Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Packing Lightly.

“Mom, I think I’m going to throw up.”

My formative years, the early ones and those at the close of my adolescence, are sprinkled with adventure and oddity. I cannot swim, but I know which sinewy string to pull to make a detached seal flipper … um … flap.

I have listened to my voice echo in melancholy solo through Italian monasteries and Westminster Abbey. I’ve stood underneath roadside “Welcome to Insert State Name Here” signs in pajamas beside my brother long before the rooster crowed, our eyes open just long enough to hear the camera click to capture a bleary moment in posterity. I’ve stood at my father’s knee as he taught me the beauty of animals, Great Horned Owls and skunks and lizards and dogs and deer and groundhogs the cast of my childhood menagerie.

I’ve eaten whale blubber.

I’ve explored monuments and natural wonders. I dove into Tolkein’s written worlds and I’ve floated schools of dazzling fish. I’ve watched the bluffs turn ripe with berries under the midnight sun and I’ve run wild in the sub-zero eternal night.

I have a picture of my brother and I standing beside two dead caribou. Two dead caribou that are frozen together standing up.

I wore a black watch kilt to school for five years, my navy knee high socks offsetting the non-conforming abbreviated tartan. I’ve played field hockey and sis-boom-bahed. I learned different languages and wandered through foreign countries. I went to Knotts Berry Farm. Universal Studios. Disneyland. Alcatraz.

And then I married a man who had never been anywhere.And hadn't eaten blubber.

I had an idyllic marriage, in the general sense. But whether its first love or true love, and no matter how synchronized your dreams and plans may be, there are bound to be differences. And for us, it boiled down to adventure. His view of adventure involved him, his friends and two bicycle wheels. And it did not involve spending money. Or leaving town. In nine years of marriage, there were five vacations. In the three years after our children were born and before his exit, there were more than five but less than 15 date nights.

For months I have heard – EVERY DAY – that it has been two years since I took my children on an adventure.

In my defense, we haven’t exactly stayed indoors. But we are at the “Disneyland” age and the last time we went to the happiest place on earth we had the unhappiest of times. So I drew a line in the sand and said we wouldn’t cross over it until my daughter turned 7, which is apparently the magical age in the Magic Kingdom.

My children will know their father. They will hear the stories and see the pictures and they will find joy in life as he did. But they will have my definition of adventure. And, let’s be frank, there’s not much he can do to argue the point.

“Would it make you feel better if I told you we are going to Disneyland?”

“You are the best mom EVER! But I still need to throw up.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks.

I have a love-hate relationship with Thanksgiving. 

Case in point: I love turkey. I do not love what it takes to get the pimply carcass basted and roasted to perfection.

For the past decade, Thanksgiving has been one of the busiest weekends of the year for me. In our family, it was accepted that Mommy would be holding a blackberry in one hand, typing with the other, and supervising the decking of the halls. I did not have time to channel my inner Martha Stewart. (There was also that unfortunate episode that suggests, unless I want to entertain a full engine of firemen for Thanksgiving dinner, I should avoid the kitchen.)

So when my not-quite-obsessed-with-fitness husband proclaimed his frustration that family gatherings are driven and shaped by various levels of engorgement and that he would rather pedal his way through the morning, I had what every woman between a rock and her mother-in-law needs.

Back up.

Like everything else, I was compelled by loyalty and grief to fill everyone’s void but my own. I sat through morose Thanksgiving dinners where no one uttered his name while we ate at a table where his eyes followed no matter where you sat. My kids misbehaved. Cutlery chinked.

I tried. But no amount of tryptophane could make me thankful. So I restarted, reshaped and reconfigured. I cancelled our annual Christmas Eve festivities. I stopped making calls on Mother’s Day, simply to see if anyone would remember that it was my day, too. I stopped working on Thanksgiving and, to my children’s delight, I cooked a feast worthy of the pilgrims and we stayed in our pajamas decking the halls and watching the cast of Christmas parade across our TV screen.  

For the past 19 days I have watched the daily acknowledgements of what various friends and acquaintances are most thankful for this year. For new life. Old friends. Employment. Traditions. For adversity overcome. 

And it gave me pause.

I am thankful in so many ways.

For peppermint ice cream. Stila eyeliner. Spanx. Spiced eggnog. Maroon 5. Self-adhesive envelopes. Steve Jobs. Nike. Text messaging. Riesling. Magicians that moonlight as photographers. Merlot. My housekeeper. New lounge chairs. Wireless bras. My daughter’s giggle. Ginger molasses cookies. Jason Bourne. Unfinished stories. Flip flops. Channing Tatum. The delete button. Homemade oatmeal. Jennifer Weiner. Tide laundry detergent pods. Memories. Pinot Noir. Glass art. Scented candles. Friends that don’t judge me, even when I am unfriendly. My chiropractor. Philosophy Eternal Grace bubble bath. Music with meaning. My feather pillows. My frayed 10-year-old Coach tote. The Spice Girls disbanding. My financial advisor. Hockey. Dreams. Pretty toes. Lavender. Family that understands that who I am today is not who I was yesterday. Ballet flats. My son’s dimples. Sequins. Hot tea. Perfect jeans. TMZ. Black T’s. Tulips. Lace panties. Shiraz. White T’s. Running lycra. My ObGyn. My aesthetician. Smoothies. Cabernet. Peep toes. Rainy days. The lady who does payroll. Online shopping. Raspberries. Whichever neighbor it is that pulls my trash can in so that the HOA won’t fine me. Fire extinguishers. Comfy chairs. Fine point black felt pens. Gerard Butler. Pomegranates. Sleeping in. For the me I choose to be.

And definitely for Gerard Butler.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Looking Up.

When I was a little girl, I remember my childhood home as acres of rolling green and riotous color. My mother’s carefully cultivated rock gardens meandered along gravel paths, an explosion of spring blooms that forever sealed my floral preferences. Lush green blades of grass faded into a dark wood beyond the wooden fence, a fertile ground for my imagination. 

The black-shuttered house looms large in my memory, a castle in the country where hidden rooms and great horned owls and raccoons and Saint Bernards and skunks named Florabelle are the stuff of reality, not fantasy.

And my own black-shuttered house with its Dutch door and picket fence. Where I would watch the red flag on the mailbox to see what treasure the fairies had left behind. A fantastical escape where I would carefully navigate spiders. And ants. And earwigs.

That my father, with the greatest paternal love, told me will crawl into my ears and lay eggs before eating their way through my brain before exiting the other side. Which he proved years later courtesy of Ricardo Montalban’s thespian trek into William Shatner’s stars.

Which is why I don’t lay on the ground. Ever.

But lying here prone on the ground, I have an overwhelming urge to simply close my eyes and forget the world around me.

The world that is Paradise Bakery. In the middle of the lunch hour. Where I am flat on my back, my ears ringing and my tailbone screaming and my peep toes and slim grey dress crawling with tortilla chips and bloody red tomato soup.

“Ma’am, are you okay? You took an awful fall. Do you want us to call the paramedics?”

Staring up at his worried and wizened face, I know that he doesn’t understand that ever since the first time I called the paramedics my life has been in free fall and that this ignominious fall from 3.5-inch grace barely registers. He doesn’t know that today I will put in 12 hours of work, squeeze in two doctor’s appointments, navigate hours of hockey practice with my son, and rush home to spend precious minutes with the daughter who tells me daily she doesn’t have enough time with me. That I am here because I did not have time to make a lunch because I have woken up late every morning for the past two weeks. And the weary, frustrated and lonely me wants nothing more than to unload in a messy tortilla-chips-and-tomato-soup explosion. Ever cautious and burned by more than soup, I push her aside and look up.

“I don’t suppose they’ll be able to rescue my soup?”