Saturday, April 30, 2016
We know it's going to happen, the day we have to pull a tick out of our son's perfect skin. We live in the country and we're getting to know the bugs. For some reason—perhaps the bombardment of anti-Lyme messages—Greg and I have put all of our fears regarding Ren's loss of innocence in the head of a future tick bite. The terror that we won't be able to keep Ren safe. That a tiny little thing will creep into our lives and cause us the deepest pain we will ever know.
When I was 27, I moved from Los Angeles to New York City. I drove all of my belongings in a rental truck to my parents home in Texas. It took a day and a half. I never stopped to sleep and felt like I'd run a marathon when it was over. I remember a lonely 3 a.m. gas station, standing in a daze under buzzing fluorescence, holding an ugly, novelty figurine that I had to own. It would be my talisman. It would ward off the truck driver at the corner table simulating the peeling off of my cloths as he tore strips down the side of his paper cup. I had gone through a divorce, a bad rebound, bad music videos, bad TV, Hollywood, a broken down car—a broken down me. I reached my folks, recovered for a few days, and then flew to LaGuardia to start over. I had never been to New York City before. With $500 dollars and a friend's couch on which to sleep, I survived by the grace of my family's support and dear friends who literally walked me to the subway after finding me a place to work. For my entire first week in the city I got lost, daily, to the point of tears. In LA, "downtown" isn't south, it's the bullseye. LA is a circle with bumper cars. NYC's a grid with wormholes. And this was before smart phones. This was before smart me.
I don't know how my parents ever got any sleep.
I suppose there comes a time when you realize you'll hurt your kid more if you keep your kid from getting hurt. You can't live their lives for them. I wouldn't wish any of my dark days on our little guy, but today, I'm happy I had them or I wouldn't be me. All I can do is hope that I can be for him what my friends and my folks were for me—there.
We woke up one morning and there he was—a little boy. Yes, he's still in diapers. Yes, he still drinks milk before bed. Yes, he cannot say complete sentences. But lately, you can look in his eyes and flash-forward through time. There's a man in there. A person. He's got a sense of humor, likes and dislikes, and for some reason, at only one and a half years, has a tendency to get excited about lawn care.
Friday, April 29, 2016
It's Easter 2016. I'm standing on my brother-in-law's deck behind his house in Connecticut. The sun is out. My mother-in-law is sitting with my niece. Ren is playing with a cousin, and Greg and I look at each other. How did we get here?
(...as they stand on 19th Street. It's almost exactly five years after 9/11. Suddenly—a long, deep and intimate kiss. They pour into each other a gush of loving expression. Their first.)
"I thought you were sick."
"I am. I'm sorry. I couldn't help..."
"I couldn't either."
(Pause. They blush. They smile.)
"Thank you for an amazing night."
"No. Thank you."
"This is going to be really hard. Not telling everyone."
"Let's get you in a cab."
(They lean in.)
"One more. I'm sorry. I can't help it."
"I'm going to get your cold..."
"In the great green room,
there was a telephone,
and the red balloon,
and a picture of the—"
"MOON! MOON! MOOOOON!"
"Yes. And a picture of the—"
(On his hands and knees, pretending to chew.) "Moooooooo... MOOOOOOO!"
"Yes. A cow. You're right Ren. The cow jumping over the moon. And three little—"
"SIT! SIT! Grrrrr...."
"Yes. Three little bears. You're right Ren. On chairs. The three bears. Sitting on chairs. And—"
"Woooonnnn. Teeeewwwww. TttthhhhfffffFFreeeEEEE. AH! AH! AH! AHHHHHH!"
"Yes. One, two, three. Just like The Count. Yes, Ren. You got it..."
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I love stand up comedy. I love it a little too much. Some people listen to music, I have comedic monologues in my ears whenever I have the opportunity. This habit has desensitized me to certain situations and I tend to find humor in surprising places. Sometimes that is good, sometimes I'll get fired.
At a certain point, having a child means your weekends are about birthday parties. Every weekend. It's fun to watch the kids play and it's nice to meet new adult friends, however, the parties can feel repetitive after a while. Not unpleasant, but also not that entertaining. (Like watching old Friends episodes.) There is only so much pizza, cake, and donkey tails a person can absorb before tuning out.
And then sometimes the Universe hands you a gift. (Like a never-before-seen all-singing episode where Joey goes temporarily blind.) A dear friend and new mom was hosting a birthday party for a young family member in their back yard. They had built an obstacle course complete with a zip line, a tire swing, and a trampoline finale, all for about a dozen tween girls and their siblings. Fun party. Beautiful weather. Lots of cool parents standing around with beer in their hands.
Like out of a movie, the birthday girl grabs a megaphone and sweetly thanks her parents for the day. She then demands the parents join in and compete on the course, "for all of those nights you didn't let us stay up or have seconds of dessert." Adorable. Perfect. Her halo glistened and John Williams' score was cued. For a second, things feel a bit strained as no adults jump up at the chance. We're all so... satisfied. A little sleepy from the end of the week, a little relaxed from the beverages, a little happy to be among the youth running through the grass like we used to do. The world is good and safe and the sun is setting. It's too quiet. Her father yells out. "I'll go!" We all cheer. A mom near me suggests he be our representative. The rest of us agree and within minutes we are shouting his name, impassioned he be the body of our generation. We're off the hook. We won't get a migraine from running for the first time in three years or blow out a knee from trying to do something we last attempted on the monkey bars in elementary school. Go. Dad.
He swings on a rope. He zigzags around some cones. He looks good. He's doing us proud. We can do it. We're not that old. We're cool. We're young-ish, old-ish, modern breeders. We're outside. We got this. He dives head first through the tire swing and for a second, looks a little stuck. No. He's not stuck, he's fine, he's wriggling free. His fingers touch the ground. He's tipping over. Well... he'll just slip through awkwardly, hit the ground and dust himself off. It might not be graceful but he'll get there. Go Dad. Go! You're our guy! You got this! And he's still stuck. He's still wiggling. Wriggling. He's upside-down now completely and... well... there is his bare ass, everyone. He dove through the tire and the tire took his pants. He hits the ground as expected, and it's over as quickly as it happened. Kudos to him and his spirit—he keeps going, unbeknownst to his people, his tribe, us parents, who are laughing so hard we are crying. Strangers hugging strangers wiping each others tears. He keeps running and wins.
It was so absolutely perfect, if it had been on Friends, it would have become the new "jump the shark." "Tire swing ass." No one would have believed it. I couldn't remember a time when I'd laughed as hard (at an appropriate moment). We were handed a gift, a communal gift just for us. Thank you, Dad. Happy birthday to... Gen X.
There comes a time in most new relationships when a day goes by and you realize things feel the same—like they did the day before and then they feel the same way the day after. You reach a plateau. The roller coaster stops climbing. You're passion levels out and life is just life.
This is not that relationship.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
We sat in my sister-in-law's hospital room while she pulled her clingy two year old Emma Marie onto the bed, watched her screaming one year old Joseph Anthony from the back of her head, and fed her day old Francis Terry laying peacefully in her arms. I remember I once complained to her about being sleepy after our Ren Thomas was born. I go back in time and slap my face in that moment whenever I see her now. She still manages to host the entire family at Christmas and Easter. And she doesn't serve drive-thru. She's amazing. I know families have been doing life like this for years, before things like running water and organic salsa, but I'm Gen X. I grew up thinking the microwave was taking too long. I guess I still feel like an imposter mom. I'm still me you see. I still stay up past bedtime to write blogs no one will read. (Except you, Daddy, and you, person that is very sweet for putting my sequence of words in your brain. Thank you.) If we had more children, blogs wouldn't happen. Or if we did, we'd have to join a nudist colony because no laundry would happen. (I think I may have just invented a new kind of Manhattan real estate demographic. "No closet? No matter!") Here's to all of the moms of many in this world. I've seen first hand the power of love and while I am a part of the club, I'm still amazed by moms. (Thanks to you too, My Moms.)
There are dragons behind our garage that can only be tamed by tree branches and "sweet chocolate milk," according to the bedtime story. Of course, these dragons must be hunted every afternoon now. You never know when they might swoop down for a snuggle. I am that insane woman at the park, running in circles, roaring, and flapping her arms in pursuit of the almighty giggle.
Ren has not stumbled upon too many experiences or people we haven't curated ourselves. It is a pretty potent mirror when he latches on to a thing like a book, toy car, lipping the glass door. Makes us think more carefully about the contents of our lives. Experiences happen at home or in libraries and other places with small furniture and primary colors. We have a toddler. We don't do much. If it we didn't have to show up to jobs, Ren would think the world was limited to a queen sized bed, bad wallpaper, and child-proof cabinets. This must be how we managed to cultivate some very specific (and unusual) obsessions that have taken over our child's life. Here are three:
Each night at dinner, we ask Ren his favorite thing about the day. He always serial-killer whispers, "GAAARAAAHHH." (The garage.) He can list every item inside, including and old Shepard Fairy poster of Barack Obama. For him, it’s like a kid visiting an amusement park. For us, it’s like a kid visiting an amusement park.
Torn and taped flash cards of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight “IKE!” Eisenhower, and the almighty bestie, “BARAK MA-MAMA!” are akin to an entourage. They go down slides, have sips of milk, join in running circles around the kitchen, or oversee festivities from bookshelves. They go night-night in a dining room drawer until they come out to say hello to the dog after breakfast.
“Vaya! Vaya! VAYA!” means all members of the household, including an eleven year old dog, plus a book about Barack Obama, must stand up and twirl to Krishna Das’ Namah Shivaya, a kirtan we give in to playing at least once a day. When Ren asks to do it again, and again, and again, sometimes he is satisfied if mommy or daddy sings a few verses. Then Ren quickly spins for a few minutes until he stops and walks into a wall.
It would be funny if Ren could go where ever he wanted. He mostly just gets to go in the yard. We can't sustain daily visits to the White House these days.