Last year, we were at a friend’s house and The Who was standing on a big rock in their backyard next to his pal, B. I was standing on the ground next to him. The Who said, “I need help getting down,” and B replied, “Your mom can help you.” He looked at B blankly and said, “My mom is at work,” and there was a long period of silence as B looked over at me, standing inches away, and then back at The Who. And then back at me.
Not an uncommon exchange for a kid with two moms, I’d assume. And although B was completely befuddled, it of course made perfect sense to me. His ‘Mom’ is obviously “Mommy.” The parent standing next to him (me) was ‘Mama.’ Totally different person. B might as well have said, “that fork will get you down,” because a fork would be about as helpful as a parent over an hour’s drive away.
What’s funny is that it has taken all of The Who’s 4+ years for m* and I to get the “Mama/Mommy” thing down. And we’re still not 100%. We both still sometimes answer to the other one’s name and we both still sometimes refer to ourselves by the wrong name. Just like B — and most people — we were socialized to understand that the various names for mother all apply to the same person: the mother. But not so for The Who (and presumably other children of two mothers.) He learned our different names as though they really were completely different. He didn’t know anything else. To him, “Mama” and “Mommy” were as different as “Mommy” and “Daddy.” And I have actually always found this charming. I have been charmed by the innocence of small children and their willingness to accept what is taught to them as the sole truth.
But this is changing. He is beginning to understand it in a new way and this afternoon, he schooled me on it. He was recalling a story from his classroom earlier in which one of his teachers told him that his “mom wants him to wear sunscreen when he goes outside.” To which I replied, “Yeah, I do. Well, Mommy does, sure, but that is what I told her.”
“No, Mama,” he told me, in a slightly condescending but compassionate tone. “She didn’t mean ‘Mommy’ even though she said ‘Mom’. She meant you. Because Mama isn’t what she calls you. It’s what your kid calls you. It’s only your name to your kid. When someone says “your mom” they mean any of your parents, not just the one you call Mommy.”
Touché, kid. Touché
I have known for a long time that I wanted to have a “bucket list.” In fact, before bucket lists were even a “thing”, I sat silently across a Bickford’s table from my best friend as we both wrote down our “goals” in a Shaws Supermarket mini spiral-bound notebook. I still have my list somewhere in this house, I think. There were things on it like “Get a 4.0 at least once” (I did) and “Have a kid” (I obviously did.) Some of the items were trite because I was reaching (“Paint a sunset with words.” Seriously?) but mostly my heart was in the right place. I think having goals is a good thing. I think striving to accomplish things that are important to you has merit. I don’t particularly enjoy the term “bucket list” because it implies that I’m trying to get it all done before I kick the bucket, but if this is what it takes to motivate people to be their best selves and experience what the world has to offer, then so be it.
There’s a little card stuck on my fridge with a magnet and it reads, “If not now, when?” The quote is credited to the Talmud. Whether or not that is actually its origin, it seems as good a place as any to begin. So, here’s my Bucket List. (With the caveat that it is subject to change at any time from now until bucket day.)
- Take a cross-country road-trip (or two. I want to see every state.)
- Go back to Italy
- Learn to drive stick (Wtf? Why don’t I know this by now?)
- Write a book
- Grow a vegetable garden
There are a few others that are too personal to publish (even for me!) but that’s the bulk of them. It doesn’t seem like much and it doesn’t seem insurmountable. I’m excited to get started.
What’s on your bucket list?
I have always had an invincibility problem. Like, I have believed I was invincible to a greater extent than just my youth commanded. I mean, kids think they are invincible. And teenagers? Forget about it. Even young adults feel invincible. If they are relatively healthy and have healthy families and live in a safe place, I’d say that most people feel pretty invincible for a long time.
I think my personal sense of invincibility has lasted longer than it should, probably as a defense mechanism. There are actually so many things that could go wrong that it feels safer and less scary to honestly believe that nothing will. And, to that end, I have engaged in some really dumb behavior. Most notably: texting and driving.
It is seriously the stupidest thing to do. Is there really anything so important that it has to be communicated while you’re driving? And if hearing about accidents on the news pretty much daily isn’t enough, I also drive by a crashed car on a local high school lawn every morning with warning signs about drunk and distracted driving. Yet, still. Still I have always felt like nothing would happen to me. I am a “good” texter. I don’t have to look down that often. I know just when to look up. And despite several near-misses, I still always believed that I’d never really crash because of texting. And, knock wood, I never have.
In the past several months, I have made the decision to only text at stop lights or to pull over when I have something I need to text, especially when I have The Who in the car with me. I am proud to say that, despite how seductive having my phone in the car with me is, I have not broken this rule. But on my own? When I’m alone in the car? I have not been so smart.
Yesterday, a friend told me about an accident he witnessed as he was driving southbound on 95 near Philly during the very beginning of the afternoon rush. On the northbound side, a car caught his eye. Twice, the car drifted slightly and then pulled back into the lane — telltale texting-while-driving behavior. And when he looked closer (which he could do because both cars were in the left lanes of their respective sides of the highway) he saw that, indeed, the driver of that car had his phone in his hand. The third time he drifted, the car ever so slightly tapped the wheel of a passing tractor trailer, spinning the car around several times and knocking the tractor trailer completely on its side.
The accident was reported on the local news and it was all about the “snarled” traffic, but the real story is how it happened. But that’s not the story being reported because no one knows that this was a texting-while-driving accident. No one except the driver who was texting, my friend who saw it happen, and maybe a handful of other people who saw it, too. But it wasn’t reported that way and it made me wonder: how many accidents happen every day that are the result of distracted driving and are not reported as such? It put my invincibility complex into stark relief. It happens all the time; it has to. It happens to all kinds of people and it will happen to me.
I’m keeping my phone in my trunk when I drive now, whether The Who is with me or not. I don’t have the willpower to keep my hands off of it if it’s right beside me. I hope you’ll do the same thing.
Today is Baby’s First Trip to NYC (or NYZ, as he calls it after mishearing the lyrics to the song.) Generous Uncle G is taking us to see Annie on Broadway and so in preparation, I downloaded the Original Broadway soundtrack and rented the movie. I was a little concerned about the movie, actually. My recollection of it is that it’s kind of mature and kind of grim — at least for a 4-year-old. I remember being scared of some parts of it (mostly the ending chase scene where Punjab is dangling his unfurled turban to rescue Annie from Rooster’s tight grip at the top of…what? A crane? A ladder?) and as I prepared to show it to The Who, I was a little apprehensive. As luck would have it, though, there’s another version. This one is Disney and was apparently a made-for-TV movie starring Kathy Bates and Kristin Chenoweth. The reviews of it also mentioned that it was much closer to the play than the movie made in the 80s, so that’s the one we went with.
Good decision. A lot was left out of this version and based on the number of questions The Who asked in the first ten minutes of this one, the other one would have been way above his head. I wrote these down as soon as we finished watching, so these are just the ones I could remember. He literally had a question every two or three seconds. By the time he watched it again the next morning, he had way fewer questions and now when he listens to the soundtrack, he can pretty much tell me the story. Although he is still confused about Easy Street (where is it again?) and the lyric, “so how come I’m the mother of the year?” (“She’s not a mother. So why does she keep saying she is?”)
A [completely non-comprehensive] list of questions and comments that The Who asked during his first screening of Annie:
- Didn’t her locket fall off when it broke? How did it stay on her necklace?
- I would like to live in the “uppanage” (orphanage.) It looks like a big “epartment” building.
- What’s an orphan?
- Is Annie the oldest?
- Annie is mean because she put up her fist when Pepper said that thing.
- Why is his name Rooster?
- Why is she getting into the laundry basket?
- Where is she going?
- Why does she have to go under all the laundry?
- Why are they scrubbing the floors?
- If Miss “Hagginan” doesn’t love Annie, why did she tell the policeman that Annie was her favorite?
- She’s not a mother of the year. She’s just a babysitter.
- Is that Easy Street?
- I wanna live on Easy Street.
- Why is there a show on the radio? Why isn’t there a show on the TV?
- Why is Miss “Hagginin” mean?
- Why doesn’t she like her job?
- Is Annie gonna die?
I’m hoping that all the time he’s had to ask these questions and process the answers will help him both enjoy the play and also let us enjoy it (by piping down.) But I hear it’s 2.5 hours and that’s a long time for a little kid. Snacks. The key to stamina is always snacks.
I’ll post an update. Of course.
When I get blocked, I bullet. So, here’s this:
- That full-time job is lurking just around the corner. Is it lurking? Maybe it’s just waiting. I can’t decide if it’s going to be awesome or terrible and I guess I don’t need to decide. Right now it feels like it’s lurking. I am already missing the leisurely mornings and spontaneous day trips that I get to take with my boy. At least it’s time-limited.
- I had a dream that I struck a deal with a friend to borrow her Prius and I was psyched. I think I want a Prius next. Or a Hummer. I could be happy with either. (I’m just kidding. I could not be happy in a Hummer. But only because too many people call it a “hum-vee” and that annoys me.)
- The Who has been noticing my body size lately and I feel like this is a crucial moment for him and for us. It’s the moment where I have an open door to teach him about loving your body no matter its size, shape, color, or smell. (Ok, well, if it really smells, you may not love it.) It’s the moment where I can teach him that he doesn’t have to be ashamed of my body because I am not. Of course, these moments are ongoing and have been happening since he was an infant, but the time feels very ripe right now. Last night, he said, “Your butt is as big as Thomas!” and then he gave it a playful slap. I giggled. Because it was funny. “It is!” I replied. I think that’s the best way to handle those moments. At some point (soon), I will need to teach him that it’s not polite to comment on people’s bodies. But in this moment, I don’t want to knee-jerk silence him when he is making these observations. I am a safe place for him to work out his thoughts and feelings about these complicated things.
- Adele can cover Dylan, but Dylan can’t really cover Adele.
- The Who and I just returned from a spur-of-the-moment trip to Boston. I am so glad we were able to go there and love that city.
You guys. I am unraveled by the Boston Marathon bombing. I am all f’tootsed. I’m forgetful, anxious, and antsy. Distracted. My mind has been spinning for three days. And the fact that this is how I am feeling has got me even more in a tailspin.
This is not how 9/11 was for me. On September 11, 2001, I lived with four roommates in a big old house in the Boston suburbs. It was to be my first day of graduate school (which didn’t happen because the country came to a standstill and everything was cancelled.) I was working in a tiny cubicle in a huge publishing company and after we initially heard the news, the lights in our building went out. Weird, right? I know. So, with no work getting done and everyone a mess, we got sent . home. We gathered around our televisions. We lit candles on our porch and we called our people. There was a. lot. of. drama. But — and I am ashamed to admit it publicly — I didn’t have any feelings about 9/11. It did not stop me in my tracks. It did not make me fearful. It did not make me distrustful or heartbroken or challenge my faith in humanity or anything. I have gone over and over this for the past twelve years, but I have no answers. September 11th, while clearly a tragedy, did not touch me.
But Boston. This thing. I can’t even tell you what it is about it that is haunting me. Or even what exactly I am feeling. It’s not sadness or anger or fear. I only know that I have been absolutely consumed by it since the moment I heard, standing in the middle of the Children’s Museum with my kid and our pals. From the instant I got a call telling me that there was breaking news at the marathon, I have been devoured by thoughts of it.
I am surprised by my reaction, frankly. It’s so vastly different from the last time our country experienced something similar. Is it because I have a wife and a kid now? Is it because it’s my hometown and I am not there? Is it because I am twelve years older and twelve years different? I can’t figure it out. I think maybe if I could get a handle on exactly what is so troubling to me, I could alleviate some of the symptoms of it (the forgetfulness, distractedness, anxiety, etc.) but I can’t.
So, I guess I’ll just keep writing about it and reading about it and catching bits of news about it when I can, in the hopes that eventually I will find some clarity. And until then? Well, until then I don’t know. I just hope this perseverating will quiet soon. I’m tired.
I was trying to explain to a non-Bostonian yesterday what Patriots’ Day is and what it feels like to a native. Although I have lived outside of Massachusetts for nine years, I often forget that the third Monday in April is just the third Monday in April to the rest of the country (except, apparently, Maine, which also celebrates it.) So, while everyone is undoubtedly shocked and saddened by the events in my beloved Back Bay yesterday, I think the more nuanced sadness of it happening on this day in particular might not be immediately understood. Loss of life and injury is horrific. I know this. The shock of a really loud noise when you’re not expecting it is traumatic. But what has gotten inside me is not the details of a national tragedy. It’s the sadness for my people, celebrating something that is only ours.
Patriots’ Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were the first battles of the Revolutionary War. This is a part of American history that Bostonians take pride in. It’s the history that is woven into the fabric of the city. It’s where it began. It’s the stories, repeated in every grade school classroom, enhanced by field trips to the battle sites, ground into the red brick of the cobbled sidewalks winding along the Freedom Trail. Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, Bunker Hill. Sure, Bostonians love the Red Sox and our accent and even our reputation as “Massholes,” but this is Boston. Our place on the timeline of the American story.
And then there’s the part about springtime. Tree-lined Newbury Street, boasting tiny yellow-green buds, swan boats returning to the Public Garden, and the finish line being painted on Boylston Street. It’s also the beginning of April Vacation for school kids. A week that families often take off together, taking day trips in and around the city, gearing up for summer. It’s a hopeful, celebratory time that belongs to Bostonians alone. It’s inherently our day in our city and even though there are throngs of visitors and hundreds of thousands of people who celebrate it as Marathon Monday along with us, we are the gracious hosts.
Let’s try this: Imagine you’re throwing your annual garden party on the prettiest day of the year. You’re wearing your sweetest spring frock (or dandiest seersucker suit) and you’ve baked cookies. Lots of delicious cookies and you’ve concocted a sweet and tangy limeade. You wake up early that morning and your house smells like a mix of lemon Pledge and blooming stargazer lilies as you lay out the guest towels on the bathroom counter. It’s sunny and warm. You’re smiling — not at anything in particular, but just because. Your friends and family start arriving and they bear gifts and food and they’re already laughing. You join them. It’s sweet and fun and you can see the tangible fog of winter lifting away from the city skyline. You’re embracing people and drinking wine and the clinking of forks against delicate little plates is at once replaced by an explosion. Sirens and smoke and screaming and blood. And fear.
That’s what it is. I wasn’t there on Monday. I don’t live there anymore. I was neither at the marathon nor in the city that I call home. But I am a Bostonian and I felt that bomb in the middle of a garden party from 300 miles away. That is what it’s like to have been a Bostonian on April 15, 2013. Best as I can tell it.