Not Sure If They

desperate housewife

So I got stuck in Olympia with the kids at a late hour. Don’t ask me to tell you why or how, it’s a dull and yet painful story. I thought we’d have to stay (overnight or at least a long long time) and I was kind of panicked. I called people we knew in Oly but couldn’t get a ride. I kind of agonized and wondered around and bought things at Target and got the kids food while I went totally Flyhead about my predicament and couldn’t think straight. Let me tell you, those who know me probably perceive me as level-headed in person most the time, even when things are intense or when people around me are falling apart, but when it’s down to just me and the kids are involved in some way that seems unsafe or weird there can become a point where I get Crazy-Eye and my brain stutters and shudders. I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested on suspicion of shoplifting, I mean I was twitchy as hell checking out (with, I’ll point out, a credit card I wasn’t entirely sure would go through). Kids and I ended up boarding the last bus downtown because, where Target is, there’s nothing there you’d want to spend time with.

Lakefair downtown, things were a bit intense. The bus flew down the hill and I perceived the wondrous lights of a large carnival (large by my bumpkin standards anyway) so I knew where to take the three of us, for the Now anyway. I had only a few dollars cash – otherwise I would have dropped my rent money on two bracelets so they could go on every ride they qualified for. As it was they still had fun; watching a breakdance group and running about while I phoned some more. I sat by the lakeside vicariously enjoying their fierce little lives.

After finally getting ahold of Ralph and arranging a meetup I had enough cash for one carnival “ride” for the kids. Understand this was like, seven dollars I think, for the kids to go in this kiddo funhouse (their choice). The local who’d been hired on was amiable enough to conversation, or was rather a captive audience, to be more accurate. Turns out he’s a musician and living like a sardine can in a rental with others, trying to get by, thinking about going to school, not sure what he’ll do next week for employment. We talked music for some time and my feelers went up, as Ralph is still trying to get connected with Oly musicians and the fellow sounded talented or at least versed in many interesting instruments.

The kids played and played (bless this young man for not being a dick) but soon it was time to go. I sat my bundles of Target Fuckery and a McDonalds bag and my purse and whatever in the grass, and took out my card and wrote down my husband’s name and circled a number and wrote “Music / Helsing” (the latter re: the K Records festival each year). By this time two huffy carnival pros – that is, the fellows who travel with the outfit, not spareboard – were all over the young fellow and hustling him to close up. One of them was yelling into a walkie talkie, “I have some real important stuff going on,” and then proceeded to shout-command the young man in a brusque and not-entirely-thorough way. And shit, I get it, these people work hard, I’ve worked in that kind of scene, so I just slipped the card into the young man’s pocket (unobtrusively enough, or so I thought) and said, “Good luck,” (meaning, with everything) and then –

the guy who’d been yelling into the walkie talkie jerked his head at me and said, “Jesus,” with all the disgust you can manage mustered in a voice. I seriously wish you could have heard it. You’d think I’d taken a shit on the green. I am not sure what he meant but, I haven’t been addressed with that much vitriol and hate for quite some time. It was pretty busy and I had no immediate response to being perceived as A Piece Of Shit For Reasons Mysterious so I merely bundled up the kids and the bags and gently floated across the grass, trailing the final partiers fleeing off to bars (Oly was rowdy tonight, for reals).

Our rendezvous was with Ralph was scheduled for Sizizis (which, I found out, is closing down Sunday – boo!). Walking up 4th it was so many people and shouting and cutting eyes and the smell of booze and cigarettes and weed and all kinds of amorous behavior and fights and weird energy. And yes. A few people who returned my smile. The kids were great, of course, because they are tiger cubs running on sidewalks. We got to our coffee shop eventually (it really was a nice night for a walk). While I waited in line for my drink the kids got something cold from the cooler, grabbed a table, and set up chess. I stared a bit and wondered where they’d learned to play. I was feeling more collected, or so I thought. So I’m standing there and an amiable large man turns around and says to me, “Hey, do you remember the name of the boat from Moby Dick?” and I respond, “Uh, the Minnow… the S.S. Minnow.” then to my horror I realize my mistake and shout, “No! The Pequod!”

Oh good sweet baby Jesus in his golden fleece diapers.

At about 11:40 PM Ralph rescued me and I gave him the americano I’d purchased him and I got my ass out of Dodge. –

but, the kids had a glorious time.

Not Sure If They're Having Fun

nothing feels obligatory about it in the slightest

Just about every year for Thanksgiving we take in a person, or two, or three or four who either doesn’t want to be with their own family for Thanksgiving or doesn’t wanna, and we host them for the big dinner.  So yesterday morning my mom asked about this tradition of ours – if we were going to invite any “orphans” over.  I realized today – picking up the naval orange for one of my two cranberry sauces – that I don’t like the phrase “orphan” because it implies a sort of forlornness or wretchedness on the part of those who aren’t going to be with their relatives, and thus makes normative a certain type of family over other types – the latter chosen by will and intent, say, rather than just biology (to be fair, it was one of our “family-less” – as in, someone who had a family but didn’t want to be with them – guests who initially came up with the phrase “orphan”).

The holidays can be pretty damn painful for people.  Even when they’re mostly okay and things go pretty well, I know people sometimes feel deep pockets of sadness or lonesomeness or a descent into nightmarish familial patterns or a sense of wrongness.  Even if it is only an urban legend that suicide and depression rates are higher during holidays, it can sure feel the case (just today I received a message online looking for a man who’d driven away on Friday and who had friends were worried about him).

See, I know my mother pretty well, and I think her Thanksgiving isn’t turning out too awesome – yet.  Two of her three children aren’t coming up for it.  And although my mom is awesome in that she would never hint or guilt-trip them or even in the smallest corner of her heart think that her children “should” come up to see her (and neither do I), I also know that nothing pleases her more than when everyone does.  A thing to remember about my mother, sadly, is that even when she wants something it is very unlikely she would actually ask for it.  It’s taken me many, many years to really listen to what my mom really wants.  And to be honest, I don’t always listen, because sometimes I’m busy being directly asked for shit by my kids and husband, who are less likely to play the coquette.

Back to Thursday: my mother is not going to have dinner with her boyfriend in attendance, either.  They are still very much a couple (and are playing annoying hippie folk music upstairs as I write).  But he’s going to a place and she’s not going with him.  So, OK.

And all of this is okay, and no great tragedy.  And in the way of the suffering of many, many women I know, my mom’s little sadnesses generally don’t inconvenience anyone (ladies are good that way!) or even make themselves known to others.  In my mom’s coping and rarely-if-ever-asking-for-things-she-wants and always being so “laid back” (or at least, wanting to convey this appearance) one could forget she’s only been a widow for a little over a year.  You know, after being with my father for over 35 years.

I don’t really know the heart of my mother – although I suspect now that my dad is gone I’m the closest person who does.  For my part I plan to do my own, deliberate little bit to help her keep from a case of the Holiday Sadkins.  This morning I told her I’d like to cook all the food, if she would only buy the turkey.  She agreed to this with such alacrity I was immediately glad I suggested it.  (Let me tell you, this offer of mine did not come from an obligatory sense of rescue or my role as the matriarch to the family here at 6th and M.  It’s about 85% caring deeply for her emotional well-being and 15% because every goddamned year she annoys the ass off of me by saying, “And this year let’s make it a simple kind of thing, you know, not so arduous for us both.”  This makes me angry like a poo-flinging monkey because in no way do I find cooking a big meal arduous, I completely enjoy it! In fact no one has any evidence, anywhere, that I don’t really, really like to cook)*.

“Family” is a funny thing; we choose to be with those who comfort us, or feed us, or those we genuinely love. And before I was an actual mother to my biological children I thought a lot about myself and what I wanted. And now I think a lot about what other people want (even if I miss the mark a lot too – and I do).  I am not at all saying this post-natal experience of other-care is Natural or Universal (in fact, I think neither).  It’s just my experience.

Today at the store I stood in line behind a handsome man about my age dressed in fancy-looking tennis shoes, new jeans, and a North Face jacket.  He was well-groomed and quiet – his voice so low that when he turned and smiled and said something to my daughter I didn’t hear what he said.  I noticed we were fixing to have the same meal – spaghetti – for dinner tonight.  He was having a simple version – a small parcel of pasta, canned pasta sauce, and a loaf of bakery bread – while I had a basket full of parsley, baguette for toasting the bread crumbs in the meatballs, organic beef and pork, Parmesan cheese, crushed tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and butter.  In noticing his groceries I noticed he didn’t have a wedding band.  And I almost – almost – asked if he had a Thanksgiving plan, and if he’d like to come to our place to join us.

But I didn’t.

Who knows.  Maybe the guy isn’t single, just not wearing a wedding ring, and neither he nor his partner care to cook.  Maybe he’s happily single and that’s his favorite meal.  Maybe (likely!) he has somewhere totally awesome to be on Thursday.  Maybe he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about the holiday.

Or maybe like so many other strangers I’ve offered a meal or a kindness to, it would have made his night just a little more pleasant to be asked, let alone attend in two days.  I will never know because didn’t get the ovaries up to check.

I hope at least he felt my friendliness behind him in the checkout line.

* No, really.  This is insane. Every year she talks like we’ll have a SMALL meal (we never do), and that whew-won’t-that-be-a-relief, when in actuality I look forward to cooking the meal.  Something I hate: when someone tells me how I feel – instead of listening to how I’m telling them I feel. Especially when they get it completely wrong. Especically when they’ve known me since I was born!