Thinking about the Sex Pistols must have reminded me of college, because soon I'm brooding about my wasted English B.A. as I dice vegetables and try to drown out my regrets with All Things Considered. I had wanted to be a real writer, the kind whose photo you find on the back of books, and instead I'm questioning Marcella Hazan's predilection for butter. I am reminded of a John Cheever story in which a housewife hangs her college degree over the sink until the joke gets old and she puts it away. I think I'm becoming a feminist.

"Don't know if it's cabin fever, but some days I feel trapped," Ethan tells me in an e-mail. "Most days I can't even seem to squeeze in a workout. Any of my other forms of relief are none too healthy for body or marriage."

Then he tells me that a job he's been courting is on and he should be back to work by January. I feel like a South Vietnamese soldier in Saigon watching the last U.S. helicopter leaving. He's got tickets to tonight's World Series game, too, he says. "Watch for me on TV—I'll be the guy in the Giants cap with a beer."

The Giants win that night but lose the series, four to three. The waterproofing estimate comes in at $4,500. The floor work is estimated at a relatively modest $1,400. Meanwhile, our mother seems to be losing her marbles, and Ethan has started looking at retirement homes in the Bay Area. He took her on a tour of one; afterward she said it was okay but she didn't like a lot of old people.

He e-mails me the next day: "I took Finn to a Montessori school for a visit this morning and watched them gently test him. I had to fight myself not to yell the answers and move the blocks myself. This is how I feel with Mom. I wish I could turn back time and bring her mind back into sync. Every day I realize more that this will never happen."

I'd love to fly out there and provide support to my brother , but I can't afford to leave. Franny's piano teacher tells me that her timing is off. I say mine isn't so good, either.

Peggy and I get into a huge fight coming back from the Home Depot Expo one Sunday. Turns out the Wolf range I had my eye on needs six inches on either side because they run so hot, which would mean replacing the kitchen counter and cabinets. Ours are tragically prefab anyway and falling apart, and when they go, so goes the dishwasher, the sink, and the leaky faucet. The floors, as I mentioned, are pretty well shot, and while we're at it, those pantry shelves should go, too, along with the refrigerator. We've gone from a $4,000 range to a $50,000 kitchen remodeling in the course of a few hours, and the conversation that follows—touching on money, responsibility, opportunity, and all the places we've never been—is as sudden and ugly as a dust devil. Funny how you can go from window-shopping together to visions of joint custody. Afterward, we take turns saying we're sorry, uncertain of what we're apologizing for.

Next: "As much as I chafe at my life and its boundaries, there are times when I think I could spend eternity baking with my daughter."


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