April 20, 2016
I start every day pretty much the same way. This morning was pretty typical, but my responses, in some cases, were different. I gotta just quit bluffin’. When you quit bluffin’, things change. I know that to be true, yet sometimes it is easier to continue the charade. I know better. I have proof. We do the morning carpool. We all know it around here. It shouldn’t even matter. If we are late, others will be late. So, if I don’t nag and fuss and remind and help find shoes, fix lunch, etc. whatever blah blah, it effects a lot of people. Got to thinking. This isn’t working for me. It starts my day icky. I literally have a knot in my stomach in the morning because I hate starting my day that way. I’m not kidding. I start my day with, “ugh, come on, seriously, do you know what time it is?”, but ultimately….’here is your lunch.” (the only June Cleaver similarity, I am sure). This issue is just riddled with irony, so much so that if I point out every instance it will be a book in and of itself. It makes sense that I begin with it. I beg, nag, help, whatever, but in the end the result is the same, so why would the behavior change in any way? You know, if you are going to get your lunch handed to you, be on time, your i-pad is charged, your folder is signed, etc….wouldn’t you just do things the same way? It works. It is easy street, man. For me, however, it is not easy street. I have a knot in my stomach. It is still there when math has begun and the homework is turned in. Did my Mom begin her days this way? Nope. Nope, she did not. Keep that thought in the back of your mind.
Ben and I had been saying that we would just not nag and leave for carpool at 7:40 with whomever was in the car and ready. Let the chips fall where they may. Well, one day I quit bluffing and it was just me in that car. We had both avoided following through as we are chicken. Point blank. That is why. It would have to get really ugly on that day. This was last school year. On that day, I got in the car with the biggest knot in my stomach ever. Oh jeez. This was hard. Harder than just doing everything myself. As I backed out of the driveway, I saw a face in the window. It was a an unhappy face, a face of disbelief and betrayal, anger, fear, you name it. That was the face. I had to physically force my foot on the gas and go pick the other kids up. Time seemed to stand still as I got them and dropped them off in the carpool line. Each one asked what was going on and I told each one the truth. “We don’t mind, go back and get her. It is ok.” Even the other moms said it. Nope, I knew I had to follow through for things to change. Ogre. I felt like and Ogre. I dropped them off and got back home after 8. Last bell had rung and the school was quiet, kids settled at their desks and the morning announcements would have started on the intercom. Attendance had been taken and absences had been noted. It was official. I pulled back into my driveway knowing that what I did within the next few minutes was critical. I had to remain strong, appear unshaken, cold, and heartless. I went inside and it was a crime scene. I walked in and needed a boogie board for the ocean of tears that were waiting. How could I?? “Who leaves their OWN kid and takes other people’s kids to school? Really, who DOES that?” I explained that I do that. I do because I said I would. I had to do it for the sake of the whole group. Why should they be late? If I do not nag, yes, they will all be late if I wait. That is the hard truth.
We pull back into the ghostly empty parking lot, crying ceased, but evidence of such still very apparent. I don’t budge and say “Have a great day. I love you.” Ogre. Wow. Cold response. “You ARE signing me in, right???” Ummmmm…..that isn’t happening or it would negate the entire scene. If kids are signed in, the tardy is excused. All of this would be for nothing. The scene started over. I used my magic button to open the back van door to trigger the exit of children. I love that button most days. Today, God helped me push that button of reality. Big, brown, teary eyes looked at me in horror. “I love you”, I said, never meaning it more than in that moment. I realized it would be many years down the road before my actions would be understood. The magnitude of that moment will one day be realized by my own child. I won’t have to do it with my grandbabies. Hahahaha. It is a parental moment only. With my grandkids I can gasp in horror at the moment and rock them in the beautiful old rocker that I rocked my kids in. My Mom was rocked in the same rocker. Maybe my kids will be stronger and not let that moment have to happen. We didn’t push it that far with our own parents, so obviously I messed up somewhere. The tardy stung for a long time as she has a pride in never missing school, being tardy, etc. In reality, that pride is not fully hers to own. It became obvious to me this morning how I have slacked. Here is how today started.
I wake up the same. I stand up the same, tripping over Joe who is winding around my legs. He hollers over and over, “Bo- Woooo-Owwww.” (You have to say this out loud with a whining, singing, tone or it doesn’t work. Meow just is not what he says.) He is loud. He is saying it over and over and does this every day. He is intense. He wants his wet food. He has dry food and water at all times. My brother, the Vet, makes me give them wet food now as well. It is a health concern and important. Well, now he is a monster. We all say, “Shut-up, Joe.” Laura and I think it’s funny because we think that he thinks (stay with me here) that we are saying, “you are fabulous, Joe.”
So, really I take on the blame of his behavior as well. I have trained him well, right? He yells at me and I hurry to give him his wet food. It is easy street, man. Today a new woman steps over him and he eventually shuts up. He is in his bed now, resolved to starving to death I guess. It is after 10. I have half of the residents of this house mad at me and am feeling empowered. I have felt it before and know my life is about to change. I am looking forward to that. I walk out to the family room to open the blinds. I trip over some purple flip-flops. Those go on the fridge with a $1 sticky note on them. I used this tactic with Nick too. If it is your favorite stuff, don’t make me pick it up. My time is valuable too and I pick up my own stuff. You don’t. No one else does. I would love that. It would be easy street, man. Laura is really careful with her money and knows every cent she has (this is Ben, not me, though I wish I were better). After school, she will want those flip-flops and I will have that news to share. Again, I don’t feel like I did that day of the carpool. I feel smug. I am taking my own destiny in my hands. I was just going to let the deal unfold.
Two things can happen here at this house. I can trip over them and then the deal is the whole, “if the mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” scene. I could either fall or be very irritated, both of which are equally bad for everyone. I did the latter. The other thing that can, and needs to happen, is they get the sticky note. I’ve had it. Last year when I hit this point I followed up by writing (what can I say? It is what I do well) a formal letter of resignation of my post to my children and husband. Let me be clear, I did not say my love had changed or lessened in any way, only improved to be more…let’s say, efficient.
Today I have once again hit that point. The cat and the flip-flops were only the beginning. Laura asks if her I-pod is charged. I respond that I don’t know. I have a feeling though. I have no cleaned out lunch box to pack, so I am not packing one. I don’t do the “dump out” part. If it isn’t empty and on the counter, my services for filling it are not available. Many parents disagree with my packing it in the first place. To them I say that packing my kids lunches is brief in the speck of life. I have a 19 year old and cherish those days. It makes me happy to picture them opening it and seeing the stuff that they like and maybe a surprise now and then. When they open it, it is absolute non verbal love in every sense of the word. It means I have been listening, I observe, I know them like no one else knows them. I no longer put notes in it, but I miss that so much that it is actually a little pang of pain in my heart as I type this.
I no longer use a cookie cutter for the sandwiches, but I really want to do it to Ben because I think it would be hilarious. I won’t. Packing a lunch is strangely personal. I like to pack Ben’s too for the same reason. You can envy that (which is a sin, right??) or you can ridicule me (also very un-cool with God). If you ridicule me, you are faking that because everyone wants their lunch packed. It is easy street, man. You gotta let this one go. I have got you either way. Anyway, I don’t care what anyone thinks on this. It makes me happy.
Sometimes you have to face the fact that you have to pay for shoes already bought, you forgot to charge your Ipad, and you didn’t get your lunch made for you. I think we need to let our kids know this. They need to learn to pick up the little messes now so that they can prepare for the real deal of life. The Prince and June Cleaver are FICTIONAL people. They do not show episodes where the Prince, or June, leave you (either by death or choice) and there you are. Yeah, right. Then the writers go one to show how to pick up the pieces. Nope. Watch the stories and enjoy them. They are awesome.
I love Snow White. I love her. She is everything cool. The animals love her and come around and sing and are adorable. They don’t make a mess or ruin anything of hers like real animals. She has black hair and white skin. How stinking great is that? Not blonde and tan. Life just shakes out how it is going to and there is a plan. He has a plan. That is a fact, Jack. I lived it. I am not martyring as I am a better person for having lived through that. I found myself in a room full of boxes, a baby sitting in one of them throwing wads of packing paper around and laughing, in Denver, with a car payment, rent, food, etc. to pay. My parents had lived not a mile away in my old town and did not save me. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I came here with $1,000.00 of borrowed money, a really icky rental house that had to be scoured before I could even sleep there……I had to do that myself. I had a full time job and a baby. Thank God for both of those things. I made life long friends and learned so much about life through that job and experience. I was only strong in the beginning because of Nick. I had to be. Who was going to do it? One day I woke up and realized I was a strong person. I was not strong for Nick only. I was strong, period. I had always been because that is what I was shown.
It seems like not long ago my dad was rocking Laura in that same old rocker that I spoke of before. My dad refinished it, of course. It has been covered with new fabric and had the seat fixed up a time or two. I remember the fabric it was covered in when I was a kid. Funny what you remember. Anyway, I have that chair and my Dad was rocking Laura and singing a song all of us know by heart. It is called “Cockles and Mussels.” I was raised with a version that will likely not be heard again. It is the version sung by my father with no guitar, no piano, no help at all. Just my dad and the sound of the rocker creaking. My dad has a beautiful voice but is very bashful about it. He shouldn’t be as he is really, really good. He wouldn’t sing for anyone out loud again until the grand kids. He cannot say no to a little face asking, “Sing Mussels, Papa.” Did we put them up to it? You bet. We have all asked them to ask him because we know he will say yes. I’m sooo not sorry about that. Here is a little background on the lyrics.
This is a song about a young fish monger in Dublin. There’s a profession for you, fish monger. She is from a family of fish mongers, selling fish via her wheelbarrow. It begins all great and happy.
In Dublin’s fair city, where girls are so pretty, none was as fair as sweet Molly Malone. She wheeled a wheel barrow down streets broad and narrow,
crying, “Cockles and Mussels, alive alive oh!”
Pretty jolly picture in your head, right? Well, hold on to your hats because it doesn’t stay that way for long. The song goes on for a bit and thennnnnnn this:
Well, she died of a fever and no one could save her
That was the end of sweet Molly Malone
Now her ghost wheels a wheel barrow down the streets broad and narrow
Crying, “Cockles and Mussles, alive alive oh!”
So, I am sitting on the couch listening and Papa and Laura are on the rocker in the corner. I am watching and soaking in every second, including this verse, only because I want to have it permanently in my memory bank, not because I am worried about Molly kickin the old fish bucket in the end. It doesn’t dawn on me what is about to happen. Laura’s big, brown eyes become tear-filled and she grabs my dad’s big mitt with her tiny hand. She says in her cracked little voice, “Papa, she is dead?? She died and her ghost is pushing the wheel barrow??? Her ghost??” My dad does not miss one single creaking of the chair. The chair does not pause. He simply says, “That’s life, kid.” She looks at me for reassurance and I just shrug my shoulders. I had let out a huge cackle when dad said it, as did Ben and my Mom so we were on the sinking ship anyway. She said, “But, Papa…” He interrupted her and said, “Ya win some, ya lose some.” Wow. That is the thing. Ya win some and ya lose some. I learned it early to some degree. I am trying to be a better teacher of it now. The rocker story doesn’t end there…..
The rocking at night was a thing when Papa was visiting us. Read to me. Tell me a story. Papa, tell me a story from your mouth (a story about YOUR life, when you were a kid etc.).
Anyway, Fox in Socks is a joke with Ben and I. I would kinda push that one where it wasn’t as easily visible because, man, is that book hard to read. It is so tongue-twistery and long. That book is a mile long. I know that Dr. Seuss teaches kids to read. I know it because both of mine read early. They memorize it and then learn the words that make those sounds. I have “Yertle the Turtle” from my own childhood and it is my very favorite and highly under read. I knew every word and can recite it from memory even now.
Fox in Socks is a horrible story. No joke. Try it if you don’t believe me. She learned that we would avoid that one and seek it out. What a stinker. It became a joke. When you got to read, you just prayed she couldn’t find it. You couldn’t cut it short either. She had it memorized. You can’t cheat with reading to a kid who has the book memorized. So, Laura grabs a book and climbs up into Papa’s lap in the big, old rocker. The book? Hahahahahahahaha on Papa, it is Fox in Socks.
Well, we all sit with our shoulders shaking in laughter as Papa struggles with the whole deal. I know it is sick. We are a sick family and find the pain of an 84 (now 90!) year old man struggling with the book and at the mercy of the most powerful person in his life, little Laura. He fusses a little and sees that she isn’t going to let him off the hook. Then, oh then, this is beautiful, he closes the book without finishing it and says, “You know, Laura, I think that book is likely what killed Dr. Seuss.” No one does that. No one says that to a little kid!! We could not contain our laughter and were all just cracking up. My shoulders are shaking with laughter as I recall the whole event. That was so stinking funny. This was a dark day, my friends….The day that Laura joined in the laughter. The day the sarcasm hit and she became “one of us.” They have all joined. She is the youngest and now we all understand the family sickness and share in it. You earn your degree, I guess. We all have to go through the Cockles and Mussels to appreciate the great things. Ya win some, Ya lose some. If you don’t learn how to live through the losses, what are you going to do? Not an option. You have to figure it out.
I will end with an irony since I began with one. As I was finishing this, Ben texted me these four words, “Thanks for the lunch.” The poetic irony is not lost on me. Those four words will carry me a long way. The fact that he texted them right now? Are you kidding? A total God thing. God may has well have just come right here and engraved it in my kitchen table in front of me with a blazing lightning bolt. “Thanks for the lunch.” It meant so much more than those four words and I hear you, God. You are welcome. I was feeling so taken for granted. You are welcome and I will withdraw my resignation…..again.