So, my son was never one to buy into the tooth fairy or Santa or the Easter bunny. While some of it was certainly our doing as painfully open and honest parents(some would say to a fault), much of his skepticism stems from who he is and how his mind works. In many ways it was serendipitous that we didn’t engage in the bizarre practice of telling our child that some strange creature comes into your room at night and takes your tooth from under your pillow.
Being a child with non-verbal learning disorder, his world is exceedingly literal. It is better as he is older now but , as younger boy a simple expression like “I’m on the phone” led him to picture you standing on the phone. Couple this with a fertile mind rich in science and history (biographies are his favorite, yawn!) and the idea of some fat man sliding down our chimney with a huge sack of gifts after having traversed the whole world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer carrying a paper list of all the children who’ve been naughty and nice in one night would only afford us a besmirching “Get real!”. Had we tried to pull this off when he was younger, he would have been in the basement with a flashlight measuring the internal chamber, processing the tiny clean out door, studying the pitch and slip factor of our metal roof, calculating exactly how long of a piece of paper was needed for all the children in the world, googling flying animals, calculating time and distance to visit every house in the world and what about Jewish children? I am ever so thankful that we did not attempt to bring these fictitious characters into our traditions. The barrage of questions alone would have dampened any festivities. Can you imagine the research to explain just how it is that a rabbit carries that many baskets? Rabbits don’t even have thumbs!
So, how it is that we have brought these traditions into our home is largely through humor with a huge dose of social studies. Being the history buff that he is, we shared with him the many folklores, fables and religious beliefs that lead to the evolution of these characters. Armed with an arsenal of answers, he can now integrate the concept of these characters as a form of storytelling in a sense.
This brings me back to the tooth fairy. Firstly, I cannot believe he is still losing teeth at ten. When does that end? So, he lost a molar two nights ago or rather stayed up until 11 wiggling and yanking at that thing until it relinquished it’s hold. He then wrapped it in at least 20 tissues and stuffed under his pillow. Now remember, he knows full well that the tooth fairy will have know idea that there is a tooth is under his pillow. So, he tromps into our room, singing a revelry as always, pokes me and says “The tooth fairy has some work to do. Hint! Hint!” I mumble and fall back to sleep. Disappointed in the morning, he asks “What happened to the tooth fairy?” To which, I smack my forehead and promise she will be on duty the next night. He smiles and gives me an understanding bump in the arm.
Night two: I forgot. We wake up at 2:30 am to doors banging downstairs. What the…? A bit petrified, my partner descends to investigate. I am still in a fog. It’s our son out in the freezing rain rummaging through cars for money. “What are you doing?” I hear. “Getting my own damn five bucks and wrapping a damn ribbon around it and putting it under my own damn pillow! Stupid tooth fairy!”
This is why the tooth fairy (that would be me) is a moron !
Just a quick mash-up of life on River Road. One of our girls passed on over the weekend. She was a buff orpington. One of a set of twins. No reason that we could see. She had a sluggish couple of days where she bunched herself up into a tight fluffy ball and sat in the corner of the yard. A good sign she was sick. She kept fooling me though by perking back up, stretching her neck out and bobbing around for bugs. I checked her out and could find nothing. It was a quick passing as chickens go. Two days, then she lay down in the corner and poof. That yew in the corner of our yard (ie. the chicken cemetery) is freakishly larger than all the rest.
Remember my recent posting Twenty Years and Still Farting? Well I’m sorry to say that the house has been painfully silent as of late. No, my spouse did not leave me, but she decided to try a wheat free diet. Fart free diet is more like it. Oddly enough, I have to admit I miss the midnight giggles from her rising bubbles as she turned over.
Spine? A natural progression from my most recent felted piece the pelvis. I have begun to felt a spine. This one is a mind bender. Turns out each vertebrae is different from the other. This is going to be a long-term project for sure. Here are the first three cervical vertebrae:
Lastly, I come to the subject of puppy love. My partner and son have been conspiring to get a second dog for over a year now and I have fully protested. I like my peaceful home which is challenging enough with a cranky pms partner, barking dog, puking old cat and a son who lives life bigger than broadway! They ignored me. For his tenth birthday my son got a puppy. He wanted a small dog he could hold. Great! A little shaky, yippy thing that like to sneak attack. Well, we found a mini long-haired dachshund mix at the shelter. 4 months old. Jo-Jo is his name, which we all agree is unfortunate but we make do with nicknames, joe, joey, joseph, goat(he eats anything). He has charmed his way deep into my heart. He is calm, smart, attentive, easy to house train, and totally dedicated to my son. This ten-year old boy has about faced when it comes to responsibility and accountability. The clincher and heart melter for me was when my son stopped me after saying goodnight and said: “You know how fun it is for you to get into bed with mama and snuggle while you fall asleep?” Withholding my sarcastic comments I said “Yeah”. “Well,” he said “now I get to snuggle with Jo-Jo at night and I’m not lonely anymore. I love going to bed now.” My knees just about buckled. Here he is helping me with laundry:
Took a trip to Washington D.C. this past weekend with my partner and son. Couldn’t truly afford it. What was once a $50.00 round trip is now over two hundred. Ouch! $650 later the budget of a school teacher and an artist recovering from a yearlong illness is stressed. We’re scrounging through the money jar from selling a few dozen chicken eggs to help pull together the mortgage. Pop ’em out girls! We need the cash.
So why break our back to make the trip? I come from a timid N.H. family whose eyes grow wide with fear at the thought of crossing the state line lest the heathen gangs wielding brass knuckles and machetes descend upon them, rape them, smash their car, take their wallets and then bludgeon them just shy of death, leaving them to survive and suffer with the memories. Therefore, it is extremely important to me that my son understand that there is a world full of culture and diversity beyond his rural bubble.
D.C. is no big leap, however my son’s favorite cousin lives there who is in her mid-twenties and loves our quirky little ten-year old. He adores her and her freakishly tall roommate. He’s as gay as they come and when he gets excited he reminds me of the huge blow up people that car dealerships have flailing in the wind to attract business. My son and he make ice cream together. This years flavor was basil. My sons idea and we all winced but it was absolutely delicious. They made garlic, rosemary and pine nut cookies as well. Another disgusting idea, but when my son sandwiched the basil ice cream in between and made what he called a pesto ice cream sandwich we all had a gastronomic awakening. It was quite delicious.
The weekend, however, was a series of unfortunate events to say the least.
Day 1: My sister-in-law suffered from dehydration after a day of walking up and down the mall to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial, sculpture gardens and natural history museum. The latter two merely a glancing for me, being the only artist. I would rather have planted myself in the sculpture garden for the day. Anyway, her legs were possessed by cramps, twisting and contorting, shriveling up right before our eyes. It was creepy and no doubt painful. After an evening of constant water supply she recovered. Whew! Thought that was going to be a hospital visit for sure.
Day 2: The next day was open embassy day for the EU. So we all piled into my other sister-in-laws car and drove closer to avoid the metro crowds. After what felt like forever we found what we thought was a great parking spot right on the corner. My sister-in-law pulled around, tucked in really close to the curb and that’s when we all heard a loud pop and the car sank. Flat! Okay, we’ll change it. No Biggie. We unearth all the necessary tools and the spare, put on the parking brake as we are on a slight incline, and begin to raise the car. I loosened the lugnuts and notice that one has a special nut. I’d never encountered this before. Apparently, it’s requires a special key so that your tire can’t be stolen. This is when I know I am no longer the young city student I once was. I just leave the keys in my dumpy ole truck. So the search was on for this lug key. A secret serviceman stopped and gets out to help us find the darn thing and as he and my son are digging in the back of the car he finds a Smirnoff Ice, turns to my son and says “I hope this isn’t yours”. In jest of course, but my son being only ten and hyper fearful of breaking rules and laws had a fleeting moment of sheer terror. The key is found! I began to loosen the remaining lugnut, set down the lugwrench for a moment and heard a clang. The wrench slid down into the sewerage drain. Gone! So balloon man proceeded to flag down the first Honda that passes. They lent us their wrench. A sweet Irish couple looking to move to D.C. They have a scrumptious baby and delicious accents. So all the others are happily distracted while I continued to raise the car. It’s up and I asked my partner to lift the tire off and just as she is about to, the teenie jack began to list. The parking brakes failed to hold and the car rolled off the jack stand. Kathump. It was time to call AAA. So I waited with the two sister-in-laws while the others went to the embassy around the corner. Tire replaced and ready to park, we realized our perfect spot wasn’t even a legal spot. We drove around and found another. Finally we can join the fun. As we are heading down to the embassy the others called to say it was a bust. Long lines, hot, and very little to do. My son and I split of to go back to the museums (I am so lucky to have a child that loves museums!) and the rest went to the Eastern Market.
Day 3: Sunday brunch. The sister-in-law with the car calls and cancels. They are ready to go home. Her daughter, who was also with us, has had an infection in her foot from some broken bone that wasn’t healing and currently the bone is dying. Ick! Any way, she was uncomfortable and her mom seemed a bit nervous about being in the big city and was stressed out from the tire fiasco. They were our ride to brunch. So we regrouped and ate somewhere closer. The other sister-in-law who is never quiet was. My partner gets a full glass of ice-cold water in her lap, my son did’t get his toast and home fries (a big deal to a ten-year old). So he pouts and while piercing him with my knock it off or I’m gonna… stare, I noticed he has a rash on his face. He felt fine but his face was red and swelling. We rushed to the pharmacy before our flight and pump him up with Benadryl. Minutes before we leave, my sister-in-law broke down in tears. Her son, who should be on medication and is difficult to relate with, has been angry with her for spending Mother’s Day in D.C. with his sister and not with him. He’d been threatening to keep her first and newly born grandchild from her. Rushed to catch our flight we do our best to console her and hurry off feeling less than satisfied with our trip.
Back home: Cat pee on the floor. (Cat is nearly twenty) Lawn far too long for this time of year. Son out sick from school the next day with puffy face which involved a trip to the doctor. Thankfully, it was just a reaction to too much sun or the sunscreen we used. Yet, we all can’t wait to go back. D.C. is a great city to visit.
We fell in lust twenty years ago this past full moon. I was a teacher for the kindergarteners and she was a teacher for the three and four-year olds. We met on the stairs of the old Vermont school. I was coming down from my classroom and she was going up to the office. She said “Hi”. I grunted and faked a smile. She was married and I was socially moronic lesbian doing as all young lesbians do, riding out a relationship until a better one distracted me. Well, I gave her no thought. That is until she persisted in getting to know me. That to me, is code in lesbian speak for I want to move in with you. I was officially distracted. I left my prior relationship, moved into a pink trailer with a mini washing machine and boomerang formica table and proceeded to seduce her away from her husband. It was far less of a challenge that I expected(her husband ran off to New York and proclaimed his desire for men and lots of them). So, after her dog bit the child of her new roommate and she recovered from coxsackey, she loaded up her old yellow Volvo station wagon and drove to the trailer park. Of course it was pouring rain and dark(what heart wrenching love story doesn’t have the metaphorical storm?). All I could see as she pulled in were vicous yellow eyes, fangs and grey fur matted all over her windshield. Thus began the foibles of our romantic story: one old dog euthanized due to dangerous dementia, one feral cat, one Einstein cat (taught himself to pee in the toilet),one tiny pink trailer, a little red motorcycle, a big old Volvo, a sleepy Vermont town embroiled in a scandal, her insatiable need for pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, my menstrual messes(the couch littered with crumpled blankets, empty pain-killer bottles, mounds of tissues and a leaky hot water bottle, plus a few candy wrappers) and us.
I think back through the years and wonder what the glue was that held us together? Sure, sure, there is all the lovey-dovey stuff. You know: beautiful eyes, hot sex, deep admiration, respect, understanding, compassion, all that stuff is there. But truly, no matter what situation we found ourselves in, from awkward arguments to the saddest of funerals, a well placed fart, be it loud,deadly silent, mine, hers, our someone else’s, would always draw us back to one another with a twinkle of inquisitive eyes, a firm hand squeeze, or hearty tear-jerking laugh.
It all started with those tender young moments of unfamiliar love, sleepily holding onto one another in my double bed. The jalousey window was open. We could hear the peepers calling, the mocking-bird talking himself to sleep, and the old man in the trailer not much more than an arm’s length away arguing with himself. It was peaceful, comforting and yet, oh so tenuous. About a month had passed and we were still suave. The Pandora’s box of unmentionable human conditions hadn’t cracked open. We had yet to admit that we pooped, burped, bled through our tampons, picked our noses, barfed, smelled or even had bad breath. It is amazing how we are able to hide all this when courting. Inevitably, living together due to desperate circumstances and in a teeny trailer made it far more difficult to conceal. Getting out of bed every time one had to fart became frightfully suspicious and one evening when we were spooning I did my usual slow and controlled fart, praying that it didn’t stink. I hardly moved a muscle! “You just farted, didn’t you?” she whispered to me. “What? I didn’t fart. Why? Do you smell something?’ I asked as I put my head under the covers. She started laughing. I protested. She laughed harder. “What? What? What’s so funny?” Her laughter had crossed the threshold to hysteria. Tears were streaming from her eyes and the laughter had escalated to silent seizures with escaping squeals of delight. “Alright! Alright! I admit it. I was farting. How did you know?” At the pace of one word per gasp between giggles she revealed what I already knew of her but didn’t let on. “You….tightened…your…stomach!” And she burst into laughter again.
The box was now wide open! Burping was audible and passionate. Pooping, if interesting, was described and even displayed before flushing. We’ve had donuts, soft serve ice cream, large ones that rise up out of the water, even white ones! Tampons are no longer neatly wrapped in toilet paper and hidden under layers of trash. Nose picking is undeniable. And the farts? Oh the farts! No need to describe the silent but deadly kind with one exception. The tercel fart. We owned a little Toyota Tercel and had just parked it in the lot of the grocery store. I lingered to let out an evil fart. I didn’t want to fart in the store for I was sure it was going to stink. Disgusted, we both bolted from the car. Which is unusual because I generally like the smell of my own farts, as we all do. Anyway, many moments later(almost an hour!) we returned to the car. It stilled smelled! Days later it still smelled. We had to clean the interior with nearly a whole bottle of Armour All to make it go away. I wish I knew what I ate that day. I may be the master of stink but my partner? She is the master conductor of orchestral farting. The variety of sound are endless: fog horns, squealing balloons, whoopie cushion, pneumatic brakes; and they speak too: disappointed child(aaww) What? Hmmm? Uh-oh. They are the musical symphony that compositionally ties all the threads of our delightfully fun lives together! So yes, we have love and lots of it, but nothing beats a good laugh with your loved one in the middle of the night as she farts her way down the stairs in perfect crescendo to pee.
Poor girls are cold! They are not big fans of the snow, this bunch. Normally, I open the coop door and a loud commotion ensues, all wanting to be the first to run off into the green grasses. But with these first few snow falls(which came very late this year) one, maybe two heads poke out to check the status of that nasty white stuff. Then it’s a very dainty promenade from their coop to my doorstep. If they had hands they would be hiking up their skirts, and bonnets or parasols would be a must. The last one out is our very own little Napoleon. He’s a little bantam boy. The only bantam amongst a dozen big girls. We ordered six bantams this year and all were roosters! That is far too much attitude and the girls were exhausted from all the harassment. So our kind friends who had a couple hundred hens and but one very busy bloke agreed to take the remaining five. Plenty of fish in that sea! Turns out that one of the adopted roosters fancied himself an ass and spends his days on the shoulders their donkey. But back to Napoleon. He is certainly a little cock with a big attitude. However, it is all attitude. As I said before, he is the last one out of the coop in any foul weather and only after all the girls are well on their way, to which he finds himself alone. This he does not like. He tip-toes down the ramp and when he reached the snowy edge he squawks and ruffles his feather as if mustering up some courage. Then he leaps and flaps, half flying, half running, like a puddle jumper, trying his best to avoid touching that nasty wet stuff until he catches up to the girls. Once back with his harem, he fluffs himself up big, belts out a song and side steps his way to the girls attempting a covert mount. I have yet to see him succeed. They are much bigger and as a group seem to have made a pact with one another to keep the little guy in his place. I am convinced the girls devise many a conspiratorial ruse just to ruffle his tenuous role as master of the coop. I have observed the group running to a freshly scattered patch of scratch, little Napoleon of course the last to know and the last to arrive. As they cluck and buck contentedly the girls have been witnessed slowly migrating away from the scratch, around the corner and out os sight of poor Napoleon. When he comes up from his eager pecking and finds himself alone, panic ensues. He paces in circles, bobbing his head this way and that as he calls out to the girls a sad whimper. “Cock-a-doodle-doo?” I can only imagine them around the corner of the barn giggling!
I did not think when we started chickens five years ago that they would be so entertaining nor become such a part of our family. Their personalities are undeniable. They have been the inspiration for much creativity from holiday cards, painting, home movies(we had one rooster named marble who crowed on command), and even my son has begun writing a cartoon series about them in the style of Spy vs. Spy. He calls it Chicken Vs. Chicken in which two enemy chickens are continually planting bombs in one another’s nests, eggs, etc. Not to mention that free range, organically raised fresh eggs from the back yard are not to be beat!
Monday was a field trip for my boy. His class was going to the Amherst College Neurobiology Lab to learn about brains. There was some talk of my possibly being a driver for the trip (no buses at his school), but in the end I was not needed. I washed with a combination of relief and disappointment. I am always reluctant to commit to driving for many reasons. Number one, I can’t be sure with my illness if I will feel well enough. Number two, my truck is an old girl, runs well but… Number three, the truck only fits two kids, a waste of gas. Number four, I am far too anxious about getting lost, breaking down, getting in an accident, etc. My disappointment was that I love all things to do with the human body. His class is going to be touching brains and drawing from specimens. I wanted to do that!
So, Monday morning rudely arrives and the boy is in tears. He didn’t know that I was not driving and he really wanted me to go. We have a romantic history of spending entire days at museums with our journals and drawing together(yes, it is possible for a nine-year old boy to be a hopeless romantic and my boy certainly is) . Remarkably, he has been drawing in a journal since he was about three when he grew curious of mine. Even more remarkable is that he truly will sit for hours in a museum and draw. My partner refuses to go with us as an hour or two is too much already. So the museum trips have become our special thing. We even play hooky occasionally which makes me way cool. I like to be the cool mamma. Who doesn’t? Anyway, he assumed I was coming and we would get to draw together. So, I caved. Gleefully, he ran about the house gathering our usual museum bundle; two journals, and a pencil box. Not just any pencil box. This was filled with premium equipment; three erasers(white, kneadable and stick), many pencil sharpeners(robot-shaped, lava-filled, dog-shaped, double, and standard) endless pencils ranging from 6h to 6b as well as mechanical, shading sticks, some charcoal and a few colored pencils.
Loaded up, we arrived at his school hoping it would be okay if I tagged along. It turned out to be one of those fate confirming moments as one of the parents was stranded with a broken down car. I swallowed my irrational anxiety and slid in line with the caravan of cars heading off to Amherst College with two boys in stow. I had my eyes burned onto the back of the grey Subaru knowing I would not get lost if I kept them in view. Just as I was thinking to myself “This isn’t too bad.” and began to relax, I heard a strange whistling noise every time we came to a stop. My blood rushed. Here it comes! The dreaded breakdown! I stared hard at the hood of my truck at every stoplight as if the hood was going to explode. And it was at one of these lights that I lost sight of that damn grey Subaru. My palms were now sweaty. Outside I am laughing at jokes that make sense only to nine-year old boys, trying to sustain my cool mom status while inside a code three melt down is on the cusp. Only then did I remember the sheet of paper his teacher handed me. It had phone numbers and directions. Whew! Just let me get to the college before the truck falls apart. Finally there, I turn off the main road and the whistling noise passes behind me. It was a different car. Whew, again.
My shirt now reeked of sweat. Yes, I used deodorant but no deodorant can defend against nervous sweat. So while we listened to the neurobiologist talk about brains, I kept my distance and my arms crossed, making a mental note to relegate this shirt to the pajama pile. The professor (a white-haired, fully bearded, skinny santa type with round spectacles) tossed the brain of a fifty-four year old who died in a nearby town back and forth in his hands as he explained the different sections and there functions. Now, I am not squeamish about these things but I would rather have not known the history of its previous owner. As he squished and wiggled and turned this brain about, I noticed that most of the girls in the class were in far corner, closest to the door. In fact a small posse of girls suddenly had to go to the bathroom. While most of the boys, instead, were sitting at the same table as the professor frantically raising their hands to volunteer, question and comment. The gender gap seems most firmly established by this age. According to my son, all but maybe two girls are definitely gross!
After our talk with the professor and an optional chance to touch the brain, which of course I did (felt like a loaf of lunch meat), we moved on to a lab where we were supplied with sheep’s brains to draw. My boy and I pulled out our supplies and got busy. He lost me at the word go. The lab, the teachers, the kids, I heard none of it. All I saw and thought about was the brain until the teacher poked me and said it was time to clean up. I looked up to find I was the only one left to put things away. It was a great day and I was feeling confident so I swerved off the established route home to take a back road. Immediately, I regretted it realizing that I probably broke some carpool rule and what if the truck died? What if I take longer to get back to the school and they think something has happened? The sweat soaked through my armpits and the shirt ,by the end of the trip, was no longer pajama worthy and down graded to a rag.