Milestones. And Miles of Stones

Breaking news: Myra-Jean starts preschool tomorrow. Crazy. Huge. Monumental, you might even say. But I’m good with it. Mostly. OK, I have wept about it twice. Both times unexpectedly. And both times, weirdly, in retail settings.

The first was last week at Vroman’s Bookstore, when MJ tried on the matching backpack and lunchbox — pink and owl themed — that I would buy her, in an unnecessary but psychologically relevant consumerist ritual, to celebrate the start of her educational journey. Does she really need a backpack? Of course not. What’s she going to carry in it? Pebbles? Legos? Her security blanket? As far as a lunchbox, all I ever had was a paper bag. Still, one must keep up with the mini-Joneses. I decided to get her the damn things. And all it took was an elderly lady walking past us in the aisle and saying to MJ “don’t you look cute? Back to school?” I bawled.

That was embarrassing. More embarrassing still? I had to go back three days later and return my purchases due to concerns over their PVC content. I bought their replacements on Amazon. They were still owls; but this time green. Sort of.

The second crying incident was at Trader Joe’s. It started when the cashier made an innocent inquiry about the many bags of chips I was purchasing. Eight, in all.

“You guys entertaining for Labor Day?” she asked, as she shoved the whole heap to the bagging area.

“Actually, no,” I replied. A pause. “You see, my daughter starts preschool on Wednesday, and — ” Here the tears welled up. Whoa! I flapped my hands in front of my eyes while the cashier watched me warily. “Sorry. I just — I’m supposed to help bring snacks on Wednesdays.

“Uh-huh…”

I nodded. More flapping. “Yeah. And I’m the grain person –”

The cashier bent to examine something. I couldn’t see what.

“She’s been with me 24/7 for three years. My daughter.” I wiped my face with the back of my hand. “I’m so sorry. I figured lentil chips were a grain. Right? Aren’t lentil chips a grain?” My tone, at this point, bordered on the hysterical.

The cashier scanned each item determinedly.  Finally she looked up at me with a careful smile, as if soothing a fragile clown. “Would you like any cash back today?”

I’m hoping that any further emotional breakdowns can be had in the safety of my own home.

In other, tangentially related news? We have decided to hire a landscape designer to help us with the hellhole. So far we’ve had three candidates come and look at the job. Each one has been warned in advance of the dismal nature of the site. Each one has said, over the phone: “I’m sure I’ve seen far worse!” And each one, upon seeing the situation, has registered levels of shock, bewilderment, and even grief upon their faces that rivaled anything I’ve seen in Greek tragedy. Talk about sudden tears.

“It’s a lot of cement,” said one. I half expected him to raise his arms to the sky, look up, and yell “Gods, Nooooooo!”

I know. I know it’s a lot. I don’t need to be reminded. Mike and I have rued the state of this rocky mound of misery many, many times. If you can have house-shame — and you can — then ours centers around this yard. If there were such a thing as house therapy — and there should be — our back yard would be the parental figure that loomed largest: the alcoholic tyrant, the abandoning ass, the neglectful narcissist.

I know, too, that even without the therapy it’ll cost a fortune to do anything about it. Still, I like to spend some part of my waking hours in fantasy-land. The current dream: that we can afford to make at least a start. So my daughter can have a place to play where she won’t cut, impale, or fracture herself, won’t get toxoplasmosis from the cat poop scattered about (because every local feline sees our backyard — understandably —  as a giant, al fresco, sun-warmed crap-bed), and won’t be blinded permanently by the vicious and lacerating glare from sun on the concrete.

But if we can’t afford any of it? At least her school is pretty. Very. And green. With a lovely garden, chickens, a water feature, a turtle, a mud kitchen. We can, at least, give her that. Provided I get the snacks down. And manage to hold myself together this week.

Sob.

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