My friend Faith and I went out for a walk last week. I have been going regularly to Faith’s house for tea for a little over three years—from shortly before she became pregnant with her first child, Rowan. That was when she and her husband still lived in the little apartment two minutes away. With the arrival of child number two (who is also daughter number one), Paili, they had to move further away to get a house where they could fit all the accoutrements of the two children (and the children themselves.) And the two cats. This house is next to a very lovely old cemetery, the kind they use in movies. Well, due to the nature of the young children, Faith and I haven’t gone out to do anything but tea since…well, I really don’t remember when we did much besides our teas and wifely discussions. But on this day, the father of the two children returned home at an hour when there was still golden-dusky sunlight out in the world, and Faith and I went to walk in the dappled gloom of the graveyard.
We continued our wifely discussions as we did the rotation of the cemetery, including our literary aspirations, the shocking price of home improvement projects, the danger of sending husbands to the grocery store without explicit and detailed lists, and the continuing wonder that is our husbands—they do not cease to amaze us with their unwavering un-womanliness, despite the fact that neither of us are newlyweds anymore. However, there is no doubt that our talks regarding husbands would be of a much more serious nature were either of our husbands in any way actually womanly. We must always count our blessings.
Two funny things happened on our walk: one is that we encountered a flock of deer. (Yes, we know it is a herd of deer, but doesn’t flock of deer sound funnier?) I believe we also referred to them as a swarm and some other outrageously incorrect animal-group name. On round three of the graveyard, we strolled past another contingent of the morbidity-loving white-tails, who regarded us with surprising calm, as though young wives energetically thrashing out the mysteries of life while exercising were an everyday occurrence in what they clearly considered their territory. Some of these fleet animals were tranquilly eating the hedges surrounding a particularly picturesque spot in the cemetery. Faith paused. She is a mother, and she couldn’t just let this pass. She addressed the deer in mild but scolding tones: “Stop eating the hedges!” A large buck with an admirable rack regarded her with stoic rebellion. “Yes, you,” she replied, “Do you think you can just do anything you want?” (This reminded me of the time during one of our indoor teas when Faith turned from our conversation and sternly rebuked the cat, who was clawing at the window screen, “Seamus, stop it!” Then she turned to me and said wearily, “I’m always yelling at someone.”)
I burst out laughing. “You’re yelling at the deer?” “Well, they can’t eat everything!” she replied. “I’m afraid they’re going to come down and eat my shrubs—I saw one standing on the corner there!”
On the way back to the house, funny thing number two: I paused as small object on the sidewalk caught my eye. “Is that a pile of glistening ants?” I inquired incredulously. Before she had time to respond, I realized what it was. “Oh, it’s just a shiny kid’s scrunchie.” Faith doubled over with laughter and began to stagger about on the sidewalk. “What?” I said, laughing too. “‘A pile of glistening ants’” she gasped? “What kind of thing to say is that?” “I don’t know, why are you laughing so hard?” I said, laughing at the absurdity myself. “Yes, but who says that?!” she wanted to know. “Who thinks that?” “Well, that’s what it looked like for a second.” After she recovered her powers of locomotion, we walked down the block to her yard.
After watering the pepper plant and inspecting the arbor vitae, which showed suspicious brown spots, we regarded the rest of the shrubbery. “See,” Faith pointed out the nearby corner, “That’s where that deer was standing.”