Friday, March 26, 2010

"It's a gull!"

     I met my husband when I was 16.  I was raised with an older sister and thought I knew all about family life: then I met my boyfriend's people.  He was raised with two younger brothers.  At the time we met, my future husband was 18.  His brothers were 16 and 11.  All big, big boys.  The activity in this family was remarkable to me.  They played sports, zoomed down snowy mountains on skis, sleds and inner tubes, sailed boats, put on magic shows, had all the neighbor boys in to play Monopoly, be-bopped around on motocycles, and wired their draperies for sound.  At my house, although my father played catch with me, taught me how to solder for a Girl Scout Badge, and built me my own turquoise blue skateboard, at home entertainment was pretty much reading, or listening to the Top Forty with Bill Ballance.  That, and sleeping on brush rollers, sneaking hydrogen peroxide on our hair, or stuffing our bras.

     His house was DIFFERENT.  The testosterone radiated off the stucco.  These creatures were very foreign, but fascinating.  These guys were bold!  They had their own rules.  Their mom ordered six half gallons of milk, and two half gallons of orange juice from the milkman every three days!  They managed to drink every bit of it out of the container straight from the fridge.  At my house that would have been off with your headville.  It was absolutely titillating to watch them in action.

     In truth, I believed their mother deserved my utmost respect.  You can only imagine the number of huge stinky socks she washed in a week, or the number of boogers she had to scrape off the walls.  She had to go find a chair to stand on just to wag her finger of reprimand in front of their boogerless noses, where they could actually see it.  They teased her unmercifully.  They called her by her first name!   Mothering them was a job for an amazingly tough, resilient, not to mention brilliant woman.  SHE WAS THE MOTHER OF LIONS!!

     What novelty!  When I got married, and fantasized having children..this is what I pictured.  Super Mother.....Queen of the Pony League.  Squirts in the face changing diapers, spending hours in the hot dog stand at the ball field, washing jock straps, buying Extra Strength Right Guard.  Lugging aroung big galoots who would protect me when the umpire told me I was "outta the game!"  What power.  What status.  I would belong in the Mother's and Son's Hall of Fame, just like my frustrated, neurotic mother-in-law!  You wish, Miss Sandra Bullock!

     When I was pregnant the first time, pre-ultrasound (and may I remind you, epidural), everybody gave you little green or yellow somethings at your baby shower.  My friends gave me pink.....baaaaloooooo.  It was a done deal.  Boy coming.  The sex of the baby seemed confirmed to me during 20 hours of hard labor.  A lion cub already making my life a real challenge!

     "It's a gull", the East Indian doctor, whose name I did not even know chirped at me.  "Wha...I said..through my Demerol haze, trying to focus my myopic eyes.  "A beautiful baby girl" the nurse repeated.  "A girl?  I thought.  Me?  Wow....a baby  Let me see her!!"  While this baby had her father's features......she sure as hell didn't have his fixtures.  Indeed, she was beautiful..brown eyes checking out the world..looking like a little papoose all snuggled in her blankets.  I felt like Billy Bigelow.  If I could raise lions, surely I could get into this raising a sweet baby girl thing.  Girls, I immediately recognized, I actually know something about!

     I knew of course, that it was a boy Bubbin cooking during my second pregnancy.  I pulled out the unused blue sleepers and washed my Dodger's hat.  However, that pregnancy offered me many trials, and threatened to take my baby away altogether.  When the nurse delivered her, prematurely, in the labor room...I welcomed my tiny precious blue-eyed second daughter and thanked God that she was female.  She had a fighting chance.  Ask any health professional.  It's the girls who are the lions.

     My daughters are my best and brightest blessing.  If I were ever to doubt God's love, all I would have to do is look at them.  They make my heart beat, and always have.  It's an interesting thing, watching your daughters grow up.  (Yes, yes, sons too, but back to the girls.)  I am truly in awe.  I watch them process life's challenges, make mature judgments, work hard, raise lovely children, tend to their grandparents, give their love while holding their tempers, and demanding what is right and true.  They both naturally want, and so fashion a positive world for those they love.  They give, as women do.  They are also witty, irreverant, and naughty....some character features I especially love.  They have a firm handle on life, whether they realize it or not.

     Hold on..I have to get a Kleenex....    

     Besides being my friends, they have produced wonderful grandchildren.  Not everyone has the honor of grandparenthood, and I am very grateful.  Now, I know how to keep my relationship with my granddaughters  But one of these grandkids is a boy.  My daughter is raising a male.  Now, she knows about boys, and I still don't!!  Boys are a mystery.  How am I ever going to keep this grandkid coming to Granna's for the next thirty years or so?

     How long will he want to play Clue with me?  I can't imagine that he will always want to dust with my Opium powder.  Will always having gum help, like it does with with girls?  Will he always love my special wheat toast with jam?  How many kisses will he tolerate at any given time..and how many years can I yell at the top of my lungs at his baseball games before he comes over and stuffs my hat in my mouth?

     What a fun problem to solve.  I love mysteries.  Maybe Sue Grafton knows what I should do.  I"m always open to suggestions.  Maybe I should price a sail boat...just a tiny catamaran.  Or maybe I could build a baseball diamond in my backyard.  I can always scavenge inner tubes, but I don't always have snow handy.  Well......I know one thing I am going to do one of these days.....Adios Miss Scarlett, Mr. Green, and Professor Plum.

     Make way for Marvin Gardens, The B & O Railroad, and Park Lane.

     .............................I hope he likes wine.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ever since I jotted down my first Christmas letter, I've enjoyed writing. In my work, I was responsible for writing many policies and programs, communications and correspondence. And now that I am retired, I would like to use writing as a channel for my "creativity", whatever that means. It's a term my ya-ya and I throw around a lot, because now we have extra time on our hands. But, as I am just beginning to explore this notion, a couple of little questions have been bugging me.

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The Report Card

     How do people come up with good ideas? And how can my relatively intelligent brain be so bereft of them? I did dream a great idea once. I distinctly remember waking one morning and scrambling to write down my it, I had choreographed the most amazing dance number. As I reconstructed my night ramblings, however, I realized that the reason the dance was so amazing was that rather than high kicking one leg, I had figured out how to high kick both legs at the same time. Really? One great idea literally flat on its ass! 

     Once in awhile I do get a good idea in the early morning hours while I am still snuggled down cozy with my husband and the dogs, wandering around in my own head with nowhere to go. But alas, there is a problem. I think to myself I'm gonna get up and write, right now while I have these good ideas. But first, I need to brush my teeth, take a bath, make the bed, do my yoga, dust the coffee table, pick up the dog poop, trim the Bougainvillea, go to the Post Office, organize all of my photos since 1967, and obtain a post- graduate degree. "Why is that?" I ask myself in a Carrie Bradshaw sort of way.

Let's evaluate.

A. I am a world class procrastinator
B. I was born without a creativity gene
C. I have a dreadful fear of failure
D. I have a dreadful fear of success
E. I am in the beginning stages of senility

The Answer: F. All of the above

Except maybe for E. I could be in the advanced stages.

     Every single expert on writing says you must write something every single day....even if your house is blowing away in a tornado. Yes. Grab your laptop, crawl under your dining room wall, and just do it! "Discipline", they say. Chop-chop!!

     This one I should be able to handle easily. I believe myself to be a very disciplined person. After all, I remember to eat every day, don't I? Of course, I bought more than one gym membership and never saw the inside of a locker room. And, in spite of extensive training in daily flossing, that waxy little string cruises between my bicuspids only twice a year for the benefit of my dental hygienist. Still, I should be able to write something every day.....I could fit it into the time I'm supposed to be walking the dogs, but am instead drinking coffee and critiquing my pedicure.

     When I was in Heaven, waiting to be born, during the "Personality Characteristics Sign-Ups", I was probably so absorbed in the choices at the Food Preference counter, that I forgot to fall into the Original Thought line. So, when St. Christopher said it was time to travel on...well...I crawled under the cabbage leaf equipped with a robust appetite, and the tools required to be a responsible citizen, but sadly, in my skill sets, where making up stories and using my imagination were supposed to be, there was just a little hole.

     Reading is my passion. I have read every book I could get my hands on since I was five years old. I read every Nancy Drew book. I read James Michener's "Hawaii" when I was 11 which I pretty much understood except for the part where the man really liked it when the lady put her head under the covers. I've read historical novels, hysterical novels, murder mysteries and science fiction. My point is, one would think I could easily sketch out a story. Sorry. I guess for this one I will need prayer. Yeah, that's it. Prayer that God will send down an angel to fill the sad little hole in my head with plot lines, dialogues, themes and characters. 

     But, here is what I love about writing. Writing. My Ya-Ya, Judi, who makes her own cloth and paper  (yeah, I know, don't get me started) points out that this is our seventh decade and so should be "our" decade. We have raised kids, worked for 40 years, and tended to the world. She tactfully left out of her pep talk that this could also be our last decade. 

Well, I can't throw a pot on the old ceramic wheel, or weave my own wall-to-wall carpeting, but I do know a subject from a predicate plus my husband bought me a new laptop for my birthday.  So here I go.

     It is my time...and I'm well into autumn. Bye-bye ancient insecurities, I say, and hello a little frickin' faith in myself. I cannot please everyone, and most of them don't deserve it anyway. I would rather focus my energy on observing and writing about the absurdities, poignancies, and delights that keep life interesting. Maybe I can find a story in there somewhere. It is time I put up or shut up. And, if it turns out I get a D on my report card instead of an A, I will just have to resort to my Junior High school tactics for saving an Algebra grade. Study..........try harder...........then beg and plead.