Sunday, August 17, 2008

Morning moon

The full moon,
sunrise tinted,
rare pearl
not white,
two oaks.

Last night,
it caught my breath;
now, I stop,
the dog reaches
the leash end
turns to ask

Saturday, August 16, 2008

When good parents give bad haircuts

When I was in 8th grade, my mother gave me the worst haircut of my life. She had always cut my hair, and I never remember that it was a bad haircut, ever, until then. I had longer hair off and on, alternating with a bob in my elementary years, then a “pixie” starting in sixth grade. I should say that my mom still cuts her own hair, and usually did in those years too, so it wasn’t like there was a double standard. It was low-maintenance all around.

In retrospect, her life wasn’t that great when she gave me The Haircut. Her second marriage was breaking up and it was ugly. I’m sure she was scared, having moved her kids from Michigan to Ohio, and with a new baby, brand new. She just didn’t stop cutting. Then, getting one side short, she had to get the other side shorter. And again, to even up the other side. In the end, it was awful. I remember wanting to die in my sleep so that I didn’t have to go to school the next day.

The cruel boy who usually made my life hell anyway started laughing as soon as I got off the bus. It is god’s pure mercy I don’t remember his name, and can barely see his face, but I can still hear him clearly. “Look, it’s a BOY,” he sneered, his toadies laughing with him like he was funny as Bill Cosby. Tears burned in my eyes as I slinked in to find my locker.

Homeroom was more of the same. Even my best friend, Carol Mohr, made a joke. But the worst was 4th period, Algebra, Miss Sokolick. As the class filtered in and took our seats, she looked over at me and snickered. “Well, Butch, good to see you!” I didn’t know what “Butch” meant to the kids who roared, until Carol explained it. She leaned over and said, “She’s calling you a lesbo!”

Nothing could have been more humiliating. I think as a direct result of The Haircut, I nearly flunked algebra. I just couldn’t get past having been called “Butch” by the teacher, an ugly, bitter, red-head spinster in every pejorative sense of the word. My mother called her on the carpet and complained, and she apologized, which only made things worse. I hate that woman to this day, and hope her life ended lonely, in a sub-standard nursing home that reeked of old urine and death. I hope some maladjusted butch nurse made her life hell, frankly.

That history is why I am so mortified that I gave Benjamin the worst haircut of his life today. Because of his sensory overload issues, even Mr. Rush can be a traumatic experience. He seems to take it better when I clip his hair. I have a good quality electric clippers, and the weather is so nice we’ve been able to sit outside. We can take breaks, drink juice and play in between clips. His hair was way too long so I decided it couldn’t wait today.

So I did it first with the 3/8 inch comb on, and there were tears. I switched to the ¼ and things were much better. I just couldn’t get it even, and that’s when I made my fatal mistake. I took the plastic comb off, and took a swatch out of the front. Then I had to even it up, just like my mom had had to 40 years ago. He looks bald, sort of. Except where he isn’t, because I can’t get the cowlick spots to be as short as the rest. It looks awful.

When he looked in the mirror, he said, “I’m not Benjamin anymore, my hair is gone.” He was smiling when he said it, but all of a sudden I was that too tall, too smart, big toothed, butchy eighth grader. I wanted to cry.

So my improvement on the last generation’s parenting? At least he’s not in 8th grade and he’ll forget about this, if he even knows it’s awful. On the other hand, my life is great and I don’t have an excuse, just that I was over-confident.

Anyway I look at it, it is still a bad haircut, the worst. It may even be worse than my pixie.

Luckily, there’s no Miss Sokolick in his life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

beginning thoughts on a much larger topic

We want our families to be perfect. They’re not. The hell of it is we can’t choose the families we come from, we can only choose to turn away from them or embrace them.

The fact of being human is we are human. We say things which are stupid and thoughtless. We hold our families to standards we don’t ourselves measure up to. And sometimes, even our best just isn’t enough. For some, there are such gaping holes there is never enough.

At 51, my life is full just trying to parent well, work and create my life each day. I am done living that life to please anyone else except Benjamin and me. Of course I also have to continue to please an employer, but I love my work and am lucky enough to have pleasing the employer be a subset of pleasing myself.

Today, as a part of my new job, I presided over the finalization of three adoptions. The family that really got to me was a couple who four kids. This adoption today added the youngest brother and oldest sister to their existing two, making it a quartet of kids.

I couldn’t help but hope that it’s more hopeful for families that actually do choose each other. No doubt Benjamin, and each of those four chosen kids from today's docket, will have complaints about how they were parented. The trick is to learn something in each generation, hoping to improve the outcome for the next.

There are no guarantees, only promises to listen and keep trying, and always, no matter what, love.

And that is enough.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Belated Drummond notes

Last weekend I decided to make a trip to Drummond. My neighbors, Benjamin and Tania, the post-doc mathematics students, decided to come too. We rented a car big enough to hold all of us and the two dogs, and left late Friday afternoon.

It was a fabulous trip. I needed to shed a nasty week and they love the outdoors. My Benjamin adores their two year old, Tasha, and she idolizes him. The dogs--well--Lily hates all other dogs, but her bark is far worse than her bite and she eventually made peace with Pola--sort of a Soviet bloc cold war benign neglect sort of peace. Pola is a feisty Sheltie who wouldn't be pushed around, even though Lily kept trying.

Saturday, Tania, who is Polish, made pieczonki: layering bacon, onions, carrots, cabbage, polish sausage, beets and potatoes in a big stew pot and setting it right in the white coals for an hour or so. It's a traditional Polish camping dish, and she regaled us with tales of huge iron pots of the stuff made for outdoor family gatherings.

Although Tania was the official camp photographer, we documented her culinary arts. Here she is placing the pot on the fire, while Tasha uses up the batteries in the flashlight. The stars are so bright there, we don't need no stinking flashlights, anyway!

After it cooked, Tania stirred it up and it all turned a wonderful rose from the beets. I never tasted anything so wonderful. Tasha and Benjamin loved the one trip to town for ice cream--Superman of course, the colors of which I assure you pass unchanged through the four year old's complete digestive tract.

Lily is not dead, just dog tired after swimming behind the kayack around the point to the beach. She hasn't been this clean in months! Actually, we all slept like this up there, with wonderful fresh air, loon calls, and clear water. .It can be dicey travelling with someone else but our friendship was solidified in this trip. I am so glad they will be here at least another two years. From pieczonki to these pictures, Ben, Tania and Tasha made our quick trip north pure magic.

Thanks, we needed that!