In the middle of the night last night, I heard a motor. At first, I thought the noise must be coming from a bathroom exhaust fan. I checked the fans, and neither of them was running.
On the way back to bed, I stopped by the heating system’s air intake and listened for the blower motor. Yes, that must be it. Or maybe not. A friend of ours told us the noise comes from the local crematorium, which runs at night.
I gave up solving the riddle, put in foam earplugs, got back in bed, and fell asleep.
I woke up at 6:30, two hours later than usual. I had overworked myself the previous day getting ready for our annual Christmas lunch with my stepson, his family, and two other guests. I had spent the day making the house perfect the same way I used to prepare our house on Hood St. in Dallas for one of my mother’s art gallery openings.
My parents and I would come home from church on Sunday, eat lunch, and start preparing the house. My father would say “Now hear this. All hands man your battle stations,” and he and I would begin straightening things up.
Today, I carry out his order in my head. I also follow my mother’s dictum to pick up every scrap of paper and leaves. “It takes only one piece of white paper to ruin the whole lawn,” she would say. “Make it look as if someone cared.”
I cared two days ago. I wanted the house to look clean and inviting when the crew came over. But striving for perfection is exhausting, and I paid the price for it the next day. By last night, I was so worn out, not even a crematorium motor could keep me awake.