Orange You Special

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, May 4, 2008

"LISTEN, WE REALLY HAVE TO make a fuss over all this fuss Kristin is making over us," my sister Claire says to me on the phone.

"Fuss?" I say.

"She's so excited we're coming, planning menus, birthday cakes for your kids -- she hasn't called you?"

Yes, she has. It's the first time in a long while that Kristin is hosting the big family shindig at her house -- and so, of course, she's excited. And, yeah, she's making a fuss. And yeah, Claire's right: When one sister makes a fuss, the other two sisters are sort of duty-bound to fuss over the fuss. The ever-intensifying fuss level is a family's fuel. It can, of course, ignite. It can explode. Who hasn't witnessed it? The big bomb of best intentions.

"I'm thinking a whole new way," I tell Claire. "I'm thinking anti-fuss. I'm thinking Zen." I tell her I've been promoting this very idea to my husband and children. "It's a holistic approach." I say.

"Oh, dear," she says.

"It's a matter of how you choose to define experience," I say, explaining that I'm stepping back, thinking about how we are about to embark on a long journey to visit family. "Now, is the experience the visit?" I ask. "Is it the culmination of the fuss-making? Or is the fuss-making itself part of the experience?"

"I really have to go," Claire says.

"Think of an orange!" I go on. "The pleasure is not just in the flesh of the fruit, but in the peeling, in the nectar that stings as it dribbles down your wrist."

"Flesh of the fruit? What have you been reading?" She accuses me of being a lot more stressed out about this trip than I realize, and hangs up.

Calmly, I commence packing. I pull out a carry-on bag for each of my children. I tell them to coolly choose their clothes for the weekend. I tell them not to stress out about it. "Let your suitcase be your dwelling," I say. "Let your spirit climb into it and guide your choices."

Both girls cock their heads, and one goes for the grab: "So, we can take anything we want?"

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