- On early shift. Woke up at 6:30 with MJ. Gave her breakfast, read half of “Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs.” Played six rounds of Candyland. Won more than I would’ve liked.
- Fed both animals.
- Put in a load of laundry.
- Did breakfast dishes.
- Said good morning to Mike. Apologized for forgetting to make his coffee.
- Still didn’t make it.
- Swept part of living room.
- Stripped bedroom sheets.
- Put in another load of laundry.
- Got dressed.
- Went to put on makeup. Found cat in the toilet, where he finds his happy place.
- Took cat out. Dropped him on floor.
- Realized toilet was filled with pee.
- Tried to clean up. Promptly stepped in cat-wet floor in stocking feet.
- Realized I did not have time to change.
- Said goodbye to Mike and MJ and ran out, cursing cat, in wet-footed haste.
- Worked from 10:00 AM to 6:30.
- Raced home.
- Changed clothes.
- Put MJ to bed.
- Had quick dinner with Mike.
- Washed dinner dishes.
- Switched laundry again.
- Worked on raffle tickets.
- Checked weather for the weekend. Worried in spite of good forecast.
- Wrote 23 e-mails re Saturday’s fundraiser.
- Made a double batch of candycane cookie batter for same.
- Talked on phone to girlfriend about her romantic problems. Her boyfriend is allergic to her cat. Told her I am allergic to mine. Or at least my feet are.
- Put batter in fridge.
- Checked weather for Saturday again. Still worried.
- Wrote 21 more fundraiser-related e-mails.
- Shooed persistent racoon away from front porch so dog would stop growling.
- Walked said dog.
- Checked child.
- Put cat in back room. Away from all toilets.
- Left pantyhose soaking in Woolite.
- Checked weather.
- Went to bed.
- Worried some more.
If this blog is the second kid I never had, I’m guilty of some serious neglect.
I’m sorry. I want to be more regular about writing. I have been in the past. Why, back in the day, when I was home with MJ all the time, I was a veritable posting fool. Before she went to a co-op preschool, that is. Back when she napped! But now, this life! The work–in high-end retail at holiday season–the fundraising, the childcare, the housecleaning, the pet chasing, the board meetings, the volunteer days at MJ’s school. The giant event I am planning for same. The need to consume great amounts of “Sons of Anarchy” on my scant downtime. I swear to God, there aren’t two spare moments to rub together. At least two spare moments when I have a functional brain cell left for creative thought. I’m a zombie. A never-stopping, always-behind, constantly number-tallying, guilty-binge-TV-watching zombie.
Even now, I have nothing to say. I am tapped. Zapped. Sapped. My every moment, in these last two weeks, has been consumed with selling raffle tickets, (when I am not at work), and selling overpriced jewelry, (when I am.) In between I try to sell my family on the idea that I am a competent wife and mother. They’re buying, but only because I’m the only shop on the block. God forbid a Walmart should open up next door. Figuratively speaking. Although what a figurative Walmart looks like is anyone’s guess.
Finally, I clean poop. Because our new cat has feces that stink viciously, absurdly, brutally, like dead bodies on crack. If we don’t scoop it out right away the entire house becomes an intolerable, unbreathable haz-mat zone.
He also likes to pad around in our sinks and toilet bowls, leaving dirty little footprints on the porcelain.
So glad we got a second animal.
Anyway. I just wanted to tell you that I’m here–that the blogger in me is still alive, if currently buried in receipts, petty cash, and five-dollar raffle tickets. She will re-emerge. Probably after December 7th, when this damn event will be over, and definitely after December 25th, when the other damn event (otherwise known as Christmas) will be similarly behind us.
Until then, exhausted, distracted, and enfeebled by her desire to raise funds, she will poke her head up only occasionally, with some effort, and with predictably mediocre results.
Then she’ll poke it back down, to watch her favorite motorcycling sexpots run more guns.
A girl’s got to decompress somehow.
Raffle ticket, anyone?
I know the lifespan of the sun isn’t the first thing on most people’s minds right now. Nor should it be. But everything about our local star is a hot topic around here. At least in the under-five population.
MJ’s obsession with space has ensured that we own just about every kid’s book about the solar system there is. And there are a lot of them. We study each one obsessively. Dwarf planets. Gas giants. Sulfuric skies. Jovian storms. They’re all familiar friends by now. (We would happily read about the Big Bang, too, if someone would just write a kid’s book about it. No luck on that so far. Where’s Carl Sagan when you need him?)
Every one of the above-mentioned books, of course, talks about the sun. And why not? It’s the raison d’etre for everything else. Our power source. Our cosmic BFF. We’d be lost without it, the authors tell us. But there it is, up in the sky. Ninety-three million miles away! Don’t look at it directly! Draw it as a yellow circle, and don’t forget the rays. Have we mentioned it’s big?
And that’s where it generally stops.
But the other night I was reading MJ a new space book – one she’d gotten for her birthday. Towards the end I turned the page to find, to my consternation, a chapter about doomsday. More or less. Called “The Death of the Sun,” or something equally dire, it proceeded to describe roughly when said event will take place, why, and what it will look like. It pulled no punches, either. Yikes. Not kid friendly material. Hell, it wasn’t anyone friendly. I stopped reading out loud when it got to the “and then the earth will be sucked into a burning ball of gas and we’ll all explode” part. I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly.
Still. Doesn’t a four-year-old have enough to worry about without having to imagine their home planet being engulfed in a boiling surge of million-degree plasma? It won’t be any comfort to them that it’s happening in a billion years, either. Kids MJ’s age don’t understand time. You may as well say it’s coming “in the middle of carrot season.” Or “yesterday.” Or “a hundred Christmases from now.” It all means the same thing, and nothing, at once: scary, unknown, and very bad for REM sleep.
When I was a kid–an anxious one, admittedly–I spent lots of time fretting over my apocalyptic fears. Asteroids. Nukes. Quakes. These things kept me awake at night. One thing I didn’t think about–because I had no idea it was possible–was the sun’s eventual demise. Thank God. Watching the New York skyline for impending warheads was bad enough.
Ah, the Reagan years.
Anyway. I’d like to save my kid from similar worries. I’d like to protect her not only from all painful actual events, but even the thought of them: death, destruction, typhoon, disease. And certainly the end of the world. That, the most of all. Let’s not go there yet. Let her not go there. For as long as possible, anyway. A hundred Christmases at least. Maybe more.
When I open the new book now, I pay attention. I don’t tune out, as I sometimes do, reading to MJ quite coherently while inwardly making lists or adding up fundraising tallies. I stay focussed. When we get to the part about the sun’s demise I slow down. As the vision unfolds I begin to paraphrase, obfuscate, and omit. Then, halfway through the page, I putter out with a genial “and that’s that.”
And we turn to the next chapter.
Am I lying to her? Sort of. Trying to stave off the inevitable? Certainly. Fighting a losing battle? Of course. Still, there’s plenty of time to face the painful truths. There are only a few years left to draw big, bright, yellow suns. Our cosmic BFFs. And don’t forget the rays.
Glancing at your night stand in the morning shouldn’t make you want to pull the covers back over your head. But looking at mine does just that.
I recollect a New York Times article on the subject I read several months ago. It was interesting. The author posited that everyone has a hard time keeping this area of their rooms neat. I agree. But he went on to say that the biggest problem is the tangle of cords from all the gadgets people keep by their beds.
Me, I can’t blame devices. I don’t have any in my bedroom. I dislike having electronics in my sleeping space–remember the grounding sheet I wanted so badly awhile back? I think electricity messes with your rest. I’m funny that way. I don’t like computers in the bedroom, or TVs. If I had an iPhone–which I don’t–it’d be banished to the kitchen with the dog during sleep hours. I’d have no outlets near my bed if I could help it. None in my room. Hell, I’d sleep on the bare earth. If, of course, it contained no mud, insects, or rocks. So basically if it weren’t the earth at all, but a hermetically sealed sandbox. With soft, non-silica sand. Covered by flannel sheets. And a duvet.
In other words, a bed.
The point is, even without the electronics my nightstand is a disaster. Surveyed just this morning, it sported a ridiculous assortment of useless and/or out-of-place objects. Among them: a pair of Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles, a kid’s hair clip, some 3D glasses, a plastic bunny, a wooden disc from a game MJ doesn’t play, and a thick layer of distressed, unhealthy-looking dust. Then there’s the lamp–a cheap, semi-imitation Noguchi–that’s constantly falling off because it’s flimsy and poorly designed. Let an askew light fixture, then, complete your mental picture.
I am forty-five.
Someday, I dream, I will grow up. My night stand will glow with the empty neatness of a surgical table. Order will reign. Dust bunnies will not inhabit the farthest corners. Books about children’s’ development borrowed from mommy friends years ago will not be tossed haphazardly on the bottom shelf, taunting me with their pithy names and unread quality. Back copies of the New Yorker dating to the Victorian age will not harbor silverfish and outdated political news. My lamp will not succumb to gravity. My digital IKEA clock will not switch back and forth mysteriously between military and regular time, leaving me to grumble, late at night, “what the fuck is 23:17?”
I will be a true adult, with a concomitant piece of furniture next to my bed.
Until then, I can at least put the insoles back in my shoes. A journey of a thousand miles, after all, should begin with a cushioned step.
You know you’re getting old when you start off a sentence with “Back when I was a kid–”
But that’s exactly what I did this morning when my daughter woke up, found out Halloween was over, and burst into copious tears.
“B-b-but Daddy told me Halloween goes on for days!” she wailed.
“I think he meant days in advance,” I said drily. Off her blank look I added “you’ve been celebrating it for roughly two weeks.”
Time means little to a four year old. Elapsed time, even less. Elapsed time during which the child was eating more candy than any adult should in a decade and feeling absolutely fantastic about it? Unintelligible.
“Look,” I went on, “back when I was a kid, Halloween was only one night. About three hours. That was all we got.”
“Really?” Myra-Jean responded in a quavering voice.
“Yup.” I cuddled her a little closer–we were in her bed together, she under the blankets, me on top of them. “We didn’t have the Halloween festivals leading up to it, the block parties, the “Boo on the Boolevards.” We didn’t trick or treat at Starbucks a week before. We didn’t even have Starbucks. “
She looked at me, obviously pained. “Whoa.”
I built up steam. “It was one night. A little sliver of time. We didn’t even get face painted at school. Heck,” I went on, musingly, “I don’t think I got face painted at all until I was, like, twenty.”
MJ started crying again. I should’ve quit when I was ahead.
“The point is,” I went on, stroking her forehead, “you get a lot more Halloween than me or Daddy ever did. So I’m sorry it’s over, but–”
Myra-Jean sobbed harder. “It’s really over?”
I looked at her in disbelief. “Didn’t we just discuss this?”
Her cries rose loudly in the small, morning-shadowed room. Jesus. You’d think her dog had just died. She would definitely wake Mike.
“Let’s go get some breakfast.” The kitchen was a bit farther from our bedroom.
Feeding the animals distracted her for a few minutes, but soon Myra-Jean was whimpering again. Standing by the dining room table, she poked at the ruined finish of the wood with a stray fork. “Mama. I’m not happy.”
“You don’t say.” Grabbing the utensil gently out of her hand I tossed it into the sink. Just because she was grieving didn’t mean she got to be destructive.
“I want to go trick or treating one more time!”
I sighed, staring at her uselessly. I was out of ideas. At my feet, Walter mewled. Mina nipped at him. Walter hissed. Myra-Jean screamed.
“Mina!” I shouted. “Walter. Myra-Jean! All of you calm down!”
Enter Mike. No big surprise. Hard to imagine how anyone could sleep through an uproar of such Biblical proportions.
“What’s going on?” he asked blearily.
Handing him a cup of coffee, I explained. “Mina’s trying to kill Walter, as usual. Also,” trying to keep any trace of sarcasm out of my voice,”Myra-Jean is feeling really sad because Halloween is over.”
Mike nodded gravely and turned to MJ. “You know, you can still wear your costume any time you–”
I had tried this tack already, and knew where it was going. I covered my ears.
“I don’t care about my costume! I want to trick or treat!”
“OK,” Mike said calmly. Really calmly, considering the hearing damage he’d just incurred. “You know,” he continued, “back when we were kids–”
“I tried this,” I interjected quietly.
Deaf to my warning, he went on. “Back when we were kids Halloween only lasted for one night.”
Shaking my head, I began washing dishes. Mike talked for a few minutes, repeating essentially what I’d said earlier. But he closed with something new, something said in a fun and conspiratorial voice:
“Even though trick or treating is done, we still have the candy! Lots of it! Candy eating goes on for awhile.”
MJ’s head swivelled towards me. “But Mama said no more candy after Halloween.”
Wuh-whoa. I’d forgotten about that conversation.
MIke cocked his head at me, then looked back at her. “I think she meant no more trick or treating.”
“No,” MJ declared. “Mama said I could only eat candy on Halloween, and after that it was only for ‘special occasions’.” She emphasized the latter phrase carefully, although she had no idea what it meant.
MIke shot a look at me.
Wincing, I muttered ruefully “I think I might have said that.”
“I wasn’t really thinking,” I squeaked. “Sugar’s just so bad for you.”
Mike nodded slowly. “So that’s why she was shoving candy in her mouth last night like a just-freed prisoner of war.”
How poetic. I nodded. “It might’ve been.”
“Is this what your parents did?” Mike demanded.
“No.” I winced. I could feel the word HYPOCRITE flashing over my head like a Broadway marquee. “We ate candy all month.”
Mike shook his head, then smiled. He wasn’t mad. He was just laughing at me. Which is worse. I couldn’t blame him.
I turned to MJ. “I’m sorry, honey. Of course you can still eat your candy. For many days to come. Forever.” Or at least a week, I added in my mind.
Myra-Jean smiled for the first time that morning.
When I left the kitchen she and Mike were happily sorting her booty into piles. There was a lot of it. An indecent amount. Absolutely no more trick or treating was necessary.
Just a little bit more give and take by the old timers.
Or one in particular.
If only you could trick or treat for that.
For most people, the Devil is in the details. For my husband and me He lives on the tupperware shelf.
We don’t fight about much, Mike and I. But that one small part of the kitchen can set off a major melee. And does, with depressing regularity. The issue is simple: Mike likes it tidy; I think such a quality is superfluous in a place of its ilk. After all, it’s a tupperware shelf, not a filing cabinet. I don’t go there to get my 2007 financial records. I go there for containers; I’m in and out. Many times a day. It’s what we in retail would call a “high traffic area.” Have you ever seen the sale shelves at H&M? I rest my case. Plus, when I go in there, I’m in a rush. It’s time for school, or work, or a trip to the zoo, and we’re running twenty minutes behind. So I don’t take care. I have the disrespect of the harried. This, in turn, causes me to scatter.
Which causes Mike, when he opens said cabinet, to find something inside that looks like the BPA-free version of Stonehenge. Which I think is kind of pretty, in a plastic sort of way. Mike, on the other hand, finds it to be an assault against his very soul. I’m not kidding. Sometimes, having seen its disarray, he’ll turn and look at me like Bambi after his mom’s been shot. It makes me feel terrible. But not terrible enough to change my ways.
So Mike re-organizes it. Again, and again. Many is the night I’ve heard him, late at night, methodically fixing the mess I have made. I’ve fallen asleep to the stacking of tupperware so many times it has an almost Pavlovian effect on me. Insomnia? Just grab a couple of sandwich containers and start tapping them near my head. Zzzzzzz.
I’ve told Mike I’ll try to do better, but the fact is, it’s hard to change when you feel, underneath it all, that the request is inherently unreasonable. I truly can’t see why chaos shouldn’t be the basic state of a tupperware shelf. It feels right to me. Normal. American. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, but with lids. So trying to force myself to act differently is a bit like trying to foist civilization on Tarzan. I’m smart. I can do it. But in the end I’d rather be swinging from a vine.
So Mike and I will continue to fight. I suppose we’re lucky that the subject is such a shallow one, at least on the surface. But I do worry that, as marital bones of contention go, it has staying power. Unlike finances, which can change, or sex, which I have no argument with anyway, tupperware stays the same. It’s eternal. It’s omnipresent. We will never not deal with it.
Perhaps we can find a bigger shelf. See? I’m willing to compromise.