Thursday, December 24, 2015

Delaney Talks to Statues

#TBT- For Throwback Thursday I had to repost this essay, written in 2007. Heather recently posted a couple of pictures of Delaney as she approaches her 12th birthday, but she looks like she's approaching her 16th birthday! She is growing with poise and confidence into a lovely young lady.  She now has two younger sisters who I suspect will give their parents an equal amount of gray hair and worry lines! 

Weeks and weeks of work, stress and exhaustion led me to the Panera in Marlborough, Massachusetts last Friday. I was making a fast getaway to Maine and the island’s cool water and fresh air to break the exhausting cycle I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t have stopped at all, but my friend Heather lived close to 495, so I figured I could spare a few minutes to find out how she was doing in her new job, new home, new life. I don’t stop for much in my exodus--bathroom breaks, gas tank fill-ups at the cheap gas station at Exit 39, maybe food at the Hannaford’s--but little else. Heather even did me the favor of meeting me on the road so I wouldn’t have to take too long a break from my trip. So Panera it was.

I arrived at the agreed upon time, having synchronized our schedule by cell phone from the Mass Pike. Mother-of-a-three-year-old Heather arrived around 10 minutes late, walking in from the rainy parking lot hand in hand with Delaney, in matching yellow slickers and a stuffed blue back pack. Mothers of three-year-olds don’t travel light. I had already gotten my fruit cup and coffee and found a place to sit--a table with a booth seat for Delaney, knowing as I do, that children can’t sit and be comfortable in a hard chair while their mothers sit, drink coffee and chat with their friends. I envisioned an hour of catching up, relating the latest work news (gossip) and then wrapping up and getting back on the road for the rest of my steering-wheel gripping drive to respite from the latest storm.

Funny how plans change.

Delaney needed to bring her watering can, said Heather plopping down the blue and orange plastic toy.  She also unloaded, from the vast contents of the big blue backpack, paper and markers for Delaney as she sat and eyed me from her seat on the bench. She hadn’t seen me since June, so she was naturally apprehensive, especially when Mommy left to fetch a muffin. I chatted up Delaney about her markers and asked her which color was her favorite. “This one,” she said, indicating the pink one with which she was coloring. And by coloring I mean dragging the pink marker back and forth across the blank sheet of copy paper. “It’s a sled!” she told me and pulled out the next blank canvas. Heather came back with the muffin, water, a scone, a soda, several napkins, a plastic knife and a straw and cut the muffin up in quarters for Delaney. But Delaney wanted the scone and she grabbed half of it in her hand and by turns munched on it and crumbled it into her lap. Heather graciously asked me about me about the program which I had just wound up--the cause of the enormous stress I had been under. I began the narration of the program’s challenges and although it had been difficult, it was also the program that had brought me the most...
“Mommy, color with me!” erupted Delaney, now glued to Heather’s side and eyeing me somewhat suspiciously. Heather barely broke stride and picked up the green marker and began drawing a curved rectangle and colored it in.
“...rewarding experience as the kids who came were awesome,” I finished up, happily remembering what I had been saying.

And so it went. Delaney warmed up to me a little and Heather’s and my conversation was punctuated with “Mommy!” with several bits of information like, “Mom-mom takes her coffee with milk and NO SUGAR!” and “Mommy! I have to go potty”, “Mommy! remember that mean girl who took my wagon?”

And then, “Cindy! I have a rock in my crayons!” and “Look, Cindy, I have new hair!” as she stood and wound Heather’s long brown hair over her own silky blonde and “Mommy! I have a great idea! Cindy can come to my house and you and Daddy can go to work!”  

Soon, I began responding more to Delaney’s comments and conversation and less and less to Heather’s. Delaney’s non-stop observations about her world wove in and out of any complete sentences that Heather and I managed to get out. As we were drawing, because now we all had a white sheet of copy paper in front of us with an assortment of markers and now crayons from a tin lunchbox, I found out that Delaney’s house was mere miles from where we sat at Panera. Because we drew a map. So I drew a picture of the mountains and lake where I was going. And Heather drew a rainbow, because truth be told – Delaney’s favorite color is all of them.

Heather and I did actually get to catch up on new jobs and old jobs, Harry Potter and friends and family. And an hour and forty-five minutes after they arrived, we started repacking the big blue backpack. Yellow slickers went back on, and we walked outside and said our goodbyes while Delaney splashed in a wide puddle next to my car. Tiny pink cargo pants were now soaked to the knees. Heather said, “I guess someone will need to change their clothes when we get home!” and smiled at me. I guiltily realized how much easier it would have been for Heather if she didn’t have to get Delaney dressed and suited up for the rain, anticipate the necessary entertainment for sitting at a coffee shop for an hour and managing it all out the door on time--if I had just driven the extra 3 miles and come to them. And even as I realized this, sitting back in my car and starting the ignition, I thought that if we had been at their house, I might not have had the pleasure of Delaney’s proximity for almost two full hours. Or sat across from the light of her bright blue eyes and her adorable little smile--which was a constant--except when she was deep in thought coloring. Before I backed out of the parking space and headed toward the exit and the rest of my trip, I placed my drawings, one from Heather and one from Delaney, beside me on the seat. My hands were not gripping the steering wheel and I was smiling.

(The title refers to a Jimmy Buffett song of the same name.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Blue Christmas

The holidays can be difficult...

For some reason, December has knocked me a little off center this year. Although I can usually be counted on to be pretty positive about winter, the holidays, trees in the house, this year I am definitely feeling more Scrooge-ish than George Bailey-ish. (At the end of the movie, not the middle.) It certainly has to do with some of the family issues that have occurred this year: my Dad’s coma and rehabilitation and my sister’s cancer surgery to name just the medical ones.  My dad and sister have the burden of fighting for their health, but the residual effects on me manifest as stress. It’s possible I am approaching burn-out in my day job; the parents with whom I work seem more desperate and vindictive, the children more traumatized and distressed. December rounded the corner like a ton of bricks and we’re only a few days in.

I’ve had a house-full, too. Annie and her little family have been with us for over a year and just this weekend, they are moving into their own home. Which is good . . . and bad. It is good because they need to be in their own place and it will give Angelo and me the chance to do all the things we used to do when there wasn’t an audience. Nothing really sexy or adventurous; the most risqué behavior we engaged in was to walk to the bathroom naked and the most daring we got was to leave dishes in the sink overnight.  The bad part is that Angelo and I got really used to having Luca around on a daily basis. To say that we will miss him is to understate the loss we will undoubtedly feel when he’s gone.  They’re not going far, just down the road to the next town, but it won’t be the same. And that’s a little, you know, horrible. But we’ll help them pack and smile as we wave good-bye.

Dreading December and not looking forward to Christmas is such a foreign feeling for me that it makes me feel bad. Usually, I am not worried about feeling bad, because I can usually rouse myself out of it. It's the timing that is a little worrying. It's Christmas, for Pete's sake. Am I getting depressed? What’s next? Am I going to don a black veil and throw roasted chestnuts at small children on my street? Shutter my windows instead of putting the obligatory single lit candle in each one? Buy a bucket of coal? Cry?

I could just settle down for a minute. Stress is stress . . . even the good kind. With every ten emails shouting out the latest deals for last minute presents is one that suggests taking care of “YOU” during the holidays. Which doesn’t make any sense at all, because when you’re stressed and overwhelmed and likely to smash one of the Lenox china dishes that your husband salvaged from his first marriage rather than read one more Groupon for a time-limited offer, the suggestion to “just relax!” will simply invoke rage.  The holidays are tough, if not for you personally, probably for someone you know. Yes, yes, right now it’s me, but you get the drift.  It’s probably good for me to go through this feeling: the dread of holiday expectations and barely mustered cheerful behavior. My typical Christmas demeanor is usually about halfway between Will Farrel’s Elf and The Grinch, but I could go up or down the scale a few notches when necessary.

When the holidays make life difficult for people, I think two things happen: the sufferers wish they didn't have to slap a happy grin on their face and others fret about how to handle including them in holiday activities. There is no easy middle ground for this and I suspect some find it easier to avoid dealing with it.  Does your friend or relative who grapples with holiday malaise really want to be invited or don't they? Should you call? Will they answer? Will my gifts arrive on time? Do I have to eat fruitcake?

Dealing with this bout of gloominess isn’t much fun. I feel like I’m looking through department store windows all decked out with sparkly lights and cotton snow . . .  I know I should feel excited and happy, but right now, I don’t. This will eventually evolve into other, more manageable feelings. For example, in more positive news, my book is still bumping along, albeit lethargically. Everything having to do with it is wonderful; meeting people, visiting new bookstores, making a few bucks.  I appeared in a play that nearly sold out last weekend and that was a surprisingly fantastic experience.  Especially because the cast and crew consisted of 19 women and there was no bitchiness or diva behavior.  There's a lot going on and apparently I can’t help but overload my plate, both figuratively and literally. (And that’s a Thanksgiving weight-gain reference.) 

Who knows? I might even get those candles in the windows and get some Christmas shopping done before the 24th. If I run into someone who doesn’t look like tinsel personified, I won’t  throw eggnog at them to “cheer” them up. Hmm...maybe I’m on to something here.  I actually feel kind of good about it.

Oh, damn. A Christmas miracle.