Today’s the day. ‘Til death do us part starts soon.
After all the madness of the last few weeks, I’m rather at peace. Oh, every so often my stomach flips at the realization that this is my actual wedding day. I’m a bit keyed up and focusing is an issue. Yet at the same time there is serenity. After all, consider the man I’m marrying.
People often say, “Oh isn’t it wonderful that he’s so willing to take on your boys?”
Yet the other day he left me a note, thanking ME for bringing my boys into his life.
He is THAT man.
On our very first date he told me he loved me. I choked and said I couldn’t really say the same. He said he figured, he just wanted me to know. I looked at him and thought, this guy is either a crazed stalker or the love of my life.
He turns out not to be a crazed stalker.
The other day I told my mom,
“You know, there are lots of good and solid reasons for me to marry Clay. He’s responsible, dependable, he pays his bills and is kind and can beat me at Scrabble. He’s great with the boys, and they love him. There are lots of good and sane reasons to marry him.”
Then I whispered, “This is my secret,” and tears stung my eyes because it was so true. “My secret is that I’m not marrying him for any of the sensible reasons. I’m marrying him because I love him. Because I feel like I’ve come home, and I just want to be with him.”
Ok, so you need to know that it has been REALLY WARM here all winter. Christmas day was SIXTY-FIVE DEGREES, fer crying out loud. Week upon week have slid by, balmy and sunny and lovely and fine.
This morning Raphael woke me up by thundering into my bedroom and bellowing at me,
“IS JOSH HERE?”
Josh, my brother, was scheduled to arrive today with his girlfriend Teri. I peered past Raphael, out the window. The ground was white with snow and more was falling. Josh lives in
, and whenever he comes to visit he whines and shivers and complains THE WHOLE TIME about how cold it is.
Josh usually comes to visit in July.
“No, Josh isn’t here yet, Raphi. He’ll be here later today.”
Five minutes later the same scene replayed,
“IS JOSH HERE?”
Raphael was a bit excited to see his uncle.
Finally about this morning, I called Josh to see when he was arriving.
“Hey there, Sha,” I said breezily, “I just wanted to see when we could expect you. My options were A) to call you or B) to leave Raphael by the side of the road in the snow. So.”
“Yeah. Our plane gets in about four. Hey, I was just looking at the weather reports, and it seems you live in hell.”
“Ha! Ha ha ha! No, no. Hell is much warmer.”
“Right. What I love is the part where they predict the day of your wedding to have a high of 33 and ‘less snow.’ THAT sounds GREAT.”
It actually DOES sound great right about now, because now? NOW they’re predicting a high of FIFTEEN DEGREES on Saturday.
And plus! My van’s four wheel drive has stopped working! HAHAHAHA! And the repair shop feels that the solution to the problem is to take it into the dealership and proceed to bleeeeeed money, which HAHAHAHAHAHA isn’t something anyone’s been doing around here already, what with the Wedding and the House and the Fixing the House!
But that’s ok, because without the four wheel drive the van is sort of like a great big bobsled in snowy conditions. An unpredictable bobsled!
The Day is fast approaching, and life around here feels surreal. So much is focused on The Wedding that it’s hard (for me) to remember anything else, and I find myself surprised that the living room floor still needs vacuuming and dinnertime continues to arrive each night. Life goes on, even from within the wedding machine.
The boys are feeling the strain. They’re facing down the barrel of a major life change, and it’s starting to show in their behavior. How do children display their feelings of insecurity and doubt?
That’s right, by being obnoxious.
They’ve been at each other’s throats, raising sniping and picking and annoying to a whole new level. Tre pulls “superior older brother” attitude on both littler boys and actually ROLLED HIS EYES at me yesterday. Max is by turns dismissive and irritating to the people around him and crawling on my lap, speaking in baby talk. Raphael, who just doesn’t understand about 88% of what’s happening, is ENRAGED by most things that occur in his day. And because I’m the Mama, and I hold their hearts in my engagement-ring-decked-hand, they surround me with their angst. By the end of the day I feel crowded in upon and weary with the efforts to encourage them to be nice. Just Be Nice.
But they are little boys, suffering from uncertainty and hope. And they’re doing the best they can.
Someone told me recently to reassure the boys that I will always love them, that I will not leave them. Ok, I thought, fine. I’ll do that, but I’m pretty sure they know.
When I tucked Max in that night I whispered to him,
“You know I will ALWAYS love you. You will ALWAYS be my boy, and I will NEVER leave you. Nothing can change that.”
He nodded in the dark and threw his arms around my neck for a wordless, tight hug. Then he squirmed away. Complex child that he is, I couldn’t tell how that hit him.
Next I sat on Raphi’s bed and smoothed his hair back.
“I will ALWAYS love you. I will ALWAYS be here. You are my boy and you are precious to me.”
“Mama? Can I have a car?” he asked seriously.
“No, honey. But I DO love you.” He grinned back and flopped over on his side, thereby announcing that he was done talking. Ok. He seems to be fine. I knew they already knew this.
I went on to Tre’s room. He was sitting up in bed, immersed in a book, fiddling with a lump of silly putty on his knee. He looked up when I came in and threw out his arms for the obligatory good night hug.
“Good night, honey. Listen, I know you know this, but I want to tell you something. A lot of things are changing around here, but I want you to know some things never change. I will always love you. I will always be here. I will never leave you.”
He smiled hard and nodded back. His eyes reddened and glazed with tears, but he shrugged and said,
“Oh, I know.”
Stoic child that he is, he would prefer I pull out his toenails than talk about feelings. I looked at him for a moment, wondering if I should push the subject. He yawned showily and said,
“Ok, Mom, good night then.” I nodded and hugged him.
“Good night, honey.”
I stepped out into the hall and stood for a moment, shaken by how intensely Tre reacted to my words.
He needed to hear it.
I needed to say it.
In the night Raphael slipped out of his bed and into mine. I awoke to his hand collecting strands of hair off my cheek.
“Mama?” he whispered, “I will always be your boy an’ you will always love me.”
I pulled him close and said yes, yes, always.
As the countdown drums faster, my boys draw nearer. I wrap my arms as far around them as I can, and I say, Ok guys. Let’s go.
I walked around the block to collect Max and Raphael, who were playing at their friends’ house. As I stood at the door, chatting with the hosting mom, Max asked for “just one more cookie” before he left. She gave me a questioning look, to see if it was acceptable to me, and I nodded. Max got his cookie and we were on our way.
It was a beautiful afternoon, one of those crystal blue skies, warm sun, and effusive goodwill late winter in the
As we made our way down the sidewalk, Max turned to me and deposited something in my hand. Ick, something damp. Close inspection revealed it to be a raisin, which he had carefully mined out of the cookie. I winced and tossed it aside, onto a nearby lawn. I don’t think that was LITTERING, because raisins are so BIODEGRADABLE. I was more like…MULCHING their lawn for them, a little.
A few feet later, Max handed me another little wad of rejected raisin. I tossed it aside too, and commented,
“You know, you could EAT the raisins.”
Max spun around to fix me with a horrified look.
“EW,” was his emphatic response. Raphael, who had been intent upon piloting his scooter, stopped and looked up at me.
“WHAT did you say?”
“I said he could eat the raisins.”
Raphi scowled, shook his head, and replied flatly,
This morning, after breakfast, I stood in the kitchen, surveying the day. I pulled a bottle of Sobe – diet mango melon, my current obsession – out of the fridge. I twisted off the lid, listening to the crack of the seal. As I took my first drink I flipped the lid over to read the message on its underside.
I laughed to myself, then tipped my head, looked sideways at my reflection in the microwave, and tried it out.
I’m beautiful, I said to myself, inside my head. It sounded, inside my head, about as authentic as announcing to myself, I’m a very tall black man, or I’m the world’s premier authority on Linux.
I laughed AT myself this time, then went back to enjoying the mango melon goodness, musing about what sort of vegetation a mango melon would grow on.
Raphael wandered into the kitchen and waved one imperious hand at me.
“Mama? You’re beautiful!”
I swept him up into a hug, sniffing deeply the puppy-dog scent of his unwashed hair.
“You think so, baby?”
He wriggled free and trotted off, while stayed in the kitchen, drinking my mango melon beverage and feeling passably beautiful.
Last week Raphi seemed to be suffering mildly from an ear infection. Occasionally he’d gently touch his fingertips to his left ear and look puzzled.
“My ear hurts,” he mused, like a wee scientist collecting data on the various ways this day sucked. It didn’t seem to slow him down much (although you remember the other morning, when I wrote about him being oh so cuddly and sweet? He went on to do a fairly good impression of Genghis Kahn for the rest of the day. Good heavens, the fury and the noise. Other than THAT he seemed fine), so I didn’t worry too much. I tend not to fret about ear infections. When Tre was a baby he had a pediatrician who was amoxicillin happy. EVERY TIME I took Tre in, for any reason whatsoever, this woman would peer in his ears; declare them “a little red” and dash off a prescription for the goopy pink stuff. Eventually I learned that if he didn’t seem bothered by his ears that he would get better on his own and I wouldn’t have the evil pink stuff in my house anymore.
NO ONE told me when I was a new mother that you don’t HAVE to treat ear infections. (See? Even the
Raphael woke up Friday, again with the puzzled ear-touch of pain at breakfast. No fever, slightly slowed behavior, but nothing dramatic. We went on with our day. We met friends for lunch at McDonald’s. He played, I chatted, and the air was abuzz with the sound of children, as they ran and shouted and struggled to digest bad food. Everything was fine until it was time to leave. Raphael had been shooting baskets in a little basketball cage area (making this THE COOLEST McD’s ever), and he did not want to leave. I dragged him out and started tugging his socks back on his feet. He cried, big tears sliding down his cheeks. He announced to the world at large that I was NOT A GOOD MAMA. He flopped down on the floor and reiterated his wish to stay. Very. Loudly.
None of that really bothered me. It was a little over the top, but eh. We all have our moments, right?
But then, midway through his fit, the tenor of his cry shifted. He began to keen, and his hand reached up and covered his left ear. I felt his forehead, and it seemed a bit damp, but playing-and-then-tantruming-damp, not fever-damp. But by now he was rocking and weeping, and his ear-cupping hand trembled. I picked him up and he curled into me.
“My EAR HURTS so MUCH,” he moaned. Tre and Max bounced around me and we made our way out to the car.
Raphael was inconsolable. Something about the tone of his voice as he wailed in the back seat made me pull out the cell phone and call the pediatrician’s office.
“He’s in a lot of pain,” I told the nurse, speaking firmly above his cries, “can I bring him in?”
“Let’s see…yes. The doctor can see him at .”
For four hours Raphael cried and held his ear. He wanted to be held, he wanted to be left alone. He couldn’t stand anything on TV; he didn’t want to be read to. He crawled onto my lap and writhed, unable to find any comfort. Ibuprofen didn’t touch his pain.
There’s something about listening to your child cry that short-circuits brain functions. At least, for me it does. I have to respond. I have to make it better. THAT has to stop. And when I can’t make it better? I can’t think.
When it was finally time to leave, I clipped the garage with the fender of the van. I dropped Max off at a friend’s house where he was spending the night and made my way to the doctor’s office in afternoon traffic. Raphael cried and called out pitifully, “Mama? MAMA? I LOVE YOU.” Seriously. I called Clay – yes, as I was driving – and tried feebly to explain that Raphael was miserable and I was unable to make that better and it was making me stupid and confused.
Finally – FINALLY – we arrived at the doctor’s office. I’m convinced Raphael’s quiet whimpering in the waiting room led to us being seen so quickly.
HEY! GUESS WHAT? He has (you’ll never believe it) AN EAR INFECTION!
And medication is slowly putting his ear right again. Thank God for antibiotics, huh? He’s returning to his usual rambunctious self.
So here’s what I’ve learned from this episode: ear infections are no big deal, except when they are. The threshold between a mild earache and a major, bulging, horrible ear infection is small and undetectable, until you’re already in deep pain world.
Oh, and one more thing. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out this mothering stuff.
If you said Groundhog Day, you’re officially NOT MY BEST FRIEND.
I am getting HITCHED! Married! Betrothed! I shall ride off into the sunset with the love of my life…except two days later we’ll be going to parent-teacher conferences; did I mention that, honey? Do you mind? Will it still be a honeymoon-like activity if I keep my hand on your thigh during the whole meeting?
Whoops, sorry, Internet.
The point is, I’m getting married! As Raphael mentioned, galloping around the kitchen as I prepared dinner tonight,
“My Mama is having her wedding in SEVENTEEN DAYS!”
“Really?” Dad asked, “How do you know that?” Dad knows, deep in the deepest folds of his heart, that Raphael is a genius, and he probably was hoping to hear Raphael tell him how he’s been working on a homemade calendar, which he’s etched on the wall by his bed with his toenail, and has been calculating the time of year by the length of the days…
But no. Raphael, uninterested in Dad’s question, trotted off. Instead of a response from Raphael, Mom rolled her eyes at Dad.
“How do you THINK he knows that? Who else around here could be counting the days?” They both swung around to look at me, and I gave them a “guilty” wave. They smiled indulgently.
It’s true. I am counting the days. I do things like fill a sheet of paper with row after row of my new signature, getting comfortable with it at the end of my pen. I drove past a sign in front of the local high school, announcing a silent auction to be held February 11, and I thought, that is ONE WEEK before I get married! Because it’s all about the wedding, you know.
I am living proof that 34 does not necessarily = mature.
People are fond of asking me if I’m getting nervous. I tell them primly that I’m not worried about the marriage, but yes, the details of the wedding are causing me some strain.
I’m A GREAT BIG BUNDLE OF NERVES. You know how they say dogs can smell fear? I’m pretty sure Carmi is starting to edge away from me, thinking, geez, do something about the fear-reek, human.
Scared. Oh yes.
Not cold-feet-scared, you understand. I don’t have any doubt about this being the right next thing in my life. It’s more like…more like the fear one would feel standing at the door of a plane about to jump. You may have complete confidence in your parachute, you may understand the physics that will waft you safely to the ground, but JIMINY CRICKET, IT’S ONE FREAKING BIG JUMP.
So. Here I am, cracking my knuckles and waiting to GET ON WITH THE JUMP, ALREADY. My days are crazy, full of important details like "find three ivory dress shirts for the boys" – stuff that DOES NOT MATTER, really, but still manages to wake me up in a cold sweat at .
While I spin and fret over things like VASES and THE DJ, Clay is up to his nips in work over at our house. He came over for dinner tonight and he was so tired that if he wasn’t actually talking or listening to someone, his eyes would start to sort of quiver and roll back in his head. This is inconvenient for me, as Clay is the person most likely to make me feel better about anything. He doesn’t seem to have gotten the invitation to my breakdown.
So I’m muddling along, collecting wee ivory dress shirts and vases and something of a twitch under my right eye. And now, see? I don’t even know what my point was, except that I feel guilty all the time for not blogging more, and so I suppose I have to confess that this WHOLE THING was a passive-aggressive sort of way of saying, “YOU WANNA KNOW WHAT I’M THINKING? HUH? HERE IT IS!”
And also to mention, in passing, that it is now SIXTEEN DAYS until I marry the for reals, no irony intended, love of my life.
You know, when I remember that? It doesn’t seem nearly as scary.