for your birthday we poured martinis - threw fresh dough on a pizza stone and marveled at the magic of heat and cheese. just a few of us, this several pieces of one family you had made for yourself. good lord we all miss you.
in the evenings, when even the bones are tired and every bit of energy that could be conjured has been - there is still a young rapper in his room - discovering the magic of words - and another boy, taking a vacation from the wonders of the cosmos and finance to play a video game with a friend. the noises are absolute. my dog curls up like a pinto bean - his big ears on alert. something inside me hungers. so much of a day spent doing remains undone until the heart has had her chance to rumble. the fingers their chance to skip across the black pavers - at last awake.
we have always liked to organize things differently. you file beautiful next to exquisite and lush and tradition - your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - while i like to purge and name the spaciousness something pretty. you bring the color while i remove the things that filter it. you have big soft hands and a warm heart and room to hold every little thing that is sacred close. my hands are dry from all the scrubbing and i try my best not to hold on to things. still, i will leave your home every time with my arms full of certain special gifts i could not have lived without. a poem clipped from an old magazine - an ancient alligator suitcase - the rusted locks and tired lining proof that you can stop time. and i would. stop time. i wonder how many times i have taken the fake poinsettias down - tripping over my own feet and the heavy curtains that line the closet - the ladder leaning against the wall like an old friend i have used twice a year forever. the string of christmas lights in a round hat box that i will not test this year breaks me. but i do not cry. only some of them would have lighted. and i would have wrestled them around the tree like i do every year, finding out a little too late that one string needs to be replaced, again. you would point out the holes where the light is not enough. where it is dark. we will fill the tree with color again - every year with your box of color - we will fill the tree to overflowing - all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, the shiny bundles of red berries and intricate ornamentation - the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty - the loveliness of things made meaningful by your keeping. this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away and we act like it is no big deal. someday when we have grown weary of the attic i will ask you for the ladder. this is how she taught me i will say to make beauty worth giving away and memories worth keeping. i will have tiny clippings of poems and articles cut - things you saved and stored and finally delivered as if it were no trouble at all that you cared enough to save it. this year we'll get the tree early and maybe spill red wine on the sofa or not use coasters. we will have known better and that will be what counts. that because of you we will have known better.
i am sorry for dying - the way the orchid petal limps and clings - refusing to drop. i found all the merchandise a heartbreak - the way i said i love you with a boxful and ribbon - as if even a portion of my reverence could be contained. when time steals you away from me - because you are growing and learning to love things outside of Us - i wonder at having had once my own dreams - before i cared more about an elusive collective and following your youth into the night.
it seems like every night i am chasing the minutes left wondering what happened and how it is i missed so much. at one time they were so little and every single day seemed to last forever - i was just so tired. now i am wide awake and they are big and 2 became 12 and 4 is 14 and i keeping asking them to stop. stop growing. stop leaving. stop breaking my momma heart at the very same time you fill it up. i think it is awful that if love its a verb, it's easy to be too busy to love. i'm signing up for do-overs.
i am trying to find a way to say i love you that sounds like i am saying something different. because you are my special forever friends and there should have been some words reserved from before you were even born. i love you because sunlight and acorns and messy green trees and the call of the wild and dangerous men and sugar and heartache and pink. i love you because old old memories and new beginnings and broken dreams and hope. i love you because you read and laugh and argue and worship and regret and cry and demand so much from life that even life gets tired - drops a leaf or two, trembles when you roar. i love you because you are kind and silly, ridiculous and mad, compassionate, cuddly, and soft. you make me soup and vegetables and cake. you bring flowers and worry and trust. you peel back decades of things that hurt to let the sunshine back in day after day and you weep beside me when i am hurt as if there were no other place on the earth to be. and you let me do the same for you. i love you because there so many things happening all the time, everywhere - but when we are together we stop to be together for real and forever even if it only lasts a minute. i love you because you care about people who have less than you and people who have more and you share your beautiful inside hearts of hearts with people who do not always deserve it. i love you because when we met we did not have to court each other like lovers who would date - but instead we were married the moment we first laid eyes... like the best of friends... because you can because it is possible because it is okay even to love someone the moment you meet. i love you because you have made me full of so much beauty and depth and good that i am having to teach myself to bow - so i look less crazy bent over - dragging around this bulging heart entirely filled with you.
my child is poet though he hates to be called one. says every mom thinks their kid is a genius. meanwhile, he's writing lines that strip flesh from bone - about his 92 year old grandfather - about honor about home. i see that words are just a tool for him like a baseball mitt or a pencil or food. maybe he is on to something - this ambivalence towards words. skips magic pebbles across the pond while i dig around in the dark looking for the perfect stone.
sometimes i am afraid that my children will die or i will leave them motherless or the wrong person will become President. i worry that if any of these things happen someone or everyone will be unsafe. Armageddon will happen or maybe god will break forever. when i am struggling with the entire universe and trying to control outcomes way outside my league the space inside me filled with love starts to sink until a bottom falls out and there is only worry going down and down and down. if i am lucky i will love my children today and take good care of my own little self and i will pray for my country and even for god.
If i had another life i would choose this one - all messy and ridiculous with the clutter of bones and bills and love. i would walk head-on into the magical mayhem of my teenagers' angst and the moods of marriage - all the time watching my life unravel in both anguish and awe. No one would save me and i would not dawn a cape or make a brilliant name for myself but i would have you quietly snoring next to me, and everything that our laying together made would be brimming over always seeming to bang at the door at every door almost unbearable the fullness the constancy the living of this mad and wonderful life.
my children are growing away. it is not so much an "up". and i want to run after the leaving - though they are right here beside me - to ask them to stay please stay don't go. but they are curious in their growing away - this becoming of gentlemen - so that sometimes i must step aside also to catch a glimpse of their newness from a distance. i witness them then - these young people in my children's bodies - carving out legacies they didn't ask for help on - calculating equations, cracking jokes, making men.
sometimes words are bricks i throw at your window when the message of the pebble would have been enough. today the glass frame itself busted out and we were left speaking with nothing between us but spit and dust. it's hard not to laugh when your angriest moment is confronted by hush puppy eyes and every single thing you love. but hold on we must - to our little swords - our bayonets, our rightness. god forbid in the moment we remember what matters.
I have an ache the size of something terribly important – but am exhausted by the business of so much minutiae that I’m not even sure for what I ache, nor where the longing itself is located – would I fill it with one more trifle.
There is a pen and so many drawers emptied of words. A stifled urgency. A haunt.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I was loved –
but all of the time –
as if it were a simple truth
to be taken for granted.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that this love was my birthright –
as if I had it
even before I was born to you –
so that it was something you merely reminded me of,
rather than something you had to grow within yourself,
that could be lost or broken or withheld.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I deserved this love
that I was worthy of this love
and that it was mine.
And somehow you managed to show me
that I could share this
with other people
by merely witnessing what was inside them already too –
so that I wasn’t giving anything away
or taking anything from
and we were all just sharing
like it was natural to do so
because it was all of ours, all of the time.
Somehow, now that I am older,
I have managed to realize the significance
of the gift
of having received something
that has no giver.
Of having been loved
It’s my first-born son, Ben’s, 12th birthday today. It looks less unbelievable as a number than a word. 12th. Twelfth. I had to look up the spelling because there wanted to be a “v”. Because twelve has a v and it has been 12 Very short years since I met this kid and now I gotta spell it with an “f” cuz Why The Face? WTF?
The past 12 years have been pretty silent ones over here, when it comes to the written word. Not because of busy-ness so much as because how are you going to string together some words to try to describe or celebrate something that is happening around you at such lightening speed, you’re just trying to keep your skirt from blowing up in the air – lifted out of your own body’s sheer momentum? Darn he’s beautiful. Such a lovely soul. So much kindness and awareness. Such strong beliefs. Such courage.
I like photos for this reason. And I know what they say about the “thousand words.” It’s just, if you have the right ones…you only need like 3. Or maybe 8.
I loved him since before there were words.
Maybe a year is just a drop in the bucket, but the rate at which the years are passing (like little faces on a roller coaster zooming by while your trying to turn on the camera app), it’s gonna be a pretty small bucket. I’d like to kick it. Knock it over and spill out all the days that made up the years that are gone – let the hours and moments drench the carpet, imagining that they could be soaked up there, possibly even stain the matted wool. I would lay in them, stare at the marks all day long, scrub at them with heat meant to set the stain and fists full of longing. I want the stolen kisses and tiny hands to come back to me; to pool here and there where I can see them all, floating about in the perfect clarity of what was once the uncontainable present. See tears and first words and the impeccable, astounding discoveries they made when they were doing nothing.
They grow up so fast – everyone warned me. The hours then felt like an eternity – how every need was laboriously fulfilled when no amount of coffee could keep up with the demands. Of course, the ineffable gifts of parenting were measured wholeheartedly, making every hardship worth it, but they were difficult to revel in – the immediacy of the next skinned knee or unexpected turn in events driving you up and out of the reverie. Big brother, so grown up at 21 months, leans in to kiss his newborn bro just home from the hospital – has every intention of kissing him – but bites the unsuspecting cheek instead. So the bite steals time from the kiss and the scolding steals time from the praise and suddenly there is just a blur of happenings past and no way to truly re-collect all the precious intricacies of these little lives, as they forge forward, dragging you behind them on the frayed string of dashed intentions and over-zealous plans.
But the loving is easy. There is that. How it cannot be measured, at last, by the clock. No calender owns it. Only an amorphous, inexhaustible heap lodged unceremoniously between your rib cages and eternity.
Brothers fight. They just do. Maybe not all of them, but I suspect a large majority do. I remember the pediatrician telling me, when they were only about 2 and 4 years old, “Don’t ever assume that the older one started it, even if it always appears that way. I assure you the younger one did something to provoke it, even if it was just being born.” Well that sure put a fresh and unusual twist on things. Most of the time, this insight makes me rethink the desire to dog-pile the older one and hold him down until he cries “Uncle”. To squash the tyranny out of his little self. Of course, the younger one isn’t always at fault either, unless you believe the idea that he chose to come into this family, rather than being the involuntary result of me sleeping really close to the man who’d been toting his yet-morphed form around in his pants. Being inappropriate is a little scary. The monster that fighting boys are capable of turning me into is a little scary also. Scary things are scary.
because I am such a die-hard “Tiger Mom”, I tossed out the 20 minute a day reading rule this week and spent the last few days with my son watching about 20 hours of complete brain cell-killing television shows. We even watched WWE – or whatever you call those bizarre nearly embarrassing “wrestling” performances with the big guys in small shorts who talk like they are
hold ing pallets of steel dung
in their arms and are trying to gather the
strength to form
big words like “the” and “belt”.
Then I offered lots of pancakes and pizza and other fortifying food so he would have the energy to go pick out a 7 pound Chihuahua from the local rescue, because he hadn’t done anything to deserve it. After that we had salmon because it is good and not because it makes you smart and I served him non-organic cherries in a bowl with a lil’ pitt dish I re-purposed from a broken measuring cup. I let him sleep through the little chihuahua’s night-time crate training while I took on the job, even though I had said in no uncertain terms that he’d be the one waking up in the middle of the night. When my son finally did wake up, I made him more pancakes and put a band-aid on the hole in his face he got from a box of ridiculous firecrackers I bought him for the fourth of July. It’s tough being such a strict, bad-ass Tiger mom.
I always wanted to steal time – to sneak into the fissures and crevices of it’s passage before NOW was gone, and put a halt to it. As if somehow I could manage a suspension. An idling. A breath forever caught in the inhalation. Spaciousness without borders. No tick-tock-ing of the forever omnipresent but elusive clock. A still-life.
The hurry of childhood saddens me. How I raced at it with nothing but eagerness and zeal. How my own children can be so swept up in the promise of aging that tomorrow seems like more of a gift waiting to be granted than today appears to be a miracle. How we plan. How we dream.
Today, a 10 year old said to me, “Me? I’m a lonely sorrow”.
He wasn’t sad when he said it, merely alive and spontaneous and unguarded. The words did summersaults off his tongue and bounced around in the car until they fell like lead balloons into this mother’s lap. She stole the line.
I like to think that we are not broken. That our wounds are the glue that keep us adhered to life. And maybe this is where Time stands still. When we listen. When we allow meaning to fly
still . . .
My friend Nat told me the other night “the thing about your writing is that you say things that I think everyone wants to say but doesn’t”. Aside from this being a huge compliment as I have worried that my blogging is merely self-indulgent, I felt compelled to say “Then…F- you!” Not to Nat, of course, but to every other person I ever wanted to say “F- you” to, but didn’t. And now, since I sort of feel like she gave me permission to say a few things that maybe other people wanted to say, I think F- you is very apropos. So there, I said it. Now, I take it back. I am even sorry.
That she also mentioned, in passing, a person whom had actually used the phrase “he has the dementia” simply made me happy. Not because someone has dementia – that is sad – but because someone called it “the dementia”. In doing so, he gave a secret squirrel insight more into himself perhaps than the person of subject. I imagine he has an old closet full of neatly folded doilies and handkerchiefs from 1939, and a trunk full of someone else’s old photos. I imagine he opens the closet only on the first Sunday of the month, at precisely 7:12 PM. He wears vintage white gloves that have never been washed but still appear pressed. He is lonely.
Hearts are broken all the time. Some breaks are more like surface cracks that hurt in the instant but seem to regenerate and even close after a modest kindness from time. Others occur more like tremendous re-enactments of the Grand Canyon – an act so ineffable and deep cutting that neither time nor any forthcoming kindness could propose to offer solace. These are the ones that stop time. The swollen heart syndrome that destroys a day a month a year a life…in an instant…that seems to last forever. They are the great global tragedies, the abuses done to the innocent, the day someone tells you they no longer love you. “F- you” doesn’t do it here, words fall apart in your throat, muteness only speaks to the surface. If I had a color for every bottomless moan and wounded yelp that cannot be uttered, I’d paint a crimson umber blood orange sky that wrapped the entire universe in forgiveness. I’d sing so sweetly, so quietly, so right.
People want to be acknowledged where it hurts but not dragged into the mire. I am supposed to say something funny that wipes all the badness away. “The dementia” helps with this. My own, and yours too. If I told you that my seven year old flipped me off the other day, you’d think I have some good fer nuthin’ punk ass kid with a bad attitude and a whole helluva lot of trouble headed his way. These are not the facts. My son is funny and sweet and kind. He makes me laugh everyday, from the bottom of the barrel of my gut. He is precious and he cares about the hearts of others. And, he gave me the middle finger. The funny thing was, he didn’t mean to . But it happened, at just the perfect time while he was saying just the perfect thing. Quite by chance, it was the middle finger that pointed at me, while he made some playful delivery and we both laughed until we cried. So inappropriate, so awesome. If, in the same breath, I mention that he also called a “mean kid at school” a “ball sack” you might think differently of him again. But I tell you, he is an angel. An angel who has a way with words way beyond his age.
Being married is a whole lot like a carnival. Caramel apples, merry-go-rounds, and the House of Horror. A crazy tooth-less Carni super-imposed by a lovely plump lady in a polka-dotted dress. Sun shining “this is the best day of my life” while a midget is stealing your wallet.
nobody wants to see me sarcastic. it just isn’t right they think – she must be depressed. depressing if nothing else. i start a riot. sarcasm slips in at the quietest of moments. like a drunken lover through an open window – clamoring, raucous, a bull in a china shop, sweet. it is not that i have lost my passion for the positive…it’s just that the sweet aftertaste of a sarcastic recounting of ordinary moments (when made without injury to others) is too delicious to disclaim. bringing me to motherhood. what the hell is this all about? are we all now greatly appalled at the thankless efforts of our own moms? genetically predisposed perhaps, to alter history, i find myself filling volunteer positions at multiple schools with a near crazy zeal, cutting happy faces into PB&J sandwiches, and even setting up play dates. this being “engaged” is shadowed always by a looming disdain for those parents (usually the mothers) whom appear to do this naturally. these are the organizers, the delegators, the hosts. perhaps i only envy them. the coiffed hair, the matching sweatsuits, the pretty faces of seeming serenity and control. i am running around mismatched and,more often than not, clueless. maybe…just maybe i have on both shoes if there is a run scheduled…but surely the socks i wear are stained brown from the trails and it did not dawn on me until age 38 when my neighbor, the self-proclaimed “spin-cycle slut” re-introduced me to bleach last week…. that there was another way. my two boys, age4 and 6, are sitting here now – threatening things like ” i will punch you in the wiener with a hammer. and a screw-driver…even a cactus and a hundred million things that will hurt you in the wiener” then they step on one another and head-butt like high school rugby bro’s without the pain-erasing effects of beer bongs. they are my angels. big brown eyes the size of “my helmet in that picture” he says – pointing to a picture of the little man he is becoming (on a skateboard attempting an Olie off a picnic table at Corte Madera park.) You know where we got god(?) he is asking now. we got god from life. pretend this is god, responds the 4 year old, pointing to the action figure he has hanging off the edge of the seat, ready to plummet to its final and fiercest death. this is all quickly completed upon the discovery of a shoe box next to the coffee table…now they are insane kung-fu fighters….the box has wings….anything is possible. i always thought i would be this super fun and creative mom, inspiring my children to greatness. but i am more a blank slate than they…and surely i have become the one inspired, instead, by they. inspired to overeat and weep at trite commercials. inspired to merely think about losing the muffin top carrying both these glorious beings afforded me. inspired to keep up with something though i am not sure yet, what. the kung-fu fucking panda has just turned into the incredible hulk and the shoe box has become somewhat of a clam. i mean pile of debris. i mean recycling. in the time i typed, it was obsolete. like peace and quiet in a houseful of boys. gone. please do not confuse me for a complaint. i relish the absurdity of it all. that i would be a parent. that i could love like this. that i would have fear where once there was none. fear of worldly things like flying and sharks and mountain lions and creeps. anything that could physically take me away from my two little dashes. anything that could hurt enough to break me. i want to keep this physical body forever now – so i can have the eyes to watch them grow, the ears to listen to their ridiculous genius, the arms to hold the wounded. smart litte f$%ckers, both of them – reminding me of the way my brain worked before i cared about what other people thought. before i was trying to fit in. before i understood there was even anything to fit into. oh sweet oblivion….the magic elixir before the beer came along. which was then replaced with wine, then whiskey, then various other elicit and illegal things, then work, then doingness. doing. doing. doing. they are wrestling now, on the couch they are forbidden to wrestle on 🙂 “you break a tree, you break me” says the 4 yr. old – jumping fearlessly into the fire of his older brothers invisible shield. the tears will come eventually. it’s just a toss up which one of us will shed ’em.