Monthly Archives: August 2021

Keep calm and…

For Mother’s Day this year at my gentle behest, my husband booked me a massage. It was my first massage in years, and the experience was so much more relaxing than I’d expected, right up until the point that the massage therapist held up the blanket that was covering me so I could flip over. Perhaps it was the monumental peculiarity involved in the fact that the only scrap of cloth on my body was covering my mouth and nose (that sensation–of wearing a mask and nothing else–was a brand-new one), but I was suddenly self-conscious despite the fact that she was looking away, and the blanket was mere inches off my skin so she wouldn’t have been able to glimpse anything below my neck regardless. It was a strange feeling because I’m not overly modest, nor am I ashamed of my shape, so I was surprised to even encounter that unfamiliar twinge of cringe, yet it only lasted for a second because my mind immediately went to a time when I was in a much more exposed situation.

The day was June 4th, 2015, the day I went to the hospital to deliver my third child. The obstetrics practice overseeing my pregnancy consisted of about eight different doctors, one of whom had recently joined rank after moving back to town. This doctor happened to be the one on duty that day, and she also happened to be an acquaintance of mine; she’d been a year ahead of me in school from elementary days all the way through until her graduation, one year before mine. She and I hadn’t been friends in school; in fact, we’d been rather tepid to one another throughout the years. Back then, she was always one of the smartest kids in her grade, and she was also beautiful and ultra-athletic and popular among both girls and boys, so she was basically one of those “full package” kind of kids that others sometimes secretly (or not-so-secretly) resent for being so uncommonly stacked in favorable attributes that it seems just a bit unfair.

Of course, I had prepared myself for this possibility (I mean, there was a “one in eight” chance that this would happen, so it probably would), rationalizing over my initial resistance with the knowledge that, until recently, she and I hadn’t seen each other for twenty years and were practically different people now than we were as kids in school. I also reminded myself of how smart she is (a much sought-after quality in a doctor) and that she was a professional, so this was just another day at the office for her. I’d also seen her for a routine appointment a few months earlier, so I knew that her bedside manner was canny enough that she wouldn’t start asking after my siblings or something while I was mid-contraction. She was also a woman and a mother herself, and having had my first two children delivered by men, it might be nice to have two x-chromosomes at the helm this time since, well, it takes one to know one in some basic biological ways. So what if the guy I’d been casually seeing during my junior year, who I fully expected would take me to his senior prom, had asked her instead of me? I got over that years ago (almost completely)!

Anyway, you know you’re really grown up when you come to terms with having a woman who used to be the girl who hung on the arm of guy who’d publicly snubbed you in high school (he did apologize, I should add, though it was much later) deliver your baby. Though childbirth is miraculous in so many ways, there are aspects of the process that can also feel pretty darn undignified while they’re happening, as I knew from experience. I won’t go into any details, but lying there on that massage table, I remembered all of them, pulling out each one like photographs from an album, moments captured as snapshots and filed away unbidden until some reminder pulls the book off the shelf. As my mind paged through those memories of having babies, I suddenly remembered that I was mid-massage and almost laughed at the irony: there I was, ostensibly enjoying my Mother’s Day gift while my brain was humming with some of the least relaxing thoughts possible, including angsty high school social drama and labor and delivery.

Next year maybe I’ll ask for something equally as rejuvenating as a massage but without all of that unoccupied mental time devoted to a rabbit hole of childbirth stories. To that end, I’m going to take a screenshot of that hand vacuum for the car I’ve been eyeing and text it to my husband on May 1st. I know he’ll understand.

Add to my favorites

During the final week of his kindergarten year, a few weeks before his sixth birthday, Arlo’s teacher (the famous Ms. Ashley) called to share that he’d been having a hard time with his “memories” book that each student was compiling as a culminating project for the school year. The kids were given several prompts, such as “favorite unit of investigation” and “favorite game to play” and “favorite piece of playground equipment”. Immediately I understood why Arlo might be having a hard time with this assignment; sometimes asking kids to pick a “favorite” is an overwhelming request. Unless clear, obvious choices exist in their minds, choosing from what, at times, is a number of options unconfined to finitude can feel daunting, particularly because many of the items within each category are apples and oranges to each other. Add to this the fact that Arlo, like many kids, derives such great enjoyment from almost every engagement he makes in the social setting that school provides that he’d be hard-pressed to narrow the options down to a single front-runner. There was yet a third reason that this exercise would prove challenging for him: he’s not a simply concrete thinker, and his insightful interpretation of the world frequently surprises us with its explicative perspicacity. He doesn’t just “think outside the box”, to use a hackneyed idiom; he breaks the box down and puts it out with the recycling so there is no longer any box that could possibly contain his thoughts.

When I asked Ms. Ashley for more details, she recommended that we do some summer work with writing so that his confidence increases. She explained that he’d really had a hard time with one question in particular: “Where is your favorite place to be at school?” because his answer was so long that he’d stalled out in trying to write it all. I asked her what his answer was and she said, “He said his favorite place to be at school was in other people’s minds because that means they’re thinking about him.”

I have a hard time with favorites, too, but I can definitely say that that answer to that question is hands-down my favorite favorite.


It amazes me that our neighborhood, despite the hundreds of houses with barely any breathing room in between them, plus incessant construction clamor and commotion accompanied by all manner of vehicular machinery from dawn til dusk at least six days a week, is home to whole host of birdlife. In our yard alone, every year we enjoy the sights and songs of goldfinches, bluebirds, cardinals, and hummingbirds (one year we had a group of nine tiny fliers who frequented our honeysuckle plants!), as well as sparrows and wrens and finches and thrushes and robins. I’ve seen one solitary blue jay, also, and once in a while a mourning dove or two. I swear there was a flock of actual pigeons one day, including an elegant albino, hanging out in the stand of trees in our traffic circle, and Canada geese storm the streets most years, notoriously feasting on the grass seed put down in the park across the street one spring. Of course, we have the crows, and hawks circle from time to time, but the main character of this vignette is the mockingbird.

As late spring unfurled into summer this year, a mockingbird of considerable stature decided to spend most of his time perched on the topmost ridge on the eastern corner of our house’s gable roof, and from there he produced a stream of song that rarely abated. I named him Pavarotti, and he sang all season in loud, long strains, the clarified timbre of his notes tripping along to produce an almost aggressive music. His range and repertoire, marked by the unmistakeable sound of self-assuredness, as if he were convinced that his voice was the greatest gift to all who could hear, were impressive. And his stamina for spilling forth copious song goes unprecedented in my memory of mockingbirds past. He was animated, too: a true performer, constantly turning his head to regale all audience within range, long tail feathers moving with seemingly impassioned rhythm and expression.

Pavarotti rose with the sun those May days, chirping up my final quiet mornings of the kids’ school year while I sat inside at the computer almost directly below his shingled pulpit, punctuating my typing with his sampling of song that cycled through what must have been about a dozen different birdcalls. At first, I marveled at his tenacious audacity, his presumptuousness at consuming earshot by singing over all other birds, not to mention barreling cement mixers or the thunder of Monday morning garbage pickup. Then I felt just a twinge of perturbation at his utter disregard for my proclivity towards peace and quiet, his strident messages being delivered over and over in a broken record of languages I could appreciate but didn’t understand. And then it occurred to me that there was something sad about this too: the mockingbird’s song is only his as much as he can perfect the songs of other birds. I did some reading on the subject and learned that, though a mockingbird parrots verses of songs belonging to other species’, often with even more refined technique and style, perfect pitch and tone, never would another bird mistake his song for one of their own. It would be like Whitney Houston doing a cover of a Paris Hilton number: same notes, same words, but of a different quality completely.

Despite Pavarotti’s melodic prowess and ability to broadcast, despite his expertise at the craft of mimicry, he was only the author of his song insomuch as he could control the arrangement, the pattern of others’ songs. The only originality belonging to his music was the order in which he strung the strains of other songs together: an avian version of a mixtape, a mashup of borrowed art. I wondered if his bombastic bluster of sound and fury emanated from a place of creative frustration, that his only harmonic occupation was the polished, finely-tuned recapitulation of ancient refrains written in the nucleotides of other feathered friends. I thought of a pastor whose only recourse was reciting scripture to his congregation, a parent who spoke to her child in aphorism only, a writer who couldn’t think to begin and end a story with anything other than “once upon a time” and “happily ever after.” Sure, there’s something to be said for taking the old and making it new, but what if the thwarted artist wanted nothing more than authorship of something purely his own? What if the mockingbird yearned for the ability to sing an original song but had no language of his own, no tune of his own, to conjure one?

I know, I know. He’s a bird, not a human, and there’s every reason to believe he’s blithely happy to do the incontrovertible bidding of his instinct, which is to repeat what he hears, just a town crier proud to make his report. These are purely human projections; surely no mockingbird has ever bemoaned his inability to compose. But just in case, I cranked a crack in the kitchen window so Pavarotti’s display of virtuosity would be better audible, a small, mostly emblematic way to say to him and all others who crave listeners for their voices: I hear you.

A snack that inspires

Some kids play with dolls. Others ignore the thousand toys we have because who needs action figures when you have groceries?

(Goldfish were on sale, in case you couldn’t tell. And the princess goldfish bag was the princess, as one might imagine, though I’m still trying to figure out why the pizza-flavored goldfish bags were the servants. Thankfully, they seemed to be treated exceptionally well by the royal family, even the royal dog who, naturally, was called Cupcake.)

Firstborn son

Liam discovered a YouTube channel with a seemingly endless series of videos starring Star Wars Lego minifigures (specifically combat sequences featuring clone troopers versus battle droids). The videos are surprisingly well done, with interesting plotlines and camera angles and set design, so I gave him the go-ahead after we previewed one together while discussing the dangers of YouTube and the importance of his not clicking beyond the content published on this channel. We agreed that he would let me know if anything he encountered, advertisement-related or otherwise, left him with questions or made him doubt the appropriateness of what he was seeing. After he’d seen a few episodes, I checked in to take the pulse, and he said that it was all fine aside from the fact that they use the phrase “what the hell” and the word “crap”. I told him that didn’t worry me because I knew he could handle it as long as it didn’t make him feel too uncomfortable and because those words were very mild as far as profanity goes, and we decided that if any other oaths cropped up that gave him pause, he’d let me know. I also noted that I’d prefer that his first experiences with more mature material be within the context of our family so that he’s accurately informed, as a way to avoid misconceptions should he be exposed to the content elsewhere (like, ahem, hearing it from other kids). As he took a step toward the living room, he hesitated, then said, “Mommy? Do you remember when I said “damn it” that time when we lived in our old house?”

I had to think for a few seconds, as this event had to have taken place about six years ago, and then a vague memory swam to the surface. I had a hazy image of Liam coming down the stairs while uttering those words, and then a feeling that was at once nebulous and visceral flooded my mind. “I do remember that, sort of,” I said. “I got mad at you, didn’t I?” He confirmed this, and I felt terrible. “I’m sorry, Liam,” I said. “I don’t know if I’ve apologized for that yet, but I shouldn’t have been angry at you. That certainly was not your fault; in fact, it was probably mine because you were most likely parroting what you’d heard me say at some point. I must have been worried that you’d repeat it at school or something and felt like I needed to impress upon you the importance of NOT saying things like that because you were really too young to be using those words. When you’re that little, you aren’t ready to practice the kind of discernment necessary to understand how and when words like those can fit into dialect, and you need to fill that language acquisition space in your brain with more useful vocabulary to help you express specific ideas. Not until you’ve achieved the kind of fluency that will allow you to say exactly what you’re trying to say in almost all situations does it make sense to add those unnecessary words into the mix. That being said, I really wish I hadn’t acted angry at you that day because you certainly didn’t understand any of this, and you had no frame of reference to inform the moment you said those words. I should have behaved in an opposite way, and I wish I could go back and do it differently.”

I gave him a hug, and he happily retreated to the other room with his iPad peopled with animated Lego versions of automatons from a galaxy far, far away, leaving me to ruminate while applying a dry rub to some pork chops. As a firstborn myself, I know the challenges implicit in leading the pack into life, and I also appreciate the learning curve that new parents have to undertake in their first experience of guiding a new human through his tenderest years. I feel compassion for those parents as well as for my former self, even in that misguided moment at the bottom of the stairs when I reacted with ire instead of grace, when I didn’t have the clarity of experience to impart a healthier method of expression to my consciousness.

In trying the flip the script, I’m seeing this retrospective reconsideration of the “damn it” moment as a kind of gift of redemption. It gave me the experience of admitting to my child that I had made a mistake and apologizing for it, of recognizing that I know things now that I wasn’t aware of at the time. It gave me the opportunity to explain that I lacked understanding and acted poorly as a result, to look my son in the eyes and say “mea culpa” with dignity, to make it clear to him that because he was our first child, we’ve had to figure out a lot throughout his decade of life. I pointed out that, though I was in the wrong that day, I possessed neither the education nor the insight necessary to inform my behavior and so I deserve no self-flagellation. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it sometimes can confer a kind of innocence.

The burden of the firstborn is real: you are on the front lines of your generation. You are the one blazing the trail of childhood, igniting your parents’ trial by fire that lights their pathway through parenthood. You are, in many cultures, the primary inheritor, be it of title or reputation or responsibility. You are the prototype, the guinea pig, the culture in a petri dish representing the object of examination in the motherhood experiment. You are the teacher of your parents, the one who has to hold their hands while they cross the street between being a person and being a person who is also a mother or a father. The mantle across your shoulders is a weighty one, and though you must be strong to support it, it also imbues you with strength of character. You are born into a leadership role, whether you like it or not, and the power of your influence is both a diamond diadem and crown of thorns. It’s a wand you carry and cross you bear.

I’m really not worried about Liam picking up a swearing habit, partly because he already has a cursing canon of his very own. He’s on the record for exclaiming, “What in the name of Thor!” while shaking his fist on several occasions. He’s uttered “Ka-SHINGA!” and “Moo-SAka!” (homophone of “moussaka” but with emphasis on the second syllable, unlike the Greek pronunciation), which are original coinages, more than a few times. And frequently, as an expression of frustration, he drops the hot phrase “chicken nuggets” despite repeated requests that this annoying epithet be excised from his lexicon aside from when he’s discussing actual pieces of breaded poultry. This is a child who actively resists negative influences, who travels the straight and narrow by choice because it makes him feel safe. Whether this is due to birth order or personality, or both, I don’t know, but I’m glad that he’s the one who came first. If his younger brother had been the older brother, who knows what things would be like over here. This is why, when “chicken nuggets” is interjected into my airspace roughly once every waking hour of my life when Liam is home, I don’t even give a damn.


For years I’ve been collecting photos of nature being brave, which I keep as a source of inspiration. It’s that “grass in a crack of the sidewalk” conundrum, a reminder that growth often happens in unlikely places despite unfavorable circumstances. These are my botanical role models: the volunteer tomato, grown from last year’s seed after a burst fruit dropped in a transplant pot, sprouting in a spot so shady it grows at a forty-five degree angle to access the sun; a tongue of catmint, its origins unknown, licking up from the untold depths of a toad hole; a daffodil that grew underneath a coconut shell in our fairy garden and proved most resourceful in finding its way to the light; this very special daisy sprung from an overblown parent plant I’d grown in a porch pot the summer before, its face somehow impossibly pink in spite of the white-as-milk blooms its ancestry wore.

Here are their headshots in the playbill for “You Can Do It Too: A Garden Production of Fortitude and Joie de Vivre as the Antidotes to Hardship and Inauspicious Beginnings”:

Limited resources can still yield sweet fruit.
Once again, light finds its way into dark spaces.
Growth potential knows no confinement.
So what if they were white! Be pink.

And a couple of closeups for clarity:

I named her Gloria Gaynor. No glass remains in that coconut ceiling.
If only I could get Darwin and Fibonacci in the same room to discuss this!

What’s in a name

When we were preparing for our oldest child to enter middle school, we had to choose which language he would take. The obvious choice in my opinion is Latin, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option, so it was either French or Spanish. I’ve held a suspicion for a while that Liam might have a future as a culinary school student (I also was certain that my daughter would be born a redhead (she’s blonde as a daisy) and my third child would be a girl (he is most definitely a boy from top to bottom), so it’s possible that I’m wrong about this, too). Harboring that speculation, however, did make the decision a bit more complex. I posited that French would be most helpful in pursuing a culinary education, but for working in an actual restaurant, at least in the US, Spanish is the obvious choice.

Assuming that I’m probably incorrect in thinking that he has a future in gastronomy, and because Spanish seems a practical language for young Americans to learn in general, that’s eventually what we chose, though I did feel wistful about the idea of Liam walking into his first day of an internship at Le Cordon Bleu with a brain full of fluent French. Not that he couldn’t learn it later on, of course, but there certainly is something romantic about a little boy speaking en français in a little boy voice. And though it’s quite possible that I’m just projecting about the idea of him as a future chef, the child sure does share my delight in Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook” collection from the eighties, and if I ever want someone to binge-watch every episode of “The Great British Baking Show” (again), he’d be my pick. He also has interesting sentiments about food, and his palate is remarkable.

For example, one morning he took his first bite of a bowl of cereal, and a look of disgust immediately colored his face as he declared that the milk had soured. I sipped my coffee, full of milk from that same half-gallon, and disagreed. His sister, who was also eating cereal, agreed with me; the milk was fine. Well, what do you know, but the next morning when I poured some in my coffee: curds. Damn, I thought, that boy was right (again). A few weeks later I used some cheese in his baked potato that was pushing its expiration date, but it tasted fine and was only beginning to smell a tad on the ripe side, but he pushed it away. “There’s something wrong with the cheese,” he diagnosed, having merely smelled the fork. Meanwhile, his siblings found no fault in the aging cheddar, but I started to think: this kid knows flavor. He frequently comments on aspects of balance and texture, and he’s always been especially sensitive to the temperature of food. He also likes to experiment with making combinations, like putting avocado on a hotdog or sautéed clover on pizza. This isn’t to say that he’s particularly adventuresome when it comes to eating; in fact, he’s pretty picky. But he often has interesting ideas for recipes, including adding bacon to a quesadilla or making what we call burgerritos.

He suggested that we make cheeseburgers and wrap them, with some guacamole, in flour tortillas, and I’m obviously a sucker for a portmanteau opportunity, so the “burgerrito” was born. I’d picked up some organic wagyu ground beef that was on sale and suggested that we mold the patties into an oblong shape with the cheese pocketed inside. That way, the baking time would be short because the layer of meat would be thin, and the cheese would melt at the end of the cooking process due to convection. Then we could wrap these in warmed tortillas and serve with guacamole for dipping (or ketchup as an alternative). It was a great success, and everyone raved about the beef. I said, “It’s wagyu, so it’s really rich. I’ll have to see if it’s still on sale.” Liam reacted to this with a fit of giggles, and we all looked at him quizzically. “Wagyu!” he said. “So it’s tail meat?! You know, ‘wag you’??” and commenced his hilarity.

Maybe I should have him take Japanese instead.

It’s a long story: Part II

I’d had a mouse nest in the car before, and the chewed up paper towels were a dead giveaway. Because the scraps were emerging from the vents on the dashboard, primarily, I guessed that it was probably located somewhere in the area of the engine, a perfect place for cold little creatures to build a cozy home with easy access to all of the circuitry and cabling vital to the car’s mechanical functioning systems. It was only a matter of time before they’d sink their incisors into all of the most critical electrical wires, which would likely cause a vehicular breakdown at what was almost definitely the most inconvenient moment ever (as if there’s ever a convenient time for a car to become inoperative). This gnawing knowledge led us to raising the hood for an inspection, but there was no sign of rodents to be found. My next guess was that they were housed somewhere in the dashboard, tiny talons of teeth poised to bite through the radio wires, or perhaps the climate control. I thought of my beloved heat feature for the driver’s seat and feared the worst.

“Where is it, though?” the kids asked again and again, and I told them I really didn’t know but had looked everywhere I could think to look. Liam suggested I check in the glove compartment, but I shot down the idea immediately, claiming that there was no way they could have gotten in there. However, in classic fashion, he clung resolutely to this line of questioning, doing a deep dive into all of the ways they could possibly have found their way into the glove box. I repeatedly told him that was preposterous, but the kid kept harping on the idea until, thoroughly exasperated, I said, “Fine! I’ll prove to you it isn’t in there!” and flung open the compartment, and there, all snug and homey, was a mouse nest the size of a magnolia flower right there on top of my registration and proof of insurance card. It was made of tissue and paper towel scraps and bits of the car carpet upholstering the floor, and thankfully it contained zero actual mice. You can imagine how I ate crow, admitting to a positively triumphant Liam that he’d been right after all.

Speaking of crow, remember how this story began? Well, after I removed the mouse nest, I called my friend Jermaine, who owns a vehicle-detailing business so clutch that cars look (I swear) practically better than new when he’s finished with them. To prepare for him to come work his magic, I took everything out of the car and, in the process, found, hidden in the chamber in the trunk where the tire jack and jumper cables lived, a cache of dried cow corn, no doubt scrounged from the litter left from the crows’ front porch feast.

No, this isn’t the end of the story yet, because even though Jermaine is part stud and part sorcerer, removing the dashboard and cleaning behind it isn’t part of the service he provides. So even though all traces of the mice and the their nest had been ousted from the body of the car, remnants of their nest (quite a lot of them, I might add) were still inside the duct system in the front of the car, so for months little bits of fluff would come hurtling out at me when I turned on the defrost. And the kids continued to find great amusement at this, which turned to unabashedly wicked glee when different bits of stuff came flying out and fluttering around which we identified as paper, but not just any paper: these were pieces of a personal check, ripped to shreds and literally thrown in my face.

That’s right: the check my neighbor had written so many weeks ago had become a most expensive lining for a right penthouse of a mouse nest. There are many interpretive takeaways from this story, including the knowledge that leaving dried corncobs on the front porch is not advisable, and the longer you delay in cashing a check the more likely it is to turn into rodent bedding. It also bears mention that sometimes a kid’s idea that seems harebrained in the moment is actually right on, so as a parent sometimes we unwittingly play the fool. But if this experience can serve as a benchmark reminder with a thirty-dollar price tag of why it’s important not to drop food on the floor of the car, I’ll take it. Because, after all, we KNOW what can happen then.

It’s a long story: Part I

It’s really hard to have a “no food in the car” rule when you have kids, and I’ve never even tried to implement one. However, when I got my minivan last winter, I asked them to please be more mindful when they’re enjoying snacks to minimize, if not eliminate, pieces of those snacks ending up on the floor and on their booster seats and on their lap. For a while I went with “no chips or popcorn or other foods that are prone to shedding copious crumbs” policy, but eventually I threw the list of verboten edibles out the window because it turned out that no matter what the kids eat in the car, they find a way to make it messy. Still, every once in a while I offer up the, “Please don’t forget to do your best to avoid letting crumbs fall where we don’t want them,” reminder, to which one of the kids always adds as a follow-up, “Yeah, because we KNOW what can happen then!” while the others nod along solemnly in agreement, silently vowing to be careful with their bag of chips for at least the first three bites.

A few years ago we went to a corn maze at a pumpkin patch, and there were some ears of feed corn, kernels dried on the cobs, lying on the ground here and there. I thought, oh, what a great sensory activity it is for kids to remove the dried kernels from the cobs! How satisfying a project that is, and what a nice boost it’ll give those fine-motor skills! So I slipped three of them into my bag to bring home. I then made the mistake of leaving them on the front porch for a week, during which time a murder of errant crows made the discovery and ravaged the cobs, scattering kernels all over the front porch and making a totally terrific mess (birds are even less mannerly in their eating habits than children are!). I threw the remaining kernels in the grass and called it a win for our feathered friends.

Around this time I visited a semiannual children’s consignment sale and was waiting in line when I spotted a neighbor. I waved to her and she came over to say hello, mentioning that she had to go pick up a child and couldn’t wait in the checkout line, so she had to replace her finds and make a quick exit. I offered to buy the armful of items she was toting and bring them over to her that afternoon, and she agreed, thanking me and promising reimbursement. When I stopped by later on, she collected the goods and gave me a check for $30 to cover the expense. I put the check in my car, right there in a safe spot in the console, and planned to cash it next time I passed the bank.

A couple of weeks passed, and I finally thought to stop by the bank, but the check was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t where I was (almost) sure I’d put it, so I searched the entire front seat area, to no avail. I did another search a few days later but still turned up nothing. I didn’t know this neighbor very well and felt awkward about asking her to rewrite the check, so I just did nothing, thinking it wasn’t enough money to get worked up about and if her ledger showed a discrepancy, perhaps she’d ask me and I could explain my state of disorganization. Alternatively, maybe it would turn up on its own the way things have a tendency to do when you actively refrain from looking for them.

Another couple of weeks passed. It was winter now. One icy morning I cranked the defroster in the car to try to clear the windshield and was surprised when little bits of fluff began flying out of the vents along with the air like a little snowstorm inside my Suburban. A few pieces actually hit me in the face, and upon inspection it appeared to be little bits of tissue and fuzzy fibers of something synthetic. I knew this was weird, but that car was full of strangely inexplicable mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, and I preferred to pretend that this was an isolated event that wouldn’t recur because I didn’t want to deal with yet another annoyance. Of course, the issue persisted, and the kids thought it was hilarious, cackling with delight at the bits of detritus flying at my head on several occasions while I tried to drive over the next few days. One afternoon I noticed that the roll of paper towels I kept in the trunk appeared to have been nibbled, and that’s when I knew I needed to do something about this.

To be continued…

Medicine man

Just like parenthood, marriage is so much harder than I ever imagined, and I know I’m not alone in this experience. It’s a challenge on so many levels, and in some ways it gets easier with time but in many ways it doesn’t. I believe in anagrams, and it feels appropriate that the word “marriage” can be anagrammed as both “area grim” and “rare magi”. However, on this day that marks thirteen years since our wedding, I want to publish two conversations which exemplify my husband’s generosity of spirit.

Conversation one:

One of the kids: “What are we having for dinner?”
Alison: “Well, sort of tacos. But I took the breading off the leftover fried chicken and mixed it with the rest of the rotisserie chicken, and it looked like a pound so I added the whole packet of seasoning, but I’m not sure how it’ll turn out.”
Brian: “If it’s terrible, I’ll eat it.”


Conversation two:

Context: I’d somehow tweaked a muscle in my back and had been aching all day. After the kids were in bed, he saw me trying to turn my head and rotate my shoulder in an attempt to work the muscle group and release some of the tension. He brought me some Advil and said he thought I should take it. About ten minutes later…

Brian: “Did you take the Advil?”
Alison: “Yes.”
Brian: “Good. I will bring you wine and seltzer next.”
Alison: “Wow! You’re like a doctor!”
Brian: “Then I’m going to make you popcorn. And after that, I’m going to leave you alone!”
Alison: “Oh my god! You’re actually a love doctor!”
Brian: “Yup.”

Here’s to all the spouses out there who offer to eat failure food and know when to leave their wives alone. I toast you with wine in one hand, seltzer in the other, and ibuprofen in the bloodstream.

P.S. “Thirteen years” can be anagrammed as “heart serenity”, “share eternity”, “nitrate heresy”, “hysteria enter”, and “shanty retiree”. Naturally.