Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sorry Google, Placentas Aren't Sexy

After a couple weeks of not bearing to look, I just checked the stats for this blog site.  To my relief, the traffic from last month’s explosively controversial post has slowed to a modest 30 to 50 views a day, still mostly being shared via social networks and direct email links.  The less controversial posts are only occasionally stumbled upon through misdirected Google searches.  Of course I can’t see who searched these keywords, which is even better.  I appreciate trying to envision who in the world was searching the keywords “tick check sex” or “sexy coyote people.”  To the tick check sex searcher: be thorough, my friend... very thorough.  As for sexy coyote people, while I know a lot about coyotes, and a little about sexy people, I know nothing of the hybrid.  Sorry, that must have been disappointing.  And to the Google machine, I’m flattered that you find my material sexy enough to direct people here who are searching for sexy things.  Google must be a grammar slut, like me.  Nothing more alluring than a perfectly placed modifier, eh?  

I’ve been quiet lately.  Not that I haven’t had thoughts... I’ve had some doozies and even a few notions to expand on them in written form, but I’m currently constructing a placenta, and that has sapped every last drop of motivation, creative or otherwise, that isn’t absolutely required for feeding people at work and home.  Placenta construction is almost complete, and I should be feeling better any minute now.  Sorry if the word placenta is off-putting for anyone, but your mother built one for you, too, and it was hard work for her.  If she never did one single other thing for you, if you never thank her for any other act, thank her for building you a placenta.  I’m going to start a new line of Mother’s Day greeting cards.  In fact, I think it deserves it’s own holiday.  Placenta Recognition Day.  That’s how much work it is.  This is the only part of adding a new member to the family that I feel guilty about.  The first few months.  For three months my body and mind are so entirely consumed by the task at hand that everyone suffers my absence, especially me.  I want to feel like my normal, energetic self.  I really want to, but I don’t.  The mister and kids are sort of filling in for me where they can, taking care of each other and taking over the stuff I usually do for them while I sit in a haze and try not to throw up crackers.  This must be what it’s like to have a mom who is addicted to heroin.  After this, if history is any indicator, comes the cake walk.  The final six months of growing the baby, the having of the baby, the integration of the baby into the already too small house, the teaching everyone to take a step along the line toward increased responsibility... those are the easy days ahead.  

The step along the line is the part I don’t feel at all guilty about.  I’d keep having babies forever just so I could teach each kid that everyone gets a turn being new and being carried around for a few years.  Everyone gets a turn being 3 and watching Sesame Street instead of washing the breakfast dishes because they are learning to read and that is time well spent.  Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s fair.  They will have their turn being 10 and having to help with the housework, too, and when you’re off to college or the Peace Corps or some Vo-Tech in Omaha or whatever, your roommates and friends may or may not know how to do laundry and clean toilets, but you certainly will, so quit whining because that is not getting the job done any faster.  I don’t feel guilty about raising a family who is learning to take care of one another.  I lead by example.  I take good care of these people.  I feed them well, like, really well, and read to them and take them fun places and sit in the bleachers in the sun when it’s 110 degrees outside to cheer for them, and I make sure their lives are lots and lots and lots of fun.  Unless I’m building a placenta.  Then I slack for three months and let them fend for themselves, which they do pretty well.  

Four kids sounds like a lot to me.  Perfect, but a lot.  I feel an increased pressure to raise these children exceptionally well.  I’m teaching them all to hold their breath for a thirty count every six minutes in order to lessen their CO2 output and not hasten the end times.  If I am going to add to the stress and burden of the Earth with this increase in population, it is my obligation to make sure they are responsible stewards.  There is no code for this, no compass that lies anywhere outside each of them.  The good news is that they all came with an innate and unique set of skills, and my simple task is to help them identify and cultivate those.  If I could take a short-cut, I guess I probably would.  But I’d be doing them and myself and the planet a tremendous disservice to just hand them a set of rules and regulations and say to them as a group: this is it, kids, follow this path and you can’t go wrong.  Now get out there and act right!  

Morality is not imposed so much as it is discovered, like faint freckles on each of our faces.  

I need look no further than my own siblings for evidence of that.  We are bound not by a shared philosophy, but by tremendous love for one another, and by a shared experience of childhood.  We formed together.  Also, I might need a kidney someday, so I should be nice to them.  They taught me things I wouldn’t know otherwise, like how to build a paper airplane that will fly straight (older brothers understand the physics of aerodynamics better than most rocket scientists) and how often to change your bra (I can still hear my sister’s voice every time I’m tempted to pull a bra out of the hamper, saying ‘nothing smells worse than a dirty bra,’ which prompts me to toss it back in and wear a less flattering but clean one).  I’m not sure that any more different people ever sprang from the same pool of dna, but we love each other an awful lot, and it’s nice to have people around who I know so intimately, know who they were as children, and who know how wonderful and crazy my parents are.  

I like to imagine the conversations my kids will have about me when I’m not around.  What will they remember about me?  It’s funny to think of the moments of my own childhood that I can recall with perfect clarity.  Parents don’t get to pick those.  You can pack your kids up once a year and haul them to FunVille to make some memories (though mine wisely never did) but what they are going to remember about being 5 might just be sitting in your old red pickup truck next to you on an icy morning while the engine warms, and the steam of your breath in the cab while you finessed the clunky old three-on-a-tree shifter all the way to school.  My dad must be a God to be able to drive this thing...  

Mamas, they won’t remember that you built them a placenta, so you should remind them every time they defy you.  

I realize that it probably appears on paper that we don’t have the resources to provide for this happy little accident... er, surprise... but the further along my path I go, the more I realize that the sum of the waitress and the songwriter, though well below the poverty line, is much greater than it appears, even to me most days.  By the time you’ve factored in the large-ish family inside this 850 square foot house, the enormous family outside of it, the neighborhood that loves and supports us and helps us raise our kids, the art, the music, the friends flung out across the globe, not to mention the network that each of them will make for themselves...  I won’t go on.  I’m not that corny.  I’ll just say that this baby is going to fit in perfectly, even though we have no place to put it.  It is going to sleep in a basket until it is old enough to fight someone for a bed.  

I should warn the three kids who are going to try to defend their space in this small house: before I found out I was pregnant (and before placenta fatigue set in) I had a couple beers and failed a cartwheel on the rainy patio of a Taco Bar. I’ve never misstepped a cartwheel in my life, but the wet patio was slippery and I landed on my ass so hard that the ground shook. I’m not exaggerating.  There’s a video somewhere, which I hope to never see.  The kid that survived that impact is going to be tough, so watch your backs.  New Kid: just don’t punch anyone in the kidneys.  You never know when you might need one of those.   

We can't promise you a bed, only dogs, cats, goats and muddy puddles.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Musing Poolside

I love the city pool.  I’m surprised, as an adult, how much of the same enchantment I feel as I did when I was a kid, when my brother and I spent every afternoon from Memorial to Labor Day at the pool until we were paged over the intercom to come to the front desk and talk to our mom on the phone while the Parks and Rec employee looked on irritatedly and twirled her keys.  They didn’t have a multi line phone system, so you were supposed to hurry to free the phone for the next mother to call.  This made bargaining for more time impossible.  I’d go collect my towel and the sticky half of a grape Tangy Taffy that had melted underneath it, and run to my bike while my brother sped across the parking lot ahead of me.  “Wait!!”  Of course he wouldn’t.  Not ever.  I’d furiously pedal to catch up to him, but it was uphill most of the way home.  Uphill has never been where I shine.  

Sometimes we got lucky and our sister would give us a ride in her rad Fiat.  Sometimes I got really lucky and my brother would split with his friends so I didn’t have to share the passenger seat with him, and my sister would let me crank the tape deck while the Cars’ Heartbeat City or ZZ Top’s Eliminator blasted out of the open top and onto the small town summer street.  

Getting to the pool was always fun.  I’d spend a long summer morning watching that 80’s Aerobicise show with the three brunettes who wore pastel spandex accented by three layers of scrunchy socks and matching headbands that maximized the poof potential of their hair.  I don’t think I ever did the exercises.  I just watched, and imagined that when I grew up, that’s how I’d dress and do my hair.  I pretty much do.  After that I’d laze around the house for a couple of hours watching the clock until 12:50, ten minutes before the pool opened, then haul ass (downhill) to City Park to wait in line, my bare feet dancing on the hot concrete in anticipation of the click-clack that preceded the unlocking and rolling open of the big aluminum door at the pool.  The pool, at that time, was a big rectangle with a shallow end and a deep end with three diving boards.  Compared to the fancy aqua-complexes that now standardize municipal pools, I guess it was pretty boring.  But there was a concession stand with Fun Dips and Tangy Taffy and all your friends were always there and there were shiny, tan high school girls who wore two-piece swimsuits and eyeliner and always kept their hair dry.  There were tyrannical 15 year old lifeguards who blew whistles if you ran or played too rough, or if it had been more than three minutes since they’d had occasion to blow said whistle.  Their authority was absolute.  They don’t give these whistles to just anyone, and don’t you forget it, kid.  There was also the weird dude in the bright orange speedo who always brought a little toy which he sometimes wound up and stuffed into the front of his suit.  We called him Mr. Tallywacker Man.  Probably every small town has one of these guys.  I heard he’s not allowed at the pool anymore.  

Aside from Mr. Tallywacker Man, I can’t recall seeing any adults at the pool.  I’m sure they were there, I just didn’t notice them.  My recollection is something like Lord of the Flies with lots of chlorine.  Today, when I take my kids to the public pool, I love to sit and watch the grown ups.  There are, in fact, hundreds of them!  I’ll admit right now to a pretty twisted, voyeuristic tendency which is exclusive to the public pool.  I doubt I’m alone in this.  These are the people in your neighborhood, some of whom you may have nothing else in common with, people who likely cancel out your votes, who practice a lifestyle entirely unlike your own (I’m just guessing based on homemade Hello Kitty tattoos and junky drug store novels next to their towels and the occasional very small bikini on a large body) all wading around together in what amounts to our underwear -sometimes less-  in a swash of chemically treated, sunscreen clouded water.  What a strange thing for strangers to do.  I don’t feel guilty for watching them and making up little stories about them in my mind because, let’s be honest, if you are going to get practically naked and hang around a place so public that it has Public in the title, you are availing yourself to the surveillance and imaginings of weirdos like me.  I’m there in my underwear, too.  They’re all free to do the same thing to me.  Some of them don’t require much stretching of the imagination.  I’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity to silently and harmlessly employ the patrons of the public pool for fashion and parenting advice.  It’s a super cheap self-improvement seminar every day in there!   

Do walk to where your kids are playing to offer calm correction of inappropriate behavior.  
Don’t scream from the side of the pool, so voraciously that your entire left breast flops out of your suit as the population of the kiddie pool looks on, horrified, while you blame the nip slip on your 6 year old.  

Do be proud of your body, walk with confidence, know that you are a beautiful woman and that tummy and those hips are lovely and useful to boot.  
Don’t wear a string bikini that is so much smaller than your body that it requires safety pins to fasten the ends of the strings together because they are stretched too tightly to make a knot.

Do immediately find your kids when you hear three short whistle blasts from the lifeguard. This means someone has crapped in the pool. It happens more often than you'd think. It's best to have an emergency plan in place and maybe run through a few drills, much like you'd prepare for a fire or tornado, because your kids will be scattered across the pool and it can be tough to reunite in the confusion and panic that follow a city pool poop evacuation.

See?  I might not have ever known these things.  I’m happy to share my wisdom with you, but I suggest you go gather your own.  It’s well worth the $3 to have a place where you can cool off, wear out your kids, exercise your imagination making up stories about almost naked strangers, and leave with a handy list of life’s dos and don’ts.