Jane

When my mother-in-law dozed off, I shut the door to her room at the assisted living facility and looked for some place where I could sit unnoticed and NOT think.

When you are visiting a place such as that, you can only really think one thought:  Life is a river flowing in one direction.  Eventually – and more quickly than the mind can conceive – the river empties out into the great delta of geriatric unpleasantness.

Unless one capsizes mid-journey and is swallowed up by the river, the delta is our destiny.  The great contradiction of the delta is this:  No one wants to go there and at the same time no one wants to not make it there.  And so we spend most of our lives pretending we can outsmart the river.

I found a little sitting nook in front of a window outside my mother-in-law’s room that overlooks a little courtyard and I pulled out my iPad hoping it would put me into an electronically induced coma of sorts or at least that it would serve as a Do Not Disturb sign and no one would stop to chat me up.

Within minutes, I sensed her rolling up behind me, chopping her slipper-clad feet at the carpet to scoot herself forward.

“Please oh please don’t stop,” I thought to myself, “Please just keep going.  Please don’t talk to me, please just let me be.”

But she didn’t keep going.  She stopped. She rolled up beside me and didn’t say a word.  I looked up from my iPad and out the courtyard windows, and there she was, her reflection next to mine, both of us gazing beyond the window and down the river.

Finally, because it was all that could be done, I turned to her and said hello.

“What is that you got there?” she asked, pointing to my iPad.

I told her what it was and that I was playing a game on it to pass the time while my mother-in-law napped.

She said she always wanted to learn how to use a computer but never did.  And now it was too late.

Then she told me her name was Jane.

Jane had big round blue eyes and a mostly clear mind.  She had been a high school English teacher in the west Texas town of Odessa.  Jane was a little more tart than sweet and it didn’t take long to fall in love with her.  For the next hour, she recounted scenes from her life in Odessa all while folding and unfolding a piece of paper in her hands.

When she ran out of stories or just grew tired of talking, we sat and stared at ourselves in the window.

“Would you like for me to read you a poem?” she asked unexpectedly.

“Yes, I would love that,” I said honestly.

She sat up tall in her wheelchair and in her English Teacher’s voice, she read:

Only Now –

This is the best time

The only now that

we have time

and soon, much too soon

Now will become then and

will start all over again

Negotiating

Pulsating

Vibrating

Celebrating

Now!!

When she finished, I asked her if she had written it.

“Yes, I did,” she said, “In 1981.”  She handed me the paper.  I re-read the poem and noticed her pretty youthful handwriting.  I saw that she had written down the date and even the hour that she had written it – March 14, 1981, 2pm.  I wondered what she had been doing that day, what in her life had brought her those poetic thoughts and why she wrote them down.  On that particular day in 1981, I was barely 21, at the headwaters of the river.

Jane1a

Just then, AD and other family members found me and set up camp in what had been my private nook and began chatting and sharing news as though nothing special had just happened.

When I turned my attention back to Jane, she had quietly slipped away and was scooting down the hall with her poem folded up in her hand.  I watched her scoot all the way down the hall and around the corner.

And I wanted to go with her.

Jane2

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The Year of the Blonde

Last year was the year of The Brunette. This year, it is apparently the year of The Blonde. What can I say brunettes, the times they are a’changin’.

Last year, Sean was in love with his teacher Ms. Vicky, who is a drop-dead gorgeous Latina.  I must say, Sean’s taste in women is exquisite, much like that of his own father who didn’t find anyone exquisite enough to marry until he was 41.

Ms. Vicky’s daughter was also in Sean’s pre-K class and every day Sean would come home from school talking about the two lovely brunettes.  He would sometimes compose a letter to mail to one or the other; other times he would draw a picture for one of them and stuff it into his backpack to take to school.  The television commercials would have you believe that women want flowers or diamonds. No. They want pictures drawn in crayon which have been folded seven times and maybe have milk stains.

Be that as it may, kindergarten has brought in a whole new crop of babes and this year Sean has had his eye on two girls who by description, are about the same – Christie Brinkley in miniature — bright, beachy, athletic, long blonde hair.

The other day, as we drove home from school, he chattered about the two girls and how he was trying to decide which one he should like to marry.  I asked him what he liked about Kate and he cited her slim shape, her long “silvery” hair and that she was smart.  I told him that I thought it was good to know what you wanted in a mate and that those were some good qualities.

I also said that I thought I would grow my hair out long, just like Kate.  He said, no, he didn’t think that that was a good look for me, that I was “too thick” for that kind of hair.  Okay. Very well then.

When I asked him what he liked about Maddie, he named the same things – she has a slim shape, long silvery hair, that she is smart, and she is the fastest girl in the whole school.

A fast girl in kindergarten is fine, a fast girl in high school, not so much.

“And she includes everybody,” he added.

I had to sigh. Oh that every kid was taught to include everybody.  Wouldn’t our schools (and world) be a better place?

I was delighted that Sean recognized that including others is a wonderful quality in a person — something to appreciate and admire and something to which he should aspire.

The Christmas Bonus

One of the things I miss the most about having a toddler around the house is the spontaneous and exuberant affection.

As a toddler, Sean was given to fits of passion.  Without warning, his teeny tiny heart would seemingly erupt with unrestrained and irrational love.  All that slobbery affection had to go somewhere and I was his favorite target.

PhotobucketI miss the days when he would stand in my lap, giggling and bouncing on fat little legs.  I miss how he would wrap his ams around my head and gnaw on my face.  I miss the leg hugs.

It seems the days of unfettered expressions of love are gone forever, but every once in a while one will come out of no where.  And it’s like getting a bonus — a little end of the year reward for all the hard work of motherhood.

Last night Sean and I were sitting side by side on the sofa reading through a stack of Christmas books. He had already had his bath and was in his robe and jammies and was extra warm and snuggly and smelled of lavender shampoo.  Y’all, that is like catnip to a mommy.

The book we were reading, Santa’s Stuck, always sends him into fits of snorting giggles.  I started laughing at him laughing.  And then we were just laughing and had no idea why.

When I closed the book and set it aside, he threw himself into my lap in a fit of passion.  He wrapped his arms around my neck and chicken pecked my face with kisses while making chomping noises.

He was two again.

Then he stopped and pulled back. He looked into my face, his eyes still sparkling.

Then his expression changed.  The moment was over as quickly as it had begun.  My six-year-old was back.

“Stop goofing off mom,” he said seriously as he rolled out of my lap. “Let’s read another book.”

Maybe if I keep up the good work, I’ll get to stay on.  And maybe I’ll get another bonus next year.

Lick The Bowl

Yesterday morning, Sean decided that we should make muffins for breakfast.  I told him I thought that was a great idea and that he should do that; he should make us some muffins.

Sean has been my sous chef since he was old enough to stand upright on his own.  I love having him in the kitchen with me. It always seemed easier to me to give him something to stir or maul with a dull knife than to run him off or park him in front of the TV.  Sure,  early on it was a bit of trouble and mess, but now it’s paying dividends. He’s grown into a good helper in the kitchen and cooking is what we do together.

So yesterday morning, I got a package of muffin mix out of the pantry while he grabbed a mixing bowl and a big spoon and climbed up on his stool to reach the counter.  I handed him the mix and the half cup of milk that the package called for and told him to go to town, let there be muffins.  I pre-heated the oven while he mixed it all up satisfactorily and filled the muffin tins.  I popped it all in the oven and then we waited.

While we were waiting he asked me if he could lick the bowl.  Since no raw eggs were involved, I didn’t see why not, so I said sure, lick the bowl.

I sat down at my desk in the kitchen to check my email and when I turned to check the timer on the oven, I saw a skinny little pajama-clad boy standing on a stool in my kitchen with his entire head in the bowl.  He was licking the bowl.  I guess I sort of assumed that he would lick the bowl with his fingers or the spoon, but instead he opted for the more direct route.

“Dude!” I laughed, “What are you doing?”

When he pulled the bowl away from his face, he had muffin mix on his chin, on his nose, across his forehead and in his hair.

“What?” he asked. “I’m licking the bowl!”

I couldn’t think of one thing to say, so I just looked at him and tried to memorize the image of my boy chef with muffin mix on his face and in his hair.

And I thought, if I could capture these golden delicious days, I’d put them in a bowl and then I’d stick my head in and lick it clean.

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Cooking at Cousin Judy’s in 2007

And Dingo Was His Name-Oh

There was a farmer, had a dog, and Buddy was his name-oh!

Then one day a new family moved in up the road. Buddy paid the new family a visit to welcome them to the area, as is the custom in East Texas.  Buddy liked the new family. In fact, Buddy like the new family a whole lot. Buddy spent the night and the next day. And the next day.

The new family did not know Buddy’s name and so they called him “That Dingo Dog”  because, in fact, Buddy looked like a Dingo.  Dingo fell in love with the children and the children fell in love with Dingo.

Every couple of days, the new family would load Buddy into the car and take him back to his owner.  But the next day, or sometimes later the same day, Buddy would be back hanging around, trying to blend in.

One day, Buddy’s owner came and got him. They were moving to a new farm, 10 or 15 miles up the road.  Buddy jumped into the truck and the children cried and waved goodbye to Dingo Buddy as they drove away knowing that they would never seem him again.

But. The next morning Buddy-Dingo was sitting by the back door.   A call was made to Buddy’s family and they came and got him.  Once again, the children cried and waved goodbye to Dingo Buddy.

The next morning, when the sun came up, Dingo was laying by the back door, thumping his tail and waiting for the children to come out and play.

And that was the end of Buddy.  Buddy’s family never came after him again and no effort was made to return him.

Buddy became Dingo and is now living happily ever after in the East Texas country side with three children who adore him.

They say you can’t choose your family. Unless you are one lucky dog, then you can.

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And Dingo was his name oh!

Time Out Or Time In?

I keep this list of things that I want to write about.  Right now this list is about three pages long and four years old.  Like a good stew, I just keep adding new stuff to the top.

This morning, I was looking at that list and decided to scroll to the very bottom to see what was on my mind four years ago and what I saw was this:  “Time Out or Time In?”

If someone were to find this list after my death, it would lead to the only logical conclusion. She was nuts.

I remember the day I typed that sentence. It was at the end of a long day with a very busy and very curious toddler.  He was at that stage where he was into everything and trying to dismantle my house and my life bit by bit.

He was not quite two, but on that particular day he was being very two. I had a playpen set up in my breakfast room which functioned mainly as a toy bin or a temporary holding cell for the boy should something arise which desperately needed my attention.

At some point in the day, it all became too much for me and I plopped his little butt down in the playpen.  And then I sat at the breakfast table with my head in my hands. I would have probably cried but that would have required more energy than I had.

Clunk!

“Wheeee!”

Clink!

“Weoeoeoooo!”

Clounk!

“Ooooohhhweee!”

When I looked up, he was systematically dropping plastic toys over the edge of the playpen onto the tile floor one at a time. And having a fantastic time.

I realized at that moment that he was in Time In. I was in Time Out.

He clutched the sides of the playpen and bounced up and down with glee.  He looked at me with that goofy drooly smile and squealed the squeal of pure delight.

“Mahmahmahmahmah” he cooed to me in baby baritone.

He reached for me with his fat little hand. My heart melted.

I leaned towards him with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands and marveled at this exasperating, perplexing, intoxicating angel/devil child.  I breathed long and deep and I smiled back at him and tried not to cry.

And then he threw a block at my head.

Hinsley

On Friday, I picked Sean up from school, and as usual, I was sly and wily in trying to extract information from him.  Sometimes I have to resort to waterboarding to get anything out of him, but that day he was in a particularly forthcoming mood.

“Who did you play with on the playground?” I asked.

“I played with everyone.”

“That’s good,” I said, “I like to hear that.”

“I played with Hinsley,” he added.  I looked in the rear view mirror to see him beaming. His face was aglow.

“Do you think Hinsley is a boy or a girl?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I can’t really tell from the name.”

“Hinsley is a girl!” he said, “And the girl I’m going to marry!”

“Oh really?” I asked, “What is it about Hinsley that you like so much?”

“Well!” he said with breathy gusto, “She looks good!”

I tried my best not to laugh. He hates it when I laugh at something he said.   It embarrasses him.  He clams up and that puts the kibosh on my fact-finding.

“What does she look like?” I asked.

“Well she always wears a dress,” he said. “She has a dress with butterflies on it and I really like it,” he added.  He went on to tell me she has blue eyes, long brown hair and how she always wears it on the side with a bow.

And then he sighed a long and dreamy sigh at just the thought of her.

I told AD about the conversation when I got home and he suggested that we invite Hinsley over for a playdate so she can see the room she’ll be sleeping in when she marries Sean.