shit, i did not write my just one paragraph yesterday, which means (in my sick loyalist mind) that i must write twice today.
i had a good excuse at least. family birthday shin dig here at the house. and the best kind too! we ordered takeout so we didn’t have to fuss about food. i know that’s not a plus for people who love to cook, but um, i’m not one of those people. baked a stack of german chocolate cupcakes for my grandpa’s 93rd birthday and ordered in some delicious pizza. mom brought the most amazing white peaches, my SIL her beloved oatmeal chocolate chip love bombs. the kids swam, the adults chatted. there were nostalgic tears and there was laughter and sharing. the best kind of family party, if you ask me.
it’s a cool summer night in sacramento. windows open, ceiling fans swirling, just one light on in the house right here by my bed. the last night of the state fair’s fireworks boom in the distance.
all the years i’ve been here in this town feel like several lives now. i’ve been so many people. a girl, a teen, a woman, a wife, a mom (and that’s not even counting all the hair colors). i can still remember lying in my early childhood bedroom, looking up out the window at the full moon. how summer felt then compared to how summer feels now. sometimes i even google that house and just stare at it, hoping to pull something more out of my fading memories, but that house barely looks familiar anymore. the trunk of the mulberry tree in the front yard is five times the size it was then and even has some shade to offer now. that shade is not mine. never has been mine. we only had a small little tree with a skinny trunk. that’s all my childhood summers will ever have, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.
there are no new memories in that photograph. it’s just a house now. my childhood memories no longer live there. i can’t bring those days close again. they are only getting farther away, but i hold onto the way i can still walk room to room in my mind endlessly.
the state fair fireworks grand finale goes pop pop bang pow. the end.
on the last day of school, he told me he wanted to tell me something when no one was around to hear and somehow, impossibly, i forgot. forgot to pull him into my room alone. forgot to ask later as he slipped into his bed. simply forgot. maybe i was making dinner or keeping his brother in line or … who the hell knows? but he never told me the thing that night and i didn’t remember until he was gone again the next morning. that day felt excruciating waiting for him to get home so i could ask him about this thing, this so-important-only-his-mom-could-hear thing. but instinctually, i knew it was about a girl.
that afternoon when i picked him up, i asked him in the car. what was that thing you were going to tell me? but he motioned that i’d have to wait again. until we were alone. what is it? what does he want to tell me? did i ruin everything not taking the time to stop and listen from the get? is the moment gone forever? did i blow it?
but not long after, he stood in the living room and told me. yes, it was about a girl. he looked at me so earnestly and said simply, “she likes me.”
i didn’t start weeping then, but hell, if i didn’t want to. it’s one of those moments you wait for when you’re a parent. don’t get me wrong, i’m in no hurry for my kid to be considering girls too seriously, but i also knew we weren’t there yet. this kid of mine is never in any hurry, unlike me as a kid/teen/young adult/yesterday/today. it’s like he was born with the gift of doing life on life’s terms and being okay with that. where the hell did he learn that and oh, thank god he did.
the lump in my throat had nothing to do with my feeling like he’s growing up too fast. in fact, tears filled my eyes because everything seemed right on time. the minute your kids start growing out of your arms, all you want is for them to be liked. or more so, you want them to be seen for the person they are. and here it was happening. he had been seen, and he was feeling that goodness right there in front of me. the words. the satisfied look in his eyes. and the most incredible part was that i got no sense that he wanted any more than that. it was like he had everything he needed right there on the cusp of the summer before fifth grade.
bear with me while i continue my just one paragraph a day challenge (the photo a day is just a cherry on top). and just think, if you can’t stand what i’m writing here, you can always join the challenge yourself and do better. in fact, i daaaaare you.
the other day i wrote: there’s simply so much to say and no way to say it. but now, after a couple days of showing up here and trying to get my writing engine going again, i realize that wasn’t the truth. not even remotely the truth.
here is the truth:
there’s simply so much to say and i’m too afraid to say it.
so there it is. yesterday, a post i started about changes i’ve seen in life turned into a weird review of The Sopranos. yep, i went in to write about life, experience, change and wound up veering off into thinking about all the ways Paulie Gualtieri and Christopher Moltisanti get their hearts broken on that show. don’t worry. i’m not going to go all mob psychoanalytical on you again. i’m onto myself. i know what i’m doing. i can smell the fear. i can taste it.
but the real question is: can i and will i be able to write through the fear? i’ve done it before, and i’m pretty sure our ability to write even when we’re scared doesn’t expire with age. so stay tuned to find out. (or did you already leave to go write something better? um, link please!)
i can’t stop watching The Sopranos. i started taping old episodes right after James Gandolfini died. it’s the season where Tony Soprano almost dies after Uncle Junior shoots him in the gut. funny how a show i watched probably a decade ago feels like a totally different show now. the show didn’t change, but i have (and why does everyone keep calling Nurse Jackie Carmela?).
i’m not even sure why i’m watching it, but i’m getting some odd comfort out of it. there’s so much about the show that’s gut-wrenching and tough to stomach, but Gandolfini did such a fine, fine job at playing that complex character, a man with heart, with soul, with the oddest sense of loyalty, with dreams but who also happens to be a mob boss and vicious killer. but damn those doe eyes of his. i guess there’s something about the heartbreak. the constant, ongoing heartbreak particularly in the male characters whose harebrained ideals and hopes are constantly challenged and snuffed out. because it doesn’t really matter if what’s in the heart makes sense, the breaking always feels just the same. and its chipping away is what makes us who we are.
been fretting all day about doing just one. there’s simply so much to say and no way to say it. or is it the opposite? i’m not sure.
i could talk about my day. how it started with goodbye kisses to my boys followed by my thyroid pill, some coffee, and a half a cold bagel with cream cheese left uneaten on the counter and how it’s now slowly coming to an end now, darkening room, bright computer, my cat purring and pressed against my thigh, my mind on her last days before she succumbs to the kidney disease.
what happened in between was a mish mash of things: work, happy and sad news stories, a lengthy backyard chase between two orange dragonflies, exercise, frustration, boredom, being so-so about a striped shirt i used to love, swimming lessons, overcooked steak, undercooked artichokes, and a sleeping husband on the couch.
but back to the swimming lessons. let’s go over that again. in more detail. how the tiniest girl in a pink swimsuit, criss cross in the back, kept sinking so far below the surface. until i thought sure she was drowning. and then she’d pop back up. this is swimming? i thought. (no, this is a nervous breakdown.) is her teacher even worried? i wondered. and up she popped again. tiny breath (not enough breath!) and down under again.
back in this dark room, right here, right now, the cat is gone now. she doesn’t stay long these days. there is now a six-year-old standing before me. glowing, battery-powered eyeballs atop his head. and we are laughing.
this is the first summer i have been able to let them go. oh, they’ve been swimming, in lessons and otherwise, for years, but letting them go has always sent me into an almost anxiety attack. the paranoia started after clyde, then about three and a half, had “the incident” while i was pregnant with leo. he jumped in the pool right after his older cousin, and i had NO IDEA he would even think to do something like that. always a cautious kid, one we joke could not even open a door until he was at least four years old, it hadn’t even occurred to me to worry about him jumping right in when we headed out back to swim. of course, we were all right there, but it took several long seconds for my brain to register that it was clyde sinking beneath the water. i bloodied both my knees getting down to pull him out.
now they both seem so free in the water. or maybe it’s me who’s finally free. to let them. always cautious but letting them go and learn and be. and it feels so good. like summer should.
dug up this poem i wrote when the boys were small; makes me wistful and weepy for my babies:
I use the end of my pen to push
Your brother’s baby hair to the side
In his stroller, he wriggles, turns left,
then right, hates sitting still
So much older now, you are swimming
in a big, big soft blue pool
Long torso, hair covering your brown eyes
That still rise to mine across the water
Bare, wet feet pitter past
Like the moments of your youth
Running away from me
Your brother can suddenly
Hold and tip his bottle
“Dada!” he belts and you plunge
once again into the water.