Sunday, November 23, 2014

a christmas story.

i am a book full of pages torn down the middle. i think this way, and that way too; i feel that way and this way both. torn, my constant. i hope that as i read my own story, as i get further and further into me, i'll find more pages that are whole.


this year, my son is old enough to be excited. he knows about santa and the north pole and christmas trees and hot chocolate. his excitement only stokes the christmas nerd i've long been. last weekend i began our holiday season by decorating the apartment. early, i know, but i wanted him to come home from visiting his grandparents and walk into a wonderland (as wondrous as one can get with Dollar General decor). as i hung the garland, to which i attached bulbs and a center bow that i made from ribbons and bells, i remembered its original purpose: hiding the bald spots in my Dollar General tree i bought in 2004—the year i went without cable, made lattes for a living, and spent a lot of time with my sewing machine in the painfully outdated apartment full of structural and functional oddities, among which was a staircase to nowhere. obviously the folks at Generic Christmas Tree Company could not spare another branch or two to make their product look remotely legit, so i had to make do with ten feet of space between each tier. every year, once i decorated my
little tree that could, i always looked upon it with love, proud of the something i could make out of not much. 

in years past, i put up that tree while singing carols to my dogs, kaiser and phaedra, and then i'd put santa hats on their block heads and say the word "treat" to get them to hold still so i could take their picture. kaiser and phaedra are a few years gone now, so last weekend it was just me and private joker. i didn't sing him carols. i thought i'd save that for putting up the tree with my son in tow, and make it a full-family affair. so i turned on a Hallmark holiday movie instead . yes, really. for two months every year, i immerse myself in corny dialog, unrealistic scenarios, and sickeningly wholesome themes. except this year i've picked up on a pattern that counters that trademark nice with some naughty: most of the films' protagonists find love while committed to someone else they unceremoniously dump.
i think Hallmark is going for "love conquers all," but what they're actually getting is "all's fair in love and war." the latter does have a certain appeal, a realism that reminds us that there's no ideal scenario leading to love. however, when the reality of love is coated in sap, it's unpalatable. i wonder if the average Hallmark viewer notices or cares. i'll go with no. i doubt "perspicacious" is on Hallmark's list of target-viewer traits. and now i'm redeemed for my cable-bound sin: it turns out that even the low art of holiday movies offers opportunity for critical analysis.

i've digressed. as for my bargain wonderland, when i unveiled it, my son acted like a two-year-old, literally, giving me a scowl followed by "i don't wike it." a few minutes later, predictably, hyde became jekyll and he was thrilled. in the toddler psyche, elation is generally correlated with destruction, so soon my place looked like a christmas massacre. still, he loved it. exhale, mamma. christmas mission one, accomplished. 

what comes next? decorating the tree. the christmas parade. christmas movies and cookie-baking. candy cane hunting at the local park. christmas crafts. the joy of my parents seeing their only grandchild's delight. nighttime drives to see light displays, and maybe this year that pined-for trip to the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort. i'm going to make it so good for him this year. this special year when he can first feel the magic.

and what comes between all the joy-making? visions of what isn't. the kind that leave a single parent ... torn. the page begins whole, filling up with all the beautiful possibilities, and i want to stay there, there and only there, but inevitably the page begins to pull away from itself. there's no man to put my son on his shoulders to see santa at the parade; no date for holiday parties; no one to keep the kid from smashing bulbs while i trim the tree; no extra set of arms to carry and unpack and wrap; and all the holiday driving! i'd love to sit in the passenger seat and look out the window instead. 

but there's this: being single is good, too. there is comfort in the familiarity of long-held habits. my days are mine to use as i please. dinner is at whatever time i make it. there's no one to blame besides me. i don't have to care if my in-laws like me. i don't have to fret over how someone else might parent my child.

is it possible to simultaneously like and lament being single? yes. normal? i have no idea. it's my normal. torn. 

people tell me to try online dating. no. i can't look for mr. forever (and god help him if he finds me); i just don't want to try that hard. we'll have to cross paths in one of the places i frequent, which doesn't leave much room for possibility, unless he likes Dollar General or the secret organic aisle at Giant Eagle or, i don't know, sidewalks? i'm on them a lot. my son and i have a good thing going. last wednesday, i was washing dishes [dear santa, how 'bout that countertop dishwasher, eh?], my boy was napping, and i suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. that happens from time to time. that hackneyed "warm feeling" becomes altogether real, and i know we're better than okay. 

we're gonna have a merry christmas. turn the page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Or: 38 ways they didn't tell you the truth about motherhood 

1. You will wake up to your smiling baby, feeling full of love, only to be kicked in the gut and head butted. 

2. On the way to baby’s one-month appointment, you drive past an exit for "Pleasant Valley” and wish it were yours. It sounds like people could sleep there.

3. You will find crusty things on your face. You won’t know what they are or how long they've been there.

4. How you greet the mailman at the door: “Did you get up five times last night? No? You gotta try it! Hey, got any crack? I sure could use some!”

5. Your boobs will reminisce about the days when they didn't have a job.

6. You learn the meaning of a Good Housekeeping Magazine seal of approval: The product actually does what it says it'll do. You wonder if they give those seals to fathers.

7. If you had known you’d pay in sleep for your past sins, you would’ve thought twice...and then still sinned. Dang it. Never mind.

8. The run-the-vacuum-during-naptime cure works as well as your miracle wrinkle cream.

9. You consider capitalizing on your new crackhead chic look, offering friends makeunders available only after 2 a.m.

10. After a run, you take off your sports bra and discover your missing belly girdle in a sweaty wad under your giant nursing boobs.

11. You take your infant for that traditional Christmas photo at the mall, and you keep hoping for a miracle that he’ll say “boobs” when Santa asks what he wants.

12. On a freezing morning after no sleep, your car doors won't open, so you pound and kick them because obviously they're frozen. Nothing works. Then you try the unlock button. Oh.

13. No one told you your child, upon teething, would turn into Hannibal Lecter.

14. If your baby were a superhero, he would fight sleep instead of crime.

15. They tell you he’ll sleep through the night after three months. Liars. Then they tell you he’ll definitely sleep after six months. Filthy liars.

16. An older man at the grocery store smiles at your obviously male baby and asks, "Boy or girl?” You smile and reply, “Girl. Now you have a nice day, ma'am."

17. Three months postpartum, it’s like there's a traffic jam at the top of your thighs, preventing your old pants from getting where they need to be.

18. You know you smell vomit, but you haven't yet located it.

19. When your 8-month-old twists your unoccupied nipple over and over while nursing, you will scream-sing the chorus to “Love is a Battlefield.”

20. A friendly stranger smiles while you’re walking with your baby in the stroller. You attempt to smile back, but your mouth is too dry from nursing dehydration and your lip sticks to your tooth. You decide being friendly is overrated.

21. If one more person says of severe sleep deprivation "it's worth it" or "one day you'll miss these days," you will walk slowly until you catch them and then eat their brains, because you are officially a zombie.

22. As you put baby to sleep, someone in the nearby kitchen will inevitably use the icemaker, aka Mountain Rockslide Sound Maker. You will wish them persistent, explosive diarrhea.

23. You will marvel at the ability of poop to travel upward.

24. When men old enough to know better don’t offer help while watching you struggle with a white-hot coffee and a 300-pound car seat full of screaming infant, you hope they're stricken with an incurable itch in an unsavory place.

 25. When the phone rings while you're trying to calm your colicky newborn, you will wish you knew how to curse in sign language.

26. Zero sleep is the new eight.

27. If one more person mentions cereal or crying it out, you will hire a hit man to take them out.

28. You will seriously question why the tube of Orajel doesn't have a note saying "straight jacket and/or stun gun recommended for easy application."

29. You wonder about the ethics of rigging the doorbell to administer an electric shock to anyone who interrupts your nap-time routine.

30. In one year, your boobs have undergone three identity crises.

31. After endless rounds of the pick-up game, you wonder how long the toys will stay super-glued to his hands ... or will duct tape be better? ... how about velcro! ... bungee cord?

32. Because that box of feminine-hygiene products is fascinating your toddler, you have 10 uninterrupted minutes to pluck your shamefully unkempt eyebrows. You now think it’s okay to bring tampons to restaurants for ten minutes of uninterrupted dinner.

33. Diapering a toddler is not unlike calf roping. Except with the latter, you can leave the crap on the ground.

34. While your toddler uses your body as a track for his bulldozer, you hear your nursing-ravaged breasts referred to as mountains. Hyperbole never sounded so sweet.

35. You want to do a remake of WuTang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”: Cleaning Rules Everything Around Me.

36. To know how many times a toddler will ask the question “why,” count the hairs on his head.

37. Your 2-year-old turns into an octopus every time you dress him. You wonder if those airbrush people at the mall can spray him a permanent outfit.

38. Your toddler's burgeoning speech sounds like Harry Caray. You like it.