POST TELEVISION critic Tom Shales has brilliantly described the post-election letdown. Endless as it was, and meaningless as it turned out to be, the campaign, he pointed out, had addictive properties.
I underwent withdrawal in a rather acute form. I went to Boston to close out my aunt's apartment. In a burst of humor, she, who in her 90 years had become intimately acquainted with my fabled incompetence, had made me executor of her estate.
I went from chasing candidates and scribbling about Star Wars, secret wars, taxes and trends to making dates with the Salvation Army and reading Christmas letters of the '30s from my aunt's boss. Kate was a "saver."
I had a curious feeling that the rest of the world had stopped, too. The newspapers I bought every day at the White Hen in an effort to keep in touch with it, had reduced the unirse of public concern to two baby girls: Baby Fae in California and 5-month-old Jerri Ann Richards, who had mysteriously disappeared from her humble home in Providence.
One morning at the White Hen, the policeman from the station house next door told the cashier he was going to Providence to look for Jerri Ann. Baby Fae, he said was being given too many drugs. "She'll be up around the chandelier."
At home, with my heroic helpers, Mary, my sister-in-law, and Mary, my cousin -- it only seems as if all the women in Boston are named Mary -- we talked about the babies. The baboon heart -- would it break? Would Baby Fae, with her endearing topknot and her bright eyes, live? Would Jerri Ann be found?
I began to sound like someone like someone in a television commercial. I heard myself saying, "Yes, Lestoil cuts the grease."
One night, hungry for diversion, I went to a church supper. At my table, we talked some about Geraldine Ferraro, but it was as if she had died -- as she might well have done, having vanished entirely from the scene. I enjoyed a flash of celebrity: I was "the girl whose niece married Tom Beatty." I should explain that females in Boston are "girls" up to and including the time they enter the nursing home.
The two babies died within 24 hours of each other, First the little pioneer Baby Fae. Jerri Ann's body was found in an alley behind her house.
On television, we saw more stricken babies in Ethiopia. My aunt's friend, Monica Sullivan, came by to pick up some things and she observed, "Why can't they get the food there? If there was a war, they'd get the planes and guns in fast enough, you can be sure."
I cleaned the cellar and thought of Welsh miners. I made mistakes. I gave heirloom champagne glasses to a young relative setting up a bachelor's home, who would have been glad of jelly glasses. I had to retrieve from my nephew a painting that I had clearly labelled for a friend in Washington.
After the beds had been taken away and I became a homeless person, my cousin Mary took me in. Every day, we commuted from Norwell.
There, the one noteworthy event of my stay occurred. When we got home one night, Cody, the eldest of the three animals Cousin Mary has taken in -- she has a weakness for strays of all species -- was not at home. As we went about getting her husband's supper, she would sigh, and with reason.
Cody, a mix of Irish setter, collie and whatever, is ancient and infirm. His back legs don't work very well, and I am told he had a hip replacement. Once I took him for a walk, and he staggered so badly over every stick and stone in his path that I thought I might have to carry him home. The anxiety level in the kitchen rose.
Finally the phone rang. It was a neighbor. He had Cody in custody. The rap? Breaking into the neighbor's garage and making off with a cooked Thanksgiving turkey.
We set off down the road, and sure enough, there was Cody, tied up and looking pleased. And there was the neighbor with the goods, a large, ravaged box of unrecognizable remains. Cody had been caught galloping down the street dragging it by the string. He had eaten the white meat and the stuffing.
Cody? If I had been told that a decrepit 75-year-old athlete had stormed down from the stands and onto the field in the last quarter of the Harvard-Yale game, grabbed the ball and scored a touchdown, I could not have been more amazed. But pride was not in us. The cock began to crow. My cousin delicately distanced herself from the criminal. She got him when he was a year old from someone who had neglected him. I said that I was related to him only by marriage, which is true. Mary is my cousin's wife.
"Will this be in the paper?" the neighbor asked me after the damage had been paid.
I temporized. But I knew even then it would be. That turkey trot is by far the biggest story I've come across since Nov. 6.