Yesterday we went to our community pool for the first super hot day of the summer. It was jam-packed; teeming with kids, parents and lifeguards. It was so crowded, there was a line, 45 minutes long, of people waiting to get in. It was filled to capacity, so they instituted their “one leaves, one enters” policy, which sounds very Hunger Games, doesn’t it? We got there right before that madness. I brought four kids with me and my oldest was arriving later, walking there with his crew from basketball camp. So after he arrived, I had five kids under my jurisdiction and it was so crowded that at one point (fine, several points) I couldn’t find any of them. I brought a book with me. Isn’t that hilarious? Like I actually thought I’d be laying down on a chaise lounge, reading. Sometimes, my optimism is such a beautiful thing. I hope I never lose it. I also brought three ice cold cans of La Croix, and was stopped by two different groups of Moms that I didn’t know, who told me they thought I had been walking around the pool holding a beer. They said it in awe, like if it had been beer, they were going to enter my name and number in their iPhones at that moment. I was sorry to disappoint. It was so unbelievably hot. Heat index was over 100, I heard. 105? The temp was 92 and the sun was angry and intense. As a freckly redhead, I hide from Big Bad Mr. Sun. But there was no escaping him as I made loop after loop of the pool, looking for the bright pink swim shirt of my fearless four-year old who threw herself down the huge water slides over and over. The line for the snack bar stretched all the way from the picnic area back to the water’s edge of the pool. And the concrete was so hot, you had to wear your flip flops. Each kid had $2 for snacks, but we ended up with a couple extra dollar bills and I couldn’t figure out where they came from, until I looked at Lucy. People, keep your money secure! That’s all I’m going to say about that. There was a Mom in the snack line, clearly worried about losing her place because she wouldn’t leave it to go talk to her young kids seated on the far side of the picnic area. Instead she shouted at them from afar. “Lila! Sit down! Lilaaaa! Sit! Down! On your bottom!” Lila was sitting on top of the picnic table instead of on the bench. Every two minutes, her Mom would shout this to her daughter, who totally ignored her. You could hear her voice everywhere. I swear it was following me. I wore a hat and sunglasses to hide from the sun, but I think it looked like I was hiding from imaginary paparazzi; throw in my “beer” cans and I coulda been Lindsay Lohan, circa 2012, at the Chateau Marmont. Four friends came up to me and asked me if I was going to blog about this first huge day at the pool. I said ‘no’ to the first person, ‘I don’t think so’ to the second, ‘seriously?’ to the third and ‘WTF??’ to the fourth. I guess the first scorcher day of summer after school has let out really is a milestone. But I am still in school mode: jumpy, shouty, twitchy, obsessed with schedules and calendars. Worried I’m forgetting something: an assignment, a carpool, canned goods for a food drive. My brain and central nervous system are stuck in overdrive. I can’t quite get my fingernails out of the ceiling yet. I actually was saying, “Hurry! We’re going to be late!” as I was sunscreening up my brood. Late for what? The pool? Oh my Lord, it’s become a habit. A reflex. I need to fix that now. I am so used to being in a hurry, stressed out, worried about how much I have to do that I couldn’t tell anymore if it was real or imagined. So I got up super early this morning and started journaling. I made a list. Turns out, I have no big stressors hanging over my head: no new music to scramble to learn, no rehearsal to run off to, no concert hanging over my head. No homework to supervise, no uniforms to wash, no lunches to pack, no naggy Room Mom emails to send out. I still have all the normal life stuff to do, but the constant, boot-to-the-neck grind of the school year and working Mom stuff? It’s over, lady. Chill out. “Lila!! Sit your bottom down!!” I kept chasing the shade, staking out new chairs when the sun would move. We were there for three and a half hours, and I feel like I earned combat pay. One of the lifeguards dates our high school sitter, and he came over to say hello. His eyes never looked at my face, though: he kept doing his job, scanning, scanning his little area of the pool. “This is so stressful today. I have ten minutes left till my shift is over, thank goodness.” Talk about earning combat pay. “Lila!! You have to sit dooooown!” My La Croix was warm and flat and really starting to piss me off. All I could think was, “My Kingdom for an ice cold Stella,” and also: “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LILA’S MOM, WALK OVER AND SOLVE THAT PROBLEM!!!” That’s when I knew it was time to leave. I gathered my kiddos, all the wet towels, my unopened book and headed home, where pizza was delivered and Stella was waiting. Chill out, Mamacita.
Oh, and P.S.: my daughter lost a tooth while we were at the pool, of course. She brought it home in an unused nacho cheese cup from the snack bar. As soon as she got out of the car in our driveway, however, she dropped it and lost it. And please don't ask if the Tooth Fairy made it to our house last night; you know better than that.
Wow, Serena, sister! You are making us all look bad with your magnificence.
Not that I would ever dare compare myself to you; first of all, I don’t play tennis. Well, I used to play in the city, actually, and I really liked it. My husband got me lessons at the tennis club downtown and we’d play when he got home from work. It was super fun, except…we’re both super competitive. And he thought it was hilarious to serve the ball really, really hard and I would just stand and watch it whizz by, ducking so I didn’t get my face smashed in. This is what being married to a jock is like, when you’re not a jock yourself. Just like music really defines me and formed me, athletics defined and formed my husband. He was a three-sport Varsity athlete in high school and then went on to play football in college, on a full scholarship no less. He still plays basketball, runs, and skis and does all sorts of other physical activities to the hilt, whenever he gets a chance. On that long-ago tennis court, I did what is now known as a mic-drop, except I did it with my tennis racket. After his fourth (but who’s counting?) serve whizzed past me and he belly laughed, I lifted my racquet up, shoulder height, and let it drop. Then I took off, jogging towards the lakefront, with him shouting, “Wait! Come back! I was only kidding! I won’t do it again!” Too little, too late, Mr. McEnroe. I had to run a couple of lakefront miles before I stopped wanting to kill him. I came home, sweaty but much less stabby, to a very apologetic man. So what on earth could I, a non-jock, have in common with an athlete like Serena? Well, I had to play at a wedding in our parish today. It was just a gig; I didn’t know the bride or groom. But I am so sick! Just like Serena was today, playing the French Open. Our house has been infected with a slow-moving, but horribly virulent plague that began when our resident Germ Monkey, Lucy, brought it home from her preschool. It’s awful because I totally know who Patient Zero was at her Montessori. But when I asked Lucy’s doctor if I could go over and pelt the little girl’s house with rocks and garbage, he said no, that they kinda frown on that behavior in the medical and educational community. Jeesh. After Lucy, it snaked towards the boys and they went down the next week. And then, I got it. I am so grateful I made it through my last big concert of the season before succumbing, but there is no joy in parenting while sick: it’s just shouting things from the couch until your spouse comes home and can relieve you. I started my antibiotics two days ago, almost kissing the pharmacist, I was so happy to get them. I have this horrible cough, so bad that it caused my husband to choose Sofa City over lying awake listening to me cough for another endless night. As he was gathering his pillows and wishing me goodnight, I couldn’t help but think of the opera La Bohème. You know, in the Final Act? When Mimi is dying of Consumption and can’t stop coughing? When Rodolfo holds her and recalls their first meeting and how they fell in love as he comforts her in his arms until her sad, sad demise? Yeah, well, this was the exact opposite of that: “I can’t catch what you have! We’ll fall apart and the children will eat us! One of us has to stay healthy around here. Are you going to use that extra pillow, or can I have it?” I handed it to him and told him I hoped I was still alive to kiss him in the morning. I had a 50/50 chance of making it through the night, I told him. The next day, when miraculously I survived, I was complaining (gently, hardly at all, barley a whimper) about having to go play this stupid, dumb wedding when I felt so sick, like such complete and utter crap—I MEAN, ahem, perhaps I should sub this gig out and go lie down with a cold compress on my forehead? My husband looked at me and said, “Serena Williams just won the French Open today while she was sick with the flu.”
And then he just stood there, with “I think you can manage to play a wedding” hanging in a cartoon word bubble above his head. I heard it even though he didn’t technically speak it. What a jock thing to say. Like, how can we even compare playing the French Open with playing a crappy wedding gig?? Fellow musicians, am I right? It is SO much harder playing the violin than tennis when you have a church organist who doesn’t ever, ever give cues or tell you how many measures he’s arbitrarily adding to the hymn, so counting is totally useless. Or when, for kicks, sometimes he hands you a part that’s in a different key than the one he’s playing in and you don’t realize it until you start playing and it sounds AWFUL and then you have to transpose on the spot. Much harder than tennis, I tell you! I mean, no, I’ve never played tennis past those level one classes, but that was EASY. Like, totally no big deal, just fun, except for when my Jock Husband was hitting the ball too hard, fast, right at me, on purpose. That part was kinda hard, I guess. Maybe that’s what Serena feels like? I dunno. Anyway, you are amazing, Serena! But you made me look like a wimp today and that, I do not appreciate. I played the wedding, cough drops and tissues falling out of my case and I missed an entrance because see above and I didn’t even get a trophy afterwards. But I did it: Consumption and all. And now it’s over, so I’m going to go be Mimi and lie in bed, read a book and have my Rodolfo bring me hot tea with honey while saying “poor baby” over and over, on command. I hope Serena is somewhere in France, doing the same.
Oh, the shame! I was walking past my kids' room last night and on the bedroom door, there hung a note. It was addressed to our Tooth Fairy, that truant little bitch.
If you can't decipher kids' scrawl, here it is spellchecked, for your reading pleasure:
Dear Tooth Fairy,
Please come get my tooth. I have been waiting for 4 days.
First of all, speaking on behalf of beleaguered Tooth Fairies everywhere, I didn't even know she had lost a tooth at first. It apparently happened the night I had a concert, so go ahead and throw a big heap of Workin' Mama Guilt on top of this Shame Sandwich. Our partially-toothless daughter had been suffering in silence, waiting patiently for three nights before she even let us know she had a tooth under her pillow!
When she finally told us about it, I was horrified and said many nasty things about our Tooth Fairy that I now regret: how's she unreliable; takes to drinking under stress and blacking out for days and nights on end; how after she's been to the house to collect teeth, I notice little things, like jewelry and loose change, have gone missing. Maybe, in retrospect, I laid it on a little too thick but I wanted her to understand who we're dealing with here.
And I love how she gave the Tooth Fairy her GPS coordinates, writing "Top Bunck"; like Fairy can fly all the way here, but once in the room, maybe she got confused which pillow the tooth was under? Since there are three of them in that room (next to an empty bedroom repurposed to hold all their dressers so they can sleep together like a litter of puppies), that does present a challenge for the Tooth Fairy.
As you can see from the picture, I wrote back to her:
Sorry, Sophie. My wings were tired!
Here's what I really wanted to write back:
Congrats on losing another tooth. You're losing them like acorns from a tree in Autumn, you know that? And it always seems to happen when your Mom has a concert, or you're traveling, or one of your siblings has the stomach flu, I swear. Makes my job WAY harder. I mean, it's not like I always have cute little tchotchkes on hand-- sometimes, my Treasure Drawer is empty, you know?
And these Blackhawks! Do you know how many teeth these guys lose during the playoffs? I am beat half to death flying all over the place, taking care of them.
I'm just saying, it'd be great if I could have a little help from your parents once in a while.
Remember when you lost two teeth over spring break while you guys were on that remote Island? I overheard your Mom and Dad laughing about putting Coronas (with limes, but still!) under your pillow 'cause that's all they had. Girl, I stopped that train wreck from happening by stealing 5 bucks from your Dad's wallet--twice! Weren't you wondering why you got so much money that week compared to when you're at home? I was workin' overtime on that vacation, so excuse me if I've been a little off my game lately.
So anyway, thanks for the reminder note, but at the same time, lay off with the shade you're throwing. I'm doing my best here.
Firsts are tough. I'm going to make this one as easy as possible. My first blog post after what was not my first glass of wine of the evening. Thank you to my friends for setting this up. Thank you for yelling at me to write. Thank you to my youngest child who wrote her name on the bathroom wall, on my most favorite wallpaper that I have ever seen, in ballpoint pen while sitting on the toilet: now I have something to write about!
Living with this 4-year old is like living with Banksy. She tags everything: furniture, walls, bedding, the dog. I'm not making that up: she has written on the dog-- in marker--on more than one occasion. Today, when I saw the writing on the wall--not an idiom--I was pissed. Yelling pissed. "LUUUUUUCY!" pissed. We were expecting guests any moment for dinner and there it was, Bansky strikes again.
Then I heard my Mom laughing. That calmed me down. Made me pause, take a breath. My Mom passed away from Alzheimer's Disease three years ago today. I hate this day because it makes me so sad. The week leading up to it makes me weepy, grouchy, depressed. I miss her so much. But today, I heard her laugh as I was screaming my daughter's name in the bathroom, so loudly it caused my husband to come running.
It took me a minute to realize what I was hearing. I didn't think it was funny at all, who the hell would laugh at this? My Mom would.
"You've finally met your match," was what her laughter meant to me. "Relax, it's not a big deal. Slow down. It's wallpaper. Who cares?"
She's right. She's still right and she's not even here anymore, how is that possible? Maybe it's the wine, maybe it's the good friends who were over tonight setting up this blog, or the good food and conversation, but hey. I can't believe I screamed over someone writing their name on my wallpaper. What's the big deal? It's just a blog. It's just my first post. It's just wallpaper.