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.

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I Got You, Babe, Now What?

Continued from Part I:

We met In 1988 at 19 and sophomores at the University of New Haven. I had just transferred from the suburbs of Washington D.C. and he came from “the sticks” of northern Connecticut.

He thought I was stuck-up and had a trust fund.  I thought he was obnoxious and a horrible dresser.

We were both wrong, mostly.  I was a bit shy and came from a working-class family but I spent a good portion of my art store paychecks on building a quality wardrobe. He was outgoing and…OK this is true, had a back-woods style that included Budweiser bottle cap high-tops and ripped up acid wash jeans.  Oh, and he wore a baseball cap that looked like it had been dragged through mud- because it had been.

It was a match made in heaven.

We have been so busy over the years getting educated, raising our family, remodeling multiple homes and doing the Divide and Conquer thing that how we would spend our leisure time seemed like a distant promise and weirdly made me think of retirees.  I assumed we would go from lugging diaper bags straight to waiting all day to use a dinner coupon for an Early Bird Special.  It never occurred to me that things go a bit more gradually than that.  It startled me when a Sunday afternoon was suddenly wide open. I became fearful of our incompatibility.  I have very good reasons for this.

I like art museums, historic places, fashion, sipping champagne, PBS, making lists and being a vegetarian.

He likes fishing, target shooting, food challenges, Guinness, the NFL, power napping and roast beef.

One of our biggest arguments took place after a visit to an exhibit of Abstract Expressionism works paired with Shaker furniture.  It took my breath away.  As I shared my enthusiasm for the combination he looked at me blankly and said “That ‘art’ could have been made by a baby! It was just a bunch of smeared paint.”

Another doozy of a conversation had to do with his fondness for wearing what I called his “Meat Shirt.”  He won it by completing the 4 1/2 pound burger challenge at the Tavern House Grill in Tolland, CT.  Besides the obvious and his predilection for wearing it out in public, my issue had to do with the fit of the garment.  This was not a well-made shirt.  It had to go.

All would appear to be lost.  While we DO share common goals and a healthy sense of humor I fully expected to spend our free time pursuing separate interests. Surprisingly we bonded over bikes.

I joined a local cycling club last year and bought myself a fancy bike.  I LOVE this mode of exercise. The wind is in my face riding up and over hills engaging in healthy competition with a great variety of people.  As a social creature who likes to be outside this is the perfect fit for me. Our 16-year-old wanted in on the action so I got him a fancy bike too.  When T came home telling his Dad how cool it was and how fast he went, Greg decided to give it a try. Initially it was a little touch-and-go.  He’s fallen over from not un-clipping his shoes in time, had to dismount and walk up a hill and once had a back spasm so bad he couldn’t find the breath to call out to me to pull over. We ended up laughing about these but I figured it was just a matter of time before he stopped.

Then something unexpected happened.  For our entire relationship he has been my biggest cheerleader: from encouraging me to start my own business to coaching me as I attempted to swim a mile in open water.  Now it was my turn. On a challenging “beginner” club ride he couldn’t keep up and when we stopped for a break said I should just go on ahead without him. I looked him in the eye, me-a petite woman talking to a 6′ 1″ linebacker-sized man and said he could ABSOLUTELY do this.  We would stay together, taking it easy to the end.  He finished.  Over this summer when we rode alone, I would have him draft behind me half the ride to conserve energy and go further distances.

Suddenly we have no shortage of compatibility!  We talk about everything from the people we meet on rides, roads with the best views and cycling gear.  We have a lot of fun browsing in the cycling shop.  Who knew??

A ride to a museum with a pit stop at a sports bar is clearly in our future.