Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Christmas In July

I can't write when I'm sad. Words don't come easily and my thoughts are jumbled. There's a limbo factor involved; an accountability to take control and pull myself out of the funk. Think good thoughts and be positive. I alone claim this responsibility. So today I am glum, but have decided to make lemonade and pull myself out of it one word at time. I'll rely on memory to help me along.

Memories are self editing. They are remarkable windows into a place and time that leave an indelible mark on your soul without out you being completely aware of it at the time. The sharp, jagged corners of pain are ebbed by time and are safe to be around again. Happy, gleeful moments are snapped up, frozen in time with smell, sound and texture to add volume and weight. One such memory that instantly provides me with the contentment that I lack today is Christmas.

Anticipation and excitement hang thick in the air, making it hard to sit still or even finish my meal at the kids' table. Every corner of the room is steeped in laughter and incomprehensible vocabulary to the ears of a young girl. Smells of pine, sage and pumpkin linger as I sit cross-legged on the rug, fingering the heavy weave that blankets the wooden floor. Then a voice whispers in my ear, "Go tell 'em it's time to open presents!" This is what I've been waiting for. It's my cue to initiate the clean-up, take-down portion of the evening. Like little elves, we scamper around with wild, lit eyes telling the grownups, "It's time!" Tables are cleared, folded and chairs pushed back, revealing the oval rug outlined by those about to receive. Gifts are handed out by those old enough to read name tags, and soon, I am surrounded by a mountain of colorful paper bound by scotch tape and ribbon, begging me to free the treasures that lay in wait.

The best loot is always from my Aunts. They are biblical figures in my childhood Christmas memories. They are the wise-women, traveling from afar, bearing gifts more precious than frankincense, gold or myrrh. The whispers had been theirs. The fuel to spark the magical change from adult world to the fantasy universe called Christmas.

Tulle and sequence, that of which I had only admired in the Sears Holiday Catalog, are now mine. "I always wanted to be a ballerina and now I are one!" I exclaim with a four year old command of the English language. I twirl and whirl through the room with the excitement and assuredness of one who has finally had her dreams acknowledged. But there's more. Toys with a million pieces have already been assembled and loaded with the correct voltage to make them come alive...ready for play...no more dreadful wait to follow.

The wise-women had foreseen the spectacle that was to unfold. They had no prior knowledge or experience to guide them, yet they were experts. They still are.

Anyone who knows me well, has heard me speak of them. They are the Mary Poppins figures in my life. They seem to appear out of nowhere, perform their magic and drift away quietly without much fan-fare.

I am making lemonade today because she has left. After an enchanting visit, indulging in tea sandwiches and a swim in the rain, I am sad that she has gone. But, I am left with the sweetness that I will always have my own personal Mary Poppins...doesn't everyone?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Confessions of a Mafioso Mamma

I've never spoken about this publicly. In fact, if you ask me about it I'll deny it. Saying something like, "There's no such thing" or "You've seen the Godfather one too many times". But, and lean in close because the Feds may be listening in...The Costa Nostra (this thing of ours) is alive and well and I'm the Don Mom! What I'm about to reveal is somewhat unsettling and strictly Off The Record.

It's not a life I chose. I was born into it. My lineage has the makings of an epic saga. So, I'll begin, like all classic mob trilogies do, in the present.

It's February 15th 2005. I'm ten days into the life of my second child. My first has avoided the Terrible Twos now for approximately three months. I am ecstatic with the knowledge that she is not like those other ill-mannered toddlers out there-screaming, kicking and biting, raging in public with the parents who avoid eye contact at all cost, lest they be judged by others. Then at approximately11:32 I became a Made Momma. You see, something snapped. My sweet, round-faced daughter threw a WHOPPER, lay-down- in- the- floor, snot slinging, fist clenching, jaw dropping FIT.

It was the first time I had been out on my own with the new baby and the toddler together. She couldn't have picked a more inappropriate place to express herself either. We were in a local jewelry store; the kind of establishment that has repeat customers and specializes in unique estate jewels and fine Swiss time-pieces. Heads turned as the silence was shattered by the blood curdling screams of my (alien abducted???) daughter. Unable to scrape her writhing body off the floor as I toted the newborn in his infant seat I was utterly stymied. It was at this moment I new exactly what had to be done. I made her an offer she couldn't refuse. "Get up this minute and walk to the car or I will spank the tar out of you!" I whispered in her ear through clenched teeth, all the while smiling sweetly at the gawking customers paused in mid purchase. I was bluffing. I knew full well that I couldn't risk exposure and pull off a 'public hit'.

Since then, I've had to make good on countless "Offers". Such as- You can share the ball or it's going in the attic and you will never see it again....or...Pick up your Polly Pocket pieces or they will be sucked up in the vacuum. A threat equal to sleeping with the fishes in the mind of a four year old. It gets easier each time, I just have to keep reminding myself It's not personal, it's business.

On occasion, when demands are not met, a power struggle looms on the horizon, or blatant disrespect is evident, I've taken it to the mattress (mafia code-speak for going to war). It goes down like this: The dinner plate is shoved across the table and our eyes lock. She's not going to budge and her younger, impressionable sidekick is ready and waiting to join in the coup. My capo steps in and reminds them of the consequences of their actions. As the Don Mom, I no longer have to be the sole enforcer. Punishment can be doled out by my trustworthy under-boss AKA Big Man Daddio, leaving my hands clean.

I've learned to trust my gut and make on the spot decisions for the good of the family. A kind of pick your battles-leave the gun take the cannoli line of reasoning. For example: We won't be able to make it to your party at Chucky Cheeses this Saturday because (and this is where I lie like a gangsta) he's come down with a rash. See there how I've avoided the real issues of nap-time-interruption and fear of pink eye exposure by laying blame on the innocent? Crafty, I know, but it's in the best interest of the Familia.

Now flashback to 1969 or somewhere right around that era. You see my Grandmother indoctrinating my own mother in the secret society of Motherhood Mafioso. "It's not a popularity contest. They don't have to like me, but they will respect me."

So there you have it. A sub culture glamorized by Hollywood; its' existence dismissed as fiction by its' own members; laid out for your interpretation. "...the funeral epitaph of the legendary boss of Villalba, Calogero Vizzini, stated that "his 'mafia' was not criminal, but stood for respect of the law, defense of all rights, greatness of character. It was love." Here, "mafia" means something like pride, honor, or even social responsibility: an attitude, not an organization... " [Wikipedia.com]

I respectfully agree Mr. Vizzini.....You gotta do what you gotta do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Analyze This

"It's muddy out here. Did you wear some shoes you can get muddy?" The Husband asks. "Yep, I'm good." I say, glancing down at my boots. "Oh, you've got your Ropers on." He detects the slight change in my accent. He had coined the term- Plainview Marcy- years ago, long before he would earn the title of The Husband.

It's amazing how others who know you well can see things about you-things you yourself don't. We think we know ourselves, we believe we have an accurate picture of how we look, act and sound. Then, we hear ourselves on an answering machine or catch a glimpse of ourselves in a reflection and realize the picture we have painted for ourselves is a little -off- . Sometimes we don't even recognize the image staring back at us.

My hometown is small. Its' simple name derived from topography. Life there is simple as well. Streets are laid out alphabetically and in numerical order. Church bells still chime from the steeples and parts of old downtown are paved with brick. There are systems in place to provide structure for its' citizens. You know folks because they know you and your family. You know what church they belong to and they know who your grandparents are. There is really no need for the yellow pages; you know who to go to if you need a tire changed or a specific nut and bolt. People recognize you and speak to you with a sincere interest in your life away from there. You are part of the landscape that makes up the town.

The Husband had explained his theory on Plainview Marcy to me after we had gone to visit my hometown. "You act a little different, more small-town" he had said. "Your accent gets thicker too." he added, with a little smile that said he had me figured out. I was sure he was mistaken. I most certainly didn't act differently based on who I was around or the location I was in. This was ridiculous. In the least, his theory seemed to point out a weakness or minor flaw, a lack of self-awareness. At the most a borderline personality disorder, which immediately triggered my defenses. I was, however, curious to discover if his observations held any merit, so I began to pay closer attention to my words and actions. And, over the years, I've decided that he may just be right about this.

After all, where and how you are raised must play into who you are and how you behave based on your beliefs. It's absurd to think that it doesn't. We are not hard-wired at birth-our beliefs and morals are shaped and molded during our formative years and we act on them, not fully aware of the possibilities that exist elsewhere. Just look into the eyes of any parent sending their child off to college for the first time. It's there. The hope that their child will make good choices, that the other 'possibilities' out there will not seem so attractive. And the values and morals that they were raised with are firmly rooted. But humans are reactionary creatures. We succumb to forces, sometimes without awareness. We react to situations in order to blend into the environment and we create personas based on the feedback of others. Could this be what The Husband had alluded to in its most simplistic form? Was I really just a Country Mouse playing dress-up in City Mouse's wardrobe?

The 'phenomenon' that I had so defensively denied is no longer. The source of change exposed rendering the term phenomenon inaccurate. Anytime I am exposed to bits or pieces of my hometown, a real change occurs. It's now just another rung on the wobbly ladder of Self-Awareness. I'm no longer offended by his observations and I never should have been to start with. It should have dawned on me the day he told me Andy Griffith was his all-time favorite show. Plainview Marcy was enduring, an asset really. She was a being on the verge of extinction. An affect of small-town Texas that had been buried under years of metropolitan-relocation. I perceived myself as a City Girl, able to hail a cab and secure a job by parlaying a more sophisticated urban dialect. The West Texas drawl all but vanished from my accent, substituting phrases like 'oh most definitely' for 'I reckon' and 'yellow' for 'yella'.

The Husband had pushed the envelope so to speak and forced me to preform a kind of pseudo-socio-scientific experiment on myself, observing changes in my mannerisms, behavior and speech patterns. In the end proving his theory true.

I no longer question this theory, Plainview Marcy exists. She is the proverbial Cinderella, but instead of a glass slipper to spark her transformation into a white-gloved princess, a pair of brown ropers (worn slick on the bottom from many a Saturday night Presbyterian church dance) provide the source. Her court is not regal, they are just hometown folks with good manners and a vested interest in her well being, providing an accurate reflection of her true self.

Moose Coming May 27th!!