“Oh shoot,” I told Mike as he walked into the kitchen from the garage after work one day. “I forgot to preheat the oven.” “That’s okay,” he said with a smile. “I’m not very hungry yet.” “Oh,” I moaned, “I just splashed soapy water all … Continue reading Pre-Happy
Being on hold is the worst. And not only because it is an enormous waste of time and eternally irritating. It’s the worst because when I am on hold, I am overcome with a desire to multitask. I start doing some chore or begin a conversation. Then I become desensitized to the phone pressed against my ear, and I cease waiting in a prepared state to be taken off hold and engage in conversation. Any number of things can happen when being on hold suddenly ends – the best of which is totally forgetting who I was waiting for and why I called. The worst of which happened earlier this week.
I had a simple question about a prescription, so I called the doctor. I was asked to hold please, and I graciously consented. Then I started talking to Mike and Emery who were in the kitchen making coffee. We chatted quite awhile, and all was well.
“Do you want a cup of coffee?” Mike asked when the coffee was done.
“Sure,” I answered accepting the steaming mug. I walked across the kitchen and grabbed the battery operated frother so I could create the multitude of tiny bubbles that make drinking coffee an adventure.
“Didn’t I stir it enough?” Mike asked.
“She likes it frothy,” Emery answered.
Agreeing with her completely, I channeled my inner large man, and accessed my deepest possible voice. “I like it frothy!” I rapped in a sing-song way that would make rappers cringe. Liking the rhythm of the sentence, I added a small dance move and repeated louder and with more gusto, “I like it frothy!”
And that is why I may be looking for a new doctor.
“Your wedding ring is in bad shape,” I said to Mike as he drove the car.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
I grabbed his hand as he switched hands on the steering wheel. I twisted the ring and inspected it as I explained. “It’s missing 3 of the 5 tiny diamonds, and the shape that used to be in the gold has completely worn flat.”
“I am not a gentle guy,” Mike answered. “I’m just happy I haven’t broken it somehow.”
“True,” I agreed. “But, maybe it is time to get you a new one.”
Mike drove several blocks in deep thought before simply saying, “No.”
“No?” I asked. “Why not?”
“This ring is just like me – missing the pretty parts, worn down, but still standing for something. It’s a perfect representation.”
(I’m still getting him a new one)
“Hey, since all the kids are gone tonight, do you want to watch a movie?” Mike asked as we cleaned the dishes after supper.
“Yes!” I answered. “I just heard about a good one on Netflix.”
“Okay. Why don’t you let me finish cleaning, and you can make the popcorn? I’ll join you downstairs when I’m done,” Mike suggested.
“When was the last time we watched a movie by ourselves?” I asked as Mike walked down the basement steps and sat on the couch. I handed him the bowl of popcorn and balanced two cans of Coke in one hand as I grabbed the fluffiest blanket with the other and draped it across our laps.
“I can’t remember,” Mike answered. “but is this the wrong remote to turn the TV on?”
“I have no idea what the proper use for that remote is,” I answered as I handed him a different remote I had found on the couch.
“Nope,” Mike said after pushing every button the remote had. “This isn’t the right one either.”
After several minutes of searching under the couch and between the cushions, I blurted out, “We can’t even turn the TV on!” At which point the TV turned on.
“Did you do that?’ Mike asked.
“No,” I said, astonished. “I wasn’t even holding a remote.”
“Do you think we talk to it?” Mike asked suspiciously. “It turned on right after you said, ‘TV on.'”
“No,” I said without any certainty. “It can’t hear us.”
“Well, how do I get it to Netflix?” Mike asked pushing buttons on the remote and scrolling through a series of screens that were not Netflix.
“Maybe try the other remote?” I suggested.
After many screens that were not Netflix appeared and disappeared on the TV, I was desperate. “TV, play Netflix,” I commanded. Nothing happened.
“TV,” Mike yelled, “show Netflix!” Nothing happened.
“TV,” I shouted, “play a movie on Netflix.” Nothing. “Play a movie!” Nothing. “Watch a movie!” Nothing. Mike joined in with, “Show Netflix!” Nothing. “Netflix!” we shouted in unison. Nothing.
“Why are you guys yelling?” Drake asked as he showed up unexpectedly in the basement.
This is why we don’t watch movies by ourselves.
I’m not a tall person. I’ve accepted it. Step stools are stashed in all the nooks of my house. The bottom two shelves of my kitchen cabinets sag under the weight of all my dishes; the top shelves are dead to me. Jokes happen. Reaching … Continue reading Short Problems
“Hey,” I said from the passenger seat as Mike drove past a cute house for sale, “that would be a great house for Drake.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, peering out the side window. “Do you think we will remember to look it up when we get home?”
“Not a chance.”
“Hmm,” he said, thoughtful. “Look up the house, look up the house, look up the house. Maybe if I chant it over and over I’ll remember by the time I get home.”
“Look up the house, look up the house,” I joined in. After a solid minute of chanting we drove four blocks in silence.
“What are you thinking?” Mike asked.
“House, house, house, house,” I answered.
“House, house, house, house,” he joined in.
“HO– USE, HO– USE,” I shouted toward the windshield.
“We are going to be awful old people,” Mike shook his head.
“So, remember how I brought my leftovers home after working at the Outback?” Drake asked as I started making supper Monday night.
“Yes,” I answered. “You wanted to have it for lunch today.”
“Yeah,” he answered, jumping up to sit on the countertop. “But, I forgot about it and left it in my car all weekend.”
“Oh no!” I said. “And it was around 90 degrees the whole time. I’ll bet it smelled awful.”
“I’m surprised,” I said, filling the table with condiments for the hamburgers. “That’s a long time for food to sit in a hot car.”
“Well, it tasted fine.”
“You ate it?” I stopped and stared at him.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “But it wasn’t anything that would be bad. It was just chicken.”
“Chicken!” I yelled. “That’s one of the worst possible things to take a risk with!”
“Are you saying the chicken was bad?” Josiah asked, walking down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“Josiah,” I pounded my palm on the counter for emphasis, “you’ll never believe what Drake ate for lunch!”
“You mean the car-chicken that we both ate together?”
“YOU BOTH ATE IT?”
“Yeah,” they answered, hesitantly.
“How did this happen?” I asked. “Drake, did you walk inside and say, ‘Hey, do you want to eat some chicken I forgot in my car all weekend?’ and then, Josiah, did you grab a fork and dig in?”
“That is almost exactly how it happened,” Drake nodded. “If it helps, I feel great.”
“I feel great too,” Josiah agreed.
It should help. It doesn’t.
“Do you think you should go to bed?” I asked Mike. He had been traveling for several days and was running on minimal sleep.
“I want to try to stay awake for awhile,” he said.
“Okay. Well, you could fix the shower in the bathroom while I take the dog on a walk,” I suggested. “It hasn’t been working for a while, so the kids are using the basement shower.”
“In my present state of sleep deprivation, I don’t trust myself to work on something like plumbing,” he said. Seeing the wisdom in that, I nodded and grabbed the dog leash.
“That makes sense,” I said as I headed out the door. “Just relax and hang out with the boys,” I called over my shoulder as Arrow drug me across the front yard and toward the sidewalk. Arrow gets excited about walks like Elf gets excited about Santa. It took a lot of walking, but, finally, the muggy air added to the blocks walked and equaled a tired dog. By the time we returned to our house Arrow was panting and walking at a reasonable trot instead of his usual lightening gallop.
“Mom,” Drake said unusually serious as I opened the front door and walked inside, “Dad decided he wanted to replace our thermostat, so we went to Lowe’s and bought a new one. He took out our old one but couldn’t get the new one working, and now we don’t have air conditioning.”
“What?” I asked. “It’s supposed to be 100 degrees tomorrow!”
“It’s true,” Mike said joining us by the front door. “I broke our air conditioning, and I want to say right off that I am sorry. I think this happened because I’m too tired to be working on home projects.”
“So,” I said, rubbing my forehead, “let me see if I’ve got this right. You knew you were too sleep deprived to work on the already broken and not being used plumbing, so, instead, you worked on the air conditioning that was in great condition and highly necessary and now it’s broken?”
“When you say it like that, it doesn’t sound good,” Mike smiled crookedly.
It’s a good thing I like hot weather. And crooked smiles.
If you’ve never packed up your kid’s belongings and waved goodbye hoping to see them again at Christmas, I’ll tell you, it’s not survivable. I mean, you’ll live through it, but not all of you.
It was twenty-two years ago now that I first became a mother. My daughter was born under stressful conditions, and with all the tubes and machines and hanging on to life, it was easy to miss the unexpected twin that was born at the same time. The twin was not a real baby, but it was a new part of me that did not exist before. I had no idea it would happen, but as soon as I felt my daughter’s soft head snuggle under my chin, a force, the twin, was born in me.
Being a mom is endlessly serving, loving, fighting, getting a different perspective, changing, growing, apologizing, trying again, crying, feeling irrelevant, feeling overwhelmed, feeling tired, feeling so much, laughing, cheering, showing up, washing, talking it out, settling down, figuring it out, and probably some more washing.
When my beloved children floundered, I was heartbroken. When my beloved children resisted me, I was wrecked.
Here’s the thing though – the twin was up to every task. The twin leapt inside of me and always prayed, fought, scraped, pushed, rose, and found a way through. When I was spent and there were no thoughts or feelings left to give, there was always the force inside that adjusted and adjusted until I could look at my beautiful children and connect in some small way. The connection was the goal. It was everything.
For so long there was a buffer between “now” and “college” when we would wave goodbye to the last child. Even this very summer there were buffers. There was camp, vacation, so many siblings doing so much stuff. She was unobtrusively packing in between all the activity, so it was easy to overlook. We scurried from work to the store to home, and she registered for class. We cooked and cleaned, and she donated things she didn’t want to move. We made plans and budgets, and she grew all the way up.
And then she went.
Now her room is much too clean, and there is a spot in the driveway that makes me cry. I shop in reverse, returning items I’ve placed in my cart because they are her favorites. At night I leave the door unlocked for her, and then, an hour later, shake my head as I realize what I’ve done. I roll out of bed, stumble to the front door, and lock it. She’s not coming.
People ask if it is hard to send the “baby” of the family away to school. Yes. Yes. YES. For all the reasons you’d think. And I wish that was the whole of it, but it is actually much more selfish than that. Mothers typically hate being selfish, but it is happening none the less. Because sending my youngest child away leaves me with the twin. The suddenly useless twin. What am I to do with this limitless force now that it can hang out on the back burner?
Looking back, I can see that I was comically unprepared to be a mom. I didn’t have the slightest understanding of what I was in for. But, it became such a glorious part of me that it makes all the other parts seem flat.
I know, I know. I’m still a mom and my kids will still need me. But, it’s not the same. It’s just not. It has to change and involve a lot of stepping back and letting go. Some of my least favorite things.
So, the twin has been dealt a death-blow and will not survive. I’ll live through it, but not all of me. I’m going to miss the constant momming so very much. I already know what I’ll miss most: those spontaneous connections that happen when you are sharing a space and suddenly find yourself comforting a wounded heart, sorting through drama, learning a secret, or laughing at something silly. Those moments are the artful design in the fabric of time.
And yet, I can already feel it – the twin. Stirring. Adjusting. Up to any task.
“What is the purpose of making tea in a jar outside,” Drake asked one sunny afternoon.
“When you put it in the sun,” I explained, “it brews slower than boiling it, so it ends up with a milder flavor.”
“MILDER?” he asked, incredulous. “How can it possibly be milder than tea? Tea is the mildest already. It’s basically water with a hint of grass. There is no milder. Milder is water.”
He’s not wrong.