I suspect most parents have moments where they stop spinning in circles for a breath and wonder what the hell happened. I’ve been channeling my inner David Byrne (“My God/how did I get here?“) most of this year. While much of the country is getting back to “normal”, the weird and/or hard shit keeps happening here. Here, the land of decidedly not-normal, where we still don’t have indoor seating at restaurants, where I lost two friends in the same week–one to lung cancer and one to suicide, and where God only knows if we will ever be able to go back to work on Broadway.
Friday our minivan died. Two weeks before we need three cars for three very differently scheduled students commuting to schools nowhere near each other. Because of course it did. Thanks, COVID. Also? 2020 is an asshole. If 2020 were poised on the edge of a cliff and started to lose its balance, I’d push it right over. It’s a total dick.
The Zombie Van was a 2007 Honda Odyssey with 230,000 miles on it. It really didn’t owe us anything else. It had already over-delivered. CC took really good care of it, but after the door fell off we accepted it was time for palliative care. We’d make her as comfortable as possible and she’d let us know when it was her time.
She died in the parking lot of the storage unit where we were hauling the last of #2’s stuff, to be taken to her when she moves into her apartment in the Midwest. The shop called with the news:
“Vehicle not starting. Battery failed load test. Alternator not charging. Valve cover gasket leaking oil onto alternator. Transmission dry, fluid leaking out of transmission cooler lines and radiator. Cannot check for codes for engine or transmission due to battery being dead and won’t know if transmission is operating normally. Power steering pump is leaking as well.”
So $3600 to get to the point where we could find out if it also needed a new transmission. My God I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. I guess she had one more gift left to give.
The punchline (no, that wasn’t it) was that we couldn’t get #2’s bed frame out because the back door wouldn’t open. BECAUSE IT’S ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ELECTRONIC. BECAUSE THAT’S BETTER. CC and #5 went back the next day with patience and ingenuity and successfully removed it. Sadly, the 6-CD changer (remember those?) held on to Operation Mindcrime, Clockwork Angels, and Hardwired to Self-Destruct and will take them to the grave.
A super bright spot is that I have an article in the September issue of Stepmom Magazine. If you’re a stepmom, this magazine is a lifesaver. There are regular contributions from therapists, stepfamily coaches, and smart, helpful stepmoms. I only got in because I told them if they didn’t take my piece, I’d send my house-bound kids their way, one at a time.
My piece is about returning to a full house in quarantine when you were damn near an empty-nester. While you do have to subscribe to read it, you can subscribe a month at time and test it out. There’s even a free 30-day trial.
Meanwhile. . . have any of you ever beat my mileage on a drive-it-til-it-dies car?
I have a theory–a double theory, really– that for any topic you can name, there is either an X-Files episode or a Jonathan Richman song about it
From When I Say ‘Wife’ by Jonathan Richman:
When I say ‘wife’ it’s cause I can’t find another word for the way we be but ‘wife’ sounds like you’re mortgaged ‘wife’ sounds like laundry
I’m a wife. I was planning on never being a wife, but here I am. “Wife” had always sounded like laundry to me too, back in those days when I was planning to never be one.
I pictured going blind trying to distinguish between black and navy blue socks in order to match them up; I pictured having to learn how to starch and/or iron. When I said “wife” I imagined Friday night casseroles, yard work on Saturday mornings, and uncomfortable, too-warm clothes that made me pass out in church on Sundays.
Then I got a career that ran nights and weekends and a boyfriend who both cooked and did laundry (not to mention, kept his socks to a respectable black or white only). And “wife” started to look like a giant mystery to me. If it wasn’t what I had always believed it to be, then what was it?
I decided to find out.
One of the common misconceptions that people have is that romance dies once you become married. The way to combat this, according to all the magazines, is to have Date Night. The importance of hiring a babysitter is stressed, and you should put on cologne and pantyhose and drive far away to pay too much money for dinner and a show. In our jobs, both CC and I assist in providing the entertainment for everybody else’s Date Night, so that doesn’t really appeal to us.
Besides, he gets really grumpy if you ask him to wear pantyhose on his day off.
So we have Date Morning.
Every Friday we have our standing hot date. I took all of these pictures to prove how hot our dates are because nobody believes me.
We start by getting dressed up:
Then we go to the bank for grocery money. Yeah, we’re going grocery shopping. Because grocery shopping is hot.
When we get to the teller, CC turns on his charm.
CC: She’s so mean to me, Rita. At home, she makes me call her “mistress”.
Well, I am wearing leather.
He will repeat this joke to every teller that passes within earshot. If there are some that don’t pass by and miss it, he’ll make sure to go see them at their desks on the way out.
Our next stop is the Farmer’s Market.
These same magazines that specify how you’re supposed to do Date Night also make a Big Deal about Farmer’s Markets. They refer to seasonal, outdoor markets that are supposedly a great savings and if you don’t frequent them you are killing both your family and your community, not to mention your soul and probably a couple of kittens somewhere.
In New Jersey, those types of farmer’s markets are subsidized by the State and sell produce that may or may not be “organic”, and may or may not have had pesticides sprayed all over them, but are most definitely about FOUR TIMES the cost of anything at the grocery store. I’ve got five kids and I figure I’m already supporting those markets through my taxes.
The farmer’s market that gets us all hot & bothered- and I DO mean hot & bothered- is year-round inside a zero-frills building.
If you’re one of my kids, you may want to stop reading here to avoid thoughts that you can’t unthink later.
Although they tell me at the entrance that I’m not welcome there, they never actually check. It does make me a little nervous, which only adds to the excitement.
You know how when you go to Whole Foods you walk out with only one teeny paper bag even though you laid out like eighty frickin’ bucks? The farmer’s market is the total inverse of that. A full cart rarely tops out over forty dollars, which I have to admit makes me more than a little breathless. Plus they have all of this:
(C’mon, I can’t be the only one who thought that.)
By the time we check out, our minds are full of images of lewd produce and thongs. We’re thinking about testing out the window tinting in the backseat of the minivan.
Next to the farmer’s market is the “meat” market where you can get your Santeria supplies. I think it’s kind of lame that one might buy one’s goat eyeballs and rooster hearts at market, but it is nice to know the resource is there if you need it in a pinch. (The only reason I didn’t get pictures of those particular items is that it smells really bad. Which is why nobody ever buys any eating-meat there.)
What more excitement can there possibly be after being around all that suggestive produce, lingerie, and “meat”?
Well. . .Plenty.
Because there’s Fairway, newly opened near us.
Oh, Fairway. *sigh* When I think about you, I just. . .
Fairway is all of your grocery dreams come true. Even if you think you don’t have any grocery dreams.
Because you totally do.
All my grocery store fantasies are here. Fresh-baked chocolate croissants. Cheese samples. Eleventy-billion types of cold-pressed olive oil with store-baked baguettes for sampling. At this point in the date, it’s all I can do to keep my mind on the grocery list. The store isn’t exactly helping. It’s like they want us to be inappropriate right there in the aisles or something.
Even Costco is in on it. And I feel like I should remind you once again that these are actual pictures from an actual hot date.
With great effort, we refrain from putting up that”Sorry, this lane closed” sign and spending a little quality time together right there on the checkout counter. Even though I see it as exactly the same as a “Do Not Disturb” sign, CC reminds me that this would be a pretty ridiculous reason to get arrested and that besides, the only kid who would have enough money to bail us out is #1, and she probably wouldn’t do it because she’s saving all her money to get away from us.
GOT ANY GOOD GROCERY STORE STORIES?
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR DATE NIGHT?
*update: I just found out at dinner last night that my Flock of Seagulls reference is yet one more joke that I make to CC all the time that he doesn’t get, and yet has never said anything about. Even though he took #1 to see Pulp Fiction while she was an infant. So for him, I give you this link. The Flock of Seagulls line isn’t until about 2:00 in, but it’s a great scene.
Okay, fine. I’m one of those people who’s all jaded about Valentine’s Day. No need for justifications and rationalizations; you’ve heard them all already from everyone else. I’m just not a fan.
But when you have kids, you’re not allowed to not celebrate the holiday.
My parents always gave my sister and I each a card and a little box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Some years, my mom made a heart-shaped cake (we had a special pan) with pink frosting and candy hearts pressed into it.
This year I thought, why be all bah-humbug to cupid? I decided to make heart-shaped chocolate crackers for everyone at work, homemade bath sachets with eucalyptus for my writers group, and a heart-shaped cake with pink frosting and candy hearts pressed into the edges for the kids, even if I don’t have a special pan.
Then I remembered who I am.
There were lots of doctors appointments, significant snow, and a shitload of paperwork that had to get done right now. Instead of staying up late to bake, I stayed up late watching Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 and Rush Beyond the Lighted Stage.
Because they’re awesome. And I didn’t want to do my paperwork.
I had a work call and two shows the day before Valentine’s Day. The florist shop was out of eucalyptus. There was no baking. There was no crafting.
Let’s be honest: there never is any crafting.
Two days before Valentine’s day, I was in the city and went to the drug store for gifts and cards.
Doesn’t two days before Valentine’ Day seem like a good head start? You’d be shocked at how few cards the average drug store in New York carries for such a commercial holiday. You’d be even more shocked at how few are left by February 12.
You’re standing there with all the other poor bastards who also think that two days is a good head start, maneuvering for leverage in front of the two and a half feet of shelf space where the last twelve cards are.
I needed exactly half of them.
I found two semi-sappy cards that didn’t make me want to strangle kittens and set those aside for #2 and #3. I found three cards that were supposed to be funny but weren’t that I thought could be salvaged with written modifications.
(I was remembering a birthday card my assistant had given to me years ago. It was a truly awful rhyming birthday card that was supposed to be from a husband to a wife, and everywhere it said “wife” he just crossed it out and wrote “boss”. I die laughing every time I remember it.)
I still needed a card for CC. I had one in my hands made of thick black paper with red metallic script. Gorgeous. And hands-down, the single worst godawful rhyming card I’ve come across in a long time. It had real potential. In fact it was so bad and so long that I couldn’t even finish reading it. I got him a Chinese New Year card instead. Which I then lost.
The card that referenced chocolates I gave to the kid that hates chocolate (#4). The one that was made for a toddler with a picture of a bee and the obligatory Bee Mine! we gave to #1 (the 19-year-old), with hand-written references to VD. Because that’s the kind of thing you can write in a 19-year-old’s Valentine.
#5 got this one:
Inside I wrote: Dear god, I hope that cat doesn’t eat you. Because I love you! Happy Valentine’s Day!
His father wrote: Dear Son, She’s Nuts. Love, Dad.
#5 woke up before everyone else (as usual) on Valentine’s Day and opened his card. Then he texted me: Dad’s right. You’re nuts.
When I tucked him in he informed me that the cat’s smile was big enough and bright enough that when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he can see it in the darkness even without his glasses.
#5: It’s creepy.
On the way home from work Saturday night he sent me the above picture with the accompanying text It’s giving me nightmares.
I believe my work here is done. Clearly I have a future career in greeting card modification.