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  • Feminism, Gas Pumps and Clock Batteries

    May 25, 2010

    The other day I was out running errands and I had to stop and put gas in my car.  Filling the tank with gas is not my favorite task, but I’m an independent modern girl and I put gas in my own car.  But honestly?  I’d rather not and am happy to get out of doing it whenever I can. I don’t know why. It just seems to me that the men folk should have to pump the gas, take out the trash, remove the dead geckos from the shower and other duties as assigned. When it comes down to it, I’m old-fashioned.

    I see that all the pumping stations are occupied, so I pull up behind my favorite pump and wait for it to become available.  Gas pumps are like bathroom stalls — you have your favorite one, you know you do and why it is your favorite defies explanation, but it is the one you go to when need arises.

    So then…

    I’m sitting in my car waiting for my pump to become available and I’m taking note of all the stories going on at the gas station this morning.  In particular, I notice this elderly couple get out of their car and make their way around to the pump.  As is sometimes said, if they were moving any slower they woulda been going backwards.

    The little Mrs. was apparently the driver.  She is the first to get out of the car. She is dressed very crisply in her lavender stretch pants, matching blouse and never-committed-even-a-venial-sin bright white Keds.  She weighs all of 98-pounds.  I am guessing by the scarf she is wearing tied under her chin that she has recently been to what she would probably term the “beauty parlor” where the “beauty operator” washed and set her hair.  Just so.  I also suppose that her beauty operator is named Velma and has been doing hair since 1949.

    At any rate, the elderly lady gets out of her car, makes her way around to the other side of the car where she opens the door and helps an elderly gentleman out of the car. I assume he is her husband. She manages to maneuver him into his walker, the kind with the tennis balls on the front, and together they work their way around the car to the pump.  Together with great time and effort, he puts gas in her car. Because by cracky, as long as that man has breath in his lungs, she will not pump the gas.  Whether is it she who will not pump the gas or he who will have not have his wife pumping gas I can’t quite tell, but I can tell that’s how it is for them.

    It was almost painful to watch and part of me wanted to jump out of my car and pump their gas, but I didn’t.  I could have done that small thing for them – easily – but it seemed an intrusion of sorts and in this day of age, they would have probably found it more frightening than helpful. So I sat and watched.

    Later, I stopped in at one of my favorite boutiques and purchased a small clock for a gift.  The sales clerk, who appeared to be the same age as my mother, was very kind and helpful. I asked her if the clock had a battery in it. She said that the clock came with a battery but that it was not in the clock. She added that I would have to have my husband put it in when I got home.

    I laughed to myself and decided that I would have him do that as soon as he gets back from putting gas in my car.

    Gordon Gecko

    May 24, 2010

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    I know. It’s probably not a gecko. But I couldn’t think of a cute alliterative name to go with lizard. Larry was just too obvious. Gordon lives on my front porch and eats ants. In exchange for room and board he patiently poses for my camera.

    The View Master

    May 20, 2010

    Tempus fugit, carpe diem and all that. Last day of kindergarten, pass the kleenex.  This post was originally published last year but seems especially appropriate today as I sit at my desk trying to figure out how it all got away from me so fast.  Neither sweet nor bitter stays on the tongue for very long.  Tempus fugit indeed.

    * * *

    These days, life seems to click past from weekend to weekend, holiday to holiday, school year to school year.  It is as though I am seeing my life through a View-Master.  With the click of the thumb, one season disappears from view and is replaced with another.  And then another, and another.

    Soon the school year will be over and we’ll look forward to lazy summer days, swimming and popsicles.  Click.  Then Father’s Day.  Click. Then Independence Day. Click. And then Labor Day.  Click. And then back to school again.

    I was almost 39 when we married and AD was 42.  We were both on the dark side of 40 when Sean came along.  And perhaps because we are older or because we came to parenthood in the 11th hour, time is the filter which sifts the meaning out of the mundane for us.  Time is our most precious and finite resource and informs our every thought.

    The other day I watched a young woman in the grocery store pushing a cart with her baby in the seat.  I watched her stop the cart and lean in to rub noses with her baby and coo sweet round syllables to her.  I estimated her to be about 25 and I thought about how if she lives to be 80, she will get 55 years with her baby.  And I was a little envious.

    If I’m lucky enough to live to be 80, I will get 36 years with my child.  I am so grateful that I ever got to be a mom. I am grateful for every single day, even the days when I cry and complain about how hard it is because I know that no matter how many years I get, in the closing moments of life as I am ushered off  into the shadow of death, if I wish for anything at all, it will be more time.

    This right-now season that fills the frame of the View-Master, is especially vibrant and crisp and golden.  My eyes want to linger here, to stay just a little bit longer…

    Click.

    The Bunny Purse

    May 17, 2010

    Last week on the way home from school I asked Sean what he did in school that day.

    “Nothing,” he said.

    “Oh really? Not anything? You just sat at your desk with your hands folded for four hours?  I’m going to ask for my money back if they’re not going to teach you anything.”

    This caused him to sniff in amusement.

    “We had centers today.”

    It was a crumb, but I take what I can get.

    “Centers? Really? Reading?”

    “No. Shopping.”

    “Shopping Centers!” I laughed at my own joke.

    “What did you buy?”

    “Well!” he huffed, “I only had 75 pennies so I bought an electric pencil.”

    “You mean a mechanical pencil?” I said rather than asked, “Good choice. Cool.”

    “No, not cool.  I wanted to buy the bunny purse for you but it was like 100 pennies and then Karys bought it!” he whined with indignation.   “I didn’t have enough money!”

    That was interesting because the last time we were at the school for a class party, AD noted that Sean had a huge stash of pennies in his cubbie while the other kids only had a few coins each. AD later suggested to me that Sean should set up a little business of making secured loans to the other children at a reasonable rate of interest. No, not usury. It sounds so ugly when you say it like that. Think of it as a math lesson in the power of compounding interest.

    “A bunny purse?! You were going to buy me a bunny purse?!”  The very thought delighted and pierced my heart at the same time.

    “Yes, it had a bunny on it with a nose and it was furry and pink on the outside and purpledy-pink on the inside and it had a nice zipper and a strap for your head.”  I think he meant a strap for my shoulder.  I tried not to laugh at the mental image of a bunny head purse.

    “But Karys bought it!  I didn’t have enough money!”  The injustice caused his voice to leap an octave.

    I looked in the rear view mirror to see his eyes beginning to swell with tears.  Didn’t have enough money. This thought stirred up ancient poor girl dust that never really settles out, but remains suspended in the soul for a lifetime.

    In my mind, I could see him eyeing the bunny purse, turning it over and over in his hand, imagining how he would present it to me and how delighted I would be.  I imagined him counting on his fingers, working out the math. And then the disappointment, how it would fall from the ceiling and settle heavy over him, rounding his shoulders. I felt in my own heart the disbelief he felt when he realized the bunny purse was out of reach and worse, it was going home with someone else.  I know there is a good and powerful life lesson tucked away in the experience, yet it pains me all the same.

    We drove another mile or so, neither of us saying a word.

    “Well,” I finally said, “I have to tell you – I love that you would spend your money on me. That’s a very selfless big boy thing to do, and just knowing that?  That is a wonderful gift that would make any mom happy.”

    This did not go far in salving his wound.

    And you know what?” I continued, “There will always be people who will get stuff and have stuff that you want.  That’s just the way it is.”

    Just recently I had been to someone’s gorgeous and fully accessorized home and felt a tinge of what he was feeling, familiar and bitter.

    He sighed. Not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear how terrible Karys was for buying the purse out from under him.  That it was unfair.  That’s what I would want to hear.

    But I didn’t say that.  I told him that even moms and dads feel that way sometimes.  I wanted him to know that, to be honest with him about that.

    “But,” I said, “I find that if I can be grateful for what I have rather than disappointed over what I have not, that it makes it a little better.  A little.”

    That’s a hard one to learn, and a lesson to be learned over and over. So I quit teaching and let it go.

    When we got home, he disappeared upstairs, I assumed to contemplate upon the unfairness of life.

    20 minutes later, he appeared at my desk. The cloud of gloom had lifted.

    “Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” he said cheerfully.

    When I opened my eyes, I was holding a bunny purse made out of construction paper, tape and staples.  My name was monogrammed on the front in purple crayon.

    When life steals your bunny purse, make one out of construction paper.

    I told him I couldn’t imagine any bunny purse anywhere nicer than this one.

    And I meant it.

    Big Fish Little Pond

    May 10, 2010

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    On Saturday, my friend Gigi hosted a Mother’s Day luncheon for her church.  She invited several of us to speak on different aspects of motherhood. I spoke on infertility and late-in-life motherhood. Others spoke on looking forward to motherhood, adoptive motherhood, step-motherhood, grand-motherhood, military motherhood and another gal spoke on what it’s like being a mother to a special needs child.

    One lady lost her son in a tragically freak car accident when he was 32 and spoke about what a joy he was to her for the time she had him.  Each story was inspiring and sharpened my perspective and deepened my appreciation for how similar and yet how different everyone’s experience at this mothering gig can be.

    The picture has nothing really to do with Mother’s Day other than to record that Sean spent the entire weekend running around Gigi’s farm playing with her grandchildren, covered in dirt and totally unaware that he had a mother.

    As we drove home, Sean handed me a Wal-Mart bag from the back seat and wished me a happy Mother’s Day.  Inside was a card and a candle.  I suspect at some point I will own the largest collection of Wal-Mart candles in the state of Texas. I just pray that my collection will grow beyond 32.

    The Teacher

    May 6, 2010

    I wasn’t one of those moms who cried the day she sent her kid off to kindergarten. I was excited about the adventure that I knew was ahead for Sean.  I expected joy and it has been delivered in abundance.

    But now that the school year is about to come to an end, I am beginning to feel a twinge of sadness, maybe the same sort of sadness that the other mothers felt in the fall.  I am not ready for this sweet season of half day school to come to an end.  For the past three years, we’ve enjoyed living in a small, safe bubble at this school and now that bubble is about to burst. And I’ve got my fingers in my ears waiting for the inevitable pop.

    The leaving is so hard.  If only we could just stay a little longer, we surely would.

    We’ve been visiting a lot of schools lately as we try to figure out where to send Sean for 1st grade. So yesterday, after we got home from school I told Sean about the school we had visited that day and how we really liked the 1st grade teacher.

    “But I really like the teacher I have now,” he said.  He quietly dropped his chin to his chest and made that long face he makes when he is trying not to cry.  He tried to blink back the tears but they rolled down his cheeks anyway.

    I didn’t have any wisdom to offer him, so I just reached across the table and touched his hand.

    He wiped the tears from his face with is forearm.  “Wouldn’t it be nice if the teacher always went with you?” he whispered.

    I nodded.  I pulled him across the table and into my lap.

    And I thought to myself that a good teacher always goes with you, in some small way, wherever you go.

    The Phone Call

    May 3, 2010

    After supper the other evening, Sean and AD went outside to play and do boy stuff while I stayed inside my nice quiet people-free house where there was no sound to be heard save the soothing hum of my dishwasher.

    Awhile back we read the Ralph and The Motorcycle series and since then my fabulous six-year-old has taken to making motorcycle/motorboat noises anytime he is in motion, which is anytime he is awake.  It is darling. It is adorable. I love it.  But sometimes I just want it to stop.

    So then, I sat stock still in my chair and relished my sound-effects free house for a few minutes before getting busy on a project.

    Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you.

    I am working on Sean’s kindergarten graduation slide show and I think I have found what I was born to do – direct!  It has been way fun putting this thing together and oh how I wish I could show it to you.  You would say, “AM you are some sort of Spielberg!” And I would look down shyly and kick the dirt and say “Aw shucks, you think?”

    And then you’d say, “No not really, I was just being nice.” And then I’d say, “Oh.” And we’d leave it at that but I’d make you watch it until your eyes glazed over and drool started leaking out of the corner of your mouth.

    At any rate, I was very excited to get back to work on my little project when the phone rang.  I cursed at the phone in my head because I did not want to hear the phone ring nor did I want to speak to anyone unless it was the Publishers Clearing House people or perhaps the HGTV Dream Home people.  Since I have signed up for neither, that was unlikely.  So I let it ring a few times until guilt got the better of me and I answered it.  AD can completely ignore a ringing phone. I cannot.  What if someone was in the Cash Cab and they needed me to help them answer a question?  Mr. Google and I are here for you!

    So I answered the phone.  The person on the other end asked how I was doing and what was going on, but I wasn’t really quite sure who it was.  So I kind of kept playing along with evasive and vague comments hoping for some revealing context that would solve the mystery.  In person this is easier because you can nod knowingly but you can’t really do that on the phone, you have to say something.  Finally I just had to ask.

    “Um, who is this?” I cringed.

    “Who is this? This is your cousin Judi.  Don’t you recognize my voice?”

    “Judi!” I enthused.  “No I guess I didn’t recognize your voice. We don’t talk on the phone that often.”

    In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken to Judi on the phone. Judi is actually AD’s cousin’s wife, but in our family we make no distinctions.  I knew Judi was supposed to be coming to town and I was delighted that she had called because we were hoping to get to see her.

    We talked for several more minutes about this that.

    “Well I hear you are planning a vacation,” she said.

    I told her yes we were in fact trying to plan a summer vacation and that we were planning to come out her way, hoping to get by to see her.  I was a little surprised that she seemed unaware of that.  Maybe her husband, Cousin Tim, had forgotten to mention that we might be staying with them.

    She asked how school was going.  I told her we were finishing up and that I was working on a slide show for the graduation.

    She indicated that she thought that was unusual, but didn’t press me on it.

    She asked about my heath.  I told her I was doing well and then to be polite, I asked about hers.

    She told me all about her health issues, in detail, and boy was I surprised because I’ve always thought Judi was so healthy, always eating salad and jogging.

    “Well my brother has written me off for dead,” she sighed, “But I’m just fine.”

    And that’s when I knew that something was not right.  Cousin Judi had a brother but he died many many years ago.

    “Um, you know what?” I hedged, “I thiiiiiiinnk you might have the wrong number.”

    “Really?”  She was astounded.  “Are you sure?”

    I asked her what number she dialed.  The phone number was exactly the same, but the area code was off by one digit – up just one button.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said, “But it has been nice talking to you!”

    “Same here,” I laughed.

    Queue the Twilight Zone music.  I felt like I had been living in Judi’s parallel universe for that past five minutes and chuckled at how long it took for it all to unravel.

    Back to my own quiet planet, I turned to my computer ready to get to work.

    But before I could get started, I heard the front door slam and what sounded like a motorcycle.