Posts Tagged ‘1998’

The spider story

November 15, 2013

My son has always been a sensitive little thing.

When he was 5, he helped me paint his room before we moved into our first house in California.

We stood side by side on his desk while we readied the window up high. I reached into the corner with my brush and cleared out a spiderweb.

“Oh, Mama!” He pointed to a spider on the wall. “He just watched you destroy his home!”

So I picked up the newspaper, rolled it and smashed the homeless spider.

“There. Now he’s not sad anymore.”

Are you all glad I’m not your mother?


Letters to my children

October 27, 2013

When I was starting out in the newsroom I edited obituaries.

It skewed my perspective on mortality. A good number more than you’d think are young people.

People my age died everyday. They died on the freeway, and they died of heart disease. One woman who went to high school with me died of AIDS. Another had an unexpected seizure. They left behind babies.

I was not yet 30.

It began to occur to me that my chances of survival on any given day could be good, could be bad.

I stopped taking the freeway to work.

I filled out my own obit form with my history and favorite charity. I wrote down the song I wanted played at my service.

Then I wrote letters to my children, just in case. They offered comfort, love and acceptance. They revealed what I saw in them that was good.

It wasn’t enough. I wrote more letters.

I wrote letters to be opened on their wedding days.

It wasn’t enough.

By the time I was through, there were stacks of letters for each child. They included graduation, first home purchase and first baby. Then I had to write letters for  in case one of them didn’t graduate, get married or have a baby. There were some to be opened in the event of unexpected pregnancy or in case they were gay.

I went completely round the bend thinking of circumstances I should lend a voice to.

I was writing to sophisticated people I didn’t even know. During this frenzy, my kids were 3 and 5.

Now they’re almost 15 and 17. I can throw most of the letters out. They know I would support whatever they decided to do about a pregnancy. They know I don’t care if they’re gay. They know I’m proud of the people they’ve become, and they have the strength and confidence to choose futures that make them happy.

They’ve had the benefit of witnessing my values as far as marriage, parenting, drinking and humor. I’ve taught them both how to cook, sew and play poker.

Thanks to this blog, they even have all the family stories.

I’m not ready to die, but tonight I’ve decided something close. I’m ready to relax.

The yelling story

June 12, 2013

Happy happy birthday to my favorite girl in the world, my beautiful wonderful daughter.

This is my favorite story about her, because it shows how very cool she is and always has been.

We moved to California when she 2 and a half. My husband became a stay-at-home dad and I left to work two jobs.  

Something happened one night. I don’t know what. I wasn’t home.

My husband apparently lost his temper at The Baby. He said he just blew his top and yelled himself out at her. She had never been yelled at before.

She stood there unblinking, looking up at him throughout his tirade. 

When he stopped, she put her index finger against her lips and went, “Ssshhhh.”

She had him trained in no time.


June 6, 2013

I had an emotional conversation with some of our friends this morning. They’re putting their dog down today.

Since we got our first dog I’ve imagined his death. I calculated how old my children would be if he lived an average lifespan. I pictured calling them home from college to say their goodbyes, all of us lying spoon-style on the dog bed, which would be wet with tears.

We had to put our family cat down when the kids were 3 and 5.

We stroked the cat and spoke soothingly, gathered around the cold, steel table in the veteranian’s office. We pretended not to see him tap tap the side of the syringe.

My son maybe shouldn’t have been in there. He was darting his eyes around and feeling helpless. His first word had been ‘cat.’

My daughter was unfazed. I suspected she didn’t understand.

The next day I discovered one of our rabbits, Hare-ica Jong, was dead on the bathroom floor. I think she had had a fight with Cyndi Lop Ear, because there was blood on her neck.

The day after that, I was calling around the house for my husband. I said to my daughter, “Have you seen Daddy? I can’t find him.”

She shrugged without looking up from her toys. “Maybe he’s dead.”

Suspicion confirmed.

Saw my old lover in a grocery store…

June 2, 2013

I spent 10 years wondering what happened to my high school boyfriend after he went to jail.

I had loved him in that deep, drowning way 17-year-olds do.

His family was poor and fractured, and his talent and intelligence went to waste as he was forced to do whatever he could to help keep his mother’s electricity from being turned off.

His father was living in the van he sold drugs out of in front of the laundromat.

I share this, because I will always argue that he was a good boy in a bad circumstance. He was just a sweet boy.

About a year after high school he was arrested for drug possession.

We wrote each other before he was moved to a drug rehab facility in Sacramento. He was not allowed contact with people from home. That’s when I lost him.

A couple of years later I did my semester in Mexico and found someone else. The next year I got a reporting assignment in Hawaii and met my husband. I fell into that deep, drowning love adults have.

Despite having moved on from my teen heartbreak, I wondered. I didn’t know where he ended up. I expected to hear he’d died.

About a year after we moved from Boulder back to my hometown, I saw him at the grocery store. I was on my way home from a workout, and looked sloppy in a baggy T-shirt and pony tail.

I squinted at him approaching in the aisle, thinking he looked familiar. Then I recognized his mother. If he had been alone, I might have walked by. He wasn’t a boy anymore, and I didn’t know him as a man.

I froze, right in front of the pasta. I whispered his name questioningly to myself — maybe it wasn’t even out loud. Then he passed by me and I was sure. I spun around and called it.

He turned around.

Then he crushed me. He said, “I thought that was you. I don’t have my glasses on –”

He wears glasses?

“– but when I heard your voice, I knew for sure. You were talking to that lady giving out cheese samples.”

That lady was in the entrance. He had known I was in the store the whole time, and wasn’t going to say anything.

His mom left us to finish shopping. I told him I was married with two kids and working in journalism. He told me he had recently spent six years in prison and had a child he wasn’t allowed to see. He said for a short time he had a nice truck. He might get a job at a furniture factory.

I was sad for his past, but excited for his job prospect. He seemed cautious. Did he think I would look down on him? This crushed me some more. I had always seen only the best in him.

I told him I had tried to find him. I tried for years. I told him I had thought of him often. I was genuinely thrilled to see him looking so strong and healthy. And alive, I thought but didn’t say.

He said he had to go, and he walked off. I never saw him again.

It was my very own Same Old Lang Syne.

My son’s tumors

February 18, 2013

This morning I have to take my boy to the doctor for a physical. This is a requirement for high school athletic teams.

We have a long history of doctor visits, this boy and I.

I’m a little nervous telling this story. The experience was tedious and stressful. The story may be so too. I’ll do my best.

When my baby was 2 he had a CAT scan because he had bulges on his temples. We were told it was nothing to worry about.

When he was 5 one side grew noticably bigger than the other. We had moved from Colorado to California, and I was pushing the doctor.

“If it makes you feel better, we’ll order an MRI.” The doctor seemed certain it was just a case of children’s growing disproportionately.

My son was afraid of the MRI. Weeks went by waiting for appointments. Then we would come home without having had the imaging. He wouldn’t get on the machine. Sedation didn’t work on him. I was falling apart.

On the third try we went to UCLA Medical Center. A nurse named Julie Lopez put him in a swivel chair and kicked it into a spin, talking casually to him about little boy things. She took away his fear. She was magic.

After an agonizing 10 days the results came in. Our doctor asked me to come in. I begged him to tell me on the phone.

I was alone in my hallway when I heard, “Your son has at least three tumors in his head. Two of them are outside of his skull. The others are intracranial.”

I’m ashamed to admit I felt a little relief. They had identified the cause of the deformity. They could fix it now.

Children at school were being cruel to him. He seemed strong enough to handle it, but I wasn’t.

This was early December, a couple of weeks before his 6th birthday. We didn’t know how to tell him. We took him and his friends to Disneyland as a salve to all our emotions.

This was followed by months of “We’ll know what’s wrong with him after….” There was an x-ray and another CAT scan before the doctor threw his hands up and said he needed a biopsy. “That will be the definitive diagnosis tool,” he said.

The insurance company said no biopsy. We fought. It was long and painful. We won, and we got to go to UCLA, where the magic people work.

My son’s biopsy was on a Monday in July. It was supposed to be two hours. It was six. There were extra layers of inpenetrable stuff on his skull the surgeon couldn’t drill through.

The tumors were drawing the bone into them in spicules.

We would have a diagnosis by Wednesday.

On Friday morning the surgeon told me they still didn’t know what my son has. The biopsy wasn’t revealing. Doctors in Europe were being consulted. No one has seen anything like this.

On Saturday morning my grandfather had a heart attack and died.

At some point the doctors gave up and named the condition after my son. The good news is that the tumors were benign. The bad news is that they couldn’t tell me what would happen.

In a year they would remove the extracranial ones, but they didn’t think they could get inside my son’s skull to get at the others. At least he would look normal.

I have to live with knowing that for a moment in that hallway I felt relief.

link to photos

The audition story

October 28, 2012

My kids are watching South Park. I can hear they’re parodying A Chorus Line.

The song people call “Tits and Ass” from this musical is my signature song. When I was younger I could sing the hell out of it. I usually use it as my audition piece when I go out for musicals.

Once I was auditioning for The Music Man. I stood there in my bright orange sundress and tights covered in photos of fruit — my high school drama teacher advised us to wear something memorable — and started in, voice a-tremble.

I get nervous.

At that point I had sung that song maybe a thousand times, but all of the auditioners were in the room staring at me, and I was reliant on the sheet music.

This is bad. I wanted to make eye contact and move around.

I looked up.

Bam. I forgot the words.

“Sorry,” that’s what directors like to hear, excuses. “I’m nervous.”

I turned to the pianist. “Can we take it from ‘tits’?”

Laughter. Whoops.

“That’s it!” said the director. Crap. “You’re in!”

That was easy.

Fetal attraction

August 8, 2012

One of my favorite girlfriends just had a baby.

My husband and I spent the day in the hospital waiting room with her family and other friends, waiting for the  birth. It was wonderful. We cried. I got to hold her.

I must admit, my first thought as she snuggled against me was that I wanted to have another one.

This was not my husband’s first thought. It was not his second, third or last thought either.

I had originally wanted a bigger family — at least three kids, but seven would be better.

As I swayed my girlfriend’s newborn daughter, my maternal urges were strong. I had to put myself back in the moment when I decided I didn’t want to have a third child. I had to take a mental trip to Disneyland.

We moved to California from Boulder when the kids were 2 and 4. Everybody in Colorado said the same thing to them: You’re gonna get to go to Disneyland all the time.

One morning, after we’d been here a few months, the kids, by then 3 and 5, bounded into my room saying let’s do it. They had decided it was a good day to make good on everyone else’s promise.

It was a Monday, and I was off work because I had gone in on Saturday. It was a good day to go.

I threw PB&Js and some fruit into my backpack, grabbed three windbreakers and we were off.

Here’s my life-changing moment.

We were waiting in line for the park’s railroad ride at the Toontown station. We waited behind a family with an infant.

The baby was in the beginning stages of a fuss, and the mommy was jostling it to no avail.

I could see her stress grow as time passed with no train. I could feel it myself. Minutes dragged out. If only that train would come.

The train kept not being there.

There was diaper checking, rattle wiggling, singing, more jostling. The baby just got noisier.

That train comes every 10 minutes, but ultimately it was too long. The mommy lost the contest and pulled out of line.

She struggled with the bulky diaper bag slipping around on her shoulder as she maneuvered her stroller with the arm that wasn’t managing the squirmy, noisy baby. In that hand she also held a bottle, which she had been fruitlessly trying to stick in the kid’s mouth so they could make it to the glorious moment when the train would arrive.

Her husband had their 5-or-so-year-old in tow, a balloon, a souvenir cup, a heap of sweatshirts and the camera.

I checked myself. I had a backpack.

I was in a totally different place now, I realized, and didn’t want to go back.

I was done.

And of course, as soon as they left, the train arrived.

Augie cracked me up

July 17, 2012

My boss at the paper used to get irritated with one of my coworkers.

He would say, “Mikkel, one of these days I’m going to put you out of my misery.”

The dress story

July 4, 2012

I made my daughter a million little sundresses. I made infant ones, toddler ones and elementary-sized ones.

She had them with frogs, flowers, easter eggs, fireworks, shamrocks and Sesame Street characters.

I also shopped at second-hand stores.

One Fourth of July she was sitting next to me on the curb waiting for the parade. She wore a red-and-white handmade sundress I had bought at my mom’s church’s rummage sale.

A family friend, who later became the middle-school band director for both my kids, sat down with her daughters on her other side, and made conversation.

“How are you today? That’s a pretty little dress. Did your mommy make it?”

My daughter looked to me. “Did you make this, Mommy?”

I felt like taking the easy way and just saying yes. It was just like the ones I made, and her wearing one I didn’t make defied the odds. Also, I figured she was just making preschooler conversation, and it didn’t really matter.

But I said no.

Then our friend said, “Mm-hmm. I made it.”

I live in such a small town.

Explaining Easter

April 30, 2012

It wasn’t until we moved to California that my mom introduced religion into Easter.

For me it’s all about the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

Everything I know about the Bible I got from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Monty Python.

So our first Easter here, my daughter, by then 3, was confused. She entreated her brother for clarification on the way home from their first Easter church service.

“It’s all about ta-da,” he said authoritatively. “See, Jesus died and they put the body in a cave blocked closed with a boulder.

“When they moved the boulder, they saw an empty cave.

“But they turned around and Jesus was behind them going, ‘Ta-da!’ ”

I had no idea Jesus had so much pizzazz.

Cooking for others

April 26, 2012

When I was subbing, many of the children admitted they came to school without breakfast, and some had no lunches. So I baked for them. I would make muffins for the periods before lunch, and cookies for the children after lunch.

The kitchen would be full of food, the day before a sub job, but then my kids would come home.

They attacked the food, and I let them.

Here’s why.

Once I was making cookies for an event in Boulder. I was on the phone with my mother at the time.

I complained to her that the uncles were eating all the cookies. She said, “Let your loved ones have their fill, and give the rest of the world what’s left.”

That made so much sense. Now I live by that.

Some 10 years later, after we had moved back to California, I was helping her in her kitchen. She was catering an art show opening.

My dad walked in and grabbed a red bell pepper stick, and my mom scolded him.

I said, “Mah-uh-um! You gotta let the loved ones get their fill! Don’t you remember? I got it from you.”

She said, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Never do that.”

This time I ignored her.