Guest blogger Norman Anderson is married to Marjorie and is a Catholic father of high schoolers Kevin, Marybelle and Hazel. He works as a claims adjuster at Skinner’s Insurance Incorporated. He attends St Martha’s Catholic Church in Adam’s Falls, North Carolina. Norman is a suburban hermit.

Friday is my birthday and I am experiencing the usual sense of frustration which occurs every year. This is because my wife Marjorie insists on buying me something. Over the years I have told her that I do not wish for a present and yet she still persists. In order to satisfy her wish to buy me a present I took up a hobby so that it would be easy for her to choose a gift. This attempt has not been totally successful for I now have to spend a good number of hours in the attic building a model railroad set which does not really interest me very much. I believe Marjorie has begun to suspect something because she keeps asking me “What I really want.” When I said that I really wanted the model town hall for my miniature village I suddenly had a twinge of guilt. Was it a lie? I am not sure if it counts as a lie if I said it with the intention of making Marjorie happy, and in a way it would be rather nice to have the town hall model because Kevin is taking an interest in the railroad. I think he would like the town hall model.

What I would really like would be a small electric heater to install in the treehouse. Over the years I have improved the single room of the treehouse so there is just enough space for a bed, a desk and a chair. Last summer I installed a windmill at the top of the tree and it generates just enough electricity to run a few lights. It is very snug there, but in the winter months it can be cold.

At the office Jeannine has started to call me “Normal” instead of “Norman.” She thinks this is very funny and when I come into the office in the morning she is the first to shout out, “Good morning Normal!” I also find this amusing. Jeannine is a good hearted person and she enjoys the laughter that comes from the office workers. Sometimes I senses that their bonhomie is somewhat artificial, but I don’t mind. The work is often tedious and stressful, so they are due some entertainment from time to time I suppose.

I really have become worried though about my birthday present. If I asked for the electric heater Marjorie would probably not be very happy. She think I spend too much time in the treehouse. “You need to go out a bit more!” she says. I have tried to do this, and I once took Kevin to the bowling alley, but the problem was that I could not summon much interest. Why does one need to wear special shoes? I have never understood that. Why are there so many different kinds of bowling ball, and it seems to be a waste of money just for the chance of knocking down the pins. Perhaps it is the way some people work out their frustration and anger.

We went to the bowling alley on a Friday evening and Jeannine was there with some friends. When she saw me she called out, “Yoo hoo, Norman!” and she was holding two bowling balls in front of her chest. She gave me a wink and the friends she was with laughed very loudly. Kevin was embarrassed but I told him they had probably had a few beers and it made them jolly. I can’t see that it did any harm. They were only being ribald.

One year for my birthday Marjorie took me to the shopping mall to find something nice. I did not enjoy the experience. It seemed to me that the shopping mall was designed to make people want more things. I felt uncomfortable. I would like to have fewer things, not more things. Life is already rather cluttered, and I felt like there were sinister forces at work in the mall trying to pull me in to desire more and more things. Marjorie sensed that I was unhappy and we left after buying two chocolate covered pretzels. One the way back to the car she asked me what I thought. I replied that I felt like I had been mauled. I think she did not understand my little joke.

Perhaps instead of the electric heater I could ask Marjorie for that nice icon of the Virgin I saw at the Catholic bookstore. I could put that on the wall of the treehouse with a crucifix. With a few candles it would make a very nice prayer corner. I think I will do that.

The other advantage to this plan is that if we shop at the Catholic store we will not bump into Jeannine. Marjorie doesn’t like Jeannine, so a meeting between them should be avoided.