Sunday, June 24, 2012

Home office

Now that I am ungainfully employed by the Corporation of Cyclical Chores – a completely imaginary Subchapter S corporation -- I am forcing myself to get dressed each morning and face the day (and the school bus driver) at 8 a.m. wearing something other than a bathrobe and fuzzy, pink slippers.

Free of my windowless cubicle, my days are spent milling around the Home Office checking in on the various departments that make CCC (as I like to call my imaginary firm) run like a top … the wobbly kind.

As chief exective of CCC, I wear many hats.

For example, as head of appropriations I usually stare blindly into the shopping cart, wondering what I can throw in there that will magically prepare itself once I get it home. Raw meat during BBQ season seems to be the best option. The head chef is as protective of his grill as the laundry czar is of keeping red items from infultrating the white. All it will cost me is a beer.

More worrisome is how to handle the dishwasher. Sure … he shows up to work consistently (being built-in and all) but he tends to leave everything he washes crusty and unappealing, causing me to have to redo everything by hand.

I'd fire him, but I've asked around. My problem isn't unique. He's just a hollow shell and replacing him would not only be labor intensive and costly, but also unlikely to solve the problem. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Then there's the three-foot-tall house elf who speaks in riddles and is always on some secret mission to empty and redistribute any and all prefolded garments produced by the laundry department, which, turns out, operates at a daily albeit at an inconsistent capacity.

I don't even want to think about the cleaning crew. They are about as organized as a pack of rabid squirrels and only half as tidy. I tend to try and pull that hat over my eyes.

Perhaps, though, the most surprising of the hats I wear fits only loosely and has a wide brim offering a surprising amount of revelation and protection.


Frankly, it's a job that, in my previous life, I had likened to sewer cleaning or carrion removal: Knee deep in dirt, breathing in the rancid smell of defeat.

Whatever I attempted to grow either failed to germinate or choked the life out of every other lifeform around it.

The thought had occurred to me that now, with my hours expanded, my duties varied and my compensation greatly devalued, the only way I could balance the inequity for myself was to grow something with value added.


Cabbage instead of Cosmos. Tomatoes taking the place of trillium. Peppers where once peeped peonies.

Even the shareholders of my fictitious firm … the people who clamored for pancakes and bacon as I poured yogurt on granola … were sneering at my plans to turn around the company. They beggged me to reconsider.

“What will the other imaginary companies say? What if there's a hostile takeover?”

Sure … it looks out of place – an imaginary corporate headquarters landscaping its entryway with edibles, protruding akimbo, where ornamentals had once appeared orderly.

But I press on. When the greedy shareholders get their hands on the fruits of this labor, they'll be glad they invested. …

Of course, that's my plan. Get them hooked now because next year we're going co-op.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Holding my breath

I often hold my breath.

Not just during the angsty times: doctors visits, teacher conferences, all manner of difficult conversations.

But also when I'm thinking. When I'm listening. When I'm writing. When I'm rearranging my closet in my mind's eye.

I just forget to exhale. It's an unconscious, momentary thing. Like a blink you squeeze shut until you tear up or see stars.

I've always held my breath this way.

Still, it makes my husband nervous.

He thinks it's all about him.

“Are you upset with me?” he asks when the inevitable heavy sigh releases all this pent up air.

I tell him not to worry. “It's not always about you. … And that the exhalation hissing out of my lungs is just my body's way of making sure I don't pass out.

“I'm not mad. Really, I'm not.”

He doesn't buy it.

Truly, I have forgotten all about the argument we had the other day. I can't even remember why we were fighting. It's always something silly.

Is Jeremy Piven playing all the bad guys in this movie?”No, that one was James LeGros.”No, it was Piven. I'm sure of it.”It's LeGros.”It's definitely Piven.”Fine. I'll Google it.”
He barks dog. I hiss cat.

Stubborn we are.

Oh … I guess it is Piven.”

And that eye-rolling thing? That's just a reflex. Has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I wish Google would break even if, on occasion, it proves I was right.

Win the battle, lose the war.

Anger and resentment can do that to people, small irritations blow up in their faces.

Mountains and mole hills.

I'm sure there are times he'd rather be married to someone else. There are times I wouldn't even want to be married to me.

Like the time I volunteered him to assemble a thousand piece, plane-shaped teeter-totter for the preschool playground. I smiled as I pictured him pulling his hair out over Parts A and C being too small to fit into Slots B and D.

That wasn't terribly nice of me.

But he returned the favor.

He's raised my hand for jobs that would prove equally frustrating.

Dinner? Party? Small talk?

Honestly, I'd rather put together an oscillating jet engine and try to launch him into next week.

But I don't have enough weight to hold my end down.

Marriage can seem like it is balanced on absolutes:

“You always … ”
“You never ...”

But that's a mirage … not marriage.

Nothing is absolute. None of it crystal clear.

Except for a moment or two when you catch a glimpse of your family, the children skipping along a sidewalk in the afternoon sun and your partner close behind. He's holding their ice-cream-sticky hands as they sing some nonsense songs into the air.

Small moments in our lives that are capable of filling the cavities etched by our own moments of smallness.

Try to focus on this moment” I tell myself. “Let the other moments float away.”

This is why I married him. This is why he married me.

Heart racing once again, I notice I've stopped breathing.

And I exhale.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My son, ladies man

He's not like the other boys his age.

He likes girls. One in particular. And it isn't me.

Don't laugh. I read Freud. I understand the stages of psychosexual development include a period in which my son would develop an Oedipus Complex, try to kill his father and marry me.

Okay, not literally. But I'd played it all out in my mind as if it were the Greek tragedy.

His sister would rib him about some girl his age: “Champ and Girly, sitting in a tree. K. I. S. S. I. N. G. ...

He would punch her, declare his love for me and tell dad to pack his stuff and find another place to call home.

But instead he just looked glum; hung his head and said … “Girly likes The Other Guy.”

Then he stomped away.

Not even five yet and he's professed his undying like for a girl who, for all he knows, still thinks boys have cooties. (Not that she isn't polite when he tries to tell her a joke: “What do you get when you cut an Earthworm in half? Two Earthworms. … ahahahahaa!).

She shrugs her shoulders in the least offensive manner and runs off to play with her best girlfriend.

My son stands there smiling for a bit then inches toward her direction, slowly moving into her shadow, pretending he's not there.

Little stalker.

In the car he says her name over and over. He sings songs about her -- sweet little nonsensical ballads that liken her to a summer day … Only not Summer's day, because that would be a girl who's name is Summer and she's not like Summer. Her hair is a different color. It's black. Or dark brown. I'm not sure.”

He doesn't even care if it rhymes.

Poor kid.

He's in for a world of hurt.

He chatters away at his friends who are boys. Feeling them out while burying his true intent with yards of game theory questions: “What school are you going to next year? What's your favorite color? Do you know that birds come from dinosaurs? Did you know that bears are omnivores? Which girl in school do you like?

And of course the friend hones right in on the main dish:

“GIRLS! I don't like girls. They're yucky.”

He smiles. That's one less rival.

He continues singing: “I like girls. They are fun. They are cute. They don't know how to shoot. Rubber bands in the air. Instead they put them in their hair.

Rhyming gains importance when people who aren't your parents are listening he'll tell me later. “They expect you to know how to rhyme hair and air.”

Watching him watch others, balancing what he thinks they want with what he thinks he needs is like having a glimpse into the future.

“I will paint her a picture. It will be of a diamond under the sea. Then I will show it to her and she will love it. …

And then he whispers to me: “Will you ask her to come over here ? … I'm too shy.”

Little con artist.

I can almost hear him in fifteen years: “Want to come up and see my etchings?”

I hope he doesn't expect me to arrange the showings.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Graduation day

He knows his colors. He can recite the alphabet. He can count to fifteen. He 's memorized his address and home telephone number. He can spell his name and write it so that's it's almost decipherable to the uninitiated eye. He can write with a pencil, paint with a brush and cut with scissors, though he sometimes refuses to perform any of those tasks on demand.

After this day we will say goodbye to the Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children forever.

A tear may sting the corners of my eye as I see him standing all fidgety-like in the backyard playground awaiting his preschool commencement. But I won't let it invite friends.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

I'm practically a professional at stoicsm. After all, this isn't the first time that I've witnessed a child of mine graduate from play-school to this-is-your-new-job school. It's the last time.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

He's stil my baby, I remind myself … thankful that even at the ripe old age of almost-four he's still a half-a-foot shorter than all of his school mates. He still looks like my baby even if he insists on speaking in full sentences, understands traffic rules and can tell the difference between a Mustang and a Corvette.

He's not ready to drive yet. There will be more than a decade of big, yellow buses in our future. They will come to collect him in the morning and bring him home in the afternoon.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

“My sister will sit wif me on the bus so nobody will bully me,” he says as if he's reading from a script. His sister … standing behind him. … silently mouths the words “He'll be fine.” as her eyes add the context: “sitting by himself … with the little kids … where he won't cramp my style.”

I shoot her The Look, but I'm not worried. I know they'll work it out. They always do.

“Poor guy,” Ittybit says, wryly. “He doesn't know how good he had it in preschool.”

He stares at her, waiting for an explanation. “What do you mean?”

“The work is SOOO MUCH harder in Kindergarten. You have HOMEWORK! And ASSIGNED SEATS! There aren't any TOYS in the classroom or BIKES on the playground. You can't HOLD HANDS with your friends in the hallway and you NEVER get to go on field trips ever again.”

He shrugs his shoulders. “I don't care. I'll get to ride the bus.”

She winces.

She's spent three years working her way toward the back of the bus, where the oh-so-big-and-mature third graders sit. She knows the possibility of being yanked back to the front to sit with her brother isn't remote.
“The bus is nice if you can sit with your friends,” she brightens.

“But I don't have any friends. … My friends are all going to another school.”

“You'll meet someone on your first day … just like I did. You may even be best friends forever.”

“Shhhhhh,” I say in my best I Will Not Cry accent.

Marilla and her school will soon be a memory.

It's bittersweet. Outgrowing things that have been comforting and expanding into new territory, knowing that eventually what was unaccustomed will be old hat.

I smile as he tries to balance a construction paper mortorboard on his noggin while twirling the tassel, a sparkling tendril of curling ribbon, in his never-still hands.

And, of course, I'll cry.