Saturday, December 31, 2011
Dreamy or Dazed or Simply Absent
"Mommy, remember when you let us sleep with you sometimes when it's morning and you're not up yet?" asks the little voice standing beside my bed.
I answer without opening my eyes. "Yes. But it's too early, buddy. I need my bed."
"But you let Daddy sleep with you."
"That was... different."
"Please, Mommy? It's scary in there."
I hesitate, gauging my strength to fight this back-to-bed battle.
"Please, Mommy? It's 7-2-1." He reads the digital clock. He knows if that first number isn't 7 or higher, he doesn't stand a chance.
"Okay. You can."
"Yes? Did you say yes? You said yes?"
"I said yes." And this inconsistency is no doubt why we continue to have this battle at all.
He climbs in. His brother follows shortly behind. I am sandwiched between a dozen knees and elbows. There's really nothing settling about this way to start the day. It's just so abrupt.
Tucker peels open my eyelid. "Mommy, are you dead?"
"No, I'm not dead."
"Oh. Because you looked like you were dead."
They are leaning across me, arguing over something insanely important to them.
"Let's get up. I'm making muffins." I decide.
"But I don't like muffins."
"Then you can have a PopTart."
"I want two PopTarts."
"You never finish two. You may have one."
They pause at the top of the stairs to question if the alarm is on. They are like Pavlov's dogs: they know this trigger, and they are not about to step into the range of the motion sensor unless I can guarantee a controlled environment.
We make the muffins. Half blueberry, half chocolate chip. They help, which really means twice the prep time and twice the dishes. But in the end, the offender decides he'll eat some after all. But only the chocolate chips ones.
They play MarioKart while I pay a stack of bills. I'm tired of receiving anything - anything - in Robb's name. Extra points to anyone who has taken his name off our record in their system.
After much grumbling and complaining, losses and findings of mittens and gloves, we embark on the day. First stop: the bank. I need to get a page notarized, one more detail that involves a death certificate.
The woman behind the counter mistakes it for a marriage certificate. Her eyes light up and she nearly congratulates me. No. It's not that. It's the end.
She had almost been cordial, but now she's afraid to misstep. So instead she becomes entirely procedural. I want to scream inside the bank, stomp my feet and shout like a toddler wanting a lollipop. I want everyone to look and notice. I want to say, "Do you know that he mattered to me? Do you know that he was more than a stack of paperwork and signatures?"
I cry in the car. I do this a lot.
We have packed up their motor scooters, the Christmas gifts from their Chicago grandparents, Robb's mom and dad. We find an empty parking lot, and they do their do. Tucker with amazing balance and tricks, Tyler with careful and slow steadiness.
I take videos and I nickname them Speed Rocket and Blazing Flame. They pretend they are in the circus, a team of daredevils. I teach them how to ride with one leg elegantly extended behind, like a ballerina on wheels. Only I don't use that analogy.
We have lunch. They disobey. They want root beer. I give them apple juice. There is kicking and bickering.
This day is going so slowly.
It is 12:10. Arthur's Christmas begins at 12:20. If we hurry, we can make it. We hurry. We make it.
(Assigned seating is stupid in a movie theater. There's no reason for it, I say. Especially when we have narrowly arrived before the movie starts, the lights are dimmed, the previews are rolling, my children are distracted by the silver screen, and I must diligently look for Row H, seats 3, 4, and 5.)
I bank on the hope that nobody else will arrive later than we do, and I claim three seats in the back row, tippy top. (Hidden motive: if the movie gets too, you know, underwhelming, I can discreetly read the book in my bag.) The boys and I settle in.
By the way, they have spent this day in costume: Spiderman and Optimus Prime. One has a cape, the other has a mask.
The movie ends. It's only 2:00. For real? This is the longest day in the history of mankind. I'm sure of it. Some kind of solstice must be on this day.
I tell them we are going home, I need to rest for a bit, and these are their options while I am sleeping. Tucker whispers, "Yes! We can do whatever we want!" And so I list the options again.
I wait until everyone is captivated by their favorite something, and I fall into bed. I am uncomfortable falling asleep while they are awake, but I simply cannot finish this day without a break. I pray for their safety, and I wonder if I reminded them that they absolutely must stay in the house... but I don't worry too long. Because I am too sleepy.
"Mommy, can I have a popsicle?"
"Mommy, can my brother have a popsicle?"
My phone alarms. My hour is up. Just ten more minutes? Can't I have ten more minutes...
In I-don't-know-how-many minutes, an iPod is blasting on my bedside table. Tyler has awakened me to music. And also, he is standing on my hair.
I don't want to be angry. I wanted to sleep so I could be more patient.
I come downstairs. Spiderman is throwing snowballs into the kitchen, through the open sliding door. There are swimming pool toys all over the living room floor. (Pool toys?) I find a purple popsicle laying (melting) on my coffee table.
I sit at the dining table while they play with bungee cords. I know not where they found them. But they are giggling at their masterful creativity with them, pretending they are go-go-gadget arms.
My parents swoop in and save the day, my children, and me from each other. Tyler and I are scheduled for a date tonight. He opts out. He would rather be with Grandma and Poppa. He makes a reference to me being Miss Hannigan.
That's fine. I don't have much 'date' in me tonight. We'll reschedule for a time when we like each other.
My parents leave with the boys. I leave with no intentions. I drive, drive, drive. I am nearly to the mall before I realize I don't want anything to do with the mall. I drive, drive, drive back from whence I came.
I settle in at Niccolo's, the pizza shop around the corner. (Maybe in another life stage I'll eat things other than pizza.) I sit alone. I wonder if I look dreamy or dazed, or simply absent. I don't really care.
I bring a book with me; Elizabeth Berg makes me want to write. Her storytelling makes for excellent conversation with myself. Just my pace.
I order the alfredo pizza with mushrooms and onions. Robb and I had an honest-to-goodness fight over this pizza when I was pregnant. He hates mushrooms and onions, and I was craving them both. I felt entitled and thereby became irrational. I truly did.
Tonight, I eat it alone.