Friday, May 29, 2015

Muscle Memory

So today I'm going to do something a bit different.  I know I have not been spending much time on the blog.  I think I've only written 2 or 3 posts this month.  But I have been writing.  I've been flexing my fiction muscles a bit.  They are way out of practice.  I hope they remember how to do the heavy lifting.

Recently my in-laws moved out of their house that they've lived in for years.  This meant that Clif and I had to find a home for all the stuff we were storing there.  I came across a box that contained writing from high school.  All fiction.  You guys?  I was really good at it.  I mean, I was totally impressed with my 17 year old self!  It was all a bit dark and angst ridden, but I was a moody teenager.

I had forgotten how much I loved it.  This then prompted me to find some of my college stuff.  Which led to 22-year-old Jaime stuff.

Anyway, long story short, I was yearning to dive back into it.  So I did.  So on the days that I would normally get an urge to post on here, I wrote a fiction piece.  None of them are done.  They're all just snippets.  So today, I'm going to share something with you.  But first...


Everything else I've ever posted on here has been absolutely true to the best of my knowledge and/or memory.  My point of view.  This is NOT true...fiction.  I just want that to be crystal clear so I don't get any worried phone calls or concerned emails.

I would welcome any constructive criticism.  I hope you enjoy it...

The memory is always the same, because how can a memory change?  A memory is.  There are no questions.  Different people may remember it differently, but to you, in the crevices of your mind, the memory stays exactly as it always was.

The memory comes in a dream, but it always seems to veer off course.  There is always some plot line that emerges that wasn’t there in 1982.

It’s raining.  Storming.  The thunder wakes me and as the next lightning bolt slices through the sky, my room lights up and my mother is standing over me whispering to be quiet. I can't be sure if she's real.  My mind has been yanked from unconsciousness and I can't tell what actually hovers over me and what remains from sleep.  The outline of her appears with the lightning and disappears just as quickly.

She picks me up, slips down the stairs and out the door.  She runs and my chin bobs on her shoulder.  I see the rectangle of light flowing out of the darkness where she left the door open.  I’m soaking wet by the time we slip into the car.  She tells me to lie down and she speeds off as another flash of lightning and boom of thunder disrupt the rhythm of the rain. 

Sometimes Andy is with us, running behind to catch up.  Other times I see him standing in the rectangle of yellow light, crying for us.  Still others I just hear him screaming for us to come back.  Once my mother carried both of us and when I looked over, he was just gone.  That's the dream's doing.  My mind's way of making sense.  In reality, Andy was never there.  He had drowned in the creek the summer before and I was left as an only child.  One child to a mother and father conditioned to parent twins.  Single in a world where I had never been alone, not even during my first breath.

My dreams always put him there, because how can I exist without him?  We were meant to be a pair and when he was gone, so was I.

I always wake when Andy disappears.  Right on cue.  I notice he's gone and my eyes pop open like I was never even sleeping.  As if my subconscious won’t believe he’s gone.  The memory exists, but refuses to finish it's playback.  I can remember what happens.  That my mother and I drove off, through the night, all night until we were four states away and passing under the neon lights of a dingy motel.  But my dream never gets that far.  My dreams belong with Andy...our dreams.  They can't move forward without him.  And without a dream, what could I possibly become?

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Village

I have lots of memories of playing outside as a child without adult supervision.  We built forts in the woods, walked to the creek, and played hide-and-go-seek until bedtime.  All while our parents were inside making dinner or cleaning up dinner or watching TV.  I honestly don't even know what they were doing.  In a lot of these memories, I'm a bit older than my kids, but my younger siblings were always with me and I have one memory in particular I want to share.

 I can't be sure of my exact age, but I know we moved from that house when I was 6.  I know it was warm and my birthday's in the fall, so that makes me think I might have been 5.  And that would make sense, because my mom was probably inside with my 3 year old brother and infant sister.

I decided to play cowgirl using my bike as the horse.  And I would need boots and a hat, of course.  I pulled some dress up clothes out of the playroom and went back outside to ride my bike wearing boots and a hat.  The boots were way too big and I had a lot of trouble staying on the bike.

The yard was huge to me.  I mean, it was like a field.  I haven't been back to that house as an adult, so I have no idea how big it actually is.  Our neighbor, who seemed miles away at the time, was sunbathing.  I think she was a teenager, but I really can't be sure.  Five year old memories do not translate well into adulthood.

So I tried and tried to ride the bike, but because the boots were so big my feet were never actually pushing on the pedals.  The empty toes of the boots just bent up and applied no pressure to make the bike move forward.  I fell over and over again.

Suddenly the neighbor was there beside me in her blue bikini.

"Are you having trouble?" she asked.
"I think your shoes are too big.  Why don't you put your sneakers back on?" she suggested.
"But I'm a cowgirl." I replied.
"Well, how about when you're riding your horse you wear sneakers and change into the boots while your horse rests?"

I lit up at the idea.  She helped me put my shoes back on, then walked back to her blanket and book.  And I played cowgirl.  Switching shoes each time I got on or off the horse.  What a perfect idea.

For whatever reason, that memory is burned in my mind.  When I think of playing as a child, it's always one that pops up.  I have no idea how long I was outside without my mom.  I have no idea what the neighbor's name was.  But it seemed like she was my savior in that moment and it seemed like I was out there all day.

Fast forward to now.  I don't like my kids to be out of my sight.  I try to let them play on their own, but when it's not in the house, that's really hard for me to deal with.  So I made a decision recently.  I was going to force myself to allow them free play, on their own.  If you've heard about the Silver Spring family that's been brought up on child neglect charges for allowing their 6 and 8 year-olds to play at a playground without adult supervision, you'll know the term Free Range Parenting.  I'm not sure I'm as free range as some people, but I'm trying to be that, if just a little bit.  I don't think my mom had a name for it.

I started letting Ainsley and Freddie go, by themselves, to the basketball court in our neighborhood.  It's not far.  They can be home in 2 minutes.  I don't have to walk far before they can hear me call them.  They know about strangers and never going anywhere with anyone unless we know.  I quiz them on this before they leave the house.  Every. Single. Time.

They don't get long.  Maybe 30 minutes before someone is checking on them.  So a couple of weeks ago, I walked down to check on them and they were playing with another girl in the neighborhood.  They were building a tee pee.  They had found huge sticks in the woods and dragged them onto the court.  The situated them in the basketball hoop to create a structure.  I was kind of amazed and I had to admit to myself that if I had been there with them, they never would have done that for a couple reasons...

1 - When I'm around, they expect me to entertain them.  They want me to play with them.  In the house they prefer to just watch TV than to play without me.  And unfortunately, I'm the grown up so someone has to not play and make dinner.

2 - If I had been there, I would have nagged them to watch for dog poo, and not to play with sticks, and you can't use the hoop, and be careful in the woods.

Instead, they had been left to their own imaginations and own rules within the boundaries I had set.  And at that moment, I was sold on the idea.  I would need to push away my own fears and worries so that they could actually have these experiences.

There are rules.  Freddie can not be by himself.  He has to be with Ainsley.  Ainsley is allowed to play outside by herself or with friends in 30 minute blocks.  She has to stay where she tells us she's going and she's not allowed to go in any one's house.  Even friends we know.  When they are bike riding, Freddie has to stay on sidewalks unless a grown up is around.  Ainsley has proven that she's very good about watching for cars, so she can ride in the street.  We talk about strangers every single time they go out.

They've had so much fun with this.  This is the first time, ever, that they've really spent time outside.  We don't have a yard, so I've never just been able to let them play in the yard while I watch from the deck or the kitchen window.  They're both covered with scraped knees and dirty feet.  It reminds me of the way I played as a kid, without play dates, and bounce houses, and organized functions.

Here's the one big difference.  The village is gone.  That mentality that we should all look out for one another and bring each other up instead of pushing each other down.  It's like what I ask my kids when they have to tell me something about someone else.  I say "Are you telling me this because someone is going to get hurt or do you just want to see that person get in trouble?"  We try and teach our kids not to tattle, but society has become one big game of tattling on one another.

That neighbor that came over to help me.  I don't remember her ever talking to my mom.  That doesn't mean it didn't happen...I was 5, what did I know?  Yet she still watched out for me.  She didn't call the police, she didn't knock on my mom's door and condemn her for her parenting choices.  She saw a little kid having issues and she helped.  Period.  When I was a kid, my whole neighborhood watched out for me.  Everyone on the street knew my family and if I fell or needed an adult, there were plenty around.

My kids won't have that and that's sad.  I bet it was nice when you had a whole network of people to lean on if you needed it as a kid - or a parent.  So instead, we'll teach them how to take care of themselves on these 30 minute excursions, and we'll teach them to watch out for one another and any other kid that's with them, and in the end I think they'll end up being better adults for it.  Hopefully ones that don't tattle. Ones that know how to build a village.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Last week was a bad week.  Emotional, sad, tiring...heavy.

My aunt passed away after a long, tough battle with ovarian cancer.  It wasn't a shock, it was expected, and her passing was a blessing after the pain and suffering she had endured.  Doesn't make it less sad.

We took Gatsby in for a lump, that we assumed was nothing.  Turned out it was cancer.  He had to have surgery to remove it, x-rays to see if it had spread.

I got a letter from Ainsley's school saying she was falling behind.  That she should probably attend summer school to stay on target.  A form letter.  In May.  Nothing personal or informative, just a basic template with her name written in to the blank space.

That was Tuesday.

It was a heavy day.  A day that I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, snuggle under the covers, and watch reruns of Friends until laughter replaced tears and the growing knot in my stomach dissipated.  But Clif was in Boston for work and there were three little people that needed to eat and, I pulled up my big girl panties and marched my way through the evening until it was bedtime and I could sit down and work on the things I wasn't able to focus on at work that day.

But thank God for them, right?  They do make me laugh and keep me on task and give me something to occupy my time when the heavy takes up residence on my chest.  Somehow, with all the responsibility that comes with raising three children, they lighten the load in the emotional department.

Things have gotten better.  I finally worked up the nerve and found the words to email Ainsley's principal.  We are currently in an exciting game of phone tag.  Gatsby's tests all came back positively.  The lump was removed, the cancer had not spread, and the Vet believes that he's cured.  And Sue?  Well, she's soaring with the best of them.  No longer a slave to her sick body.

But here I am, a week later still feeling heavy.  Still wondering why life can be so damn hard at times.  Why everything seems to come crashing down at once.  One of the great universal mysteries.  I know it will pass.  The heaviness will be replaced with love and laughter.  You can't feel great happiness without great sadness.  The ying and the yang.  You take the good, you take the bad...

Life is one big flipping coin.  Heads or tails.  You never know how it will land.  If you'll be a big winner or loser that day.  But one thing's for sure, you've got a 50/50 chance either way.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Belly Laughs

Yesterday, I was taking my normal lunchtime stroll.  As I entered a small park, it began to rain a bit.  I was wearing a long maxi dress with a black cardigan.  I bought the dress last summer.  I saw it and loved it and it was on sale.  It was the end of the summer.  I got it home and it didn't fit great, so I wore it with spanx and only when I was feeling a bit more slender.  I haven't worn it since September, but yesterday I pulled it out to try it.

It fit great.  I was excited.  When you're trying to loose weight and the scale is not moving as fast as you'd like, it's always nice to feel good in something.  And I felt really good as I left the house yesterday.

But back to the park.  It was starting to rain, so instead of continuing my walk, I turned and headed back towards my office.  An old man sat on a bench and as I approached he spoke to me.  I didn't quite hear him, and for some reason I made eye contact.  So he repeated himself as I walked past.

"Is that a boy or a girl in there?" He asked.  I didn't respond.  I felt the shame swell up inside of me and just quickened my pace.  Did I really look pregnant?  I spent the next three blocks trying to catch a glimpse of my profile in glass buildings and doors.  Sucking in my stomach as much as I could.

Then as I stood on the corner waiting for the crosswalk sign, I saw a man stumble across the street.  He was almost naked, except for the ripped up daisy duke shorts he was wearing.  No shoes, no shirt.  His white/blond hair was in dreads.  I think he may have been intoxicated.  And he had a huge protruding belly.  My initial thought was "Maybe the dude on the bench should ask him what he's having." And then I just started laughing.  By myself, on the street corner, laughing.  Because how ridiculous would it be to ask a man if he were pregnant?  And how ridiculous am I for obsessing over something some dude said to me in passing?  And how ridiculous was that man for asking a complete stranger such a personal question?

Six months ago, a year ago, most of my lifetime, a comment like that would have sent me into a spiral.  I probably would have stopped at the vending machine on the way back to my office and then devoured a couple bags of peanut M n M's and maybe also a Coke for good measure.  If everyone was going to think I was pregnant, I might as well just be fat.

Instead, I filled my water bottle, went to my desk and ate my strawberries that were waiting for me.  And I texted my husband and told him the funny story, because let's face it...this is my body, pseudo pregnant belly and all.

The fact is, I've never had a nice abdomen.  It's always been my trouble spot.  It's the first place I put on weight, and the last place it comes off.  Even before kids.  Throw in three pregnancies and three c-sections...six pack abs are probably not in the cards for me.  I know there are women out there who don't have this issue. They have stomachs that snap right back into place.  I'm not one of those women.  And I think I'm finally okay with that.

I will keep exercising, keep doing my crunches, keep eating right...but I'm probably always going to have this belly.  And instead of hating it and wishing it away and crunching it into submission, maybe I should appreciate what it's done for me.  It's made three humans.  My stomach has cradled and loved and warmed three little eggs until they were big enough and strong enough to make it in the world.  That's not nothing.  Maybe I should give my poor belly a break and not curse it every time I pass a mirror.

So next time I'm walking through that park, if that man is sitting on that bench, I will go up to him and say "It's actually a girl and two boys.  Don't I look amazing?!?!?!"
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