For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Z is for Zebra

When he was five, he hoped the Easter Bunny wouldn't leave the usual cutesy stuffed rabbit thing sticking out of his basket.



'I really hope I get a zebra instead," he'd said one night before Easter, at bedtime when his mother lay next to him. When they'd whisper dreamily in the veiled glow of his seashell nightlight.



His mother listened best to him in this veiled light, better than when she was making dinner and he tried to show her one of his new magic tricks. "Incredible," she would say, but he always could tell her attention was more on whatever she was stirring in some pot.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yolk

Y is for yolk. The yellow moon inside an egg that he learned about in first grade, when they were incubating eggs in his classroom. For the one egg that never developed into any kind of chick at all – for his disappointment when his science teacher cracked it open like any store-bought egg his mother might crack into a bowl at home.



Friday, April 27, 2012

A-Z Challenge: X is for X-Ray Vision

He liked that no one knew. That he could see through things. That he not only had night vision, like the owls he heard lying in bed at night, but x-ray as well. That he could see through to the bones of a dinosaur, like the ones in the Museum of Natural History. Seeing those, he'd pretended that they were actually alive and only he could see how those razor-sharp teeth were set in their massive jaws.

And he liked to taunt his brother with his special x-ray gift.

"Sure," his all knowing-older brother would say, rolling his eyes.

"I can. I can even see your clavicle."

This made Big Bro look up from his little Nintendo DS screen. "My what?"

He wasn't sure actually where he'd picked up that word. Certain words just stayed with him, like pebbles he'd collect along the road – only some made it out of his pocket to his desk, the rest lost in the washing machine.

"Clavicle," he said, pointing his neck. He really wasn't sure exactly where it was but it was up there somewhere...

"Oh." Big Bro turned his attention back to his little animated screen. "Sounds like...some kind of spaceship or something."

He could see through his mother too. But he didn't tell her that. Maybe because when he was able to see through her was when she was looking worried, as she would when she'd feel his forehead for a fever.

But in these worried-looking moments, she'd only be doing something like picking the dead petals off her geraniums. He both wanted her to see him seeing through her, and he didn't. Because what he saw was what he saw when he actually could see through something. Something fragile like a new green leaf he'd grab off a tree and hold up to the sun. When he could see through to those delicate tiny veins. When with the next breeze, the leaf would be whisked away.

So with his mother, he wished sometimes he didn't have that gift for x-ray vision.

Just the night one. When, if he were an owl, he would be able to swoop down on a mouse with the speed of a bullet (he knew what they ate from the owl pellets they got to dissect in school).

 

 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A-Z Challenge: W is for Winding a Ball of Yarn

I have all these wool skeins that need to be wound into nice neat balls. I hadn't gotten around to the winding, as it seemed a monotonous task. I'd rather spend ball-winding time weaving, with my looms, caught up in that rhythmic relationship of warp and weft.

But I live now on the edge of a grief that frightens me. As it did yesterday, as I stood on the expansive stone steps of the DMV, where my mother had been called in for a mandatory road test, after mistaking the gas pedal for the brake and driving into the wall of a carpet store.

Climbing those massive stone steps had been an ordeal, as she has weakened and her balance is precarious.

And now as I was navigating her back down them, she was unravelling: "They don't understand. I won't go far. I just need to go the store. When I run out of milk. Eggs. Why can't they understand that?"

She'd failed the road test miserably. I was not surprised, but neither could I have ever been the one to take away her car keys.

She'd had to surrender her license. She'd had to slide it across the counter. I'd caught one last glimpse of her picture, a younger self.

She gave in to the unravelling. We stopped on a stone step. She leaned into the metal railing and began to really cry. "I'm a nonperson. I feel like a hollowed out piece of wood. I'm not a person anymore."

I held her elbow to keep her steady, but I had no words. I could not console. I was too locked up in my own grief of watching my life-long muse and best friend unraveling.

Metaphors can cheapen hard truths, but truths perhaps otherwise that are hard to express. So you could say aging is the unravelling of a once tightly woven ball of yarn.

But I'm not looking to cheapen this post, nor my grief. Only feeling I need to learn ways of coping with that grief. Grief, I now realize, does not necessarily commence the day someone actually dies. It's already here. It weighs heavily even as I type.

And yesterday, once I was back home, I could find no solace. But I was desperate to seek it out. And I found it. By the grace of sheer monotony. Of finally winding at least one skein into one ball of yarn.

Originally, I was going to cheat and just post here my Writer's Weaver's Tale, as I couldn't resist all those Ws. So here it is anyway: http://sandrasfiberworks.blogspot.com/p/writers-weavers-tale.html

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A-Z challenge: V is for Vistas

V is for vistas. For my youngest boy, it is the vista from the top of a spry tree, with branches young and yielding enough to hold his weight. Up there, the view is wide, shadows are fleeting, and his face is illuminated like a small moon.

Lately, I'm more apt to be thinking about my mother's vistas. I think about the stories she'd tell me of when she was a young woman and spent summers on a horse ranch in the mountains of New Mexico. She would talk about the magnificent views from the tops of those mountains. She likes to relate a particular story of when she was out riding a horse down a mountain in a thunderstorm. That rush of excitement, as she knew it was a crazy thing to do; fork lightning seared the grown. But my mother has always faced life fearlessly. The lightning to her, that vista, was far more beautiful than frightening.

Until about a year or so ago, my mother's favorite vista was the ocean. She was still able to walk down to it from her house, to sit on a bench and remark on the extraordinary light reflecting off the water. She still visits the ocean, but only when I can drive her.

At 93, her balance has deteriorated as has her strength, diminishing her vistas. Her vistas now are from windows. Her most favorite, the one from where she rests on her bed, a vista of sunsets, more crimson and bold through the sparse branches of winter. New leaves only make her feel imprisoned.

Other than that, she enjoys the vista through the little window above her sink that looks out on her dining table. Where all winter she has kept a pink flowering plant, the blooms finally fading as they do in warmer weather.

"I will so miss looking out on that bit of color," she said tearfully. The smallest things now are magnified and can make her cry.

"We'll get another one, another plant," I said, though not convincingly. I feel some days, I offer too much false hope.This was a plant that only blooms in winter, and her table doesn't have enough sun for a geranium. Maybe a begonia....

"Well, I still I have him," she said, now with a little laugh, of the miniature stuffed reindeer on that windowsill. "I don't know why, but I enjoy him so."

The reindeer was a Christmas ornament I'd given her in her stocking one year. It was so delicate, its real twig antlers had broken off, so it looked more like some kind of little rodent with its pointy snout.

But what she "enjoys" about him is that "he is always looking up."

Driving home from that weekly visit, I thought how I would bring her cut lilacs from my own garden.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A-Z Challenge: U is for Utter

U is for my utter indebtedness to my fellow A-Z challengers for actually reading my alphabetical utteringsI hope I've gained a few new, even unwavering, unswerving followers.

After this challenge ends, I will resume my weekly Once-Upon-a-Tale Tuesdays


Except for exceptions, I post only weekly, not just because the vacuum beckons and I need to remember I have children, but because my habit is to rework my "Tales" as I would any manuscript for publication. 


Or maybe I'm just a middle-aged creature of habit; of letting my bathroom sink metabolize into a sloppy toothpaste mess; of allowing generations of dust bunnies to propagate like gerbils under our beds; of searching out, like a missing sock, the perfect word to match my meaning. But I am also a revisionist, as all I ever wanted was to be a writer (before I discovered weaving but that is for W).

So, today, in honor of the revision of otherwise mere utterings, please grab by Tale-Tues button code below so you'll remember to pop back weekly. I might even offer you too-strong cyber coffee in chipped mugs.

Really. Thank you for so many thoughtful comments. And I'm honored to have found some great bloggers to follow as well. You're a warm, good-hearted bunch. 

Now I must usurp this remaining moment before having to remember I have kids to feed, to revise my V....






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Monday, April 23, 2012

A-ZChallenge: T is for Tribute to the Tree Man

You know what it's like trying to talk to someone up a tree, right?

Maybe not. Not literally. Not on a cellphone with an actual tree man: "Uh, can I call you back?" The tree man said. "I'm up a tree....."

"Oh, of course, sure...." and I hung up, embarrassed. As if I'd caught him sitting on the pot.

I think back now on that phone call, trying to picture this man, up a tree, having to reach for his phone, while hanging on for dear life with the other hand. I know it's not like that. I'm sure he was safely secured with some kind of cables.

But when I heard he'd died, at 44, that's the first thing I imagined; that whatever safety precautions he'd taken had failed, and he had actually fallen from a tree to his death.

It wasn't like that. He'd been killed by one of his own machines that rolled over him. On a Sunday. When he'd been alone. At his business yard.

This news devastated me, and I'm not sure why. I'd only met him twice. Maybe because I was feeling foolish for recently calling and leaving messages for him. For a dead man. Sure, there are other tree men, but he'd worked for my mother last spring, and had struck us both as upstanding. He actually had sat down and listened thoughtfully to my mother ramble on about her garden and her trees, how at 93, it had all become too much for her to keep up. He'd sipped a cup of her too-strong tea.

In the fall, we'd called him back to assess the damage after Hurricane Irene, fallen cherry trees. I'd walked with him around her wooded yard. He wasn't a talker, as perhaps real tree men aren't. Ones who really have a respect for the majesty of a tree, looking to preserve the health of trees, even to the point of discouraging a customer from cutting down a perfectly healthy if perhaps unsightly tree.

I've gone so far as to look up his obituary. I read there that he had been a lover of nature. So is my mother, an artist, who has spent her life reverentially expressing the natural world. And maybe that's why he had sat down with her on her porch for a cup of tea, rather than running off to the next estimate. Maybe that is why I am in mourning; here was a person that briefly entered the small circle of my struggling elderly mother and her steadfast daughter, offering an innate patience, if not true veneration. As if we were two trees he could assess, one old and losing its agility to sprout new leaves; the other stressed, trying to survive under rather harsh conditions.

He has left behind a wife and four young children. In my mother's yard one of the trees he had reinforced with a wire brace stands strong. I look up now at my own trees, towering maples. At this moment, they are in great relief; their new leaves a brilliant green against an ominous grey sky. I am looking up. Respectfully.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for the Squelched

S is for squelching.

A squishing actually, of a perfectly innocent bystander.

"Mom, you have to see this really cool bug!" Ryan called.

I was getting them off to school, and he was outside already.

I was inside, trying to galvanize into action his dreamier younger brother who says "I can't" to anything he can do that he doesn't want to, like tying his own sneakers.

We were in the midst of one of those "you can" arguments while he was bopping a withering balloon from his birthday party around the house.

"In a minute," I called to Ryan, the older-let's-face-it-more-responsible brother.

He was out in the driveway, crouched over the spectacular bug. "He's really, really cool. You have to see him."

It was getting late, so I resorted to tying Kenny's shoes myself, but not without a lecture about now that he was seven, he needed to start taking responsibility for himself.

"Sure," he said, and ran outside, forgetting his backpack.

"Mom, you have to see this!" Ryan screeched with great exuberance. The kind I wished he showed toward his homework.

Now they were both crouching in the driveway.

But I'd already turned cranky. I grabbed Kenny's forgotten backpack and was on the verge of another lecture when I went outside to see the bug myself.

He was spectacular. A caterpillar. A beautiful shade of lavender, with handsome black Vs down his back.

And quite enormous.

I went over to a bush for a leaf to scoop him up. "We need to get him out of the driveway so he won't get run over," I said.

And as I was retracing my steps back to the bug with the leaf...I stepped on him.

He was so big, I felt it. The squish. The squelch.

He looked like road kill.

Ryan covered is face and screamed. "Nooooooo! "

He started crying, the bawling of the truly devastated, a quiet crying hiccuping.

I was stunned myself. "I didn't mean to..." I stuttered. My meager words fell meaninglessly. Dropped unheard like the faded white petals drifting down around us from the cherry blossom trees.

My son had covered his face. Ryan can be prone to dramatics, but this was no drama.

I went over to pull him to me. "I'm so sorry."

His face buried in his hands he buried into my stomach. And from deep within the buried levels, I heard his muffled scream: "You KILLED him!"

Kenny got into the car. "Yeah. That was kind a gross. I mean, he was ginormous."

Kenny clearly was consolable. Ryan wasn't. But as much as I could have stood there all day trying to console him, we couldn't be late for school again. They already had too many pink late slips for all the times I've left the lights on in the car for the battery to go dead.

"Ryan, Hon, please get in the car."

"I don't care. I'lll tell them it was your fault. We're late because you killed something!"

I began steering him by an elbow, as he wouldn't take his hands down from his face.

I had to put his seatbelt on for him.

Then it was Kenny, the younger brother, who said quietly, "It was a bug, Ryan."

It was then when Ryan finally took his hands away from his red swollen eyes. "Shut up!"

And it was time to squelch what now actually was turning into a drama. I looked at Ryan in the rearview mirror: "First we don't say shut up. Second, if you're going to get upset over a caterpillar, you should pay more attention to your gerbils who are much higher up on the food chain. And when was the last time you remembered to feed your frog?"

He stopped crying. He stared out the car window. And in a quiet, but perfectly even little whisper said: "You didn't have to step on him."

Did I wish I hadn't stepped on him? Yes. Would I pursue this topic? No.

And good thing too, because as quickly as he had been devastated, he was able to rebound, as some school friend called to him when he saw Ryan getting out of our car.

While Ryan at eight is now more apt to affect some kind of saunter, his hands deep in his pockets, he is also, thankfully, still able to forget himself and break into a skip.

He skipped down the hill to meet his friend, and I went home to hose away the squelched.

Because after school I knew what was coming: "So, mom what did you do with the bug you killed?"

 

 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A-Z Challenge: R is for Rotten

R is for rotten.

Or ripe.

Depending on your vantage point of the lone banana relegated to the bottom of the fruit bowl.

"It's not ripe, it's rotten," my husband said. His morning cereal topped with sliced ripe banana is a religion. His cereal sat ungarnished as my husband pouted into the cavernous fruit bowl.

But I am a renegade when it comes to siding with those who religiously refuse to ingest the seemingly "rotten" – I peeled that however badly blemished banana right there and then, and ate it in front of, not only my husband, but my petrified children. For them, the rotten is, because of some tiny nick, the otherwise perfectly unblemished ripe apple.

Then there is the other rotten. My mother's favorite. "Oh, that's so rotten!" she loves to say when someone steals a parking space just as we're waiting to turn into it. Gramma, at least, can be perfectly right about the rotten. Though it can make her too ripe for reaping revenge on the ruthlessly thoughtless parking-space stealer, if only with a rattling of her rather bony fist.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A-Z Daily Challenge: Q is for Q-Tips

You think they're just for cleaning your ears. At least my husband does; he likes to walk around the house sweeping a fuzzy little Q-tip in and around the labyrinth of an ear, wandering rooms as he does brushing his teeth (a bad habit the boys have picked up as well. Toothpaste dribble, along with the usual melted juicy-pop puddles, dot our wood floors).

In any case, if you have kids, you've figured out that Q-tips are also great for art projects. Great for glueing down into pictures. Or twisting into complicated little architectural phenomenons.

My now seven year old has always loved Q-Tips. And when he discovered where Daddy keeps his stash, on the bottom open bathroom shelf, he would climb up on the toilet seat and grab a handful.

Some would drop, and you could find a trail of them through the house. Kind of like the trail of cheese-stick wrapper or dirty socks.

Kenny likes to try and make things disappear, and this can mean Q-tips as well. "Magic!" He said, one armpit tightly closed but not tight enough to entirely hide a tiny white Q-tip head.

"It's under your arm," Ryan said, rolling his eyes.

Kenny can get real mad when Ryan figures out his magic tricks, and I expected him to storm up to his room. But he was happily distracted by the other hundred or so Q-tips he'd arranged in a plastic cup.

Then one evening after his shower, my husband comes downstairs looking alarmed. "I'm out of Q-tips!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A-Z Challenge: P is for Potions

He carefully poured water from an empty Baby Shampoo bottle into one of the old egg -coloring cups from Easter. He had lined the cups up along the edge of the bathtub. His mother would stick her head in, to be sure none of the cups had spilled onto the floor. Well, of course not. What wizard would be so unwise as to spill his own potions?

There was just enough soap in the bottle for a bit of bubbling, and he remembered the colored tablets, how they had fizzed at Easter, dissolving in water. Then they had added vinegar and oil.

Vinegar and oil. Great for potions. So was food coloring. Maybe to others, he just liked to mix things. But he was seven now. And at seven anything can happen, especially when you're a wizard and no one knows it. He actually turned seven on Easter this year, and his favorite birthday present had been a set of plastic play-science test tubes. But he did not use them for science experiments. He used them for his wizardly potions. Ones that, if he wasn't afraid would kill them, could make his gerbils sprout wings, transforming them into tiny dragons; would light a fire under his big brother so he could blast him off into space; make his favorite climbing tree talk; bring back to life the enormous caterpillar his mother accidentally stepped on in the driveway.

Neither does anyone know that when he mixes blue food coloring and red cherry-flavored toothpaste in one of his tubes, he is making a purple potion that could freeze the girl next door into a crystal. The one in the "A" challenge who got him into trouble for telling him to take off his new Heelys and throw them up into a tree. He could then smash her with a hammer and she would shatter into a million icy fragments at his feet.

Since that "A for arsenal", some guys had come to prune, and miraculously that Heely appeared on the ground. Maybe he wouldn't have to shatter her after all. He'd save that potion for his big brother the next time he lied about "borrowing" one of his ninja legos. That is, if his fire potion hadn't worked and he wasn't already on his way to the moon.

 

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Z Challenge: O is for "Oh!"

The exclaimed "Oh!" can be at its worst when it is ominous; when it is exclaimed by my elderly mother. On my last visit, I heard its high-pitched ring from her bedroom, and I found her on her fanny, legs sprawled out. She'd slipped off her too-slippery blue satin bedspread, as she tends to sit down too close to edge of the bed.

Luckily it was just a little slip, not a fall, and that "Oh!" hopefully has been squelched, as we have placed a thick nubby throw over the slippery bedspread.

My favorite "Oh!" is the revelatory one exclaimed by my children.

Actually it can be more of an "Oooooh!" as certain truths (or non-truths) dawn on one or the other of my boys. As when Kenny can be thinking thoughtfully, as he can when we're stuck in traffic and there is no Nintendo DS: "Oooooooh! Guess what! Do you even know what the world would be like if there were no children? Santa's elves would have no jobs. Because there would be no toys to make. And then Santa would not need his sleigh."

Here's the history behind this particularly exclamatory "Ooooooh": Ryan likes to turn every new toy over to see where it's been made, and (lost in his own thoughts, as he was deprived of his own Nintendo DS) he'd asked why was it everything was made in China.

I'd launched into the true story of how it seems that everything is made in China because a lot of factories have closed down in our own country. And without the factories there are a lot of lost jobs.

"You mean like the Oompa Loompas," Kenny had said. "They worked in a factory." (We're in the midst of reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

Then there's the less enthusiastic "Oh." The "Oh" which is as dully expressive as my boys' new favorite, the "whatever." As on this same car trip, when Kenny ruminatively began picking his nose, and I launched into my new mantra that newly-minted seven year old boys (he turned seven on Easter) can no longer pick their noses.

"Oh." So he stopped. Only to resume something equally annoying, if not quite as repulsive, popping the air out of his cheeks like popping balloons.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: N is for Neglectful

I confess: I neglect my children.

And the negligence, like a dip in a sidewalk, trips me up unawares, which is precisely why I can be just that: neglectful.

I'm first tripped up by my negligence when I notice fingernails. "Look, Mom," Ryan said this last negligence-round. "I can play a chord now."

He was practicing his guitar as I was putting a load of laundry into the machine (their laundry; I'd let it pile up so there was not a clean sock to be had, nothing to change into from their outgrown Spiderman and Batman PJs.)

I watched him hold down the guitar strings. In a perfect chord – with nails so long they'd be the envy of a girl, if nicely filed and shaped. And clean.

They were not clean.

Which was the next clue to my neglectfulness: I'd lost track of how many days it had been since they'd taken baths. Which must have been many for them to accumulate such filth, as you can't help but wonder how their nails could get so dirty in the first place; children these days rarely spend their time digging in the earth! digging their nails into branches if actually climbing a tree. Really, they use their thumbs mostly, pressing those little buttons on their game consoles.

But it's not just the nail negligence.

"Mommy, I'm hungry."

When did I last offer them a snack? When I finally do remember, it is too close to dinner time. When they are too hungry not to grab the Oreos.

So at dinner, instead of their broccoli (which they might not eat under ordinary UN-neglectful circumstances) at least they might have eaten the starchy white rice. Which at least allows for a few more paltry minerals than a cookie.

Back to the laundry. I did get it into the machine, but forgot to put it in the dryer so they spent Sunday in their PJs. These periods of negligence are actually not all that protracted. But it is my guilt that can make the few days seem prolonged. They can seem like "A thousand million hours," as my seven year old will say who still has little sense of real time.

I perhaps analyze too hard these periods of neglect and what they mean. That I never should have had children? Of course not. That something else might be tugging my attention away from my precious children? Quite possibly. As when I was forced to ignore the pleas of my hungry boys because I was on the phone with my mother trying to help her open a precooked chicken for her own dinner.

Here's the thing. After an hour, my mother did get the chicken open. And the boys did get fed, if only cheese-sticks, finally resorting to foraging in the refrigerator for themselves.

But at least "dinner" wasn't Oreos, as cheese-sticks have calcium! And are more nutritious than plain white rice! The laundry did get dry in time for clean clothes by Monday; nails got clipped; baths taken. Miraculously, the earth's rotation continues uninterrupted on its perfect axis.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for My Miracle Met My Limits


For the A-Z Challenge: I'm tired, so I'm cheating; this was featured on BlogHer.com as a contest entry. But I never actually got to post it on my blog, so here is an old but memorable M:))
I stared at my squawking six-week-old where I'd laid him on our bed. With his face wrinkled and red, even in his cute blue teddy bear onesie, he struck me as a flailing miniature monstrosity. My breathing was shallow with panic and anger; I'd changed his diaper. I'd rocked him. I'd nursed him. I'd followed up with a full bottle of formula, as my milk was meager, and even in that fact, I felt a failure.
"What? What is it you want?" I barked, unheard above his own screaming. It was the first time I would bark at my child, and certainly wouldn't be the last. But I felt a terrible shame in being so angry at my tiny miracle. 


His crying was relentless, his eyes clenched as tightly shut as his fists -- those fists I remember unfolding to marvel at the fine detail of his tiny fingers, cradling him after my C-section. I'd just nursed him, and he'd latched on perfectly! Back then, it was the symbiotic relationship of mother and child I had anticipated all ten months of my pregnancy, in all my shopping endeavors to find the safest crib and changing table; cutest crib sheets; blue and yellow valence curtains of stars set against a perfect sky. A blue rug decorated with green ecstatic frogs.
But even that first time holding and nursing my son, he'd screwed up his face and started to cry. The nurse could see I was growing distraught and had gently taken him from me, saying, "It's just his personality. Some just cry for no good reason." I had been offended that she should think she knew my child better than me! But staring down at my flailing child, puzzling him like some wild creature I was afraid to tangle with, I felt I didn't know him at all.
When my husband came home, I handed him the squawking bundle. I ran away. I escaped to Starbucks. I remember cradling a cup of cappuccino against my trembling lips, my eyes blurry with suppressed tears. I saw how I looked for the first time in six weeks, in sweat pants and a milk-stained T-shirt. I hadn't had time to file my nails. I found time only to take a shower. And the perfectly prepared nursery was in completely disarray, soiled onesies littering the frog rug.
Sitting there in Starbucks, I faced up to exactly how unprepared I was, as if I'd embarked on a trip without even remembering to pack a single bag, let alone a tooth brush. Truthfully, in all my preparations for motherhood, I'd never once considered that my limits could be so thoroughly tested.
It's only looking back now, eight years later, that I can recognize that Starbucks moment as a revelatory mommy one; I was acknowledging fully and for the first time, that becoming a mother is not about when you first set eyes on your little miracle. It is not even about first being able to own up to the cold fact that mothers do have their limits.
It was about the moment when I looked at my watch –Instinctively, I was able to rise up out of the comfy Starbucks chair, rise above my exhaustion and despair, and know that I had to leave. I might have been gone too long. He might be crying for a very good reason now. He might be hungry. He might be needing me.
There are still those times when I look to escape. But only briefly. That mothering instinct has only taken deeper root. In many ways, my son needs me more now than when he was small enough to cradle, even as he may pull away, embarrassed, when I kiss him goodbye at school. Because he still just might turn around to mutter, "I love you, Mom. I'll miss you all day long."
A breeze can blow his fine hair askew, and I can be as struck by him as when I first unfolded those tiny fists. He can still test my limits. But he remains no less miraculous.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A-Z Challenge: When L is for Lonely

It wasn't the first time he'd felt this lonely, this Sunday morning, staring out a Starbuck's window, his coffee cup already empty, mesmerized by the streaming of people along the city sidewalks. He was only twenty-three, but seemed to have spent a lot of his years like this, watching. As a child, it was on the playground, when he'd hang from a single monkey bar, swinging, just to have something to do while he watched others kicking a ball around.
When he was in second grade, he remembered even saying it out loud to his mother. If only into his pillow. "I'm lonely."

"What, Hon?"

He couldn't say it again. He kept his face in his pillow.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for that Kiss....

He had her up against a tree. Although her backside was warm – maybe it was a stone that still retained the heat of day. Just past dusk, there was a crimson light, wavering, reflected off water maybe....


Didn't matter, the where exactly. Her dreams had become like that, less about place than about sensations in a moment. Although more usually, moments of bone cold fear.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Juggling

"Look, Mom, I can juggle," Kenny says, standing in the kitchen while I'm making dinner.
He is tossing two balls in the air, and Ryan, whom I have forced to sit at the table to finish his homework says, "Thats not juggling. Not with two balls."

"It is so..." Kenny says, tossing the two balls higher. Old dead tennis balls.

Then he misses and they fall.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Imprisoned

"I'm imprisoned," my mother laments. She is resting on her bed. She splays her hands open across her knees as if in an attempt at freedom.

At 93, her license has been suspended after driving into the wall of a carpet store.

"I don't need to drive far, why can't they understand that? Just up for milk. To get my haircut. A couple of blocks...."

By imprisoned she also means isolated. Isolation can look and feel the same; it can feel as damp and shadowy as the worst imagined cells. Even when the sun is out and blatant on her windows, showing up winter's dirty prints – The windows she looks out of most days, lying on her bed, too tired to do much else after the long ordeal of getting dressed, breakfast, and sorting through the mail. Looking out to the confused daffodils that have bloomed too early and now already are hanging their withered heads.

But also to all the small things she may have missed when she was more agile, moving about too quickly to take note of, like how long and still a rabbit can sit in the middle of the lawn.

I sat on the bed beside her. A robin was tugging at a worm at the edge of the garden.

"I saw a whole flock," she told. "Who sees flocks of robins? Like those black birds that make such a raucous. But the robins stay. In fact, I don't think they ever left."

It had been a mild winter. I'd noticed our own robins. Just not enough to know whether they'd actually ever left to come back. Most days, I am far too agile and busy to have missed them.

We talked about moving the bird feeder closer to her bedroom window rather than outside the sunroom window.

I remember when my grandmother was my mother's age, and in a nursing home, my mother placed a small bird feeder just outside her own window.

Isolation can be the loneliness of that, being on the other side of a window. And my world will feel as damp and cold as a tight cell once my mother is gone. I will be imprisoned. In grief.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

H is for the Harried Mom's Mantra: "Not this Minute"

I wish I was a harmonious.

I am not.

I'm harried. Hurrying: "You're always rushing around so," my 93-year-old mother complains, on my weekly visits out to her house.

The complaint is exercised as I am racing back and forth through her bedroom, from the kitchen where I'm doing dishes or taking out the garbage, to the laundry room to clean out kitty litter pans. And then I might be up on a ladder changing the fire alarm battery that won't stop beeping, or sneakily, guiltily, tossing out charitable solicitations piling up on tables.

And I can imagine what I look like to her – my hair askew, whipped out of shape by my whipping around – as she sits on the edge of her bed, going through her latest mail; more charitable solicitations, as she will give a few bucks here or there to every poster half-drowned kitty cat. "Would the boys like these?" She says, holding up animal stamps which she is thanked with by the hundreds. Cheap pens. Giant calculators meant for the near-blind.

"You need to slow down," she'll say, and I want to snap: "I have kids to pick up. After I drive the hour home. I have to rush. I have to hurry."

If it's not my mother reminding me that I'm unharmonious, harried, and hurried, it's my children. Usually at dinner time when I'm apt to burn things like rice: "Mom, I have a new trick to show you." My seven year old will lay out pompom balls on the kitchen counter to make them disappear beneath plastic cups. Or he'll make a nickel disappear. He likes to make things disappear.

"That's so magical, incredible," I effuse, to make up for the incredible fact that I'm not really watching. Which he realizes, anyhow, and doesn't care; he could practice just as well in front of the gerbils or my dried-up potted geraniums.

It's my other older son who isn't quite so adaptable to my hurrying-harried ways: "Mom, I need a band-aide."

He held out his pinky finger. He'd sought me out down in the basement putting a load of laundry into the dryer.

"Not this minute," I said, sniffing the laundry for mold; I'd forgotten it for a couple of days.

"It hurts," he whined. "I can't do anything. I can't even practice my guitar."

Now I'm feeling truly harassed; usually I'm the one harassing him, to practice that damn guitar that cost close to what this wifi-only mere 16GB iPad did.

But there are those who don't hurry, aren't harried nor so easily feel harassed. They do not tailgate those slow drivers in the fast lane; do not snap at the gas-station cashier to wake up. These are the harmonious, even happily humming moms, who, meandering up and down Stop & Shop aisles, are able to carry on a perfectly thoughtful phone conversation-recount of some chance run-in with a mutual old friend from high school, while comparing the sodium content on soup cans. They can grocery shop as you should shop at garden centers, contemplating all the beautiful variations of petunias.

And if they might complain about all they have to do, it's in a long relaxed yoga-like exhalation, while loading grocery bags ever-so-carefully into the back of their minivans (we wouldn't want to break any eggs). "Oh, where, oh where, has all the time gone? " they might sing, and I can imagine them lulling their children to sleep. I can imagine their children having their full attention during magic tricks. As for band-aides, I'm sure there is an emergency pack in the glove compartment, in a kitchen cabinet, and most certainly one next to the detergent on the laundry shelf.

So here's cheers to the harmonious. They probably have lower blood pressure, manage to fit into their hectic lives those recommended eight daily glasses of water. They get things done, even though rushing for them is unrushed as barefoot beach meanderings.

But what if I could become harmonious? What if it is all in my head, that I can't get it all done without feeling harried and hurried?

So I tried it. I started by breathing a bit more often. I tried to be in the moment while sniffing molding laundry or emptying my mother's the kitty litter pan.

And when my seven year old came in while I was cooking dinner to show me a new magic trick, I tried taking that moment to really watch. Magic! He slid his finger off and back on again. Wait, there was another one! He was learning to juggle, though only with two balls.

And guess what; I burned the rice again. The fire alarms went off.

So next time I will say what I usually do: "Just a minute."

And as much as us harried folk may hurry, perhaps we wind up having a bit more fun, as it takes more than a bottle of water for us to wind down. Maybe even a martini and a blast from our youthful past – dancing in the kitchen while dinner burns, to some iTunes download, so we can bop to we drop. Finally. In harmony.


 

 

 





Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for "Ginormous"

"It was ginormous," Kenny said, holding his arms outstretched. The dragon in his dream, and that was just the length of his claws. His wings were as "ginormous" as the house.

Not even sure how to spell ginormous, but some squashed-up version of giant and enormous.

The meaning of "ginormous", as Kenny has gotten older, has morphed into the more realistic, but when he was younger, maybe five, most things in his world, even the smallest could be ginormous. An inch worm he'd tried to catch hanging from the trees was as big as a man-eating snake. "It was ginormous."

His brother loved to challenge him: "If it was so ginormous, why couldn't you catch it?"

"YOU wouldn't want to try to catch something as ginormous as that. It could EAT you."

At the beach he tried to catch a minnow "as big as a beaver." But it was too ginormous for even his net. And even if he did catch it, it would have been too ginormous for his pail.

"No beavers in the ocean," Big brother was quick to correct. "Not like they can chew any trees around here, for a dam or anything...."

"I said ginormous AS. Not it WAS a beaver...." Kenny said, fishing for more beaver-big minnows.

Now ginormous are mostly the dragons or man-eating snakes in his dreams, but it can also be the red-tailed hawk spotted on their school playground. Or squirrels, as they are indeed big and fat around here; the various tom cats that sprint like foxes through the woods. Raccoons caught in headlights are indeed ginormous. So, honestly, are the roadkill possum mounds we can pass driving to school. "Ewwww. ginormous yuck ginormous."

Ryan can be more thoughtful. "No. That was dead. That was sad ginormous."

When Kenny was a toddler his excuse for not being able to do anything you asked him to do, like go sit on the potty to poop rather than in his training pants, or pick up the popsicle stick he'd dropped on the kitchen floor was: "I can't because I'm too big."

Maybe what he really meant, was that he was too ginormous.


Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Frog

If you enjoy my A-Z challenge posts, you may just revel in my Once-Upon-a-Tale Tuesdays. Grab my Tale-Tuesday button and revisit for a Tuesday cyber coffee-break!

Every day he wanted to be the first to arrive in his classroom to feed the tadpoles.

He would drop in a piece of lettuce for them to nibble. He would linger there, where sunlight fell through the small tank. He liked to be alone with them in a way he didn't like to be alone with himself.

The way he didn't like being alone out on the playground, wishing someone wanted to play pretend wizards and dragons with him rather than always kicking a football around.

The way he'd felt alone when his best friend wouldn't let him play football and said, "You think you're cool, but you're not."

The way he felt when he looked in the mirror at home and didn't like his own face.

Every day after school, he couldn't wait to tell his mother the latest about the tadpoles. He wasn't always sure she was listening, as some days there was an impatience about her; she would get phone calls from his ailing grandmother who had trouble now even opening a plastic container of a precooked chicken; she would tell him to go pick up his Legos, just as he was going to tell her about the tadpoles having begun to sprout their legs.

When she did listen to him, was when he wasn't sure he wanted her to – when he'd actually told her about what his best friend had said, about him not being "cool." He was in bed, and she lay down beside him, ready to stroke his hair, but he had buried his head under his pillow. He didn't want to hear what she had to say, something about how one day he'd understand that being cool wasn't important. Which mean to him that she didn't think he was cool either.

He'd hid his head under his pillow, just as he had covered his ears when she'd come up behind him in the mirror and told him he was a "beautiful, beautiful boy."

The tank began to turn green from sitting in the sun for weeks, but the teacher left them there so the frogs would be warm. It was magic – how they could do that, transform from fish into actual frogs. Frogs were magical. Like wizards. And dragons.

And he wanted one. So when it came time for the lottery as to who would get to take one home, his mother let him enter it. Maybe because he knew that she worried he didn't seem to like himself very much.

He won a frog, and they brought him home in a tupperware container and poured him into an old beta fish bowl.

They had no gravel. Nothing. Mr. Frog swam frantically around.

"He needs a place to hide," his mother said.

"He didn't have a place to hide in the school tank..."

"Everyone needs a place to hide. Even the beta fish, remember? He had that cave. And even you. Like when you hide your head under your pillow. Or cover your ears."

He felt like covering his ears now. And she knew it, saying, "Lets go get some rocks outside for him."

And then she was boiling the rocks to get rid of any parasites. He wondered how she knew to do this. She shrugged. "I don't. I used to have to boil your baby bottles."

She stirred the rocks. Then she laughed. "Rocks for dinner?"

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Easter Bunny Real or Not so Real

About the Easter Bunny: "It's big and pink, and of course it's real," said younger brother Kenny.

"How do you know, you've never seen it?" Ryan countered over his bowl of buttered ronis.

"And you've never seen your pet dragons. They're invisible. So...maybe the Easter Bunny is too – you just can't see him."

We'd had similar discussions around the dinner table; the last one about the existence of tooth fairies.

Ryan was quiet a moment, chewing with his mouth open in that way I hate, but thought it would go over well, at the moment, to tell him to shut his mouth.

"I think it's Mom who writes those notes," he said.

"Shut your mouth when you're chewing."

The notes are carefully scrawled on tiny bits of paper to identify their Easter baskets. A scrawl I carefully try to disguise as not my own.

Ryan is eight. I don't remember how old I was when I stopped believing in the fantastical of Easter Bunnies, Santa, and tooth fairies. But I don't remember wanting to disprove their existence, either.

So I asked him, " Why do you want to not believe?"

Kenny too, looked at him. Waiting for a poignant answer.

We didn't get one.

Ryan started to cry. He ran up to his room and slammed his door.

When he was younger, Ryan was adept at lying. At stealing loose change off Daddy's desk and making up wild stories about how it had just "appeared" in his pockets. Like the Batman toggles he'd steal from the bins at Stride Rite.

And every time he stole, I would give him the speech about how not only shouldn't we steal, but we should never lie.

At the risk of having to tell him the truth now, about my own lying about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny, I didn't follow him upstairs – didn't want him to have his doubts about the fantastical. Not yet. Not before life would have to become all too real, too soon, anyway. As it already had, with lonely moments on the school playground and cruel comments other children can make too naturally.

Kenny picked thoughtfully at his ronis. "Well, if the Easter Bunny isn't pink, he at least has to be very big to carry all those baskets. I mean, It's not like he has a sleigh...."


 

 

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dragons

My six year old dreamt that he was bitten on the leg by a nine-headed dragon, and woke up complaining that he couldn't go to school.
"You think your teacher will believe you were bit by a dragon?" I asked.

"You just don't believe in dragons," his older brother, Ryan, said – who really did believe in them. Far more than anything I could convince him about the existence of any actual God.

"I don't believe you can actually be bit by a dreamt dragon," I said.

Ryan sullenly was putting on his sneakers. At eight, he was quick to disclaim the existence of Santa, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. (Suspicious perhaps of the $1.99 price tags Santa left on stocking toys; handwritten notes identifying their Easter baskets, and a baby tooth "dropped" by the negligent tooth fairy in the bathroom rug.)

Ryan is not the only human to believe dragons actually did exist, though seemingly, no evidence has ever been found. "That's because they came before the dinosaurs," is Ryan's claim. "So far away back, the bones just crumbled away. That's why there's no fossils."

I do my best to believe along with him. I love the idea of dragons, especially since they had wings and could fly!

But he can see through my doubts, so gets angry at me for stepping on his invisible pet dragon's tail. He has a smaller pet dragon that rides his shoulder like a parrot. He has a devoted row of truly real, if plastic, dragons on his desk, and to whom he feeds purple Flarp for dinner.

So on this particular school morning when his little brother was bit by a dreamt dragon, Ryan challenged me: "What's the big difference between a dreamt dragon and an invisible one, anyway? You can't actually see either. So maybe he really was bit by a dragon."

The both just looked at me. Kenny massaging his bit leg.

"If it's not feeling better by the time you leave for school, I'll take you to the doctor. I'm sure there's a shot for dragon bites."

Kenny's eyes grew wide. "A shot?" He suddenly stood up straight. "It might be feeling better..."

And to Ryan I said, "And watch your step. Mugsy is on the loose."

"Mugsy?"

"You think you're the only one with a pet dragon? Well, not exactly a dragon, but he looks like a dragon maybe....It's part bird, part. . . gerbil." We have gerbils, it was the first thing that came to mind.

But now I was on a roll. "And its wings are fragile as a butterfly's. And it has x-ray night vision." I can't imagine where I came up with the name Mugsy and was glad no one ask.

Ryan grinned. "Cool." Until we were finally out the door to school, he walked very gingerly around the house, careful not to step on Mugsy's fragile wings.








Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Centipede

The April A-Z Challenge will replace my weekly Once-Upon-A-Tale Tuesdays posts. But if you like what you read during this daily challenge, grab my Tale Tuesday button so you remember to come back weekly next month!

Ryan found a centipede, "with billions of legs." He quickly became as attached to it as the minnows he would collect in his bucket at the beach. "I'm naming him Legs and I'm keeping him forever."

I knew by tomorrow "forever" would be forgotten, but I went and found him a tupperware bowl.

He filled it with dirt and leaves, and with a magnifying glass, gazed into the centipede's accomodations. "Hey, mom, there's all kinds of bugs in here now. Ants and stuff. They must have been in the dirt."

And then one of those ants captured the centipede. A tiny ant was actually making off with the centipede, in comparison, the size of some congo snake.

Now the "billions" of legs were waving frantically, as the centipede twisted this way and that, trying to escape.

"Mommy, save him! Do something!"

I considered this. Should this wind up a life lesson about nature? Survival of the fittest?

"Mommy, please....." At the end of beach days, when he has to release those minnows back into their natural waters, he is equally tearful and calls out farewells to each one – by name.

His little brother had been wandering around the lawn trying to catch inch worms hanging from the sky. Although equally intrigued by bugs, he didn't get nearly as attached; he would collect worms then forget about them on the swings to dry out in the sun.

He came over to peer into the little tupperware bowl of drama. "Wow, that's cool."

"It's not cool, it's bad. It's cruel," Ryan lamented. In that way he might lament about how no one wanted to play his imaginary games of wizards and dragons on the playground. How he would wile away recess dangling alone from the monkey bars.

I pinched the ant away from the centipede and tossed him from the centipede's residence.

The centipede was still for a moment. "He's dead," Ryan announced in a devastated whisper.

Then Mr. Centipede moved. He struggled off his back with his billions of legs and made his way over to a leaf. I was surprised by my own tremendous relief.

Thank you, Mommy. I just want to see everything live. Nothing should die."

I thought then that maybe I'd made the wrong choice. That this could have been a lesson, however hard, about the fact that all things die. That life is just that: unfair.

Still. In the company of a child young enough to still kindle great faith in how things should be, I couldn't resist making this "forever" moment perhaps last longer than for just one day.



`

 

Monday, April 2, 2012

B for brontosaurus


This is part of the April's A-Z challenge:

The brontosaurus. One of the largest animals to ever walk the planet. And of all dinosaurs, his mother's favorite.

"Because it can eat from the tops of trees," she'd said, when they'd been reading a favorite children's book; the dinosaurs are cut from felt, with button eyes and sequined tails.

In the book, the brontosaurus is eating from a tree of finely embroidered leaves. "It's like he has his head in the sky," she'd said. She'd always linger on that page. Touch the embroidered leaves as if they weren't a photo facsimile.

This was when he was still a toddler, but now that he was in second grade, he was reading actual factual dinosaur books. He didn't know how to break to his mother the news: that the brontosaurus actually had been more of a land grazer – more like a lawn mower, having used its long neck close to the ground, to reach across wide bushy terrains. It had been too encumbered by its own sheer weight to move freely through tree tops. To keep it's neck so upright, its head in the sky.

He especially didn't know how to break the news, as she stood at the sink doing the dishes. Because sometimes, while rinsing a dish, she would look out the window, upwards, past towering pines, and he understood then why she liked the brontosaurus best. Because she might actually imagine herself as one – her sights on the sky, rather than dishes, on the scrubbing burnt rice off the bottom of a pot.

Neither did he tell her about what he'd learned about his own favorite, the Triceratops. The one he liked best because it had those three horns. Disappointed, he'd learned that the horns were not for actual fighting. More to attract girls. And that the T-rex could actually eat him for lunch. The two long-gone dinosaurs had that in common; vegetarian eaters and essentially non-threatening. He adored everything about his mother, the way he could imagine her moving harmlessly through the trees. But he preferred to imagine himself as fierce. Even in his mother's own loving eyes, and he wasn't sure why.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Arsenal

This is my first installment in the A--Z challenge:

"Arsenal." He collected words like pebbles in his pocket his mother would complain about later when they went through the wash.

"Arsenal" was amongst his most favorite, like a crystal rock he'd found last summer on their trip to the Polar Bear New Hampshire caves – it was the perfect word for his collection of arms.

So since the discovery of this super shiny word, he'd put together his own arsenal, a couple of Nerf Guns, old water pistols, and his favorite, a bow and arrow he'd made himself, from branches and string.

And there he sat up in the treehouse, armed and waiting until his victim was in sight; the girl next door. She had gotten him into big trouble for telling him to throw his new Heelys up into the trees "or else." He was waiting for her to come outside to play with her new puppy.

He'd loved those Heelys. Gliding, cruising the sidewalks, he'd felt cool as otherwise he rarely did. He'd begged for them, and his mother had given in, even though his 7th birthday was a month away.

Still. He'd done as he was told. He'd thrown the Heelys up into the trees.

Her mother came outside to stare up at them, tangled in the branches of their towering Spruce. "Sixty bucks. Do you have enough to pay that back from your piggy bank?"

Of course not. He only had pennies. And he saved those for his magic tricks.

"She told me to do it."

"And since when do you do what everyone tells you to do, including your mother?"

Well, she had a point there. Like not dropping his bath towel on the floor, or littering the house with cheese-stick wrappers....

He didn't know why. Maybe because this girl next door stood a full head above him, and liked to remind him that she was already in third grade when they issued you an actual string instrument, an elementary school rite of passage.

Whatever the reason, he was in one pickle; he'd had to resort to his old crappy tie sneakers that did not make him feel cool.

And there she was. With the puppy. She ran around the yard with it, tossing a stick, but then sat down to watch it as it sniffed around the yard. She ran the stick through the dirt, as if drawing a picture. He witnessed her in a moment alone.

And he was alone.

He was still mad about his Heelys. He still would never forgive her. But he really liked playing with the puppy. In that immediacy of the moment as tactile as a pebble in his pocket, as only a child can, he was able to abandon his arsenal and run next door.

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