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Written Sometime in January; there was snow.  Edited & Posted Much Later–end of August, windows open, hoping for a cool breeze after a hot day.  School starts tomorrow.

This morning I awoke to freshly fallen snow.   Which for me is usually a treat— promising festivity and frolic.  Except of course when we’re consumed with a construction project, and have to dig it out from under the snow.  Thankfully, the house is buttoned up and we are tucked cosily inside; I lay warm in bed in the early morning darkness and listened as the neighborhood snowplow scraped by.  What a luxury a snow plow can be!

Feeling mellow and at peace with the white world after getting girls off to school and spending an exuberant hour with my own human sized snow shovel (doing normal sidewalk snow removal), I luxuriated in a stop at the D.I. (local thrift store).  A favorite destination, convenient to my workaday errands. I can zip through in ten/fifteen-ish guilt free minutes, scanning shelves and aisles for Coveted Objects, and be on my way almost without skipping a beat.

But wait.  I cannot go on without first elaborating on Coveted objects. Irrelevant to the tale, probably…but gratifying to the writer.

Gnome, Small Monster, Elephant

Coveted Objects

 
(PS: if you read this, and you love me, and you happen to spot a Coveted Object and don’t want it for yourself, text/call/smoke signal me to come and at least have a look, before it disappears into the mists of time and becomes legend; untouchable, unattainable.)

1)  Sewing desks, pre-1950’s.  I have one, my grandmother’s.  I love it and naturally I want another.   Long legged, dainty, and top heavy, often with a picturesque, broken down sewing machine hidden inside.

There were no vintage sewing desks.

2)  Carnival Glass.  Blue (sometimes gold), sparkly, iridescent.  I hoard it without shame.  I love its history: the poor woman’s Tiffany, circa 1920-30-ish.  I don’t care if I’m buying a 70’s knock-off of a 20’s knock-off, either.  It’s pretty.  It’s nostalgic.  It’s welcome in my home.  

There was nothing sparkly and blue in the glass case reserved for precious things.

3) Vintage books.  Mmm…the colors and fragrance of parched decadence.  Words archaic, yet as wonderfully familiar as a favorite old aunt.  I would cry with joy over an early edition of anything written by E.B. White, James Thurber, Edna St. Vincent Millay.   A few weeks ago D.I.’s precious glass case sheltered a biography of Someone Important From Long Ago… I can’t remember who.  Beautifully bound and wonderfully aged, it was marked $200.  Frank leaned close and took a picture.  We gazed for awhile in awed silence, finally leaving the book to rest in peace under glass, Snow White waiting for her kiss.  

Vintage Books in a Row

There were no vintage books.

There were no vintage books, but there was a 1980-something Erma Bombeck (as a child of the 70’s who came of age a decade later, I refuse to recognize anything from the 80’s as vintage).  It was still in its glossy dust cover, the title printed in a faux cross stitch:  “Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession”.  I chuckled and ruffled the pages.  Erma is a childhood friend;  I eavesdropped on her light-hearted conversations with my mother in the late 70’s and 80’s, devouring Mom’s copy of  “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” I found lying on the couch.  While reference to all things maternal seemed hypothetical to me then, today I remembered her domestic caricatures with surprising fondness, feeling almost homesick.  I wondered whether her saucy words would be germane to me, now.

Because now, motherhood is hardly remote.  And it certainly isn’t a joke.  It is immediate, intense, soul-expanding, gravity defying,  heartbreaking.   Especially, it is humbling…often in raw, impoverished ways.  I have riskily invested much of my emotional/psychological currency in its uncertain future.  People say you make yourself vulnerable when you take a One True Lover.  Yes.  Definitely.  Still, after 26 years of marriage (24+ of them spent as amateur parents), Frank’s loyalty, affection, and company beyond the hereafter seems relatively assured, while the loyalty and esteem—not to mention the company— of my five children (after a cumulative 4 years of pregnancy, 5 years of nursing, 15+ years of diapers, 26 years of adolescence, and 6 precarious years of Launching) remains yet to be determined.  Even for this weekend.  It changes almost daily.  A bit of a cliffhanger when one looks down the uncertain road ahead.

I skimmed Erma a bit.  In the introduction, she addresses the question that haunts every insecure  moment I’ve had as a parent:  What kind of mother am I?  (note: I’ve studiously trained myself to consciously dismiss the notion of “kinds” of people as a flat out lie, and yet…when I’m leveled by disaster, disgrace, disappointment, or dysfunction, this question is still, unfortunately, instinctive and unrelenting).

What kind of mother loses immunization records, birth certificates, library books?  Rarely catches up with laundry?  Shows up to parent teacher conferences covered in paint?  Screeches and growls?

Erma writes about women gossiping at a baby shower, scandalized over a mother forgetting her child in a laundromat restroom.  What kind of mother would…?  She muses:

“It was a familiar phrase.  Ten years and three children earlier, I had used it myself with just the right blend of shock and disapproval.

Now, I personally knew seven mothers who had tried the same thing.”

She continues:  

“Mother” has always been a generic term synonymous with love, devotion, and sacrifice….They’re the Walter Cronkites of the human race…infallible, virtuous, without flaws and conceived without original sin…

“Immediately following birth, every new mother drags from her bed and awkwardly pulls herself up on the pedestal provided for her.

Some adjust easily to the saintly image.  They come to love the adulation and bask in the flocks that come to pay homage at their feet on Mother’s Day.

Some can’t stand the heights and jump off, never to be seen again.

But most mothers just try to figure out what they’re supposed to do– and how they can do it in public.”

I was sold.  For two dollars, Erma would be mine; I wasn’t going to let her go, no matter how un-vintage and dowdy her dust cover.   As I ambled to the cash register (a freshly fallen snow day gives one permission to amble), I thumbed through the book again.  An inscription just inside the cover caught my eye…this book must have been a gift!  Maybe from a tried and weathered mother to her daughter, sharing the fun.  I looked closely, paying actual attention to the handwritten words.  It was dated 1983.  Someone had written, “For Christine–Who is about to live where I write.  You’ll love it!  Trust me.  Love– Erma.”

PS:
Convinced I now own a veritable treasure, I shared it with my family after/ok during dinner.  I opened my new collectible and read Chapter 3 out loud (“What kind of a mother would…go an entire day without shaving?”, wherein a stay-at-home dad named Frank became the first suburban mother in Rochester with a mustache who wasn’t on estrogen).  I laughed til I couldn’t read…particularly the paragraphs where an epic winter storm has closed school for ten days ”and he was charged with the responsibility of keeping three children from killing one another”, finding himself saying nothing while watching Teddy force a button up his nose, and then, as Caroline colored his marriage license, “all he could mumble was, ‘Stay in the lines.’”

Stay in the lines.  Also, when was the last time I heard of a kiddo named Teddy or Caroline?  Barely one generation past the Kennedys, and we’ve already forgotten them.

The dust jacket is irrelevant now, by the way.  One probably shouldn’t eat corn muffins dripping with hillbilly jelly when one is reading Erma out loud to her family.

Or maybe one should.

PPS:  
Erma appeals to me partly because she dismisses my culture’s unrealistic, painful expectations of motherhood.  Protesting an impossible standard.   And yet, of all the things I do, motherhood is definitely one thing that I long to do really, really well.  I’d like to get it perfectly right, someday.  Somehow.

It’s just that it’s a work in progress.  I’m a work in progress.  It would be so tragic for me (and for my kids) if one of my bad days was chosen as the final result.  The pop quiz that counts for 98.6% of the grade,  absolute proof of the “kind” of mother that I am.  While part of me instinctively worries that I’m a hopeless case when I’m lost in one of those awful snapshots , there’s another  part that protests indignantly.  “Wait!  I’m not done yet!  Do over!  This isn’t all there is to me!”   Deep in my soul, in quiet moments, I hold tightly to the belief that God at least is infinitely more generous.  That He doesn’t condemn me in the moment, but regards me patiently, waiting for a distant, gradual accumulation.  One that takes into account my intentions, sincere desires, broken heart, and best efforts—giving them at least as much weight as the occasional fumble or ugliness.  And that all along, from now to the brim of my lifetime’s sum total, He is willing and eager to add His grace to the mix.

Signed by Erma
 

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My Favorite Son

IMG_20160612_185544 (2) Potentially there’s all sorts of things wrong with this post, starting with its abrupt appearance after two years’ unexplained silence here, and ending of course with the title, “My Favorite Son”.   Seriously!  What kind of mother has favorites? *

Elinor of Aquitaine, maybe.  Or maybe not, depending on the historian.   I accidentally painted Elinor  when my favorite son Ezra was a baby.  Actually I was trying to paint a serene and musing Mary, but a friend dropped by as the painting was drying and decided it looked more regal and Medieval than serene, proclaiming it instead a wonderful likeness of Queen Elinor.  We can decide these things, after all.  Being women.  Endowed with imagination, insight,  and a knack for grand pronouncements. [click to continue…]

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Dearly Beloveds.  It’s been a while.  Are you there?  I am here (what is Here, anyway?  It’s just There without a “T”).

It's Just There Without a T

This post marks the end of the longest lapse

this blog has suffered since I renamed it a year and a half ago.  Actually,  I don’t know that the blog literally suffered; it is, after all, only as sentient as a trifling aggregation of ones and ciphers  can be, strung invisibly together in the netherland betwixt Time and Space. And if you managed to make  sense of that last sentence…no, wait, if you even bothered to read all the way through that last sentence,  you must have really, really missed me.  I’ve missed you too.   But.  While I’ve missed you, dearly beloveds, I am still ok, it turns out.  Ok and present.   Call out the roll and I’ll pipe up:  “Here!”

You might ask where I’ve been?  And what  I’ve been up to?  If you were actually Here, in person (rather than There, anonymously online),  I would grab your hands and waltz you into my miniscule living room, plunk you down on my rapidly-becoming-shabby couch, grab us a couple of banana muffins, and tell you.  You would not be able to shut me up.    But (sadly) we aren’t  Here together; you’re reading this from a safe and austere distance.  I sit on my declining couch alone with my laptop.  At least fundamentally educated  about blog decorum  and prudence, I will edit. [click to continue…]

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Realty’s Alternate Reality: Sanity Checklist

It’s Tomorrow.  I haven’t forgotten my promise to enthrall us all with sage strategies for staying sane in Realty’s Alternate Reality.

Wait—I don’t remember actually promising anything besides breath-takingness.   I’m thinking, at this late hour, that it would be easier to just post a really pretty picture of a mountain, and call it good.

But I won’t.  I actually have a list for prospective home sellers.  It is a Brace Yourself list…. “What to Expect When You’re Selling.”  Full of realism and pith, it could still take your breath away, especially if you hold it.  Which I do sometimes…breathlessness has its advantages, as Marilyn Monroe so fetchingly illustrates.

breathless monroe

Here’s my bracing list.  It isn’t comprehensive, by the way.  It just includes the elements that have been the most traumatic and scarring for me personally. [click to continue…]

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Playing the Realty Game

realty reality

So if you’ve read along for just a little while here, or better yet,  if you’re a neighbor or local realtor, you’re probably at least liminally aware  that we’ve got a For Sale sign in our parking strip (turns out, that’s what it’s called, that odd little bit of land between the sidewalk and the street that confuses everyone from landscapers to skateboarders.  Lauren Springer Ogden aptly calls it a hell strip.  But I digress).  With simple Sherlockian deductions, you might easily conclude that we (the family that lives in the house whose yard bears the for sale sign) are selling our home.

Well, yeah! We’re trying, anyway. [click to continue…]

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Regarding My Man

Another Tribute To My Man, In The Cold Dark Month of February…

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Yesterday was my husband’s birthday.

He rolled out of bed while it was still dark, showered, put on a flannel shirt I’d ironed for him (a rare occasion, me ironing), ran kids to the bus, fried himself a quick couple of eggs, and drove to the train. Which he has learned to regard with strict respect; last month another commuter at Frank’s stop (deafened by earbuds and unfamiliar with the train’s routine) crossed the tracks a little late and was hit…or rather, battered and thrown by the train. But that’s another story, a sad one. Still it seems relevant. It nuances the fact that my man leaves for work in the dark. That he returns home in the dark after a day’s work. And that between the leaving and the returning, there’s the train…implacable and occasionally deadly. Endless tons of hurtling iron.

We choked on celebrating his birthday. It was the middle of the week; the kids had piano lessons and homework and church activities, and I was gripped by a gasping, wracking cough and a disgusting runny nose. I spent the day in my pj’s clutching Kleenexes (when I drove the kids places, I pretended no one could see me). No hot mama for my man to come home to on his natal day. And since Frank is eyeing carbs with antagonism lately, it would have been unkind to bake a cake for him even if I could manage it. We’re saving the cake experience for the weekend. Which I’ve moved up to tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll dress up, the kids and I will sing, and we’ll go out. Tomorrow we’ll grill the lean-fatted calf and throw confetti.
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Hello?  Hello?  Anyone Home?

hello there

My daughter (Maurya)  told me today that in the very near future, the inconstancy of bloggers will seem so constant as to become a cliche.  She is hoping to post on her own blog about it.  Sometime.  She’s not sure when.  But she’s not announcing this  publicly; she’s wise enough to  avoid the potentially ironic position of breaking a blogging promise herself.

I laughed, wryly.  Since I chronically lack the foresight and restraint that my daughter (less than half my age) so wisely practices.  With just  a little more than three hours left of this week, it looks like posting my promised house tour before week’s end is on the nether side of impossible.   What was I thinking?  I don’t even have time to ruminate before my deadline.  Or write my excuses (which is tempting, because  honestly, I documented them particularly well today,…from a perilously teetering cake  to a bow tie crisis, and beyond). [click to continue…]

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Winter Painting: Have You Ever?

"Have You Ever" art

 

Painting Winter: “Have You Ever?”

I casually  (vaguely?)  mentioned this painting a couple-three months ago.   And let it drop.    The subject slumbered silently (probably forgotten (by everyone but me).  I wasn’t feigning indifference.  I wasn’t hoping my mysterious nonchalance might pique interest (truly; I’m always at a loss as to what to do when piqued interest actually materializes…). No, no.  No, my enigmatic tone was a cover for sheer frustration; I’d neglected to take a good picture of the painting before I sent it off to my friend Elaine’s boutique. I had no actual proof of the painting to post on my blog.

I have decent pictures now, having remembered to take a good camera with me on my most recent visit to the boutique (I also took my dear friend Stephanie with me, but that story will have to wait for another post, and so will a better picture of Elaine, who eludes a good shot like a phantom myth…let’s just call her “Nessie”). [click to continue…]

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