Tag Archives: authenticity

Preparing for the Push Off

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I’ve been in denial about this for months.

It’s almost here. Three weeks from this past Thursday will be it. The day my first, my oldest son pushes off for college.

It started out subtly enough, the departing. In May, he had his final soccer game of his pre-college life. The U-19 league. So, soon after that last game I found myself repressing a lump in my throat as I confronted a simple thing. Just a swipe, really, but it felt as though my hand were made of iron and it was dragging along a magnet. Trying to move, trying to get my finger to drag over my laptop’s touchpad to deliberately press the “delete event” prompt from my family’s calendar and alerts for his soccer practice reminders.

I shouldn’t be so maudlin. I hadn’t been driving him to practice for months. He was a late-blooming driver. It was my pleasure to take him to practice or ride shotgun as he drove. Our conversations in the car varied from laughing about a Ben Bailey stand-up routine to talking about his friends, class work, or social disappointments. Sometimes it was just silence. Or really loud Kanye West. But those days are over. I no longer need to see the alerts on my phone about his practices. So I drag my right hand with my left hand to click “delete” on the alerts.

I don’t want to click “delete.” It is really hard to click delete on that alert.

I couldn’t possibly be prouder of the young man he’s become. He’s handsome, funny, really smart, creative, clever, sensitive, caring… all the things I wanted him to become. I didn’t do it though; he came with that software already installed. I suppose I helped him learn to use it, but we all know our kids are pre-formed before we get them.

I met him in the middle of the night more than 18 years ago. He was just eight pounds and almost 21 inches long. I remember, he was so quiet, the doctors thought there was something amiss. Perhaps he wasn’t breathing well. Maybe his brain was misfiring. But his eyes… his father knew he was just fine. His eyes were bright and blue-green and so serene. So calm and observant. “I knew those eyes the minute I saw them open,” his father said. “They were your eyes. They were just like yours…”

They put him in the “french fry warmer” as we called it, to keep him cozy. They invaded him with their suction devices and wiped him of his vernix. Soon he let them have it, a robust and brief goat-like bleat from that enormous head. It was just after midnight when he was born and I was totaled. I’d been dealing with dormant but annoying labor for about 25 hours. I wanted to see him.

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They did their tests and pokes on him. They were stupid, I think now. “Haven’t you ever met a mellow baby?” I remember thinking about them the next day. “Look at him, he’s perfect…” I would sigh and stare at this beautiful son… “Connor. Hello.” I met him in the morning, around 4. It was dark and he was hungry, so I learned to try to breastfeed him. It took a few days, but we figured it out.

Look at him now! 5’10” and 150. Hair almost as dark as mine when I was his age and his big green eyes.

“You should write Batman’s in My Shower now, Mom,” he said about a month ago. Batman’s in My Shower is the title I decided to give to a memoir back when my boys were 10 years younger than they are now. I wanted to write about becoming a mother and how it’s changed me.

The title comes from the truth that in my bathroom shower for years was at least one Batman action figure for my sons to play with while they bathed. The book would be about how my life melded with theirs and how my space became theirs as we grew into one another and gradually apart from one another. I remember holding one of the boys while he played with the doll and I washed his hair and cleaned his little squirming body as he would have Batman and a squirting goldfish battle it out under the Water-pik shower head typhoon.

Washing a child in a shower is like trying to wash a hairless cat that won’t scratch your face off because it actually likes the water spraying in its face. The cat is animated, no doubt, but it’s not deadly and it’s writhing and hissing joyous coos of delight as the baby shampoo (remember that smell?) lathers and runs down their faces.

The sole remaining Batman has a layer of soap scum in his armpits and crotch; his cape is hard and stiff like a chamois that’s been hung in the sun. He’s covered in a layer of dried soap and hard water residue from years of torrential cleansing. He’s perfect.

I haven’t dared to write more than a page of BiMS because that would mean that I’ve crossed over a benchmark, that the “memoir” is activated because the moment is past; that the “mothering” is over. So I sit here, in wait. Wondering when the feelings of the intensity of his impending departure will pass and I will feel light and airy again.

“Raise your hands if you have a student who will be living on campus and you live in the area…” said the admissions person at new student / new parent orientation last week. Her eyes scanned the ballroom. At least 30 hands, including my own, went up; some sheepishly, some defiantly.

“Make no mistake. If it’s five minutes or five hours or across the street or across the country, your child is leaving home,” I almost broke out into tears at that moment. I had to keep it together. She was right, that hag. My kid is leaving home. He is about a good run’s distance, 4 miles, from home, but he’s not going to be here every day when I wake up. Nor will he be here when I avoid making dinner.

You see, Connor has been my wingman for better part of a third of my life. He has grounded me, helped me chill out, provided a better reason than a paycheck to get up every morning, and has generally made me a better person. He has made me a better mother for his brothers. He has made me a better friend to my friends and he has made me a better daughter to my parents. I don’t want to foist too much upon him because that’s not fair. I’ve done a lot of Work too, he just made it a fantastic reason to do it.

I’ve prepared him a bit I hope too. I stopped washing his clothes for him about four years ago. He’s got it down — brights with brights. He’s good at it. That transition began subtly enough too, and I will own that I’ve relapsed a few times. Like a junkie, I’ve slipped back into Mom-mode for him and folded his t-shirts or even turned them right-side-out when they come out of the dryer. I have to stop myself sometimes from unbending his jeans from of the mind-boggling twisted rebar-like clump they’ve morphed into as I heave the next crate of wet clothes into the dryer. Some articles are easier than others to let go. Socks for one… I would rather eat McDonald’s, no. I take that back. I would still sort his socks over eating McDonald’s.

My father said to me about two weeks ago that what I’m about to experience, my child leaving home for college, is in his estimation one of the most emotionally arduous and profound experiences in my parenting. “I don’t know what it’s like to watch a child leave for college from such a deeply loving and supportive home, so you’ll have to excuse me as I soak all this in vicariously,” he admitted during that conversation. “My own mother, she was difficult. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but she made it awful hard on me. I never looked back,” he added, “when I left for school.”

I never left home for college. I went to university locally. It was part of my life I suppose: my mother needed my vigilance. I would’ve loved to have lived on campus. I remember visiting my friends who lived in the dorms. Music, “The Cult” was always playing and the halls smelled like popcorn, pot, ramen, vanilla body spray, coffee, patchouli, Dr. Pepper, Finesse shampoo… beer…  I promised myself that if my kids ever wanted to live on campus — even if they went to school locally — that they would live on campus. I’m really glad we have chosen this.

I asked Connor about his own thoughts and impressions; if he’s ready to go, if he’s looking forward to it. “I’m excited. It’s nice though, to not want to leave, too. I’m lucky to be going, to be able to attend college, and I’m lucky to be not terribly ready to go… That it will be hard to go and nice to go… Does that make sense?”

He couldn’t have said it better.

I know I haven’t been writing here or personally anywhere is because of this. How do I go from being a hands-on, non-helicopter Mom of three to this? It is really perplexing. I bought a comforter set for his bed; sheets, pillows, all the towels and textiles. A 28-oz size bottle of Pert (his favorite) is in a bag and waiting for that first pump somewhere in his shower. Without a Batman, likely. I thought I was finished shopping and then I caught up with a bestie today who’s oldest son is also heading out soon for the first time (he’s very tight with my son) and I realized I don’t have pens for him. I didn’t buy pens or notebooks or a stapler. WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER SENDS HER KID OFF TO COLLEGE WITHOUT PENS??

I’ll tell you: the mother who really doesn’t want her kid to leave. Sure, he’s got a computer, but who needs that? We all know learning happens with a pen and paper. No. The “real learning” my son will experience will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook or in the hushed whirr of a hard drive. It’s waiting for him in the dormitory, in the lecture halls, at the dining hall, and in the random conversations with exhausted students in late-night study groups and eating fests.

Really? Did I just write ‘the real learning  … will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook’? Someone shove then trip me when I leave this room. I deserve it. Who knows where the real learning takes place? I hope it’s been taking place all along.  

I expect I will be an emotional disaster worthy of FEMA assistance when I leave him on the 25th. Every time that damned song from “Narnia” comes on my playlist, “The Call,” I start to blubber and sob, really deep ugly crying. It’s not ok. When he walks in the room, I’m all super sunshine and smiles! No, I’m not, and he gets it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from witnessing my mother, it’s that “the show must go on, kid” mentality is a one-way ticket to Xanaxia. I expect the music at the dorms on drop-off day will be Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” or some unknown genre which will pulsate and grind and moan. It will be played at a precise megahertz to annoy the shit out of aging parents and get them the hell off campus tout de suite.

There’s a part of me which needs to go for a drive, a long drive to, say, Charlottesville or somewhere similar so I can process the reality that he’s out. If he were a challenging kid or obstinate or disrespectful or basically horrid, this would be so much easier. He’s not. He’s a GEM of a human. I’ll be real with you, we argue at times, and I think it might be happening more a little now than it ever did, and I wonder if that’s because we know what’s coming.

Is it like one of those “distancing-prep” dynamics wherein people begin to isolate and curl into their corners before a big departure? I am not sure, we are pretty real with each other. He’s all-too ready at times to tell me I’m the reason we are SPEAKING LOUDLY AND CURTLY AT EACH OTHER.

Maybe not Charlottesville… Maybe  I’ll go to the parking lot of his college and stalk him.

My youngest asked me the other day, “Do you think Connor will come home, Mom? You know, just to hang out…?” I honestly didn’t know what to say. I have no expectations. My youngest and my oldest are very similar in temperament. Five and a half years rests between them; we refer to those two as “the bookends” because they are so grounded and rational.

Connor needs this though, to have his own experiences, and I’m so happy for him that he will have them. I’m equally happy that my other sons will miss him a lot. My middle son is excited for him, and he’s really bummed out. “It will be weird around here, without him,” he said. “Like, for every morning of my life, he’s been here to play with or annoy or learn from. He’s taught me so much…” he turns away, stops talking and leaves the room. I start to well up. I know he’s welling up. It’s a frequent occurrence, these bloated, trailing-off conversations about Connor leaving for college.

We talk, we parents, about how we’re robbed of time with our kids. How they grow up and change so fast. How the days drag on but the years fly by… All the clichés and adages and truths. In the end though, we don’t want them here when they’re 33. We want them out and about and falling in love and starting their own families maybe or going to graduate school or getting married… we don’t want them in our basements. We don’t want them in their footie pajamas all their lives — EVEN IF we could have them at cute and floppy, sticky-fingered, sweet-smelling 22 months, all their lives, we wouldn’t want that. Not ever. Don’t tell me you would. “Just one more day… like this…” No. You want them to grow and learn and thrive and shave.

Another friend and I were talking last week. Her son who is Connor’s peer is her youngest of four. He and Connor “played soccer” together when they were five. He is leaving too, for a college five hours away. She was telling me about their conversation they had about his “drop off” at school. She said she asked him if he thought it would be like hers, when her parents helped her unpack her room and they made her bed, and put her posters on the wall and hung up her clothes in the closet… they met her roommate, and then they all went to dinner and walked around the town a little… then her parents spent the night in town and had breakfast in the morning together before they left her alone with her “new life.” She asked him if it would be like that for him or would it be the type of situation where they unpack their car, drop off the boxes and leave him in the dorm to figure it out. No lunch together, no walk around town, no overnight at the local Marriott. She waited, she said, her eyes uncertain, a twitch betraying her calm.

“He said, ‘It will be the second one, mom. Dump and drive. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’ll be back…'” and she sighed after she told me what he said, and we laughed about it, because it was so “him” to say that.

“But I’m not ready…” she said, quietly, her lips pursing as her eyes gazed around her roomy kitchen. Empty of chaos and crusted mac & cheese pans.

And the friends are leaving too. That’s a part of this gig that no one really tells you about: that when your kid takes off for college, his friends are likely doing that as well, so all those faces and sounds and cups you cleaned up and backpacks you danced around won’t regularly be in your way again, either. We’ve been blessed to know lots of his friends, and his girlfriend? Don’t even get me started. Every time I think of her leaving too … it’s not good. I am like Mike Myers playing Linda Richman and having to take a break during “Coffee Talk” and ask you all to tawk ahmonst y’seves becawse I’ve becohm verklempt.

Right now, it’s late. I’m up writing and he’s in the other room watching “Bob’s Burgers” and I can hear him snorting and giggling. It’s really late. He should be in bed.

I’ve got 20, shit, 19 days before my father watches my son eagerly leave his home reluctantly. God help me. If it’s so good for him, why does it hurt so much?

Thank you.

 

Mindfulness can be Confusing and Political Correctness Fatigue

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The thing is … Life is not perfect nor predictable and that’s the only predictable part of it.

That clichés are often true doesn’t help.

Alert: Stream of consciousness commences … now. 

I’m starting a Mindfulness course tomorrow.

Gosh, just that sentence makes me laugh. There is no easy way to “be” in the moment. “Being in the moment” means there is no moment to be in as it’s always fleeting. If we say to someone, “be in the moment” — to her, or him, or whatever pronoun is least offensive (more on that later), that moment could be really shitty. So saying “it’s [that shitty moment] over” isn’t really true because we are not the person who experienced it, even though we know the quickest way to recover from that shitty moment is to realize it’s over, but for the person who experienced it: it keeps coming back, looping.

That looping, however, is totally addictive and most people like it because the brain doesn’t really know the difference between pleasure and pain — it just knows how to dump chemicals which are responses to stimuli. So more and more adrenals pump and we are on heightened states of alert and that alertness makes us feel important.

To someone…

“Be in the moment” is bullshit. But it’s also the Zen riddle, isn’t it?

Next … I am calling in sick due to political correctness fatigue (PCF — it’s a thing).

I wanted to say to someone today, because we’ve had an abbreviated week with Monday off for most of Americans, “The good part about thinking Tuesday is actually Monday is that Friday comes much sooner.” Thoughts like that happen often and I like to think are very Winnie-the-Pooh of me.

But I decided against saying that, or anything at all about it because I’d quickly be chastened to remember “Some people still had to work on Monday… and we should be grateful to them, so there is no such thing as thinking ‘Tuesday is actually Monday‘… there is no sooner Friday for those people…” the implicit next thought I’d infer from that astute person is that I should go fuck myself because I’m an insensitive jerk for assuming all Americans got Monday off.

I’ve recently received an email from a person I respect. Sort of. Well, I mean, I do respect this person because this person is a human being and deserves respect, but now I’m feeling all silly about it because this person has at the end of its email a signature (I shit you not):

3rd Person Pronouns: they/their/them

Item of note, this person’s name is the Spanish feminine for “the.” Knowing what I do of languages and of culture (limited but with aspirations of growth), I TRULY and SINCERELY wonder if a more appropriate PC name, and one in keeping with the English use of pronouns (so it’s already exclusive of all cultures seeing as how it’s English and all English are bad, just ask the Amish): “they/their/them” would one be lacking in any culture and would simply be Prince’s adopted glyph for his name:

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But because that’s clearly already taken, we could make a new one like this (it’s just a prototype):

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But even here, I’m constrained by the eventual truth that I will have left someone out. That I’m being exclusive. That I’m not truly open-minded. That it shouldn’t be mostly pink. Well, what you call pink, I call magenta (which has a lot of blue in it). See?

I hope I’ve covered everything though. That heart-like looking thing is supposed to be a heart, for love, but also for the actual heart in all artichokes, but then I didn’t want it to be unclear that I wasn’t including gamblers, so I drew a “club” in it, which of course could be exclusive because clubs are exclusive by nature, right? I mean the clubs one joins, not the ones dealt in a game of poker (or any card game! I mean to include all!) or the ones used by cavemen or golfers.

I was inclusive to all agronomists, grassists, turfists, sportos, Biarritzists, and potheads over to the right with that patch of grass (it looks like grass, but you can call it whatever you want, ’cause free world right?).

The far right is the tail of the Ichthus, which is that fish glyph one might observe on the tailgate of a car driven by a person who follows Christ — not in traffic, follows (however, you never can be sure), but you know, a person of faith.

Moving on.

The sun-like looking icon is a splattered egg. You are wrong for thinking it was to include helophiles. You are a fool. I shun you. Eggs aren’t just for breakfast.

That thing that looks like an “I” is for egoists and narcissists. And for people who like architecture because it resembles a column. It’s also a letter, so writers (POETS, TOO!) are included.

On the upper part, we have something that looks like waves in the water. That’s for hydrists. I made up the word.

Those who are stoned, or whatever, can find representation in the far lower left area — the scattering of dots, which can be interpreted as atoms, the insides of a capsule of Oxy, or dust motes in the winter coming through the southernmost window in a dilapidated abandoned crackhouse — OR — just places where I left my stylus too long.

The swirl-like item near the narcissist’s mark is a swirl. It’s for ice cream lovers. But only soft serve. The hand-packed ice-creamists will simply have to fend for themselves. Or it’s for recovering addicts because life feels swirly for them… but not just them, it feels swirly for all of us. So it’s for ice-cream, toilets, and addicts everyone.

That thing to the left of the hydrist’s glyph is a surfboard. Everyone has to catch some tasty waves.

And to the left of that is not a tree. It’s an atom bomb exploding. Look, where is the love for our nuclear engineers?!

Is that sort of a yin/yang thing going on center left? You tell me. I’d like to think so, but I’m open to whatever you think feel.

Those two dark “round-shaped” images near the yin/yang (“ish”) thing are supposed to represent Newton’s cradle. Just in case some of you refuse to accept the tree thing is NOT an atomic bomb. Or instead of being Newton’s cradle, it could be a smirk. RIGHT?!

There’s a paw-like looking thing. That’s where my cat stepped. But I do eat meat, so there’s that too.

That star-like part in the near-center (or maybe too far left for some of you) is from the early beginnings of this drawing. I can’t remember. But let’s make something up right now: it’s the “less than” sign. For all of us in our moments of inadequacy and self-doubt.

I think the reason why most of the world has a headache is because we are lost; lost from trying to do all things and follow all people and be nice to everyone and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and let everyone have a 50th chance and wait and see and #hashtag.

We all have our sense of right and wrong and count on it: they will clash with others’. I say we own our shortcomings, notice the shortcomings of others without really getting overworked about it and move on and do what works best for us.

Here’s me: if we’re worrying about being nice to everyone, we’ve lost our boundaries and when we lose our boundaries we become codependent and when we become codependent, we lose resilience and then it’s a free-for-all and everyone gets to be included and excluded.

That’s… sort of life. Tell me when you are constantly feeling included.

It’s a sad state of affairs when we worry more about offending others than we do our own sense of self and what works for ourselves.

What I’m saying is NOT about excluding others; it’s the opposite: it’s the taking into consideration that you’re definitely always going to be pissing off someone else at any turn, and to learn to be OK with it.

ANNNNNND for the people who are constantly working to look for ways to be excluded and to be offended: to get over yourselves. Person up. I won’t say “man up” because that’s mean. That’s gender specific, and being gender specific is limiting and so now I risk being seen as acerbic and mean and exclusive and horrible and WRONG even though we all know what the hell I mean.

I mean this: grow up.  Stop taking emotional selfies. Stop sharing. Stop. Draw a boundary and discern.

You’re going to let so many people in traffic ahead of you you’re going to be late. You won’t ever get there.

Polarity is a real thing. Accept it. Get used to it. Without it, our compasses (not metaphorical — yet) wouldn’t work.

I need a nap.

Thank you.

 

The Mad Pooper

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This post contains the use of “shit” a lot.

Something is going on in my neighborhood and it is really strange.

When I was a kid, my grandmother used to say, “Don’t go on the grass. That’s where the animals go.”

I was a kid. Words mean things. Especially in their base sense. I didn’t understand what she meant.

Go.

Well, if you’re me, and a kid, you want to go where the animals go. You like animals. They’re animals.

Grandma and Grandpa lived near the zoo, so I thought, maybe a lion has been here. I would like to see that lion. Or a giraffe. Maybe a giraffe is in the back yard, or somewhere on the grass, like in a place that I couldn’t see, maybe behind that tall blue spruce pine she had on the corner yard.

Naturally, I’d venture.

ON THE GRASS.

HORROR.

My mother would hissper (I just made it up: it’s a confluence of hiss and whisper) and gesticulate, her arms flailing wildly, “GET OFF THE GRASS THAT’S WHERE THE ANIMALS GO!!!” as though I was some sort of baboon idiot, that’s where the animals go!!!. 

My brothers or cousins, if they were with me, would giggle. I would likely continue and make a jump to the narrow concrete walkway leading to the backyard, my cape unfurling with my leaps.

“Is this OK?” I imagine myself asking, while in all likelihood I just dashed toward the backyard or to the actual sidewalk toward our car, Grandma likely either passed out, or in a state of apoplexy because I’d gone where the animals go.

Go.

Lots of places were off limits when we were at Grandma’s.

The upstairs for one. I’ll never forget my intrepid oldest cousin, the leader of the pack, who basically decided one day that enough was enough. College was in the wings and she ventured up to the second floor, slowly in the dark because it was always unlit, creaking up the steps, one by one and into a room, we could hear the door open, and she RETURNED, ALIVE and utterly unchanged. The same person. Her hair was not suddenly gray. Her emotional state was totally whatever, teenager, unfazed… so bored.

“There’s just a bunch of boxes up there,” she said.

Just.

Like.

That.

The mystery vaporized. The way Grandma protected that space… Anything, ANYTHING, could’ve been up there: Jesus, a dead teamster, fresh candy, a carousel, a live chained grizzly, or a band of harpies…

But no. Boxes?! It never occurred to me that it would be boxes and a bedroom and no dead bodies or clowns or war criminals.

My grandmother was not a “fresh chocolate chip cookies from the oven stacked on a colorful stoneware dish served with a clear glass of cold refreshing whole milk at a table” grandmother. My grandmother was a “freshly opened bag of Oreos / Chips A’Hoy / Fudge Stripes placed on a floppy paper plate as you waited for a styrofoam cup of fresh skim milk at a table” grandmother. And that’s OK. What Grandma lacked in ease, she more than made up for in humor and kindness. And recitations of the rosary at 11pm when you were waiting for the return of your parents in her living room on the davenport.

So I think I finally got it this morning: “where the animals go.

Go.

She meant “shit.” Grandma meant, That’s where the animals shit.

I’ve been walking my kids to the same elementary school for the better part of nearly 13 years. We use the path we always have, not going where the animals go, and never in my time over the last two years, and this year especially, have I encountered literal dog excrement actually on the path, in a tidy pile or heap or lump. Sometimes it’s a lonesome part of a turd in one place and just when you think you’re safe, you encounter its scattered brethren about 12 feet down the line, smeared or simply waiting.

Dogs do not “go” on the path naturally; they like the dirt, grass, forest or mulch. Hell, they don’t even want to be seen on a sidewalk or path; dogs are fauna. Expecting your dog to defecate on concrete or asphalt is contrary to their Dogness, their very DNA. I suspect having a human following them around picking up their contributions to the ecosystem is an insult to their sense of being. I can’t say I blame them. I’d like to give up the habit altogether, but I know it’s not healthy for the community.

I digress.

So what the what with the people whom I’m convinced are out of their God-loving minds?! Who are very likely totally jacked-up on some substance and take their dogs’ leavings and purposefully deposit them on the paths?

If it were just the path to school I’d think that it was one dog and that it shits wherever it does because this is its way. That this particular canid was raised by ignorant humans and that it shits on the floor in the living room or kitchen despite its instinct to shit somewhere private, out of the way, because essentially the human place it lives has become its place.

So the owner takes the dog out and the dog shits on the path, on the street (no shit!) and even on the wooden bridges over the little streams in the ‘hood?!

To quote a dear friend, “Who does that?!?!”

Yesterday I took my dogs for one of our standard long walks. We were about two miles from the house. As we crossed a wooden footbridge where people like to fish near a pond, Charlie was ahead and he stopped in his tracks to lift his paw, sniff and move around a bagel-sized mound of “frexcrement.” (Another made-up word by yours truly, a blend of “fresh” and “excrement.”)

Charlie actually looked back at me as if to say, “Watch out, Ma, Cugo was here about 10 minutes ago and he’s really pissed…Step over this one… >sigh<…”  Murphy was disgusted.

So experiencing that turd pile so far from home blew my proximity theory: that the person responsible for either letting its dog shit on the path or for actually placing its dog’s shit on the path lived nearby.

I had a short list of suspects.

One is an jerk I’ve known and mutually disliked for years. He’s an ass and his dogs are massive, but I doubt it’s him because he walks that path too and as much as I dislike the guy, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t boobytrap himself…

The other suspect is a tenant in a house we pass en route to school each day. It’s an out-of-state family whose reason for being here escapes me as I don’t see anyone in a military uniform or seasonally appropriate clothes ever. The woman is likely younger than I am but doesn’t seem to live on our plane(t) so she looks like she’s from the Medieval era due to her ignorance of hair arrangement appliances, rain coats, boots or sanity.

Often I witness her and her child on my walk back from school (admittedly moments late because Thing 3 simply can’t be bothered to rush and I dig that about him) desperately reaching into a crumpled bag of Chee-tos and sharing a Dr. Pepper. Others they share a canister of Sour Cream Pringles and take turns swigging from a bottle of Diet Pepsi. Sometimes the child is engrossed in a video game along the steep grade to the school, angered by mother’s insistence of eating the Frito-Lay of the Day breakfast.

Don’t assume I’m entertained by this duo. I’m not. It’s frightening for me because while I don’t want to go there, I will: it’s a little close to home for me as my childhood mornings were just as frantic, save for the maternal accompaniment on the journey to school on frosty mornings or rainy mornings or sunny mornings… mornings in general. So while this mother might be wearing a sun dress, with no evidence of an over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder on a frigid morning as she cravenly grabs into the Pringles canister, at least she is there. She’s walking her kid to school.

I suspect her and her tribe because there’s a dog in that house and the deposits have been on the the increase since they moved here. The last time I saw that dog was when it was in her arms… so… umm…. maybe not?

Anyway, lots of the poops are on the pipestem they live on and they go the distance to the school (I honestly can’t believe I’m writing about this…), but their freshness implies she’s been upright to let the dog out, but maybe it’s her child… However, as I said, the shits’ distance from the house now leads me to suspect there is a drugged-out or totally psychotic human being who is filled with enough rage against society to purposely deposit dog shit on the path.

Evidence of people stepping in it is everywhere: sneaker tread imprints, smears, feckless efforts to wipe it off on the asphalt or fallen leaves…

Are you bored yet? I almost am. It’s nearly over…

My incidence threat will be dramatically reduced soon because my kids are growing up.

I was saying to Thing 3 this morning that I will miss our mornings together as we walk to school, but that I won’t miss the poopy path.

He’s going on to middle school next year. My oldest is graduating and off to college and while the college he’ll be attending is literally less than 5 miles from our house, he will live on campus and have the full experience, so he won’t be here. And that will be different. I don’t want to say “and that will suck” because well, it won’t. It won’t suck. Yes it will.

Naturally it’s reminding me of when my older brother left for college, and that sucked. That whole scene was challenging because we moved from our home the same week he graduated from high school. The night of his graduation and related parties, he returned home to a massive Mayflower Moving truck in front of our home.

The next day that truck was packed, and pushed off from Buffalo to Northern Virginia and the day after that was my mother’s 47th birthday and we met it in front of our rental home. That was a radical time.

I’ve never understood the rush to get here that week. We usually would spend July in Canada but we came here instead. On her birthday. To the unbelievable humidity and heat and to my mother’s precipitous emotional collapse in a house she never saw and in a town she never accepted.

So I suspect I’ve taken to writing about the dog shit on the path because I don’t want to write about my kid taking off. I was texting one of my SILs the other day and I said, “Weren’t we just 26 and newly married last week?! wtf.”

Tempus Fugit.

Thank you.

 

Stardust #David #Bowie

Standard

I woke up this morning and did the usual thing: scanned my phone for headlines.

Despite the Redskins losing in a semi-final, the Washington Post chose to lead the morning’s news with an image of David Bowie. No argument here.

I thought it curious and incredible (in the truest sense of the word). The headline words were in an off-kilter, seemingly not-dedicated past tense, “Charismatic singer-songwriter possessed mesmerizing talents” sub head: “David Bowie influenced glam rock, new wave, punk and high fashion with edgy and androgynous alter egos who invited listeners to explore their personal mysteries.”

Read headline.  Hmm. David Bowie.

Look at image. Nice pic. Groovy, hot. Defiant. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 8.57.25 AM

Re-read subheadline. … Past tense. He has reinvented himself yet again, new album… it makes sense… but hmmm.

Look at image. He’s young here, looks great. Something’s off… 

Re-re-read subheadline…  Noooooo…. 

Tap on link. Scan scan scan… WHAT?!

I read the article and was summarily seven minutes late attending to my youngest son who was prepping for school.

I was NOT a little bummed out about this.

I don’t expect my dad to understand my sadness. I suppose that this loss is like his generation’s learning the Mozart had died.

In all fairness, I do remember my mother being a little blue when hearing that Elvis had died. She was sort of in a little funk after that. Alternately she would speak of his sexuality and her appreciation of his art as being “terrible music” and a worse actor. “Your father is more handsome than Elvis, and they were in the army at the same time…” She’d often said for decades after The King had died.

I remember being very very sad when the stuttered news of John Lennon had balanced across the airwaves. I was in the living room of our Buffalo house. My brother came rushing into the room after maybe hearing it somewhere else in the house. Or maybe we were together and he heard it there too; he was pretty busted up. All I knew is that the Beatles were never getting back together after that.

Kurt Cobain, another unbelievable loss. I remember exactly where I was when I found out he had died. I was 23 and working as an editorial assistant at a local publishing house. It was my job (and everyone else’s) to scan the bank of our A/P Newswire, Reuters, and UPI dot matrix printers which all seemed to have had a simultaneous seizure attack with the news of Nirvana’s crushingly self-conscious front man.

But for the majority of them, I was young when I’d heard about them. I was still a kid and so hearing that a rock star had died was sort of not terribly sad for me. It was half expected. Even Cobain, he was a contemporary and to me, hell-bent on achieving some horrific end.

But Bowie… Hearing about Bowie today is different.

Bowie was a pioneer, a legend, larger than life, and a fantastically in-your-face pot stirrer. I loved him. I didn’t ever own a lot of anyone’s music, but I really loved him. No matter what I was doing, when a Bowie tune came on the radio years ago or over our iTunes or Pandora in my later years, everything stopped and it was time to groove.

I went downstairs to my husband and mentioned it to him. “D’jou hear about Bowie? He died. Last night.”

“Yeah, Cornelius* mentioned it to me this morning. I sort of can’t believe it. I was just reading about him last week…” he said as he was awaiting the Keurig to urge the last drops of the Cinnamon Dolce into his cup.

“Cancer.” I said. “What a bummer. That was NOT COOL to wake up to.” And that he’d cranked out an album while that sick is just adding to his mystique and überhumanity.

It’s not that people aren’t allowed to die. But some deaths, after initially absorbed, seem fitting — Philip Seymour Hoffman / Heath Ledger and their respective accidental overdoses. Robin Williams’ suicide. All majorly upsetting ways to die. But somehow, when we take off the layers of our own sadness and misdirected mass-cultural appreciation for what these people represented, we understand them a little better and are still very sad about the loss, but it seems to gel.

But for me, right now, I have deduced that I am disappointed or put off in the manner in which Bowie died. I was fully expecting a motorcycle crash, or an airplane accident. Maybe even an accidental drug overdose but never CANCER. That he died in a most human way somehow for me belied his most seeming superhuman and celestial, preternatural existence.

Through all his iterations, incarnations, stage personae and antics, Bowie indeed taught and inspired us to live our art. To be fearless. To take chances and risks which make us feel more alive. I loved that when I felt weird and strange, he had songs about feeling weird and strange. And it didn’t feel inauthentic; it’s like when Thom Yorke of Radiohead sings raw and real in “Creep”: “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”

So in the late 70s I was about ten years old. Gangly, nerdy and dressed in Health Tex likely. I remember being with my much cooler and slightly older (but five years then was half my lifetime) cousins. In their teenage attic bedrooms a lá Greg Brady, and just dancing in the most geeky way to Suffragette City and its ramp-up to “WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!” and not knowing what the hell any of it was about, but loving it so much nonetheless.

Another cousin, slightly younger than me, has had a lifelong love of David Bowie. She has been very faithful, never wavering in her adulation of him as the pinnacle of her rock star loves. I’m sad for her today.

My older brother liked Bowie enough, but wasn’t like in LOVE with him. He definitely appreciated him for his rebellion and strangeness, but he was more into the Doors and the Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, and old Beatles tunes. I have no doubt this particular brother is heavily bummed about this death.

In 1981, “Under Pressure” came out and I remember being ABSOLUTELY STUNNED by the power of that anthem. It was released a few months after my move to Northern Virginia from Buffalo, and given my age (14), and the mounting pile of shit occurring in my family and personal life at that time, it hit on the head the exact way I was feeling. I remember pressing “record” on my Panasonic clock radio with built-in tape recorder when it was played on DC-101. Those wonderful 4″ speakers played the soundtrack of my life and got me through some heavy-duty angst and ennui.

But moving to NoVa at that time, despite its proximity to Georgetown, Washington D.C., and the much cooler Annapolis, Maryland, was the land of >gag me with a grody wooden spoon< Southern Rock. Bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alabama and Molly Hatchett and good lord who cares (no, that’s not the name of a SoRo band although it should be) reigned supreme here. No one I knew in my high school, other than the gay siblings of people I knew and their “alternative” drama and art friends (people I actually should have hung out more with) were into Bowie. Little did I know until much later how very cool those people were and are today. Tim, Michelle and others, you were and still are, the kewlest.

That same fall of ’81, my brother, who was off to college in upstate New York was kind enough to send me (or more likely leave behind) good music on mixed tapes (remember those? I just went out to dinner with a good friend and his new squeeze the other night and we had the best time talking about mixed tapes and college tunes — all to the sound track of some amazing Tom Petty playing in the background — which I had to request of our waiter Bobby to turn down NOT BECAUSE it was it too loud, but because it was too loud that we couldn’t talk about how amazing it was… there’s a difference) from bands like Depeche Mode, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, Gene Loves Jezebel and all the rest. Once I started getting into those tunes and I could drive to a record store, Waxie Maxie’s somewhat near home, I was off to the races. In no short order, my brother sort of saved me.

And within a few brief years later, that all hideous Southern Rock was shown the door (or at least the door to the unlit parking lot outside the club) thanks to a little quartet from Dublin known as U2.

My memories of David Bowie, like your memories of David Bowie, are what will keep him forever alive in our hearts, in our headphones and through our speakers. David Bowie got most of the people of my generation through some really hard adolescent days; David knew us, he knew what we were thinking and feeling better than we did.

As a parent, I hear myself playing in my head that gorgeous line from Changes:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

(For some reason, I can’t attach a youtube video of him singing Changes — in 2008, and it’s so lovely. But here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbnJo88kuP8)

Hearing that line again and again reminds me to let my kids feel what they’re feeling and that I just need to back the hell off and be a soft place to fall when they get off track.

I don’t normally write about popular culture or celebrity deaths, maybe that’s why my blog is so unpopular, but like Bowie, I prefer to write about what touches me and take risks expressing myself and sharing my world in ways others might think precarious. We have only one life and none of us need to spend it swaddled in crushing self-doubt and insecurity.

Let’s Dance, Modern Love… I could go on and on, but I won’t go on and on. I’ll let you wax in your own memories.

RIP David. You are now truly Stardust.

Thank you.

*stage name