The Cold Hard Truth

Posted: March 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, California, City Livin', Earthquakes, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Miss Kate, Parenting, Scary Stuff | 3 Comments »

I’m doing my yippy-doodle dance. This is something everyone does, right? I mean, their own versions, of course.

The reason for my outpouring of glee? Well, yesterday my most-excellent frienda Brenda called to tell me there’s a chance—what seems to be a WICKED GOOD chance—that she’s moving to California. And that happens to be where I live. Hooray!

Now I know it’s a big state. It’s not like my homeland, Little Rhodey, where someone asks you if you know a guy from there and half the time it turns out that you do, and that you actually went to prom with him. But where Brenda would move is like—wait, let me check my phone—81.2 miles from here.

So, even though the gal is flush with offers from other places too, she started rambling on, saying if she took the one near us she’d be close enough to come hang out for the weekend. To be a regular at our bourbon-punch Christmas bash. Close enough TO COME TO THE GIRLS’ BIRTHDAY PARTIES.

Now, if she doesn’t move here, her having dangled that in front of me is nothing short of emotional abuse. I’m already far far down the path of picturing Auntie Brenda twisting balloons and doing face painting in our backyard, then staying late to read to the girls before she tucks ‘em into bed. I’m already misty-eyed over how she’ll make my stroller-addicted kids into fierce back-country hikers. I’m laying plans for watching her dog when she travels for work.

My sister- and brother-in-law move every few years, on accounta he’s in the Coast Guard. As the gal who wept when her mother sold her childhood home nearly two decades after having actually lived there—I find the concept of moving often scary. But ya do what you need to do. And my sister-in-law maintains that her best friends are scattered all over the country anyway. So where she lives makes little difference. It’s a varying degree of distance from someone whose area code she’s already used to dialing. If she’s lucky, she gets to stay in the same time zone as her besties.

And even though I always thought of this as her situation, the fact is, some of the people I’d populate on my desert island if I had only 10 others to take with me—some of my nearest and dearest chums in the whole wide universe I’ve come to accept I’ll never live next to. At least until the time comes when I’m ordered to collect them for our move to a desert island.

So anyway, suddenly the thought of frienda-Brenda closeness is at hand. And I really hope I don’t have to do the UN-yippy-doodle dance if she decides to take some other gig. Like, I hope the other far-away company doesn’t have a better 401K plan or something.

That would suck.

Speaking of sucking, the night before we flew to Rhode Island I was reading a bedtime story to Kate. A library book. And I know, I know. I was just talking to a teacher-friend, and I know I should be reading all these kids’ books myself first. But I hadn’t. And the plot took an unexpected twist and some robbers broke into a store.

And as it turned out, the robbers were stymied by the happy accident of a whistling tea kettle going off. That somehow had the burglars thinking a police siren was zooming their way. So they never got away with the goods.

But despite justice prevailing, I closed the book and turned to Kate who had her duvet pulled up to her chin and a terrified look on her face.

“Are there still robbers, Mom?” she asked with a squeak.

Me: “Still? Um, well, uh….

Kate: “Like do robbers just break into stores, or do they go into people’s houses too?”

Me: “Well, I mean generally there’s much more reason to go into a store, right? I mean, stores have cash registers, and robbers certainly do like cash…”

Kate: “But there aren’t robbers in Oakland are there?”

Me: “Here?! In OAKland?! [Fake laughter.] Oh, no, no, nooooo! No robbers here. No reason for you to worry, sweetie. You just get some sleep now because tomorrow we’re going on the airplane to see Grandpa!”

Of course, I have these conversations—I get trapped with some horrible truth I have to share—and it’s inevitably before bed. When I have one foot out the door into the freedom of a child-free evening. And I can just envision what the truth will bring. How I’ll be up all night counseling a sobbing, freaked-out child. The temptation to stop parenting—if only for the two hours before I konk out on the couch myself—is too great. And so I can’t help myself.

I lie!

Inevitably Mark is standing in the kitchen, washing dishes after dinner. And he’ll shake his head and just stare forward out the window into the dark night and mutter to himself, “Nope! No burglars in Oakland…”

Because Mark is a truth-talker. I mean, I know that’s a good thing. And I know what I’m doing isn’t necessarily the right approach. But sometimes I’m at a total loss for what either of us should do.

Like Friday night. We were at dinner at my sister’s in SF. We had two cars with us since Mark met us there after work. And as is often the case, Kate wanted to ride home with Mark, and my barnacle, Paigey, wanted to stay suctioned tightly onto me.

When we got home and tucked the kids in, Mark came into our room where I was changing into my most sexy and alluring flannel granny nightgown. (I am SO on-fire in that thing.)

And Mark says, as if he’s mentioning he had a ham sandwich for lunch, that he happened to tell Kate about 9/11 in the car ride home.

“You WHAT?!” I bellowed, yanking the ruffled yoke of flannel down over my head. “You just kind of casually happened to tell her about 9/11?!”

“Well, it’s not like I brought it up,” he said, all calm. “I mean, we were looking at the skyscrapers downtown, and then she asked me what the tallest building in New York was, and I said, ‘Well, it’s the Empire State building now.’”

NOW?” I shout-whispered, so as not to wake the children. “You said NOW?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, innocently stepping into his striped PJ bottoms. “I mean, I didn’t stress the word, but I said it. And she totally zoned in on it, and asked me what did I mean by ‘now.’ And then I told her about 9/11.”

And oddly, just minutes after that conversation—which Mark claimed wasn’t rife with gory details—Kate was already drifting off to sleep peacefully in her room. We weren’t dialing some 1-800-SCARED-KID hot line. The terrorists apparently weren’t going to win this one.

“Huh,” I said. “Well… do you want to watch Top Chef?”

I think it’s awesome and brave of Mark to talk to Kate about things like this. I need to test the waters more here and butch up to the fact that she can handle it. I need to exhibit more risk-taking behavior when, at the end of a long day of parenting, there might be something that might trigger me to have to spend more time Mamaing. Like, maybe Kate would’ve just said “oh” if I told her sometimes robbers do break into houses, and sometimes it even happens in our happy little hamlet, Oakland.

Last year, when Kate was a wee preschooler (not the sophisticated, worldly kindergartener she is today), I told her about what happened in Haiti. Which led to her asking the inevitable, “Are there ever earthquakes here, Mama?”

And of course, I said, “Here?! Earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area?! Why… noooooo!”

I mean, even I felt bad about that doozey of a lie. But really, what was I going to say? “Yes! Why, we’re just a mile or so from a fault line! In fact, we have an earthquake kit packed in our garage with a crowbar and food, and water, and diapers and lots of one-dollar bills so we’re ready for what people refer to as The Big One—a quake of devastating proportions that could level our house, incite looting and rioting, and have public utilities down for days! We also have meeting places established in San Francisco and Oakland in case Daddy’s on the other side of the bridge at work and, well, in case the whole bridge breaks and falls into the water! (All the cell phone lines will probably be tied up.) In fact, most of the people who we meet when we’re away from home think we’re stark-raving mad for living here and ask us, ‘Aren’t you afraid of earthquakes?’ ”

Why yes, honey. We may have great sourdough bread and those big purdy Redwood trees, but the reality is, we live in a primo spot for earthquakes. Heck, and for robbers too!

But do me a favor and don’t let your Auntie Brenda know.  Let’s just let this be our little secret.


3 Comments on “The Cold Hard Truth”

  1. 1 Jeff said at 2:23 pm on March 8th, 2011:

    I feel ya on the one foot out the door biz. I do prefer to tell it like it is in general, but sometimes the pull to gain your freedom is much too strong for silly things such as the truth.

  2. 2 Mary said at 5:53 pm on March 8th, 2011:

    I had the same talk with Sky -”but there are no bad guys in Oakland, right Mama?”


    Great piece.

  3. 3 Margot said at 10:27 pm on March 11th, 2011:

    In contrast, and not that I’m proud of it, our boy seems to be exposed to everything. We hunted and fought “bad guys” on a long walk today, and had an earthquake drill tonight. He knew to go hide under a decently strong table, which was cool. Kinda.

    The only thing I can hope for is that he’ll survive, and protect me, in the case of an apocalypse.

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