29 April 2011

Somebody to love

This is the one where the boy gets the girl. At least for the moment.

The son has a date to the prom.

Yesterday, he asked the girl on whom he's had a crush since freshman year.

"And she said yes!" he told me last night, face alight. "And she beamed!"

We weren't sure she'd say yes. He didn't know if her reserved friendliness was just that, or if maybe there could be a small spark of interest. When he hatched his plan, I cautioned him to prepare for disappointment as a possibility, to have a back up plan, to maybe present the idea as going with a group of friends. He has such an earnest heart, and I didn't want to see it crushed the first time he worked up the nerve to ask a girl on a date.

(I am resolutely not dwelling on the fact that I have a child who is old enough to date. Mostly, I am working on the idea that he will likely be moving away to go to college in just over a year. I have enough difficulty with that.)

But none of that mattered. She said yes.

It's not the boy's first date, exactly. A girl asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance earlier in the year, and he was really distressed because he thinks she's a nice person, but has no other interest in her. He was very careful of her feelings and told her he appreciated her friendship and she acknowledged that she hoped he liked her a little more than that, but they were able to part as friends because they were honest with each other.

Expectation can be such a terrible and crushing thing if it's not fulfilled. And glorious, of course, when it is.

Of course, this opens horrible new cans of worms in my life (beyond the fact that my son is dating), all manner of things that I don't want to think about, but I have to rely on his common sense, and the fact that I've raised him with an abundance of that. And I have to rely on the fact that I've raised him to be kind, I've raised him to be thoughtful, and I've raised him to be respectful. I've long acknowledged that he is moving beyond my reach and my influence, which is as it should be.

And now, I have to hope that I've done my job right and that he is growing into the person he should become, a person he can face every day in the mirror, someone that he is proud to be, someone who can give love and be worthy of love returned.

At the moment, of course, I think we'll just settle for the boy who got the girl, and who plans to utilize his most gracious manners and all his charm to make sure that they both have a great time at the prom.

Go listen to some good music: "Somebody to Love" from the album Greatest Hits by Queen. Years ago, the parent of one of the son's junior high classmates informed me that she would never send another child to the high school the son currently attends because *her* son never had a date in his four years there. Then I met the young man in question who, it turned out, had a serious lack of understanding of basic grooming and even more basic hygiene procedures. So I never worried over much. Ah, my boy is so happy.

28 April 2011

Ignore the splinter

I had Porcupine Tree's Deadwing on today while I was working out. I'd forgotten how much I liked that album and it was a good distraction through 112 minutes of fun. With weights. And stuff.

Watched in horror as tornadoes ripped through the south yesterday and moved up toward my hometown this morning. So far as I know, my mom was spared this time. So many were not so lucky.

The daughter and I have been invited to a tea on Sunday to view tomorrow's proceedings, presumably via the magic of Tivo. Isn't time travel marvelous? We are to wear hats. I've offered to provide scones.

(People's attitudes toward this wedding are so weird. Mostly, I am uninterested, but I certainly wish the pair well. I don't understand the sourness attendant to the proceedings nor the unbridled enthusiasm. I wish the media would just let them get on with their young lives and allow them some privacy.)

The later it becomes, the crankier I get. I ache. There are problems. Bigger than a splinter. But they cannot interfere with this trip to New York.

I should probably blog early in the day.

Go listen to some good music: "Shallow" from the album Deadwing by Porcupine Tree.

24 April 2011

And little lambs eat ivy

I suppose it comes as no surprise when I say that thus far, my year has been suffused with illness, death, near death, and worrying about death, not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily having anything to do with me. We've all had years like this. I've even had years like this before. I just seem to be back in this part of the cycle.

I, of course, did fall apart at the end of last year, and in January, while cleaning my teeth, after we'd minutely examined my destruction, my dentist told me of the unexpected serious illness of one of her friends and the completely unexpected death of another, who also happened to be the endodontist who treated me some years back. The dentist told me of spending long weekends helping the ill friend clean out years of accumulated stuff, and how it made her wonder who would clean out her belongings were she to suddenly become incapcitated. I was sitting in her chair, simultaneously wondering the same thing. It had already occurred to me that I needed to worry, particularly given my wonky heart and what looked like imminent surgery.

Thus, a desire to purge my premises was born.

I'm generally pretty good about keeping up with outgrown and broken toys, outgrown clothing, the myriad largely unusable items gifted me by my mother-in-law (I am not joking: entire sets of china purchased at yard sales. I already have four complete sets of china tucked away in various crawl spaces, and various bits from other sets that I've owned since college graduation. I have enough vases to start my own florist shop). I am not a hoarder, and the charities that have trucks that cruise the neighborhoods to pick up donations know my house.

But even so, we've got stuff. I save every single official communication from everyone I've ever done business with: charitable donations, bank statements, credit card agreements and the like. I save letters and cards that make me laugh. I can't quite part with the cute little notes the daughter has written my over the years, the small crafts made for me by the son. And it's all tucked away in every nook and cranny I've got. So for the last several months, as part of my enforced down time, I've been ripping through every closet in the house. Old clothing, oddball decorations, the weird artifacts given us by various family members (do you have any idea how many ceremonial swords I have?), miscellaneous junk. And high on the list: paper.

We moved into this house a little over 13 years ago, and at the time we sold the La Canada house, I had little opportunity to sort through boxes of things. That house sold minutes after it went on the market, escrow was short, I didn't have a house to move into, and I had an infant and three year old, plus! We sold the house at Christmas and escrow closed two weeks later. Everything was piled into moving crates for later dispersion and discarding. It took me 7 years to find the box that held my Calphalon.

(I might also add that in the first five years of the "new" house, we tore half of it down and remodeled. Note the other half has yet to get the same treatment.)

In any event, the boxes of documents that went unsorted into storage in 1998 were joined by more boxes of documents (partly sorted) in 2001, and then I went back to work full time in 2005, which was pretty much the end of everything. This year, I had cause to unearth some very necessary statements--all 25 years of them--and I looked at the boxes filled with unopened envelopes, stray mortgage statements sitting cheek by jowl with random recipes and gardening tips, and decided that enough is enough.

So if you've wondered where I've been for the last month (in addition to doctors' offices and physical therapy), I have been opening envelopes from banks that no longer exist. I have been sorting recipes, stray craft items, the tassels from every time the spouse or I graduated with another degree (between the two of us, we've graduated A LOT). Big Entertainment Company used to give away buttons and pins every time something momentous occurred, and I've got every one! Old love letters (yes, heaven help me, and they are all mine). The odd rock (those are all the spouse's). The occasional Lego (the son's). It's all a weird record of lives lived full tilt, and often with little time for organization. There is, in fact, a strange demarcation, a Before and After, an Organized and Disorganized.


I suppose then, that it's appropriate that I'm getting back into the groove. One child is closing in on flying the coop and the other won't be far behind. And truly, I love organization. I am happy knowing where everything is, even the things I've forgotten I have (tassels!). Once this is done, I can move on to the next item with a clear conscience that everything has a place and resides there.

And that while I've saved the innards, all those envelopes have gone off to live another life as post-consumer something.

Go listen to some music: "Mairzy Doats" written by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston, and recorded by numerous artists. When my siblings and I were quite young, an elderly friend of the family donated to us an enormous stack of 78s filled with old standards, what we considered children's music: "Reuben and Rachel," "Mairzy Doats," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," and the like. We played them forever on our tiny portable record player, over and over until the words were ingrained in our tiny heads. So well did I remember them that I sang them to my own children when they were small.

21 April 2011

Let the word out. I've got to get out

Spinal surgeon: follow up as necessary.

Physical therapy: discharge.

The spinal surgeon's exact words: I don't see a need to rush into surgery at this time.

My exact words: Works for me!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Leaves the door open for surgery.

[roll eyes]

Only if there's a setback. For at least the last six weeks, it's all been forward progress. And when things decided to start resolving, they started resolving with some speed. Though maybe not quite as fast as everything went downhill.

But oh, I'm feeling better now.

Go listen to some good music: "Better Now" from the album Youth by Collective Soul. And now, back to my regularly scheduled life, mostly. Okay, yes, I still have pain; yes, I still have numbness; yes, I still have weakness, but...better. And yes, I need to clean the camera sensor so I can resume photography for my other blog. And yes! Travel is on my agenda.

20 April 2011

'Til your sense of which direction completely disappears

A night of lucid but very strange dreams:

Disembodied voice: ...and you'll be riding this platform in the water during the show.

Me, trying to figure out how I'd stay on said platform: But...there is no water in that place.

Voice: Don't worry. It's all being taken care of.

Me: And I have a back injury. This sounds like a bad idea.

Voice: You'll be fine. We'll take care of everything.

It doesn't look fine. It looks like...water skiing. I don't know how to water ski. I don't even swim very well. I study a photograph of this set up, perturbed.

When I turn from the photo, I am in a large and lovely garden, where a party is taking place. I have been in this garden before, at another time, in another dream, but it was not so well landscaped or tended then, and I was required to do some pretty intense work toward restoring it. Now, it looks lush and terraced. I am once again confronted with the water-borne platform. I stare at it, and wonder how on earth this is going to work.

And all at once I am sitting at the end of a row of seats, and it looks somehow remarkably like my high school auditorium, even though it quite clearly isn't. Sitting on the stage is someone known to me, though not someone I know. This person is speaking to various others in the audience.

Person to another sitting behind me: Okay, we can work that out.

And then suddenly the person turns to me and says: You should have talked to me.

I look up to assure myself that I am the one who is being addressed.

More forcefully, the person says: You should have talked to me. You know that.

And though I smile in response, I am puzzled. This person is claiming a connection to me. Those precise words resonate in the dream: "claiming a connection." The words are specific and there is nothing ambiguous about the connotation of "claim;" it is an assertion. Clearly, there is a relationship here, one I hadn't begun to guess at.

My final thought is that I got it wrong again.

And I awake to the sound of spring birdsong with a very real sense that something happened while I slept.

Go listen to some good music: "Year of the Cat" from the album Year of the Cat by Al Stewart. I tend to have super mundane dreams and then there are the super specific dreams. Two days ago, sitting in a theater with the daughter, I had a stunning moment of deja vu, watching a woman with cropped red hair wave to someone up in the audience. I'd dreamed that exact moment en route to Iceland three years ago. That I even remembered where I'd had the dream gave me goosebumps.

17 April 2011

They say the neon lights are bright

A promise is a promise, and once I'd finally filed the taxes this afternoon, I set to keeping it.

Every little bit, I'd call to the daughter, "Do you want this? Or this? What day should we...?" And she would dance around or be contemplative, give me a high five.

I think she is very excited.

The boys get left behind this time; this is a girls only trip. Because it is us, the trip will be filled with museums and parks and, most unexpectedly, a cat that the daughter is quite determined to meet.

It's been a long time since I was last in New York, and I know things have changed, and I dread how visible some of that will be. I've already told the daughter there are certain areas we will avoid; I refused to go near the Pentagon two years ago. Even after nearly 10 years, some things are too raw and probably always will be.

But! The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I remember how excited I was to see it the first time because I'd been such a fan of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. Unsurprisingly, the daughter is giddy to see it for exactly the same reason. Mummies, another cat, a fountain, if possible.

It still bothers me that I missed this opportunity two years ago, but there it is. For now, I am done with a few really huge things, though there is plenty more yet to come.

For now, I can rest.

Go listen to some good music: "On Broadway," made famous by The Drifters and recorded by many other artists. I always think of Bob Fosse's All That Jazz when I hear it.

16 April 2011

Never try then you'll never know

"What are you doing?" the son asked, frowning, from the passenger seat. There is nothing quite like needing to get a kid to school at 8 am on a Saturday.

"Something I haven't done in about 11 years," I told him grimly, turning right. "Hang on to your butt."

Then I hit the accelerator.

Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of his school.

"I think you should get out and walk around for a minute," the son told me while waving to his drama teacher who was balancing boxes of doughnuts.

"I'm fine. Have a good time, and we'll see you this afternoon," I told him, surreptiously flexing my foot. My leg is working much better. My foot didn't get stuck under the brake pedal once.

"Mom...," he said.

"You have theater practice. Go have doughnuts with Mr. Y."


"Get out of my car so I can go home!" I told him impatiently. With love.

He complied and watched until I drove out of the parking lot. I lost sight of him then, and headed back to I-5 and home.

Go listen to some good music: "Speed of Sound" from the album X&Y by Coldplay. I'm still drowning in paperwork, but many things seem to be coming together and I'm pleased.

14 April 2011

Roll with the changes

I sat in the son's high school courtyard at twilight, watching the swallows chase bugs as the moon rose overhead, while the son was inducted into National Honor Society.

I listened to the NHS chapter advisor talk about the meaning of NHS, how membership in NHS is for life, how it is a commitment to scholarship and service, and I remembered my own induction, years ago, listening to a similar speech while sitting on the stage of my high school's giant auditorium. The same stage where I danced. The same stage where so many things happened.

I remember the dress I wore that night. I remember the slender tapers we held that the seniors lit from their own, passing the flame to us. Never ever did I expect or imagine my progeny to be in that place, too. It was an odd feeling, knowing that I'd passed the light on in a very real way.

For the first time, I didn't just feel proud of my child, I felt proud of myself, for overcoming the challenges of my upbringing, for overcoming every single person who told me I was raising my kids wrong. I watched my son standing on the steps and I finally believed that he will do ok when I let him loose on the world.

Go listen to some music: "Roll With the Changes" from the album The Hits by REO Speedwagon. Possibly the funniest moment of the evening was speaking with two other mothers who were assuming the daughter would also be attending this high school. "Oh no!" I exclaimed. "She got into OCHSA!" And then I watched them try to process that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, massive backstory there.

12 April 2011

...it's never enough

We are making our way through endings.

For six years, I've had a child in the county academic pentathlon, and tonight, I sat in that theater for the last time as the final medals were collected. Now our home is home to two sets of blue, two sets of green and two sets of purple ribbons.

For twelve years, I've been a room parent organizing parties and teaching crafts, a classroom helper, the book order parent, the woman who spent a day hanging dangling snow flakes from the multi-purpose room's ceiling. Chaperoning the boys, putting makeup on the girls for the annual musical. Accompanying classes on field trips. Judging science fair. And now, we're putting together the final class party, to be held Friday.

There is graduation yet to come. I'm holding back on signing up for anything, pending a decision on surgery. It's time and past time for others to take the lead here, but unfortunately, it's usually down to us few who generally take the lead.

I think this is supposed to be bittersweet, but mostly it's bitter. Even I'm surprised at how filled with vitriol I am, how anxious I am to put this place behind me. Talking with another parent today, I was taken aback by my own negativity, and I'm not a particularly negative person.


Meanwhile, I am drowning in paper work, dragging my feet (literally and figuratively) on scheduling the next MRI. I am avoiding people simply because I don't want to talk. I don't want to make the stretch into forced politeness

This, too, will pass. This, too, will pass.

Go listen to some good music: "Shellshock" from the album International - The Best of New Order by New Order. I'm really tired. It makes me really cranky.

09 April 2011

You pushed with all your might

Mr. Wisdom Toothless requested (demanded is more like it) Chinese food. Neither the daughter nor I particularly care for it, but the deal I made with the daughter was that she could choose the next night's cuisine. So she agreed to some lettuce wraps and the son settled happily to consume his shrimp chow mein.

Tonight, she and I had the fortune cookies we'd skipped the previous evening.

"A short road trip to the north will bring happiness in your near future."

I sighed. What wouldn't I give?

A few weeks back, the daughter asked if we'd still be going to New York in May, saying she'd understand if we couldn't accomplish it. Still, I looked at her hopeful and expectant face...

A promise is a promise.

I try not to break promises.

So whatever the next MRI shows, whatever the surgeon says, my plan is to go. And I hope that nothing happens to spoil that plan.

Go listen to some good music: "Your Hands (Together)" from the album Together by The New P*rnographers. Well, now it's out there.

05 April 2011

Never never never say goodbye to my part of your life

I am in the doghouse.

I just hope that you realize I never planned things to go this way.

Nor, of course, did I plan for it.

The physical therapist has new exercises for me. It remains difficult for me to control some of the movement of the bad leg. She has me hanging on to it with a thera band.

"This is like flying a kite," I tell her as I struggle to keep it from wandering off. She immediately starts laughing, and then stops.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I shouldn't laugh at you not being able to control the movement."

"Why not?" I ask. "I'm laughing."

"Because you are not normal," AT tells me in her philosophical voice.

And I smile because that comment is so normal.

"You have so much music," says the son. "Suggest something I should listen to."

I click on a song and am transported back to my childhood bedroom, dimly lit, with the radio on. I click on another and think of the friend who gave me the album.

"It's so angry," the son remarks.

"A lot to be angry about," I point out.

"Mashed potatoes or biscuits?" I ask the daughter.

"Biscuits," she says firmly.

"Mrow, mrr, mrowr, mroar, cao," the cat announces.

"No, you just ate," I tell him.

I tell my friend and neighbor C. that the daughter has been accepted to the arts high school.

"That's great!" C cries. and high fives the daughter. "But I guess that means no more walking to school."

And with a small sadness, I realize that she is right.

"PB and I are the only ones who have gone to school there since JK," exclaims the daughter. "That's 10 years!"

In a moment, the years come rushing in: the feisty 4-year-old who didn't want to leave the sandbox, room mother ad infinitum, the sweet first grade teacher, planning events with other mothers who became friends and who are now long gone, the teachers I've gotten to know.

This moment in time.

It belongs to you.

It belongs to me.

It is the secret intersection where lives meet unexpectedly, where amazing things can happen, quietly or explosively.

I didn't plan for that either. But I'm not giving it up.

Go listen to some good music: "Jig of Life" from the album Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.

03 April 2011

One stage before

My desk holds a calendar, a big one, 2' by 3', days divided into squares, days divided into my responsibilities, and all that which I track: meetings, appointments, where the spouse is to be, the son's rehearsals and AP tests, the daughter's commitments.

My small plans.

Going through April, mapping out life, I found a small notation in the corner. Sunday, April 3. A single letter of the alphabet, in red, in my hand but not in my telephone notation scrawl, the one I use when I'm hurriedly parcelling up a day when I'm on a call. It was instead more elegant. I hadn't been rushed when I wrote it, I'd been thinking and considering, and that letter curved elegantly there, comfortable in its corner, written in red.

A red letter day, evidently.

I puzzled over it last week, tried to remember what I'd intended when I wrote it, tried to remember when I'd written it.

I drew a blank. Clearly it had meant something to me, at some point, meant enough that I wanted to set aside that day for something.

A single letter. The letter "N."

No one in our family has that initial and it didn't signify any club or activity or doctor that I could pinpoint. Eventually, I left it, and went on to the other things that I needed to do.

Days later, it came to me, what that letter represented and I knew then that I written it down back in December when I'd been setting down the first plans for the new year, before Christmas, before everything changed. The initial stood for a city, a promise to myself, a half-formed plan that never saw light of day.

Ghost-like, a single letter of the alphabet, now little more than a warning that life can change at the speed of light.

Go listen to some good music: "One Stage Before" from the album Year of the Cat by Al Stewart.

02 April 2011

You can't escape, you know

The spouse handed me a thin white envelope this afternoon.

I looked at him with certain dread. Thin.

I looked at the envelope. Addressed to me or to her?


I walked over to the daughter, and handed it to her. She made a face of mingled fear and hopeful happiness.

In the days when we were applying to colleges, the spouse and I and our friends knew that the thin letter was the harbinger of doom. Thanks, but no thanks. We didn't really know what a thin letter from a high school might mean. I'd played the scenario over in my head a thousand times already: the reasons why she'd definitely get in, the possibility that she might not.

The daughter started tearing at the paper. I watched her face intently, and suddenly, her expression changed.

Joy overwhelming.

"I got in!" she cried out.

She leapt up from the couch and hugged me.


A couple of years ago, the dentist noted that the son was starting to get wisdom teeth, and she advised me to look into having them removed.

Then, of course, life intervened--the son blew his knee out, twice, and needed surgery. The spouse blew his shoulder out and needed surgery. We traveled. The son was interminably occupied with school. The daughter was interminably occupied with school. The spouse was interminably occupied with work. I was interminably occupied with...everything.

Tra la la.

Anyway, the son started getting restive about the whole wisdom tooth thing when one of them started to break through the gum. We got him in for his consultation about a month ago, and scheduled the surgery for yesterday.

Oh gods.

I know it's not a huge procedure; I had mine removed when I was 19 and they were huge and impacted and the upper ones were in my sinuses, and the deed was done under general anesthesia. Nonetheless, I followed all my post-op stuff and was back to normal in a few days.

(The only bad moment was when I got home and my half-grown kitten, Doodle, decided to drape herself around my neck as a living heating pad or something. I was still too loopy from the anesthesia to remove her myself, and all I could do was lie there and yell until my mother unceremoniously removed my protesting fur collar).

So, I took the son in this afternoon, and he was all finished in a very short time, slumped on a bench recovering from the general anesthesia.

And was he happy.

The nurses were trying to give me post-op instructions and the son was drunkenly talking VERY loudly, and I keep shushing him because I couldn't hear the nurse over his babble. They were watching him with some amusement, and then one of them handed over a little envelope with his teeth. He took hold of the envelope and minutely examined the four intact molars.

"HOLY CRAP!" he yelled.

I don't tolerate profanity from the kids; it's one of those non-negotiables in the child-rearing department, mostly because I'm only too well aware that once you fall into the habit, it's a really tough habit to break.

(Profanity was my only form of acting out as a teenager--I was the easy kid. You wouldn't believe what the other ones got up to--but it still really got to my mother. So I know from experience that it's really hard to break the habit. Also that I really don't want to be that person.)

"Okay," I said resignedly, "Time to get you home."

He rambled on and on and on for another hour or so.

Once the general wore off, he turned into a roaring hypochondriac ("I'm bleeding!" "You just had four teeth pulled out." "But...I'M BLEEDING!"), and I kept stuffing pudding and yogurt into him, along with painkillers, and finally got him to sleep. When he woke up this morning, he was much more himself, and is mostly dancing around the house like nothing ever happened.

This, this, is what it is to be the mother of teenagers. Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself here.

Go listen to some music: "You Can't Escape, You Know" from the album The Orange Box (Original Soundtrack) by Valve. The son has a love affair going with soundtracks to video games, and he buys them every chance he gets. This Orange Box is something to do with Half-Life and Portal, and he loves it, and it was terribly appropriate, especially when I started this post last night while he was driving me berserk. I am the mother of teenagers, and I often wonder how exactly did that happen? And then I'm very grateful because I have extraordinarily good teenagers. I mean really good kids.