all the kids

all the kids

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

All Aboard

So I'm in this weird place where I'm mothering giant babies. Boys at 18 are almost the same as the saggy diapered 3 year old.

They have the same jokes. They have the same bad ideas, like jumping off high places for fun. The only difference is they're in their LIFE now. So now the guiding is HEY. LOOK UP past your shoes. See up there, above those trees. Where are you heading. Aim higher. Aim as high as you can.

I worry about them being lost but really maybe they are supposed to be doing exactly what they're doing and the worrying should be that maybe I am lost. I am definitely lost.
In this puzzling place of older kids and me, who am I.

I spent 24 hours hanging out with Patrick at the ER with his terrible stomach pain. Nathan's best friend, he lives with us since graduation because it's too far away to keep picking him up in Alta Dena. I was so happy to not be the one in the bed I didn't mind being there, you know in case his torso was going to explode. Someone should be there. I'm the closest mom. I just sat on a spinny stool next to his bed in the ER hallway looking at all the emergencies going by, and squeezed his feet. talked. cracked my phone when I was trying to carry too much stuff. Sat and waited for tests. Listened to him dying for water. Dreaming of water. Wanting water so much everyone who passed if they were carrying a cup of water he said they have water. They have water in that cup. When they finally said he could take Tylenol with water, on his face it was how you feel on all your birthdays all at once. We watched the plain cup of warm tap water coming toward us. Cascading down the glory of Niagara Falls. It was like the most amazing invention ever, the giving of a Styrofoam cup of water. Then we waited for the room. The room was never going to come. Then after 10 hours in the hallway there was wheeling to the room by the undead nurse who never moved her face and we were in a room and the room felt like a palace. Like we were the luckiest people on earth.

I felt his fever. Felt his pain when he cramped up and we both squeezed tears. Wondered if boys caused this by not taking care of themselves or doing 8 shots of brandy at a party a month ago. Who are these boys. It's midnight. Am I wasting my time here by this bed.

But 24 hours are gone and home now the boys are lounging, Nathan after working, on the bed, and bursting into laughs about stupid shit on their phone, and when I come in to visit their lankiness, or lack of lankiness on Patrick's part, I squeeze their feet. Nathan's are sore from working 12 hours. Patrick's are sore just because feet are sore.

It wasn't a waste to love Patrick while he waited in limbo at the ER. It's not a waste to love people and believe in them. Maybe he'll go to pharmacy school or maybe he'll aim higher or maybe he'll go nowhere. He's brought Nathan entertainment and love for years. So I repay that with holding his feet when he was sick. And now I have that in my heart bank, just for me. And when I see him on the bed healthy being an idiot with Nathan we have that 24 hours of hell and cramping and water glory and I had his feet and he knows there's someone who cares about him. Maybe that might help a person look up. Either way, it makes a nice family raft. All aboard.
All souls accounted for.

Monday, July 8, 2019

origami mommy

They say life is a good thing.

I lost Nathan to life. The bringing in, this part I get, the ushering of life from your body to the world, the shake hands with the wet baby on your stomach and stay awhile, because you can’t walk, and you can’t leave, in fact you were actually a part of my body. That’s a sticky situation in the heart dept.

But that wet baby now just had an envelope in the kitchen full of his friends’ pooled money and they put that money into an apartment manager’s hand so now they have an apartment 4 minutes from their school. It’s also 4 minutes from the beach, the other direction. That’s going to be a hard choice, every day. I say.

Like he’s going to get out of bed with his girlfriend anyway.

But 18, wait. Is this it then? So you take a LONG TIME I’m talking years.

Then it comes down to the envelope, please. I feel grown up now, he says.

I want a pamphlet that goes out to all new mothers, whom I still feel like, 18 yrs later. It should say:

This is only a phase. This little person is going to rip your heart out through your eyes. You are going to feel every pain he ever has. You are going to also make cookies. You get to see those bare feet grow through every pair of shoes. Toes you made. There will be blood. There will be swimming.

There will be other people’s kids mostly that you won’t like. Parents, even worse.  There will be a person whose footfalls down the hall you know. You will grow right up along his spine with him.

When he goes, you go. There will be secrets. And girls. And drugs. There will be lying, and fireworks. There will be a new refrigerator.

Then there will be the envelope and his happiness at finding the gym and the common room at the apartment. There’s a pool table there. He’s going to live with three friends and a girlfriend. He already lived in the dorm for a year. That already happened. Even though we saw him on the weekends, it felt like he was just at a weird camp and not growing up like this. This is life, taking him. That envelope, he’s paying the devil, and his eyes glow it looks like fun in hell. I mean in grown up. And it will be fun, I’m sure. The only problem is
                                                                                                                  tiny weird wave
 I'm still here, though. Over here not over it.
I guess if you love someone you are never over it. At least when you have a bad breakup you can eat a lot of ice cream and all your friends will tell you he or she was a loser and you didn’t need them anyway. But when it’s your son. You already know he’s a loser except for that other part, the flip side, where he’s okay. Still.

So the pamphlet has to say just hang on, mom. Because even though you know it is coming, it is still a shock. Just like that wet baby squeezing out was. Even though you felt him in there every time you ate a tuna sandwich in Florida at 9 months pregnant, and he bounced around and you floated in the water in the humid alligator lake there, belly on top, black dog swimming around you while he was swimming around IN you. It was still a shock when he actually came out and was there, commanding my presence, just like no big deal, like he had always been there, waiting.

I guess now it’s my turn, waiting. To see what happens next.

I think the biggest shock is that I actually love someone. Like I can’t believe I can say that without whispering it. There is a person on this earth that I actually love, somehow, forever. Because I guess it’s ego, but I made him, and he’s mine. My best work. All 3 of the kids. I actually used the recipe stitched into my pants from my own mom. And embellished on by things I read in romantic books like Jane Eyre and Virginia Woolf. The way to love someone is all out there written in grilled cheese sandwiches and rainy days on the couch making a box into a ship. I just personally never did the love thing for real except this little fucker got in there and I loved him on purpose and now here I am with my pockets hanging out and looking like a shredded hobo while he hops the freight out holding his bag and he’s waving from the train car. All sparkling, you know why? Cause that’s me he’s sparkling. All the beauty? I gave it all.

Damn if I could only figure out how to do that everywhere in my life. Imagine a world.

But there would be so much crying. Loving and building shit like that is like squeezing out a wet washcloth the size of Wyoming. That shit hurts. Loving full blown is like crying constantly for 18 years.


I’m glad I’m a hobo. I’m glad I learned to do something scary like have and raise a whole person(s). I’m glad I was lucky enough to have soultrain Barry help. I also think this exact thing happened last year when he first went off to college. So I guess I get to be amazed to learn this is how I feel each year. Until it sticks.

Moms unfold and unfold and unfold and inside there is still more.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Moveable Feast with relish

As we all know, I'm grounded, from landing on the ground, so I'm writing, and reading, and not wasting all those hours out frolicking with birds and horse hooves and crossing rivers and looking for trouble out in the wilderness where really there is no trouble. Just quiet.

And I can see here, why I've been sad because Nathan is at college and Emma is slowly feathering her college nest, plucking feather by feather herself away from where she's been all her life and making a nest of the future somewhere out THERE.

It's a tragic thing, which they should give you a brochure about in the hospital giving birth. You are going to slam the brakes on your life, focus completely on these little creatures, take very few chances, just feed, sleep, follow, cheer up, laugh, cry, chase then as they get older drive them then let them drive then listen to teenagers cuss flagrantly and yell and frolic (if you're lucky enough to have them home) and then while it looks like you've done nothing but mold these people, you've built this castle, this moveable feast, and then the feast moves off and it's silent.

But worse silent because it was SO NOISY, and all noise you never made or even really wanted to make.

So then where's the place for you? You got all these skills of managing and organizing and joking and feeding and suddenly there's no job, and all the fat love went away. Even though the love is you.

I think you start making movies. (Aside: And hey, I just remembered a psychic I met once when I was 19 told me I was a writer and that people would see what I wrote, up here, she said, motioning a screen in front of her. I thought it would never happen but -- our little movie I wrote is in the Portland Film Festival, nominated for Best Romantic Comedy. It's happening. It's small, but Emma and Nathan started out small too.)

But here, still in my real life,  here I am grounded and writing about motherhood with my Momish script and seeing how busy I am and was and how crazy it makes you with Overwhelm, which would be my kingdom. But what else is there, heroin? And why not love til you're empty, and then write about it. As it fills back up.

I will have earned that place on the porch, with the green pasture and the creek. Listening to crickets. Hoping the kids came out allright. Hoping they're living sweet and rambunctious lives. The next stage is maybe recovery, and relishing.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Cut Your Melon the Way You Want

So tonight I found out how boring I'd be if I was in the hotel business.

We had to eat dinner with Sam's parents. Sam is the beautiful kid our kids had become friends with. Sam is a tall, lanky and sweet kid, handsome and shy. The mom thought we should all have dinner together, which would be great if I was watching a movie of it instead of having to actually show up and act like a grown up.

I don't know why being Adult Mom, I'm at my most awkward. It's like my family fits me well when we're in the old van with surfboards on top, heading to the beach in barefeet. I'm at my unconscious best here, where no one is looking at me and I don't have to chop watermelon in a tasteful way. Here's how I know I was cheating myself on this Parent Date. I cut the watermelon the way I NEVER cut the watermelon, in the neat and structured way that I saw Uncle Donny do once. Turn the half melon upside down. Cut the sides off. Cut the pieces symmetrically. Perfect job.

If it was me, I would just cut right into the middle of the watermelon, cut out basic lines in a grid pattern, and then cut huge, uneven chunks right in the watermelon, using it as its own bowl which saves having to clean a bowl. It's messier, but it's the right way to do it, in my barefoot on the beach brain.

I did it the way I'm NOT. I did the whole night that way, because their floor was clean and their books were stacked neatly, and I wanted to be NORMAL for the kids' sake, while she put feta and vinegar on the watermelon that I knew Lilly would now never eat, and she also had tomato and mozzarella salad which I also knew was another LOSER in the book of foods eleven year olds find most repellent.

The family is from Amsterdam, so if it weren't for that, or maybe because of that, we were at cultural odds. They were obviously the cooler ones, they'd spent 4 years in Paris, 4 in Greece, time in NY, in Chicago, and now here, for some reason, in Tujunga, the tweaker capital of the world. Place most conducive for dumping a body. They were the brunette version of my family, kids almost the same age, except they got dogs instead of having the third child we had.

Their house was lacking any holes, it was like living in Ikea. We ate upstairs, outside in this patio they just "built" themselves, this little outdoor 70's den where we ate steaks in matching plates on our laps and I was just praying for it to be over because the dad was like his friendliness was there but coated in an ice block like he'd fallen in while ice fishing, she fished him out, and there wasn't time to thaw before we got there. Frozen in himself, he'd still managed to spend a life globetrotting with his college girlfriend, and two adorable if quiet children, and yet despite all the international flavor they had no stories to tell, their flavor choice was no flavor thank you. Their whole family was like my family on mute. I had a friend like this in my teens, I thought she was so deep because she never spoke until a few years in when I felt like shaking her because she NEVER SPOKE, and eventually I just moved on. I knew I didn't have to do years here, I only had to get past the steak, and keep trying to make conversation. They were interesting in the way that a brand new plastic trash can you're buying at Target is interesting. Exciting, even. A whole big inside, nothing yet has touched it. Whole stretches of their personalities had been obviously prepared, yet not brought down from the attic maybe, ever.

Luckily Barry is good at making conversation where there isn't any, and we talked, boringly for all of us I think, about the kids, because that was why we were there. There's no flamboyance here, nobody spilling their guts or god forbid laughing, or actually enjoying the meal. It was awkward first date where you knew from the moment you turned the melon upside down to cut it the wrong way, that being yourself with people who aren't like you is not a place anyone who wants to digest food easily wants to visit.

They'll be gone in another few years, maybe to Fiji. When their kids are in college they have no plans to stick around and, I don't know, do their laundry when they come home on Christmas break, like I have plans to do. You know, continuing the relationship, for like, ever. They're just going to neatly pack up their superclean shit and unfold it somewhere else and play at being those people for awhile.

I just got a stomach ache from trying to keep my true self inside. As Lilly said in the car on the way over, in the gravest way that good advice can be given when you're 11, "Just don't fart there."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Accident Prize

So you know you have a good mom when, after a bad fall from your horse, this happens.

I'm sitting for two weeks with a broken pelvis and broken ribs, not able to walk around for even more weeks, this is someone who never sat down, unless I was on a horse, or occasionally to eat.

I'm going a little stir crazy, and watching everyone else do everything, take care of the dogs, clean, feed the chickens, scoop horse poop, do the laundry, make lunches, make dinners, my 11 year old is dumping my pee bucket -- my face comes up to everyone's bellybuttons, this is not my perspective, this new perspective I'm gaining. I guess then, it is my perspective.

Anyway, in the last few days when my pain gets better enough that I can focus on real things, like writing, and peeking at things on ebay, I am looking for things like a new helmet. Maybe I should wear a safety vest. Maybe I should get a whole inflated sumo wrestler suit so if I ever fall again I can bounce. Looking at it all makes me scared. Then I by habit look up SKITO which is a brand of bareback pad that I can never find or afford, a really good way to ride your horse bareback. There hasn't been one on ebay in two years.

There's one right there.

My body is frowning at me darkly um didn't you just fall off your horse?

I mention it to my mom, who has gotten me one before. I do have a birthday coming up. But something is bothering me in my mind.

Maybe the bigger question. Should I stop riding?

My mom says no, dumbass. You do not stop riding. It is who you are.

This seems like really bad advice, I tell her. I could just WALK through nature. Except I never would. I'm so lazy. And on a horse my legs can swing.

I'm thinking of all the safety equipment I had also been looking at. If I keep adding stuff to my body, maybe I'll be stifling every time I ride, but if I fall, every place will be a mattress. My pelvis is suggesting this is a good idea. My pelvis and I have been talking a lot more than usual lately because we're both on the same couch together and we're not moving like we usually are. My pelvis (and ribs) apparently are all for safety. But I hadn't bought a new helmet even yet because when your bones ache, you just can't think you'll ever want to do anything fun again, especially on a gigantic horse. And bareback is the way I fell off.

My mom says, completely ignoring my pelvis, "I'm getting that bareback pad for you. Because you're still here. We're still talking. It can be your accident prize."

My mom doesn't care if I fell off bareback. She knows I fell off because I made another poor judgement going over a long waving palm frond on a horse that's afraid of long waving palm fronds. On cement. She says this accident prize is for Best High Vaulted Fall onto Cement.

So while she's ordering this and busily deciding she will say the Power of Mother blessing all over it and me and my ribs and pelvis as are the terms I request in order to actually USE the thing, I go outside in my temporary wheelchair in the sunshine. I can't put weight on one leg, but I can use the other leg. So I take the walker and I walk and hop all the way around the pool, past the chickens. Into the barn area. I rescue a chair and sit on it and watch little birds building a nest high on the roof in a pipe that will probably explode Tim's house since I think it's his cooking vent pipe. But they don't care. They are singing and carrying around worms, even now, right here, in the 2000's. These birds, my mom said, that they see on her walks with Dad in the mornings, we tell the birds to go visit you. They're happy, singing in the sun and caring for their babies, nestled in the pipe.

I get back on my foot and I hop all the way through the yard. The dogs trailing me for their own security purposes. I scoop a pile of horse poop, balanced like an ice skater. Because that's who I am. I go out through the basketball court driveway and end up back at the pool, sitting on the diving board and putting my toes in the water. I did the whole loop. Something that I would do maybe fifty times a day, I just did it once wobbily and it was the longest, most treacherous, hottest, funnest day in two weeks.

I'm getting an accident prize.

My husband comes through to go pick up one of the kids, because now all the jobs are his job. Except he usually did all the driving anyway. We had had a conversation earlier about mostly everyone is trying to keep it all together, just the basics of life, together. Hardly anyone is looking for more - to see and feel life, real, true life, more, because feeling life is scary.

"You can't be afraid of life," he said, without really thinking about it.

These are the people who love me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How is Your Little Bird?

So when the world kicked me out of it, the moving world. When I flew off the horse and ended my April of moving with the slam of cement, it was a stop.

Stop what you’re doing. I learned.

I get home and the huge outside is now shrunken down to only this deck outside my room and I roll out there for the first time and there is still the sky and the birds are chirping, they are having a party of chirping and I don’t have to get anywhere, I can just look at trees and individual leaves that never get anywhere either. I was looking at how far away the horses are and the chickens, over land I’ve trudged  busily a million times, land I can’t cross in wheels not legs. The distance is far, lumpy, and I can’t make the path straight in my mind. So I have to stop.

So I just listened to the birds and then there was this little sharp chirp, like behind the chair. I kept looking behind me, it was so loud and close. No bird. The sound was near. I looked next to the house. No. More chirps. I looked next to me under the table. Nothing. I kept hearing the sound, it was right next to me.

I looked under my leg on the wheelchair. On the silver metal bend of the chair, under my leg, right under my leg, is a teeny tiny bird with a tiny head and little brown eyes, just sitting there, twitching her tail and looking up at me.

Have you ever been wounded and then found a little bird chirping at you right under your leg?

I couldn’t believe she was there, she was the size of a Christmas ornament. She chirped a few funny things to me kind of authoritatively, but with a cock of her head, she let me look at her so I knew she was there not imagined, and then she flew off.

I stared at where she was, with a kind of hopeful ridiculous happiness from surprise. She had chirped her message deliberately to me, from under my leg: hello, there are surprises. Even the kind that stop your life for awhile. She cocked her head, not done chirping to me, an inch from my body: Of course, I am right here, under your leg. Just like your horses are always. Don’t be mad at the horse, he is a creature like you. He is warm and sleek and seeking adventure and comfort, just like you. You need his clip clopping. So use my voice to heal your bones, use all my friends chirping out here to lighten your heart the way the horse under you and the open trail and creek usually easily lightens your heart. Pretend the earth isn’t turning so slowly, and look up at the sky and wait and you’ll be back in a place soon where the birds will once again just be in the background, and the vast green world will be in front of you and you can just follow the trail.

Maybe you will never forget the little bird who came to tell you, broken trail traveler with your useless toes, that you will sing again. In the meantime she will sing for me, right here, under my leg. Right over there on the edge of the pool, right everywhere, all of us singing even still right now, for everyone stuck in the road, or waiting. Don’t forget to keep your heart open for the tiniest thing. What else is our singing for?

My friend Rebecca writes to me on my phone.

How is your little bird, she asks.

Sunday, April 7, 2019


You know when you're just going along with your life, and your sink has some dishes in it but not too many and there's a few clusters of dog hair on the floor and there's some kids in the pool or teenagers playing ping pong and summer is almost here. And you think hey you know, sure, I have an hour before I have to be somewhere, I might as well go out on a ride with my friend and her horse.

So you're just in the middle of a very spread out and intricate life and then you walk your horse over a palm frond that you know he's scared of and suddenly your life is a circus rodeo ride, as he explodes from fear as the frond bounces up to eat him there's leaping and twisting and you're flying and the cement catches you with its vast hard hand on your back.

Then there's a lady with a chihuahua and people are around and there's a fireman and an ambulance and your fake son is in the ambulance and I say "I don't need to go to the hospital" and the fireman laughs well actually we're going though. Then I'm in the siren and I've never been in the siren before. And Bruce is telling me he has been in here twice, for snowboarding, once awake and once blacked out. I think being alive and talking in an ambulance is then maybe a good place to be.

Then we're in this freezing room and I can only see the lights above and both my sons are there, the blonde and the brunette, and the only time I cry is when they transfer me onto a board directly onto my shredded back to take pictures in a tube and I hope the c scan can capture my tears of fury and resignation, and oh pain.

Then the doctor pauses before telling me what the xrays say, and I've seen enough tv shows to know this is moment that changes your life. And then his words bubble out sort of patiently, that there are about 400 fractures (okay, 6) but that there is no surgery required and thank you, he says, looking at me with calm grey eyes, for wearing a helmet. You made my job easier.

Then he's saying I'm getting a room and I'm like what wait no I'm not staying and then I'm going to that room but before that the chaplain comes in and I think uh oh wait I'm not actually dying but then he says they treat the whole person here which is good because I'm really only 10% body, the rest is loose spirit. I tell him I have no religion, just poetry and nature. He says that is a valuable religion too. And since I am on painkillers I say "Kevin, you should come to our house. You would fit right in."

Then my niece and double niece are there, and the kids and Barry and Bruce is eating two burritos at the same time because one is not enough when you have a serious wondersilly appetite for life. And I had been feeling lonely but I am sorry that I called them all here to this weird place where I'm in a bed but not having a baby and we're all together and even though there is pain it will be temporary.

In a way, the stopping of life is the unleashing of life. Life doesn't just stop with semi-tragedy, it just goes a way that you weren't agendaing. Then your regular life looks SO SO good from  here, your regular walking down the street with the sun on you hair, even slogging to a school you don't want to teach at really- that is looking like the most peaceful, most beautiful thing ever.

So my kids sit with me in this temporary spot where the bed puffs up and nobody knows us because we are just passing through on the ticket of pain, and there is food here too and windows and a brownie my mom brought and Nathan brought flowers because his dad taught him to love women gently, and it doesn't really matter where we are.

We are here.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Big Wheel Keep On Turnin

We had a hamster for a year. A year of listening to the squeaky wheel every  night when we were trying to watch a movie. Or when kids spent the night sacked out on the couch. Or anytime it was quiet. That damn wheel.

Shadow. He was like a lump of brown furry clay. He never caused any problem. Except for the two months he was lost under the couch, on hiatus and living the high life on the run. All the couch cushion innards he could eat. Then he came out on CHRISTMAS EVE, right into Santa's waiting hand. It was a Christmas miracle. The only thing Bess asked for on her Christmas list. Can I have Shadow back please.

He was the world's easiest pet, for those of you in the market for the world's easiest pet. Those same characteristics also made him the world's most boring pet. And don't forget, nobody wanted to clean his cage (I volunteer, I say, out of pity) (and because it smelled like old shoes in the rain that have warmed up in a hot car while you were at the fair), and nobody really played with him except to take him out to scare people who were afraid of rodents. And there was the wheel.

I fed him every night and every morning, he ate like a supermodel. A handful of pellets and man was he full. He could eat an enormous amount of broccoli for a being that weighed about .25 pounds.

Toward the end I was complaining that I was the only one feeding, cleaning or even jail visiting the little guy. I was saying "LET'S SELL THE CAGE, and if he's in it well --"

Then came the morning I hadn't heard the wheel. I went to the cage to fill up his tiny little doll sized chowder mug with pellets. The pellets were in there from the night before.
OH NO. I thought, with a pang. He never left any food.

I slowly lifted up the little pink house he hoarded all the shavings into and lived in like a hobo. Shutting out the world.
Little Shadow was only a shadow now. A little tiny area throw rug. All the life left behind. On the bigger wheel. The one not one of us has seen yet. He took his tictac sized feet and scampered off while we were sleeping.

Poor Shadow, I thought. My hand still holding his pellets.

Maybe his little pink house and his big looming wheel,  his whole life was a pretty good place to be. We didn't bother him much, and he had his exercise routine, his variety of fruits and vegetables, someone came and cleaned up his room (me). He lived like a king.

I felt bad for being mad about the wheel all those nights. He was doing his thing, man. He was sharing himself and asked for nothing.

We buried him outside, digging a grave with a spoon. When I say we, I mean me.
I patted the earth and hoped with his body safe back where it came from, that maybe the whiff of soul he must've had was mingling with the stars.

The smallest things sometimes teach me that routine is everything. Even complaining about routine. Even him being in there and us being out here, except for the toothpick sized bars that kept him from living in the couch like a free man, we were all doing the same thing.

Running on the wheel and not thinking about it at all.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Comfluter Lab

I had to work today after laying all day yesterday in my bed drooling the flu all over various pillows and thinking it might be my last night on earth. Of course the sub call came in at 5:45 a.m. and I stood up to walk around with the phone in the dark deciding whether I was feeling like barfing in which case no, I would punch in no, I can’t take the job, and when no barf feeling happened I sighed and said yes, third grade, Bridgely Elementary, some slacker teacher who didn’t want to come in after 5 days of rain, sure I’ll take your dumb class, sick as a dog.  I need the money.

So I go out in the dark to the barn to feed the horses even though the mud is so thick it sucks my boots off, and then get breakfasts and lunches even though I ate nothing yesterday and I set off.

The classroom I get is steel grey with the blinds sealed shut like the Rapture is happening outside and nobody better look at it, and the weather is just prison weather. A sad, thin French rain with a side of cement.  I look at what the teacher left and on it I see the magic sentence :  we have computer lab.  It gets better: we have computer lab for an hour. And even better: Usually the teacher after us doesn’t come in so stay an extra hour. I feel like crying. Computer lab is like getting paid to play arcade games, without the noise.  A lady then comes in the empty classroom and says “Oh I have you in the wrong room.” NO. She’s bustling me out. “You’re next door.” NO. I look back at the paper. But…Computer lab… The lady is hustling me next door. What are the chances the next room will have that magic computer lab formula on the teacher plans.  After deposited inside, I scan the page on his desk. Nope. No chance at all. It’s now my goal to somehow, renegade, get to computer lab.

This room also has the sealed flat grey slatted windows and that is just enough of that airtight stifling situation. I twist the blinds to let some of real life in and I see the stumpy building across the walkway instead of the misty green Scottish highlands I had conjured in my desperation. Well sun light is better than no light.

Then the class rattles in and for the next six hours we are on a bad date where I’m getting to know each of the 25 kids individually and trying to make a relationship work that won’t last past 2 pm. There are wiggly boys. I just had the flu and may still be sporting some of it in fact. Jayden shreds little pieces of orange construction paper and spends most of his time with his back to me dropping shit on the floor. Another kid can’t stop talking in fact he should get an award for the amount of talking he can do while simultaneously getting out of his chair after being told every 3 minutes to stop talking and sit down.

I get that school is boring. But wiggly boys should be put in a room next door filled with snakes. I could be in this room, teaching the sweet ones, while the boys are in the next door room climbing the walls, trying to escape. This is something they would all volunteer to do, by the way, rather than grammar and math. In fact, if I asked right now, every boy would say YES GIVE ME THE SNAKES. I might do it too, instead of math.

So after a few hours I know the sub next door is in heavenly computer lab and I’m in juvie and I know her class has that extra hour that we could steal so you know what, the flu says just GO MAN, so I take the class over and kick her out of computer lab and then some mean office type prison guard lady who looks like she takes her vacations on the side of freeways, getting take out food and overseeing grisly traffic accidents – she busts her way in like no kidding, she materializes STRAIGHT FROM HELL and says is this your computer lab time? And she’s checking a chart on the wall and I KNOW we’re not on there and she says was this on the lesson plan and I think man, why did I listen to the flu but I say  wellll he said if no one was in  here…  (because, come on, that WAS on ONE of the lesson plans.) And she kicks us out and we walk back to the class deflatedly and I think well at least I ruined that other sub’s day.

Then it just keeps raining and about 20 minutes from the end of the day I know which kids are kind and which kids are criminals and there’s a few kids who are hoping I’ll be there tomorrow they say and we like each other and it’s sad because now I know them I could try less hard and get the same results but now it’s sort of over. And I was sick so they got the worst version of me, the kind of flat, raspy tired me. But there were two nice kids and I got to eat Del Taco with a lot of ice in my cup. And I got money for basically just inwardly rolling my eyes a lot and at one point drawling and filling in the blank with a pronoun answer I knew.

So I left the class without stealing anything and turned in my key and walked in puddles and felt free and went back home and cleaned up horse poop and put out hay and got in pajamas and went back to bed.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Emma Missouri

When I was in my 20's I spent a bunch of time crossing the country because I couldn't figure out where I was supposed to live. One of the times across I was driving on the 70 and there was a sign for "Emma, Missouri." I thought hmmm. That's a good baby name.

Years later I had an Emma. And years later, now, this very as we speakend, I just put that Emma on a plane to Missouri. I texted her: hey I almost named you Emma Missouri. And now you're actually living it.

I didn't think it'd be that hard to put Emma on a plane. She's the middle kid, she's used to being shoved aside, or just shoved in general. At our house she's kind of the morality police, she's also the social one, the social media one, the bendy one, the dancer with the filthy pirate's mouth, the one with the cleanest room. She's not outdoors much, she's too busy taking every advanced math class there is. If he were alive, Einstein would be saying "cmon, man. STOP WITH THE MATH ALREADY." We don't have that much in common, so putting her on a plane, I thought, ah, she'll be fine. I'll be fine. It is kind of far. It is 6 days. It is kinda long.

We took her to the airport. We took her to the gate. Part of me was irritated because nobody took me to the gate when I was going back and forth all the time across the country as a kid. She's so protected, she's old to still be so protected. We got her a salad. We sat with her and waited while talking to a tattooed biker from Tennessee. Whom I told immediately that she was traveling alone. And then a small section of my brain cried silently at my idioticness.

Emma got on the plane. Got all the way to Missouri. She's with her friend. She's fine.

I am finding out something weird. Which started in the quiet drive on the way home. That when you have a person come out of your body and they're only 6 pounds and they hand that person to you...I don't know. There is a sense of ownership. Especially if you hand raise your own kids, using all your own Earth time. It doesn't matter that she is 16 and all the way in Missouri. That is me, way out there somewhere near Kansas. She is wearing 16 years of me, that's me at my best, all poured and molded and resembling an Emma. You wanna know what I've been doing, that's what I've been doing, people of Missouri. I'm not even there and yet my representative is there. She's my heart project.

Of course she's happy. She's beautiful, and she's on vacation. And I know she's a whole person, shut up people. I'm saying, there's more to this mom stuff than they spell out on the hospital forms or in movies. That ain't it. There's this whole OTHER THING. That feels a lot like some kind of weird spiritual journey if I had the velvet drapes and wore more beads and was comfortable with barefooted bearded guys. I feel that road less travelled connection. That road more travelled. That road that I paved in my guts and that is now wearing new leggings and eating chicken wings in Missouri. It's maybe so basic that nobody cares about it. But I didn't just make this person. I feel it all, then and still.

So I'm not sad, I think more I need Moms Anonymous. A place I can go and admit that I'm a mom and being a mom means that your real true heart life has become bigger, and unmanageable. You're not sorry, at these meetings. You're more just exhausted, honest and bewildered. The way it's supposed to be, because that's a sign you felt everything right.

A friend once told me that anyone who walks around and isn't completely bewildered by life is just a big liar.

Musing about all of this on my couch, another friend texts me and says that Emma told her "my mom is my best friend." This news is silly. Because here we are not at all the same person, and not even in the same time zone, and this person from my house for the last 16 years (and before that, previously of my body, and before that, of the stars) - even on this couch, temporarily empty of her, this person hasn't left me at all. All that noise that follows her and all those years I have logged her into my bones, and it's in her voice and her slippers under my bed. So I sit grateful for the person who came into my life all those years ago, and who flowered under my watering can, sprouting right up through my shoulders and through my chest. I think maybe Emma Missouri might have grown me, I just couldn't see because I was busy thinking I knew it all. After all, I was in charge.

I should know better from taking so many walks in the rain with my babies and following them through muddy puddles in wet boots that I'm not in charge at all.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

3 Days in a Trunk

I didn’t know I was missing art. I can’t draw, that’s real art, I mean, my art. Writing. Listening. Movies.

Somehow after 18 years of raising kids and writing a bunch of stuff, books, plays, essays, mostly unpublished…I was sitting in the trunk of our new (we miss the old, crashed) van while crew members scurried around, and I watched a monitor where two actors were playing my dead dogs having an argument about their terrible relationship and why they can’t just love each other.

A few people HAVE actually died since I wrote the plays that are becoming these movies. Dirk and Will, they were there in the trunk with me. Because I couldn’t see the actual actors, or even the sound person who was cozily crushed into the second row backseat with her blue hair and her bipolar attitude, I could just see my feet in socks, my monitor propped up on my stomach, and for 3 days I didn’t see blue sky recently washed by torrential rain ( Los Angeles miracle), I didn’t have to interact with crew so could remain mysterious (Trunk Girl) and on my lap I could only see their faces and my words all came out floating around the car that was also now an actor housing us and our scene together.

It’s a bizarre, unleashing and powerful situation to be listening and watching people say your private words. To share yourself – and then be on an actual ride of yourself. It was a ride, too, because the actors were speaking then driving erratically while sparring with funny and slightly sad dialogue, and then stopping and making out. It was like being a passenger in my own life while other people acted it out, in way better hair, lighting and clothing than when I acted out messily first while living it. All while never getting out of the trunk, like a stowaway.

I guess I was an immigrant, making the trip from making sandwiches every day to having a moment to let the funny words out. I know Tina Fey gets to make the funny words everyday, even while NOT in the trunk of her own van.

But I liked hearing my junk in the trunk. Unlike Tina Fey, I got 18 years of every moment with my kids. And now I’m getting time with my version of art. 3 days in the trunk. Feels like Hawaii.

Exotic. Expensive.

Rectangular. Covered in felt.

I wouldn’t trade 18 years, or the 3 days. All of it, and Dirk and Will

,belong to me.