Thursday, January 19, 2012

situational narcolepsy

It's winter. I know, I'm a little late with the admission. It snows here. I know, again...

You may not be aware of this fact, but the weather here in Western Massachusetts has everything to do with my husband. Mike grew up around here, goes my logic, and so, consequently, he must be responsible for all this slushy gunk. Conversations in our house go something like this:

Me: (said with malice, the tone implying an explanation is expected pronto) “It's snowing...”
Mike: (said with determined nonchalance, the kind that can only be cultivated if you are as steadfastly nonplussed as my guy is by most everything and married to me for the last decade) “Yes, it is.”
Me: “Fine!!” (stomps off)

I'm getting practical in my old age. I exchanged the stylish, semi-if-I-don't-step-into-a-serious-puddle-water-resistent boots I had bought and instead got hard core bootage insulated down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. The man who sold them to me told me they looked great with my outfit, which I thought was kind, if not a bit pushy.

I thought I was well on my way to recovering from my childhood, throughout which I never had the proper attire to – as they say -- “enjoy” the snow. However, I've discovered that my feet are still cold in my new boots. Perhaps I am a vampire. Or perhaps, what they meant was that until it gets below -25 you won't die or require that your foot be amputated after walking to the mailbox. They just couldn't fit all that on the tag.

My almost 7-year-old son is still stuffing himself into size 4/5 snow pants. The trick of the thus-far mild winter here is that I didn't feel compelled to gear up on things like that early enough and now most things are sold out. Plus, as far as the retailers are concerned, it's “past season” on things like that – Break out the lawn sprinklers! It's January! There are actually many parenting-in-winter lessons I'm learning the hard way, but sopping wet mittens left in school bags overnight are for future blog posts, so let us soldier on...

Calling around to see who might still have a pair of snow pants that would fit Isaac, at one point I found myself on hold with an outdoor outfitter listening to awful 80s music. Ah, but all the 80s music was awful, you might say. Almost all. It was the decade when being a musician – I've said it before – was about owning a synthesizer and a lot of eyeliner. On hold they were playing “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. They should really warn a person before just whipping out the worst music available on you. This link back to the formative 80s was another episode of east coast/childhood flashbacks for me.

The east coast, if not here specifically, was where I had to be. And over the having to be t/here, I accumulated a bit of baggage around it.

The west coast was where I chose. Things are easier where the sun shines. California was always just a little on the vacation side. Just a tad unreal. There was a sprinkling of freedom there drawn from the stores that follow you to new and different lands. Vacations are vacations because you don't have your own life's routines to follow. Or, in this case, because you have perspective. You know what else it could be.

I left my routines once before I trekked to California, when I lived in Europe. Life always felt easier to me abroad, freer and more vibrant – it came to you – no need to go planning and gearing up to figure out how to have the biggest, greatest adventure. Pretty much if you just managed to take the bus in the right direction you had triumphed. And if you took it in the wrong direction – adventure!

Having a baby is a bit like being in a foreign country – not the “easier” part, but you barely have to step outside your door to have an adventure. With baby, whatever I accomplish feels huge. Except when it doesn't. Except when it feels like my life has been stolen away from me and may never come back. But again, I veer off track. Baby is both motivator and deterrent for getting outside in this chilly season. I feel extra trapped in a lot of ways, but also off the hook if I don't do much, not to mention distracted from the winter itself.

Yesterday, Rhys and I went out for a short walk. My mission: bank accounts for the boys. It was cold, but not frigid. I have a coat now; I have boots saving me from amputation. The problem was the wind. It was wicked gusty. Like his brother before him, Rhys hates the wind. Even smallish breezes steal his breath and freak him out. After his mother's best efforts to shield him failed yesterday, as I've seen him do in the past, freak out was followed by pass out. He went instantly to sleep. I think it's some deep biological defense. I call it situational narcolepsy. It'd be quite pleased to come down with it myself, but so far I can't even get back to sleep after a 4 am feeding, while the baby snores on.

I do wonder about how my kiddos will remember their childhoods - one that begun in the west, the other in the east; one that knows enough to miss the beach, the other whose tiny little cheeks are actually chapped from wind and cold. What will they choose, when the choosing is theirs?

If the ghosts of my own childhood continue to cast long shadows here in the east coast winter, plowed streets or not, it's going to be a bumpy road.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
-- “Safety Dance,” Men Without Hats

1 comment:

Susannah said...

Wow! Men without Hats... I am not sure where I was in the 80's, but I missed this group. Not too great of a loss, but I have to say I enjoyed the video. A little like visiting Hobbiton, eh?

You got me laughing right from the start with the "It's snowing..." conversation with Mike. And I love the description of the sense of freedom and adventure you felt in Europe. My experience in Denmark fits your description to a T...

Only time will tell what Rhys and Isaac will choose of course. I only hope that the bumps in your road bring you a little of that sense of flight that one feels as a child when suddenly gravity has less of a pull. A moment of flight, a moment of suspension, before one begins to fall...

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