Where I'm From

Found this writing exercise via Buffy. You should try it sometime.

I am from Cookie Monster sweatshirts, shrugged on past bedtime. I'm from Dairy Queen and a station wagon.

I am from the chain-linked smell of gasoline and grass clippings. I am from dandelion seeds, yellow weeds and petals of "he loves me not." I'm from lilacs for mom on the kitchen table.

I am from Marlboro Reds by the carton, by the day; I'm from them living while I sleep.

I'm from Faith, Hope and Wisdom, Russian sisters in translation. I'm from pampered grudges with skin soft from attention. I'm from funereal reunions.

I'm from shhhhhh and daddy's sleeping.

I'm from crimson carpets and Sabbath inattention. I'm from kneeling in a straight line.

I'm from the USA. Hot dogs and pierogies.

I'm from the #6 Combination Platter at Hong Kong Kitchen, from tiny fingers on a teacup with no handle, and an empty space in the booth.

I am from Great Aunt Sonia's head, where all our cramped secrets will die because nobody wants them.


Mom At Work

I recently started a non-fiction freelance writing project that will have me writing 20,000 words over the course of 4 weeks. Since 2,000 is about as high as I've gone in any freelance pursuit thus far, I am in for a world of hurt. But it's not just the word count that makes my left eye twitch--there's also the whole "non-fiction" thing. In such genres, facts are checkable. There are events that unfold in a certain way, and there are finite ways of reporting them. As I work with a reality that is not my own, I must find ways to give dimension to things I've only heard about. I know it's true that the fifth sense is heightened when the other four are taken away, but does it stand to reason that I can write an entire book (albeit a short one) based on less than ten hours of interviews? I'm still wading through the recorded files, but as each transcribed line elicits a whole slew of questions that I know I won't have time to get answered, I start to prejudge my ability to get this thing done.

Assisting me in this endeavor is a high school aged mother's helper who started this week. She keeps the baby occupied four days a week, three hours a day. She looks like Britney when Britney was illegal and hot, but that's where the similarities end. I prefer to reserve judgement on Britney's parenting skills, but I will say that outward appearances indicate my mother's helper has more positive maternal qualities than me and Ms. Spears put together. You see, I have so much sympathy for the bum rap Britney has received because I know how easy it is to make mistakes as a parent. If the papparazzi was following me the day Tolby's carrier fell out of the shopping cart and bounced three times on the asphalt, DCS would've descended on me like protective locusts. Alas, it seems that nobody cares about poor, defenseless Tolby except me.

Hearing my daughter giggle with her nubile babysitter outside my home office is encouraging but also just a tiny bit off-putting. Like, does Tolby have to laugh quite so much? I want her to be well cared for and entertained, but I'm not sure it's necessary for her to chortle. And, later, when I walk through the living room on a casual jaunt to the bathroom, why does Tolby have to be nestled in the crook of this babysitter's arm, placidly chewing on the remote control? For me to place Tolby on the couch beside me would be akin to committing infanticide, what with her BASE jumping proclivities. But put her under the calming spell of this relative stranger and she just sits there.

Yet, it's all very good. I'm getting paid to do what I love. I have three hours a day to pass in a makeshift cloister devoted to the writing life. Color me satisfied. And just a little bit nervous about the next 20,000 words.


On Birthdays

I never thought of my late July birthday as my mother’s anniversary. It was only ever about me and all the typical trappings of a summer celebration: water balloon tosses, relays in the pool, ice cream cake, and piles of presents beneath leafy trees. Later it was open-air Dave Matthews concerts and tailgated beer. Once it was a Lake George amusement park with a guy named Chris who kissed me for the first time. It was my day, each and every one of them.

As I come up on one year of motherhood, I know differently. July 21st isn’t simply my daughter’s birthday. I’ll act like it is—of course I will—but when the day dawns hot and yellow through sunflower curtains I will think of my own life, as different now as Tolby is new. It is more my day than any wet May Sunday, but when I don’t get breakfast in bed it’s because of what every child knows: that a mother’s anniversary is never truly about her. I will get up first to watch the sun in glints of gold on my daughter’s head as she lays in her crib, one year older. And I think it will be the best Mother’s Day I ever had.

My mom calls me every July 30th with the same message. “I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the middle of the night when I went into labor, and your darn father refused to wake up…”


Father's Day

Last night my husband did the most amazing thing. He walked into the banshee's lair, placed his hand on her writhing back, and lulled her to sleep with his presence. The incredible part isn't that she calmed down so easily; it's that he reached out. The gesture was a year in the making. His hands-on approach toward swapping out car engines or turbo-charging lawnmowers never extended to the day-to-day maintenance of a baby. What he wanted from life was simple: cars, trucks, boats, cable television and pie. He thought a wife to hand him the torque wrench and laugh uproariously at his jokes would be quite nice, too. At 27, he was sure he had a few more good years of buying toys and watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel before Father's Day would be anything but a celebration of his own dad's role in his upbringing. At 28, he realized he was wrong. Much petulance ensued.

When I told him I was pregnant and he was unenthused, I pushed it to the back of my mind with the ever hopeful "he'll get excited when I start to show and it becomes more real to him." When I started to show, I figured he'd come around when he felt her kick from within. When her kick made him jerk his hand back with an incredulous "it's like a God damned alien in there," I was sure that her birth would be the moment of true acceptance. Unfortunately, I was unconscious for that and cannot make an identification either way. All I know is that I came to and there was nothing to indicate that the bond I was anticipating had been forged. Until yesterday. Until Father's Day.

My husband was adamant that he didn't want any gifts. So I didn't get him any. But we had what turned out to be a nice visit to his parents' house and, on the drive down, I laughed a lot. He likes when I do that and I guess, yesterday, it was as good for him as it was for me. At his parents' home, we conversed and ate and ogled the happy baby. Our dog drank too much water and peed on their carpet. The ride home was companionably silent.

After I nursed Tolby and put her in her crib, she was too exhausted to sleep. The air was thick with humidity and with dust from the inaugural use of our big box fan. I laid on top of the sheets in my underwear while she cried it out. I heard my husband at the top of the stairs and saw the hall go black. I thought the creaking floorboards would lead him to our bedroom, but the doorway remained empty. Suddenly there was only the white hot noise of the fan. Several minutes later he padded into bed. He set the alarm for 7:30 a.m.

"How'd you get her to do that?" I asked the ceiling as he laid on his back beside me.

"I just put my hand on her back till she fell asleep."

"Oh." A breeze that wasn't light or heavy rustled through the curtains. I thought, this is why I love the beginning of summer. Things you have been waiting for so long finally start to happen.


Better Than Nothing, Maybe

I was in the car the other day when I heard a song that I am embarrassed to admit I love. As I cruised the backroads, I ruminated on my dorkdom and considered whether or not it was a bloggable offense. I decided some things were better left unwritten. Imagine my surprise when I came home to see I had been tagged for a meme asking me to list 13 songs for which I have a shameful fondness. I guess it was meant to be.

The song in question is Agnus Dei/Worthy by Third Day. Oh, God, this is humiliating. Pardon the pun, because Third Day is a Christian Rock band. I only know a single song by them and this is the one. If you are a fan of Third Day, I ask you not to be offended by the fact that I feel I need to apologize for digging their Jesus groove. I love it for the same reason I love the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and the book The Da Vinci Code (because it sure as hell isn't for the great writing). It's why I think it would be cool to own a life sized plaster rendering of JC that I can dress according to the latest in Cafepress.com fashion. It's all about accessibility. Tradition and faith are all well and good, but I'm here now. And I don't have shit for an attention span.

That being said, I am hard pressed to come up with 12 more songs to satisfy the requirements of this meme for which I was tagged. I generally don't embarrass easily, which is probably a by-product of the fact that my mother saddled me with the name "Binky" before I had any say in the matter and, as if that wasn't bad enough, gave me many, many bad perms.

Those who know me and my allegiance to one particularly bad musical duo might scoff at this, and suggest that it shouldn't be hard to find 12 songs in the Insane Clown Posse canon that any self respecting mother would be embarrassed even to know about. They may bring up, for the sake of discussion, tracks like "I Stab People," "Bugz on My Nugz," "Fat Sweaty Betty," or the holiday favorite, "Santa's a Fat Bitch." But I'm not ashamed. I've been a Juggalette for almost ten years now (holy crap!) and have rolled in the mud at three of the communal love fests that are their yearly days-long gatherings. I love ICP the way good ol' boys love wrasslin'. I love it the way American hausfrau love soap operas. There is just something about being down with the clown til you're dead in the ground that gives you something to live for.

Pictured above: Wicked Clowns, me and my bro


Perspectives on the End of Bachelorhood

Some of you may remember my plot to get my husband to show his figurative face on this blog. Some of you may even remember acting as willing pawns. To you enthusiastic cheerleaders, we say thanks. And we submit the following He Said/She Said for your approval.

SHE SAID: My husband came home from the Vegas bachelor party determined to put up a strong front. We went to a Memorial Day party on Monday; he went to work and then to play pool on Tuesday; and it wasn't until Wednesday that he finally called in sick to the office. Or, more accurately, he emailed his employers that he would work from home "in between naps." I ran to the nearest Internet portal and looked up the incubation period for the ten most common STDs.

HE SAID: My wife doesn't trust me worth a darn. She is still convinced I got some at my bachelor party. I probably should have. At least then, I'd have the bragging rights to go along with the blame. Believe it or not, a bachelor party can be fun without the swapping of bodily fluids. Other wholesome activities include watching strippers, gambling, drinking until you puke on a stripper, trashing hotel rooms, and discussing Tolstoy with strippers who are just doing it to pay for college.

SHE SAID: He forgot "burying your face in a stripper's cleavage at 20 bucks a pop." I would be interested to know how many lap dances it took to secure his party's place in the VIP lounge. Not that I would take his initial offer at face value. I know how it goes. It's like me with my iced coffee addiction. If he comes home from work and asks me if I went to Dunkin Donuts that day, I'll give him an honest yes or no answer. But if it's Friday and he poses the open-ended How many times did you go to Dunkin Donuts this week? question, I'm not above fudging the numbers.

HE SAID: Good thing I get the credit card statements. Her "lies" can only deceive me for so long. Here's an interesting tidbit about strippers. The girls in Vegas can make upwards of $200k/year for putting a knee in your lap. This one girl in particular wasn't even really hot yet she lives in San Francisco and commutes to Vegas. I guess the lack of health care and retirement benefits could be an issue, but regardless, that's not a bad gig. Here's my addition to the bachelor party stories: There was one girl whose gimmick was "talking dirty." Not talking dirty as most people know it. Instead, she went up to guys with lines like, "Who's going to let me pee on them next?" or grabbing a guy from behind and whispering, "I want to shove a yam up your ass." Maybe it works for some dudes, but she didn't exactly have me throwing money at her. At the very least, choose a vegetable that people will recognize. A yam? Seriously.

SHE SAID: It's impossible to get a straight answer out of him. Why regurgitate the truth when you can be lighthearted about legumes? Fortunately for him (though I don't know if it's fortunate or unfortunate for me) I like laughter almost as much as I hate deception. When he's really going good, I can be sidetracked indefinitely. I'm sure he loves this about me. What he doesn't relish so much is another personality quirk that plays into this discussion. I often say inappropriate things. And my timing? It's not so good. So my husband has the valid fear that, were he to divulge any secrets from the bachelor party, it would come back to bite him over champagne and chicken Francaise at the wedding of the man whose bachelorhood was so ceremoniously discontinued at the Las Vegas weekend in question.

HE SAID: See? She's already blabbing about this all over the internet. His fiancée is going to read this and wonder what sort of stories Binky might be referring to. I should have never have even admitted to going to Vegas. Fortunately, by now, most of my friends have learned to expect a scene whenever she's involved. Like the time at a dinner party when she brought up the anal sex escapades of the host and his high school girlfriend. In front of that guy's current fiancée. Yeah, that went over really well with the significant other. I'm surprised we still get invited anywhere.

SHE SAID: Go stick a yam up your ass.