The shrinks are back. My husband, a shrink, has a shrink friend, Sue, and Sue has a shrink daughter, Heidi. All these shrinks are currently standing in my kitchen. Of course, they don't act like shrinks when they are idly hanging around a sink, one snapping peas, one uncorking a bottle of merlot, and the third rubbing her chin -- which could be interpreted as a shrink move, if one were inclined to feel intimidated by the buzz that so many shrinks per square foot can apparently put forth.
"What is that buzzing sound?" I say.
The shrinks look at me.
"You don't hear a buzzing sound?"
No, they don't. And as if I don't feel lonely enough.
Fortunately, Michele is just coming up from the basement. Michele, who is carrying a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi, is Sue's other daughter, and the only non-shrink besides me in this house, unless you count my two toddlers, three cats, two dogs and one goldfish, which I am counting. Michele and I understand each other. "There's a noise down there," she says. "I think maybe from the furnace room?"
"A buzzing sound?" I say.
"Yeah," she says.
"God bless you."
Alex goes down to the basement, returns with news of a stuck sump pump, which pleases me probably more than it should. Overall, I think I am getting better at this. I have been married to a shrink for nearly six years, so by now I really do realize that off-duty shrinks are pretty much like off-duty bartenders. You know, at ease. They don't stand around waiting for you to spill your guts so they can nod and stare into the distance with a look of serenity and wisdom. No. They're just like anybody. They snap peas and uncork bottles and tend to stuck sump pumps.
Sue is preparing a stir-fry, and Heidi and Michele and I are working with my girls on a gingerbread house. This gingerbread house, a kit, came to us as a Christmas present, and I am just now getting around to making it. This is probably a bad sign of something, and I am glad that none of the shrinks have made mention of it. But they could be thinking it. See, this is where you get tripped up, in a roomful of shrinks. Just because they're not commenting doesn't mean they're not noticing.
"Heh, heh," I say, making a preemptive strike. "Think it's kind of pathetic that I'm doing a Christmas craft project months after the fact?"
"Do you think it's pathetic?" Heidi says.
Oh, dear. It's never good when they answer a question with a question. Never.
"Well, I think it's wonderful," Heidi says, pointing out that the waiting has enabled us to decorate this thing with stray Valentine's Day candy hearts and these little sugar dragon things we got for a Chinese New Year party, not to mention the chocolate Hanukah coins we are using as roofing shingles. "Sort of a multicultural holiday house," she says, which you have to admit is a kindhearted spin.
"Hey, how about putting a pool out back?" Michele asks. "Do you want a pool?"
A pool? Why is she talking about a pool? "I have been dreaming about a pool!" I say, sharing my fantasy of one day stepping out my own back door and taking a dip.
"I meant for the gingerbread guys," she says. "Like, out of icing?" Oh. But this gets us talking about real pools, anyway, and pretty soon she and I are dreaming up designs.
Alex comes upstairs, his hands covered in sump pump goo. "A pool?" he says. "A pool?!" Well, all right. Bad timing. "Pools are a lot of work," he says, and then he goes into a big thing about algae and filtration and lime.
I look at the group. "See?" I say. "I'm Ms. Possibility. And he's Mr. Find-a-Problem."
"Actually," Sue says, "you're Ms. Possibility and he's Mr. Maintenance."
This statement produces a lot of laughter due to the fact that it is oh-so-true. So, whatever. The point is, I'm zeroing in on the real source of the buzz in my house: truth bombs. Having a houseful of shrinks is like walking through a minefield of truth bombs that might go off. But it's hard to know if this is the shrinks' fault or the truth's fault, or even who to ask about this.
There is a blast, followed by a sizzle, as Sue throws the beans in the wok, then the carrots. She is stirring intently, getting the timing just right. It occurs to me that no one in this house has mentioned the fact that this dinner at my house is being prepared entirely by Sue. She brought the food, she is cooking the food, and she will serve the food. How exactly did I allow myself to be such a lousy hostess? And -- am I the only one noticing this? (What is the matter with these people?) I apologize to Sue.
"Oh, I think it shows the kind of home you've created," Sue says. "We come here, we're instantly part of the family."
Well, that was nice. Hmm. I ask her if she thinks that I subconsciously choose friends who are good at making me feel better about my shortcomings.
"You know what?" she says. "I think we should just . . . eat."
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is email@example.com.