December 12, 2010

Fragmented Vignettes

I am officially getting old. Not in the bad way, but in the “I don’t give a shit what people think” way. At Reagan airport tonight, I scarfed down a grilled chicken sandwich with fries while a man who looked alarmingly like Daniel Craig stood at the counter next to my table, working on his laptop, with a perfect view into this scene of gluttony. And I did not care. There was a time in my life when I would have been so self-conscious about this that I would not have eaten the sandwich…well, that’s not true, but I would have moved to another table for sure. Or maybe sat in a bathroom stall and gorged myself in the privacy and comfort of a public airport bathroom.

You know, there is nowhere to cry in an airport where you won’t be witnessed by thousands of people. There should be private crying rooms. Right now, I am wedged into a window seat, next to a large, yet pleasant man, and behind a woman who keeps trying to make her seat back recline COMPLETELY. Apparently, she is under the impression that if she just keeps trying, the seat will eventually go back far enough for her to be completely prone in my lap. And I feel like I have to pee. But the large man is sleeping. I want to move to another seat but I can’t tell if one is open behind me. And at this point, I wish this plane had a crying room because I would lock myself in it and wail. I am not particularly sad, just over emotional. It happens when I travel and am on the road for work. I think it’s really frustration. One has limited choices and control during an air travel trip. It is taxing.

No, really lady, why don’t you just lay your head in my lap and I will massage your temples? It’s ok, it’s not like I actually need my knee caps for anything. Same goes for the shins, which are now likely bruised beyond recognition.

I am not traveling next week and then I am off for the 2 weeks after that. I am looking forward to the break, but the holidays bring their own level of stress. First and foremost is the sadness. Christmas Day is lonely without my mother and 2 oldest sisters. It used to be an entire family gathering. The last time the whole family was together at Christmas was in 2004, the Christmas before the storm. It snowed on Christmas Day that year. We all went to Emily’s house and Mike and I joked that Old Metairie had special ordered the snow flurries for Christmas. It was cold. Max and Mark weren’t born yet and Alice and Angelle still lived in Lakeview. Mom was alive and we thought she had once again averted cancer by having her left breast completely removed in October. I didn’t know that was going to be our last Christmas together…I suppose you never know something like that.
The other day, I was taking Max to my Aunt Mary’s house to drop off some Christmas greens she ordered from his school and we drove past the house I grew up in on Blanke Street. I slowed down in front of the house to show Max where I grew up and he asked if we could go inside. I said no because we didn’t live there anymore, but then I noticed no one lived there. There were papers piled on the front porch and the mailbox (which had not been there when I lived there – we had a slot in the solid front door) was overflowing with junk mail. There was even a lockbox on the front door, but no “For Sale” sign out front. We got out of the car to peer in the windows and the house was different. The wall between the front living room and the back den was gone and the shag carpet had been replaced with wood flooring. I couldn’t tell if the dining room was still a dining room or an office. We walked around back and the back wall of logustrums was gone, replaced with a wood fence. The fig tree Mom had planted was also gone, as was the Elmer’s glue art I had created on the driveway one afternoon.  A new driveway had been poured and next to it, a new AC unit. The driveway was curved such that I think each family member hit the AC unit at least once backing out of the driveway. A few of us hit the garage wall more than once.
Peering into the back bedroom, I saw just how small the space was the Emily and I shared. I swear I think the room was barely 8x8. There were always bees outside the window of that room, and they are still there, nesting between the bricks and the siding. The tether ball pole that Emily and Alice dropped on my head one afternoon is also gone, perhaps along with bits and pieces of my brain.

Most notably, I noticed just how small the house was. In my memory, the house was huge. Even though I was 19 when we moved, it still seems smaller than I remember. Maybe because there was no furniture, or maybe because, the majority of my memories of that house are from early childhood.  Even the backyard, in my mind, had been much, much larger than it was in reality. The wall of logustrums had provided hours of fun as we used to have races – who could climb through them from one end to the other the fastest. They were a great hiding place as well. I wish there was a wall of logustrums on this plane. I would crawl into them and separate myself from the world for a few hours.

I don’t write often enough anymore to have clear and coherent blogs. Instead, I seem to produce vignettes of a scattered mind.  Perhaps my New Year’s resolution will be to blog more often, finally crank out a book of some sort, or just empty my head of the clutter.

This flight is never going to end. I am going to be on this plane for eternity, being punished for some crime, unable to unfold my legs or stretch my arms, my laptop cutting into my gut because Miss “I must be prone” in front of me has eaten up six inches of space in front of me.

October 18, 2010

In the Clouds

It has been ages since I’ve written. I did great for a solid year or so. I wrote at least once a week filling pages with stories about my mother, my son, my work travels. I don’t know if I have run out of stories or time. I hope it is just time. Max has been asking a lot about my mother. He is fascinated that she is dead and that I miss her. At least once a day he confirms that yes, my mother died and asks me if I miss her. My answer is always the same…yes, I miss her very much. He asks why we can’t go see her, and I tell him it is because she is in heaven up in the clouds. He has surmised that this is why I fly on planes so much. He might not be all that far off.

Two things happened when I had my child that I did not expect. First and foremost, I learned what it means to love someone with your whole heart. I had never, until I Had Max, loved someone to the point of pain. It is painful at times how much I love this child. This evening, I was in an airport restaurant and a mother, three children and a grandmother walked in. The children were young, maybe 5, 6, and 7. The 5 year old boy fell down while walking to the table and started wailing. I noticed he had a cast on his arm, a blue one just like the one Max had. I missed Max so much at that moment that I almost threw up. Although I was only on a day trip away from home, I felt the space between us like it was a living, breathing being, gnawing at my heart. It is in those moments that I think, if something were to happen to Max, I would be unable to muster the will to live. My heart would turn to ash and blow from my body. A love that powerful and strong is frightening. I had no idea, before I had Max, that I would love him so deeply and wholly.

The other thing I did not expect was the surge of emotion that would rise from my own childhood and intersperse with the milestones in his life. Last week, Max’s school was closed. They offered Holiday Care at $150 for the week. Holiday Care. It sounded so fun and fluffy. Monday morning rolled around and I dressed Max in play clothes instead of his uniform and packed his lunch and headed for school. When I got there, Holiday Care was anything but festive. The school was a ghost town and Holiday Care was three kids of varying ages sitting in a small room being marginally supervised by a tired looking stranger. Max did not know any of the kids and he did not want to stay in that room. Instead, he kept asking where his teachers were and where his friends were. I tried to explain that this was a special week at school and they were going to have “FUN!” But really, this was a hard sell. Even I cringed at the thought of sitting in that small room with a total stranger.

I could not do it. I could not leave my child there. I told the guy, who couldn’t have cared any less, that my husband just got off work and we would be leaving, but surely we’d be back tomorrow. And then tomorrow rolled around and again, I could not being my sweet boy to the toddler version of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Life is hard for me because it involves interacting with people. I try not to burden my child with my neuroses, but shit, what else am I supposed to do? When you love someone so much that your very existence is dependent on theirs, what else can you do?

I swore up and down that I would be a different kind of mother than my own, that I would not be so over protective, that I would be trusting and encourage independence.  I used to accuse my mother of being paranoid and telling us tales to scare us into submission. But now I know, she was protecting her heart. I can hear my dear sweet mother laughing at me as I fly through the clouds.

September 6, 2010

The "End" of Summer

Scenes from Labor Day Weekend. What Northeasterners call the last weekend of summer. For those of us down South, summer as a season lasts well beyond Halloween and summer as the break between school years ended weeks ago. 

The dragon that spits the children on to the ground in front of it. No doubt that pitch would not pass inspection in a modern day park. That dragon has heard its fair share of 1950's parents telling their kids to man up and quit whining as they attempted to get the embedded gravel out of their knees.
A quick picture before going back to the dragon slide.
The diving board that broke the 4 year old... after the 50th jump, he said, "I think I've had enough jumping."

The Ladybug roller coaster. Winding through the hundred year old oaks, I tell myself not to think about when was the last time it was inspected.
View from the Ferris Wheel.
View inside the Ferris Wheel
View from the train. This is the museum.

Having fun with a swim cap.

Having fun with a snorkeling mask.

August 27, 2010

My Permanent Record of Sleepiness

Max started “big” school last week. It has been a time of transition and change for all of us. I am once again painfully reminded that I am NOT a morning person and loathe being woken up. This is unfortunate for my husband, who is a morning person and is the one waking me up. When we went to the parent night at the school, the principal actually said these words, “Make sure to get your child to school on time. All tardies go on their permanent record.” My inability to function in the morning has the potential to follow my child for his entire life. 

July 1, 2010

Cycle of Crazy

I am having a difficult time right now. Nothing is necessarily awful in my life. From all outward appearances things are good and one could argue I am ungrateful for not feeling sated. But, that one would be an ass hole. I am grateful for the good things in my life; I am just having a hard time.

You see, I am not a person who has an easy time with people. Relationships of all kinds are difficult for me because they require relating to and interacting with other human beings. And that, that my friends, has been the root of all my problems for my entire life. Interacting with my fellow earth dwellers has always caused me great amounts of fear and panic. Toss in a new high pressure job, a husband struggling with some inner demons, a demanding (albeit beautiful and sweet) 4 year old and I end up frazzled and teary-eyed.

And, as naturally and easily as breathing in an out, I resort to a few coping behaviors to deal with this stress. They are cyclical in nature and go like this….

I begin to crave cigarettes. I don't mean crave as in, "Oh I wish I could smoke." I mean crave as in, "Look crippled old man holding a baby and a puppy, get the fuck out of my way so I can get to the cigarettes, dammit." I confess, I smoked a few cigarettes over the past week. And then I felt like I was going to throw up my intestines. Blech. They are disgusting. Why, I ask you, why do I love them so? They do not love me back. They are Satan in rolling paper. I also resort to over eating when I crave cigarettes. And again, I don't mean over eating like, "Oh I think I ate too many M&Ms," I mean "Oh I ate so much cheese and chips and sandwiches and candy and pot roast and pie and anything that was not running away from me."

Then, I become convinced I am dying. Maybe fueled by feeling awful from the cigarettes and or gluttonous pigging out, I become convinced I have some form of terminal illness, usually cancer of some sort. I obsessively log on to WebMD and input my symptoms du jour. I then become over whelmed with grief that I am going to die so young and I have wasted my whole life not doing anything fun, which leads to…

I begin elaborately fantasizing about and planning my escape. It is a recurring fantasy that I use every time my life gets stressful and in it, I pretty much vanish. First, I will sell everything I own…house, cars, furniture…anything of remote value that is not tied down. I will have a liquidation sale. I will cash in savings and get a refund on the exorbitant tuition I paid for Max's pre-k…EVERYTHIGN MUST GO!

Next, I start the search for a used Toyota RV. I don't know why it has to be a Toyota RV, it just does, ok? This is my fantasy, so butt out. I figure I can get one these babies for less than $10,000 and with a little sweat (my husband's that is) we can get it road and family ready. Once it is tricked out, we hit the road. We will have no plan, we will explore every inch of this great country and Max will be a student of life. He will learn the ways of the world by actually living in it.

However, it does not take long for my neuroses to control even that fantasy…for example, how will I get treatment for my undiagnosed terminal ailment? I won't have a job and thus no insurance! What would my dear departed mother think?!?! Insurance was to her the mark of a successful person. The fear of not having insurance has been ground into my being from the time I could say the word insurance. Plus, I have never taught anyone how to read. How am I going to teach Max how to read? And Math? And what about money? We'll have to insure that RV and put gas in it and eat. How long will the money last?

From there, I begin thinking about the odd jobs we would get…but what about Max? The whole point was to school him on the road, but how are we going to do that if we both now have to work low-paying menial jobs while living in a trailer park in a too small RV?

From there, it all dissolves into a wishing game…I wish I would win the lottery so I could fuel this escape fantasy, I wish had a different job that didn't require so much travel/time/energy/fill in the blank, I wish my husband would fill in the blank, I wish my son would fill in the blank. And so it goes.

Then, it all comes back to me. Everything points back to me as I am the constant in all those scenarios and I feel it bubbling up, rising inside me, the self-loathing, the fear, the uncertainty , the discomfort and then, I start to crave a cigarette, which sets the whole cycle going again.

Here is a chart to illustrate what I call the cycle of crazy…

Being this way is eating up a lot of time and energy and since it is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself and gains momentum quickly, I am not really sure how to stop it, other than occasionally calling out, "Stop the ride! I want to get off," but thus far, that has proven only to startle strangers.

May 18, 2010

May I Check Your Emotional Baggage?

I was a very shy child. Pathologically shy. In fact, my mother once told me she probably should have brought me to see a psychologist when I was younger, but back in those days, you just didn’t do that. Besides, I was the 4th kid. I feel lucky to actually have a page in the photo album, even though it is a short and blurred view into my early years.

I carry around the emotional baggage of having been the kid who sat alone on the playground every day. I did not have friends, I did not know how to interact with other kids and I was painfully lonely and sad every day at school. In 2nd grade I missed somewhere around 45 days of school because I was “sick.” I was not sick, I just hated school and having to be around all those people I just didn’t want to associate with. Every day that involved putting on a school uniform and interacting with kids my age and teachers was akin to having my teeth removed, one by one, without anesthesia.

Equally painful was any activity outside of school that involved interacting with kids my age or really, any one. I took dancing each year at the local playground, but wanted to quit after the first class. I signed up for Brownies, but found the constant interaction with the other Brownies to be emotionally exhausting. I went to one gymnastics class and when one of the kids in the class said I was too fat to pull myself up on the bar, I quit going all together. My sister says Mom’s one rule was that you could not, under any circumstances, quit dancing. But I remember her allowing us to quit anything else we did not like. Of course, I was really, really stubborn so that may have just been my perspective.

Now, I am a parent of a somewhat shy 4 year old. He is loathe to talk to other kids he does not know. He will not just go up to kids and start playing. Still, when my sister suggested I sign him up for T-Ball so we could all be out at the ball field together all summer, I thought it was a good idea. Instead, it has turned into my own personal nightmare of emotionally charged flashbacks to my own youth. It is about as fun as electro shock therapy.

We are not on the same team as my sister’s son, so I am at the stifling hot ball field alone with my son. I feel insecure and unsure of what to do. Max says he likes playing, but he does not actively participate in the games. He spends a lot of time staring at the sky, chewing his finger nails, and singing to himself. When the coaches grab him and tell him to “run here” or “come hit the ball” he goes, but, with a tiny tinge of reluctance.

I sat in the bleachers last night, baking in the late afternoon sun, hiding tear-brimmed eyes behind big sun glasses. I don’t know how to be objective about this. He seems to not enjoy playing ball at all. He does not pay any attention, he does not talk to the other kids, he bites his nails the whole time, but I think I might be projecting my own childhood angst onto his tiny little body out there. I want to run onto the field, grab him and tell all the other little wretched fuckers to fuck off and move the fuck out of the way.
“My child is not some mindless drone who chases a little white ball trying to catch it with a ridiculously oversized mitt! No, my child is creative and clever and sweet and has greater things on this mind that this bullshit, boring-ass, mother fucking hot sport.”

Of course, that seems a bit extreme and intense. No doubt it would leave an impression on 14 stunned 4 year olds, but that is not really my intention. My desire is to do the right thing, and frankly, I don’t know what that is.

Choice A:  Make Max stay in T-Ball. Theoretically, this would provide him with a sense of commitment and provide him with opportunity to be involved in a team sport, blah, blah…But, it also means many, many nights spent at a ball field that is hotter than the surface of the sun, watching my child roll around in the dirt on home plate while the other kids and coaches get annoyed with him.

Choice B: Take him out of T-Ball. Sure, this would be easier on me. I could skip frying in the bleachers, but what is that teaching him? That it is ok to quit? And what if he does actually like it and is just really adept at hiding it? Maybe something will click inside of him. Maybe. Or maybe I will have skin cancer by July for no reason other than to torture my son and scar him emotionally.

This is not a huge issue, but my deep-seeded emotional crap is surfacing and clouding my rational judgment. This is a big and painful issue for me and I would cut off my right arm to save my one and only child that same pain. Seriously, I would take a hack saw to my shoulder blade. That is how fucking painful my childhood angst was. I should say here, this WAS NOT my parents’ fault. I DO NOT blame them for my emotional issues at all. Which begs the question, could they have done something differently to help me? I don’t know, maybe, but like Mom said, it just wasn’t done back then when I was a kid…and dinosaurs roamed the land. I wish my Mom was here to tell me what to do, or at the bery least, what not to do.

So chime in, leave a comment or two. If you post something mean anonymously, I will assume you are a coward asshole, which likely you are. If you want to say something mean, grow a pair and use your real name. I have gotten over my shyness. It was replaced with a caustic mean streak.

May 13, 2010

The Fine Art of Foolishness

I was minutes away from getting on the 4:15 flight home to New Orleans when the BWI Southwest agent informed me that the flight was oversold and my stand-by request was DENIED. Damn you. Now I am stuck here until 7:15 and instead f getting home at 6:00pm on a direct flight, I will get home at 10:45pm after stopping somewhere. Arghh.

This would all be ok if the fancy pants Southwest waiting area chairs actually reclined. You know the ones I am talking about, they look like recliners and they have little end tables in between them that have power outlets, but oh how they deceive us! They DO NOT recline and do not allow for dozing. Unless of course I curl up in it or just let my head flop around like a mop. Which is always an option.

I've been thinking about a time when I was younger and I said something I will always regret. I was 12 years old and had made friends with a girl named Kelly. Kelly was cool. Her parents we divorced, she had no curfew, her father pretty much let her do anything, and she was allowed to wear skin-tight Jordache jeans and blue eye liner. I know now, of course, that she was borderline abused and neglected, but since I was nearly smothered with over protective parents (or so I thought) it seemed like heaven to me. She could do whatever she wanted and no one gave a rat's ass. Yes, as an adult, that scenario is frightening and fills me with sadness, but when I was 12, wow, what a dream.

I desperately wanted Kelly to like me and think I was cool, so when she joined the softball team in middle school, I became the team manager. I still have no idea what that meant except that I went to a few games. After one game, a bunch of us were in a car and someone's mom was ferrying us around (funny how the moms were just nameless, faceless free cab drivers...I am sure they are thrilled to know how much we appreciated them.) We stopped at a red light next to a school bus that had mostly African American kids in it. I wanted to be ccol like Kelly and she used the N word all the time, so I said, "Hey look, a bus full of Ns." It was easily the stupidest and most obnoxious thing I have ever done. And as soon as the words left my mouth, I was ashamed and felt foolish and stupid and trashy. I said it only so that this Kelly girl would think I was cool like her.

Int he car with us with one of the team members who was black. I realized that after everyone was just quiet. I remember wishing badly that I could turn back time and take the words back and I wished that I had never met Kelly. I wanted to die. I wanted to say I was sorry for what I had said and explain that I had said it only to try and be someone I wasn't and to impress someone who turned out to be someone I would lose touch with within months of that, never to be seen or heard from again. But instead, I said nothing, I did nothing. I rode in home in the deafening silence in that car feeling like a complete and total ass hole and wallowing in what would become a life-long wallow of self-loathing.

I quit the team after that. Really, I was nothing more than a poorly dressed and awkward cheerleader, going to every game like a pathetic mascot. I don't know what happened to the girl int he car with us and I don't even remember her name. But I wish I could go back and deal with it differently. I wish I had been the sort of person who did not feel the need to change who I was and what I believed in an attempt to get others to like me. I wish I had been the kind of person who was aware and generous with my actions. But I wasn't. I was insecure and self-centered and scared and awkward and stupid.

I wanted this girl to like me so badly, that I blindly pretended to be like her, or like someone I thought she would like.

I have thought about this incident a lot lately. I am working at a new company and around a lot of new people. There is still a part of me who longs to be liked and who wants to make sure I say and do the "right" thing. It is an awful feeling. I question everything I do and say and wonder if others are thinking about me and what they are thinking. Thankfully, I am not 12 years old any more and for the most part, I am ok with who I am and what I believe, but still, there is a part of me that longs to be accepted by the crowd and longs to be the one who gets all the positive attention and glory.

That part of me, I know now, is my ego. It is big and loud and loves to be stroked. I have to breathe deep and tell it to shut the fuck up. It always gets me in trouble.

I just wish, that back in that car,  instead of saying what I did, that I had just smiled and waved at the kids in the bus. But I hated myself too much to be that open. Instead, I went against what I had been taught, and I pretended to be someone I wasn't. And after, I just shut down and wished for a quick and painless death, which did not come.

As painful as that experience was and as much as I wish I could go back and time and apologize to everyone in that car, I am grateful for the remorse that followed and the horror of my actions. It was a watershed moment in my young life, reminding me to be true to myself...although I have failed over and over again in that pursuit.I Just keep getting up, suiting up, showing up, and trying to keep my mouth shut.

May 3, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

Once again, I have planned my reading materials for a long flight very poorly. Boise is not an easy city to get out of on a Friday. My meeting ended at 11am, which means I missed the 10:30am flight out and had to wait for the later flight, which was a 3:00pm to Vegas. After a three hour layover in Vegas, I am now on a plane headed into New Orleans. I will get home at 12:45am, a solid 13 hours after my meeting ended. I bought a People magazine and a book in the Boise airport and then proceeded to talk on the phone and generally do non-reading activities during my obscenely long wait for the 3:00 flight. I wanted to save the magazine and book for the rest of the trip.

The People lasted for about 30 minutes of the flight to Vegas and then I started on the book, which I finished about 30 minutes into this flight to New Orleans. I blame that on the Vegas airport. The Vegas airport is essentially a trailer park, except the trailers are planes that are shuffling the inhabitants from one place to another.  Before our flight could take off, the airplane crew had to escort not one, but three drunken fliers off the plane.

I wonder what happens when you get taken off a plane for being drunk. Do you get your money back? Do they put you on a later flight? And how do they know you are really drunk? Do they make you take a breathalyzer test? Or do they do the equivalent of a road side sobriety test? Sadly, I did not get to see any of this. I guess it all takes place in some private room where the Southwest employees speak in calm voices and try hard not to shame the passenger in question, while the passenger gets more and more belligerent and indignant.

I would imagine it takes a special kind of person to be a flight attendant. I am not that type of person. If I were a flight attendant, I would carry a cattle prod.  Last week I was on a flight and a woman refused to put her purse under the seat in front of her. The flight attendant calmly and patiently explained to her that FAA regulations required that all bags be under the seat for takeoff and landing. Still, the woman insisted that the floor was too dirty and her purse costs a lot of money. The flight attendant got her a plastic bag to put her purse in and patiently and kindly helped this recalcitrant and obstinate bubble head put her precious purse in a plastic bag. Meanwhile, the guy sitting on the aisle of that same row asked her something and touched her arm for a long time.

At this point, if I were the flight attendant, I would have popped that fucker in the face. I would also not have provided Miss Purse with a bag, unless of course it was the bag I used to suffocate her. I would have taken out my handy cattle prod and shocked some sense and submission into her air head. And then, I would have done the same to a few more people in ear shot just to ensure no one got any funny ideas.
Instead of the friendly skies, it would be the surly skies.

Anyway, back to the Vegas airport. I wanted to do some non-reading activities, but it was hard because essentially there is nothing to do in Vegas except play slot machines and drink, neither of which I do. And since the slot machines are taking up all the prime real estate, there isn’t much shopping to do either. This left people watching. And, while I find fake boobs and hooker shoes fascinating  for a little while, eventually everyone starts to look and sound like the cast Jersey Shore and really, can you blame me for ending that activity so quickly?

I have been on the road for 5 days. I am cranky and tired and wondering why on earth I do what I do. And then I remember, “Oh right, there are no jobs for me in the city I live in.”

Boo, hiss, boo.

New Orleans, you are a hard city to love sometimes. It’s a good thing you have warm weather and interesting locals.

We are on our descent into New Orleans. I wonder where the three passengers are right now who got booted from the flight? Are they drowning their sorrows? Are they face down in an airport holding cell? Or did they decide to stay in Vegas? Maybe they rented a car and, God forbid, are driving back to New Orleans.

April 21, 2010

OK, Maybe I am a Prude

I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, one would argue that I run the risk of being classified as a free-wheeling, let it all hang out kind of gal. However, I am relatively appalled by the way some folks dress on airplanes. Seriously, I do not want to see your hoochie or your boobies for 3 1/2 hours or for any amount of time. Additionally, pajamas are for sleeping. And, why, why I ask you must every teenage girl bring a pillow on to the plane? Are their necks so weak that they cannot hold them upright for a few hours? News flash - hotels have pillows...lots of them. Conversely, airplanes do not have lots of overhead bin space.

I won't get started on my feelings about people drinking too much on planes. Suffice to day, I have been touched, sneezed on, bumped into, and generally harassed by enough drunk people on planes that I consider carrying mace or wearing some type of diving bell on my head.

See aforementioned boobies, coupled with a beer, McDonald's and a black eye. I am flying with Brittany Spears.

April 9, 2010

Just Another Day

I say too much too soon to people that I shouldn't. I started my new job and spent the last week on the road meeting new colleagues and new clients. I wanted to start fresh with a clean slate, maybe erase the cloud of klutzy weirdness that surrounds me. Alas, I am not willful or disciplined enough to change who I am at my core. And thus I both attracted too much attention for being both accident prone and too forthcoming with information that no one really wants to know about me.

At dinner, I told some colleagues who were divulging that they were on their second marriages that I too had been married before. And when they began talking about the whereabouts and relationships with their exes, I blurted out that my ex-husband was dead, murdered in a drug deal gone bad. Why, I ask you did I feel it necessary to say that? Why couldn't I even have just not said anything? Because I am a loud-mouthed laugh whore. It's not untrue and I am not ashamed of it, but still, what do you say to someone who says that? Especially if you have just met them? Thankfully, most of the people near me were drunk and hopefully will not remember even talking to me.

I felt compelled to tell anyone who would listen how the plane I was on Wednesday night from Denver to Chicago almost crashed. We were flying along and all of a sudden the plane started lurching around violently and the pilot got on the loudspeaker, "PUT YOUR SEATBELTS ON NOW!" he screamed in a panic at us. I think that upset me more than the actual turbulence. He did not expect this and was taken off guard. Never a good thing in aviation.

Everyone on that plane was doing the exact the same thing - praying and clutching the arm rests. There were no atheists in that foxhole, I assure you. I bargained with God that if indeed I was going to die in this United Airlines death trap, could I please die on imapct or pass out just before impact as opposed to, say burning to death in the wrecked fusilage? Even at the end, I will be looking for the easier softer way out.

We survived the wind shear at 22,000 feet. A few people puked into the little bags (why are they so little? And why are they PAPER? I need a gallon plasic jug with a wide mouth if I'm going to hurl.) and a few people cried out, but most of us just sat and cursed our chosen professions as road warriors, doomed to a life of travel size shampoo bottles and airport sushi.

Just another day...thankfully.

March 19, 2010

A Hodge Podge of Silliness

I’m changing jobs…I am going from Vice President of Some Stuff at Company A to Vice President of Some Other Stuff at Company B. It is the same industry, the same type of job, even a lot of the same people I have worked with over the years, but still, it is a change and one that I precipitated and not one that was forced on me. It is easier to handle the change when it is not rammed down your closed throat. The past 4 ½ years have been a relentless series of unwanted changes – city flooding, mother dying, original company being bought out, sisters moving away – but this change, this one I decided to make. And still, I am a little nervous.

I like to be the person who knows everything. I like to say things with authority and help other people feel at ease. I feel off balance when I am the one with all the questions. I know it is my ego and a fear of looking stupid. People always say, “There are no stupid questions,” but they are wrong, oh so wrong. There are indeed stupid questions and there are stupid people who ask them and my fragile ego lives in fear of being one of those people. We are all one of those people at one time or another, so it is ridiculous of me to care about it. I am not inherently stupid, just occasionally stupid.

And, of course, I want everyone to like me. I mean, isn’t that the curse of every good Southern lapsed Catholic woman with a big ego and an inferiority complex? What if I say something stupid? Well, not what if, when I say something stupid, will they scorn me and ostracize me? If I screw up, will they publicly shame me? When I get sick, will the pack turn on me and kill me? So many questions…

The nice thing about this, however, is that I am not 25 anymore. I am a grown-ass woman of 40. I have given birth to another human being. I have lived through the worst natural disaster in the history of America, (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic) I have logged hundred of nights in hotel rooms away from my family for the sake of my job….there is a big part of me that says, “Pffft, this is child’s play.” But not the whole part of me, you know? There is still that little niggling voice that says, “You are a fraud and a failure. Just wait ‘til they find out.”

My sister’s housekeeper says that voice is Satan. And, there is a part of me that thinks she is crazy. But, then again, maybe she’s not. After all, isn’t every great story basically the battle between Good and Evil? Why shouldn’t the battle in my head be any different? Call it whatever you want, Satan, the devil, low self-esteem, it all falls into the “bad” category. Thus, it seems the only way to fight it, is with “good” stuff – laughter, smiles and nervous eating.

Sometimes, I wish I could be a daily pot smoker. Seriously, I know people who smoke every day. Sure, I hate being around them because they have this kind of aloof detachment to their surroundings and the world around them, but that is also what I want sometimes. I want to care less and feel fewer emotions. Not always, just sometimes when it seems like life is too intense.

I equate my life to a movie. Most days, I am sitting reasonable distance back from the screen and can see the big picture easily. Some days, when things get crazy, I tend to sit in the first row with my nose pressed to the screen and everything moves fast and I catch only glimpses of what is going on. On those days, I tend to freak out and react in ridiculous ways. In reality, I just need to move further away to get the right perspective. But, it’s not that easy and the irrational part of me thinks it would be easier if I smoked pot (which, by the way, I have not done since high school.) Then, however, I might end up sitting in the parking lot of the movie theatre making out with the ticket taker.

I suppose the only thing I can do is suit up, show up, and do my best every day. How beautifully and wonderfully mundane.

March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom...Girlfriend!

My mother would have been 74 today. I miss her terribly. What I miss most about her is her sense of humor and wacky way of looking at the world. The day she died, I lost an advocate for my often dark and inappropriate humor. I also lost a source of unconditional love and support. Instead of crying myself through this day, I want to focus on my mother and her wonderful spirit. Here are a few of my favorite mom moments.

After the storm, when Mom was still in Houston undergoing treatment for her cancer, I was in New Orleans watching my sister’s three kids and raising my own newborn. I was using my sister’s car which had an awful smell of gasoline. Her husband had transported and spilled gasoline in the back of the car. It was a terrible odor. Every time we got in the car to go somewhere, we had to roll the windows down and turn on the AC. The children were definitely grateful their dear, somewhat insane aunt had quit smoking. (Only to start again a few months later, but that is another story for another day.)  I called Mom to complain and asked her what got out the smell of gasoline. Her deadpan response was, “fire.”

Another time during this post storm, half the family in Houston, the other half in pieces on the floor in New Orleans era, I called Mom to chat about the day. I work from home and my office is upstairs in our converted attic. Looking back on the renovation, yes we should have blown out the budget and raised the roof line, but we didn’t and we are left with a room with a horribly steep pitched ceiling, on which I hit my head just about every day. I was telling Mom this and saying that one would think I would eventually get used to the pitch of the ceiling and quit hitting my head, but that day had not (and still has not) come. Mom’s suggestion was that I keep a helmet at the foot of the stairs and put it on every time I went to work.

And then, of course, there was the road trip the summer before my senior year in high school. Mom and her best friend, my Aunt Phyllis, who is not really an aunt, (but when you call someone “aunt” your whole life, they kind of become an aunt by sheer force of will) decided to take a trip together to bring Phyllis’ daughter to graduate school in Virginia. We also had the grown son of some other friend of theirs who needed a ride up to the DC area. We started with 2 cars – the moms in one car, the “kids” in the other. Before we hit the twin span in Slidell, the “kid” car was participating in activities that could have gotten us thrown in jail.

On the ride home, it was just Mom, Aunt Phyllis and me. They let me smoke cigarettes in the car and drive a bit. I brought my summer reading books on the trip, so I read them aloud in the car to them.  I read The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and then Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, which I am pretty sure was not a required reading book. I don’t think I could have appreciated The Loved One had I not read it aloud to them as they provided explanations and definitions, which made the book hysterically funny. I think I might have to re-read it as an adult to see if it really is supposed to be a comedy…I now question this “fact” of my memory.

We also stopped, against my vehement protestations, at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house in Virginia. I did not want to go. I was 17. It seemed “boring” and “stupid.” It was fascinating from beginning to end. We bought our tickets and received our change in $2 bills, which tickled the three of us, who were already somewhat punch drunk from being in the car for so long.  No doubt, we were completely obnoxious during the tour, but there are things I remember from that day like they were yesterday, and trust me, it was a LONG time ago. Thomas Jefferson invented the dumb waiter and pocket doors that open together even we you only open one, whatever that is called. Well, it WAS 23 years ago.

When she got sick, I was the only one of her daughters who did not have kids, so it was easier for me to accompany her and Dad to the doctor appointments and then the treatments. It is an odd thing to be happy for, but I am happy I was able to be there for her during that time. We got to spend a lot of time together, time that we not would have spent together otherwise. I would sit with her while she waited for doctors. She would tell me stories and we would laugh at world…it was much easier to laugh than to sit and cry, which was what we both felt inside.

It was reminiscent of high school. Mom worked at the high school I went to so we would drive into school together each morning and home each night. It was a long drive, about 30-40 minutes each way in traffic. By senior year, it was just the 2 of us as my sister had graduated and the girls down the street had as well. People think it’s nuts when I tell them Mom let me smoke in the car on the way to school. It is kind of nuts. I was in a Catholic school girl uniform puffing on a Marlboro light in the car on the way to school. I don’t know why she let me smoke. Maybe she was sympathetic to my addiction.

Some other things I love and miss about my mother, in no particular order:
  • She tended to give me and my sisters birthday cards from the Mohogany greeting card line. I am pretty sure one year I got an old Kwanza card.
  • She was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the CIA killed Kennedy.
  • She was also wary of the microwave. In fact, she did not get one until pretty much every other person on the planet had one, and even then, my oldest sister practically forced it on her. She remained suspicious of it for her lifetime.
  • She found my oldest sisters biological mother to thank her and then devoted her time to reuniting other adopted people with their biological parents. I especially liked that she used her vast knowledge of sleuthing to do this, referencing the 100,000 murder mysteries she read.
  • She referred to my dog Sam as her grand dog. She would talk to Sam when she came over.  She knew how much I loved that dog and respected it, never taking it too seriously, but never openly making fun of it either.
  • She fell out of her chair laughing at me when I told her that I thought I would be a better mother than my sisters were because I was more organized. She then promised, through a stream of tears, not to tell anyone I had ever said those words. (Yes, she was right and I was delusional.)

I hear people complain about their mothers today and I want to grab them and say, “You don’t know what you have!” But, then a friend told me once, “If your Mom was my Mom, I’d want her alive, too. But, my mom is cruel.” How lucky I am to have had a mother who was kind. Yes, she was a little wacky, but, frankly, I can’t really fault her for that, now can I? After all, I am pretty sure I cut from the same multi-colored cloth.

February 25, 2010

Daydreams and Undertows

Life is eating me alive right now. But, everyone is healthy, everyone is sane, sort of, and, most of all, there will be an end to this chaos. Either it will end or I will die, so that's something to which I look forward. The end of it, not my life. Although, some days, an early death appears less as a punishment than a reward. Only on some days.

If only there were more hours in each day. And, wouldn't it be cool to be the sort of person who only needed 4 hours of sleep per night? Those things aren't going to happen, so I will patiently wait for the tide to change. Life has an ebb and flow. Right now, I am caught in an undertow, so I just need to relax and ride it out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

It helps to search resort vacations on the web and dream of days spent lounging on a sunny beach. Hmmm, that sounds nice. Ride the wave...

February 15, 2010

Waiting for the Parade

Sometimes, the best part of the parade, is the get to climb a ladder that your parents have hauled 15 blocks, strangers wave at you, and your mother takes pictures of you while your father gives you undivided attention. And to think, sometimes I feel sorry for him because he is an only child. I was the fourth child and can honestly say, I do not think I ever got the undivided attention of either parent unless there was copious amounts of blood involved.

The parade was awesome...was caught a ton of stuff...and hauled the ladder and a 20 pound bag of junk back to the car 15 blocks away. The smile on that mug was worth being a pack mule for a day.

Grace is Hereditary

If you look closely, you can see the picture on the table is of my mother holding me when I was 4 and had a broken arm. Max liked that picture a lot. He made me take it out of the frame so he could carry it around with him. 

His cast is off now and it was only after it came off that I realized something. I think he thought this cast was going to be on his arm forever, He seemed genuinely surprised that it was taken off. I could learn a lot from him. He accepted this cast as if it was not a bother at all. He completely adjusted in a matter of hours and frankly, never really complained about it at all. Sure, he cried when he broke it, but he never complained about it after that first night. Not once.

I, on the other hand, complained almost non-stop about what a pain in the ass it was having to wrap his arm in a bag to bathe him, how it stunk, how he could only wear short sleeve shirts, and pretty much about any change what-so-ever in my life. If I had broken my arm, I would have cried every day and moaned as much as I could about how much it hurt, how awful it was, blah, blah, blah.

Max, however, is grateful that the funky skin flakes are off his arm. And let me tell you, that was pretty gross, too.

He got his grace from me and obviously, his good nature from his father...thank goodness!

February 5, 2010

Do You Know What It Means...

My company is hounding me to move up to New Jersey. Yes, I am aware that is where our office is located. Yes, I know I won’t find a job this good that pays this well for someone with my experience in New Orleans. Yes, I know that Jersey has a far better school system/government/public works/fill in blank than New Orleans.  And yes, I know I have gone as far as I can working remotely from my home office in New Orleans.

But, no, I won’t be moving to New Jersey, thanks for asking.

You see, I can’t leave New Orleans. Here are my top 10 reasons:

1) My mother is buried here. Tell me, whose grave would I visit when I am sad/happy/lonely/scared?  And, even if I did dig up the name of some relative who was buried somewhere up there, would the cemetery operators frown upon me placing Mardi Gras beads and masks on the headstone?

2) When I walked into the Jersey office and shouted WHO DAT into the air, no one would respond in any way other than possibly calling security. Here in the Big Easy, screaming Who Dat is akin to saying Good Morning.

3) Where would I get my Bunny Bread/Blue Runner Red Beans/French Market Coffee/Zapp’s Chips?? I’d have to get it shipped up from New Orleans. And that’s just a whole lot of work and planning.

4) It snows up there and they all go to work and school anyway. That’s just silly.

5) When I showed up to work  in April and May wearing shorts and flip flops and sat at my desk watching streaming video of the Jazz Fest with tears pouring down my face, people would start to doubt my ability. And then I’d get fired anyway, so why bother packing everything up and moving?

6) The Saints are in the Superbowl. Our football team wears gold pants, our mascot is a flower, and our male fans wear dresses, but our team is going to the Superbowl after 43 years of trying.  Leaving now would be like leaving before the encore!  5,000 straight men parade around in drag to commemorate Buddy Dileberto and celebrate the Saints going to the Superbowl…and it brings tears to my eyes…tears of joy and pride and a feeling of being home. I just don’t see anything like that happening anywhere above the Mason Dixon line.

7) Did I mention it snows in New Jersey?

8) My house in New Orleans cost $100,000 and is 100 years old. Plus it sits 2 short blocks from the Jazz Fest, ½ mile from City Park and about 5 minutes from the French Quarter. What’s that you say, I can get a smaller house in New Jersey for $450,000 and it will be a 2 hour drive in hellish traffic anywhere. Well, gee, thanks, but I’m good.

9) People in New Orleans know that you eat Red Beans and Rice on Mondays, you can get the best roast beef po boy in the world from Russel’s Short Stop, Dixie beer will give you a horrible hangover, you can’t take a left on Tulane Avenue, streetcars have the right of way, so look before you turn on St Charles, and that Betsy’s restaurant continued serving breakfast all morning even after the car slammed through the from wall. People in Jersey don’t even know what a po boy is.

10) I, despite my near constant crankiness about it, love New Orleans the people who live here. I love Mardi Gras, grown men who call each other “baby,” Jazz Fest, impromptu parades, second lines at funerals, second lines at weddings, second lines for any old reason, people who actually know what a second line is, being able to get from one end of the city to the other in less than 40 minutes and being able to do so without a map. I love gumbo, muffelettas, Terranova’s grocery, king cakes, po boys, shrimp ettouffe, and Parkway Bakery. I love PJ’s coffee and sitting outside CC’s coffeehouse on a sunny spring day. I love that my next door neighbor is the trumpet player for the Fairgrounds race track and that most days I get a free live jazz trumpet concert wafting over from his house. I love confederate jasmine and sweet olive. I love that the worst natural (or man-made if you ask us New Orleanians) disaster to ever happen in the United States’ history didn’t break us, it made us even stronger and more dedicated to rebuilding this beautiful city. I love that my husband will grab a live giant New Orleans cockroach with his bare hands and throw it outside…chivalry like that is not only dead, it never existed up in Northeast.

And so, my friends, those that I love so much in this beautiful city…can I use you as references on my resume?

WHO DAT!!!!!!!!

February 4, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

I have been feeling weird about my blog, it's like I said all there was to say and now it is just a source of angst for me. But, I think I'll try to post more often and maybe say less. You know, just to get the creative juices flowing. 

Right now, I am typing away as I listen to Max watching The Wizard of Oz for the 150th time. His 2 favorite movies are Snow White and The Wizard of Oz. Seriously, both of those movies are kind of scary, but not to him. He loves them. He can let out a shrill scream that sounds just like Snow White running through the dark and scary forest. And, when he feels like it (sadly, not on command) he will use his munchkin voice to ask for things.

I hope I never forget this stuff. It is priceless. I wish I would slow down and appreciate these little things all the time. But when I am tired or stressed, I forget to relax and get all grumpy and annoyed, like he's taking too long to grow up or something.

One day, I will miss his sweet little knees poking me in the back and his loud pretend burps at the dinner table. I hope I can remember to enjoy them more often instead of worrying so much about everything.

Sigh. Breathe deep. Take it all in....If I only had a brain, I would while away the hours, coferrin' with the flowers, consultin' with the rain, I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry. If I only had a brain...

January 28, 2010

Your Father's Not Yelling at You, He Just Has a Loud Voice

If you read this blog, you know that I love my mother. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and wish she was here so I could tell her some story or show her how wonderful Max is. But, let’s face it, no one is perfect and my dear sweet departed mother was no exception. She was insanely smart and had a wry and dark sense of humor, but her childhood was somewhat tumultuous and she did not escape the effects of that. Although she constantly played down the effect the events had on her, looking back on it, it seems near impossible the one could emerge from them unscathed.

Mom was born in the 30s during the height of the depression. She was the 2nd of 4 children and when she was 13, her parents divorced. Mom and her brothers lived with their mother as their father, it seems, was either unfit or unwilling to be a custodial parent. He was a drinker, although neither Mom nor Memere (her mother) would readily admit that. They played it down by saying he was a happy drinker and not violent. I suppose not beating the children does go on the “pro” side of the chart, but is it really a parental quality worth lauding?

Regardless of why, my grandfather was out of the picture and died before me or any of my sisters was born. Neither of my parents drank much, although Dad occasionally got blotto at Mardi Gras and made ridiculous promises to us – we were going to get a pool, we were going to ride in a Mardi Gras parade, we were going to pave over the whole backyard so he didn’t have to cut the grass anymore.  When Ash Wednesday would roll around and we would ask about these things, Dad would say he was just exaggerating. When we asked Mom what exaggerating meant, she said it meant that you were lying.

Mom and my sister came to visit me when I lived in Houston. Sitting in the kitchen one evening, Mom was in a rare self revelatory mood and began telling us about the early years Mom told usl stories that indicated life with Dad had not been perfect. Again, while I was shocked that she was actually saying all this out loud, I was not surprised by anything she was actually sharing. I did, after all, live with them the first 20 years of my life.

One of us, either my sister or me, asked why, if things had been so hard, did she stay in the marriage? Now, you have to realize, this was just a conversation, a blip on the radar screen, a snapshot of one moment in time. I know now that she stayed with my father because she loved him and that marriage is hard, really fucking hard, especially when you add kids to the mix.

But her response on that day fit the tone of that conversation and she said, “I stayed because of the children, because of you girls. And I don’t think it hurt any of you…except Claire. She was always intuitive and knew something was wrong.”

At this point in my life, I had already been through about 10+ years of therapy and 10+ years of sobriety. I knew damn well that although I had felt like it my whole life, I actually was not the crazy one in my family. I knew intellectually that I saw things for what they were, but that pill is hard to swallow when no one backs you up. If I see a lion in the room and everyone else denies it exists, well, eventually you start to question its existence…until it rips your arm off at the shoulder. And by then, no one feels sorry for you. They are all mad at you for agitating the lion.

I wasn’t mad at mom for her revelation that day. On the contrary, I was quite grateful. I had spent most of my life being told that everything was fine and that I was wrong. I was actually, whether she knew it or not, taught to ignore and mistrust my intuition. She didn’t want to see certain things. I remember once as a kid crying to her because Dad had yelled at me. She said, “Your Dad’s not yelling at you, he just has a loud voice.”
By this point, I was an old enough kid to know that this statement was ludicrous. He did not just have a loud voice. He had a very loud voice, a quick temper, high blood pressure and was a bit of a control freak who was obsessed with his career. (Yeah, so I got qualities from him, too, but that's another blog entry for another day.)

Mom made excuses for everyone, not just Dad. My dog Samantha once snapped at one of my nephews who was pulling his tail. My Dad was filming the birthday party where this occurred, so we got the whole incident on video and watched it in slow motion. It was very obvious that although Andrew had indeed pulled Sam’s hair, Sam did indeed snap at his head. She didn’t bite him, she just scared the shit out of all of us.
Mom leapt into action saying that Sam didn’t mean to bite Andrew. I actually guffawed when I heard it because I was amazed that Mom would actually stand up for my dog, who had snapped at  me more than once. I think she was trying to protect me, as if I would somehow be damaged by Sam ‘s bad behavior or that it was some reflection on me. Sam was a dog who was annoyed by a child and she did what she knew how to do – she snapped at him. And she got the intended result, the boy quit pulling her hair.

After she and my sister went back to New Orleans, I called mom to thank her for validating what I had suspected for some time. She acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about and changed the conversation. Instead we talked about something else, maybe movies or books or my nieces and nephews. 

And just like that, the window was shut. It was as if she even regretted divulging that much about herself.
She spent her childhood doing the eggshell dance, walking quietly so as not to disrupt things. She spent most of her life making excuses for her alcoholic father and sitting with anger towards him that had no release. She lived in a different time when feelings were stuffed and not discussed. I am not making excuses for her. On the contrary, I am seeing her for who she was - a beautiful and flawed child of God. Just like me.

January 14, 2010

Ramblings & Mermaids

I bought my son a Swim and Splash Mermaid Dora doll today. Because he wanted one, that's why. And if anyone makes fun of him, I will beat the shit out of him or her with the hard plastic tail of said doll.

I really don't have any hard and fast rules for parenting, obviously, but there are things I encourage. I encourage him to be himself, even when I feel weird about it. And, I'll admit, I felt weird about the doll. I was really just worried another kid might tease him about it. Other kids were the bane of my existence when I was growing up and had I lived in a slightly more dysfunctional and violent household, I would have likely ended up on the evening news acting out my intense hatred of other kids. Little fuckers. I heard someone describe their childhood as, "we suffer in silence, until we erupt in violence." I just ate, drank and acted out in other unfortunate and inappropriate ways. Violence turned inward, I suppose.

I will send Max to school and I will encourage him to make friends and talk to adults that we know, but I will never let him fly alone as an unaccompanied minor. Ever. Period. There are shitty fucked up people in this world and a lot of them fly.

I will encourage him to tell me if anyone ever hurts him and then I will exact revenge as I deem appropriate at the time, preferably after a long pause and a lot of prayers.

I will, I hope, allow him to express himself creatively, as long as it does not hurt him or anyone else.

I will, no matter what, love him with my whole heart and soul and would, without a nano second of hesitation, give my own life to save his.

This is disorganized and rambling...a lot like my life right now.

January 9, 2010

Motherly Love

By the last day of the Christmas vacation, I was on fire with name it, I was worried about it. I obsessed about Max's shyness, about his refusal to poop on the toilet and only in a pull-up, about my eating habits over the holidays, about my job, about my bank balance, about my husband, about my marriage, about my general sense of insecurity and anxiety. And by Sunday night, I cried myself to sleep missing my mother so much it hurt to the very core of my being.

I wanted her to tell me all was alright and to tell me some story to make me feel better, like the time she went to the doctor because she was so tired all the time (she had 4 kids under the age of 7) and he put her on amphetamines. She said she actually made curtains during that time before crashing. I wanted her to remind me of the time she was so tired (and tired of us, I presume) that she let my oldest sister, who at the time was probably 16, drive us to Wendy's in the middle of a hurricane because we wanted Frostys.

What I remember and appreciate most about my mother is not that she fed us well (we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted, pretty much whenever we wanted) or that she disciplined us (I don't ever remember her scolding me with any seriousness,) but that she actually seemed to like She liked me and she loved me like only a good mother can. She didn't care so much what we grew up to be (although, she was obsessed with us each having health insurance and she, I think, was happiest once we were all married off) but instead she just wanted to talk to us about good books and friends and our kids.

And when she was on her death bed and one of us asked her if she had any regrets, she said she wished she had been nicer. Frankly, I am not sure that would have been possible. It was those thoughts that carried me through my tears and into a fitful night's sleep next to my son, who, if nothing else, I hope knows he was loved more than I thought humanly possible. And when he is on that therapist's couch 20 years from now, I hope his biggest complaint is that I smothered him with love. I don't know how to do it any differently.