Six Years Later, I Can Finally Smile Again

Six years ago, my mom passed away. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since she had been disappearing into her illness for over a decade. But it was still a shock when I received the call. My greatest fear finally materialized.

Every year since then, I post something sad about missing her. It’s still true. I still have moments where the pain knocks me to my knees. And while time hasn’t healed all wounds for me, it has offered the gift of distance and clarity. I am grateful that I can look back on memories of her and smile.

One memory in particular made me smile this year. I was close to my son’s age, maybe six or seven years old. My mother, the brave soul, took my toddler sister and me to India without my father, who kept working.

I barely go shopping for one hour and keep it together with my two kids, so I can only imagine the horrors of managing two little kids, plus enough luggage for two months, in the airports and plane bathroom for what feels like a two-day flight. By the time we reached my grandmother’s house, my mother must have reached the limits of her large reservoir of patience.

The day after we arrived in the middle of the night, I remember her sitting in the foyer, with a tired smile plastered across  her face.  She spoke with the flood of guests who “dropped in” to see my grandmother’s “American” daughter. And of course, like any other little kid, I kept interrupting her conversations because I needed my mother’s attention RIGHT NOW.

She lost her shit. My poor mother, who was always kind and patient, grabbed the colorful folds of her sari, jumped up from her chair, and chased me through my grandmother’s house in sandals. I was shocked, but amused. I had the same arrogance as my 6-year old son. “Mom will never catch me. I’m too fast.” So I sprinted down the long hall and she followed me. I ran by the kitchen. So did she. I ran through the dining room. So did she. I ran into our guest bedroom. So did she. I thought I would lose her by running across the bed. So imagine my surprise when she jumped on the bed and kept coming after me. I scurried out the door, into the yard, where I left my mother. I can still picture her, standing in the doorway, holding up her fist and shaking it at me, telling me what she’d do if she caught me interrupting her with a guest again. I hid from her for the rest of the day.

And so today, I’m smiling. For the first time since she died, on the anniversary of her passing, I’m finally smiling when I think of her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of that memory.

To My Precious Snowflakes: Mommy Loves You

To My Precious Snowflakes,

Mommy loves you very much. You are the organic apples of my eye, the gluten-free sprinkles on my SAHM sundae. I cherish every cup and kick aimed at my head. It all goes so quickly, especially when I duck for cover. My heart swells each time I think of your delightful shenanigans. 

Bless your little hearts for cleaning those brand new books in the bathroom sink yesterday. Dirty Elmo board books have no place in our humble home. Your stealthy teamwork saved us from the scourge of bookstore filth. And siblings who wash books together, play together.   

Little Boy, I admire your curious mind. Not every child would remove a vent cover to drop his LeapPad down the heating duct. Of course you wanted to find out what would happen. Who wouldn’t? Mommy was honored to spend thirty minutes fishing it out of the duct in the name of science. 

Darling Son, your burgeoning artistic abilities amaze me. Especially when you showcase them with permanent markers on the canvas of your face. Unfortunately, I didn’t give you enough paper. So, why should you have to walk across the room to get more? Your baby sister was right there. It made perfect sense to continue your Jackson Pollack scrawls on her.     

Little Girl, your theatrical flair leaves me speechless. No one can knock food to the floor like you can. There is no better way to tell Mommy that you’re all done. And of course, fork color matters. Silver is bad, blue is good. I should have read your mind, but I failed. Poor little thing. You tired yourself out by shrieking bloody murder for forty-five minutes. I gave you the blue fork, but it was too late. That terrible silver fork touched your lunch. Of course you couldn’t eat it. The pasta was ruined.   

Sweet Angel, Mommy can be a monster. It’s cruel for me to give you a red cup when you ask for it. And all those times you asked me to drive you home and I did. What was I thinking? I don’t blame you for screaming during the entire car trip. Who does Mommy think she is, giving you exactly what you wanted?

Driving around town with both of you and listening to the soothing chorus of “WHY, MOMMY, WHY, WHY, WHY?” from the backseat is the highlight of my day. Especially just as I’m about to make a left turn. Why should a delivery truck traveling towards us at fifty miles per hour during rush hour traffic hold my attention? You need to know how to spell “milk” RIGHT NOW. I don’t blame you for yelling at me while I’m mid-turn. Mommy’s heart palpitations aside, nothing trumps the question of a curious child. Nothing. 

Each night, we wrap up our long days with a spirited two-hour discussion before bedtime. Your favorite book is “The Ten Little Monkeys.” We’ve read it SO MANY TIMES that Mommy sees it in her hallucinations. Oh, those crazy monkeys! Look at them jumping on the bed and getting hurt! And how creative of the two of you to act it out EVERY NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED! 

Thank goodness you didn’t pick up your toys from the floor like I asked you. You saved your strength. Using the couch like a trampoline takes a lot of energy. And how brilliant of you to add your own spin to the story. You literally spin yourselves dizzy before running towards the fireplace. And what makes running towards sharp edges even better? Doing it with your EYES CLOSED! And almost face-planting on the coffee table! You sure showed Mommy and Daddy how creative you can be! 

Thank you for sharing those howler monkey protests when Mommy and Daddy throw each of you over a shoulder to haul you upstairs. They would follow me into my dreams if I slept at night. But I don’t want to miss a moment with you. So I spend the rest of the night watching my snowflakes breathe.

I love you always,

Your Devoted Mommy

Day 1: ANOTHER Self-Imposed 30-Day Writing Challenge

What’s the deal?  Why another 30-day challenge?  I made the 2016 New Year’s Resolution to complete my first manuscript by the end of this year.  Despite many red ombre cup sacrifices on the altars of Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles, no progress has been made.  This book just isn’t writing itself.

Why not?  Well, let’s be blunt.  Because I’m a slacker who needs a swift kick in the rear.

I’m not sure what it is about 30-day challenges, but they definitely motivate me to write.  I’ve had this character walking around in my head for a while and over the holiday, she temporarily evicted Charlie Weaver and Shivani Roy.  I am not certain about her name (although I have one idea), but I AM certain about what she is.

She’s a Sanctimommy.  

????  What the hell is a “Sanctimommy?”

According to Wikipedia, a sanctimommy is “a portmanteau of two words, sanctimonious and mommy. The word is a colloquialism used to refer to a person, usually a female, who has very opinionated views on child rearing and presents them upfront without any sense of humility.”

Last week, I actually wrote out and posted one of the scenes that has been swirling in my head for a while.  (“A Sanctimommy Visits The Mall.”)  I received positive feedback from friends, family AND my husband.  This is big, since my husband, a nonfiction reader, isn’t really into the genres that I write about.  He actually laughed.  A few friends asked me if I had more stories like this.

This is the first time anyone has actually asked me for MORE stories about one of my characters……

I want to use this challenge to write out as many “Sanctimommy” stories as I can over the next 30 days.  I don’t know if this will be anything, but I feel compelled to follow it.  So here goes:

Over the weekend, as I patrolled a neighborhood on the other side of town, I spotted several minivans parked beside the curb of a house.  There was a sign in the yard.  It said “Open House.”  I pulled my minivan over to the side and observed the driveway with interest.  There were several families walking into the house.  Many of them had small children.  I couldn’t spot any glaring errors in parenting, but I stepped out of the car.  I was certain that if I went inside, someone would need my help.

I unstrapped my precious guppy from his car seat and gently placed him in my carrier.  I did a few squats on the sidewalk to make sure he was safely secured before walking across the street and inside the house.  At first glance, the foyer appeared somewhat clean.  But when I looked up, I spotted a single cobweb thread hanging precariously from the chandelier.  The owners obviously felt that hygiene wasn’t important.  Inwardly cringing at the filth, I reached into my bag to assure myself that I had plenty of hand sanitizer and antibacterial liquid soap for later.

Determined to save the other unsuspecting families, I followed them into the bowels of the house.  A woman was speaking with a couple when I entered the kitchen.  She interrupted her conversation to smile and greet me.  “Hi, I’m Kathy.  Feel free to look around.  I’m going to help this family upstairs for a moment, but I’ll be right back if you have any questions.”  I nodded and she left the room with the other family.

I nervously searched the kitchen for more errant cobwebs.  It appeared tidier than the foyer, but when I spotted the jars of baby “food” on the counter, my senses went on high alert.  If parents are lax about food, they’ll be lax about other things, like safety.  I immediately walked over to the large island in the middle of the kitchen.  Sure enough, the first drawer I pulled opened easily.  It was filled with utensils.  I gritted my teeth at the sight of all those uncorked forks.

I quickly unzipped my diaper bag and rifled through it.  With a sigh of relief, I pulled out a large back of corks and placed it on the counter.  I grabbed the tray of forks and dumped it on the counter.  Grateful for my nimble fingers, I methodically corked each fork and placed it back in the drawer.  That last fork was corked just as the real estate agent returned from upstairs.

Kathy watched me place the last fork in the drawer.  She tilted her head to one side and asked, “Uh, what are you doing?”

I scowled at her and slammed the drawer closed.  “Do these people have children?” I demanded, crossing my arms.  I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice.

Kathy’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Who?  The owners?”  When I nodded, she looked past me to the jars of baby food.  “Yes,” she replied slowly.  The uncertainty on her face was apparent.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on in this house?”  I frowned at her, and slammed my hands down on the counter.  “Any idea at all?  Or are you too busy making your sale?”

“What are you talking about?” Kathy asked, raising her eyebrows.  She remained where she was standing.

“This is an ugly situation, Kathy,” I opened the drawer, pulled out a corked fork and waved it at her.  “A very ugly situation.  I have friends at the CPS who would be very interested in what’s going on over here.  Very,” I stressed the last word so she would understand the gravity of what just happened.

“Miss, I don’t know who you are,” Kathy began, as she held up her hands in front of her.

“Have you ever heard of the CPS?  It stands for Child Protective Services,” I told her, and put the fork in my diaper bag.  I was proud of my own foresight.  The CPS could use it as evidence in this case.

“Hey, you can’t take that,” Kathy frowned and took a step towards me.

I pulled my phone and aimed it at her.  “Come any closer and I’ll include you in my report as an accessory to their crimes against children,” I said evenly, as I held up my phone.  “What did you say your name was again?  Kathy what?”

 

 

A “Sancti-Mommy” Visits The Mall

Earlier this week, I took my little one to the mall for our daily morning stroll.  As we passed the playground, my gaze fell upon a small girl child.  She was wandering around like an aimless urchin.  Maybe she was an aimless urchin.  I don’t know.  I didn’t have time to dwell on that possibility.  One of her feet was bare and there was a vending machine only ten feet away her.  Before chilled air could wrap flu tentacles around the little tyke’s foot, I rushed towards the playground.

The only adult in the play area was a woman sitting on a bench.  Her eyes were on a book instead of her child.  She looked up as I approached.  “You’re doing it wrong,” I told her kindly when I spotted the missing sock next to her.  I grabbed it and quickly placed it on the small child’s foot.  There was a large diaper bag beside the woman.  I took the initiative to rifle through it and pull out a hat.  I gently placed it on the little girl’s head.  My chest swelled with pride as I walked away.  I could hear the woman’s expletives of gratitude echo across the playground.  After all, a covered child is a happy child.

Buoyed by my random act of kindness, I searched for more opportunities to help strangers with children.  Fortunately, the mall was crawling with unfit parents.  I spotted a pair of them pushing a wailing baby in a neglect buggy.  Happy children do not cry in public places.  Mine never do, so this couple clearly needed my help.  I tightened my arms around my precious guppy, before marching in their direction.

They stopped talking when they saw me.  I knelt down beside the baby and buggy.  “You poor little hugless child,” I murmured in a soothing voice, gently stroking his hair.  “I’m sure someone loves you.” Neither person moved when I unbuckled the little boy and picked him up.  The infant stopped crying and looked at me.  “Perhaps your child would cry less if you carry him,” I suggested, before handing him to his mother.  The couple stared at me.  The woman’s cheeks flushed crimson with embarrassment.  “It’s okay,” I assured her in a confident voice.  It masked how uneasy I felt leaving the hapless mite in their care.  “Now that you know better, you’ll do better.”  The man sputtered something unintelligible as I continued to patrol the mall.

My mind whirled as I scanned my surroundings.  So many people needed my help.  But who would reap the greatest benefit from my intervention?  Suddenly, the stench of cinnamon hit me like a brick wall.  Of course.  The food court.  What weak-willed parent can resist the lure of the nugget?  I pulled my scarf over my nose and headed in that direction.

I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.  Rows of tables littered with trays of garbage.  My stomach sank.  So many parents were shoveling GMO’s into the open mouths of their unsuspecting children.  I walked past a few gluten peddlers before spotting a dire situation.  A helpless adult male sitting beside a shrieking child.  I looked around, but there wasn’t a mother in sight.

My pace quickened.  The man obviously needed help to defuse the tantrum.  The little girl stood next to the table, red-faced, fists clenched, howling at the top of her lungs.  I couldn’t blame her.  She was probably protesting the nuggets.

“Hi Sweetheart,” I said softly, kneeling beside the little girl.  The man looked startled, but then visibly relaxed when I winked at him.  He know that I was there help.  “Why are you sad?”

“No eat,” the little girl stamped her foot and shrieked.  “Me no eat.”

“You’re such a smart little girl,” I cooed, as I tousled her curls.  “You know that your daddy is trying to poison you.”

“What?” The man sputtered, while the little girl stuck one unclean thumb in her mouth.  Her eyes lit up with interest.

“Well, I’m going to help you, sweetheart,” I smiled at her and picked up their trays.  “Let’s put this where it belongs.”  I walked over to the trash can and threw both plates in.  I pulled out my hand sanitizer and squirted some into my palms.  “Garbage belongs in garbage.”

The man gaped at me, while the little girl smiled and clapped her hands.  I grinned back at her.  Sometimes, children know better than their parents do.

Parenting is hard for some people.  It takes a village for these people to raise a child and I am a part of that village.  Because when you know better, you do better.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is satire.  It is fiction.  Please do not verbally torpedo me for the actions of a fictional character.  Thank you.

 

 

A Letter To My Firstborn Son

To My Little Guy,

Almost two years ago, your father and I bid you farewell as we left you alone with your grandparents.  Even though I would see you again in a few days, I cried as I kissed you and walked out the door.  I understood the significance of that moment.  Your world was about to change.

Three days later, we returned home with a tiny interloper.  Suddenly, you weren’t the sole focus of our universe.  You had to share your place in the sun with someone else.  Your baby sister.

It has been a rough journey for you, my fierce firstborn child.  You don’t get all of my attention anymore.  Sometimes, you have to wait.  And sometimes, when I’m taking care of your sister, you feel as if I don’t notice you.  But I want you to know something.

I see you.  As you stand beside your little sister.  She’s not yet two years old.  At nearly five years old, you tower over her.  But your head still tilts up when you talk to me.  I know that one day, our gazes will be level and eventually, you’ll tilt your head down to speak with me.  I’m not ready for that day.

I hear you.  As you watch your favorite shows.  Your childish lisp makes me smile when you belt out the “Hot Dog” song from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Your sweet voice embodies childhood innocence when you sing the theme song from Winnie the Pooh.  I know that one day, your voice will be deeper than mine is, and you will enjoy mind-numbing, eardrum-shattering music that I don’t understand.  I’m not ready for that day.

I smell you.  Your boyish scent lingers in the car as we drive to school.  No matter how often your face is washed, you always smell like the strawberries and cinnamon bread you love to eat for breakfast each morning.  I know that someday, I will walk into your bedroom, and wonder if something died.  I’m not ready for that day.

I taste you.  Your salty tears wet my face as you wrap your small arms around my neck and sob out your Pre-K woes on my shoulder.  Right now, my embrace is enough to solve your problems.  I know that someday, the world will break your heart again.  And my hugs and kisses won’t be enough to soothe your pain.  I’m not ready for that day.

I feel you.  When we cuddle before I kiss you good night.  The warmth of your body and the rapid beating of your heart before bedtime elicit my primal maternal vow to protect you with my life.  I know that someday, you will push me away when I try to hug you.  You won’t want my cuddles, or my kisses.  I’m not ready for that day.

I love you.  I love hearing you laugh and seeing you run outside on the playground with your friends.  I love the way your dimples pop out when you see me outside the window of your classroom at the end of the school day.  I love how your face lights up when your father walks into the house at the end of his work day.  I love how gentle you are after you grudgingly accept your little sister’s hand in yours and walk with her through the mall.

And so, my dear little son, I know that life is hectic.  I know that your sister gets half of my attention now.  It seems as if I don’t notice you, but I do.  There are so many wonderful moments with you that are permanently etched in my heart.  Nothing and no one can take them away.  Because you will always be my one and only firstborn son.  And no one can ever take your place in my heart.