She was, I AM

I’ve been really busy. Like, crazy busy. It’s that kind of busy where I feel like people are calling my name from several different places, and I can see them, but I don’t know to whom I should respond first. My days find me turning my head in all directions, trying to see what is coming next. It’s disorienting and dizzying but also very, very good. I have not been busy like this in a long time. I welcome the chaos and the challenge.

It’s easy for me to slip under the warm blankets of complacency when I get busy like this. So I have finally trained myself not to turn the TV on as soon as the house gets quiet. I also have begun avoiding eye contact when I go out. I loathe creating small talk with people – It’s simply exhausting the whole ritual of, “Hi! How are you? I’m good, thanks! Yes, it is a beautiful day. Weekend plans? Not sure yet. I may drink several bottles of cheap wine and pass out while crawling up the stairs to go hurl in the toilet. You?

Why is that so wrong? It’s sarcasm…good-natured, jovial sarcasm. I mean, really…cheap wine? Never. Those who know me will see right through that one. And I have become almost expert at hurling in the sink when I know I won’t make it up the stairs to the toilet.

But I digress. And upset my mother, I’m sure.

Back to the business of being busy.

Many people have told me that they get tired just reading about my days. But to me an average day in my life leaves me feeling like I accomplished so little. For example, yesterday I washed, dried, folded and put away three loads of laundry. Not too shabby. But there are three more waiting to be washed, dried, folded and put away. Then I logged on to my part-time editing job and spend a three hours editing the HTML of the online courses that are set to launch in 6 weeks. I also re-read the issue of Harper’s magazine I have to analyze for my graduate program. Sounds nice, yes? Reading a magazine. Yeah. Not so much. Harper’s is like War and Peace in magazine format – it is dense, political, intelligent, confusing and pretty damn boring. Thus the second reading. I also walked my puppy. Twice. Our route is almost two miles. Then I checked email, replied to emails, read more emails, replied to those (working in an online environment brings many daily emails). Then I picked up the kids from their respective places of care and education. I cheated on dinner…Subway. I had a yen for a turkey and provolone sub, and little desire to go grocery shopping. Then homework with Ethan, then play time with Laura. Then one washed, teeth brushed, pajama-ed, read to, tucked in and kissed goodnight. Then the Thursday Wii battle ensued. Then I ate crow and supervised the washing, teeth brushing, pajama-ing and reading of the other one. After tucking and kissing, it was time to go back to work. It was time to write.

And here is where the last of my energy is allocated. For my MFA program, I am writing a memoir. It is a collection of essays about events and people in my life, and what I have learned from these events and people, and how they have both hurt me and helped me grow. It’s difficult because I have to take a harsh look at who I was and the dumb-ass mistakes I made. Memories are one thing, but to relive those mistakes, to put myself back in those moments is brutal.  But I do it. Everyday I sink myself back in time and be who I was.  Such masochistic tendencies are the bane of so many memoirists I know. We pick the scabs, poke the bruises and flex the sore muscles in order to feel the pain that must be committed to paper. We do this because we believe, deeply believe that our stories will let someone know that it’s okay to make dumb-ass mistakes.  And that they will show someone else that she isn’t the only frightened little girl, depressed teenager, cocky twenty-something, confused thirty-something.  We hurt so we may reach out to others with the hopes of soothing their pain, easing their confusion.

I write all day long…my head constantly churning and turning words and sentences. So as I am doing laundry, walking the puppy, editing courses, driving, helping with homework, playing, tucking, reading, I am also writing. At night, when it comes time to quiet my self as my house has quieted, I am ready to work.

Night turns into early morning, midnight having long passed. I have purged and edited and revised as many of the events from my past that I can handle, so I return to the confident forty-year-old that I have become, comfortable in my Real home, and thank who I was for being her so that I may be here.

How Did You Get Here?

3 and a half year old child enters the room

“Mommy?”  “Hi, Mommy.”  “Mommy!!”

“Ungh?” “What?”

“My hung-gee.”

“So?”

“So. Can you get me something to eeeeeat?”

“What ever happened to the rule, ‘don’t talk to mommy when she’s

sleeping?’”

“Sorry, mommy. But my hung-gee. I want breh-fist.”

“Get a snack, I’ll be down later.”

“I can’t reach.”

“Tell your brother to get it”

“He’s playing Wii”

“What!?”

“I said, He’s playing Wii”

“Ethan!! Are you playing Wii?”

“Yeah, mom.”

“You know you can’t play Wii before 7:30!”

“Awww…but…”

“No! No damn Wii.”

“Can I…”

“Stop yelling. Come up here if you want to ask me something.”

“I want breakfast!”

“Me, too, mommy.”

“Ungh…OK…OK. hold on, I’ll be right down.”

Thus begins another Saturday morning.  The kids are up before six thirty (I really must get blackout curtains for their rooms), and I am desperately clinging to the last vestiges of peaceful, restful morning. My yoga alarm sounds, slapping it silent, I muffle, “fuck that, I’ll center myself later.”  My puppy and two cats aren’t terribly motivating either. The cats lazily lift their heads to glare at my imploring daughter, and the puppy yawns, thumps her tail on the bed a few times, then flops against me and falls asleep.

Extricating myself from the tangle of sheet, blanket, puppy and cats, I roll over and face the edge of my bed. I lie there, dreading the onslaught of chatter, questions, “mommy, looks” and “I pooped! Wipe my butts” that linger at the bottom of the stairs. But there is coffee down there as well. If I slash through the jungle, in no time, my Keurig will dispense tasty water, caffeinate it, and magically I’ll have lovely, revitalizing coffee.

How the hell do they manage to make such a mess in such a short time? My son is languishing on the couch in green, black and white plaid boxer shorts. His mop-top of brown hair is matted and bedded and looking just plain crazy (I really must take him for a haircut). He is surrounded by pillows, blankets, plush creatures,  LEGO pieces, books and he is clutching his Bee-bee. “Bee-Bee lives upstairs,” I mumble.  Ethan pops his thumb out of his mouth, “Oh-Kaaay, mom.” He reluctantly regards the blue and white crocheted blanket and stomps up the stairs to deposit Bee-Bee in his room. “Not on the floor, on your bed!” “Ugh! I know, mom! Sheesh!” At seven years old, he is testing attitude on me, seeing how much backtalk he can get away with. I’ll let him have a little…he needs to assert himself more. Laura smugly declares, “My Bee-Bee is in your bed, mommy!” “Thank you, Laura. That was very kind of you.” Later, I’ll find her yellow and white crocheted blanket on the floor of my room. She’ll blame its placement there on the cats.

Being mommy really sucks sometimes. It’s the little things – abandoning an extra hour of sleep, seeing the living room trashed minutes after the kids have been living in it, holding back the torrent of curses that push against my teeth when they piss me off. I smile wanly, reach for my coffee, and retreat to my deck.

I didn’t want to be a parent. I didn’t trust myself that I could be effective– I am a tad selfish. I can also be impatient. While those qualities can be tempered, it is with the trust issue I struggled. But my then-husband wanted kids. He declared this in front of my parents during a weekend visit. We stood in their kitchen, me listing the renovations I desperately wanted to do in the basement, he clearly disengaged from the conversation. When I confronted him about his lack of interest, he blurted out, “I want a kid!” The grandchild card was thrown. And me, the good daughter, knew what she had to do.

The first time I saw Aprill was via a scanned polaroid on my girlfriend’s computer. The first time I met her was in the parking lot of the townhouse complex in Falls Church Virginia where she was living. She came bopping out of her front door, trotted right up to me and said, “I hope you’re Annmarie or else I’m going to feel really stupid.” She’s a tiny bean of a woman – my height, five feet tall. Her hair and eyes are soft brown. Her top lip lifted like a tiny bow. She is simply adorable. Aprill was 20 years old when we met.

I met Rosie in a restaurant in Bremerton, Washington. We had exchanged photographs a week prior. She saw me as I entered and waved me over. As I walked towards the table, she slid out of the booth, “Oh my God! You’re so tiny!” she exclaimed, her six-foot, elegant frame eclipsing me. Her hair and eyes are deep brown, intense and kind. Rosie was 21 when we met.

I’m allowed a mere two sips of my coffee before my children come barging onto the deck asking for breakfast, asking what I’m doing, asking what we are going to do that day. I growl, or whine, “Can’t I get just a minute to myself? All I want to do is drink my coffee and wake up. I’m not even thinking yet,” The kids slink back into the house, complaining about wanting breakfast, about being still hungry. “Eat some fruit!” I yell after them.

The last time I saw Aprill and Rosie was in hospitals. Aprill gave birth to my son, Ethan on 30 March 2004 after a quick 8-hour induced labor. She ate a big bowl of spaghetti while I held my infant son for the first time. A strong friendship has easily grown between us in the past seven years.  We communicate mostly via Facebook, texts, and emails. She is in college, earning her bachelor’s degree.  When she has an essay assignment, she sends me the papers and asks for feedback. She is an intelligent, articulate woman. I revel in her growth as much as I revel in Ethan’s. Shortly after Ethan was born, I wanted her to go away. And she did.  Her absence wasn’t soothing, however; I missed her. When she had moved through grieving and healing, she returned, and I welcomed her lovingly.

Rosie gave birth to Laura on 28 December 2007. Laura was scheduled to enter the room on 15 December. Her arrival, a frightening C-section after days of hard labor, was nothing short of dramatic – a foreshadowing of the drama that is the hallmark of my daughter’s personality. Rosie’s mother, Julie, and I further developed our strong friendship after the birth. We agreed she and her husband, Virgil, would be called the BG’s, for Biological Grandparents. I speak to BG Julie often – she calls on holidays, sends gifts and cards (to both children), and emails when I send her pictures of Laura. Rosie is still moving, slowly, through her grieving and healing. She knows she made the right decision; but it is a loss. Rosie is not yet strong enough to contact me directly; she has begun commenting on photos of Laura posted on my Facebook page. When I text her silly videos or pictures, she will sometimes gently reply. Rosie kept busy after Laura’s birth earning her bachelor’s degree in education. I was flushed with pride when I saw the picture of her triumphantly holding her diploma, still wearing her mortarboard. BG Julie assures me that the pictures brighten Rosie’s day. I worry that they impede her healing.

Laura creeps back out onto the deck and plays restaurant with her assorted plates, cups and modeling clay. Her golden hair winds around her ears and slips along her round cheeks. Ethan tiptoes out and sits in the Adirondack chair next to me, lanky legs dangling over the edge, feet flopping impatiently. He is a skinny little bean, hungry always. They are quiet, respecting my need for a peaceful morning. I stretch my neck up and back into a deep arc. I expose my throat to the breeze and the warmth of the sun. I sit in yogic contemplation until I hear Laura laughing. Ethan is imitating me, my young yogi. I laugh at them laughing at me and we all laugh even harder. I lift myself, yawning and stretching dramatically, from my chair, “So, what did you two make me for breakfast? I’m starving here!”

 

%d bloggers like this: