Monday, October 12, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses

Afternoon phone call:

Me: Is it wrong that while I lounge in bed with my shoes on, eating pistachio gelato and reading a novel, our children are next door in the care of someone else's nanny?
Him: There are several things wrong in that sentence. 
Me: I mean, is it neglectful?
Him: Only if something bad happens to them over there.
Me: Like, say, they get crushed in a toy avalanche?
Him: That wouldn't happen.
Me: You haven't been in their basement. Wall to wall Barbies.
Him: You should have made them wear helmets.
Me: What's wrong with us? We toys!
Him: We have marbles.
Me: It's hard to stockpile marbles.
Him: But it's easy to trip on them.
Me: Why does that make me feel better? 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lesson Learned

Well. Just when you think it's safe to send the kids to Sunday school, you-know-who shows up in a skirt. Yes, I know women (and some men) all over the world commit this act of bravery on an every-day basis, and I don't want to take anything away from those individuals. Go ahead and revel in all your long-legged glory! My issues are not with the garment itself, but the person zipped-up in fabric. That would be me. Somewhere in the mental record I keep of all the important messages I've been given about who I am, exists this little gem: "You don't look good in skirts." I don't remember who said it-they could be dead for all I know. Actually, I think it was a boy with whom I attended high school, and thanks to the modern miracle Facebook I can assure you he is very much alive, blissfully unaware of the lasting impression left by his adolescent aesthetic. Does he have any idea HOW HOT I'VE BEEN?  Could I get reparations just for my air conditioning bill? Under normal circumstances, I don't make a habit of archiving, let alone believing all that I'm told-but some things...they stick. We've all been on the receiving end of bad information-it happens all the time-something we'd normally have dismissed as hogwash-but for whatever reason, the motherboard blows a fuse and this nonsensical, unreasonable, ridiculous bit of verbage becomes: TRUTH. It's like...out of the blue, your heart slips your brain a mickey, and you wake up 15 years later, wearing pants.

What I should have delivered the young sartorialist was a good old-fashioned zinger-something that oozed confidence, something more along the lines of talk to the hand, shorty. That was really big in those days. Unfortunately, I've always been most confident post-confrontation, after the offender has returned to his lair and I'm alone, free to rehearse my allocution until it rings true for all of mankind, a speech full of grace and backbone fit to be delivered from either a mountaintop or the Oprah Winfrey Show. Instead, I probably skulked off, turning the words over and over in my mind like a smooth stone in a pants pocket, until they were so familiar I thought they'd always been mine.

UNTIL. I wish I could say that I had a Whitney Houston I'm Every Woman moment during which I reclaimed my power as a female-instead, what really happened was I started to notice, all around me, that people were showing their legs--all manner of legs. Legs that hadn't seen the light of day in 45 years, legs covered with a roadmap of bulging veins, legs so tanned and leathery they could have been a pair of chaps. I realized that somehow, I'd bought into this great lie that our imperfect parts should be covered--shamed, even. I remember stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, realizing I'd been hoodwinked. It was hot, and my children wanted me to do things like play outside. Without fainting. I immediately bought a pair of shorts. Short ones. And then I called several people to announce my coming-out. It was very big in the community.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Song in my mouth

A while back, a woman I know approached me and said, "I bet life with your daughter is like living with a drunk person." Winnie was two at the time, and the four of us were attending a school-sanctioned movie night, an event that went well past her bedtime and involved such decadence as: THE PLAYGROUND! CHICK-FIL-A! FULL-STRENGTH LEMONADE! Because it was late, and on a Friday night, I didn't mind taking her from the auditorium to blow some stink off in the lobby. She was starting to exhibit the behavior pattern my husband and I refer to as "bunny talk". Bunny talk is when she makes lots of clickety noises with her tongue, quick staccato snaps and pops in the front of her mouth, like she's munching on a carrot with two very large rabbit teeth. Bunny talk is a precursor to full-on punchiness--drowsy, slap-happy, tripping-over-my-two feet tired, which kind of reminds me...of a drunk person. "Oh, but she's a happy drunk", I said to the woman, as if this positive spin would negate the fact that she was, by this point, attempting to remove her clothes.

She's a big girl now-almost four, and so much of her baby skin has been shed. Like for instance, she no longer sleeps with a bag of Cheetos. We used to find her napping in the crib, a tiny pink purse over her shoulder with the coveted snack tucked inside. It wasn't as much about eating them as it was possessing them, gathering them to herself. She's a natural hoarder, and even though I've since learned to hide the good stuff on a higher pantry shelf, she has bags in every room with the non-edible treasures she's collected. Joshua and I watched her this weekend, editing the contents of a box of junk destined for either the dumpster or Goodwill, and were impressed by the fact that her selection was not arbitrary. Winnie assigned value to half of a plastic Easter egg, but not a random lego brick. An empty tea-light tin made the cut, but a handful of perfectly good yarn was thrown over her shoulder as if its very existence exasperated her. She amasses these "collections", has one in every room, and even though I'm having to do some spiritual breathing around the possibility of her squirreling her way into a Doctorow novel, I allow her treasure to remain...treasured. Will there be a junk avalanche in her future? I hope not. I'm keeping my fingers crossed she'll be a curator of something other than stacks of newspapers. Gold coins would be okay; silver linings even better.

I love my sweet girl, in every way imaginable--with my whole, imperfect heart. The past six months have been a whirlwind of emotion and change, and she has been, among all of us, the hardiest-a miniature, live-action PSA for pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. And it's authentic, for pete's sake, because she's three. Me? I'm a mess, but my daughter's collecting trash and liking it. While singing showtunes.