Mother of a day

Mothers’ Day is interesting as a concept…. And even more interesting as a reality. (Amirite, Moms? Where my sisters at?)

I always talk big about it in the lead up – “Mothers’ Day is coming, so maybe you can get your own stuff together in your Lacrosse backpack and give mom a break this weekend, eh?” “Mothers’ Day is tomorrow, so how about if you wake up in the middle of the night, you head straight to Daddy’s side of the bed and let Mommy sleep this once, maybe?” It’s Mothers’ Day, so how about when you see NeNe and Pop pull into the neighborhood, you come right back in from playing with the neighborhood gang and wash up so we can have brunch without me having to belllow down the street like a loon?”

This is all pointless. This will not happen. This is just not how things will ever be…..

Bright and early last Saturday morning, Jr trotted off to walk Binky-the-wonder-dog with The Mr, and when the Mr. and Binky returned, Jr did not. He was off on his scooter or skateboard or bike, playing with his friends. No Lacrosse prep made for his practice and game later that morning. No no no.

But later that day, when him and I were having our typcial mother/son Saturday lunch date, his little freckles were blinging away as he gazed up at me and I kinda forgot that we had a total smackdown about getting all his crap to the field earlier…

And much later, in the wee small hours of a newly-begun Mothers’ Day, at 1-something a.m., Jr did NOT direct his attention to his father’s side of the bed… instead he trolled around until he found me – not on my side of the bed, but where I had decided to stay after falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV in the family room. He woke me out of a dead sleep by sticking his pale, wide-eyed face as close as he could, and tapping me ON MY FACE and then I demonstrated to him just how high an aging woman can jump when provoked. I confess I started my statement to him with “oh buddy no no nope, it is dad’s turn, bro!” Then we went and he made me wake The Mr to lay with him, because getting me up = good, getting dad up = not. (Side note, I still did it, and I slept the sleep of a woman who made a good damn choice, yo.)

At the exact crack of dawn (ok, it may have been 6:30 am, BUT STILL,) Jr was up and asking when Nene and Pop would arrive for brunch. Hint – NOT at 6:30 in the dang a.m… Just sayin’.

I swore this year I would keep brunch simple since, while I love to treat my mom on Mothers’ Day, I also love to not have a lot to worry about on Mothers’ Day so this was the spread:

Lox, roast beef, bagels, fruit, and a steady supply of coffee, juice, mimosas, and morning mules.

It was perfect – especially since it did INDEED take much convincing to get Jr to come in from playing outside and sit and eat with us.

Sigh.

I would LOVE to say that when it came time to take mom (dat’s me) out for her early bird Sunday dinner at her favorite fried chicken joint, he came willingly running home ready to spend some quality time.

But lying is wrong, and he was a total pill about it because even HOURS AND HOURS of playing outside isn’t enough at this point. (Don’t get me wrong – playing is good. So is family time….and eating. And not making mom hangry on Mothers’ Day.)

So midway to the restaurant we had to have a “pull the car over and get serious about it” talk from Dad about how the rest of the day was going to go down – and dinner was yummy, though a little bit pouty at times from one side of the table.

BUT THEN – bedtime rolled around and we started reading my favorite book from when I was in 3rd grade (which he will be in fall,) Superfudge.

#judyblume4eva

He was howling with laughter along with me, which was kind of really totally awesome.

And when we had read our chapter of that book, and moved on to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (our current “fall asleep to it book”,) he rolled over, sighed, and fell asleep like this.

And much like the Grinch that is still his bedtime buddy, my heart grew three sizes that day…

Another ride on the Mothers’ Day emotional roller coaster completed without running off the rails, and just like all the best rides it was a total hair raiser that scares the heck out of you, and leaves you grinning from ear to ear at the end.

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Fighting words

I am not around…. I know that – I am not ever around anymore. When I post something it is depressing or seems bitter, and you wonder why Keri isn’t funny anymore.

I’ve hinted… I’ve skirted… I have touched ever-so-gingerly at the raw nerves that I feel like consume me every second of every day while I just try to navigate raising my kid and taking care of my family and having lost the last tiny shred of the mighty faith I had for so very long, and spinning in an abyss of a reality that feels like a dystopian novel I probably would have hated reading in AP English all those years ago.

I don’t say anything… I don’t spend my time here, because I am not fun. I am just angry, and scared, and disappointed, and embarrassed and SO VERY ENRAGED….

And I am also a person who (in spite of what some who know me would say,) is quiet, and awkward, and not apt to challenge someone unless they force my hand.

In short – you all never came here to stand beneath my soap box about anything, but that is where I feel myself standing at this point in my life (even if it is mostly watching, wide-eyed and horrified,) and so I just kind of stopped talking.

Funny things still happen (I am looking at you, my amazing coworkers who make me howl with share-worthy stories all the time,) and heart-wrenching still things happen (hey Daddy, I will bring you all the gatorade on the planet if you can just keep your sodium up so we don’t spend 4 days in ICU wondering if you had a stroke EVER AGAIN and I love you the most, just sayin…) but I don’t write about anything anymore.

Mostly now, I just look at Jr…. sometimes I am so flummoxed by him because he has SO MUCH fight in him right now…. At like, EVERYTHING sometimes it seems. Then I realize that I better let him keep it… because he is not safe. We are NOT SAFE.

And every second of every day of his whole life from the time he is WAY too young to have to do it, he will have to fight… He will have to fight the hatred that keeps bubbling up showing it’s ugly-ass worthless face in his world…. He will have to fight because so many people think it isn’t worth it to stand up and act to keep him safe at school (and everywhere else.) He will have to fight because it has become standard for news stations to put together one page graphics that show how many victims went to each hospital and how serious their injuries are to provide quick overviews of those subjected to bullets or bombs or WHATEVER in their schools and their places of worship or work or recreation or anywhere because it is dispassionately normal now.

So much of the fight I see in him switches in tone to questions of his vulnerability in our quiet moments together, and so I can’t really be confused by it – he is scared and defensive… and he should be.

And I am too.

I don’t want to lose sight of our life. I don’t want to miss the “everyday funny” of my still-occasionally reluctantly suburban living. The milestones of Jr’s awesomeness. The celebrating of the day-to-day with The Mr, and Potter, and the rest of our family and friends. I *want* a heart not hardened. And I want Jr to look back someday, reading his mom’s words, and feel those moments. So he can remember that it wasn’t all just the fight.

So I will try harder, Jr… for you. To keep writing –to keep seeing those things now, in this time of storm and trial and fear.

And also I will try harder to fight for you – so you always know that you may feel like you have to – but you are NEVER alone..

Winky kisses and Avicii hats forever – buddy… you and me.

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Young Anymore

My first impulse was to say that life has been moving fast in the past months…

And to mea culpa about how that is why there has been such radio silence here and, wow isn’t that just such a thing, and blah blah blah…

But ya know what? Not really… I mean yep, busy-is-as-busy does and all of that, but the truth is life has been moving at the speed of, well, LIFE, since I started Reluctantly Suburban; and throughout all my past writing endeavors since that fateful time in whatever moment of middle school angst that I put number 2 pencil to Big Chief tablet and wrote “dear diary” for the first time those MANY years ago.

Writing is flexing a muscle, and just like a really good gym habit, it is mesmerizing how easy it can be to find that you have semi-accidently fallen off the wagon into the avoidance abyss.

It’s funny that my thoughts regarding writing turned to those prickly, emotional, Dear Diary days of middle and high school, because I guess in a way the memories of those times are what hurled me head-long out of the uneasy avoidance I have adopted regarding writing and planted me firmly in front of this screen.

I have started and abandoned countless updates in the past months. So much has happened, but nothing would finish itself on paper, and I wasn’t inclined to push –so I just let them all lie quiet and undone.

Then Luke Perry died.

Ok ok ok… stay with me, and be kind to me – because this isn’t going where you think it is at all.

I didn’t grow up obsessed with Dylan McKay. Don’t get me wrong –we loved some 90210 around our house growing up – Dr Sissy and I were squarely in the target age demographic for sure.

But the closest I would come to crushing on LP was during his “8 Seconds” stint – and that was more of a Lane Frost thing (if you haven’t seen that movie, it is worth tracking down, just sayin..)

I am not the person who has been secretly bingeing BH90210 seasons in the bathtub or anything – it was what it was and I hadn’t thought much of it since the final episode which aired shortly before I met The Mr.

So no one was more surprised than jaded-old-lady-me when I stumbled on some reruns on Pop TV today and, while watching that first season plot line unfold, and seeing him so young – suddenly I was crying. And then I was telling myself out loud “this is stupid, why are you crying? Stop!” (spoiler – I did NOT stop.)

I sat there – watching Dylan break a flower pot and bare his soul to sweet-but-not-silent Brenda about his shitty dad (deep stuff, Aaron Spelling, ) and I felt the weight of the immense amount of time that had passed since we all first rooted for Dylan and Brenda (now I guess it would be that we “ship Bylan”,) and momentarily feeling so ancient and far from that.

But in the next breath it was the exact opposite. This man – this person that The Mr and I watch play Fred Andrews every week on Riverdale, this person who is very much our age, is dead.

Like natural causes dead.

Because not only are the teen heart-throbs we grew up with playing parents- and even grandparents- at this point, we have reached the age where they, and so also we, can wake up dead. (I know, I know… but just go with me on it.)

He wasn’t partying – there wasn’t an accident or a drug habit or larger-than-life explanation…

Life WAS the explanation. He had a fucking stroke, and then he died, and seeing him again, suddenly as a young man on the TV felt like a lie…. and seeing him there talking and breathing and parenting Archie when we settle in tonight to watch Riverdale will feel like a lie.  And the whole thing is just really overwhelming,  and brings up a bunch of shit that brooding pragmatic GenXers are really crappy at processing where we are in our timeline anyway…..

So I guess crying wasn’t so weird. Because this is actually a big one for us. Its that 1st one that feels like it could be because of his age – and look, I know he was young.

But not YOUNG, like shocking 20 something young….

He was the kind of young they mention when old people don’t want to think that they are in the age bracket where you can just be suddenly gone, so you say “my god he was so young.”

And that is scary. Because we know that is where we are too. We are in that range where you say you wish you had done this or that when you were young and well-meaning folks semi-truthfully say “oh you still are young” – but it isn’t YOUNG…. It’s “still capable of doing stuff if you want to and maybe get lucky.”

I think as a generation we have accepted that we aren’t the young driving force behind the future of everything… hell I am not sure we ever felt THAT way.

But we didn’t know we were old. Or “older,” I guess.

I think maybe now… we know.

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The Gooball Story

Recently I met a fellow busy mom (to clarify, ALL MOMS are busy moms,) for a much needed  coffee-and-catch up session.  The craziness of Jr’s 2nd grade school year has combined with an amazing year of challenging and fulfilling growth for me in my role at work, and all the other stuff-of-life that we all experience, creating a whirlwind that carried the whole family from late summer and into the holiday season in a blink.

I was glad to stop and take a breath and spend some time with my friend and a large sugar free hazelnut latte, and somehow our conversation turned to school fundraisers, which quickly led into fundraiser prizes, which brought us to the dreaded goo ball.

Do you know the goo ball?  My dear friend, who always seems to me to be the textbook example of composed super-mom, started into a story about her daughter bringing home this racquetball-sized squishy, sticky ball made of a material that allowed it to stick to whatever it was thrown at, and crawl down slowly.

“OH THE GOO BALL!! ”  I shouted, probably a little too loudly for the quiet of the coffee house we were in, “I know the damn goo ball…. I have A Story about the goo ball!!!”

“I HAVE A STORY ABOUT THE GOO BALL!!” she exclaimed (also loudly… I bet they don’t wish we could come in every day at that coffee shop.)

Both of our stories involved the aforementioned goo ball becoming stuck, seemingly permanently, to a very high ceiling, and the ensuing circus that unfolded in an effort to get the damn thing down.

Mine was a harrowing tale involving The Mr at the tippy top of an extension ladder trying to swat at the devil ball with various poking devices while I held the ladder up at the bottom.  Spoiler alert, I can’t hold The Mr up and the ladder slid all the way down, taking my legs out from underneath me as The Mr rode it the whole way down the wall until we were both in a heap trying to see if the other was ok.

Fun facts to know and share – goo balls stain.  Significantly.  Along with the dark goo smudge on my ceiling, I also have a front entry table with “goo ball marks” all over the bottom shelf…  a greesy reminder of hard-learned goo ball lessons.

As we told our stories and described the many and varied household items we used to try and dislodge the nightmare “prizes” from our respective ceilings, we howled with laughter and clutched on to each other, caught up in the camaraderie  created by the mutual understanding of such a ridiculous situation.

It was just what I needed. It was perfect.

Over the coming days as I told other moms in my world about the conversation and how hard we laughed and how perfect it was, I learned that having a goo ball story is actually FAR from a unique experience.  Turns out those suckers have haunted the homes of almost every mom I know.   Somehow knowing this gave me an even bigger sense of renewed connection within my mom village.

Momming (yep, it’s a verb,) can be isolating at times.  It can feel like no other person is going through just what you are going through as you guide and root for and love and prod and sometimes yell your offspring through their days… everyone else seems to have it together.   It can SEEM that way.

But really?

Really we are all just trying to figure out how to hide our goo ball stain.

 

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Darkness and light

2 weeks before Jr’s birthday he announced he wanted a Chainsmokers hat.  After much bickering and back-and-forth about what we would listen to in the car, electronic music had become our common ground of choice the summer before – so this was not TOO shocking….

That being said, I gave him a hard no on that particular band name, as a 7 year old wearing a hat that says “Chainsmokers” was sure to earn us some heavy sideeye at the supermarket.  So I told him to name his current favorite songs, and ordered the hat of the artist with the heaviest representation.

His birthday came and went, with the hat on back order.  A month later my son’s prized Avicii hat arrived – 4 days after Tim Bergling passed away.  When we talked about it, Jr sat on my lap and said “I guess we are lucky he left his songs so we can keep him forever.”  Oh my heart…  yes my sweet doodle, we are lucky for that.

Still, I thought – oh I won’t write about that… Maybe it was ok to write about my experiences with generalized anxiety disorder, but  I am no mental health expert, after all.   I am so far from having my shit together, who am I to say anything about this man and his impossible decision?

Of course we talked about it, my friends and I, and said how our hearts hurt, and “oh how young” and nodded silently with eyes closed tight when someone commented about the importance of destigmatizing mental illness.  Like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

And then the news came of Kate Spade, and we all shared pictures of our first KS bags on social media, and told the stories about how she was kind of everything to so many women looking so intently for SOMEONE to look up to – to show us how it was fucking done.  And her husband was eloquent and honest and raw and perfect in his truth about her and it was far more than we were entitled, I think.  But it meant something to so many – and again we nodded with closed eyes, like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

Then as we were marinating in the news of that truth, Anthony Bourdain was gone.

ANTHONY FUCKING BOURDAIN.  This cannot be.  (If it seems like my use of the f-word is increasing as I keep writing, it is exactly because my use of it has increased with each news story as well.)

Chef Bourdain was…  he was a lot to me when I was very young, very lost, and VERY angry.

A friend shared his first piece in the New Yorker with me because of my love of all things culinary  – and early 20’s me soaked it up like a sponge.  At the time I told myself it was just the whole “kitchen thing” of it all – and I hung a copy of the essay above my desk in my single-girl condo and read it over and over again. (If you haven’t read it – read it here.  He was such a gifted storyteller.) He was talking about a world I felt locked out of by doctors and diagnosis…. But he was doing it in a voice that was almost my own, and OH how I ate up everything he did after that.

TV Shows and cookbooks and essays and interviews – his connection to all things human was a magnet.  His driven desire to embrace  the entirety of humanity, using the tools he understood – it was all a substantial gift.

Which could be said about them all.

It couldn’t hold them here. It couldn’t keep them from that action.

And then we are quiet and we nod our heads knowingly, with closed or downward eyes, so we don’t accidently make eye contact.

BECAUSE WE ALL KIND OF KNOW, DON’T WE?

We are all thinking of the family member who lost the fight, leaving us all shocked and sad in their absence. The friend from college or high school who tried and failed and everyone knew it, but it’s ok now because they are on facebook looking oh-so-perfect, so we can pretend that we know they are fine.

Or maybe we are thinking of ourselves.  No one wants to say that – no one wants to give voice to an intimate understanding of those thoughts. Maybe because they have clawed their way beyond that enveloping darkness and they fear that if they even glance back towards it, they will be sucked in once again.  Maybe because admitting it might mean confessing that is still very much where they are, and the true bitch of being in that space is that you really don’t think you want anyone to come into your darkness and try to connect with you – though that connection is the very thing that might save your life.

When I read that New Yorker piece – I was 23, and drowning in the sadness and anger and hopelessness that surround a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I lashed out at those who tried to help with my (now I see) obvious and profound depression.   Everything was a scary and painful unknown.  The only truth I knew in my heart was that everyone EVER would better if I was not there. I was not able bodied, I could not take care of myself, I was costing everyone near me in time and money and energy and I was the least deserving and worthy of all they spent.   I was a horrific and total failure, at every single thing I tried to do. Knowing that I was such a failure that any attempt to leave this life would probably just be something else I fucked up, making me even more of a disappointment to the world, was the only thing that stole my thoughts from that most painful and permanent of choices.

I was lucky.  Because in that blackest, deepest, loudest, longest night trying to consume my soul, the people who loved me did not shut their eyes or nod knowingly and turn away in silence.  They fought.  They fought like hell, and they did not let me push them away – they grabbed on and clung to me and dragged my ass kicking and screaming away from that darkness, and tied me very unwillingly in the light. They unflinchingly reminded me of the truth of who I was, shouting over the demons of the darkness telling me I was the reason for all of their shame and pain.

I am lucky, because for me – it eventually worked.   That is not the case for everyone.  Not every battle waged is won, not every lifeboat offered is boarded.  It can be impossibly hard and feel like the dawn will never break.   It can be uncomfortable, it can be scary, and it can force us to face our own truths when we may not want to.

But never again will I nod knowingly, eyes cast downward, speaking in whispers, succumbing to the stigma that makes the already hard job of reaching those who are hurting even more difficult.

It may not be music, or fabulous shoes, or cookbooks and conscientious travel, but EVERYONE is a substantial gift to SOMEONE.  Everyone deserves to be seen, to know that the darkness tells lies, and that they can escape for the light of the truth.

_______________

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

 

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