I haven't been sick in a goodly time and so - I suppose - it's my turn. This is a mystery illness, this one. I've got no other symptom other than fatigue and that I've lived the past day and entire two nights feeling in waves as though I'm going to throw up at any moment. I take the kids to their swim lessons while I sit in the chlorine-infused air of our local swimming pool for an hour and a half and I sit with my head between my knees at inelegant intervals. I take them to their annual eye doctor's appointment and practise swallowing in quick, tiny succession so as to keep the nausea at a momentary bay. I then sit out in public parking lots with my car door open and stare at the dirty pavement as I face it down, willing myself to be ready to drive as the kids anxiously shush one another in the backseat. It's one of those.
Lucy asked me today if I thought I might die. Though I'd been half wondering the same thing myself, I hurriedly assured her that I was just fine and that everybody gets sick sometimes. I wake up all too often from a nauseated tum and a sharp, localized pain under my sternum.
At first I thought it must be food poisoning. Now, umteen Google searches later, I'm wondering if it might not be a hiatal hernia combined with GERD. I don't know if these things have much to do with heredity, but when Oliver was a newborn, he was diagnosed with the very ominous "failure to thrive," which was thankfully quite quickly modified to be called the much more reasonable sounding GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease, for those of you not in the know). He cried and cried and then he cried some more. It broke my nursing-mother's-hormone-saturated heart. The only thing that comforted him (other than the hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of medicine he was eventually to consume) was to be strapped to my chest in his Snuggly. As I sit here at 4:30 in the morning, wracked with pain so substantial that it wakes me up every hour or so with its sweat inducing waves, it breaks my heart to think that my poor newborn had this to contend with until he turned four, which is when he was finally able to go off all related medication. And to add insult to injury, I think of the times where I felt flashes of irritation with him, wondering why he was so ill-natured at times. Not my finest hour.
In the meantime, for those of you who do, please pray for me. I'll be just fine, but this hasn't been a happy ride.
As a young teen, I used to babysit for two cousins. While I don't remember much about our time together (other than the fact that I lorded my authority over their bewildered selves with much aplomb and very little humility), I do remember that my Aunt had the most spectacularly outfitted pantry I'd ever before laid eyes upon.
I lusted after that pantry. I admired the rows of capers and anchovies. She had multiples of items I'd never even heard of. She seemed, as I gazed at the riches displayed on those basement, plywood shelves, to be the most cosmopolitan person I'd ever known. There were three dijon mustards, waiting expectantly to grace my Aunt's elegant table. Two jars of pickled artichokes lurked, but lurked neatly as they awaited their turn to be promoted to the status of kitchen artichokes. I'll never forget those perfectly arranged shelves and the bounty - the mysterious, abundant bounty! - they held in that secret basement pantry under the stairs. The very idea of being so erudite so as to have items such as these was only outdone in my adolescent mind by the fact that there were multiple versions of the same thing, lying in wait to satisfy and grandly fulfill that inevitable moment of o, I'm in the middle of this recipe and I hadn't realized that I'd run out of jarred, roasted red peppers and were it not for my organized foresight and the fact that I have three more jars of said product just waiting for me and moments like these, I'd be in a real pickle right now. O I admired that sophisticated woman and her myriad jars. Her pantry came, in later years, to represent wealth, abundance and general well-being in my mind. You see, I'm a collector.
I collect antique silverware. China tea cups. Books of all kinds, though my most recent challenge is to build a hard-back Agatha collection. I collect birds. And mis-matched china of all kinds. O and old linen table napkins.
When I add to one of my collections, I feel a stab of satisfaction. I feel well-provided for. And funnily enough, for fortunately I and my fellow Earth dwellers (for the most part, anyway) have evolved well beyond this hunter/gatherer mindset, I feel a primal surge of all is well and I'm safe. The sabre-tooth is currently elsewhere.
We have these neighbors. They're... interesting. Sometimes they do things that can't even really be accurately described as interesting anymore. Sometimes they push past that adjective and move beyond. Last night they did just that once again. I comfort myself with the fact that they - singlehandedly - provide us with enough storytelling fodder to last for years, perhaps decades. And so I embark on the telling of the Wheelbarrow Episode...
The Father of the family doesn't do work. He just doesn't. But he does enjoy watching work being done on his property and likes, in fact, to get out a lawn chair to that end. I'm hoping against hope that he didn't become a foster parent in order to get built-in 'help,' but sadly I suspect this may be the case. He loves to shout out orders speckled liberally with swears of all sorts. My children have learned many a new word from this man. He has one biological son who has very exactly followed in his father's footsteps and refrains from all work that I can see. Now, to be fair, my vantage point doesn't capture everything, so these two men may well be working like bees inside the home. Maybe. Now, there are three foster sons who are 20-ish. Two of them have moved out and I suspect I know why. But the third remains at home and has clearly been assigned the role of family Worker. When he's home from what I can only assume is his paid work, he's busy at a multitude of tasks. He welds things. He's busy with all manner of mysterious looking wiring-type activities. I know all this because he's built a work center of sorts under the family deck. In amidst the myriad rabbits in cages under there, there are huge barrels filled with - again - mysterious things. It's a lovely sight to behold. I'm only sad that they've removed the prominent "bitch parking only - all others will be slapped" sign from their garage door at the sight of my daughter taking a photograph of it to show her soon-to-be-shocked friends. So sad my tears are non-existent. That sort of sadness. But I digress.
Our house backs on to a greenbelt of lush, wild mountainous forest. Many of us moved here so that we could wake up to that forest every morning, coffee in hand. Our neighbors decided that that forest was excessive. They've taken it upon themselves to cut down some trees. It also looks as though they've used some sort of toxic kill-all in the immediate area behind their house, begging the question why? The Worker has recently been doing some pretty strenuous looking digging in his family's back yard. As I went out to our deck the other evening to survey the ever-changing land, I was dumbfounded to note that there, sitting brazenly in the middle of his abandoned work site, was our distinctively bright yellow wheelbarrow, characteristic rust patterns clearly visible. What does one do with that? We have to continue to live side by side and so an all out war I'd rather avoid. In many ways I feel badly for this family, living with their seven feral cats and their two enormous indoor dogs. I see that they rarely leave the house and that their television is perpetually on. I hear the caustic smoker's hacking from their deck and I see the abandonned flats of Coke piling up in disarray. I think that it can't be fun to live that way, and yet I lament the fact that these are my next door neighbors. I hate that they don't mow their lawn until it's astonishingly unkempt and that even then, they feel the need to use a lawn tractor on their city lot. What would you do? I want to treat them as I would like to be treated, but I've never taken someone's wheelbarrow without asking so this is new territory for me. What do you think?
Mowing Done in Stages - LawnTractor Style!
I was wandering up and down the bulletin-boarded hallway of my children's elementary school yesterday, waiting for the bell to ring. In full, oblivious Mommy mode, I craned my neck to find my children's artwork in amidst the masses of little kid artwork, for without question, they are the most beautiful of all. Actually, I'm positive that my children's artwork indicates some level of genius at the very least. So. Gag on that for a moment. While I was feasting my eyes and ruminating on JoyKid genius, some man whom I do not know in any capacity whatsoever approaches to ask me if I've started running twice a day now (I'm not.). He expounds to say that while he knew that I was a runner, he's noticed lately that it's been twice a day. AAAACK! Can anyone say, call the police immediately?! To say that I felt disconcerted is putting things mildly. I proceeded to pepper my subsequent conversation liberally with my husband this and my husband that and tried to keep it brief. What a freekazoid.
The View From My Front Door
I live in Pleasantville. I really do. Of course it's not formally called that, but it is most affectionately nicknamed that by many of its' inhabitants. We're technically part of a city, though to find us, you have to make your way up a forest-lined road, snaking its way up a mountain. We have it all here, the flora and the fauna and the quick proximity to all the amenities the city itself has to offer. We are just far enough outside of the city proper to ensure that the riff-raff find it a bit of an inconvenience to bother with us (not so far, mind you, that a couple of said riff-raff didn't find the time and the energy to steal two of our four children's bikes Halloween night).
We stay-at-home moms (and there really are a great number of us, living here in Pleasantville) walk our uniformed children to school in the mornings en masse. If you weren't expecting it, you might do a double take at the sight of us all. For just a second, you'd wonder if somehow you haven't made your way back to 1940. It felt mildly disconcerting at first, from the perspective of an inner city dweller cum 1940's-Housewife, but now I only rejoice in the retro-ness of it all. My kids are so safe here. Oodles of other children swarm the cul-de-sacs and the meandering streets with their poetic names after school. The doorbell rings constantly. We're right back to sharing our flour and eggs and sometimes even our canned refried beans around here. There's always someone you trust to turn to in times of need. Something in all of this slightly cheesy togetherness touches me deep inside my jaded soul. In the middle of the chaos that the city so often embodies, you can get yourself a can of free, spontaneous refried beans and a homey chat elaborating upon how good it is that the street sweeper has done such a nice job. And you know, he really has.