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Room to Grow

For years he refused.

“Let’s get you a new rug.” I’d say, nodding toward the 8×10 baby blue Pottery Barn square lined with fire trucks that warmed his floor.  “And maybe a new lamp?” I’d add hopefully, pointing at the matching old one by his bed.

Each time it was suggested, he’d scrunch up his face and shake his head adamantly, like a toddler who had just been offered broccoli.

“Come on,” I’d coo. “I’ll get you cooler new ones. You know you’re eight.” Then nine. Then ten. Now eleven.

“No. I like my stuff.” Was all he’d say on the matter, year after year.

I never even considered mentioning the piles of stuffed animals that adorned his bed. They were untouchable. Besides, I was really in no hurry for him to grow up either. Still, when the ‘baby’ stuff in his room outweighed the ‘kid’ stuff, I worried about the random friend of his who might come over and comment. Many are second or third born boys graced with a social maturity that my first born just doesn’t have. But while I prize his innocence, I certainly didn’t want him being singled out by a snarky 10 year-old.

My son’s attachment to his youth wasn’t just about his stuff. Easily, from his third birthday on, he would mourn the loss of the passing year. To never be three or four or five… Growing up was painful for him. He resisted hard, wanting to remain a baby forever.

I hurt physically watching him struggle, completely understanding his pain; wanting him to stay little and nestled in my arms and afraid of his growing up and away. I got it, probably more than he did.

But I also knew it was my job to help dissipate that fear, so while I continued nuzzling, I whispered warm tales of the fabulousness he would enjoy at each growing age to his covered up ears. We continued that way for years, holding on to each other, working up the strength to let go.

When he turned 11 and entered middle school, he naturally just took a step forward and I watched holding my breath. The boy who barely crossed the street on his own was now walking home with friends. And on Fridays, they all wandered en masse down our town’s main street invading local pizza and ice cream stores. It was an explosion of freedom, baby strides not steps, and my boy happily hopped to it.

But it still took me by surprise last night, when after the cat pooped on his rug, and we brought up once again, the idea of getting rid of it, he actually said, “Okay.”

My husband and I looked at each other momentarily startled, and it took us a beat before we burst into action. Immediately, my husband started clearing the rug of all the toys and crap, literally and figuratively, and rolled it up.

Then, all of sudden, my son looked around his room and said, “I don’t think I need all this stuff.”

Instantly, hoards of papers, trinkets and little toys that he had been compiling for years suddenly found itself in two separate bags – one to be tossed and one to go down into the basement.

My husband and my son worked hard and efficiently, but instead of being enthusiastic, I grew more and more melancholy. Still, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop this locomotive. It was good, I told myself. Sudden, but good.

Then came the moment when my son looked over to his bed and asked, “Do you think I should put away my animals?”

Uh oh. I heard a tear and realized it was my heart ripping. “All of them?” I asked quietly but I was drowned out by my husband’s enthusiastic cries of “Yes!”

Ultimately we left his two favorite stuffed animals on his bed, bagged the rest and placed them in his closet. By 10pm, we were done and my son had an entirely new feeling room. One without the toddler rug and lamp. One without dinosaurs, matchbox cars and piles of drawings and games he spent endless nights creating. One with very little baby left in it.

Except of course mine. The baby who was now pushing 12.

For years he refused, but now it seems he’s ready to grow up a little. It’s a really good thing, which I’m sure I’ll realize once I stop crying.

There's no schtuff!!

You’re the one that I want

It’s been so long since I’ve had you. I’m dreaming about you day and night. Sometimes I see you with another and I want you so bad it’s hard to look, but I can’t turn away either. You’re so close I could touch you, taste you, but I don’t, because if I do, I’m a goner.

You play it so cool. I try to erase you from my mind; to distract myself with others. But they are just sad substitutes. Sure, they are sweet, but they aren’t you. Only you make me melt. And I know I do the same to you. I’ve seen it. And when you do, you’re quite irresistible.

I know we’ll be together again soon. I have never been able to stay away from you for long. I’m addicted, even though you’re not the best thing for me. Somehow I don’t care. I want you anyway. I must have you.

But for now, I needed a little distance. I was in over my head, not capable of going one night without you.  I was using you for all my emotional and physical needs, and I need to be able to cope without you as a crutch. It’s a test of my strength because sometimes with you, it’s easy to lose myself.

One of these days, I will be done with all this pretending. With all this running around with others who aren’t you. Who don’t satisfy me the way you do. Who don’t make me feel as good. I’ll always come back to you. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.

So I’m counting the days. And truly, the day I get my hands on you, I will consume you. But until then I wait, and I pine for the moment when you will touch my lips again.*

 

love

Me and You. 4 Eva.

 

*It’s been two weeks since I’ve eaten any ice cream. I usually do this once or twice a year when I think I’ve just completely lost control. Thankfully, it never lasts.

I run because I can’t hide

I don’t want to go.

My coffee is hot and dark and I’m sipping it slowly, leisurely; enjoying both the relaxation and the morning lift it offers. I’m in no rush to do what I have to do. No rush at all. In fact, there’s some laundry piled in a messy but clean mountain on my couch just waiting to be folded. If I leave it too long, it threatens to become pillows under children’s butts or tissues to wipe snotty noses. The longer I leave it, the more danger it is in. So you see it’s somewhat urgent that I attend to it immediately.

It’s been months since I’ve traveled down the path I’m about to go; the extended winter has sidelined me, kept me shivering even while indoors. All of a sudden, the yearly migration of the Florida snow birds; something never before considered, and in fact lightly mocked, has taken on a nice warm glow.

But I am ahead of myself by a few decades, and right now I am milking my last bit of coffee, even considering refilling my cup. But of course, that’s not a good idea. You can’t run on Dunkin, even though their ads say you can.

Running is my fair weather friend. The moment the temp dips to a certain degree, I tie up those shoes and store them away, choosing instead to split my time between the elliptical in my room, watching reruns of the Good Wife, and classes or machines at the gym where I could climb to the top of Mt. Everest, all while reading my book.

I’ve always exercised, generally five days a week, sometimes six. It’s as part of me as eating ice cream, but for a while now, I’ve just been going through the motions. I’m showing up, but I’m not putting up. Which might explain the heaviness in my body and in in my head. I don’t know which came first. Maybe chicken.

I started thinking about giving up on the whole business. I mean, I’ve managed to maintain myself for my entire adult life. I’m over 40. It would be nice not to worry so much about jamming exercise into my daily schedule or not eating that brownie. It would be nice to lay on the couch, ice cream spoon in hand, zonked to Housewives. It would be nice to just accept being me, instead of all this exhausting trying to be better nonsense.

I could just sit here, flip through the paper and enjoy another cup of coffee. I could… but probably won’t. Because no matter what I tell myself, what I’d like to do – or not do – I know what needs to be done.

Even at 9am, the thermometer reads 59 degrees. The sun is playing peek-a-boo with the clouds and the birds have started singing. My first run of the season has waited for Spring, and now it’s waited for me to tie my shoes, make sure that my in-laws are good with the kids, pee once more and do another last check on Facebook.

I’ve run out of excuses.

Sometimes my kids will cling to me and beg me not to leave them, but no such luck this morning. So now there’s only one thing left to do. Put one foot in front of the other and go.

 

Here I come...

Ready or not…

 

 

There Are No Fairy Tales

It is night and I am sitting on the edge of my child’s bed, exactly where he insists I sit, in between the old cat laying by his feet and the team of stuffed animals encasing his body like a frame. I am about to read him The Three Little Pigs, one of his favorite books, and even though we have gone past bedtime into my time, he still insists and I comply because I am worn down and feeling both melancholy and appreciative of my gifts, which of course, he is one.

We have at least five different versions of the book. In some, the wolf gets eaten, in others he is merely boiled, and the kind gentler versions spare his life and allow him to run away with only a bit of singed fur. But in all, the message is clear, at least to me, life ain’t no fairy tale. In fact, I’m not sure fairy tales are fairy tales. Even the ones where the princess gets her man, there’s an awful lot of suffering involved.

It’s been a tough week in Suburbia. Not the usual ‘can’t get to my gym class’, ‘I stained my favorite shirt’ or ‘I need to make 50 cupcakes by morning’ tough. Real life tough; the kind that breaks down barriers and breaks your balls, that doesn’t care if your lawn is manicured or your nails, who you are or where you come from. The kind where children suffer and their parents suffer, where people die expectantly and unexpectedly and both are horribly shocking. Marlboro man tough, human tough.

It’s those times that make you wonder about life; want to rage and cry at the sky above, like it holds any power and say, ‘You suck! What is this? This is not okay!’ But the sky doesn’t care. And life doesn’t care. It just keeps on going and going like the wheels on the bus, showing off with its casual beauty thrown haphazardly about. Look at that snowcapped mountain in the sunset. Look at that wild haired child who can’t stop giggling long enough to blow his bubbles. Look at those skyscrapers soaring into the horizon, and the perfection of a rainbow.

So much magnificence, to say yes, there is suffering but there is also splendor to distract you; to mock the heart ache, but also to ease it a bit as well.

Life is beautiful, even though it is pain and death, and no one – not Hansel or Gretel, Snow White or the doomed gingerbread man – can escape unscathed.

No one.

We are all in this together till death do us part. We cannot out outrun life, even when the sky is falling, or a wolf is banging down our door.

Life is tough, meaning rough, dangerous and difficult, but we are also tough, meaning strong, sturdy and resilient.

We have to be.

Because there isn’t always a happy ending, sometimes there’s just the end.

3 pigs

 

Good Enough! vs Good Enough?

When I’m in one of my gym classes, I can’t help but assess the assets in front of me. I size them up. Not to judge them in any way. It’s not about them at all. It’s about me. It’s about how I stack up.

Almost always I’m on the losing end of my self-assessment. No matter if I’m at my heaviest or at my most fit, I’m never good enough.

I’ve done this for as long I can remember. As a teen, I remember myself as the cute girl’s side kick; my best friend was really the one to want. I was always smart but never remarkably so, if you ask me.

20 years later and I haven’t changed. When I make cupcakes for my kids, I’ll always nod semi-approvingly and say, “They may not be so pretty, but they work.” When I put on a pair of favorite jeans, the best I can manage is, “They don’t look terrible.” When I size up those behinds in front me, I’m always shaking my head and accepting that while I could look worse, I don’t look all that good either.

Even with my latest manuscript, I have a very difficult time just admitting I think it’s good. If you ask me about it, I’ll first need to go through a bunch of hedging… “It’s not the same kind of writing as my essays… It’s just an easy beach read… It’s not going to win any awards or anything…”

Why do I undersell myself every chance I get? How can I expect anyone to take me seriously when I can’t even take myself seriously?

I’m always in awe of the people around me who possess the confidence to sell themselves. I remember at work watching guys march in and strut their stuff. Generally I never thought their ideas were any better than mine – often I didn’t think much of them at all; but they walked the walk, while I slouched and stumbled.  They believed in themselves, while I always felt a bit like a fake.

Yet, day in and day out, I sit here and type away my thoughts, my stories, my life. And almost every day, I’m at that gym working my tail off, although mostly it stays on. I must think it’s worth something; I must think I’m worth something to keep at it.

And I guess I do. I mean, I do.

But admitting that puts all sorts of expectations out there. If I told people my book was great would they agree or be disappointed? I couldn’t stand the disappointment.

I read posts on Facebook by bloggers who confidently say things like, “I’ve written this really important piece that we need to be talking about.” And I’m fascinated. How do they say that about their own work? How do they put themselves on such a high level? Not only is their work ‘important’, but we, as a general population, should be discussing it?

Sometimes it makes me roll my eyes, embarrassed by their self-serving assertions, and other times I’m beyond impressed. Go them, I think. Kind of like when I first watched Lena doing her naked all over TV thing.

Like my grandmother would say, “No one’s gonna toot your horn but you.”

I think I need to start trusting myself and my talents. I need to start thinking that I am really good and worthy and deserve success. I mean, I’m smart, I’m funny and gosh darn it, people like me.

It’s true.

Now I’ve just got to believe it.

toot toot

Toot

 

 

 

Not playing is hard work

From somewhere in the house, a voice cuts the quiet with a serrated edge…

“Mommy! Where are you? Mooooommeeeeeee!”

Don’t find me Don’t find me Don’t find me.

“MOMMY!”

Sigh. “I’m in the kitchen, honey.”

“Mommy. I want to play!”

Ugh. I really really don’t want to play. “I’m washing the dishes, baby.”

“Mommy! Come on! Pleeeeee e e ease.”

“How bout I set you up at the table and you can draw?”

A brief pause for consideration, followed by a fetching tilt of the head. “Will you draw with me?”

Sigh. “Maybe later. I’m washing the dishes right now.”

“But I wanna battle dragons and Skylanderrrs right nowww.”

I hate battling. Hate it. Hate it. “Why don’t you go play with your brothers in the basement?”

“They don’t want to play.”

Well, no duh. “You have to wait, honey. I’m busy. (Warning: Combination bribery and poor parenting ahead.) Hey, how bout I put on a show for you? Maybe get you some goldfish crackers while you watch?”

“No!” Followed by a drop to the floor and pulling on my pant leg, “I want to playyyyyyyy.”

Come oooon. Go a wa a a ay. “Seriously dude, find your brothers. That’s why you have brothers, so I don’t have to play.” Quizzical look of the 6 year-old followed by quick repositioning of the mother. “I mean, you and your brothers are kids. Kids are supposed to play. Mommy has work to do.”

Smug, happy little boy bouncing up and down. “You don’t work.”

Internal sneering, eye-twitching, but voice stays reasonable. “These dishes aren’t gonna wash themselves.”

Big manipulative, adorable smile, “How bout you play now and do dishes later?”

Sideways, raised brow – what-do-you-think-you’re-a first-kid – look. “How bout you go find your brothers.”

“They don’t want to play.”

“They do. Go ask them.”

“They’re playing one-on-one basketball.”

“Then you need to go play by yourself. Do your legos.”

“Will you do them with me?”

Time to fight fire with fire. “Will you wash dishes with me?”

Silence.

Whew. Finally, he’s going to play by himself.

Then he shrugs and starts dragging a chair over to the sink, smiling brightly. “Okay, and when we’re done we can battle dragons!”

I look left. I look right, but I am backed into a sink, I mean a corner.

Damn. I’ve been played.

 

Oh we're so doing this!

Oh, we’re so doing this!

 

The Meaning of a Kiss

My father calls just as we are about to leave the car.

It’s his third call of the day.

“Don’t pick up,” my husband instructs, fixing me with a hard stare.

But I do, immediately rummaging through my bag for a chocolate kiss and popping one in my mouth. Sugar calms. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Hi Dad,” I say pleasantly, the sweetness softening my tongue. “You’re at your doctor appointment?”

“Yes,” he grumbles dejectedly, sounding lost and faraway, which he is. “But they are taking a long time.”

“Let’s go,” My husband interrupts, exiting the car and opening the back door to release the children. I shoot him my nasty eye glare, which he returns to me with his own give-me-a-break eye roll. Touche.

“Don’t worry,” I hurriedly assure my father, the last bits of patience dissolving in my mouth. “There’s plenty of time.”

I hang up mildly abruptly, the only way with him, and hurry to catch up with my husband and our three boys who are already headed into the hospital to visit my husband’s aunt.

She has some health problems, but the biggest is her progressing dementia. Still, she nods pleasantly when we arrive; possibly happy to see us, possibly uncertain who we are.

We try to prompt some conversation but quickly realize that a polite, vacant, ‘No thank you’, ‘yes’, or ‘I don’t know’ is as much as she’s capable of giving. It’s uncomfortable and ultimately we give up on talk, instead opting to hyper focus on our blissfully ignorant boys as they spin quarters across the table.

They are too wild, but she doesn’t really seem to notice; her line of vision both straight ahead and internal. Remembering her fondness for sweets, I find some more chocolate kisses and set them in front of her. Slowly she reaches for one, automatically unwrapping it, and placing it in her mouth. I feel a childish pride in her acceptance and wish I had something more to offer.

Suddenly without prompting, she announces to everyone and no-one, “Time for bed.”

My husband and I look at each other startled. Was she asking us to leave? Were my boys too loud? I immediately stop the game of quarters.

Shortly after, we say our good-byes and leave her sitting in the same seat we found her, still staring straight ahead; her aged fingers slowly working the silver foil of another chocolate.

Back in the car, I notice a missed call from my father. Taking a deep breath, I dial his number and unconsciously search my bag for another kiss, which soothes me the moment it touches my lips. It makes me think of my husband’s aunt, sitting straight and placid; seemingly unaffected by our visit, her mouth full of chocolate but no words, and wonder if she was doing the same with us.

 

kisses

 

 

 

I’m so honored to be the subject of the amazing Arden of Writing While Wineing‘s latest Yeah Write Interview. Please read it after you check out the Grid!! Also, must thank the always awesome Twin Daddy for making Ice Scream Mama part of his Feature Friday!

challenge154

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