Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Blue Glow

Sometimes at night, the tinted screen of the computer makes a haze that is the only evidence an outsider can see of life within my window.

This is me when I'm reading your blog, or clicking on the "newlywed" bulletin board I continue to visit without knowing why, or Googling "recurrent high fever infants" to find some reasoning behind the fact that Number Two spikes a temperature of 104 if he so much as looks at a bacterium.

Sometimes the calendar on the wall is two weeks out of date; sometimes it's a month. Sometimes my answering machine blinks with a message that I've already heard, being that I was sitting right in front of it as the caller left a taped proclamation of her desire to speak with me. Sometimes my desk is messier. It's rarely neat.

The glow is more fascinating than the reality. It's the not knowing. It's the imagination of children as they drive by houses on a summer evening, looking in windows while the warm air pushes through their own cracked glass.

It's always bluer on the other side.


Thanks to Mrs. Chicken and Lauren for inspiring this post.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Precursor to Another Father's Day

I found The Partner's first Father's Day in an old blog of mine. It went like this:

Last night The Partner did the most amazing thing. He walked into the banshee's lair, placed his hand on her writhing back, and lulled her to sleep with his presence. The incredible part isn't that she calmed down so easily; it's that he reached out. The gesture was a year in the making. His hands-on approach toward swapping out car engines or turbo-charging lawnmowers never extended to the day-to-day maintenance of a baby. What he wanted from life was simple: cars, trucks, boats, cable television and pie. He thought a wife to hand him the torque wrench and laugh uproariously at his jokes would be quite nice, too. At 27, he was sure he had a few more good years of buying toys and watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel before Father's Day would be anything but a celebration of his own dad's role in his upbringing. At 28, he realized he was wrong. Much petulance ensued.

When I told him I was pregnant and he was unenthused, I pushed it to the back of my mind with the ever hopeful "he'll get excited when I start to show and it becomes more real to him." When I started to show, I figured he'd come around when he felt her kick from within. When her kick made him jerk his hand back with an incredulous "it's like a God damned alien in there," I was sure that her birth would be the moment of true acceptance. Unfortunately, I was unconscious for that and cannot make an identification either way. All I know is that I came to and there was nothing to indicate that the bond I was anticipating had been forged. Until yesterday. Until Father's Day.

The Partner was adamant that he didn't want any gifts. So I didn't get him any. But we had what turned out to be a nice visit to his parents' house and, on the drive down, I laughed a lot. He likes when I do that and I guess, yesterday, it was as good for him as it was for me. At his parents' home, we conversed and ate and ogled the happy baby. Our dog drank too much water and peed on their carpet. The ride home was companionably silent.

After I nursed The Boss and put her in her crib, she was too exhausted to sleep. The air was thick with humidity and with dust from the inaugural use of our big box fan. I laid on top of the sheets in my underwear while she cried it out. I heard my husband at the top of the stairs and saw the hall go black. I thought the creaking floorboards would lead him to our bedroom, but the doorway remained empty. Suddenly there was only the white hot noise of the fan. Several minutes later he padded into bed. He set the alarm for 7:30 a.m.

"How'd you get her to do that?" I asked the ceiling as he laid on his back beside me.

"I just put my hand on her back till she fell asleep."

"Oh." A breeze that wasn't light or heavy rustled through the curtains. I thought, this is why I love the beginning of summer. Things you have been waiting for so long finally start to happen.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I don't know Number Two.

I know he likes balloons and baths. I know he's calm most of the time, except for when he's tired, or when I return from somewhere else and he suddenly realizes I was gone. Then his upper lip starts to quiver over a straight bottom one, and his eyes wrinkle a bit as tears wait for just one more crease to push them over the edge.

But in this one whole year, I don't yet know him.

His time is his alone. My time is for feeding and changing him; for meeting every ramped up demand of his big sister; for housework and homework. He plays by my side, or crawls fast around the first floor in time with the rhythms of our life. His moves don't elicit the attention that The Boss's every one earned the first time around. I don't force myself into his head the way I did with his sister. There are too many heads now. There is too much going on to figure it all out. He's happy to avoid analysis. He's content with a tickle and a big laugh.

When The Boss was one, I did not understand the shortness of twelve months. So I had to know her right away. I made it my business. Now I know a year is a blink--the kind of blink, like Number Two's, that finally makes the tears spill over--and that it doesn't have to hold all the answers.

I will know him soon enough. I'll know him well enough. Then, and for a short time, I'll know him better than anybody.

Monday, June 08, 2009

100 Things About Me - Part IV

76. After some job changes, and in yet another example of the efficacy of a liberal arts degree, I worked in a factory bending metal for several months during 2002.
77. The Partner asked my father for permission to marry me in a clandestine driveway encounter at my parents’ house while I sat oblivious in the living room.
78. My father told my mother, who promptly told me.
79. I get angry just thinking about it.
80. The proposal, slightly less of a surprise than intended, came on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, which was the site of one of our earliest and most romantic dates.
81. The Partner-to-be and I bought a house in sin.
82. There was a mechanical bull at our wedding reception.
83. The latter part of our European honeymoon was spent with my in-laws.
84. When I got pregnant three months later, we waited till the end of the first trimester to tell anyone, including my parents.
85. My mother expressed outrage at not being trusted with the secret.
86. The Boss’s birth was a medical clusterfuck, if you’ll pardon the expression. Proper English simply does not convey my meaning.
87. The Boss was such a good baby.
88. If only my hormones were as cooperative.
89. I am a stay-at-home mom in name only. The Boss and I prefer to go out.
90. I put 30,000 miles on the car that first year.
91. I love Cadillacs.
92. It wasn’t until I became a mother that really became myself.
93. I completed my first book project when The Boss was a year old.
94. When she was two, we moved to the home in which we hope to raise our family.
95. She did not take kindly to the news that she was to become a big sister.
96. The Boss sensed imminent labor before I did. Hours before my first contraction hit, she let out a shriek. “It’s not fun being bigger and older!” She threw herself face-down onto our bed. “It’s not fun!” She threw herself back. The Partner and I reached out to her in our last huddle as a family of three.
97. I gave birth to Number Two after fifteen drug-free hours, thanks to The Partner and our Fairy Goddoula.
98. My son’s first year was a blur.
99. I don’t expect that view to change.
100. I save moments in writing because my clarity comes from words.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

All Rabbits Go to Heaven

Roxie was out of food. The Boss and I walked into the local dispensary of Wellness dog chow to stock back up. The store was filled with agricultural sundries as well as an array of gifts displayed around horse, American Flag, and lighthouse themes. Upon entrance, we were met by a collection of fowl pecking out at us from a multi-level enclosure.

The Boss watched for a few seconds, jumping back as one of the stringy chicks threatened to gouge out part of her anatomy. Then she submitted an interesting tidbit for discussion. "One of the animals in our class died. Fluffy died."

"Oh. Oh!" The sudden arrival of this moment, amidst caged turkeys at the feed store, caught me off guard. I knew it was important; I knew I should speak. But I've never been good under pressure. It's been accomplishment enough when I don't begin to flap my arms and hop around on one foot during a crisis situation.

"It's okay," The Boss told me. She was somber but sure. "Miss Kathy buried her."

"Oh. Oh!" I felt choked up by the loss of the white rabbit that had been a part of The Boss's daily life during her first year at school. I needed to say something to comfort her. The lack of words, coupled with my fierce desire to speak anyway, caused me to stutter a few times on "I."

The Boss stopped me. "It's okay," she repeated, more adamantly this time. Then she shrugged. Her arms were out at her sides, palms up, as if holding necessary weight atop each hand.

She thought for a minute, searching, like me, for words of comfort. I couldn't believe it. My daughter was trying to soothe us both.

"Fluffy is safe," The Boss said, finally. Her shoulders lifted again. "It's okay."

Note: Looking for the final installment of 100 Things About Me? Well, I guess it's not the first time I left you hanging. Numbers 76-100 will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

100 Things About Me - Part III

51. I expected to share my first college dorm room with another student, but I sent in my registration form too late and was put in a single on the hall of misfit frosh.
52. I wore a sterling silver crucifix around my neck the day my parents dropped me off in Virginia. I’ve been told I struck my hallmates as quiet and demure, but that was mostly because my mother did all the talking.
53. I secured a date with a cadet from the Virginia Military Institute on my second day at school.
54. There was a Lost Boys poster on my wall and a bottle of Jim Beam on my dresser.
55. My closest friends that year were from southwest Virginia, upstate New York, and Maine. Only one remains in touch.
56. I met my future husband via the Member Directory search function of America On-Line during the fall of my sophomore year. I was supposed to be studying for mid-terms. Sending random Instant Messages to remote frat boys proved more productive.
57. We met in person the following spring. Up until that point, I hadn’t even seen a photo of him, though he’d seen mine. It didn’t matter. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
58. I wasn’t.
59. We dated casually for the next two years.
60. My next batch of close college friends were keepers. We’re the same way—each of us as crazy as the other, each as crazy as we ever were—to this day.
61. My college summers revolved around the 3-11 p.m. shift at the snack shack where I’d been employed since high school.
62. After work, I'd go home to my parent's place and put on jogging clothes to run four dark miles.
63. Each jogging session was accompanied by the mixed tape made by my one remaining freshman friend. I remember the songs to this day: Shelter From the Storm by Dylan, Wannabe by the Spice Girls, Fast Car by Tracy Chapman, Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac.
64. Then I'd come home, eat a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, and chat online with The Partner-to-be until 4 in the morning.
65. While maintaining one casual, long distance relationship, I started dating a VMI cadet back at college.
66. At the end of our junior year, we traveled cross country to his home in Washington. His truck had a manual transmission which I learned to operate respectably, if not well.
67. His mother drank a nightly Manhattan on the patio beneath a sun that set so slowly it seemed to brighten midnight.
68. When the cadet finally decided I needed to choose between him and The Partner, it was a no-brainer.
69. I think I miss his mother the most.
70. It wasn’t until the morning of graduation that I learned I had not earned the concentration in creative writing I anticipated in conjunction with my English Literature major. I was one class short. Luckily, my second degree in Communication Studies remained unscathed.
71. My graduation gift from The Partner was a smaller, personalized version of the monogrammed ID bracelet he wore every day.
72. When my first job as a certified professional landed me near The Partner’s hometown, I told everyone that I wasn’t following him. It was partly true, inasmuch as he wasn’t living there at the time--he was finishing up college in New York. Still, I had reason to hope he’d move back.
73. He didn’t.
74. He first told me loved me in a drunken stupor on his 22nd birthday, right before he pulled down my pants in a forced moon on the overtime cop working the bar across the street.
75. I arrived early at work one remarkably blue-skied morning. It was the last time I’d have no context for the statement I overheard on the other side of my cube: “A plane flew into the World Trade Center.” What? My eyebrows crunched in confusion; my fingers tapped into existence on the screen of my Mac. What?