Friday, May 27, 2011

Going Down

A couple of weeks ago, at the school where I was doing my student teaching, I walked into the copy room and somebody from my cohort said, “Hi, Gorgeous!”  I’m pretty sure she was talking to Shardae, who came in with me, though I guess we could have been collectively gorgeous.  For some reason I still don’t understand, I was thrilled anyway, like she'd been talking to me.  It has something to do with the cohort deal, the closeness and the comfortableness and the sort of support where you feel all the successes as if they were your own.  We joke about building our own school.  We share books.  We could be socially clumsy with each other and would be immediately forgiven, but we never are.  Cedric (the only male in our cohort) is the first straight man ever to have told me that though he thinks I look nice in a suit and lipstick, he prefers me in jeans and a t-shirt.

Back to the copy room comment:  I’ve been fretting lately about losing my looks.  I love that expression and will take any opportunity to use it.  It’s so Southern and dramatic, and it satisfies me somewhere deep down.  I like to say "I'm losing my looks" while placing the back of my hand to my forehead and leaning backwards unsteadily, as if on the verge of collapse.  I was raised in the South, and I still enjoy certain elements.  You may have noticed my need to exaggerate.  That is from the South.  There is something in the air there--maybe it's the heat--that grows children who exaggerate and then are surprised when people take them literally.  I am one of those.  I also try to drink mint juleps, but I can’t because I hate them.  However, I feel strongly that I would look good holding one, with my pinkie sticking out and the mint leaf poised artfully, half wilting, in the heat.  Perhaps the mint julep is a prop that could make up for losing my looks.

While we are on the topic of dramatic poses, I shall reveal that I enjoy toddler-hood for the high drama.  I sometimes laugh when my son hurls himself on the floor and wails and pounds his little fists because he can’t have a lollipop before dinner, though of course I feel his pain.  I am proud of his dramatic prowess, and it’s hilarious.  As a parent, if you can’t enjoy some aspect of this shit, you are going to go down.

Ari's dramatic baby-hood

The phrase “going down” is another good one, one that reminds me of a story my mother-in-law told me about having a newborn who wouldn’t sleep in a 16th floor apartment building in Brooklyn.  She used to look out the window with the baby in her arms at 3:00 am and think, “If this keeps up, we’re both going down.”  Luckily, she didn’t jump out the window because the newborn was my wife.  But I appreciate her sentiment.  High drama is the saving grace of parenthood.

I never see any of my cohort anymore.  I didn’t know this when I started grad school, but the cohort model is some kind of psychological trick.  They put a small group of people together all the time, and the result is supposed to be a supportive atmosphere, intense bonding, and increased learning.  They do it a lot with immersion programs like mine, where you complete large amounts in a short time.  Evidently, it works.  I miss my homies.  I feel a kind of chronic, low-level incompleteness. 
Ari, just because

I’m listening to this trilogy by Philip Pullman in the car.  The first one was called The Golden Compass.  I forget the other two titles.  Most people have probably heard of them.  They are hot shit in the middle school English classroom.  Anyway, they’re fantasy young adult books, and the people in the books have daemons, which are animals who contain half of their souls.  The daemons cannot go more than like 20 feet away, or the people they are a part of freak the hell out.  They get all bleak and frantically depressive, and they must have their daemons back, or they eventually go catatonic and die.  I think this part of the books is neat.  It reminds me of Ari, and how much I miss his soft, heavy body when I’m away from him, or when he’s just sick of being cuddled.  It reminds me of my cohort, and how we were forced to bond and then cruelly torn asunder.  It is very dramatic.

I also like the books because they are the first truly radical things I’ve read in a long time.  They include a pair of gay angels who are banding together with other “good guys” to try to kill God.  Cool, right?  They are pissed (the good guys) that God has made man do all this dumb stuff and fight all these wars and generally submit to His will.  Oh, and in the books, God is a big liar.  Such drama!  Such sacrilege!  I love it.

I enjoy drama that is low key, that seems almost as if it might not be dramatic.  One example of this is a story I was told by one of my cashiers in my former life as a retail manager.  The cashier is named Alain, and I guess because he was gay (and very dramatic) we'd grown close.  He was Haitian, and he told me he'd seen Sade in concert in Haiti.  The concert was outdoors, and she performed in full daylight.  It was over 100 degrees.  According to Alain, Sade sang for more than two hours without breaking a sweat.  I've wanted to see her ever since I heard this story, because it makes it seem like Sade becomes her music as she performs it in some essential way.  She gets all cool and mellow, no matter how hot it is.  Of course, it has occurred that Alain had to be lying, and I'm grateful.

In my fantasy Sade concert (based loosely on Alain's story), I lie all over the place.  Because Alain said the concert was outdoors, I place it on the beach.  I place it at sunset, sort of Carly Simon/Martha's Vineyard.  I put the attendance around four.  Me and Barbara, barefoot, dancing.  Ari and his excellent babysitter off playing in the sand.  I can see them if I want to, but I don't because I'm not worried.  There is champagne in a flute B and I are sharing, and it is ice cold and stays that way.  We are well rested and would rather be dancing than sleeping.  I can hear Ari giggling in the distance every few minutes.  And of course, Sade doesn't sweat.

Happiness is making fantasies and then seeing huge chunks of them are real.  We have each other, a refrigerator, some decent prosecco, and some Ipod speakers.  We have a nice balcony.  We laugh a lot.  We have two good sitters, and Ari loves other people.  The missing parts aren't important.  Because if you can't believe that, then you are going down.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Like Getting a Band-aid out of a Blanket

Froggy, next to can of soda to show actual size
Today my son (Ari, in case you forgot his name) dropped Froggy in the toilet.  I know, I know.  You are already riveted.  You are wondering frantically, "Who is Froggy, and how did this happen??!?"  I am certain that you've heard nothing all week that rivals the suspense and fascinatingness of this event.  So, Froggy is this cute little dude, sort of a found object.  We had Ari's third birthday at the park, a park we don't usually go to.  At some point, Ari found Froggy on the floor near a trash can.  Some other child had lost him, and probably drooled on him.  He was all dirty.  Gross, right?  I thought so.  But Ari insisted on bringing Froggy home, and I put him in the laundry, and he came out much cleaner.

Froggy's moved in with us.  Ari loves him more than any other stuffed animal.  Once, Ari lost Froggy for a time (perhaps three days), and every morning when he woke up his first words were, "Froggy? Did you find Froggy?"  Then Froggy appeared, to our great relief, on the living room floor.  It was a scene out of a romance novel.  Ari saw Froggy on the floor, galloped across and scooped him up, held Froggy close to his face crooning softly, "Froggy!  Froggy!"

As usual, this has very little to do with the rest of my post, except that dropping Froggy into the toilet was distressing for Ari, and the only other thing that has been as distressing as this was the Band-aid in the blanket incident which happened a few days ago.  Here I know you are on the edge of your seat.  Ari is obsessed with several things.  There is a little girl named Leila, who wears sun dresses like a seven year old and other normal adult-like clothes.  There is Froggy.  There is his tutu.  Lastly, there are Band-aids.

The other day I was foolish.  As a parent, I am only human.  I try desperately to think ahead to every possible catastrophe, and I am smart.  Almost never do I allow unpleasantness to touch my darling child.  However, I failed the other day.  I allowed my son to wear a Band-aid to bed.  I thought, "What could be the harm?"  I thought, "He is three, surely he will not attempt to pull it off and eat it.  He hardly ever eats anything that doesn't have sugar in it."  I thought, "Oh, I want to let him sleep with the Band-aid!  It will make him so happy!!"  Foolishness!  He did not choke to death while attempting to eat the Band-aid.  No, something far worse happened.  The Band-aid got stuck to his blanket.  
Blanket with Band-aid

For days I have been trying to pick it off.  I finished grad school last week and am currently unemployed, so I have a lot of time.  But no amount of picking did anything.  Finally it occurred to me that I needed to use these fine tipped scissors we have, so I went looking for them.  B, who is in New York for the entire month of May (Have you ever heard of anything so awful?), evidently took them with her.  So I had to wait until she got home for the weekend.  (Okay, so she comes home weekends, but I am still suffering here without her.)
The scissors

This evening I had my moment, and I was alone with the blanket and the scissors.  I had envisioned the scissors neatly removing the Band-aid from the blanket a thousand times.  To have them and the blanket and good lighting was almost more happiness than my OCD self could take.  Then I started cutting.  What a disaster!  After fifteen minutes, I had made no progress.  The nap of the blanket was too short to cut, and the threads were too many, and the f-ing Band-aid was not coming off!  I struggled and suffered and almost wept.  I cried to B (who knew to come and support me, but not too closely because she would have blocked my light), "Help!  Help!"  Eventually, I muttered to her, "I can't sit here and keep trying to cut this Band-aid out of this blanket.  I don't even know if I am alive anymore!"  I admitted defeat, and I sat with my head in my hands, considering buying a new blanket.  (They're only $14.99 at Target.)  But I am unemployed, and besides that, the blanket is perfectly good.  I considered--and this was really hard--allowing the Band-aid to remain on the blanket.  What would Ari think?  Would he be okay with that?  Would I?  Of course not.

I got back to it, and I eventually succeeded.  I ate lots of candy, and that helped.  But mainly what helped was accepting that I could not rest until I got it out.  Whenever writers have characters who "can not rest" until something is accomplished, I know exactly what they mean.  Not literally, of course, because I slept fine for days with the Band-aid stuck to the blanket, but I am with the idea in spirit.  Is this OCD?  Is this why Ari doesn't like art?  Because it's messy, and because OCD is genetic?  Will he notice the Band-aid is gone?  Yes.  Will he think his mommy is crazy?  No.  What is normal, and what is not?  And after my fight with the Band-aid, am I even alive anymore?
The Carnage: bits of Band-aid, candy wrappers, scissors