Flight of the SpiderWoman

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When my boys were little they used to ask me, “Mom, if you could pick, what superpower would you want?” I always said, “flying” because I knew that they would get it. What little boy didn’t want to fly? I also said “flying” because some of my favorite dreams from childhood involved me tripping near the basement stairs but instead of falling, I floated safely to the bottom. My mother was always in the basement of my dreams, doing what else? Laundry.

What I really wanted to say to my little boys was, “I want a superpower that hasn’t been invented. One that picks up all the toys when I’m sleeping, can predict when one of you kids is about to push the other or get a splinter, a superpower that can remind me to bring all the coupons to the grocery store since I spent an hour and a half cutting them out and organizing the in an envelope by isle.”

I never got those powers. If I didn’t pick up the toys or remember the coupons there was twice as much work to do the next day and it was more expensive. I am not nostalgic for that time. (Is it obvious?)

I continue to develop as a mother (I think of it as a life-long exercise in patience) and would ask for different things now. A week ago I got my chance.

To reduce stress and fit in my jeans, I like to ride my bike. Last Sunday I was on a long bike ride, The Flattest Century in the East, with a friend. At the second rest stop, around mile 50, my friend suggested we sit in the grass and stretch our legs. I grabbed a handful of grapes and sat down. Seconds later I said, “Wendy, I think something just bit me.” I hopped up and we finished the 102 miles, ate dinner together and once I got home I went right to bed.

Two days later enormous welts appeared on the back of my right thigh. The doctor said, “You’ve been bitten, many times, by a spider.” He winced when he said it. He also looked at me funny. When I got home, completely bandaged up and loaded with antibiotics, I pulled my bike shorts out of the laundry basket. There was a hole right where the biggest bite was. I presume my attacker bit me, climbed into my shorts, and attempted to eat the rest of my leg for dinner.

For the last several days I have been going outside in the dark to water my flowers and carrying around a towel to sit on. The spider bites are weeping. I’m wearing shorts rolled up to my hip bone. It’s a look I don’t recommend. After all this, I am waiting for my superpowers to show up. Spiderman was bitten and he got a cool suit and web shooters.

I don’t want practical things anymore. Like Spiderman, I want magic. I want the summer not to turn to fall, I want my boys and I to always be close, I want my parents to be healthy and for anyone with an illness to be cured. I want to remember for myself what I always tell my boys, that we can do anything. I want to laugh out loud with the wonder of being alive and if I happen to do this walking down the street, I want other people to laugh too- not wonder who the crazy woman is. I want people to stop being caught up in things that don’t matter. I could probably be more kind.

After I checked my bike shorts that day, I went in my bedroom, took off my bandages and looked at my leg. Reflected in the mirror was my bum, which was wearing a pair of black lace underwear. I laughed out loud and my laugh went out the window, ricocheted off the house across the street and flew throughout the neighborhood. My underwear looked like a giant spiderweb.

Grocery Noir

“Ask not what’s good for your country. Ask what’s good for lunch.” -Orson Welles

Moooommmmmm! Didn’t you go grocery shopping?” Our twins are rummaging in the kitchen with heads in the cabinets like our beagle sniffing out a lost dog treat under the sofa. It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon. “Boys, I just went yesterday! There should be plenty of food.” Not only had I just been to the store, but two days ago I had made cookies. I looked in the pantry and turned up rice and canned soup. The island cabinet revealed the cookie tin that made a promising sound but was in fact just a lone chocolate chip. I opened the freezer. “How about a tuna fish sandwich with….julienned green beans?” Twin One and Twin Two sighed. Suddenly I remembered putting some Smartfood behind the breakfast cereal. I barely pulled it from the cabinet before it was whisked from my victorious hands, briskly opened, dispersed into bowls and devoured by the young wolves that they are.
Two minutes later bowls are returned to the kitchen with: “Thanks, Mom. What’s for dinner?”

I feel exasperation paired with resignation, there goes the budget. It’s time to go grocery shopping…again. That night my husband suggests Costco. I cringe. “Sure” I say, “I could go to Costco, get into a game of chicken for a parking space with SUV’s the size of buses and purchase vats of food in a space bigger than an airplane hangar with no soul. Of course, assuming I could get the groceries into my little car and still see out the window, when I get home I will still need to find a cabinet for the 15 pound can of olive oil.” He says “We don’t need olive oil, why would you buy that?” “It’s part of the deal. When you go to Costco you must buy the big crazy olive oil. It’s like initiation or something. I don’t think they let you leave without it!”

He just looks at me.

I enjoy shopping close to home and being on a first name basis with some of the staff. I appreciate Sal who cuts the deli meat perfectly and Mike the manager who re-stocked the salmon burgers I like when they had stopped carrying them. I enjoy chatting with one of the check out ladies who acts in local stage productions. The store has coupons and sales and I take advantage of them, but there has to be a way to make my dollar stretch a little further without sacrificing the food quality or my soul. Is such a thing possible?

I must go to the only one that can help me: the local oracle, my hair stylist.

A couple of days later I am in for an appointment. She begins to work on my hair and I lay my problem at her competent feet. Not only has she raised three biological children but is now raising three young adopted children along with three international students. My food budget is in good hands. “Help!” I say. With my head tipped down she snips away and says she has the perfect solution: I need to go to the meat department and ask for the marked down selections. The ones that have a nearing sell-by date. I burst out laughing. “To save money I need to go ask the butcher for his old meat?” “It’s NOT old” she insists. “This is what you do: go to the market on Thursday mornings, EARLY. Go directly to the butcher and ask to see the specials. He will bring them out.” I’ve been grocery shopping for over 20 years and I had no idea there was a meat underground. I wonder if there is a secret handshake.

The next day is Thursday and I am preparing for my rendezvous in the Meat Department. I dress carefully wishing I had cigarette pants, stilettos, a trench coat and beret. I come to my senses and wear dark skinny jeans, black patent pumps, a little twill jacket and my hair spiked up. From my car I march confidently to the sliding grocery doors, reusable bags in tow. Grabbing a cart I make a beeline for the Meat Department. Will my request for “The Specials” be met with a wink, a nod and direct access to the freezer? “Take your pick, doll” they will say (we use no names) “The specials include our choicest meat selections. You will save money and have the best quality. You must tell no one.”

I smile to myself and pull my jacket collar up farther. I get to the meat counter and like the halibut displayed on ice, I freeze. I pull out my phone and text my hairstylist “I can’t do it! I’m here at the store but it’s too ridiculous, how do you do it?” A text comes in “I don’t, I have my Dad do it for me.” My fantasy of serving prime rib to my family for a few dollars a pound is just about to vanish when I look down and see a selection of pork chops. There is a big yellow label announcing “Original Price $17.51 Today: $8.75. Use or Freeze by 10/24.” In the blink of an eye I grab two packages. I did it. I’ve got the goods. As I am about to wheel my cart away the butcher comes out of the back to re-stock. He winks and smiles at me.

I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

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Jello Trees

I used to think having toddlers was the hardest test of Motherhood and some kind of divine punishment, until I had a teenager.

The tricky part is that they often act like regular people and then SURPRISE, crazy is in the room.

Yesterday I had our 16-year-old and 11-year-old twins in the car.  Answering a backseat inquiry of where we were going I replied “We are dropping T off at his girlfriend’s house.”  I was immediately and strongly reprimanded: “Mom, she is NOT my girlfriend.”  “Oh-OK, well what is she then?” I asked   “If you insist on this track of conversation I am going to sit in the back of the van.”  Ouch.  Once upon a time I would withhold his Gameboy if he didn’t eat his broccoli.    Now he is withholding what he knows is sacred to me:  conversation. It seems like this switcheroo happened overnight.

The late, great Erma Bombeck once said  “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree.”

I agree, except teenagers are squirmier.  Go ahead, try and hug one.  Ours tells me I get a “crazy ‘hug’ look” which is why he escapes to his room where loud alternative rock quickly blasts out of the IPOD speakers.  This is meant as a deterrent.  The flaw in his plan is that I really like alternative rock. But, I get it- I wouldn’t want my parents thinking my music was cool either.  I would have probably turned to Liberace or something.  BUT, I’m not like OTHER Moms I tell myself, I remember what being a teenager felt like. That wide divide between parent and kid. When he was little I was never Room Mother or Team Coach.  I wanted him go to school and sporting events knowing he was supported but allowed regular childhood events like not being picked for this or that unfold without my interference.  I listened and gave advice and offered to intervene if he wanted in these (thankfully rare) instances, but only had to once.

That’s why it cut to the bone when I dropped him off for lacrosse practice a couple of years ago and he gave me these directions: “When you pick me up don’t get out of the car.”  startled, I asked:  “How are you going to know that I’m here?”  “I’ll find you-just stay in the car.”  I drove home shocked and in disbelief.  Do I embarrass my son?  I remember my friend Stacey’s horror when her Mom would pick her up from our gymnastics practice in high school.  Mrs. P. would click into the gym in red hot-pants, 4 inch heels with aqua-netted Dolly Parton hair waving at Stacey and stage-whispering “I’ll be right over here!”

I wear regular jeans and tops and if anything my taste in clothes is classic but certainly not hot-to-trot, or conversely too conservative.  Besides, I’m cool.  So what’s with the ‘keep away’ vibes Mr. Teenager?  You certainly need me when it’s time to get your learner’s permit, buy new clothes or upgrade your cell phone!  Yes, I have said those things to The Boy.  The Boy is however, 6 ft 1 and has developed a half-smile/smirk expression that I am learning to translate.  Gone are the days when he would run into my arms.  We used to play a game called Koala Hug.  I would walk around pretending to do household things like fold the laundry while he clung to me with arms and legs wrapped around my torso saying “Whatever you do, I won’t let go!”

But he is letting go.  I guess that means I have to.

But not yet.  I’m not done with him yet.  I haven’t finished teaching him all the really important things. Like grace, humility and being strong when you really want to crawl back under the covers.

Tonight though, I got him.  We were in the kitchen and as he walked towards the fridge I faked left and spun and grabbed him in the torso.  I held him tight, breathed in the smell of his t-shirt and he actually hugged me back.

I couldn’t see, but he may of been smirking.  I didn’t care.

I Am A Willow Tree

 I twist.  I bend.  I follow the wind.  I am a willow tree. Because I’m a woman, duh. 

It’s Monday, the first day of this blog and the first day of the week.  This Monday begins like every other: iPhone alarm set to “Smoke Detector” goes off, beagle howls, (BREAKFAST!) twins shuffle to the kettle, husband just a week-end memory leaving me empty hangers in the bathroom, and the piece de resistance:  tall, brooding teenager mole-eyes it to the shower mumbling something in my direction.  I prefer to believe it is “Good morning lovely Mother, may I have something to drink?”  It was more likely, “Ineedcoffeewhereareallthetowels?”

I should be used to this by now, I’ve been a Mom for nearly 16 years, but for some reason I am optimistic enough to believe that THIS Monday I will have a schedule that will be FIXED for the entire week.  I will get to the gym every day, be at work when I plan on it and always have at least one gallon of milk in the fridge.  It doesn’t sound like too much to ask.

Suddenly the teenager appears, “I need to stay after on Wednesday, so I’ll need a ride.” Twin #1 remembers “My report is due tomorrow and I hardly started!” Husband texts  “I’ll be out late tonight.” Email from a client “Can we meet late afternoon on Wednesday?” It isn’t even 7 am. 

Needing to fix my tea, I reach for the milk only to discover the jug is empty. There’s a little milk leftover in the bottom of twin #2’s discarded cereal bowl.  Excellent, I don’t even need to add sugar.  I am a willow tree.