5.31.2010

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Chris always jokes that if you want to know what’s going on in my life, all you have to do is look at the magazines on the coffee table. And that is pretty accurate, as my choice in periodicals evolve in line with the changes in my life. In the early, post-university days of my relationship with Chris, I clung to the ideals of Bust and Adbusters (or, if I was feeling particularly evolved, The Utne Reader and Ms) while still low-browing it enough to laugh over the pages of Vice. I hadn’t given up Rolling Stone in those days, still needing to know what critics thought of Bjork’s most recent theatrical ambient music-making methodology or which Grateful Dead album had just been liberated from the vaults. Chris knew that he could make me happy by bringing home the latest issue of Details and a chocolate bar.

We got engaged in July, 2000 on our one-year anniversary, and since we were in no real rush to set a date, I put a one-year hold on wedding plans. So by September of that year, you could barely see the Busts for the Wedding Bells, and although I tried not to shift my focus from Ms to Mrs, Conde Nast Bride, that epic tome of all things nuptially-conventional, took up all the space in my magazine rack for months on end.

Design and home magazines started cycling in as Chris and I began the slow process of swapping our university-era hand-me downs for cheap furniture and thrifted accessories that were ‘ours.’ As milk crates and futons gave way to Ikea bookcases and… newer futons, we walked the convention-hall floors of massive interior design and home shows, imagining that our future would be clad in mid-century modern repros and white uber-shag rugs. We spent hours sitting side by side on the couch we wanted to replace, picking ridiculously expensive pieces out of the pages of ridiculously unrealistic spreads, arguing over why the grey wool couch would look better the chocolate brown wool couch if we were going to paint the walls turquoise.

And then, one day in 2004, a stick turned blue and the universe changed.

We had been trying (or at least, not NOT trying) for about 6 months, and as every prospective parent knows, in that surreal time, imaginations go wild. I would daydream snapshots of my husband holding our dream child on his shoulders as we walked to the park; I envisioned peaceful moments holding an infant in my arms as we were bathed in the late afternoon’s amber light; and I thought of exactly how I would let Chris know that we were going to become parents – I would leave the clue to my current preoccupation on the coffee table. He would come home from work, sit on the couch and see a Martha Stewart Baby magazine fanned on top of the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. It would be perfect.

Except, of course, that the only thing I was capable of doing after I saw the two lines, was freaking out. I somehow managed a) not to have a cigarette, even though it was the first thing I wanted and the last thing I could have, and b) not to call Chris, knowing that this was something I wanted to share in person. But all thoughts of a dreamy staged message went completely out the window. I could not focus my thoughts enough to even make it across the road to the corner store where I could buy a Martha Stewart Baby magazine, so I basically paced our apartment for an hour until Chris opened the door and I practically screamed our news at him.

But Omniliving Media need not worry that I missed the opportunity. I hated the pregnancy magazines, focusing mainly as they did on what one should wear and how one should stay fit while pregnant, and discovered that I had a more spiritual, organic side to me. My sister introduced me to Ina May Gaskin and Mothering magazine, and I could feel my consciousness shift. Or maybe it was the baby, settling heavy on my bladder.

Growing and birthing and raising a child and then two children have forced a happy change in my priorities, and if you look at the magazines on my table today, you can still pretty much see where I’m at. Mothering still arrives every month, and so does Martha Stewart Living and sometimes Brain Child or Vegetarian Times and Better Homes and Gardens and for a few, brief months Chatelaine (sorry, but once you trade Onstad for Eckler, you’ve lost me), but there is also Toronto Life magazine because I feel deeply rooted to my city and like to fuck up their child-free, snobby demographic, and Rolling Stone still appears when somebody I love is on the cover, and Bust pissed me off large and lost me this year, but Ready Made is very cool. I like to shake things up with People magazine every now and then, and my inlaws bring over Macleans and National Geographic, and when I have a coffee in my hand and a sunny back porch, I cherish these moments dedicated to reading a magazine and am happily an equal-opportunity time waster.

And me and Chris still like to pick out our favorite designs in Dwell magazine, and we imagine our future in an off-the-grid, glass-fronted pre-fab on a lake somewhere, and as we sit on our grey wool couches in our living room with the turquoise walls, we’re quite sure we’ll be there one day.

***

5.25.2010

Food Funk

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking funk, which is unusual for me. Instead of reaching for the new cookbook on my shelf, I find myself reaching for a take-out menu. Instead of looking at the bright, crisp vegetables in my fridge and seeing delicious possibilities, I am seeing work. Instead of proudly wanting to cook healthy meals for my family, I am guiltily looking in the freezer for a pizza I can just throw in the oven and be done with.

I guess I’m just a little burnt out, but who wouldn’t be? I just (finally) said adios to nine weeks of solo-nighttime parenting, and while taking care of my children is no hardship, coming home from work and having to do the entire dinnertime/playtime/bath time/bedtime routine on my own every night for – did I mention? – nine weeks, has taken its toll. I got tired. I looked for shortcuts. I didn’t have my husband there to hold a cranky kid while I chopped carrots, or praise my efforts once the meal hit the table. Or to set the table. Or to help clean up. Or or or or or. Anyway, you get my whiny point.

Sometimes I use the glorious spring weather as an excuse not to cook; we often stay outside, drawing 3D chalk pictures (thanks, Crayola!) or blowing bubbles or running around in the park until so late that before we know it, there’s no time for anything but grilled cheese sandwiches and some baby tomatoes. One night we were in the front yard playing for so long that my neighbour, assuming we were had eaten already, came outside with fudgsicles for my kids, and yep, that was dinner that night. They didn’t mind.

And it was a one-of-a-kind treat, so I didn’t really mind, either, but what bothered me was that I was relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to cook, and that once the kids went to bed, I could eat a bowl of cereal and be done with it.

I’ve also used my sister’s visit these last two weeks as an excuse not to cook – she lives in the middle of fricken nowhere! Of course we have to go out for Greek food/Chinese food/Middle Eastern food/brunch/lunch/coffee and dessert!

I’m being hard on myself, I know, but cooking for my family is something I generally get so much satisfaction from, and it is much better for my life to view meal prep as a pleasure and not a prison sentence. That’s what doing laundry is for.

Having Chris back home in the evenings will help, as will the start of the farmers’ market season, when it’s impossible not to look at that beautiful produce and see possibility. We’ll also soon replace our barbeque, which literally hit the dirt last year and is now serving as a fire pit in the backyard, and then I can transfer some of the meal prep to my grill cook/husband, as I never learned to master the coals. As for fudgsicles for dinner? Well, much to my children’s disappointment, we’ll be retiring that meal idea for now. Unless it’s a really hot day.

***

5.20.2010

The Letter

A very, very strange thing happened recently. My sister got a letter, addressed to all of us sibs, from the President of the United States of America.

George W. Bush.

It was a letter of condolence on the death of our father, two and a half years ago.

Weird, huh? There was no indication of the letter having been forwarded through abandoned or obsolete addresses – It simply took 2 ½ years to get to us. My dad hated George W. Bush, but at some point, between September 2007 when my dad died, and January, 2008 when George Bush’s career died, he signed a letter, addressed to four siblings, offering condolences and thanking my dad posthumously on his years of service.

Too bad it wasn’t from Obama, who I knew my dad was rooting for. There are endless things I wish my dad could have lived to see – so trite to even say that. I wanted him to live to see a dandelion turn gray and feathery on his front lawn as much as I wanted him to live to meet my second daughter or live to watch one more episode of Ghost Whisperer.

But I do wish he could’ve made it to inauguration day. He would have been pleased, and he would not have made fun of Aretha Franklin’s hat. Ok, maybe he would have. They would have been very stupid jokes that would have made me giggle, or more likely, he would just have exclaimed, What the hell does she have on her head?! I would have laughed at that too.

So I wish he could have seen Aretha’s hat.

And the Superbowl that year. Goddamn, the Giants won for the first time since 1991 (I did not know that off-hand. I had to look it up. If my dad were still alive, I would have called him to find out when the last time the Giants won the Superbowl was.) I can’t believe the NY Giants won the Superbowl the year my dad died. My sister said it was a sign that my dad is ok. I like that theory better than mine at the time, which was that, the universe just fucking sucks.

I know it is the natural order of things to lose your parents. They say that more and more kids these days will not know their grandparents. But I didn’t wait until I was 40 to start having kids. I was done having them by 32, and my dad was not 90 when he died. He had just turned 65.

But that was 2 ½ years ago. But in matters of grief and death and mourning and loss and coping and moving forward, time is elastic. Some days it feels like I haven’t had my dad with me in decades, life has changed so much since he died. Some days it feels like it was maybe just yesterday, and I can summon the moment, when I am standing in my living room, belly swollen with my second daughter’s impending birth, and my sister calls from my dad’s bedside in Florida to tell me it will be soon, but she has been telling me that for days, so I ask my friend, who is standing next to me, if she and her daughter want to stay for dinner; nothing fancy, just a frozen pizza. And she says sure, and the kids play for a about half an hour, and then the phone rings again and my sister is on the other end, crying, and she tells me, and I just say, Ok, and I hang up and I go and put two frozen pizzas in the oven, and they both burn as I wait for my husband to get home, get home, please come home.

And that was 2 ½ years ago, but I can still make it feel like it was 2 ½ hours ago, and so, for now, I’m not going to hate George W. Bush, because with the arrival of his letter, he validated the grief process and understood that loss and the people attached to that loss are still important, still missed, still appreciated, still loved and that pain of losing them still fucking sucks 2 ½ years later.


***

5.11.2010

So Sayeth the Five Year Old

This morning, as I left the house, I reminded Mischa, please don’t say anything about your birthday party, because you didn’t invite all of the kids in your class, and you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

Mum, Mischa replied, I am not going to talk about it today. I am going to be a good listener because I, she said with a flourish of her hand, am the Queen.

Oh, I said. I see. Well, if you’re the Queen, what does that make me?

She paused for almost half a second before she answered with a smile.

You can be the scullery maid.

Thanks, hun. As long as we all know where we stand.

***

5.06.2010

There Will Be Joy

Six years ago on Mother’s Day, I was not a mother. I was hoping that soon I would be able to say that soon I would be a mother, but that hadn’t happened yet. I spent that Mother’s Day with my mother, her mother, my father and her father.

Two months later, my mother no longer had a mother. Or a father. And I was pregnant.

Five years ago on Mother’s Day, I was huge and round and ripe and was quite sure that I would become a mother that day, that very day.

Two days later, I became a mother. In my house, on my bed, I held in my arms the key to the universe.

Four years ago on Mother’s Day, we celebrated with a brunch, on a beach, with my child, her father and my father. It was sunny and warm and breezy and wonderful.

Two months later, my father started to feel tired.

Three years ago on Mother’s Day, I was pregnant. I spent the day with my mother, my child and her father. We laughed and smiled and it felt good.

Two weeks later, I was with my father, and I tried to make him laugh or at least smile, as cancer ravaged him and chemo threatened to finish the job.

Two years ago on Mother’s Day, we gave the day to my older daughter and had her birthday party instead. I held my baby daughter in my arms. We laughed and smiled and it felt good.

Last year on Mother’s Day, there were six daughters and three mothers and a couple of sons thrown in for good measure and we ate too much and laughed too much and we were together and happy.

This year on Mother’s Day,

There will be joy.



my joy