It’s My Party

July 28, 2013

My family threw me a surprise party today. There were hamburgers and hotdogs, grilled chicken and pickles, vanilla cake with strawberry filling, ice cream. I got a candle holder in the shape of an owl and some candles scented like apple pie to nestle inside the owl, approximately where the owls digestive tract would be. My daughter gave me  a designer contact lens case, my neighbor gave me a bracelet, my brother in law cooked for hours.

I had plans for this evening; my friends at church were holding a pot luck to meet the candidate for the position of Director of Congregational Life. But when I got home from the surprise party, I was a little drunk. My sister in law’s gift was a really good bottle of Chardonnay. And I wanted to wait for my son to get home from an afternoon with his basketball coach. Mostly, I was a little drunk, and overfed on chips and cheese.

I gathered the dogs. Sophie, the Magnificent, Wondrous Creature and Coco, the Almost As Magnificent and Wondrous Creature, who lives next door. I found the last of the headphones that work. I poured a cup of this mornings coffee into a go cup. I sprayed on bug spray, I stuffed my bare feet into a pair of Colin’s sneakers.

I went to the woods. I was alone. I put Warren Zevon on my phone, placed my head phones over my ears, and followed the dogs. They raced thru the woods. Coco hops, he’s a mini  Doberman Pinscher. Sophie bounds on three legs; she might have Lyme, she might have arthritis, we can’t afford another trip to the vet.

The dogs laughed, and ran, and wrestled. I sang along to songs about Carmelita and headless gunners. There was no one else there, it was almost dark and the clouds promised rain.

I was probably still a little drunk from earlier, I don’t drink much these days. So it felt like a party, walking in the woods with the dogs, some songs and my own self.

Second time round, and I guess at my age it’s ok; happy birthday to me. And thanks to all of those in my life that make me incredibly so happy.

 

Happy Birthday

July 26, 2013

Today is a big day, it is my birthday. For three days, I’ve been thinking- Do I write about this? Do I not write about this? Do I have anything profound and/or funny to say about birthdays in general or my birthday, specifically?

At first, I considered writing about the time I truly realized that I was going to die someday. I was in my 20’s, never really pondered mortality that much, (kind of strange considering my father had done just that a few years before,). I remember laying there, on this huge bed, trying to figure out how I felt about the fact that someday I was not going to be around. I was eating Greek pizza from a place down the street. I remember wondering if maybe I should try to go back to college so I could get a really good job and have the money to buy organs of the black market.  I remember putting on the soundtrack to Dangerous Minds and dancing around to the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” so I’d stop thinking about it. Twenty years have gone by since my obvious revelation and  I’m still not happy with the idea that my life has a preordained, unsatisfactory conclusion.

That’s a little too gloomy, and besides, it’s a bit boring.

So, I approached my topic from another angle. What about if I simply examined…

Me. I could talk about how I’ve changed thru the years. These days, I’m sunny and easy going; before I was described as flighty, dramatic and moody, ( the vodka gimlets and copious amounts of wine might have had something to do with the latter.) I eat salads with fruit on them, and l admit, in the midst of my very closest friends, to listening to country and western music. I am a dog woman, formerly a devout cat worshipper. I am even tempered, where as before I was one of my very favorite hobbies was to indulge in the great pleasures of the wallow.

And I want to go back. Just to the wallowing, (I really like salads with fruit, and easy going is kind of a nice way to be). I would like nothing more than to put on a pair of ugly pajamas, poor myself a glass of wine with a screw top cap and indulge in a boatload of self pity.

My one birthday gift was that Colin consented to help Katy clean up the dog poop in her room without me having to beg him.

There is no cake anywhere in my immediate future.

And it’s raining just enough so that I have no hope, even with the assistance of a blowdryer, product, and a straightning wand imported from Italy, of having even a tolerable hair day.

I shouldn’t feel bad. My girlfriends took me out to dinner the other night. And they remembered without me dropping even one hint. And it was good. I only wish that in our little foursome, I was still Samantha, the tall blonde with the sexy voice and nasty sense of humor. These days, I’m afraid I’m Miranda. With thicker thighs and less promising career.

But-

My brother in law sang me happy birthday this morning.

We are taking my son to Six Flags on Tuesday for his birthday and I really, really love amusement parks.

And though it’s raining, and there is no hope for my mane, it’s not raining hard enough to keep me from walking the dogs.

And, if I really want cake, I can stop at the store and pick one up on the way home.

Because that is the person I am now.

I let myself wallow, but only for fifteen minutes at a time.

In the course of my life, I’ve made some really bad choices. As a matter of fact, one of my chosen topics-to-ponder of late is just how many of these bad choices, and in how much detail, do I share with my kids. Should I be a walking, talking, cautionary tale, or should I tell stories about a dear friend of mine from high school. That died a horrible, painful death.

I’m still working that out, and I will let you know what I decide. That is, unless they peel themselves away from IFunny and Instagram and read my blog. In which case, it’s a mute point.

I don’t miss standing in line for the bathroom, or checking my nose in the mirror before heading out. I don’t miss long, intense conversations about bad things that happened in high school, endless Scrabble games, or racing to the liquor store at 10:45, (I’ve spent a good part of my life in Massachusetts, liquor stores close at 11.)

I’ve never been able to figure out why I clung to those things for so long. For a little while, it was fun. We felt like we were all part of an inside joke, had stumbled on a way to feel perpetually like a member of the cool crowd. We thought our conversations were unique, our observations hysterical, our taste in clothes and restaurants and drinks and clubs and friends were impeccable.

Looking back, I suppose clothes looked good because all I’d have for dinner was three bites before I got distracted by another trip to the ladies room. Restaurants were amazing because I was only nibbling on food until I could get up and use the ladies room again. Drinks were amazing because they got me drunk, or took the edge off, depending on where I was in the evening. And friends were anyone and everyone that were doing the same stupid things that I was.

So, it’s established, I don’t miss those days. But sometimes, I miss the cigarettes. The standing outside with a stranger. The first puff, the curl of smoke and the smell of sulphur. The way that first drag established the end of a meal. The end of a day. The end of really good sex. Regret, joy, exhaustion… all of these seemed to be well celebrated with a lit Marlboro, a few minutes, and a deep couple of drags.

Now at the end of a day, or at the end of a meal, I go to the pool. We live in a small town, right outside of Boston. There is a huge outdoor pool about a mile away from our home.At 6:30 most nights, I head over. Some nights I bring my daughter. Tonight, I went by myself.

I am probably the only adult in my age group that visits Cunningham Pool without trailing behind a few kids. I know the man at the gate that checks the tags. He hasn’t asked for mine in about five years. Which is good, because I put them away as souvenirs the first day I pick them up.

I smile, make brief conversation about how hot, cold, humid or rainy it’s been. He agrees. We decide that tomorrow it will be more of the same.

Then I step inside. I peel off my clothes, I always wear my swim suit underneath. I drop them on top of my cell phone, on top of my gym bag, on top of my purse. I creep into the water, down the kiddie stairs in the shallow end. I ignore the cute babies. Most of the time, I love cute babies, but at the pool, it’s best not to think about them.

Then I swim. I slip down the length of the pool to the lap lane. First lap, I dolphin dive. I follow the floor of the pool, parallel to the bottom. I look at the pine needles and elastics. I wiggle my stomach and flop my legs like a novice mermaid. I come up, I gulp air, I dive down again. Next lap is free style. I sprint. I stretch my arms long, out of their sockets, I reach far like my coach taught me thirty some years ago. I take few breaths, I slid thru the water like a blade, or a shark, or a competitor. Next lap is back stroke. I leave my goggles on, they are cloudy, but I can make out the sun falling down, and the pine branches above. I pull hard.

I rotate the strokes. I go fast, mostly, except when I’m playing little mermaid under the water. I swim for about an hour, straight thru the adult swim, until about fifteen minutes before the pool closes. Then, I make my way thru the shallow part of the pool, to the stairs. I step out of the water I peel my goggles of my face. I pull the bottoms of my swim suit back to where they belong. I smile at the cute babies. I say hello to the moms I know, and nod at the moms I don’t . I look at the pregnant women with a mixture of awe, recognition and on really hot days, an expression that probably says “thank god I’m done with that.”

I don’t know how I can swim so long, and so fast when I consider all of the horrible things I’ve done to my body over the years. Especially the smoking. I don’t know how I can swim the length of the pool without taking a breath when I consider that for a lifetime my favorite thing to do was to fill my lungs with smoke, hold it like a gift, and then blow it away.

But I do know when I look back on these days, it will be with the knowledge that these days, and these choices are not mistakes.

I can tell my children that truth, and maybe that will hold them for a while.

The other day a friend of mine asked me why I blogged. Since then, I’ve been giving the matter  a lot of thought. I turned over the obvious reasons for a bit. I like being able to get in touch with my “creative side”. I enjoy sharing my own particular view of the world as much as I savor getting glimpses from others when I bump around their pages.

But they really weren’t quite right.

I just like to write stuff down.

For a long, long time, from about the age of eighteen, to somewhere in the middle of my 20’s, I watched my father succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of my memories of him are flavored with the picture of him trying to light a cigarette upside down, squinting at a friend of mine while he searched for their name, looking at me with an expression of total joy, then asking- “Are you the person that brings the ice cream?”

For about twenty years after that time, I did pretty much most of the stupid things people do when they are lost in grief. I drank way too much. I stuffed, snorted and smoked  anything I could get my sad nicotine stained little hands on. I stayed up so late I actually bought curtains for their ability to block out morning. i woke up so late, it was sometimes night. And so I’d start it all again, right after I had my “good morning” cigarette.

I don’t know how I got my life back. These days, I work at the YMCA. I just passed my ACE exam, which means I am now a certified personal trainer. I get up at six in the morning most days, and I don’t have to drink coffee to stay awake. I like coffee, and I like being awake. I know this sounds pretty normal to most people, but to me, even after about ten years of not being an idiot, I still savor not having a hangover. I still relish opening my eyes because I’m happy. And not because I really, really have to pee from the two bottles of wine I drank the night before.

I like going to sleep at night instead of passing out.

I started my blog for my kids. I want them to see our lives, right now, while they are young, the way I see them. I want them to know how very much I love going to the pool with Katy and how much she makes me laugh. I want them to read about how proud I am of Colin, when he catches a snake, or stuffs a ball thru a hoop. I want them to know  I love these days, that I celebrate the chance to be front and center in the audience while they grow up.

I watched my father lose his mind, and for a long time, that took a toll on me. But at the end of the day, it taught me how elusive the moments that make up our lives are, and how sometimes the memories don’t last.

I wish I had more of him than some photographs, a painting and some records. He was the most wonderful, charming, loving man in the whole world. He looked like Robert Redford. He laughed with his eyes. He loved me and for a long, long time he made me feel like there was nothing wrong in my life he couldn’t fix. That other person he became was just a man that taught me what I needed to know. It just took me a while to figure it out.

I don’t know if I’ll get Altzheimer’s. But I do know that someday, I’m going to die. And I really like to write stuff down.

I am blessed to be living a life that has contained so many memories worth saving.

Missing

July 11, 2013

It was a tough day. Lost library book.  Hot. Fight with Colin, my son, about  what I know now was absolutely nothing. Three hours ago it seemed important while I sat on my stairs and weighed punishments.

Each disagreement we have now that he is heading toward his thirteen year is dark with danger – is this the moment he stops liking me? Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity to establish important policy. (There are repercussions for not leaving a note, for taking five dollars from my purse, for teasing his sister.) Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity for me to prove myself to be an inflexible ass. (He did call my cell, I’d told him I’d give him a few dollars, and what twelve year old boy doesn’t tease his sister.)

So I removed myself, and his sister, from the battlefield. It is July, there is a pool less than a mile away, and it is open from 6 until 7:45 every week night.

Katy and I swam. I did laps, she chased behind me and grabbed my toes when she could. I taught her the words to a song that begins “There once was a farmer who took a young miss”. I got irritated when she fell behind on our way to the car. She wasn’t happy when I denied her movie request. It was a wonderful, normal summertime night.

When we got home, the lights were out. I called for Colin. No answer. I fed the animals, I reminded Katy that we were not going to add a hamster to our menagerie until I was not the only one feeding the animals.

I called for Colin. It was dark. There wasn’t a note. Most nights, I would have just taken the dog to the park to remind him of the time. But he and I had been arguing. He wouldn’t have gone to the park.

I checked the phone for incoming calls, a telemarketer called from Seattle at 7:30. I checked the phone for outgoing calls. He’d called a friend at 5:15.

I went to the park. It was dark. It was quiet. There was a teenager smoking by the batting cage. The teenager said no one had been there for at least an hour.

I texted the moms of his friends. “Looking for Colin. Heard from him?” I didn’t want to panic anyone, or look like an idiot when he strolled in dribbling his basketball. I don’t like it when he bounces that damn ball in the house. I looked for the ball, couldn’t find it. No word from Colin

I called one of the moms, and kept my tone light. She volunteered to come pick me up, take me out so we could look for him together. I made a joke about not being ready to be “one of those moms”, but if I’d known her better, I would have said yes.

When he’s nervous, everything that he says sounds like it’s heading for a punchline. It’s why by the end of the school year, half of his teachers are in love with him and half of them want to give him detention in someone else’s classroom for the rest of his life.

That is my son. And right after I thought just that thought, it occurred to me. When he’s in trouble, he gets scared. When he gets scared, he gets tired.

He was in bed. Colin was tucked in, under four blankets, behind a door in a room sealed shut, like I told him to do, when he runs the air conditioner. The air conditioner must be ten years old. It is loud. It doesn’t have power saver or even a thermostat. Just high and low.

Colin had it on low. I guess he had heard my lecture on not wasting power and that other charming ditty of mine about not zoning out in front of the tv.  He’d even paid attention to that speech about reading more books; “The Chronicles of Captain Underpants” was just next to him, on top of his blankets, book mark placed towards the end.

He was missing and I missed him so much. And there he was, sleeping upstairs while I worried, cursed, wept and made stupid jokes so no one would know just how scared I was.

There is a lesson here, and I’m just not ready to learn it. I hope I have a little more time.

Is it really true that this summer I need to think about booties?

I don’t have an infant crawling around on the floor that is in need of new footware.

According to more than one article, 2013 is the year of the bootie. Short ankle boots, available in hot summer colors. Some are an interesting amalgamation of a sandal and boot, with cuffs around the ankle and toe cleavage spilling out the tips. Some are stilettos, there are quite a few platform booties out there, and a few sport the wedge heel. According to my research, the only common difference between shoes that are known as short boots, and booties is booties are universally more expensive. But I wear flip flops, so maybe I’m missing something.

So I can now cross think about booties off of my must do list for the summer.

Just below booties,  word around town is this season calls for mismatched prints, (“power clashing”) lucite heels, faux, or vegan leather skirts, overalls and  anything orange.

I’m lost.

I don’t think I will ever have the time in the morning to coordinate an outfit that tells the world I’m working a power clash. I think people would simply assume all of my clothes were dirty.

Lucite heels? I’ll stick to flip flops.

Faux or vegan leather skirts might not be so bad. If it wasn’t 95 degrees, and I got aroused by the feel of vegan leather sticking to my thighs.

I always liked overalls. They have lots of pockets, which I appreciate. They are usually blue, which looks nice with my eyes. I had a pair of overalls I wore until they literally disintegrated when I was a teenager. I couldn’t go thru that pain again.

And orange. I don’t really understand orange. Maybe they picked the color orange as this season’s color  because no one ever, ever wore orange before. And if you wear orange this summer, you are telling the world- ” I read fashion magazines. I do what they tell me to do. Even if everyone that sees me has experiences a sudden desire to visit the mall and order a lovely frozen orange julius from someone behind a counter that is wearing exactly the same shirt.,I don’t care. I want to look like a Kardashian.”

I have never really paid attention to fashion trends in the past. But this year, I wanted to make an effort. I don’t want to look like I’m on my way to either a Grateful Dead concert or the gym.

But if that calls for the wearing of booties and jumpsuits, I’m just going to have to wait for next year. Although it’s already July. Which means in a week fall fashion will be splashed everywhere.

I wonder how I’d look in gauchos?