March 31, 2014

I remember as a teenager living with the constant-well not constant, more like when I took a break from fussing about my hair, or my boyfriend, or how to get a ride to the ticket scalper- concern that my mom would embarrass me. I knew she would, she was my mom. She had an accent. She knew things about me, which is not surprising, she’d given birth to me.  She had seen me in diapers and been the one that walked me thru tampons.

My mother’s nature did not make her the Gary Cooper of moms. But nor did she over share, actually in my teenage years we had as little to do with each other as possible. And even now, we have a mutually agreed upon pact of silence. I wasn’t easy, she wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, we were both mean as hell. I will leave it at that.

Now, things are a lot more complicated. My kids and I have a pretty healthy relationship, right now anyway. But the potential for me to cross the line, stick the foot in, piss them off- any minute I’m going to reveal something horrible. There is facebook, wordpress, instagram, text messages, emails,  and actual conversations.

And they are alert and waiting to catch me. While I scan the history for porn, or any evidence that Katy really does like One Direction, they are checking up on me. “Mom, I didn’t say you could post that.” “Mom, why did you pick that picture”” “Mom, don’t tell Gramma I’m sick.” “Mom, don’t tell Jen I feel better. I don’t feel better.” “You can tell Maggie I feel better, but that it might be temporary.”
It’s a matter of seconds before I’m thrown in kid jail and they stop leaning in to kiss me good night. Actually that’s history. I have to find them, then I do the leaning. I brush my teeth first, I rehearse topics of conversation, I bite my tongue when I notice the pile of dirty clothes under the bed, or, more often the pile of clean clothes under the pile of dirty clothes. I brush and bite my tongue and land my kiss on a cheek that might still have a spot of egg from breakfast just above the lip. I bite my tongue. I say good night. And most nights, I head right to my own bed

To avoid just this, the overwhelming temptation to reveal that-

yes, I am a mom. I’m proud and I’m ecstatic and sometimes I’m disgusted and I truly don’t know how on earth I’m going to get thru the next twenty years.

Wanna dance?


In the beginning…

My life before- I’d gorge on Nutterbutter Sandwich cookies
across the street from the market. I’d stagger the terrifying path on sheet ice to the high school from behind Briarcliff. At my first dance, I listened to the girls in the next stall over brag about how many bowls they’d consumed. and thought they were talking about gobbling down too much brownie dough…
Everything changed the day my father walked out of the Mtn. Lakes Club after a business meeting with his bosses. He’d just gotten home from rehab (what did they call it then?) so we are all excited about life going back to normal. He came out of the Club, found me in the parking lot. I’m sure I was on my way in to charge cigarettes or make a call, and he shook his head. For the first time, in a long time, I approached my dad without an agenda. I wasn’t thinking about hitting him up for a new record, or some guilt cash, or a ride. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen him look defeated. I walked toward him even though I really wished I had somewhere else to go, or was anywhere else in the world. He said to me “Julie, it’s over, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.” I just stared at him. I think I was waiting for him to spin it, or change it, blame it on them, or tell me how over meant he had a new beginning lined up. “I don’t know, Julie, it’s done.”

I guided my dad to his car, a rented Cordova, black with red stripes, eight track, fully loaded, before he wept. I couldn’t see if there were actual tears, his head was bent over the steering wheel, his shoulders rose and and fell, and he didn’t make a sound. I don’t remember how we got home or told Mom or Jim or spent the rest of the summer.
I remember my own body pitching forward with pain, like I’d been punched in the gut. I grabbed for his arm and tried to say something right. And I remember, even though I had nothing to say, that somehow I spoke words outloud. I said- ” they are wrong, it takes time, it’s too soon”, he lifted his head He wiped his pale, pale blue eyes on the back of his hand. And while he listened to me ramble, my body still bent with the new weight of the world, he straightened up. He believed me. My words seemed to give him strength, and courage, and by the time he got to the car, he looked like the man I knew. And I wanted to believe that someone was back. “Fuck em all,” he said, “It was too soon!” he announced.
But I knew as I watched his eyes scan the parking lot, as I watched him try to figure out how to get home, it was done. Tennis matches. Fireworks. Egg catches. Trips to the market and slippery walks to the high school. Cocktail hour. And that magical sense that whatever came up, Daddy could fix it. That afternoon, I’d fixed Daddy. And I knew within an hour he’d forget where he worked, or lose his keys, or wonder why the rug was beige.
So when I remember Mtn. Lakes, it is mythical. Soon after he made his declaration, we had to move to Mt. Tabor. We were lucky someone in his office caught on early; his final days with early onset Alzheimers were covered with insurance.

There is a thread that runs through my memories, not all of them, and maybe I wouldn’t even be aware of it, except…
Our first cocktails, we mixed in large cups over the kitchen sink in my kitchen, decorated in swirls of yellow and brown, of all of the hard liquor in the cabinet. We didn’t actually have a liquor cabinet, though my parents were pretty devoted, we should have had a liquor locker. We would pour random amounts of vodka, gin, tequila,… I don’t remember (what a surprise) and have a contest to see who could drink their cocktail down the fastest. I remember being strangely proud that I always won, but I’d always beaten everyone in the milk chugging copetitions at lunch.
Next stop, quarts of Colt 45 in the bathroom at the Tourne, also guzzled, inside dank stalls because it was illegal to drink in public parks. Afterwards, my eyes would sting, lurching out into sunlight, brave and dazzled by the way the world looked so different from when we snuck in, bags in hand, looking over our shoulders for grownups, and/or grownups with badges.
I can’t forget my first party, I was a freshman. I made the discovery that, in spite of it’s reputation, Schlitz Beer tasted really good. I announced it again and again, while I tried to play ping pong with a senior who was fascinated with my review of the low rent malt beverage, and my thoughts on the upcoming election. Then a junior stepped in, took my paddle away, poured me into his car, and drove me home. I remember hearing the next day that my ping pong partner was not happy about the interruption. I wondered a day or two to wonder about the great romance that might have been, then wrote a poem about our tragic affair and moved on.
Soon after, a month, a year, I found myself behind the high school, I’d snuck out of some dance because it’s impossible to boogie to Stairway to Heaven, nope, I always managed, must of been I needed a cigarette. I came upon a group of three or four that introduced me to beer shots, no, that’s not right, the joys of shooting a beer. You puncture a hole in the bottom of the can and immediately press your mouth to that hole and guzzle the contents. That way, no air gets mixed in, maximum buzz for your buck. I remember now, I was a freshman, I’d come outside because while I was peeing I’d heard all these girls talking about how many bowls they’d consumed, I thought they were bragging about the amount of wine they’d had to drink, didn’t know why they couldn’t use glasses. So I was feeling left out. When these juniors and seniors shared the mysteries of shooting a beer, like I said in the beginning of this diatribe, I could guzzle. (Have you noticed how I am delicately trying to avoid the word swallow?) And my abilities in that arena had started in third grade in a competition to see who could finish their beverage first.
These are dramatic memories I have collected from when I was really young, way too young, my mom had just gone back to work, my dad was absent, literally, not the later version.
So let me go on and say… there were nights at Stanfields, and Eves, and Fireside, and assorted establishments whose names I don’t remember where I had beers, or schnapps, or wine. Nights where me and my friends drank, got silly, played or listened to music, threw up, held up the hair of someone who threw up, laughed, giggled, talked about how we were going to make a difference, talked about the size of our thighs, talked about the fact that nobody really had meaningful conversations at “these things”, made out, had sex, really wanted to have sex, and made connections. Dear, shining connections that exist on this page today that could not have lasted had they been borne simply out of booze, pot, or teenage stupidity.
I wasn’t and am not a Lifetime movie, but I was an idiot.* I don’t know why I share these memories today except to crow I survived… the drinking, and all the bad choices I made afterwards. It feels good to remember. I’m counting war wounds and I’m preparing myself for 2 years from now when my son turns 13.(He’s 13. We are having a lot of embarrassing conversations.)
*If you work for Lifetime or an affiliate, and find me interesting at all, I was an Xtreme idiot, emphasis on the word so demographically popular, I might have forgotten a lot. And I would be happy to remember, and describe in detail, a fuzzy recollection I have of a night in paradise with ET, all grownup, and/or the relationship I had in my twenties with the brother of the sister of the woman that made Angelina Jolie so damn weird.

So much of Facebook is filter and crow. Tonight I’ve had a few beers and I’m feeling a little dangerous so this was my most recent entry.You will notice there is some crowing but I left the filter off.
My Day.
Mango, Banana Carrot smoothie.
Church. A conversation about the devil and some amazing words from Parisa Parsa.
Friends at church and hugs and promises and amazing coffee. The faces there are family, chosen family. I know why I chose them and I am constantly in awe of the fact that chose me.
Yoga. With Nathalie Bellemare Elfer. Our downward dogs were so true to the canine spirit of the pose they are going to put us on a poster for the amazing benefits of yoga for middle aged women. Or on the cover of Love Your Pet, Be Your Pet, not sure which.
Home. Pork roast in going to be in the oven a looooonnnnng time.
It smells good, it’s making me hungry.
Time to visit the inlaws, drink beer and watch basketball.
The kids are sick, so I really should leave the house, drink beer and watch basketball. That way they’ll rest.
Basketball. Two beers. Phone call from Colin. Nice job, leaving us home alone while you party.
Made me careful way to the store, long conversation with the clerk about Keebler versus Pepperidge Farm.
Home with cookies.
Roast for dinner tomorrow.
Tonight it’s cheese toast and chocolate chips and water. Lots and lots of water.
I could have just told you I went to the gym.

Here I am.

March 2, 2014

I have finally came to the conclusion that my body is a pretty nice place to live. This after a troubling bout with a never ending chest cold, the onset of my fifties, and a life long wish that I was just a little taller.

All my life I’ve been plagued, not only by height envy, (and look at all of the woman lurching around in high heels, I’m not the only one,) but by the vague idea that I would look so much better if my lips were just a little plumper, my belly a little less so, my hair straighter, my feet daintier… The list goes on and on and on.

And then, while I was on the phone with my mom, listening to her tell me about the latest cruise she’s booked, a thousand pounds of envy crashed down on me. Not only did I want to be taller, with a voluptuous smile, a taut tummy, a sleek mane, held up by a delicate instep, I wanted to be all of that and lounging on a deck chair in the sun. On a boat. With a cocktail, a cabana boy, a slew of really good books and a crowd of fascinating people waiting to hear my latest bon mots.

I pulled in my driveway and looked out the window at the dirty snow, the basketball hoop, slightly crooked, perched at the end of the driveway, and the dog poop in the front yard.

My short legs carried me out of the car and into the house. My face was greeted by the most wonderful of dogs, the smiling Sophie. My daughter gave me a hug. My son smiled and asked if I’d remembered to pick up milk.

I didn’t know what we were going to do about dinner. Pizza three nights a week is a little much. And if I was ever going to do anything about this waistline, it probably wasn’t the best option.

It turns out Katy had made macaroni and cheese, and she explained to me she didn’t even use butter, just low fat milk. And Colin offered that we could round the meal off with the grapes in the fridge I’d bought them to bring to school for snacks, (since they never, ever brought them to school for snacks- “see mom, sometimes it works out we don’t listen to you).

And I decided right then, right there, that this body of mine wasn’t such a bad place to live. With a little help from my husband, it had delivered me these two amazing, surly, sweet, funny people. It has carried me thru a life of heartbreak and bliss.

I have not always been kind to this body of mine. Mostly I’ve actually been pretty cruel. Too much sleep, or sulking on sofas. A long love affair with cigarettes, and some serious time indulging in too much wine or dangerous trips to the ladies room. Bacon. Macaroons. Not enough fiber. Not enough water, too much water.

These days, I’m all about Greek yogurt, time at the YMCA and long walks in the woods with the dogs. I love spinach, I don’t eat red meat much. But that’s only been for a little while.

So all things considered, this body of mine has been pretty generous and forgiving. So I think the nicest thing I can do is stop fretting about the lounge chair that doesn’t have my name on it, and the fact that there isn’t a lip stick that is going to make me look like Ms Jolie.

I can still wear high heels, and dream a little. But at the end of the day, this day any way, this body of mine is right where I want to be.