Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy birthday to my best friend


My mom would have turned 60 today. She is in my head every day, but a much younger version. So I can only imagine what she would look like at this point: I imagine her sparkling green eyes have a few more wrinkles around them -- laugh lines, of course, similar to the lines that accentuate her smile. She's still trying to find the perfect shade of strawberry blond to cover those stubborn streaks of white above her ears; sometimes her hair is a little too blond, sometimes a little too red. She still obsesses about her chin and her pot belly. Her long, thin arms and legs are a touch more suntanned than ever before from all the time spent gardening and playing on the beach with her grandson. She'd be retired now, after all, with more time to spend in her beloved outdoors -- but I'm sure she'd still be teaching here and there, maybe volunteering in an after-school program for gifted kids or tutoring adults who need reading help. She'd stay busy. Could never sitting still, my mom.

Even though I've been out of the house for over 10 years now, I'd still call her every few nights, just to tell her about my day or to laugh about something silly Sweet Boy said. Sometimes I'd call to bitch about work or to gripe about something dumb my husband said or to whine about the latest frustrating kid behavior. She'd tell me to suck it up, to stop complaining, to look around at the beauty and wonder that is my life. And she'd be right, and I'd feel better just having gotten it off my mind.

We'd get together for girl time every now and then, go out for drinks and live music, like we did that summer I got my fake ID. She loved my fake ID. And in hindsight, it's good I had it, because she died right around the time I was breaking in the real one. In summer we'd drink white wine together on my deck, like girlfriends, and we'd watch our men chase fireflies with Sweet Boy. She'd be teasing my dad in her odd, biting way; humor was not really her strong point, but after 35 years with Dad, her sense for sarcasm has finally tuned up a touch.

Sixty looks good on Mom in my mind. She's happy, relaxed, peaceful. She's finally able to enjoy some of her hard-earned money, instead of constantly scraping and sacrificing for new shoes for her kids or summer camps or college bills. Mom and Dad have been to Europe more than once since retiring, and they're planning that Alaska trip. It's so nice to see them with time to spend together. So much time.

I won't dwell today on how much I miss her. Sometimes I feel as if the hole in my middle is visible to the entire world. I've waited 12 years for that hole to heal, to close up even just a tiny bit, but I realize now it never will; it's part of who I am. But the bigger part of me is full from the 21 years I got to spend with my mom. I do think about her every day, sometimes with sadness, sometimes with anger, sometimes with curiosity. But today I'll think of her with happiness and gratitude. Today I'll sing happy birthday to my mom. I'll eat a cupcake in her honor, I'll drink that glass of white wine on my deck. I will celebrate her memory.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Waiter, there's an f-bomb in my soup!

I know you've been here before: You're sitting at a family-friendly eatery with your child, or maybe even with your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, enjoying a nice little meal when the bozo at the table next to you starts spouting out obscenities. He's dropping f-bombs left and right...every sentence contains at least one (because let's face it, it's a highly versatile word), like it's, oh, bunny or very or pretty.

So you give him a look. You know the one: the passive-aggressive "hey, buddy, knock it off, my kid's right here" look. But he doesn't get it. Why would he? This is how he speaks, after all. Why would he notice you and your wide-eyed 4-year-old sitting to his left? So you try to talk louder to your child so as to distract yourself and your partner from the foulmouthed fool. "How's that quesadilla, love? Isn't it good?!" -- and your child looks at you with confusion because he doesn't understand why you're yelling at him.

But Mr. Potty-Mouth keeps going. The f-bombs now flow forth with more colorful expletives (which I won't print here because this is a family blog, but you can guess), and he's getting more vociferous and animated. ESPN is on the television (why do we need televisions in restaurants? is your food that bad that we need the distraction?), and he's all fired up about some pitcher's poor performance. So you shoot another look, this time followed by a curt "excuse me!"

Yet, he doesn't get it. His friends do; they've asked him to tone it down. But he's still going...louder and bigger F's flying. Finally you hear this spew: "This f-ing guy is so f-ing oblivious...what an f-ing douche!" That's your limit. You look at him and say "Yes, some guys are really oblivious. Could you please watch your language?" His friend says, "dude, there's a kid..."

To which The Effer mutters under his breath, "F-ing bitch."

And this is when it's really nice to be 6-2 with ridiculously broad shoulders and eyebrows that you can arch a tiny bit menacingly. Even though your blood is really boiling now -- he did not just call me an effing bitch!!! -- you simply stand up, cross your arms, and say "Excuse me? What did you say?" (In your very best Mom voice, of course.)

The Bad Man leaves, sheepishly, and goodness and innocence is returned to the land. I mean, really -- if your kid is going to learn how to use the f-word, wouldn't you rather he learn it from you?