What F^ckery Is This?

By all appearances, I’ve left Facebook indefinitely. I need a break from the fuckery. However, just like… you can run but you can’t hide or,… no matter where you go, you take yourself with you or… not my monkeys, not my circus… sometimes the fuckery finds you anyway.

I may or may not have gone to an arts festival and sat behind a long-haired young man who smelled like he needed a shower. It may or may not been so bad that I may or may not have considered moving seats, except that it would have drawn attention to myself. I may or may not have wanted to be, or was, slightly intentionally rude to my husband’s former assistant at this event. I may or may not have not recognized another colleague who attended the same event until we started talking and I may or may not have felt like an asshole about that (though I may or may not have covered well and he may or may not have noticed).

I may or may not have been working extra hours at work again, happily, in spite of the new girl who may or may not have finally reached the summit of Mount Clusterfuck with her menagerie of personal problems which may or may not have included a sick child or two, a husband with a bad knee, and failure to complete a full work week even once in three months. I may or may not have made a joke or two at work about leaving early because Todd’s hip was hurting, or I needed a milkshake from McDonald’s. (We may or may not get a LOT of hilarious mileage out of this latest development at work.)

We may or may not have had friends over on Oscar night, when V may or may not have been sick and staying overnight with her dad, who played pool Very Loudly and with multiple exclamations of “mother-f^cker.” I may or may not have grown weary of my line, which was – “f^cker,” every time the other person said, “mother!” (I may or may not have felt gypped that I didn’t get to say “mother” too.) And it may or may not have gotten old fast. Todd may or may not have been shocked at my sudden lack of enthusiasm over the work “f^uck.”

We may or may not have had friends over the following weekend for dinner and games. I may or may not have actually had all the food I was preparing, ready before the guests arrived for the first time. One of our guests may or may not have expressed rather emphatically that she DOES NOT like another guest who might be stopping by. That other guest may or may not have come anyway.

We may or may not have been shocked when another guest walked through the front door with the woman who may or may not have been the reason he was arrested for attempted murder and who may or may not be still wearing an ankle bracelet issued by the state of Maryland. We may or may not have pretended we didn’t notice any of this. I may or may not be able to even make this shit up.

Jon may or may not have brought his Cards Against Humanity and some of us may or may not have played without a conscience. I may or may not have laughed my ass off. There may or may not have been fresh margaritas.

I may or may not have practiced some self-care recently, such as blood tests and follow up on urology and a thyroid scan, all of which may or may not relieved my concerns. I may or may not have made a new friend at the Clinique counter at Macy’s between appointments, before I might have gone to my first massage in 8 years.

I may or may not be suffering from what appears to be chronic back pain that has amped up its efforts in recent weeks. I may or may not know the cause, or where to start. I may or may not have seen a pain doctor, who may or may not have wasted two hours of my time for 15 minutes of hers and may or may not have had anything helpful to offer.

V may or may not be practicing a dance routine for her best friend’s Quincenera. We may or may not have gotten lost on our way to the first practice that turned out to be at a house I pass twice a week on my way to PA.

An ex-husband, or two, may or may not have bought his new fiancé a $6,000 diamond ring, or bought a half-million-dollar home to go with his $60,000 jacked up pickup truck while claiming not to be able to pay adequate child support. It may or may not end well for one of the many of us who may or may not have recently learned this information.

The world at large may or may not be going to hell in a Coronavirus handbasket, or a Cheeto-colored one, depending on which side of the fence you are or are not tweeting on. And I may or may not be considering a VERY edited, and unapologetic, return to social media.

Stay tuned.

*Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person, real or imagined, may or may not be intentional.

**Disclaimer: Posts that appear on Facebook are shared from this page and not on Facebook. Any post appearing therein does not indicate a return to such.

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Bad Boy Musings

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Oh my God. I need to never, not ever, drink a 20-oz bottle of Dr. Pepper seven hours before bedtime. Lying in bed for going on three hours, listening to my heart beating in my chest, the weighted blanket worthless, and trying not to keep checking the time. The corner of my bedsheet and the mattress pad have pulled off, again, and I tried to ignore that too, but it was bunching up under my pillow and so I laid there thinking about how to fix that without waking Todd.

Instead, I pulled out my iPad and returned to my latest obsession on Netflix. Ha. Excellent and perhaps not-so-accidental choice of words for You. Veruca suggested it a few nights ago and we started watching it together, in spite of the mature rating, and later abandoned it because there was just waaaay too much material of a suggestive nature (that’s putting it mildly). However, momma returned to it on her day off whilst attending to household duties and now I can’t stop.

It’s riveting and soapy, the writing is sharp and yet there are times when it’s just ridiculous how the story plays out. I think Penn Badgley, the lead, is outstanding. The style of the storytelling, without giving too much away, is mostly in present tense – but there are flashbacks for the main character and then there are his voiceover monologues. It’s those inside thoughts that really drive the story in so many ways.

I think Penn Badgley outdoes himself. He fully encompasses his character’s persona – his voice, his facial expressions, the sounds of a man in the throes of orgasm (see? Waaaay too much for a 14-year-0ld) – in such a way that it’s easy to forget he’s an actor playing a part.

V told me her friend has watched nearly all of it, and my first reaction is – she’s too young, she doesn’t know what she’s seeing, how does she feel about this character?? WHY??? But see, I already know the answer.

Penn Badgely, in an interview I read somewhere and quickly forgot, was stated as admonishing fans on Twitter for lusting after this psycho-sociopath. His – and his character’s – good looks are completely overshadowing the Big Red Flags of a man with serious boundary issues and a casual disregard for human life. The female viewership is not discouraged.

What does this say about women – about people – today? And it makes me wonder what a 14-year-old girl is thinking when she’s watching the shit show that is Joe/Will. Does she find him “pretty,” as she once referred to a boy IRL? Does she fantasize about meeting him, dating him, having him love her like that?

And that’s where it gets scary. When did we learn to glorify bad boys? How do we teach our girls how to identify “bad”?

The boy with the leather motorcycle jacket, the pierced ear, the long hair, quiet and seething below the surface… is he sexy or someone to be careful of? Why do you like him? What is so tantalizing about him, the idea of him – what does bad mean?

How do you not end in up in love with guys who ignore you until they want you, punch holes in walls near your head, cigarettes in one hand and a coke straw in the other? Guys with wandering eyes and other girls too, guys who need your money, or never call back.

At some point in your young life, you decided that “bad boys” were desirable. Which movie was that? That the troubled, volatile, no-rules boy was IT. How many of them were there?

Was the boy in leather who drives a fast car really as bad you made him to be? Or did you just want him to be bad? What did it take to make him bad? How far did he have to go to qualify?

How many good guys did you burn on the road to badness? How much badness did you really see? Did you find out that the bad boy wasn’t all that bad, or that he was, in fact, worse than you ever imagined? How many bruises did you inflict, or did he inflict on you – your body, your psyche, your soul?

How many decades will it take to undo the damage you opened the door for and invited in, all because bad boys are soooo good? Once you open that door, it’s not so easy to close. The weight of the room inside is full and the door no longer closes.

When you met him, did he give you all of his attention or did he make you feel like he could be somewhere, anywhere, else? Hello! Over here! Did he stand a little too close to you? Did you like that – the discomfort in his proximity to you – while his eyes bore holes through you? Did it make your stomach dip like a free fall?

Did you relish the moment you made him jealous of someone else? Did you do it because you wanted the reaction? Did you want to see him angry? Angry with you? Did you want to fight with him, because the fire it sparks is exhilarating, makes you feel alive, because you believe that you need the turbulence?

Is it your own desire to be bad that drives your desire to capture it in someone else? Why is being bad so damn good? What are the rewards? What are the consequences?

Life As It Becomes More

The holidays when you’re 50 are much different than the holidays when you’re, let’s say, 30. I’ve had years in between where my enthusiasm ebbed and flowed. This year I was eager to get the Christmas tree and Veruca was equally excited. The two of us drove to the tree farm and there were about a half dozen families toting dwarf trees to their cars and the pre-cut Frasers were, well, NONE. Anyway, a google search revealed another tree farm in our area I’d never even heard of and let me tell you right now – the tree I reluctantly chose (reluctantly because the branches were upright and tightly hugging the trunk) was the Most Beautiful Tree I’ve had in years.

Anyway, my 50-year-old enthusiasm was limited to the Christmas tree and the stairwell I decorate with garland and baubles every year. The artificial tree we put up in the rec room never made it out of the box. The Christmas Village ceramic houses never made it out either. We didn’t decorate the outside of the house. I’m not sorry. I just didn’t have it to give.

There’s an old quote: “just don’t have it to give.” Came from a Gemini male I once shared a home with in my 20s, who was full of prolific bullshit like statements about me being “uptight.” I learned to cringe when these statements flowed from his or, even years later, others’ lips. But today, older and wiser, I realize that the former statement is a confession moored in self-awareness that is more positive than negative.

I’m trying to avoid the inevitable cliché that comes when one pontificates about life and becoming conscious of what really matters when it happens at the turn of a new year. That it’s also a new decade does not have an elevated significance in my particular case. Unless we’re talking about my new decade.

Anyway. My friend lost her dad in December. The memorial service was earlier this month and I made the hour-and-twenty-minute drive to honor him and support her. Our families have an interesting history.

We were both born and raised in the same town. Like I think it is with most folks, the town is one which is spoken of with both reverence and disdain, often in the same breath. Our town is, uh, town. The town isn’t exactly small, but so many people know each other in a seemingly impossible way that it’s almost incestuous. (Okay not really.)

So… my mom worked with T’s grandmother before I was born and for a couple of years after. My mom somehow always knew T’s parents too. My dad and former stepmother were friends with T’s aunt and uncle (her dad’s brother) – which is where it gets really weird because I remember a time when they took me with them to the aunt and uncle’s home and there were other kids there that I played with. It wasn’t until many years later, when two of those kids (T and her brother, now adults) were working at my mom’s restaurant, that I realized that we had met so many years before. (Do I need a diagram?)

In another strange twist, thanks to Facebook, I noticed that T was friends with someone I went to high school with. T didn’t attend the same school as us, and she is also five years my junior. When I finally remembered to ask the friend how she knew T, it turns out her mother used to work for T’s father.

Anyway, back to the memorial service. Many, many people came. Mom met me there. We stood in the line to see the family, which was really long and moving like a backwards river. Seriously. I found my patience waning fast as folks were stepping out of line to greet and hug others and then the line would come to a standstill until they stepped back into the line. And there’d be this huge gap between people that ramped my anxiety to blast-off.

This well-dressed little old lady with impeccable hair and makeup in front of me stopped moving altogether as she stood staring at her husband who had left the line to chat with old buddies from somewhere. I pondered the possibility that he was deliberately ignoring her gaze. And then was struck with the urge to scream, move the fucking line! But thankfully I’m not yet old enough to pull off shit like this in public, so I said it in my head.

The line went on like this for about 25 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if the services would start on time. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.) At one point when I thought I’d hit the peak of my anxiety and intolerance, T and I made eye contact and for a brief moment I was sure I felt her. There’s something between us that can be read as instant understanding sometimes. If I ever had a sister, she’d be it. Not because we might be alike, but because in many ways we’re not and there’s this innate understanding that cannot be explained. There are things over the years we have shared with each other that with others might be a, “huh?” that for us is, “haha, YES.” And she is no nonsense. You better buckle up because she will tell you straight up Truth.

So we moved through the line and sat down, which is when my entertainment really begins. The older folks with the bouffant hairdos and the outfits and the jewelry. Familiar faces too (it’s our town, after all). There was this one man who clearly was either wearing a hairpiece or using Grecian formula, with a pencil-thin mustache, and was a dead ringer for one of my family members.

The photos on the monitor could easily have been photos of my own family … the clothes, the hairstyles, the furniture, the backgrounds. There was a picture of T’s dad as a boy on a pony. We have an identical picture of my uncle. It’s all this weird six-degrees-of-separation that isn’t limited to just our town, and it’s so very cool.

I don’t know how all this segues into my thoughts about life and where it’s going and what matters. I suppose funerals do that. T’s brother spoke eloquently of time spent with his father and the value of memories…. Though he didn’t say it quite this way, that we have an obligation to impact our children with memories the way our parents did for us.

For the first time I didn’t cry at a funeral. I don’t know if it’s because there wasn’t a profound sadness permeating the room or whether I drew my cues from T, or whether there was larger, deeper impact poking at me. I left there feeling like I needed time to process and reflect on the feelings circling like birds overhead.

Much of my twenties was chaos. Not in the literal way… just chaotic movement from place to place, person to person, living in the moment (sometimes self-destructive) in anticipation of “what’s next.” Never quite sure of myself while being fully myself and lacking the awareness to understand why I did what I did and how not to do certain things again.

The thirties introduced a long period of change and more chaos which turned out to be more destructive even than that of my twenties. The juxtaposition of becoming a parent and loving something more than my own life while simultaneously fighting for my identity. It was a period of survival. I’d forgotten that I had choices. That I’d always had them and that somehow I’d relinquished them to someone else, who had no business deciding for me.

The forties: a rebirth. A remembrance of me. The final hitting of a wall; a wall I couldn’t climb or go around. The revelation that the only choice I had was in fact no choice at all. I had to move forward and away from toxicity and vicious words because the only thing I could change was how I chose to live. And look where it got me!

The fifties have just begun. I embraced that birthday with the spirit I have always had. I’ve been living in joy and peace and contentment for the last 9 years. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Except for less debt and a swimming pool.

Still, there’s more. I want to live in the moment, every one, but this time with the awareness and connection I didn’t have 25 years ago. Less distracted. More tuned in. And I knew this before I googled what it meant to dream of thousands of cats running around my house.

 

 

 

To be continued….

Drinking and Dreams

I woke up this morning from a series of bizarre dreams I’ll attribute to the chemical interaction between my medication and Goose Island IPA. About a month ago, I stopped drinking (mostly) and returned to healthier lifestyle habits. Spoiler: alcohol makes you gain weight and look puffy and inflames the joints. When I stop drinking, my weight drops off. It’s a slow, steady process, but I notice it most in my face. (And now everyone knows how to tell I’m drinking again.)

Anyway. Last night I went along to bowling with Todd for the first time in weeks. There are times I just don’t want to stand around in unforgiving lights surrounded by MAGAs drinking Coors Light and the sound of a thousand pins roaring like a 747 between my ears. The problem with going to bowling is the subsequent boredom, which leads to meme-sharing (highly entertaining but always short-lived), and boredom as they say sometimes leads to bad decisions. Like drinking.

The old crowd at the former, now-a-Sheetz bowling alley was a fun crowd. One friend would lead the rounds of shots (again, bad decisions) and there was generally an air of middle-aged shenanigans juxtaposed with the retirees’ been-there-done-that sober laughter and the younger crowd’s drama (always fun to watch, from a distance). It was fun (I miss you girls).

This new crowd is very different, a lot more mellow. No more loud, outspoken girlfriend with the potty mouth and my dirty sense of humor.  No more girlfriend ordering shots like we’re reliving school days. The bartender here is great – she knows us by name, which I realize sounds bad but it’s a much smaller place and we often go into the bar after bowling for snacks and such.

Ed and I accidentally invented what we thought was a new shot (we googled the ingredients once, it actually does exist), because she didn’t have all the liquors to make a true B52 so we improvised. The result was supposed to be a combination of Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Amaretto but as Tonya was mixing she was talking to us and I watched with horror as she poured Southern Comfort into it and I didn’t have the heart to what the fuck are you DOING Tonya! stop her mid-pour. But it was actually good. I forget what we named it but she still calls it “the Tonya” and, since it was her mix-up, we’ll let her have it.

Anyway. After driving Veruca to her dad’s and listening to her bitch about the ride up on the back roads and wanting to puke and “never doing it again”… all I could think about was the beer I was going to have once I got back to the bowling alley. That meme about being the reason your mom drinks is no joke. And then one turned into two. And then number three seemed necessary for accompanying the cheese fries the guys ordered. (See? BAD decisions.)

The point is, I haven’t been drinking. Last Saturday we had friends over for dinner. I knew I was going to enjoy a little wine since we were entertaining. They brought wine and beer… the boys drank beer and she and I had wine. I tasted the Russian red that her son had brought home from Estonia. Semi-sweet and, while I’m not a fan of varietals that are anything less than cork-dry, this was really, really different. Cherries! It actually went well with the NY strip and crab cakes we made. However, one glass was all I could do. So we opened another red, and Todd switched to wine too so I wasn’t the only one drinking it. And then Todd poured shots of bourbon crème liquor all around to toast our friend’s 101-year-old grandmother who had literally just passed while we were having dinner.

And then we opened another bottle of wine. Oh God – I’d been down that road before and it did NOT end well. But oh no, another friend came over and suddenly I was like, hey guys! I have something you all NEED to try. I was gifted with a bottle of Grand Marnier Quintessence for Christmas and it is not for sharing. I poured two ounces in a snifter and Todd, for comparison, poured a second glass of the much cheaper Grand Marnier Cuvee Louis-Alexandre he got me for Christmas.

Everything was going well. Our friends left for a long drive home and the latecomer friend stayed to discuss work drama with Todd and I was feeling like unconscious was coming soon. At this point Opac was back from his night out and wanted to talk about serious matters which at this point was probably not the best idea but I persevered and poured him a Jack and Coke (see Bad Mom), and myself a big glass of water, and sat down at the dining room table with him. We had a great talk, much of which I don’t remember, but I know the gist and ultimately what the problems are and a week later I’m still concerned about him.

Sunday morning was so NOT a good morning for me. As a matter of fact, neither was Sunday afternoon. When I wake up like that, I always yell at myself for being so stupid and knowing better and don’t-ever-do-that-again, and then I tell myself that it feels bad now but I’ll be feeling 80% better by 4:00. It’s a promise to myself that I’m really praying isn’t a lie.

I made myself 8 potatoes-worth of home fries and a big-ass glass of Dr. Pepper and eventually found my way back to sleep for a few hours; which is absolutely necessary with hangovers that feature an apocalyptic headache since the last thing I can do when I first wake up is sleep and I cannot close my eyes because it feels like I’m back on the New York subway. A dear friend always used the phrase, “God punishes,” and now I know the full and true meaning of that statement.

So back to this weekend. It wasn’t terrible. After all, three beers with food is not going to be terrible. But Holy Fuck. The dreams. I dreamed I was back in school and late for class, which Opac was also in, and I lived in a dorm room with 3 other girls who turned out to be very subtly snarky. That one didn’t last long.

The next one was a casual tribute to this recurrent dream about cats. I dream about our home being infested – yes, I said infested – with dozens and dozens of cats. More on that, maybe another time. Or not. But anyway, in this dream there were dozens of cats, just lying around on our back porch and lawn. And some of them had collars on, so clearly they weren’t feral cats like the ones featured in previous dreams. And then there were these two dogs that weren’t ours, snuggled up with the cats, also with collars and tags. One had a tag that said he belonged to a very old friend of mine and I was trying to figure out what the hell the dog is doing here since my friend lives in another state. (And I woke up wondering why HE was in my dream until I remembered that sometimes life crosses over into dreams and earlier that day I’d been discussing the Grateful Dead with a coworker and how I’d never gotten to see them, but could have, with him, except that I didn’t do drugs and was intimidated by what I perceived was some drugged-out mob.)

Meanwhile, Todd was in this dream and again he’s insisting these cats need to go and I’m all like – I just want the mother and baby over there because they’re so small and sweet. And we still don’t have a solution for all these cats.

I googled cats in dreams and here’s what I found: “Dreaming of thousands of cats running around in a house indicates a lack of direction in your life. There is too much going on in your life that you are losing sight of what’s important.” **

Well if that doesn’t say it all…

 

** http://www.dreammoods.com

Things That Matter and Other Things

Today is Todd’s 51st birthday. I thought about writing a long post honoring him, but I think after the previous posts (see under “Love” tab above) it would be overkill and these days I’m feeling more private about “us,” which I’m sure makes everyone happier since people do get sick of hearing sappy and gushy love stories from middle-aged folks I think. So, let’s just say a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the love of my life and move on, shall we?

Thanksgiving came and went more smoothly than a Hallmark movie. Well, except that I almost burned down the house before we even finished cooking the second turkey  when one of the towels on the counter caught fire – but then it wouldn’t be a holiday without a little drama. The housecleaning was done the weekend before and I prepped all the food the day before with an actual list of what needed to be done when. This goes way beyond my usual capabilities, since I prefer a more by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach followed by a meltdown of hot stressy mess. I was inspired by a friend who takes organization to a diabolical level – which, for the record, I am in awe of – and now I’m feeling competitive over completing home projects, which is a good thing since we’ll actually be getting stuff done and even though she has no idea, it’s all thanks to HER.

Opac is finishing up his final days of his first semester – which definitely wins the prize for fuckery of the most epic kind. I took a photo of him and his roommate on move-in day and sent it to my mom with the caption, “taking bets on how long it’ll be before he’s smoking pot” (if you saw the roommate you’d fully understand). Little did I know.

When he returned to school from fall break, he ended up getting really sick. All upper-respiratory – really bad, persistent cough, headaches, and fever – the latter was what prompted him to call me and ask what he should do because his fever was 103. No mom 98 minutes away from her child wants to get this call. After I asked how he knew his temperature (there’s these strips they put on their tongue – he got one from a friend – and I’ve never even heard of this) I ordered him to get to an urgent care. Now.

Long story short, his friends took him – one of whom called me and told me they were in the car and on their way (my heart). I sat on the couch and waited. An hour or so later O called me and told me that he was given medication and was staying out of class the next day to rest.

A couple of weeks later… he called to tell me he was “not living in [his] dorm right now.” WHAT do you MEAN, you’re not living in your dorm right now?

Roommate has a big problem, apparently, with alcohol, marijuana, and keeping his hands off of my son’s throat. He has a knife collection he calls “tools” and plenty of vehicles by which to deliver marijuana to his internal organs. Opac asked him repeatedly not to smoke in the room.

Okay so now at this point I’m wondering how this kid was smoking in a freshman dorm and – let’s face it – that particular habit has a VERY distinct odor – how, just HOW has he not been caught? And then the flood of other concerns… like my son smelling like that, he could end up guilty by association or worse… and then all of that was shut down by “let me go there and put my hands on him” because that meme You hurt my son and I’ll make your death look like an accident suddenly felt like my theme song.

But. My son went to his RA and Resident Life and told them everything, including that the physical assault was a repeat offense (yeah, like WTF – he never told any of us) and he was moved to an “emergency room” in another hall, there was an investigation where of course they found nothing in a subsequent room search, and in the end O was moved to a new dorm with a new roommate. And all of this transpired with absolutely NO intervention by myself, Todd, or the ex. My kid HANDLED it. And I couldn’t be more proud.

And now for an illogical segue to The Black Handbag.

Back in Vegas, I saw a handbag in Michael Kors that I WANTED. At the time, my adoring and most wonderful husband told me to just buy it. But I’m practical, not to mention broke, so there is no justification for a $350 handbag unless it cleans the house, cooks dinner, and spontaneously refills itself with hundred dollar bills.

Anyway. Michael Kors + holiday season = 70% off sale (my favorite kind of math!) I told Todd. He again said, just buy it. (But also noted how fortunate I didn’t buy it in Vegas at full retail.) I waited several days, and then finally just did it. Meanwhile, V was texting me pictures (from her dad’s house) of Michael Kors boots and an MK backpack she wanted.

You know, when I was her age, I wanted clothes from The LIMITED and a Swatch watch…. none of which cost a car payment under the bridge of my parents’ incomes. What the hell with all these topline designers for teenagers?

I pointed out that she already has a Michael Kors backpack (from her dad – I’m not that crazy). Yes, but this one is black, she said. And then, you have more than one handbag (a remark aimed at my newest purchase, scheduled for delivery the next day). Deep breath. I am an adult and have a job. I don’t need to justify my purchases with anyone. Which, though it hardly matters anymore, was a regular expectation in my previous life.

She turned the conversation to the topic of another thing she wanted for Christmas – a mini-fridge. Not just any mini-fridge. This one is for makeup. What makeup needs to be stored in a mini-fridge? I asked. Different things, like skincare products and stuff, she said. Since when does this stuff need a refrigerator? It’s small. It sits on my dresser, she said, and it’s only $30. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And she got mad and said, fine! I’ll buy it myself.

The next day, when Todd picked her up from practice – and I have absolutely no idea how this conversation got started because I was at work minding my own business – she brought up the handbag I was getting and he gave her a mild-mannered talking to about the merits of being a grown-ass woman with a job and her own money to do with as she sees fit. Essentially I’m her mother and I do a lot for her and O, and I made sacrifices and I’ve worked hard and don’t I deserve to have nice things?

I don’t know all the details, but I do know that they drove along in silence until he pulled into the driveway and my delivery was on the front porch… and Little Miss Attitude with the unfortunate and entirely genetic defect of snarky spillage of the mouth noted…

and there’s the purse mom doesn’t need.

Poor Veruca. Now she made Todd mad. She spent the rest of the night in her room in self-imposed exile, wasn’t hungry, and didn’t want to talk.

The next morning she came into the kitchen and chipperly asked me if I was “so excited” about my new purse, with genuine interest and nary a twitch of sarcasm.

But she’s still not getting a duplicate MK bag.

Bad Mom

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Halloween night. Veruca didn’t want to go out, so she stayed home with me to hand out candy. And then she just watched from the window.

V warned me that her friends that live across the way had joked about ringing the door and dashing (these are the same 3 boys that raided my basket and replaced it with things they didn’t want a few years back) and she told me to NOT answer the door.

Now – let’s just take a minute to point out the obvious. If they dash, they don’t get candy. How dumb is that?

Anyway, I had the exterior camera (on my phone) with the intercom on when they showed up. For fun. They did not dash. They were polite and friendly. There were four of them, and only one lives here. I know him. I also know one of the other boys who used to be V’s crush.

So she’s hiding in hallway around the corner from the door, AS IF they don’t know this is her house. I asked them how they liked high school so far (they said it’s good) and told them to stay out of trouble tonight (with a smile). I closed the door behind me and they were halfway down the driveway when I said – out loud – ooh, Ava’s old crush was here! And no sooner had the words left my mouth that I realized I still had the phone in my hand and the intercom ON.

The aftermath wasn’t as violent as expected. She was instantly mortified, and ran over to the Mac on the kitchen counter and pulled up the Ring history. And saw the whole footage and my big mouth on the intercom. BUT. Those boys were halfway gone and talking to each other and not one of them turned around.

Still. She was furious. I know they didn’t hear me, but she was having none of my adult wisdom. She didn’t speak to me the rest of the night, the morning after in the car at the bus stop, or all weekend at her dad’s. (For the record, I did say goodnight to her and apologized for what happened.) Four days later, on the way home from her dad’s she said she knew I didn’t do it on purpose and she knew they didn’t hear me.

Midweek she mentioned that she wanted to make her dad an apple pie for his birthday and could I help her? Those of you who have been on the ride with me since 2011 might know what I wanted to say but didn’t actually say. Nevertheless, we didn’t really have time to go to the store and the next day I worked a 12-hour shift.

And then, around the 8th hour of my 12-hour shift, she called and asked me if I could pick up poster board (so she could make him something) and apples ON MY WAY HOME. I told her to ask Todd if he had posters – he’s an artist for God’s sake and has supplies for just about anything. And I also told her I’m not stopping after a 12-hour workday, at 8:30 or 9:00 at night. Not to mention that she wanted me to help her with the pie at that hour, too. A great big, Hell No.

Well, she didn’t ask Todd. And then Friday morning she asked me if he had any. Nevertheless, she came home from school and made that pie with the apples we already had. With the recipe I gave her. And, after a minor glitch with the crust process, it turned out fucking beautiful.

Now it’s Friday night, and I’m driving her and the pie to her dad’s house. She referenced a You Tube video she’d shown me and mentioned how she sent it to Opac. And then she said, I miss [him]. I knew she did, but hearing her say it really impacted me. I sometimes forget that she must miss his presence in the house, felt more acutely at home than at her dad’s (as he often didn’t go with her).

And I don’t know how this segued into the next slapdown but she started talking about him drinking and how she doesn’t like it and he shouldn’t be doing it and blah blah blah… and then she asked me if I would let him have alcohol at home if he asked for it. And I’m an idiot for even engaging in the conversation at all. I told her how I’d grown up – how at family holiday gatherings I was allowed to have wine with everyone else and it was no big deal. Controversial or not – I believe that it kept me from going apeshit over alcohol when I encountered it as a young adult. It was, to me, no big deal. (Never mind college – that’s a whole other conversation.)

Well, that’s illegal, she said. He’s not 21, she said. You shouldn’t be letting him have alcohol, she said. Would you let me have alcohol?

To be the devil’s advocate, I engaged. I never said I would pour him a glass of wine, but I said if he wanted one it would be no big deal. It would be because he was home, and staying home, and none of his friends were there. I said there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of wine. Well that’s wrong and you shouldn’t be letting him do that, she said. You could get arrested, she said.

At this point I was wondering where all this fuckery was coming from at the end of a very long week. She, like someone else in her family who shall remain nameless, is relentless in cross examination and accusations. I maintained a calm that did not reflect the fluctuation in blood pressure I was experiencing and played along (which, obviously, was the wrong thing to do) and then I was accused of being “like Nannie.” Being too much like my mother has never bothered me before, but now I have to wonder. What has she done that I don’t know about? Now I have questions.

And the whole conversation ended abruptly in her dad’s driveway and she announced that maybe she just wouldn’t come back home for Thanksgiving. Well, okay then. More wine for us!

 

 

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY advocating for or sponsoring underage drinking.

*Disclaimer: I am a lot like my mother. Except for those things she did that I don’t know about. I am not like that.

Where We’ve Been

It’s been a busy month or so. September – a friend’s 50th birthday celebration, a living history event with Frida Kahlo, two wine festivals we planned but bagged out on, and dinner with Todd’s parents.

We, on behalf of the college, attended a fundraiser for families of children who passed suddenly. The mother of a 19-year-old boy who was killed in a car accident on his way to work spoke first and I sat there trembling with tears. A fellow dean and friend also attended and he, like a true Gemini, tried to lure me onto the dancefloor for one of the newer line dances I don’t know and I – unlike a true Gemini – refused on merit of self-preservation. I did, however, buy $40 worth of auction tickets and Todd and I deposited them in various bags and won – NOTHING. Typical.

Opac came home for fall break – Todd picked him up and he was already gone by the time I’d gotten home from work. He couldn’t wait to drive the Mustang again. But he did pop home around 9pm between visiting friends to see me and gave me the biggest hug. God, I love him!

The next night we had friends visiting from out of town and went out to dinner and then hung by the fire pit for the rest of the night. O came home around 11 and sat with us for a while, entertained by Greg and his whiskey-fueled musings. I don’t know what time “we” called it a night but the next morning Leila told me she yelled at Greg for being so loud at 3 a.m. and he said someone was a real pool shark, which prompted me to say – wait, WHO is a pool shark? And Greg said, Todd. The two of them were playing pool until 3 0’clock in the morning. Apparently very loudly. And I slept through it all.

Sunday was our JDRF fundraiser and I was so proud to have O there with us (V wanted nothing to do with it) – friends and family were there and he got to talk about school and how he’s doing, and I just stood back and took him in. My heart just swells when I look at him. He amazes me and yet he is exactly who he has always been. Yes, I’m gushing. Deal with it.

He spent the night at my mom’s because she offered to drive him back to school the next day, so I had to say goodbye to him in front of everyone and after I hugged him I ran away and burst into tears. I was so not expecting to have that reaction to saying goodbye this time. My heart wanted to explode. WTH is this? This is me. In a nutshell, I have always, always had this separation anxiety that feels like fear. But I refuse to have either of my children feel this.

So the following weekend was Homecoming for V. She got the last hair appointment at the salon that was at EIGHT THIRTY IN THE MORNING for… are you sitting down?… SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS. For a set. And spent the rest of the day trying not to lay her head down. This was $30 more than a wash, cut, and style. I’m shocked and more than a little pissed. I guess I’m too told to know that this is normal for special events, but for lord’s sake, it’s not a gad-dang wedding.

So her girlfriend came over and they got ready together, we took some beautiful pics of them and, on the drive to the school, friend was gushing about some boy from the private school who’s Russian and has an accent and “he’s so pretty.”

I left early to pick them up so I could park close to the building and watch all these girls walking out barefoot in dresses just long enough to cover their underwear. When my two got in the car they told me those girls have “spandex” on underneath, but I still don’t know exactly what “spandex” entails unless it’s just shorts. Nevertheless, WAY too much skin showing and now I know I sound old. I will take comfort that one day they too will know the betrayal of middle age.

Oh! And there’s this “new dance” called “grinding.” I had to laugh because it’s so NOT NEW and to V I said, you know that Prince was singing about this in the 80s, right? They were chatting in the backseat about who was doing it and, “did you do it?” “No! I didn’t do it.” “It’s disgusting.” And I’m still wondering how those other girls were doing it in those shirts disguised as dresses. Oh right – spandex.

The day after, V went to another friend’s house for a birthday party. I went to the door with her to talk to the parents and I mistook mom for V’s friend when she opened the door and then I really felt old. I swear they’re making parents younger and younger these days.

So last weekend – the highlight of October thus far – was a long-awaited concert with Dennis DeYoung. We got the tickets during a PBS fundraiser one cold winter night by the fire with a bottle of wine, with a meet-and-greet attached. It was held in an old, small, historic venue about an hour and half from us, and we were front row and center. It was awesome. His band was great – the lead singer, August Zadra, a perfect blend of Dennis’ voice and Tommy Shaw’s. He and guitarist Jimmy Leahey were amazing and they were having so much fun up there it was impossible not to smile back and by the end my cheeks were sore.

Dennis is the consummate and most gracious host. And funny. He asked who in the audience was seeing him live for the first time. I raised my hand. And then he fired back at the crowd, well what the hell have you all been waiting for? I’m 72 years old for God’s sake. And then, what? You said to each other, we better go see that guy before he dies, right? And we all laughed. He’s still got it and you know how some long-time rockers’ voices have altered with age? Not his. It’s the same, perfect voice that sang in the darkness of a 7th grade dance long ago.

And we were surrounded by old people. Well, not really, but the average age was easily 55. I was in line for the bathroom before the show, a line about 30 women long so I was texting Todd who was waiting downstairs. Are we really this old? He said, they’re old. We’re not. But, we blend, I said.

But we’re not all old. A woman in one of the stalls: Does anyone see a tampon machine out there? A collective “no.” And then, Can you guess what my next question is?

I do, I said. Because I have these things in every purse I carry, because – middle age. You never know when the body is next going to fuck with you, because middle age is a bitch with a ruthless sense of humor. I agreed to play along once I realized this was a one-way street, so I come prepared in most cases.

After the show we lined up with all the other fossils in the VIP section for pictures with Dennis, who was flanked by his wife of 50 years (Suzanne sings backup) and his lead singer – interesting, we assumed so no one can get too close to him. Dennis said to Todd, you were in the front row. And Todd thought that was cool that he noticed, and I really think it was because he was the only one holding up his phone for two hours (after Dennis, during the concert, remarked about getting away from technology and current shitstorm for a night). Then he asked if we got sprayed with sweat/spit in the front row, and I said, only a little, which was my way of joking but no one really laughed so now I’m wondering if they thought I was serious and now I’m feeling bad.

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Copyright Taraka and The Tara Chronicles, 2019.

The rest of the weekend was sort of anticlimactic – I got up after 5 hours of sleep to do the neighborhood yard sale and, after making exactly 25 cents in the first hour, declared it a waste I’ll never do again. Meanwhile Todd, who was carrying random shit out during the sale, made $10 and a new friend in a half hour.

I leave you with the lyrics to this song recorded by Dennis DeYoung in 1980 and that in-the-moment, nearly-40-years-later revelation of how its timelessness resonates today. (Thank you Dennis.)

Tonight’s the night we’ll make history, honey, you and I
And I’ll take any risk to tie back the hands of time
And stay with you here tonight
I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it’s true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it it’s the end of Paradise
But I know, if the world just passed us by
Baby I know, you wouldn’t have to cry
The best of times are when I’m alone with you
Some rain some shine, we’ll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We’ll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we’ll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
The headlines read ‘these are the worst of times’
I do believe it’s true
I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back Paradise
But I know, if the world turned upside down
Baby, I know you’d always be around
The best of times are when I’m alone with you
Some rain some shine, we’ll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We’ll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we’ll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
And so my friends we’ll say goodnight
For time has claimed it’s prize
But tonight will always last
As long as we keep alive memories of Paradise…
Source: Musixmatch

College Boy, High School Girl

It’s been 35 days, or 5 weeks. It already seems like forever. He checks in regularly – at least insofar as I hear from him every few days but not in a predictable way.

He has an on-campus job in, of all things, GROUNDS KEEPING. This is the same kid who mowed the lawn here no more than, twice.  He’s never weed-wacked anything. He doesn’t weed. And, he will be the one getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to clear snow from the sidewalks while everyone else is still sleeping. (To his credit, he has done this at home, though not before noon.)

He’s being courted by a fraternity and asked my thoughts on it. This has actually been an ongoing conversation. Todd, never “that” type of guy, didn’t even consider joining one. The “Dad,” who never even went to college, thinks it’s stupid. And then there’s me.

I do belong to a national sorority. It was a no-brainer for me, at a small college where I started – where nearly everyone went Greek. I explained to him my reservations about him pledging from a mother’s perspective, given all the media attention to bad behavior and some recent deaths in fraternities attributed to hazing. I explained that while you’re pledging, they essentially “own” your time – if a brother calls you up and says get over here and clean my toilet, you damn well better get over there. Make sure these are good guys. Make sure they share the same values. (Turns out he already learned all this on his own by asking them questions.)

They like him and really want him to join. Of COURSE they do. I reminded him about how intoxicating it is to be pursued by someone. He reminds them of an alum, he said, and told me he was blown away when he saw a picture.*

I mentioned more practical considerations, like financial and time commitment. And then I launched into all the good things. The camaraderie, support, having purpose through philanthropy, and of course the fun. How these men will be his brothers for life. Thirty years later, and I would trust my sisters with my life. No reservations. But I made sure to emphasize that it’s not the only choice, and it’s certainly not for everyone. (See? The Gemini speaks.)

He’s tasted alcohol. He’s been babysitter to his puking roommate, in a bathroom for two hours, the details such as vomit everywhere and calling for backup he left out but shared with his dad. This is the same kid who bolted out of the room like his ass was on fire when his sister went all exorcist at the other end of the couch. He doesn’t have the “stomach” for it, all the more notable since he never left his roommate’s side.

And, he is his mother’s son. Vodka straight is not what I’d recommend, and yet that is how he prefers it. Jeezus lord – I told him to mix it with something and make sure he’s guzzling plenty of water too. He said he does drink a lot of water. He’s had Jack Daniels. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Although he says beer still tastes like piss, which is par for the college course.

He’s trying to ignore hometown drama. Some of his friends here have accused him of being “too good” since he’s in college now, and it pisses him off. He acknowledged that they miss him and might be feeling abandoned because he’s not coming home on weekends, but they’re being ignorant about it. He consistently amazes me with his ability to see things and yet remain steadfast to his goals.

Academically, he’s doing fine. Learning how to manage his time, after saving all his homework and then spending ten hours on a Sunday. He called me on Monday to bitch about Spanish, how it’s total bullshit and I don’t want to take [expletive] classes that have nothing to do with my major. Haven’t we all felt that way? But in life, my love, there are things you’re going to have to do to achieve your goals. And sometimes in a JOB, you’re going to have to do things you really don’t want to do.

I saw him three weeks ago, because he needed his SS card to start his job and I had it. I realize that it was too soon, but it was necessary and I brought him some other things he’d forgotten. Plus, because he’s my baby boy, I brought him chicken from Royal Farms (he can’t get it there) and some Otterbein’s cookies.

What a thrill to sit across a table from him and see him. He had so much to share and he will never know how good it felt to be with him, even for an hour. It took all of my self-restraint not to reach out and grab him. I said, let me just look at you for a minute, before he got out of the car. He said, Mom, I’m fine. I think he thought I was going to cry. I totally wasn’t. I was fine. And I was ready for me to leave too.

~~~~~

High school is underway and in full force at day 24 … she’s got upperclassmen friends and plans for Homecoming. She got off the bus one day, talking-shouting at me about what kind of dress she needs for Homecoming and how she wants to get her hair done. The dress is already purchased and is hanging in the closet, picture day is tomorrow, and the yearbook email has arrived with the “lowest price ever” of $60. Which, seriously, IS the lowest I’ve seen in 5 years. O’s was $90. Good God, this girl is going to cost me a fortune.

She’s compared the Homecoming dress to the Prom dress and how they are NOT the same, and all I’m thinking is I sincerely hope no one asks her to the prom this year. She’s hoping someone will ask her to homecoming but that’s unlikely since she shot the poor kid down last year and I can’t even believe I’m talking about this because she’s only 14 and why do we have to live in drama all the time?

She’s got to be the most opinionated teenage girl ever. She knows Everything. Including stuff she doesn’t know but insists she does anyway. It’s maddening. Where did she learn to be so judge-y?? Oh wait – that apple didn’t fall far from the tree either. Not THIS tree, THAT tree. This one’s shorts are too short, that one is rude, [pick any random person] is wrong-wrong-wrong, O shouldn’t be drinking, his roommate is a bad influence, so-and-so doesn’t manage her diabetes very well, why are you having wine again?

Academics – in the midst of all the teenage noise – are going well for her so far. She continued Chinese studies for the first week – whined about how hard it was this year and how terrible the teacher was, and marched her tiny ass down to the guidance counselor and requested and was transferred to Spanish 1. At least she channels some of her moxie for useful things.

I am impressed and proud of how she has transitioned to young adulthood in the last several weeks. She manages her homework without being monitored, she gets herself up in the morning and is ready to go, and – the biggest one of all – she is managing her diabetes all by herself. She is changing her pump sets out By Herself. Completely. I am  mostly a spectator, and a constant nag to fill in her logbook (a work in progress).

How am I doing? These have been dreaded milestones for years – but I am feeling stable and not emotional about it. I’m not feeling the sadness in missing O. Probably because I’m constantly distracted by V’s whiplash brand of in-your-face moods, judgements, and admonitions.

Someone send me a forbidden cocktail.

 

*Being a bit nosy myself, I googled the fraternity and his college and found a pic of a group of guys and – as I looked closely – there he was. The alum who resembles O, and goddamn it IS uncanny.

 

 

To Veruca, On Love

*Update: After posting, I realized there was something else to say. See at end of post.*

It took me a very long time to see love without rose-colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong – love is, as Shakespeare said, a many-splendored thing. I was enamored with love long before it was returned.

I liked a LOT of boys. I ended up “going with” (what we called it in middle school) two that I previously had zero awareness of before I heard they liked me. Lesson in caution: when a boy you’ve hardly noticed turns up in pursuit of you – proceed with caution. Not that you can’t fall in love with him, but it can be fairly intoxicating to be adored by someone.

To that end, beware the boy who pursues you when you’re already involved with someone else. It is one thing to love someone from afar, respecting the relationship you have with another, and it is quite another to make plain to everyone who will listen that he wants to be with you. Further, strategically placing himself where he is most likely to see you, and you him, fermenting a possible triangle which I assure you will not end well (see aforementioned “intoxication” above). If he doesn’t respect your relationship with another, how will he respect any he might have with you?

Leaving one boy for another is quite common and, even if you disguise it with a need to exit a “bad situation,” you have barely enough time to breathe and/or heal the wounds of the previous while you’re embarking on the next. Also guaranteed not to end well.

If you’re just leaving because boy #2 looks way better than boy #1, STILL. Give yourself time. You can’t recognize true love if you keep jumping from one pond to another without time to reflect.

Relationships that are always full of drama are not “real love.” If “we’re always fighting” is part of your relationship, it’s not a healthy relationship. And it doesn’t matter who is bringing the drama. If it’s him, it’s not good. If it’s you, you need to stop and take a good hard look at why. You will benefit and grow from an introspective look at yourself.

Your first real love may very well be the love that will define your expectations for every love that follows, good or bad. Or not. Not everyone’s first love is life-altering. But many first loves will lay the groundwork for every relationship you ever have, and you may subconsciously measure every subsequent relationship against that first, intense love. You may chase every relationship you have, unknowingly trying to recapture the same feelings, emotions, and physical reactions. No matter what, no matter how tempting, be aware – not to mold every relationship into the one that was your foundation. You will fail.

Instead, learn from that first love. Learn how it feels to be loved. Learn how you felt to give love. Learn how it felt to be treated by this person. Did you feel good, or did you feel uneasy? What characteristics did he have that you valued? Which would you choose to avoid? Learn how it felt when that love ended. Were you amicable? Was it ugly? How did you conduct yourself? Did you give yourself enough time to reflect and heal? (These are all relevant questions in every relationship.)

Beware the Rebound. The “rebound” is a relationship you find yourself in soon after a breakup. This person makes you feel good when you’ve been really sad and down. That’s great. Except, it’s not love. (See the aforementioned “intoxication.”) Which also means, you’ve had no time to heal.

Beware of the exotic. Exotic, as defined in the dictionary, is “of foreign origin or character; not native.” Accents are sexy. What is foreign is sometimes intoxicatingly attractive. What I want you to know is, don’t get stoopid over some guy with a foreign accent. It’s not romantic. He’s not different. He will treat you the same as any other guy you meet, maybe better, or maybe not as well. Just keep perspective and have self-respect. If you don’t, you will drown in that gorgeous Italian accent. Or Latino. Or English. Or Afrikaans. Or some form of  Asian.

Never, Ever, pursue a friend of an ex. If he’s good guy, he won’t go out with you. He may like you, but there’s a guy code (as there is a girl code) and that will preclude any attraction you may have to each other. As it should be. If he doesn’t care that you’re his best friend’s ex, you best be prepared to wonder why and what kind of friend he really is. Either way, if scoring you outranks his friendship with [your ex], that’s a serious character flaw.

Next: Long distance relationships are tough. That’s not to say they can’t work out, but be realistic about this distance and the amount of time apart. And more importantly, what are the boundaries of a long-distance relationship, and what are the guidelines? Be realistic in your expectations, and see how they line up with his.

Don’t give yourself up to someone who won’t commit to you. This can look like not calling you like he said he would to excusing an ex-girlfriend showing up, to blowing off your date, to openly flirting with other girls in front of you. He’s “just not that into you.” And don’t you DARE take that shit personal – it’s his flaw, not yours.

“Bad boys” can be intoxicating themselves – but be prepared to lose your heart and soul to this guy. It’s not going to end well for you if he’s drinking and doing drugs regularly. And – this should go without saying – ANY boy who lays a hand on you is abusive and you need to walk, no – RUN, away fast. “I’m sorry” is a lie you will regret believing. And, while we’re on the subject, verbal abuse IS abuse and no less of a crime.

Now for the icky part and I’ll make it quick: Sex is something you will consider sooner or later. I hope you would come talk to me about it, but you might not and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone, even a long-time boyfriend, pressure you into something you don’t want/aren’t ready for. But know that for you, sharing that will change you forever in ways you won’t understand until you’re much older.

To wrap this up before you’ve had enough – guys with girlfriends are OFF LIMITS. Have respect for yourself (and your fellow woman). And older guys are usually no different than boys your age. They aren’t always wiser or more sophisticated and, let’s face it, if he’s 10 years older that’s just gross.*

Finally, you deserve to be loved and treated with respect and reverence. Expect it and you will get it from those who deserve you, and the rest will fade away. Never, Ever settle for less. Never, ever, settle.

Update: I would be remiss to tell you that when you find someone worthy, love with your whole heart. Do not be afraid to love, or to lose love. Sometimes love doesn’t always end the way you want it to, but that is no reason not to try, when it feels right. You will most definitely not get through life unscathed by love, but to quote another famous writer – Alfred Lord Tennyson –  ” tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It’s all part of the journey, my love, and I will see you through it all.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

                        ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

 

 

*This is actually directly from a comment she once made about older guys. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a 10-year age difference. I’m not against it. I do, however, believe that this difference is felt more acutely and may be harder to overcome, the younger two people are.

 

Remember

The unspeakable has happened. Tuesday morning, while I watched the Today Show with O nursing in my lap, two airplanes were hijacked and deliberately flown into the Twin Towers. I saw the second plane hit live on television, as they were already covering the first crash and all you could see of it was smoke billowing out of the first tower. Then out of the corner of the screen came the second plane, crashing into the other tower with a tremendous flash of light and smoke and orange flame. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were reporting live on the first impact, on the phone with witnesses describing what they saw, when the second impact occurred. It was absolutely unbelievable.

Hundreds of rescue workers, firefighters, and police officers rushed to the scene as people fled the two towers, both aflame as monstrous clouds of smoke filled the air. And, as we continued to watch, one tower and then the other collapsed in what seemed like slow motion in a huge pile of ash and rubble. The streets below were blackened as the sun of what was otherwise a beautiful September morning was snuffed out and replaced with thick smoke and millions of paper and ash fell like gray blizzard. I sat incredulous, my heart pounding, fearful for the city I loved and the thousands who surely lost their lives. Many escaped, but many more lost their lives.

There were cell phone calls from people still trapped in the rubble, begging to be found. I think five or six have been pulled out alive so far – one, a fireman who had made it to the 82nd floor when it collapsed. His survival is an absolute miracle. Another man who was in Tower 2 heard the explosion and saw the smoke from the first tower and heard an announcement that the fire was contained to Tower 1 and they could all return to their offices. He chose to leave Tower 2 anyway.

Many others received calls from loved ones who were trapped, saying they couldn’t get out and that they loved them. Still others were jumping out of windows from top floors, some in pairs and hand-in-hand. Think about that. Imagine jumping out of your second story bedroom window in a fire… what would you break? Would you survive? Now multiply that exponentially… these people jumped from 80+ floors.

News outlets captured that footage. And I cannot imagine what went through those folks’ minds when they made a primal decision. Those news outlets were later criticized for televising the sight, and sound, of bodies hitting cars on the streets below. One newspaper printed a large photo of a man falling head first to his death. There are no words to adequately describe any of this.

Family members of passengers on the two hijacked planes received calls saying goodbye, before they were cut off. There were two other hijacked planes – one crashed into the Pentagon and the other crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Apparently the passengers on that plane, having heard from loved ones on the ground about the previous crashes, tried to overcome the terrorists, thus ending in a fiery crash in PA. Government officials are certain the intended target was the White House.

This is the single most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. It has been compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor. I’ve cried intermittently when O was sleeping or otherwise engaged; it’s all so scary and so unbelievable, and we’re all wondering what’s next? The Twin Towers that defined the New York City skyline, the towers I looked to on my way into the Holland Tunnel as I arrived for school or some other excursion, are gone. Our sense of security – shattered.

All of television is covering these events, engraving the images of horror and destruction into my mind. As I watch my infant son sleeping peacefully on my lap, I am grateful for now that he is too young and oblivious to this attack on America that has halted ALL air traffic in the United States. That night I held him close to me in the darkness of my bedroom, staring at the stars in the eerily quiet night sky, the news drifting to my ears from the TV in the living room. Outside, on the balcony, I hear… nothing. Nothing at all breaks the impossible, deafening silence of the night.

We have not had a reprieve from the constant images. It’s been steady and continuous for 52 hours now. The downtown looks like a war zone. The Stock Exchange is closed. All national sporting events have been postponed. The city itself was shut down Tuesday in the aftermath – no one was getting in or out. The bridges and tunnels were closed in both directions and all rail service, above and below ground, was halted. Thousands of people walked home to Brooklyn and Queens, over the bridges, on foot.

Locally, the King of Prussia Mall was closed and security was tightened at “the highest level” at all nuclear power plants – including our own Limerick generating station, which is scary because we’re less than 15 minutes away.

A third building collapsed – 7 World Trade Center – due to damage from the Twin Towers and uncontrolled fires. Two others are reported to be in danger of collapse.

Friday morning

Raining. Rescuers and volunteers continue to work around the clock, searching inch-by-excruciating-inch for survivors, as they uncover bodies and in some cases only parts of bodies. The rain has turned the rubble into something like the consistency of oatmeal, or quicksand, complicating efforts. We continue to be bombarded non-stop by images of the attacks, the aftermath, and of family members fearfully clutching photos of loved ones they haven’t heard from since Tuesday morning. It’s painful to watch, devastating to behold. Estimates have 4,763 missing.

The news outlets continue to dominate the airwaves, alternating back and forth between local and national anchors, with absolutely no other news unrelated to the terrorist attacks. There have been NO COMMERCIALS – at all – since Tuesday morning before this tragedy. No other programming.

No one has come forward to claim responsibility and, though he has categorically denied any involvement, Osama bin Laden has applauded the acts. Afghanistan, whose citizens were captured on video celebrating the mass destruction, is known to harbor terrorists including bin Laden. This is beginning to sound like the dawn of a new war.

I am frightened. I am angry. I laid down beside my son and watched him sleep, feeling helpless that I could neither explain to him nor protect him from any of this happening again. How can I? It’s scary to think of another war – afraid to watch my son grow up in a world full of such chaos and uncertainty. Afraid of losing friends, family, even myself. How do we move forward after this?

 

2,974 victims died in the initial attacks. More than 1,400 rescue workers have since died from cancers and other conditions caused by the aforementioned exposure to toxins in the dust (asbestos, lead, mercury) from the collapsed buildings.

No one survived at or above the impact in the North Tower – 1,402 people. In the South Tower, 614 died at/above the level of impact; 18 survived by using stairwell A.

125 died at the Pentagon.

245 died on the four airplanes (not counting the hijackers).