Archive | November, 2010

Reflections on a Journey

27 Nov

Some people are lucky. They know how to live in the present, how to look forward to whatever new challenge lies around the next corner. I still haven’t mastered it. I tend to go more slowly, looking over my shoulder the whole way, reaching back with one outstretched arm trying to cling to the past. I keep keys from old houses (if they’re cool), and reminisce at old photos (especially black and whites). The past is special. I treasure it and caress it, sometimes to a fault. Which is why, when my aging body found a new way to betray me this morning, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was. I was completely blindsided and so I took it right on the chin.

We were on a train in the Denver Airport, on our way to the gate when I saw them. Standing with her back to me was a young woman wearing a backpack. And snuggled down in that pack, looking right at me, was a baby. He was probably 5 or 6 months old, if I’m not too far gone to recognize that anymore, and was staring at me with these big, round, innocent eyes. I could smell the clean freshness of his baby powder and though of course I didn’t reach out, I knew exactly how perfectly fuzzy-smooth his head would feel cupped in my palm.

Before I knew what had happened (and I’m literally talking micro-seconds here) my mind screamed, “We should have a baby! We should totally have another baby!”

Except, I don’t want a baby. I don’t want to be pregnant and puffy, to have my ankles swell beyond recognition. I don’t want to change diapers or potty train again. I don’t want to live in fear as my kid shoves everything (rocks, marbles, sand, leaves, sticks, etc.) straight into her mouth, testing the limits of what “chokeable” really means. And I certainly don’t want to listen to the fits of a defiant toddler again.

And yet, there I was, standing on the train in the airport, overcome by a strangely visceral, almost uncontrollable urge to be the mother of an infant again, to hold the gentle weight of a baby in my arms. See? Complete betrayal.

But still, I was okay. Maybe a little weak in the knees, a bit shell-shocked for sure, but stable. I didn’t completely lose it until the baby started sticking his tiny little tongue out and smiling, until he reminded me of how my daughter, at just about this age, had done the exact same thing.

And that’s when I came unglued. Because I will never again hear the adorable little piggy sound she used to make when she nursed. Because her favorite stuffed animal, Penny, who she could never be without, sits on a chair in her room instead of going with her on sleepovers or trips. Because music, texting, clothes and boys have become more important than Barbies and how to perfectly twirl in a sparkling princess dress. Because my beautiful daughter will never be small again, and will never stick her tiny tongue out, mimicking her dad and me.

I guess as the years rolled by I just never realized how far gone, how truly over, all of that really was. My throat got thick and tight, my nose started to run and my eyes swelled with silent tears.  I turned my head and, feeling like a sentimental wuss, hoped no one had noticed.

With nothing but travel time ahead of me, it was hard to shake my funk. Eventually we boarded and I sat, leaning my head against the small plane window as we flew home, watching the snow-capped mountains slowly pass below, watching how the bright sun reflected on a river below, making it look like a thin, twisting ribbon of mirrored silver. I was morose, mourning the loss of my early motherhood.

And then, in front of me, I noticed a different woman. She was leaning forward, hurriedly digging through a bag, looking for her son’s Spiderman toy while her younger daughter yanked on her arm, crying, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” over and over. The woman was obviously having one of those days, you know, the kind that makes every parent long for a hot bath and a cocktail. Alone. For a place where no one can claw at you with insistent, chubby little hands.

Finally, she broke.

“Just WAIT!”

Other people looked over, judging, I guess, as she lost her cool for a minute, but I sympathized. I knew how many times I had said the exact same thing, desperate for a break from the nagging and whining. “Just wait!” “Hang on!” “Give me a minute!”  They were all part of the vocabulary.

I looked back out the window, at the crisp, beautiful day, and took a deep breath. The more things changed, the more they really did stay the same.

My heart, you see, had been heavy all morning, breaking and crying out with the same, persistent plea to slow it all down, “Just wait!” “Hang on!” “Give me another minute!”

And this time, as the irony mirrored the truth like the sun on the twisting water below, it was almost too much.


33 Uses

17 Nov

I was brushing my teeth this morning when out of the corner of my eye I noticed something. On the front of the bright green bottle of mouthwash to my left were the words, “33 Uses.”

Reeeaally? I thought. No kidding!?

I shook my head in amazement as I scrubbed my teeth, anxious to be done so I could examine the label and find out what they were. My mind was spinning, reeling with the possibilities. I mean, what exactly can you do with a bottle of Scope other than freshen your breath?

Would it cut through hard water stains and tough soapy buildup when misted on the shower walls? Could a small amount added to my dogs’ water keep them from shedding, as well as make them minty fresh? Would it whiten my teeth if I held it in my mouth long enough? Maybe a drop or two added to the top coat of my nail polish would strengthen and build chip resistance.

How did I miss this? How had I gone all of my life without knowing the 33 secret uses for Scope? No matter, all was about to be revealed.

I rinsed my mouth, grabbed the bottle and began searching the back label (in earnest) for the answers. Ingredients…blah, blah, blah…makes your breath minty fresh…yeah, yeah, yeah, I got that. But what else can it do? What about dissolving that gummy, sticky stuff left on everything from the back of cheap labels? And how much, exactly, should I spritz on my houseplants to repel dust and (dare I hope) provide waterless nutrition for months at a time?

But they weren’t there. Where are they? I thought. What kind of a stupid marketing technique promises 33 uses and then not lists…


And then it hit me, kind of like a two-ton heavy thing. They meant you could use it 33 times. For the same thing. As in, this bottle of Scope contains 33 individual uses of breath freshening fluid.

Nice. I haven’t laughed that hard, standing bent over my sink, alone in the bathroom in…hmmm, probably…ever.

What can I say? I am half blonde.


5 Nov

It will smell like him, she hopes. The soft canvas stained with so many years of his hard work should hold the sweet scent of his sweat like a fading secret. Hanging there on the rusted hook it pulls her; its tender, well-worn creases smiling from across his garden. And there are the fingerprints. Impressions of dead flesh, smudged in dark mocha at the crown.

A few approaching steps and she reaches, trembling, afraid to be let down, to be alone again. Alone with the silence that hangs about the house and the indifference that clings to her clothes. It’s over. Then, soft as a lover’s whisper, the breeze shifts, and in the back of her throat she catches a faint taste of him; the familiar, earthy tang of his body’s last impression, left behind on this old hat, mingling with the heady summer scent of his roses.

A thrumming river runs between her ears and her chilled skin rises and shivers in the late morning sun. Her throat aches and tightens, choking on the truth. He is still here. The worn texture of the hat’s tan fabric is frayed and rough in her wrinkled hands. The dirt smears, pressing together the tenuous link between her fingers and his. She smiles as the tears come, inhales what will soon be gone, and remembers.