My husband and I have known each other for over seventeen years.
When we first met, we were both in our mid-twenties and living a lifestyle that could pretty well best be described as "late night" and "fabulous", as well as "hanging-on financially by our dining out-concert going-next round's on me-shop at Urban Outfitters fingernails".
He was a bartender at an Old City Philadelphia watering hole for the eccentric and well-off (though mostly eccentric), and I was shuffling papers as a clerk at a large pharmaceutical company by day, following my acting dreams by night. We had some money coming in, but it routinely went out later that evening.
Each evening after my play rehearsals or comedy improv shows ended, I'd hang out at the bar where my sorta-now-boyfriend worked - me hovering over glass of wine while he worked his magic with a beer tap until last call - and then we'd stay out even longer and later at one of the many after-hours clubs frequented by a cattle call of Philadelphia’s glitterati: everyone from Main Line male models and sexy waitresses to statuesque transvestite divas to hip, happening young club owners who were in possession of more dough than any guys wearing vintage bowling shirts would be expected to possess. And every night, we’d see 3 AM lighten to reverse-twilight, brighten to a hard dawn, and forty ounces of coffee into rush hour, I'd be on my way to work again, lather, rinse, repeat.
Sleep was for the weekends, although mostly sleep seemed to be optional when you were 25 years old.
During the first four years of my relationship with my then-boyfriend-almost-fiance, our affinity for each other was based firmly in our mutual ability to suss out a good time, dress ironically excellent and - of course - crack wise with the wise cracks.
Sometimes, we met at a diner for a late lunch.
Once in a while, we went to the movies.
Otherwise, being too exhausted by our fabulous and whirlwind schedules to hold much of a conversation, we spent a lot of time playing backgammon at the bar as a way to get to know each other. (He's all strategy; I'm all roll of the dice.)
How we got from there to here is - I won't lie - a mystery. A fabulous mystery...but still a bit of a head-scratcher.
My last clear memory of having ever made some decisive step toward the long haul was while sitting bleary-eyed at an airport terminal and my not-yet-husband mumbling something endearingly mushy like, "My roommate's moving out. You want to move in when you get back from Seattle?" and me answering with a breathy "Yup!" and next thing you know, you're living outside of Harrisburg with three kids, staying up late at night to squeeze in a few child-free hours at your blog, and barely hanging-on financially by your mortgage-car insurance-braces-commute costs-dance classes-sewer bill-shop at Good Will fingernails.
In that way, I suppose it was a slow-glide toward much of the same.
Although I sure do miss the transvestites.
Now, in most ways, our courtship was very much...erem..."non-traditional" when you factor in the co-habitating and the lack of daylight and our insufferable coolness. More like vampires, actually, than anything Dr. Phil would approve of as textbook match-making.
But compared to the relationships of today where two young could-be-lovers might first read each other's blogs or Facebook page or exchange emails and so be privy to the most intimate personal details ("My First Grade teacher never loved me") to lists of idiosyncratic daily minutiae ("I had a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch...again!") to indiscriminate divvyings of Way Too Much Information ("I sleep with a Luke Skywalker puppet"), my now-spouse and I had only the vaguest notions of what we were getting into when we finally said "I do."
And frankly, I'm kind of glad.
Call me old school romantic - or maybe just squeamish - but I'm just not sure I'd want to know right away the exact breadth and depth to which he idolizes Bill James, or the extent of his crazy whatever that compels him to actually seek out and ingest stinky, stanky olives, or - heaven forfend! - I couldn’t imagine any circumstance for which a full and detailed reckoning of his toenail clipping habits would immediately transcribe as love note. Even to a podiatrist. It's one thing to walk through your house one day and happen upon a person clipping his toenails while balanced over the bathroom sink like a large white, slightly-squidgy flamingo and think "hmm...peculiar...but sexy!" It's another thing all together to comprehend fully that while hacking away at his or her feet, this person was at the same time expending serious intellectual energy into the meta-cognition of their own toenail clipping habits whereupon they then felt some urgency born of exhibitionism-tarted-up-as-existentialism that pressed them into not only writing about their pedicure-larities, but an urgency which also commanded the self-publication of that writing to bear witness to the world at large.
In other words, I don't know that I'd want to be partnered with anyone whose self-awareness and exhibitionism competed with my own ego.
I mean, blogging.
Well, that took an oddly confessional turn.
The short of it is that - for me, not speaking for anyone else - most times, knowledge is power.
Other times, sticking my fingers in my ears and going "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA" is what, I find, works best in keeping the love alive.
It’s not that I don’t want to know it all, eventually.
I just don't want to know it all, all at once.
Even while my Dearly Beloved and I are wearing each other down with mutual understanding until that day when our connubial adoration for each other renders us cozy and comfortable as a sixty-year-old pair of Woolworth’s flannel slippers, I'd still like to maintain some mystery.
Am I right! Or am I right?
See, I'm kinda glad that seventeen years ago, I didn't read a "50 Things About Me" meme on his blog in which he revealed that he despises peanut butter. I'd have missed out on that spark of excitement twelve years into our marriage when - during a rest stop on a five mile Saturday afternoon hike with three ornery children and one ferociously hungry mate - we all sat down to the lunch I had packed of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and peanut smoothies.
I honestly don’t want to know all the “friends” any of my boyfriends were “poking” on Facebook before I met them. I reserve the right to slap and/or throw a drink in the face of any chick who acts too chummy and too familiar too quickly and without first paying me some props and getting my go-ahead to address my dude as anything other than "Sir". I may talk all feminista and progressive when I’m sober, but get one beer in me - even an expensive foreign beer - and I turn into Dolly Parton mid-chorus with a shotgun. Seven years into our marriage, finding out that I had a Dolly Parton side (if not a front) was a itch-scratcher that couldn't be beat.
And then there was my secret ticklish spot he just discovered three years ago, and that was good for a double line a few months later.
And although I had some inkling that he and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on all things music related…Boy! What a surprise!
Both of us had brought a combined 500+ compact discs (Google it, kids) into our marriage, and yet of those 500+ titles, only two CDs were duplicates. So, as you can imagine, it took almost fifteen years before my husband discovered that I had only the slimmest sliver of toleration for The Velvet Underground.
And when he did find that out, he almost divorced me on the spot.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…I get intellectually why I should get down on my knees each morning and say a prayer of thanksgiving to John Cale or Andy Warhol or whoever for the genius and musical salvation that is The Velvet Underground, but frankly, deep down in my gut where the bass should be pumping in rhythm to my own true heart, I just don’t get it.
Lou Reed’s out-of-tune, self-important whinging just makes me want to kick an art student. Or a poet. And that’s just not right.
So, you can see, if I had had a Facebook page in the early nineties, surely at some point it’s much more likely that - out of sheer boredom or during a run of writer’s block - I would have answered a “Rock Singers That Sound Like Nails On The Blackboard Of Your Soul” meme, and I would have lost all my friends in seven keystrokes.
Instead, this information hasn’t come up as a topic of conversation for almost 40 years.
Just think…if the Internet had been around “back then", sure, my husband may have linked up with a partner with whom he had more in common: someone who spent inordinate amounts of time thinking and talking about baseball; someone who could listen to the entire 10:40 minutes of Television’s Marquee Moon and not have their bleeding eardrums jump out of their head in an act of suicidal desperation; someone who thought that a brunch date was a lousy waste of a perfectly good Sunday morning.
And that someone would have been my ex-boyfriend, Steve.
As it is, my husband got me: his Velvet Underground-dissing love of his life.
And all the fabulous mysteries that are me!
And They Lived Happily - and Mysteriously - Ever After.
The hazy, lazy days of summer lengthen and shimmer with cicada buzz and dandelion fuzz, and in filling out the final pages of your summer writing journal, the golden afternoons become a wandering ellipses of nothing much to do.
Nothing much to do at all....
Vacations to the beach and amusement park are mostly over. The only anticipation left is The One That Shall Not Be Looked Forward To no matter how much you want to show off your new Trapper Keeper or reconnect with friends not seen since June, surprising them with a smile full of "big kid" front teeth that weren't there the last time they saw you.
Mom doesn't have anything planned for these next few weeks, and sitting on carpet remnant squares during vacation bible school or building Mentos-and-Pepsi rockets at scout camp are all distant memories of early July.
Remember early July?
You couldn't believe your good luck. Even in July, the swimming lessons of June felt like years ago and August was a yard-long calendar page that wouldn't even get posted on the fridge until after your trip to Ocean City, a two-week soccer clinic, a forever-and-a day hike over your grandmother's mountain, and hours and hours and hours at the community pool. You were convinced that with so much to do, July would stretch on endlessly, and August might not even happen until the week before Christmas.
And then it was August.
And then it was gone.
With nothing much to do today, we grabbed our water shoes and a few plastic buckets and headed over to the neighborhood park along the creek.
This time of year, the creek is wide and shallow with just enough deeper dips in the bed for a surprise plunge into cold, clear water that looks pretty clean but is probably filled with just enough upstream agricultural run-off to make necessary a motherly warning about the perils of actually swimming in and ingesting agricultural run-off. Our creek outing would be wading only.
Still, we eat a lot of organic food, so I figure even with one or two accidental plunges it's even-steven at this point.
The girls meandered up and down the creek, crossing from shore to shore and back again in search of found treasures, while I waded-in ankle deep with a toddler who wanted nothing to do with setting foot in a "wa-wa" filled with rocks and shells and weeds and fish and a giant white egret stalking through the current and occasionally flapping its big flappy wings for no good reason that I could figure out except to further freak out the small human who was now screaming wildly in the larger human's arms. The toddler was just not interested in creeks or birds or slanting rays on sparkling water or much of anything to do with this particular August afternoon the way mom was letting it happen.
And so the toddler and I dug in the playground sandbox and swung on the swing and slid on the slide while the girls strayed aimlessly through the hours until finally they trudged back up the creek bank with sweaty hair, a few more freckles, and buckets filled to the top with watery loot. They gave me a quick rundown of the inventory as we packed our things and headed for home:
a few good round flat stones
a fishing lure minus the hook
a wonderful smooth hunk of polished red and white creek glass
a crayfish skeleton.
I made a mental note to check the snail shells when we got home just to make sure that they were really vacated and wouldn't become a source of mysterious stink a few days from now.
The toddler was worn out from the sand and surf, and while I was putting him down for a nap, the girls got the okay to lounge in front of the TV for a while. We haven't had them checked recently for Nature Deficit Disorder, but from the blank looks of complete exhaustion and distinct lack of fidgety twitching, I figured they had received about the recommended daily allowance of vitamins Go, Outside, and Play.
I poured myself a tall glass of fizzy lemon soda, sat down on the front porch beneath the dappled shade of our enormous oak tree, and began picking through the shells and rocks and feathers and childhood's summer-day mementos, keeping the keepers and not finding any stinkers, and finally taking time to admire the beautiful, polished red creek glass...
That "creek glass" would be a chillum, a small glass pipe favored by Rastifarians to smoke cannabis during their religious ceremonies.
And in spite of having been cleansed by watery agricultural run-off, from the smell of the pipe, the last religious ceremony had been recent.
I put the pipe on the desk in the kitchen so I would remember to show it to my husband and then we'd both have a good chuckle about the "creek glass" and then we would...uh...dispose of the...religious paraphernalia...in an appropriate and respectful manner, and that would be that.
In the meantime, I made some phone calls, puttered around, made more calls....
My mother-in-lawarrived to pick up my oldest daughter for skating lessons, and after showing me her new purple cell phone, she assisted my daughter in scrambling to get out the door on time, and they were gone. I was left thinking about thinking about thinking about dinner, when my husband walked in the door home from work. Eager to share my humorous "creek glass" story for a few parental yuks, I turned to the kitchen desk to grab the polished red punchline...
and it wasn't there.
And after a quick search under a pile of bills and around a pile of books and under more piles of bills, the pipe still wasn't there.
And I thought and thought and thought about where it could be, did it drop off the desk, did I put it somewhere else and not remember, did I put it back in my pocket...? And then slowly but surely - like being on holiday in Paris and sorta-kinda recalling your one semester of high school French halfway through eating a Cheval Burger - it dawns on you:
Your daughter took the "creek glass" to show to her friends at skating class.
MY daughter took the "creek glass" to show to HER friends at skating class!
I scrambled for the phone and frantically called my mother-in-law's cell phone, all the while chanting a fervent prayer to whichever patron saint was ambassador to Jamaica, oh please, please, please let my mother-in-law have kept the same cell phone number or I'm going to have to outrace her brand new Volkswagen in our beat-up Golf, when Thank Bob Marley! she answered her cell and I couldn't pussyfoot around, I just blurted out that there was a good possibility that my daughter was concealing a pot pipe in her mittens and she was going to show it off to all the girls at class and then we were all going to go to jail for not having dreadlocks.
My mother-in-law promptly handed over the phone to my daughter:
"Honey? Sweetie? You remember the creek glass you found?"
"Where is it?"
"Uhm...uhmmm...on your desk?"
"Are you sure? Are you sure it's on the desk and you didn't take it to show your friends?"
(Child hearing hint of stress in parent's voice.) "I didn't take it."
"Are you sure you're sure? Because if you did take it you're not in trouble, I promise. I just need to know."
(Child now certain she's in trouble for something but not sure what.) "I didn't take it."
(Mom counting on fact that 3rd Grade Anti-Smoking Campaign of Fear is still fresh in daughter's mind. April was eons ago.) "Okay...well...okay. But listen...if you do have it, don't show it to anyone okay? That creek glass is really a kind of pipe that people use to smoke. Tobacco. Smoke tobacco. I'm not sure that all of the adults at skating would...appreciate...us showing it off to kids. Even though it is really pretty. Do you understand?"
(Child sufficiently horrified.) "Really?! Oh no! No, I don't have it! I won't show it to anyone!"
(Mother convinced.) Good. Okay. Okay. Good. Have fun at skating.
Which is all fine and good - Hooray! and Hurrah! and Phew! - but which still leaves me with the uncomfortable question:
Where is the "creek glass"?
Where oh where oh where?
I can only imagine that some cold evening in deepest, darkest February-
during a dinner party at our house with the parish priest, or perhaps with my husband's boss, or maybe with the school guidance counselor, or even with all three in attendance, of course! -
the toddler will toddle into the dining room -
his face beaming, his smile as wide as an August day -
the toddler will appear in the dining room and clutched in his adorable fingers will be a wonderful smooth hunk of polished, red creek glass.
This month of August has been killer diller. I've taken on one too many projects, and they're all coming down to the wire before school starts. Plus, we're trying to squeeze in one more mini-vacation, and that squeezing is really starting to pinch in some tender places. Like my sleep cycle. And my farting around time.
Please bear with me as I Get Things Done In Real Time. I'll be back to my posty-commenty self upon the 8:30 AM click of the school bus door on August 27th.
In the meantime, to answer some questions from the previous comments:
Don't kids make you feel all warm and mushy inside like that?
Yes, my children seem to go out of their way daily to make me feel all warm and mushy. And I try to reciprocate. For example: Upon first waking, my daughters give me snuggly hugs and then immediately proceed to express their urgent need to eat, as well as their wonderment that I can't make food magically appear two seconds after their request. I kiss them sweetly and then give prompt and explicit instructions on how they can get their own food, if they so choose, I'm not the mystical Short Order Cook Mom of myth and legend. A few minutes after our break fast, I suggest that if they can't keep their adorable pitter-patters to a dull roar, I'll toss them in the backyard and lock them out till lunch time. I'm very warm and mushy when telling them this, so, I suppose, they get it from me.
I believe that the sigh was one of resigned contentment. Or maybe it was contented resignation?
On second thought, I'm sure it was one of the first of many "yet more proof that I was found in a basket among the reeds" moments for her.
My sister was like that. Even to this day, she shakes her head (lovingly) at my mother's witticisms and then insists that she was adopted. My sister, not my mother. This false claim is born of some increasingly adorable yet pathetic attempt on my sister's part to fool herself into believing that she'll be the only female member of the extended family to not develop some variation of My Grandmother's Laugh.
My Grandmother' Laugh sounded something not unlike a hyena playing a tuba.
All the women who share my grandmother's DNA have eventually evidenced this genetic...gift. Although, I'm pretty sure that this family particularity would Hulk Smash any nature vs. nurture arguments in favor of nurture. Any adopted members of our family just aren't getting off scot free with a dulcet giggle.
Anyway, my sister also used to claim that her real name was Cordelia, so there you go.
My sister has a vivid inner life. And a lot of goats.
Well…this is tricky. You see, I just did a product review for underwear. And not just any underwear, but k*ds’ und*rw*ar. And because most ki*s’ u*de*wear don’t come in adult sizes, my test subjects….
See? See why this is tricky?
I pretty much run a family show here at Halushki, and much of the family I talk about is my own, mostly-dear, real life family, my own real life kids. Oh, sure, I refer to them by funny Italian monikers, and yes, many of the stories are, well, a bit “heightened” for yuks.
Not like that despicable James Frey who fiddled with the truth but made his life sound all sad and traumatic in a really miserable, unfunny way.
When I fiddle with the truth, it’s something more along the lines of
“Today my kids drove me so batshit crazy that my head exploded into forty-two billion pieces and I’m still scraping the grey matter off my Tiffany lamps.”
See? That’s hyperbole! That’s funny! What really happened would be something more along the lines of
“Today my kids drove me so batshit crazy that my head exploded into forty-ONE billion pieces and I’m still scraping the grey matter off my K-Mart lamps.”
Although, I don’t know…is “Tiffany” funnier than “K-Mart”?
I guess that depends on what town you’re playing.
I don’t want to bore you too much with my deconstructions of humor and the math behind gag punch lines and the algebraic formula for what plays in Poughkeepsie and what doesn't. Just know that this stuff just doesn’t roll trippingly off my tongue - which is quite a disappointment to anyone who invites me to a cocktail party as cheap entertainment; I'm simply not consistently trippingly funny no matter how much cheap gin they feed me - but being funny is, I fear, more of a science than an art, and really, who wants to hang a painting of David Suzuki in their living room? That guy…what a conversation killer.
This being a family blog and all, and what with me putting my family on the line Internet-wise, I hesitate greatly to write a review of k*ds’ u*derw*ar and then mention my very own kids in the review and then post that review on Teh Internets... because that’s more or less Rule Number One for How To Get Thrown In Jail For A Long, Long Time Just For Using The Internet, i.e. post any content that might possibly elicit forty-two billion Google hits for “k*ds" and “und*rwe*r”.
On second thought, I suppose posting about "k**s" and "*nd*rw*ea*" in and of itself wouldn’t be bad or wrong or get you a one-way ticket to the pokey. But…I don’t know…
Maybe what I mean is that I don’t want anyone who is line to Get Thrown In Jail For A Long, Long Time Just For Using The Internet even finding my blog by Googling…well, you know.
I’d much rather they find my blog during a search for “Cicada Sex”.
Also, The Parent Bloggers Network will be holding a Blog Blast on August 22 whereby you write a post about…well, I’m not sure what it’s about yet, they’ll announce it later…and then you have a chance to win Hanes-wear for your own k*ds! I’m telling you, ya gotta check this stuff out because 1) it's an easy blogging topic for the dog days of writer’s block summer and, 2) you could win **** *********!