Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jingle Bells Batman Smells

This morning as Dave was getting the girls out the door to school, I heard a loud groan and then Georgia's unmistakable "mmmoo" sound that she makes when she is trying to stifle her sobs. I raced down to see what was going on, and Dave motioned for me to go with Millie to get her coat on while he talked to Georgie.

Millie was in tears at this point. "Georgia's crying and she won't tell me why!" she almost shouted her betrayal. These two are 22 months apart and function as a pair, Laverne and Shirley, Ernie and Bert, Frodo and Sam, Thelma and Louise. I snuck back into the dining room and asked Dave what was up. Apparently Georgia went into the garage hunting for a scooter and came upon the giant cardboard box that contained the dollhouse they got for Christmas. From Santa.

My 9 year old looked me in the eyes and whispered in horror, "I know the truth. There is no Santa." This is the little girl that spent the better part of Christmas Eve writing a letter to Santa, asking thoughtful questions about his middle name, when his birthday was, and what were the reindeers' favorite treats. I hugged her fiercely and told her that Santa is part of the spirit of Christmas and that it's okay to choose to believe. Dave said there's magic on both sides of it: that now she could be part of the fun of helping with stockings. It felt so rushed, trying to assuage this loss of childhood.

It happened for Jonah much earlier. He was 6 or 7 and it was spring time and I had bought some plastic eggs. He stopped on the stairs and said, "There's no way a giant rabbit goes around taking baskets of candy to kids... And if the Easter Bunny isn't real, there's no way there's a tooth fairy... Oh no. Santa..." I just stood there watching these wonderful mythic icons of childhood fall like dominoes as he processed the logic of it all. For the next year whenever he said the name Santa, he'd make air quotes with his fingers. Jonah needed no comfort, just threatening. "If you tell your sisters, or even talk about this with ANY kid under the age of 12, you'll never get a single thing from 'Santa' again!" And Jonah has enjoyed the shift in role. He loves to help pick out trinkets for Easter Baskets and hide eggs. He seemed relieved in a way. He's logical, like Dave. Needs things to make sense. Be tangible.

But Georgia...ouch. She clearly needs some yuletide talk therapy that could not happen at 8:17 this morning. I watched her dry her eyes as they raced to the bus, Millie still puzzled and hurt at her other half's refusal to share her pain. During the day I imagined the dominoes falling in Georgia's mind. Santa gone. Mmmoo. Tooth Fairy? Mmmoo. The Giggling Leprechauns? Mmmoo (she even believes in the mythic holiday creatures our Irish neighbors dream up).

She had a friend over after school and then violin, homework, etc. We never had a second alone to talk. But at 9pm she snuck out of her room to find me. "Mom, Millie wants to know why I was crying this morning. I can't tell her. I can't. What do I say?" Our friend Rachel is visiting, and we just looked at each other. I had no idea what to tell her. She doesn't want to erase the sugarplums that dance in Millie's head. But this is her SISTER. Her BFF. She has to tell her something. So I handed Georgia a lie to give to her sister. "Tell her you were thinking about Emma, [Georgia's gerbil that died last month] that made you cry, but you don't want to talk about it." "But..." she stammered, knowing this was false. "It does make you cry when you talk about Emma. Just tell her." How do you explain that honesty is not always the best policy?

I kissed her off to bed and wanted to cry a little myself. I should have made time to have a private talk with her. I should have had a better response this morning. Dave and I have a pretty good standardized spiel for the sex talk, but not for Santa. I hate seeing them lose their faith in the magical, mystical aspects of childhood. I want my kids to believe in stuff, stuff that can't be seen or touched or proven but stuff that gives them hope and faith in things bigger and better than us. Because I want to. Sometimes I respond like Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street when it comes to the metaphysical: "I believe. I believe. It's silly, but I believe." Faith is fragile.

When I go upstairs to check on the kids before I go to bed, I know what I'll find. Jonah will be sprawled across his bed and if too much light leaks in as I open the door, he'll grumble until I restore the dark. Bea will be in her room, closet light on, waiting another hour or so to sneak into my bed, hoping Dave is too zonked to notice. And I'll bet that tonite Georgia will have left her bed to sleep with Millie, legs and arms entwined so that I can never separate one girl's limbs from another, just like the gerbil sisters sleeping in a furry pile in their cage. I'm sure of it. But I'm not sure what's going to be harder for Georgia, knowing St. Nick's secret, or having to keep it from her other half.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mean Mommies Take Manhattan: Part 1

Some girlfriends and I went to NYC this last weekend to celebrate 3 of our birthdays (I turned 30/11!). We had so many adventures it's hard to know where to start so I'm just going to hop to my favorite one and get to the rest at some future point in time (perhaps the 12th of never?).

We decided to be tourists and get tickets for one of those hop on and off double decker tour buses that schlep you around the city. On one particular leg of the journey (Empire State Building to Canal Street) we had a very informed guide whom I'll call Mr. White. Mr. White was 50ish with silver hair and everybody on the bus loved him--except me and 5 Indians tourists. When we got on the bus Mr. White didn't even ask us if we had tickets. He saw me fishing for mine and waved a hand as if to say, "That's okay, if you know where the stop is, then you must belong." I can't say why he bugged me other than I felt like he expected our full attention, like it was a scholarly lecture. If I had to cough I thought he might stop talking and give me that "yes missie, we're waiting for you!" look. I'm happy to hear about Daniel Burnham designing the flatiron building but if I want to chat with Denise about dinner plans, then I shouldn't have to do it stealth, should I?

And the nail in the coffin came when an Indian family got on board and sat down. Mr. White said to the man, "Do you have tickets?" "Yes," replied Mr. Brown. "Where are they?" said Mr. White. Pulling them out of his pocket, Mr. Brown held up the tickets, "Here they are" and goes to put them back. Not so fast. Mr. White, who has not asked to see a single person's ticket while we were on board motions for Mr. Brown to come back to him, "I'll need to see your ticket." The poor man was turning red and I was too--it was clearly a race thing. 5 white ladies get on and no tickets needed. But people of color? That's another story... I shook my head as Mr. Brown walked back to his seat.

Meanwhile, across the aisle and 3 rows back Lisa is eating up every word this guy says while simultaneously trying not to hurl. The woman behind her, bless her soul, was vomiting uncontrollably into a bag, leaning forward towards Lisa with every retch so that she could feel the vibrations. Just as Linda T. is a sympathetic cryer, and wells up every time someone so much as sniffles, Lisa is a sympathetic barfer as are her 6 kids. Not fun. At one stop, a man comes on to sell water and when he leaves, Mr. White escorts him down the steps (everyone is up top) and has to get off to let him pass. Next thing we know the doors are closed and we are off, leaving our guide in his dust. Now some of us think the driver got confused, and honestly thought Mr. White was on board. But others of us (me and the Browns) were thinking, I'll bet the driver has been itching to ditch Mr. White Supremacy.

Sande elbows Lisa and says, "Grab the mike!" Without hesitation, as if she's spent her whole life talking to crowds of people in high decibels, Lisa jumps into the tour guide seat, turns on the microphone and starts banging on the metal stairwell: "Hey driver!! You left the tour guide. You've gotta stop!" The driver slows down, Mr. White, out of breath and clearly pissed, comes within inches of the door...and the driver hits the gas and takes off again. I hate to admit it, but a thrill ran thru me. The entire bus jumped to their feet to see what would happen next.
At this point Lisa the Mom kicks in: "Mr. Bus Driver, our guide is not on board. He is chasing the bus and needs to be let on. Pull over right now. I am not joking." The bus keeps going, Mr White keeps running. Lisa smacks the side of the metal stair rail and demands that the driver stop the bus this instant. If the bus hadn't start to slow down, I swear she was going to go, "ONE. TWO. Don't make me say THREE...." While we waited for our guide to rejoin us, Lisa sat back and relaxed, having successfully negotiated with the errant bus driver, and made some observations about the architecture of the buildings around us, tossing off a joke or two, all the while chatting into the microphone like a pro.

After ripping the driver a new one, Mr. White gets back up top looking like his heart was going to stop after chasing us for about 3 blocks. As he reaches for the mike, Mr. Brown stands up, walks towards him and says, totally deadpan, "Do you have a ticket?" Mr. White sort of "ha has" and grabs the mike but Brown isn't done with him. "Where is your ticket?" Mr White pulls his I.D. badge out from his coat and Mr Brown steps forward: "I'm gonna need to see that." White's jaw dropped, but he held it out, and Brown said, "Oh okay, you're fine." He turned around to see me grinning from ear to ear and then gave me a giant high five before returning to his hysterically laughing family.
As much as some of us enjoyed Mr. White, we decided to get off at Canal Street to pee and shop. We do have 22 kids between the 5 of us, so our bladders aren't what they used to be (except for "camel bladder" who Kelly suffered thru endless bathroom breaks and suggested that maybe if we didn't all drink so much Diet Coke we could go two blocks without doing the potty dance). Lisa put a tip in the jar as we left, though I think she should have charged for the show.

One day of parking in the theatre district: $26
One ticket to the Empire State Building: $15
One 24 hour pass on the City Sights bus: $39
Watching your girlfriend hijack a doubledecker: priceless.

[one of these things is not like the other--no wonder our bladders were bursting]
[One of the many McD's we visited on our trip--steer clear of Burger King, skanky restrooms]
[Our new friend Rupert, one of the fun sights we saw, along with Angela "Murder She Wrote" Landsbury]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Good the Sad and the Furry

The Good: my birthday was this weekend and I had two nights of good food and good games.("Wise and Otherwise" is a crack up--sort of Balderdash with obscure proverbs that you have to finish, such as, "An old Japanese saying goes, 'By poking the bush....' "and the real ending is something about snakes. For real.) I also got some fun gifts. Here is a sampling:

The Sad: Georgia's gerbil Emma died Saturday morning. After chores, Zsa went to check on Emma and noticed she was barely breathing. Dave and I had resusitated the gerbils once before when they were sick, but sweet little thing died in my hands as I did rodent CPR (stroking her chest fur). Poor Georgia came unglued, then Millie, and Bea, not wanting to be left out, made herself cry too. "Emma was the firstest gerbil we ever had!" Wahhhhh! "Emma is a dead Emma!" Wahhhhh. When she had no more tears for Emma, Bea started contemplating other things that made her sad: "We have no more crackers and will have to go the the store to get some!" Wahhhhhhh. [here is Zsa with Emma last month]

The Furry: Gerbils are social creatures and the books say they need a companion to thrive, but introducing a new one is tricky. So we headed to our local Petco and talked to the lady who suggested we get two new young sisters, so that even if Minky rejects them they'll still have each other. Jonah picked out the one that looked like a miniature squirrell.

Georgia got one that looks like a chipmunk with a star on its forehead. She said to me, "When I can trick my mind into not thinking about Emma, I don't feel so sad." She named hers Sarah, and Jonah named his Casey in honor of the FBI handlers on "Chuck," mine and Joe's new favorite TV show.

Here is Millie with the survivor Minky. [Please check out Millie's front tooth that sticks STRAIGHT out and refuses to fall out. We've taken pliers to it and wiggled it to death and Thursday night I got out 3 kinds of thread and the damn root busted the thread. ] We were warned that the "old" gerbil will often reject the new ones and to introduce them slowly, having different cages, etc. Sweet Minky was delighted at her new playmates and got anxious when we took them out of her cage. So while there was no fighting amongst gerbils there was contention with the kids over how to lodge them and in whose room.
That afternoon the Snow girls came over to attend Emma's funeral. The weather was warm enough that I could dig a hole in the patch of ground next to big rocks where I have ground cover roses growing. Her coffin was a heart shaped pink box from the dollar section of Target and her shrowd was a pink napkin Parry gave me that Emma liked to shred. We all got teary. Georgia bawled.
When the 3 gerbils were still having a lovefest that evening, Dave took Bea and Millie back to Petco to even out the numbers. We purchased the last gerbil sister for Bea so there's a pairs in Joe's room, and a pair in Georgia & Millie. Bea is so excited that she has a gerbil and she can't stop talking about it: "I have a gerbil stister her name is Rhino she is orangey and soft but hers claws are scratchy like my mom's nails so I don't wanna hold Rhino my new gerby. She's orange." She here's a picture of Rhino and since Bea's too scared to hold her I'm adding one of Bea doing gymnastics. This is her version of a backbend which she calls a "bangaroo."

Thanks for sharing my happies and my sads.