08 January 2011

So, What Happened Last Night?


A heavy tavern door opened letting in a stifling heat.  “Shut that door, James!  It’s roasting outside.”  Saul called out.
“Hey Saul, how come you aren’t open?” James asked coming to the table where three men sit. 
“I dunno.  I woke up feeling like maybe I wouldn’t open today. Let people spend time with family.”
 “Whew – what a summer, huh?  Census -too many people milling around in this heat.”  James said reaching for a glass of the honeyed wine in the center of the table.
 “Joel was telling us about the commotion last night.”  David said.  “OK, so Hiram is sold out.  And?”
Joel said, “Right, Hiram is sold out – as is everyone – and then, real late, a couple shows up at the door.”
James wiped his brow, “A couple of what?”
 “A couple of hay barrels.  What do you think?  A couple – a man and his wife.  So they show up to be counted on account of the man being of the House of David and they’re looking for a place to stay.  No room at Hiram’s inn but the lady, she’s pregnant – really pregnant.  You know Hiram, his heart went out to them so he says they can stay in the barn if they need to.”
Saul cut in, “That Hiram is a good man.  He’d give you the shirt off his back if he could.”
 “The couple settles in the barn and guess what?”  Joel said. “The lady has the baby - in the middle of Hiram’s barn.”
“You’re kidding me!”  James exclaimed.  “She has a kid in a stable?  Are they well?”
Joel shrugged.  “I guess so.  The lady swaddled it in some old clothes and it was fine.   But it gets even stranger.  Now, Hiram is a prince of a guy but those animals; they are the noisiest barn of animals in town.  Last night?  Not a sound.”
James jumped in excitedly, “That’s right.  I walked by there with the missus and we commented on how we didn’t hear anything.  Usually that cow never shuts up.  Not a peep last night.”
David leaned in, “The animals are quiet – with a kid being born in their barn?”
Saul pointed at David’s hand, “What happened to your hand”
“Oh, I hit with my hammer this morning.”
“What were you doing?”  Saul asked.
“The Widow Greene’s shutters were just about off their hinges and with this dust kicking up; she’ll have an inch on her floors before long.  So I fixed them up”
“Good for you, my friend.”  Saul said. 
“Eh,” David said waving them off. “Wasn’t anything.  I got to thinking about the poor thing out there all alone.”
Saul turned back to Joel.  “So those shepherds milling around last night – what was that about?”
Joel replied, “they came down to check the kid out.”
 “How’d they know about the kid?”  James asked
 “This one I asked says an ‘angel’ told them to go. I guess if I were in field by myself I would call anyone who talked to me an ‘angel’ as well.”  Joel said with a laugh.  “But it gets better.”
“Better than a kid in a stable with shepherds coming to see it because so nomad says they should?”  Saul asked.
 “No, I know what you’re talking about. “  David said, “Melchoir and the others.  They stopped in my shop this morning.  Don’t tell me they are here for the kid too?”
“What others?  James asked.
“Uh, Gaspar and that guy from the North… Balthasar.  Nice guys.”  David answered.
“Yeah, and they brought gifts.”  Joel stated.
 “Gifts?  Why?”  James asked.
“You know, you bring a little something when someone has a baby.”  David answered.
Joel said, “Yeah, but these weren’t ‘a little something’.  Gaspar, he brings gold.  Balthasar brings frankincense…”
David interrupted.  “Do you know how hard it is to find frankincense right now?  Aaron has been sold out for months.”
Joel continued, “Melchoir brought some myrrh.” 
David slammed his hand on the table, “Oh come on!  A pinch of myrrh costs more than my house!”
 “My sister had a baby last month and most she got was a goat.  A skinny one too.”  Saul said.
 “Hey Joel, how’d you know all this?”  James asked.
“I was on my way to Irv’s when I saw all the activity so I asked around.”
“Why were you going to see Irv?”  Saul asked.
“I took him that donkey.”
“I thought he couldn’t afford that donkey?”  Saul asked.
“Yeah.  He’s had a hard year.  I gave him a break.” 
“Twenty years you’ve been trading animals, this is the biggest break you have ever given.”  David laughed, shaking Joel’s shoulder.
“I know, I know.  I guess I am becoming an old softy.  It felt right, you know.  Actually,” he chuckled, “it felt pretty good.”
 “I should head out.  The shop is pretty busy.”  David said with a wave.
 “I am going to go home too.”  James said.  “My oldest is home.  There was the most amazing star last night.  We might go watch it tonight from the hilltop.”
“Hey, James, since it is on your way home, why don’t you take some of that bread behind the counter and this pitcher of wine for that couple over at Hiram’s.”  Saul said handing him the pitcher.
James waved and left with the food.
“You know, I am going to catch up with James.  Maybe I should check on Hiram’s animals – make sure there is nothing wrong with them.”
Saul opened the door.  “Be well in this heat, my friend.  Quite a story last night, huh?  Hey, Joel – do you think they’ll be telling this story a hundred years from now?”
“Maybe… it’s a good story.”  Joel said fanning himself.  “I hope they move it to winter, though – it’s a scorcher!”

Here's to good stories everywhere.  Peace on Earth, my friends, and goodwill toward men!

Happy Thanksgiving - Ode to Dysfunction

Becky: “Hi Grandma!  Happy Thanksgiving!”
Becky (louder): “I said Hi Grandma – Mom, Dad and Stanley are right behind me.”
Pots and pans are clanking.
Becky: “Grandma?  Should I bring the pie in there or put it on the sideboard.”
Bernice rounds the corner.
Bernice: “AHHH!  Who’s in my house?” 
Bernice rushes Becky with a turkey baster.
Becky: “GRANDMA NO!”
Bernice: “Oh Becky, how nice.  When did you get here?”
David: “Hi Mom.”
Bernice: “AHHHHH!” 
Another rush.
David palms her forehead.
Bernice: “David!  What a surprise.  First Becky and now you.  What brings you here?”
David: “You invited us for Thanksgiving, Mom.  Darren and Charlotte are coming too.
Sara: “What?!?  You didn’t tell me they were coming.”
David: “I didn’t want you to start in.”
Sara:  “Great.  We would have had more fun at my parents.”
David: “Your parents are dead.”
Sara: “My point stands.”
Becky: “Grandma, your house looks… beautiful.  I love your decorations.  How festive!”
Bernice: “Well, you know what they say; you can never have too many decorations.”
Sara: “Unless it’s November and you have Easter decorations up.”
David: “Mom.  Do you have any wine I could open?”
Bernice: “Of course, darling.  It’s in the pantry.”
David: “I will be right back.”
Bernice: "Stanley!  My word.  How wonderful to see you!  How’s college?”
Stanley: “I don’t go to college, Grandma.  That’s Becky.”
Bernice: “Becky.  Oh how I miss her.”
Becky: “I am right here, Grandma.”
David comes out from kitchen. Walks up to Sara
David (whispering): “Don’t go in there.”
Sara (anxiously): “What?  Why?”
David shakes his head.
Sara: “I am not eating cereal again this year.”
Becky: “The important thing is that we are all together.”
David and Sara empty their glasses and start a second.
David: “Stanley?  What the hell are you doing?”
Stanley: “I am checking out these pine cone things.”
Sara: “Leave them alone, Stanley. “
Sara: “Where is Darren?”
David: “They’re always late.”
Sara: “STANLEY!  Stop licking the pine cones.”
Stanley: “I think I’m getting stoned off of these.”
David: “You’re not getting stoned, you’re being poisoned.”
Stanley: “How do you know?”
David: “Because I made those in grammar school and they let us use toxic glue then.”
Sara: “David – call Darren.”
David (dials): “Darren?  Where the hell are you?”
Darren: “I am freezing my ass off in front of your house – where are you?”
David: “Why are you in front of my house?”
Darren: “Mom told me to come here.”
David: “Oh for Christ’s sake!  Get over here.”
Darren (to Charlotte): “Charlotte?  Get the kids in the car.  We’re going to McDonald’s”
David: “What? No – get over here…”
Sara: “Well?”
David: “They’re not coming.”
Sara: “Perfect.”
Bernice: “Well, I just checked the turkey and it looks wonderful.”
David: “You were gone for 40 minutes.’
Bernice: “I did the crosswords too.”
Sara: “Bernice, can I help at all?”
Bernice: “Oh, what a dear.  Would you mind setting the table?”
Sara looks to the set table.
Sara: “Done.”
Bernice: “Oh Sara!  What a help you are!  David, you should marry this one before she gets away.”
David: “So Mom, Darren’s not coming.”
Bernice: “Oh what a shame.”
Becky: “It’s OK.  It just means more time for us to visit!”
David and Sara groan.
Becky: “We have all these fun decorations and delicious smelling food.  We should, after all, be thankful.”
David: “Oh crap.  She’s back.”
Becky: “Who?”
David: “The holiday foghorn.”
Becky: “What?”
Sara: “Someone shoves a Christmas tree up your ass around Halloween and you bleat out holiday cheer for the next six months. “
Becky (sniffing): “Well excuse me for wanting to be a little cheerful during such a glorious season.”
David: “Where’s Mom?”
Sara: “Where’s Stanley?”
David: “I’ll take kitchen. You take guest bathroom.”
Sara: “Changing the towels out does not turn the only bathroom into a guest bathroom.”
David: (Gritting teeth): “Go find your son.”
David: “Mom?  You in here?  Mom?  Mom?”
Bernice (behind David): “yes dear?”
David: “HOLY CHRIST MOM!  You scared the hell out of me.”
Bernice: “Sorry Dear.”
David: “Can we put that cleaver down?”
Sara: “Found him.”
David: “Where?”
Sara: “He’s trying to get into your mother’s crawl space above her closet.”
David (pause): “Should we try to stop him?”
Sara shrugs.
David: “Mom?  What is that?”
Bernice (chuckles): “The gravy dear.  From last year.  I froze it.”
Sara: “Wait, we had Thanksgiving at Darren’s last year.”
Bernice: “Oh.  Maybe it is the gravy from your wedding.  That was so tasty wasn’t it?”
Sara: “You stole the gravy from our wedding?”
David to Sara: “THAT’S what’s bothering you?”
Stanley (muffed from the roof): “I FOUND HOFFA!”
David: “Becky – could you go help keep your grandmother from killing us please?”
Becky (whimpering): “Aren’t you afraid I might vomit a little joy all over the dinner?  You don’t appreciate me!”
Sara: “We bought you a Prius.  How much appreciation do you want?”
30 minutes later.
David: “I don’t know where Stanley is.  What is that smell?”
Sara (reading a Good Housekeeping from 1956): “I don’t smell anything.”
David: “Ug!  How could you not?”
Sara: “I’ve had two bottles of wine.”
Becky (coming out of the kitchen holding her nose): “Oh my God.”
David: “What is that smell?”
Becky: “I just opened the oven?”
David: “Is that the bird?”
Sara sings softly to herself.
Becky:  “I don’t think it was dead when she put it in.  She keeps calling it fluffy and says it is almost dry after its bath.”
David: “That’s it.  MOM - we have to go.  Sara is under the weather.  I am sending your police friends over again.”
Bernice (from the kitchen): “Oh!  It’s time for Sara to have the baby!  How exciting.”
David: “Everyone get in the car – NOW!”
They leave.
Stanley: “ Mom?  Dad?”
Bernice rounds the corner.
Bernice (with baster): “AAAAAHHHH!”
Stanley: “NO, GRANDMA, NO!”
Bernice:”Stanley!  My word.  How wonderful to see you!  How is college?”
Stanley: “The armadillo that lives in the attic told me to give you this.”
Stanley hands Bernice a mitten.
Bernice:  “Are you hungry?  I have so much food.”
Stanley goes to kitchen.
Stanley: “Graaaaannndddmmmaaaaa?  There’s an enormous bat in the oven singing ‘Greensleeves’!”
Bernice: “Oh!  The police are here.  Must be time for the dance.”
Bernice grabs her sweater and walks into the closet.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

You Don't Listen

Adam is going to kill me.
They’re going to turn the phone off.   Where is the money in our checking?  Mortgage… groceries…  $400 at Beverage Warehouse?!?  $700 at... where?  Oh right, that sample sale. 
I need to bring expenses down.  I can’t run this house on Adam’s salary.  He doesn’t get that.  I’m the one who always has to find ways to cut. 
We can’t afford that vodka anymore.  The cheap stuff is fine. 
I need a drink.  3:30. Dammit. 
What’s on the VISA?  Over the limit?!?  How?  
 Adam going to kill me.  He has his cell phone, he’ll live. 
WAIT – the MasterCard... I paid on that.  $93 available!  There – if I give the phone company $100, they will keep it on, right?  I can pay the rest next week, when Adam gets paid.  Oh! *kiss* bless you.  I can pay the electricity and phone next pay check and put mortgage off until the next check.  I can float us.  Adam won’t know.  Oh thank God!
What time is it? 3:47. Adam says before 5 is too early.  Maybe he should stay home with our daughters once in a while.  Let’s see him make it to 5 o’clock.  It is Friday.  I’ll mix it with orange juice.  He never notices. 
 I better check on Debra.  
I need to see if the baby is awake first.
“There you are, my sweet love.”
“Ssshhhh.  Sshh.  Sshh.”  You love your Mommy so much. You’re just a little cuddle bum. 
Just like your sisters were.  
Before every other word was “NO”, “I WON’T”, “Why do I have to?”  BECAUSE I SAID SO, that’s why.  
I love you, precious.  You are going to be Mommy’s little angel.
Is Casey still moping? 
“Casey?  I’m coming in.”
“Are you still pissed off at me?  You are 15 Casey.  You snuck out with that… that moron!”
“Yes he is a moron.  He’s too old for you.”
“You knew you would be grounded.  You brought this on yourself.  You can stew in here all weekend if you want.  Go ahead, tell your journal how awful you mother is.  If you get pregnant at 15, your life will be over.”
“Oh, yes you are.  Don’t lie to me.”
“It’s doesn’t matter.  You father and I told you to back off from him.”
“Debra is none of your business.  No!  Don’t roll your eyes at me.  You never mouthed off liked that.”
“Not that bad.”
“Well, not at her age.”
“Now you don’t say anything.”
“I just want you to talk to me, honey.  That’s all.  I believe you.  If you and that guy… “
“OK, OK, Tyler.  If you say you and Tyler are not having sex than I believe you.  I just love you so much.  You know that, right?”
“You dad doesn’t know you snuck out last night.  If you SWEAR to keep to curfew, maybe you can not be grounded.  Dad doesn’t need to know about any of this.”
“But you keep to the rules of this house.”
I’ll tell Adam it’s a group of friends going out.  He’ll be OK with that.
*deep breath* *knock*
“Debra?  Debs?  Oh hey, there.  You still crying?  Big girls like you don’t cry this much. “
 “Your eye hurts?  Let’s see.  Oh, it’s not anything.  I can barely… I don’t see anything.  That?  That’s just a little dirt.  There you go.  No more tears.”
“Hey!  You know what would be fun?  Do you want Mommy to put some of her make up on you?  Some pink lipstick… and my glittery eye shadow?  Yeah?  OK, come on.”
“This will be fun.”
“This is foundation.  It… it makes your skin all smooth and pretty.  Oh!  Did that hurt?  No, stay still, honey.  I just need to cover up this purple… OK.  You know, Mommy hates to get that mad at you, sweetheart.  But I pick you up at preschool and all those mommies are looking at me because you hit someone?  It makes me look like I am not a good mommy – when you were the one that hit.  That’s not fair, is it?  And then we come home and you refuse to go to your room?  You just sat there on the couch and wouldn’t move?  Even after Mommy asked you all those times.  You don’t listen to me.  You never listen.”
“Here, purse your lips like... good.”
“Oh, you look so pretty.  You know how much your mommy loves you?  I am not going to tell Daddy how naughty you were today.  No, I won’t.  I won’t tell him anything and we will just pretend it didn’t happen.  He doesn’t have to know, right?  Mommy already took care of it.  Look at you!  So pretty.  You can’t even see that little patch on your cheek.”
“It still hurts?   Mommy doesn’t like to hit you honey.  You need to listen to her”
“ You know what?  Let’s play a game.  I bet Daddy doesn’t even see it with this pretty make up on.  Let’s not show him unless he sees it?  OK?  Our little game.”
“You know who you look like?  That pretty princess doll we saw at the store the other day.”
“Yes, the one with the beautiful white ruffily dress.  How about you and Mommy go get you that doll tomorrow?  Would you like that?”
“Well, it is expensive.  70 dollars is a lot for a doll.  But you want it, right?  And Mommy is going to get it for you.  That is how much Mommy loves you.  I found 70 dollars on my MasterCard and I saved it just for you.  Ah, come here baby.  You’re welcome.”
“Look at that!  It’s 5 o’clock!  Mommy is going to make some orange juice.  Do you want some orange juice?”

SMBaN - In The Club

part nine
In the Club
After ‘The Battle’ on the Mommyverse, I once again cast my net for answers and acceptance in the world of mothers.  My “How to Raise a Kid” books said to join a moms’ club so I did. 
A Moms’ Club is a support group.  You attend weekly meetings with mothers who all have children around the same age and discuss being a mom.  Usually there is a leader who may have an advanced degree in child psychology or maybe just “really, really loves kids and being a mommy!”  Unlike the Mommyverse, in a Mom’s Club I was surrounded by live moms who made sad faces and touched my shoulder.  They told me how what I said is just like their own experience.  Then they proceeded to tell me their story… for 20 minutes.  I was a new mom. I could make sad faces. And now I had mom stories.  I belonged.
This is how I joined the Judgmental Moms’ Club.  We did nothing but discuss our children’s development… and by development I mean “What my child can do and yours can’t”.  We compared various philosophies to childrearing… and by compare I mean we said mean spirited things about the women who did things differently.  We condemned television for our child’s malleable minds.  Well, unless we absolutely needed to get something done or to get a moment to ourselves or we were talking on the phone or to settle them down for bed or because we were exhausted or our soaps were on or…
We proclaimed proudly that WE knew what was best for our baby and that our mothers and sisters and grandmothers were clueless.  I was wading in the pool of popularity and all it had taken was 10 months gestation and a few stretch marks.  It didn’t take long for the cracks in the foundation of the JMC to form.   The first was when we discussed sleeping through the night. Dawn warned me about offering up this information.  But one day we were asked to go around the room, tell how long your baby slept and what was working or not working.  We were not supposed to speak until we had the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear passed to us.  It was a rule.  When the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear came my way, I told the group “8 hours.”  There were a gasps and a few glares. 
“Wow, what is working?”  Dr. Misty, our 23-year-old-just-earned-her-PhD leader asked.
“Uhm, I am not sure.  He just kind of started sleeping longer.”  More glares.
“Really?  Nothing different in your routine?”
“No, I don’t think so.  I mean, you know, he’s changing, you know, developmentally, but nothing more than what the books say.”  I said cautiously looking around.
“When is your last feeding at night?”  Dr. Misty asked.
“Oh, uhm, I think…”
A particularly vocal member of the group cut me off.  “What are you feeding him?”  She snarled.
I sputtered “Oh, uhm, well, you see, he was an early teether so he bit a lot and I had to…well, it hurt quite a bit…”
“Formula” she sneered.
A collective cluck came from the group.  The Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear was taken from my lap and my views on sleeping were not requested again.
Once we were talking about sitters.  Most of the moms were working up the effort to have their first sitter (although several had had their babies in daycare since they were 3 months old).  Some were even contemplating if they could trust their own parents to watch their children.  I was not asked much for my opinion these days.  However, I kept trying.  On some level, I believed that if the JMC rejected me it would be noted in some giant “Unfit Mothers” ledger that existed somewhere.  So I offered up what I thought would be helpful for some to hear.  “I have had a wonderful sitter for Logan since he was only a few months old.”
“How long had you known your sitter before she sat for you?” Dr. Misty asked.
“Oh, we met once, you know, at the interview, and then I think she came over that next week to sit.  It was wonderful.”
“Were you in the house?”  One mom asked.
“When?” I asked.
“During the first time she sat.”  She said.
“I was… out at a restaurant.”  I replied.
The group gasped.
“Oh my no!  You should never leave your children alone with a babysitter the first night.  What if something had happened?”  Someone said.
“But isn’t that why she is there, so I don’t have to be?”  I asked.
“Not the first time!”  Another barked. 
“My sister still hasn’t left the baby alone with the sitter and it’s been 5 months.”
“My step-cousin and his wife would sit in the closet while the babysitter was there.”  Another added.  Everyone nodded as if this somehow made sense.
I shrank back and looked nervously at Logan.  Seriously, why am I not getting this?
I did not renew my membership once my 6 weeks were up and my new support group members did not keep in touch. 
I asked The Mothers why their generation did not need all these groups for moms.  They said they did, but they called them “Stitch and Bitch” clubs.  Not only did they solve the world’s problems, they usually got a quilt out of it.  No one cared if their husbands were co-sharing in parenting.  Frankly, the more their husbands were out from underfoot the smoother their homes ran.  They dispensed advice like “just put some scotch on it.”  Alcohol and cigarettes were present, if not the theme of the meeting.  Membership was free and drop-ins were welcome.  Beware if you missed an evening, though, you were probably the subject of that night’s discussion.  “Stitch and Bitch’s” are no longer around.  Parenting is serious business now.  Any advice written before 1999 is null and void. 
Nate suggested I organize my own Mom’s Club.  Since I needed to meet more women in my area anyway, I took to the Mommyverse.  I posted on every site to which I belonged - “Come join other bright Moms who refuse to get sucked into today’s Parenting Vacuum”.  Well, that was what I was thinking when I posted.  I think I actually wrote something closer to, “Anyone want to join a new Mom group on the Westside?”  I got a bunch of responses –
“Wow – it’s like you were reading my mind!!!” 
“I would LOOOOOOOOOVE to join – sing (sic) me up!!!!”  
“This comes at just the right time.  I was feeling so down on myself lately – you know, like nobody gets me and that I keep messing everything up and now I feel like I have a home, a place to go.” 
This sounded like a nice gaggle of girls.  I wrote a personal message to everyone interested.  I explained how I wanted to do something different.  I said it was more of a women’s group than just a mom’s group.  I thought we would discuss all kinds of women’s issues and we would be free from criticism.  Everyone was allowed their opinion as long as no one made it personal.  The ladies were enthusiastic.  They gave me quite a few words of encouragement with an excess of vowels and exclamation points. 
Our first order of business was to introduce ourselves via email and then to set our first meeting.  The introduction was easy.  I received volumes of emails as these nine ladies divulged every fact about themselves and any thought they had ever had on parenting or marriage or women in general.  Next, we were to set the first meeting.  This proved a bit tricky: there were babysitters to obtain, schedules to consider {kids, work, husbands, etc). Once the date was set, we were forced to cancel that first meeting and reschedule 16 times.  Finally, four months after my initial posting, we were all set to meet at my house.  Light refreshments, wine and no kids – for this first meeting.  I sent out my address and phone number for the third time that week.  My kids were thrilled to be going to Der Pizza Haus with Nate.  They dragged him out the door without saying goodbye.
Two hours before the meeting I received an email from one of the group.  She was awfully sorry but she did not realize how far away I lived.  This struck me as odd since it was one of the first things we discussed.  Anyway, she would need to bow out and maybe this is not the time for her in such a group but it is a great idea and she wished us the best of luck.  Once the first excuse was made, the floodgates were opened.  The others’ excuses ranged from life’s current direction taking a different course to self image issues to pedicure emergencies.  My woman’s group had dissolved and we hadn’t once met. 
In the end, it was me and my 86 year old neighbor sipping chardonnay as she told me about how she hadn’t been able to feel the left side of her tongue in 15 years.  When my family returned, Nate pointed to our neighbor who had wet herself while asleep on the couch.   I said she was my spirit guide to womanhood and went to bed.