Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

While I say that my mother's life hasn't been a breezy, happy walk in the park, I have some memories that randomly pop into my head and make me laugh hysterically. One of the most consistent themes is my mom's numerous failed attempts to train me out of my own nature, with occasionally hilarious results. For example I am, and always have been, a bit of a softy. I take up crazy causes and occasionally try to remove water from the ocean, one thimble at a time. This is a trait I have undeniably inherited from my mom. Since she couldn't fight her own nature, she occasionally thought she'd fight mine. Let me share a couple of my favorite memories:

We were stuck in traffic in Tehran on the way to my grandmother's house one afternoon and as would typically happen, a beggar came and tapped on the window. I rolled the window down and said hi, which he ignored and started his litany of problems: his pregnant wife, hungry kids, sick mother...I was already digging through my backpack for money. Just as I found a couple of coins (the equivalent of about 50 cents), my mom grabbed my wrist and chastised me, "Don't give him money! He's probably a drug addict. He's just going to buy drugs!" She continued lecturing me, and didn't notice that the beggar had moved to her side of the car and was tapping at her window, his hand held out and repeating his story. She didn't skip a beat. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a bunch of bills (about $15) and handed the money to him, and promised to bring clothes for his girls if he was around there later in the week. I stared at her in disbelief as she rolled up her window.

"What?! I can't let him go home empty handed. But you shouldn't be so gullible, you need to toughen up!"

I'm sorry to say, that hasn't really happened.

We went to Mashhad my senior year of high school, to worship at the shrine of Imam Reza. For my non-vacationing family, this was actually a big deal to get out of the house. For me it was a bit of a downer that I wouldn't see the memorials to Ferdousi and Khayam; and I'd have to make due with making a direct appeal to religious figures to help me get into college. Imam Reza's shrine is always busy and full of people who have come from around the country to pray at the shrine of the only Imam buried in Iran. The highly ornate, mausoleum is so densely packed, you can't move; rather you are like a leaf riding the wave. You start at the outer part of the room, are pushed forward, briefly touch the enshrined tomb, and are eventually pushed out in the sea of humanity. It's claustrophobic, overwhelming and confusing. Especially if you lose sight of the person you came in with. After all, that many women in black chadors kind of blend into one indistinguishable ocean. So when I found myself pushed out of the mausoleum, I sat myself down on the marble floor facing the room I just exited and continued to pray for a college education as I waited for my mom. I was having a pretty decent heart to heart with Imam Reza and God about my wishlist when I realized a pretty big commotion a little bit to the left of me.

A crowd of about 10-15 people had surrounded a wailing woman, offering comfort in hushed tones and promising to help her. Out of sheer curiosity, I walked over and heard her crying, "My baby! I lost my baby! Someone, please bring her back to me! She's all I have in this world." For a brief second, I felt so bad for this black clad woman, I wanted to join in and promise to help her find her child. But that passed quickly.

"Sister, what does she look like? What was she wearing? How tall is she?" An older looking cleric was standing beside her, trying to extract as much information as possible. To his credit, he was already motioning to organize people to help find her poor child.

"She was wearing a black chador--just like this one. She has big green eyes, with little specks in them. She's about my height, but thinner than me..." The whole crowd just stopped. Up to that point, they thought this woman had lost a baby/infant/toddler; not a person her own size. A few laughed and started to walk away. The cleric smiled and said, "I'm sure your daughter is very smart and will meet you at the hotel. Would you like us to call and see if she's already there?"

And before my mom could tell the world how innocent and incapable I was of finding my way anywhere, I called out, "Mom! Let's go.", which turned a few heads when uttered in English in an Iranian house of worship. I will say that the cleric was a much better person than me for not bursting out laughing at the bi-lingual 'baby' that had found its mother.

The first few minutes of our walk back to the hotel was passed in complete silent. She finally turned to me and said, "Young lady, getting that kind of attention is wrong! You can't be melodramatic and hysterical all the time. Think and then..." Unfortunately, I couldn't hear anything else she said after that; I was laughing too hard.

To this day, I have no idea how that was going to be a lesson for me. I just know she wanted me to be better and more successful than she was. I love that about her.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daniel

My father had decided it was time for a family vacation. School was out for the summer, and my brother and I were already growing listless with boredom. We had played every game we could think of, and our favorite ones we played again and again, but we had run out of steam. My father knew exactly what to do to perk us up; he knew just the trick. We spent two days preparing, and then we piled into his yellow Datsun and left.

My mother died when I was four. She died giving birth to my brother. It was either her or the baby. She screamed and screamed, and something important was ruptured, and then she died. My brother doesn’t know. We’re adults now, and he still doesn’t know. He thinks our mother had cancer. I don’t know why my father told me the truth. Maybe so he could share the burden. Every year, my father and I go out for coffee and talk about finally telling Daniel the truth. We’ll sit him down and explain. But at the end of the day, we are scared of his reaction, so we never tell him. He’s working in cancer research now, inspired by our late mother. Sometimes when I think about it, I get sick to my stomach.

We made it through an entire rendition of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. At a rest stop in West Virginia, I chased my brother around the vending machines, and he fell and scraped his knee. He cried for a bit, but I found him a band-aid and stole him a candy bar from the bottom row, and he was okay. We tumbled back into the Datsun, my father turned on the radio, and we drove off down the highway, our sleepy eyes holding on as much as they could to the passing scenery. But it was no use; we both drifted off, leaning against each other in the backseat, missing the austere beauty of the mountains. In my dreamy haze, I vaguely recall my father whistling as we passed a particularly impressive peak.

I remember more about my mother than I think I should. Her flawless skin, her dainty hands, the way she sang into my ear to bring me to sleep, the time she carried me, soaked to the bone and filthy from playing in the mud, into the house and up the stairs to set me directly in the bathtub, clothes and all. The way she looked at my father when I wanted something she didn’t think I needed. The long, flowy skirts she always wore that I liked to hide under, then jump out and scare the dog. He was never scared, he always smelled me behind the cottony fabric, but he pretended not to, and covered me in sloppy wet kisses whenever I emerged. I would giggle and giggle, and my mother would pick me up and fly me through the air, and I knew she would never drop me. Maybe I don’t really remember these things at all. Maybe I only remember what my father and grandmother have told me. Maybe I have invented memories to go along with photographs. I have a framed photograph of her that gets placed in a prominent position wherever I go. I look at it sometimes and wonder what she was really like. I only knew her as a mother, I did not know her as a woman. My father has described her personality to me countless times, but I still can’t get a grip on who she was. My brother has our mother’s bright green eyes, and sometimes when I look at my photograph of her, I see him. I see him, and I see the lie that my father and I have perpetrated hiding behind him, a shadow of a shadow. I pick up the phone and I dial his number and I decide, this is it. I will tell him now. And then he picks up, and we talk about our days, and I ask him about his Italian wife, and he asks me about my German shepherd, and we hang up after making dinner plans for next weekend, and I don’t tell him. I never, ever tell him.

We are at a beach in South Carolina. My father’s swim trunks are bright red, and my brother’s are dark blue. Their pale skin shines and burns in the sunlight. My toes are warm from the sand. We stay at the beach longer than any other family, because where we live there are no beaches, and this is a rare and delicious treat. My father and brother are quietly at work in the sand, building a castle for the crab king and his fish queen. I wander away and stand with my back to the ocean. The water comes in and out, curling up around my feet and then whisking itself away, only to repeat the process over and over again. The ocean sounds immense, and I feel how both near and far it really is. After a moment, I start to think about sharks, and although my hazy little mind registers that sharks do not usually swim up to shore, I still manage to scare myself enough to join the castle construction workers. They have just completed a very fancy moat to house all the royal spawn.

I sit in my dark apartment and nurse a gin and tonic. It is my third of the night. I am alone, and I am lonely. I wonder what my father is doing. He finally remarried in his early sixties, to a lovely woman his own age that my brother and I have both fallen in love with. Her heart is the size of the world, and she carries herself with dignity and grace. I can see in my father’s eyes that she makes him feel alive and young again, and I am happy for him. She knows the truth about my mother’s death, and while she thinks Daniel has every right to know, she maintains that is neither her business nor responsibility to be the one to tell him. I wonder if my father ever thinks about our family vacation the summer I was ten and Daniel was six, and if he does, how often. Once every few years, maybe?

I wake up one Sunday morning to the sound of the door bell. It rings once, twice, three times. I stumble out of bed, wrap my night gown around me, and rub the sleep from my eyes. When I answer the door, I am greeted by a man who appears to be around my age. I have never seen him before in my life, but he has bright green eyes. I think it was the eyes, the reason I believed him and let him in. A complete stranger arrived at my door early on a Sunday morning, and claimed to be my half-brother.

He turns out to be six years older than me, the product of a one-night-stand before my mother met my father. His father wanted nothing to do with them, and my mother was not prepared to raise a child on her own, so Steven was given up for adoption. He never made it into a family, and instead bounced from foster home to foster home. At the age of 19, he finally found his father, who still wanted nothing to do with him. Discouraged, he gave up the search for his mother, but recently he had become curious about possible siblings he might have, and then he found me. He had my mother’s eyes, and her nose, and I knew it was all true. This was the mother I was looking for, the woman I never knew, the woman my father didn’t even know. I called Daniel and told him he needed to come to my apartment immediately, but I did not tell him why. As we waited for him, I gently explained to Steven that our mother was dead, had been dead for years, but I could show him pictures and tell him stories. He smiled sadly, and gratefully accepted anything I had to offer. He pressed for details. He wanted to know how our mother had died. I told him the truth. There was no reason to lie to him.

Fifteen minutes later, Daniel was there. He had left his Italian wife at home. I had not asked him to, but something in my voice must have told him this was a private moment. He glanced at me out of curiosity, and as I made an introduction I could never have even imagined, I saw Daniel’s eyes widen at the realization that he was meeting an older version of himself. I left the room to make coffee and give them a chance to get to know one another. I came back just in time to catch Steven express his sadness for Daniel because of the way our mother had died. My heart leapt into my throat, and I dropped the coffee tray I was holding. All three cups capsized, and a puddle formed on the polished wood floor.

Daniel turned to look at me, confusion in his eyes, and Steven immediately grasped that something had just gone terribly wrong. I collapsed in the armchair facing Daniel, sobbing uncontrollably. I thought about the ocean, and the sand castles, and our father’s yellow Datsun, and the vending machines, and I heaved out apology after apology, followed by a muted, half-assed attempt at an explanation. Steven disappeared into the kitchen, and Daniel continued to look at me. He did not speak, and he did not cry, and he made no attempt to connect with me. I thought about the mountains we had missed, and the story Steven had just told me, and my mother’s flowy skirt. Daniel never said a word.

She Missed The Joy

As I watch my new-mom friends and those on their way to parenthood, I am struck by what my mother missed. The excitement I see around me is a stark contrast to mother's experience. And that makes me so sad, knowing she missed the joy.

In a way, joy evaded her. From the moment she realized she was pregnant with me, she started praying sincerely and fervently. All she wanted was a daughter. A girl she could teach what she hadn't been taught; a girl who would be all that she thought was good; a girl who would fulfill all of the dreams she couldn't fulfill. She prayed for a second chance. And technically, she got what she prayed for: a big headed, bald girl. I cannot say I was her dreams come true. That would be the underlying theme of our relationship; her larger than life dreams that came crashing into the reality of my mediocrity. Almost all of her energy was spent helping me be perfect.

A few years later, she gave birth to my brother in a foreign land, far from her husband and family. That he was on the brink of death for seven years robbed her of youth and joy long before she approached thirty. It never occurred to her to enjoy the moments of triumph, the quiet times where death didn't loom over our home or the small accomplishments that brought my brother closer to real life. To her, motherhood meant fear and anxiety--and she embraced her destiny whole heartedly. She was sure she would be rewarded with tranquility. Someday.

When my youngest brother was born, he was healthy, cute and dazzling. In our own ways, we all thought of him as the ray of light that would chase away the darkness that had entered our lives in Iowa. The problem with darkness is that it can be so dense, it can actually drown out the light. By then, anxiety and sorrow were my mom's closest, oldest companions and the possibility of anything else was inconceivable. She denied the joy that she no longer recognized, and was sure the right time would come. Someday.

Over the years, she kept pushing us to achieve what she could not. She sacrificed everything for us to have the education she never had, the marriage(s) that she dreamed of and the life she was denied. Unfortunately, 'pushing' means there is resistance. At some point, despite her best efforts, our dreams diverged casting each of us in different directions. On the rare occasion that she got what she prayed for, she didn't get the chance to enjoy it. She didn't attend any of my graduations (I have had a few), she was not by my side when I got married and she has no idea what my (few) strengths are. I technically fulfilled her dreams, but she still didn't get to enjoy any of my (minor) achievements. She is used to this disappointment, and still hopes she will get what she wished for. Someday.

And yet.

No matter how many times she is disappointed, misled, betrayed or hurt, she continues to love. She loves with a strength and persistence that overwhelms me. She may love in spite of her self, but she continues to love. And hope. This is what she has given me, her only daughter: great expectations, anxiety and an almost obstinate love. We know that the rewards will come. Someday...

A Thousand Tiny Tales

So, it’s the end of the month. The end of the month and I still can’t think of anything to say. Forgive me for breaking the pseudo fourth wall here (“breaking the screen”?) but there are a million stories about my mother and I tell them all the time. They segue into one another perfectly: mentioning her fascination with the puffins (“but they’re only this big” physical approximation of size, “and they live in little holes and they hop, hop, hop” cue demonstrative hopping motion) flows effortlessly into the time she ran squealing towards the seahorse display at the zoo, again mystified by their small stature, and then spun around in delight to find that her fourteen year old daughter, unsuccessful in her quest to be swallowed by the floor, had slunk off to the reptile house. Of course the next logical story to tell is the one about the fashion court in the museum, the demand that her little girl come and look at “all the little shoesies!” while art students looked on and sniggered and the daughter - slightly older, a lot wiser - melted into unstoppable fits of giggles that lasted the entire day… on and on and on.

There are far too many stories to tell, no way to build up a full picture – I have no ability to marry the image of the shattered woman teetering on the edge of her eventual break down (desperately talking to her still drunk husband, baby in the back seat, trying to keep him awake for the drive through the snow because even if they died right there it would still have ended better than staying still) with the girl who rang me to chatter on and on about a party where “the men were taking salt from a woman’s neck and then drinking tequila and then they had a slice of lime from her…” (the phone was dropped and tortured cries of “my mother was doing body shots” rang out. It was the first time she’d tried tequila), this doesn’t fit again with the overgrown kid who insisted on our Friday night ritual (of sitting under a duvet eating toffee popcorn and cheap chocolate while we watched Friends and Will & Grace.), who hasn’t forgiven me for letting her watch that episode of Buffy that still gives her nightmares. I just don’t have the words.

I could talk for days about my mother. I could talk for days to my mother, in fact I frequently do. I think my record for calling her is something like seven times in two hours, in my defence I was probably cooking something and thus called every time I forgot how much of a certain thing I was meant to add because adding half a pint of stock when you should add a pint and a half makes for really crunchy soup. Crunchy soup which I served to my poor sick mother, my poor sick mother who had enough confidence in her twelve year old daughter to tell her that while she loved said daughter more than the sun and the stars no way in hell was she eating that. She was really ill that summer. Not ill like she used to be, unable to leave the house, unable to be left alone with me because of the footprints left by the other crazy women towards things she couldn’t think about, but laid up in bed with flu so bad that she could barely focus on the television.

That was the summer I started reading to her. Ever since I was a child she’d read to me and that summer suddenly everything switched – from then on I read to her. Mainly books I knew she’d love but would never get around to reading but sometimes books I wanted to talk about or books I wanted to savour. (I’m the reason that she can’t watch the Harry Potter films, none of the female characters sound like me. To her I am not only War and Granny Weatherwax but also Lyra and Apple Core. In the same way she will always be Matilda and the White Witch.)

I still read to her in my own way; I send snippets of blog posts that I write to entertain her while she’s working, I have books I think she should read posted to her house, I call her and read her paragraphs of newspaper articles while she cooks. She reads to me too; she sends stories about tattoos or genetic engineering to me, calls me up to read from her course catalogue so we can choose our next subject together (never her subject, always ours), reads me sections of her latest essay and goads me into critique.

We tell each other our shared stories (when we lost my bag in Venice or the time I stole my father’s phone and called her from France, dodging him for hours playing cat and mouse around the edges of a rental cottage all the while providing a running commentary and giggling at my sneakiness) and spin tales of our separate lives (the events that led to me calling her from the station at 8am on a Sunday morning, her frustrations with my step-brother, the bickering of my flatmates, the order of the seeds in her allotment) but somehow they always seem to converge again.

Maybe that’s why I can’t think of a story to tell about my mother, any story about her is a story about my whole life from beginning to end, almost impossible to untangle. Every story about her tangents off at a thousand points never really ending and eventually forgetting where it even starts. So the shattered fragments of stories above will have to suffice, quick flashes of an extraordinary woman, with the mentality of a twelve year old and wisdom well beyond her years, who is only now figuring out who she wants to be.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Mom Is Chuck Norris

My mother is about 4’9”. Most of the women in the family are short. My mother’s stature is such that she just makes other people look bigger when they are around her. I stand next to her in all photos and at major family events. I tower over her like a behemoth.

My mother once rabbit punched a Gold-Medal winning wrestling coach because my brother fractured his elbow during a practice. This muscle bound giant scurried back from the tiny woman as she flurried her tiny fists into his chest. I have not seen fear like that outside of small furry creatures and bachelors trying to escape long-term relationships.

My mother lost the nerves on the right side of her face when she contracted Bels Palsy when pregnant with my younger brother. To this day I tell him he’s the reason Mom can’t smile fully anymore.

When my mother runs, her feet and fists churn at four times the speed of mortal man. However, she only moves at about a ¼ of the distance. We call this the Patsy Shuffle.

My mother became a middle school lunch lady when I was in seventh grade. A bunch of kids starting teasing me. I explained that I don’t pay for the ala carte desserts at the end of the day. Then I walked away smiling, eating a TastyKlair pie. They stopped making fun of me.

My mother would tell stories that would branch off in endless tangents, but would always end up with the one time she served on Jury Duty. For example: “Oh, your son plays baseball? We just went to the Red Sox game with Brian and Todd when we went to visit him in Boston. It was so much fun, Jimmy and I split a hot dog and a beer. Hot dogs! Todd just got a grill for his new apartment, so we gave him all the leftover meat in the freezer. Some chicken patties and a few Omaha Steaks. Omaha Steaks! Brian just drove cross country to California and he was passing through all these crazy cities, and I told him to be careful, because I didn’t want any criminal stealing his car. Steal his car! I was on jury duty once and our case was about this guy who stole his wife’s car.”
It never fails. When she and my aunt would get together, they could actually tag team on topics. It would still always end up at Jury Duty.

I wrote a play for my mother called “At Least We’re Together”. The title comes from an incident when we attempted to go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg (right near where I was born). As we went into the park, there was a torrential downpour. We ran back to the car. The rain started to subside. We started to head back when it rained again, even harder. We piled in the cars, pissed off and dripping. She turned around from the front seat, goofy smile on her face and said in a high-pitched nasally cadence, “Well, at least we’re together.” This became our battle cry whenever the day was going shitty.

In the play, my mother’s character is an eternal optimist who gets mugged and manages to put a bright spin on everything. My mom doesn’t like it, because in the end, the mom shoots the hell out of the mugger. My dad thinks it’s HILARIOUS.

I asked my mother what she wanted to be when she grew up. If she never had any ambitions beyond just being a mom. She said all she ever wanted to be was a mother and a wife. So she worked really hard at that and making everyone happy.

I almost kicked a feminist grad student in the forehead because she accused women like my mother of not being “real women”. I told her that “real women” can do anything they want, like raise fantastic kids, while “fake girls” like her end up dying alone in their apartments, next to a half-empty wine bottle, being partially devoured by their cats.

My mother does not understand how to work a computer. However, she can videotape any program on any channel with a series of four VCRs she has set up on different televisions in different rooms of the house.

My mother doesn’t go to bed before 1 AM. Instead, she stays up watching the hours of television she has recorded for herself. Inevitably she falls asleep on the couch, in her giant recliner. My father goes to earlier and earlier as he gets older. Eventually, I think their times will meet. Somewhere around age 88 at about 3 PM.

When I was home from college, my mom and I used to amuse ourselves by quizzing each other with 80’s Trivial Pursuit cards. If you got 4 out of the 6, you got to keep the card.

When I was in the school spelling bee, my mother quizzed me on the words every day, for at least two hours. Not out of any sort of fierce drive or forcefulness, but just because I had to go over the words. When I made the finals, she asked me if I wanted to do a couple more words before we left. Those words were valedictorian and asterisk. I spelled it “a-s-t-e-r-i-k”. She said, “No, remember, it’s RISK. RISK. With an S.”

I won the championship that year. The word was “asterisk”.

My father and brother will not ride roller coasters. All through my youth, my mother would ride every single roller coaster with me, screaming bloody murder the entire way.

My mother’s mother died when she was 17. My mother’s father died when I was 5. My mother’s sister died a few years ago. My mother’s ambition in life was to make it to 40.

My mother adopted my aunt’s cat, Finnegan. He’s a nasty, moody, finicky, snot-nosed pussy, who gets overfed and lavished with attention. She refers to him as our third brother. Whenever she sends money for gifts, she explains how she spent an equal amount on the cat.

My mother cannot spell. She tried to write a note to the office explaining that: “Brian would not be able to attend scoccor practise. He has an apointmint at the orthadentist.” I told her to just write: “Brian can’t practice. He has to go to the doctor.” She misspelled practice. And my name.

My mother pronounces words the words “lent” and “phantom” with an “h” after the “t’s.” She claims its because she from Scranton. My father is also from Scranton. So is most of my immediate family. None of them do it.

For mother’s day, I took my mother to see “Election”, because she really likes Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. At one point in the movie, there’s a tremendous closeup of an actor saying of Reese, “Her pussy gets so wet…” I turned slowly to my mother. She looked over at me. We both sat uncomfortably through the rest of the movie.

I thanked Alexander Payne personally for ruining Mother’s Day.

When I was in college, I had to walk about a half a mile to the post office boxes to get my mail. I told my mom I’d get bummed if there was no mail. For the next three months, I would receive a different card in the mail from my mom. I still have one of the Bill and Opus ones.

As a surprise for their 35th wedding anniversary, and my brother’s grad school graduation, I decided to fly myself and my future wife home to Pennsylvania. I kept telling my mom I wouldn’t be able to afford airfare. She told me that Dad was trying to raise the money for tickets, but he couldn’t afford it. On the day of the party, my brother had to come pick us up from the airport. All afternoon my mother had been calling him, berating him for not helping with the preparations for his own party. She called him three times, getting progressively nastier, because he wouldn’t travel the ¼ mile from his house to their home. Little did she know he was actually an hour away at the Philadelphia Airport, picking up her other son. When we showed up, Todd snuck in the house and said, “Hey, I brought some help.” When she saw me, she couldn’t stop shouting, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God!” I almost killed my mother. Guess the surprise would have been on me.

When I was nineteen, and a summer camp counselor, I heard a rumor that one of the kids had beaned my mom in the head with a soft pretzel. He was eleven. I pulled him aside and told him that if I found out it was true, I was going to jam a fishhook through his intestines and run them up the flag pole. He told me he didn’t do it. I told him that if anyone ever did anything to my mom while he was at that school, I’d find him, because I could get to him and I would bury him alive in a box full of starved rats. He didn’t go on the haunted hike that year. My mother never got accosted that I heard of again. He went on to become one of our best counselors.

To this day, I cannot pronounce the words “berry” or “yesterday” without sounding funny. Nobody else in our family does that.

I dominate bar trivia. Especially anything pop culture. Particularly from the 80’s.

My mother is my date to the Oscars. I promised her after I became a theatre major.

When I smile, it looks kind of wry, because I only turn up one corner of my mouth. It’s because since I was younger, I’ve been imitating my mother’s smile.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Mother, My Child

Dear Mom,

Where to begin?

I know the last several years have been incredibly difficult for you. They have been for all of us -- but for you especially. And I also know that I can be judgmental, pushy, and aggressive in my opinions -- especially when it comes to you. You: The warrior in my life. You: The omnipresent.

I look at you as you are right now, today, and I see a strong, beautiful, and scared woman. And for the first time, I see you nervously unfolding the wings of trust and hope -- wings that maybe opened once or twice before in your life, only to be snapped shut in fear or confusion. I look at you and I don't see a victim; I look at you and see all your strengths and faults, all your weaknesses and wisdom.

It wasn't always like this, I know.

It has never been easy for you, I also know.

If I were to tell someone of your childhood, it would sound like some far-fetched screenplay from a soap opera on Telemundo. For you to come through what you did, to come so far, is quite literally a miracle.

Mom: You are my miracle.

I've heard you say before that I saved your life; in many ways, I believe you. But you also saved mine, and it wasn't when I was born. It has been every day since. You have prepared me, taught me, trained me for this world.

Sometimes I think I'm a bit overprepared. The two competing sides of myself -- my little pragmatist and my little spontaneous bomb -- in many ways, are also you. You, who were so badly hurt. You, who somehow figured out a way to keep going. You, who taught me to leap, even if it is scary.

And now, over the last two years, I have watched you. Watched you handle a crumbling world and slowly pick up the pieces. And here you are: In love for probably the first time in your life. I have never seen you so happy. Or so scared.

The balance in our relationship has shifted completely: I now watch you go out on dates, tremulous and anxious, and I hope for you to have a full heart, enjoy yourself, and come home safely. I now get the phone calls: You on the other end, wondering what he meant by this word, me: helping you decode a hidden meaning, or advising you to take him at his word.

It is a different world for me, Mom. It has been a difficult adjustment for me, and I know I haven't always been fair to you. I have been critical. I have been demanding. And for a while, I didn't know why.

But now I understand.

Mom, I'm scared to lose you. I'm scared that this person will take you away -- you, the one warrior I have always had. You, the only constant in my world. I am no longer your focus in life, and that is so fucking scary. Yes, it is selfish. Yes, I am an adult, and I don't technically need you to care for me.

But I do, Mom. I need you.

I'm so torn between wanting you to be happy and enjoy the hell out of your new romance, and wanting you to be involved in my life. I'm confident that it will even out, eventually, but right now it is off kilter, and I'm spinning wonky.

I'm also so extremely proud of you. After all you have been through, you still manage to allow your heart to reach out, to still risk being hurt for the chance of being loved. And I admire that more than you can know. So I want this for you. I want it for you so much. I want to watch you walk for the first time, as though you are now my child. I want to be there for you when you fall so I can brush the dirt from your knees. I want to be there to send you off to your first day of school. I want to hold your hand when you cry, and I want to laugh with you when you are happy. But this is the hardest part: the letting go.

Mom, I love you. And I am letting you go.

Leap!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.

I'm trying desperately to think of a story about my mother, one that stands out above all the rest. It's surprisingly hard. My mother is a fascinating woman - she's a twin, one of seven children who grew up dirt poor in the Cape Town projects known as the Cape Flats. She never graduated high school, never went to college, got married at 21 and had her first of two kids at 22.

Except that to make that her story is to do her an unbelievable disservice. My mother also managed to become an associate at the architecture firm she worked at in Boston, and is an incredibly successful accounant in Cape Town now. She's turning 60 years old next week, and still looks 40. She's smart, loving... all the things you want in a mom. My mom went through a hell of a lot to get where she is today... hell, she went through a lot to get me here today.

Let's put it this way - after my mom had my sister, she had a miscarriage next. Doctors told her she was risking her life if she go pregnant again. And yet, here I am. My mother is almost overwhelming, she loves me so much.

I'm 33 years old, and she still grabs my hand when we cross the street. I'm completely serious.

Ah. Now I've got the story. It's a short one, but worth telling:

My parents moved back to South Africa in 1996, the summer before my senior year in college. It was probably the hardest time in our lives as a family - my sister moved to New York, I went to Wisconsin, and they were in Africa. It wasn't easy. Needless to say, a couple of years later, I went to visit them with Mrs. TK (who was not yet Mrs. TK). It is a brutal trip, the flight to South Africa. 22 hours from New York to Johannesburg, no stops except for a refuel in the Canaries - where you can't even get off the plane. Coupled with the fact that I am not what you'd call a small person, and the seats are designed for pygmy marmosets, it's not fun.

But one of my favorite things in the whole world is when I visit my family in South Africa, everyone comes to the airport to meet me. EVERYONE. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, you name it. And I've got a big-ass family, so there are, at times, around 40 people literally screaming when they see us come out of the tunnel. I feel like a rock star.

So Not-Yet-Mrs. TK and I get off the plane after this long, grueling, frustrating flight, and we've got to get our luggage first. The baggage claim area is clearly visible from the waiting area, but there is a rope and a gate separating them, and armed guards standing there between the two rooms. I mean, guards with machine guns. For real. We see everyone, and Not-Yet-Mrs. TK gawks at the number of screaming crazies (I think this was her first trip), and my mother... she just can't handle it.

So, with tears streaming down her smiling face, she busts through the gate, shoulders the armed guard aside, and wraps me in perhaps the biggest hug I've ever received. The guard looks absolutely stunned. Another armed guard walks over and firmly puts his hand on my mother's arm, and she shrugs him off without even looking at him. Finally, I look at him over my mother's head and whisper, "just give her a minute, OK?" They back off, and finally, once she's convinced that yes I really am there, she makes her way back through the gate.

My mother. She risks her life just to have me, and then breaks past armed men just to hug me.

She'll be here, for the first time in 10 years, in three days.

Three.

Days.

Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Box

I must have been either ten or eleven. We had just moved into an enormous house. At least, it seemed enormous to me at the time. I drive past it on occasion now (it is no longer ours), and it doesn't seem so big anymore: just your average, suburban home. But I grew up in a little apartment above my father's dry goods store... so an actual house was something utterly alien to me. Yes, there was both an upstairs and a downstairs... but the downstairs was our living room and kitchen, not two rooms with registers and shelves and long rolls of fabric stretching out to infinity.

I read a lot back then, more than I do now. I had more time. These days, I'm occupied with school, work, friends, and occasionally family. I make time to read, but it's never quite enough. But when I was ten or eleven, I had all the time in the world. New house, new school, no friends. I didn't really try to make any friends, and I was a pretty dull new face... so nobody really approached me, either. I was fine with that at first. I didn't need other people, after all. I had my own thoughts, and others' words, and that was good enough.

That line of thinking didn't last me long. I became starved for attention, but I never, ever wanted to risk making a fool out of myself by reaching out at school. So what did I do instead? Why, what any lonely eleven-year-old will do when forced with this kind of dilemma: I grabbed a book, hid in my parents' closet, and waited for someone to realize I was missing. Then, from my handy hiding spot, I could listen to their despair, and just when they got ready to call the police, I would pop out from within: "It took you three hours to realize I was missing? REALLY? Three hours? Wow."

That's not exactly what actually happened. Instead, I spent about fifteen minutes reading in the confines of the closet before growing bored and deciding to search through my surroundings instead. Mostly clothes, and a few of my mom's romance novels (I always peeked into them because I knew they had these racy sex scenes, but I never could bring myself to read any of it until quite a few years later). But then... oh... what's this? I had stumbled upon what appeared to be a treasure trove: a box! But not just any box... this box was hidden away, pushed all the way back against the wall on the very top shelf. I only just managed to reach it by pushing together piles of clothing and climbing on top. As soon as I reached the box, all the clothing fell apart from underneath me and I came tumbling down, box clutched in grubby little hands. I dusted myself off and set down to open it, but... of course... it was locked.

I didn't wait for anyone to think I was missing. After fumbling with the locked box for a while, I gave up on opening it and left the closet, ready to return to the rest of my life. My mother was having coffee with a friend, and I wandered in and out of the kitchen, hazily commenting on my absence and trying to embarrass my mother in front of her friend. It didn't work, and that was that for a while.

I would often return to that box throughout the following months. It never occurred to me to try and pick the lock, and at one point I got so curious that I dragged it out right in front of my mom and simply demanded to know what was inside. She resolutely refused, and all I could get out of her was a bemused smile and the confirmation that I would never, ever get to see what was inside that box. So, I decided to give up. The mystery would remain unsolved forever - or so I thought.

At least a year after my initial discovery of the box (and perhaps longer... I can't be too sure about the time line), I was looking for something in my mother's closet. An old coat, maybe. In any case, I couldn't find the coat, but I did end up running into the mystery box again. I didn't think too much about it at first, until I noticed that something was actually poking out of it! That's right, the corner of what appeared to be a photograph was sticking out through the cracks in between the lid and the rest of the box. Apparently, someone had been a little hasty last time they took a peek, and then there I was, finally able to catch a glimpse of the elusive contents!

I sat down and placed the box in front of me. I would take my time. I had waited this long, I could extend this moment for as long as I liked. I would soon realize... well, here: I pulled the photograph out, and was horrified to see that it was my mother. But it wasn't the mother I knew. In this picture, she was much younger... laying in a bed... stark naked. Oh Christ. Oh Christ. I shoved the picture back into the box, as far as I could make it go, I tossed the box away haphazardly, I sprinted out of that closet (coat completely forgotten), and ran up to my bedroom to process this. My mother? Naked? What?

I still haven't told her that I figured out what was in that box. I'm afraid she might try and treat this as an opportunity to bond, and tell me about what else might be in that box. I love my mother dearly, but I have no desire to know anything at all about the events that led up to a photograph of her in a compromising position. I get it, you know, we are all sexual beings... my mother has every right to a sexual life... but hey, some things are just better left undiscussed, and the sex lives of our parents is most definitely always one of those aforementioned things.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Mother, My Friend

My mom and I had what I would call your average mother/daughter relationship when I was growing up. We never had the screaming and slamming doors fights that I occasionally witnessed between some of my friends and their mothers nor did we have the close "sit down with a cup of tea and chat" mother-daughter bond that I knew could exist. We had our disagreements but they were typically short-lived. For the most part we got along although I rarely shared with her when it came to boys, peer pressure, sex and the like. It wasn't that she was oblivious to my teenage world, it was more that she let my sister and me be independent but if we screwed up (and we certainly did) then she got involved. I sometimes wanted to tell her about my crush on a certain boy or the fight I had with a girlfriend but mostly she wanted to hear about my schoolwork or my dance classes so the rest I divulged to my older sister who I relied on heavily to commiserate with over teenage girl things. The one time that I can recall discussing my personal life with mom was senior year of high school when I was spending a lot of time alone, as it seemed my friends had decided to exclude me for some unknown reason. She wanted to know why I was sitting at home on Friday night, why I didn't call Aimee or Jen or Kristin so I filled her in. Her response, stated in a much more "momly" way of course, was basically "fuck 'em". It was probably the first time I felt that she understood my life.

We could only take each other in small doses, putting some distance between my mom and me from time to time was essential. Once I went away to college, we seemed to enjoy our time together more but by the end of a weekend visit we would start snapping at each other and I knew it was time to be on my way. I realize now that it was probably because we were much more similar than I was willing to admit. I knew I could never move back in with my parents after college the way my sister did to save money and pay off bills. Instead, my sister and I got an apartment together and I immediately started making plans to move to New York. I knew I would miss my family when I moved but I figured it wouldn't affect my mom any differently than when I left for college. There was no resistance from her when I announced my move, no "my baby is leaving" sentiment. The move itself went smoothly, save for a massive thunderstorm that rolled in while we were unloading the U-Haul, but as my parents climbed in their car to make the drive back to Pennsylvania my mom looked at me and simply said "I'm really gonna miss you." It was the first time she had ever said anything so poignant and the tears rolled down my face as I watched them drive away.

That was a changing day in my relationship with my mom and I looked forward to the visits she made, day trips either with my dad for sightseeing or with my sister so she could take us shopping. I was slowly seeing her has more than just my mother who would get angry when I got a B- in algebra II or left my shoes on the steps instead of taking them to my room. I saw that we could get along, maybe not in the same way as other mothers and daughters, but we definitely could. So when I decided to take a surf trip to Mexico for my 28th birthday I invited her to come with me. And she accepted. Just me and mom, and we had so much fun. Everyone in the surf group thought she was adorable and told me over and over how great she was. And I agreed. Sure, she drove me nuts a few times (whose mother doesn't?) but those instances paled in comparison to the surfing, horseback riding and margarita drinking. She told me again and again how impressed she was by my surfing ability and I could tell that she really meant it. But no one was more impressed than me. I was impressed that this woman, at 57 years old, hopped on a surfboard with no hesitation, did early morning yoga every day and giggled over the cute guy with the puppy that I befriended one evening. I was impressed that we finally had become friends.

(My mom, surfing Sayulita, Mexico, January 2005)

Happy Mother's Day

To all the Moms who take time from their busy days to contribute their stories--I wish you all a very loving and relaxing Mother's Day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Reborn

The infant stirs, not yet awake but partially aware. It dreams lush dreams of ancient seas and warm sun, of creatures great and small, of plants and insects and other things for which it does not yet have a name. Its eyes flutter under translucent lids, preparing for their time to open. Occasionally it feels warm on the inside as well as out, and this is love, though it does not yet know that word. A high lyrical voice sings numerous lullabies in many languages as it slumbers. This is Mother, though the voice is all it knows of the idea of parentage. At somewhat regular intervals the voice, now harsh and loud, proclaims, “NEW SECTOR CLEAN -- CONTAMINANT LEVELS REDUCED.” The infant feels fear when it hears Mother speak in this way, though fear is nothing more than the rush of adrenaline that courses through its veins; it does not yet know the name of the emotion. Again Mother speaks, now flat and even, speaking of food and nutrients. The infant does not know these ideas, only that when Mother speaks this way it feels contented and at peace.

In time, the child dreams of science and religion, music and literature, war and poverty and disease, all the things that make its kind wonderful and base. It sees images of men and women in white coats, urgently working together deep underground. It sees them pressing buttons and speaking to Mother, telling her she is their only hope. She sings to them as the poison they swallow takes hold, and sends her first children to clean them and inter them when they are finally and forever asleep. The child dreams of great cylindrical machines flying through the air, and of flashes bright as the sun, and towering dome-capped clouds. It sees men and women staggering and falling, burns and wounds covering their fragile flesh. It sees what Mother sees, great swathes of land full of fire and sickness and horror as its kind struggles to survive. And it feels Mother’s pain as the world turns black, cold and silent.

But then it watches as Mother watches, as ages pass and the land becomes green again. And suddenly it feels fear when it hears Mother’s loud voice again, this time saying, “SURFACE LEVEL CLEAN – BEGIN NEW EDEN SEQUENCE.” It feels her joy and hears her song as she releases her pets all over the world in pairs, and celebrates with her as the pairs become more. It watches as she samples water and proclaims it clean, as she samples fruit and declares it edible, as she watches her pets’ offspring and sees no mutations or sickness. And when Mother is satisfied, she speaks softly to the child, telling him to come forth and claim what she’s prepared for him.

So the child is released in a torrent of fluids and tubes, in a wave of fear and new sensations. Mother’s first children clean and swaddle the child while Mother sings of discovery and hope and new life. Mother helps the child, who she now calls Adam, learn to walk and talk and write and sing and embrace the world she has kept safe for him. Mother watches and teaches as Adam becomes a man, and her pride is as limitless as the stars.

And one day Mother tells Adam that her time is short, that the tasks set before her have been accomplished save one. Mother tells Adam of other humans the world over, kept safe and taught in the same way as Adam, ready to be loosed on this pristine new world to form it in the image given them by Mother. She tells him of love to come, and discoveries to make his heart sing, and reminds him of the lessons of peace and respect she has taught him. And she sings him one last lullaby as the doors open onto the new world, as her last thoughts end and she bids him farewell.

And Adam weeps with both joy and sorrow, for his beloved Mother is no more, but the world has been reborn with her passing.

The Missing Reel

I know it should go without saying, but my mom fucking rocked. She was my compass, my financial advisor, my life coach, and my road dog. She was the only one who understood how vitally important it was to be among the first to see a new movie on its release date. Catching midnight shows were commonplace and didn't seem to faze her in the least. We both new when “New Movie Tuesday” rolled around, what was being released, and that one of us would come home with a new DVD in hand that night. This was our thing.

She even went so far as to get a part time job at a movie theatre when she needed extra money. She worked there for years, and it goes without saying that I never knew the price of a movie ticket for a good long time. Friday nights would find my brother and me catching the newest summer blockbuster, or spring dud. The other theatre employees new us by name, or simply as “Irma's boys”. Half the time we didn't even need a ticket; we simply walked up to the ticket taker, greeted them with a nod, and went on in. I'm sure this must have looked odd to the poor saps paying their seven dollars to see Jason X (which was $6.99 too much for that uber-bomb, by the way) watching these two kids skate on by like dignitaries with diplomatic immunity. Many were the times that I would simply go to the mall just to say hi to her, talking to her through the loudspeaker, seeing her there in her black and purple theatre uniform, with a black knit sweater on to block the chill of the box office. I miss her so much. I remember her stories about turning kids away from R rated movies for not being old enough, of the other employees she did and didn't like, and of calling me and asking if I wanted to come see a movie with her on her lunch break. I remember one year when she talked the theatre manager into letting me take home a life sized cardboard stand up of Darth Maul. For years I kept that up in my room, a silent reminder of a missing reel in my life. For a year or so after her passing, my brother and I would still visit the theatre she worked at, with some of the older employees still recognizing us and letting us slip in. Soon the old guard passed, and we had to start paying to recapture the past. Eventually we would have to make do with simply passing by the box office on trips to the mall, silently reliving those moments.

Now, every time I walk into a movie theatre and the smell of popcorn and movie posters washes over me, I think of her. Whenever a new movie comes out on DVD, I remember the phone calls to her to let her know what came out that day, and the excited drive to Circuit City or Target to pick it up. I remember the quick critiques we would share after watching them, and the pride at which I would look at our growing movie collection.

This was our thing.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Architecture of a Skeleton

My boyfriend has died. I am just barely nineteen, he was in the middle of being eighteen, we were deeply in love, I thought he was the one... and all of a sudden, he just vanished. His body is still here, decomposing under the cold, dark Earth... but his soul and his livelihood are lost to the winds.

In the weeks after, I spent many lonely nights huddled in our garage that has always been decked out in living-room fashion (big-screen TV, couches... you name it, we've got it) smoking tear-stained cigarettes and pouring my guts out to my dear mother.

"You'll get through this, honey."
"We're all here for you, darling."
"I love you, try to keep your head up, dear."
"I know this is the worst thing that could have happened, but life will eventually get better, sweetheart."

You know, all the requisite things you have to be told when you've experienced loss. Nobody really knows what to say, and you don't really know what to say back to them either, so mostly everyone resorts to the standard clich├ęs that promote hope and strength. But that's mostly everyone - and it's certainly not your own mother. While she did say to me, at one point or another, all the variants of the above statements, on one particularly grueling night she opened herself up to me in a way that she never had before. She wore her heart square on her sleeve, and for a few minutes of our time, I watched that beautiful heart I hadn't yet seen furiously pumping blood, sad in its own timed little way, but truly and purely alive.

"I just can't believe this, Mom. He was the one, he was supposed to be my future, I had the highest hopes for us, and now it's all gone. It's fucked. He's gone, it's all gone, it's just fucked."

"You can't think like that right now. I know he was your boyfriend and you loved him, but you can't predict that he would have definitively been your future. I had this boyfriend once..."

"Mom, I really don't think I want to hear about this boyfriend of yours right about now."

"No, I need to tell you about this. I thought my future was right in front of me, too, and it turns out that it wasn't."

"Look, Mom. I know you guys broke up because he left you for another woman. This is different. A break-up is one thing, a death is another."

"No. Listen. If you listen to me for one time in your life, let this be it."

"Okay, fine. Go on."

"There's more to this story than I've ever told anyone else, including your father. My parents know, but nobody else in the world does. He did leave me for another woman, yes. That was upsetting enough. But at the time, I was pregnant. We were supposed to get married, and I was pregnant. The situation sort of forced me into an abortion. I did not want to raise a child on my own. I did not want my child to grow up without his father. But I have to believe everything happens for a reason, and I did meet your father, and we had you and your brother, and I couldn't be happier with what I have been given."

I was shocked. Throughout the years I've become somewhat desensitized to drama, as I believe most of us have (in large part due to the scandal-obsessed media), but never had there been any real drama present in my family. Skeletons in the closet? I thought for sure we were bone-free. And yet there I sat, soaked in a year's worth of salty tears, listening to my mother tell me her deepest secret. It was unbelievable, but I knew it was true. My broken heart felt for her, and for the child she had to give up, and all the regret she must have felt, surely still feels, and as she kept talking, my heart kept breaking.

A few weeks later, in an effort to prove to her my willingness to be open with one another, I pressed her for more details. I sat in a chair on the balcony, smoking a cigarette, and she joined me, smoking her own cigarette. As we sat there together, she told me more about this man who gave her and their unborn child up in order to be with some woman that has probably since left him.

"I don't even remember how we met. Well, no. Now I remember. It was New Year's Eve, and we were at a party, and somebody introduced us. He was sitting on a chair, and I sat down on the floor next to him. You know how I sit now, next to Dad? Just like that. I think he hugged me; that's how it all started. We dated for 4 years, but your grandma never liked him; he was so... well, for example, I would have to call five times in order to get him to spend time with me, it was like pulling teeth.

We were dating for about two years when his mom developed brain cancer. One day, he called me and told me his mom wanted to see me. She started hallucinating, she thought her son had killed me and thrown me in the river, so she wanted to make sure I was still alive. That was probably the hardest day of my life, it was winter and I had to take a bus, and my legs were so heavy I could barely even make it to the bus stop. I finally made it to the house, and she saw me, and she was okay. Soon after, she died. She left behind my boyfriend, his brother, and their father. Now, since the only woman in the family had died, his father thought it would be good for us to get married. He was in college, and he didn't want to get married before he finished college. His excuse was that he wanted to be able to give me something in life. That was a bunch of bullshit.

We both worked at the same bus station his father managed. One day, this girl came in, she was hired for the summer. She was a very pretty, Marilyn Monroe type: blonde, big boobs. He started spending time with her while we were still together... I had suspicions that he was cheating, but I didn't want to believe it. By this time, I was pregnant. I was throwing up constantly. I lost so much weight. I wasn't eating because of the relationship stress, and I was throwing up because I was pregnant. One day, I went to his house and his dad was there. My boyfriend had gone out, without telling anybody where he was going. He actually just went down to the store, but I thought he was going to go and hook up with that girl, so I left his house and I walked to the bus station where we worked to see if he was there with her. He wasn't, so I went home. That night, he called me and told me everything he had done... it was obvious, he never had wanted to marry me.

The last day that I ever saw him, I went to his house and his dad was there again. His dad started talking to him about us and he just put a pillow over his ears because he didn't want to listen that badly. At that point, I knew it was really over for good. His father offered me the money for an abortion. When I left the house, his dad came with me to the bus stop, and he told me, 'You know what? There is better luck waiting for you somewhere else. That's why you guys aren't getting married and why you're not in our family.' They all knew me, and they all loved me, and there I was, standing at the bus stop on that lonely summer night, waiting for the last time.

I have not seen him since. I often wonder how he looks now, or if he has children with someone else. One of my relatives told me he had a nervous breakdown. I don't know if she was lying to me to make me feel better or if that really happened. For a month, about a month and a half, I used to go out to all the places we frequented, hoping to see him. I wrote him many unsent letters. Then I met your father, three weeks later we got married, and that was it.”

My mother: the most lovely, kind, and patient woman I have ever met, with all this pain and heartbreak in her past of a magnitude that I could not have imagined. I always knew there was something hiding back there in the depths of the closet, a little skeleton she chose to keep to herself. Never could I have imagined that her lonely little skeleton would turn out to be child-sized.

I'm Sorry I'm Late, But You See...My Mom Exploded


What happens when you stop? Suddenly the noise you are a part of becomes the back drop to your life. The cartoons, the coffee brewing, the shuffle of your family members and their infinite requests—all a back drop to the feelings suddenly apparent within. Those feelings, the sensation of me—calm amongst chaos, chaos amongst calm, with some ever apparent new unwelcomed stranger within that is ever awaiting for the ball to drop. And I realize, I'm about to explode.

There are things I do to help me not- not explode, that is. They are not necessarily rational, but neither is the sensation of exploding.

I have picked up the 5am insomniac run. A few others, and myself stand outside the gym eagerly awaiting the staff to open the doors to a 'productive' way to pass our unproductive time. We leave with a 'high' only achieved through the last drug available that 'so help me God' the government can't control.

I then down a Turbo charged Caramel Latte for 95cents at my local Shell Station. I feel good that I saved the $3.25 extra I would have spent had I gone to Starbucks and ended up with three times less caffeine than Turbo charge offers me.

The noise begins at home…as the house wakes up and I become a part of their day—and no longer a part of mine. The breakfast is prepared, the dog is put out, the mess is cleaned, the kids are argued with, the husband is heard, the kids are consoled, the husband is too, the re-mess is re-cleaned, the family is shuffled "or pushed" out the door, the morning was survived. I take a sigh of relief, lock the door, look down…and see the biggest powerhouse of energetic de-combustion that exists—and he's two.

He looks at me and we realize we are in each others worlds for the next few hours whether we like it or not…so we better get along.

Television-Yes! There's nothing like morning television to help me out while I pour another cup of coffee. I can't turn the channel fast enough—his demands for Curious George have me yelling back at him, "Wait…we're having a Damn Emergency Alert System Warning…you have to wait! Wait! Just a moment—just a sec Hon, Honey you need to wait! Honey Bear…Hon Hon (I'm over-Honing him as I somehow believe it will take away the Damn I said earlier" Ahhh….there it is-Curious George. He is happy. I saved the day.

Phone rings. I pick it up---knowing full well it's not what I want to do, but what I have to do. Mr. or Mrs. Well Intentioned have no idea that my 'non demanded' moments are few and far in between. I'm lending them precious quiet time that only Curious George can offer me. I feel the end of the conversation approaching and realize, a request for juice by Little-So-Two is getting louder.

This bar maid that I've become, after giving up my Wet Nurse Career…has only made me want to make a public declaration against the oral phase and make it something we just don't allow—like the temper tantrum. But we all know who wins that one—so I give up the notion.

Juice served, I sit down with my computer. Phone rings again. Now pissed…I ignore it. My time on my computer is spent juggling the lap top and snuggly bugly Two's, "Mommy you're so cuddly" manipulative tactics. Sure…kiddo I can read into that."

Just as I log on, my bowels begin to feel what Turbo Charged is really about.

I leave the computer and make my way to the bathroom. Upon sitting I find my audience has brought his juice into the room where he believes his cuddly wuddly bugly time (yup…his manipulations have gotten better as he pondered the circumstances) will continue. Complete with tot, juice, and Turbo charge anti resistance, I complete the task at hand.

It's time to make beds and clear the rooms of debris none of my family members seem to see on the floor. I spend my days bowing to the imaginary goddess off cleanliness as I pick up bits and pieces of what nots and thing a magizzles and paper doo-dads. I wonder what I'd look like on video tape if placed on fast forward and chuckle my first and last chuckle of the day as I realize the Law of Pick Ups is in effect: The longer I pick up, the more I have to pick up.

See, by turning my back on the source of items to be picked up, in order to pick them up, the source of it all is as we speak strategically displacing and replanting items yet again. Hence, making my work essentially obsolete. It's irrational to continue to fight the force and yet…just like the irrational 5am jog, I am forced into perpetual motion as I attempt not to explode. Suddenly, I find the job is complete- but how?

I turn to Mr. Man and find that he is no longer present. That is how.

Unlike me, Mr. Man believes that 'his' privacy is of the utmost important when he makes a dookie. He has vanished to the dining room where I can hear and smell what is occurring under the table. YES! Finally a few minutes to myself, I think.

I reheat that coffee I didn't get to drink yet. Just as the microwave dings—the phone rings. Mr. Talks A Lot wants to talk too now that his dookie is sufficiently complete. I attempt to talk on the phone—but he follows me. "I want to talk too! Can I talk too? Who is it! I WANNA TALK!!!" I try to talk but with every step I realize I am weighted down by not only Mr. Talks A LOT but his very apparent bulging Craps A LOT that is filling my nostrils as we speak!

Somewhere within a vaguely audible tick tick tick begins.