Friday, June 28, 2013

What do you do when that terrible thing happens. When the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing through the kitchen window and you've kissed a sweet kiss goodbye, and then you see, just a glimpse from the corner of your eye, the baby in the pond. And all of eternity stops and you're racing, clawing through space, through a pastel veil toward that spot of pink in what was a blue pond. And you race, not feeling the rocks under your bare feet, in a lungs-ripped-out-of-your-chest sprint that you are completely oblivious of, even though- even though you know it doesn't matter how fast you get there.

It's too late.

But you run, and you splash in and your skirt floats around your calves, just like the baby's rosebud pink jumper floats around her precious body, and you snatch her up, you grab her up out of that evil, life-smothering water. Her limbs, her head dangle like the newborn she was not long enough ago, and you have to get out of that pond, before it eats you both like acid. You make it to the top of the hill, and then you are too aware that your oxygen has been sucked out of your chest. But somehow you gasp screams through sobs, and somehow a neighbor hears you.

Somehow you find yourself, numb, in a gray, beeping hospital room. He walks in, his face ashen and his eyes sliced through with red. He comes to you and he holds you but your arms are wood, they are heavy logs and they are as responsive as heavy logs. And they ask if you want to hold her. Of course you do... "Give me my baby," whispered.

She is wrapped in a blanket and her eyes are closed, and it isn't her. It isn't her at all. But you can't let go of her, because when you do, you will never hold her again. And he asks, the question that he has to ask but that will kill you over and over again every day that you live.

"How did it happen?"

And you want it to not be your fault, because now you will lose him as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Day After Mother's Day

Let me just start off by saying that I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. On Saturday I slept in, was cooked for, wore a beautiful Mother's Day crown, was given lovely written, drawn, and verbal messages of love and appreciation, enjoyed a living room picnic (because a violent thunderstorm eliminated the outdoors as an option), ate banana cream pie, and watched home videos, all with Ramsey and the kids. Sunday included a cookout with the in-laws and a walk down to my mother-in-law's childhood swimming hole (which my kids ended up putting to good use in spite of not having brought swim suits)and a visit with my parents. Rams and I ended the weekend chilling on the couch with a movie after the kids went to bed.

This weekend, we took pictures like this one.

And this one.

And this.

It was a great weekend.

Yesterday was Monday.

I started the day off on the right foot by burning breakfast- not productive. I followed that up with successfully getting through to a health insurance representative and getting the information that I needed- productive. I then spent the next three hours ignoring the housework that had piled up over the weekend, and scanned 522 old family slides onto an SD card, instead- a productivity draw.

I discovered that two of my children (who shall remain nameless) had been engaged in some intentional deceit and disobedience over a period of a couple of weeks. I preached a message involving the verse "your sins shall find you out" and doled out the consequences (loss of friend, movie, and computer privileges for the next 3-4 weeks. And extra math lessons on Saturdays.). I decided to stop assessing my day in terms of productivity.

Zuzu engaged me in the so delightful "happy-baby-stompy-dance", which involves holding each other's hands, stomping your feet, and grinning at each other with glee, then wandered off in the direction of the bathroom.

A few minutes later, I disovered that someone had left the bathroom door open. I fished the baby's hands out of the toilet, then washed her off and changed her clothes.

I fished two game pieces out of the baby's diaper, then washed them off and sanitized them.

About this time, I realized the direction the day was heading and began to take pictures to record it for posterity.

(The none-the-worse-for-the-wear game pieces.)

I called Ramsey at his office to congratulate him on what a productive day he was having. When I hung up eight minutes later, I found this:

and this:

I developed a strong craving for chocolate pudding.

A very strong craving.

Throughout all of this, my four old-enough-to-know-better children were behaving like hooligans. And the baby lost her pants. And one sock.

I decided to make supper.

Ramsey, who had arrived home from work somewhere around the middle of the pudding making, took the four hooligans and the baby outside to burn off some energy while supper cooked.

Aviva popped back inside to bring me this:

She and Gideon both also informed me that I was the best Mommy ever.

I was pulling supper out of the oven out of the driveway to pick up the pizza when Ramsey and the kids headed back into the house because the baby had gotten hit in the head by the tire swing. While a sibling was receiving an underdog.

Everyone survived supper (including the baby, who was also none the worse for the wear) and all of the children went straight to bed, without chocolate pudding which was still chilling in the fridge.

Ramsey and I sat down at the computer to view the 522 slides that had been scanned, and to eat chocolate pudding (which had finished chilling soon after the kids were put to bed).

All in all, not a bad day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Nap

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs during the course of any given day at the Tripp Academy for the Exceptionally Brilliant, and I've heard from other homeschooling mothers that it's a common one. I get sudden attacks of narcolepsy, just about five minutes after I sit down on the couch to listen to my child read. Something about hearing a young, halting voice drone on about "Tommy Fox" and "Mr. Gray Squirrel" makes it almost impossible to keep my eyes open, and often the only thing that keeps me from drifting off completely is my recurring, involuntary head bobbing that snaps me back to partial wakefulness every ten seconds or so.

Today's reading session happened to take place during the baby's naptime. Today also happens to be overcast and rainy, and I was also feeling especially unmotivated to get any housework done. So when the reading quota had been met, I announced to all within earshot that Mommy was going to "take a quick nap while the baby is still asleep. Do not disturb!"

Obviously this plan was optimistic at best and just plain looking for trouble at worst.

Over the course of the next twenty minutes, I was repeatedly reminded of why I do not nap. As soon as I made my nap declaration, my five year old cheerfully requested to take a nap with me, then squeezed her cute little skinny self (and her mangy special blankie) next to me on the edge of the couch. As it turned out, she was the only one that didn't disturb my "nap" (rest?).

The first couple of minutes went well. I conked out pretty much immediately. In fact, I enjoyed a full thirty-seven seconds of blissful slumber before my seven-year-old made an unwise decision.

He stood over me. "Mommy." I woke up but kept my eyes closed, hoping that if I looked asleep, he'd realize his mistake and would tiptoe quietly away. "Mommy." I opened my eyes and looked at him. I asked him if he remembered that only two and a half minutes ago, I had specifically told them that I was going to take a nap and was not to be disturbed. He did. "So this must be extremely important, then," I said. It was, vitally. He wanted a snack.

Less than five minutes later, my eight-year-old set out to prove that "if we don't learn our history, we are doomed to repeat it" by insisting on asking me if she could play on the computer. Like her brother's before her, her request was denied.

While I was still speaking to the eight-year-old, my husband arrived home from the half-day job he'd been at. He gasped as he walked in the door- "Are Mommy and Aviva sick?!"

Turned out Ramsey had work news to share with me. He was on his way again soon, but by that point the nap was pretty much ruined. I had lost the sleepiness, also some guilt over the fact that I was lounging on the couch while Ramsey was off working hard at providing for our family was beginning to set in (either that or the fact that I'd been caught red-handed). I hung in there though, determined to cling to the last shredded bit of this nap, if only for the principle of the thing. The ten-year-old thought pretending to fling his pencil at his sister instead of doing his hand-writing lesson was a fun idea. The target, plastered up against my back, screeched and hid under her ratty blankie. I told the kids that the next child to disturb my nap would get to take their own nap after lunch, then rolled over and shoved my face into the couch cushion.

Rustling noises began to be heard from the direction of the baby moniter, followed by the sweet little voice of my fifteen-month-old, "Mama... Mama..." I sighed and got up off the couch. As I headed for the stairs, my five-year-old gleefully dove into the warmly imprinted cushion that I had just vacated, declaring, "Now I'm going to take a nap on the whole couch!"

"Good luck," I told her.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Reacquaintance

I’m preparing to re-introduce running into my life. This introduction will be different from the previous introductions, I hope. This time running will not be demanding and brash, as it was on our previous encounters. Instead, it will be genteel and well mannered, and will be welcomed.

In the past decade, I have run a number of times, mainly darting after small children to prevent various types of naughtiness. But, if you’re only counting actual “lace up your shoes and head out for a run” runs, I’ve been running twice in the last ten years. Every few years, that flame of inspiration is ignited and flares up, wildly. “I need exercise. I need to get in shape. I’ll start running tomorrow!” And I do. Both times that I’ve started running, the weather has been at an extreme. I head out the door, determined that I’ll run such and such small distance (because anything less would be wussy) and I’ll build up each day from there. I arrive home, stitches in my sides, gasping for breath around the ice shards in my lungs, declare, “That sucked!” and relegate my running shoes to day to day wear until the mood strikes me again 5 years later. The flame of inspiration flickers pitifully, and dies, killed by a single run.

I ran cross-country in junior high and high school. Then, my commitment to running lasted whole seasons. I enjoyed it, mainly for the social aspect of training with a group and the competitions. But I was, at best, mediocre. I came across the finish line somewhere in the middle of the pack every time and the last thing my gait could be called is graceful. In fact, two of my running mates mocked my stride. Richard told me I had chicken legs and then he and Aaron would run ahead of me, flinging their heels out to the sides as they ran. The infuriating thing was that, somehow, even while running the exaggerated caricature of my run, they were both still faster than I was so I had no choice but to watch them as I took up the rear.

This time, however, running is behaving like a gentleman. Instead of barging in as a flash in the pan idea of my own, running knocked at the door in the form of a suggestion from my sister and only entered the room when I invited it in after considering the idea for a couple of weeks. Instead of grabbing my arm, hauling me out the door, and insisting that I go, right now, running has gently suggested that I actually spend some time researching the best way to start and that I form a plan. And, instead of cracking a whip and chasing me down the sidewalk right off the bat, running will simply be accompanying me on casual strolls for the first couple of weeks as I ease in gradually.

So you see why I’m hopeful that this time running and I will be able to form a meaningful and lasting relationship. I look forward to the many physical, mental, and emotional benefits that I can expect to experience from my participation in this alliance. And, as a little extra insurance to make sure I stay committed long enough to actually reap said benefits, I’ve registered and paid the entrance fees for three summer 5Ks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Joyous Announcement!

Just a brief post to assure my blogworld friends that I haven't dropped off the planet or abandoned my blog. I apologize that it's been so long since I've posted. Here I was, posting away a mile a minute on my brand new little blog, then- ZIP! Silence. I've had a number of fairly significant events going on in my life over the last couple of months which have required my time and attention to be focused elsewhere. I won't share most of them here except for the biggest and most exciting news...

The birth of my little daughter, Zuzu Noelle!

Zuzu (yes, "Zuzu's petals" : ) was born at 11:06 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26th. She was born at home with my husband, mom, sister and our two midwives attending and she weighed 10 pounds and measured 21 inches. Big girl! And she's only gotten bigger...

So my time these days is taken up with feeding, diaper changes, and cuddles, with the odd load of laundry and sinkful of dishes thrown in when I get a chance. Any time spent at the computer is generally in the form of brief snatches, and my typing mostly consists of one handed chicken pecking. Once we graduate to a more regular sleeping schedule, I hope to be able to post with more frequency. I'll have plenty to share, I'm sure! : )

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which We Settle into Our New Home

Once the former occupants were moved out, papers were signed, and our belongings moved into the attic and basement of our new home, renovations began in earnest. Our family stayed with Ramsey’s parents for a month while Ramsey and two carpenter friends ripped out wall paneling, dropped ceilings, old windows and an old stairway, then replaced it all with new sheetrock, new windows, and new stairs. We hired a man to clomp around our enormous new living room and the bedrooms in his strapped-on stilts and mud and sand the fresh sheetrock. My mom and a sister-in-law spent hours helping paint the bedrooms- a light, soft sea foam for Ramsey’s and my bedroom and, because we let the kids pick their own colors, a pale purple for the girl’s room and a dark turquoise for the boy’s room (I hated that color but I was trapped into it by own promise. I bided my time, though, and last Christmas repainted their room as part of a surprise makeover.). As the clock was winding down, Ramsey sanded down the hardwood living room floor and refinished it.

By the end of the month, I was so ready to move into our new home. Ramsey’s parents had been so gracious and generous to let us stay with them but I just wanted to be in my own home again. Finally the day arrived. Ramsey and our helpers wore stocking feet to prevent damage to the newly refinished living room floor and we sorted furniture and boxes out of the attic and basement into the rooms where they belonged.

The overwhelming task of unpacking had only begun when, a week and a half later, Ramsey had to leave for a work trip. This trip would be longer, more intense, and take him further than any others before- he was going to Vietnam for two and a half weeks. The morning the kids and I dropped him off to meet the rest of his group, I cried as I pulled out of the parking lot.

I certainly had plenty to keep me occupied while he was gone, though. My mom helped me tackle the monumental task of painting our enormous living room. First we primed the whole gargantuan thing, and then Mom began expertly cutting out around the ceiling with the paint- hideous, bright blue paint. I was horrified when I first saw it. On the paint chip it had appeared to be a distinguished, calm, slate blue. This was wild and raucous, jarring, bright light blue.

“It probably just looks bright because it’s surrounded by white,” Mom suggested optimistically. I was doubtful but agreed that maybe it would appear less obnoxious when there was less of a contrast. Besides, we’d already bought the paint.

That blue pissed me off every time I walked into my living room for the next two and a half years.

One morning shortly after Ramsey left for Vietnam, I made a horrifying discovery. The prior owners were taking their final revenge on us. Apparently their two ancient canines had housed more than mange and now our home was infested with fleas. I learned that fleas go into a hibernation state when they have no host available and the temperature is cool, so they’d been hiding out in the cracks and crannies throughout our old Colonial. Now that the weather was warming up and they had new prey to feast on- us- they were hopping, and in full force. Let me tell you, there is nothing more disgusting than picking fleas out of your four-month-old baby’s hair.

So now, in the midst of trying to unpack and cope with the kids alone, I sealed off the kitchen shelves with plastic, hauled the mattresses off the beds, and purchased flea bombs. Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of bombs needed to saturate a house of our size, so my attempt only served to discourage the nasty little parasites, not eliminate them.

Somehow we survived until Ramsey returned home. The day after he got back, the fourth of July, we re-bombed the house while we attended the local fireworks display. This time we won.

Ramsey had brought gifts for us- each of the children received a Vietnamese outfit, the boys also got beautifully carved wooden swords and he gave the girls decorative little dolls. And for me- Ramsey had brought me an embroidery. A large, framed embroidery, so detailed that most people mistook it for a painting when they saw it. It detailed a vase full of flowers, all beautifully stitched on a background of blue silk. Silk the exact same vibrant blue as our freshly painted walls. Somehow, without having seen the new color of our living room, Ramsey had managed to match the background of the embroidery to the color of our walls as perfectly as if he’d taken a paint swatch with him. The embroidery was situated in a place of honor, set on the mantle above our new fireplace.

A couple of weeks after Ramsey had arrived home from his trip and we’d gotten more unpacking and settling in accomplished, my grandmother called. She wanted to know the street address of our new home. She had been talking with one of her neighbors in her building across town and had mentioned that we had recently moved to this street. Her friend had grown up in this neighborhood and was curious which house we’d moved into.

Small world that it is, of course this was the house that Edna’s parents had owned for thirty years. Their home had burned to the ground after Edna was born, and a contact Edna’s father had within the city government had told him about this house- a house possessed by the city because the former owners had neglected to pay their taxes. It was, even then, a fixer-upper, but Edna’s father was a carpenter, it was large enough to house their large and growing larger family, and they could afford it.

Edna and my grandmother came by to visit and see the old place and I took the opportunity to interview Edna. During the thirty years that Edna’s parents had owned the house, Edna’s father had made some major renovations- completely changing the layout, including moving a stairway and adding four feet onto the whole back of the house- and by the time they sold it the house had been in good shape. Edna was sad to see the state of disrepair the following owners had allowed it to fall into but was gratified to see the improvements we’d begun to make.

I told you Edna’s family was large but I didn’t mention how large. Edna was one of seventeen children who lived in this house. Some of the children slept in the attic and I can only imagine how cold it must have been to occupy that giant, un-insulated space during frigid New England winters.

Edna told us of stringing tin can phones across the street to her girlhood friend’s home, of the enormous vegetable garden they’d planted every year in the then empty lot next door, of coming home from school on her lunch break every day to hang out mountains of laundry that her mother had spent the morning washing. She told us that she never saw her mother sit down until she was an adult and I believe it.

When I first heard a few bits of Edna’s story over the phone, I could envision myself basing a novel on it, something heartwarming and Walton-ish. But, hearing more details in person, there were strong undercurrents of pain and sadness to the story that I couldn’t just ignore and didn’t want to deal with then. One of the sisters had died in childhood from a brain tumor that was missed until too late. Another sister had felt unwanted and never could come around to feeling accepted. The parents didn’t seem to have the loving bond that I wanted to base a story on and eventually sold the house after thirty years when they divorced.

I have several special reminders of our visit with Edna and of the family that lived here decades before we did. Edna brought copies of a number of photographs for us to keep. Black and white, they are like opening a time capsule when I look at them. There are photos taken in front of the fireplace mantle- our mantle. There is a photo of one of the brothers in his military uniform- and in our daughters’ bedroom, part of the floor is a board from his military trunk, labeled with “Sgt. Richard F. Holt” and our home’s address. If we ever get around to painting that floor, I have no choice but to leave that board unpainted. And there is one photo that was taken of the entire family as adults in front of the birch trees at the back of the yard, the same trees that we hang our hammock from in the summertime, and the same trees that I have only to glance from my desk-side window to see at this very moment.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Pop Heard Round the World.

I grew up in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Which means that I should be a total Michael Jackson fan. My home was a fairly conservative one, however; we didn’t even have a t.v., except when our neighbors would go on vacation for two weeks in the summer and loan us theirs. Then we would rent “Anne of Green Gables” on VHS and, every four years, soak up the summer Olympics.

But I didn’t live under a rock. Probably even the Amish have at least heard of Michael Jackson. I was certainly familiar with his music and I can recall seeing the “Thriller” music video for the first time on MTV at a friend’s house, and being completely freaked out.

But a lot of my exposure to Michael Jackson has been since I reached adulthood, as he faded, both from reality and in the public’s opinion. The small amount of brain space that I’ve actually devoted to Michael Jackson has primarily been used to draw my own conclusions about what went wrong with his life and to feel sad for him.

One thing that I’ve always gotten a kick out of, though, is the fact that the entire rest of the world seems to adore him. I’ve shaken my head in amusement at the news stories and magazine articles that mention Michael Jackson’s popularity in third world or restricted nations, and I’ve assumed that they must just be twenty years behind the times.

A few weeks ago, I watched a biography about a young girl growing up during the revolution in Iran. Sure enough, even amidst all the veils, the lead character gets in trouble for wearing a Michael Jackson patch on her jacket, as you can see in this trailer for “Persepolis”.

A few months ago, I watched hundreds of inmates of a Filipino jail reenacting “Thriller” in this youtube video.

But the moment that has made me come to really appreciate the talent and widespread international appeal of Michael Jackson just took place a few nights ago. I had the delightful and unanticipated pleasure of seeing for myself just how far-reaching Michael Jackson’s appeal is.

I had stopped in at a new friend’s home for a visit. My friend and her family are new to the U.S., they arrived from Africa just a couple of months ago. She had been astonished to learn that I’d never eaten sambousas (she was so astonished that I didn’t dare tell her I’d never even heard of them, prior to that conversation) and declared that she would give me a call the next time she made some. The next time she made some happened to be last Saturday evening so when she called me I ran right over to pick them up while they were still hot. (Might I mention that, in spite of my prior ignorance, I am now a fan of sambousas, which turned out to be the African cousin of Asia’s spring rolls and Latin America’s flautas. They are delicious.)

Throughout our visit, her children and the three neighbor children visiting from the apartment upstairs broke out in song several times, mainly in an attempt to coax the 15 month old to show me her dance moves. As the visit went on, the older kids got inspired, and silly, and started showing off a few of their own moves. Let me mention that though these kids can fluently speak French, Arabic, and Somali, they’ve only had the opportunity to master a few English words, as of yet. Dance, however, is an international language, and they’d certainly mastered MichaelJacksonese. The singing that accompanied mainly consisted of “I’mbad, I’mbad,” but really, the head twitches, shoulder shrugs, spins, and hip thrusts, were the main event. I laughed and laughed, mostly because the kids were just that entertaining and partly because witnessing an M.J. dance-off in this Muslim home just felt so darn surreal.

The performance continued until it began to deteriorate into complete silliness and my friend, having seen one too many crotch grabs, declared, “No more English!” Apparently French and Somalian music is safer.

On my way home, I pondered the possibility that perhaps the rest of the world wasn’t twenty years behind on the times. Perhaps I’d just managed to miss something big.