The first thing I did upon returning to Iowa was run a bath.
(Warning: this post has nothing to do with having a baby)
(But then having a baby is not always all that interesting)
Well, actually, first we de-iced the car and went to get food and pick up Finn from the sitters, where he had apparently been taking advantage of being alpha-male-less to sleep on beds and jump up on couches. My rule with dogs has always been: they may sleep on the bed when I am cold enough that I think their body warmth will benefit me (does this mean I will be an awful mother?). Besides that, they are floor-dwellers.
So, I ran a bath and set up the computer on a stool and started an episode of Murder, She Wrote.
For Christmas, I got Marta a six-month subscription to Netflix; she got me a “bath set,” which includes a pillow made of the same material as nursing home mattresses, several “bath bombs” (which are best explained by Marta who makes wild bomb-throwing movements while describing their effects and whose accent, when she repeats the phrase “and then you throw a bomb,” makes the whole process seem more exciting than it really is), a candle, a bar of Iowa soap, and a wicker basket to hold it all.
Our hot water always runs out just before the bath is full, but last night I didn’t let that bother me. We had been in Tampa for ten days, ten lovely days, but also ten days of sleeping in my old high school bed, borrowing my parents’ car, and eating too much. I needed a bath.
I also, as it turns out, needed Murder, She Wrote.
There are some TV shows that you loved once but that, when you try to watch them again, give you that icky who-was-I feeling. Friends is like that for me. There are others that you loved, continue to love and will always love till-death-do-us-part. Like the Simpsons. There are the new, cool shows that you adore precisely because they are so new and cool: Breaking Bad, The Wire.
And then there is Murder, She Wrote.
In the tub, with my “mermaid” bath bomb fizzling all around me, I watched the episode when Jessica Fletcher agrees to be interviewed in Cabot Cove but then the TV anchor who is interviewing her turns up dead, but then it turns out he really isn’t dead but his TV station partner is dead and then it turns out that the chain-smoking, has-been reporter who is covering it all was the one behind it all. In this episode, as in many, Jessica is helping a poor female friend who is intimately affected by, but in no way suspected of causing, the murder.
After the bath grew cold, I climbed onto the couch with some Maria cookies and watched the one where Jessica Fletcher is locked in a woman’s jail. Marta was by this time already passed out on the other couch. Pregnancy is a sleeping pill.
It was halfway through the “Jessica Behind Bars” episode that I decided Murder, She Wrote was ingenious. The acting is atrocious, granted. The plots are ridunculous (if born into Puritan America, Jessica Fletcher would surely have been burned at the stake as a witch for “mysteriously” witnessing so many murders). And yet it’s one of the few shows I can find on Netflix that features a strong female lead who is decidedly not sexy. One who wears sweater vests. And yet is sharp as hell.
To boot, Jessica is almost always an ally of the other female characters and, in this way, Murder, She Wrote portrays a world in which women protect and support other women, rather than a Desperate Housewives rat-race of female friendship. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since reading this essay in Rumpus. As a women who has always had good friends, it makes me cringe to see the cruelty with which women treat their friends routinely in popular media (and, yes, in real life).
In the “Jessica Behind Bars” episode, Jessica goes to a female prison to teach a class on crime writing. While there, the prison psychiatrist shows up dead and then the prison goes into lockdown. The female prisoners revolt and resort to their own form of justice, which includes blaming the new prison warden for the murder. Jessica convinces them not to act too brashly and, in her sweater-vest way, works the group of gun-toating prisoners through the tiny clues until….they discover that it was actually the evil assistant prison warden who committed the murder. At which point the other women set down their arms, return to their cells, and all is calm and peaceful again. Jessica never breaks a sweat.
Around midnight, I turned off Netflix, licked the last of my Maria crumbs from the plate, and gentle nudged Marta towards bed. Finn followed behind. And went to lie on his bed on the floor.
Home sweet home.