Family, Friends, Home

For This

Kulturgeschichte / Essen / Belle Epoque

For more than one of the eleven around the table, the year left bruises. For more than one, tears choke the blessing. Words that begin as thanks are threaded with veins of dense and nameless matter.

Loss is a removal that adds weight.

Chuckles accompany each small confession. We are older now. Pleasure hits the tongue in the bitter spots too. Years distill gratitude to its sharpest potency.

We round the corner and my turn is seventh. I say that I most often describe myself as a single mother. I say this is inaccurate because a tribe holds my son and me. We are not doing this on our own, we never have been alone. I say that family is like a story. It ends up looking entirely different than what we expect and somehow ends up looking exactly as it should.


Image credit: Otto G√ľnther, Am Tagel√∂hnertisch (1875)

 

Children, Happy Days, Parenting

Happy 100 Days: 38

When I picked Tee and Bug up from the airport on Friday night, the kiddo was on the brink of tears. In the car, I finally pried it out of him. “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow,” he sobbed.
 
“Oh, buddy,” I smiled. “It’s Friday today. Do you know what that means?”
 
“No.” He was rubbing his eyes. The flight was five hours from Seattle.
 
“It means the whole weekend is still ahead of us. You were just away for a week of Thanksgiving vacation, and we have two more days before school.”
 
“Two WHOLE DAYS?”
 
And so it was that this morning, Bug crawled into my bed at 5:54 and told me he had been awake “for hours.” I told him my bed was only available to sleepy people. Funny how quickly he gave in.
 
These little dawn cuddles usually don’t last more than 20 minutes. This morning’s lasted for nearly three hours. We snored there together, right on past sunrise, right on past the honking geese and the snoofling dog. We had the yummiest, snooziest lie-in we have had in all of the six years Bug has been on this planet. When we finally roused ourselves, we stayed put, smooshing and talking about dreams and such for the other half of the morning.
 
It was a day of firsts, apparently. The sleep-in kicked off one of the most therapeutic home-bound Sundays on record. I didn’t even have weekends like this before Bug was born. We did watercolors and coloring books, made soft pretzels from scratch, built a railroad station out of legos complete with a border guard and a city park. We both enjoyed completely unplanned sleep-where-you-fall naps sometime around mid-day. We stayed in our pajamas until nearly 3:00pm, and we only dressed then so we would be warm enough to romp around the playground in the afternoon sun.
 
We never got in the car. We didn’t spend a penny. We only argued once, and it was finished in minutes with a hug and dinner.
 
Somewhere in there, I finally got around to creating a homework nook where Bug can plop down when we arrive home from school. This has been one of those lingering tasks I have deftly avoided for two months. I knew it would be helpful for his focus but I could not summon the energy to take it on. It is not easy to find a place on the first floor that isn’t crowded with stuff. Today, high on rest and vacation ease, tackling this project was a breeze. Bug now has a corner of the dining room complete with a bin of school supplies, two chairs, and a clear spot at our underused table. As soon as it was unveiled, Bug sat right down and went to work, covering four loose-leaf pages in pencil drawings.
 
Just before bath time, we took out a big piece of construction paper and some markers. We wrote “Bug’s Homework Station.” Bug decided it should be decorated with “all bright colors,” so we covered it with polka dots and lollipops. He took great care in taping the sign to the side of the plastic drawers on the table where his crayons and glue sticks now live.
 
While Bug was simmering in bubbles up to his chin, I sat on a stool at the side of the tub and watched. A little playmobile girl was fighting through the “gloop,” trapped and choking under the surface. His right hand was a giant sea-creature that would rise up through the froth and swoop down on her, “Chomp! Oh, bonk, argh my head!” Trying and trying again to catch her, the hand-monster was foiled every time.
 
It has been years since a day this good. It has also been years since I have seen my son so clearly. For this extended moment, I was quiet enough in my own head that I could look at Bug and imagine the world as it is to him. What a tilt of the glass! It is like stopping on the busy sidewalk where you walk every day, lying down, and looking up through the buildings and trees. The purpose of every angle, even the ticking of the clock and the throbbing of the human traffic, all shift into new alignment. Sometimes it takes an intentional pause to see things as they really are. In fact, such a pause may be the only thing that clears the gaze.
 
As he soaked, I felt myself peel open and marvel at the singular experience of the boy inside Bug’s skin and mind.
 
He looked up from his bath battle and stared back at me a beat longer than usual.
 
“What?” he asked. “Why do you look like that?”
 
I smiled. “Because I lo-o-o-ve you.”
 
He shrugged. “So?”
 
“And you’re my beautiful boy.”
 
Arhh!” Another splash. The hand monster was about to break the surface again. The playmobile girl tried to swim away. “The gloop is around my throat and I can’t breathe!”
 
Neither could I.
 
For one fleeting moment, I understood the magnitude of my luck. It feels like waking up.
 

Children, Happy Days, Parenting, Purpose

Happy 100 Days: 39

Being cross for a week does not make a lady enjoyable company. Every time my son goes away, my fretful nature hijacks the controls and takes me for a joy-ride (or a doomride, as it were). Solitude leaves me with too much time on my hands. The long-awaited freedom to “get some work done” takes me on a detour where thoughts spin out at 95mph and the engine burns into the red zone before sputtering out.

It is these sorts of weeks that have me deciding it is time to pursue a PhD or get a second job, start dating or never date again, expand my social circle or remove my broken self from the friendships I am surely already screwing up. Without the ritual of waking to his sleepy voice, without the practical choices the day sets before us (Waffles or pancakes, Buddy? Should we ride the metro to DC or go cut a Christmas tree?) I notice long-ignored pings in the engine and go wrestling the whole beast up onto the hydraulic lift.

What good does it serve, plunging my hands up in there? Still, who can resist? I poke into every dark corner seeking the missing piece and come out choking on grease.

Then he returns.

Every time my son comes home, I tuck my arms around him to sing him down to sleep. Everything slides back to ground level. The engine chugs to life.

It is a wonder how quickly I forget that Bug’s absence is the trigger for all my wrongness. It is a blessing how easily his presence restores me.

Uncategorized

Happy 100 Days: 41

A gnawing worry about the coconut cream pie woke me up at before 7:00am. Meringue instead of the planned whipped cream, I was suddenly certain. This meant I was up re-baking at 7:30. No sleeping in. A power nap before departure, then.

(“Oh, to have your problems,” I can hear the billions sighing).

The rest of the day was given to chosen family. Hugs. A walk in the sun. Noise. Food upon food accompanied by wine and more food. Clearing the plates, drying the dishes, stumbling over one another to share in the cleanup. Ziploc bags pressed into hands. “Take some, go on, we could never finish all this!”

More hugs. Home, quiet. A happy dog. Tomorrow’s meal now in the fridge. A walk under the half-moon. A big, empty bed whispering its urgency. Just for me, this night.

Measures of wealth are relative.

Happiness, too.

Home

Happy 100 Days: 42

People kept telling me I would walk into a place and say, “Yes. This is it. This is where I live.” They told me to envision it, to let myself want it. It sounded like a bunch of mystical hoo-hah to me. I’m a practical girl, and my job was to weigh the various pros and cons of each property. This was not supposed to be a gut-level decision. It was rational. I was to consider commute time, neighborhood safety, condo involvement, how much rehab I could manage, and what I could make work on my meager budget.
 
Today, I saw the light. I stepped over the threshold and felt my knees go weak.
 
After a couple of months and a couple dozen places, I know now what they meant. I have never before had such a rush of rightness. Even the townhouse in faraway land whose sweet opportunity I chose to pull a few weeks back because of the distance was still just a shrug-your-shoulders “Nice.” I kinda liked it. I could have made it a homey place. I had a warm feeling about it, sort of like having a pleasant conversation with a stranger at a bar and maybe being happy to see him there again next time, but never really wanting to give him your number.
 
This? Oh, man. This is love.
 
This condo complex less than a quarter mile from Tee’s house. Bug and I could walk over to his daddy’s on any given day. It is in his current school district, only 2 miles walking/biking/busing distance from the metro, a hop over to I-66, and a block away from a park. The front door entry is on the first floor but because of the construction on a slight hill, the balcony is up a level. I won’t have to schlep groceries up stairs yet my deck stuff is also safe.
 
Inside, is everything and more. Spacious kitchen with new appliances and cabinets, bamboo floors, huge dining area, nooks for an office and a den, a fireplace, two bedrooms, a view of the complex’s picnic area. . .
 
All of this is at a price I can just about afford.
 
My realtor and I jumped on the freeway and roared back to her office to subject ourselves to the torture of contract writing. We decided that getting in the night before Thanksgiving would give me a leg up on the competition (those slackers, all so busy stuffing turkeys and missing their chance!) The property is a short sale requiring twice as many documents and three times as many decisions, so we were working well past closing time. After several liters of ink, all the papers were printed and signed, and I had made my offer!
 
We headed out into the dark evening, both of us a little dizzy from the afternoon’s turn of events.
 
Events could go any number of ways, of course. The seller could reject the offer, her bank could require more for the short sale, my bank could appraise lower, the inspection could reveal martians living in the ductwork. I know all of the maybes here.
 
What I also know is that it is possible to find exactly what I want.
 
All my friends said it might exist. I thought they were Pollyannas. I am so glad they encouraged me to let go of my scarcity mindset and hold out for abundance. I don’t have to go home with the fella just because he’s nice enough. I can keep my heart open for the real deal.
 
What a joyous Thanksgiving. I hope the seller (a mom-to-be, I hear) is as thankful to discover this offer in her inbox in the morning as I am to send it her way.
 
Maybe next year, I’ll be stuffing a turkey my own self in my very own home.
 
Imagine that!