Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seriously? Again?? I have to singlehandedly right the wrongs of the world AGAIN???

I watched her on Day One, pulling up to the curb where signs clearly communicated that it was a loading and unloading zone for BUSES ONLY - no parking. Five minutes past the second bell. She's still learning, I told myself.

I watched her on Day Two, pulling up to the curb where signs clearly communicated that it was a loading and unloading zone for BUSES ONLY - no parking. Five minutes past the second bell. I should really tell her, I told myself.

On Day Three, as she pulled up to the very same curb, with the very same signs clearly communicating that it was a loading and unloading zone for BUSES ONLY, again five minutes late, I approached her window.

With doe-eyed wonder, she seemed genuinely surprised when I told her that the safest drop-off area was in the supervised circle to the south of the main entrance on the other side of the building.

"But they're only in first grade!" she protested, the expectant faces of her twin boys looking up at me.

I had watched dozens of very capable first graders step off the buses, head for the stairwell to the line-up area, with no parental guidance or protest evident.

I took both boys by the hand and walked them up the steps to the front door, pointed them down the hall, and watched as they very capably walked toward their respective classrooms.

Heading back out to my post at the curb, I heard her ask another parent volunteer what time school actually started.

Because she didn't get the same packet every parent got...including the bright pink sheet that outlined the schedule for first bell, second bell, recess times, lunch times, afternoon bell and drop-off/pick-up policies?

I wondered if her other vehicle was a pearl white Escalade with shiny 24-inch custom wheels. But I couldn't see her rhinestone-encrusted Crackberry, so I just wasn't sure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pink Shirt Day

My eyes were tired...vision blurred...it was at least an hour before my normal wake-up time and I had a killer headache.

From somewhere in the scratchy depths of half-sleep, I remembered: it's Tuesday.

I dragged myself into the shower, really felt the warmth of the water and let it remind me to just enjoy that moment, then pulled my newest pink shirt from the closet. I've never really been a fan of pink.

The kids struggled with Day Two of our back-to-school routine. I needed full cooperation today so I could get over to take my place with the other parent volunteers at the elementary school, making sure the buses unloaded in a civilized manner and each kid used his or her walking feet. Running? Not allowed. My voice was hoarse after 15 short minutes.

My pink shirt blew in the morning breeze, reminding me.

Deadline, conflict, challenge, delay...the jarring cadence of dischord at work today kept me on edge. I sighed, growled, frowned, and threw up my arms in frustration.

And caught a glimpse of my pink shirt, reminding me.

Escaping my day at work, I arrived home to the cacophony of two kids each trying to share their Day Two tales with me before the other. I yanked my bag and purse out of the car, slamming the door...on the tail of my pink shirt, reminding me.

The laundry monster was clawing its way out of the overflowing baskets onto the floor, so I heaved a sigh and took my place at the bed to fold at least 7 recent loads that had gone largely ignored. I sorted little boy shorts into one pile, big boy underwear into another...Hannah Montana t-shirts into a pile, and camisole tanks into the other. Thinking I ought to get out of my work clothes, but not quite ready to take off my pink shirt because it reminds me.

One last load of laundry to the washing machine and I could relax...but within 10 minutes there was a small flood in the laundry room because of a ruptured water line on the washing machine. As I looked to the heavens, wanting to cuss a blue streak, I saw the water spots on my pink shirt, and it reminded me.

I wear pink on the Tuesdays that she's having chemo. To remind me...that I shouldn't sweat the small stuff.

Lessons learned.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

As trial marriages go, it wasn't a failure

My relationship with him was a great way to spend my 20s. But compared to where I am now, it was a life that was so. radically. different.

Married shortly after I turned 22, I gained a step-daughter who is 18 months younger than me. My new husband - her father - graduated from high school the year I was born.

A few months after I married him, she herself got engaged. Since her mom (a wonderful parent though just 16 years older than her) was geographically distant, she asked me to join her and help choose tuxedos.

We shared a giddy adventure that day.

The sales rep guessed we were sisters. We gave each other a knowing look, then laughed a bit too loudly, and he tried again. Roommates? Neighbors? Childhood friends?

She told him I was her stepmom. He chuckled, trying to get the joke, and then started shifting in his shoes when we didn't offer a punch line.

He somehow managed to complete all the paperwork while we delighted in his discomfort caused by our non-traditional relationship, and we went out for lunch afterward to celebrate and giggle some more.

It's been 23 years since she and I first sized each other up in the kitchen of her dad's house. Ours is a friendship born of circumstance and nurtured with love - one that survived my phone call 15 years ago, telling her that I had to leave the marriage.

It even survived my explanations, over a decade later and unknown to her until then, as to why I had to leave.

Although I should have been expecting the message she left for me a few days ago, it still caught me off-guard.

She's convinced that he's not going to live to see his 61st birthday in October.

It's bad. His demons may have finally won the war.

Truthfully, my heartstrings resonate with only an off-key chord of sympathy for him. My biggest concern is for her - for the happy and balanced life she's built for herself, for her two amazing children, and for the drama-free life she lives without his influence.

Still...I have albums of photos...nine years of both adventure as well as threads of everyday life. These are fibers woven into the fabric of my being...a fabric that reflects many lessons learned...like knowing what I wanted when I found it on a mountain bike trail 12 years ago.

Wishing him well...I guess. Whatever that means for him.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taste buds

The relationship had fallen into a flavorless menu of the weather, the kids, and the effects of the economy on our respective lives.

When we needed something spicier, we peppered our infrequent conversations with a little armchair wisdom based in the perceived maladies -- both physical and mental -- of our parents.

My eyes rolled by habit when I described her in casual conversation...oh, we're SO different.

I imagined she did much the same...Her? Well, we just don't have very much in common.

But really? We have each other.

When we each separately, as independent adults, got The Call from our folks letting us know they had filed for divorce after 28 years of marriage, we intimately conspired to meet just about halfway from ground zero to get our sibling ducks in a row before meeting with them.

She always made her disdain for him clear. I never gave her credit for her fierce loyalty to me.

Approaching 30 and on my own for the first time since age 19, she hosted me in her small-town resort community and then held my hair while I prayed to the porcelain god of relief as an unpracticed victim of The Power of Tequila.

When I was stuck in a dead-end casual relationship and needed her unabashed, high-energy social influence, she came out to visit me for a girls weekend of epic proportion.

Four months after she gave birth to her first child, I asked her to travel many miles with her husband and infant son to stand at my side -- for a second time -- as I vowed in sickness and in health to love and support the right man. And she did, no questions asked.

Then...the long, cold winter. The season of our discontent.

Almost 5 years between visits, a time when we called it good to trade gift cards at Christmas and lazily swirl our flavorless, decaf sibling coffee into a non-descript shade of mellow tan on a decidedly irregular basis.

We did reconnect here in Schaererville a few years ago...but we were still so different.

Her boys wanted to ride our redneck ATVs in the cul-de-sac. She screeched at them to slow down and GODDAMMIT WEAR THOSE HELMETS!

I wanted to hike. She made us wait an extra hour because she had to re-paint her toenails.

We threw burgers on the grill, wanting to relax on the deck and enjoy the sunset. She asked when we'd be heading downtown to the clubs.

So different, and the flavor hadn't changed a bit.

Until the message a few weeks ago...the one that said, "Hey, call me when you have a minute. I have some not so good news to share."

And with that, the recipe no longer mattered. We had each other. The journey ahead would depend on that.