Friday, December 21, 2012

The Secrets We Keep

I don't know why we thought we could keep it from her. She is too smart--too aware--not to attune to the silent dirge within the nation's requiem.We know she knows, but we can't talk about it because of the reverb in our cathedral of lies.

"Sometimes I see things in my head. Bad things happening to my family or friends. And I get scared I'm going to lose you," she said on the way home from school earlier this week.

I looked at her in the rear view mirror. "Bad things? Like what?"

"Like they're getting shot. Or...or some kind of violence."

"That's an interesting way to put it. 'Violence.' Did you hear that somewhere recently?"

"No," she said.

Several weeks ago the house next to The Boss's school was gutted by a fire. Black window sockets still stare at the children every day. There's a tarp on the roof and the remnants of yellow police tape around the yard. One night The Boss cried in bed and said she was scared of losing us. I reassured her as best I could. We have fire alarms, I said. We have batteries. We have protection. It was such a solid, practical explanation.

During dinner the evening that The Boss told me about violence, we talked about it with The Partner.

"These gun shots you're talking about--was it something that was brought up at school?"


"Were your friends talking about it?"


"Then where did this come from?"

"I don't know."

The Boss is a self-professed secret keeper. She prides herself on it. I remembered that as she sat at the dinner table steadfast in the not knowing. 

"Are you keeping a secret now?" I asked. I was painfully aware of the irony. It was exquisite tortoiseshell combs in a pixie haircut; it was a watch-less fob.

"No," she said. "I'm not keeping a secret."

"We don't understand this violence you're talking about. Can you explain more? Can you give some examples?" I asked.

She blew out a puff of exasperation from the side of her lips. The sigh propelled her into speech. "World War II, alright? World War I. Is that a big secret?" She was hopping around in her seat now. She was making grand gestures and exaggerating each movement of her mouth, her eyes, her chin. "Huh? Huh? Is that a big secret?"

We laughed. We had to. She's our comedian. She has the concealed angst of an SNL cast member and the same need for approval. "Is that a big secret? Huh?" The more we laughed, the more she repeated herself. Finally, I suggested that she could improve her comedic stylings by learning when to quit. She just raised an eyebrow and twirled an imaginary moustache. "Is it a big secret, hmmmmmm?"

In the beginning, we didn't think she needed to know what we didn't have an explanation for anyway. There are no alarms for the kind of evil that has no source in normalcy. So we kept it secret and, in doing so, we forced her to do the same. We broke her trust. We condoned silence.

What can we say now?

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Mustang

The convertibles were out in force. There was a gasping sense of exhilaration as the New England fall meted out what promised to be the last of the warmth. It was like opening one's mouth in the wind--breathtaking in a way you could taste.

I was driving my own non-open vehicle to a birthday party with The Boss when I saw a 60s era Mustang in the distance. It was as red as an apple and ten times as shiny. Chrome accents gleamed in response to the fine-grained sun that only October optimism could produce. I saw a driver and three passengers. The two in the back were fidgety, their heads bobbing with excess energy and the wind.

As I pulled up alongside the rolling piece of Americana, I tried to steal a closer glance. There was a middle aged man--late 40s, maybe--in the driver's seat and an elderly one to his right. Two teenagers sat behind them. I was quickly found out; the driver looked over almost as soon as I did. I considered waving or giving the thumbs-up sign but ended up turning my face away instead.

The make-up of that Mustang's load could have been any number of possibilities, but I imagine three generations in two rows of beige leather. It may have appeared to me more idyllic than it was--the brightness, the chrome, the looks of peace in the front seat and exuberance in the back--but it didn't really matter. It was idyllic enough, in that moment, as the wheels turned over asphalt the way they'd been doing for 45 years.

I was a half-mile ahead when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the sun pull at the corners of that shiny image as if winking at me. I smiled back. I really did.

Monday, September 24, 2012


The Boss is Montessori educated. Every so often, bits of the methodology will come home either through the the weekly newsletter, the monthly magazine, or a parent education evening. Only what I deem directly relevant to me and my family, at that moment in time, sticks to my gray matter.

Here's relevant for you: Maria Montessori's careful study tells us that children begin to eschew parental attachment in favor of peer interaction at a certain age (around 6 or 7). What I’ve learned for myself is that the estrangement is not one-sided. 

I’ve relied on my daughter’s dependency for the first six years of her life. She put me in context. I was The Boss's mother because that's what she needed me to be. Now that she is exhibiting the first signs of social self-sufficiency, I’ve taken it, on some level, as permission for a subtle shift in my own identity. I'm still heavy on the mom thing--and I always will be--but the psychic weight of the first few years of motherhood is lessening. There's more room for me.

It’s hard-won but it’s bittersweet. We are learning together what it means to exist on our own. The difficulty comes in reconciling our two distinct lives with the connection and understanding we both still need.

I know I won't be The Boss's favorite person in the world for much longer. Kids just don't develop that way. But I'm realizing something. Being the best was easy when I was the only one in the game. The Boss's world is expanding now, and soon it will be as big as the globe. I owe it to her find my own place and to do the hard work necessary to become the person she was biologically predisposed to believe I always was.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ode to the Crows Upon My Mid-life Crisis

I have crow's feet now. They weren't there when I started this blog. I don't know exactly when they showed up, those subtle footprints of age, but I know when I noticed. It was Tuesday.

Since then, I've been scouring the Internet and store shelves for eye serum to fill in the "fine lines and wrinkles." I've been staring in the mirror, watching the tiny claws dig deeper with each manufactured smile. Maybe I laugh too much. Or maybe I only noticed the lines in the first place because I haven't been laughing enough.

The birds, though: I've attuned to the them for awhile, those harbingers of doom and death. I've seen them on the wires and wondered what's coming. But omens are subtler than that. Crows don't denote imminent destruction--not usually, not in real life. They're a reminder only that it's always in the wings.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Nothing is Simple

Number Two is full of love. He spews it unconditionally. When I donned a bikini top yesterday in preparation for some power washing, he told me he loves my boobies. When we read a Cars book before bed, he looked at an illustration of Mack and said "I love that trailer." Should we pass by a farm on the way to drop off The Boss at school, I can count on him expressing his devotion to "that cow."

He loves colors, friends, and tasty food. He loves breezes and puddle splashing. He loves planes, trains and automobiles. He loves shooting "hoots," which is his word for basketball.

Sometimes when I think of Number Two, I think of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man. He's only three, but I can't help pondering the person he is poised to become.

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son,
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It'll help you some sunny day.
Oh, take your time...Don't live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you'll find love,
And don't forget son,
There is someone up above.
And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?

The thing is, unlike the boy in the song, my son doesn't need his mama to tell him how to be. He just knows. And unlike the mama in the song, I'm not sure simplicity is what I want for him. I'm not accustomed to simple kind of men.

I don't know what to make of this little guy who simply loves.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


There was nothing to do while Number Two dawdled over his dinner plate but look at him. I studied a face that had thinned out in the pattern following babies to boyhood. He ate sweetly. He's the only one who makes chewing sounds I don't mind listening to.

He watched me watching him. "I love your eyes," he said, his mouth a green gape of broccoli.

The unexpected compliment drew a smile from my lips. I laughed a little, my grin growing.

"And your big teeth," he added.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Second Child

The morning was cold and quiet. The Boss busied herself getting dressed. The Partner set out cereal. I took a shower. In the midst of the footsteps, the clank of the bowl, and the running water, there was silence.

Number Two was away at the paternal grandparents'. I imagined he had no idea what to do with all the attention. Here, at home, he is swept up in the day-to-day of our four person household. He is carried in The Boss's wake. At least that's what I thought until his absence indicated otherwise.

On that silent Sunday I realized Number Two has his own drive. His feet pound the floor with distinct energy. He labels everything loudly. He's no bystander. He's on the cusp of three and I never knew this about him.

It's not that I don't see my two children apart. The Boss goes to school every day. From 8:30 to 3, it's me and Number Two. But it's so fast. There are errands to run and playgroups to attend and toddler "'nastics" classes to get to. Somehow he always seems to be in the shadow of activity. At the school parking lot, The Boss's huge aura swallows him up again. The fact that he's large and lively inside of it is not as apparent as it otherwise could be.

At home, at night, Number Two was still away. The Boss was perplexed. "It's so weird," she said. "This morning I wished he was in my room waking me up like always. But I don't like it when he does that! I want to sleep and he says 'wake up!' I don't like it, but I miss it. That's so weird." She shook her head at the opposition of these emotions. It was new to her.

The evening routine went smoothly. It was mostly self-directed by The Boss. There were no diapers to change, no extra stories to read, no peripheral obligations. There was no din.

I shook my head. This was new to me.