Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Kindergarten, Car Line and Cameron...

The 2009 back-to-school season marks the exceedingly noteworthy occasion of our first son Jack heading off into the very big world of Kindergarten. I have many friends for whom this rite of passage has inspired a faucet of tears and considerable emotions run amuck — joy, sadness, anxiety — all scrambled up in the hard core realities of the sudden passage of time, the loss of their “babies” and everything else in between. I lovingly supported each and every one of them through it all, but expected to have a different reaction. Now here’s the part of the story where one might anticipate that I’m about to tell them how grossly I’d misjudged myself. Instead, let me just come clean and say that I’ve been doing the happy dance since August 3rd.

Several of my well-intentioned friends have been calling, e-mailing and texting me with words of encouragement and asking how long I sat in the car and cried after first drop-off. But when I express emotions to the contrary, I get the distinct impression that they’re just humoring me until the dam breaks. I admit, all the pre-emptive support gave me guilty pause for not finding myself caught in the grip of despair, but then I got right back on track when I reminded myself that I was never in the running for any “Mother of the Year” awards anyway, so I might as well stick to what I know. He’s ready, I’m ready, I love his new school, so what’s not to like?

For instance, I LOVE car line. In fact, since we’re talking Kindergarten, I’ll even put it into relative terms for you: I’m so in love with car line, I just might marry it. Car line for those of you who either haven’t reached the Kindergarten milestone or are of the age when car line didn’t actually exist, it’s the legal equivalent of slowing down to 10 mph and having your child tuck and roll to the curb. This means of course, that I get to stay dry and happily seated in the car while Cameron, my spirited two-year-old is securely trapped…oh, did I say trapped? I meant strapped in the backseat, and in less than twenty minutes Jack’s happily off to his class and we’re off to the races.

And that’s just morning car line. Afternoon car line is even better. Sure, I have to wait a little longer and I’m still working out the kinks, but this version of car line has additional perks. For instance, I don’t ever need to talk to anyone unless I feel so inclined. I just hold up my little sign so the volunteer with the microphone can bark out Jack’s name to a crowd of Elementary hopefuls, and he magically appears. I’ll go ahead and confess here that I’m so giddy about car line, Jack’s name sign has been laminated since his first day.

The school’s car line policy states that drivers are NOT to get out of their cars. Are they bucking for a proper proposal? They already had me at “hello.” Next thing they’re going to tell me is that we’ll be getting free chair massages for every ten minutes we wait. I admit, we’re still in the honeymoon phase, but every day “car line” seems to find new ways to woo me. Yesterday, I burned through most of Jack’s thank you notes from his August birthday party. The day before that, a particularly lively rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” had me seriously brushing up on my car dancing skills. My apologies to the drivers on either side of me by the way, (you know who you are), but after the beat took over I was an unwitting slave to the music and all humility just flew out the window. Literally. Next thing you know, I’ll be finding time to knit little socks for the Arkansas boy’s choir.

Unfortunately, car line doesn’t mean that I escape Cameron’s intermittent tantrums in the backseat despite the fact that I come armed with a boxful of toys and snacks to occupy his little mouth and hands, but it does mean that he’s not sprinting up and down school hallways and redecorating classrooms. And that I’m not attempting to have a chat with another Mom, but instead finding myself orbiting the same sentence fragment while keeping Cameron from deconstructing student art projects and propagating his special brand of graffiti on the walls. Even so, the kid’s got a gifted set of lungs and a flair for the dramatics I fear will someday be exercised seasonally as the type of avid football fan who feels compelled to paint his face and upper body, but for now, I’ve got a radio and volume control. Long live rock-and-roll…and car line too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Laundry...

To most, laundry is simply a mundane chore, a necessary evil — and for those of us with children a mind-boggling lesson in futility. But somewhere along the line I realized that my darks, lights, and delicates have also served as a metaphor for my life. And no matter what stage of my existence I happen to be, those inevitable piles of dirty laundry are lurking in the corner telling my story.

When I was young, laundry was like magic: you put the dirty clothes in and they came out clean, folded and ready for another day. When I got to high school, the family’s weekly laundry suddenly became one of my chores. My protests were quieted by the sneaky, yet persuasive explanation that I was in training for my soon-to-be college independence. As I was learning to sort the clothes according to color, water temperature and appropriate settings, I was also learning to sort through the trials and tribulations of puberty, my first heartbreak, and the social pitfalls of growing up. I was in laundry Boot Camp and my life was a veritable minefield.

In college and my early career, doing laundry was a tutorial on self-reliance and the sweet allure of harnessing the ability to control my own destiny. It was a symbol that I was responsible for every stain, every article of clothing I washed and every new item of clothing I had to buy to make-up for the pile I put off that week. And I loved every minute.

In my late twenties, I was rounding up my first year of marriage. What I I’d heard is that your still shiny husband and you will be eating the well-preserved top of your wedding cake, toasting with champagne, and relishing the thought of another year as “one. “ Well, after a year in the freezer, the cake top tastes a little like cold dirt and quite frankly we ended up celebrating the fact that we had actually survived 365 days under the same roof. As we co-mingled our laundry, we co-mingled our lives and both got exponentially more complicated. My laundry piles were bigger, the stains were tough and unfamiliar and marriage was one giant adjustment.

Flash forward to today, nearly thirteen years and two kids later. Our master bedroom has a lovely little sitting room that as we were considering the purchase, sent me into a dazzling reverie of long, luxurious hours whittled away reading my favorite books and meditating on life as I gazed at the passing seasons. RRRRrrrrrrrr. (Sound effect: Record being scratched to the end of the album). Reality check. I do spend hours there, it’s just sorting, folding and ironing the unrelenting piles of our family laundry. These days, my laundry is like a self-replenishing water bowl for the dog. And yes, in this scenario, I am the dog. I frantically spend my time attempting to get to the bottom of the bowl, but it always looks the same.

Like my laundry, my life has become about problem solving — particularly when it comes to deciphering what team of stain removers I’ll need for the Sydney Pollack masterpiece Cameron has reproduced for me that day – or how to remove the deep-set chocolate oil stain on one of Jack’s shorts when I’ve failed to do a thorough search of his pockets. And let’s not forget the cast-offs of my husband’s pick of the lunch menu. (Thank God for Zout!) In my dreams, my problem solving skills at this stage of my life would have gone to much better use managing my house staff at my equally impressive Italian villa. Instead, I spend my days figuring out what to do with the booger that Jack has just handed me on the way up to receive Communion. But what are ya going to do?

These days my laundry is exhausting, soul-sucking, messy, impossible to manage and a daily lesson in learning how to let go. My life is, well, all of the above, and yet somehow I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The lines of my life and laundry have blurred so much, in fact, that one needs only to see what my kids are wearing to determine how far my grasp has slipped down the pole of sanity. The more off track my life becomes, the less laundry that gets done and that’s when the special occasion outfits get dragged out of the closet. Incidentally, if you ever see us at Chick-fil-A and Jack’s wearing his ring bearer tux while Cameron “works” his most recent Easter outfit…someone please call my Mommy.