Friday, December 3, 2010

The Good Old Days

When times are tough I think it is just human nature to look back. We scroll through the movies in our minds, scanning mentally edited little reviews of past events. Teasing us with times gone soft and fuzzy around the edges, we are thinner, taller, smarter, happier and in charge. We know it all (of course, we are younger) and rule the world or at least our minute portion of it.

Right now, my kids are all going through hard, hard times. With jobs and kids and spouses making their lives complicated and worrisome they talk to me as a release. I’m not saying they come for advice; they are all remarkably self assured. They come for an ear, a sounding board. It keeps me up at night. I can’t fix their problems, can’t be the protector a mom should be. I toss and turn and wish for the good old days when the most serious of issues could be fixed with a Band-Aid® and a kiss. I reach in deep and select a sweet looking memory, shake it out and let it roll…

1987, Marietta Georgia. Early morning in the tornado house… STOP! Do not remember the tornado!! Crap, I hate it when that happens. A good memory almost derailed by a stressful one. They are there; waiting, poised on their toes and ready to run, just around the corners in our subconscious, trying to steal our reveries like they are second base and a monetary prize is at stake. I reel it in, tucking it way back in a dark recess, mentally shaking my finger at it and saying “no no no you don’t”. I go back to my original intent, remembering a sunny, balmy spring morning. The birds are singing, the crickets are bedding down for the day and I am savoring my first cup of coffee. I am in cozy, sloppy clothes (hell, I haven’t been out of the house without trailing four tots in five years, why not?). I am enjoying a moment of peace before the day begins.

I am in a terrific mood because I am going to be MAKING MONEY this week. When your husband is a blue collar worker and you are as fertile as the Garden of Eden, Making Money deserves a lot of capital letters. I am watching three kids for five days and making one crisp new never been touched by children’s hands hundred dollar bill. At that time I could feed the six of us for an entire week on that amount so I was pretty darn happy to be getting it. I already had four of my own, what were three more in the grand scheme of things? I had pictured myself as sort of Madonna (Jesus’ mother, not the singer) mixed with Martha Stewart with just a dollop of chipper camp counselor thrown in. I had this! It was mine and I was going to rock it.

The darlings arrived at 7 and my hopes were dashed by 7:10. Picture this: Two 11 year old girls, boys 8, 6 and four, a 2 year old and one more not quite walking. This was long before On Demand Disney, I had PBS showing educational (interpreted as boring by children) shows until 10 AM, a box of generic apple jack type cereal, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and one of jelly, five pounds of apples and 5000 packs of Kool Ade.

My babies hopped up when the doorbell rang and rocketed down the steps, slamming into the visitors and becoming one rollicking, swarming, chattering being. The horde descended on the kitchen, complaining of course, making notes, comparing breakfast at our house (cereal) to breakfast at their house, always home made something with a mom who wore clothes suitable for viewing with loving touches like syrup smiley faces on the pancakes or loving notes tucked under the plate. Notes? For real? I can’t even find anything to write with except a green crayon with a worn down tip and peeling wrapper. And paper? Forget about it. The back of a bill collector’s envelope was my normal fallback, with paper towels and grocery store receipts coming in 2nd and third respectively. They blew out of the kitchen as one, leaving the empty box of cereal, the decimated loaf of bread, 7 apple cores and smudges of pb and j all over the now empty, upended pitcher of Kool Ade. I would have worried then, but they didn’t give me a chance.

I heard a loud bang, a baby cry, whispers of “Shhhhhhh” coming from the living room. Turning on my well worn slippers, I tried to get my footing as I slid in spilt milk and ran for the sound. 6 children sitting like little vacuous angels and a baby screaming greeted me, all of them studiously ignoring the broken lamp in the middle of the room. A child, not my own, said “my mommy’s lamp is better than that one was”. The line was drawn. Four days and seven hours and 49 minutes of heroic battle would follow. What they didn’t know was that I was up for the challenge.

We rode bikes, we went swimming, we read every book in the house ten times. We played house, and put on a musical (skinny little bottoms wiggling and singing to “Stray Cat Strut”). We played office and wedding and school. We stopped at doctor; I was not an idiot, just tired. We built Lego cars and block towers and made Playdoh dinners for penned on baby dolls. We went on forced marches when I couldn’t stand being locked up with the little boogers one more minute, traipsing through the woods behind our house playing Tarzan and soldier and little lost lambs. We wore down a 96 count box of Crayons on every envelope in the house, the dining room walls and some baseboards as well. We plowed through an entire carton of Chinese noodles, the rest of the apples, 4,452 packs of Kool Ade, three gallons of milk and a pack of M&Ms I thought I had hidden well enough in the linen closet. When the door closed behind them I was so exhausted, sticky, colored and pasted I looked like a cartoon. My sweats had a rip in the knee, I had lost ten pounds and my hair was tied in terrible knots. BUT, I had done it, I succeeded. I did not let the little bast…whippersnappers get to me. I had WON.

And Tuesday would be even better.