Irreverent Mama

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lovely tall, slim, handsome European dad down the street gives me a warm smile. How nice! He's new on the street, and so far, a bit reserved. Ah, well. He's probably warming to me because I've been nice to their family.

Earlier this week, you see, I invited their a three-year-old to trail about my house for a morning. I figure they could use a bit of a break, what with the move and all. She's a cheerful and chatty little thing, and, apart from her complete lack of personal space, was no trouble at all.

We did everything together, Small Girl and me. We ate, we 'coloured' (she with crayons on multi-coloured paper, me with pens on lined paper), we played on the computer (I on my laptop, she on one of those noxious talking 'educational' toys with a touch-screen, provided by mum). We listened to my music, we listened to hers. I peed, she peed. I peed in company. I'm fine with this, and I'm quite sure her mother, a died-in-the-wool Attachment Parent (yes, you actually hear the capitals when she says it) will have no problem with it, either. Besides, mum is European, and we all know how loosy-goosy sensible those people over there are about privacy and nudity and sexuality and all manner of things that give North Americans (particularly my neighbours to the south) conniptions.

So. I have my pee, and Small Girl decides she will have one, too. We wash hands and head downstairs again, well pleased with our accomplishments. Shortly thereafter, mum comes for Small Girl.

The next evening, as I sit on my porch with a relaxing beverage, mum drops by to say thanks and let me know how much Small Girl had enjoyed her time with me. And how much Small Girl had learned, too.


Oh, indeed. Mum explains. "Out of the blue, she says to me, 'Why you gots hair on your 'gina, mummy?'"

I know where we're going here. I have, after all, recently gotten married. My marital bits have been especially cleaned and tidied for the event and subsequent celebration.

"All ladies have hair there, sweetie."

"NOoooOOOo!! Laura doesn't got any hair there at all."

Ah, yes. Body hair. Another European-North American difference.

And when did this conversation occur? While Small Girl was going potty? During bathtime, generally taken with mummy? At bedtime, also taken in company of the parents? At some time when people's nether regions might reasonably be expected to come into conversation?

Noooo... at the dinner table, with two older brothers, daddy, and the lovely couple next door in attendance.

Which may explain dad's particular and unexpected warmth this morning. Ooo... am I now the exotic focus of his naughtier daydreams?

I must babysit that child more often.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

There! It's done! I'm Mrs. Matthew.

I'll fill you in on the details later.

Right now I'm off to enjoy my newly-wedded bliss.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I check my email account. I see I have a new spam. (Yes, only the one: the filters work well.)

Do you know how much I enjoy the fact that my obnoxious service provider sends its very own promotional emails straight to its very own spam file???


Friday, May 18, 2007

Phone calls in the small hours are never a good thing.

My mother has been admitted to hospital due to a possible heart attack. She had one last year, following surgery. Another is always a possiblity.

At first all seemed well. Tests indicated that no, there'd been no attack. The chemical they look for was absent. Bloodwork was perfectly normal. Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief. Mum will probably be home later that day.

More bloodwork that afternoon, however, showed signs that a heart attack might be immanent. Suddenly, the heart attack chemical, whatever it might be, was there. Not a lot, but there'd been none before. Mum would stay in overnight for observation. Everyone moves into a state of mild alert.

That evening, her blood presssure starts popping up and down. This is the thing that had me up in the small hours, worrying. When vital signs aren't stable, nothing can be relied upon. I am now in a state of red alert.

You all recall that I'm getting married soon?

With the first call, we wondered if mum could attend the wedding. With the second call, we decided she wouldn't. "That's okay," says mum. "I'll come and visit as soon as I can afterwards." I'm disappointed, but we're within days, now. The deed is almost done.

But now, in the small, dark hours of the morning, my mind is filled with dire possibilities. If she doesn't stabilize? If they can't control the blood pressure? If this attack is worse than the last one? The decision is clear: if mum is in serious danger, I will cancel the wedding. Obviously.

The wedding that was years in the making. The wedding that was so very difficult for me to accept without panic.

But my mother could be dying. There is no question.

By dawn, I am resolute. Calm, decided. I will call the hospital, speak to the nurse in charge of my mother's case.

I have to wait till after the morning shift change. I rehearse in my mind the words. I am clear. I am at peace. I will seek the information I need to make the decision.

"Hello, this is LauraA, Mrs. V's daughter. I was wondering how she's doing this morning?"

I can picture the woman behind the voice. She's of average height, broad and soft. She's mostly grey, there are wrinkles around her eyes which speak of motherly compassion. Her voice has a warm, friendly down-east twang. Cape Breton, perhaps? If she's from The Rock, she's been in Ontario a lot of years. But it's homely and comforting, her voice.

The voice is reassuring. Mum has had a good night. Her blood pressure has stabilized, the blood tests are now all normal. She's alert and in good spirits, moving about comfortably. Relief washes through me. Nonetheless, I need to ask the question. I have my script, I know what I will say, with compassionate and calm resolution.

"That's good to hear. Here's my situation: I'm supposed to be getting married this weekend, and I was wondering if -"

and suddenly my voice is out of control, soaring skyward, as sobs shake me -

"I should cancel the we-eh-eh-eh-eh-ding?"

You understand that it is not the possibility of cancelling the wedding that is causing my distress. It is the fact that I am making concrete plans that pivot on the possibility of my mother's immanent demise. If this woman says I should cancel, it means I may realistically lose my mother in a matter of days. All my rehearsing and resolution melt in a pool of tears.

The nurse's response is immediate and patently sincere.

"Oh, NO! You mustn't do that! It would be terribly upsetting to your mother!"

'Probably give her a heart attack' almost pops out of my mouth. I bite back a hysterical giggle.

Later, my sister confirms the nurse's words. "Mum was saying yesterday, 'Goodness, I hope Laura doesn't do something silly like cancel the wedding'."

So, we're all settled. I will have my wedding this weekend, which mum will not be able to attend. Nor my sister, who will stay close, just in case. They will visit me as soon as mum is able to travel.

Physically tired from my sleepless nights and wearily worn to my last frayed nerve, I decide to take a restoring evening walk by the river. I've always loved to walk by the path, see the river in its moods and colours. In the evening, you're likely to see muskrats, be serenaded by peeps and croaks. It's therapy.

Bekah asks to join me. She's generally a companionable little thing, so we set off together. We chat quietly, idly, then she begins to worry about the state of her face. She's thirteen, and her complexion is becoming a focus of concern. There are tears in her eyes. It's things like this that confirm the solidly "child" status of a teen. The poor girl is in true distress. Nothing like having a child around to pull an adult's mind out of the grubby adult world and into the small concerns of daily life. One could argue the therapeutic value of this conversation, too.

And so I say, with loving affection.

"Sweetie, it's been a very difficult couple of days, and you know what? I simply cannot find it in my heart right now to care about pimples."

Good mothering involves giving your child the Larger Picture. We can call it Reality Therapy.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We threw a surprise party for Daniel's eighteenth birthday last week.

Daniel is in the 'gifted' stream at his high school, as are his friends, with only one exception. When I was offered the option of having Daniel apply to gifted, I was only partially convinced of the merits of the programme, but decided he'd enjoy the extra intellectual stimulation. He's academically lazy (sigh), but he's very bright.

What I didn't understand at first was just how grouping these bright kids together would change the social dynamic of high school for him.

These kids? They are so accepting of so many idiosyncracies. They shriek and yell and indulge in brainless mayhem, as all teens do, but they also converse. They think, and, more important, they don't have to hide this from their friends.

Here are some snippets:

(No, I didn't stay and party with the children. I figure that puts me in one of two camps: the pathetic forty-something trying desperately to be cool and with it, or the parent who trusts her children so little she can't afford to leave them alone for a second. I was around for the first hour, while guests arrived and before Daniel showed up, and then for the last hour, to ensure they left on schedule. A reasonable compromise, I figure.)

So, the snippets:

One of the girls came wearing a tutu skirt and carrying a magic wand. No one gave it a second's thought. ("Julia's in drama. They all do stuff like that.")

Discussing a scene in the cafeteria earlier in the week:
"She just uses indignation to get her way."
"Yeah. Pre-emptive outrage."
"Well, more like proactive outrage, because she's manipulating the outcome by going all hysterical."

Twenty minutes of computer talk which went completely over my head. They weren't talking about computer games, but about motherboards and processors and various other inner workings of the machines. (Daniel's long-time friend who isn't in the programme sits on the end of the couch with his girlfriend. "Do you know what they're talking about?" she asks him. "Nah." he says with his easy-going grin. "You get used to it.")

"Have you finished your presentation for [science teacher]?"
"I thought I was done, but then I found out about some research they're doing at McGill that takes it in a whole new direction, and he's given me an extension so I can try to contact the research team."

"Ian! Hey, Ian, I didn't know you'd be coming!"
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Hey, man, you know you don't come to half these things."
"Nothing wrong with being anti-social."
"He's a misanthrope."
"Misanthropy rules, dude!"

[Catch this? Words of more than two syllables - and they ALL know what they mean.]

One girl, who's in a theatre troup that gives sex and sexuality presentations in junior and senior high schools, was telling the group how a certain principal had not allowed them to present part of their show. "It was 'too mature a subject' for his students."

"How old were the students?" I asked.
"Grade nine."
Someone else wanted to know which part had been prohibited. She suggested they guess.

"Sexual assault?"

Ummm... so what was it?


"WHAT?" One boy shouts out. "The one aspect of the whole presentation that they have the most experience with??"

General roar of laughter.

[So sensible. No tittering, no squeamishness, but not prurience, either. Such a great bunch.]

And the movie they chose to watch? Monty Python's Holy Grail. Heh. In other circles, they'd be the geeks and the outcasts. Here, 'geek' is normal -- "normal" is boring.

I love these kids.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

But I'm much, MUCH smarter...

Your Celebrity Boob Twin:

Jessica Simpson

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

My first husband was a packrat. Stuff, stuff, stuff. He just liked owning stuff. I like my stuff, too, but I like it because it has some use, some emotional resonance, and/or some beauty. My stuff ia chosen carefully. If it doesn't meet those criteria, it doesn't get into the house. If it gets into the house, but hasn't any of those criteria six months later, it's out. I hate clutter. (Which is not to give you the impression that I live in a clutter-free home. But it is my Constant Goal.) He liked his stuff because... um... it Existed? Collected dust? Got underfoot? Owning things proved his significance?

I once suggested we get rid of five years worth of a photography magazine to which we no longer subscribed. Because he was no longer taking pictures. Though we still had the camera and all associated gear. In a box. Which was...he wasn't sure where.

I knew where it was. I did the housework. I was the one tripping over all his stuff in our two-bedroom apartment. A smallish two-bedroom apartment. The photography mags. were filling three good-sized (and outrageously heavy) boxes, and I wanted them OUT. Space and light. All my life I have craved space and light. As Anastasia Krupnik's mother says on the family's weekly cleaning day, "SURFACES! I want to see surfaces!"

I know exactly what she means.

NO, I could not throw them out! He NEEDED them. Not that he could remember the last time he'd needed them, nor what he might need them for. Not, for that matter, that he even knew where they were.

I knew that direct action would only serve to entrench him in that position. He'd probably start to read the damned things, just to spite me. I couldn't be direct, but I could be indirect. I could also be patient.

I moved those three heavy boxes to a less-obvious spot. Six months later, I moved them to an even less obvious one. Six months after that, I gave them to the library.

You're all waiting for me to say "The next day, he needed something from one of those boxes." Pfft! He never noticed.

But if he had, I had a strategy. I was going to wave my hand vaguely and say "they must be around somewhere". (Which, of course, they WERE. Not my job to tell him where.) And if he got persistent about it, I was going to get annoyed. "They're YOURS, not MINE, and..." - wait for it; I was very proud of this twist - "...if it were up to me, I'd have thrown them out years ago. YOU find them."

Not a word of a lie. Entirely factual. Very little actual truth in it, but utterly effective.

I am brilliant. Almost too bad I never had to use it...


Friday, May 04, 2007

"Let's do something different tonight."

Matthew's smile is coaxing. Which is funny, really, since if there have been any spontaneity-predictability tussles in our relationship, he's been firmly at the 'predictable' end of the spectrum. But we do seem to have established some pretty predictable routines for our weekly date night.

Dinner, or, if money's tight, just drinks; or, if money's flush, dinner AND drinks, at one of two local pubs/restaurants. There are some variables, but, now that his question prods me to consider a bit, not many.

If we go to the pub (Patty's), we're likely just going for a pint (Kilkenny for me; a black and tan for him). If we go to the restaurant (Mexicali Rosa's), we're probably going to eat. If we're going to eat, I will have the Mexicali salad, the one with the chicken in the tortilla bowl, and, on a particularly flush night, one of their excellent lime slushy margaritas for dessert. He will have nachos with beef and either a tonic water or, in the summer, a Corona.

We chat as we walk over, we chat as we eat and/or drink, we chat as we walk home. It's very companionable, but, excluding the hot sauce on the nachos, notably lacking in spice and excitement.

"Different? Like, a different restaurant?"

"No. This is the last week for the Mueck exhibit at the National Gallery. I thought we might do that."

Ooo. That is different. There is one Mueck piece in the gallery's permanent collection: an enormous baby head, so large it would fill my entire (admittedly small) living room. I find it a little unsettling, frankly, but it's interesting. The figure on all the posters you see everywhere throughout town show the seated nude you saw in the link. (Because you followed that link, right?) Thus, this exhibit is known locally as "the giant naked fat man exhibit". And what we all want to know is "and are his naughty bits equally huge?"

I suspect the answer to this could be even more unsettling than the giant baby head, but still - when one gets a chance to peek under the fig leaf...

We arrange that I will bus and he will bike over after work. Whoever gets there first will buy the tickets and wait for the other guy.

I get there first. Whereas normally I've been able to walk straight in, this evening there is a line extending 20 metres out the front door. Hmmm... Once in the line, I'm relieved to see that it's moving at a pretty efficient clip. It's only three or four minutes before I'm through the doors. But instead of an airy lobby with four cheerful bilingual gallery employees manning their respective lines at the ticket desk on the other side of the lobby, I see a mass of people.

A seething mass of people, an immensely long snake of people, one hairpin bend after another, filling the entire lobby area. It's unfortunate that claustrophobic me is the first to arrive, but the lovely glass walls and the steady forward motion of the line keeps panic at bay. I call Matthew and apprise him of the situation.

"Well, it's your call. I'm at the bike racks outside. Shall I lock the bike, or do you want to come out and meet me?"

I hesitate. I look to my right: there are six employees at the desk, and the line continues to hum right along. Maaaybeee... I look to my left: the long, wide, gracious ramp that slopes up to the rotunda and the galleries beyond is completely filled with people. Completely. Eight, ten, twelve abreast, all the way up the very long - lordy, how long is that thing? 100 metres? 200? - ramp. Even if we do get to the exhibit before midnight, there will be no pausing, no time to observe, consider and look some more. No obvious gawping at enormous manliness.

"I'm coming out."

"That's fine." Matthew is a flexible man. "We're in The Market. There's all manner of stuff to do here."

"Well, I'm hungry. I didn't have time for dinner, so I'll need to eat. What do you fancy?"

"How about nachos?"

Nachos. When we get to the Mexican restaurant I had in mind - nice, but a wee bit pricey for impecunious we - there, up the street is another restaurant, also Mexican, but cheaper. It wasn't there last time we were in The Market. Cool!

And when we get there, I have the Mexicali salad with a lime slushy margarita, and he has nachos and a tonic water.

And it was lovely.

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