children

Lullaby

Naptime2    I am very weary these days, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and stress. It is difficult to find a safe shore to rest upon and when by chance I do find a moment to lie my head down, anxiety churns the waters. So tonight I thought perhaps I could try a story of a lullabies – lullabies that eased weary souls a long time ago.

When my daughter Nene was an infant, she was at first calmed by the old standard by Brahms, but as she grew into toddlerhood, she began to prefer more rousing  tunes. She had a strange proclivity toward military anthems and Linda Ronstadt’s, “You’re No Good.”

I remember one particularly grouchy afternoon at my grandmother’s home. Nene could not be cajoled or convinced into thinking anything other than the world was coming to an end and she had to meet it with her lungs giving full voice to her song of woe. My grandmother, mom, and I were stretching to our respective wit’s end. Four generations of women were about to implode and bring Nene’s prediction to fruition.

When the tension and noise finally reached ‘this will drive out the armed fanatics holed up in the house’ level, my mom asked if there was anything else to try. I said well, it sounds odd, but we can try the “Marine’s Hymn.” Mama and Mom looked at me like I was nuts, but at this point it was that or actually call in the Marines. So, I started in with, “From the halls of Montezuma…” And it worked!

Mama and Mom started chiming in and Nene fell into a stupor that would have won a prize on “America’s Funniest Videos.” By the time we finished “Anchors Away”, she was out, lolled over in her little yellow walker. Always her own, that kid.

Sixteen or so years later, Yoda was a completely different story. He definitely preferred the more melodic, slow tempo themes. Often I would hum as smoothly and dolce as I could muster the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or a quiet version of some folk song culled from my memory of “Sing Along with Mitch.” But the one song that would always close the deal, was “Little Red Caboose.”

Now if you Google this song, you will more than likely be bombarded with versions containing inane adults wearing engineer outfits and singing the lyrics in an over the top Barney fashion. The version I sang was one I found in my collection of old 45rpm single records – a slow spiritual, one sung or hummed right gives the slow, rhythmic rocking of a train moving down the tracks. It was a perfect tune for an active and sensory issued baby.

One afternoon while Yoda and I were out visiting my parents, he had reached his infant tolerance for sociability and began to fuss. So, at that point I swaddled him up tight and removed myself to the dining area to try and calm him down before it went over the top. I could recognized the signs a wee better with the second child…

My Mom stepped off to I don’t know where, to give us space to work I guess. My Dad went to sit in his chair in the living room, not too far from where I was sitting with Yoda. I began to run through my repertoire of songs and then moved in with the closer of “Caboose.”

I rocked, sang, and the hummed for about 5 minutes and the little guy finally settled into a nice little nap. I could even hear a small snore. I smiled and listened again. This wasn’t Yoda’s snargle (what we had termed his breathing issue common to baby boys when born small – another story). I turned my ear to the sound again and realized that my Dad had fallen asleep!

When it came time for me to leave my parents’ house that afternoon and I went over to say goodbye to Dad, he pulled me in and thanked me. When I asked what for, he said it had been a very long time since anyone had sung him to sleep.

Eleven years have gone by and it still brings a smile to my face to remember the time I sang a lullaby to my Dad.

Sleep well, Deddy-O, sleep well.

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1 + 1 = 4: Baby Chapter 10

Three no evilsI know this is the story of our journey toward a baby, but don’t think we had forgotten about my daughter Nenè. Oh, no. Between all of the crap of the baby making situation, there was high school football games (she was in marching band), booster and PTA meetings, and the usual teenage ups and downs.

Nenè, like most children of divorced parents shuffled between our house and The Jackass’s, but her primary place of residence was with him. Nenè lived with us on temporary basis throughout the year. She was here every Wednesday and every other weekend. And it just so happened that she was here the weekend we found out that Bashert was pregnant. We could not have planned it any better to have us all together as a family to celebrate the happy news.

As usual, all too soon Sunday rolled around and it was time for The Jackass to pick up Nenè. This was 7:00 in the winter evening. We gave extra hugs all around and she was off. We then decided to walk up to our neighbor Laura’s house to let her in on the good news too. Laura was our neighbor, friend, substitute grandmother and greatest supporter in the Jewish community right from the moment we all met. It was going to be fun letting her in on the news.

We had been at Laura’s for about fifteen minutes or so when someone knocked on the door. Laura got up and answered it to find Nenè standing there, shaking and crying. We all immediately jumped up to pull her inside and find out what in the world was going on.

It turned out that Nenè had left some of her school work at our house and needed to return to get it. She realized it when she and The Jackass were just down the road and asked him to turn around. As Nenè tells it, he was not too happy about this and started an argument, but nevertheless did turn around. This must have been at the exact time we were walking up to Laura’s.

When Nenè knocked on our door (she didn’t have a key at this point because we didn’t trust The Jackass not to take it – we had our reasons to be paranoid) of course no one answered, but the dogs started barking. When we didn’t come to the door, Nenè said The Jackass kept insisting she keep knocking, that we would not have gone off without the dogs. She was beginning to get more and more upset with his treatment. She tried to explain that we did often go off without them and we were not home.

Something in this answer set off The Jackass. According to Nenè, he began yelling at her and a stand off ensued – she insisting we were not at home, he insisting we were but just choosing not to answer the door. The solution that the grown-up had was him getting in his car and driving off without her. He left a dumbfounded 15 year old girl standing alone, in the dark. At this point I am going to call up the old adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I was proud of what Nenè did after she was dumped. She knew we were not home and couldn’t get in the house. She had no access to a phone, so she did the best thing she could – she ran to Laura’s house. And that is where I pick up the story.

At Laura’s house Nenè told us some things about living with The Jackass we had not been aware of. All was not well over there. She asked if she could stay with us at least for the night, still not knowing what the situation with The Jackass would turn out to be. Of course she could stay! Her primary residence may have been with him, but we had joint custody and at 15, she could choose to stay wherever she wanted.

It took a bit of time to get her settled down and all of the story out of her, so it was probably a good half hour or more before we said goodnight to Laura and headed back to our house. When we turned the corner to approach our place who did we see sitting in the lot in front? Yep, The Jackass. Seems he had had a turn of heart. He demanded Nenè get in the car immediately.

Remember how I said, go after one of mine and I go into Hulk mode? Prime example just about to happen. Nenè had confirmed some things about The Jackass that Bashert and I had wondered about and let’s just say I was not going to let Nenè back in the car with him driving that night.

First I made sure Nenè was firm about not going back with him, but would take her if she wanted me to but I also told her I was not going to let him drive her. She said no, she wanted to stay with me. I told her to go in the house and I would take care of things. The strength of Hercules rose in me that night. I turned to face The Jackass and gritted my teeth.

All the anger over the ten years it took to get our divorce and all the mud he tried to drag me through took over. I was a towering steam of barely controlled fury. I stood up in his face and I told him Nenè would not be returning with him that night. I told him he was a jerk and a fine example of what a parent should be and that he needed to leave now. Nenè would not be going with him.

He got hot, boy did he get hot. He really did not expect me to stand up to him. He started yelling about calling the police and charging me with kidnapping. Funny thing at that point, his anger transformed mine. I knew I had control then. Oh, I was still angry, but it was an anger I could use. I told him to go ahead and call, even offered him the phone. I told him that I wanted to see who got in the most trouble – me or the jackass who just dumped a visible shaken 15 year old girl into the dark alone. He seemed to sober a bit at that. Still sputtering to himself, he finally got in his car and drove off. Victory was mine and Nenè was safe.

I turned to go back in the house only to have it hit me that he had all of Nenè’s things with him in his car. We would have to go over there in the morning to get her school stuff she had returned to our house to get!

What a hell of a weekend.

Bashert and I talked about what was going on and we agreed that if Nenè wanted to make her stay permanent then it would be okay.  We talked about it all week – Nenè was still too upset to return to The Jackass’s house for anything but a quick run to get extra clothes. She finally said that she wanted to leave him for good. She wanted to live with us and not have to deal with all the issues going on with him. The decision had been made. Nenè was moving in.

In one fell swoop, our house and lives were about to get amazingly full.

A baby story – my version of the tale

J&EMy partner Bashert is writing a series of exposés on our journey to have a baby (Yoda). She is amazed by all the wonderful responses she is receiving. I’m not surprised at all. She can tell a story, that woman. She pours all her heart into what she is regaling and lays it on the line, warts and all.

I am reading right along with all of her other fans. It is funny to read about my life from the outside. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I sit and make note of things I had forgotten and sometimes I revisit very angry moments. It was a roller coaster ride for sure. If you haven’t read her exciting tales of the road to motherhood then pop over to her site: www.bashert04.com.

I was teasing with her when she told me with wide eyes how many hits she had in under an hour the other night just after she posted another segment. I joked that maybe I should write my own version of what went on. She said why not? I thought about it and decided, why not? So I present to you my side of the story – our baby story.

 

We Meet

We met in college. In 1995, at the age of 34 and seeking some source of sanity, I returned to school to finish out my Fine Arts degree I started back when the dinosaurs roamed about. I was two years into a very nasty divorce and custody battle that would eventually drag on for another eight years. I was emotionally and physically scarred and needed a place to help me feel good and right about myself.

Learning had always been a refuge for me, but starting over was hard. I was so socially removed, I barely spoke above a whisper and held everyone at arm’s length. To say that I tried to keep to myself is a radical understatement.

Bashert was ahead of me in the program despite being nine years my junior. A couple of years earlier, she fought to gain her independence from an abusive father and get into college. Fighting hard for things is a major theme in Bashert’s life – keep that point in mind as we go through this story. She knew no strangers; she had friends and acquaintances all over campus.

As a sculptor, Bashert had no love loss for two-dimensional work. Give her some clay to play with and she is a happy camper. Back then the closest thing she came to painting was applying glazes to her ceramic creations. I had the reverse situation. Three-dimensional work and I just didn’t get along – never did; I still have the pinch pot I made in third grade as testament to that fact, the poor malformed little thing. No, give me paper and pencil and I was in heaven.

I never really painted before taking that class, but oh, it was love at first stroke! The way the paint moved across the canvas, pushing and pulling in a beautiful dance of negative and positive spaces. The sharp, piney tang of turpentine and the mellow musk of the oils were heady perfumes for me. And the colours – oh, the colours! The painting studio turned out to be my home. There was only one thing out of place there – Bashert.

It would be suffice to say that painting and Bashert didn’t get on, but add in that we later found out she was pretty much colour blind, that sealed the deal. At the time, I just thought she had been sent into my life to be yet another punishment for whatever hellbent life I had lived earlier. Shy to begin with and emotionally crushed on top of that, I did not know what to do with this girl.

I would arrive at the studio to find her sitting cheerfully at my station with a big grin on her face announcing that she “borrowed” some of my cadmium yellow or a cleaning rag or any number of other supplies. She would chat away as I tried to start my painting day and tactfully extricate myself from her. But she had worked it out so that her painting station was right next to mine and the badgering never ended. Often I would find myself staring in wonderment that she couldn’t get it that I was yearning to left alone.

Get it, she did not and the barrage of questions kept coming either about myself or ultimately about how to paint her images. “How would you do this one?” What colour should I use?” “Could you just take the brush and show me how?” My reply was always, “It is your painting.” I think this made me more a challenge to her. I remember going to my therapy sessions and telling the doctor in an exasperated voice, “That girl has some serious boundary issues!”.  I was already dealing with a vindictive ex-husband to be and a hormonal seven-year-old daughter, another aggravating person was the last thing I needed in my life. On some level I think I was relieved when the class was over just to end the torture from Bashert.

But remember what I said in the beginning? Bashert knows how to fight hard for the things she wants and for some unfathomable reason, she wanted to be my friend. She didn’t give up.

We went on a university sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. and she made sure that I couldn’t bury my nose in my crossword puzzle book on the ride up. She asked me to help her with the art gallery at school where she worked putting up monthly art exhibits. She asked for rides around town to her various other jobs, despite the fact that she hated my 1968 Mercury Cougar muscle car. I loved that car…sigh. But that’s another story.

All the while we were together, she would talk. And talk. And talk. Slowly, oh so slowly, those rides became stops and the talks became conversations, long conversations that lasted into the wee hours of the night. The aggressive girl with the boundary issues taught me how to be in the world again and somewhere in the midst, miraculously became my first friend in almost 15 years.

Dancing with my Children

I have two kids, sixteen years apart. Yes, 16 years. Both of their odometers turn over within the next three weeks. Neneé will be 24 on Tuesday and Yoda 8 the second week of August. (We have lots of spring/summer birthdays.)

There are vast differences between the two in addition to their ages, genders and family circumstances, but one thing remains the same – how I feel when we dance together.

Dancing with my children is a delight I will never tire of.

I danced with my children before they could do anything more that eat, sleep and eliminate.  With each month they grew, the rhythm and movements took on more shared emotions.

We went from comforting motion that put them to sleep and soothed my frayed nerves, to dips and swings that brought forth joyous giggles and belly laughs.

Mostly we dance in the living room, but we have danced in super markets, elevators and down sidewalks.

My daughter and I danced to everything from Glenn Miller to the Footloose soundtrack. One that stands out for me is Johnny Nash’s classic I Can See Clearly Now.  We would twirl and jump around to that beat over and over again.  I still have smiling visions of her beboppin’ about the living room, wearing her pink dress with the puffy sleeves.

My son and I get funky with everything in our 78 single collection to the most recent Lady GaGa. Last night we were doing our version of some saucy dance to Bette Midler’s cover of Rosemary Clooney’s Mambo Italiano, complete with dip at the end.

I’ve held both of my kids tightly, crying while dancing to Nilsson’s Can’t Live Without You.

One funny thing about dancing with them – they’ve never been embarrassed by it. I may on occasion be the meanest mom in the world, but each have grabbed me and waltzed me down the grocery aisle on their own volition.

Even when I not allowed to kiss my 8 year old in public anymore, I can count on him to accompany me in an impromptu, made up disco dance in the store.  The boy has rhythm for sure.

My daughter and I have a mending relationship right now, so I was caught off guard and thrilled when she pulled me into a dance in the aisle of Trader Joe’s one visit. My heart beats a little faster even now with the joy that she remembers.

Dancing with my children means love to me.  Its a shared and cherished experience that touches the deepest part of my heart even when we are just being plain silly.

So be kind and don’t think me crazy when I am out and begin to hum along with the satellite music, doing a little jig with a distant smile on my face.  I’m just dancing with my children.

Don’t drop your cone

I confess.  I’m selfish.

Sometimes I like a treat all to myself.

I blame my mother.

My mother is a champion speed ice cream eater.  She can consume an ice cream cone in under a minute.  You could get brain freeze just watching her.

One may ask why she would develop this particular talent.  Easy.

My mother had four children in a nine year span and she likes ice cream.

And as we all know, mom’s are somehow contractually obligated to release their cones to the child who drops their ice cream cone.

She blames her mother.

Seems that when my mom was in grade school, her mother would wait for the Krispy Kreme man to deliver to the store across the street from their house.  When the fresh doughnuts were delivered, Mama would run across and buy three for a dime.

And eat them all.

I guess there are some genetics that can’t be denied.