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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Life After Lust

November 1, 2003

It was that darn garage!  I KNEW I should have held firm for the carport but jeez, they made it sound so good, and it IS, this nice 2-door garage with the thingie that makes the doors go up and down and a built-in woodshed and a sump with an attractive grill smack in the middle of the floor so all the meltwater has a place to go.  On one wall there’s a big pegboard with outlines of tools drawn on it.  I’d wanted to paint some mushrooms and ivy on it but Jordan, my son, the carpenter, got all teary eyed when I suggested that so we went with the rake and shovel and hammer.  Maybe, when he quits coming by every day to admire their handiwork, I’ll slip out there and tole a few vines and leaves around the perimeter of the board just to liven it up a bit.  And maybe a few pink flowers too, to match the ruffled curtains I’m planning for the windows, not forgetting the multi-coloured rugs I’ve been crocheting and….

But there, I told you all that last month and while the garage does play an important part in this month’s desperate life, I didn’t mean to maunder on with regards the relative cover power of paint versus wallpaper, which was going to be coming up in the next sentence.

It WAS the garage, though.  Or more precisely, the second door.

“Do I really need such a big garage?” I queried timidly.  I’d already accepted that a carport was just not going to be good enough, or grand enough, for the sons of Ellen Davignon.  The verdict was in, the plans were drawn, and the trusses were about to be ordered.  I decided to give it one last try.  “It’s only that it seems like a lot of building for such a little car…”

My sons looked at each other and then at me with identical expressions of good-humoured patience.  Toby, the eldest, put it into words.

“Mom, what if you want to retire and go traveling?”

I blinked. Go traveling? Retire? I loved my job.  I planned to be there until the cows came home or at least, given that in the Yukon the chances of the cows ever making it home were pretty darn slim, until I’d mislabeled just one book too many and snapped that last fragile strand of employer-employee relationship.  And anyway, what did that have to do with this behemoth they were planning?

Toby went on, “Say you retire and buy a camper van and tootle off for a little holiday. What would you do with it when you came home?  Put it under the old spruce and let the squirrels build nests in the engine until you needed it again?  Of course not.  You’d want to put it in your nice garage, clean and handy and ready to go the next time you felt the old lust to wander.   And if you only had a one-door garage…?”  He raised his eyebrows at me interrogatively.

Well, sure, if you were looking into the future like that, of course it made sense.  After all, at some point in my life I supposed I might indeed feel a bit of lust, even if it was only the wandering sort, any other kind being frowned upon when exhibited by anyone old enough to remember The Boogie-Woogie Bugler Boy of Company D.  And in the unlikely event that I should be overtaken by desire for a life that did not include toiling in the bowels of Mac’s Fireweed Books, why then I would certainly have the need for that extra space, just in which to park a wheelchair, if nothing else. 

“Fine, then,” I said.  “Let the games begin…”

Early August found my family up to their armpits in site preparation; the middle of October found me with the fait accompli; the first of November found me standing alone in the middle of the Mac’s receiving room with tears big as horse puckies rolling down my cheeks and making clean spots on my grubby yellow t-shirt.  I had just advised Chris of my decision to leave the Maximilian Corporation to get on as best they could without me while I saw about getting on with the rest of my life.

It was that second door, you see.

Every time I drove in or out of the garage, I’d look behind the other door and think about the camper van that Toby had mentioned.  It started to take shape in my mind: the standard breadbox-on-wheels shape but in a nice metallic blue with a white racing stripe down sides.  Maybe I’d have it customized with some flames towards the back.  I’d always liked that look and though it might be more appropriate on the sleek yellow sports car I’d described to Phil just before he bought my grey Tempo, I think I’d feel pretty lusty, driving down the old trail with licks of fire adorning my hind end. 

I found myself thinking of all the places I’d never seen, of all the invitations to visit I’d never honoured.   Time and again, I’d find myself planning a traveling wardrobe, jeans and T’s for when I was “on the road,” one tasteful and wrinkle proof outfit, probably from Tilly, for city stops; planning meals that were nourishing but simple and easy to prepare on a small built-in 2-burner stove; planning, with the help of an old Milepost, the best route out of the Territory. 

I bought Ernie Zelinski’s book on happy, wild and free retirement.  I dusted off the incomplete manuscript of the cookbook I’d begun just after the publication of The Cinnamon Mine.  After all, I’d have to have something to do in the evenings after I’d made the rounds, chatting up my fellow campers, wouldn’t I?  And what could be better than a project shelved for years by the lame excuse “work commitments”? All that taken care of, I then got out the old address book and began making a list of destinations.  I figure I can travel for about 2 years on my face and reputation for witty repartee.

And when all that sort of got me into a wander-lusty mood, I went and told Chris what I told you I told him.

Of course, I also told him that I would not leave Mac’s until I was sure that they would be able to get by on their own.  That could take a while and will give me a bit of breathing space before I have to get really serious about ordering that Tilly ensemble with the secret pockets cunningly designed to thwart the most light-fingered cutpurse.

And that breathing space will be a good thing because, what is that old saying?  Retire in haste; repent in leisure?  Or am I getting that wrong, maybe it was marry in haste, repent in etc.  Doesn’t matter.  Retirement or marriage, they both have to do with life changes and adventure and discovery.  

I just know that they both involve a lot of lust.  Of one sort or the other.

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