29 June 2007

Seventh Inning Stretch

Tonight my family and I are all going to be at Comerica Park to watch the Detroit Tigers ball game. When I say family, I mean all of us--aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, close friends. If I could encase the memories of my youth in any form, it just might be a baseball.

I grew up playing and watching and living baseball. If the Tiger's weren't on the TV at night, they were on the radio. They were the topic of nearly constant conversation all summer, regardless of whether they were winning or losing, with everyone in my family. I could argue with my dad about who's hitting was killing the team and whose running was too slow, only because I could recall verbatim the conversation that I heard my grandfather having with my uncle.

Every summer, our family would pack up the station wagon and head to Detroit to watch a game or two. Back then, I can tell you, it was pretty much Hell on wheels. Let me paint you a little picture:

There were five, FIVE children, all pretty much two years apart. A 747 wouldn't have had enough space to stop us from fighting. I always say it was a good thing that mom didn't drink before she had us; if she'd known the wonderful effects of a glass of wine, there might be a clinic named after her.

The fights started before we even got in the car:

"I call window"
"I called window last night"
"You cannot call window the day before, it doesn't count"
"I stayed up until midnight and called window, so it counts for today"

Punching, hitting, crying ensued. Possibly one time, one of us slept in the car to claim the seat. I can't remember now if that happened, or if I just thought of doing it.

Dad: "Get in the goddamn car and stop your fighting. I'm going to paint all the windows black and then none of you will have a window. Now get in there and shut up. We're going to be late".

"Late". Let me expound upon "late" and my dad.

The man has never been late for anything, ever. Quite the opposite. However, we always needed to leave approximately two hours before the average person would think of departing. In his Quest to Not be Late, there were things that needed to be sacrificed. Things that most would take for granted on a daily basis, but things that we dreamed of, coveted, lusted after.

Things like rest areas.

Things like stopping to eat.

Things like talking above a whisper and listening to the radio. (For those of you that were unaware, apparently the higher the decibel of the sounds in the car, the more drag it creates upon the car, thus causing crucial seconds to be eliminated off of the arrival time)

I always pictured us arriving at Tiger Stadium and the scene from the security booth.

"What the hell? The game doesn't start for five hours" (Multiple members of the security crew tilt their heads to talk into their shoulder mics)

"Charlie, go check out that station wagon that just pulled in. Possible security threat. Who the hell drives around with their windows painted black"?

"Um, sir, possibly the local hospital is bringing over patients? They have just exited the vehicle, and are all hunched over, holding their nether regions and they appear unable to walk. How many wheelchairs do we have"?

But I digress.

What I want to say is that I wish we were all piling into that car again. Don't get me wrong. I love my children and my nieces and nephews and all that life has given us.

I just wish that there were a way to have one last trip like that, to take every single moment and memory and be those people again. Those people that argued over someone touching them and window seats and amused themselves by playing the alphabet game in sign language. I just want to go back for one moment and hug those people, kiss them, hold their hands one more time.

Because now, things are so different. Now we have younger generations rounding first and other generations warming up in the bullpen, and older generations walking slowly out onto the field in the bottom of the ninth. And I just sort of want us to all be in the same spot again..in the seventh inning, stretching our arms to the heavens and slowly swaying against each other.

Cause it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game.

26 June 2007

Postcard From the Edge

Dear Mom,

Thanks for the "vacation".

Yes, those are REAL TEARS in my eyes. Aunt A expects me to SHARE the boys toys with them. As in: I am not allowed to hold all of the ball gloves and the bat and the ball at the same time.

Yes, that is a do-rag on my head, and those are tiny braids under it. Funny you didn't mention I'd be forced to participate in the horrifying act of someone making me play with boys prior to me being shipped off.

However, my servant, did you know that some people have dinner which includes more than one or two items and those two items aren't oatmeal and milk?

Were you aware that some servant's stay home all day with their kids and don't shuttle them off to other castles at very early hours in the morning?

Did you know that when I spit out the melon that the substitute servant cut up for me and said, "Ewww" with that sweet little infliction on the "w" part of it, that her heart broke in the exact same spot that yours does and that she loved me so much in that moment that she thought she might die?

Were you aware that your love for me, which naturally runs so deep and so true (how could it not), is the same love coursing through Aunt A's veins?

I might be young and I might be small and I might be unable to articulate what I feel when I look at her with my bright baby blues, but it's love at it's most unrefined.

No wonder you cry when you read that note from her that she gave you all those years ago and sigh when you look at that picture of her on the fridge.

Because part of you wishes that you were me, cuddled up with her at night, swinging next to her in the sun, painting toe nails and contemplating how to whittle away a perfect summer day.

It's not so bad here, mom. It's not so bad at all.

I wish you were here. And I know you do, too.

Love, Little A

19 June 2007

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

I was touched by the many kindnesses that I encountered on a daily basis this week. Perhaps they were always there and I was too busy to notice, perhaps it was karma, making her rounds. I'm not sure, but I am grateful, and, I think, wiser.

People have done things for me that made me aware of all the good that is out there, even if I didn't want to see it because I wanted to huddle up in the dark forest I was in. And people have made me aware that sometimes it isn't the people you'd expect that came out looking for me, lanterns, blankets and first aid kits in tow.

Some of the searchers to whom I'm indebted:

The comments and emails I've received from all the people reading my ramblings have served as a constant reminder that compassion and empathy are some of the most important human elements. Please know that your words and the fact that you'd even take the time to write them to me meant so much.

The friends that came running on the drop of a dime; I'm still in tears that I mattered that much. Because it's easy, you know, to discount yourself and drown your sorrows in a pool of self-pity. It's impossible to do so when you are surrounded by such amazing people.

The night at the local sports bar/karaoke lounge (uh-huh, readers, it's the same) when unexpectedly so many laughs were shared and hands were held, thank you. For hugging me extra hard and not minding that I saw your tears when you did so, T, you rock.

The fact that you even considered putting your lawnmower in your car and mowing my yard for me--I'm still misty over it. I understand the screwdriver being the "uh, not so much" point, I honestly do. The fact that you were going to do it; I'm keeping that thought wrapped up very carefully and putting it on the top shelf where no one can take it from me, and where I won't lose it ever again.

D-For inviting the girls and I to a bonfire and then going to the pool with us the next day, even though it was Father's Day and I found out later that you didn't like swimming, thank you. H-For telling me that it was wonderful that you were there because your husband has a "soft spot in his heart for the girls", and for being the kind of woman that says it without jealousy or agenda, thank you. For having that spot for me and giving me the gift of knowing your family and friendship, D--thank you. I can't think of one thing that I'd have done to deserve your kindness, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

B-Thank you for everything; every scratched back, sex ed lesson, sunny beach days, 2:00 a.m. phone calls, thank you. You were my first sister.

For designing this kick-ass new site for me, for absolutely no reason at all, other than you saw a graphic and thought of me--Maggie--wow--I thank you! I was (and still am) floored that you did this for me. It takes talent to put all that I feel about the girls and my words into a picture. The Pawn, whose shadow is the Queen--how did you know?

What a week! In one week, so much kindness.

Thank you.

18 June 2007

Fathers: Act One

Yesterday morning in church, our minister reminded us to give thanks for our fathers, grandfathers, and those "standing in for fathers". His words caught me off guard; Father's Day is bittersweet for me.

I've been blessed by the father's in my life; my grandfather, cousins and close friends--wonderful, amazing men, all around. Big A's dad is her hero. I'm so glad for her that she has that type of security in her life and that she'll be able to open her album of memories someday and see such wonderful ones with her father in there. I've written before of how they share the same traits emotionally--they understand one another in ways that admittedly make me a little jealous; feeling like the girl standing outside the circle, wishing she were in it.

Then there's Little A. I wonder about the person "standing in" for her father...I suppose that person is me? I'm to the point now when people ask of her father, sometimes I say she doesn't have one, then ignore the look on their face as they await a further explanation. Other times, I've said he isn't with us anymore, but quit doing that when someone replied they were sorry--they thought that I meant that he was dead. Mostly, now I just say that he's not a part of her life, and leave it at that.

Right now, I'm the queen of her world, and it's good to be queen. What causes me worry (I can't help it, I'm a worrier) is what she'll do when kids are making Father's Day cards at preschool; is that when she will first ask? Will the first hint of something missing from her life be when they draw pictures of families, and she wonders aloud at the men represented? I know that at this moment in her life, she is happy and content and thriving. What I don't know is if that will be enough of a beacon to guide her through the darkness that is sure to come with not having a father.

Even when my closest friends ask me about him now, I am hesitant to speak; there is simply nothing left to say. I've accepted his leaving and the decisions that came with it; I don't ache for him at all; but I do ache for her.

I want to shelter her from the pain that his decisions will ultimately bring to her--for I believe within my heart of hearts that no matter what I give to her, it will only be natural that she will wonder of him. I don't believe that it will be a reflection of failure on my part if she feels something missing, I believe it will just be human nature.

I worry because she's enthralled by men. When she meets them, you can see her little face processing this person with a different voice and features. Already at this young age, I worry that intrinsically she feels a void, and is looking to fill it. You may tell me I'm crazy, but I know what I see.

We're fortunate in that we have the blessings of many good friends and family in our lives. I suppose that each of them, in their own form, is "standing in" to some capacity. My wish for her is that all of their love, so generously given, is enough to counter the unreceived love from a man that she will never know.

The definition of a stand-in is "someone employed to occupy an actor's place while the lights and camera are readied". I want her to know that the lights and camera have always been in place and that these stand-ins are far, far better than any actor ever could have been. They know the lines and have memorized the scenes and can bring down the house with their heartfelt performances.

And to the cast: my deepest thanks. All those roses being thrown on the stage are from me.

14 June 2007

Open Letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

A cold sore?


Fine. I know that I'm not supposed to consume citrus products. BUT it was only like four tablespoons of lemon juice AND I wouldn't have drank it with my water if my abdomen wasn't so bloated from PMS that it hurt to breathe.

The flat tire?


12 June 2007

Rest Area

I've been chain smoking and driving, and three minutes ago I threw a bottle of whiskey out the window and watched it shatter against a road sign.

Now I've pulled off to the side of the road while listening to, "and life's like an hour glass glued to the table, no one can find the rewind button dear, so cradle your head in your hands and breathe, just breathe".

While I'm here, I'll go ahead and cop to the fact that I don't actually smoke cigarettes, and that maybe once in my life I could have had a shot of something with Southern Comfort in it. I don't even toss gum out my window, let alone something that could shatter. Also, I drive a Mommy-mobile.

In essence, my writing is my driving and what I'm really doing is coping, because that is what I do. I can't be driving around like a drunken maniac with two kids in the back seat. They need me. Besides, Big A would have zero issues with contacting the appropriate authorities. ("Additionally, Judge, you might be interested in this little black book I've kept over the years. Yes, I also thought that categorizing the entries was an act of brilliance. It posed a slight challenge since some of the logs could definitely fit into one or more categories, but overall, I am glad you can appreciate the effect. I, too, love color graphs. Where do I need to sign"?)

Last night when I picked them up from the sitter, Little A was a disaster. She'd skipped her nap and had had an episode that day with her diaper and the contents there-of and the wall next to the crib she was supposed to be napping in. (One of the many reasons that you will never hear me say that I pay too much for day care. How do you put a price on that one?)

Little A was pulling her hair and trying to set herself free from her car seat, while Big A looked at her for a few moments.

Big A: Mom?

Me: Yes

Big A: Little A is a train wreck.

Me: Well, at least she comes by it honestly.

07 June 2007

Replacement Parts Not Included

On my way into work this morning, I got behind a red Ford Mustang, who was driving in the "fast" lane. Except he was going less than fast. I have a couple of theories about cars and the stickers that people put on them:

1.) If you put a NASCAR sticker on your car, you must go at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

2.) If you are driving what would be classified as a sports car, you are not allowed to drive in the fast line while toodling at the speed limit.

When we approached a stop light, I took the opportunity to switch lanes and pull up next to him. I looked over at him, all set to take a glance and put him in the file that I'd created for him:
"Small Penis, Toupee, Gold Jewelry". Instead, when I made eye contact with him, my heart lurched. What I saw in his eyes wasn't a fifty year old leering at me, it was Panic, shaken, not stirred with Sadness. I smiled at him and tried to give him a look implying that things would get better. Sometimes hope in the smallest form can save you.

I imagined the forces that brought him to that brand-spanking new Mustang that he didn't feel comfortable driving. Midlife crisis? Boredom in the bedroom? Freedom looking shinier than bikes with streamers and smatterings of soccer balls, hula hoops and stray shoes across the yard?

Funny the emptiness that comes with the purging of the familiar in the Quest for Something Better. Who'd have guessed that maybe there was nothing better than a minivan with car seats, Disney DVD's, old french fries and a familiar face reclining in the seat next to you?

06 June 2007

Crack and Whack

S and I share a great friendship, but this isn't a post about that. It's a post about our daughter's, Big A and H, and the friendship that they share.

Big A is 9, going on 43. She'd skip the fun, partying, learn-from-your-mistakes years because that's not what she's made of. H is 10, going on 44. She's going on 44 because she's a tad older than Big A and logically, that is how it would work out. Because they are logic people. Which is why I worry about how S and I being the type of people that we are will affect them long term.

The instant that Big A and H met, they loved each other. After playing with H for an hour, Big A said, "Mom, can you believe that I met a new best friend"? Big A and H aren't the type to cozy up to new people and make friends with wild abandon. They are the type to make a mental list calculating a person's faults and deducing if it's worth their effort in the long term to proceed with a friendship.

It amazes me that in this world of so many, they found a match to their souls at such a young age. For FUN, they took Big A's sea shell collection (over 50 shells) and made up scientific sounding names for each shell, along with definitions and the correct pronunciation. When I was 9, for fun I was tying my sister's shoelaces together or trying to teach the dog to jump through a hula-hoop.

Part of me is terrified that they have one another, mostly because I'm sure that I'm not on my toes enough to catch onto something that they might be planning. They are without a doubt smart enough to pull of major acts of whatever they want, and I think they are on the cusp of realizing this. They asked me to come out to the garage the other day to see something they found. It was the oil pit. They removed boards from the cement floor to find the pit under them.

"What is this"? They asked.

"THIS is very, very dangerous and you must never, ever go near it again. What would possess you two to pull boards off of a floor? Go play in the sun".

"You could put things in there". I looked around nervously for an escape route. They are faster than me.

"Unless you two want to be at the bottom of this thing screaming for help, you will NEVER remove one of these boards again. Understood"?

A quick glance between the two came before the "Yes".

(Note to self: find someone to nail boards into concrete and never let my cell phone leave my pocket.)

One day while S and I were running around, I said, "What are Crack and Whack doing"? We started laughing, and the nick-names stuck. "Probably fixing the plumbing in the basement" was the response. The thing is, she was only half kidding. Are you people aware of the things you can check out of a library?

There are the emails between each other. (Yes, I read them. A good mother does, right?) They love one another so purely and simply and innocently, it breaks my heart. If they go a couple of days without seeing each other, they become sullen and petulant and aren't sure how to explain the ache inside or to verbalize the anxiousness, but they don't have to, I understand.
I, too, have loved to the point of breaking.

Saturday night, Crack and Whack were showering and then went to camp out on the sofa to watch the Discovery Channel's special on psychic detectives. I went into the bathroom after them and noted that they had used nearly an entire bottle of soap, and that there was pink shaving gel everywhere. I asked S if H was shaving her legs yet and pointed to the evidence. "I don't know, good question". To which she marched out of the room and down the stairs, despite the fact that she was in the middle of getting her pajamas on.

She came back a couple of minutes later to assess the damage.

"What did you do"? I asked

"I told H to let me see her leg".

"What did they do"?

"They asked why and finally I just grabbed her leg. They aren't shaved".

"Why did they have out the shave gel"?

"I didn't get that far. They wanted to know what the deal was with my underwear".
(Note to self: When attempting to level with Crack and Whack, don't wear thongs.)

"How do you think life looks from that couch for them"? I asked S. "Seriously, their science experimenting, fault tabulating, detail-oriented minds must go crazy with us for moms". ("Um, S, it's Saturday, doesn't H have a soccer game"?)

While I was cleaning the kitchen, I overheard them discussing their nicknames.

"Which one of us do you think is Crack"?

They ran down and outlined the logic, then decided that it didn't matter, because they were really the same, and if they asked their moms, they probably wouldn't be able to answer it, either.

Yes, you are the same. And I'm so glad that at such a young age, you know this and you understand that love comes in all shapes and sizes and endures through boys and frogs and sisters and moms that appear crazy and don't appreciate honest comments.

I'm so glad that you know about the type of friendship that will endure a lifetime and that you are the type of people that you are. Because I'd imagine that at some point when you are picking out nursing homes, S and I are going to appreciate the detail-oriented thing.

04 June 2007

Seven Things

I've been tagged by PDX Mama to list seven things about me....while I appreciate the nod, I apologize in advance for the lameness. I also promise to post something different within twenty four hours, something of more interest, perhaps a picture of a fourteen year old black dog with white stripes of primer painted on her.

1.) I love music. The problem is that the music that I love is mostly comprised of what many might classify as "bad" music. Anything from the 80's--bring it on. Some of my "signature songs" that you'll find on almost any cd I burn for people:

  • "Joey" (Favorite line: "And if you're somewhere drunk and passed out on the floor, Joey, I'm not angry anymore")

  • "Mandy" Yes, that "Mandy" (Favorite line: The entire song, with the volume maxed out)

  • "Elderly Woman in a Small Town" (Favorite line: "I just want to scream, 'hello', my God it's been so long, never dreamed you'd return")

  • "Anna Begins" (Favorite line: ""If it's love," she said, "then we're going to have to think about the consequences." She can't stop shaking I can't stop touching her and... This time when kindness falls like rain It washes her away and Anna begins to change her mind "These seconds when I'm shaking leave me shuddering for days," she says And I'm not ready for this sort of thing")

2.) I taught myself how to French braid using a doll and directions from Lady's Home Journal when I was ten.

3.) I cannot look at a piece of meat without thinking of the animal that once was. I wish that I were built differently most of the time, because sometimes, I really, really crave steak, or grilled chicken, or salmon, but I just cannot bring myself to eat it.

4.) Someone once convinced me that it was not Eddie Vedder on stage prior to a concert and talked me into not going up there to chat. She knows that I will inscribe this on her tombstone if she leaves this earth before me. However, I did once convince her that her ankle was not broken and insisted that if she just continued to drink more, she'd feel fine.
My bad.

5.) I love sports. Love to play, love to watch, love to read about them.

6.) Fall is my favorite season. The smell of the leaves, the temperature of the days, the way the Queens laugh when they are playing in leaves. Those are perfect days to me.

7.) At the end of each day, I still say my prayers, no matter where I am or who I'm with.

My Fault

After a detailed five minute review of the rules of priming with Big A and her friend H, I let them loose with paintbrushes and primer. Some of the rules included:
  • Do not paint each other
  • It's o.k. if you drop paint on the floor, but don't try to
  • Don't glob the paint on
  • Do not, under any circumstances, leave this room with the paintbrushes
  • The windows do not need to be painted
  • Nor do the electrical outlets
After believing that I had covered the major points and left little room for error, the dog showed up with stripes of primer on her black coat.