Last week a boy at EJD’s high school died while riding his bike to class. EJD and I must have passed him on our way to school that morning because he died on the same road we’d just traveled.
Spring break, that silky oasis sandwiched between the crackling of ink-smeared paper flashed by during the first week of April. It was toward the end of March my 15-year-old son began acting like he’d been sweating in the gulag for 5 years and the only thing that would relieve his prison’s pressure was … sand, sun and sleep.
“I really need a break,” he moaned one day. He sounded like a 45-year-old CEO of an underwater company with a family to support.
Different coastal town, different friends but still … there they were. Each was the guest of a generous friend as well. Sometimes things work out like that. Alone and with a move looming the house mocked me with its mess. Lucky for me the Dude was able to fly over and help organize the house a little. HRD waylaid her flight to join us for a few days after her vacation so she could save some mementos from the moving wrecking ball.
Our lives lurk in every corner of every room. I could easily be a hoarder and unfortunately I understand the initial drive that pushes people to accumulate junk. How can I throw away that block-lettered paper EJD wrote in second grade? Or the pictures he drew when he was 3 years old? What about the books I read to my kids when they were toddlers? I wouldn’t be saying good-bye to the books, I’d be throwing away the memory of their joy and our snuggling when reading.
That old camera box? Might need that. Cause someday I might want to mail something small and I might need its sturdy construction. I might find the matching earring laying unused on my dresser; those earrings used to look really good on me when I wore the black dress that no longer fits. I might forget how pretty I felt if I throw away my earring.
We had a garage sale while the Dude visited and one crawler brought her tiny son with her. He looked about 2 years old. I quietly went to our bookcase on the driveway and grabbed a favored book about an old woman on her birthday and all the relatives who come to see her. The little boy grabbed the book and carried it triumphantly. He couldn’t read yet, but at least for a second he loved that book and I hoped his mom would read it to him someday.
I need to realize my memories are not gone when my flotsam is gone. My kids seem better at saying good-bye to their stuff than I am, but their memories are not alive with such happiness, sadness or regret as mine. I guess it’s time to just carry all that inside me and not store it in physical form for eternity.
The interesting and artful disorder (some would just call it a mess) in my daughter’s room is shifting. Her yellow, pink and green walls are becoming more visible as I pull posters down, pack her books and cd’s and sweep away the dust. I can’t bear to remove the large posters of the mother animals kissing their babies, even now I tear up as I write. In one picture a long-necked giraffe mom bends down to nuzzle her new clothes-stick legged baby. The other picture is even larger – a close up of a baby elephant, so innocent, standing protected between its mother’s feet.
How dare my daughter grow up and leave me.
I met her at the airport recently as she stopped here in North Carolina on a trip from Los Angeles to South Carolina to visit a friend’s family. In the name of über security I couldn’t enter the airport so she walked to greet me and we hugged on the marked border of Exit and Enter. As we came together in our mother/daughter embrace our tears burst forth and wracked our faces and bodies. My bunny shook she cried so hard. I got to kiss her puffy cheek, my favorite thing to do with both my children.
Then it was over.
“Oh mom,” she said.
Oh, my sweet girl. Oh my walking heart.
The ever alert security fellow would not allow HRD to renter from whence she’d just come so she had to stand in line again for another sweep. Glad they are doing their jobs. But, oh gosh, my husband was one of the many who made it through airport security within the last year carrying a knife. He’d forgotten it was in his carry-on and even though his carry-on went through the X-ray machine and on to the plane it escaped everyone’s notice. Dude held the little knife up, amazed, when he got home.
“We should call the media,” I said.
“I don’t want the attention,” he replied. Understandable in this world of competitive headline saturation.
So I, a mother who brought her identification, a print-out of her daughter’s itinerary, a letter from the government bearing her daughter’s name and our home address (the same address on my driver’s license) could not get a pass to enter the airport and eat breakfast with my older teenaged daughter.
There needs to be some sort of visitor security check-in line for people who don’t want to board a plane but want to visit with someone passing through, or just walk a close family member to a plane. Just one woman’s opinion but it’s a good one.
Meanwhile, the interesting assortment of flotsam in HRD’s room awaits. Usually I cry as I clean. It’s hard to raise your babies – hug them, squeeze them, feed them and clean them – so they can leave. In the world no one will ever love our babies more than we do, no one will care so much about them in quite the same way. Give it up, give it over, let it go.
It’s really hard.
We joke that our house is the “Malcolm in the Middle” home of the neighborhood. Our forsaken front yard is crabgrass which naturally browns in the winter. Except for the weeds, their greenery is exquisite. (It is hard to say that modestly.)
The arrival of spring weather brings new weed growth, something we celebrate here because it let’s us fake a lawn. I like it also because it gets my son out of the house and the mall and puts him squarely behind the mower. Granted, one of his favored malls is an outdoor mall and he does engage in the activity known as “walking” sometimes, but I like the physical productivity of mowing.
I’d be remiss to not interject that our boy, EJD also participates in Krav Maga, the Israeli fighting system a couple of times a week but that is a newish activity and it does not reap immediate rewards, for me, like lawn maintenance does.
So, as I was saying: we were talking foreclosure. Dude had only been out-of-work about 6 weeks before he landed this post, but regular paychecks haven’t been ours for a few years. I’ve worked here and there, but have no career and I have found no one wants to hire a middle-age woman with no discernible job skills whose hours are partially restricted by son-ferrying obligations. Hey! I’m a fun gal who is dependable, honest and reasonably bright. But the same can be said of people a quatra-zillion years younger than me. Who you gonna hire?
Anyway. Dude got a job. Dude likes his job. We.gonna.move. Our son knew a move was in the cards and fought it kicking and screaming but he seems to have climbed on board. Maybe because now we’ll live by the beach and have family within driving distance. His sister makes her formal move to acting capital Los Angeles next week, hopefully her presence is part of the allure but I doubt it. They are fighting now, separated by 3,000 miles and they are fighting.
I really have to stop here and pat myself on the back, it’ll just take a moment.
Phew, OK done with that. A passerby may have thought I had an itch but no, a self-congratulatory pat was in order. Almost grown children arguing. Not speaking. Wait. It reminds me of my younger sister and me! We are not speaking either! Connections! So exciting! It’s sort of like an episode of the ancestry search show “Who Do You Think You Are?”
My sister is MJH and she will reside about 8 hours away from our new home. Exciting times. Heh heh.
On my list now are home repairs, packing, sorting, Good Will trips, a possible garage sale and more packing. Groan. It will be worth it in the end though because finally, we’re moving.
When we moved to this nameless southern city it was against my will. Life in San Diego was good, except for the minor problem of my husband being unemployed. But except for that life was good! Back then Dude (husband’s name for this post) subsisted on freelance writing after the magazine for which he worked was sold to a conglomerate and the new owners fired everyone, save one. That saved one was not the Dude.
I know that people do live on freelance writing earnings, but this was our problem: “Your check is in the mail,” “It’s not there? The accountant misplaced the invoice,” “Not there yet? I’ve written a note to myself to look into that…”
This didn’t happen with just one company, it was the norm rather than the exception at almost every company for which he wrote and many of these were established magazines. Our kids back then were about ages 5 and 8, small children only in need of small things. Our house was also rather small about 1,500 square feet and it was funky; it had a lot of twists and turns. I liked it.
Our back yard was quite large and a little wild, on the bottom was a covered patio and up toward the top was a swimming pool. Just perfect for San Diego weather and kids. Dude had a little garden of tomatoes, corn and peppers and grapes grew wild along the fence. A scarecrow even came with the house. I watered, Dude planted. I’ve heard my now 15-year-old son reminisce about playing with his sister in the mud just outside our front door. It is one of his best memories. I love that, and who knew?
Another idyllic part to this scene was Dude’s mom lived in walking distance from us. Our children’s school was a sunny, happy well-rated school and it was the same one Dude attended when he went to elementary school.
But there was a lethal poison infiltrating our sunny days back then: arguing . The strain from not being paid because his checks were late so our payments to whoever were late was demoralizing and exhausting.
Plus, Dude was angry at me for not working. Who can blame him? Throughout most of our almost 20-year marriage I’ve pulled in hardly a cent. Lambast me, go ahead and pile on! My arms are wide open and I can take it. My children haven’t had the benefit of seeing their mother have a profitable life outside the home. They’ve also seen her be belittled inside the home for not having same; I set that up and took it as well.
My own mother was a successful business woman and I guess I wanted to counter the fact that she wasn’t home a lot. So I was home ALL THE TIME. Oh, my poor kids! Can you imagine having a mother who is always in your business? What a mess of this I’ve made. I wanted to be a good mom that was my primary goal. I don’t think I achieved it at all. Well, maybe a little here and there.
In addition to my misguided wants, I also have a very mild case multiple sclerosis and the biggest effect it has on me is I run out of gas easily. But plenty of people work at least part-time who have my degree of MS.
I am really tired right now, but not due to a physical illness. I’m just tired and sad.