Maybe by Breakfast

May 2, 2015

5th grade dance

Tonight was my daughter’s fifth grade dance. After careful negotiations, I was allowed to serve as chaperone.

I was the cotton candy ice scooper.

When the 5 gallon canister was empty, I had a chance to linger on the sidelines. I would have been dismissed, but I was the ride home.

I talked to some of the other moms, but mostly we looked toward the dance floor and smiled and nodded and sighed. We moms would shift our weight from one foot to the other in time to the music. We would flutter around the floor with phones and cameras aimed at the action or picking up half empty water bottles and forgotten cookies. We juggled and stowed coats, sweaters, pictures, snacks, and ipods.

And we watched.

The kids were fireflies and shooting stars. I know it sounds like I’ve been listening to too much Katy Perry, but they were. I couldn’t even get a decent snapshot, Katy raced from one end of the dance floor, to the water fountain, to her friend with the long hair, back up to the stage. She was a laughing blur that knew all the dance moves, even from songs that came out before she was born. Her friends, all the kids, moved with grace and confidence and joy. They took photos of each other, without pausing to rearrange themselves, or find a smile or a pout. They held and shot and moved on to the next thing, a snack or a dance or another photograph.

Tonight was a beautiful blur, and I wonder if any of the pictures we all so diligently snapped will capture any of it.
And now it’s almost ten, and Katy’s brushing her teeth upstairs and I’ve got the Macarena stuck in my head.

Good night, Kaitlin.

Please be my little girl again by breakfast.

Just until it’s time for lunch.

I was driving to the grocery store this evening and went right by a playground. It was just after 7, dusk here in New England, windy and cloudy and warm. It was crowded; spring has been a long time coming and some of us are not quite convinced it’s here to stay.

And a thought came to me- My kids don’t go the playground with me anymore. Colin is 13, Katy is 10. They go to the park these days, all by themselves or in packs with other kids from the neighborhood.

I hadn’t even noticed the passing of playground days, and they are gone, along with mornings of helping them pick out their clothes for school and the Thursday night phone calls in search of a sitter.

I remembered our trips to Andrews Park. Katy would clutch my hand, which would then smell like peanut butter until I got home. Colin would race ahead, clutching a frisbee or a football or a backpack with snacks. I would juggle my phone and my iced coffee and a book, all while one of my hands was clenched inside Katy’s warm, smudgy grip.

When we got there, I swear, it took us twenty minutes at least, and Andrews is three blocks away, I’d find a bench and settle down with the book and the drink and the phone. I’d make nervous conversations with other mothers, who all seemed to know each other, while eyeing my kids to make sure they didn’t hijack the swings. I’d wish I’d brought wipes, or bottled water. I’d look at my phone and calculate how much longer we’d have to stay until I could safely give them the five minute warning. I’d wonder what was underneath all the sand in the sandbox, if that was even sand in the sandbox. I’d call someone, anyone at all who might pick up the phone, and wouldn’t mind helping me kill some time until I could safely check the time again. Finally, Katy would make me push her on the swing. Then Colin would make me throw him a ball, or shoot baskets, or teach him how to make a frisbee sail thru the air. And I’d wish I was just a little bit better at doing any of those things while looking around to make sure no one was watching. And they weren’t. Until whatever I was throwing hit someone in the head.

Today, I took Katy to SOWA, an open air market with food trucks and art galleries and one stand that had an entire display of 19 different kinds of cheese. Colin went with me last week to the Y, and we worked on the new Keiser equipment. I can’t get a basket, well I can, but it’s not that often, but I can work with him on strength training to help his jump shot. Next month, I’m going to take them to see Lion King, The Musical, which is a helluva lot more fun than watching the Disney video four times in the same afternoon, (not that we ever spent that much time in front of the tv.)

So tonight I was sad for a bit that the playground days are gone until I thought about it. Now, I’m mostly relieved. Though I’m thinking that for Mother’s Day, I might request a sentimental journey over to the swing set on Castle Island. And I will let Colin and Katy take turns pushing me.

So much of Facebook is filter and crow. Tonight I’ve had a few beers and I’m feeling a little dangerous so this was my most recent entry.You will notice there is some crowing but I left the filter off.
My Day.
Mango, Banana Carrot smoothie.
Church. A conversation about the devil and some amazing words from Parisa Parsa.
Friends at church and hugs and promises and amazing coffee. The faces there are family, chosen family. I know why I chose them and I am constantly in awe of the fact that chose me.
Home.
Yoga. With Nathalie Bellemare Elfer. Our downward dogs were so true to the canine spirit of the pose they are going to put us on a poster for the amazing benefits of yoga for middle aged women. Or on the cover of Love Your Pet, Be Your Pet, not sure which.
Home. Pork roast in going to be in the oven a looooonnnnng time.
It smells good, it’s making me hungry.
Time to visit the inlaws, drink beer and watch basketball.
The kids are sick, so I really should leave the house, drink beer and watch basketball. That way they’ll rest.
Basketball. Two beers. Phone call from Colin. Nice job, leaving us home alone while you party.
Made me careful way to the store, long conversation with the clerk about Keebler versus Pepperidge Farm.
Cab.
Home with cookies.
Roast for dinner tomorrow.
Tonight it’s cheese toast and chocolate chips and water. Lots and lots of water.
I could have just told you I went to the gym.

Since school started, my world has been gobbled by too much stuff. That’s always been the case, or at it’s always been the case since I started writing on Word press. But this season, there were two new additions that have left me little room to breathe, much less ruminate between breathes and create entire meaningful sentences to those outside my immediate family. (My immediate family might tell you that I don’t create meaningful sentences for them either.)
I’ve become, um, hooked on yoga. It’s not the same as hooked on Phonics, or hooked on drugs, or even the off and on addiction to caffeine I’ve had since I was twelve. I joined a gym right next to my house. There are all different kinds of yoga classes offered right before work, just after I drop Katy for swim team, classes in the pre dinner hour, (while it roasts, I bake in warm yoga at 95 degrees.)

I even bought a mat. Every time I enter the room, filled with all of these beautiful, long limbed, gumbyesque women, all ages, shapes, ethnicities, I find a spot in the middle of them. I roll out my mat, I go the closet for a block and a strap, I sip water from the fountain, I run to the ladies room to pee, and then I find my way back. I find my way back in a sea of gumbyesque long limbed rainbow of x chromosomes, and there is always room left in their midst. Of course, there is always room left. Like I said, I reserve a spot, as soon as I drop my mat.
I am learning from yoga. I’ve only been going a little more than a month, so I’m probably not qualified to share it with you, but let me just say, it’s a good place to find myself six times a week. When I am in the room, on an island of blue fabric, listening to my own breath, matching my breath to everyone else’s, absorbing the teacher’s measured instructions, and reminders, and gentle suggestions, I am an island. I choose what to feel, how to move, what to hear, how to place my body, and then how to move my body. The beginning of a love affair with yoga is selfish, it requires for me to listen hardest to what I am telling myself and it doesn’t lend itself to quick posts on facebook, or ruminations on word press.
And that has been the perfect place for me to be right now in the midst of the other addition to this little life of mine. My son is now thirteen. Since school started, since the first hairs sprouted on his upper lip, and so far, I’m the only one that’s seen them, things have gotten complicated. The other day, I mentioned a song to him. It was by eminem, a song he’d written about missing Dr. Dre. For those of you not familiar with the midwestern rapper, Mr. Em wasn’t bemoaning a missed appointment at the health clinic.

Regardless, my son, my son who once declared I was the coolest mom ever just for knowing how to spell me Em’s name, looked at me with utmost scorn.
“Mom, that songs been out since, like, 2004. You call yourself an eminem fan?”

No, I never called myself an eminem fan. I like some of his music and I know how to spell his name. For the record.

Next day, he called me on the phone. I was on my way home from driving Katy to swim team, after working out, after working. I was hungry. And he said the words:
“Mom, dinners on the table.”
Dinner was on the table. Colin had reheated the turkey taco meat from the night before. He had sliced a tomato in half and put a head of lettuce in a bowl. He had heated some taco shells he found behind the microwave for forty minutes in the oven until they were as solid as a cookie sheet.

I ate the turkey tacos. And then I ate the pizza that my friend brought over out of the blue. Unsolicited. I sort of swear.

He is the coolest son ever. He is capable of making me a card that would make a dead mom weep, (get that hip reference to the rolling stones. Probably not. I guess Colin’s right. I try too hard.)

Things are complicated right now. I go to yoga, where I’m just starting to figure out where my butt should be in downward dog, and have just accepted I’m probably never going to be able to hold my body up on my elbows.

I come home to my son. One minute, he smiles and I swoon. Before the minutes over, he tells me he was smiling because his friend on the phone just offered him the chance to by a used pair of sneakers for only $125 dollars, “I mean, mom, why would I smile at you. You gave me crap when I MADE YOU DINNER! I mean, it might take time before I recover from that…” And he’s joking with me again, and smiling. Nope, that smile was for his sister. She just said she would do the art work on the front of his book report.

Sometimes I go to yoga twice a day.

Missing

July 11, 2013

It was a tough day. Lost library book.  Hot. Fight with Colin, my son, about  what I know now was absolutely nothing. Three hours ago it seemed important while I sat on my stairs and weighed punishments.

Each disagreement we have now that he is heading toward his thirteen year is dark with danger – is this the moment he stops liking me? Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity to establish important policy. (There are repercussions for not leaving a note, for taking five dollars from my purse, for teasing his sister.) Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity for me to prove myself to be an inflexible ass. (He did call my cell, I’d told him I’d give him a few dollars, and what twelve year old boy doesn’t tease his sister.)

So I removed myself, and his sister, from the battlefield. It is July, there is a pool less than a mile away, and it is open from 6 until 7:45 every week night.

Katy and I swam. I did laps, she chased behind me and grabbed my toes when she could. I taught her the words to a song that begins “There once was a farmer who took a young miss”. I got irritated when she fell behind on our way to the car. She wasn’t happy when I denied her movie request. It was a wonderful, normal summertime night.

When we got home, the lights were out. I called for Colin. No answer. I fed the animals, I reminded Katy that we were not going to add a hamster to our menagerie until I was not the only one feeding the animals.

I called for Colin. It was dark. There wasn’t a note. Most nights, I would have just taken the dog to the park to remind him of the time. But he and I had been arguing. He wouldn’t have gone to the park.

I checked the phone for incoming calls, a telemarketer called from Seattle at 7:30. I checked the phone for outgoing calls. He’d called a friend at 5:15.

I went to the park. It was dark. It was quiet. There was a teenager smoking by the batting cage. The teenager said no one had been there for at least an hour.

I texted the moms of his friends. “Looking for Colin. Heard from him?” I didn’t want to panic anyone, or look like an idiot when he strolled in dribbling his basketball. I don’t like it when he bounces that damn ball in the house. I looked for the ball, couldn’t find it. No word from Colin

I called one of the moms, and kept my tone light. She volunteered to come pick me up, take me out so we could look for him together. I made a joke about not being ready to be “one of those moms”, but if I’d known her better, I would have said yes.

When he’s nervous, everything that he says sounds like it’s heading for a punchline. It’s why by the end of the school year, half of his teachers are in love with him and half of them want to give him detention in someone else’s classroom for the rest of his life.

That is my son. And right after I thought just that thought, it occurred to me. When he’s in trouble, he gets scared. When he gets scared, he gets tired.

He was in bed. Colin was tucked in, under four blankets, behind a door in a room sealed shut, like I told him to do, when he runs the air conditioner. The air conditioner must be ten years old. It is loud. It doesn’t have power saver or even a thermostat. Just high and low.

Colin had it on low. I guess he had heard my lecture on not wasting power and that other charming ditty of mine about not zoning out in front of the tv.  He’d even paid attention to that speech about reading more books; “The Chronicles of Captain Underpants” was just next to him, on top of his blankets, book mark placed towards the end.

He was missing and I missed him so much. And there he was, sleeping upstairs while I worried, cursed, wept and made stupid jokes so no one would know just how scared I was.

There is a lesson here, and I’m just not ready to learn it. I hope I have a little more time.

Boys

May 1, 2013

I am a fifty year old woman. I am at an age when I should be gardening, or sorting thru cruise brochures, or joining a wine tasting class.

Instead, I am quite often surrounded by boys. Teenage boys. One of them is my son, who, like most 13 year olds, has begun to travel in packs of other thirteenish year olds. I spend a lot of time with the son of friend of mine, he’s on the cusp of 16, I think. He doesn’t look like a boy, anymore, but he is one. I am blessed that I get to see that side of him. I drive him places sometimes, and over time, and out of sheer boredom, I’ve gotten to know him.

Tonight, I was bringing this young friend of mine home from a class. He had his head stuffed between earbuds. He had a bag of Wendy’s on his lap. He had a scowl on his face and a french fry in his mouth.

A song came on the radio, and the ear buds came out. And he sang along. Not softly, not under his breath, out loud, each word clear, each note on key. He didn’t look at me; I didn’t look at him. I harmonized, or attempted it, during the choruses. I slid glances at his face, and saw his eyes were wide open inside the dark of the Grand Marquis. I still can’t believe he let me hear him sing. When the song was over, he stuffed the earbuds back in place. He popped a french fry in his mouth, he sighed and closed his eyes. Back in position we went. I drove the car, he went somewhere else in his head.

About a half an hour after I got home, my son came in from a basketball practice. He laid on the sofa, protesting he was too tired to make it up the stairs. His dad tried to wrestle with him, and he rolled over, closed his eyes. (What is it with boys and the shutting of eyelids. Is it some adolescent version of peekaboo?)

I waited for his father to go downstairs. I told him it was time for bed. “Don’t you want to hear about practice?” he asked. He didn’t sound hopeful. He didn’t sound mad. He wanted to know if I had the time to listen. I did.

He told me, little by little how his practice sucked. One kid announced to everyone he didn’t  want to pair up with him in a drill because my son was no good. Another kid swore at him for fouling him out. I don’t know exactly what went on, I don’t speak basketball. I just know that my son was squeezing tears out his eyes, and his lip trembled, and his shoulders shook. I know that he wouldn’t let me lay down next to him. We spoke face to face.

I said what I could. I told him how much I respected him for his drive, his determination. That the most I did sports wise growing up as a kid was join the swim team. I stayed on it until I was eleven, then quit when we moved and I found out I’d have to swim in a lake. Perseverance  has never been my middle name, hasn’t even been an occasional visitor in my life.

I don’t think I helped. I did get a smile when I reminded that body spray is never a substitute for a shower. I think he was smiling because he thinks I’m wrong and that body spray is even better than a shower.

Boys, these mysterious creatures that clutter and lift up my life. I watch them struggle, and I really want to make everything all better for them. And I can’t. I shouldn’t even attempt to.

I just need to make sure I’m around when their eyes are open and they want to talk.

Bewitched and Bewildered.

February 27, 2013

Tonight, after I made our salad, I looked at the naked avocado pit on the counter. I asked my daughter if she’d seen any toothpicks.

Her eyes narrowed- “How many toothpicks do you need?”

“Four should do it,” I answered.

“Ok, I’ve got a stash in my room.”
Moments later, this beautiful creature presented me with exactly four toothpicks. Katy wouldn’t tell me where they came from, or for what reason she stored them in secret upstairs.
And so continues the mystery that goes by the name of Kate. I wonder what she would have said if I’d asked for twelve toothpicks, or twenty.
I’m thinking the mighty seed would be tucked into the bag of scraps intended for Miss Debbie’s chickens.

What can I say about Christmas that hasn’t already been said? Silent Night is a lovely song, batteries are a big part of a successful Christmas morning and chocolate kisses are probably not the healthiest way to start the day.

We had dinner at my sister and brother in laws home. Nancy and Jeff don’t see the Colin and Katy that  often. This past year my children entered the phase of their lives  when their calendars require a full time assistant/chauffeur to keep track of their commitments and get them there. There is not much time is left for the simple joy of watching scary movies with relatives. So tonight after dinner, I left them there. Nancy and Jeff let them have snacks on the bed. Nancy and Jeff let them watch movies where Freddy Krueger is the hero. Nancy will paint Katy’s toenails and Jeff will spend a half an hour talking about the Celtics with Colin. Make that an hour.

So here I am, home alone on Christmas night.  I remember when I used to drop them at the sitters when they were little; car seat, diaper, dry cheerios were a delicacy little. I’d pull away from them like I was leaving a particularly horrible job. I’d turn up the radio, call all of my friends to announce I had a window of freedom and meet whoever picked up first for many cocktails and long lubricated conversations about how I loved my babies so much but I really, really needed this time to be me. They would chime in with answers like “you deserve this” and order me another drink another shot, while patting me on that hand and looking at me with pity. Maybe it was the spit up on my blouse, or the dark circles under my eyes. We’d spend a couple hours in the bar, or at someone’s condo or in an intimate little restaurant. Drinking. Bemoaning a life that required me to wipe someone’s bottom at least five times a day. Talking about the need for adult conversation. We talked a lot about how I needed adult conversation, but I don’t recall any of the adult conversation after it’s need was established. Repeatedly. Maybe that’s because of all of the cocktails consumed during these conversations.  I know that one of my favorite obsessions then, and I’m sure I shared it with anyone and everyone who would listen, was- how was I going to wean Katy from the breast. (That was how I put it, I swear, the breast, like it wasn’t attached to my body, which if it wasn’t attached to my body, it wouldn’t have been such a big concern.) I don’t really think this qualifies as adult conversation, I’m sure it bored my friends to tears, but for about a year and a half that was pretty much all that was on my sleep deprived little mind.

That was years ago. Tonight when I drove away from them I didn’t even think of calling a friend to meet for a cocktail. It’s Christmas night, the bars are closed. And not having the kids isn’t thrilling me the way it used to. I didn’t get that glorious rush of “I’m free” when I pulled out of the driveway. I just thought about how much I hate the months when it’s dark at five o’clock.

I’m home now. There is a lot of post Christmas cleanup to do. I will turn on the radio and sweep and break down boxes for recycling. I’ll try to figure out why the dishwasher won’t drain. I’ll peel up the goo from the kitchen floor from one of Katy’s science experiments. I’ll throw out the box of fancy chocolates; the kids sampled all of them and ate two. I will feed Colin’s fish and try to find the receipt to $18 Nike Elite socks I went to the mall on Christmas Eve to get; they don’t fit. $18 dollar socks that require two trips to the mall, I’m going to reminding him of that for the next six months every time I want him to clean his room.

I miss them. Not because they would help, and they would. I miss them because they have grown into the people I most want to hang out with. I want to commiserate with Colin and Katy about the measly snow we got, and talk about what the best part of the Christmas pageant was. I want to dance around the kitchen with Katy while the radio plays one of our songs, (most of the songs on the radio are one of our songs.) I want Colin to show my something on youtube I just have to see, which I invariable find totally disgusting or pee in my pants hysterical*.

And now my thoughts turn to all of the mothers tonight without their kids. I’m picking mine up at nine.

All I can say to them is I promise to try to remember each day and each night, I am the luckiest woman in the world.

*I am aware that if Colin reads this he will never, ever show me a youtube video again, and decided I can live with that.

Today, 730 wake up, kids home from school, I’m off for interpersonal communications. Three hour class lecture covered syntax and hopi indians and the n word. Next, work study, I am the woman responsible for making sure the students of Quincy College know Jesus is coming to speak to us about the importance of voting, and there is a creative writing club whose leader has promised to bring snacks to 

the first meeting. And I tidied up the lounge. And I replaced the tape used on fliers in the past with sticky goo. I worked until four.
Then, two frantic conversations later, I had to pick one kid up from the bus, and get another to football… Do you have your water bottle… What you mean you forgot your helmut? You need your helmut? Your phone? You need your phone at football practice????
Picked up. Dropped off. Picked up. Dropped off. I am truly a modern day suburban glacier.
Home to get ready for a benefit, Date night with my daughter. Dress, make up, brief attempt at making my hair look like a style instead of just hair, I need to learn how to make a chignon… Katy looked great, she is eight, she knows about accessoriess and the dangers of too much blush. 
We are in the car in fifteen minutes. Dressed and smelling really good and then, we are pulling into the parking lot of the t, and… no cash. I begin my evening begging the parking attendant to let me slide an envelope thru his window with the $5 parking fee after they close because we are running late. I guess he likes my hair, or he thinks I’m really pathetic, or he will agree to anything because as I beg him, three other cars pull in behind me…
We park the car. I dig out an old tee ticket from the summer and we fly thru the turnstiles, Katy still loves a ride on the escalator,
We take the red line to the green line. We walk from Copley five blocks to the Copley Marriot. Katy and I are both in high heels but they are wedges, our feet don’t hurt too bad and we are excited. We are in the city. We are going to a benefit. We have tickets waiting, and there will be music, and dinner and dancing.
And there was. For a few hours, there was music by Bernadette Peters, and dancing by a swing band, and sliders and shrimp and wine and Shirley Temples. It was a lovely night. 
On the way to the t, I remembered to hit the bank machine. When we got back to the car, I remembered to slip the cash in the envelope and leave the envelope in the booth where the parking attendant was sitting just a few hours ago.
I was a princess tonight, even if it was just for an hour or two. And princesses always keep their promises, even when they are really, really tired from a long night of dancing.
And princesses in 2012 make sure they go home and blog about keeping their promises even though they were really, really tired after a long, long night of dancing and a long, long day of doing everything else.