In Which My Cousin & I Read in the Backyard

anne taintor-i-believe-we-have-an-opportunity-to-make-somMy cousin and I spent an afternoon in the back yard reading.

Books, not e-books.

She started on her phone.  She wasn’t reading an actual book.

“That’s email.”

Whether I’m slapping mosquitos or looking at flowers, I like to experience nature without the benefit of going on the internet.

“Do you want to hang out, or look at your phone?”

I have too much email, too.  Most of it comes from Orbitz or Yahoo groups, but occasionally a publisher offers me a book, and then I must decide whether I want to read it, or whether I’m just looking for a gift. And my cousin’s life is on a whole different level. She is invited to a “Let’s Make a Deal” party.  I’ve never seen this game show, so I could not be excited for her, but apparently it involves dressing up, maybe like a lemon.

Here’s what we needed in the back yard to relax.

Colour Scheme Ngaio MarshIced tea.  Check.  Colour Scheme, a mystery by Ngaio Marsh (me).  Valley of the Dolls by Jacqlyn Susann (my cousin).  Check.

My cousin would rather go to the mall.

“No, you have to detox.  Read 20 pages first.” I can’t relax at the mall, and I’m into the zero spending thing this summer.

The truth is, we’re both slightly unraveled this summer.  Last month a tree fell and smashed the garage in our back yard and did other damage.  We are still picking up the pieces.

My cousin is tearful about her own back yard. When she moved to the suburbs, she wanted a garden, possibly a la Vita Sackville-West, but guess what?  Nothing actually grew except marigolds.  So she hired landscapers, and the yard now looks pretty, but she thinks they have hosed her lawn with poison instead of organic pesticide.

My cousin and I were raised by mothers who knew nothing about smashed garages or gardening.  Our fathers didn’t talk to us about smashed garages or gardens.  Our fathers didn’t talk to us at all.  All my life I have vaguely meant to learn how to take care of “things” in the house, but my reaction to the big storm is simply to sit around in my pajamas and make phone calls.

Ngaio Marsh’s charming, absorbing mysteries are a restorative.  I always find it bracing to spend time with Roderick Alleyn, my favorite detective in fiction.  And this is the first novel I’ve read by Marsh set in her native New Zealand, in a mud bath resort during World War II.

As you can imagine, my cousin became very involved with Jennifer, Anne, and Neely while reading this page-turner, Valley of the Dolls.  Their  problems are so much worse than ours.

“I feel just like Anne,” she said.

We ALL feel just like Anne.  She’s the smart one who stays off drugs.  The gorgeous Jennifer and the talented Neely are doomed.

I expected my cousin to like Neely instead, but you know what?  We Midwestern girls may not know how to fix garages or garden but we do have common sense.