No one likes Mondays. Starting on Sunday night, the blues start to creep in, warning you that a cloud of work is moving in, and is forecast for the next five days.
Monday is bad.
A rainy Monday is worse.
And, no offense to Cranston’s elected officials, but a Monday with a public meeting at the end of it, is the absolute pits. It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching government in action. After all, I majored in journalism. But Mondays feel long as it is, so when 5 o’clock rolls around and you’ve got another two hours to kill at the office before your workday, part II, begins, it seems endless. Once you’ve lived through enough 10 p.m., 11 p.m., and even midnight meetings, your brain is trained to dread any Council or School Committee docket that runs on to a third page.
This column isn’t about the rain cloud that is a long municipal meeting, though.
It’s about my secret weapon to combat the clouds – my personal umbrella, to complete the metaphor.
The Armstrong family.
Without fail, I convince myself on Mondays that I will use my two hours after the office goes quiet to be productive. I’ll get a jump on my stories for the next day’s paper, edit lingering press releases or write the PrimeTime stories that usually get pushed to the backburner until Friday.
That happens maybe once out of every 10 public meetings.
More often than not, I turn on the juice in the late afternoon, kick out a few stories for the Herald, spend a moment feeling overly proud of myself and then promptly fall into a stupor the second the non-editorial staff clock out, secretly resenting them for their fortune at choosing a 9 to 5 career (my mistake, I know). Sometimes, those two hours fade quickly away, with online shopping, Facebook and my new Herald obsession, Twitter. Other times, I roll down the windows, blast the music and drive over to City Hall early, giving me a second wind for some writing at the picnic table outside.
But often times, that time is filled by a much more entertaining hobby of mine. Since moving to Wickford, grabbing a quick dinner or an episode of “Criminal Minds” at my Cranston apartment isn’t an option anymore. Instead, I go to my home away from home on Delwood Road.
Laura Armstrong has been my best friend since the eighth grade, when we performed a dance to Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants” in the Aldrich Jr. High School talent show (the friends that lip sync together stay together). Her name is often dropped in this column. The unsung heroes of that friendship, however, are her parents, Marilyn and Phil and, if I’m lucky, sisters Katie and Jen. When I have time to kill, or when the Friday work bell rings, I drive over to the Armstrong house. Without knocking, I walk in and take my usual seat. I don’t say a word, and suddenly a glass of pinot grigio appears before me. It’s what Phil does. In a house with four women, he has learned well that if you want a happy wife, a happy daughter or a happy Meg, you pour their wine for them and anticipate when they need a refill without being asked. It’s like a sixth sense that he has. In the beginning, I think (I hope) I resisted, insisting that I could get my own drink. Now, it’s just the natural order of things. I am, after all, the fifth woman in his life.
Phil takes care of beverages, and Marilyn steps in on the food front. On this particular Monday, I could only stay for an hour, and yet chips were not enough. As soon as the bowl of chips arrived, she was halfway out of her seat to see if I wanted her to speed up the dinner process and get the chicken in the oven. No? What about the steak tips left over from last night? Those can be thrown on the grill and done in a few minutes. I was adamant this time that I had to go, but had it been a Friday, I probably would have become a stow-away on their trip to Rigatoni’s or stolen a slice or two of their pizza.
Katie and Jen are beneficiaries of the same hospitality (granted, theirs is a blood right), but if they happen to be sitting on the patio, the conversation is all the more entertaining, as they regale us with stories from their classrooms. Individually, the Armstrongs are warm and funny. Collectively, they deserve a reality show. They have their share of battles (it’s to be expected with that much estrogen in one place), but they’re also one of the closest families I’ve ever seen. It’s not holidays that bring them together – it’s Mondays (and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and Thursdays...). They spend their weekends together, are in constant contact with each other and, whether they want to admit it or not, are inarguably fond of one another.
Having party crashed this family for about 14 years, I can see why.
After all, City Council is an hour in as I write this, and I’m not even cranky yet.