Saturday, August 28, 2010

Talk about being pissed off

Dear cats,

Look, I know you don't like the new cat litter I bought because it was on sale. I don't like it either. I don't know who thought it would be a brilliant idea to create a type of litter that smells of cat pee even when it's fresh out of its plastic jug, but someone did, and I bought it and brought it home, and now we all just have to live with it for another week until I can buy some more. Okay? Okay.

Also, I think you're both making entirely too much fuss about this. I have visited public restrooms that made your litter box smell like a field of roses drenched in essence of vanilla and topped with chocolate sprinkles, and do you think I responded by peeing on the restroom floor in protest? No! I sucked it up and went where I was supposed to go, and you can too. So quit being such drama queens, because if I find another puddle of cold, stale pee outside the litter box between now and next Friday, I swear I will not be responsible for my actions.


Not Quite a Crazy Cat Lady Yet

Friday, August 27, 2010


10 a.m. - G has a dentist appointment because a loose baby tooth has started breaking and coming out in pieces. In the waiting room, women in khakis and T-shirts, each with two or three little kids in tow, look askance at me in my work clothes with a gangly teenage-looking girl who appears years too old to be visiting "Dr. Sarah's Jungle of Smiles," even though she really isn't. After a few minutes, we're called to the back, where our kind and lovely dentist determines that the baby tooth has sat in G's mouth so long past its time that it's basically a hollow shell; also that the gum has started growing up around it. I pay her $60 to pull it out with a massive pair of pliers, and then we leave.

12 p.m. - I arrive at P's mother's house to drop G off with his aunt, who also lives there and is supposed to be keeping her for the afternoon. Auntie isn't there (later, I find out she had to go to jury duty), but Auntie's husband is, and looks startled by our sudden appearance. No one told him we were coming. Argh! I ask him if he's going to be home for a few hours and he says he is, so I say, "Well, I've got to go to work, she's already had lunch, you'll hardly know she's here, see-you-later-bye" and flee, feeling a little guilty about imposing on him. But only a little.

1-4 p.m. - My shoes, which I've owned for at least five years and which have never hurt before, begin to rub a blister on my left foot that ends up requiring a Band-Aid.

5 p.m. I pick G up again, and we go out to dinner because it's hot and I have no desire to cook anything. The restaurant we go to offers make-your-own s'mores, which I almost never let G get, but I figure after the morning's dental trauma and her afternoon of boredom, she deserves a treat. We're sitting there talking and toasting marshmallows when the tabletop fire pit spits a spark directly into my eye. If you've never had a spark in your eye, here's a bit of advice: Don't. It will sting and burn and make your eye water like a spigot, until your other eye finally starts to water in sympathy and you think you've gone blind, which is not a good finish to any meal.

7 p.m. At home, I enjoy my only triumph of the day when I successfully install a new toilet seat in my bathroom. I may have a blister on my foot and a second-degree burn on my eyeball, but I am aces with a screwdriver. Maybe tomorrow I'll take the hinges off all the cupboard doors, just because I can.

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Call the police, there's a madman around

We're in the car, and I'm torturing G by not only playing, but also singing along to, the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" ...

G: Oh my GAWD, do we have to listen to this?
Me: This is classic stuff. Classic! Pure 1986!
G: It's not 1986.
Me: Well, think of this as me giving you an education in great music from the past.
G: Aargh ...
G: This is so embarrassing.
Me: See, look at the sticker on that car in front of us, waiting to turn. The Sisters of Mercy. That's another fine eighties band.


Me: Of course, you're probably thinking that this just means we're behind a car driven by old people.
G: You read my mind.

First of the lasts

Tonight, as I was working on G's back-to-school forms, I realized that this is the last time I will ever do paperwork for elementary school. Next year she'll be in seventh grade, and while I'm sure there will still be a shedload of forms to fill in, they won't be for this school, the only school she's ever attended. It's the end of an era, or at least the beginning of the end.

Filling in this final round of elementary-school forms also represents the completion of a goal for me. I was determined from the beginning that G should have a stable, consistent school experience: by the time I reached sixth grade, I'd been to seven schools in five states, and while in retrospect I probably did get something out of all that diversity (if nothing else, I know that in Louisiana the cafeteria serves red beans and rice, and in New Jersey it serves shepherd's pie), when I was in the middle of it, it felt like endless chaos and upheaval. Just as I'd start to settle into a school, make some friends and feel as if I belonged, we'd move and I'd have to start all over. I remember begging and pleading to stay in certain places, but there was nothing my parents could do about it; we had to go, and so we went.

In contrast, G has grown up in the community of a single school, knowing what to expect each year from the kindergarten play to the third-grade bell choir to the sixth-grade chicken-mummifying experience, and I think it's been a calm center for her at times when other parts of her life haven't been as calm as I would have liked. I don't know if it'll have an enduring positive effect on her, but at least I know I've done everything I can.

Friday, August 20, 2010


G (flopping down on my bed) My legs hurt. Will you pull them for me?
Me: Sure. (pulling) It's no wonder your legs hurt. Grammy told me you spent so much time lying around at her house, she thought your muscles were going to atrophy. Do you know what "atrophy" is?
G: Not at all.
Me: It's when you don't use your muscles enough and they shrivel up.
G: Ew.
Me: And there you were at Grammy's without your regular leg-puller. (pause) So, did you miss me while you were there?
G: Eh.
Me: Not even a little bit?
G: Eh.
Me: Not even a molecule? Not even an infinitesimal particle?
G: Maybe less than that.
Me (pouncing on her): Yes you did! You totally missed me! Because you love me!
G (laughing): Ack!
Me (squeezing her and kissing the top of her head): You LOVE me! You LUUUUURRRRVE me! When you saw me, you wanted to yell "MOMMY!" but you didn't because it wouldn't be cool.
G (still laughing): You're crazy!

Yep. That's what makes me so much fun. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me, myself and I

Things I have learned this week:

1.  It takes me four and a half days to generate enough trash to fill the kitchen can.
2.  It takes half a day less than that to fill the dishwasher.
3.  Filling the dishwasher would have taken longer if I hadn't used the big mixing bowl.
4.  If I lived alone, it would be weeks before I ran out of clean forks and spoons.
5.  Drinking glasses are another story.
6.  I can eat for a long time on $25 worth of groceries.
7.  I talk to the cats when no one else is around.
8.  I'm not as bothered by that as I probably should be.

In case it wasn't obvious, G has been at my mother's house since Sunday. It's the longest she's ever been away from home - her previous record was three days and three nights, also at Grammy's Big Fun Resort for Kids - and at first I put off calling her because I was worried that it might make her homesick.  On Tuesday afternoon, I finally got her on the phone, and when I was about to hang up, I said, "Bye, I love you," and she said  ... wait for it ...

"Yeah, see you later."

At that point, I decided that since she clearly wasn't pining away for me, I might as well enjoy having the rest of the week to myself. (Well, the rest of the week minus the nine hours a day I spend at work.) I read and wrote a lot. I cleaned the house. I took myself to see Inception, which I really enjoyed. I drank Pyramid Audacious Apricot Ale and I ate chocolate-chip cookie ice-cream sandwiches, although not at the same time. It was all quite relaxing.

But relaxing as it's been, I'm looking forward to G coming home tomorrow. I'm an introvert and it's easy for me to spend time on my own - an accident of personality that I sometimes think is almost an unfair advantage, given my situation - but I miss my little girl. She's messy and stubborn and full of tween attitude, she can empty the fridge and cupboards in a matter of hours, and she resists showers with every molecule of her being, but she's also funny and quirky and creative and charming, and I love her to bits and pieces. Thank goodness I've still got seven years until she leaves for college.

P.S. When I talked to her on the phone this evening, I said "I love you" again, and this time she said "I love you" back. She probably won't admit it when I see her, but I know she missed me too.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

High flight

During the school year, when I'm on my way to pick G up after work, I pass a gas station that is also home to a sizable flock of birds. The gas station has a flat roof, and sometimes the birds perch along its edge, or on the power lines just above it. The rest of the time, they fly over the building and the intersection where it sits.

Because of the way the traffic signals are timed, I usually miss the green light and end up waiting there for five or six minutes each evening, which gives me plenty of time to watch the birds in their flight. I don't know how they do it (instinct? nonverbal communication? psychic powers?), but every bird in the flock knows exactly when to take off, when to flap, when to glide, when to land, and how much distance to leave between itself and the next bird. They wheel above that intersection in formation, sharp-edged black V-shapes against the rose and gold of the sunset, and something about them is beautiful enough to break your heart. Maybe it's their precision, or the grace of their turns and dives, or the way they clearly don't care that they live above a paved gas station and a busy, exhaust-choked street, and that no one but me pays any attention to them. They fly the way they're built to fly, the same way they would fly over an ocean or a forest or a mountain, in front of a crowd or without a single witness. And when I watch them for those few minutes, I always think how good it must be to be a bird: to know all on your own, without being told, what you're supposed to do and exactly how to do it; and to spend your days doing that thing.

The older I get, the less I believe that there's a God in the way most people imagine God; in the last few years, I've gone from theist to deist to agnostic, and I don't foresee a reversal of that trend. But if there is some sort of higher power or greater intelligence at work in the universe (which is possible, though not probable), I think you'd find it there, in the space between two birds' wings. I tried to explain this to a friend not long ago, and he just looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I guess you have to see it yourself to understand it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The elusive male figure

Someone asked me recently if G has lots of "male figures" in her life, e.g., uncles and grandfathers and so forth who have taken the place of her dad. I told him the truth, which is that G doesn't really have any male figures in her life at all -- many of her male relatives are out of state or in other countries, and we rarely see the ones who live nearby. P's middle brother does see her about once a month and sometimes takes her shopping or out for frozen yogurt, but as far as regular interaction with men goes, that's it.

However, the other side of the equation is that G doesn't seem to feel the absence of "male figures" in her life, or to have any interest in seeking them out. I've heard that girls whose fathers aren't around will often cling to any man who crosses their path, sometimes inappropriately, but G regards my male friends with suspicion and appears horrified when her friend C's big, bluff, friendly dad tries to tease and joke around with her. I know she remembers P, mostly from reading her school assignments, but I can't see any sign that she misses his presence from day to day*. After four years**, "normal" to her is the two of us together; she likes our life the way it is (that much, she's told me directly), and while she'd probably rather not have to explain her situation every time she meets someone new -- "Yes, I live with just my mom. No, my parents aren't divorced; my dad died." -- I don't think she sees it as lacking anything.

All that said, the fact that people even ask the question makes me wonder if I'm missing something, and G is secretly starving for some sort of male influence. But all I know is that from what I see -- and I spend enough time with her to see a lot -- she is a supremely, almost eerily well-adjusted kid. If you met her in real life, you would never know she'd suffered a loss unless she told you: she has plenty of friends and does well in school and is absolutely brimming with self-esteem that borders on cockiness. She's not the bubbly, outgoing type and tends to be reserved around people she doesn't know well (but once she does know you well and feels comfortable, prepare to have your ear talked off), but she's been that way since long before P died. I think it's just her nature, as it is mine.

I guess if she grows up and starts attaching herself to skeevy boyfriends out of desperation for male approval, I'll know I was wrong and should have hooked her up with a Big Brother. I can't really see her going down that path, though. Even now, she's not very motivated by anyone's approval, be they male or female, adult or kid. She is who she is and she likes what she likes, and she doesn't seem to care much what anyone thinks about it. How she's managed to reach that point in 11 years when it took me almost 30 is a mystery, but one I'm grateful for.

*For me, not a day goes by when I don't think of P (usually more than once), but 95 percent of the time, my "normal" is also just me and G together, and nothing feels awry. I'll go on like that for months, and then I'll suddenly find myself missing P very keenly for a day or two -- not weeping and wailing and falling apart, but wanting to look at photos and read old journal entries to remind myself of what life was like when he was here. Then it passes and I'm back to normal again. It's very strange.

**As she recently pointed out when we were discussing something else, four years is a third of her life. If you look at it that way, four years for her is the equivalent of 13 years for me. That's a long time.