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Posts Tagged ‘child’

Despite the odds, we’ve made it. It wasn’t exactly a shotgun wedding, but we decided for the sake of the baby, we’d get married. I know my friends thought I was stupid, but I was already 21, Evie was 18 and Max was almost a year old, and, it just wasn’t right to me and Evie that we weren’t a family. So we became one. Our parents were relieved. They couldn’t hide that.

Then a year later we had Jess, so we were in it to win it. For a while we struggled, sure. Though the only time I ever seriously considered cheating was when I lost my job 10 years ago; the kids were almost out the door and my ego wanted massaging. One of the managers at the old office wanted to massage it, but I passed before things got to the point of no return. I also wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror.

Max? He’s 27, a carpenter. Jess is 25 and a stand-up. She’s pretty good, once I got over hearing her swear. You never want to think of your little girl swearing. Our friends have little kids and teens, and you can feel the envy when they’re at the house, except for Trina; Trina met a friend of Max’s at our house and they’re together now. Trina’s 42. Will’s 30. They really hit it off.

I look strange? Yeah, well… Evie told me yesterday we’re pregnant. Jesus. Pregnant. I’m 47. Evie’s 44. I’ll be 65 with an 18 year old kid. 65!

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“Mommy?”
“Hmm?”
“Mommy!”

“What, Patrick, what?”

“Stop reading and talk to me.”

“OK. Book is closed.”
“If I was a dog I’d go, ‘woof-woof’?”
“Yes. Approximately.”

“And if I was a cat, I’d go, “meow-meow’?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“But what if I were a rock?”

“Rocks don’t make their own sounds, honey.”

“But when I throw it, it makes a sound!”

“That’s because it hit something else. Rocks aren’t alive.”

“Oh. So dogs and cats and us are alive.”

“Yes.”

“Are rocks alive?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Rocks don’t grow.”

“They don’t?”

“No. And rocks don’t feel anything.”

“Do flowers feel?”

“I think we’re trying to find out. Scientists, that is.”

“Flowers are alive.”

“Yes.”

“And carrots?”

“Plants are alive until we pull them off the trees or out of the ground.”

“Is dirt alive?

“No. Dirt’s just ground-up rocks.”

“I’m confoozled.”

“When you are bigger and in school longer, you will learn all about it.”

“OK. It’s OK to eat carrots?”

“Every living being has to eat to stay alive, so, yes, it’s OK.”

“Would a tiger eat me?”

“If it was hungry and could catch you, yes!”

“I would run and run!”

“It would be better to be far away from a tiger.”

“I saw a cat outside eat its babies!”

“What! When?”

“Today! They were tiny!”

“Oh, honey. I’m sorry. Sometimes that happens.”

“You won’t eat me, will you?”

“No! Oh, no wonder! Believe me, I would never eat you! I love you!”

“You do?”

“Yes!”

“OK. That’s very good.”

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My damp hair clung to my cheeks. I couldn’t move my arms to take my woolen hat off.

My shoulders felt like lead weights, my left burdened with five large white plastic bags, each brim-full with knits, socks, toys, board games, wrapping paper… The boxes from the board games were sticking me up; turning left pushed the edge of one into my stomach. Turning right, I’d get shivved in the kidney. At the end of my right arm, a tiny moppet clone of me swaddled in a down jacket and fat little boots blinked at the other screaming, darting children and held my hand. We were near the front of the snake-like queue, and I wanted to take a whack-a-mole stick to the rampaging Veruca Salts. The other parents had obviously foregone even the bare minimum of behavioural standards. They were as rats in a Skinner box to Molly, apparently.

“Mommy. That isn’t Santa, you know.” She owlishly observed the not-very-fat man in the suit about 3 yards ahead.

“No?”

“No.”

“Well, then, who is he?”

“He’s the… the… the… subatute!”

“The substitute?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then where’s Santa? I didn’t come all this was to see a (I couldn’t resist) subatute!”

“He’s busy making toys! So he send the guys to get the list from all the kids!”

“So that’s why we’re staying.”

“Uh-huh.”

“What do you want Santa to get you?”

“Can’t tell you. I tell the subatute.”

“OK.”

Just what I would have said. I love this kid.

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“I wish I could’ve written the theme music to Doctor Who. Or Barney Miller.”

Barney Miller? Those royalty checks must come in for the tens of dollars!”

“Not for the royalties – that bass line is for the ages. Or Taxi. Hill Street Blues. They don’t write themes like that now.”

“I always wanted to sing on some, like, Good Times or The Jeffersons or Schoolhouse Rock.”

“Not One Day at a Time?”

“Hate that show. I’d sing Mary Tyler Moore’s, though.”

“That’s a good one. If I were going to write a theme with lyrics? ‘Believe it or Not’.”

Ripley’s Believe It or Not didn’t have lyrics! Just that creepy guy who does push-ups.”

“No, not… anyway, Jack Palance could still break you in half on his worst day.”

“He’s dead.”

“Well, exactly.  I meant The Greatest American Hero.”

“The one with the dorky blond teacher with the supersuit? Get out of here!”

“Listen, when I was a kid, I’m at the dentist’s office with my mom. They’ve got the soft rock station going, and this song comes on, the full version for radio, and my mom was humming to it and when I looked at her, she said, ‘It’s a song to a show I used to really love.’ So I learned it. I’d sing it to her the last time she got sick.”

“Man.  Really?”

“Yeah.”

“It was probably just some throwaway thing to those guys.”

“Yeah. Little did they know.”

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Once, I romanticized being unhappy, not realizing I was doing so. But if you asked me who was the “realer” person, what was the “more authentic” experience, I’d pick whichever one was most lonely and sad. In school (and later at various jobs), I was drawn to the moody people and tried to draw them out so that they’d bestow some measure of approval upon me, like, “You’ll do.”

How uncomfortable it is now to look at that me, starving for attention from angry people.  When I look father back, I wasn’t that person at all. I’d tap dance on my aunt’s bar for my own amusement, or sang songs loudly. Very energetic – and happy – even after the horrors that had gone on before, because I thought they were over.  I wasn’t manic, but I definitely ran on higher octane than, say, Shirley Temple.

By 6, the tap dancing stopped; my mouth was shut. What I was going through at ‘home’ was a partial cause, but I’d come to believe by then that what was happening there was “real life”.  No one told me that wasn’t true, or that I had control over the thoughts I’d think (and I’d work that lesson in every day if I had kids), but I didn’t get the memo by design. I lived my life firmly believing that “happiness”, for me, was a scam.

Stay miserable, you! And tend to the miserable forever! (cue cackling of villain)

Yikes.

Feels great to grow up.

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“What’cha listening to?”

“Missing Persons.”

“Who?”

“Missing Persons. ‘Do you hear me? Do you care?‘”

“Corny old stuff.”

“Classics of New Wave. Kesha’s corny already! Aw, come here , Noodle. You’re still my favourite tiny sister, even with such bad taste in pop music.”

“I’m your only tiny sister!”

“Noodle” (born Natasha) had been their family’s mid-life surprise and was 20 years younger than Kimberly.  Kimberly gave the giggling teenager a squeeze, What are words for if no one listens anymore? wafting over them.

“How you doing?”

“I’m ready to go!”

“That bad?”

“They argue every single day. That TA in his History seminar still calls. Can I tell you something?”

“Shoot.”

“He tries to act like he still loves Mom, but he doesn’t. He wants Mom to take care of him like always, while he’s…  with these girls!”

GIRLS?”

“The TA’s not the only one.  The others call the house, too. Mom knows. She’s so hurt.”

Kim imagined it was hard for 17-year-old Noodle to recognize that Dad was a bounder.

“You’re moving in with David and me. Today. This is ridiculous.”

“I know people cheat, Kim. Why lie? It’s so stupid!”

“Because, as you say, they want it ‘just like always’, even when it isn’t anymore.”

Kimberly hugged Noodle tighter and remembered Noodle was born after Dad pulled a similar stunt, a lull in his antics. At his age! He could be fired, too, and then where would Mom be? Kim was silently grateful for her own loving husband.

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“Look who’s home! Meredith, sweetheart!”

“Mom’s on an errand, Sharon, 20 minutes, but come on in! You want a cup of coffee?”

“Yeah, I’d love one. You’re a doll. You know, I’m glad she’s not back yet. Gotta talk to you about her.”

“Sharon, I don’t want to get in the middle of anything between you – ”

“No, not where I’m going. Listen. I’m at the grocery store with her on Wednesday. One minute she’s talking to me about Weight Watcher’s  cheesecake, the next, she’s asking me,  ‘I’m sorry, what’s your name again?’  I know.  I’m shocked too.”

“Has this happened before Wednesday?”

“Well… a couple times in the last few months. But I dismissed ’em then.”

“Sharon!”

“Look, sweetheart, you’re still in school. It only happened a couple of times. I didn’t put it together until Wednesday, and why worry you?”

“She’s only 52.”

“Yeah. So now I’m worried. When you were born, Leo was already a senior in high school. You were all new to the neighbourhood. Your mother, the nervous new mother. So far apart in age and experience, and look, we’re best friends now.”

“What do I do?”

“We’ll figure it out, dear, you, me and your father. New to me, too. You’d think I’d get something like this, at my age…”

“65’s not old!”

“Well, 52 is even younger.”

“Maybe it’s something else.”

“I hope so. Where is she?”

“Picking up some curtains at the cleaners.”

“She take the car?”

“Yeah.”

“You got her licence plate number?”

“Oh, God.”

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