My Still Unmade Bed

I know this is a long one, but seems memoir is…so here is my write something funny assignment. Class is almost over so hang in with me. And sorry about last weeks lack of a post. It is a another long story..

The stillness of the house made the morning sun feel like a my friend, who in their presence, I naturally slow down and breath deeper. This was one of the weekends I had to myself while Jena stayed with her dad. I was beginning to relish these periodic weekends alone as I became more comfortable in my own company, hearing less from my inner demon that would tell me, with great certainty, that I would never make it on my own. That I would never find anyone to share my life with.  He–yes it’s a male voice–would not stop there. He (me) would expound on why I would spend the rest of my life alone, using a tone of voice that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. The inner criticism who begin with, “you are too picky, you aren’t picky enough, you are too much, too needy, too tall, too scared, too injured, you don’t know how to love,” and end with, “you are a mess, my dear!”

So, in the absence of my nasty self, I planned this staycation retreat weekend. I considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, somewhere lovely with a Victorian four poster, canopied, quilted bed, serving gourmet breakfasts and quiet fields to roam. But my financially frugal inner accountant pursed his–are they all male voices?–lips together, folded his arms firmly across his chest and admonished, “Think again sweetie, you are staying right here, you can’t afford it.” So I stayed home.

I needed time to consider, reflect, renew, and figure a few things out; like what I am going to do with the rest of my life. I let my friends know my plans, that way when they didn’t hear from me or I didn’t answer the phone they wouldn’t think I had fallen into that deep, dark pit I frequently mentioned. I told my daughter the same, but assured her if she really needed me, she could call my cell phone. I shopped for food I love, shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, fresh asparagus and a great bottle of wine. I picked up the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, a story about a divorced woman redesigning her life.

I was well prepared for my weekend retreat to begin.

I woke leisurely, feeling grateful that I could take this luxurious time out. I was also thankful to be waking alone in the previous marital bed. I knew when I decided to marry, Unknown23-years-ago, I would miss sleeping alone. I always loved that sense of freedom and privacy of being in my own bed, wrapped in the covers, with no one else to consider. I moved slowly, allowing my body to wake as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen to make that first great cup of coffee. As I waited for it to brew, I decided to cover the microwave clock so I could ignore its bright red face insisting on the time. I wanted to hear the voice of my own internal clock this weekend.  After all, isn’t that what a retreat weekend is all about?

As I blindfolded the clock there was a knock on the kitchen door. I turned around, to see my neighbor Kyle standing on the other side of the french doors. Kyle and his family owned a weekend home up the street. I hadn’t known they would be here this weekend. I momentarily resented his intrusion to my quiet movements, but cajoled myself saying, “be nice and there is no escape, he knows you are home.” I opened the door. We did a neighborly shoulder only hug hello. I was still in my morning sweats.

I liked Kyle. I liked his wife and kids too. Our families got together often when they visited. Kyle explained he was here to do some work on their house, Laura and the kids decided to stay home. He said he was on a run and decided to stop in to see how I was fairing after the separation. How thoughtful I mused. We caught up on the kids, his and Laura’s trip to Italy, and my pathetic current circumstance. Even though I had planned to be alone and contemplative, I was comforted that someone had checked in on me.  I was also certain he wouldn’t be staying long.

We finished our coffee — I offered only one cup — and got up off the kitchen stool to rinse my mug in the sink. Kyle came up behind me, presumably to rinse his too, but instead wrapped his arms around my waist pulling me tightly into the front of his body. I tried hard not to feel anything I knew I wasn’t supposed to be feeling. I was speechless. My brain and my mouth were not engaged.

As he held me, he lamented his concerns for his son who had recently started college and was struggling socially and scholastically. Since my ears were working, I listened to what he was saying, while still trying to make sense of his physical contact. It had been a long time since I had needed to decipher another mans intentions. Obviously too long. I naively concluded Kyle must be very upset about his son and be in need of a friendly hug. Nothing else made sense. After all, he was married and our families were friends. I assured myself by he meant nothing by it. As he released me I fell tipsy to one side. I was off balance.

We continued to talk as though this was normal contact for us. I half paid attention to what he was saying, the other half of my attention was listening to my now engaged inner banshee, who was screaming, “What the fuck was that?” This time it was a female voice, a rather outraged female voice.

I’d like to report it ended here. It didn’t. Kyle made it known, in several explicit ways-that even I didn’t miss-that he was at my service. Did I look like I needed to be serviced, I wondered? Was this what I got for ending my marriage…offers from other women’s husbands? Had I misread Kyle’s friendship all these years? I began to question my judgement. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him in. Should I kick him out? I felt like I didn’t know anything any more. I felt scared that maybe I was doomed to be alone, a woman with too many cats — my demon had returned.

I didn’t get mad, I didn’t take action, I was immobilized in my confusion and self doubt.  I couldn’t find my center. Kyle continued to sit on my kitchen stool, sipping the second cup he poured for himself, patiently waiting for me to take him up on his very generous offer.

My insides were tangled between introjects of “be nice” and “men are pigs.” Messages skillfully taught to me by the women in my family. These lessons, distilled in me to their purest form, made it virtually impossible for me to find my way on this retreat morning. This was not the first time I had been caught in the trap of my family’s mixed messages.

Suddenly and without conscious thought, something in me began to straighten. It took me a minute to register just what, but I am thrilled to say it was my backbone….my hackles were up and I was pissed. I grew 2 inches sitting on that stool. I found my voice and told Kyle he was a PIG.

Surprisingly, he didn’t agree. He explained he was not offering to do it just to do some of it. He went on to explain, if we didn’t fuck, he wasn’t technically cheating on Laura. What sophisticated rationale. He did, he explained, have a line he wouldn’t cross.

I began to find this all very funny in its absurdity. I began to recite his logic back to myself, making comic sense of it. Ohhhh, I told myself, my mistake. Why didn’t he make this clear from his first grope? In his world his wife won’t mind if we retire upstairs, to my still unmade bed, and roll around for a while. I was astonished at the sincerity with which he made his offer.

I told him I would accept his very thoughtful proposition. But…only if Laura agreed with his definition of faithful. My demon and banshee stood down; they knew I had this now.

I handed him the phone.

He rinsed his cup and left.

: )

waxseal2 

 

 

Selling the family home…both of them…

I just started a writing class. I am so proud of myself, intimidated and excited. I would never have had the courage to take the class if not for this blog and your wonderful feedback. So thank you, you gave me the guts. 

So here’s the thing…each week I have at least one writing assignment due. Plus a lot of reading. The instructor takes this very seriously, we are going to learn… I wanted the easy version.

Anyway, my solution to not becoming too overwhelmed is to use my assignments as my blog posts. I hope that’s not cheating…I think that it is…but too bad. 

Our first assignment was to make a list, in 3 minutes, of 10 things we recently experienced. On my list # 4 was-went to NJ. There are so many versions of the same story, it is all determined by what we are  focused on. 

So here is another version of my trip to NJ…

 

I met her at the front door with a hand shake and mutual acknowledgement that after all our phone calls it was good to finally meet. I invited her in to see the house. As we stepped into the eat-in kitchen, familiar with mom’s meager attempt to update in the 70’s by covering the red linoleum floor with red indoor out door carpet, she admired it’s spaciousness. She agreed the plywood cabinets needed attention, but liked the amount of storage they provided. I pointed out the washing machine at the end of the counter, reminiscing my young self standing on top of it belting out Hello Dolly while impersonating Louis Armstrong. I even had a handkerchief I patted my not damp brow with. She thought it was an odd place for a washer.

She liked that there was a bath and a half, three bedrooms-my brothers room, with its telltale dark 1950‘s panelling, was used by the original owners as a den. She said she would have to check that the septic system was up to regulation to list the house as a three bedroom house. She also said, a couple of times, the house was deceivingly big on the inside. It looked smaller to her from the street. The deception that filled this house was not new to me.

I showed one other house to a realtor in 2008. It was the 1939 chestnut log cabin home I raised my children in, that my wasband and I built a1200 square foot addition to…ourselves, and that was the love of my life. I felt safe in that house. I described the IMG_2451feeling as “well held.” Selling it was harder than ending my marriage. At night when I can’t sleep I walk myself through the rooms of the cabin often starting in the kitchen meandering my way through each room. I usually fall asleep somewhere between the den and the master bedroom. I do this to comfort myself as well as to not allow myself to forget even one detail of my home.

Showing the cabin was made easier since a neighbor, who had been in the house plenty of times over the past 24 years, was my realtor. I didn’t need to show her around revisiting the painted over trains Landon and I stenciled on his bedroom wall before his sister was born, or the log in the living room with each of our initials carved into it’s surface or the basement where they learned to roller blade while Jena belted out Everybody…Everybody…Everybody…Wants to be a Cat, from the Disney movie Aristocrats.

I was spared salt in my wounds-then, but not this time. I had to show Debbie the linen closets in the bathroom and hallway. The coat closets by each door. The full size basement now empty but full with memories…particularly the now empty space where my brother built a raised, enclosed platform lined with mattresses we called the “sin bin”. He included colored lights that blinked in time with the music of Bread, Simon and Garfunkle, and Steppenwolf.  My first french kiss and full body contact with a neighborhood boy was in the sin bin. I have often since wondered what my parents were thinking when they allowed Rob to develop his carpentry skills in this way? Maybe they weren’t. They often didn’t. He did go on to make a beautiful maple end table in High School shop class. I guess he had to start somewhere.

I showed her the hardwood floors hidden beneath the matted celery green carpet  remembering that I faked falling asleep the day the carpet was installed so my parents would think I was ‘oh so cute’…desperate for their loving attention. Assuring them, as I often did, that every thing was okay. They didn’t have to fight, they didn’t have to drink, because the carpet was so soft their precious daughter could sleep on it.

I pointed out the built in bookshelves/cabinets in the combined living room dining room  that held the porcelain Irish Setter I bought my parents one Christmas. It cost $25.00 which was my allowance saved for five months. It looked just like our family dog that dad threw down the basement steps one night in a rage.

Debbie liked the house. She said it was perfect for a young family or someone down sizing from a Mc mansion. Apparently quite common these days. She loved the neighborhood, the potential of the house and the floor plan. She was excited to sell it. Seeing it through her new eyes, instead of my duplicitous nostalgia, I saw the house with a new life, new loves, and a new family. I understood, walking through the house that looked like always, yet felt so foreign, was my new normal.

Debbie hugged me as she left. I held on to her for a moment too long, she felt like an old friend at this point. The salt of my tears felt healing. I was let go of her and the house at the same time.

With Love,
waxseal2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Who Do To Much

The other day a coworker asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving.

nice gloves

 

“Cooking.”

 

She asked if I usually cook Thanksgiving. It struck me as an odd question. Who else would cook?…I am the mom…after all.

 

“Yes, I have cooked, give or take a year, for the past 27 years.”

 

Her eyes got big, “Wow, I never cook Thanksgiving.” Now I was intrigued. She is a mom too. How did she pulled that off?

 

She explained that the first time she cooked a turkey it wasn’t fully cooked when she served it, so her family didn’t want her to be responsible for the next years, or any year after thats’ holiday meal.

 

Brilliant. Why had’t I thought of that? I had, after all, accidentally burned the first shirt my then husband asked me to iron resulting in his never asking again. I had the paradigm. I saw how it worked. I didn’t take the hint.

 

Later that same day, when rescheduling a client, I offered a session the week of Thanksgiving. She declined explaining she will be too busy preparing for Thanksgiving. She was cooking.

 

I thought of the many Thanksgiving weeks that I worked in Pittsburgh while living in Chalk Hill. An hour and a half commute that I returned home from on Wednesday night around 6 or 7. I had made the stuffing, nut bread, and cranberry bread and shopped the weekend before so all that needed to be done to get dinner on the table in the next 20 hours was par boil, peel and make the white sauce for the creamed onions; peel, boil and mash the potatoes; prepare and boil the green beans to toss into the sautéed garlic and chopped shallots; whip the heavy cream into perfect decadence; put the leaf in the table and set it for 8-10 friends and family; panic because every year I seemed to forget the cornucopia themed paper napkins leaving me with Scott Every Days to design the Martha Stewart wannabe table; oh yeah, stuff and cook the turkey.

Apple and pumpkin pie was deliciously prepared by my then Husband. I never learned how to make pies, so he did. (Hint, hint.) Kathleen brought the sweet potato casserole. Heidi another dessert and/or vegetable.

 

This is what I expected of myself. And soon it became what my family expected also. I  trained them well. It never occurred to me that it was too much to do or that I could do less. Especially when working a full week. Out of town no less.

 

It is Thanksgiving again with Christmas right around the corner. And you know I am no easier on myself at Christmas. I usually begin asking myself, sometime the morning of December 26th, why I do this to myself year after year, concluding with my traditional New Years Resolution promising not do so much in the new year.

 

I do it for other reasons too. I do it for the sake of tradition, so my kids have endearing holiday memories, because my mom cooked Mama B’s cornbread stuffing and creamed onions, although she did not work outside of the home and the tension at the well set table of china and sterling usually made dinner a fast and furious event, because when all the preparations are complete and the people I love most in the world are sitting around the table, I feel sweetly and fully blessed.

 

Yesterday I was offering to teach Jena how to make her great grandmothers Alabama corn bread stuffing. (Perhaps unconsciously passing the torch…PLEASE.) Jena said she was planning on being one of those people that never learned to cook. (She does seem to date guys that love to cook.) I heard myself judgmentally ask,”How do you think that will be for your kids?” My question shamed her into retracting her statement saying she was only kidding.

 

As I retold this exchange to Tom I owned how sexist it was of me to assume holiday traditions will be her responsibility.

 

So how does a mom do it? Create tradition, if that is important to her, and not exhaust herself in the process? Ask for more help? Do less? Care less? It is a labor of love that can end in tired resentment.

 

I would love to hear your ideas. How do you do it?

 

And Happy Happy Thanksgiving!