Thursday, January 29, 2009

Smashing Butterflies

Her hair was long, hanging to the middle of her back in shiny soft waves. She often thought it was romantic the way her hair would cascade down the front of her bare chest, creating the mythical image of a princess waiting in an ethereal forest for her prince.

The romance continued as she lay on her canopied bed, closed her eyes and tuned in to the velvety voice of the DJ as he relayed promises of love from one listener to another. She lost herself in the music as Phil Collins begged for just one more night, as Whitney gave all her love and Air Supply ran out of love.

She hungered for romance. For the starry-eyed wonder that inhabited the faces of her friends. For the swirling butterflies, the racing heartbeat, the unicorns jumping over rainbows. She wanted it all . . . even the heartbreak. Yes, she'd take the heartbreak.

But instead she stood. Along the wall. Pulling her hair behind her. In front. Behind. Smoothing her skirt. Sniffing her wrists. Smiling coyly, hoping to catch his eye. Any eye.

No eyes. No catch.

The song ended. The couples broke apart and Kool and the Gang filled the air. She wrestled with her thoughts.

Am I ugly? Do I smell? Is my skirt too short? Too long? Is it my hair . . . she questioned everything. Something must be wrong.

Another slow song and she slowly headed toward the wall as one by one her friends were grabbed by pimply-faced boys with not-so-hidden agendas.

The wall.

She dreamed about the butterflies that she longed to feel bump into each other as she spread a coat of Cherry Chapstick across her lips, knowing that he'd like the taste.

But the wall was her only partner.

She thought about the butterflies. About taking them by their mocking little wings and smashing them against the wall. Watching them drop . . . one by one. Like stinging tears from swollen eyes.

The song ended. She threw her hair back as she headed toward the benches.

Head up high, she repeated to herself.

She hiked up her skirt out of defiance and yanked off her skates. Before pushing open the big metal door, she looked back. At the wall.

And she thought about the butterflies. For one last time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

PSF: Just live. Just play. Just be happy.

They were way too big. My mom's heels. But she slipped on an extra pair of socks and jammed her chubby toes into the wedge heels anyway. She shuffled across the linoleum, relishing in the clackity-clack sound. She sounded like a grown up. The sticky cheeks betrayed her. My little sister was barely out of toddler-hood when she realized the distinct advantages of adulthood. Height.

I'm certain my dad suffered from a rather intense form of OCD. He could walk into any room and spot a tiny piece of lint, a crumb or a hair. With laser-like focus, he would home in on the offending piece of debris and dispose of it. We were all amazed. My brother most of all. When my dad pulled out the vacuum, my brother would follow close behind with the popcorn push toy. He wanted to be a big man, like his daddy. Push. Pop. Push.

I remember my mom grabbing at the backpack I had slung over my shoulder. "What do you need this for?" she demanded. I was going skating, as in roller skating. My big-banged, electric blue-mascaraed, off-the-shoulder sweater secured at her waist with a pleather belt with a buckle as-big as-your-face wearin' friend was going with me. "It's just stuff, mom," I replied with the I'm-too-cool-for-this requisite teenage eye-roll. In a matter of mere seconds she pulled from the bag a mini-skirt (not mine), an off-the-shoulder-t-shirt (oddly, my mom's) and a mix-matched collection of Bonnie Bell. Busted. I was desperate to add a decade to my 14 years. I wanted someone to peel me away from the wall during the couples skate when some sappy Richard Marx song was sure to be playing. Now I didn't have a chance.

High heels. A "vacuum." Cheap make-up and a top made "for a hussy" (my mom's words). Desperate attempts to grab a piece of adulthood.

I never though I'd see the signs of such a pursuit in my plucky little 17-month-old . . . let's just take a look at the last few days, shall we?

He wants to be able to hang out in empty rooms by himself, just like a big boy. Closing the door is a sure sign of "I need my privacy." In only a few seconds, this poked out. Clearly, he misses me.

He's had enough of Velcro sneakers covered in Sesame Street characters. Or, he's just trying to show off his shoe-tying skills. With his mouth. Impressive.

Daddy left his CAFFEINATED DIET pop/cola/soda on the floor. J decided to help himself. I have no idea how much he sucked down . . . I just know it was a longer night than usual.

J decided that mama blowing his nose just, well, blew. So, he decided to practice. With an entire box of tissue. I knew he was being entirely too quiet (I mean, how much noise does tissue make?!?!).

J is all about making his own nutritional choices. There are at least a dozen or more on the floor (mixed with the crusty cheese bits, veggie "chicken" patty crumbs and who the heck knows what).

J is rather distressed over not being able to beat daddy's high score in electronic Yahtzee. And he wants the world to know . . .

Little man, this is your mommy. Stop it. Stop it right now. I know you want to grow up. I get it. I was once there myself. But for now, don't worry about bills, winning or losing, fat/calories, zits, impressing anyone, getting a job, doing homework, cleaning your room, finding a college, settling on a career, minding your manners (for now, even shoving your finger in your nose is still kinda cute. For now.), finding "the one," losing "the one," nose and back hair, bald spots . . . just don't worry. Not now. You have your entire life for all that nonsense.

Until then . . . take advantage of having someone else bathe, feed and dress you (you might not experience this again for about 80 years or so, and it won't be as fun). Let daddy hoist you on his shoulders and spin you around while he sings the greatest hits from the Bee Gees. Play hide 'n seek and giggle until your chubby belly hurts (or until your breakfast spills out onto the carpet). Let your mommy grab you and hug and kiss you until you can barely take it. Let us tuck you in at night, read you stories and tell you about all the amazing things you can do, will do, if you want. Let us carry the burden of worry, of fear. We will come in, rub your back, feel your soft breaths and bend down to whisper our love for you.

For now, little man . . .

Just live. Just play. Just be happy.

* * *

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Her Hands

I could hear her. I knew she was crying. She wasn't shy about her tears. She let them flow in sadness, anger, frustration. Her eyes were often full and reflective pools of shadowy emotions.

Her tears rarely touched me. There were just so many. A currency I could afford to waste. Yes. It was cold, heartless even. But I felt my icy retreat was one fraught with purpose.

But I knew that these tears were not meant to twist my emotions or force an action. "Mom, what's wrong?"

"I can't remember her hands," she stared down at her own, flipping them over. Palms up. Palms down.

I sat down on the bed next to her and took her hands in mine. "Mom, they looked like your hands." She looked up at me. Her eyes heavy from the burden of countless tears.

How long had my mother's mom been dead? How long had my own mother been refusing to live?

I wrapped my arms around her, remembering the scent of her hair (Clairol), the softness of her skin (old school Oil of Olay). I forgot the angry exchanges, the bitter emotions my heart had been bound in for so long.

I remembered the way her voice would carry into the cramped living room. Patsy Cline songs emerging from my mother's mouth as she dried dishes while her bare feet danced around on the tattered linoleum of our 60's style kitchen. I forgot the words of anger that spewed like venom from her lips and thought about the hurt that fueled her words.

My grip on the past loosened.

I remembered the way she would grasp my hair in her hands, gently pulling back loose strands with each stroke of the brush. She loved my hair. I loved her hands. I forgot about seeing her hands clenched in anger, ready to pound her fists in the histories that denied her peace.

I remembered the way her eyes would crinkle and her mouth would curl as joy overtook her. Her body would shake with happiness and pride as she drank in her children. She relished over who we were, who we would one day be. She was not shy about sharing her treasure with the world, much to our wary embarrassment. I forgot about her drowning in sorrow. Drenched in grief, she turned away from us. Walked . . . no, ran away from us. Maybe she was just trying to save herself.

And that's when I let go. The past, the hurt, the anger, the memories that left undeniable scars . . . all of it. Slipping through my fingers.

My mother carries the weight of memories from her own childhood that no one should have to bear. Yet, she held onto the joy, the love, the brief moments of perfection that the ornery woman with flaming red hair possessed. She loved her mother. In spite of it all.

Her hands. My grandmother's hands.

When I am home with my mother, I stare at her hands. I embrace them with my eyes, tracing each line and wrapping countless memories around each finger. I won't forget. Because now I know. It is about holding on . . . and letting go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Being Able to Jump

Grasping at the last bite of pancake, he pressed it between his fingers and tossed it behind him.

"I'm so sorry," I repeated to the couple sitting behind us. The man reminded me of Norman Mailer, but happier. He smiled, shrugged and said, "He's got a great arm!" Love this man.

Clearly J was done. I had spent what seemed like seconds eating my own meal while simultaneously grabbing straws from his pudgy little hands before he poked his eye out (I am becoming a mother, aren't I?), picked up soggy Cheerios and the mushy pancake strewn all over the table, apologized to our breakfast companions (they sorta asked for it since I told them I was perfectly fine eating alone with J, but they insisted) for the sneeze that no doubt christened their food with bits of milk and syrup, and trying desperately to keep J from styling his hair with maple gook.

I was exhausted. And that was just the eating, which was only half the fun. Getting out of the restaurant was an adventure, which is an understatement. With my hands gripping a jacket, purse, diaper bag, the bill, the tip, my little Crusoe decided to take off. Running, screaming (I swear there was a mocking "ha, ha, you can't catch me" undertone) he befriended every restaurant patron who would even dare glance his way. My little charmer. Me, smile, apologize, smile, apologize. There were a few times when I nearly had him in my grasp, but he was fueled by the laughter and "Oh, isn't he cute" comments that filtered through the air making his escape was inevitable.

He was performing.

And loving every moment of it.

Even though my little celebubaby showed his complete and utter dissatisfaction as I hoisted him on my hip and made my way quickly to the exit (being caught between two exiting customers gave me my chance), I felt a very weak sense of satisfaction.

Because I will admit. As much as I never want to be the mother with the out-of-control toddler, the one that causes chaos and distress to others (in other words, the toddler that draws often unreasonable ire from others and forces the mama to bear her claws), I love being the mother of a toddler who can't help but be happy. Who can't help but relish in the joy and attention of others.

Maybe because I have never been that way. Maybe because my "thriving in anonymity" philosophy is so challenged by his "HEY! Look at me!" personality. He commands attention without seeming to need it. It is so effortless. Stepping out behind him, I sometimes have to take a deep breath . . . and just jump. He makes me feel like there is nothing in the world better than just jumping.

I'd like to think that I have a realistic view of my little guy. That I don't think he's a perfect little genius, a prodigy who is extraordinary in every little way.

But I do think he is extraordinary. He is my perfect fit. I most definitely was nothing more than a bunch of mix-matched puzzle pieces sitting in the clearance rack before he came along.

Before him, before the mushy pancake, the constant chaos and the overwhelming exhaustion, I was OK. But now, I guess I just feel like I make sense. And being able to jump . . . well, that's an added bonus.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Zen of Toy Extraction

Seriously, how many twist ties, plastic bolts, tape pieces and cardboard parts are needed to package a toy? I just spent the last hour freeing a half dozen smiling large-wheeled cars from their box.

A dozen ties, a half dozen plastic bolts. Hmmm. Choking hazard. Methinks . . . yes. But that doesn't seem to stop 'em.

The cars are for a toddler. The packaging is meant as torture for an unsuspecting parent who wants to desperately push cars around on the worn Berber, dodging the broken and beaten Goldfish, the discarded wooden blocks . . . with her son.

Damn toy company. Seriously, where do they think the cars are going? There's no threat of escape, trust me. I needed scissors, a small screwdriver, bolt cutters (at least I thought I did) and a lot of muscle (I've been workin' out, ya know) to pry those cars out of the box! Dare I mention the moment when the box "accidentallty" flew across the room and hit the back wall behind the couch?

"What was that?!" T yelled from upstairs.

"What?!?" I responded knowing full well that he was referring to the huge crash he just heard from the living room.

I hear him make his way down the stairs. I scramble for the bent up box, find my place next to the screwdriver just as he comes into the room.

"The crash I just heard. That sound. What was it?" He's not stupid. He knows how I am. He knows that me along with scissors, a screwdriver and a box (we won't even discuss the fate of boxes that include more than one page of directions) usually involves the shouting of unique expletives ("fudge buckets"--don't ask) and ends with something being being thrown, stepped on, kicked. One day I'll have to tell you about the shoe rack I attempted to put together. Stupid shoe rack.

"Maybe it was J?" Sure, blame the sleeping baby. Coward.

I look up at him but he is already gone.

"It was probably the wind," he says as he makes his way back upstairs. Phew. Maybe he . . .
"Um, but if by chance you decide to put together his race track, could you please just wait and let me do it. I don't think the drywall can take it."


* * *
Some of you have e-mailed wondering where I've been. Well, you see. I (as in J) received quite a few things over the holidays. That came in boxes. With directions. And, well, let's just say I've been spending a lot of time at Home Depot picking up spackling paste. A girl likes to be prepared.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

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