Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joanne, weaver extraordinaire....

I had a lovely surprise this morning. A gift from one of my favorite bloggers. A woman who weaves and writes. Joanne at Cup on the Bus.

Two lovely woven towels that will now be used with such a warm heart. I asked Liv to take my photo with the towels. And, of course, because I am vain, I almost decided not to use it. I am still adjusting to the amputated finger and in the morning my fingers are so swollen that I can't even wear my wedding ring. I looked at the photo and saw my Mother's hands. All veiny and wrinkled.

And then I decided to just GROW UP. I am 56, nearly 57 years old. It's time to wear my age with pride.

So....take a look at how lovely these towels are! And so, so soft.

Joanne, they will go to good use. They are now part of this prairie family's life! In a few years, they will have some interesting stories to tell.

Maybe...the day that Maria tried to bake bread and forgot about it and grabbed me to take the smoking pan from the oven. Or the day that Liv left for college and Maria wept in me. Or the day when Socks came in from the rain and Bing grabbed me to dry him off and Maria screamed, "DON'T use the good towel!"

'Thank you, Joanne. What an accomplished skill you have!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The ten things that I miss the most about your childhood

Well, first off...what a difference a day makes. The wrist swelling is down A LOT. Yippee! No cortisone shots, nothing! It. Just. Went. Down. Liv, who is now into prayer, swears it's because she had a school mass said for me this morning.

Uh huh.

At any rate, I am grateful.

Tonight, as I drove Liv home from school, she suddenly turned to me and asked me what I missed about her childhood. I sat quietly for a second and then told her to let me sleep on it and I'd have an answer for her tomorrow.

Actually, I already could name my top ten but I find that as I age, or I should say, as Liv ages, I have become incredibly weepy. Yes, me. Ice woman. The one who has been accused on more than one occasion of having Vulcan blood. All I have to do is run across a pair of her baby shoes in a basement box and I am reduced to a shaking, sobbing woman.

Motherhood has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.

So, here you go, Liv.

THE TOP TEN REASONS THAT I MISS YOUR CHILDHOOD

And I should add that, weirdly enough, these reasons were times that were not seen as particularly fun when I experienced them. I was often exhausted by them or bored out of my mind when they occurred. But, now...I didn't tell Liv right away because I feared that the joy that these memories brought to me would make me cry.

1) Christmas carols
Starting on December first, whenever we were in the car, we would play Christmas carols and sing along to them right up til January first. It was a Mama/Liv rule. And since you tended to be with me EVERY time I was in the car, I had Christmas carols running through my head all December. By the 20th, I would be so sick of them that I would sigh as I turned the tape on. Now, I just have to hear this song and I cry. Every time. Because you loved it so much.



2) Reading the Harry Potter series to you.

We started when you were in kindergarten and finished when you were in 4th grade. Every night, we'd read a chapter until we finished the current book and then wait feverishly for the next one to come out. You adored Hagrid and Dobby. You were resolute about the fact that while you would miss me, you would be fine when it came time for you to go to Hogwarts. You hoped that you would be a Gryffindor, but if you were a Ravenclaw like your Mother, well, that would be okay too. You were crazy to learn how to play quidditch and wanted to be a seeker. You wanted to drink pumpkin juice and sit under that sorting hat. I don't know when you stopped believing, you never told me, but I still remember your shining eyes when you'd be tucked up into bed and I'd sit in the rocker next to your bed and say, "Okay, should we see what's going on next with Harry?"

3) Mornings in the rocker

From the time you could get out of bed by yourself and come downstairs, the first order of the day until you were nearly ten was to sit in the living room rocker for a morning cuddle. In the Winter, you'd come padding down in your flannel nightgowns or pjs with feet and I would wrap a quilt around you while we talked about our dreams of the night before and our plans for the day ahead. In the Summer, you'd sometimes just come down in your underpants. I would try hard to wake up very early so that I could sneak in a cup of coffee and a few pages of my book before you woke up but I rarely beat you by more than twenty minutes. I would just settle down in the rocker with my coffee and book and then I'd hear your feet hit the floor over my head and pad over to the steps and come down slowly, sometimes with your thumb in your mouth or your teddy bear, Blue, in your arms. And you'd crawl into my lap. I remember sometimes feeling a little like sighing, a whole day ahead of us and all that time to fill....now I look back and I wish I could get all that time together back. Now I feel as if there is never enough time to spend with you.

4) Naptime ritual

You took an afternoon nap until you started kindergarten. You rarely slept for over an hour, but that hour was gold to me. It was my time to re-group, to sneak in some reading, to just have some time to myself. We had a ritual. At 1:00, I would give you a bath and put you in your napping pants. These were just a pair of soft red pants and a white tee shirt. After your bath, we'd comb out your tangles and I'd slide Johnson's baby lotion all over you (and yes, I can hardly stand to smell that anymore....it brings me to tears...) and then I'd let you pick out two books and we'd sit in the soft red chair in my bedroom and read them. After that, you'd curl up with your head resting on my shoulder and we'd talk in whispery tones until you drifted off. Sometimes, I'd rub your feet or gently scratch your arms to help you relax. And when you fall asleep, I'd very cautiously stand up (you were a notoriously light sleeper even then) and carry you to your crib and gently lay you down on your stomach. All the baby books said to never put a baby on their stomach, but it was the only position that you were able to sleep in, so I did it. And then I'd tiptoe out of your room and oh-so-gently shut your door, careful not to let you hear it close.

5) Watering the tomatoes

Every Spring, we'd not only plant our garden, but we'd plant a few big pots of tomatoes in the back yard next to your sand box. These were YOUR tomatoes and you were solely responsible for them. Every morning, after rocker time and breakfast, we'd head out and water those tomatoes. You'd pull on the hose and I would help....but just a little. And then I'd turn the water on softly and you would stand and water your tomatoes and sing them an encouraging made up tune. Something like: "Grow pretty red matos! Grow, grow up to big and red and so so tasty in my salad!"
If it was a very hot morning in July or August, or even June, I would sometimes grab the hose away from you and say in my witchiest voice, "Time to water the Livvy flower!" and I would squirt you with the hose. You LOVED this game, especially because it was random. You never knew when your Mama would turn into the witch who loved to water the Livvy flower. When you were soaked through and through, you'd take off all of your clothes and run around dancing in the back yard naked. That was so fun for you. The holy roller neighbor next door put the note in our mailbox saying that she thought it was disgraceful that I let you run naked in the back yard. This peeved me since our yard was fenced in and the only way she could see in would be to stand in her upper windows and stare down. And you were a TODDLER. That was the day that I stripped down with you and danced. Just that once. But, I had seen her shadow in that window and I wanted to show her that we were not intimidated at all by her.

6) Bathtub Olympics

I never thought that this would be one of my top ten memories because I used to get SO sick of this game. You loved to go to the Goodwill and buy Barbie and Ken dolls. At one point, you had about a dozen of each. When it was time to take a bath, we would play bathtub olympics. I was the announcer. You would take turns with first the Barbies and then the Kens, having them perform high dives off the edge of our clawfoot tub into the warm water. And then, we would judge their dive. Some, like the vapid looking blonde Barbie always ended up doing belly flops and then would act all silly, getting out of the water and saying, "Wasn't I just so good? Did I get a ten?" The winner was almost always the unfortunate dark haired Barbie with one side of her hair missing. We decided that she had lost it when she rescued a baby from a burning building. But, she almost always did a perfect swan dive and earned the olympic medal...a little bracelet that served as a necklace. And then we'd move on to the Kens....I used to privately despise this game because you LOVED it and insisted on playing it almost daily. Now, I look back and feel so nostalgic about those Barbies and Kens. Whatever happened to them? Did we take them back to the Goodwill at some point? I think we did.

7) Charley's birthday cakes

Charley, your imaginary lion friend. God, how you loved him. He was such a mischievous guy, though. Apparently imaginary lions celebrate their birthdays almost every month, so we'd bake him a cake. And you'd decorate it with jelly beans or reeses pieces or m & m's. And sprinkles. Loads of sprinkles. We'd sing to him and have him blow out the candles. Charley went everywhere with us. And he was TERRIBLE about keeping his seat belt on in the car. I can't remember how many times you'd tell me that he'd taken it off and I'd have to pull the car over and refuse to move it until he complied with the seatbeat rule. And he could be STUBBORN. He also liked to jump on the kitchen table and dance with you even though he knew that I had a very strict rule about kitchen table dancing. But, he could persuade you to do almost anything from eating 5 cookies to cutting the hair off of that creepy doll that your Aunt Patrice gave you. The one that was supposed to look like you and sort of did. In fact, it creeped us both out so much that I suggested that we put her back in her coffin, I mean box. And then I started laughing because I said coffin and you said that Charley needed to know what a coffin was....at any rate, he talked you into cutting her hair and that was a shame because every time Aunt Patrice visited, she would ask you to bring down your Livvy doll and we had to tell her that Charley talked you into cutting her hair. Aunt Patrice did not think that was funny, Liv....but secretly, I did. And secretly, I was glad that you cut her hair. Charley could be very smart.

8) Playing slap seven

Ugh. I rued the day that I taught you to play that card game because it quickly became your favorite. And we played it at least once a week, sometimes every day, always on rainy days. It was a silly game where we'd take turns slowly turning over cards and whenever it was a seven, the first one to slap it got a point. You always won because I swear you peeked, Liv. I KNOW you did.

9) Making jack o'lanterns

Another thing that you loved. Still love. Except now you invite a friend or friends over to help you do it. And I kind of miss that time. We'd go to the pumpkin patch and get a hay ride and pick out two pumpkins and eat a caramel apple. And the next day, we'd carve them. The worst part was when we'd carve the top off and pop it off and it would be filled with those slimey seeds! And we'd carefully take them out to clean and dry and then bake in the oven until they were brown and then lightly salt them! Those were delicious! But, what a mess! We'd lay newspaper out and we'd still find pumpkin in our ears and on the floor and on the side of the dishwasher. And we'd be sticky all the way up to our elbows. And then I'd let you draw a face and I would carve it and let you help just a little bit. The best part was when we'd put the candle in it and turn off all the lights and there it would be...our jack o'lantern, all spooky and perfect. Now, the ones you make with your friends are so much more sophisticated, but you know...I preferred our old ones....with the rickety teeth!

10 Braiding your hair.

I can see you laughing because I always said that I wished you would consent to a pixie cut so that I could stop having to braid your hair every day. But, you know...while I hated having to get those tangles out and I KNOW that you hated hearing about how MY Mama used to hit me in the head with the hairbrush if I whined or cried out that it hurt, I actually loved the feel of your soft hair in my hands. And I loved the way I would sit on your bed and you'd sit in between my legs and we'd talk while I braided. Sometimes a french braid, sometimes two braids, sometimes one long braid behind your back and sometimes braids around your head. Other times, you'd choose pony tails or a pony tail or just a barrette. But, we always talked and to this day, I think you have the most beautiful honey blonde hair and I have no idea where you got it since neither your Father nor I have blonde hair, although there is a stray blonde streak in my family that shows itself in every generation. Your Aunt Celia has blonde hair too, just like yours. Liv...I love the feel of your hair and I miss you wanting me to braid it for you. Now, you just bend over at the waist and do it yourself. You are so incredibly pretty.

And those are my top ten...but honestly...I could go on and on...

Singing to the vegetable garden
Green eggs and ham
Let's talk in English accents days

Liv...I wouldn't want to trade a day with you. I've so loved being your Mother, even though now it feels hard sometimes because I feel like you grow farther and farther away from me each day. But, I don't want it any other way. You are getting ready to fly and it's my job to make sure that you have everything you need to do that. So, I am standing out of the way. But, you know....if you fall...sweetie...I'm right here. I'm right here. Always.

Please excuse Maria again...

....she is having a hard time typing as her right wrist is the size of baseball.

RA sucks.

Sorry to be such a downer, dudes. There are those who have it so much worse than I do. I have good health insurance, a supportive family and a soft bed.

Still, every time something swells up on me now, my first thought is amputation. Hopefully, my head doesn't swell.....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Idyllic Sunday

Waking up to the smell of coffee. And cinnamon rolls.

A morning walk in the park with my daughter and spouse. Watching the ducks. Seeing a muskrat. Watching the look on our dog's face as he sees the muskrat. Laughing when he does a double take and then pretends that he doesn't see it because he knows that he is supposed to act like a dog and chase it but he is scared, so in a totally human way, he simply tugs on the lease and pretends that it is not there....

Knowing that my new book is at home waiting for me on the end table.



Watching Liv running in her new sneaks.

Lovely.

Wearing my new skirt.

And Bing's eyes watching me.

Knowing that we will eat chili dogs for dinner with bottles of cheerwine and one perfect Oreo for dessert.

The season premiere of The Walking Dead.




And bedtime. When I slide off my blouse and reveal this: (once on the page, go to bras, and then fleur bra...bingo.)

Let's call this blowing on the embers, shall we?

On Monday, we will hit the ground running. My office is upgrading our computer systems to Apple, Bing has a kid on the verge of dropping out, and Liv is always writing a paper. The current one is on dying with dignity. She is taking the side of assisted suicide. Pretty gutsy for a girl in a Catholic high school, but I say....GO!

But, for now...we are soaking up the last of the Sunday sun, reading the paper, playing with the dog and reminding ourselves that we have this great little family.....

I try to never forget that.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Dinner with Harriet

I wish that I could carry my best friend around in my pocket. Harriet and I have been besties since the day we met as we both volunteered to supervise the pre-school lunch at the Montessori where both of our daughters attended. My daughter was in 1st grade, hers in kindergarten. She is the one who uttered the famous line, "Just eat your cupcake." Except that it was under her breath and she actually said, "Just eat your DAMN cupcake" to a little Richie Rich who was complaining that his milk wasn't cold enough. And then she sweetly looked at him and said out loud, "Oh, dear. That must be upsetting. Maybe you should tell your mother to put a cold pack in your lunch from now on!" I laughed and she turned around and looked at me and waggled her eyebrows and the deal was done. We were bffs for life.

She's 9 years younger than I am and about 2000 soul years ahead of me.

We used to live just a few blocks apart but after her Sister died and she took in her two children to join their family, she and her husband could no longer afford Montessori for all their children and their 2 bedroom house, already close quarters for the four of them, was too small for six. So, they moved out to the western part of our city. Or as we used to refer to it: Whitey land. But, the homes are cheaper than the older, more personality fired homes of midtown and they needed more real estate. And so, all of her kids went to public school in their new district and then things got more complicated when she became pregnant to add one more to their family of six. And...well...we became really good at texting or calling each other. Now, we only see each other monthly for a dinner date. And every single time, when our time is nearing the end, we swear that we need to do this weekly or even every other week, that our souls need this. And then we go to our homes and get all busy all again and in a few weeks one of us will call the other and say, "I need you! Let's go eat!" and we do.

We try to mix it up and go to different places, but our favorite is a little cafe that is right around the block from my house. They have comfort food. And the rule is that we always leave room for pie. We share a slice. One plate. Two forks. And we share so much more.

A few days ago, I called her to make plans. At first, this week didn't look all that great. With 5 kids to shuffle from a senior in high school to a kindergartener, she is crazy busy. But, she must have heard the desperation in my voice because she somehow managed to free up a night.

Ever since my finger amputation, her first words to me are always, "Okay, let me kiss the stump." Yes. She KISSES my stump. She equates it to kissing the pope's ring. "You went through hell over that thing, so it must have magic in it."

We settle in. Order. Take our first sips of wine. Sigh. Nestle into the soft plushness of the mahogany leather booth seats. Our waitress is a new one tonight and at first we kind of like her. She is motherly, calls us "dear girls." When I order the grilled cheese and tomato soup, she says, "Oh, yes. That one's good for a broken heart. Is your heart broken?" I smile a little chillily. No, I say. I like a good server. I just don't want to be friends with them.

Harriet and I talk for a while, catching up on things. Her son won that award for a robot that he helped to build. Her daughter is still way too heavy, but who is she to judge? Her other son is the kindergarten comedian and well....yeah...the other daughter, a freshman this year? She hates everything. Including her sometimes.  I tell her that yes, when Liv started high school, I was practically in shock at how I suddenly became superfluous when always before I was the star of her life.

We talk about my daughter, the jock who is somehow also a boy magnet.

And then, she asks the important question: How's Bing doing?

I sigh. She arches her eyebrow. She leans her elbows on the table. "Tell, sista. Spill those beans now, girl."

Our waitress, let's call her Betty (because she looks like a Betty with her bright dyed red hair, too much makeup, but Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke face) comes tripping over with our meals and fussily sets them before us.

Betty insists that I take a bite of my sandwich to make sure that it's hot enough. I do. It is. And then she asks Harriet if her beef soup has enough beef in it.

"I made sure to tell the cook to put lots of good meat in there," she says. "You look like you need some meat on your skinny bones."

Harriet smiles and assures her that it is...um....very meaty.

Betty tells us that she'll be back in a flash with extra napkins. No doubt. I snicker at Harriet. "I know how much you like things to be very meaty. " I say this with a leer and she laughs, says that she could use a little more meat at home these days, but what's a girl to do when she's married to a man who is trying to make enough money to get all their kids through college?

"Now eat that piping hot grilled cheese and tell me what wrong with Bing. Is it with both of you or is she sick, tired of teaching, met some new girl who deserves her much more than you do?"

I take a bite. Chew. Swallow. And then tell her that Bing and I are going through a sort of rough spot.

Harriet rolls her eyes. "That is just your dance," she says. "You two are the most mismatched set of salt and pepper shakers on the planet but you somehow make it work. Actually, Bing does all the fancy footwork, in my humble opinion because you're basically a spoiled rotten brat, but...what's going on?"

Betty comes back with more napkins before I can reply and I swear if I offered, she'd slide in next to me. She is way too chummy for my taste. Tells us that what someone orders can tell a lot about a person. She points to me. "Now, you. You're either a vegetarian or you are feeling lonely. People only order grilled cheese and tomato when they miss their Mothers, are in the middle of a break up, or don't eat meat."

I tell her that I don't fit the bill. Sorry. She doesn't seem to notice that I'm being short with her. She moves on to Harriet.

"Now, you. You have the beef and barley soup and a plain salad. You love life. People who order beefy things do. But, you are conscious of your figure too, not that you need to be. God, I would KILL to be tall and thin like you!"

Harriet indulges her. Says that yes, she does love her life and yes, is conscious of her figure.

Betty beams. "I knew it! I been a waitress for many moons," she says, winking.

Harriet smiles again. "Then, you've probably picked up that my friend and I sorely need some girl talk time...." she says, her smile so gentle that the hint can be taken with no rude intent.

Betty nods emphatically. Points me me. "Broken heart. I knew it, didn't I? Ok. I'll check back later because I know you'll want some of our blueberry pie. Freshly made just today."

She pats my shoulder kindly and walks away. I bristle and glare at Harriet. "Why am I the sad sack?" I ask. "And why is she comfortable touching me? I HATE to be touched by strangers. She's a waitress of many moons. Shouldn't she just know that?"

Harriet leans in again. "Be nice," she says. "I like Betty. I'm going to give her a big beefy tip."

I scowl. Harriet scowls back in an exaggerated fashion. "You look really unattractive when you make that face," she says. "Do it again, but this time with more feeling."

I roll up a ball of cheese, put it on my spoon and prepare to fire.

"Okay. OKAY!" she holds up her hands to surrender. "Ok, tell me what's going on with Bing."

I sigh, take a messy bite of grilled cheese and wash it down with tomato soup. "It's the same ole, same ole. She drives me crazy. I want her to clean up her fucking messes that she has all over the house. I bitch at her about them and she gets that stubborn rebel look on her face. The one that tells me that hell will freeze over before she goes through the towering inferno that is her junk mail pile because I'm not the boss of her. And if I dare to go through the pile of junk and pitch it, she will throw a fit and talk relentlessly about how going through someone else's mail is a federal offense. And then I'll say that I'd rather go to jail than have to live in the rat's nest that our house is becoming and yada, yada, yada. You know the rest. We'll fight. She'll get over it in a half hour and I'll spend the next three days wanting to throw my coffee in her smug face."

Harriet nods. "It's a syndrome, Maria. I think it's called MARRIAGE. You and Bing are not unique. Ask any married couple. There is always a bone to be picked in even the best of marriages. Show me a marriage where the couple never fights and I'll show you two really boring people."

"I know," I admit. "It's just that some days I feel like I just want to....bolt. SO BAD. Like just the sight of her walking in the back door when she comes home from work makes me mad. And she goes on and on about my low sex drive. You know what would get her laid in a second?"

Harriet and I say it together: IF SHE'D CLEAN UP HER MESSES!

"Damn straight," I say.

"Bing is basically the man in the marriage," Harriet says and before I can retort, she motions for me to zip it.

"Men are stupid," she says. Okay, I think. Okay. "They just don't get it. Paul (her husband) would get laid almost nightly if he just rinsed his dishes before he put them in the dishwasher. But, no. No matter how much I bitch, he refuses to learn. Bing is the same way. Life could be one big fuckathon for her if she'd just tidy up her piles, right?"

I nod, emphatically.

"But, she doesn't, so she's acting like a man. I rest my case." Harriet taps the table with finality.

Betty uses this opportunity to come over and ask us how we're doing. I say fine. She pats me and then gives me a sympathetic smile as she walks away.

"Fucking GOD," I explode in a loud whisper. "Will she STOP touching me now!" Harriet laughs. "Jeezo Pete, you are so OCD," she says. "This isn't grade school. She doesn't have cooties. You are just weird about being touched. Freakishly weird, actually."

I take a savage bite of my grilled cheese. It feels good to do that. Good to chew aggressively right now. Why am I so riled?

"It's just...sometimes even the clothes she wears bug me," I finally say.

Harriet looks at me for a long moment. "I am so glad that I don't live with you," she finally says. "You are truly overly touchy. Her CLOTHES? Seriously? Wait. I take that back. Because I hate this one shirt that Paul likes. It's bright red and makes him look like he works at Target..."

I suddenly am ashamed of myself. Bing is a good partner. A good wife. And I am, as usual, being unfair. I sit up and say in a small voice, "She made me pumpkin bars last week. The kind that are really good but don't have a lot of sugar, so I can eat a really big one and my blood sugar doesn't jump."

Harriet gets it, looks at me and rolls her eyes. "Now, you're feeling guilty. Okay. Bash yourself now. Should we ask Betty if they have a lash in the kitchen?"

"You know what?" I finally say.

"What?"

"Sometimes I just feel sorry for Bing. Because I feel like I am just so bad at this dance. Like she should be on Dancing With The Stars and I'm Forrest Gump." 

Harriet nods. "Riigghhhtt," she says, meaningfully. "She's too good for the likes of your sorry ass, huh?"

"Well, yeah."

"Now, I'm not saying that I don't agree, but why would you say that? How are you such a loser?" She emphasizes her point by placing her thumb and forefinger in a lovely L on her forehead.

Without censoring myself for once, I just say it.

"Well, my own Mother couldn't love me, why should she?"

OH. GOOD. BLOODY. HELL. FUCK. FUCKITY. FUCK. I cannot believe I said that out loud. And worse....the second the words are out of my mouth, my mouth trembles and my eyes water.

Damnit. God damn it.

I surreptitiously look away and widen my eyes in an attempt to gain control. Too late. Her hand is across the table.

I look at her and her face is serious.

"I swear to Baby Hey Zeus," she says, quietly. "If your Mother wasn't already dead, I'd kill her right now."

For some dumb ass reason, this is exactly what I need to hear and it breaks me up. I laugh. Shake it off.

"I'm serious!" she says. "What she did to you was unforgivable. Not only did she disown you but she forced your Sisters to disown you too or forfeit her love too. Mommy Dearest Much?"

As always, this kind of talk riles me. And I will never get it. Maybe it's an Irish thing, or a Catholic thing or both, but while I feel like I can say any rotten thing I want about my family, the second someone else says something rotten about them, I'm all pissy. Even though every single word she says is the truth and I agree with her totally. I tell myself not to breath on those particular embers. And I let it go. Because something in me is backing up now. This is dangerous territory, my family. I don't venture often here and I am uncomfortable.

But, Harriet, being my bestie, is not going to let me go gentle into that good night. She catches my eyes and holds them in hers.

"You deserve to be loved, Maria," she says. "You are one cool cat and tender hearted and kind and snarky and rude and smart and a dumb ass and you are so deserving of Bing and her love, no matter how much shit I give you. Don't forget that for a second. And your Mother was wrong. She was dead wrong. She did a very, very cruel thing to her CHILD. That is borderline heinous. And she is the one who gave you that anvil that you carry around with you all the time. Doesn't it get heavy, honey? Isn't it time you shoved that sucker off? Can you even imagine doing something like to Liv? God, religion is  terrifying, isn't it?"

We are holding hands now. And I am thinking to myself that not only are we holding hands but that I have always felt so metaphorically safe in her hands too. Betty comes over, looks at us and turns on her heel and walks away.

Things are getting too real, even for us. One of us has to break this. So, Harriet says, "Kiss me now, Maria. Lean over the table and give me one good long hard kiss. Let's make Betty completely do the splits."

I burst out laughing and so does she. We let go of hands and before we can say anything, there's Betty coming over to show us a big beautiful blueberry pie. Do we want a piece of it? You're damn right we do, Betty. She smiles. "I'm glad that you had your'n little girl talk," she says and promises to be right back with warmed up pie with a scoop of ice cream on it.

I smile and shake my head at Harriet. "Leave it to you to make me bawl at the dinner table," I say. She shrugs. "You're welcome. What are best friends for?"

Betty brings our pie and I feel more able to talk a little bit about things.

"I think we had what Liv calls the power of the Mother," I tell Harriet. She frowns at me, tilts her head quizzically.

"Liv always says that whenever she's feeling any sort of powerful emotion, if someone mentions my name, she loses it completely," I tell her. "I think I had a power of the Mother moment. And I have all this unresolved shit so it is like magnified by twenty."

Harriet shows me her blueberry teeth and then agrees. "It's the curse of daughters everywhere," she says. "We all have to live with the power of the Mother."

We finish our pie and talk about other, less volatile topics. The ebola virus. The coming election and how we both hate Lee Terry because he sort of has a pig face. We could live with that if he didn't have a pig personality too.

Betty comes with our check and actually nudges me with her hip and scootches in beside me in my side of the booth. I am appalled and very bothered and when I look over at Harriet, I see that she is biting the sides of her cheeks trying not to laugh.

GOD, WHY IS THIS WAITRESS TOUCHING ME?

Betty then wraps a heavy thick arm around me and HUGS me. "Honey, I know it hurts now, but believe me, he ain't worth it. They never are," she said. "Take it from a waitress who knows, who's been there and lived to tell the tale."

She unhands me and gets up, leaning so heavily on our table that it tips a little. "Ok, girls, you go and enjoy the rest of your night." She smiles over at Harriet. "And you," she says, pointing a bright orange painted finger with white dots on it at her. "You need to get some meat on those bones."

We leave her a big tip, even though I am tempted not to. "She needs to learn that it is not acceptable to just go around groping people," I tell Harriet. "She said I was skinny," Harriet says. "She is getting a big, meaty tip. End of discussion."

We walk out the door and to our cars. "Why is it that she goes on how thin and great looking you are and how lonely and sad I am?" I ask. "And she didn't comment that I was skinny. Is my butt like gargantuan?"

Harriet makes a point of checking out my ass. "Well," she says, "Are you wearing a bustle?"

That's it. I give her hair a good yank. She had it coming. We are laughing when we get to our cars. We wrap our arms around each other and have a nice long hug, because we KNOW each other and it is ACCEPTABLE to touch people you know.

She whispers in my ear. "You are a person of great value, baby love. Even if you have kind of a fat ass...."

It's just us. We trade quips with our sentiments. It's our way. We promise to have dinner together before Thanksgiving and part as we always do, kissing each other soundly on both cheeks and saying goodbye in French accents.

I drive home feeling as if something that was cold and big and hard in my throat has loosened.

Bing is on the sofa grading papers when I get home. I push them aside and straddle her.

She grins up at me.

"Hi"

"Hi."

And just like that, she doesn't get on my nerves at all....








Friday, October 03, 2014

"Sometimes songs work better than words," she wrote....

Liv at a football game with friends.

A long week, hard fought. Two exhausted wives in one house.

Words said.

"God, must you always behave like a Vulcan?"

"I am so sick of your fucking messes all over the house!"

"Excuse me, Ice Queen, did you say something under your breath? Just spit it out, why don't you?"

"Stop calling me names!"

"Stop acting like you're ten times smarter than me and just tolerating me!"

"Fine. I'll say it out loud. Go FUCK YOURSELF!"

"I pretty much do these days. Do you EVER feel like fucking anymore? Must I always COAX you into bed EVERY. DAMN. TIME?"

"I asked you if you wanted to go see a movie tonight. That Eleanor Rigby thing. I thought it looked good but you were all mopey and 'let's stay at home' ey...."

"I watched the trailer. I don't think I'll dig watching the worst twenty years of my life played out on on screen. You taking off on me, leaving, me begging you not to go, pining away, trying not to bawl in public. No. I've had a tough week. NOT interested in sitting through the worst nightmarish 20 years of my life. Sorry...."

"Are you EVER going to FORGIVE me for that? EVER? I wasn't ready. I was a late bloomer. I wasn't prepared to settle down, Bing! And you act like it was so easy for me...."

"Oh, sorry. Motherhood you got through just fine. It was having a relationship with someone who loved you that was so fucking hard...."

"Well, yeah...I don't DO that lovey dovey shit. It's HARD for me. I'm not built for monogamy. I was a pot that never wanted a lid for a very long time. GOD, would you have preferred that I stayed and pretended? LIED to you? I CAME BACK, Bing. And I'm here now. I MARRIED you. What more do you fucking want?"

"I want...just once...for you to want me so much that you can't stand it. Instead, I feel like I'm this annoyance, this cluttery person who is always in your way...."



"Well, I'm here, but I am so fucking sick of a messy house because you start these projects and then don't finish them. When was the last time we could eat off the dining room table? Huh? You set up roadblocks ALL THE TIME.

"Excuse me. I forgot. You are so easy to live with. Miss Withhold-All-Emotions....ARGH!! You make me CRAZY! Is there even a heart beating in that chest?"

(Crying ensues. I HATE crying. Especially when it is ME. Bathroom door slams. Shower turns on...Gotta get away, gotta get away, gotta get away....)

I see a note and an ipod on the bathroom sink when I get out...

"Sometimes songs work better than words. Listen. Please?"

So, I did.




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our new song

Bing and I were talking before sleep. Something we used to do a lot of, but as we've grown older, less of.

We are more inclined to go to sleep seconds after our heads touch the pillow now. One quick buss on the lips and we're out for the count.

But, for some odd reason, last night we were both feeling chatty. I brought up the fact that we don't really have a song You know, EVERYBODY has a song.

Bing thought for a moment. "Well, we have Ventura Highway," she finally said.

I scowled. "That's a song about someone leaving."

"Story of my life for the first twenty years that I knew you," she commented, wryly.

I pretend pouted.

"I think we need a song," I said, firmly. "Let's put our thinking caps on here, missy."

We did.

And then it just got silly.

Hey, Mickey!

Auntie Grizelda

Bohemian Rhapsody

Muskrat Love

Shaft

She Blinded Me With Science.

"Be serious!" I cajoled.

We finally agreed to sleep on it. Rolled over and drifted off to dreamland.

This morning,  I sleepily accepted Bing's kiss goodbye as she woke me up as she was leaving for work. (She is my alarm clock...)

And there on the kitchen table, was a sheet of paper with 6 words on it.

The Story Brandi Carlile  Our Song



Wow. She's good....

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bing's dream or WTF?

Last night, Liv and I shared some nice talking time on the way home from her softball game. They had lost, but it was fair and square. They simply were outplayed. Bing had missed the game to stay late at school to tutor a student.

Liv and I stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings to get her "blazin" wangs. How she can eat these without her stomach catching fire is beyond me, but...go youth. She kept them in the box to wait til we got home, where water was plentiful. I didn't order any. Funny thing. Now that I have that missing finger, I don't care much for messy finger foods. Unless I have a full frontal bib.

So, we talked about the game. About how her stubborn mule coach is still not letting her pitch, even though last year, he had her as a starting second pitcher for Varsity. She ended up with a rotator cuff injury and under doctor's orders, we pulled her from the team. Her coach practically accused her of being a baby and warned that she might not make varsity this year if she tried out again. And she didn't. She made JV and he stuck her out in right field. Not once has he let her pitch, even though their pitcher is mediocre at best.

This actually makes me madder than it does her. She's made peace with it and isn't overly concerned. She just likes to play. She knows that he'll give in eventually.

"I can wait him out," she says calmly. She is very Zen about the whole thing. Whilst, I, her angry parent, am ready to punch him in his big red clown of a nose. I wisely haven't commented much on this to Liv, although I have plenty to say to this guy in my head.

And then, the topic moved to school and subjects liked and not so liked.

"I've been thinking," Liv said.

"GOOD!" I told her. "That's why I pay that ridiculous tuition. You BETTER be thinking up a storm, missy!"

Liv gave me a wry look. Went on.

"I am considering marine biology as a major."

I was surprised. She had been talking green logistics and environmental ecology but hadn't mentioned marine biology. A surprising choice for a prairie girl.

I told her that this sounded interesting.

"I'm still in the thinking about it stage," she said. "But, the University of California at Long Beach has a really good marine biology program and next year when we start actively looking at colleges, I'd like it to be on the list."

I said that was fine with me.

"Oh, and I want to take the lifeguard test next Summer," she said. "When I'm 16, I'll be eligible to lifeguard and I think it would be a great Summer job."

I said okay to that too and we talked a bit about how this meant that her Summers with her Father might be impacted by this decision. But...we agreed that it's in the future, so put it on the back burner. We were almost home anyway.

When we came in the back door to the kitchen, Bing was waiting, begging for a wang wing. Liv shared one, laughing when Bing nearly gagged on the heat of it.

Bing looked at me. "Remember this morning when I told you that I had that weird dream last night?" she said.

I said yes. Did she still remember it? Because this happens to us both ALL the time. In that quick time of goodbye kisses, one of us will say that we had the oddest dream that night and then later, when prompted, we can't remember one part of it. Or maybe...just one tiny fleeting piece, like a floating cloud right on the edge of the horizon that is sinking rapidly. Too fast to remember, but it's sort of there.

This time, Bing said that she had actually written it down, that it had been so VIVID that she hadn't wanted to forget it. So, while Liv ate her wings and chugged water, we listened.

I was seeing Liv, but it was weird. It was obviously in the future, but not too far ahead because she looked pretty much the same, just her face was a little more sharp. And Livvy, you still had long hair but only about to your neck. Anyway, it was so odd. It was like I was being SHOWN you and I wasn't supposed to interact with you, just look. You were sitting up on a lifeguard's chair and you were smiling at something someone was saying to you. Couldn't remember if it was a man or a woman, but you laughed and I was so happy to see you so happy.....

Bing pauses here just enough that I know (because I am an expert on body language and all that shit) that she is leaving something crucial out, but Liv doesn't seem to notice. I decide to ask her about it later.

Anyway, I looked around and I thought to myself that we were somewhere in California. And I thought how interesting it was that you had ended up in California. And I somehow knew that you were studying something to do with oceans.

Ok...dudes. Liv and I were seriously sharing looks here. This was just....weird. As if she had heard our car conversation.

And I knew that I was being shown something to comfort me. That I had been worried about you or something and this dream was telling me that you were just fine. In fact, more than fine. You were happy.

Bing stopped there. Liv and I waited. Finally, Liv asked her if that was it. Yup, she said. That was it.

Liv looked at me. Said to tell her what we'd been talking about on the way home. So, I did. We all were quiet, soaking in the whole oddity of this situation.

A truly strange feeling. Deja vu? No. Premonition? Maybe. Weird? Fucking TOTALLY.

An hour or so later, I got out of the shower and went to sit by Bing on the bed as she read her Apple magazine.

"So, what were you leaving out in the dream?" I asked.

Bing didn't look up. "Nothing," she said, too quickly.

I took the magazine away.

She looked at me. I made her hold our gaze. Finally, she said, "It fucking creeps me out the way you know me so well."

I didn't budge.

"Tell me," I said.

She sighed. ""Okay. When I was looking at Liv and she was smiling? I thought to myself how good it felt to see her smile, laugh. That I had never thought I'd see her really smile or laugh again after....well....after.....you died."

She sat up straight and took my hand. "It was just a dream, Maria. It meant like....NOTHING."

I sighed. "Yeah," I answered quietly. "That's why you wrote it down...."

She sighed again. "I do NOT want that dream to come true. And you aren't going anywhere. So, don't get that look on your face. That I just want to see my baby graduate college look."

"How old was she in your dream? I KNOW you weren't sure. But, if you had to guess?"

"I'd say, early twenties," Bing said, slowly.

I nod once. Lean down and kiss her forehead. She pulls me down for a better kiss. Which causes my sore back to ache so I have to tell her to stop.

"It was just a dream, sugar," she says again. I tell her that I know this and that I'll be in shortly, that I'm going to go check on Liv. She says okay, watching me a little too closely.

I walk into Liv's room where it's dark, but she sleeps with the curtains open by the side of her bed so that she and Socks can see the moon, so it's not pitch dark. I make my way to the side of the bed and nudge her over a little. She is almost asleep, but not yet. I tell her to scootch over.

She does. I am very lucky in that my teenaged daughter seems to have no qualms about me tucking in with her now and then. I climb in and take her in my arms. She is a full head taller than me, but if she scrinches just right, she can slide down and tuck her head on to my shoulder like she did when she was little. This is our preferred position. I tuck her hair behind her ear and she untucks it, like always.

"Everything, ok, Mama?" she asks, sleepily.

I say yes, that I just wanted to kiss her head a little bit before sleep.

I can feel her smiling.

"So," she says, "Tell me about Hogwarts."

This makes me laugh. Because from the time she was 6 until she was nearly 12, we had a running story about my tales from my alma mater: Hogwarts. Where I was a Ravenclaw. How, I didn't know Harry, Ron and Hermione well, because well...we were in different houses, but that I knew OF them. In my tales, I had my own set of friends and we had our own adventures. Our own run ins with Snape. Our own bullies (Ernestina and a terrible black haired boy named Everett Misenthrope.) Liv LOVED these stories almost more than the Harry Potter books.

"Well," I begin. "We were all sitting around drinking pumpkin juice one day....."

Liv interrupts me. "Mama, you didn't come in here to have some talk about boys, did you? Because I SWEAR I don't need that talk...."

I stop. "No," I say. "DO we need to talk about boys?"

"NOOOO!"

"Well, okay, then..."

We don't talk again. I just cuddle her and feel her body go a little limp and then a lot limp as Socks sits at the end of the bed smiling at us. I think that I should get up but I don't. Instead, I just hold her and let the tears come. They fall into my ears.

I want to dance at her wedding. Or not. I don't care if she marries. Or not.

I want to be a grandmother. I want to see if she has that big family that she dreams of having.

I will NEVER be ready to say goodbye to Liv. Ever. I can't imagine us not together. The thought of leaving her so young, of her being sad without me...it tears me in two. It hurts me more to think of her hurting without me than of me hurting without her. Because I'll be dead. I'll be past caring.

Was it just a dream?

I don't know. But, how strange, really...that Liv and I would be talking about marine biology, California and lifeguarding and then come home to hear Bing's dream.

How very strange.

Premonition?

I look up and see Bing's shadowy form tiptoeing in. She leans down and whispers my name. I gently ease out of Liv's bed and Bing and I kiss her sleeping head and then I lean down and kiss Socks for good measure.

We walk back to the bedroom, arms around each other and silently go to bed.

Only to meet in the middle for a long embrace and twisting of legs around each other.

"You're NOT leaving me," she says, roughly.

"Ok," I say. "I'm not."

But....