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November 2013
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January 2014

He's fabulous, even if he isn't a woman.

Max has developed this habit, because he's Max, and because he's 15 and full of...mischief. He's taken to calling people women. Actually, the exact quote would be "you're a WOMAN!" He pulls that gem out when someone forgets something, or fails at something, or is a brother in his presence. It's charming. When he says it to me, I say mildly, "Yes, I am. And YOU'RE WELCOME. You know. FOR LIFE." He is undeterred.

This morning, for some reason, he called Clay a woman. 

"Whoa," I said, "I can tell you, with SOME AUTHORITY that your father is not a woman."

"OH EW, GROSS MOM," Max replied, rolling his eyes.

"What? I just meant that he's fixed my car before."

Max just shook his head. 

"Huh," said Clay, "is that what you call it?"

And then there was bedlam. 

I just love that man.

Thoughts from a snowy day

As I was getting Sophia dressed to go outside, I was working to pull her sleeve on, and I realized I have another skill to list on my imaginary resume someday. I am an accomplished glove midwife.

Twenty minutes later I realized that I still forget to ask if the little one needs to pee BEFORE putting all the snow gear on. I don't think I'll list that on the imaginary resume.

Outside, I shovelled as Raphael and Sophia played. They sledded down the front steps, flopped down to make snow angels, and attempted futilely to pack the powdery snow into blocks. At one point, Raphael called over to me, "Hey, Mom, do you think I should lick this [metal] porch swing?"

Now, it was a blazing eight degrees out there. 

"No, I wouldn't do that if I were you. That would really hurt," I said as mildly as I could. An emphatic tone is frequently mistaken for a challenge by this one. 

"Well, I already tried it. And my taste buds are pretty much left over there on the swing. It hurts."

"It seems like I said that before."

"Really? When?"

My boy, ladies and gentlemen. Edging into adolescence. Pray for...everyone.

The snow will fall

I first heard that a storm was coming a few days ago.

"The weather's getting icky this week," someone mentioned in passing. There was a shake of the head, half horror, half glee. The truth is we sort of love our storms around here, especially the early winter ones. Unlike fires, unlike floods, we know the storms will come. We expect the snow and the cold to come, to move through, then to move on, leaving us to compare drift depths and drama. There's something almost comforting about knowing something bad is coming. To have the privilege of preparing, of stocking up on firewood and marshmallows. And this storm is supposed to be worth stocking up for, with bitter cold and snowfall somewhere between 5 and 20 inches. 

This morning was almost warm. I took Raphael and Sophia out to run an errand, and I drove my dad's big fancy car, because mine is in the shop. My van had a recall notice, because apparently vans like it have been randomly deploying airbags, which seems like a wildly bad idea indeed. Dad's car has an outside temperature gauge that displays on the rear view window. This morning, as I drove, it read 54 degrees. Balmy. I wore a sweater, and thought about how terrible it would be to have an airbag punch you in the face unexpectedly. 

A few hours later I headed back out to the car with Sophia. The wind pushed against us, aggressive now, like a kid looking for a fight. I turned around and grabbed our winter jackets, because sweaters were no protection now. The rear view mirror read 33 degrees. I thought about a friend, whose daughter had spinal surgery today. They are untethering her spinal cord, which was pinned to her vertebrae by the vagaries of how her DNA unfolded her. It sounds almost lovely - untethering. It's so much like what my teenagers are doing within the family. It sounds good, and it's clearly the right thing to do, but the reality is shockingly painful and dangerous. My friend's daughter was out of surgery by then, and doing beautifully. I prayed a mother's prayer, a swirl of gratitude and pleas.

I picked up Max at school, and he swaggered out to the car in his t-shirt. His jacket was stuffed in his backpack. No one can tell this child he is mortal. Actually, no one can tell this child anything. At the same time, he is hoovering in the world around him. I feel like I've had a hand in starting a chemical reaction in the world and I have no idea what will become of it. The rear view mirror read 24 degrees.

We got home and the next few hours passed in a tumble of evening musts. Raphael picked up from band practice, a quick run to the store for storm stock up essentials, dinner made and served. Clay and Tre were at Tre's school for a meeting about financial aid. I was hoping the meeting was being hosted by generous fairy godmothers, having recently acquired the hobby of hyperventilating at the cost of college. It's not a very fun hobby. At the end of the meal I eyed the clock, because Tuesday is yoga night. Sophia saw me, and crawled in my lap, mournful. She hates it when I go to yoga at night. I'm back by bedtime, but that's no comfort, and her eyes went red and tear glossed at the prospect. 

"But I MISS you when you go to yoga," she crooned into my neck.

"I know, but do you know what I've been doing today? I've been taking care of people. Of your dad, and Tre, and Max, and Raphael, and you. Do you know who I still need to take care of?" She looked around the table. Clay and Tre's chairs were empty, but she could see them there, their obvious spaces waiting for them. She scanned her people, then looked back at me. 

"Who else IS there?" she wondered.

"I still have to take care of me," I said, "and that's why I go to yoga."

She didn't really think that was a good reason, and when I left, she stood at the window, her forehead flattened against the glass, one hand waving slowly. 

On the way home from yoga, the snow started falling. It swirled like smoke over the pavement, too powdery light to settle. The rear view mirror read 17 degrees.

And now I am home. A fire is burning in the fireplace, and all the kids (even the teens!) are in their beds (asleep is not my problem). I have a cup of tea, and everything would be perfect if Clay hadn't gotten called out by his job. By the time he gets home, the temperature will probably have fallen to the projected 10 degrees. I will wrap my warmth around him, and the snow will fall.

Once Upon a Time...part 5

Part 4 is here.

So there we were, chatting on the phone nearly every night, and into the wee hours of the morning. And maybe you'll think that I'm clearly an idiot here, but I was worried. Because he SEEMED awfully interested, but I kept running through that one conversation we had, the first time he called me. I'd told him I couldn't possibly date him or anyone, and he'd assured me that all he wanted was to be friends. And calling every night and talking for hours seemed more...friendly than just friends, but I was a bit out of practice. What if he'd actually meant it? I couldn't exactly pipe up and ask him to backtrack to the asking me out stage again, could I?

I mean, yes, I suppose I could have. But no. Just no. Instead, I found myself telling him that people were forever hoping someone would ride into my life like a white knight and save me, when I didn't need saving, thankyouverymuch. 

"Well...sure..." he said carefully, "you don't NEED a knight, but it might be nice to have one around, don't you think? I just don't think most people were meant to be alone."

I mean. How was I supposed to interpret something as obtuse as that?

One day after church, I was standing around brooding. Clay had actually asked me to go with him to a church dance, but I had previous plans for that night, if you can imagine the unlikelihood of such a thing. So now I was grumpy about missing the dance AND still not sure if an invitation to a church dance constituted a "date." I know, I know.

Clay's friend Oak approached me. Oak is an older man, in his late 70s, who was something of a mentor to Clay during this time. He and his wife, Marlys, were sort of the hub of the church social activity. Yes, I was something like 33. Shaddup. They are awesome.

Anyhow, Oak came up to me that day and told me that he and Marlys were having a few friends over for dinner and board games. Would I care to join them? 

Sure, I said, because Oak and Marlys are awesome, and he promised me he'd teach me how to play Mexican Train, the dominoes game they were planning on. So sure, Oak, I'll be there! He nodded and started backing toward the nearest exit, a wide grin on his face.

"Great, great...and, you know...IS IT OKAY IF CLAY IS THERE?" 

And I stammered something that must have sounded like assent and he bolted, all but giggling like a little girl. 

I stood there, staring after him, wondering if this counted as a date (to this day, incidentally, Clay refers to it as my first date with Oak. Which is so wrong). 

When I got home, I glanced at my email, and saw I had a message from Clay. I opened it to find:

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!

Just keep practicing say it - YES! And I will see you at Oak and Marlys' next weekend. Can't wait!

 Don't forget - YES!


And then I had a moment. It was a moment that would become familiar with this man, where I stared, and then smiled. I realized that things may be scary, but there was just too much good in this moment to be anything but happy.

Really happy.