interest in the nuts and bolts of her work. This thing sticking out of her bag was a plan for the academic year, but the page I saw was a plan for one of those extraordinarily busy months we all have. In C’s case, lots of writing, and teaching, and administrative jobs. I sink under months like that, stop writing in my blog, do not pick up crumbs that fall on the floor and forget to pick children up after school. C’s strategy is to make an utterly beautiful plan on a pad of paper and then proceed to tick off every one of the things she needs to do.
What I love about her busy month management strategy is that she obviously gets a lot of pleasure out of making the plan. In fact, when she is done she puts it in one of those cool plastic sheet protector things. She also saves all of these plans. This last thing is what makes me really, really hope that if for some reason I happen to outlive her (unlikely to happen, because she does a lot of yoga), I will get to be her literary executor and publish an entire book devoted to the many such meticulous, inspiring and beautiful plans she has made, plans that have gotten her fellowships, and books published, and articles written, and presents bought, and children raised and a few fruitcakes baked every now and then.
Here it is:
And here is a Little House on the Prairie Month Update:
The most useful part of this experience was learning that when you have to wait a little while to buy something, you occasional forget you ever wanted it. That was the fate of several pairs of shoes, some books and videos, a couple of games, and a tshirt with a rock band logo on it. There was a ton of complaining about the whole thing, but the boys were rigorous about making sure their parents kept to the “food only” requirement, which meant that we were a little short on soap, which was just as well as far as they were concerned. We also learned that food takes on a huge amount of importance when it is the only thing new thing coming into your house.
We officially ended LHPM the day after Thanksgiving, cutting it short by a few days because of all the griping we were having to put up with. And no, that timing had nothing to do with the many sales going on the day after Thanksgiving. We find crowds of people who’d kill you to get the xbox at 20% off really scary. But it was a happy day indeed for the Bloglily boy whose skateboard was stolen at school and who badly wanted to replace it, because otherwise his brother would get far ahead of him in doing tricks with the names of English schoolboys (“Ollie”) and fruit (“melon.”)
The boys are not wild about ever doing this again, probably because 2/3 of them are almost teenagers and their mom’s weird ideas must be resisted at all costs. I figure though that by next November they might have forgotten what it was like to actually have to wait before buying tennis shoes, and they might have outgrown that kind of resistance to authority.