Central Calif. -- Midday on Tuesday, The Squash lost its two-month battle to be completely consumed, landing in pieces in the compost pile of its Central California home and quickly being covered by a layer of sycamore leaves. It is survived by a gunky, rusty-orange-colored ring on top of the washing machine. Plans for a memorial service are pending. In lieu of sending flowers, the family has asked that you eat all your vegetables.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Me 'mall bi-ickle no hab pedals. I want... (You should ask Santa nicely, Isaac) I would wike a bi-ickle wid pedals go real fast and a fire hat. I want a baby doll shirt come off. No come in house. Mama drive meet you and get da presents.
Some kids write letters to Santa. My son has some concept of the man, though he clearly prefers the reindeer. No, instead, Isaac is obsessed with the mailman – uh, postal carrier - the man who TAKES the letters to Santa. Rock breaks scissors, paper covers rock, brown knee socks beat velvet red suit every time – look it up.
He can't identify an elf to save his life and sometimes he forgets what a chimney is. But the very idea that you put things out at the mailbox, someone comes to collect them, then they are delivered to the houses of people you specify is pure magic in his eyes. He wraps presents for his friends (i.e., items he finds in his room) and leaves them out by the mailbox. I've gone running out to rescue various books and CDs and from the rain, only to have to hide them from Isaac.
Isaac is particularly obsessed with getting presents to his friend Adam. He asks us if Adam will be here for Christmas. He wonders aloud what Adam might need, if he has a plastic cow already or if he'd like a garbage truck. I hedge, tell him Adam has everything he could want. As hard pressed as he is to take in this one holiday, I don't know that I can gather my energy to explain another just yet. You see, there are things Isaac doesn't know. There's information he's missed. When all the other little kids were gathered around the menorah at Adam's latke party, my kid had to go pee.
When Isaac was quite small, an acquaintance mentioned to me that she always opened all of her boys' Christmas and birthday presents sent from relatives ahead of time to monitor what they got. It sounded a little extreme at the time. But when boxes started arriving the size and shape of a gun rack from relatives you wouldn't put it past, I wondered if maybe she was on to something.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Isaac was singing this to himself while we were getting ready for school this morning. Couldn't make this stuff up. (NB: He's never had a lollipop.)
“I wanna wowipop. I wanna wowipop.”
“I need a wowipop. I need a wowipop.”
“I want wotsa wowipops. I want wotsa wowipops.”
“I wanna be a wowipop. I wanna be a wowipop.”
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
“Jindoo bells, jindoo bells, jindoo all way!... Mama?”
“Sing 'Jindoo Bells.'”
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open slei-eigh!”
“Me no been dat sleigh.”
“You've never ridden in a one-horse open sleigh?”
“No. Me daddy tell me no go on dat sleigh.”
“Your daddy has told you not to go on that sleigh?”
“If you say so, Izzy.”
“Mama been dat sleigh?”
“I have not been on a one-horse open sleigh lately, no.”
“Me daddy tell you no go on dat sleigh?”
“Well, I don't think Daddy so much forbade me from going on a one-horse open sleigh as I have just not really seen one around. I'm sure if I saw a one-horse open sleigh, Daddy would be okay with me going on it.”
“Dat sleigh have wheels. Um, um, and horsey pull it. Um, and it white. And blue and orange.”
“Thanks, Iz, I'll be on the look out.”
“'morrow me ask Daddy me go on dat sleigh. He say yeah.”
“You're gonna ask Daddy if you can go on that sleigh and he'll say 'yes'?”
“Sounds like a plan, buddy.”
Friends of mine often send me links to blogs they think I'd groove with, which I appreciate. But they usually include in their recommendation lines like “You probably already know about this one” - as if I spend my many free hours grazing about in the thousands of mothering blogs, reading until satiated with diaper woes and preschool epiphanies. Really, I only ever read two public blogs regularly, mostly out of habit, I think, and sometimes for other reasons I'm not completely sure of. They are wildly different from each other – one caustic and cynical, the other dreamy and laden with reverence.
A couple months back each of the blogs posted news about pregnancies – in one case a sad loss, in the other a thriving fourth-month-old fetus. In both cases, the pregnancy was planned and hoped for.
It all settled in me to extract a thought I had never paused on before, that something in me was still in the midst of full-on grieving. I grieve for the loss of opportunity to move into pregnancy willingly, to know what it might be like to have chosen to have a child and to have celebrated that choice. I grieve for the woman who might have walked hand in hand with her partner into this sleepless tumult, this joyful insanity. I wonder what she would have dreamed about, what she would have written. I envy her freedom, the lightness in her voice when she woke for the third time in the night to go pee and murmured to her husband, “What were we thinking?”
She is regal like a queen as she approaches questions from the other side of pregnancy; she is giddy like a child as she naively believes she can know the answers. – What will we do about work? Childcare? Discipline? Her excitement at finding out she is going to be a mother threatens to fell me with its dangerous optimism.
Sometimes the pain of not having her, of not being her, overwhelms me. My breathing goes shallow. I feel old and broken. Lost.
Facts are strangely compassionate in their cold truth: I cannot be her. And emotional images are what sustain us: There is a silvery ghost of a woman who visits me now and then, like someone long dead, someone with something to teach me.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I recently passed the Squash. I hadn't noticed it in a while. But there is still was, on the washing machine in the garage.
It was surrounded by bags of ribbon and wrapping paper. Trying to lay low and blend into the holiday commotion, no doubt. When I looked closely I saw it had spawned a soft spot on one part of it orange eyeball. Not good. It seemed like it might gets oozy soon. So, I did what anyone in my position would do. I moved the bags of ribbon.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It is four years ago. My husband and I are standing with our latest landlord in the courtyard of what will be our home, staring skyward at a crooked-trunked tree with a shaggy mane that every once in a while gently sweeps the upstairs window of my neighbor’s apartment with a fan of silver-green leaves.
“You can’t kill those things,” my landlady is saying in a way that makes me wonder if she’d rather it weren’t true. “Wacked off the top last year and before you know it…” She waves her arms above her head, flapping and wriggling like a child portraying a tree in an elementary school play.
“Well, I love trees,” I tell her. She laughs. “Ooooohhh – kaaaaay,” she says.
The house I’d rented before that one, I’d picked based to a large degree on the beautiful live oak that grew in the corner of the yard and that we named Jack. I left the apartment before that because the property manager had a proclivity for chain saws and constantly referred to “evening out” the branches of the oaks in front of my patio that rose from grey trunks I likened to elephants’ legs and counted on to steady me as I wound willy-nilly through six years there, a grad-school thesis, my mother’s cancer diagnosis, my wedding.
When I was little, I planted a maple tree seed. It grew. We moved it from New York to New Jersey and again from the first Jersey house to the second. It’s still there. It’s my tree. Any time it would come up in conversation as “Kitty’s tree” my sister would roll her eyes. “Oh my God. Would you shut up about the goddamn tree already?”
The quickest and surest way to stab me in the heart is to cut a tree down. My apologies to the thousands of people who cut trees for this blasted Christmas holiday, but I can’t stomach it. I don’t care if it came from a “tree farm” – something I find to be a perverse notion altogether.
In the past, Mike and I have tried buying small potted trees that someone shaped to look like the perfect triangle, only to have them reveal their true nature later, stretching out their pine needles all lopsided and unhappy. One such tree (Mel) is now planted on city property. We watered him religiously for the first year he was there. He’s grown to five times what he was when we made him suffer the indignity of tinsel. We visit him regularly. He’s never asked to come home.
Mike had been hinting about a tree all weekend. I’d said okay, we’d try again. Something small, something potted.
He leads me over to a fat four-footer – twice the size we had been imagining. It has a nice shape. Looks Christmassy.
Outside, a worker is guiding a chainsaw through the trunk of one of the unfortunates – though it’s already been harvested to die, he makes a fresh cut so it’ll soak up more water in someone’s living room before being left on the curb to brown.
Mike is circling the potted tree. It’s branches seem strong. “It’s nice,” I tell Mike noncommittally. “It’s big.”
He calls Isaac over to see how high he can reach on it. “Almost to the top!” they both lie.
“What kind is that one?” I ask casually.
“A rdwwo,” my husband mumbles looking off into the distance.
“A REDWOOD?? ARE YOU NUTS??? What are we going to do with a redwood?”
“Hang ornaments on it?”
“And where do you propose we plant a redwood after Christmas?”
“It won’t take up that much room. They live 800 years, how fast can they grow?”
I might as well have been standing next to the bathtub, a baby crocodile thrashing in the bubbles while he promised, “It won’t be any trouble, really.”
Becoming a mother has brought me more responsibility than I think I can shoulder. I haven’t slept in almost three years. Even while I was still pregnant, I posted a raving blog (you, Kitty, naw, go on) that talked about how some days the only reason I get up is because I feel guilty about leaving the blinds down for the plants. I once left the SPCA crying because there were no kittens I could foster. I take my commitments all too seriously and my dear husband knows it.
Do I have to tell you we have a redwood in our living room? This real estate collapse better keep on keeping on, cauz we need to buy a house with a BIG ASS yard for my new tree.
"Do you like parties, Isaac?"
"Not so much. Widdle bit."