Our dryer broke today but only after I had about eight loads of wet laundry waiting. I search online and find a heating element but in the meantime, we need towels and clean sheets. So at 10 PM I’m sitting on my mother’s couch waiting for a single load to finish; the rest of our wet clothing and linens are bundled into large black garbage bags and rest on her tidy laundry room floor. We always talk about world events and cultural phenomena when I visit with my mother. Tonight I mention the disturbing, disgusting tax breaks our country’s mega-rich receive and my mom interrupts me to angrily hold aloft her popsicle, “Like these! These are half as big as they used to be, and they cost twice as much! It makes me so angry!” I look down at my popsicle – lime flavor, duh! – and I realize, Sonofabitch, this damn thing is smaller. Life’s a bitch.
Shortly after I arrive home, the pain begins. It starts as a bit of a pinch, a bit breathless, and as usual I don’t really notice for a bit. But after about a half hour I come into awareness. So now: fright. The pain is rising, clashing, a small crescendo in my lower back – this time, on the left. The pain isn’t the hardest part. It’s the fear. I know how much worse the pain can get. I know it won’t kill me, but pain is my master. Pain like that, anyway.
By the time I am stepping into a hot shower – a futile distraction, a bit of comfort to my bones while my body runs riot and S-H-O-U-T-S! at me from the very within – by that time my hands are trembling. I am in a state of heightened awareness, of stillness. It has been about fifteen months since I’ve entered the hospital. I hope to stay out, tonight.
Out of the shower and I shakily dress myself. A hot pad for my lower back. I am shaking too much to type or text. I lie in the bed and gently rock back and forth, and shake. But maybe it won’t get worse.
And this time, it doesn’t.
Today some good things happened.
– watching my son shoot baskets, dribble the basketball, his lanky frame looking more and more like his father, the man I met when he was a boy
– sitting next to my mom on the bleachers and trying to tell her about a film I recently watched. And singing, “Across 110th Street” to remind her
– my daughter showing me things that make her laugh, and make her angry, on her phone. My daughter climbing into bed with me tonight while I suffered, and telling me she wouldn’t leave my side until the pain was gone
– my husband at the oven, baking hot pita bread, and washing his hands then coming close to hold me
– the moon tonight on a drive on the beach Highway… lonesome and cold and bright as a beacon
I’m driving my mother to a medical procedure this morning. It’s suddenly become cold – so icy out that I am delayed. The car heater does not work, so defrosting the windshield takes overlong. I end up driving with my windows down so I can see and within moments I am deeply, stunningly cold.
There is nothing like the discomfort of extreme elements to sharply bring one to the moment.
My mother is anxious. The preparation for her procedure has been unpleasant; she is hungry, and did not sleep last night. Her face is pinched and anxious; she is small and angry like a dried apple doll. She doesn’t know where to check in, so we ride elevators up and down. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible. Radiate calm. Despite the hundred and four things not quite going my way – I think my brake linings are going out! – I know it’s not the time to talk about any of that.
Leaving my mother in the hands of physicians for an hour, I am home to rustle up my children and take the eldest to class. Both children are unhappy: my daughter dreads an assignment today – my son wants to sleep. Then there’s work: my job is my job: low pay, twice as much work as I’d have time to do, but constantly being asked to cut my hours.
My daughter has a bowl of cereal and bundles up; she is tough. Her face, maturing into womanhood, still has some of that babyish look – the full cheeks, the slanted eyes. Her short haircut emphasizes today’s resemblance to her toddlerhood, and I feel a pang of loss.
My son, I placate with a hot Egg McMuffin.
And it’s wonderful to be doing for the family, to be with just the kids. I had so many years with them, that it feels like the normal thing.
Later: I pull on a new hat I’ve sewn, a slouchy beany. Then a hoodie. Down to the basement studio to work on a Christmas present. The kids clean the kitchen and start the dishwasher: a comforting sound.
The temperature hovers around freezing; melting, then re-solidifying the ice. No one has a fall. Darkness descends and I put my sewing away; upstairs and a fire in the fireplace.
Another day. <3 <3 <3
Christmas Eve day. A lovely day with the children, doing a little bit of shopping and cooking. For dinner I made borscht with mushroom-stuffed dumplings (barszcz with uszka – a Polish Christmas Eve first course), a basic goulash, and a winter lemon poppyseed salad; Ralph made pierogi. In a few minutes: a last course of fresh cherry pie.
My mom put the kids’ stockings together and I put hers together. We had a little set-to at her house this evening.
In the living room I hear my mother turn down the bread my husband offers; Nels asks if she’s on a diet. No, she says. Well, kinda. Her tummy – she tells my son – her tummy is real sick.
From the next room I can feel his demeanor change. He asks, “Have you been eating mushrooms?” He has that alert tone I recognize since he was about three. Like, The Cobweb. Like “Kibbleland”. He’s ten years old and so bright, but he’s still my baby.
Because I know what he means about the mushrooms. Sure enough, Nels now tells his grandmother: “There is this one kind of mushroom, if you eat it you feel okay at first. But then you get sick and die. And there’s no antidote.”
“Oh!” my mom says, taken aback. A bit impressed, really.
I’ve been so tired lately it’s like something’s wrong. Maybe more rest? Maybe more walks? I think of red meat, I think of fresh fruit. I think of Cher in the film Moonstruck, fixing a steak: “You’ll eat it bloody to feed your blood.”
I spent our Christmas money – I spent it on food for the family, and I “spent” it in the form of a loan to a friend who had to move. I don’t regret either, although sometimes I think I am not practical. I’d offered a loan back in the summer when she was imminently homeless and I had a little bit of savings.
But since the money is gone, I am oddly at peace. Mostly. Some moments, my mind chews on things. The seals in my car are gone and it makes the car wet, cold, and truth be told a bit unsafe to drive. My daughter needs cloth menstrual pads and new bras. There is something about puberty, it’s like leaving home with your baby and finding you are without coat or shoes, it doesn’t feel decent not to immediately provide – and provide as best as one can.
I need to fix my cracked tooth (going on two years – ha!). My husband needs jeans, and I’d like to get him a new wool coat (the green one he has, I bought it for him before we had children together). These little things, it’s my job for them to swim in my awareness, swim away as I rise for the day, wash my dishes, take the dog for a walk. Feel a profound gratitude for all the good things we have, not least of which are these children. They are my heart, they are anything that was ever good about me.
My children, I know, will have a wonderful Christmas. I sometimes get sentimental like most parents: wish I could be lavish and ridiculous and buy them something incredible. It’s okay to think on this a bit, because again the thought floats off and I’m left in the sunshine, in the cold, walking along the bay – I’m left at peace.
And I think to myself how fortunate I am we are satisfied with the life we have. Enough ingratitude, enough envy – and the fattest bank account won’t do the trick. Like Nels’ beloved poisonous mushroom, there is no antidote.
Today I finished a rayon blouse for my mother, to her exact specifications (construction details in the Flickr tagset).
The rayon yardage was a bit spendy; it feels like a dream against the skin. Of course, it was rather tricky to work with and nearly impossible to iron (I did my best).
My mother bought the yardage at least a dozen years ago; I was with her, and I remember. The last decade she’d taken it out a few times and lovingly stroked it, and made plans, but then put it back in the closet. She recently asked me to make her a blouse from the yardage and I quoted her a price. Even though she’s my mother, she still gets my, 100% refund policy. It is important my clients are happy with my work!
Don’t even come at me about the pockets. They are not saggy but rather are built such the pockets drape properly over her bust – drafted to C/D cup. Women’s wear – especially for large or curvaceous women – definitely looks a lot better on a woman, than on a hanger!
So – she arrives home tomorrow and she will find it hanging in her armoire. I really hope she likes it – it has been my privilege to sew her a few garments that fit not only her personal sense of style, but her body. Which, and I thought this over quite a bit, is like a lovely lady badger-dowager with slender shoulders and careworn teats.
Buttons – cross-hatched coconut. Perfect buttonholes – created on my Singer 201-2 using stabilizer, sealed from the backside with Fray-check, then cut with a buttonhole chisel. BOOM
The narrow hem (about 5/16″):
After she evaluates fit, I will make her another – this time, a gift. With a semi-sheer stretch silk – i.e. even more of a pain-in-the-ass fabric!
A lovely morning with the kids. Sewing. A lunch date with my family, and my mother. Some volunteer work. A visit from a friend. Holding my husband’s hand. About to get into bed with him, now. It’s been a long day!
This morning my mom came over and told me she was giving me the most beautiful thing she owned – some columbine she’d waited three years to bloom:
From Ralph and the kids: a coconut cream cake and a pop-out weasel card – both homemade! #wins
While I was out doing my volunteer thing, Ralph made a video. I love that he uses only: his voice, his uke, his car keys, and his wedding ring.
I’d love to write some awesome verbiage but today was a big day for me and I’m beat-ass tired.
G’night, my lovelies!
My mom, son and I are in the car and there’s some tension. Difficult subject matter. Not even something I’ve written about in this space. OTHER, difficult, stuff. My son and my mother are ganging up on me. I’ m not too upset. But, I gotta remember to take those deep breaths.
We’re bringing a plate of barbecue dinner to a friend. “How did you rate?” my mom asks my friend as we pull up to the coffeestand window to make the delivery. What my mom means is, What Did My Friend Do to deserve my homecooking.
My mom doesn’t like to cook and shop much any more. She likes to spend time with my kids, and putter about her house painting. She is like a little hobbit in there, although she ventures out to eat at the pub or go to the hardware store. We try to bring my mom a plate of dinner a few times a week. A few days ago: a delicious chili flavored with too much tabasco, deliciously piquant. To compensate for the heat: a cornbread sweet enough to be cake.
I’m thinking about my mom because she’s about to go through some rough stuff. Her father lies in a hospital, languishing. He’s probably going to go home for hospice care. It probably won’t be long. I know my mom can afford to get down there and I’m pretty sure she’ll go. I wish I could be there too. In fact it hurts not to be able to go. I like to be there for the big stuff, if people let me. I try not to think about the fact I won’t be there. It is too painful to think about.
My grandpa used to call me “Rotten Peach”. He brings it up whenever I see him.
Life goes on. Scrubbing pots and pans and making hot coffee. We let Bun-Bun the rabbit out most times we are home. He is a MANIAC, I am not even kidding that all he wants to do is eat treats. He has his regular food but he comes crashing into the kitchen and will straight-up jump directly into the garbage can to find delicious things. He is a monster and I am not joking. I hold him against my chest and put my face in his fur and feel like crying. He is so perfect and soft and smells so lovely and is such a peaceable thing.
Tomorrow we’ve a series of appointments – then Nels and I are heading out to Phoenix’s school to cook bread pudding with the kids at Phee’s school.
Life is a little sharp around the edges but I take a lot of comfort in participating in the human race.
Phoenix and I cut eyes at one another as Nels heads back into the kitchen – he’s happily chirping something-or-other, picking up a glass of milk to accompany his lunch of homemade matzoh ball soup. While we wait for him to return she and I turn back to the newest member of the family, “Jumpkin”. Jumpkin is a cheap plastic Halloween jack-o-lantern candy bucket, inexplicably “dressed” in a pair of Nels’ underwear and old flip flops and sitting at the table in mute (to us) reproach. An hour before, as I sat stitching away in my sewing room, Nels had emerged from a morning bath talking tenderly to this creature while briskly brushing her plastic smile with his toothbrush (he brings this up later: “My, how clean your teeth are, Jumpkin!”). And now I’ve got an extra place to set at the table.
The afternoon develops. After I clean up lunch and while I sew, Jumpkin is ministered to alternatively with tender loving care – Nels asks Jumpkin her preferences about afternoon activities and pauses while listening to her responses – and then sly pranks (“Such filthy language, Jumpkin!” Pheonix retorts in a shocked tone, after a bit of silence at the table). I arrive home later in the evening and Jumpkin is stacked with party accoutrement for tonight’s meteor shower party: pretzels, honey sticks, a flashlight.
Today was beautiful. The sun breaks out and the children are delighted – and I mean like, four-star delighted – when I unpack their warm weather sandals. They walk the dog down to the grocery store to buy their choice of breakfast cereal, a baffling product named SMORZ that is even more sugary and shabby and ridiculous than I could have guessed (later, Nels refers to the day’s repasts as “a sugar montage”).
Tonight: a fire burns in my mother’s backyard pit but it can’t keep the chill quite out of my coat. I huddle and watch the flames, content but not sleepily so for the cold. My daughter says to us, serenely: “Everything is for sale – but you can’t buy happiness”. My mother fetches coats and blankets and offers to cut up apples and cheese for the kids. They are the centerpiece of our gathering, happily picking through yard waste and bits of scrap lumber and raffia ties and feeding these into the flames. Two of our cats duck past on fences and through the greenhouse, watching with night-bright eyes. Nels beams from his grandmother’s old corduroy coat and talks near non-stop and hauls Jumpkin from chair to chair; he finds a rock in the shape of a heart and triumphantly plunks it in Jumpkin’s recesses. Hutch, excited, pants and drinks from ceramic plant holders and trots here and there and ducks and smiles and finally settles on an old afghan. Ralph fiddles with the telescope and shows me the moon’s craters; later, like a ghost he spirits across the wet grass of the dark yard and sets up the telescope first here then there, and now to see Jupiter. I look in the eyepiece and my own breath causes the watery vision to tremble: Jupiter, faint atmospheric stripes the colors of creamsicle ice cream; and distant moons at precise orientation to the planet.
Nels cradles Jumpkin, safe from the fire, offering aloud her opinions on a variety of subjects and her thoughts on the various members of the family. He holds her in his arms and turns to her and says, “Jumpkin? Don’t get mad. Can I tell you something?” then he brings her close to his bright cheek and whispers, “You’re really just a soulless husk of plastic.”
This morning my children, husband, mother and I, as well as my kids’ friend A., hit the road and headed to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as day ONE of our daughter’s BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZAAAAAAAAAaaA
Tiger cub does BLUE STEEL —
OK then. I took a billion pictures of the red wolves – because I love wolves so much. They are spookily beautiful. Pictures can’t capture it. But maybe this stretch will translate pretty well:
The wolves really do move around in an eerily-coordinated pack; they grapple but silently.
Feeding stinky waterfowl; many were shy about getting a tasty fish:
Dancing Shrimp! You are looking at their tails, here. They were shy and would not turn around, but they did have a coordinated dance going on. They were less than an inch long. Beautiful.
A spooky octopus. No way to get a good photo; I just enjoyed her as she moved about.
A handsome goat that kind of reminds me of Jasmine’s dubstep boyfriend. I refused to take a photo of the even-greedier goat to the left.
The arctic fox. Ralph and I have a great little story about this fella but it’s probably only funny to us. Anyway, my mom was so excited by his cuteness. She laughed and clapped and turned around to smile at Ralph and I as we walked toward her on the trail and I said to him, “the littlest grandma.”
“‘Sup, we’re gibbons. DEAL WITH IT.”
Children in the bamboo, being lovely. Nels:
Peacocking! These peacocks were shady as fuck. Like one creeped a single mama out to her car and stood there watching her and I think she felt a bit weird about it.
Nels took many photos and texted them to his friend D.’s mama. So, there’s that.
Tiger cub, playing! This was rather touching. You could see this fellow really loved the little feline. “Little”, a six month tiger cub about sixty-five pounds of muscle and hungry potentiality. Very powerful to watch, even as a baby.
The two of them kept playing (the guy was like, “I’ve got a tiger, you don’t, so I’m awesome”) but I noticed the tiger would crawl up on the stump behind his human playmate, then jump on his neck and gnaw on it. This is how most tiger attacks go down – from behind, at the neck. And the VAST majority of tiger attacks are successful – for the tiger. (Here are some tiger attack tips! Also, LOLOLO). So anyway it was cute this guy thought the tiger was “playing” but it was actually, “practicing how to kill and eat him.”
This is E.T. the walrus. He is 3300 pounds of sass, and he likes to play with his massive walrus-dick (oosik represent!). While we were watching him he did this magnificent half-somersault, except instead of completing it it grappled his own business and whiskerly-chewed on it.
A photo on the steps; the kids talk about E.T.’s “trick” somersault, because my mom kept calling it a “trick” delightedly as she hadn’t caught the naughty bit of it until the kids finally detailed her a bit.
Two siamangs cuddle after eating bananas. I gotta admit, it is satisfying to watch monkeys eat bananas. And it’s sweet to watch monkeys cuddle. And it’s sad to see monkeys in enclosures.
The touch tanks. Today was kind of special. I got to see the very moment a docent talked my son into touching an anenome; and he did. I got to watch him go from fear, to wonder. It was pretty cool.
Nels, staring down a nurse shark.
After our lengthy stay at the zoo, we traveled to pho, had coffee and doughnuts at the Krispy Kreme (the kids enjoyed watching them make the doughnuts and spent several minutes enthralled), and then I shambled my various coupons into Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Craft for some sewing supplies (I am not much of a coupon-er but FABRIC COUPONS are an organizing principle of my life).
Today was a good day: day one of three of Phee’s birthday. Tomorrow we have some more awesomesauce. We Hogabooms go hard, it must be admitted.