I’ve Been Thinking About the Brady Bunch

Look, it's smiling! Oh, no it's not--it's just a robot.

Look, it’s smiling! Oh, no it’s not–it’s just a robot.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about judgment lately. About how, usually, the one who stands in judgment doesn’t think he (or she) is judging. They just know they’re right. I didn’t learn this until as a freshman in college I read a book called The Children of Pride, which contained transcripts of letters written by Confederate civilians during the American Civil War, so certain that they would win it, because they knew that God was on their side. 

I’ve been thinking about the limits of knowledge. About how a person who knows nothing about, for example, Tarot cards might be fearful of them because they believe someone who consults them might make a life-altering decision based on a picture on a card. About how a person who knows nothing about them could not possibly know that they are often used to stimulate thought in a direction it might not otherwise go, like the daily WordPress cue for a blog topic, or to offer perspective–like, for me, getting on an airplane and looking out an oval porthole that shows the world I know from ten thousand feet off the ground, reminding me of the vast Sonoran Desert, the barren Indian reservations, the wideness of space beyond my kitchen sink filled with yesterday’s dishes.

I’ve been thinking about trust. When I was nine or ten years old, a neighbor found some drunk from the harborside bar down the street asleep on her couch, and we started locking the front door. I remember my mother talking about burglars and murderers. I remember picturing the steak knives in the kitchen cupboard, which was unlocked, and wondering why we, the ones behind the locked door together with all those steak knives, weren’t afraid of each other. After some thought, I concluded that we trusted each other because it was in our best interest, both individually and as a group, not to hurt each other. We trusted each other also because there was no history in our immediate family of anyone knifing anything other than a T-bone. We trusted one another to be rational. “Rationality is not universal,” writes Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. “Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it.” Whether you love or hate Ayn Rand, you have to concede her an extreme clarity of thought, and anyone who’s ever lived with a four-year-old knows these words ring true. But to accuse an adult of acting irrationally is to pass a grave sentence. It assumes that you have access to all relevant information. And that you recognize what is relevant. It denies the accused a chance to explain themselves based on logic because it renders their premise crazy. It may say more about your lack of knowledge than their lack of rationale. Ayn Rand also famously wrote, “Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

I’ve been thinking of acceptance. About accepting the things we do not understand, and of recognizing the things that are not ours to change.

I’ve been thinking lately about strength. About how sometimes the stronger someone is, the greater the burden they can bear and the more quietly they can tolerate it and the longer they can endure. And the more surprised and indignant others are when they say, at last, “Enough.”

I’ve been thinking about times of hardship. How historically, during plagues or famines, a social group turns on one individual, or a small group of individuals–who are different from the rest, to persecute them for not following certain conventions of society, certain rules. Consider medieval witch trials, during which intelligent women, often women who were healers using herbs the medicinal properties of which the community did not grasp, were burned or drowned.

I’ve been thinking about times of need. My mother once told me–when her children, jokingly, pressed her to choose her favorite among us, “My favorite child is the one who needs me most at any given time.” I’ve always loved that answer and now, as a mother, I am learning that I cannot always know which of my children needs me most at any given time. It is not always the one who comes whining to me. 

I’ve been thinking about the Brady Bunch. About how they are not real. They are on TV. They are two-dimensional and never to go to the bathroom.

 

(And no, Husbot, if you are reading this, this is not about you. ;> )

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A Small, Irritating Raccoon Celebrates Father’s Day

So, here is a confession: the Andrews family crest is headed by a small, irritating raccoon.

The small, irritating raccoon can even irritate another inanimate object.

The small, irritating raccoon can even irritate another inanimate object.

A small, irritating raccoon made from cotton pompoms, holding a pompom apple, both apple and raccoon circa 1975.

A small, irritating, inanimate raccoon by the name of Superpeeky.

There are actually two of him. Different generations. Identical except for the fact that one was acquired by my brother when he was five, and the other two years later. My brother carried them around everywhere, with a fist around their necks (an anatomical feature denoted by the layer of glue affixing the pompom body to the pompom head.) Over the years, their necks elongated and they lost any semblance of a chin they once may have possessed.

Over the decades, Superpeeky has contracted a personality like some contract a disease. He is an egomaniac; he thinks he can fly but is tragically anti-aerodynamic; his brain, such as it is, with just one axon spinning wildly in attempt to synapse with itself, actually resides in the apple that he carries between his front paws; he lusts after the female wild boars who root about the bamboo forests near my brother’s home in Japan, and he is suspected of having fathered several boar/raccoon offspring, probably born with their apples in their mouths, but no one knows for sure, as none have ever been sighted.

The Superpeekies have also acquired a brief but notable wardrobe. Grandpa Supes (the elder) wears a red-and-white striped suit that I hand-stitched for him I think when I was nine. He has not taken it off since. Over this, he wears a Magic Tanning Shirt. It is pale yellow with a white polo collar, fashioned by my mother long ago in homage to a ten dollar shirt my father wore for over two decades during annual family vacations to Hawaii, and which he insisted accounted for his deep and even tan, which was the envy of his teenaged daughters. (It was the eighties). The original shirt was immune to the ravages of time, the changing of fashions, and an onslaught of sand, suntan lotion, sloughed skin, and derogatory remarks. As though feeding on the negative attention, it only grew stronger (while growing shorter and more misshapen) as the years passed. Sort of like Yoda.

I finally forced its retirement by purchasing a new Ralph Lauren model in a similar shade of yellow, but like Freddy Kreuger or, more accurately, like a wolf spider, who carries its pinpoint-sized, newly hatched spiderlings on its vast back, and if crushed by, say, Harry Potter, Volume 3, in the middle of the night, lives on in the miniature versions of itself that are small enough to scuttle to freedom (until they’re sprayed with toilet bowl cleanser)*, the shirt found new life in Superpeeky-sized versions of itself.

(If at this point you are questioning the sanity of my family, I am in no position to offer you assurances of normalcy. But if you ever find yourself in an airport interrogation room being questioned about why a small, irritating raccoon holding an apple and made out of pompoms is wearing a polo shirt, you’ll be able to whip out an answer with convincing speed.)

Superpeeky the younger can often be found sporting the Magic Tanning Shirt, which he wears sporadically, as the mood moves his keepers (the Superpeekies rotate between my brother’s office in Japan and my parents’ bookshelves in Idaho, when they haven’t been kidnapped by other family members who have been known to demand ransom in macadamia nuts).

One could write a doctoral dissertation on the psychosociological ramifications of Superpeeky. In the meantime, he has several practical uses.

He makes an excellent foil against which to measure oneself and the situations in which one finds oneself (for example, “Wow, gout must really suck, but by God, at least your brain isn’t in your apple.”)

He also provides a good go-to subject for special-occasion customized greeting cards when the selection of eCards falls short. For example:

FATHER’S DAY CAN GET BETTER AS YOU GET OLDER

and your hearing starts to go:

img001

img002

I’m just saying, every family should have a Superpeeky. (But if ours disappears, we will track you down and make you wear a Magic Tanning Shirt.)

*Not that that ever, ever happened in real life in the bots’ bedroom, leaving Husbot to clean up the poisonous toilet bowl cleanser which presented much more of a potential hazard to bots than a harmless yet large and gross mommy wolf spider.

Bots Bugged By Bugs, But This Bug’s Not Bugging Me

2012 October 31 Halloween NIKON 012

One thing I’ve had time to do is go through this year’s photos and make our Christmas cards. Normally, the bots love bugs!

We are on Day Four of the 2012 West Valley Endurance Biathlon, in which contestants alternate between pooping and puking during daytime hours. So far, Gbot is the clear winner, but he got a three-day headstart. Mbot threatens to give him the runs for his money. As for me, I’ve had a mildly upset stomach, but nothing that doing laundry twenty-four hours a day can’t keep at bay. Even the antique cat joined the festivities and left two little puddles of bile for me to step in early this morning before attending to other bile piles.

The bots aren’t in pain–except for the diaper rash that comes with the bug–they’re just very lethargic. Gbot’s finally on antibiotics. A downside for me of the P’n’P’ Biathlon is that it’s been accompanied by a Busytown Mysteries marathon. After nine hours of watching the same ten episodes ad infinitum, yesterday evening I finally insisted that something, anything, else be put in the DVD player. I am an evangelical fan of Richard Scarry books. But the film adaptations, I can’t stand. The bots, on the other hand, think it’s the best thing since Max and Ruby, another show I can’t stand.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s so teeth-grittingly bad about it. Maybe because Lowly Worm, who is a good-natured, skinny sidekick in the books, has an incredibly annoying voice. And then there are Pig Will and Pig Won’t, who bicker constantly. Mbot loves them. He wants to go live in their world.

Meanwhile, in my world, Husbot is feeling bad for me. “I know this is when motherhood is hardest,” he empathized on Day One. Then he proceeded to pick Mbot up from school two days in a row and taken him on adventures all afternoon before dropping him at Grandma’s. Grandma brought Mbot home tired and fed. Meanwhile, I experienced the two quietest days I can remember in a long time. Even today, with both bots home and leaking at both ends, it’s another quiet day (except for the swoosh of the washing machine and the constant tumbling sounds from the dryer.) I convinced the bots to trade in Busytown for Christmas specials and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. I have set them guilt-free in front of the boob tube. The hardest part of motherhood? No. The hardest part of motherhood is all those other days–three hundred and perhaps fifty-five of them a year–when everything is a whirlwind of normalcy, when I am taking care of two healthy, active bots, trying to get on with career and cooking and cleaning, too, and no one’s saying, “This is the hardest part of motherhood.”

I just agreed with Husbot. “So true,” I said. But it has been a reminder that I feel less frantic–and happier–when I am concentrating on just one or two things–keeping bots comfortable and the house as sanitary as possible–and not spreading myself across an impossibly long “to do” list.

I hope we’re back to normal by tomorrow. If we are, I will try to remember how this slower pace felt, and try to go a little slower in my own West Valley Multi-Day Mothering Marathon.

 

 

 

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.)

Dear Husbot, Thank You, But Did You Have To…

$16.95 + $4.95 shipping, from Crate and Barrel. That’s $33.90 + $9.90, for two.

Dear Husbot,

Thank you for killing the black widow spider hanging in front of the front door.

But did you have to throw away my broom afterward? The one with the whimsically stripy handle that makes me feel not quite so bitter about sweeping?

I mean, I’m totally thrilled that you a.) identified the spider that I incorrectly identified as “not a black widow, I didn’t see that red hour glass on its back,” b) didn’t snicker while pointing out that the hourglass is actually on its tummy and c) stomped on it repeatedly because my simply throwing two issues of the Sunday New York Times on it the night before when I incorrectly identified it was obviously an inadequate murder technique.

But did you have to throw away my broom afterward? Without telling me? And not replace it? Immediately? In a household in which gravity is twice as strong as at other locations on Earth, and in which at least once a week an object fabricated either of glass or ceramics explodes on the tile floor?

Really. Thank you for compensating for my ignorance regarding the Insects of the Desert and their feeding, sleep, and recreational habits. I had not known that a spider hanging no more than eighteen inches above the ground in a lit doorway at night would be a spider that could poison my children. Forgive me: our children. And that a black widow has a tough exoskeleton that renders it impervious to the impact of even a month’s worth of lightly read Times. And that after suffering such an insult, it would scurry into a hole until darkness fell again, at which point it would resume hunting. In our doorway.

But did you have to throw away my broom afterward? I still don’t quite understand why. When there are four extremely tender feet that depend on my using it almost daily. Did you throw it away because of the black widow, or because you then used it to reach the giant cockroach that I spotted camping out high on the wall, after you’d killed the black widow? The one that instigated a call to Pete the Bug Guy who I thought you’d called last month?

Thank you for killing the giant cockroach.

But did you have to throw away my broom?

Shelve the Guilt, Girl, and Go

Girl’s Night Out: Not only increasing your own health and happiness, but giving your bots the best possible chances of survival. (examiner.com)

Husbot returned Thursday night from two days on the road (work), and when he asked about weekend plans, I reminded him that I was flying to Denver for forty-three hours to attend a party celebrating the thirty-fifth wedding anniversary of dear friends whom I hadn’t seen in ten years..

“Oh,” he said. “I forgot.”

He was stressed out from work, the dog had been peeing twelve times a day, not always outside, and I know he’d been looking forward to a respite. “It’s okay,” he assured me, sincerely, but after a moment of silence. “I just forgot it was this weekend.”

Although he spends hours each day and most of every weekend with the bots, it’s an entirely different gig if you’re playing solo.

“Ginger’s coming for fours Saturday and again on Sunday,” I added. “And Grandma wants a couple of hours each day with them, one at a time. And I’ll be back at 9:30 Monday morning.” The heavy silence told me he was trying to remember the last time he had taken a vacation, but was probably too tired to recall.

I am fortunate that he recognizes the value of vacations. But I wanted to explain to him that, although I am thrilled to be going, although I will have a splendid time because I love these people and I will get to sleep in on Sunday morning and none of this will feel like work, this isn’t a vacation: It’s part of my job.

When I gave birth to Mbot, I was teaching a college writing course, nursing and pumping a combined ten hours a day, and patchworking together an average of five hours of sleep in every twenty-four. Every single second of every day was accounted for. Every moment I spent lying down, nursing, pumping, teaching, reading, writing, errand-running, laundering, cooking, showering, emailing, talking on the phone with sister, brother, friends, I asked myself, “Am I using this moment to its greatest efficiency? Does this really need to be done?”

I found myself justifying the time I spent emailing and on the phone (let me tell you, not much) and at the same time it was daawning on me that I was the one upon which responsibility wordlessly fell to create and send out birth announcements, bot pictures, updates, birthday cards. To respond to offers to help and invitations to dinner. To take bots to visit friends and out-of-state relatives. These last few things fell under the umbrella of social secretary—not social-ite.

And I found that no one took seriously the time or energy necessary to maintain our connections with family and friends. It’s the sort of thing that men, I think, consider an extracurricular activity that women do because we’re just gabby girls and like to do it. And I do enjoy much of it. I also find much of it a pain in the ass: (summoning patience during my mother-in-law’s sililoquies, updating my (woefully unupdated) Facebook page).

It’s probably taught in Sociology 101, but it took motherhood for me to figure this out: what might be labeled by society as mindless, frivolous socialilzing serves a very specific purpose: the maintenance of a community that will not only support and nurture the bots as they grow, but will support them and nurture them in the event of my absence.

By spending precious time and energy (and Husbot’s time and energy in the form of American Express), I’m strengthening bonds that will very likely help my children survive and thrive. I’m sending out the message: I care about you. I’m there for you. And please don’t forget about us.

Mahjong Dream Club: Playstation hopes to attract men to this traditionally all-women table game. (www.siliconera.com)

This responsibility—the keeper of connections–falls, traditionally, on the woman. And judging from Husbot’s nonexistent social schedule, if I counted on him to do it, people would start thinking the earth really is flat and that we’d fallen off the edge of it.

Of course, if you’re Facebooking instead of feeding your bots breakfast, you might want to consider scaling down your social network. But otherwise—drop the guilt, moms. When you’re chatting on your cell with your best friend from college instead of folding minature pants? You’re just doing your job.

Why I Feel Good About the Feathers in My Car’s Grill

Maybe I should have made a really ugly hat. (mainstylelist.com)

Or, to bastardize Emily Dickenson: Self-Forgiveness is the Car with Feathers in its Grill.

Doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s because sense has little or nothing to do with it. Sense is the thing that tries valiantly and in vain to override instinct, synapses, chemicals–namely, hormones.

Let me start again: Every May, drivers in Phoenix are treated to a feast of aviary roadkill. It is often found in pairs. Doves, I think. Of some kind. Rather small. Gray and feathery. In May, one will notice couples of these birds crossing the road, chasing one another from one lane to the other–blind to oncoming hazards much bigger, much harder, and with much more inertia than themselves.

For those of you who haven’t guessed it already, May is, for these birds, mating season.

Made me think of my own mating seasons. The strange, bad, funny, head-shakingly inappropriate choices I made in love on the road to Husbot. In disecting the intricacies of my intimacies, it is easy to not forgive myself some of the remarkable detours along the way. In my MFA Creative Nonfiction program, we were warned about this. Be kind, we were told. Be kind to your younger self. You were only a child. A teen. A young woman. Still a young woman. And be kind to yourself, now. I know everyone preaches that. But it begs the question: If I’m TOO kind, then how the hell will I EVER learn ANYTHING? Ah, that darned rationality stepping in again.

I recommend to everyone who can empathize to drive under the speed limit toward two birds walking in the road–one named Romeo, the other Juliet–expecting them to fly away at the last moment, thus miraculously avoiding contact with your car as birds always do–and then thwump, feeling the impact on your grill and watching a shower of small gray feathers wash across your windshield. It might make you realize that we need to forgive ourselves our mistakes in love. And consider ourselves lucky in all cases in which we don’t end up just a feather under the windshield wiper.

 

 

 

Idaho Vacation, Part 4: Descent into Madness

tlc.howstuffworks.com

In the darkness of 6:15 a.m. in my parents’ guest room, my cell phone alarm rescued me from a dream in which I had very strange neighbors and was worried about killing a houseplant because I’d forgotten to water it. I awoke to two weeBots sleeping nearby, both of whom I’d soon be responsible for getting onto and off of two airplanes without letting them starve, dehydrate, melt down, fall down an escalator, put a hand in a public toilet, or get lost. Reality wasn’t too far removed from the subconscious version, except in real life, my roommates were shorter and even stranger than my neighbors, and the stakes were higher.

Less than two hours later, The Guru (that would be Dad) and I lugged my retinue to the car (two boys, two bears, two bags, two carry-ons–The Guru likened us to Noah’s Ark and I suddenly wondered if the actual flood had been the least of Noah’s worries).

Everything went brilliantly, with the exception of a phone call as we were stepping out the door, which my mother answered, to hear a voice saying, “This is an automated call from Delta with information about your cancelled flight.”

My mother called to me in a voice in which disbelief battled with horror.

And then she started laughing. “Well of course I believed you! It’s happened before!” she wailed with relief into the phone.

The call was from my sister, Susan.

Susan figured that if The Guru had answered the phone, he would have just hung up and dropped us at the airport anyway, vanishing in a burst of battery power. But Nanny answered it, and, when she didn’t recognize her firstborn’s version of an automated voice, my sister fell victim to her own success and collapsed in fits of hilarity at her own hilariousness. This sort of occurrence is common in my family.
The skies were clear. We arrived at the airport well ahead of take-off time. At security, Mbot loaded Junepbear into a plastic bin and then Sprucebear into a plastic bin and then Gbot’s coat into a plastic bin. The fifty-minute flight to Salt Lake City was preternaturally uneventful. Mbot stared at photos from the movie in the dog-eared paperback 1977 edition of Star Wars that Nanny had conjured from the attic. He pushed the buttons on his armrest and pretended he was an astronaut. Gbot colored and ate Goldfish.
In the Salt Lake City airport, I paid for the calm with Bots Running Wild–partially my fault: I chose a decaf mocha over full control (holding a coffee cup leaves you one-handed). On the ninety-minute flight to Phoenix, while Mbot watched Tom and Jerry chase each other on the DVD screen, Gbot played with the in-case-of-emergency folder in the seat pocket in front of him and then I had to make up a lie about why there was a picture of fire in it. (Someone was blowing a cigarette (Bot-speak) and that’s against the rules.) I actually opened up my computer and was able to work for nineteen minutes (first time on a flight since Mbot was born. I was feeling Good. I was feeling In Control. ) Then Gbot’s apple juice spilled and then the seatbelt sign came on, which initiated an extremely loud ten-minute rebellion on the part of a damp and apply-smelling Gbot against his seat belt during descent. I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport without Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We joyfully reunited with Husbot, who carried his long lost Bots and promised to play their favorite game, Hide From the Dragon.
Then he drove us all back home, at which point I was plunged back into real life: how were we going to deal with the dog’s persistent rug-soiling, the dishwasher’s sudden and mysterious leak, and the antique cat’s new adoption of the dining table as a bed?
Walking in the door, I found the contents of the bathroom drawers piled on my side of the bed (Husbot had been cleaning–difficult to complain…), and Husbot mentioned several home-improvement plans that require further lengthy discussion, particularly on the subject of budgetary constraints, and the pile of mortgage paperwork awaits. The anchors of responsibility. I feel an extremely loud sputterfuss coming on as I descend into my daily life. I do not want to remain securely seated; I want to jump up and find the aisle and run free.
Not completely free, of course. I don’t want to get lost.
And that’s the alternative.
How do you feel when you get home from vacation?

Robot, Hero, Discovered in Arizona Desert

They're right there, on the Lucky Charms. (www.inhabitots.com)

Although I reminded Husbot twice before I left town and texted him both the night before and the morning of Mbot’s show-and-tell, to remind him about it, I neglected to mention Recycle Robot.

We had discussed him several times before I left. To the every-fourteen-business-days question, “What would you like to bring for show-and-tell?”, last week Mbot replied, “Recycle Robot.” I was surprised he remembered Recycle Robot. Recycle Robot the First had lived an exciting yet abbreviated life in the limelight (see Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus.)

In our discussions, I said things like, “If you want to bring Recycle Robot to show-and-tell, we need to build him. Would you like to build him now?” And something would always happen–drawing a picture or becoming Wonder Girl or becoming Fasci the horse or zooming around the house on his Strider bike–and Recycle Robot would retreat into the hazy future. Show-and-tell wasn’t ’til Thursday. Which, in preschooler years, isn’t ’til December.

I thought Mbot would forget about Recycle Robot. Did I really think this? No. But I fervently hoped it. Surely he would fixate on a flattened penny, or one of Daddy’s maps of the Coconino National Park, or his new fave bedtime friend, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book from the library.

Today, far away in Chicago, I pushed away the niggling fear that Recycle Robot would rise to haunt me, as I went from the Goucher booth at the AWP Book Fair to the panel on the mix of motherhood and writing (the product of which does not combust if combined in just the right manner) to another on running writer’s workshops. Before I headed out to a reading by the poet laureates of both Great Britain and the United States, Husbot called.

“How is everything going?” I asked from my perch overlooking the Chicago skyline.

“Great, just fine,” said Husbot. “Except,”

I froze. I knew that Recycle Robot was coming to haunt me.

“…Except at 10:30 yesterday, Mbot sprung on me that he was going to bring Recycle Robot to show-and-tell.”

I sat rigid on my puffy, immaculate bedspread and did the math. 10:30. That would give Husbot exactly seventy-five minutes to make Recycle Robot. Subtracting time spent coaxing the Bots into the bathroom, convincing them into socks, supervising the application of shoes, acquiring last-minute food and drinks, and loading into the Midget Mobile, I calculated that this left no more than six minutes and thirty-eight seconds for the design and construction of Recycle Robot.

“I tried to talk him into something else,” continued Husbot. “But he was insistent. And he was good about not throwing a sputterfuss.”

“What happened?” I asked. I felt like I was watching a Hitchcock film. Everything was pretty bad, and you waited, and waited, and then things got much worse.

Husbot’s voice was nonchalant. “We made Recycle Robot.”

I blinked. “What?”

“I found a Triscuits box, and we put on a plastic head, and got cardboard tubes for legs….Mbot drew a face on him, and wrote his name on the back…It was great. He was very pleased with it. Everyone really liked it.”

Thoughts whirled in my head: Why couldn’t I pull Recycle Robot out of my ass? It had taken us almost two hours to make Recycle Robot the First. Of course, I had insisted on articulated limbs.Why did Husbot sound so relaxed about it? It’s not like he was the show-and-tell expert. I had needed an extra glass of wine the night that Recycle Robot the First was born. But those thoughts splintered and disintegrated like cheap fireworks and the one that filled the pristine room on South Michigan Avenue was:

It’s things like this that make women fall in love.

Who was your hero today?

Dear All: Our Year Was Better Than Your Year

Annual Christmas letters. I mentioned them yesterday because I got a chance to edit my sister’s. It passes muster in my book because 1. it’s funny and 2. it mentions her daughter’s ear infection in Hawaii. But we’ve all received them: the hyperbolic records of children’s achievements, professional successes, and dreamy vacations on which everyone behaved and no one hyperventilated when the Amex bill arrived.

Not long before I met Husbot, I sent out my First Annual Christmas Letter. I will copy it here, in case you’d like to use it as a model for yours at the close of 2012.  Its virtue is that it won’t make anyone hate you.

This man apparently did see the parrots of Telegraph Hill. (photo by janinsanfran at http://www.happening-here.blogspot.com)

Dear All,

Apologies for the mass-mailed “Christmas Letter,” but so much has happened this year that it seemed the most efficient way to go.

Abruptly single again last November, I started drinking an extra glass of wine every night (my friend Solveig said it was okay to start in the morning, but I rarely rose before noon). Seeking a more fulfilling life path, I applied, again with the help of my friend Solveig, for several jobs as far away as northern Idaho and New England. I did not get them. Nor did I finish my novel.

Meanwhile, I began plucking a growing hedge of gray hairs from my temples and upper lip.  The good news is that many of my new hairs are hidden in my deepening wrinkles. My friend Solveig says that these wrinkles are my fault; that if I had used sunscreen in my youth, I would still be smooth as the top of a fresh pumpkin pie, but I disagree—it is genetic, as is my progressive hearing loss.

Solveig told me that traveling would help, so I visited San Francisco. I looked for the parrots of Telegraph Hill but did not find them.

As for the pets, my cat, Tesserwell, didn’t seem to mind moving four times after we hurriedly left the yurt that came with the job I had to quit when my boyfriend left me. My dog, June, didn’t mind the moves either except for the last time, when she had explosive diarrhea for three days. We’re in a nice townhouse now, and Solveig says that it’s healthy that we’re no longer in the basement with the vermicomposter, or the condo with the unemployed Vicodan addict, or the guesthouse of the rich man who kept asking for blowjobs (he did not get them). And unlike the yurt, the townhouse has plumbing!

I have high hopes that the new year will bring a wonderful man into my life. Solveig says I deserve someone with whom to share my unique outlook and way of facing life’s challenges.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Betsy

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What’s your Christmas letter look like?