I Think I Can

Kathie Gibboney

The dryer is making a noise. It is not a good noise, but sort of a grinding, labored sound. 

At one point it seemed as if it was chanting, “Buttigieg, Buttigieg, Buttigieg.” I wondered if the dryer knew something I didn’t, maybe a prediction, maybe Mayor Pete was going all the way. 

No, that wasn’t it. We’ve cleaned the filter and the exhaust hose which has resulted in no discernable improvement. Obviously, the machine is in need of repair, perhaps a new belt or motor, or hip replacement surgery. However, I am pretty certain it still has a brave heart in that I can now hear something new in its chug-a-chug sound. It’s saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

I, too, have taken the heroic words of The Little Dryer That Could, as my mantra in these current, calamitous times. The rain pours down like the dire predictions of doom and gloom. I am especially weary of the repeated old adage, ‘It’s only going to get worse before it gets better.” Who needs to hear that? Why even get up at all? Just pull the blanket up over my head and bring me some morphine or a big box of See’s Candy, the kind with nuts. It’s an ugly, useless axiom and should be retired along with the equally insipid and false, “This is only going to hurt a little.”

It hurt a lot to see our business at Shaka Shack Burgers dwindle and to attempt surviving on only providing take-out orders, before closing altogether.  It hurt to see the happy place in Topanga that is, Children’s Corner Play Center, have to close its welcoming doors, especially before I’d finished telling the exciting ending of my original masterpiece, ‘The Story of the Haunted Lunchbox’. Hello to all my friends there. Don’t lose your shoes and remember to wash your hands.

What really hurt, in addition to closure of the libraries, was not going to a pub to join the revelers all dressed in green and hear an Irish fiddle, pipe and drum, playing a foot-stomping version of “Dirty Old Town” or have my heart stopped by the amazing, otherworldly sound of the bagpipes. Faith and begorrah! We had some Irish coffee and stew right here at home as we practiced social distancing while trying to make merry in our own small way. But Saint Patrick’s Day is a communal holiday and I missed that ribald, Celtic comradery where the music gets under your feet and lifts you up, as I missed the sound of my father’s voice proclaiming, “And the top of the mornin’ to ya!”  

The most comradery I’ve experienced was a trip with my daughter to Trader Joe’s.  Miranda is home from Santa Cruz for spring break and beyond, which is certainly different then what she expected. I admit to being relieved that the mall is closed and we don’t have to share that grueling shopping experience, as I trail her through stores where I half expect security to stop me at the door and ask, over the blaring music “May we see your ID, ma’am? Sorry, just as we suspected, you’re too old to shop here. You’ll have to leave. Try the old lady section in Macy’s.”

At Trader Joe’s there is a short line, and everyone is patient and friendly. It’s actually a bit exciting, like standing in line for Splash Mountain under a sunny sky, but the sun glints harshly upon an array of sanitizers and wipes to use before entering and I take a deep breath, wondering how to buckle up for another kind of ride. I think I can, I think I can.

A stop at Ralphs is deceivingly comforting. It is not overcrowded and having not been there for a while, looks familiar, sort of like coming home. Now I see it with new eyes, as if I were Emily from Our Town, returning after death to visit a part of her life. The simple items for sale pleased me: “Oh look, pot-holders! Aren’t they wonderful! And pudding (remember pudding?), and kitty litter, and birthday cakes, how pretty.”

I linger in the flower section, seeing all the colors of spring on display and want to take them all home and fill our house with hope. In the Easter aisle I’m tempted to buy a whole bunch of jellybeans and a large chocolate bunny named “The Professor” (though professor of what I’m not sure), and a goofy, stuffed yellow duck, who makes me smile, as much as to say “*#xk you, COVID-19!”

One day I stay in a robe all day. It rains again and I wonder about all the homeless people and how vulnerable they are, with limited food, warmth and sanitation. Where do they get their toilet paper and why are people buying guns and ammunition? Are they going to shoot the virus? Maybe arm themselves in case they fear being followed home from Trader Joe’s and robbed of their hand sanitizer, Angel Soft, and guacamole? 

Kaiser calls and leaves an arcane message announcing that some member of our household is at risk for contacting the Corona Virus but neither of us has an underlying respiratory condition.        

“It’s you,” I tell The Beleaguered Husband.

“No, it’s you,” he counters.

I get a small cough during the night and dramatically imagine, “This is it. I got it.”  I come face to face with my mortality. I can see myself lying on a gurney under a tarp in the Kaiser parking lot with hundreds of others waiting for access to a respirator. Ahh, but it comes too late. “Good-bye cruel world. Adieu, adieu.”

Alas, I’d be denied a glorious funeral or festive wake, since gatherings are forbidden, but hopefully I’d get a nice obit in the Messenger Mountain News, since there’s not much else going on around town these days. Just hope they print a decent photo. 

The next day the cough is gone. However, a slight twinge of fear remains. My husband, after watching the news, turns to me and actually says, “You know it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.”

Although too lazy to be an alarmist, I understand the dire state of our world cannot be ignored but it is continuously evident and obvious like a splotch of red wine spilled on a pure white shag carpet. I don’t know what will happen, how to keep my children safe, when the money will run out, how many more family games we can play, how will our neighbors fare, will I cry on a Memorial Day Monday when I wake to no parade or Topanga Days celebration?

Then I remember something I tell the children. I don’t know how I know this or where it came from but I know it’s true: When something scary, some frightening thought gets stuck in your mind or imagination, if you but close your eyes, blow out, and command it, “Be Gone!”, it will have to go.

We all will still have to face what we have to face, and although not easy, we will do better without fear. So, I will bravely take on the myriad of home projects that I’d been so hoping to avoid. The organizing of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, the cleaning of my closet, rearranging the bureau drawers, taxes, and maybe, just maybe, even the garage. 

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

Be well, dear Topanga.


Kathie Gibboney

It has been said that Kathie Gibboney invented the Unicorn, which she neither admits nor denies, as it might reveal her true age. Kathie is an essayist, reporter, and poet for MMN with her column, "My Corner of The Canyon." She lives happily in a now-empty nest in Topanga, CA with The Beleaguered Husband and a marmalade cat.

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