“Tell Mom what happened on the plane.”
They had been gone for 5 days across the country, on a trip that was too soon and too much and too hard for me. I am 40 and I may as well be 6 again. No one is going to make me do anything, ever again. I’ve already heard about the incident with the secreted civil war play gun in a backpack that was missed on the final parental check that brought an entire airport security checkpoint to a standstill, if only for a few minutes. Nate sits on the chair, swinging his legs and playing with the Lego creation in his hand.
“Mom.Mom.Mom.” Always multiple times, this little Sheldon Cooper of mine.
“Yes, Nathan, what happened on the plane?”
“Mom. Mom. Mom. I saw your friend.”
“Which friend?” as I plod along with dinner, already mentally moving on, worried about the time and everything that needs to get done for life to continue.
“Kristen. Listen to Nate.”
My name falls with a heavy thud like a book that has fallen off the shelf. I swing around, if only because I rarely hear my name from my husband’s mouth. I don’t know what’s happening but now I know I’m supposed to really listen because he never uses my name. It’s not that he normally calls me something else. It’s not something I even realize until it is happening. Kristen. It sounds almost foreign from his mouth. Maybe it’s because we live in short-hand because there is so much life and so much talking and we are always yelling a child’s name. Maybe my sorrow is so overwhelming that there is no room left for my name.
“Your FRIEND,” Nate says with mild annoyance as he reaches under his seat for a Lego has fallen on floor. “Your friend who died.”
My breath catches in my throat and for a split second, there is no oxygen. I don’t understand how everyone is breathing because there is no air. I can’t understand what’s happening. I can feel the tears that are never ever far begin their hot sting.
“Susan,” I say, confused. Not a question. A statement.
“YES, your friend Susan,” he says, looking up, relieved that I helped him remember her name. She is MY friend, her sons are HIS friends.
My eyes lock with Derek’s and he gives me the “wait, there’s more” shrug of his shoulders.
“Where did you see Susan, Nate?” He has my complete attention.
He has laser focus on his toy. As is often the case, this conversation is happening on the periphery of Nate’s world. He’s taken apart the Legos and is well on his way to forming something new.
“Well, I was in the seat by the window on the plane. Ethan was sitting there but then Dad made him let me sit at the window. He was really mad. I looked out of the window when we were flying. I saw Susan in the clouds. She is happy in heaven, Mom.” He’s reporting the event as if it is something that happens every day.
This is all complicated because he doesn’t really know anything about anything. He doesn’t really know about Susan being sick. He played with his friends and his mom hung out with their mom who was her friend. He stopped seeing his friends because kids have colds and he couldn’t share his colds with his friends. I wanted to tell him but it wasn’t my place and it was really complicated and so I didn’t. Late nights and early mornings I disappeared with no explanation. Crying. Always with the crying and never with an explanation.
“Susan was sick, Susan died, Susan is in heaven.”
The last two parts were spoken to him only twice, on February 6 and two weeks later to remind him not to ask about her to her boys. It’s not how I imagined we would do things but this time we did because it felt like we were supposed to do it this way. Whatever way it is that you are supposed to do things like explain to a just-turned five-year-old that his mom’s friend is dead and now his friend who is his age and loves Legos as much as he does doesn’t have a mom. But now Nate has seen Susan and I’m trying to understand. Because we believe in Jesus and heaven at our house but it doesn’t have anything to do with clouds and I haven’t spoken Susan’s name to him in six weeks. He doesn’t understand loss because he’s never felt it. He doesn’t understand the origin of my grief because I have never once spoken of it. But he has seen Susan and he knows it. And when his dad heard the story from the aisle seat as it was happening, he told him his mom like to hear his story.
“She is happy?”
“Yep. She is happy, Mom.” He looks up with a big ‘isn’t that great’ grin, hops off his chair and runs out to find a Lego he needs to finish. And he doesn’t even realize how great a gift that really is.
As we honor Susan’s memory, please consider furthering her legacy through a contribution to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation or the Cancer Card Xchange. If you would like, please join bloggers throughout the web in honoring Susan Niebur’s life and contributions with a post, and please add your link at www.techsavvymama.com.
There are several good debate drinking games out there, but I’m taking a different tactic. I mean, if we all drink every time someone says “main street,” we’ll be hammered in the first 10 minutes.
Instead I intend to drink every time someone in my Twitter stream does one of the inevitable…
-tweets inferring personal intellectual and political superiority from a person who regularly live tweets, with emotion, Honey Boo Boo
-or The Bachelor, that Toddler show or any of the those Housewives
-self-righteous tweets from people who are too intelligent to watch the debates about not watching the debate
-tweets using “talking points” to bash the other side’s “talking points.”
-tweets bashing Fox or MSNBC
-tweets with passive-aggressive emoticons :-0
-tweets with any version of “Mic Drop” or the sound that results (BOOM)
-tweets with intellectually superior facial responses **eyeroll** or sounds **sigh**
-tweets using the Daily Show as a source of domestic policy data
-tweets with the words Romney and “helmet hair”
-tweets about “work” Jim Lehrer has had done or his apparent inability to blink his eyes
-tweets affirming sappy candidate marital stories
-tweets with the words contraception, girly bits, lady parts, vagina
-tweets with anything at all in ALL CAPS
-tweets about candidates related to subjects not even remotely being discussed
-tweets with the phrase “I love how (insert candidate’s name) loves (insert dogs, kids, trees, wife, doing laundry, the state of Wisconsin)”
Derek has pointed out that with my version, we’ll all be drunk in 5 seconds.
I accept that challenge.
On Monday, my husband got this email. You know, because he’s the MAN of the family…
“The Board has received a formal complaint concerning the
project ongoing in your backyard. Consequently, the board requests
that you temporarily stop any further work and provide the board with
an explaination of the project.”
It only took 2 hours to craft this greatness. Some of my finest work. (and my mother worried I would never put my law degree to any use)
[Insert name of Guy Crazy Enough to Run for HOA President],
This is about the platform in the trees? I was confused because the subject line of your email was “Yard Work.” I’m wasn’t sure if the problem is that we are taking down trees or that the boys put a platform in them. We’ve worked really hard this summer to maintain our yard to the standards of a planned adult golf community that our neighbors would prefer to live in than the heavily wooded lots we actually purchased 5 years ago. If you have been running interference for us all summer and I didn’t know it, I apologize for taking my frustration out on you. But the vagueness of your initial email did not reflect the actual complaint that we haven’t seen. The anonymity in the formal complaint process allows for the complainant to freely air his grievances without being held responsible for his own violations of the covenants if no one complains. It is the foundation of the American system of justice that one be allowed to face his accusers, to know what (s)he is being accused of and to know that rules are being applied consistently. This anonymity also violates the open records section of the bylaws. I realize that HOAs are above this concept, but give a girl a second to just long for a little justice.
But I really hate this, [HOA President]. Instead of someone just being a good neighbor, rolling down the window and asking “what’s up?” while exposed to my yard for the 3 whole seconds anyone can see it as they drive by (because our lots are so big and we have no neighbors who can directly see it from their house), everyone heads right to combat mode. We have always complied with the bylaws requirements (plans for the shed–twice) and accommodated the board’s requests for the maintenance of our yard which far exceeds the bylaws requirements (seasonally-appropriate tarp colors). Our neighbors do not but we don’t complain about it because we don’t care. We’ve happily supported variances for alpacas and scandalous lot divisions. Because we don’t care.
There’s no need for a cease-and-desist on construction because there’s nothing else being “constructed.” It was “built” by Derek and the boys 1) as a Boy Scout project involving recycling and using our resources responsibly and 2) it would give them something to do outside as Derek diligently works to clear the trees that have been identified by (electric company) for being at risk in a storm to power lines supplying our neighbors with electricity (but electric company won’t remove them). This tree removal is a service primarily to our neighbors on [insert road name full of neighbors super pissed off when they lose power] because [electric company] indicated that if any of those trees go down, it wouldn’t affect our service personally. While it is no one’s business, we’re happy to share that we are planting fruit and evergreen trees in the place of the precarious oak trees. Derek has been outside working on clearing out the trees five days a week for the last two weeks. Apparently that isn’t fast enough for whomever has issued the complaint. He will now work every single day after his real job so our neighbors are not inconvenienced by his inability to make the tree limbs magically disappear after he cuts them down.
But now we are in that awkward situation where we feel defensive and feel compelled to identify to the board that a structure in a tree is not regulated as a “building” in any rural [county] laws or regulations and that platforms or tree houses are not mentioned in the bylaws. If the board feels that the neighborhood would be a safer place by the board determining what goes on in trees, it may be in their best interest to propose a modification of the bylaws to include “structures in trees in which children play.” Were we to construct a tree house for our children, please know that we would take into account the unique sensitivities of our neighbors around us, even though we would not be legally required to do so.
The platform was never intended to stay for very long and is constructed from only ropes, trees that have just been cut down and a few pieces of recycled plywood. Had someone just asked us about it and explained their particular aversion to it (nicely), we would have taken it down immediately. Suddenly, we want to keep it forever. (Ir)Regardless, we’ll take it down now, even though we’d prefer to wait until after the boys stop crying about how some people hate recycling and about how some people hate seeing small children playing for 6 whole seconds (round trip) in their own 3 acre yard.
I generally don’t beat myself up over my parenting choices. You are welcome to put the Little Tykes Car on the trampoline and then bounce your brother in it until someone throws up. I’ve given you ample warning that it’s GOING TO HAPPEN and you still think it’s a good idea. Test out that hypothesis of yours already. I’ll just stand here with a coffee in one hand and a fresh shirt that will fit any of you that vomit upon yourself. Rather than dwelling on my less-than-mainstream parenting, I spend more time beating myself up for important things like the chick who started a Mommy Needs a Beer fan page on Facebook and got 150,000 likes in 2 months. Ah, opportunity lost.
So tonight as Ethan was making chocolate chip cookies, he glanced over at me casually.
E: So… I got a 95 on my quiz today.
K: That’s good.
E: Well, I would have gotten them all right except I answered a question that was right but the computer told me it was wrong. SOOOO dumb.
K: What question?
E: It’s so stupid. You won’t believe it. The question was “I can use the stove by myself” and of course, I answered “yes.”
K: You didn’t.
E: I DO.
K: I meant “you didn’t answer ‘yes.’”
E: I DO USE THE STOVE BY MYSELF.
K: Ethan, the rest of the world doesn’t let a 7-year-old have her top secret chocolate chip cookie recipe and then let him bake cookies. And you were, in fact, “under the supervision of an adult while operating the stove.” (**LAWYERED**)
E: No, I wasn’t. You were sleeping in bed.
K: That was like three weeks ago. But I was standing right here tonight.
E: Whatever. Are you telling me I should lie?
K: I’m telling you that the answer that grown ups want to hear is that you were “operating a stove under the supervision of an adult.” I was in the house. That constitutes supervision.
E: SOOOO dumb.
Crossing my fingers that the safety quiz never says “I can brew beer by myself.” Please, Lord.
And I went on the show to discover my segment was called this…
My 17 seconds of fame begins on Friday, May 25 on Anderson Cooper. And by “fame” I of course mean, “sales of thousands of shirts.” You should watch, if only to see the Great Haircut Tragedy of 2012. Seriously. Four years of law school at night while I worked full-time and my television debut is an episode of mothers who (gasp!) drink. It’s everything I hoped and dreamed when I was a starry-eyed 20-something. I’m sure my parents would agree.
And you should totally buy this Daddy Needs a Beer tee for Father’s Day, since we’re talking about it now.Grandpa and PopPop too. I sacrificed my dignity for your entertainment. The least you could do is help me pay my electric bill.