Irreverent Mama

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I have claustrophobia.

It's not a sensible, neatly defined type of claustrophobia, either. Elevators? Mild uneasiness, nothing more. Closets? Not a problem at all. Teeny bathrooms in trains and planes? I can manage those, though I did get woozy the one time the latch stuck a bit. Vague intimations of fainting, firmly resisted. Caves? Well, I'll never, ever be able to manage a cave. However, these are not a frequent feature of urban life. All in all, you'd be justified in wondering how claustrophobia is an issue for me.

Would that claustrophobia were merely physical. Mine isn't, primarily. Mine's mostly psychological and auditory. Lucky me.

The Man’s kids are here and - surprise! - I’m feeling claustrophobic. It was not too bad initially - only Serious Dude, Gawky Girl, and Singing Girl were here to start, in addition to only one of mine, one being back to university and the other being off to a friend's cottage for the long weekend. (See Cast of Characters, below, if this is all too much for you. I'd understand if it were...) BigBald Boy is off to university - HURRAH! two down, six to go! - and Drama Girl was at a camp, expected back tomorrow.

The four children who are left are the quieter ones. They retreat to their rooms, leaving only a heap of shoes in the front hall as evidence of their passage. This causes a brief twinge, but is easily surmounted. I step over the shoes and out the door.

When The Man and I returned from our quiet coffee break at our favourite coffeeshop, Drama Girl had returned! She is home, and her humungo sleeping bag fills one loveseat; her mega-humungo duffel bag the other; a pillow in the armchair, and assorted other bits of camp detritus spread onto the floor. I feel the crowded-tension grip me between the shoulder-blades. Drama Girl herself is in a room upstairs, and from that room comes a wall of hyper-stimulated, sleep-deprived, over-excited SOUND*. It makes the head reel, it truly does. My tension-enhanced shoulder-blades cradle my ears. The noise, it creeps into every pore.

(*A wall, of, like sound? And it just keeps coming and coming and coming and she's all, like, "It was just so cool!" and her one sister is, like, "Yeah, wow!", and the other is, "No, really??", and we heard all about the games - so FUNNY!! - and the boys and the cabins - so COOL!! - and the boys and the meals and the boys - so FUNNY!!! - and the counsellors - so COOL!!!! - and the boys and the nonsense and the boys and the play and the boys. Oh, and the boysboysboysboysboys. Drama Girl does love her the boys. And it's all just so COOL! And so FUNNY!! The girl exudes goodwill and positive energy. In waves. Tidal waves. A veritable tsunami of good humour and hormones, she is.)

Then The Man, returning from dropping Little Guy off at a birthday party, comes home with a television.

(Aside: It was a sleepover party. When did we find this out? Well, just as The Man rang the doorbell of the party, Serious Dude says, "So, I'll see you tomorrow, dad." Dad expressed surprise. "Oh, didn't you know?" Well, no, son, I didn't. Do you see a sleeping bag? Pyjamas? A toothbrush? Oh. Serious Dude hadn't thought of that... Hostess opens the door to an apologetic dad and a request for a spare toothbrush. We know she understands, because she, too, has an eleven-year-old boy. But sheesh.)

So, the television: Not a new one, not even a functional one, but a 1950's vintage, sitting-on-its-four-legs HUGE television. It was cast off by the side of the road and it amused him. I can see the appeal. It’s so retro, so stolid. A piece of furniture rather than an appliance, encased in wood, durable and sound. And large. When he plugged it in, we discovered a white screen - not even snow! - on every channel.

“Well, that’s okay, sweetie." I says. "You can just run right down to Radio Shack and buy parts.” Bwah ha. I am so funny. I’ll bet there are TUBES in there. Ha.

He thinks maybe an artist friend would like it, or maybe the drama department of Drama Girl's high school. Meantime, amusing and clever and ironic though it may be, it has NOWHERE TO GO, and sits, squat and commanding, in the middle of my very small living room. I did mention the camp detritus everywhere? So now we have camp stuff on every chair, and this immense television smack dab in the middle of the floor.

Where am I now? At the dining room table. It’s not like there’s any space in the living room. Oh, but I have to sit at the far end of the table, because for some totally random reason, Stepkids' BioMom has been sorting her pictures and has sent over some photos. Not framed, not in books, just loose - piled in bags, tumbled into boxes, literally hundreds of them, going back years. Most of them are poor quality, blurred and ill-framed snaps of long-forgotten events and places. None are dated. The Man figures it’s probably her way to process BigBald Son's heading off to university. Oh. Thanks. Let me just budge up to the far end of my dining room so I may accommodate your therapy. Gah.

The bodies, the bags and boxes and volume and giggles. I feel myself getting smaller and smaller, more and more compressed and compacted and intruded upon and crowded. I’m crowded, crowded, crowded... sigh... Why does this make me want to run out, get drunk and rowdy, maybe have sex with a stranger? Nah. What I really want to do is run away from home until it's all over - like when the kids have all grown up and left home - in about another seven or eight years. Because I cannot breathe in my home. There is simply not enough air.

Failing any of the above, I went for a walk by the river, that solace to my frazzled psyche. Watched the wind ripple the water, breathed deep and thought good thoughts. Remembered how lucky I am that they are all good kids, that they get along, that their teachers like them, they go to bed when asked, no tattoos, no exotic piercings, their taste in music not excessively inane. Take more deep breaths and enjoy the space, the quiet, the beauty. Let it seep into my soul.

Go back home. Drama Girl has gone off with friends, Serious Dude is at his sleepover, the other girls watch television (the actual small one that works) in the basement. The house is quiet.

Bung the camp detritus into the back porch with the rat.

Feel much better.

Cast of Characters for this post are my stepchildren:

BigBaldBoy, 18
Drama Girl, 16
Gawky Girl, 15
Singing Girl, 13
Serious Dude, 11

And, peripheral to this post, my own:
Zoe, 20, back to university in another city
Daniel, 17,
and Bekah, 13.

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  • Good grief. That IS claustrophobic. I was beginning to suffocate just reading that post.

    But you do handle it well, don't you? At least, I think you do.

    But things will just keep getting BETTER. I mean, one is already 18!


    By Anonymous MIM, at 11:26 p.m.  

  • One is twenty, one is eighteen. That's the two down. Next year, it'll be Daniel; the year after that Drama Girl, the following year Gawky. Three in three years. Woo-hoo!

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 7:37 a.m.  

  • I need to breathe into a paper bag reading this post. It reminded me of well, just this husband 'needing' me so much, I should consider myself lucky, and my children 'needing' avery iota of my attention. Sometimes a girl just needs a big place. By herself.
    I also remember, back when I was nursing thre girls, and i knew I was ready to wean when I wanted to peel them off of me and run!
    That being said, a crowded house can be a very happy house. Oh...and the TV? Ohmagawd.....poor you.

    By Blogger crazymumma, at 2:03 p.m.  

  • breath was short after reading! I completely empathize with that sort of claustrophobia--so much so that my only pre-nuptial contract with my husband involved me always having a room of my own, NO MATTER WHAT. Not a laundry room or a mudroom, doesn't have to be very big...but it must be a real room with a doorway that NOBODY breaches without my explicit say-so.

    Selfish? Perhaps. But better that than me in jail after a murder spree...

    By Blogger Carolie, at 1:18 a.m.  

  • p.s. to MiM: Overall, I think I deal with it pretty well. This is my place to vent. Or even to whine. In my real life, I don't whine. Can't stand whining. :-)

    Crazymumma: A crowded house can be, and often is, a happy one. A largish G&T helps, makes me that much more bright and social, but one can't go through one's entire day half-sloshed. (And no, I haven't tried!) :-)

    Carolie: When we first met, my sweetie and I seriously discussed renting a bachelor apartment, one to which we could take turns fleeing when it all got too much. Sadly, finances have never permitted such a luxury, but we both feel the yearning for the space. With eight kids to accommodate, even a room is more than we can manage. With eight kids and ONE bathroom, you can't even escape to a long, soothing bubble bath!

    My mother once commented (not originally, I know) that it's as easy to marry a rich man as a poor one. True enough, but first you have to a) MEET the rich man; and then b) LIKE him. The only really rich ones I've met were either taken and/or totally not my type.

    Seems "my type" is "just making ends meet", and over-endowed with kids! LOL

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 10:17 a.m.  

  • I'll take that TV. Good score. I cannot believe you have anytime to blog with so many children. I like how you listed the timeline for the kids' launching,not only in your post, but in your comments as well. Telling... :)

    By Blogger tania (urban_mommy), at 10:38 a.m.  

  • Wow, that's a lot of kids!! You sound like you handled it well. I dont think i could do so well with all those people in my SPACE. Good on you!

    By Anonymous Naomi (Urban Mummy), at 7:15 p.m.  

  • Do the two Urban Mothers - with the 'u' and with the 'o' - know each other? You must, or why differentiate?

    I like it.

    I cope better with the crowding some days than others. Mostly I do pretty well, but the summers, in which we have weeks with all eight, are hard. It's at the end of summers that I'm counting heads and counting down, I confess.

    But it's better to celebrate with them their launching into the wider world than it is to cling to them too hard, I think.

    Because, isn't that what this parenting gig is all about, in the end: producing viable, happy, healthy ADULTS?

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 9:19 p.m.  

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