Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yes, Jessica. I Do

I just looked over my blog and saw that I had a comment from Jessica. Jessica wondered if I remembered her.

I do.

I know Jessica from Connecticut. “Connecticut” isn’t just a state in New England in our family’s vernacular. It’s a time period, like the Pax Romana or the Golden Age of Greece. Certainly not a perfect time but looked back on through a very rosy lens. I learned more about myself and grew up more during “Connecticut” than any other period of my life.

We lived in a strange microcosm of Real Life. We women in the student ward. Our husbands were in graduate school, our families were largely still in the West and we were navigating young marriage and motherhood together. We talked about serious things and not so serious things…always with our children in tow. Our children were a part of everything. They were woven into our lives as tightly as we were woven into each other’s lives.

Jessica was one of the children. She is Mindy and Bill’s daughter. Mindy and Bill were the gold standard for future friendships. Adam’s first weekend visit to California to apartment hunt, he met Jeff and Patty. He said, “They might turn out to be our Mindy and Bill.” They did.

Jessica is almost exactly a year older than Braeden. Because of her status as an older child, Braeden acquiesced to her. Braeden was timid and Jessica…um…wasn’t. Once they came to our apartment…which was the exact replica of their apartment except ours was always more cluttered and messy. Jessica, who I absolutely loved because of her spunk and big personality, (I’ve always loved strong women!) yelled at Braeden, “This is MY apartment.” Braeden went to our kitchen and curled himself up in a ball on the rug in front of the sink. Poor Braeden.

He did like Jessica though. They had a grand time playing together in the innocence of toddler-hood when it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or girl or have the same interests or not. Also, Jessica was creative and very bright. It had to be fun to play with her.

I remember Jessica was always dressed with panache. I loved everything she wore and when Emma was born, I’d plop hats on her head until she was too old to let me because Jessica always looked so cute in hats.

I also loved Jessica because of the trouble she gave her mother. Now I loved my friend Mindy, but I never ceased to be entertained by Jessica taxing her mother’s soul. If for no other reason, seeing the frustration of motherhood mirrored on Mindy’s face was reassuring. Some days Jessica insisted on yellow rubber boots and there was just nothing Mindy could do about it.

We had other small Connecticut friends who are still in my heart. Do they realize a woman in Washington still thinks about them sometimes? Thinks about how old they are now and what they’ve “grown up” to be? Will my children encounter them some day at BYU or on missions and possibly remember how they rode in strollers and celebrated their birthdays together in New Haven, Connecticut?

When we left Connecticut, Jessica and Davis were 4 and Thom was 6. Jessica’s little brother, Jackson was an adorable roly poly little 2 year old and so was Davis’s little brother Ryan. Nick, Olivia, Martin, another Jessica, Zach, and Quinn have joined their families now and I wish we could all celebrate birthdays together still.

So yes, Jessica. I remember you and the others. I always will. Because I love your mothers.

This Tiger Can’t Change Her Stripes

I remember one summer I was in Nevada, home from college, and helping my friend Marie shop for her upcoming semester abroad in London. It was an exciting time and we went to Elko and JCPenney. If you needed clothes that was the best you could do. Other clothing stores were over 100 miles away.

She was looking for a raincoat. She had in mind exactly what she wanted. This is something I always admired about Marie. She was determined to get what she wanted. She expected it. And she was patient and stubborn enough to get it. She tried on a few coats. They weren’t just right. She tried them on again. Nope. Not good enough. We left the store without a coat. She would find one somewhere else.

I am just not like that. I am not patient. It’s not in my make-up to procrastinate. If it had been me, I’d have tried on the jackets. Found them not quite right. Tried them on again. Then picked the one that was the least not quite right. It’s just how I am. And I wish I were different.

I don’t want to be a person who just settles.

So Adam’s taking us to London…Emma and Braeden and me. Again, since I can’t procrastinate and want everything decided yesterday, my mind immediately started buzzing with travel plans. What were we going to take? What clothes did we have that were suitable? What did we need to add?

I decided that I need a pair of good comfortable walking shoes. I am not a shoe person. I’d rather be barefoot. I have sandals I wear every day all summer. In the winter I stick to my black mules. They more or less go with everything but I wear them even if they’re not “quite right”. They are comfortable enough--and most importantly—easy to slip off my feet the minute I’m indoors. What they aren’t is great for walking long distances which I plan to be doing in the rooms of the British Museum (I can’t WAIT to show my kids mummies and the Rosetta stone and Greek pottery…)

So I determined that I would buy some new shoes. Some good, lasting shoes. Shoes that would be comfortable and QUALITY. I like quality but I rarely have the patience to save for it and I am a sucker for a bargain. Really, the bargain is usually more exciting than whatever I buy.

I called Janet. Janet the fashion plate. Janet always looks fabulous and pulled together. Janet would instruct me in the art of shoe shopping. She told me the good brands and I made a list. Janet knows me though. “They’re not cheap shoes,” she warned.

I readied myself and got online. I found a darling pair of Earth brand (one of Janet’s recommendations) mary janes. Mary janes are the cutest possible shoe so I was happy. Then I saw the price. $130! When I really splash out for some expensive shoes I may spend $30. Yikes. I was in over my head.

I tried to hold the image of Marie and the raincoats in my mind. I tried to remember what Janet had told me about the pair of Dr. Martens she’s had since college.

I still couldn’t spend that much on shoes! I decided to compromise. I’d go to the outlet mall. Maybe I’d find what I was looking for—at a lower price.

I talked to my dad on my cell phone as I drove. He asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to buy some expensive shoes.

He said, “So you’ll find some shoes that you like but you’ll see that they’re not expensive enough so you’ll say never mind?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Something like that.”

I wandered in and out of shoe stores. I was proud of myself as I passed up anything that was not what I had in mind…brown leather mary janes.

Then I got distracted. I went into The Children’s Place and bought Emma three shirts that were under $3 each. I was thrilled by the bargain.

Focus, I thought. Focus. Think Marie and the raincoat. Janet and the Dr. Martens. You can DO this.

I passed up some comfortable and comparatively inexpensive Naturalizer shoes. They weren’t “quite right.” I was SO proud of myself.

Then I got tired of the whole exercise. Done shoe shopping. I was ready to just get the first thing I saw. I went into the Bass outlet. I found some brown leather mary janes. They were on the clearance rack.

Did you hear the angel choir singing or was it just me?

I tried them on. They SEEMED comfortable. They were cute. And $39!!! I was happy. And tired of shopping. I bought them quick before I could dwell too much on the comfort system I’d read about on the Earth website. How Earth shoes correct your posture and are so Good For You.

As I drove home I felt disappointed in myself. I didn’t feel like I’d held out for the perfect shoe. I just didn’t have it in me.

Then I got home. I tried on the shoes again. They really are pretty good shoes.

And I can’t be something I’m not.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Easier Than a Ladder?

Adam's method for taking down the Christmas lights.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Braeden

Today Braeden is eleven. Which means I’ve been a mother for eleven years. It’s something to think about. In some ways I can’t believe he’s eleven already. How could he grow up so fast? On the other hand, I barely remember life without him. It seems like that wasn’t real life.

I didn’t take to motherhood easily. I thought I would. When I was about 14 I remember thinking I was ready to be an adult, ready to be a mother. I wasn’t ready then though, because I wasn’t really ready at 23 either. It was Hard. A big part of why it was hard was because of post partum depression, which I didn’t realize at the time. I thought…and I think Adam thought--though he was kind enough not to tell me…that I was just a really terrible mother. The only thing that overshadowed my anxiety about being Braeden’s mother though, was how much I loved him. I would sit for hours and stare into his navy blue but soon to be brown eyes. I would contemplate things like where he’d just been and what he would be someday.

And I wondered why I didn’t get anything done. Maybe it was all the sitting and staring into his eyes.

I didn’t appreciate it then but I look back with such fondness at what Braeden and I have been through. He was with me when I flew to Connecticut for the first time. The uncertainty of it all may have engulfed me if I hadn’t had him to be in charge of. He was with me when I got lost every time I left our Connecticut apartment those first few weeks. He was with me on perfect autumn walks in crunchy leaves on Prospect Street. He was with me when Emma arrived. He called her Be Emma (be for baby) and loved her.

He’s been with me for every move we’ve made except for the one when I was pregnant with him, but I guess he was there then too. He decorated boxes with crayons while I packed them and he offered me his blanket when I sat on the floor and cried when we moved to California and our incompetent and crooked movers had broken lamps and dishes.

I wonder how many times Braeden and I have driven around together on errands. How many stories have I read to him? I wonder how many times he’s made me laugh or helped me or understood me when no one else did. I wonder how many times I’ve been too hard on him, angry with him when I was really angry with myself. I wonder how many times he’s forgiven me.

Nothing makes me feel more loved or undeserving than the three children I’ve been given. I think of all the mistakes and missteps I’ve made. All the times I wasn’t kind enough or patient enough or let them down.

So I pause at this eleven year anniversary of motherhood. I want to be a better mother. I want to appreciate these three souls that have filled my life with so much wonder and laughter and tears and anxiety and plain hard work. I want to do better by them.

Happy Birthday Braeden. Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for understanding when I’m not so very good at it. And thank you being the wonderful kind of boy that makes me think maybe I did one or two things right.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I Dwell In Possibility --Emily Dickinson

It’s New Year’s Day so that means taking down the Christmas tree and taking stock…of what candy is left in the house. Should I go with the healthier eating resolve and throw this leftover stuff away or should I finish it all…today…and have it over with?

I just hung up my new calendar. There’s something contemplative about a new calendar. All those blank clean squares…all those days. 366 days this year. A gift of 366 days. What will they bring? I think about tulip fields and birthday cakes, pumpkins and Easter baskets. Sunshine, sprinklers, the sound of lawn mowers. Likely there will be days and days and days of rain. There will be new books and movies to discover. Laughing over the same jokes and new ones. Swimming lessons and playing at the park. Hikes in the woods and walks along the beach. Pork chops with apple onion stuffing in the fall and hot dogs cooked on the grill in the summer. There will be camping trips and shopping trips and vacation trips. It’s all pretty wonderful to consider.

Then there are the things not so wonderful to think about. Dentist visits. Stubbed toes, arguments, weeds to pull, disobedient children and Adam gone on business trips. There will be broken glass and broken nails and a lot of laundry to wash. How many times will I load and unload the dishwasher? Depressing.

If I let it my mind can venture to other possibilities. Positive and negative. I don’t even want to think about some of the bad things that could happen. So I won’t. I will take heart by ascribing to the philosophy of Epicurus. Men are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of things. I will face this year with courage. I will decide to take what is dealt me and try to take it with panache.

And I’ll go eat that candy.


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