Now that our national government is in business again, a State of the Union speech can’t be far behind.
It makes me wonder, how would I sum up the state of my own personal union?
Ever since the end of the holidays and for the past several weeks, my husband and I have been passing a cold back and forth — like a badminton birdie, or a bowl of leftover Brussels sprouts that must be finished before we can have dessert.
“No, after you — I insist!”
Sadly, a naturally sweet temper — such as mine — is the first thing to go when you’re feeling like death warmed over.
For example, take this conversation I had with my husband the other day. I had noticed him standing at the kitchen counter, hunched furtively over something.
“Whatever are you doing?” I asked.
“Eating lunch,” he replied.
“I can see that,” I snapped, “but why like this? Admit you’re having a meal, put it on a plate, and sit at the table! You should eat like a human being — not a carriage horse!”
“You’re one to talk, Mrs. He-won’t-know-I’m-eating-chocolate-if-I-do-it-in-the-kitchen.”
Ding! End of round one. We moved to the dining room table.
But first, I had to clear away some clutter so I could sit down.
My beloved was suddenly, inexplicably, furious.
“What are you doing?” he yelled.
I stared at him. “Eating lunch. I cleared a place for my plate.”
“But couldn’t you see it was taken?”
“By what? A pile of paper?”
“Yes. A pile of paper that it’s taken me all day to sort. And what have you done? Put it right back on the other pile. That’s the whole day wasted!”
“You’re crazy, you know that? You and your precious piles!”
“At least I don’t think that the papers around here will sort themselves!”
I tried to think of a suitable reply, but started sneezing instead. “Pass me that tissue box, would you, please?”
My husband complied but as soon as he did, I sneezed again, harder. “What on earth is this?” I asked him.
“It’s one of those tissue-with-lotion things. You said the others were scratchy, so I bought one of everything last week.”
“Well, these are horrible. I think I’m allergic!” I walked to the kitchen so I could toss the box in the garbage.
“Judy! Don’t do that! Or you’ll have to go to the store — in the pouring rain.”
“Don’t you dare threaten me!” I was angry, now, so I started yelling. “We have plenty of tissues!”
“No, we only have two!”
“Two? Two boxes left! That’s your idea of ‘almost out’? For heaven’s sake, that’s hardly an emergency!”
“No! Not two boxes! Two Kleenex tissues, that’s all that’s left in the house!”
“Not counting the box you just threw away.”
“I couldn’t help myself,” I said. “There’s something about that box.” Somewhere deep in my groggy brain a thought was forming. “Did that box remind you of anything? Maybe someplace we’ve been…” My voice drifted off.
“Yes. Somewhere unpleasant,” my husband agreed.
“That place at Lake George…”
“That rainy July 4th weekend…”
“The very last room in the entire town!”
“Yeah, I remember! You said it was like trying to sleep inside a footlocker from camp. What did we call the place?”
We said it together: “The Mildew Museum!”
I laughed, or started to, but it came out a sneeze. And suddenly we had no Kleenex left at all.
“I’ll go,” I said.
And I’m glad I did. Because on the way home, waiting for the light at Northern Boulevard and Route 101, I was at just the right place and time to see the most spectacular rainbow of my entire life. It was so bright, it looked like a neon sign shooting up into the sky. Better than that — it had a double!
That’s how I knew, the day before it happened, that the government shutdown would soon be over. I also knew that our colds would soon be done with, and I would be able to say that the state of my personal union is, once again, strong.