August 22, 2002
Letter To My Hosts

miles to go: 798.39

Dear Jaymi & Joel:

I want to take a moment to thank the two of you, in advance, for letting me stay with you guys while I'm in town this weekend.

I know it's probably going to be a little weird for everybody at first. You're not accustomed to having *Mom* as a houseguest ... and *Mom* is definitely not accustomed to being a houseguest. (She is especially not accustomed to being a houseguest in the home of someone she once carried around in a little wicker basket.)

It's going to be a new experience for all of us.

But I promise I'll be on my very best behavior, OK? I won't brush my teeth in your car. I won't answer your phone ("Helen's Whorehouse, Helen speaking"). I won't photograph the inside of your laundry hamper for my website, or bathe with your cats, or insist that we all enjoy Family *Finger-Puppet-Fun* Night together. If I make a mess, I'll clean it up. If I break something, I'll glue it back together. If I accidentally dig around in your bottom bureau drawer while you're at work and uncover your padlocked diary and read the past six or seven months' worth of entries ... I won't correct your spelling.

I promise.

The good news is that you won't even know I'm there, half the time. (That's because I won't be there, half the time. I'll be frantically running from one end of TicTac to the other, trying to cram fourteen months' worth of overdue daughterly/sisterly/ex-wifely/motherly visit into four days.) While I'm living under your roof, however, I promise to respect your privacy and abide by your house rules 100%. Whatever you say goes. Of course, if I happen to look around your apartment and I see something that could use the deft touch of my superior organizational skills -- say, your new computer, for instance -- I might surprise you by rearranging your desktop icons according to file name/file size/expiration date/antioxidant level, or by changing all of your system event sounds (you still like Michael Bolton, right?), or by downloading the latest version of CallYourMomDammitPro for your convenience.

Or maybe I'll just set a great big photo of *me* as your desktop wallpaper.

As for the "grocery list" you requested ... this has taken a little more thought than I'd anticipated, I must confess. I'm so accustomed to walking into the Alameda Safeway store, 2.7 times per week, and loading up the shopping cart with the exact same eleven items, over and over again, that it's been a real challenge trying to come up with some viable snack ideas. Since I'm not planning on totally blowing off The Eating Plan while I'm visiting, I'm limiting the list to just the most critical items:

  • New Coke. I'm talking about OLD New Coke ... OK? Not new New Coke. If you can't find Old New Coke, then I'll take New Diet Coke. Just make sure it's the NEW New Diet Coke, though, and not Old New Diet Coke. If you can't find Old New Coke or New New Diet Coke, Pepsi Lite will work. Not Pepsi Light -- and not Pepsi Twist Light -- but Pepsi Lite. It comes in a sky-blue can, I think. If you can't find Old New Coke or New New Diet Coke or Pepsi Lite ... just grab me a six-pack of Tab. I'm not picky.
  • Jiffy Pop.
  • Chocolate Maypo.
  • Swanson's Fried Chicken TV Dinners (in the aluminum foil tray, please).
  • Space Food Sticks.
  • Buttons and Bows, one box of each.
  • Pizza Spins.
  • Carnation Breakfast Squares.
  • King Vitaman Cereal.
  • A couple of 7-Up Candy Bars.
  • Jell-O 1-2-3 ... cherry, if you can find it. If you can't find Jell-O 1-2-3, a couple boxes of Whip-n-Chill will be fine.
  • Fast Lane Tea.
  • Fizzies! Any flavor except grape.
  • Hamburger Helper Potato Stroganoff.
  • A box of Chocolate Caramel Ayd's.

You really don't have to load up on groceries, though: I'm looking forward to eating out as much as possible while I'm in TicTac. I might even spring for the tip, once or twice!

(Make us a reservation at Canlis, OK?)

I know that, historically, I haven't always been the easiest person to live with ... especially during the years I was pickling my kidneys in a marinade of cheap chablis. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, though, by how mellow and low-maintenance I have become in my sober old age. I am perfectly happy sleeping on your couch, for instance. I slept on a couch for the last fifteen years of a sixteen-year marriage, after all: it's not like I'm unaccustomed to incredible inconvenience and hideous discomfort. As long as I have a minimum of three pillows (one large extra-firm, one medium-large/medium-firm for under my neck, and one soft floppy "Boyfriend Pillow" to hug all night) -- as long as my blankets aren't scratchy and the sofa cushions aren't lumpy and my feet aren't sticking out at the bottom -- as long as the lights go out promptly at 9:15 p.m. every night, and the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. every morning, nice and loud -- then I'm sure I'll be just fine. 

(And if you catch me sleepwalking around the neighborhood again, just help me back into my pajamas and sing me a few bars of "The Ash Grove" until I fall asleep. That usually does the trick.)

My *bathroom needs* are similarly uncomplex. Toss a fresh new bottle of Tame Creme Rinse (lemon-scented please) into the shower stall ... make sure I have plenty of fluffy white towels for my face, extra-absorbent dark brown towels for my hair and a couple of oversized bath towels (green or light blue: no pink or red) for the the rest of me ... and I'll be a happy camper.

Oh, and could you make sure the toilet paper unrolls from the bottom, and not from the top?

I think we're going to have a wonderful time together, you guys. I really do. The main point of this trip isn't sight-seeing or picture-taking or blowing ridiculous amounts of money at local shopping malls: it's spending quality time with people I love. I'm especially looking forward to those quiet evenings spent hanging around your apartment together ... just the three of us. (Plus your brother and your sister, if we can bribe convince them to join us.) We can all listen to Michael Bolton albums and eat Jiffy Pop and paint happy faces on our finger puppets.

And then I'll go upstairs and take a bubble bath with your cats.

See you soon!

Love,





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