Posted on | August 4, 2014 | 1 Comment
In a cyclical turn of events, one of my co-workers has just returned from maternity leave this morning. As I watched her hold back tears as she unpacked a box of framed pictures, I couldn’t help but remember when my own maternity leave was over and I found myself robotically re-entering the work force while my child spent time away from me for the first time.
I say cyclical, because just this weekend it occurred to me how old my son is now, with his lanky legs and messy hair. He spends much of his time away from me now, learning math and science and English and… well… life. He is tall and gangly and full of attitude and honestly, he is as far removed from the baby he once was as I ever thought he’d be… though hopefully not as far as he will one day be.
As my co-worker muddled through her last weekend at home with her sweet baby boy, I muddled through a weekend of my own, entering into uncharted territory with J. At nearly five, he is desperate to read, spending every waking minute (that he isn’t watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) staring longingly at words on a page. He is so desperate to read.
And you guys… he is getting there. Each sounded out syllable and carefully twisted sound is coming faster now, as he learns that sometimes the “a” is “ah” and sometimes the “a” is “ay.” I feel so proud even as each word moves him farther away from the safety of babyhood, from the safety of… well… me. Soon, he won’t want to snuggle up with me as I read to him. Soon, he won’t want to snuggle up with me at all, opting instead for a flashlight and book the way I did as a child. Soon, I hope, he will be whisked away into the wonderful world of books, where everything is magical and there is no need for me.
Parenting is such a power struggle between what you want for yourself and what you want for your child. Because, for me… I want my son. I want him to need me as much as I need him. But for my son, I want the opposite. For my son, I want freedom and a life well outside my arms. I want him to experience his own life, his own heart… and it feels like reading is just the first step on a long path of moving away.
So I hugged my co-worker this morning as she wiped away stray tears. I hugged her because I understand that longing… that overpowering need to be near the person you love most. I understand feeling that so much of your heart is somewhere else, experiencing something else… being someone else. And it is painful and beautiful all at the same time. I hugged her because she is suddenly the closest thing to my own experience, my own desire to keep my son small and with me, even as I yearn to watch him spread his wings and fly.
So though my heart longs to have him near, like my co-worker, I will satisfy myself with an office, a lifetime, full of pictures. Because more than anything, I want my son to be free. And reading has always been my own freedom… I hope it will one day be his as well.
Posted on | July 31, 2014 | No Comments
A week ago, a story hit the news here in Macon that sent me back to a place I’ll never forget.
If you’ve been here for a while, you know that when I was 18 I lost a 17 year old friend in a terrible accident. And you probably remember that I blamed myself for that loss for a very, very long time. That was many, many years ago but I can remember it like it was yesterday, although the pain now is less like knives and more of a dull, broken heart-song for the innocence I lost that night. Late last week a headline flashed across my phone that took my breath away… a 17 year old girl was killed in a one car automobile accident. The car was driven by her 18 year old boy friend.
Immediately, I felt my heart catch in my chest and my first instinct was to run full speed, not towards the parents of the girl who died, but towards the other parents; the parents of the boy who lived. Those parents who also lost their child in the accident. Those parents who, unlike hers, took their son home from the hospital only to probably find that he was not their son anymore… not the one they knew just last week.
It is for that family that my heart breaks because I have been a part of that family. I have lived in those walls, watched those minutes and hours tick by. I can not fathom the hurt of losing a child the way that young woman’s mother has. I can not bear to let myself feel that horror… but I have lived through horror, too. I have lived those moments when you wake in the morning and think for just one brief second that everything is okay… that everything is just as it was only to have the very breath of you ripped away when you realize it isn’t the same…. when you realize it will never be the same. I have lived that moment, at 18, when you go from being invincible to very, very small and inexplicably alive when you just know… you just 100% know that you aren’t supposed to be.
I have lived through knowing that the wrong person lived, that the wrong person died.
At eighteen, I believed the wrong person who lived was me.
At eighteen, I watched my parents struggle to mend a heart they couldn’t touch. I watched as my mother tried to stitch my heart back together with the weight of her worry and concern, watched as my father tried to glue my tattered soul with his harsh and rasping words of love. I know what it is like to be broken by all of the “what ifs.”
Eighteen is too young to die, yes.
But eighteen is also too young to feel responsible for death.
And so this morning, I said a silent prayer, not for the family of that young girl… though they need all the love and prayers anyone can muster. My prayers, instead, were for the eighteen year old who lived… prayers that he would own his life for what it is: a gift, even if it’s one he doesn’t think he wants. I prayed that he would know it wasn’t his responsibility… that not one single one of us holds the power of life and death in our hands. I prayed for his parents; that they can find the strength to sit beside their son as he grieves, to intertwine their hearts with his as he heals… even as he rebels against the healing… even as he rails against God and the universe and yes, of course, against them. I prayed they find the strength to let him be angry and sad and mortified by his life… by the sheer unworthiness he may feel in every breath he takes. I prayed he would remember that being broken is not the end, even when it feels like it… and that there is life after heartache, even when it seems unfair. I prayed he would find the courage to weep and strangle out words into the universe that THIS IS NOT FAIR… because those words just can’t be kept inside. Those words just shouldn’t be kept inside. Not when you’re broken. Not when you’re eighteen.
Mostly, though, I prayed for his parents, that they would find the strength to hold him together… the way my parents held me… even as he struggles to break apart.
Posted on | July 30, 2014 | 3 Comments
I have a confession to make: I have lived in Macon, Georgia for the better part of 10 years and as of July 25th, 2014, I had never been to Bragg Jam.
Yes, I know… this is a tragic misstep which was corrected on July 26th, 2014, when Banks and I loaded up the car and drove J down to the Kid’s Fest portion of the festival, held right downtown at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (Which, coincidentally, is another place I’ve never been.) Before I start in on what I thought of Bragg Jam, let me just extoll all the awesome that is the Sports Hall of Fame.
You guys… I never knew this place had so much awesome!! My kid didn’t want to leave. He kicked field goals, he threw footballs, he shot baskets and practiced balance. In short, he had an amazing time. I’d have to say that being in the museum was definitely his favorite part of the day, mostly because I refused to buy him Italian Ice before lunch. Sorry, buddy.
The kid’s festival was pretty sweet, to be honest, though it would have been more fun for J if I’d realized that it was all about the water. They had a blow up water slide and the fountains were going full steam and he was pretty darn miserable that I’d forgotten his swim suit. Next year, I’ll be better prepared because all the other kids looked to be having a great time! They had face painting (which J hates), a “pretend to be a rock star” booth, and lawn games like corn hole and horse shoes for the kids to play. By the time we left, the front walk way was covered with chalk art and there were hula hoops scattered everywhere. In short, it was like kid explosion. If it hadn’t been for the failure to purchase said Italian Ice, I would have had a happy kid when we left, and if Mac the Cheese Food Truck had opened before we left… well, I’d have been one happy momma, too. Even though he wasn’t happy on the way home, the best thing I can say for our morning adventure is that it flat out wore. him. out. And I got this absolutely precious gem of a picture out of it:
After mandatory rest time, we got dressed and ready to actually experience a little bit of Macon night life. I don’t do this enough, y’all. Usually, I’m in my PJs before seven o’clock and let’s face it… that’s both sad and awesome at the same time. One of our local restaurants, Twang, was holding all ages shows and we figured that was the best place to delve into Bragg Jam because, well, we didn’t have to spring for a sitter and we could eat dinner while enjoying the show. Plus, added bonus, I knew a few guys in the band that was playing at 5:45 and that meant the ability to snag not only band-backed selfie’s with friends, but also frame worthy shots of a certain local attorney turned bad ass guitar player.
The band was actually good, too, which … I’ll admit… was a little surprising. I’m not sure what I expected from the Savannah Alday Band, but it wasn’t what I got. What I got was a couple of hours of country rock with a bit of unexpected swagger from the sixteen year old singer and her band. They covered a ton of songs my table knew and even a few that I knew, too, including Hotel California and Sweet Child of Mine. It may be WELL before her time, but this chick could rock out to Guns and Roses, even though I could have done without the Eagles cover. (Some things just can’t be redone well.) All things considered, I think I’d even buy their CD… she had this sort of powerful throaty growl to her voice that reminded me of Kelly Clarkson with obviously a bit more of a country spin.Halfway through the show, my son tugged on my arm with a star struck look in his eyes and when I leaned down he whispered “Look. At. Her.” pointing to the singer. Guess he was a fan, too, Miss Alday.
With a rockin’ show and kid fingers for my kid, I’m proud to say that we not only survived our first foray into Bragg Jam… we actually loved it. Banks and I even flirted with the idea of staying out longer and dropping J off with a sitter… but that didn’t last long. Keep it simple the first time, you know? We were still home and in PJs by eight and I can finally say I’ve been to Bragg Jam.
And so can my little rocker, J.
Posted on | July 24, 2014 | 10 Comments
Last night, I was feeling pretty low and I did something I haven’t done in far too long. I got out a thick, old book, one I hadn’t cracked open in some time but that was still stained with tears and highlighter and notes in the margin. It’s been read most all the way through so many times that I can’t remember and yet it’s been many years since I’ve felt the familiar tissue paper lightness of it’s pages.
I flipped to the middle, losing myself for a while in the familiar cadence of lines and rhythms… words I’ve read so many times that I thought they’d lost their meaning… only they haven’t.
I lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Doesn’t it just sound like something you could tuck under your chin and use as a blanket to keep you warm for always? Don’t the words just roll off your tongue like the smooth richness of chocolate?
I lift up mine eyes to the hills.
And so that’s what I did last night, after losing myself in Psalms for the better part of an hour. I sat alone, forgoing my usual Wednesday night So You Think You Can Dance (don’t worry, I recorded) and just … lifted my eyes.
Because so much of the lowness and sadness and depression that seems to bounce off and around the world comes from the fact that it seems we’re all wandering with our eyes down. We don’t lift them to see the beauty, the glory, the wonder that is all around us.
When was the last time you lifted your eyes? When was the last time you really saw what was around you and realized that, for all it’s imperfections it’s life. This world we live in, this planet is so full of beauty and of life. It is heartrendingly beautiful, isn’t it? If you think about it. I mean, the fact of flowers alone is pretty miraculous. There are clouds that end up shaped exactly like a poodle. There are trees that grow so close together that their branches become entwined in an almost eternal embrace and that, my friends, is amazing. That is beautiful. It’s easy to get lost in the sadness around us; the hunger, the war, the violence. But there is so much beauty, too. And by focusing on the beauty, it is so much easier to work on what needs work.
That is the help that comes, when you lift up your eyes.
I often feel like I’m spinning my wheels, wondering what it is that I’m doing that carries any meaning at all. I often wonder, as I did yesterday, that I’m doing it all wrong somehow. But last night when I creased the pages closed and lifted my eyes, all I saw around me was good. My little mismatched house that had seemed so dirty only hours before now seemed to reflect a fullness of life… crumbs signaling there’s enough to eat… there’s too much to eat because every crumb doesn’t have to be savored. Dishes in the sink could be easily disposed of in that wonder of a machine called a dishwasher and there was hot running water to clean them and it wasn’t going away any time soon.
There are hungry people in my city. There are children who are starving. There are women who are being abused. There are men who can not pay their bills unless they resort to crime. And all of these things break my heart in a way I could never put into words. And sometimes it gets too much. Sometimes I get bogged down in the sadness and I feel as though there will never be enough of me to fix the broken in the world.
But when I lift up mine eyes, I see that the trees in my yard are tall and strong, the grass soft beneath my feet. I can travel only three hours east and find myself in the vast wonder that is the rolling tides of the Atlantic Ocean and if you want to understand the magnificence of this world and who created it, go there.
So very often I feel small and insignificant. So often I feel lost and confused and wander about wondering what I can do, what can I do, to make this Earth better. But last night it came to me in a rush of warmth and the sweetness of silence. I am not small and insignificant. I am not alone. And if I can just remember to keep my eyes open to the beauty that is around me, all will be right.
For when everything seems too much, I can lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Posted on | July 23, 2014 | 2 Comments
I’m a worrier by nature and by nurture, spending much of my quiet time running through disaster scenarios in my head and wondering if I’ve done enough to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Okay, not really on the zombie bit, but I do worry about a lot of things. A LOT of things. And though it’s ingrained in my nature, I try to keep it at bay with a little blue pill and a reminder to myself that what will be, will be… regardless of whether I think about it beforehand.
It doesn’t always work, but I try. Most of the time if I’m pushing down the worry, it gets replaced with complacency… a steady roar of boredom spiced slightly with the disdain of how far I’ve traveled from the person I thought I would be.
Since December of 2008, the majority of my worries have centered around the growing person inside or outside of me. I’ve worried about his scrapes and bruises, his words and emotions, and worried probably most of all about the effect my worrying might have on him. Sometimes I worry that I overcompensate for worrying by acting as though I’m not worried at all which … of course… worries me. I’m like a viciously worn set of rosary beads in the hands of a semi-sane Sister.
See, my son was blessed and cursed with a soul that doesn’t just exist… it FEELS its existence. He is up and down and all over the place the way I must have been as a child… the way I am as an adult. And every time I hear him talk to the television screen and say ‘Why is that coyote doing that? That’s not very safe, is it?” I wonder what I’m raising him to be. I wonder who I’m raising him to be. I wonder if I’m raising him to be, well, me. Shell-shocked and subdued from the roller-coaster youth I once was. I once felt my existence the way he does… drinking in the sun with the understanding that only children seem to have that every. day. is precious. Every day should mean something more than just another day.
Most days now, I’m so bogged down with the legal lined pages of our lives that I don’t pay attention to what comes next. Most days I just want to survive from sun up to sun down without losing my patience at the house or dog or child or career. Most days, I’m just… moving through it all. So when I finally do stop and survey the life we’re living, it terrifies me. I find myself in a cold sweat, wondering how on earth we got here and where on earth we will go next.
Because this isn’t really living, is it? This worrying constantly… this spinning and spiraling through dirty laundry and dirty dishes and dirty floors. It’s not life, the way it should be lived… or is it? Because maybe that’s my greatest worry… that somehow this is all there is. This get up, go full speed, lie down, repeat… this is all there is to the minutes and hours and days of our lives. I don’t want my son to survive… I want him to thrive. I want him to spread his arms wide and embrace every second of every day.
The way his mother does not. Anymore.
The way his mother can not. Anymore.
Because my life is here, boxed into the corner I call home, wading through the whine and whimsy of other people’s lives. My life is here, dipped and displayed amongst the books and diplomas and yes, the debt.
But maybe I can be different. Maybe today will be the day I put aside the worry about the money and embrace the dreams I once tended with love and ferocity. Maybe today I can set aside what people say is right… push it down into this box of a life and tape it closed with the sticky threads of my worries.
Maybe today I can watch my son, learn from his carefree abandon, embrace his wide-eyed wonder at the miracle that is the sun rising another day. Maybe today, I can remember how it feels to really live.
Posted on | July 17, 2014 | 3 Comments
As the days creep and whirl past, I watch him grow inch by inch and foot by foot. Sometimes he blows me away with his sheer bigness… his ability to not be in a crib, to not be in diapers, to not be lying on his back kicking his feet and cooing at the flash of colors or the whirr of the fan. Some days it is the opposite and I find myself basking in the reminders of his smallness… the dimples beneath his fingers and the lisp in his words. Some days I am too busy to be either, chasing him here and there, trying to catch up to the little boy who is my heart on legs. Some days I long for those moments of clicking him safely in the car seat, or high chair, or stroller… knowing with the click and pull of straps that he was secure and safe.
When you have a baby, you don’t… you can’t understand what they will do to your heart. You can’t process the tug and pull and ache of being both near and far from them. I think back to the days when I would rest my hand on my stomach, feeling the pulse of life beneath my palm and truly knowing he was safe and close and watched over. Now, he is his own person, his own rough and tumble boy and there is no bubble wrap strong enough to protect either of us from his rowdy embrace of the world.
I’ve watched him grow so very much in the past five years; from the click of his smallness in a rear-facing car seat to the click of his toddler wriggle into a running stroller. I’ve held him in the safety of my arms through so very much. And with each day that passes, I’m all too aware that my days of holding him in my arms are fading. I’m all too aware that each time I let him down by being human more than the all-powerful mom he believes me to be I am pushing him farther out into the world where others will step in and wrap their thoughts and words and arms around my son. As they should. Theirs will be the more accessible, the more acceptable arms and smiles as he grows.
So I try to busy myself with steadying the foundation of the home around me, the base of our lives together thus far, building and reinforcing the warmth of this safety net I want him to know is always there. I let him run and play and be the boy he is designed to be, knowing that each day draws him further from this nest I have created for the two of us. But when I pick him up from school each day, my eyes drift up to watch in the rear view mirror as he pulls his seat belt on and clicks it with precision. Gone are the days when he needed me to fasten his pants or shoes or seat belt. Gone are the days when he needed me to lift him up into the car or tuck him safe into his seat. Yet as it was when he was small, it is still that metallic click of his seat belt that lets me know he is safe… he is home, again. And I know that from the moment he was born until the moment I take my last breath on this earth, I will always be waiting for the familiar click of metal that says he is safe. No matter where he is.
Posted on | July 16, 2014 | 2 Comments
Before J became mobile, I didn’t really realize how good I had it. Yes, I was sleep deprived. Yes, there was a lot of poop and a ton of spit up. Yes there were LOTS of tears. From both of us. But there was also this unspoken understanding that I could put his tiny self down in a crib and walk away. Just for a moment. Just for how ever long I needed to clear my head.
Once he started moving, all of that changed. And now when I look at my life with an almost five year old, there are so many MANY things I will never take for granted again.
1. Peaceful showers. When he was a baby I complained about showers. You know, “I never get to bathe!’ and all that stuff that new moms go through because we’re too scared to put the baby down for ten minutes to clean ourselves. But now, showers are an entirely different experience. Long gone are the days of sweet relaxation while hot water pounds your flesh. Long departed are the moments of aromatherapy and steam. Now, what I have is a rush to the bathroom, a slinging off of my clothes and a prayer that I get half a minute before it begins. And by “it” I mean the noises.
There are loud crashes that send you, towel wrapped and dripping wet into the living room, only to find that your child has stacked all his toys on top of each other and is using a soccer ball to sling at them in a rousing and awkward game of “Duck, Duck, no seriously DUCK!”
There are blood curdling screams of “MOM!” that make you jump out of your skin for fear that a kidnapper has begun the abduction process, run naked from the bathroom only to be sweetly asked: “Can you get me some juice?” And then there are the moments when he just comes in, flings open the shower curtain and asks me what I’m doing. Because… you know… he couldn’t deduce that from the running water and my presence beneath it.
2. A clean sofa. When I bought my sofa a few years back, J was just a wee little thing and I thought it would be a great addition to our house. It was sort of a brownish color which I felt would hide dirt, and it had velcro cushions so I could easily move the pillows from the back. What I didn’t realize was that the seat cushions were not velcro. Nor do they remove. Nor does brown effectively hide the weird juice stains and “Whoops” stains. Also, because they don’t come off, I’m constantly shoving the vacuum attachment down into the crevices and hoping that whatever it is that makes that loud crackling sound as it’s sucked up doesn’t have a face. There are crumbs and stains in places that nature and furniture makers never intended. And honestly, there’s just not a damn thing I can do about it. But I do miss the days of a sweet smelling place to lie down and watch television.
3. Watching television. Speaking of television… do they still make those primetime shows? You know, the ones that aren’t animated or come with a catchy theme song about how great it is to be three? Because I wouldn’t know. I haven’t watched a television show that didn’t come on Disney Jr, Boomerang, Sprout, PBS Kids, or Nick Jr. since 1976. And if I did, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to handle not having it ask me questions that I need to answer. (YO! HO! HO!).
4. Walking barefoot. Whatever you do, do NOT walk barefoot in my house. It’s like a Bosnian mine field. There are tiny legos everywhere. There are plastic swords the size of toothpicks. There may or may not be a smear of peanut butter from when J dropped his sandwich and assured me that he cleaned it but didn’t tell me where he dropped it. And did I mention the legos? Sidebar: Why do they even make clear legos? Is it a consipiracy to eff with your mind? Like “Oh. It’s not enough that we make these in gray and black and primary colors. What would TOTALLY rock is if we made them clear and miniscule and like little rocks of sadism that will lodge between adult toes and cause agonizing pain!” Regardless… if you’re barefoot in my house, you are taking your life (or at least the well being of your feet) into your own hands.
5. Being Classy in Public. Maybe this is a boy thing. I don’t know. What I know is that I have always been big on putting your best foot forward in public. In my prior life as a non-parent, this clearly did not include loud and lengthy conversations about the color of the Incredible Hulk’s penis, what my fart smelled like the last time I farted, or what would happen if you step on poop with “naked feet.” No lie, the last time we went to Publix and they handed J two green circle stickers, he proudly slapped them on his T-shirt and yelled out ‘LOOK AT MY BOOBS!!!! LOOK AT MY BIG GREEN BOOBS!!” And then he, and the bag clerk, and probably every other boy in a 5 mile radius, cracked up laughing.
Maybe one day, I’ll go back to Publix, after walking barefoot across my floor, to pick up wine to watch on a clean sofa after taking a long, uninterrupted shower. Maybe one day. But for now, I guess I better brush up on my anatomy, get another pair of flip flops, and counsel my kid on what constitutes and emergency worthy of interrupting a shower.
Posted on | July 15, 2014 | 2 Comments
“She’s probably a lesbian.”
In my high school years, I heard that a lot. I heard it from guys and girls. I heard it whispered and muttered and snidely remarked behind open palms. I wore a lot of baggy clothes. I played basketball. I often wore ball caps when I wasn’t in school and yeah, I listened to the Indigo Girls. I didn’t have my first mani/pedi until well after college was over and I didn’t do anything to my hair on school mornings except maybe run a brush through it because I didn’t really know what to do with it in the first place.
“She’s probably a lesbian.”
My best friend had an older sister who told her not to hang out with me because I wasn’t what she thought would be proper and popular. Maybe most important to the guys in my class in making their assessment… I didn’t date. Ever.
“She’s probably a lesbian.”
Honestly, the words never really bothered me. I’m not a lesbian, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with being one. I thought it was all a little funny, to hear that people thought I was gay and it really didn’t bother me enough to want to change anything about myself. Even when being comfortable seemed to create this misconception about me that I was bitchy, unapproachable, depressed, and maybe a lesbian.
As the years moved on, I learned how to fix my hair and how to apply eye make up. I learned to wear dresses and skirts and developed a love of high heels. I learned to buy in to the press and tuck and prod and decorate life that so many of my high school friends were already aware of. I learned to accentuate my assets and hide my flaws.
I learned to be “feminine” in the way that I was supposed to be.
When I was at the beach this summer, my mother handed me a stack of old photos, many of them of me in high school. My first instinct was abject horror. What was I wearing? Why was my hair so short? Who told me ball caps were stylish? No wonder everyone thought I was a lesbian!
The more I pushed the pictures away, the more something deep inside me resonated with those photos. Since my graduation from high school in 1996, I’ve been called a lot of things.:
I’ve been loved and hated. I’ve been called names by both men and women. I’ve been bought and sold by the mainstream; molded into who a woman is supposed to be…. pink and prissy… sweet and subdued. I don’t get called “lesbian” anymore.
But I still find myself still torn between being the girly-girl I’m supposed to be, the girly-girl I often like to be, and the tom boy, foul-mouthed, sports loving woman I am as well. But there’s no room to be both, is there? There’s no definition of “feminine” that includes being able to burp on command, loving craft beer, and cursing like a sailor at basketball games. There’s no definition of “feminine” that says I can not paint my toenails, not fix my hair, and not give one shit about whether my clothes match.
“A woman’s femininity is like a badge of honor”, a guy once told me, remarking on my inability to paint my toenails without smearing it everywhere or to eat a meal without often wearing a portion of it home. A badge of honor, he said.
But maybe it’s more like a shackle, binding me to the definition of what it means to be a woman… as defined by a man. Maybe being called a “lesbian” just meant I was bucking the system… being myself… not falling into the trap of what someone else tells me I should be.
Maybe the way I define myself is my true badge of honor… regardless of what it labels me to anyone else. Because if being called a “lesbian” means just being able to be myself, then yeah… it sort of sounds like a compliment.
Because pink is totally overrated anyway.
Posted on | July 9, 2014 | 5 Comments
The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
I’m here. I’m alive. I’m … somewhat functioning. But, we’ve been on vacation and I’ve been super productive at work and I just haven’t been able to find the time to get on here and tap out all the thoughts in my head. Plus also, vacation. You know.
Every year for the fourth of July my family has gone to the beach. And when I say every year, I mean that I have spent July fourth at the beach with my family almost every single year for thirty some years. There were some exceptions during law school and when I lived in Florida, but mostly, I was present and accountable at Ocean Isle Beach for the week of the fourth. This year was no exception… well, except for the fact that Banks went with us. You know. On a family vacation. Again. (See also: Butterflies and rainbows).
My brother in law had just gotten home from a week long trek to Guatemala to see Mayan ruins and tempt kidnappers with his American-ness, and because of that, sometime mid-week my sister walked into the house with a sheepish look on her face and her husband in tow, both sort of stammering and apologizing that … well… it seemed we had additional visitors at the beach house.
I don’t know about you, but I have never had any experiences with lice other than someone probably saying in elementary school “EW! You’re a girl! You have cooties! No… YOU HAVE LICE!” like it was some deep and terrifying secret illness that was just appalling and grotesque. So my first reaction was basically wide-eyed disbelief.
Lice? We don’t have no stinkin’ lice! I’m LAW MOMMA, dammit. I wash behind my ears and everything! How could we get through the rest of the week with FREAKING LICE?! I’d never wanted to get in a car and drive away so bad in my life. And my mom, who doesn’t really want to rock the boat, did her thing of saying my dad would be so upset… which everyone knows means that she’s totally worried about it but doesn’t want to say so.
While my sister and brother in law bought out the de-lousing section of the local CVS, I went through the motions of denying that any of this was actually happening. I mean, they have eggs called nits. NITS. That just sounds like the most disgusting thing ever. But despite my denial, I found myself approximately one hour later, bent over in a porch chair having my boyfriend scrub de-lousing shampoo into my hair. And inexplicably, we were laughing. All of us. Even my mom. Even my dad. All of us.
The neighbors had to be appalled. There were ten of us scrubbing shampoo into our hair. My sister joked that we should re-name our house “No Nit Pickin’” which my mother vehemently vetoed but the rest of us will probably secretly call the house from here on out. We scrubbed and combed and laughed. A lot.
Because when we get together, that’s just what we do in my family. We laugh.
We laugh about rainy days that eliminate beach fun.
We laugh about my brother in law’s inability to hum a tune, my brother’s insistence on being right about everything, my sister’s hippy nature, my tendency toward snobbery, my dad’s ability to tell the same joke seventeen times in three minutes, my mom’s chattering, and, now, Banks’ ability to fall asleep anywhere.
Because we’re family.
And yeah… we even and especially laugh about lice.
Posted on | June 18, 2014 | 2 Comments
Last week, I was at my wits end with my son. He was acting out and being four and in general driving me crazy. I felt like I was never, ever going to escape the madness of him… the angst-ridden, “potty word” filled, whirling dervish of his attitude. He was just so… four. He woke up in the middle of the night EVERY NIGHT and climbed in my bed, digging his feet beneath my knees and warming the room with his particular brand of four year old body heat. He whined. He told me to “just get him some breakfast!” He never got dressed on time. He never brushed his teeth.
I was very sure that I would never EVER say “Oh you’ll miss these moments” because WHO WOULD MISS THAT STUFF? Why would I ever “treasure” these moments of terror?
On Sunday, I picked him up from his grandparents’ house. He seemed about a foot taller. He didn’t whine, not even once. Even Banks, before he left, gave J a fist bump and high five for being such a big boy and not whining.
That night, he slept all night in his own bed, in the room I’d meticulously cleaned all weekend… wondering why I did so since he never slept there anyway. On Monday night, he didn’t set one foot in my room and he was just so… good… that I wondered if he’d been body snatched.
And this morning, I woke up at six o’clock and lay very still, wondering why I couldn’t hear him breathing, wondering why I felt so rested. He wasn’t there in the middle of my bed, taking up all the space and more than his share of covers. There was no morning snuggle as he woke up, no singing of “Rise and Shine and give God the Glory.” There was only the slight sound of noise in the kitchen and so I got up and shuffled towards the coffee pot alone, only to find him quietly playing with his toys, dressed and smiling.
“I got dressed all by myself, mom!” He announced with a grin, sporting his Carolina t-shirt and khaki shorts. “Can I have sausage for breakfast?”
I made his breakfast and set it down for him, watching this stranger in my son’s body. I watched him play, watched him become a boy, no longer a baby, right before my eyes. He was tall and strong and full of life. He had slept all night in his bed. He had dressed himself. He was learning not to have accidents at school and indeed hadn’t had one all week.
His fifth birthday is just around the corner and suddenly it hit me that what you miss isn’t the tantrums and the crazy. You don’t miss the interruptions in sleep or the eye rolls or the attitude.
What you miss is quite simply knowing that he needs you. Knowing that he sleeps better when he’s curled around you… knowing that when he’s tired or frustrated or just… four… that he wants that moment of comfort in your arms, even if it’s in the middle of the night.
And so when I woke up alone this morning, I felt a pang of loneliness I never expected to feel. I am so proud of my little boy for growing up every day. I am so very proud of the boy he is becoming.
But yes, the moments of baby… the moments of toddler and pre-schooler… the moments of frustration because “CAN’T HE JUST DO ANYTHING BY HIMSELF”… yes.
Oh my yes, I miss them. Who knew how much I would miss those terrible, tantrum filled-moments when all he needed was my arms around him to feel better. Who knew how much I would miss the sheer baby-ness of him … along with the predictable thump and pad of his feet down the hall to my room in the middle of the night.
It’s not, after all, the moments that you should treasure… because those are too hard to wrap your mind around. It is instead the feeling of being needed, of being the center and focal point of his universe. That it what goes away. That is what you miss, when they sleep all night in their own bed, and calmly dress themselves.« go back — keep looking »