Stayin’ Alive

Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Travel | 6 Comments »

I’m dripping with get-rich-quick schemes. Not that I’ve ever set any in motion. I just keep them mentally tucked away. They’re like alternate 401K policies. You know, something I can tap into if the financial going ever gets rough.

One of my first entrepreneurial ideas was the seemingly brilliant gym-laundromat combo. I hatched this concept back in the days of laundry-facility-free post-collegiate living.

I could imagine no better double-dose of self satisfaction than doing laundry while working out. Dump your clothes into washing machines and do a half-hour of cardio. Flip it to the dryers, then lift some weights. Towel off, maybe even shower (if you’re lucky enough to live near one of the deluxe full-service locations), then fold your laundry and go.

After such a highly-functioning hour, one could easily spend the remainder of the day watching a People’s Court marathon and eating Pringles, guilt-free.

Yes, that was how my mind used to work.

But these days, with two wee ones, I can see myself spending a day parked in front of the TV as easily as I can imagine my two- and four-year-old cooking me dinner from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Besides, life with a washer/dryer on-site has become a given, not a fantasy. Alas, my gym-laundromat idea has lost a bit of steam.

My next dazzling idea—one that’s sure to delight backyard barbequers the world over—is much more aligned with my current Mama-mode lifestyle. The idea is—drum roll please—the Hot Dog Patty™. Yes, the it’s-so-brilliant-why-didn’t-YOU-think-of-it hamburger-shaped hot dog. It alleviates the pesky grocery-store hassle of having to estimate how many hamburger and hot dog rolls to buy.

Now I admit, the Hot Dog Patty has a few aesthetic hurdles to overcome before it starts flying off grocery store shelves. But I’m confident that with the right team behind me we can iron out those kinks, and before long be rolling in round hot dogs and riches.

Oh I’ve had other ideas. Outposts where singles can rent puppies to more easily pick up people in parks. Career counseling for mothers going back to work after baby-tending breaks. An online store selling black-out room-darkening curtains in cute patterns for baby rooms.

For a short while I was hopped up on making a compilation CD entitled High School Funeral Songs of the 80s. Now, I realize this is much more of a niche item, but I’ve spoken to a few people (who, granted, were inebriated at the time) and they seemed really keen on the idea. In no way do I want to disrespect anyone who’s had the misfortune of attending such a sad event, but hearing those standards like The Rose and Wind Beneath My Wings again can’t help but bring you back to another time and place.

And I can’t be the only self-absorbed socially-obsessed teen who fantasized about my own fabulous, flower-festooned funeral. I mean, I’m not proud to admit it, but I daydreamed about the over-crowded church. The sobbing preppie popular boys, bereft that I was gone when they’d never asked me out (or ever even really noticed me). I’m certain other people imagined their popularity soaring like a Bee Gees song on the pop charts once they were suddenly gone.  I mean, gone in some way that still allowed them to look fabulous in an open casket, feathered hair perfectly in place.

But once more, the passage of time, and a blessed mellowing of my dark tastes, changed all that too. Long before adulthood any off-color funeral fantasies I had petered out. And with the birth of my children, they were utterly and wholeheartedly extinguished. (Gone too, thank God, is my bad hair, which really never took well to feathering anyway.)

A few weeks ago, I tagged along with Mark on a blissfully child-free four-day work trip to New Yawk City. We ate indulgent, gout-inducing meals at erratic, family-unfriendly hours. We strolled down crowded streets holding hands, tried on overpriced shoes, and whenever the spirit struck us headed back to our hipster hotel to nap, smooch, or watch bad TV in bed. I carried a Big Girl purse, without a single diaper or Kleenex.  And one night we spent $70 on just three cocktails.

Ah, New York!

It was, as the French say, incroyable. Mark made me laugh until I cried. He dazzled me with his killer charm and dashing good looks–even busting out a swank pin-striped suit for one party. Throughout the trip he reminded me how damn lucky I was to have landed him. I mean, not by pointing it out to me or anything. Just by being him.

We even missed the girls at the same times, somehow synching up our indulgent carefree episodes and our sudden desperate needs to call home. It’s nice to know that when we’re not busy with all that kid-tendin’ Mark’s still my favorite playmate.

Another thing that kept coming up on the trip, for me at least, was the weird nagging sense of needing to, well, to stay alive. As much fun as I was having away from the kids, I kept remembering my parental responsibility to return home in one healthy and functional piece. To have fun, but to do it safely. Even though I wasn’t pushing a stroller, I still waited for the ‘walk’ signal to cross the street. Well, at least most of the time. At any rate, it turns out that being a mother has engendered in me the ultimate opposite experience of the teen-aged funeral fantasy.

Blessedly, our plane back to SF touched down uneventfully. We drove home without incident. And when we joyously burst into the house, we found Kate watching TV, oblivious to our arrival. Like some dog you leave at the kennel who has to punish you for your absence, she foiled the rapturous leaping-into-my-arms reunion scenario I’d played out in my mind. Instead we got, “This is a show about pets. Shhhh… I’m watching it.”

Paige was napping, so we got even less happy homecoming hoopla from her. Oh well.

A couple nights ago Mark strode from the kitchen to the living room saying, “I can’t believe I keep forgetting to tell you this!” He went on to describe a conversation he and Kate had the day before. Out of the blue she asked him what happens to children when their parents die. And Mark, dumbfounded, managed to muster the response, “They live with someone else who loves them very much, and they take care of them.” And he tacked on, “But you don’t have to worry about that. Mama and I are going to be around for a very long time.”

She asked this, Mark said, in a total matter-of-fact way—no tears or fretting. And she accepted his response similarly, with a satisfied nod and a look out the window.

I nearly vomited with sadness and love hearing this. It was all I could do to not bang open the door to her room, and throw myself on her sweet sleeping self, never to let go.

“My God,” I asked Mark dry-mouthed, “How the hell did you cope with that?!”

“We were driving across the Bay Bridge,” he said, “But I practically abandoned the steering wheel to crawl in the back seat to wrap myself around her.”

Word to that, man.

Dear Kate—and Paigey Woo, too—you girls are extra-specially lucky because you have a Mama and Dad who are working really hard at sticking around for a very long time for you. We have no intention of missing your hellish teen years, or Princeton graduations, or the time in your twenties when you move back home unemployed and start dating creepy older men who we disapprove of. In fact, when you guys are living with us then I thought maybe we could have a standing Tuesday night Scrabble-and-tomato-soup-and-grilled-cheese date. What do you think?

I want you both to know that I love you both like a total crazy lady. In a way you’ll only understand when (if) you have kids of your own. And with full awareness of how utterly cheesy it is, I will say here and now that you two girls are without a doubt the wind beneath my wings.


6 Comments on “Stayin’ Alive”

  1. 1 Mary said at 10:48 pm on December 7th, 2009:

    Ack!! So wonderful, so funny, so true.

  2. 2 becca said at 8:05 am on December 8th, 2009:

    Can you guys have a lay-over in Minnesota next time you take that little NYC trip? We would love to climb in your luggage. I’ll even buy you a round of $30/each cocktails!

  3. 3 Jeff said at 8:09 am on December 8th, 2009:

    Brilliant! So funny and touching at the same time, kinda like Wind Beneath My Wings.

  4. 4 Ariel Evnine said at 10:28 am on December 8th, 2009:

    First — and this one’s on the house — what if your laundry got cheaper depending on how much electricity you generate on the cycle or stair-master?

    Second, I only attended one early-life funeral (ever) in 1991. They played The Rose a hundred times. But I never realized it was part of something bigger…

  5. 5 Claudia Dow said at 8:51 pm on December 13th, 2009:

    Oh Kristin, you are so…brilliantly shine-able. I love your writing. I have the blessing of loving two adult daughters who are galaxies of wonder to me, and you will too, when your babies grow up and share with you what you have loved into them. Thank you for sharing your heart with me, and everyone else of course. But I love that I have a tangential connection with you, and I consider you a Daughter, in the cosmic sense of womanmagic. Love, Claudia

  6. 6 Fred said at 7:34 pm on December 16th, 2009:

    Claudia, I just read your comment on Kristen Bruno’s Staying Alive…you are very kind in your analysis of her writing style and her ability to honestly and warmly write about raising her two daughters in this day and age. Your opinions are very similar to mine on her blog, but being her father, I may be a bit partial. The feelings that she so interestingly discuss about her two daughters are feelings that I felt about her and her three sisters years ago when I wrestled with the many fears and problems of the day….Thanks for the kind words.

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