We Are Still a Work in Progress

It has taken eons, but I like to think my husband and I have finally become mature, semi-serious people.

For example, for 10 months, during the academic year of 2009-10, he and I lived in an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We’d had great dreams for our apartment until we saw it. But what could you expect from an illegal sublet? I asked myself, after I’d recovered from a quick case of the vapors.

Sure, the place was kind of a dump and the next-door neighbors screamed at their dog and their kid, in that order. And, a few weeks later, there was a triple homicide a couple of blocks away, and the landlady, who called herself an actress, was one of the cheapest human beings in the history of sublet-dom. Oh, but what the hell. We were in New York, having a New York experience.

My husband was writing a book that year and I was blogging. When we weren’t working, we were eagerly exploring the city. The 10 months passed, we worked, we played, we had one of the best years of our lives.

And, for the most part, we behaved ourselves pretty well, living in an illegal, slummish multi-family unit. We didn’t revert to the bad habits of our wayward youth. We took good care of The Actress’s apartment, where we were surrounded by many more mirrors than books. Oh, and let’s not forget The Actress’s affirmations! Everywhere we looked, The Actress had hung little feel-good, empower-yourself, go-for-your-dreams inspirational sayings. Oh, sure, my husband and I joked about replacing these framed inspirations with Demotivators from Austin’s own Despair, Inc. But did we do that? No, certainly not. We were too mature for that.

When we came back to Austin, I realized it was time to sell the wonderful house we’d been living in for the past several years. The kids were grown, we weren’t yard people, and we seemed to employ half the city in keeping up the house. Why not move to a downtown condo?

So, we moved downtown almost two years ago. We now live in a really great building, where we have continued to behave ourselves pretty well and conduct ourselves like proper grownups.

Except for one thing, which makes me feel I have an immature streak that I will never quite outgrow. That is, when the people who work downstairs call to tell us we have a guest, I often can’t contain myself. It’s like an itch I have to scratch.

“Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So are here,” the concierge will say.

“Do they look respectable?” I’ll usually ask doubtfully.

Well, yes.

“OK, send them up!”

The evening a friend from Napa or one of those other valleys came calling, I asked the concierge desk whether our guest was the world-famous wine expert. I listened to the question get repeated to our guest, falling all over myself with a ridiculous fit of laughter. (Would he deny being a famous wine expert? Confirm it?)

Similarly, when another friend from London dropped by last week, the devil grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

“Does he talk in kind of a phony British accent?” I asked the concierge. The concierge said yes, he did.

“He likes to put on that accent,” I said. “But he’s really from West Texas.”

It was then that I realized you can take my husband and me out of West Texas, you could send us to New York and then to a luxurious Austin high-rise — but nothing could ever make us into completely serious people. If it hasn’t happened at this late point in our lives, there really is no hope for us. We will always itch, we will always scratch.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)


24 comments… add one
  • Never lose your wonderful sense of humor and a little bit of that mischievous kid!

  • Cindy A Link

    Maturity is over-rated!

  • Marie Link

    Love that you guys are in it together!

  • Love this. I’ll bet that concierge dreads having to call you.

  • This is just too funny. I have to wonder if your concierge enjoys when you get guests. 🙂 Your experience in New York reminds me of the time we thought we were going to be staying in a nice hotel “just blocks from Santa Monica Beach” on our first trip to LA. Hotel Carmel by the Sea might sound like luxury, but it was a flop house. Quite literally.

  • And by the way, anyone who has a concierge is officially a grown-up. Just FYI.

  • Christine Link

    This made me laugh today. Thanks!

  • Jeannie Winton Link

    Love the story!! I don’t ever want to grow up either! Must be inherited from our parents, you think??

  • I think I love this story more because I’ve met the concierge and I can see him smiling through the encounter. I think you probably make his day every time you do this. Think how dull his day is mostly. It’s a gift that you liven it up.

  • Joyce Saenz Harris Link

    Hmmm. No wonder that when Steve and I stopped by last time, the concierge got on the phone with you, then looked at us and said to you: “Not really.” Respectable, he meant. Of course, he was right.

  • Another gem, Ruth! I love this. Love ’em all.
    xo nancy

  • Thanks for the laugh! I can just see the expression on your face. (“Do they look respectable?” I’ll usually ask doubtfully.)

  • I am very glad that you are staying in practice with improvisation and silliness. Playfulness–a very essential part of life. Keep up the good work.

  • Cindy D. Link

    Please don’t ever lose your sense of humor. As long as it’s working, I’m sure you are alive and well. That’s important to me.

  • I want to become mature and have a concierge.

  • Carolyn Link

    Would you say that your husband makes you do it?

  • Sounds like you are grown up enough to know when to have fun 🙂

  • I’m quite sure the concierge is on to you. And no doubt he enjoys your sense of humor as much as you do. 😉

  • I’d like to meet that concierge. I expect you and Jamie will be featured in the book *he* is writing…

  • Sound like a laugh for everyone. Including the concierge.

  • merr Link

    Love your stories, Ruth. These are the kinds of pieces that would make for wonderful radio, too. To hear your voice would be icing on the cake.

  • You are more evil than me, and I love it!

  • Thanks for the laugh, Ruth! Wish I was your neighbor.

  • Does your husband joke with the concierge, too? Your blog posts always light up my day, which in the Northwest is mostly gray most of the time. Thank you.

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