Friday, December 19, 2008

"Out of the Fire," short story

Out of the Fire

Leaving is the word that hung most in the curtains. I'm leaving - he said it, he felt it. He was going off to occupy space someplace where I was not. Because I was not.
The couch groaned for no reason. I hadn't moved. Like a deer, if I froze maybe the world would freeze with me. Maybe for one second that frightening ripping sound reality makes when it's moving in - maybe the room will melt into a pocket of milk. Maybe.
His jean jacket had the heart pinned on the front from when he was helping my brother fix his truck. I had found it in the dirt and pinned it on him. It was tiny like an ant's brain.
He could take that shirt. It filled me with sadness and empathy for the next girl, lone¬some on the bus bench who lent him a quarter for a phone call. Now I just need to know your number, he'd cock his head, hair falling in his easy chair eyes.
That shirt stained his body. It was tattered like something a fireman rescued out of the fire only to realize in the light that it wasn't really worth it.
"I'm not taking anything," were his words.
What happened to the sleigh rides like on the backs of magazines and snowy nights and friends we could've met and lost together, communal defeat at opening up to other similarly wretched human beings, leaving parties alone, but together alone.
Ache, then, is the salad wilting on the wooden bowl, against the silent onion. Sighing, the dinner in fragments of finished, and me there mixed in with some flies and him in motion, leaving.
I erased him from where he stood in the doorway, or maybe he did that. My heart dripped to chalk dust all around my feet.
I sat at the table for years. My sister came to help clean up the mess. I hadn't seen the part where all the things I liked in him would go off packed in a denim jacket and one pair of jeans and the wallet with the picture of Wayne Newton on it. How could he carry so much of me in there, so much of me willingly went along with him.
Don't go.
My sister murmured and touched my shoulder and I smelled the dishsoap and saw the sparkly wooden bowls and silverware clean in her eyes.
What about that little orange kitten, and Christmas, and our voices in small town supermarkets, and the idiocy of it all, the void void that wasn't as deep as it is now, cracked leather and the hay we fed the horses, your smell when you passed me running and those two cowboys hitchhiking in the sunset and our babies with their gurgling promising spittle.
You said you weren't taking anything.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fun Takes Too Long

Yes, I've stopped having fun. I just don't have time for it. I have to only do things that make money, and do them all in the two hours the baby sleeps at naptime. I used to nap WITH the babies. Things have devolved.

Craig's List, my mistress, has set me up with some cool things, though. I write articles for a company I found on CL, I've gotten countless family bunnies off the site, and now I'm exercising horses from people I've met on the site. I can't believe people are paying me to ride, it's the greatest thing. It's almost as good as getting paid to travel, and this is the closest to traveling I can do in two hours at naptime.

I sneak out when Lilly is asleep in old, dirty pants and boots and meet a big old stallion called Art, who is out of shape and needs someone to ride him. I hadn't ridden regularly since I had the kids, and my confidence was pretty low, but the lady was PAYING me to ride. Luckily he's been nice to me. We sweat and I haven't fallen off even though I'm old and would probably break a hip or something. Horse people are strange, horses are always better than their people. People usually have horses to try and get away from something - to ride off. To kick off the modern dust that collects and causes anxiety.

This week I start riding with a lady up some trails nearby. Should be fun, if I can manage to jam all my relaxation into an hour. I love it all, the juggling is difficult. But horses are taking me somewhere, maybe like writing, I don't know where, but I just can't stop.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I decided to try and figure out my relationship with my dad, after thirty years of awkwardness. Awkwardness on my part. He's always been great to me, but there's been this overhanging shadow, yeah he's great, but he left, man. Don't trust him.

I guess now that my life is crowded with kids, I have huge bills, and a husband I couldn't pay to leave me, I felt comfortable enough to tentatively poke at this long relationship with a very long stick. I had nothing to lose.

When your dad leaves when you're nine years old, you spend alot of time wondering how your dad could leave someone as great as you. You figure you must not be that great. You figure you weren't trying hard enough, you weren't grateful enough, you weren't smart enough. There was something you were not doing. The mind at nine years old is pretty straightforward. There's no adult romantic life to take into consideration. You could give a rat's ass about what he actually was doing, what his actual adult reasons were for leaving one relationship for another. All you figure is that, for whatever reason, you weren't good enough. Something else was better.

And the truth is, you weren't good enough. Cause a nine year old doesn't have any power over a thirty year old, even if it is your dad. He loves you, but not like you love him. You love him like he is the only man in the universe. Cause he IS, the only one that belongs to you. My dad was still shopping. In the cruelest sense, he had already bought everything, but he was a grown up and he was still shopping for a better fit. I happened to be one of the packages from the first shopping trip. So he could move on, but to me, he was the whole store. There wasn't the possibility of any other situation. I didn't want anything else. Why would I? I was just living in the wilds of my childhood, expecting everything to stay cozy, predictable, warm.

They say you have nothing to do with the relationship between your parents, but you are a product of the relationship. You are a vital piece of that puzzle. So when one parent decides to leave, even if they are responsible (visits, overnights, financial support), there's still a huge hole. The hole is their familiar face who isn't there anymore, who belongs to you and your house. Who stays and gets your pajamas out, and tells you to brush your teeth. It's not the same in a new house, in His house. He belongs to you, the everyday you. Your parents are the cement of your young life. When my mom became the only one left, things were suddenly shaky. I had to fiercely protect her, because what if she decided to leave?

So, back to 1976. My dad started a new family and had my sister. My brothers and I felt like the loser first family, dumped by the wayside. My mom was devastated, and her sadness leaked all over us. She had no ability to shield us from her emotional upheaval. Even though her sadness hurt us, we learned that love was powerful, and that loving someone totally meant being a mess when they left. Because you feel the loss. That people, and connections, have meaning. It gave me a sense that love was completely scary, and that being vulnerable was worthwhile if you were willing to risk losing everything.

Tragedy, but beautiful from an adult perspective. Of course I spent most of my twenties trashing every relationship I got in. No way would anyone get that close to me. Yet I longed for connection. Barry was the only person who said, "Hey, what the hell are you doing." He thought my heart was all scarred over, but that underneath was a clean, pure, loving person. He talked to me until that person would slide inches out into the light. I'm two inches out so far. It's been seventeen years since I met Barry.

I sort of came at my dad sideways, a few weeks ago, to talk about everything. I wasn't sure how we would even talk about it. But he said some pretty wonderful stuff. He said he needed to apologize to the nine year old, and to the adult me. He said he probably couldn't make it up to the nine year old. He said a bunch of stuff that made me cry, but mostly he said he wanted to keep talking. It's hard to not feel pathetic, because it's like the dog that's been kicked, going back avidly to the dangerous person that kicked him, looking for love. Not stupidly, just vulnerably.

I'm not sure how much I want to know about those times, I don't actually want to know much about why my parents split up, or how they felt. I just want to not feel bad about it anymore. I want to help the little kid who got hurt, and I want to move forward. I'm tired of carrying around that person who is scared of everyone and of every conflict. I have so much joy in my real, true life that I want to blaze forward and drop the garageful of leftovers I don't need.

The scariest part, though, is feeling all the pain of being nine years old, and having my heart cracked. What I'm trying to learn is that it WAS worth it to love my dad, then and now. It was worth it to be broken, because my heart is still big. Somewhere in me, buried, I knew that I was worth every minute of my dad's time. So I sort through the wreckage and find his hand.

I have my mom's, and I can have his too.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

From "Open Wider," my short story collection "The Big K"

The Big K

I rushed there late, some shirt thrown on, a jacket he had given me. A girl I didn't know was making blue¬berry blintzes on the stove wearing only a long Japanese pajama top.
I thought of the party at this place months back where he had stood on the balcony with his new girlfriend, and I left because I couldn't imagine him fucking her while I was still alive. And he had grown a moustache and he hadn't let me know.
The mystery girl said: "You know the only other person who brought fruit salad was--" My heart squirmed shut like a baby's screaming eyelid.
He appeared with that harmless look. Not the true him. The truce him. He smiled and suddenly there was a Cape Cod house with a wooden swing and Campbell's soup steam coating the windows.
"You look beautiful," he said casually. I know he could see the blood, pouring out of my face. He stood close to my leg. "I see the moustache," I mentioned. " - you like it?"
I paused. "You look like Jackie Gleason." "I think I look like a young Howard Hughes." "Smokey and The Bandit. 1976."
He picked at my fruit salad, pulling out a coconut-covered strawberry. He pushed between my knees and nuzzled my cheek with his nose.
He kissed me, deep, and I bit him and he pulled away and said "Jesus" admirably, and we drifted apart. After many beers, we ended up fighting like convicts at a prison riot. I didn't see him for awhile after that. Once briefly when I was dating that guy he referred to as "The Cuban Crisis." And then again when his grandmother died, and he told me he was rich. Two years dribbled by and I heard he was living ten minutes from me, serving a sentence with some girl named Nina he met at a U2 concert. I called and hung up on their machine enough to cause a disturbance in their relationship. Then he called me. "They're putting the big 'K' up." "So?" "I thought there'd be some sort of ritual you'd want to start." We met in the K-Mart parking lot equal distance from both of our houses. I got in his car. We watched human-size men lift a superhuman-sized red letter. The old, parched-orange "K" lay shattered and emaciated against the building, begging for change.
"You can't just call me," I said finally. "I dumped Nina. She's gone." He picked his shoes. I felt like my bobbed hair matched my bobbed teeth. "Let's move away." "Nobody moves away." "Let's move someplace that has plant sales at the church parking lot on Saturdays. Lots of cheap baked goods, maybe a girl scout for extra zest." He picked a flake off his tarnished tennis shoe. Placed it on my leg. “I don't want that." "I don't either."
I moved away to a place featuring seasons. I started writing a book I titled "I Reached Paradise But My Emotional Luggage Was Forwarded to The Nether World." I drove around in what I considered my pajamas, seeing trees and deer signs. Nothing in Spanish spray painted on the back of a van. No train tracks splitting angry cement. I called him. "The world here bursts with light and life." "I'll have what you're having, with a twist." "Life here is unreal. In Los Angeles, life was unreal in the crack addict way. Wake up in the backseat of an abandoned car under a bridge you don't know with your cracked teeth in your hand way. All those sirens blaring, no one could hear a word I was saying, not even me."
"I gotta go," he said.
"But you're not really living," I said.
"Some of us open whole new K-marts," he said wisely, "Some of us only replace the Big K on the outside."
I could hear his latest conquest giggling at cartoons in the background.
"She's of legal age," he added, reassuringly.
I wondered how much his hair had changed in my absence.

I moved back. I saw him at a tennis club, months later. He had on little green socks. He twirled the racket around on its string.
"Where's your girlfriend?" I asked.
He toted a phony tan.
"I don't really miss you," he added.

He sent me pictures of his wedding. She wore a great big puffed veil, globbed like frosting on top of bad cupcakes.
"That's to hide the scar," he scrawled on the back.

A few years later they were thinking of having a baby. It was a Saturday and he was walking down Fairfax and caught sight of their reflections in a black bank window near Farmer's Market.
"I knew by the end of the block," he told me on the phone from Tahoe. "I couldn't have a baby with her, she was an IDIOT."

He paid for my train trip to Tahoe, where we spent six days hurling ice cubes from the third floor balcony onto tourists below.

“I could never marry you," he said after three days without a shower and killing a bottle of tequila in the hotel bar. "You're not serious enough."
"And besides you're married," I added.
"She was a phase."

I moved to Prague. He called from his car phone.
"You can't stay there," he whined.
"I certainly can."
"No one's in Prague anymore."
I looked out the window at people on the street.
"Are you working with orphans?" He interrogated. His voice via satellite.
"I bought a Porsche."

When I got back from Prague he called me every day. I ran into him at a discount department store in Studio City. I was buying wood. He was buying a huge can of beans.

He cried.
We moved in together. He cried quite a bit as I took over drawers previously assigned to me the last time.
"I don't think it'll work," he cried nervously.
I rubbed his arm, consolingly. "I don't care what you think."

Years later we watched the Big "K" come down because of earthquake damage. We drank champagne out of Dixie cups on the hood of my car.
"That's never gonna happen to us," he said, and watched a woman pass us in spandex.
"Not ever."

Monday, June 09, 2008

"A Guy Named Red Doesn't Like Me" (Published in Connections Magazine!)

A Guy Named Red Doesn't Like Me

“My husband left me,” she spoke breathlessly. “I’m free to be with you now.”
Sally looked at him with blond ambition.
Red paused, hovering over the ’69 Pinto engine he was fixing as ardently as a succulent picnic. Red twisted a greasy fingernail.
“…I wasn’t waiting for you.”
Sally Swift stared at him. She was pretty, and safe, and almost fifty. Red’s shop continued on in the background like it had since he started there in the fourth grade.
She didn’t feel too Swift. She was stripped. Standing there next to the car like a giant question mark. There were no words. The words about her had fled and she was a hanging sentence of abandoned punctuation.
A guy they called Monkey was getting a huge tool off the rack in the background, and paused to pull the jumpsuit out of the crack in his ass.
The noise of the shop engulfed her.
“Christ, Sally,” Red looked at her, frazzled. He had a freckled face and freckled eyes. His mom said he got them in his eyes from staring in the sun too long. His brother Philip said the spots indicated the rot in Red’s brain seeping through. Philip was a doctor.
Sally stammered. “Well. What did you think I’d be doing in Elkton? Nobody comes to Elkton. Why else did you think I’d be here?”
Red looked hopefully strained. He shrugged.
“That’s it?” Her voice rose.
“I thought maybe you got sick of Miami. Came home.”
“Miami is home. Fourteen years does that to a person.”
“You lived here more ‘n fourteen years.” He adjusted a nut.
“Not fourteen adult years.”
“Where’d you buy those,” he muttered.
She was experiencing feeling returning to her face, and it was all angry.
“What happened to Whitney,” he looked at her steadily, holding a dripping oil funnel.
The image of Whitney flashed in both their heads. A dyed-blond five foot Cuban who owned several successful car washes. Sally had married him for the drugs. He was Cuban. It was Miami. It was the ‘70’s.
“He goes by the name Swifty now,” she said. He had changed his name from Jerry Whitney to Whitney Swift when he married her. He said it was a Cuban tradition. Turned out it was a Jerry Whitney tradition. God knows how many wives he’d had before her that he ended up with the name Jerry Whitney by the time they hooked up.
“He changed his name to Whitney Swift for tax reasons,” Sally said to the carburetor. Red looked at her sorrowfully. It didn’t matter that he had recently gone by Swift, she thought. What mattered was that he had recently gone.
“Why’d he leave?” Red was wiping his hands on the filthy front of his bib apron. Underneath the grime was “Kiss the Cook” but only the “ook” was visible.
For tax reasons, she felt like saying.

Sally wandered downtown Elkton. The streets were small and cramped, like Napoleon’s corpse. Nothing looked familiar.
A Korean man sprayed off the sidewalk in front of his overpriced fruit stand and deli.
She looked at the sun and thought of Red. She never considered Red wouldn’t want her. How could he not be waiting for her? Everyone was waiting for her. Herself included. Hanging in the balance until she decided to pick them up again.
She bought a loaf of bread and a small container of real orange juice. The Korean complained about breaking a fifty at nine o’clock in the morning. She focused on his five hundred-dollar shoes.
She sat on the bus bench and ate the heel of the bread. It’s all I’m worth, she thought.
The Korean resumed hosing and the fallout from the water was misting around her head.
Her mother would say this was an opportunity, not a crisis. Whenever you don’t know what you’re doing, something miraculous is about to happen, she’d said.
Her mother’s miracle turned out to be renal failure, and she had died like a lawn dart falling to Earth.
Sally dug to the bottom of the bread and got the other heel. She ate it without the aid of the orange juice. It was stale and mealy. Now I only have the good part left, she thought, drunk on starch.
She washed down the last of it. The orange juice tasted baptismal. As she sat looking at traffic, this feeling passed. She was surrounded by exhaust and the sound of skinny city trees trying to grow fenced in in cement. Real life background music.
There’s nothing here for me, she thought. My life is bleak.
She thought about Red and what a stupid name that was. No wonder he worked in a garage. What other job could he get. When Philip was six and Red was three, Philip’s teeth were so bucked he couldn’t say “Fred” so he called his brother “’Red” and it stayed that way. Now Philip was a doctor in the East Indies and Red fixed cars two miles from where he had first jerked off. Names could entrap people. This is what my life has come to – a guy named Red doesn’t like me? I’ve gotta be destined for more, she thought.
Sally tossed the empty o.j. container in the wire trash basket. At the moment, her trash was on top.
Lots of people had sat on this bus bench, she thought. Unhappy with where they were, or they wouldn’t be waiting to pay someone to drive them someplace else. Being desperate is how it felt right now. Being driven is how it would seem from the future, looking back.

She sat on the bus bench with her whole loaf of good bread and waited for a miracle.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Angels Among Us

Being broke, we made baskets for the teachers filled with cookies.

Friday, May 09, 2008

My Right Breast is a Lesbian

I keep having trouble with my right boob. I'm nursing, and all throughout all my nursinghoods, all three babies, this boob is the one who works the hardest. It's also the one that has been the quitter. Loves to get things like mastitis, clogged ducts, milk blisters, you name it, this boob will take it on.

I was reading this "Eat, Pray, Love" book about finding true self and being responsible for the things and paths in your life. One of those books you want to throw through the wall and can't stop reading cause you hope it has all the answers. Once I was done with it, I was thinking (during the witch doctor section and voo doo reasons for things) that my right boob must represent all the things I've stuffed down since having kids. Things that have broken down. Things I don't get to use. You know, like bad words, relationships with other adults, going to the movies, being a lesbian. I was never full-fledged, there was no pinning ceremony or committee decision, but I teetered on the brink. So I think my boob clings barbarically to those lifestyle choices left behind. Here's a little blister to remind you of what you're not. Don't forget, chickie. There's so much more out there.

I try to nurse the boob back to health. Heh heh. Get it. There's so much more in the actual life that I'm actually having that it's hard to get a moment to mourn the life and pieces that aren't getting used. I appear to really be using the mothering section. When you're a mom, you're still all the other things (wife, lover, daughter, sister, friend, reader, writer, rider). But the balance is out of whack, and everything is clinging to the sides of the ship in the storm. Some things blow across the decks occasionally.

So my boob reminds me of that. I am a great forest of overgrown trees. Nurture every section, or the whole ship goes down. So I hear you, enough already. I accept all the pieces of who I am. I'm currently loose in the family wilderness. Let me be able to nurse freely and get to all that later. The first sections I will visit upon reaching Free Time will be getting a good night's sleep, and having an intelligent conversation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kind of a Public Place for a Breakdown

Driving home from the pharmacy I noticed a guy halfway into the intersection, fixing a flat tire. I had the baby in the carseat, and I was looking at this guy just sitting there in the intersection in a place no one normally sits, right there where everything usually rushes by. Kind of a public place for a breakdown, I thought.
Weird how we usually choose a quieter, more off-road place for our personal breakdowns, and how life (or cars) blow a hole right through that nice, neat theory. Sometimes a breakdown is waiting to happen, out of our control, right there, for everyone to see.

To ease the horror of that thought, the guy looked pretty relaxed in the middle of the road. I think once you get over the fear of being run down, of almost crashing, and being stared at, that you just get down on the ground and deal with the problem at hand, the flat tire. You hope someone comes along to help, and before you know it it's all over. Maybe the view from the cement, in the middle of the road, cars rushing by, your tire a shriveled mess - maybe the view isn't so bad from there. Maybe, in fact, it's more interesting than regular life.

It'd be nice to realize that that natural resistance we have to having anything go wrong is futile. I thought of that when watching a squirrel crawl off into our roses as he was breathing his last breaths in our yard the other day. (I think he was a smoker.) He was moving so slowly, it was sad, he wasn't trying to get away so badly, as much as trying to just be someplace safe. I tried to encourage him off to the side. He crawled right into the pink and white rose bush, roses in bright, vibrant bloom, rose petals on the ground around him everywhere. With no dogs trying to eat him, and his days balancing on phone wires coming to an end, I felt like saying to him, "Look up. Look up and see where you got yourself. You're surrounded by roses."

Peace in the breakdown.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Hapless Parent

I had to talk to Australia to interview for my new book. Very weird to talk to a country that's floating somewhere on the other side of the planet. I'm pretty sure the guy was faking his accent. To do the interview while hoping the baby doesn't wake up is another thing. Let's talk about Lilly. Lilly is so busy, especially getting bumps and scrapes as she figures out how to stand and sit back down again. Her favorite toy is the screen door. She loves to open and shut the door. Don't even try to take her away from it, she'll scream like she's covered in leeches. I think that she loves that there is something she can move that is huge.

She gets her head bumped so much 'cause we're always on the run, that she's started holding in her crying which scares me. It's an adult thing to do, to "suck it up," as they say, and she's only TEN MONTHS OLD. She shouldn't be sucking anything up except breastmilk. She'll bonk her head on the door frame, her face will screw up to cry, she'll choke out a few cries, and then I see her iron will kicking in. She starts to refuse to let it get her. Is this a future Olympic athelete? Running with a broken leg? A woman who will land a plane using her feet and her underwear as a parachute? Or will she grow up so repressed that she can't open a door without counting to a hundred and turning in three circles? Ahh, the crapshoot of psychosis you might be contributing to as the hapless parent. I know she will already have nightmares or be strangely comforted by the sound of a keyboard clicking, since she takes all her naps on my chest as I type around her. Comforted by a Smith-Corona. Lulled by Dell. Sleep by Microsoft.

As I type she has trashed the office by flinging around a stack of a hundred blue plastic cups. Now she's moved on to remove all the magnets off the fridge while simultaneously filling her diaper. I think it's time to refill her from the top. Lunch.
This is all after the morning I had to stay in Emma's class 'cause she was crying, so I volunteered and had the kids read books to me (Emma read EIGHT, she's up to a hundred and eight books in kindergarten!). Emma recovered, and then I checked on Nathan in the room next door, who has two big teeth with a gap in between them and all he wants to do is see his friend Daniel. They are indeed, in love. I supply the food, and all the love goes to Daniel. Ahh well. Daniel is really cute, like an elf.

This blogsite was supposed to be about Things Not Mom. But I'm too afraid to step over and blather about that untapped area of my life. I'd need a shotgun and I will only enter at night, with commando gear. Luckily I'll be asleep at that time. Someday I'll become fully human again. Until then, it's time to eat.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Shoes on a Baby

I saw a mom at an easter party at the park that seemed like a normal mom, and she was holding a newborn. At first I just looked at her forlornly because I thought Lilly was still little and then I saw how little little could really be and I had to realize that Lilly is nine months old and counting. That was a really LITTLE baby. But I looked at the mom and saw that she had her newborn (actually, a three month old, but tiny) dressed in jeans, and wearing little socks and shoes.

I knew we could never be friends. She had shoes on her baby. Who has shoes on a baby? Who has TIME to put shoes on a baby? I could barely get shoes on myself. And to make sure the kids had their shoes on, and sweaters and did they bring water, and do we have diapers with us and hair brushed etc etc. The sheer amount of time and thought it takes to wrestle tiny infantile feet into shoes is insane. And jeans aren't the easiest thing to put on babies either, since they have no natural waist.I'm figuring you have time for shoes, you have time for a conversation with your husband, time to read, time to mow the lawn, plant a garden, build a bomb, stage a governmental rebellion.

I look at little Lilly who will hopefully never wear shoes, and watch her crawling away, sprinting away, those bare soles sleek and white. I don't have the time to cover them up, I'm too busy trying to slave off the future. Circle my wagons and keep everyone trapped in the right now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Emma Takes A Dive

The week I had the flu, Emma fell in the toilet at school. She had to sit in a wet dress in the nurse's office while I put the baby to sleep, shoved the hair out of my face, put on some slippers and hobbled up to school taking my ripping sinus infection headache with me.

It took me a half hour from the time the office called to when I could get up to the school with her dry clothes. The school is a 30 second drive from the house, a seven minute walk.

When I got into the office looking like ten bucks, they motioned me behind the counter and when I came around I saw Emma sitting forlornly in a single lone chair by the bathroom in the little nurse's area, hands in her lap. She had been sitting there for a half an hour, in a wet dress waiting for me. She never does anything wrong. She was slightly horrified to be in the nurse's office instead of running her kindergarten class as its official hero.

I shrank to the nurse's cot next to her, holding her clothes out like a sad beacon of hope. "I'm sorry it took me so long," I said and she looked a little more hopeful. "I had to get the baby to sleep, and it took me so long, and you're sitting here all wet, I'm sorry baby," I said. Sorry I never practiced her words with her each week when I had religiously studied with Nathan in kindergarten. Sorry I had the new baby and not as much time to be prompt with the older baby (her), sorry she was the middle child and therefore potentially overlooked (I was the middle child) sorry I'm a bad mom, I love you but I left you sitting here.

She smiled at me. "I fell in the toilet by mistake." I guess the janitor had left the seat up after cleaning during the night. I helped her out of her dress and tights and undies. Helped her into some shorts and a t-shirt. She stopped being so quiet and became her more ruggedly Emmalike self. She had just felt strange sitting here in the adult area, all alone, for an ETERNITY.

I told her next time I would be there faster. Next time I would try not to have the flu, or a baby. I told her it does feel weird to sit in the office because it's not a place you usually sit. I told her I had fallen in the toilet plenty of times.

I held her hand and walked her back to class. She will always wait for me and hold my hand. She likes to do that. Her little cheerful fingers in mine.

I release her back into the wild of her classroom. Even though she's here for much of the day, I am glad she comes home and spends the rest of the time with me. Even sick and neglectful (me), and soggy (her), she's the best thing I've got going.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Come see my essay "Free Lunch" on Mamazine right now!

Monday, February 18, 2008

All I Want To Do is Get Rid of the Dog

I spend a great deal of time wanting a fresh new puppy. I think every time I have a baby (okay, three times) I have this need to get a new black puppy. I hide this from Barry because he would rather we had less dogs, in fact, he would rather there were no dogs, and possibly less children. But I can't stop myself. This black dog we've had for five years is a bust, he's a loner, a rebel. I almost gave him to two gay guys and they backed out at the last minute because I was too honest and told them the truth. The dog is WEIRD. He may jump out of your yard, he may take days before he lets you pet him, he may bite your neighbor. But, well, he's ours. Five years from now he'll be a great dog. I'm hoping he'll be somebody else's great dog. But then we go on the trail and he's polite, comes when he's called, stands right next to you, acts normal. He's no trouble in the house, sleeps at the foot of the bed, just like a cat. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Christmas Eve with Clyde and the Babies

I drove the carriage on Christmas Eve. It was an engagement, I forget their names, let's just call them Young, and Rich.

It was in Los Feliz. I felt kinda bad taking the kids and Barry out on Christmas Eve, but then I realized I 1. didn't have a choice, there's no other driver and 2. it's only an hour, and there's money at the end. Plus we ended at 7:30 so we could get home in time to do cookies for Santa and a decent bedtime.

It was a blustery night, big full moon and the wind made it almost feel like a winter's Christmas. We unloaded the carriage, it turns out, right at the back entrance of the building where Barry and I used to live when we were carefree and childless. I had to do this drive because the idea that someone would propose on Christmas Eve with a horse drawn carriage, it was too pretty to pass up.

A big wrapped box was waiting on the carriage seat for the unsuspecting girlfriend. I guess inside somewhere was the ring.

Barry took the kids (baby sleeping) in the minivan to drive around for an hour to keep the baby asleep, using up as much gas as I would probably make that evening in salary. Ahh well.

The young couple got in my carriage, he wanted me to head to the park but there was a holiday light show that had Griffith Park clogged. He was out of ideas. I said I'd just take neighborhood streets.

Since it was Christmas time, every street we went down was celebrating. Lights, decorations out front. People going into houses carrying big wrapped presents, the people opening the doors to Christmas parties greeting the guests happily, fires going, music playing. It was like driving through nostalgia. The streets were pretty much empty of cars, and the couple opened some champagne and the engagement got under way. She opened the box and I guess she said yes because all she did was cry. Kiss and cry.

Big white Clyde and I dawdled up and down one street after another, the wind blowing back our hair, as the couple cemented their relationship. Being out with Clyde on Christmas was like driving a big white furry ghost -- he and I had cemented our relationship over apples each time we saw each other. His big white mysterious face and cushy grey lips gently devouring every piece of apple from my flat hand. His face was so huge, he could easily suck in an entire apple like it was a tiny piece of Trident gum. But he was a gentleman in every aspect. A two ton gentleman in a white fur coat.

As we drove up and down streets at our slow pace while I knew Barry was driving up and down similar streets, probably at the same pace, killing time with the kids, and we both looked at Christmas lights, him with the kids, and Santa was only hours away, and here we were in our old neighborhood with two aspects of my life happening simultaneously -- the horse connection and the thick family. Both experiences crawling along with me just hanging on to the reins.

I thought about my newly engaged couple and I thought sometimes you're the driver, and sometimes you're in the carriage, having the big event. Most of the time, though, you're the driver. Just a piece of something else, something bigger than you.

I enjoy every minute of their hour rental and then drop them off at the old apartment building. I unhook Clyde, unassemble the harness off his the massive white warm body. The white minivan shows back up, the floating raft with my Christmas family in it. Clyde's neck curves up higher than my shoulder, his head higher than my head. He nuzzles my arm for apples. I stroke his calm, whale face.

Merry Christmas, I think, and look over, seeing my babies faces in the car window.