Winter – 2022

It’s winter now. I’m writing this from a temporary office setup in my new house on the week between Christmas and the New Year. I’m procrastinating. I have to log into work around nine, which is in five minutes, and I don’t really have it in me today. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve should be a national holiday. Nobody’s doing any work anyway.

Also, I wish we took the Winter Solstice more seriously. I know that’s more or less where Christmas comes from, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice to not celebrate the solstice. I’m not saying this to suggest we shouldn’t also do Christmas. I like Christmas, and I like buying stuff, but I think we should all have some kind of group appreciation for the days beginning to get longer, and some sort of group mourning session for when they begin to get darker.

Presents are great, and so is pointedly hating yourself every December 31st with a promise to change dramatically in the new year, but it’s hard to beat daylight.

We moved about forty minutes away, from Media, PA to Kennett Square, PA (the Mushroom Capital of the World), and it’s been mostly nice. We bought the kind of house we swore we’d never buy. It’s in a development with an HOA, all the lawns are immaculate, and all the mailboxes have to be a certain kind of mailbox. People walk their dogs in specific dog-walking outfits, and when they pass each other everyone smiles and waves, nobody can believe their luck.

The first day we were here I walked the dog around the new neighborhood, we were about a block away, walking by another Kevin McAllister-type house and I was struck by oh no. Oh no, I accidentally moved to where they keep these kinds of people. I’m not this guy. I’m not the kind of person who lives in a neighborhood full of people who panic call the police when they see a teenager in their doorbell camera. Whoever owns these houses, they’re a certain type of guy and I am a different kind of different guy.

About a week into living here, we started getting these little bugs. Smaller than a head of a pin, but bigger than a gnat. They just sort of bop around the ceiling, they seemed to be coming in from the windows and the vents, and they liked the moisture in the bathrooms. Maybe ten or so at first. Nothing too bad. Then, suddenly, hundreds. We put up flypaper to catch them, spent a few hundred dollars on electric fly catchers, and put them in each of the new bathrooms, the hallway powder room, in our open floor plan kitchen. Amanda had it the worst, her office is on the second floor, my office is in the basement. They like to be up high. Our guest bedroom was overrun.

Then the smell started. We thought we’d bought a house with a sewage problem. Opening the windows seemed to make it worse. At some point, I had to get out of the house, so I got the dog, put on the shoes I bought to walk the dog, and my Patagonia jacket, and went out the door. The whole world smelled like it. Like shit and cardboard, like someone lightly buried a dead body in a mulch pile.

We walked down our street, and the smell would shift. The neighborhood is hilly, and the lower we were, the better it was, then we made a right and went up the hill to where some of the nicest houses in the neighborhood are and it was unbearable. It smelled so bad I couldn’t believe I couldn’t see it in the air like I’d have to peer through waves of stink to see the immaculate lawns and the HOA-approved mailboxes.

Kennett Square, PA is the Mushroom Capital of the world, there’s a good chance that every mushroom you’ve ever eaten was grown within five miles of my house. Those mushroom farms use something that smells terrible to fertilize and grow the mushrooms, when money is tight, as it is during recession-ish times, the farmers will sometimes reuse the mushroom compost, aerate it more frequently and it makes the entire area stink.

The flies that were invading our house by the thousands – not an exaggeration – live only on Mushrooms. They can’t eat anything else. They have a three-day life cycle, and by the end of the season – October, when we bought the house – they’re at their peak also. So for a month, maybe more, we live in absolute hell.

After a month, it dies down. The smell dies down. We can put away the fly traps because it finally goes below 40 degrees for three days in a row in mid-December to kill the flies. According to the Phorid Fly Support Group on Facebook, they used to die off earlier, in Late September, but this year has been strangely warm.

On January 1st it’s forecasted to be 60 degrees here in Pennsylvania.

Anyway, my point is, sometimes it’s surprising how much you can ignore when everything you’ve done follows a particular kind of order that lets you feel successful and that your life is meticulous and ordered. And you probably don’t think you’re the kind of person who ignores all their senses to pretend that everything is fine because your lawn looks great, but you probably are and probably the bugs will be worse next year and every year after that. But we’re going to redo our bathroom, we got a good price. Excited about that.

It’s been a good year. I’m thankful for it. We went to Iceland and bought a new house. We had our 10th anniversary and still like each other a whole lot. Life is good. Flies or no flies.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

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