Having a Christmas baby is not something I ever imagined for ourselves, but after having known and mothered Supergirl for 11 years, I can honestly say it makes sense. Lord knows I am not comparing her to Jesus, but her having been born on a day of celebration, connection and hope does have a certain poetic resonance. To know her is to know that she is a peacemaker.
Instead of being sour and sad at having to share the attention (and the gifts), she has always reveled in the specialness of the day. For Supergirl it’s not about the stuff, it’s about the people. And on Christmas, it is a sure thing to have people around you. Whether it be our little family of 5 or a dance party of 35, the girl gets to be surrounded by love. Every year is different, but every year we make sure this happens for her and I have every confidence that when we are no longer in charge of how her December 25ths look, she will see to it that she is hanging out with people who love her. This much we have taught her. And it won’t be hard for Supergirl.
Over the last year, there have been times when something she says or does stops me in my tracks and I think oh my god – this person. She’s always been a funny, feisty, easy delight of a kid, but what takes my breath away is that as she’s adding inches, she’s adding depth. She’s present, empathic and kind. It’s easy to assume that happy-go-lucky people lack gravitas, but Supergirl is proof of the opposite. She’s soulful and earthy and grounded – sister runs deep.
And yet, she still got her tongue stuck on a pole a couple days ago on her way to buy bird seed and Creeper Bud had to rescue her. She is still a kid.
But she’s a kid with more than her share of relationships in her life – separate, distinct, real relationships with boys, girls and adults. When I was a kid, any relationship I had with a grown-up was pretty much an offshoot of my parents’. But she’s different – whether it’s Red Vogue or Crackerjack, one of the book club ladies or her band teacher, she has whole layers of friendship, communication, inside jokes and emotion-exchange that I have nothing to do with. She is a deeply connected girl. It is her gift and her happiness. And she is very lucky indeed.
Happy birthday to our sweet Christmas babe. Keep spreading that joy around, girl. And let it keep you, protect you and lift you up, always and forever.
I love you.
I am the queen of NOT throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I grab that baby, wrap it in a towel and the water can go to hell. Which is just a confusing way of illustrating that I am adept at culling what I like out of things and being just fine ignoring the rest. Nothing is perfect, so why not focus on the good parts and be a little lighter in life? It requires a flexy mind, a blind eye, a deaf ear and a bit of focus or non-focus, depending on how you look at it, but I think it’s worth it.
It would be so easy for me, as a moderately cynical and non-gifty-type person, to abhor this time of year. I also don’t love the smell of cinnamon and Christmas carols sung in Chipmunk voices. But, oddly, I don’t hate it. I love it. I don’t love everything about the holidays – I just love certain aspects quite a lot.
There’s a Dutch word – gezellig – that is untranslatable in English, but as far as I can tell begins to describe exactly what I love about Christmastime. It means cozy, homey, pleasant, convivial and fun. It’s about having your people around you in a warm and lovely environment. It means holing up and eating and drinking and laughing. It means togetherness and twinkle lights, roaring fires and long conversations. It means merry and bright.
We all trim our homes and string up lights and create the spaces to accommodate this cozy time of year and there is something really comforting about it. Whether the party be a grown-up-dress up affair with rivers of booze or a long afternoon at home with just the family, some tunes and some games – it just feels good to preen the house, to hibernate, to be together, to cook and to take stock in the passage of time.
Apropos of time passing, there is honestly no better marker of time for me than the annual Christmas concert. You sit in a pew, shoulder to shoulder with your honey watching as each class performs their little songs. Your friends’ kids who started in kindergarten angel wings are suddenly gigantic 8th graders. You watch chubby cheeks grow progressively slimmer as each grade takes the stage and you marvel at the changes over time. The constant (the church, the lights, the songs, the pews) allows the change (the children) to jump into focus and it is always staggering and beautiful.
And so, with fresh reminders of how quickly it’s all going and how lucky we all are to be going at all, we gather in our homes with each other and try to stop time, for just a little while. We pull out all our tricks to get ourselves to stay still long enough to feel the wonder again, to spread it around, to fill our cups for the rest of the year.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
There’s a stretch of creek that runs in front of our house that’s just about the most bucolic place you’ve ever seen. Shimmery waters, rustling trees, picturesque bridges – it’s gorgeous. And wholesome. But not everything is entirely what it seems.
When we bought our house we told our friends out East we were moving to Minnehaha Creek. Minnehahahahaha we would bray nervously, making light of our move back to the Midwest and to a place with such a preposterous name.
Little did I know how Minnehaha Creek, the backbone to the good green city of Minneapolis, would insinuate itself into my imagination and my reality. We didn’t just buy a house. We bought a kingdom.
It takes thirty seconds to walk down into the gorge of the creek from my house and I feel my cells quicken. I feel ten years old and more than a little frothy. Places like these, woods like these – this is where the best and the worst stuff happens. This is where you’re free. Free and hidden.
I remember dirty magazines in the spot I used to go to with my friend, Effi, back where I grew up. I remember clearing ground, making forts, staring up through the canopy of woody capillaries. I remember digging in the dirt, making smooth concavities to hold our stuff. I remember a dude who scared us bad – as in, run away with branches tearing at you and your heart pounding in your ears screaming bloody murder, bad. He was probably just a teenager looking for a place to smoke.
Years ago, I was hanging out on the bridge down at Minnehaha Creek with my babies. A man appeared with a look in his eye and an energy roiling off his shoulders that stopped me cold. I tasted bitterness in the back of my throat – fear. I will never know if he meant us harm. I do know that my body responded to him like prey.
And yet, despite or because of what I know about the woods, I still shoo my brood down to the creek. Go play. Make a fort. Explore. Run around. Brush up against life, nature, people. My son broke his arm on a cold winter’s day when he fell out of a tree after one of my shoos. Another time, two of them came home cheeks aflame with outrage. A woman had yelled at them for touching the dead fish caught in the muddy pools during a drought.
It takes a village, I told them.
You have my permission to touch the dead fish, I told them.
The creek is a favorite strolling place of a lady we call the Minneha-ho. She sticks out on these paths thick with runners and bikers in high tech sports gear. Ink black hair, sky high heels and more nights carved onto her face than her hot pants would have you imagine. I don’t think she’s actively looking for action, not that it much matters to me. Everyone needs a spot to walk and think and let the sun hit your tired back.
My kids’ favorite babysitter lived across the creek from us. I wonder if she ever told her mom about the time I rolled ass over teakettle down the snowy sledding hill when I was walking her home after a boozy night out. I popped up and dusted myself off with a chipper, not-fooling-anyone woopsiedaisy! Maybe she was too young to realize.
In winter, people sit on the banks, lace up ice skates and glide down the creek. It’s ridiculous and lovely – like a goddamn Currier and Ives painting. In summer, canoers and kayakers float by, disturbing the mallards and waving to feral children (mine) hanging off the bridges.
A couple winters ago, the Southwest Minneapolis Patch reported ‘Naked Man in High Heels Flees Police Near Minnehaha Creek’. He was apprehended and treated for lacerations to his feet from running in heels in the snow. His poor feet. He should talk to the Minneha-ho about more sensible shoe options. But, the truth of the matter is that he picked the best spot in the city for his little foray.
This is where you’re free. Free and hidden.
Normally, the way this blogging thing works is that I find a pebble of an idea in my palm. It can appear suddenly when I’m driving or walking around the lake. Sometimes I have to dig through the sand to find it. Sometimes it feels substantial – a reassuring weight I can close my fingers around. Sometimes if I squeeze too hard, I find it wasn’t a real stone at all and it dissolves into nothing. Sometimes I toss it away or put it in a drawer for later.
If it’s a good one, one worth holding on to, I’ll huff a few puffs of warm air on it and shine it up. Then I’ll start to wrap words around it and – poof – it ends up here on these pages.
This summer, I kept rolling the same nugget around between my hands, over and over, and never made time to write about it. I would be driving with the music on and the windows down or taking a dusky walk with any combination of my kids and the thought would strike me – these guys are pretty good company.
I like to be around people, but I like to be around people who are easy to be around. My guys are easy (for me) to be around (mostly). They are funny and chill, irreverent and observant – all qualities I enjoy in the people I actually choose to spend time with. And this summer it started to dawn on me that these built in sidekicks are such a stroke of good fortune for someone who enjoys a good sidekick. I like walking around the world flanked by my people and in retrospect, it was pretty darn savvy of me to birth a little squadron of my own.
Not too terribly long ago, I ached to race to the market by myself – free, unencumbered, quick as a rabbit – no words, no negotiating, no saying no. But times are changing. We’re transitioning from my having to watch, protect and manage to my getting simply to BE. And simply being together frees us up to shoot the shit, kick around, hang. Also, let’s be honest: they’ve got more words now and that makes them way funnier than they used to be.
So why this nugget now? This past weekend we were in Madeline Island. We had already enjoyed a big hike and were lounging around as the day began to fold in on itself. I looked up from my book and saw that the sun had peaked out and got a hankering to go outside. It started as a solo mission but fifteen minutes later I found myself in the company of all of them. Every single one – dog and husband included. We went to the beach and watched the clouds streak pink and purple, skipped rocks and sat on a damp log and talked; my quick solitary walk turned into long stretch of peaceful family time under a darkening Lake Superior sky.
Afterwards we scrambled into the van, pockets full of rocks and chilled to the bone, and I thanked my lucky stars. In that moment I relished being the mama – the one with that mysterious mama duck power, the force that galvanizes the brood to follow. For now, they want to be with me and I best remember this a few years down the road when they’re as private and skittish as wild foals. For now I cling to this: my kids are good company.
And heck, maybe so am I.
I had the indescribable pleasure of seeing Patti Smith perform this past week at a cool event called Station to Station – a traveling art installation featuring concerts, art and artisans choo-chooing its way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Unlike my usual m.o., I actually came to Patti through her look first, her writing second and her music third. It seems I’ve always unconsciously knocked off her iconic androgynous style – flat chested, no hips, her tomboy look always worked for me. Still does. I wear many different things, but I am most myself in a pair of Chucks and jeans. That’s what I wear when I want to be free. Or invisible. Or invincible. I was a total nerd and stole a white oxford from Saint James and basically wore the black ribbon outfit pictured above (also the cover of her Horses album). Felt like a goofball and also, a million bucks.
A few years ago I read her quiet gem of a memoir, Just Kids. It’s about her friendship/love with Robert Mapplethorpe, and I must admit it shook me. These people were so extremely outside of my experience growing up – basically finding no other way to live than to completely mesh life and art, so that one bled into the other until they were indistinguishable and often deeply painful. I read it again with the ladies of my book club, the second time leaving me free to concentrate on her words and how she delicately strung them together like the beaded necklaces she and Robert used to wear. Her writing is so beautiful, tender, strong and honest – really just a way to describe her too.
She took the stage with her son, Jackson. (Don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of watching a mom and her boy make music together). She was soon joined by Gary Louris, Mark Mallman and a few other local musicians. She pretended not to know their names, but she did of course. They were utterly and obviously in her thrall – grown men, accomplished musicians, full-fledged rockers just happy and jazzed to be on stage with her. It’s not often, in this society, that a woman of that age gets to command that much respect and adoration. It was inspiring to say the least.
She is simply bad ass. But she’s also delicate and her voice sounds unexpectedly young and sweet. I think that she has lived so authentically her whole life, that she’s one of those people you can see into. She’s complex, she’s a thinker and a creator, but she’s very very clear about who she is and what she is. When you can see and feel someone with that immediacy, their art goes straight to your heart. There are no layers – no artifice – no attitude. Nothing to get in the way and distort the art. She very simply gave us the gift of herself without a lot of fanfare. And that is her power.
She dedicated this song to all of our “loves” and to her love, the late Fred Sonic Smith. Talk about a swooning moment. Top five, people.
I love lakes. I just do. So many people prefer oceans, or (egads) swimming pools, but to me nothing beats a cool, deep lake. I like that the water is sweet. I like that it holds mysteries. I like that lakes are alive, yet contain nothing that can actually eat me. Lakes are safe, but they are dark – and something about that floats my boat.
August had me returning to the lake every day. Multiple times a day. After a summer spent at the pool, I’m over its artificial blue waters and right angles – the chlorine, the bodies. Something about the late summer light makes me yearn for nature and its wild edges. I crave the inky black water and the cloud streaked sky. Morning, noon and best of all, night, the lake is different and completely gorgeous each time.
I’ve always been one to swim out way far – searching for the middle – possibly the area where I go tiny dancing. On vacation I would eye a distant rock island for days until one day I made a break for it with Saint James. We don’t swim fast, we don’t swim freestyle. A simple, head out of the water breast stroke allows us to talk and go for days. He’s always been my deep swim companion and we’d turn, panting and proud, to see our people, impossibly small and worriedly standing with hands on hips on the shore.
This August, through the heatwave, the middle of Lake Harriet became my parlor of sorts and I brought anyone who was game. Dash, Supergirl, book club ladies. I wanted to share the MIDDLE, because the middle is better than the edges.
It occurs to me that what draws me back again and again is the same exact feeling that I get from crunching my way out onto the white expanse in the wintertime. It’s found territory – a place where your body isn’t necessarily supposed to be. I love being where I’m not supposed to be.
Floating on my back, with planes flying overhead or the moon hanging like a swinging bulb, the water lapping at my temples – this is the physical sensation of summer that I am choosing for myself this year. This is what I will think about when the snow flies and the lake is frozen to land. I will imagine those waters holding my body afloat, limbs splayed and eyelids heavy, a sacred offering to the sun.
Does crappy family time still count as quality family time? I sure hope so, because as of late, I feel like we’ve concocted more than our fair share of it. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. It’s when you really want to do something fun as a family and it feels doomed at the word GO. At least one person is being a pill, at least two people are fighting with each other, at least one person is crying or whining, at least one person has sunscreen in her eye, at least one parent is yelling about gratitude and at least one Croc is missing.
People don’t talk about crappy family time because mainly, you want to forget all about it. It’s pathetically easy to believe that other families don’t experience crappy family time – that your own family is the only family comprised of malcontents, drama queens and feeble brats who act like riding a bike around the chain of lakes is a cruel and unusual punishment. For my own sanity, I have to believe we all have crappy family time sometimes, and if I’m wrong, well then, you must be feeling really great about yourselves right about now.
By no means do I mean to imply that I am a blameless observer of crappy family time – some of my least proud parenting moments have happened within the framework of fun and togetherness. This is how it tends to go: I will play Julie McCoy, spawn an idea, quickly research a bit on line and announce it to the brood only to be met with resistance or worse yet, complete apathy. I will soldier on and run around making preparations, while I alternately bark orders for readiness and rattle off enticing reasons said outing will be just! so! terrific! Except that in lieu of smiling eager beavers, I get a pack of surly rabbits who refuse to come easily. And inevitably, I lose my cool and before we have even left the house, I have yelled at everyone and am left asking myself a simple yet crushing question: why bother?
Really, I’d like to know. Why bother?
Because sometimes, you finally shove off, pulling a black cloud behind you like it’s tethered to everyone’s bike seat and someone (I’m not naming names) will start in on the whining from the get go and others will bike ahead and you will spend a good 20 minutes fuming and pondering the question, and then you will find a way to dig really really deep and say something funny, something encouraging and a couple tethers on that cloud will snap, and your shoulders will relax and you’ll keep going, steadily pedaling your way into the light.
The truth is, crappy family time usually turns itself around. Notwithstanding all the annoyance and grief, if you push through, it eventually dissipates, sometimes in imperceptible increments, sometimes all at once. The moods lift, the complaints soften and you get into a groove so that by the time you’re rolling back home you feel happy, tired and like, maybe, you accomplished something. Together.
That’s why we bother.
One bite at a time. Or so they say.
This poor neglected blog is feeling like an elephant lately. Every time I have the shimmer to write something down, it just feels unwieldy. So much time has gone by, too many things have happened. I just haven’t had time this summer, between the swims and drives and music and family and friends, to write about any of it. Or, more truthfully, I didn’t make time. I’ve been feeling like I don’t need this blog like I used to and so I grapple with what that means for peevish mama the blog as well as peevish mama the person.
For whatever reason, whether it be older kids, busier schedule, actual paying freelance writing, richer friendships or the instant gratification of sharing on instagram, I don’t have the yen to vent as much on these pages. And without the peevishness, what is there? Am I losing my edge? Shit, man, too much good stuff, too much nice and this is just another boring mommy blog that’ll make ya barf. Make me barf. I’m not necessarily feeling less peevish, but I’m generally feeling as if, maybe, good thoughts will give way to good words which in turn give way to good living. And if I had to sum up the very thing I’m after these days, it’s exactly that: good living.
Sometimes you just have to live without writing about it because that’s what feels right.
Also, as the kids get older I feel like I need to tread more carefully with respect to what I write about. They are people now. Real people. One of them is even a teenager as of four days ago, and with that I feel like he deserves some modicum of privacy. My peeps don’t need me publicly working out all that there is to work out as we wade into these very cool and interesting but potentially fraught and intense years. The stakes are higher now. The stuff we’re dealing with isn’t as simple as potty training, snacks and fiendishly stubborn toddlers. Now we deal in character and morality, life’s dreams and matters of the heart. All good, but it’s bigger – not something I can just toss off like I used to.
So how’s that for a whole steaming load of excuses? Pretty good, eh?
Last night, I got a bit of shizz for being such a blogger bum from my friends Lady Tabouli and Sporty Spice. But, ever the supporters of my words, they gently prodded me to pick up the thread and get back to it. I may not need this blog like I used to, but I love this blog as much as I ever have – simply because it turned me into a writer and is the place where I have chosen to stash many of our family memories over the last four-ish(!) years. And honestly, enough of you have given enough of a damn to come back to roost from time to time, and that, my friends, makes it very very worth it.
One bite at a time.
Last week Saint James got dropped off from soccer camp and surprised the living daylights out of me by basically crumpling in the front door, clutching his ankle. Shit. The tears he had been saving up, rolled down his flushed cheeks as he growled the story to me. Basically: a big uncoordinated kid took him down. Bad. Within fifteen minutes we were on our way to the ortho urgent care, visions of a permanently bum ankle swimming in my head.
I’d like to say I had this puppy in perspective from the get go. It’s just an ankle – a swollen, bruised, gnarly looking ankle, but merely an appendage nevertheless. Lately, it seems there’s no end to the grapevine of heartbreaking stories and I knew better than to get overly upset over an ankle. It wasn’t his head. It wasn’t his kidney. I wasn’t the cells in his blood. It would be fine.
But to say that I had perspective, is not to say that I was happy about it. As someone with a pretty shitty knee injury from her youth, I know what a thing like this can do to a sporty young head. And it’s the middle of soccer season. And most importantly of all, it’s SUMMER. A summer for which we waited a long time, and put up with a lot of snow and rain and gray. A summer that played big time hard to get. A summer that is finally, FINALLY giving us a little love. My heart squeezed when I thought about the games and bike adventures and boy wanderings he’d be missing out on. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Who knew, then, that a severe sprain and a possible fracture, crutches and two weeks in a boot would yield a silver lining? I would have expected this last week to be nothing but complaining and angst, but it has actually been quite nice. Turns out, taking one kid out of the rotation during the busiest time of the year makes a big difference. Things get a little quieter, a little easier and lo and behold, there have been more than a few times I find our entire family in the backyard, just lounging and talking, gathered around the boot like it’s a warm fire, a powerful relic.
The injury made us slow down to keep pace with our guy on crutches and I’ve been touched to see how willing everyone was to do it. Of course, I’m going to dote and hover and cluck – I’m the mama. But I didn’t particularly expect the girls to dote and hover and cluck. They’ve been flying around the house, fetching him icepacks and drinks and pillows like little Florence Nightingales. Every time Saint James scoots down the stairs on his bottom, Devil Baby is there to carry his crutches. She holds them in perfect position for him to hop right into. They hang out with him in the basement, play couch catch, watch TV.
And the moody, monosyllabic big bruthuh is being nicer too. Whether it’s from a place of gratitude, humility or necessity, he’s being kinder to his sisters. He’s stuck and bored enough to engage with them – really talk and hang out. This could be temporary – who am I kidding, it’s totally temporary – but I’ll take it.
Normally, at this time in the summer I’d already be burnt out from the driving – fried to a crispy nugget from the schedules. But oddly, I feel really peaceful right now. I feel like I have a handle on things and we are really plugged into each other for a blink. The girls are still doing their things, but St. James is simply healing his ankle. Letting the alchemy of youth, time and magic knit all those little fibers back together.
On Wednesday we go back to the doctor to find out if he’s out of the boot and free to play or out for another 6-8 weeks because of a fracture. I know I’ve liked this little respite. I know I found a so-called silver lining, but let’s not be ridiculous. Let’s not mince words.
If St. James is out for the rest of the summer I will lose. my. shit.
Or maybe not. Fingers and ankles crossed.
Later this morning I’ll be going to a funeral for the mother of one of Devil Baby’s classmates. A mother of a first grader and a third grader. Two little boys. This cancer seemed private in a school where help spreads like wildfire. Why didn’t I investigate? I didn’t know nearly enough about her and I didn’t help nearly enough, and the truth is I feel guilty and sad. There are other do-gooders whom I’ve come to rely upon to let me know when to send money, sign up for meals and show up to chaperone. Industrious and generous people who make it their business to make sure things get organized, but somehow I knew nothing of this and I can’t shake the feeling that the organizer should have been me.
There is a vast and sturdy net spread taut under those boys right now and for as long as they are in our community, but did she know that? I can’t help but think that would have been a comfort. To know that the moms will be paying attention and leaning in – to borrow the newest overused term floating about. Or maybe not. No one can take our place or begin to be the way we are. We may not be a perfect mother and on any given day it can feel like we’re not even a very good mother, but we are it and we are the only one that will do it just how we do it.
A mother is like a fingerprint – no two alike – and once those chicks match up to the mom, I think it’s very hard to imagine their life without her. And to be honest, I’m talking about the mother here, not the chicks. I think the chicks can and do carry on just fine in life with other mothers, fathers who become mothers and every other permutation this weird and unpredictable life can throw at them. But for the mother, for the mother it is crushingly unfair to take away her chance to be with her babies and help them grow. In her obituary she is quoted: Revel in the small things. Stop to smell your children’s heads.
You guys. It’s just so sad.
This morning I was making lunches and breakfasts simultaneously – normally something that I crabbily rush to get through – and I just kept thinking about her. This mundane task, so easily dismissed as a bother and a burden, revealed itself for what it is when we’re thinking about things the right way. It’s a blessing – to be alive and to have given life to little people who need us to do this for them for a few short years. It’s a meditation – to move our hands in the same way, day after day, for the purpose of nourishing another. It’s something to be mindful of and grateful for.
It’s not too late to help out. We can have this little boy over to play. I can organize meal drop offs. But she’s the one I keep thinking about. This woman I hardly knew, this mama who got dealt a really bad hand – the rawest of deals. She’s the one I wish I could have helped.
Always, always, always. Ten years of yoga hasn’t cured me of it. Four years of blogging hasn’t cured me of it. Circumventing bodies of water à pied et au bicyclette hasn’t cured me of it.
No matter how much I think and I think, I just can’t figure out the answers.
Why can’t I look at those plump little visiting waterfowl pit-stopping in Lake Harriet and not wonder how much fat could be rendered from them. (Cooks will understand).
Why can’t I simply write a post about how safe my city feels for my roaming kids without an attempted abduction in Linden Hills three days later?
Why can’t I figure out how to balance my summer so I don’t end up like this by the end of June?
Why can’t I bike by the archery field by Lake Calhoun without picturing, in full gory detail, sound included, an arrow whistling through the air and piercing me right through the neck?
Why does bad stuff happen to good people?
Why does being this particular age feel so messed up? Not necessarily in a bad way.
Why can’t I slow down time?
I’m going to say that about covers it, so as to avoid really freaking you out.
My boy has sipped from the delicious cup of freedom and there is no turning back. As you know, I’ve always loved the wandering. Go forth, ride like the wind, find your friends, explore. Come home tired, happy, dirty and smarter.
I feel lucky to live in a city that feels safe for our kids. There are sidewalks, bike paths, businesses and people out and about – lots and lots of people. There are also lakes and trees and parks and donut shops. Lenore Skenazy, a proponent of anti-helicopter parenting and free roaming kids writes about the “popsicle test” – if an 8 year old can walk to buy a popsicle by herself and finish it before getting home, then that city is probably thriving and therefor a safe place for children to inhabit and own. I think our little apple passes the popsicle test with flying colors.
Then there’s what I’m going to call the “eyes and ears” test. In the last couple weeks I’ve had at least three friends mention that they spotted Saint James out and about with his crew. There’s a loose but vast web of benevolent watchers who will recognize my kid and take note of where he is and what he’s up to. There are scores of mamas who will, I trust, report back to me if they see something I wouldn’t like.
When I spot one of my friends’ kids out in the wild, I make a point to wave or make the quickest of quick breezy contacts – just so they know I see them and just so they’ll see me. If they’re too far away, I take a beat to check them out – make sure all is well. Our kids seeing and being seen by adults they know has a double benefit: I will tell your mom if you’re not wearing your helmet. But also: I am here if you need me.
So I’m purportedly comfortable with the ever widening perimeter Saint James is claiming as his own. Why then, did I spend this past weekend in a state of suspended waiting and disbelief as the hours stacked up and he didn’t darken my doorway for food, drink or rest?
He’s roaming far and wide, and with him – always – goes a piece of my heart. I know he’s a good kid and he looks both ways before crossing the street. I also know that if there’s a short cut that doesn’t involve staying on the bike paths, he’s going to take it. I know that the boys really are playing sports for hours on end. But I also know that these day-long peregrinations may not be as wholesome at age 16.
My conversations with Dash are completely ridiculous.
Me: Oh my gosh, he’s been gone since ten this morning!
Dash: Ya, it’s good.
Me: It IS good. Yes! So good. I love it. But it’s been hours!
Dash: uh huh.
Me: I mean, what is he eating? He’s going to be so exhausted! What are they doing? He left at the crack of dawn this morning!
Dash: You’re the one who’s always saying . . .
Me: IknowIknowIknow!!! It’s good! It’s so good, but it’s been HOURS!
Dash: . . .
Me: I mean, what on earth are those boys up to? It’s been hours!
Dash: . . .
Me: It’s so awesome. Ya. Don’t you think he should come home rest for a bit before practice?
And I’m leaving out the parts where Dash rolls his eyes and tells me I can’t have it both ways and that I started the whole wandering thing and I slam the door in a huff.
Yep, we’re still figuring this out. So for now the rules are that he has to tell us the plan and who’s involved. He has to text back within a reasonable period of time if we text him – we have yet to define what a reasonable period of time is because he’s been decent at getting back to us. He needs to text when there’s a change of location. I’m also thinking he’s going to have to come home for lunch or start using his own money for food otherwise he’ll be at Tin Fish feasting on fish tacos every damn day this summer.
And the most important rule of all: be a good kid. You never know who might be watching.
Mostly I hate the internet and it’s way of sucking you into pure nonsense – superficial, relentless chatter and information that takes you out of your life and leaves you mired in a loud, screechy limbo. One of my struggles with blogging is the notion that I’m simply adding to the chatter. I know it’s my way of corralling my wandering attention and focusing on the stuff of my life here and now, but there’s always that little voice – who cares?
Sometimes, however, the internet brings you beauty. Something pure, something cool, something you wouldn’t see without a computer. I was literally moved to tears at 9 am on a Sunday morning when I saw this video of Maria Abramović’s performance piece at the MOMA from 2010. She simply sits in a chair in a dramatic red dress and people line up to take turns staring into her eyes. Talk about intimate.
Watch what happens when her old lover and collaborator, Ulay, takes the chair. The story is that they had had a passionate love in the seventies which ran its course. They decided to start walking from the opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and meet in the middle for one final embrace. (Of course, right?) This is them meeting again after all these years.
It’s breathtaking. I’m DYING!!! And I’m so going to track down this documentary.
This year for spring break we road tripped to Michigan to see my family. Maestro de Bife is back from Australia, Golden and his wife, Delicious Apple, were due to have their second bambina, it was Easter. We figured we’d spend spring break immersed in familial milestones as we so rarely get to do.
I had fully prepared myself for the possibility that Manzanita’s little sis might not be born while we were there, but as it turns out, Delicious Apple went into labor as we were driving towards them all. Petite Pomme was born on March 27th and couldn’t be more perfect, with my dear Manzanita suddenly thrust into the role of older sis and big girl – she’s hilarious and sweet, with the tiniest little naughty streak as perfectly befitting a two year old.
Something about being home makes me feel so acutely aware of myself and where I’m at in life. What am I doing? How am I doing? How did I get here? Where did the time go? Where’s my Esprit sweatshirt?
Partially, it’s the sandwich effect of being a mom and yet being around my own sweet mother and all the objects and landmarks of my youth – the Burger King, the Dairy Mat, Shane Park. I am out of my own castle and back in the castle of my girlhood. It’s so familiar and cozy – the meals and wine, the strong personalities, the quick brewing and passing stormy tempers, the laughter – but it’s my past and it was created by my parents, with their aesthetic, rules, likes and dispositions. It represents their adventures and travels, their high standards and hard work. My castle is different – it’s messier and dirtier, for sure, but the wall colors are brighter, the music is louder, the furniture is more random and most importantly it’s ours. Take a queen out of her castle and she can’t help but feel ever so slightly adrift and introspective.
Also, since our families don’t live near us, I see my kids acutely through their eyes. Any brattiness or funniness feels magnified and more noticeable because they don’t necessarily have the entire context – they don’t live the days in and days out. I can’t help but wonder what my family thinks, how my kids are coming off, whether they realize how kind and chill they really are. Good manners are my thing, but even more so when the people whose opinions I care about the most are watching. I wonder if they can tease out the subtle balance of the things we’ve taught them and the things that are just pure them – that tightrope of childrearing where you can do a lot, but you can only do so much – and I mean that for better and for worse, because some of my favorite things about my kids are the things we had nothing to do with.
Plus it’s spring! We take a deep breath, a big stretch to the ever warming sun and mutter a tiny prayer of thanks and good riddance to a winter that goes on about a month too long in these parts. We get a chance to clean house, both literally and metaphorically, start fresh, try out new ideas, give new policies a whirl. We get to keep the good, pitch the bad and promise ourselves we will live our days with more intention, attention, gratitude and lightness. But how? Specifically. How?
There’s nothing like going home to bring into clearer focus what it is to make a home. There’s nothing like going back to the past to clarify our hopes and wishes for the future. And there’s nothing like family to remind us that almost everything we do and know, comes from them.