It’s Raining Underpants. It’s Raining IN the Underpants. The Underpants are Reigning Over Me.

This timely T-shirt available at Amsterdam Gifts on Cafepress.com!

This timely T-shirt availabe at Amsterdam Gifts on Cafepress.com!)

The week between Christmas 2012 and New Year’s Day 2013 will be remembered in this household as the week of Underpanting the Piddle Producer. Next Monday, Gbot merges with preschool, and dropping the diaper is part of the deal. And so we are working on becoming a four-underpants kind of family. We’re almost there, but I admit to procrastinating. Diapers are easier. So an all-out effort to direct piddle into the potty had been postponed. Yesterday we were a nine underpants family, but as Noah knew, things must get wetter before they get drier.

As we gain underpants, we are also gaining pedals. Mbot received a letter from Santa this year:

A handwriting analyst would nail Santa as a kind, patient, tired, right-handed forty-five year old woman.

A handwriting analyst would nail Santa as a kind, patient, tired, right-handed forty-five year-old woman.

This morning, the pedal bike was under the Christmas tree.

“I am the luckiest boy in the world!” Mbot pronounced.

And that’s a take.

Other things that happened today that probably will not occur on New Year’s Eve, 2013:

1. While making Gbot’s bed, with his help (in theory), I found under the bed a.) Gbot and b.) twenty-six Swedish fish beside an empty bag labeled “Swedish Fish.” I had been wondering where my Swedish fish had gone.

2. In an unrelated incident, while oohing and aahing over Mbot’s new bike, I heard plaintive calls of “Mama, Mama,” from the bathroom. Investigation revealed that Gbot had climbed onto the bathroom counter, where he’d conducted a thorough investigation of the medicine cabinet and, apparently, brushed his teeth, and could not get down.

3. In a completely unrelated incident, except that it again involved Gbot, Gbot applied my new concealer, which I’d had heart palpitations while paying for last week, across his lips in an effort to make him “as beautiful as you, Mama.”

Am I beautiful when I'm angry?

Am I beautiful when I’m angry?

4. In another completely unrelated incident, except that Gbot was found at the site of the incident, Gbot was caught, before breakfast, standing on a toy suitcase in order to reach the gold-wrapped chocolate coins on a high counter. When he was told to get down, he replied, “I was not getting into trouble. I was just doing my exercises.”

5. In a fifth and completely unrelated incident, except that once again, Gbot was there, both bots embarked on a “Look, it’s raining small, clean clothes!” extravaganza, and so instead of going outside to ride a new bike, they sat on their beds without talking (in theory) while I picked up, folded, and returned to the drawers so many miniature shirts, pants, and pajamas that, by the time I was finished, both guilty parties had fallen asleep.

2012 December 31 007

Exhausion sets in after the fifth misdemeanor.

Exhaustion sets in after the fifth misdemeanor.

May safety, happiness, and peace rain in your home in 2013!

Still Life with Letter to Santa

On Christmas Eve, Mbot remembered to put out cookies for Santa. He dictated a letter to go with them:

Santa Claus,

Thank you for bringing us presents and is Mrs. Claus having a good time with you? Thank you for the presents, Santa Claus.

I hope you have a good week and I hope you had a good year, dear Santa Claus, and your reindeers are having a good time and having a good, nice rest.

Santa, is the list not all dirty? And the reindeer are having a good time exercising and doing stuff in a nice, good year.

I think the list Mbot refers to is the Christmas list he painstakingly dictated over the last several weeks of 2012. He was perhaps worried that the light saber had been smudged out. It had been.

I realize that, in the photo, there is an apple on the plate. That was a last-minute addition. As he turned away from the cookie-laden plate, Mbot exclaimed with alarm, “Oh, we forgot! We forgot to give him something to eat that has more nutrients! Like a banana.”

Bananaless, we decided on an apple. (“Did you wash it, Mom?” Blearily, I turned back to the sink to run it under the tap.)

Apparently, an apple was a fine pick-me-up, because apparently Santa made it around the world, at least according to NORAD. I’m not so keen on NORAD’s Santa Tracker, but more on that after our thirty-six-hour family trip to California for Great Aunt Noel’s ninetieth birthday. Apparently, she still jogs. She’s probably eating apples with her cookies. Joyeaux Noel!

I hope you are having a good week, and I hope you had a good year, dear readers.

With Joy and Nutrients,

Betsy

A Potion For the Bottoms of Our Shoes

Florida M-beach face-001

Day two on the Continent of Great Grandmothers turned out to be more about the great grandsons. I had promised the bots a trip to the beach. We got a late start, though, groggy from the two-hour time change, and I was feeling the strain of trying to do a lot with a little–a little time, a little energy, and two little bots. Navigating from the hotel to the Health Center to various stores for necessities was proving to be a time-eating exercise in one-way streets, endless waits in lefthand turn lanes, and impatient drivers who went for their horns without mercy.

By noon, we’d arrived at the Health Center again, and Mbot asked to come upstairs to get Great Grandma with me. So Solveig ran after Gbot, who seems to have more energy than all the rest of us put together these days, while Mbot and I took the elevator to the second floor and ventured down the hallway to the lunchroom. We found my grandmother as she’d been the day before. Although lunch looked good, she wasn’t eating; she’s uninterested in food and unable to feed herself. We pulled up a chair. I put my hand on her shoulder. She roused, and turned to look at us. I introduced myself again, and Mbot. Her face brightened and she said, “Oh! I was just thinking about you this morning!”

“That’s because we came to visit you yesterday, Grandma. The boys played in the fountain!”

We stayed just a few minutes, because an enormous man asleep at the next table started making some pretty terrible sounds which scared Mbot. No one else in the room seemed to notice. But when Mbot squirmed in my lap and asked to go, I told my grandmother that we were heading to the beach to play in the sand, not to worry because the boys would wear life preservers, and that I would come back later. She asked how my parents were. “Are they meeting you?”

“Yes,” I replied, nodding and smiling. My parents were in Idaho. I hugged her goodbye. She used to give me a hard time about being uncomfortable hugging and kissing–I was, back in my twenties. I could just hear her unthought thoughts: “So this is what a grandma has to do to get a hug around here!”

I didn’t know at the time, but knew it was a possibility, that that would be the last time she recognized me.

We managed to find the local WalMart, where we purchased picnic supplies, life-jackets, a package of Toy Story underpants to serve as swim trunks, and a short-sleeved t-shirt for me, because I’d only brought one and had left it back at the room. Then we went to introduce the bots to the Atlantic Ocean. We cruised west past a shop selling “The World’s Best Quilts,” Tarot Readings, and Accurate Accounting Services (we figured that maybe in Broward County, such a thing might not be assumed. We found the beach, clean and wide, just south of the pier, complete with a life guard who emerged from his life guard stand when he saw Mbot run in the direction of the street.

Florida Gbot profile donut 2

And there we spent the afternoon. The bots waded up to their hips in the waves. Solveig had thought to bring pool towels from the hotel lobby, and they quickly became covered with sand as we sat among the opportunistic seagulls. We buried Mbot’s legs and decorated him with shells. The bots ate chocolate-iced donuts with sprinkles. Solveig and I opened a bottle of screw-top shiraz, which turned out to be 15% alcohol, and drank it out of empty water bottles. It just seemed like a day for treats–to revel in the tangible physical comforts, to swim in Toy Story underpants and get our faces messy and to pursue a buzz in the middle of the day.

By five, I was exhausted, without the emotional energy to visit my grandmother. Back at the room, we found that the latch to fill the tub was broken and so after a group shower (of which Solveig opted out), we camped in front of the computer to watch four episodes of Tin Tin. I ordered Chinese food and it all tasted the same. Mbot made a Chinese food-eating breakthrough when he gnawed the kernels off of the baby corn.

I visited my grandmother the next morning, leaving Solveig in the room making costumes for the bots out of The Wall Street Journal. She was dozing in front of the TV when I arrived. I took her to sit in the courtyard, in the gentle sun and soft fresh breeze. We walked around the lake, through the rose garden, and sat by the fountain again. But this time, when she woke, now and then, she didn’t recognize me. She talked quietly to herself, a sililoquy I couldn’t understand. I read to her, as she dozed, from a biography called The Founding Mothers, by Cokie Roberts. I’d bought it at the airport; she’s always loved biographies. I held her hand and told her more about the boys but it was my own sililoquy. And at eleven o’clock, I returned to the room to finish packing. It was time to leave.

Driving to the airport, Mbot said, “I wish I could send all of this away. The trees, and the beach, Great Grandma.”

I could tell Solveig was slightly disturbed by this seemingly nihilistic desire. But I have learned that when a bot doesn’t seem to make sense, ask questions.

“Send it where?” I asked.

“Send it home with us,” he replied.

“Me too,” I agreed. Except for the impatient drivers and one-way streets.

“I wish we could just hop and be here with Great Grandma.”

“Me too,” I said. “We’d have to hop REALLY far.”

“Hmm,” he mused, in problem-solving mode. “Maybe I could make a potion for the bottoms of our shoes.”

It is a lovely thought, isn’t it?

I don’t think I will have another chance to see my grandmother. But Mbot has, out of the blue, started talking about her, almost every day since we returned–counting his grandmas (three!), remembering her silver hair, and that “all the grownups were eating kid food. Hotdogs, soup, pie…” We took pictures, and a video, that first day, and so that will help him remember, too.

And he’s getting a chemistry set for Christmas, so he’ll be working on that potion.

We Are Going to Another Continent.

Evening flight to grandma, mercifully uncrowded. Honorary Aunt Solveig knits. Mbot draws a picture of the wing of the plane out the window. All is calm.

We are in Florida. It is not, techically, another continent, as Mbot told his teacher yesterday when I pulled him out of preschool early to make the plane. But it might as well be one, because we are entering a foreign world: the world of the old.

My grandmother turned ninety-six on Saturday. I’d seen her last when Mbot was five weeks old. At ninety-one, she’d flown to a family reunion in Idaho. She’d been very much herself–slightly shorter, slightly whiter, slightly slower. But the same lightning sense of humor, keen intelligence, and outspokenness was in full display. “You look good,” she would say. And then, “Are you sure you’re not too skinny?”

But time changes everything, and things fall apart.

I have been attempting to visit her since Gbot was born, just three years ago. But several factors held me back, one of which was that I, a self-made expert at visualizing, and then enacting extensive travel plans that include one adult (myself) and an unmatched set of under-two, or under-three year-old seat-mates, simply could not visualize the bots and I making the journey. But in the past ten days, several sereptitious occurrences colluded to help us on our way, among them, my friend from second grade, Solveig, agreed to meet us in Denver and accompany us. She is a good sport, with an endless supply of humor and a cunning resourcefulness that can include a corkscrew when necessary.

In the days prior to departure, I steeled myself for the worst: I knew my grandmother might not recognize me and if she did, it wouldn’t last. I knew she might just doze off. I feared she would be smaller even than I remembered, bedridden, wearing hospital garb, confined to a room. I wondered if the staff kept her nails pretty and her hair–which always, in my memory, looked nice (although at a price–my grandfather used to kid her about her “lightning rods,” which is how he referred to her curlers).

Our plane touched down at close to midnight, and so we got a late start the next morning, arriving at John Knox Health Center close to noon. Solveig and the bots played on the grounds while I went up to her room. She wasn’t there–I was surprised to hear that she was at lunch. I ventured down the hall to a windowed room in which maybe thirty elderly people, in various states of aging, sat eating a meal that didn’t look too bad.

I recognized my grandmother immediately. She looked remarkably similar to the photos my parents had taken the year before. Her hair was well-taken care of. She was wearing fresh, clean clothes, including a very pretty red knit jacket that matched the vest I’d left in the car. A nurse was helping her eat dessert, a piece of lemon cake. I bent down and put my hand on her shoulder. “Grandma,” I said. “It’s your granddaughter, Betsy. I’ve come to visit, and I’ve brought my little boys, your great grandsons.”

She looked up, took me in, and said, “You’re so skinny!” I laughed with relief. No matter what I’d heard about her good days and her bad days, the incoherence over the phone, the tendency to get agitated–this was still Grandma.

Much of what followed didn’t make sense, but much did. I wheeled her inexpertly down the hall, into the elevator, and out the door onto the grounds. The weather was lovely–low seventies, the sun not too bright, a cool, fresh breeze. A few minutes later we came upon Solveig with the bots.

Something about the children seemed to awaken her synapses and bring her alert. She worried aloud when one of the bots would disappear behind a rose bush, or the fountain. “Thank you for helping me keep track of them,” I laughed, and she laughed too. Maybe not at that, but does it really matter? “Bring them to dinner,” she said. “Children are enjoyed,” she said. “They’re so much fun.” Mbot, who has always loved the smell of a rose, asked to smell one in the rose garden, and I picked one, held it to his nose, to Grandma’s. A look of pleasure crossed her face.

Nearly an hour into our visit, sitting by the fountain, she looked me, our faces twelve inches apart. “You know,” she said, “you look a lot like my granddaughter, Betsy.”

“I am your granddaughter, Betsy,” I said.

And we stared at one another, her bemused expression revealing that memory was attempting feats that mostly it had just grown too old for. At that moment, Mbot ran from the fountain. He held up his wrist, devoid of the red, heart-shaped sillyband he’d chosen from the airport store silly-band pack the day before. “Mommmmmm,” wailed Mbot. “Gbot threw my heart into the water.”

Oh, I know how you feel, I wanted to say to Mbot. I think I did say it, with tears in my lashes. “It will be okay,” I said to him, next. “I have another.” I felt how big a mother’s heart has to be. I felt like a magician able to pull a heart out of my sleeve whenever there is a call for one, and that as a mother, I have an endless supply. As a mother, and now, as a granddaughter. I was taken care of, all those years–am still taken care of, to some extent, by my own mother, although she lives three states away. And now it’s my turn. I am the grown up. Because, I think, of the role reversal, in my grandmother’s presence, I saw myself more as a grown up than I do in the presence of my children.

Just twenty minutes before, she had known who Mbot was when I’d introduced him. They’d held a brief conversation. She’d watched Gbot run and play. “He will be a fine man,” she said, smiling. At another point, she smiled again, admiring his hair.

Later, she looked at me and asked, “How’s your writing?”

I told her, briefly.

“Did you write any today?” she asked.

“Not yet,” I replied, not thinking of the notes scrawled across the palm of my left hand, or the ones I’d texted to myself on my phone.

Mbot asked to accompany us when I returned her to the social area on her floor. We left her sitting by a table. She hadn’t wanted to face the TV. (Like grandmother like granddaughter). We hugged and kissed her goodbye. She smiled and asked if “they were meeting us,” and I just said smiled and said yes. I turned back before we turned the corner to the elevator and she was still sitting, hands in her lap, just sitting, looking within, and I knew we had been lucky to have come on a good day. And I couldn’t help but feel that our coming had help make it a good day.

We will go back tomorrow.

Gbot and Spruce Bear sleep their way to another continent.

Not-So-Famous Drinks of Youth and Idaho

Children and fall: the prettiest reminders of change.

I am so consumed by the present that any glance back into the past is jarring–almost surreal. So much changed when I became a mother. Not just the usual big-then-saggy boobage, belly fat, hair-falling-out, sudden-fact-that-I-am-in-love-with-a-helpless-alien sort of things. I’d married Husbot just one year before; I’d met him nine months before that. I relocated from a place and community I’d lived in and loved for ten years to a foreign land. (Just because the same currency is used and the same language is spoken thirty minutes west of Phoenix, Arizona and the Wood River Valley, nearly two hundred miles east of Boise, Idaho, doesn’t mean the two locations are not as different as Amsterdam and New Amsterdam). At the same time, I lost a friendship–or at least, it changed, dramatically and irrevocably. I still grieve for it.

Things were different, and would never be the same.

The bots and I return to the Wood River Valley twice a year, and each time, I am confronted with the past. We usually stay with my parents, who retired here twenty years ago; I sleep under the same crewelwork image of a girl carrying a cat that was above my bed in Alaska as a child. There is news of the old boyfriend and his wife, who are friends of friends and family. Every visit to the grocery store in this small town offers chance meetings with former colleagues and acquaintances. Sometimes they recognize me but sometimes they don’t remember my name. I introduce myself. We catch up in that inane way that takes ninety seconds. And then we push our carts in opposite directions, the way our lives have gone.

And so it should not have been unexpected but was nonetheless very strange last night, while inspecting the contents of my parents’ liquor cabinet before dinner, to come across a drink recipe I’d written for my father about fifteen years ago. It was a remnant of still another life, when I was working in my twenties for a famous Denver restaurateur who foresaw trends sometimes a decade before they became trends. (He poured me my first Cosmopolitan in 1993, three years before Carrie Bradshaw first tipped one back in a move that would forever determine the cocktail of choice for women now between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five.)

This recipe was for the Caiperana, which never enjoyed quite the notoriety of its pink sister, but made a comeback ten years ago at wedding receptions and on creative cocktail menus across the country, and more recently has featured in one of Jo Nesbo’s bestselling thrillers, in which the hero, a Norwegian detective with a taste for anything fifty-proof and above, finds himself stuck somewhere in South America and glad that the only available drink is a local version of the caiperana, brewed from the fiery and wince-inducing native liquor, distilled apparently with little consideration for flavor from raw cane sugar.

Who knew you could find video instructions online? (cucabrazuca.com)

In a bow to the past, I’ll transcribe the recipe here as I wrote it back then. It made me laugh, which of course was a bittersweet kind of laughter, because I want it back. I mean, I want the parts of my past the made me laugh back. It’s a stupid thing to want–that’s what memory is for, that’s what stories are for. And soon enough–tomorrow, as it turns out–today will be the past that made me laugh.

Caiperana

For one drink:

1/2 lime

2 teaspoons brown sugar

3 oz. Pitu cachaca

dash simple syrup* (*double-strength hummingbird food)

rocks glass

little spoon (optional)** (**a swizzle stick will do)

First, learn to pronounce both the drink and the liquor. This will entail learning a foreign language, so be ready to practice. Practicing after having served your guests yields the best results as, while your linguistic skills may not improve greatly, your listeners, as they empty their glasses, will become much more accepting of the injustices you perpetrate against the Spanish language.

But practicing beforehand doesn’t hurt. While chanting ca-CHA-cha, ca-CHA-cha, slice the lime in a complicated manner. That is, cube it as if you were cubing a potato, if you ever cube potatoes, but don’t cut all the way through the peel at the tip. You will understand why momentarily.

Place the lime pointy-side down in the glass and pestle it soundly to squeeze out the juices. Meanwhile, repeat, ky-per-ANN-ya, ky-per-ANN-ya quietly to yourself so that your guests don’t know you’re getting a headstart on pronunciation.

Add the cachaca and simple syrup and fill the glass to the brim with crushed ice. Insert the little spoon.

Sip slowly and stir the drink constantly so that the ice dilutes the concoction and you remain scintillating for as long as possible before being reduced to a pleasant stupor. Keep prodding the lime with the little spoon to extract all the juices. If you have mastered them by this time, work the words caiperana and cachaca into the conversation at frequent intervals so that your guests will be duly impressed.

*   *   *

Skol! Salud! Here’s to the past. Here’s to change.

Fifty Million Shades of Okay (Part 2)

is what I should have named last night’s post. Except that it was very late by the time I finally sat down to write, and the title I ended up Twittering and Facebooking across the land was not only not entirely accurate but also grammatically incorrect.

Gbot hard at work painting a giant rocket in the craft room of the Phoenix Children’s Museum, because I didn’t take a picture of him fabric surfing.

But speaking of okay, Husbot sent me to the spa on Sunday. I’d done a solo fifteen-hour marathon (isn’t that an Ironman?) (and not unlike those I do many days) with the bots Saturday, including trips to the Phoenix Children’s Museum, the swimming pool, and that massive mecca of fabric, 35th Avenue Sew & Vac (tip: do NOT go here with Gbot, who will, when left to himself for thirty seconds (my mistake–I admit to letting go of his hand and turning my back), will attempt to bodysurf across the floor on a bolt of extra-thick-‘n’-fluffy fleece, to his mother’s mortification (I quote: “Who’s child IS that?” At least that’s what I wanted to say.)), and I guess that evening it showed. Maybe it was the three glasses of wine I downed at Grandma’s house during dinner. I ALWAYS pay when I drink three glasses of wine, and the next morning, indeed, I was wishing a third glasses hadn’t sounded so good–nay, so necessary–at the time, when Husbot walked in the door from his morning dog walk and announced that I would be at the spa from 9:45 until three that afternoon.

My first thought of course was, “and WHO is paying for it?” But he assured me it had been “reasonable” and that I deserved it. I knew he was right about that last one, and hey, one outta two beats Vegas odds, so, as he packed up the Husbotmobile, I transferred a pile of dirty dishes to the dishwasher so I didn’t have to do them after I’d been pampered into noodlishness, and headed over to the historic Wigwam resort, where I crossed the Einstein-Rosen bridge* into a parallel universe.

(squidoo.com)

I’d been to The Red Door Spa a few times, but not since I was pregnant with Mbot, and I hadn’t had a facial in what my good friend Z will tell you had been unforgiveably too long. But Husbot had signed me up for a facial followed by a pedi/mani and then a “makeup refresher,” (to refresh, um, what makeup? I wondered, along with, “is he trying to tell me something?” but looking a gift Husbot in the mouth didn’t seem helpful) at which point I was free to lounge about in any of the “relaxation rooms,” use the outdoor hot tub, or swim, or lounge by the pool in my extra-thick-‘n’-fluffy robe–(almost as good as floor surfing on a bolt of similar fabric).

I didn’t mentally wind down until about forty minutes into the facial, but it did, eventually happen. And afterwards, as I fell asleep briefly on a chaise longue in a relaxation room (look how easy it is to get used to using those words–I don’t even need quotation marks anymore!), I thought, “This feels strange because I never sit down and do nothing. EVER. When I do sit, I sit in front of the computer (or of course on the loo, but even there I do my catalogue shopping). I know I should find time to medidate, but I now think “meditate” is just another word for “sitting and doing nothing and feeling good about it because it is goal-oriented.” Either way, sitting and doing nothing is WAY UNDERRATED.

Personal experience has verified that it is not so easy to return through the wormhole, and that it is a very good thing children exert a very strong gravitational pull.

I returned home a nicely altered version of myself, and escaped after spending only a little bit more on a small tube of exfoliation goop called Phytomer Vegetal Exfoliant. My esthetician had revealed that it had been known to significantly reduce hyperpigmentation, that pesky result of pregnancy and aging. Fifty million shades of hyperpigmentation are not so much okay.

So last night I used it again, and left it on for ten minutes instead of the recommended five, because I was busy, and this morning when I looked in the morning, I actually blinked because the hyperpigmentation on my chin had actually faded. I’m still stumped about how it worked, and so fast…could I have done this years ago? Will it continue to fade? Tune in next year. I’ll let you know. Unless I’m too busy meditating in my extra thick-‘n’-fluffy robe and my new-and-improved shade of okay.

(*contrary to the calculations of physicists, the journey wasn’t difficult at all.)

Of Stars and Ours

NASA forgot to put grandpas on this diagram.

Mbot has been studying the solar system in preschool, and his newfound knowledge has raised some vexing questions.

Let me backtrack to say that although I’m a champion of science, evolution, and telling children the truth, I also believe in Santa Claus and that we just don’t have explanations for everything–like what happens to you after you die. I’m willing to say, “I don’t know.” But it’s more poetic to say, “you turn into a star.” I kind of like the abstract truth, the law of conservation of matter, the ashes to ashes, dust to dust thing, the fact that the molecules that make up my nasal passages today were at some point in time inside stars, and at some point in time will be something else. And so, when Mbot at the age of two asked tearfully where his Grandpa Ferdie, who passed away many years ago, is, I told him he is a star, and I even pointed one out to him, a very bright star in the winter sky.

The subject comes up intermittantly, and came up again this morning on the way to school, when he asked from the back seat, apropos of nothing, “You mean Grandpa Ferdie is a big ball of gas?”

“Yes,” I replied. Kind of because there was no other answer.

Mbot: “Mrs. Pursell said that every star is a big ball of gas.”

“Yes,” I said again.

Mbot: “That means that Grandpa Ferdie is a big ball of gas.”

“That’s right,” I said.

He seemed content with that.

We’ll save the chemistry books for another day.

The Love Boomerang

Today, we tested this hypothesis. (dollsofindia.com)

We had one of those days you could make a movie out of. And even the bots know that in a movie, before the happy ending, something bad needs to happen.

The real-life drama began at 10:30 a.m. It set out on a quest: to Toys ‘R’ Us for a bubble gun, Play Doh, and poker chips.

Mbot asked if he could take Junepbear into the store. He sometimes asks, and I always say no. He never fusses. But today, I was feeling extra-magnanimous. I thought, “it’s just a quick trip. And if he has one hand filled with Junepbear, then he cannot touch as many toys.” And so I said yes.

We found a bubble gun. We found the Play Doh. (On sale! But it’s cheaper at Target). We checked out. The bots’ behavior was exemplary. Which is why, upon leaving, I stopped when Gbot clambered into the big toy car in the vestibule between the sliding sets of exit doors, wherein lie The Claw game, bubble gum machine, and various other mechanisms meant to lift the last of your change from your pockets. I did not put a quarter in the car.

Nonetheless, Gbot pretended to steer with delight for a few minutes, and then it was Mbot’s turn. He climbed up, and very carefully set Junepbear on top of the truck. I looked at the enormous floppy old bear there and thought, “We are going to forget him. We can’t forget him. Of course we won’t. There’s no way. He’s huge. He’s blue. The top of the car is red. I am looking right at him. And we’ll only be another sixty seconds.” Sixty seconds later we headed out to the car.

Fast-forward 4 1/2 hours. My niece had come to botsit while I went to a coffeeshop to work. At 2:40, I left the coffee shop for home via Toys ‘R’ Us because I’d forgotten the poker chips. I got them. I returned home at 3 o’clock and decided to load everyone up with the hope of driving them quickly to sleep. As my niece strapped them in, I went searching for bears. Found none. Checked the car. Not there. Under the beds I found Spruce Bear. And that’s when I remembered the last place I’d seen Junep. On top of the play car at Toys ‘R’ Us. The one I had twenty minutes ago walked right past. Lying trustingly against the red paint. Waiting patiently and silently. An empty dread filled my ribcage. I ran through the house again, looking everywhere. But the bear had left the building.

Mbot, mercifully, did not fully grasp the gravity of the situation. He was cheerful that we were going back to the toy store. But what if someone had walked off with Junep? Look! A free bear! A big one! It was unthinkable.

I broke the speed limit heading south. Now that my registration is current, I was only breaking one law, not two at once, which is a key, a former boyfriend pointed out long ago, to avoiding run-ins with the law (see The Ex-Con’s Rule).

We marched into the vestibule. Another cold flash as I saw the red top of the car: empty. We marched to the customer service counter. I knew before we reached it that Junep wasn’t there. He would have been on top of a counter. The employee persisted, even after I’d described the missing party, to look in cupboards into which he could not possibly fit. I was irritated but at the same time I appreciated her perseverence. She called someone on her walkie-talkie. No one had heard of Junepbear. “Thank you,” I said. Mbot remained mercifully unconcerned, sure that the universe would spit his beloved back out. Sure that his bear was back home on his bed.

On the way out, we re-entered the vestibule. We would look there again. Gbot broke free and climbed back up into the driver’s seat of the play car. I turned to watch him–and there on the floor, wedged between the car’s rear wheel and the Claw game, was a crumpled, raggedy lump of faded blue. I believe I closed my eyes in relief and felt another wash of emptiness in my chest and abdomen, a “but what if….”  I picked up Junep. I handed him to Mbot, who smiled brightly and held him tight. “You’re here!” he cried, and Mbot constructed an elaborate and entirely fictional narrative about why the bear was there, and I’m afraid I was so awash with relief that I can’t remember a word of it.

The symmetry–or asymmetry–appeals to me: that loving something so much and so long and so hard actually raises the chances that others will find it physicaly unappealing. It’s some kind of good karma, what you love coming back to you.

But Junepbear has totally lost his shopping privileges.

Argument for Staying Culturally Current

“Good job, Mom. You finally got it.”

I have transcribed below the conversation Mbot and I had at the pool at the Y on Saturday. In my defense, I will point out that the background noise consisted of squealing children and splashing water, as we were in the kid zone, with its array of eternally splashy spouts and spigots. (Note: I have transcribed not the conversation as it actually occurred, but as I experienced it.)

Mbot: “Did you ever see octopus pie?”

Me: “Octopus pie? No.”

Mbot: “Octopus cry!”

Me: “Octopus cry?”

Mbot, becoming impatient: “Octopus crime! Did you ever see that movie?”

Me: “Oh! Optimus Prime! From The Transformers! Sorry, Bug, I couldn’t hear you. No. I have not seen the movie.”

Maybe I should, though, so he and I can continue to inhabit the same holodeck.

Revenge of the Fallen Leader Class Optimus Pri...

Class Optimus Prime figure and the truck he transforms into. Definitely not a seafood dish. Picture from Revenge of the Fallen Leader(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Nora,

Nora Ephron. Photo by Elena Seibert on tumblr

I will miss you.

In today’s New York Times obit, Meryl Streep is quoted as calling you “stalwart.” Stalwart is something I’ve never been.

You weren’t a whiner.

I am.

I don’t like that about myself, but obviously not enough to make great inroads into changing. Husbot bears the brunt of it. But this is not a whiny post. This is about how you affected–and still affect–my life.

I remember when Mbot was six months old and I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, that I came upon a profile of you in The New Yorker. For a couple of months after reading the profile, I sucked it up. I kept my mouth shut when I wanted to whine. I looked on the bright side. I had more confidence in myself. I didn’t mind making enemies for the sake of saying something I believed. Yet at the same time I attempted to be more diplomatic.

Then we moved (down twenty-one stairs, without professional movers, in the summer in Pheonix, eight months pregnant with a fifteen month-old on my hip–sorry, am I whining?), and the article got buried in a pile of other New Yorker articles I’d ripped out and put in a folder to take with us, and I forgot about it. I gave birth again, lost sleep in a box-filled apartment to not only a hungry infant but to a howling one year-old; I forgot to not whine, to look on the bright side, to have confidence, to be diplomatic. I had my sense of humor, but it works better somehow in the company of those other things.

It is time–past time–to read that profile again.

But since it is not at my fingertips, and since quiet time in my house has failed to result in a nap for the two year-old (the almost four year-old finally fell asleep, in spite of the midget Cirque du Soleil on the next bed), my blogging time allowance may end at any moment, shifting you to stage left and the weebots to front and center. In fact I am right now typing to the chant, “Please give me a cookie,” which, however polite, is distracting. And so I will just briefly mention three points in the profile that stayed with me.

# 1

You were married three times, divorced twice. You obviously weren’t afraid to try, and fail. You turned your divorce into a best-selling novel (Heartburn)–and not only a best-seller but a funny, self-deprecating, insightful, vivid story about womanhood, marriage, pregnancy, professional life, and motherhood. You felt like a failure, as a woman, and as a wife, but you wrote about it, bravely and with humor. I am not planning a divorce, but there are things other than my husband that aren’t working out so well, that I would like to walk away from.

Like my whining. Some might say it’s a symptom: a symptom of my need to communicate honestly; of my children who no longer nap regularly; or of the fact that I am living in Phoenix in the summertime. But that symptom is f**cking with my life.

Honest communication is great, but so is strength of character. And if I were a character in my own book, would I admire me?

Not when I was whining.

#2

You were taught by your alcoholic screenwriter parents that everything in your life is material for your writing. I always felt that was true about mine, but often lacked the conviction to jot things down on the spot. Although I was the first junior high student in Juneau, Alaska, to wear legwarmers, a bandana around my head, and a cropped t-shirt, when it came to real life, I was afraid of doing the unexpected. My floor might as well have been cold, hard, Mexican ceramic tile for all the times I made love on it. Reading that you and your writer sisters embraced this way of seeing your lives–as material–strengthened my courage to do the unexpected, even if it was only ignoring snickers when I whipped out my notebook or took notes on my arm during events or conversations that others deemed unremarkable. Being true to my need to document the ordinary has a temporary effect of whine-quelling.

#3

You have two grown sons whose absence in the tabloids leads me to suspect they are fairly well adjusted. As a mother of two sons myself, I know this is part their doing, part yours. I would like my own sons to grow up with a mother who can lead by example in the nonwhining department. But it is too late to send them to you. And so I will just have to buck up.

In an essay of yours that appeared in The New Yorker not long after I read the profile, titled “My Life as an Heiress,” you wrote about how you were working on a screeplay at the time you received an inheritance from some long lost relative. You mentioned that you remember the screenplay was “‘really, really hard.'” The sum of the inheritance was debated among family members, and estimated to be quite large. You had some expensive landscaping done to your house in the Hamptons. You fantasized about retiring to a life of leisure.

When the money finally came, it was something like $5,000. I think it barely paid for the landscaping. You finished the screenplay because you suddenly really needed the money. You pointed out that it was a good thing you didn’t retire right then and there, because the screenplay you were working on–the one that was “‘really, really hard,'” was When Harry Met Sally. Which, in spite of its lack of Oscars wins, is probably–among women between forty and fifty–the most quoted and widely referenced movie I know. Still, today, over twenty years later.

I shouldn’t whine, even when things are really, really hard. You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right.

I want to just suck it up and turn it into material. I want to have the confidence in myself to leave behind what isn’t working and try something new. I want to have the confidence in myself to believe I am trying hard enough. Or if, in fact, I’m not, to recognize and remedy it: read more, write more, seek a mentor, seek an audience, seek the quiet time I need. I want the longterm perspective to see past this tired day and draw strength from knowing that I will not always be this tired, this constantly needed, emotionally and physically. And also to appreciate that as long as I am needed, I’ve got job security.

I want to be braver, more confident, more persistent, and more stalwart. Even if it’s really, really hard.

I want what you’re having. But with the dead part on the side.