Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For Your Eyes Only

Several months ago, when Smash and I first discussed starting a blog, we encountered a bit of skepticism from my husband-- let's call him Joe. Joe opined that he would expect to see the blog up and running just about..... never. Granted, a blog did have the sound of a new "project" and I'll be the first to admit that some previous endeavors didn't quite work out. But how can anyone finish crocheting an afghan after the pattern somehow goes askew and the shape becomes decidedly not rectangular? Who says that membership in a pricey fitness club translates into actual daily (weekly or occasional) exercise? And I AM still working on getting all the old photographs into albums. So there. But Joe took us seriously enough to mention the proposed blog to our college-age daughter who immediately got her back up and declared she knew that the only reason we would write a blog would be to write about HER! After that reaction, I thought it best just not to mention the subject to my oldest daughter, who, by the very nature of being the first-born, might call foul for not being included. Other than to Smash, I never spoke of the blog again, and I assume all memories of the original discussion are long forgotten.

I haven't told anyone, family or friends, that Smash and I are actually writing. I'm not sure why. Smash tells me that she has eagerly shown both friends and co-workers. I don't know why I'm reluctant. After all, I surely don't plan to write anything hurtful or derogatory about the people I care about. So why the hesitation? Perhaps it's a holdover from the years spent keeping secrets. Not big, important, or hurtful secrets.... just those little nothings that are shared by each daughter with her mom, little things that seem big at the time, hopes that may or may not turn into realities, realities that might make someone else feel hurt or envious. I listen, I process, I keep quiet. Other people's secrets are not mine to tell.

Still, it's unusual for me to have a secret of my own making. My life is for the most part the proverbial open book. Any blog entry even hinting at mystery or intrigue would most decidedly not be about me. I want people to read the blog. I hope they will find what Smash and I have to say both entertaining and interesting. I hope they'll comment and initiate new discussions. But unlike many of the blogs I myself read and enjoy, I can't make my entries a journal of my daily activities. Trust me, that would be sleep-inducing. So, instead I'll try to offer up things I think about, things that strike me as funny, things that drive me to distraction. And maybe, after awhile, I'll tell someone about the blog. But, for now, it's just our little secret.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Things That Were Lost

My mom actually does have a gold watch, or had one many years ago when we lived in Wisconsin. It was lost when she let me hold it and I dropped it down the wagon's heating vent. I don't recall why I did this. I do remember that she was less mad and more stunned.

Several things have been lost through the years. There are the intangibles, such as the belief your parents know everything, or the conviction your children are perfect. (Certainly the watch incident ruined that illusion.) And then there are the actual things that went missing. The less precious ones are too numerous to count - sweaters, softball gloves, retainers...But there are a few key pieces which are missed so much, they've become part of our family vernacular. In 7th grade my mom packed me off to a school bake sale with an enormous (and apparently one-of-a-kind) Tupperware container. The Tupperware was never seen again, and to this day when I allude to anything being misplaced, my mother will shriek, "Tupperware container! Tupperware container!" She never even mentions the cameo earrings from her 16th birthday that the plumber stole off my dresser top.

My sisters are equal offenders. The younger one loses so many things that we all cringe when she opens something nice at Christmas, knowing it will be lost by the New Year. The older does less losing and more misplacing. She provided many an evening's theatrics standing in front of her closet screaming accusations about some stolen skirt or belt. The obscenities stopped only when I, with courage unprecedented in a young child, stepped into her abyss and located the article front and center on the rack.

Despite such shaky beginnings, now as an adult I don't lose anything. (I refrain comment on the sisters.) Instead, I've married someone who loses everything and it infuriates me.
Daily from him: Where are the keys? Where are my vitamins? Where do "we" keep the stamps?
Annually from him: Where is the car registration? Where is the grill lighter? Where are the tax receipts?
Occasionally from me: WHERE THE HELL ARE THE 2006 TAX RETURNS?

Except for the things he loses (i.e. tax returns), I have a running mental inventory of everything in our lives. To a fault perhaps, because unlike my mom I hold a grudge when things go missing. There was a spoon three silverware sets ago that my roommate took to work and never brought back. And I'd like my copy of Jodi Picoult's The Pact returned, thank you. And to my nearest and dearest husband, could you please locate the turquoise towel I've had since college that belongs with its mate in the linen closet?

I realize this trait is unattractive. Last year I had a bad slip and carelessly left a treasured necklace in a hotel glass. Room service collected and the necklace was gone. I immediately called my mom, crying. (Side note: If we post her phone records her claims that she is no longer needed by her children would be quickly refuted.) So, I'm on the phone sniveling and Sooz, always a fan of straight talk said, "It's just a thing honey. That necklace is just a thing. You shouldn't be so attached." "I know, I know," I sniffed.

And I do know. I still really miss that necklace but nothing too great was lost when it was. I am lucky that the things I have lost have been, for the most part, things. And trite though it may be, we do have our memories and we have each other. Now where is that turquoise towel?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Even a Gold Watch

Thirty-three years ago after four years of marriage, a move to a new city, and a total lack of desire to hunt for a new job, I decided the time was right to have a baby. I was undeterred by the fact that we lived in a one bedroom rental, had only a minimum amount of money in the bank and no secretly stashed savings -- not to mention that I knew absolutely nothing about babies and childrearing. Why would these little things matter? I'd learn. We would survive. It would all work out. And within the year, our first daughter arrived. I left the hospital, headed (baby in arms; no carseat in those days!) for home and my new career: motherhood. Sure I faced a stiff learning curve, literally learning how to diaper (once again olden days-cloth diapers), feed, bathe, and care for my precious infant by reading the baby book and following the diagrams. There was no baby nurse, no mother, no mother-in-law to help. It was just me and my husband (while he wasn't working), but it didn't matter. I had found my passion, my calling, my career. I was a mother.

Two years later our family of three grew to a family of four with the birth of another daughter.
And as the years sped by I surrounded myself with all the trappings of my well-loved career -- a station wagon, carpools, volunteer jobs in the schools, Brownie scout leader, chief cook and bottle washer. Some days were harder than others; this career path definitely had some bumps along the way. But I loved it all. Despite my dedication and best intentions, I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. There are so many occasions that are still painful for me to remember and how I long for a do-over. But I did the best I could at that particular time. The damage was minimal (I hope) and my girls thrived. So did I.

A decade sped by, and suddenly my husband and I realized that the babies we adored were babies no more. A meticulous planner by nature, surprisingly once again I made a snap decison. We would have another baby. And that's just what we did. Daughter number three joined her then twelve and ten year old sisters. Practice had certainly not made perfect, but experience had helped, and I felt as though with the third, I hit my stride as a mother. The next six years were busy ones, with three kids, each at a different point in her life, in the house and needing mom's attention. Then one was off to college, a quick two years later followed by her sister. But, no worries, the "baby" was still there. I was not put out to pasture.

So, how could it be that in a blink of an eye, I was waving goodbye to that baby, as she stood in front of her college dorm? For thirty, THIRTY!, years, there had been a child in my house. Someone who needed me. Someone who required my care and attention. Someone to mother. But with that wave goodbye, I was forced into a retirement I didn't want. There was no retirement party, no golden parachute, not even a gold watch. It was over without fanfare.

My husband, whom I still adore after almost forty years, and I quickly fell into a pleasant childless routine. We enjoy each other's company. We go to movies. We eat in restaurants. We do as we please. There's no one to wait up for. There's no one who needs a ride. There's no one who needs a meal. It's an easy life. I see friends, work part-time, keep up with chores. I'm sure my life appears to be quite ideal. What is not visible is the floundering, the wondering who I am if I'm not someone's mom. My daughters have grown into lovely adults. They are smart and competent and building lives and families of their own. Just as it should be. Athough I
expect they would say differently, they really do not need me any longer. They know that; I know that. My job is done. That career, motherhood, is finished. So what comes next? After all, being someone's mom is all I ever wanted.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pressing Pause

My mom’s post made me laugh. First, despite a certain dedication to the online panda cam – she does not spend endless hours on the computer. She’s never at home when I call, always out working, at appointments, at the grocery store and more and more, out of town visiting her father. Secondly, “fast-paced demanding career” makes my job sound much more important than it is, though when (in disbelief) I read the phrase aloud to my co-worker, she actually agreed with it.

So maybe there is some truth to it. Certainly my weeks fly by in a haze of conference calls and emails, fires to be put out and coworkers to pacify. To be such a presence in my life, it certainly started very innocuously. Like my mom – I am exactly like her despite early resistance – I went to college, met a boy, fell in love and got married. Unlike my mom, who early on joyously settled in to homemaking, I became a working girl and now, nine years later, am a working woman.

The crazy here is that I have always hated work. It cuts into my day and requires me to be awake hours before my choosing, with clean hair no less. This dislike, however, does not affect my work; I take it very, very seriously. As a person who aims to please, I spend hours making sure my work is perfect and even more hours worrying that it might not be. When things do go wrong, I call my mother and her advice is always the same, “Fire someone.” It’s meant to be a joke, a little phrase to make me get some perspective. It hasn’t yet, but it does make me think. Think about the fact that I’ve become someone who checks her Blackberry at stoplights. It’s not all doom and gloom though. I love the people I work with, my business trips border on glamorous and I make good money.

These days it’s with equal parts dismay and delight that I can say while I still hate working, I love my job. It affords me a life I really like and it is only when I am extremely tired (overwrought, my mom would say) that I think about the downsides. I examine the numbers beyond the paycheck and the frequent flier miles. What do I mean? Well, with this job, dinner gets pushed back to 9p, friends get seen once a month, families are visited twice a year and babies are delayed until my mid (maybe late?) thirties. On the day-to-day, I’m okay with these figures and so is my husband. So we go and go and go. But some days I’d really like to just press pause. Maybe rewind. Maybe push stop, and play something new.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Beginning

For a while now my daughter and I have been talking about creating a blog. I volunteered to set it up.... after all, I waste endless hours on the computer while she spends her days in a fast-paced demanding career. I have no idea why it took me so long to sit down and go through the simple steps. But at last it's here. Sometimes the thoughts will be my daughter's. Sometimes they will be mine. Often they will be the same. Because we are simpatico.