Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Goin' Round this Roundabout

Well, in case you were wondering, I have found the cure for my recent, ridiculous overabundance of nostalgia: my 20-year high school reunion.

Every day I drive 40 minutes to sit in an office in the basement of the house where I spent all but the earliest of my school years. The house where I woke up at 5 am so I could do my homework and eat breakfast alone and have plenty of time to put a shit ton of mousse in my hair (no big bangs, though. More like a skater boy cut. Yikes). Where I got in a shit ton of trouble because I got caught spending the night at my boyfriend's house instead of at Ingrid's. Where I cheated on said boyfriend and then broke up with him and then got back together and then finally broke up with him for good after my freshman year in college. Where I opened my acceptance (and one most painful rejection) letters from college. Where I sat in a cheap, low fabric chair on the deck, reading Orlando and longing to be grown up and make important decisions for myself.

Little did I know I was making important decisions for myself, and casting my character, if not in stone, than at least in something it would be very, very difficult to modify. I graduated from high school on a hot day in June of 1992 and surprised myself by sobbing at the very lame Project Graduation party afterwards. The summer after we graduated I saw virtually no one but my boyfriend. My best girl friend found alcohol and lost her virginity and hung out with other girls I had known for years but who never quite were my friends. 

The roads leading to this house are all full of nostalgia-bombs too: the road upon which my boyfriend drove us, too fast and blasting Dinosaur Jr., to school every day. The road from the boyfriend's house I drove way too fast so I could beat a ridiculously early curfew. The road that twists up to the old grange hall where I was in my first "professional" theatrical production. The traffic light at the turn I took to my since-Jr-High crush's house on the day when I finally told him how I pined for him all those years I was his friend and confidante about all the other girls he dated (and how much was my life like a John Hughes movie?).

See? Everywhere I go around here, there is always something there to remind me. I have been spending the past year in the near-constant dull ache of nostalgia for days of old. For what was. I guess for what might have been.

And damned if there isn't a more bracing tonic for what might have been than confronting what is right now.

I did not keep in touch with anyone from my class but intermittently with said ex-boyfriend and one other girl who inexplicably asked me to be her bridesmaid. At our 10 year reunion I was newly transplanted to Brooklyn, super shiny and happy and in love with my life. So I went, and drank, and mingled with the barely-changed faces (the bride had gained weight but still looked and seemed essentially the same). Then ten more years somehow flew by and I moved back to Maine and bought a house with a boy and had two babies and wait how the fuck did ten MORE years go by?

And although I knew I would not know anyone, not really, at the reunion, I sure did have to go. My parents were lined up to babysit and I got my biennial haircut then nervously and uncharacteristically tried on several different outfits.

And thus coiffed and dressed we arrived at this ugly little cheap hotel event space. And BOOM went my nostalgia. All those familiar faces, grown rounder and softer. Everyone's voice sounds different than I remember. There were husbands and wives and pictures of children. No one is especially fabulous or especially grotesque. Stephanie was still a bitch, Melissa still smart and competitive, Marcy still bubbly and sweet, Laura still pretty and vapid, Dan still ruggedly handsome and vague. My old best friend Angela and I just sort of picked up where we left off and talked about life with new babies in our same old half-joking can you believe my LIFE way that we used to talk about our teachers or our crushes. The old cliques from high school formed again at the reunion, but with alcohol. We were just a collection of almost 40-year olds gathered 'round to celebrate the mere fact that we can still gather 'round. And then one classmate's band started to play and people started to dance and I am sure that is where things got more interesting but of course, I had to bail to meet curfew.

So. I still drive to my old house every day, and feel twinges of the past, ghosts of my decisions. But the ache is gone. We all just got older, but are not that old, and we wandered around living, but still have plenty left to do, and that is all. 

xoxo, A

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (as long as it's before 11 pm)

You guys! I went out! To a show! With a girlfriend! A nighttime ladydate! With cocktails! It was amazing!  Nighttime! And a regular bra!! FREEDOM!!!

(Yep, until the SUPER WILD HOUR of 11 pm. And then boy was I hurtin' in the morning, cause babies don't care how late you were up or how many Citron and Sodas you had (2.5, for the record) or about you stupid post-pregnancy feet not used to heels anymore ouch.)

All that aside, how long have we loved Fiona Apple? A long time. It was so long ago that I first heard Tidal and was struck by its exotic familiarity. For a very long time I have been trying to perfect the ascending notes of Slow Like Honey during my shower-singing sessions (much to the chagrin of many of my former roommates, I am sure). For a very long time I have been amazed that someone could string together lyrics like "you've no reverence to my concern" in a goddamn hit single. Fiona, man. Carrying forth the solemn torch of confessional poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, combined with the badass self-preservation of Patti Smith. She keeps on making albums, surviving, and (perhaps unwillingly) serving as an inspiration to hordes of overly-sensitive young women who get all poetically mad at their boyfriends. Or the world. Whichever.  Not that we know anything about women like that. Not at all.

So, anyway. I had been silently moping over my presumption that the show -- because it was a social event happening in the evening and I just don't do that shit anymore -- was not going to happen for me. But one serendipitous conversation later (Tim mentioned to his friend that I had wanted to go and his friend said his wife, who is the sweetest person ever, also wanted to go but neither of us thought we would go because no one else had asked us to go wah wah waaah this is why you should just ask people if they want to do things, SELF) and I booked a lady-date to see an awesome lady-singer. I was thrilled to be out and happy to shell out the dough to see how Ms. Apple has grown up.

What I found out is that she barely has. Her voice was ferocious, ragged in some songs, on purpose. She danced like a feral yoga instructor or plopped herself down cross-legged and swayed like a little girl listening to records during musical breaks. She chastised the audience for talking during songs (people who talk during songs are bad in bed, she said. And so, um, I stopped talking). The whites of her huge eyes were visible in every part of the auditorium.  It was a tiny bit scary and fairly enthralling and the opposite of the shiny shiny polished pop star thing that a lot of music has become.

She played all the "hits" and several songs I had never heard before, including one batshit crazy song off her new album that is all circus bloops and jangles and was awesome and this description is why I am not a famous music critic. I liked it, and I want to buy the album and play it at high volumes in my car. There you go. 

And the show, the mere act of sitting in front of someone who has gone for the elusive it that is making a living sharing stories about yourself, nudged that part of me that identifies with writers, singers, artists, soul-barers. Not that I have DONE anything about it -- mama hasn't got the mental energy yet, but soon -- I was reminded she is there. The girl who used to carry a tiny notebook and dash off poems at cigarette breaks. The girl who felt too much and slept too little and thought that misery was the only true path to art. My greatest form of self-expression is through my kids, these days, and that is fine and good. But my former self, cut-off army shorts with Camels in the pockets, no money, bad boyfriends, sparking with creative energy self, yearns for another sort of outlet. Soon, I promise her. Soon.

xoxo, A

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I Was Born, 6-gun in My Hand

Hey, have we talked about 3.5-year-olds? They are mystifying, awesome, terrible creatures. One minute, cuddly, hilarious, helpful, and sweet. The next, swinging at you with fists of fury and SPITTING because of some unintended slight. Woe betide the mama who BUCKLES THE TOP BUCKLES!!! Unless, of course, she wants me to buckle her top buckle.

Two things have helped shore up my stores of patience: treating her like a slightly deranged person [ie: never rushing her, asking about preferences before doing (cf: "do you want to snap your top buckles?"), and never ever ever rushing her, again] and re-framing tantrums as "emotion storms," which makes me feel a bit like a hippy-woo-touchy-feely-parent but also forces me to remember that we are, in fact, dealing with a creature who knows not, not always, how to modulate her reactions and emotions. Who will make a mountain out of a you-didn't-get-me-the-kind-of-popsicle-I-wanted-molehill. Sort of like me before all of my years of therapy and yoga, but my emotion storms were all internal. Except for that one time in Boston I had to pull over my car and kick things. But that's a story for another time!


Last week was especially challenging on the toddler-care front; I am not sure why. Perhaps we are both tired. Perhaps she is having a growth spurt. Perhaps I am not eating enough or drinking enough water. Perhaps we are both just having a week where we are both assholes. There has been too much shouting and too many tears. Too much purposeful ignoring. Too much threatening and stomping and goddamnit-I-JUST-NEED-SOME-SPACE-ing.

It's both of us, but I guess it is really mostly me. I need to shift my attitude, I need to get more sleep, I need to remember that she is just small, and figuring everything out, and also? That she is my hilarious, sweet, goofball, first baby.


One afternoon, she told me, in the blandest conversational tone, I told Cooper, "Penis Company."  I paused. You said what? I asked. I told Cooper, "Penis Company," she said again. I boggled for a moment, then asked, well what did you MEAN by that? Use those words in a sentence. She sighed, gave me the slightest hint of an eye-roll, and just said again, PENIS COMPANY. As if this was something everyone knew.  Her friend Cooper knows now, I guess.

However, the adults in our house still haven't figured this one out, and since we haven't had a note from her preschool teacher, we're leaving it alone. Though. Sometimes I will nudge Tim in the middle of the night and say PENIS COMPANY and start laughing, because I am a big jerk.


We have started Little A. in swim lessons, because she is hard-core loving the pool this year, and I am equal parts happy and terrified about that. Happy: I love to swim and it is one of the few sport-type things I feel like I do well, so we can share this. Terrified: Water. Toddlers. I need not say more.

So anyway, to the local pool/Red Cross Swim lessons she goes, and every week she is excited to show off what she has learned. This week, during our post-dinner post-lesson swim, she tucked her pool noodle under her arms, leaned slightly to the side, and did an enthusiastic scissor kick. And yelled BOOTY CHANT! BOOTY CHANCE! BOOTY SHANK! 

Again I stopped agog. Did you learn that at your swim lesson? I asked. No, it is my own special swim, she said back. And then swam and shouted BOOTY CHAMP BOOTY SHANK over and over until I declared swim time was over and wrestled her out of the pool and into the shower and into bed whereupon she alternately shrieked and kicked and shouted she was not tired and snuggled and sighed and said I love you bigger than all the moons and stars Mama.

Because that is a 3.5 year old. I am so lucky to have one. 

xoxo, A