Born In The Sign Of Water

marina

This past weekend, I fulfilled a bucket list item that I put on my list three years ago, almost to the day—to drink champagne on a yacht. This trip happened purely with the help of my friends. It was an incredible, beautiful weekend.

I have really never spent time on a boat before, and I was on this one pretty much all weekend when I wasn’t on land, getting a run in, or chowing down on a burger or some fresh fish. I thought I would get sick when I first boarded, and had to put on my motion sickness bracelets, but I soon adjusted to the slow rocking, and to my small quarters, which I found to be like a cozy hobbit hole on the water. Everything is very small, even on a big boat. Doors, beds, cupboards. I am also somewhat small, so it suited me just fine. A girl could get used to that life, or at least visiting that life from time to time. Playing cards on a boat on a calm evening is a pretty great way to spend the evening, and writing from the deck of a boat in the sunshine is downright awesome. Boat parties are also very intimate and close, because of the smaller space. Someone did puke off the side of the boat, but it wasn’t me.

My host is a friend and a really great guy. We had a really fun weekend, and I got some pictures of me fulfilling the bucket list item. I thought the pictures were pretty horrible as I look like a sack of middle-aged garbage someone stuffed into a bathing suit, but my joy was evident in the pictures, and my friends were enthusiastic and supportive as hell about me posting them all over social media, which is awesome.

I laid down last night in my bed, and missed the gentle rocking. It’s sexual, really.

Back to reality yesterday, and land-based life. Parenting, and my long to-do list for the week, which includes some fun, but also a good bit of work. I picked up the kid last night and wanted to know if they had talked about 9/11 at school, because I have never covered it with him. He gave a cursory, “blah blah blah” type explanation and clearly really didn’t know what happened. I decided that 8 is old enough to know more, so I explained what happened, and showed him a few video clips. He is a child who has grown up watching things on TV that are larger than life, so it really didn’t impact him tragically or dramatically, which I pretty much expected. He asked why this happened and said he didn’t understand why anyone would do what the hijackers did, and wanted to know why they hated us. I basically said war is futile and is just a back and forth that nobody ever wins. We kill some of you, you kill some of us, we take this one out, they take that one out, and it just perpetuates hate and violence and there’s really nothing good about it.

I thought about the guys I met on the dock this past weekend who asked if we had a lighter, and I gave them a book of matches. They assembled a hookah and were smoking it looking out at the water, and they invited me to join them so I went out to talk to them. One was from Syria, one from Jordan and another from Iraq. They were friendly but not in any type of creepy, hitting on me way, and we talked a little. They had never been to the island before, and though I’m not an islander, I’ve been there enough that I made a couple of recommendations for them to check out before they left later that evening. They waved and smiled as they left in their golf cart and I thought how this is really how it should be, and if my sole conversation helps further that ideal, I’m glad.

The kid has a cold and is a little crabby, and I’m fighting a little something as well. But I must press on, there are press releases and speeches to write, articles to pitch, meetings to take, meals to cook, and music to guide me through this busy week.

 

 

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Soft Is The Grass And My Bed Is Free

Jimmy funeral

Late last week, a good, old friend of mine died from years-long complications stemming from congenital liver disease. My son was with me last week, and when I saw the news online, it was like a punch in the gut that was hard to hide. I knew it was coming soon. I had just seen Jimmy at a July 4th party, a party my kid and I now attend each year, and he was extremely, shockingly unwell, so I knew his time left in this plane was short. My little kid had questions about his obvious illness, which I tried to handle gently and away from the crowd.

I’m so glad I got to see Jimmy that one last time, to sit with him, kiss him on the cheek, talk about what a beautiful day was, how good the food was, how the parenting thing is going. He never got to have any children, and was so good with kids. He would have been a great parent, and I was struck at the party what a shame it was, but was gladdened knowing how much he enjoyed being an uncle to his siblings’ children.

When I heard last week, tears sprang to my eyes and I began reading posts online, trying not to cry and getting my son ready for bed. As I tucked him in, he said, “Mom, the more you read, the more you’re going to cry.” I said that I knew, but sometimes you needed to read and feel a lot before you could move on, and not to worry, that I’d be ok.

I wasn’t ok that night. I devolved into a world of way too much whiskey and a terrible amount of tears. Not just the emotions of losing Jimmy, but how I’ve lost my life basically since the time of that party. I lost my partner of four years, when we parted ways, then I lost my job, and the bottom has just dropped and dropped after that, with Jimmy’s death feeling like smashing down to the bottom. By midnight, I had to call in an emergency-friend-chip. My friend came over to gather me up from the front steps, where I was crying and freezing and shaking and having a total breakdown while my son peacefully slept inside. She gathered me up, took me inside, listened to me, put me to bed and held me until I passed out from the exhaustion of crying so much, then she slipped quietly away. I am lucky to have friends like this, I know.

A few days later, the 48 hour process of putting Jimmy to rest had arrived, and I had no idea what to expect. Theater people wear their emotions so much closer to the surface than “normal” people anyway, and we all, EVERYONE, loved Jimmy. Everyone who met him loved him, and he was integral to each person’s life in their own, special way. I knew it would be an emotional roller coaster, but I could not have predicted (and apparently neither did the funeral home) the huge number of people that showed up to stand in line and pay their respects to a wonderful man. To be this loved, to have touched this many people, well, that is a real life goal, no hashtag necessary.

So much happened and was said over during those 48 hours. It is more special to me than I can even find words to describe. I’ve never laughed so much or so hard in such a short period of time, or cried so much or so hard, sometimes moment to moment, switching between the two. Man, when you bury a funny man and are in the company of lots of other funny and loving and emotional people who are used to easily accessing their emotions and thoughts in the present moment as they come up, it’s a unique tragedy.

Theater is family. People I had never met before embraced me and we cried together, stroked each other’s hair and talked about how unfair it all is. Things whispered to each other in these caring, intimate moments will stay with me the rest of my days. I was a rock for some who were breaking down – men, women, people who I held as if they were my child, giving them every bit of the love and comfort I had available, and then turning myself in the next minute to another set of arms as I was losing it myself, some arms that quite literally physically held me up when I could no longer stand.

I remember standing in the middle of a circle at one point, everyone crying and encircling each other. Big, loud, unabashed crying of people sharing pain and love together. “I love you all so much,” I said to all of them at once, over and over, from inside the circle. “I love you,” the voices said back, one by one, those who could talk. I’ve never felt anything like this before. My writing skills fail me in describing it.

There were toasts at the bars, bawdy, disgusting humor, off-color jokes, songs with filthy lyrics sung at top volume, and myriad anecdotes involving our friend, which is exactly as he would have wanted it. There were shared secrets and secrets revealed, reveled in and laughed at. Old wounds were healed. Distances between people were snapped together so fast it broke speed records. Bonds were forged. Wrongs were righted. Minds were expanded and new friendships were made. There were individuals coming and going, but we were all part of one body, like an enormous, living, breathing animal with 100 arms.

This is the way to closure, if ever there is such a thing. He will always be with us, but we truly took the tough journey to get through to the other side, and he was with us every second.

Thank you, Jimmy, for giving us this part of your life. For your love, your spirit, and for all the laughs.

I love you all so much.

 

The Moon Is A Marshmallow Dream

yin yang goats

The yin and yang of goats

Though I could ill afford it, it was time for an outing, and I took my kid to our favorite county fair—the Randolph Fair in Portage County. We haven’t really gone to do anything fun since I lost my full-time job a month and a half ago, and I’ve been extremely conservative about spending. But I had the money for this, which is an extremely old fashioned county fair, and the prices are still really fairly low, as it caters to a largely rural surrounding area.

I’ve been to “fairs” in paved parking lots where the stands are all generic, with a few rides and games and not much else. The Randolph Fair is the opposite of that. It’s everything from my childhood, my parents’ childhood, and who knows how far back, with little change even though we are in a much different world now. Like stepping back in time, you have to be open to what’s there, remembering that it’s a different world and borne of a different time. There are some real benefits to that, but it can also be hard to visit the past, so you have to mentally prepare yourself. I do that by donning my cowboy boots and John Deere shirt, or my rodeo shirt and cowboy hat as part of “getting into costume” for the event.

For me, it’s like slipping on an old suit that’s still stretchy and comfortable enough to fit, even though I’m aware it’s really no longer in style.

From the bumpy off-roading in the grass parking lots to the all-dirt walkways, this fair is a real old fashioned deal. D is old enough now that some of these memories and visions will stick with him. I’ve taken him to this fair before, but not since he was super little, and I knew he wouldn’t remember anything from before. So we took it all in.  The rabbit sandwich stand. The tractor display—old and new. A real life steer auction. 4H kids sleeping in the barns or literally next to their animals. Counting the eggs under the chickens in the poultry barn. We even came across a live square dancing lesson. There’s something truly amazing about the casual, confident elegance of an old-timey square dance caller. Him and his polyester pants and big belt buckle, his little 45 record player and his headset, he was just as charming and confident as a person can be and it was amazing to watch, flirting with the ladies and teaching the men how to do allemande left and do-si-do.

square dance caller

You go, square dance caller man

We ate a lot of greasy food, which is a requirement, and saw all the animals. We even watched a dressage show, and talked about horses and what they have to do for the contest. I got him to take up the challenge at the Marine Corps’ booth and they lifted him up to the chin-up bar where he did three really good chin-ups before asking them to set him down, which is three more than I’ve ever been able to do like in my whole life. The kid is wiry and skinny but he is strong. They gave him a poster of some soldier with an enormous, high-powered machine gun, which “somehow” found its way into the trash.

I wanted to take him to the rodeo, but that was a few days before we went and he was still with his dad. However, we did get to attend the coup de grace of my white trash cultural roots—the tractor pull.

john deere zamboni

The John Deere version of a zamboni.

I came prepared, with earplugs for both of us, but he still held his hands over his ears when the guttural roar would soar to a scream and the tractor would tear down the dirt track, pulling the huge, heavy weight behind it, a trailer which had been painted to look like a monster. The crowd would cheer and the tractors would come out and comb the field flat again and then it was on to the next. The announcer handling introductions of each guy was also a step back in time, talking about the “cute, hot girls” working the stand at the pull selling merchandise and how we should all go give them a visit and buy some stuff, and describing each driver as they lined up their rig and backed it into the weight with the help of multiple cowboy type guides. This one is a long-haul truck driver, married to a sweet gal and with two little girls, and raises chickens and goats on the side. That one is an agricultural farmer with 300 acres who is also a volunteer fireman in town. The other is a lifetime General Motors employee who farms 20 acres in his spare time. Hard working, blue collar, white. Trump country, though not outwardly advertised other than some very small confederate flags we spied on sale in one of the tchotchke booths, where I bought D a couple trinkets—a Pez dispenser and a stress/squoosh ball.

The pull smelled of gasoline and the black soot of the fossil fuels spewing out partially blocked out the setting sun when each guy did their run. It makes your heart pound, all the noise and the adrenaline, or maybe that was just all the grease we’d eaten.The fair is one of the last places I still see innocence. Young teenagers in extreme love, hanging on each other, chewing gum and waiting in line for milkshakes. Pre-teen girls trying to look pretty and not awkward, and boys in clumps and packs pretending not to notice them, and everyone giggling at everyone else. There are cover bands playing Patsy Cline and Helen Reddy and the lights of the midway and rock music playing at the rides, shredded chicken sandwiches and homemade pie like I grew up on, and lots of kids who are working their asses off taking care of animals that they hope to sell. I recognized a couple of farm names I’ve purchased meat from in the past and loved that the throughline and connection to my food is as short as it is.We ended the night with a stop at Lerch’s donuts, a local, delicious donut place serving 1950s-sized donuts in little white paper cardboard boxes. A dozen to take home, please, that he’s eaten little by little all week at breakfast at school.

lerch's donuts

The kid was asleep before we even left the parking lot.

I hope each bite this week has tasted as sweet as the memories we made.

I Can Reach Out To You

I want to tell you about something intimate and special that happened today. No, dear readers, it isn’t time for sexy talk. But come along with me on this journey. This will be long, but I promise, worth your time.

Today I attended a funeral for a young man I didn’t know. I am friends with the man’s father, and I wanted to pay my respects.

This was a strange and different place for me to go to. It was far from where I live, in a part of town with which I am completely unfamiliar and where I almost always get lost (today was no exception). It was in a house of worship that is a type I’ve not been to before. A good half of the service was in another language, including some beautiful songs that you didn’t need to know the words to in order to hear the message of sadness and beauty. I had no one to go with, and knew almost no one there. I get nervous when I go to new places, especially alone, and I left early as I knew I would get lost.

The people there were both me and not me. Most people had nicer cars than my car, which has crossed the line from “old” into “beater” territory.  They had better clothes – I always feel like I never pass the smell test when I dress up, that everyone looks better than me, but that’s just my thing from growing up poor. But we were all there for the same reason. And so many of us, with every single seat filling up, extra chairs being brought in, and still it was SRO in the back and sides of the room. The young man was well loved. His family and community came together to provide what support one can when a young life is cut tragically too short. None of it seems sufficient, but it is still important.

As it got more and more crowded closer to the start, every seat was being snapped up. An older man quickly slid into the seat next to me, the only one left open in my row.

I am loud and larger than life, but in situations like this, unfamiliar and under such terrible circumstances, I shrink into myself and try to disappear. I wasn’t sure I belonged there; so many around me seemed to know each other.

The man engaged me in brief conversation, and gave me his first name. We did the “how do you know” game a bit and talked about what we do for a living. He didn’t think I would understand what he does after he told me his profession, and I surprised him with what I knew – the things you learn along the way in life, right? He spoke about his wife and his family, how long they have known the family affected by this tragic loss. It was a short but pleasant chat – as pleasant as these things can go in these circumstances. He was a big man, tall and with a large frame, and his elbow and arm took most of the shared armrest between us.

The service started. It was incredibly quiet. The words from the pulpit attempted to soothe. As the story unfolded of what an incredible young man the world had lost, my neighbor began to fidget. I could feel he was upset and fighting it. My elbow was behind his on the small bit of real estate left on the armrest, and I could feel all his movement and unrest almost through his shirtsleeve. He teared up and quickly dabbed at his eyes to try to control any unfolding that would reveal vulnerability, as men sometimes do. But he was so upset and so suddenly. I was driven by a sense almost beyond myself to comfort this man I didn’t know.

I reached out with my opposite hand and patted him on the bicep. “I’m here,” my touch said, “It’s ok.” I am a mom, and a bit of an empath I guess. I find it almost impossible NOT to do this with a lot of people, as much of my parenting and connection with my kid is based in touch, and my communication with people often originates from a place of physical connection – from a handshake to a big hug and kiss type greeting.

He put his hand on top of mine and held it there a moment. He needed it. He patted me back and then I retreated wholly back into the space of my chair. I didn’t want to intrude.

As the speeches got more personal and sad, I became incredibly moved myself, and was crying without almost even knowing it, the tears running down my face and dripping off my chin and onto my black dress.

He reached over and took my hand and held it and squeezed. I squeezed back.

We spent most of the service this way. Two people who didn’t know each other offering simple human comfort back and forth. When one weakened, the other was stronger, and then it would flow the other direction. You would have thought we were very old friends, if you had seen us together.

When it was over and we arose from our seats, he said, simply, “Thank you. You are a good person.” He held the door for me as we exited into the throngs of people and sunlight and paused for a moment and looked at each other, the thing we had shared hanging between us. We came together in big, long hug, and then parted ways. I don’t know his full name, nor he mine. We will never see each other again.

I don’t know whether he was a Republican or a Democrat. I don’t know if he thinks immigrants are taking away jobs or if he sends money every month to Amnesty International. But if we had left there and gone for coffee, I feel confident we could have communicated openly and without fear and hatred and judgment, as that was established at the onset.

I was struck so profoundly by this experience, and as I drove away I thought, you know, I know it’s a satirical take, but Tina Fey was really wrong. We don’t need to eat cake, or scream, and certainly we shouldn’t be staying home. If I had stayed home, I would have missed this opportunity for two humans to be kind to each other. And the parallels of feeling like a stranger, of being in an unfamiliar place, how so many people feel right now – alienated, scared, alone.

I haven’t felt this kind of humanity with strangers out in public since encounters immediately after 9/11. Why does it always take a tragedy for us to be able to connect and be open, to be able to find common ground, to be able to speak without malice, to remember what is really important, to be be able to be there to offer comfort for any ill, for all ills.

To communicate.

To reach.

Drinkin’ Falstaff Beer

pub

I was up late last night and got up very early this morning, my sleep is still all over the map during this weird period of transition – call it Mercury retrograde, call it general unrest, who knows. So I took a nap this afternoon. I was awakened by a loud, repetitive beeping sound like that of a construction machine. We’ve had a ton of construction around my apartment complex over the last two months, but most of it is done. BEEP BEEP BEEP. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Usually these are temporary noises, but this was incessant and I was not done sleeping. BEEP BEEP BEEP. I finally got up and shut the patio door, but I could still hear it. I drifted in and out of sleep, trying to ignore it and continue sleeping, a pillow over my ear, too lazy to get up and get my earplugs.

I thought maybe it was a car alarm or something, the way it continued on and on. I got more and more angry and more and more determined to sleep. I tossed and turned on the couch. I thought about calling the police for some type of noise ordinance complaint, as it just wouldn’t stop. I finally gave up, and decided to get up and go outside and find whomever or whatever was making this fucking noise and do something about it.

That’s when I noticed the new Alexa blinking and blinking rhythmically. BEEP BEEP BEEP. A friend got it for me as a gift and I just set it up this morning. I used it to set a timer for my nap. SO NOW I KNOW WHAT THAT SOUNDS LIKE. #derp

I saw the Blues Brothers on the big screen last night. I haven’t seen it in a really long time. I am quite a few years older now than Belushi and Akyroyd were when they made it (31 and 28 respectively, I believe), and haven’t seen it since I was much younger than they were in that film the last time I saw it. Now much older, I was able to observe the chemistry and camaraderie between the two with a much keener eye. How many hours they must have spent together, and still young, energetic, flexible, and so, so cool. I thought about what a crushing and life-changing blow it must have been for Dan to lose John only a couple of years later. It gave the movie a poignancy I was surprised I felt. And made me think about when my sister used to live in Chicago and how much easier it was for me to visit her then, and what a good time we had around the city of big shoulders.

I went to a cool Irish pub downtown before the show. It is amazing how at home I feel in an Irish pub, having never been to Ireland, and having only a small percentage of my heritage reflected there. There is no time in a pub. Only the laughter of other people, and some sporting event on a big TV.

I have much to think about as the wheel of life continues to turn, as if I’m on the rack sometimes, the stretching it’s making me do. I’m moving into the next phase of my life, I realize.

I wonder if it hurts when the caterpillar turns into the butterfly.

 

 

Becoming Who We Are

casserole
The blog has been dormant for awhile as I deal with the loss of my full-time job a month ago. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of weeks now and trying to cobble together a living on it. I don’t want to dwell too much on this right now in this space, as I am writing a novel about what’s been happening, but suffice to say, I’ve been scrambling, obsessing and writing whatever I can for money and the blog has been neglected. But I wanted to talk, or journal or something, and this is my place to do it, so hey, dear readers, if you are still with me. Thanks for sticking around.
Today I took my kid up to school as the class lists were posted on the front door late this afternoon, so we could find out who his 3rd grade teacher will be. He didn’t get the teacher I requested for him, which is fine (it’s a request, not a guarantee). You can’t always get what you want, as I have re-learned all too well this past month.
In the parking lot as we were leaving, I reminded him that in addition to mom and dad, there are people who are permitted to pick him up if there is an emergency and neither of us can get there, or if it will take us a while to get there. His babysitter, who I rarely see anymore because sitters are a luxury and I don’t have a super steady date right now, but she’s still good to go if I need her, grandma in a pinch, but she doesn’t even have a car seat in her car, and A, a close friend of mine whose kids have gone to D’s elementary, as she is super close to the school building.
We left, and turned down A’s street, as I pointed out it was only one street away from the school. You need to remember where this is, I told him, in case you need to go here. We parked in front of A’s house and I had him get out. I pointed across the street in her neighbor’s driveway, how you can see the field next to the school right there; it’s a cut-through. You’d just go right through that grass walking away from the office, I told him, and you can cut through this driveway and you’ll be on A’s street. Her house is the gray one, and it’s the only gray one among these ones here on this side of the street. Have a good look around, I told him.
“Why would I need to leave school?” he said. I said well, there could be a tornado, or a fire for example, and I know there is an evacuation location, but everyone might not all be together. “But wouldn’t I just go where the teachers tell us to go? I don’t want to get in trouble.” I said of course, if the teacher is around. But described how sometimes, storms can be really freaky, and if a tornado touched down it might hit with such precision that it would divide a room actually in half, and half the people on one side might be in the bathroom and be fine, and half the people in a hallway might be swept away along with the roof and the rest of the building. So if it’s just you and some other kids, you need to not wonder what to do, but do like I’m telling you now and leave and go to A’s.
“What other reasons beside a tornado?” he said. “I said, well, we’ve talked about how there could be a crazy person with a gun, for example…” I didn’t want to say more.
“Yeah,” he said. “Like what if someone SHOT ALL THE TEACHERS AND THEY WERE ALL DEAD?” (emphasis added, because of course I was flipping the fuck out at this point) I remained calm. “Well,” I said, “Things like that are extremely rare, but sure, that’s an example of how there wouldn’t be anyone around to tell the kids where to go. So it’s important to know what to do.”
I was just speechless as we got back into the car. I know he doesn’t know about Sandy Hook yet. I have not been able to tell him. But he’s not completely oblivious to the world either, and we talk about things. Like, when we sit down at the movies, how we would exit and out which door if someone came in with a gun. Or if we are sitting and eating in a food court, where the exits are if someone starts fighting or shooting or something.
At home, I gave him the new backpack I bought for him more than a month ago before I lost my job, the one I got on Prime day that was a real steal and is in school colors. It’s very sturdy and should last him the next couple of years at least. I had him put one of his reusable water bottles in it and a couple of other things he wants to have the first day, since he will be with his dad next week when school starts.
I’ve been very general about the unrest in the country. He knows what marching and protesting is, as we went to the Women’s March, and I talked about how people are angry and the president is dividing the country and inciting people towards more hatred, and it’s a challenging time.
I told him 3rd grade is when things start changing. The school work is a little harder, but not so hard you won’t be able to do it. A girl may like you this year, or a boy, and if you don’t like them back, you have to let them know as kindly as possible. With the unrest in the country and racial divide, your very, very best friends (two black boys and an Indian boy) could be subject to negative talk – to their faces or behind their back. I hope you’ll stand up for them even if they’re not around, and tell people not to talk about your friends that way.
Then we played a dozen or more hands of Uno, and ate unstuffed pepper casserole, watched a Wild Kratts episode about anteaters, and he read to me from one of the Nate books we got from the library while I did the dishes. I gave him a bath, and read to him a little bit. He asked if he could sleep in my bed when I go to sleep, and I didn’t hesitate and said yes, even though it’s the middle of the week and I usually say no then, only on the weekends.
It’s so terrifying sending a kid back to school in this world.

I Never Will Be Far Away

ice cream

I had a big agenda planned today, a day trip out of town and going to this event and another attraction nearby, and go go go. I bagged it all. The kid doesn’t need complicated. He wouldn’t probably love most of what I had planned anyway. And one of the things he would have loved, canoeing, is an impossibility as my shoulder is still fucked and rowing is just out of the question. When I stopped and thought about the plans for today, late last night while I was cooking, I realized none of this needed to happen, or should.

Instead, we got up a little late, I made us a simple breakfast of bacon, hash browns and fruit salad, extra on the coffee for me. His questions begin immediately upon wakening and are incessant. I don’t have answers for most of them. Who would win in animal vs. animal fights, who the better of two sports figures are, how to list cities, states, countries in descending order of population or size. He demands to know. Everything. It’s both wonderful and exhausting.

It was slightly overcast today, so I knew it would be a good day for the rec center pool because it can get super crowded there when it’s very hot and sunny. I packed a cooler with whatever we had on hand – some trail bologna, olives, I cubed up some cheese, sliced up a cucumber, grabbed the half bag of chips in the pantry and we were off. We made a run to Goodwill after breakfast, dropping stuff off and then going in and me buying a few things I need (I have great luck there). He clowns incessantly in stores. Crawling in the racks, of course, but inside the fitting room is a Lon Chaney man-of-a-thousand-faces scene of mugging, acrobatics and silliness that’s almost too much to be believed, while I squeeze into clothes and mutter about being fat and my son tells me I’m not fat. We hit the gas station for drinks and ice and then the pool, which was gloriously devoid of throngs of people. Just enough to have fun.

We played and played in the water, throwing foam water balls into the buckets that continuously fill and then trying to catch the ball as the bucket tipped over and spilled out the contents. Finally some other boys around his age came, and I made like I had to go to the bathroom so he could play with some peers instead of his old ma. We had our informal picnic at the side of the pool area where you’re allowed to have food. He picked at it, wasn’t that hungry, and it wasn’t much of a lunch anyway so I didn’t blame him.

He was in and out and in and out of the pool and pestered me about getting back in. I was terrible with the sunscreen after the initial application and the partly sunny day was deceiving and so he got a little red in the cheeks and shoulders. We came home and he begged for a snack and I gave him a substantial one, even though it was too late to do that. He read a book and I took a 20 minute cat nap (parenting a little kid solo at 48 is no easy feat) and then started prepping for dinner. Even though it took an hour, he didn’t eat much, because I gave him too much snack, but it was good anyway. The fresh tomatoes from a friend’s garden were like heaven, and the ribs I made for 6 hours last night didn’t disappoint.

We talked about going to the movies, but we didn’t go. He wanted to go to the playground, has been looking for his one friend there, but his friend hasn’t been there the past couple of weeks and nobody knows where he is. I cleaned up from dinner and packed a bag of stuff to do (for me, and for him) and we went over to the playground. His friend wasn’t there, and neither was the woman I made friends with the other night when we were there, so he listlessly played with a couple other kids that were there, while I wrote longhand in the notebook I brought. The kids got into an argument about the freshly patched holes in the road that runs next to the playground, one kid insisting it was coal and D telling them it was tar, and the next thing I knew he came over and his hands were all sticky with the stuff, which wouldn’t come off. He was upset and couldn’t clean them with water or by wiping on the grass. He wanted to play ball with the others, but his hands! I told him he could go home by himself and wash them and come right back.

Home is a long way from the playground. It isn’t like he doesn’t know the way, but it’s around the corner of a carport and then probably 500 feet at least to where our apartment is, so completely out of sight, and all in a busy parking lot with cars coming and going frequently. I let him walk that length alone last year (ONCE) but I followed him without him knowing I was doing it just to make sure he knew the way. But man, I am so paranoid. Not just about the cars, that pay no attention to the myriad kids in the lot, but just that thing that if something DID happen, then boom, done, bye bye custody. So I let him walk away and I tried to sit and wait but after a couple of minutes, I couldn’t wait any longer and I went after him.

I found him in the bathroom at home, unable to get the sticky stuff off his hands. I reminded him that sometimes sticky needs oil to let loose, and we went and got the olive oil container from next to the stove. That and some light scrubbing with the nail brush did the trick, and we went back to the playground.

Then he got hit in the eye with the ball (a baseball) by accident, his eyes already red and taxed from all the time at the pool. He cried a little and let me hug him and then we just sat there a few minutes. I was looking at his profile. His lips are getting a little fuller – he gets that from his Dad. Everyone says he looks like me, but he’s not done growing and changing yet. I could see a little tiny bit of Adam’s apple for the first time, and I thought, my god, he is changing before my eyes from a little boy to a young man, and I am just not ready. It almost panicked me. It’s going too fast.

He was tired, and bored, and irritated with the other kids, and I asked if he just wanted to go home and finish watching some of the Looney Tunes DVDs I got out of the library and he said yeah. On the way back, I asked if he wanted to divert to the gas station before we settled at home, to get an ice cream bar, and that was met with a resounding yes. So we went on down there, and I observed how pretty the wildflowers were on the hill we cross over to get to the road. He picked one and gave it to me. He so rarely has these tender, sweet expressions, and I was tickled to death.

We finished our ice cream bars before we even got home, then zoned out with some cartoons for a bit before I could see he was completely out of gas. I read a little bit to him, and promised I’d come get him later so he could come to my bed with me.

He was out almost before I hit the door.