In Los Angeles, rain. Finally. It’s a miracle.
The certainty of impending precipitation has made the last few days feel holiday-special. Grown adults have seemed giddy with excitement. When will it come? When will it be here? Rushing to our windows to check for its arrival, we’ve acted like children on Christmas eve. Amazing to think that we ever took it for granted. We recieve it now with a gratitude bordering on frenzy. Because, believe it or not–and hate me if you must, all you east coasters–sunny, dry, unrelentingly perfect weather can be not only tiresome, but downright toxic after a long enough stretch. We’re so dry here we’re crumbling. Dust has accrued in epidemic amounts. Skin is nail-file rough. Shocks from the slide at the playground have grown, well, shockingly strong. To say nothing of the larger, drought-related misery.
But no more! Finally, I hear it falling! Weather has come!
And with it, a cold for Myra-Jean. Not as an effect, of course. Their coinciding arrivals are simply bad timing. If it is, indeed, bad. Just as well such an affliction happen now, when she will be forced indoors anyway. Still, it’s never fun. She’s a wreck–angry, red circles under her watery eyes, deep, wrenching cough, violent sneezes. She looks like the guy from the Robitussin commercial, but in astronaut pajamas. And female. And four. And–OK. She doesn’t look like him at all. But her cold sure does.
Anyway. Due to MJ’s ill health we spent the entire afternoon reading. First it was multiple repetitions of Ranger Rick Jr.–I know more about vertebrates now than anyone on my block–then on to one of her favorite books. And mine. We usually read “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space” in short sections. Tonight, though, it was nearly cover to cover–something that took over an hour. I couldn’t have minded less. “Astro Cat” contains much of the same information as “The Big Bang,” so it felt like visiting an old friend. A clever, smartly-drawn, feline friend in an orange space suit, that is. It’s an effective conceit. Imagine if all tough lessons were delivered by such a spokesperson. “On Particle Physics, by Professor Astro Cat.” “Your 2014 Tax Return,” by same. He could hold forth on nearly any subject and I’d be rapt. I think they should start a series.
All kidding aside, it’s a wonderful book. Did you know there’s a diamond-filled ocean on Uranus? That black holes cause something called “Spaghettification?” That the quicker a spaceship travels through space the slower it will travel through time?
Here on earth we have rain. Far better understood, but, today, at least, just as magical.
It’s a record, for me, at least. Today I visited three different grocery stores, bought eight bags of groceries, and spent just north of three hundred bucks. $311.02, to be exact. WTF? How does this happen? And how on earth do people with multiple kids do it?
Fortunately, when my marketing was done, I had a few minutes to myself, so came here to the library, where I’ve just picked up “Lean In” for absolutely free. Does this make me feel better? Slightly.
Now if only one of my daughter’s friends hadn’t repeatedly called her “stupid” today. It left her morose; I was worse. It’s all I can do to keep from walking over to the “bullying” section of the parenting shelf right now. There they’ll find me at closing time, turning pages, chewing my knuckles, silently sobbing.
The universe is vast. So are grocery bills. So is the list of things from which I cannot protect my daughter.
I am trying to lean in to the enormity of all I cannot change. To do otherwise is costly.
But laying down has its own price. Part of me wants to go home and teach MJ how to flip off her tormentors. This, too, will not help. But it might feel good for a second.
It’s a complicated calculation.
I am shopping for wisdom.
But I am bringing home mostly snack food.
Learning about space delights me, but book clubs cannot be ignored. Completing “the Big Bang” with some wistfulness, I continued on to a pulpy thriller called “What the Dead Know.” Not a lot, it turns out. Certainly not about writing.
Fortunately, MJ has no such literary distractions. She’s been able to stay true to her obsessions–space, mostly, with a minor sprinkling of natural sciences. Her studiousness has, at least to a mother’s eye, borne some fruit. Her drawings of flowers have progressed nicely, and her latest depiction of the solar system is, if not totally accurate, at least a decent approximation. Look closely (and with a little imagination) and you will see Saturn’s rings, Neptune’s blue hue, even the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.
This matters to me. My child is learning to look outward. She is blessed with curiosity. She does not find the vastness of our universe terrifying.
As for me, I’m waiting for the library to get my next book club selection in. It’s “Lean In.”
Talk about terrifying.
Reading “The Big Bang” takes me magnificent places. Ridiculous. Jaw dropping. As I turn the pages I am sucked in completely, gazing spellbound–as if at a cosmic movie screen– at our rich, mystery-sated heavens. What a drama unfolds before me! A tale strewn with unlikely geniuses, collapsing stars, far-flung atoms, electromagnetic waves, embracing galaxies, eloquent equations, gold-spewing supernovae, wormholes, invisible bends in the plane of spacetime–all of these and more form and unform against a background of deep-forever space. I watch, rapt, struggling to comprehend.
Then I return to reality. And am presented with…
Walter. My cat. Mystery-sated as well, in his own quotidian way.
Walter strews quite a different material around the universe. Our universe. Pom poms. Red ones. He is addicted to them. Obsessed. He seeks them out. He finds them, wherever they are. He performs un-catlike feats of fine-motor agility to secure their possession. Once acquired, he hoards them in the prison of his teeth. He torments them. Finally, he systematically destroys them, rendering them eventually unrecognizable as the minor crafting aid they once were.
He does not care for yellow ones.
He does not care for blue.
Red pom pom innards line our life. They are ubiquitous–the dark matter of our domestic world. Everywhere an empty space is, they are.
I consider the grand sweep of the universe. The heartstopping vastness of it. The profound beauty of its laws. The implacable pace of it. Its stillness. Its remaining paradoxes.
I consider red pom poms.
And messes of all kinds.
I struggle to comprehend.
And I set down my book. I have cleaning to do.
Those things are a bitch to vacuum up.
Little sisters. Such copycats.
Abigail, whom you may remember from her infamous chicken foot stew, has now jumped on the turmeric bandwagon. And, as usual, one-upped me–by mixing her turmeric into a kale-and-almond-butter-based smoothie. Will I follow suit? Most likely not. Yes, it looks delicious. Yes, it packs a bigger nutritional wallop than my simple “yellow milk.” But I’d have to get the blender dirty. This is an insurmountable obstacle for one such as me.
My other sister Lily has also joined in the turmeric craze. She’s on day three of drinking it every day. That the both of them are now imbibing the “magic yellow” (and not the urinary kind) makes me very happy. I get to credit myself with improving the health of 75% of my siblings. Or is it 63%?
Anyway. I have three. Two are drinking turmeric. You get the point.
Now if I can just get my brother on board I will ensure the longevity of my entire family line. Our blood–tinged slightly golden–will flow through the ages.
I will also ease my mathematical struggles. Statistics were never my thing,
As for me? I actually stopped drinking the stuff a few days ago. I know. I have no willpower. I have no consistency. I have no dishwasher! I hate washing the pot. That yellow scum is a bitch to get off! If I hadn’t killed my Gaffers and Sattler with the wrong kind of soap back in October we might be having a different conversation right now. As it is, I think I’m back to just taking a multivitamin.
And saving up for a Bosch. That’ll really improve my health.
Snapshot of this moment: I am sitting in the breakroom at work, surrounded by tupperware containers and an assortment of old condiments. I am eating a peanut butter sandwich with homemade jam. It is delicious. Still, someone forgot to order paper towels, so I am using a tissue as a napkin. This lack of basic supplies has taken an already bad mood and made it worse.
My boss asked earlier if I might be willing to work a fourth day every week. We are, she said, woefully short staffed. Taking a deep breath, I told her yes. Yes, although it will take my already scant time with my daughter and make it scanter. Yes, although this job numbs my brain and makes me, at least occasionally, hopeless for the whole human race. Yes, because we need the money and that’s a fact. Times are tough. Comparatively so, at least.
And they’re about to get tougher, at least for one small girl at my house.
This morning, when MJ–in a repeat performance of incredible endurance–cried about my going to work, I told her, “you know my great, great, great grandmother had six kids. And she had to work building bricks out of mud every day. Just to put food on the table.”
“Out of mud?” MJ replied.
“In the cold.”
“Whoa,” said my daughter, suitably chastened.
This story, I should add, is true. Or true-ish. The ancestor in question did spend some days making adobe bricks in exchange for food when living with the Mormons in Utah. It’s a small detail in an exciting and hair-raising tale, but it may not be totally accurate to portray her as solely and purely a brick smith. Still, her road was hard– her husband’s, too. I figure if they could survive starvation, wolf attacks, Indian abductions, and the shockingly ill treatment of the early Mormon leadership, then certainly I can survive working an extra day in high end retail until my husband is working again.
So maybe I told the mud brick story for myself.
And maybe it worked.
Still, I shed a couple of tears into my Trader Joes pretzels as I sat here. Fortunately no one was here to see it happen. Also, I happened to have a tissue to hand.
Every cloud has a silver lining.