Weekend Update:
Mrs Wilson


This evening, I found an hour, between an afternoon of reading and the preparation of dinner, for getting started on Christmas cards. The tardiness is not, I’m afraid, uncharacteristic. Although I like to send cards at the normal time (before Christmas), that’s just one of those good-behavior impulses that so often interfere with the spirit of things. Terrified of being tired of the Yuletide season before 25 December, I quite often don’t get into the Christmas spirit until the day itself. I take “the twelve days of Christmas” very seriously: they begin on the Nativity and end on my birthday, which is only as it should be.

There also seems to be a temporal chute that gets more greasedly accelerated every year. One minute, it’s Columbus Day (second Monday in October). The next, it’s Beethoven’s birthday (16 December), and I haven’t given a thought to Christmas. That is, I’ve given a lot of thought to not giving a thought to Christmas. On or around Beethoven’s birthday — the date on which, in my Radio Days, I allowed the announcers to start filling out the hours with Christmas carols — I start thinking about Christmas. In a ducking position, mostly.

Reading John Lukacs’s “autobiographical study” of George F Kennan a few weeks ago, I was keenly aware of something that Mr Lukacs wasn’t addressing. While he praised his subject for the untiring composition of position papers, speeches, essays, histories, and generally weighty (though digestibly well-written) texts, all I could think about was what Kennan didn’t have to think about, viz: the laundry, breakfast, shopping, dinner, the dusting, shopping, lunch, sending Christmas cards, and so on. Kennan was lucky enough — there really is no other word, from my vantage — to live in a time when men, especially thoughtful, intelligent men, were expected — expected — to stick to the important stuff. Mr Lukacs does not discuss Kennan’s hobbies, if any, but it’s clear that they were never allowed to interfere with the man’s self-prescribed duties, for the simple reason that he had no wish that would let them interfere. He liked to work. That’s commendable. That he never troubled himself with having the draperies dry-cleaned is not even worth mentioning. Mr Lukacs has undoubtedly been similarly lucky himself.

It’s important to stress that I feel no resentment about having to run a household. It is not work that I dislike. I thrill every time I watch Gosford Park, not because of the aristocratical shenanigans but because the housekeeper played by Helen Mirren knows how to manage the bedlinens. But I’m aware that such concerns cut into loftier pursuits. Now that I’ve come to a point in my life at which it seems that I have a lot to think about, and a lot to say about it (however interesting or not to others), I wouldn’t complain if Mrs Wilson were to materialize in our home. (Not that we could afford her!)

Kathleen, who has such tremendous powers of concentration that she can finish a piece of work only to discover that her body has been sounding fire alarms about hunger and whatnot that must “suddenly” be addressed with the utmost urgency, advises me to relax and focus on the things that I want to do. In modern psychological parlance, she’s trying to get me to give myself permission to put off washing the windows. Her powers of concentration being what they are, she could live in the murk of an abandoned fishtank without thinking about the difference that a bit of Windex and some elbow grease might make. And as for Christmas cards, let me just ask those of you on our mailing list if you’ve gotten one from her since the Seventies.

Surely there’s an nth law of thermodynamics that holds that there can be but one Kennan in any household.

4 Responses to “Weekend Update:
Mrs Wilson”

  1. Kathlen Moriarty says:

    Oh, you are so right about the fishtank…what a riot! At the office, the security guards at night and on the weekends know to cough or rattle their keys before checking in to see that I’m okay: I have a terrible startle reaction, and have almost given them heart attacks when they’ve nicely said ‘hello.’

    On the other hand, fishtanks — abandoned or not — may be as close as you’d get to St Croix, or Venice, for that matter, if it were not for my taking lots of time away from my job to serve as fabulous travel agent and psychiatric nurse.

  2. jkm says:

    Next year, RJ, I am going to follow your example re: the twelve days of Christmas, and end with birthday wishes to you! And hello Kathleen! You must appear during one of my video chats with RJ so that I (and Curtis, who is usually lurking in the background) can say hello.

  3. Jean Ruaud says:

    “she could live in the murk of an abandoned fishtank”
    I love this sentence.

  4. Jose says:

    Hi Anne. You’re right: he’s a keeper. I like how he wrteis!I loved FNL last night. It had an aching beauty to it that made me want to watch it again. Landry’s pain was palpable…it’s likely a thread that will continue to show up throughout the season. That is, IF there’s a season.