1987 - December 1988
"I'm beginning to understand what they mean when they say
them while they're little: it passes so quickly' ... "
December 26, 1987
the day after Christmas 1987.
Frozen sunlight streams
the windows of the apartment. Jamie and I are the only ones up so
-- Ray and Kyle are cuddled together in the small bedroom, Kacie is in
the crib in my room -- all of them still snoozing peacefully. I'm
sitting here on the loveseat with my first cup of coffee sitting beside
me; Jay is poking around in the immense pile of toys beneath the
Christmas tree, looking for pieces to her Barbie's Rockin' House Party.
("I've gotta find
the fruit and the bowl and the cups,"
I hear her murmuring to herself.) Any moment now the other kids will be
up: Kacie will hear "PeeWee's Playhouse" on the TV and will come
stumbling down the hallway, her hair a mess, a grumpy look on her face,
demanding to know whether Jamie has "had
upset if her sister gets breakfast before she does.) And then
Kyle will burst into the room, wet diaper squishing between his legs,
and will come to me with his arms outstretched saying "MA-MA." And then
the noise will begin, and the fuss, and the work, and the whole crazy
business of mothering ...
apartment is in total
disarray - every room, every drawer, every closet - and I plan to spend
this entire weekend putting things to rights, sorting through all the
junk, finding homes for all the new Christmas stuff. It will be a busy
weekend. Perhaps not as busy (nor as tense) as the past couple of days
have been. There won't be any long trips in the car, thank goodness.
But it'll be busy in a comfortable, low-key way.
for right now it's just me
and Jay. She got up before I did this morning: she slipped out of my
bed while I was still sleeping and came out to the living room to watch
TV. I was awakened by the sound of one of Kacie's new remote-control
cars (she got two of them for Christmas this year) being maneuvered
around the living room. So I got up. When Jay saw me, she smiled
happily and said she "was afraid she'd only dreamed her new bike!"
Ray's parents gave both of the girls a brand-new Huffy this year. The
bikes are "parked" right now in a corner of the living room; every
couple of minutes, Jamie abandons her Barbie furniture and goes over to
sit on hers. It's a 16", I think - white with purple tires, seat and
handlebars. Kacie's is smaller, with pink trim instead of purple, and
she has training wheels on the back of hers. Ray and I were originally
planning on buying bikes for the girls, but we had to give up the idea
because we couldn't afford it. So I have mixed emotions about these
bikes from the in-laws. On one hand, I'm pleased for the girls, and
grateful to Peg and Don Sr. for their generosity; on the
other hand, I feel bad that we
couldn't afford to do as much for our
own kids, and I guess I'm a little resentful. But the girls are happy,
and that's all that really matters to me. I'll keep my petty
resentments under wraps.
She was afraid she'd "only dreamed" the
just got up, and it was
exactly as I predicted: her hair is such a mess, it looks like she's
wearing a FRIGHT WIG. And she's got the world's grumpiest expression on
her face. This little daughter of mine is definitely not
a morning person ...
too soon to tell if I'm
going to suffer from my usual post-Christmas "blahs" this year.
Frankly, the only thing I'm feeling so far, on this day after
Christmas, is relief that it's over.
This has been a tough month. I've wanted so badly to relax and enjoy
the holidays, but my
constant worries about finances and gifts have made that impossible.
It's been a nightmare. There's also been the added strain of
babysitting three "extra" kids every day. There have been moments when
I've felt so inundated by KIDS and DIAPERS
that I thought I might simply explode. The combination of the two -
financial worries and extra kids - have been lethal. I feel old and
weary. Or at least I've felt that way for most of this month. (My
thirtieth birthday, on the 15th, wasn't much help either!) Maybe now
that Christmas is behind us, though, I can get things into perspective
and get on with the day-to-day stuff, without lugging this enormous
ball and chain of worry around ...
kids had a nice Christmas, I
think, in spite of a few minor "glitches." (Listening to Mommy
Daddy argue in the car on the way home from Great-Grandma's
... toys that
don't work properly ... too much excitement and too little
sleep, just to
name a few.) Ray and I gave each of the girls a fancy new Barbie and a
large Barbie "toy" to go with it - in Jamie's case, the aforementioned
"Rockin' House Party, and a remote-controlled Barbie "four-wheel cycle"
for Kacie. (I bought it for her, remembering how much she loved riding
on the "four-wheeler" when we went camping last summer.) We also got
them some "Santa" gifts: a pair of rollerskates, a battery-operated
and a Play-Doh set each. I bought both of them pretty much the same
things, in order to (hopefully) forestall any arguments over who got
"more" or "better" presents. It seems to have worked, too, because I
haven't heard many complaints. And of course they were showered with
stuff from the rest of the family. I couldn't possibly list it all
here. My dad made Jamie a dollhouse; Kacie got a big flashlight from
somebody at Grandma St. John's, and she's NUTS about it. Those are a
couple of the gifts that really stand out in my memory. And Jamie got a
little musical jewelry box with a twirling ballerina inside, and enough
junky jewelry to fill it ...
Future Rock Stars?
The girls on Christmas morning 1997
here now. He toddled
into the room a minute ago and is sitting beside me now, pointing to my
journal and grinning, saying "I?
I?" (his new
version of the alphabet). He usually wakes up in a good mood, and this
morning is no exception. He's wearing his new pajamas - blue and red -
and his hair, like Kacie's, is a tangled fright. (Ooops - he just
spotted the Christmas tree and the pile of presents. His favorite?
Kacie's red remote-control sports car.) Kyle had a good Christmas. He
loved all the running around and going bye-bye in the car, although
once we reached our destinations - my Dad's, Grandma St. John's, Peg
& Don's - he generally stuck pretty close to Ray and I and
do a lot of socializing. Everyone thought he was adorable, though. He's
at a cute age. Mostly he received clothes this year - pants and shirts,
a pair of p.j.'s, socks, a little gray sweatjacket - which thrills me,
since he'd outgrown practically all of his old things. He also got some
new "friends" to love - a stuffed orange dinosaur (That was "Rocky"
constant companion for the next year or so),
a Glo-Worm, a big soft teddy bear, a squishy stuffed green dragon from
Matchbox cars - building blocks - even a bright red
bobsled from Ray's parents. At first I thought the bobsled was an
and completely inappropriate gift to give a one and a half year old
baby, particularly since we haven't had any snow
in two years ... but Kyle LOVES it. It's sitting in the middle of the
living room right now, and every once in awhile he'll rush over and
plop himself into it.
Kyle with his
it's Tuesday morning. It's
been raining steadily since I got up at 8:00, and every once in a while
a few fat wet snowflakes mingle with the rain ...
"I hope I die
(grinning slyly): "So you can't wash my hair any MORE."
to babysitting this
morning. Jerome and André have been here for two hours
Little Terry is due to arrive any minute. (Jerome, sitting next to me,
the edge of my journal. "What's THIS for?" he asks - his trillionth
question of the day so far. "I'm writing about what a pain in the rear
you are," I reply, and he giggles uproariously.) I
was kidding (mostly). Jerome was always one of my favorite
babysitting-kids: a sweet, smart little boy with a heart of gold.
spent the weekend exactly as I
planned - cleaning out closets, throwing out old and broken toys,
cleaning, rearranging, organizing - I was busy every minute, and by
Sunday evening I felt a sense of accomplishment.
I went back on my
diet. Over the holidays I managed to put on about eight extra pounds
and my Levi's are starting to get tight around my middle. So it's back
to Slim Fast, skinless chicken, Diet Pepsi and no beer.
I'm 150 lbs. now - I want to get down to 140, maybe 135. New Year's Eve
Thursday night so there will probably be one final "lapse" ...
champagne and pizza? ... but then it's back to serious
hair looks awful this morning. He is desperately, DESPERATELY in need
of a trip to the barber!!! Kyle's
hair ALWAYS looked awful at this age. Trying to cut it was
an uphill battle that I usually just gave up and let it grow wild.
new things he says at age 20 months:
ni-ni." (No ni-night.)
"Bleh-bleh?" (Splash splash?
His way of requesting a bath.)
"Geng-goo." (Thank you.)
" 'GO!" (Let's GO!)
December 30, 1987
as clear and hard and
dazzling as a diamond. Kyle is out on the playground with Ray and the
girls: he is bundled up like a fat little Eskimo baby, Jamie's knit cap
on his head. I stand at the patio window and watch him. From this
distance I can't see the expression on his face, but I can tell from
his body language - the bouncy way he walks along in front of his Daddy
- that he is deliriously happy to be outside in the sunshine.
riding on his toddler car, holding on for some reason with only one
hand. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.)
been in a good mood for a
couple of days now. Because Christmas is over, perhaps? Oh well - I
don't want to analyze it. My good moods have a way of disappearing when
I look at them too closely.
The 1987 Christmas Letter.
the tree down today. I made the announcement at breakfast.
"I will help
you take down all dose decorations!" Kacie piped up immediately. The idea of no
more Christmas tree doesn't appear to bother her in the
slightest. Jamie didn't
say anything at all: she woke up this morning with an earache, and she's laying
on the loveseat with the heating pad pressed against her head, stoically
watching cartoons. Kyle is too little (20 mos.) to form an opinion one way or
the other. And Mom? ... well, Mom is feeling her usual mixed sense of sadness
and relief at the prospect. I'm itching to have my apartment back to "normal" -
but I'm sad to see the tree gone because it was truly lovely this year. The
construction paper chains that Jamie and I made, and the new Avon ornaments
(still not paid for), and the popcorn strings all added a festive touch. And Ray
and the girls picked out a perfect tree - exactly the right height. With
"Evangeline" (our new Christmas angel) perched on the top, the tree reached to
the ceiling exactly. The living room will seem very empty for a few
Where will we
be for Christmas 1988? Still in this apartment, for the third Christmas in a
row? ... or, the dream of my heart, finally in a real house again
"Apartment Christmases," as I'm sure I'll refer to them in later years, haven't
been bad. They've been Kyle's firsts, for one thing, and that alone makes them
special. Plus the girls are still little, and they still believe in all the
magic of the holidays. I'd have to be Ebeneezer Scrooge not to appreciate the
beauty of Christmas with my children.
This year had
its share of special moments: Jamie tiptoeing out of bed before everyone else
Christmas morning (thinking I didn't hear her) and finding her new pink roller
skates under the tree ... giving my Grandma St. John the special Christmas photo
album, and the "grandmother's scrapbook" to my mom ... lovely presents - a warm
fuzzy robe from Ray, two pairs of sweats, the massive three ring binder from my
stepmom (a gift only *I* could love!), the diary from Grandma V. (which I begin
writing in tomorrow) ... all the blank cassette tapes ... Kacie and her new
flashlight! ... Kyle getting the hang of opening presents ...
... But I
still long for a Christmas like the old ones - like the ones we had in Kirkland.
CHRISTMAS IN A HOUSE. I don't know why. Why has "home" always, ALWAYS
been so important to me? And why does "home" have to be a house -- not an
apartment, not a condo, not a wigwam, but a real, honest-to-goodness
house?!? Just my nature, I guess. I want to sit in a living room
decorated with all my old familiar decorations, and not hear footsteps
over my head (unless it's the sound of my kids, running around in an upstairs
bedroom). I want a fire in the fireplace. I want neighbors. I want a yard where
the kids can run around with their dog. I want a little room to spread out ... a
bedroom of my own, with no baby crib squeezed into the corner ... bedrooms for
the kids ... a kitchen with some elbow room. I want us out of this crummy
apartment and into a HOUSE by next Christmas. Is there any chance in the world
of this happening??
Wherever we end up spending next Christmas, I hope it finds us healthy, happy
and together as a family. Merry Christmas!
January 4, 1988
Monday night 6 p.m.
New Year. It's been a few days since my last entry, and my spirits have
taken something of a nosedive, I'm afraid ...
(My neighbor) Wacky
Wanda just left, and I am
still reeling from her visit. She called me at 5:30 and asked if I was
"busy." Who, me? With a living
room full of screaming kids, a sinkful
of dirty dishes, four baskets of laundry to fold and the worst
menstrual cramps this side of Christmas Eve 1971?
need to talk to somebody or
I'm going to explode," she said mournfully.
I clenched my teeth and
told her to come on over. Mind you - you must understand this, in order
to appreciate the magnitude of my generosity - I've had a totally
shitty day. I've been in a rotten mood, I feel horrible, the kids are
especially intolerable, Ray and I have been picking at each other for
days. If anyone is going to "explode" around here, it's me. But I let
her come over anyway, and for twenty minutes I listened to her
rambling, self-pitying monologue about her problems with her new
boyfriend. This is the same boyfriend whose praises she was singing
(continuously, and boringly) all month last month. "He's so GENTLE!"
she said at Christmas. "He's exactly the perfect man for me!" But
tonight the guy is a "rat." I listened to verbatim accounts of their
most recent arguments. Once or twice I tried to interject a note of
sympathy or advice, or mention something about my own less-than-
day, but I could have been invisible for all the attention she paid.
Finally I gave up, and I just sat there and picked at the hole in my
Levi's until she concluded her monologue and went home. Now I'm sitting
here listening to five kids screaming at each other in my living room,
feeling strangely better than I have all day. At least I'm not as big a
Looney Tune as Wacky Wanda.
January 7, 1988
Thursday morning 9 a.m.
ominous warning to Jerome: "Jerome, stop your blubbering or it's gonna
weird dream last night. I
only remember pieces of it. Ray and the kids and I were driving a
deserted stretch of road, in Ray's crappy old station wagon. It was
winter, and it was dark. All of a sudden the car broke down and we were
stuck in these huge snow drifts, with the snow piling up higher and
higher all around us. No one seemed concerned about it but me. The kids
were delighted, playing in the snow and picnicking in the car, and Ray
wasn't doing a thing about getting us out of there. Finally, in
exasperation, I picked up a telephone (which just "happened" to be
laying there on top of the snow, and which just "happened" to work
and made a series of
phone calls for help. We're a good ten years
away from cell phones at this point, so the idea of finding a telephone
middle of a snowstorm was pretty unimaginable.
was the extent of the dream. You figure it out.
are a sore subject with me these days. My own beat-up Chevy has been
sitting in the back lot of my brother's transmission shop since MAY ...
still not running, still not fixed. And Ray's station wagon is in such
crummy shape - there are no brakes to speak of - that I refuse to drive
it. I got a quarter of the way to the bank yesterday, driving his car,
when the non-brakes spooked me so much that I had to turn around and
come home. I HATE feeling like this: like I have no car, and
no way to
get out in the world, and that I have to depend on other people for
is a filthy, shaggy, noisy,
loveable mess this morning! Lately he has begun fighting me when I
attempt to dress (or undress) him, but I did manage to at least get a
striped pullover on him this morning. No pants, though - just a diaper.
His face is still covered with last night's beef stew, and the soles of
his bare feet are black from Mama's dirty kitchen floor. And his hair
... his hair defies description. I cringe every time I look at him. He
is critically in need of a trip to the barber. If the brakes on Ray's
car weren't so fucked up, I would take him today - I've got twenty
bucks in my purse. Or if I had a decent pair of scissors, I'd attempt
the job myself.
Monday 8:15 a.m.
January 18, 1988
morning - alone - none of
the kids are up yet, and Jerome and André still aren't here.
Sitting at the kitchen table with coffee, headachey from a morning of
frenzied dreaming. (I was desperately trying to get ready for my date
with Ben Lonsegrav AND trying to get to my class at Highline College,
The apartment is startlingly
tidy for a Monday
- I spent nearly every moment of this weekend in a domestic
cleaning and cooking and playing June Cleaver to Ray's Couch Potato ...
I mean, I even baked CUSTARD, for crying out loud!! ...
Jerome and André are
here, and much to my dismay André has a wet sloppy cold.
means that by the end of the week we'll ALL have it. With the exception
of Jamie, who had a bout of flu last week, we've been remarkably
healthy for the past month or so, considering how cooped-up we all are
this tiny apartment. Guess I'd better break out the Vicks and the
thermometers and take stock of whatever cold medicine we've got.
just came wandering out
into the living room. She's wearing a pair of powder-blue sweats
(lately we've all taken to sleeping/living/existing in sweatclothes)
and carrying the Lego "house" she made last night after dinner. With a
mumbled "hi" to me, she has taken a seat in front of the TV and is
raptly watching her favorite morning cartoon, "My Little Pony." No
acknowledgement of either Jerome or André at all.
Negate that. Her first real words to me: "Mama. Jerome's sitting on
those THINGS." He's sitting on my makeshift coffeetable - two small
brown chests, pushed together.
"REALLY, Jamie?" I say
to her, smiling.
"You know, if you hadn't told me that, I would NEVER have KNOWN
She rolls her eyes at my
sarcasm, but a minute or two later when I tell
Jerome to get his rear end off the coffeetable, she definitely looks
sunny day. It's
going to be hard to concentrate today. Ray has legal problems (support
enforcement, left over from my welfare days) and they are weighing
heavily on my mind. Our financial problems now are nothing compared to
what they'll be if we have to start paying the state $600 a month.
little while later:
going to take my shower now!" I tell Kyle.
up about fifteen minutes ago, sat at the table next to me and slurped
bowl of Fruit Loops; now he is stomping around the apartment in blue
p.j.'s, his hair askew as always. (We trimmed it over the weekend,
though, so at least you can see his face again.)
he asks, pointing to the bathroom door. His word for 'shower.'
Mama SHOWER," I tell him, and I go into the bathroom. He follows along
behind me and fiddles around in the sink while I shower and wash my
hair. When I'm done, he leans over the edge of the tub and splashes his
hands in the quickly draining bath water, while I towel myself dry and
slip into clean clothes. Unfortunately he leans a fraction of an inch
too far forward and loses his balance, and the next thing I know he
falls with a tremendous SPLASH into the tub, p.j.'s and all.
He gasps in surprise and flounders for a moment or two in the water.
Remarkably, he doesn't cry.
"Whoa! Man overboard!" I
say to him
cheerfully, then calmly lift him out of the tub and strip off his wet
pajamas. Undaunted, he climbs up on the toilet, leans over the sink and
points to his toothbrush. I pump a dab of toothpaste onto his
toothbrush and hand it to him; he immediately begins to suck the
toothpaste noisily, watching himself in the mirror.
he's finished, I say "Come on - let's go find you some pretty clothes!"
and he toddles along behind me, into my bedroom. His clothes are stored
in cardboard boxes on the bottom of my closet. I pick out a pair of
blue sweatpants and a long-sleeved pullover. He spies his little box of
socks. "Ssss! Ssss!" he says happily, and grabs four pair. "You'll only
need one," I tell him, and he allows me to put the extras back
into the box. I dress him in the living room. He wants his pants rolled
up so he can see his socks. When he's dressed, he runs over to
"Gir-gir!" he chirps,
modelling his clothes for his sister.
pretty Henry!" Jamie says
obligingly, and he beams ...
January 19, 1988
is crawling around beneath
the kitchen table, trying to tickle my feet! ("Gicko-gicko-gicko!"
says.) Hard to write while my toes are in peril!!
he's out in the living room
hitting Kacie on the head with a toy truck, then laughing when she
screeches. (Me: "Cut it out, Henry!") For some reason he enjoys picking
on Kacie. She rarely hits him back - she just sits there and screams,
while he pounds on her and laughs. Sometimes he really hurts her, too.
"Just get up and WALK AWAY FROM HIM when he hits you!!" I've
repeatedly. But fifteen minutes later, it's happening all over again -
he's whacking her over the head with a wooden mallet, and she's hunched
over in misery, crying. Jamie will run away from her brother when he
tries the same thing with her, or (even more likely) will clobber him
right back - and he knows it. He very rarely launches an attack on
Jamie anymore, unless she's got his toy or is taunting him or
something. But Kacie, apparently in his mind anyway, is fair and easy
really bizarre thing about
all of this is that Kacie is very aggressive - exceedingly
so - with
other kids, particularly Jamie. She doesn't hesitate to defend herself
and in fact is likely to have been the one to start the altercation in
the first place. But with Kyle, she simply folds up. I wonder why??
has learned to "color."
Right now he's sitting next to me at the table - and I mean RIGHT NEXT
to me - he's pushed his chair as close to mine as he possibly can - and
he is coloring, with one orange crayon, in one of the girls'
colorbooks. He sings to himself while he scribbles ... a happy,
nonsensical jumble of his favorite words and sentences. "Ni-night,
Dah!" he croons. Ni-night,
Dah. Ni-night, Dah. Ohh,
DAH. Hi. Hi Momma. Hi gir-gir. Me. I. Get. Whoa."
He bites his crayon, and it breaks into little pieces. "Uh-oh!" he
says, throwing the broken pieces of crayon onto the floor. Jamie scoops
them up and puts them into the garbage, and Kyle tells her "Genk-koo."
So much for coloring.
potatoes out of the bag and biting them, then putting them back INTO
kitchen "junk drawer"
his juice on people
off his diaper
- Riding her bike
January 22, 1988
Jamie -- 44" tall, 45 lbs.
Kacie -- 40" tall, 40 lbs.
Kyle -- 32" tall, 30 lbs.
Broke -- thank God I got paid tonight! (Erin pd. $190
in cash, Terry $50 check). Finished paying the rest of the
January rent tonight, $35. Nice evening. Babysat three
extra kids for a couple of hrs., made enough to order some Domino's
pizza (which was excellent). Taped the Tyson-Holmes fight on HBO
for Ray -- typed for awhile, working on one of the books
I'm writing the kids (memoirs of their babyhoods) -- drank
some beer -- stayed up late with Jamie, taping videos off
MTV. (Jamie's favorite videos right now are "There's the Girl" by
Heart and "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles; I like "When We Was
Fab" by George Harrison, and "On The Turning Away" by Pink Floyd.)
February 5, 1988
We have a
"new kid" in our midst ... one-year-old Zaydra from two doors down. I
babysitting her on Tuesday. Her mom, Dee, drops her off in the morning
around 7:30 and then picks her up at 6:00 or so in the evening. (We've
tentatively agreed on a dollar an hour, although I'm considering asking
for more. A dollar an hour seems ridiculous.) So far it
hasn't been all
that bad having another one-year-old around the place -- there are
three of them now, including Henry and André -- most of my
problems are centered around the four-year-olds (Jerome and Kacie)
anyway. And god knows we need the money, even if it isn't very much.
February 17, 1988
my way through another long, broke, rainy, sick week ... our long
streak of good health finally gave out, and we've ALL got crummy chest
money situation is bad, bad, bad. Powdered milk and makeshift meals.
The rent is paid, but nothing else is.
("Did you already write
owie?" Jamie asks, sitting beside me at the kitchen table. She has a
huge and painful scrape on her left cheek, acquired this past weekend
as she was practicing on her new bike. She wears her wound like an
Olympic gold medal, and proudly announces to anyone who asks about it,
"I know how to ride a two-wheeler now!")
Now both of the girls (no
Henry yet) are sitting here with me at the table, noisily slurping
bowls of oatmeal. ("Kacie used to not like raisins!" Jamie says. "Do
too!" Kacie counters, between mouthfuls.) Every thirty seconds or so
Kacie gives a quick, polite little cough, between breaths and bites.
She and I are both in our third day of this sloppy wet cold. As soon as
she's done with breakfast, it'll be Vicks and cough syrup for her, a
steamy hot shower (for the decongestant value) and wool socks for me.
Jerome and André are already here - banished to the living
room and the morning cartoons, while I carve out five minutes alone
with my girls - no Zaydra today (she has a doctor's appointment), I
don't know about Terry (his mom said today was a "maybe").
plans for this day: get
Jamie to school on time, take care of the rest of the kids, maybe bake
some cookies if I've got enough stuff. Nothing spectacularly
interesting. Just trying to live the life and keep everybody's spirits
up - including my own - during this bleak and boring time of the year.
the self-appointed cheerleader of our little family.
March 1, 1988
is in the air.
it isn't in the air TODAY. Not yet, anyway: outside it's still gray,
misty and cold. But for the past few days, before the yucky weather
struck again, I've been feeling occasional brief twinges of that old
'spring feeling' in the air again. This past weekend it was especially
strong. There were a million kids on the playground until long past
dinnertime, I had the patio door cracked open all day, it stayed light
outside until much later than we're used to ... Jamie even asked me if
could wear shorts
on Saturday! And more than once I caught
girls staring longingly at the swimming pool (still covered for the
I've been like a mole all
winter, hiding in this
apartment - rarely sticking my head out the door. Not having a car to
drive anymore exacerbates the problem. I sit here by the window and
watch the world go by. I'm getting heavy again, too, and that just
makes my desire to hibernate all that much stronger. At least, I FEEL
like I'm getting heavy - I've been stuck at 150 lbs. for months now,
and my face looks too puffy to me. A year ago, when I'd lost all that
weight and had my new Levi's and everything, I felt on top of the
world. I wanted to go out and "show off." This year it's exactly the
opposite ... or at least it's been that way for the past couple of
months. I haven't wanted the world to see me - I haven't felt like
doing much at all, as a matter of fact. But now that there's a little
touch of "spring" in the air, I feel something within myself beginning
to stir. The fat grumpy old Mama Bear waking up from her long winter's
nap, maybe ... ?
(counting days on the calendar):
"... the twenty-ninth,
thirtieth, thirty-wunth ... "
P. is now quite firmly
ensconced in The Terribles. No question about it. Everything is "no!", "mine!"
and "don't!" He
likes to spit on
doesn't like his hair or face washed. He's into everything,
hates being told what to do, he has started deliberately picking fights
with the other kids, and he won't eat anything but toast, Spaghetti-O's
Yeah, he's cute. But he's also a MONSTER.
March 11, 1988
Friday morning 9 a.m.
going to try and get some
serious 'scribbling' done this weekend. I've got a lot on my mind. Bear
with me if it gets kind of patchy - I'm writing in snatches - ten
minutes here, ten minutes there ...
Henry announces solemnly, standing in front of me with half an orange
gumball in his hand. "GUH.")
bright, sunny day ... the drapes and blinds are still drawn to shut out
the glare, but enough light seeps through to make the apartment bright
as midday. The girls wolfed down their Cap'n Crunch, dressed in a rush
("Do I haffa wear leotards wif these pants?" Kacie asked) and flew out
the door in a blur. Jamie doesn't have kindergarten today, so they'll
probably be out on the playground till dinnertime ... or at least Kacie
will ... a lot of the time Jamie prefers indoors to outdoors, even on
the sunniest days. She plays Barbies in her room, or sits at the
kitchen table and colors, or just talks to me. (Much the same way I was
as a child.) Kacie, if we'd let her, would stay out on that playground
until nightfall, and then would still have to be dragged inside,
kicking and screaming ...
one "extra" kid today, little blonde Zaydra. Terry Jr. is in Arizona
... I don't know where the hell
Jerome and André are, because they never showed up.
"Ma-ma? Moh? GUH?" Gum is
his newest word ... and his newest passion in life. A few minutes ago I
caught him pushing my big stool towards the kitchen: when questioned
about it, he chirped "I get moh GUH!" - his first real sentence.)
are two new shows I like
to watch on weekday mornings now - "Mothers Day" with Joan Lunden, and
"What Every Baby Knows" with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton - oriented towards
mother of small children. I don't depend on this kind of stuff as much
as I used to (books, TV shows, magazine articles, etc.) to "teach" me
how to raise the kids ... at least, not in the manic, desperate way I
did when Jay was a baby ... but I still enjoy watching them once in a
the entertainment value if nothing else. And once in a while I do learn
something new or useful. This morning on "What Every Baby Knows," the
topic for discussion was mothers and daughters. Obviously THAT got my
attention! A couple of things were particularly relevant ...
desire of one young mother to simultaneously keep her daughter close
and yet allow her to become independent, and the conflict that can
create ... and, the almost universal desire that mothers of daughters
share, to avoid repeating the mistakes their mothers made. One woman
said that she never felt close to her mother while she was growing up,
so she was trying to create and maintain a particularly close, loving
relationship with her young daughter, to give her something she (the
mother) had missed out on. Dr. Brazelton said something at that point
that struck a chord in me: he said that by nurturing her daughter in
such a loving and responsive way, the mother was also providing herself
with the kind of mother/daughter closeness she'd spent her life longing
for. So they were both benefitting. That said something to me about the
way I'm raising my own daughters. I've been trying to sort through this
lately, but it's all muddled. Some days I feel like I'm a good mother,
even a better-than-average mother, and other days I'm sure that I've
taken these three perfectly wonderful, potential-filled human beings
and twisted them beyond repair. I'm
so flawed a human being myself. There is so much in me that is
unresolved. My judgement is so undeveloped. How in the hell am I
supposed to be a role model, a support system, an adequate care
provider to these three wonderful children, when I can't even seem to
give these things to myself?
anyway ... what I seem to be striving for as a parent, above and beyond
all else, is the kind of closeness and friendship
with my daughters that I never felt between my mother and me. I crave
all the intimacy and special maternal bonding that weren't mine as a
child. I can't seem to manage these things in friendships with other
adult women, so I look for it in my daughters. And lately I've been
feeling guilty about that ... fearing that perhaps I was placing too
unfair and cumbersome a burden on Jamie and Kacie. They need a mother,
not a pal. But then this morning, here's Dr. Brazelton telling me that
it's not only OK to try and fill some of the gaps left over from my
childhood in this way, it's actually beneficial
... to the girls AND to
me. Hmmm. I guess that I agree, as long as it doesn't get out of
control. I mean, there is a fine line between being a parent and being
a friend. The trick is to walk that line carefully. That's what I'm
going to have to watch out for. There are moments when I actually forgetthat
I'm their mother. It's kind of the same way that I "forget" that
I'm thirty years old. (If I'm thirty, how come I'm still getting zits
and listening to Tommy James & The Shondells?) I don't mean
stop being their mother - I just stop THINKING of myself that way for a
second or two, when we're in the middle of doing something silly and
sweet and we just seem like three girls having fun, instead of a parent
children. I love that kind of spontaneous closeness and I wouldn't want
to lose it for the world. But I'm going to have to be careful. There
will come a time - probably much sooner than I'll like - when Jamie and
Kacie won't be all that thrilled with me anymore, and any attempts on
my part to make us into "three girls having fun" will be met with
Hopefully it won't last forever, and then once it's over with and
they're safely out of puberty we'll go back to being friends. But while
it's going on .... oh god, I'm not looking forward to thirteen!! ...
it's liable to break my heart, unless I start walking that line right
and remembering that it wasn't just the fun and the closeness that I
missed out on a kid ... it was also the mothering,
parenting, the disciplining, ALL of that stuff - the fun and the
serious - and it's not going to damage my relationship with the girls
if I'm more like a mom sometimes and less of a "friend."
that's what I'm afraid
of, most of all ... damaging my friendship with them. Am I afraid they
won't "like" me if I'm tough with them ... ?)
Kacie on her 5th birthday
March 21, 1988
(She's wearing a dress that belonged to me at this age.)
March 30, 1988
new passion of Kyle's
... pockets! He won't wear pants that don't have them. He gets
downright indignant about it, as a matter of fact. He especially likes
to walk around with one hand stuck in each pocket.
hasn't been a really great
month for me. Maybe that's why I haven't written much. The money
worries and the sense of being "stuck" in this apartment - and this
lifestyle - have been more intense and debilitating than usual lately.
I've been feeling like a failure. Maybe everyone feels this way at some
point in their life ... perhaps turning thirty is a catalyst. I don't
know. All I do know is that I've been feeling like nothing much more
than a lumpy, ambitionless pile of unfulfilled potential. No energy, no
goals, no self-discipline. And there is an increasingly dark underside
to my life these days. It's nothing I want to write about ... I'll just
say that I watch myself doing things and saying things that horrify me.
I was binge-drinking on the weekends again.
I'm spinning out of control. What's
weird is that you probably can't
even see it from the outside. Outwardly, I undoubtedly look perfectly
normal. A little puffy, maybe, from the binge-eating I haven't been
able to get under control (three bowls of Cocoa Puffs last night)
... maybe stressed out from long days spent cooped
with seven or eight small children. And I'm not especially attractive
at the moment: aside from the extra weight, I'm also pale as a mushroom
from never going outside anymore - my hair is too long and stringy -
and I'm even more broken out than usual. OK, so maybe I don't look
completely "normal" after all. But I still don't think that anyone can
tell, from looking at me, that all of this poison
below the surface. I'm acting normally. I bake blueberry muffins for
the kids, I disinfect the toilet bowls, I mail the birthday cards. From
the outside I'm sure I must look just like your average, normal, busy
mother and housewife.
we are in our
usual, predictable hole, due more to weekend excesses and reckless
spending than anything else. Another area of my life that is completely
out of control.
kids, anyway - thank god -
are OK. As good as I am at presenting a "normal" face to the rest of
the world, I am twice as conscientious about it when it comes to my
children. I don't mean that I conceal things. I don't. They see me cry
and swear when things go wrong - I couldn't hide that even if I wanted
to. And I usually tell them if I'm worried about money or I'm tired or
I'm sick or I'm just in a bad mood today, so they'll hopefully
understand that it's nothing they did. I'm not one to sugarcoat things.
On the other hand, I don't dump it ALL on them ... I don't say "Geez. I
don't know how we're going to pay the rent this month, do you?"
simply let them see that I have certain problems and things to deal
with as an adult, and that sometimes it gets tough, but I keep the
normal face on as much as possible in order to reassure them that
things eventually work out OK. (Which, amazingly - all things
considered - is usually the case.) And they seem to be handling these
mini-doses of reality fairly well.
April 19, 1988
struggling like hell to be
in a good mood this morning. I read somewhere that if you force
yourself to smile, even when you're in a rotten mood, just the simply
physical act of smiling unleashes all these physiological/biochemical
changes inside of you - or some kind of mumbo-jumbo along those lines -
and the next thing you know,
boom, you really ARE feeling
happier, in spite of yourself. So I'm walking around smiling a lot this
morning. I've fixed cornflakes and apple juice for the kids [smile!] ...
put on a pot of coffee [smile!]
floated around the kitchen in the
morning sunshine, in my powder-blue bathrobe, beaming like some
beneficent Madonna [smile!
smile! smile!] ... and all
the while I've
been waiting for the good mood to magically appear.
are at a very low point
at the moment. I've been struggling along as best I can, trying to get
caught up on stuff and reach the place where I can just breathe a
little easier, for a change ... but every few days some new calamity
slams me in the face - some new, unforeseen situation is suddenly just
THERE in front of us - and I feel the way I feel today, all over again.
Flat, sad and hopeless.
Shit. Doesn't it ever
end? Aren't things EVER
going to get any better - or at least any easier? - for us ... ?
latest "slam in the face"
came yesterday in the mail ... the IRS gave our entire $1400 tax return
to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, as repayment of the
money Ray owes for the months the kids and I were on welfare.
much as Ray and I are both trying to convince ourselves, and each
other, that it's for the best - at least we won't have this legal crud
hanging over our heads anymore - we are still both unspeakably
disappointed. There's no point in describing what fourteen hundred
dollars could have done for this family right now. It's useless and
painful to even think about it.
rent is paid for the month
(although I'm holding my breath to see if the check bounces), but
nothing else is paid. We owe money everywhere. Last night they shut off
our cable, so today we don't even have a working television (since you
need cable even to watch "regular" TV here). There is plenty of food in
the refrigerator, but all three of the kids need new shoes. I have one
more month of babysitting Jerome and André before their mom
layed off her job, and one month with Terry before his aunt moves up
here from Arizona to take care of him fulltime. So these tiny sources
of income are due to end shortly. Ray is trying to get hired on at
Allpak - a rival of SeaPak - in hopes of making a dollar or two more an
hour. But it's been a month since he was called in for the interview,
and there's still no word. Everything seems so fucking bleak, Journal.
think the kids can sense my despair - this time, I DON'T want them to -
but Ray can. He tries to trivialize it and brush my fears aside with
jokes and feeble assurances. Or else he just steers clear of me and
doesn't say anything at all. I know that he's just as devastated by
this income tax thing as I am, but we don't seem to be able to reach
out and comfort each other ... mainly because we both know there is no
comfort to be had. We are each of us tightly bound in our own private
cocoons of misery.
A little later
know what really ticks me off
about all of this? (Well ... I mean, ONE thing that rankles me: there
are a million things I despise about being poor and depressed and
worried all the time.) The thing I refer to now is the way it
with my enjoyment of my kids. An example from a moment ago: I'm
sitting here in the kitchen, writing and sipping awful black
feeling melancholy. Kyle comes running up to me and climbs onto my lap,
chattering, smiling, wrapping his arms around my neck and giving me a
hug ... "Hi Mama!" he says cheerfully ... I return his hug, but it is
half-hearted on my part. I am too blue even to respond to my little
son. As dearly, as
as I love him, there simply doesn't seem to
be any reserves of joy or response in me this day. I am squeezed dry by
you wait long enough,
things are supposed to look better. It's called perspective, the magic
of knowing what matters. The problem is how to get it when you need it.
next time something
happens to get you down, try the 'family album trick.'
Imagine yourself twenty years from now, sitting in front of the fire
reminiscing. Things that were once heartbreakers now seem silly or
funny. Problems you never thought you could solve worked out. Grief
gradually added depth and quality to your life.
Perspective - what made you cry at 6 is unimportant at 26. Add 20 years
to your evaluation of problems and chuckle.
Remind yourself of what is truly important.
the magic in your life."
did I write this down? I don't
know. Something about it appealed to me, I suppose ... the suggestion
that maybe, just maybe, the biggest problem I have to face at the
a lack of money ... but a lack of
nearly twenty years later, as I upload this journal to the Internet,
and Jennifer James was right ... problems that seemed unsolvable,
in those dark depressing days of 1988, DID eventually work themselves
out. Not in the ways I might have expected, maybe --
or wanted -- but they did work out. And in spite of
what I write here about the money worries "interfering" with my
enjoyment of The Tots, I always managed to take pleasure in them, even
when things were at their worst. Spending time with them,
watching them grow, writing about them, photographing them, caring for
them ... all of these things gave my life joy and purpose.
It still does.
Friday 9 a.m.
April 22, 1988
dark and drizzly
morning. Kyle is wandering around the kitchen on his little yellow
toddler car. He holds a half-eaten Rice Krispy Treat in one hand,
making happy little "car noises" ... occasionally he talks to himself
("I DID! ... "OW!" ... "Hi, Do-Do"). Suddenly he sees a cat outside on
the porch, and he rushes to the patio door, trying to pull it open.
Unfortunately the door is securely locked, and he loses his footing and
falls over. Enraged, he leaps to his feet and shouts "DON'T!" at the
offending patio door, pummeling it with his fists. When that doesn't
ease his frustration, he rushes out to the living room, where his
sisters are watching a "My Little Pony" cartoon, and attempts to engage
them in a wrestling match. They completely ignore him. Frustrated by
their lack of attention, he runs over to my side and begins punching me
in the thigh, as hard as he can. (When all else fails, beat up on your
Mom ... ?)
May 3, 1988
know what I do all the time
these days? I walk around and plan journal entries in my head. Just
little snippets of things, usually - little trivial things that happen
around the apartment, things about the kids or money or whatever. It
hits at all hours of the day or night. I'll be slipping frozen hot dogs
a pot of boiling water for the kids' supper, and all of a sudden
there's this stream of words running across the front of my mind, like
teletype ... Kyle is going
through this amazing developmental
right now ... Jamie said something rather startling this morning ... Is
it my imagination, or has Kacie outgrown her new birthday clothes
already? ... and I think to
myself, I COMMAND
myself, to run that very moment and grab and pen and WRITE
for crying out loud, before it evaporates from my overtaxed (yet
understimulated: an ironic combo) brain! ... but of course I rarely do
... and thus it is that 99% of the journal entries for Spring 1988
never even leave the interior of my head ... Sort of the same
problem I have with *FootNotes* these days.
the afternoon before
Kyle's second birthday. The apartment is unusually quiet today: no
Jerome and André this week (maybe next week), Little Terry's
already, Zaydra is zonked out on the sofa. Jamie is kneeling in front
of the TV, praying quietly before the altar of "Hollywood Squares." My
game-show junkie. Kacie has vanished into the nether regions of the
back bedroom. (I peek at her through the door - she is absorbed in an
elaborate Tinker Toy creation.) Ray is at work. The apartment smells of
boiled hot dogs, Clorox bleach (from the training pants soaking in the
bathroom), old coffee, recent thunderstorms, wet tennis shoes. I'm
unexpectedly at peace today. It's not a very deep thing - the problems
are still right there, just a fraction of an inch from the surface -
but I've managed to remain more or less level for two days running, and
it's as close to that "deep breath" as I ever get.
then there's Kyle. In seven and a half hours (seven hours and eleven
minutes, actually), I will have an official two-year-old on my hands.
Again. Maybe/probably for the last time. My baby, TWO YEARS OLD.
Imagine the incredible impossible fact of that! There's the usual
wistful, happy/sad pull on my heart this afternoon ... a feeling I've
come to know very well over the course of the past six and a half
years. I'm elated as always that my child has reached another birthday
healthy, happy and in one piece. I'm proud of all the latest
developments and accomplishments. I'm filled with love. The flip side
is that I'm beginning to understand what they mean when they say Enjoy
them while they're little: it passes so quickly.
REALLY understand it, feel it in my bones, watch it happening. The
birthdays are the tangible proof of how quickly it's all passing, and
so they can't help but be occasions of remarkably mixed emotions.
"Jamie said 'shit'."
Kacie: "Did so! You said SHIT."
"Liar liar pants on fire."
This one STILL
makes me laugh, every time I read it.
Zaydra has gone home (Dee came and picked her up an hour earlier than
usual), and the kids are milling around the kitchen, waiting for
dinner. Kyle is standing on the arm of the couch, looking out the
window at the kids on the playground. Lately
he has taken to wearing Jamie's boots. Of course they're miles too big
for him - on him they're hip-boots, practically, whereas they hit Jamie
mid-calf - but he clomps around the apartment in them ALL THE TIME. He
wears them at mealtime and at naptime. If I'd let him, I have a feeling
he'd wear them in the tub. "My boots!" he announces happily, putting
his feet up on the table and leaning back in his highchair, like some
demented midget Park Avenue executive ...
Jamie has had to pretty much resign herself to bootlessness, I'm
Kyle wearing his sister's boots and
also has a new
friend - a stuffed orange dinosaur named "Rocky." He got Rocky for
Christmas last year (I don't recall who gave it to him: Aunt Ann,
maybe?) but he didn't become emotionally attached to it until about two
weeks ago. Now Rocky is a constant and much-loved companion. "My
Wock-ee!" Kyle says tenderly, cradling the dinosaur in his arms and
peering closely at his face, as though some private telepathic
interchange is passing between the two of them.
Kyle words and
(hard "g") -
"Byah-Byah" - Zaydra
"Do-Do" - Jo Jo (the little boy upstairs)
"yum-yum" - food or meal
"cue-cue" - thank you
"Ni-night" - pillow
"my more" - second helping of something
"dat?" - what's that?
"Baby" - himself
"Baby back!" - Baby is back
"gum-gum" - no translation necessary
"uh oh, bloh-blohs" - Uh oh, Spaghetti-O's
"tsee? tsee, Mom?" - see? see, Mom?
such a little
this son of mine ... so funny and noisy and busy and ridiculously full
of himself ... so completely convinced that the world revolves around
him ... "More ba-ba!" he shouts imperiously, thrusting the empty Donald
Duck ba-ba into my face. When I try to coax some courtesy from him
("What do you say?"),
he smiles sweetly and says
"Peeeeeeeeeee." I'm up in a flash, headed for the fridge to get him
more juice ...
Kyle's second birthday
Thursday 7:30 a.m.
May 5, 1988
temporarily. The kids are all still sleeping. I've poured myself a cup
of coffee and have nestled into one corner of the sofa with an old
Sandra Dee movie on the tube. The furnace is rumbling, and there's an
annoying drip in the kitchen sink, but aside from that, and the low hum
of the TV, the apartment is hushed and still.
woke up with a
again. Lately this has been happening a lot and I don't know why,
although I had a series of long, involved deams all night again, and
the headaches always seem worst when I've been dreaming hard. I took an
aspirin a few minutes ago ... it seems to be helping. So does the
still remember a
little bit of the dream. I was a teenager
again, at some kind of church camp with a lot of other teens, and there
was a cute boy there that I was interested in. We were enjoying a
flirty, innocent romance, and I was feeling very confident and
attractive, as though I could have any boy at camp. (That smug feeling
of invincibility that I actually remember feeling occasionally at that
age.) Anyway, the dream was just going along, kinda nice, kinda sweet
... nothing overtly sexual, but definitely interesting ... and then all
of a sudden, out of nowhere, this other teenage girl appears. She's
cute but nothing special, I'm thinking, but nonetheless the boy I like
is going off with HER and I'm left standing alone, feeling hurt and
confused ... and it's then that I look down at myself and realize that
I'm not a teenager at all, I'm a blubberly thirty-year-old in baggy
sweatpants and scraggly hair, and who the hell could ever be interested
in ME? ... I
still have this dream, only now when I 'look down at
myself' I'm a blubberly FIFTY-year-old in baggy sweatpants and
scraggly hair. The good news is that I wake up laying next
to someone I'm madly in love with ... which means that the
reality is actually BETTER than the dream.
Now it's afternoon (5:20 p.m.) and I've just woken up again, this time
time from a forty-minute nap on the sofa. No headache this time, but
I'm back to drinking coffee again in an effort to wake up and cook
dinner for everybody. Why am I so sluggish today?? I've accomplished
very little ... one crossword puzzle (my new "hobby"), one chapter of
an extremely dull book ("Heartsounds"), three soap operas, a little
putzing around in the kitchen, some light babysitting (Zaydra and
Terry). I don't merely feel sluggish physically - it's also a mental
and emotional lethargy. I've experienced (and whined in my journal
about) this kind of stuff a zillion times before, so I'll not waste
what precious energy resources I DO have in reserve, writing about the
same-old same-old. My bloblike state of being is very old news.
May 6, 1988
teeth this morning -- Ray's paycheck is being
withheld (something about CSE trying to garnish his wages). I don't
know what it's all about, but he's just left to go down to SeaPak to
try and figure it out. (Plus it was a very short paycheck to begin
with, plus our rent is now two days overdue and there was a "pay or get
out" notice on my door this morning. Shit.)
kids are sitting at
kitchen table coloring. I'm trying so hard not to cry, but it's not
working ... I can barely see this page I'm writing on through my tears.
Jamie is the only one who senses that something is wrong. She hasn't
said anything to me directly, but she casts me a worried look from time
to time when she thinks I don't see her, and she's now taken Kacie out
to the living room where they are quietly watching Wheel of Fortune. (I
walk out to where she's sitting, kiss her on the top of the head and
murmur "Thanks." She looks at me knowingly, lovingly. God, how I love
rent. The goddamned
Two months' worth of overdue utilities. Groceries. Fingerhut. All of
this legal crap. I am so, SO tired of worrying about all of this stuff,
night and day. I'm getting so old, so fast.
May 7, 1988
probably gonna take
minute or two to find the courage (not to mention the stomach) to write
about yesterday ... give me a second ...
May 10, 1988
into three DAYS ... sorry! And an incredibly tense, roller-coaster
three days they've been, too.
early-early ... no one is
up yet but me, and I've already (miracle of miracles) showered, dressed
and made coffee. I'm supposed to have a full house today,
babysitting-wise: Jerome and André, Jo Jo from upstairs,
Little Terry and maybe Zaydra. They are all due to descend momentarily.
Also, Ray's mom is going to stop by this morning and pick up Kacie for
an overnighter. I guess I got up early so I could pick up the place
before she gets here ... instead, here I sit, scribbling in my journal
back to what
the other day. It turns out that CSE had - without notifying us - had
Ray's check withheld and garnished 25% of it, with the intent of
further garnishing all future paychecks in the same outrageous amount
until our debt (some $4,000) was paid off. Twenty five percent.
was over a hundred dollars out of every paycheck. Ray came home from
SeaPak that morning with the paper in his hand, and there was that same
look of hopeless defeat on his face I'd seen when they appropriated our
income tax refund. We looked at each other and said That's
- we're fucked. The System
continues to dump on this family,
and there ain't a blessed thing we can do about it. I alternated all
afternoon between blind nauseated panic and absolute fury.
Ray sat on the couch all weekend drinking beer and saying "I should
just quit my job and put you and the kids back on welfare. That's what
they seem to want." And in a way, that's the truth: it almost seems as
though we're being penalized for wanting to get off the welfare
merry-go-round. It's incredible. It makes me wonder why I even bothered
trying to be honest with them last fall, when I requested termination
from assistance. I could have just stayed on their payroll until the
cows come home, illegally receiving aid and also getting Ray's
paychecks, and no one would have been any the wiser (and we certainly
would have been richer). According to many of the people around this
apartment complex, this kind of thing goes on all the time. Welfare
cheating is as common as shoplifting - only a lot easier to get away
with. But no ... I decide to play it straight with them, extricate
myself completely from public assistance, duly report that my husband
and I have reconciled, etc. etc. etc. ... and what do they do? They
come after us with the big guns and threaten to throw our family's
existence to smithereens. Like using a bazooka when all you need is a
flyswatter. TWENTY FIVE PERCENT. Jee-zus ...
Well. To shorten the
a bit. It's not exactly a "happy" ending, but I spent the afternoon on
the phone, making one impassioned plea after another to one coldhearted
bureaucratic asshole after another, and after one of the tensest
afternoons of my whole life I finally managed to arrange a more
liveable payment schedule with CSE. Would you believe -- $25 a month??
of the day: Early
before anyone else is up.
of the week: Saturday!
tapes of favorite music; decorating
the apartment with odds and ends; reading magazines and newspapers;
writing; crossword puzzles; watching TV.
& Allie, Designing Women, Head of the Class, Hooperman, All My
Children, Cheers, L.A. Law, The Wonder Years, The Days & Nights
of Molly Dodd, Roseanne, Murphy Brown.
(not Coke!), coffee, sloppy joes, turkey sandwiches with cranberries
& mayo, Big Macs, potatoes, chocolate chip and walnut cookies.
turquoise, teal, silver, gray, white.
sweats, men's shirts.
The Seattle Times, celebrity
autobiographies, mail-order catalogs.
Food, watching the
goldfish, peeling off nail polish,
(6:30 weeknights, Channel 13);
sleeping with my son; reading the daily horoscope; gossiping with Lori
next door; big breakfasts; that late-afternoon pot of coffee.
kids using my
best pens without asking; cleaning
the fish bowl; Sunday afternoon football.
in 1988: Cher,
Dennis Quaid, Roseanne Barr, Gary
diapers, cleaning Jamie &
Kacie's bedroom, making salad, putting laundry away.
return library books, sleeping with my
songs in 1988: "I
Hate Myself For
Loving You," Joan Jett; "Beds Are
Burning," Midnight Oil; "Tall Cool One," Robert Plant; "Brilliant
Disguise," Bruce Springsteen.
Thursday, almost 9 a.m.
June 9, 1988
... while she stood in the kitchen eating her cinnamon toast I
serenaded her with:
Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
half of "Happy
around, actually ... the living room is swarming with kids ... Jerome
& André; Zaydra; a little girl named Diana, who
spent the night last night (she hates us, and she hates being here, and
she's made no secret of either fact); Jamie and Kacie; and last but not
least - Henry the Horrible. Arrgh. I don't know if I'm going to survive
his Terrible Twos, I honestly don't. At the very least I'm going to
wind up completely gray by the time I'm thirty-one ...
this morning he
household (not to mention our next-door neighbors) at 6 a.m. with his
screaming, which as prompted by: A.) My refusal to let him take my
blanket, B.) My refusal to put more milk in his bottle (we only have
about half a cup left) - he had to settle for sugar water
- Jumped on
Kacie's sunburned back
- Run stark-naked
onto the playground; Jerome had to
carry him back, kicking and screaming all the way
- Rubbed Surfin'
Berry Punch Kool-Aid in Zaydra's
- Gotten into
fights with Jamie over opening the
refrigerator door ("BABY GET IT!") and changing the channel on the TV
("BABY GET IT!")
- Peed on the
living room floor
- Spit on
everybody, including me
the day is only four
guess it's been about
since I've written, so it's time to do some catching up. Summer has
pretty much arrived. They opened the pool Memorial Day weekend - Kacie
has her first sunburn of the season (long sleeves and a sun-hat today)
- Jamie is counting down the remaining days of school - the new
next-door neighbors (John and Lori) are barbecuing every single night
now. I'm starting to worry about my lack of summer clothes. Everything
on TV is re-runs, the refrigerator is full of fruit, the doors and
windows are open all the time. Yep ... summer is here. Whoopee.
know what's strange?
has come and gone, and I never felt so much as a twinge of my usual
(walking into the
apartment with tightly clenched fist): "Hey! I got BEE! I gotta BEE!"
(opens fist to reveal squished ant)
June 12, 1988
up at 8:30 this
find my bedroom flooded with sunlight ... and the kids gone!
We'd all stayed up till midnight last night, watching horror
movies on HBO ("The Gate" & "Cujo"), and then we slept together
in my room - Jamie and Kacie squished into the crib together for fun,
Kyle in my bed next to me. But when I woke up, they all seem to have
vanished. I laid in bed and listened for the usual Saturday morning
noises - cartoons on TV, cereal bowls clattering, the girls arguing -
but could hear nothing. What the heck was going on? Had they broken a
cardinal rule and snuck out onto the playground before Mom was out of
bed? Or were they all piled in my closet, waiting to jump out and scare
the living daylights out of poor old pre-caffeine Mommy (the price I
pay for letting them watch monster movies) ... ?? The calm and the
quiet were delightful, admittedly, and I would have loved to have just
rolled over in bed and relished it a while longer ... but I am after
all a MOTHER, and as such am immediately suspicious of such oddities as
unsolicited quiet on Saturday morning. Generally in these situations
it's a matter of where there's smoke, there's fire ... or at least
that's the way it's been in the past. (The memory of two yr. old Jamie
getting up and "making waffles" still raises the hair on the back of my
neck.) As long as they're screaming and arguing and killing each other,
I know everything is OK ... but the minute that a calm descends and I
can't hear any noise from the next room, my trouble-seeking radar goes
into action and I'm instantly right
for the open book of matches or the broken heirloom vase ...
it's difficult for
remember, sometimes, how much they're growing up ...
and discovered that Kacie actually was
still laying there, hidden
beneath an enormous pile of blankets, snoring softly. One sweet baby
chick accounted for. But where were the other two? I tiptoed down the
hallway and finally heard the television set, turned very low to The
Muppet Babies. Jamie and Kyle were sitting side by side on the floor in
front of the TV. Jamie was wearing a blue nightgown, Kyle was in a
diaper and white T-shirt, their hair identically mussed. They
looked so sweet, sitting there next to each other watching cartoons -
Kyle was holding a plastic race car in his hand, making those infernal vrroom
vrroom noises of his - that I
had to stop right there in the
hallway, where they couldn't see me, and just watch them for a couple
of minutes unobserved. It was one of those rare unguarded moments in my
life where, just for a minute or two, everything in the universe is
completely as it should be. The force of love in me was as intense as
anything I've ever felt, or am likely to feel again, and for that
instant everything was as close to perfection as it gets. I
live with these kids 24 hours a day. I see them
at their most unappealing. There are times when I want to hang them
from their HEELS, they can be so exasperating. I've changed their
crappy diapers and mopped their barf off the bathroom floor and stuck
thermometers up their rear ends; I've gone without sleep and privacy
and new shoes for myself; I've listened to 4.5 billion hours' worth of
pointless sibling squabbles; I've stopped them from killing each other
an average of 20 times a day for almost six years. There are times when
the whining, the muddy feet, the Band-Aid consumption, the tattling,
the toys on the living room floor, the mismatched socks, the stupid "My
Little Pony" theme song are enough to drive me straight up the wall and
through the ceiling and halfway to the moon ...
and yet there I am,
standing in the hallway watching two of my children in the morning
sunlight, grinning like a fool, feeling as overwhelmed by love as a new
mother in the delivery room.
this ever be old
hat? I hope not. I
hope it's always this way.
saw me first. "Hi
he chirped, and came racing down the hallway and into my arms. Moments
later and Jamie were slurping bowls of Cocoa Puffs, and soon afterward
Kacie shuffled out to the living room to join us. Now it's nearly noon,
and they're all three dressed and out on the playground. The day has
resumed its usual Saturday orbit ... Kyle and Kacie have fought over a
sun hat, Jamie has tattled twice and been caught in a lie once, Kyle
has wet his pants, Kacie has asked for food twice since breakfast ...
life per usual in Polenville U.S.A.
June 16, 1988
has just left for
last day of kindergarten. (A vision in pink in my old party dress, her
pink and white "varsity" jacket, Kacie's pink striped crew socks.)
She'll be home in an hour, since this is an abbreviated school day. I
told her that when she gets home, she'll be an "official first-grader."
("If you pass
kindergarten, that is," I teased
her.) I don't know if this is much in the way of comfort. I sense that
she is VERY sad about kindergarten ending and saying goodbye to her
beloved Mr. Gallagher. She was uncharacteristically solemn
(even for her) this morning while she was getting dressed; even helping
Mom cook breakfast didn't seem to cheer her up much. Her sadness is
weighing on me. I'm remembering the way I felt at the end of the school
year, and I share her pain. My poor little baby.
June 21, 1988
resilliency in her has taken over, and she appears to be surviving the
end of kindergarten. She's already brown as toast, by the way ... it's
positively sickening! I am downright envious of her! She tans so
by the way - she
first "upper" tooth last week.
sources of stress
life this summer:
neighbor of mine upstairs who plays his stereo day and
night, at such a volume that we literally can't hear ourselves think.
He seems to be especially fond of Vanessa Williams and Percy Sledge.
I still think of him every time I hear
"When A Man Loves A Woman."
- The blonde in
the hot-pink bikini who lounges
around the pool (directly in front of my apartment) all day.
- The mildew smell
in the kitchen.
- George Bush.
June 22, 1988
this morning ... a treat for me, of course, after days of pre-summer
swelter. The kids are clustered around the TV watching "Labyrinth" on
HBO, munching on toast ... all except Henry, who is in the highchair
next to me, here in the kitchen. He's wearing no diaper, has both feet
planted on the table, and has already managed to smear plum preserves
all over his face and in his hair. "No pee!" he says solemnly, echoing
Mom's stern warning regarding going "pants-less" at the table - then
grins broadly at me and gives a happy little roar.
the table in front of me, packed for her trip to her Grandma &
Grandpa P.'s house. Peg called yesterday and invited Jay to stay for a
few days: they'll pick her up today before lunch. I felt the usual
twinge of panic ... separation anxiety, I guess they call it. How will
I get along without my Puss? How will she get along without ME? What if
something happens to her while she's gone, and I never see her again?
Or what if something happens to US while she's gone? I hate thinking in
such a morbid vein, but it's nothing I can control. The best I can do
is try not to let on to Jay that I feel this way. It would spoil her
good time, and in spite of my uncontrollably gloomy thoughts, I really
do want her to have a good time. She was so excited last night. She ran
back and forth to her bedroom, grabbing shirts and clean underwear and
Barbie stuff to pack in her suitcase, chattering a mile a minute about
all the things she'll probably be doing at Grandma's. ("I bet they rent
a movie!" ... "I'll prob'ly be sleeping with Aunt Barbara - she has a TV
in her ROOM!"
... "Maybe I'll see (cousins) Billy and
Nathan" ... )
well. The next few
be a bit lonely without her - I'll miss having someone else around who
is on the same wavelength I am - but I'm glad she's been singled out
for this special pleasure.
June 24, 1988
I sound like such
crybaby, don't I ... ?
been gone for a
of days and we're all getting along just fine, me included. She called
Wednesday and Thursday nights, and it sounds like she's having the time
of her life. She said they've taken her to McDonald's, rented movies,
bought her a ton of summer clothes and a new pair of tennis shoes, gone
to the beach, eaten Chinese food. I know it's good for her to be the
center of attention once in a while. Here at home, she's just one of
the (many) kids. I also know that it's good for her to be away from ME.
Our relationship is so intense that we both need a breather once in
awhile. I dump so many responsibilities and expectations on her ... she
needs some time to be pampered and carefree and "on vacation" just as
much as anybody.
been too busy the
couple of days to dwell on her absence much, anyway. (No weeping over
little red tricycles in the rain, this time around.) I'm dieting again,
for one thing - the less said about it, the better, since I jinx myself
when I overanalyze these things - and that's been at the forefront of
my mind this week. Babysitting has been real light this week, mostly
just Zaydra, so I've been putting more of my energies into cleaning the
apartment. The past couple of months I let everything
slide - my home, my appearance, my writing projects, EVERYTHING -
because I couldn't seem to shrug off the heavy mantle of worry and
depression I'd been walking around with all winter. I was so
obsessively worried about money and "making ends meet" that I didn't
have room for anything else. The apartment grew dark and dusty and
smelly, with huge piles of damp laundry cluttering the hallway and a
lingering odor of mildew everywhere; I got fat and sluggish again; I
was trying to make everything seem "normal," but one look at the
apartment (and at my bloated face) and I'm sure the world could
immediately discern the true state of my head.
... things are
now. Even though it's summer, usually my most unmotivated season of the
year, I've been feeling inspired to whip my life back into shape. This
is what I've been trying to write about for the past few days -
actually, for the past two WEEKS - but I've always gotten distracted
somewhere along the line. Things are finally
getting better for us. I don't mean we're out pricing Cadillacs or
anything, but financially we seem to be a lot closer to that "deep
breath" I've been longing for. Again, I don't want to jinx myself by
getting too excited or too cocky, but I'll just say that Ray's
paychecks have gotten more substantial, and we've been able to take
some steps toward catching up. Our rent for June was actually paid in
full and ON TIME - no late charges! And the utilities are taken care
of, at least partially. We've had plenty of food in the apartment, I've
ordered a couple of new bras (paid for in advance), and we've gotten
new swimsuits, flip-flops and swim toys for the kids. It's been weeks
since we've had to scrape together loose change for a half gallon of
milk. (And there has still been enough left over for Ray and I to
"play" a little on the weekends. Amazing.) My babysitting has been
fairly regular, too - mostly Jerome and André and Zaydra,
with occasional drop-ins from around the apartment complex - and that
has helped. Mostly it pays for groceries and "extras" for the kids.
I've accepted the fact that fluctuation comes with the territory, but
it seems that whenever one babysitting arrangement ends, another one
comes along to replace it. So it all comes out in the wash. We've been
pleased enough with our newfound "financial breathing room" that we've
actually begun to think about houses again. That's something I'd all
but given up on, but now it's seeming like a possibility once more.
Last weekend we even made a call on one place. Nothing came of it, but
the point is that we're THINKING about it again.
July 6, 1988
couple of weeks later.
added another kid to our babysitting "group" - seven year old
Christopher, who will be here from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until the end of
the summer. He and his mother live in an apartment directly across the
complex from mine. I watched them moving in a couple of months ago, and
I remember thinking that Maryanne looked "nice" ... like someone I
might want to be friends with. Now that I've actually met her, I'm not
so sure - she has this disconcerting way of just standing there, not
saying a word, while I clumsily attempt to end our conversations
politely - but at least it's a little extra money. Christopher pretty
much looks after himself and he's no problem at all to get along with.
Christopher was Jamie's first boyfriend.
and I are clashing
this summer. She is moody, mean-mouthed and reluctant to help out in any
way. Asking her to do something helpful - fetching a clean diaper
for Kyle, picking up her toys, whatever - is maddening. She rolls her
eyes, sneers, makes this awful "tcch" noise and immediately begins to
whine ... "MOMMMMMMM!" It drives me crazy!!
there's this other
thing she does that sends me up a wall ... I call it "The
be out of the room, perhaps in the kitchen making dinner, and Jamie and
Kacie will be out in the living room watching TV. That's when
I'll hear it - a low, steady, barely-audible stream of muttering, Jamie
to Kacie. I'll peek around the corner at the two of them and there
they'll be, sitting side by side on the sofa, Jamie talking
softly and steadily, with an angelic look on her face, while poor Kacie
will be looking increasingly agitated. The few times I've actually been
able to hear what's being said, I've been horrified. It's almost always
some incredibly convoluted version of something I've said to the girls.
An example: I announced once, half-jokingly, that I was going to start
charging the girls 10 cents each time I have to close their bedroom
door. But in Jamie's twisted, "muttered" version, I'm going to take
away their allowances completely! ("Every time you forget to shut the
door," I heard her mutter, "Mom is going to take away one of your
dollars.") No wonder Kacie looks agitated! Lord knows what other
atrocities and half-truths Jamie has been feeding her, just for fun!
has also become this
Tattle-Tale. It's an art with her. Naturally, SHE is never ever to
blame for anything, it's always somebody else's fault, and as a matter
of fact nine times out of ten SHE is the hapless victim. (Isn't that
interesting?!) I've made it clear to her that tattling is one of my
least favorite kid-habits - it rates right up there with nose-picking
and playing with matches - but this hasn't deterred her in the
"Jamie and I are
clashing a lot this summer."
July 7, 1988
this stuff I SHOULD
doing, but I can't seem to get myself going ... gotta call the gas
company and find out why our bill is all fouled up, gotta write to my
brother and BEG him to fix my car (it's only been a year now), gotta
get Kacie and Jerome registered for kindergarten ... gotta figure out
how to pay the remaining eighty bucks we owe on our rent by this
weekend ... gotta clean the girls' room, fix lunch for seven kids, keep
the apartment cool during a heatwave ... and frankly all I really feel
like doing is crawling under some cool, dark rock and hiding. Why?
What's happened to my energy, my optimism? Is it because our weeks of
lovely wet weather have finally given way, today, to the damned hot
stuff? Is it because my period is sneaking up on me?
GLASS." (Kacie's explanation: "We
was tryin' to frow it AWAY.")
California Cooler ... Hickory Farms Sweet-Hot Mustard ... "Tall Cool
One" ... Kyle: "Ya ya, boo boo!" ... sweats and men's dress shirts ...
"Ladies Only" tape ... "The Love Connection," "A Current Affair," "Blue
Skies" ... corn on the cob ... Chubby Checker & The Fat Boys,
"The Twist" ... little purple plums ... blue Kool-Aid ...
Jamie: "I hate it when you call me 'Pussy.' "
Kacie: "See ya later, crocodile!"
Kyle: "Phone! Phone!" (whenever Ray calls from work in the evenings)
Friday ("Yahoo Day")
July 8, 1988
guess what? Out of
that "stuff" I was supposed to do yesterday, the only thing that
actually got done was "fix lunch for seven kids."
And now here it is
morning, and here I sit again at the kitchen table drinking coffee,
just like yesterday, feeling inundated by "shoulds" and "oughtas" and
got up a couple of
ago. I was kneeling beside the stereo sorting through albums when he
suddenly burst into the living room, his empty bottle in one hand and
his beloved toy gun in the other hand. "Ha-LO," he said in the new deep
voice he's been cultivating lately - I call it "The Big Voice" - and
waved genially at Zaydra, Jerome and Jamie. Then he ran to me for his
good morning hug. This is one of my favorite moments of the day -
Kyle's first morning hug. His love for his mama is pure and
unrestrained. He literally LEAPS into my arms and hugs me tight, with
his entire little body.
Thursday (almost "Yahoo Day")
July 14, 1988
worrying about the
only now we owe $160 instead of just $80, since Ray cashed all the
checks we had stashed away - but otherwise I've managed to get quite a
lot done this week. Called the gas company and wrote to my brother,
anyway. And I even cleaned the girls' room - that took four hours - and
scrubbed the kitchen floor.
July 21, 1988
week later. Not quite
productive this week, I'm afraid --
temperatures have been in the mid-nineties, my energy level has been in
the sub-zeroes -- basically this has been
a week of laying in front of the fan, drinking Pepsi after Pepsi ...
girls spent the
Peg & Don's last night. Peg picked them up around lunchtime
yesterday and will bring them home sometime this afternoon. Kyle and I
thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening alone together last night: we
sat on the floor in front of the TV and ate dinner together, I gave him
a nice cool bath, and then we snuggled into my big bed at 9:30 and went
to sleep. He is speaking in complete (although still somewhat halting)
sentences now. Last night he said "I play Jo-Jo a'minute." One of his
longest sentences to date. He's also started noticing the noise of
airplanes passing overhead (hard to miss, considering that the airport
is practically in our backyard). "PANE! PANE!" he'll shout, whenever he
hears the rumble in the sky above us, or even if he spies an airplane
now (9:30 a.m.) he
outside playing with "the big boys" - Jerome, Christopher and Jeffrey.
He gave me this funny look when he was walking out the door: almost as
though he were saying "Is
this OK, Mom? Am I a big boy now, too?"
And then when I
assured him that yes, it was OK for him to go outside - Jerome and
Christopher had promised to keep an eye on him - the look on his face
was PURE JOY. I can see him now, out on the newly-fenced playground, in
his red shorts and his yellow Spiderman tank top and his new blue
high-top sneakers. His hair is much too long, as always - he has to tip
his head back, a little, to see out from under his heavy bangs - but in
the morning sunlight it glistens like new pennies. Next to the older
boys, he looks very dear and little to me. (Jerome and Chris just went
strolling past my window, and right behind them - skipping a bit and
shouting "C'MON!" - was my little man.)
almost wish that I
freeze Kyle at this precise age and moment. In spite of the fact that
he's a pain in the neck 75% of the time - the TERRIBLE Twos - he is
nonetheless as cute, as personable and as fascinating to watch as he's
ever been. Every day he does something new and wonderful. (Of course,
every day he ALSO does twenty or thirty not-so-wonderful things. But
still.) Right now the major day-to-day developments are mostly
language-related. His verbal skills have really taken off since his
second birthday, nearly three months ago. I'm amazed at how quickly and
adeptly he has begun picking up new words and sentences. "Bat-mam!" he
shouts merrily, when the Batman theme music comes on in the morning. "I
busy!" he says crossly, when I ask him to fetch me a clean diaper.
"Daddy be wight BACK?" he inquires sweetly, when Ray runs to 7-11. He
parrots virtually everything I say to him. ("I'm almost done," I say as
I'm tying his shoes. "'Most done?" he echoes.) He has also -
unavoidably, I guess - begun to parrot the four-letter words he hears
Mom use. The kids he plays with all day have taught him to say "I tell
on you!", "Dud-up!" and "Cry-baby!" And then there's the stuff he's
made up all on his own. He has this funny little thing he says when
he's feeling especially frisky - "Na na, boo boo!"
-- I have absolutely no idea where that came from,
but now the whole family says it. I guess it just kind of means "Ha ha, look at me,
aren't I the
funniest thing ... ?"
has discovered a
TV shows (and characters) that he really likes, and I mean "likes" to
point of delirium
when they come on - "PeeWee's
Playhouse" on Saturday mornings, "ALF" on Monday nights, and now
"Sesame Street" every day. (His favorites on Sesame Street are Oscar
the Grouch and Bert & Ernie.) These are KYLE'S SHOWS, and he
loves them feverishly.
August 18, 1988
a month later.
'bout that. Summer has been zipping by. I mean it - each week seems to
pass more quickly than the last. One minute it's Monday morning, and
I'm snarling at everyone, feeling depressed and guilty and overwhelmed
- I loathe Mondays - and the next minute, boom, it's the end of the
week again. This has made Summer 1988 pass in the blink of an eye. In
some ways this has been great, summer being my least-favorite time of
year and all, but then again who wants life to run at 78 rpm?
Especially when you've got young children who are growing up too fast
as it is ... ??
a cloudy Thursday
and I'm sitting here waiting for Dee to drop Zaydra off so I can hop
into the shower and get my day officially started. There are already
six kids sitting around my living room watching cartoons, and the
ridiculous part is that only ONE of them (Jamie) is mine! (Kacie and
Kyle are still a'snooze in the back room.) Today we've got all the
regulars, plus four yr. old Nicole and two yr. old Nicki. And Zaydra,
when she gets here. I'm anxiously scanning the gloomy skies, praying
for once that it DOESN'T rain ... can you imagine being stuck in a
dinky apartment with nine kids, including (o god) FOUR two yr. olds??
got a lot on my
today. The girls start school in a couple of weeks, and I'm preoccupied
with thoughts of getting Kacie registered, buying school clothes (how?
when? with what money??), juggling schedules, arranging transportation,
etc. etc. etc. etc. Last weekend my mom and I took them to Pay 'N Save
to buy school supplies. Kacie got a two-pocket folder, pencils,
erasers, a little bottle of white glue and a new box of crayons. Jamie
got a three-ring binder (with pictures of jelly beans on it), paper,
crayons, pencils, erasers, a plastic carrying case for her pencils, and
-- the piece de resistance! -- her very first lunchbox and Thermos! Oh
boy! It's pink plastic with pictures of Barbie all over it. Sunday
evening she just sat on the sofa and held her new lunchbox in her arms,
sighing. "I wish school was TOMORROW!" she said, over and over again.
It made me smile because I remember that feeling so clearly! Kacie is
slightly less anxious for school to start, at least outwardly, but I'm
sure that's mostly because she doesn't know what to expect, the way
Jamie does. "School" doesn't mean much to her yet, although I fully
expect her to enjoy kindergarten once she starts. But right now Jamie
is growing more wiggly and impatient and excited by the hour.
kids have had a
summer, although it's been exceptionally low-key. With the exception of
a sleepover at Peg & Don's and a "Bambi" date with Grandma
Beeson, plus a few trips to the store, they've stuck pretty close to
home all summer. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, given how
little they are and all. But I do miss having a car and being able to
take them places, and I do feel guilty about how home-bound they are.
They've gotten to swim in the big pool a lot this summer, though, and
there have been millions of other kids to play with. These have been a
couple of the advantages of life in an apartment complex. We may be
isolated from the 'real world' - the world beyond the Shannon South
Apartments - but then again this complex is kind of like a small world
unto itself, and there is never a shortage of playmates. Both of the
girls - and Kyle too, to some extent - have run gloriously free and
unfettered all summer, with very few demands placed on them beyond just
being young and having fun and enjoying the pleasures of childhood ...
popsicles, bare feet, sleepovers, Barbies, eating meals outside at the
picnic table, spooky movies on cable, Daddy barbecuing, long Sunday
afternoons in the pool ... they are all three tanned, hair bleached
from hours in the sun, beautiful, strong, healthy ... Jamie is as
long-legged as a newborn colt, Kacie as freckled as a strawberry, Kyle
(in his new SHORT "big boy" haircut) as loud and busy and independent
as a bumblebee ...
It's a couple of hours later now. Zaydra is here, the four yr. old
(Nicole) has gone home, the sky has miraculously cleared and the older
kids are playing outside. The two yr. olds are clustered around the
Fisher-Price house and zoo toys, playing with the miniature people and
cars. Kyle is in the thick of it, of course. He woke up smiling, about
an hour ago, and is in an aggressive, mischevious mood --
over the head with a toy motorcycle, climbing on top of
André and pinning him to the floor (both of them giggling
wildly), maneuvering his toddler car around the kitchen at breakneck
speed (and flying to my side moments later saying "Owee-owee-owee my
weg! Owee my weg! Need ban-mee!") His new word today is "Ko-Lay" ...
his way of saying Kool-Aid. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
I am utterly astonished by the way he has EXPLODED into talking this
summer. All of a sudden, seemingly overnight, he is speaking in clear,
complex sentences, expressing everything - questions, opinions, demands
- with a clarity that totally knocks me out. I don't mean that he's any
kind of prodigy or anything ... it's just that it happened so fast.
everything else this particular summer. One minute it was "Ma-ma" and
"ba-ba" and "ni-night," the next minute it's "I not spit my Ko-Lay
outside now, Mom" ...
coasting along - a little better than usual, nothing to shout about,
but OK - the rent is paid, some of the other bills are too, there's
plenty of food in the fridge. Ray's been doing extra yardwork for both
of my grandmothers (today, as a matter of fact, he's over at Grandma
St. John's pruning hedges and repairing her front porch) and my
babysitting has been steady. Plus Ray got a 75 cent per hour "raise" at
this past week a
unexpected opportunity has dropped into our laps. To tell you the
truth, I don't know what the hell to make of it. I'm not even sure I'm
ready to write about it -- I'm simultaneously fearful of
golden opportunity and/or committing to something too big to handle. I
don't want to get too excited about it, in case it falls flat, but on
the other hand it's a decision requiring careful thought. What do I
do?? What a dumbhead I am sometimes. Honestly. Here I've been yammering
on and on for months about how I want to get us out of this apartment
and into a house, and then when opportunity actually knocks on my door,
I run scared. Terry W. (Little Terry's dad) called me a few nights ago
and said that the house next door to theirs -- which,
right across the street from Grandma St. John's -- is going
to be for
rent soon. He gave me the owner's name and phone number. Right off the
bat I was kind of excited, and had this "feeling" that this might be a
chance of a lifetime, but even so for some reason I procrastinated
about calling until last night. For the two days before that, I kept
looking at the number and trying to scrape up the nerve to call, but I
just couldn't seem to make myself do it. I mentioned the house to Ray,
even though I hadn't called on it yet, and right away HE was excited.
Far more excited than me, strangely enough. I mean, it's ironic that
I've been the one all along who has been longing for a house, and now
when we really might have a chance at getting into one, I'm
the one who's already talking about packing! What gives??
anyway, last night
finally took the plunge and called (fortified by a couple of beers).
The owner wasn't home, but I left a message, and a little while later
he called me back and we had a long conversation. What it all boils
down to is this: I am to call him back next Wednesday morning, and
he'll let me know then whether he'll rent the place to us or not. At
the moment he's making repairs around the house and yard, so it won't
even be ready to move into for a couple of weeks. He didn't come right
out and promise the house to me, but he did say he would give us "first
consideration." I was using my best 'professional voice' --
smart, articulate voice I use when I'm selling myself -- I
Drynden (who sounded all of about 20 years old) that we are a nice,
responsible, clean-cut, All-American family, that I was sure we could
meet his terms, whatever they might turn out to be, that I would
"appreciate it" if he would keep us in mind when he's ready to rent,
etc. etc. etc. He sounded moderately convinced, but of course you can't
really judge that sort of thing over the phone. Maybe I came off
sounding as phony as a Velveeta sandwich. I certainly felt that way. If
I were renting a house, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to rent to us!
We have no credit history to speak of, no bank accounts, no
cards, not even any valid I.D., either one of us. Our rental history
looks OK on paper -- six years in the Kirkland house,
nearly two years
here -- and Ray is steadily employed. There's even my
to take into account. But I still feel like we fall outside
outside -- of the societal mainstream, and anyone who did
slightest bit of checking up on us would undoubtedly find out that Ray
was fired from his job a couple of years ago, that I was on welfare for
a year, that our credit stinks, and so on and so on, and we'd be
discovered as the frauds we are. So I felt not just a little
uncomfortable trying to convince this guy that we would be the ideal
tenants. Whether or not he picked up on my discomfort, who's to say?
any rate, Ray's all
about it, my mom and both of my grandmothers are excited, Jamie knows
about it and says it's "OK" if she doesn't return to Bow Lake
Elementary this year -- living across the street from
somehow seems to make up for a change in schools --
excited. Except me.
August 23, 1988
days later. Where
Oh yes, my lack of enthusiasm about the house. Honest to god, I don't
know why I'm the only one who could care less about the whole thing. Is
it the house itself? We haven't even seen it. I do know, however, that
it's really tiny. It is ALSO right next door to Tammy & Terry,
and while they're nice enough and we've always gotten along OK with
them and all, I'm just not sure about living next door to them. It's as
though we'd be stuck with each other ... after a long day of
babysitting their kids, they'd still be right there, a mere stone's
throw away ... no separation between "work" and "friendship." Does that
make sense, or am I sounding incredibly anti-social here? Well. I can't
help it. I value my privacy and (where I can find them) my rare moments
of solitude, and I just don't see many of them happening with us stuck
like glue next door to my babysitting clients. I may be totally
off-base, but who knows?
it could be the
physical process of moving that I'm reluctant to face. Moving into this
apartment two years ago wasn't all that tough, mainly because I had
next-to-no furniture and very few personal belongings. Moving OUT of
here, on the other hand, will be a complete and utter bitch. The wooden
bookcases alone weigh a ton, and then there's all the living room
furniture I've accumulated since I moved in ... not to mention the
tedious process of packing, packing, packing ...
Or, I guess it could
financial. It will be costly to move. Not only that, I'll undoubtedly
be taking a cut in my babysitting money. Would Tammy & Terry be
willing to pay me enough (for watching Little Terry and the baby
they're expecting this week) to compensate for the jobs I'll lose if we
Wednesday 3:30 p.m.
August 24, 1988
called the guy about the house yet. The Queen of Procrastination
strikes again. (Why put off until tomorrow what you can put off until a
week from Thursday??) I've got two cans of Rainier chilling in the
freezer, and I figure I'll chug them in a little while and then make
shit! Terry W. just
with a message from the house's owner - he wants me to give him a call
"sometime before seven." Terry thinks we're getting the house! My heart
is pounding like a jackhammer, and I'm fighting this sudden panicky
need to vacuum, to make my bed, to dust the stereo speakers, to
alphabetize the encyclopedias ... ANYTHING except making the call ...
Mom: "Y'know what?"
Mom: "I love you, Kyle!"
Kyle: " 'Know what?"
Kyle: "I yuh yoo, too!"
Wednesday 8 a.m.
September 7, 1988
weeks have passed,
that needless fuss and worry about the house proved to be just
that -- needless. At this point it's all water
under the bridge. We finally went to see the place, and it turned out
to be narrow and tiny and dilapidated, justifying my initial instincts.
Although the owner was perfectly willing to rent to us, we were the
ones who turned it down. So there's no sense of "rejection." What it
all boiled down to, I guess, is that I simply wasn't ready to move ...
especially to a house that presented as many problems as this one did.
Tammy & Terry were disappointed, and they'll probably find
another babysitter now (Tammy had a baby girl on the 31st, by the way),
but I suppose that's for the best.
- we stay put. For
kids have gone back to school! Yesterday was the first day, and a
crazy, hectic, lopsided, thoroughly memorable day it was ...
is in first grade
Room 1, Mrs. R. I walked her to her classroom yesterday morning,
hands with her teacher -- a formidable older woman,
quite a change from young handsome Mr. Gallagher!
-- and showed Jamie where her desk was (it was labelled
"Jamie P.," right next to "James B.") Right away she put her notebook
inside her desk and walked over to the coat closet to hang up her
sweater, then posed patiently for one quick snapshot before I kissed
her goodbye. She suddenly looked very little and vulnerable to me,
sitting there at this desk in this great big first-grade
classroom -- she was trying hard to look brave and
at ease, but her wide eyes and tightly clenched hands told another
story -- and I had to battle the impulse to pick
her up and run with her out of that classroom and down the street and
all the way back to Kirkland, back to 1982, when she was my baby and it
was just her and me all day and school seemed millions and millions of
years in the future ...
First day of first grade
but of course she
fine, and when she got home in the afternoon she was happy and full of
stories and perfectly pleased with first grade so far. She didn't have
a lot to say about her new teacher (except that Mrs. R. had "salad and
milk" for lunch), but I think it's just going to take a little while to
adjust to having a teacher so different from the one she had
previously. Mr. Gallagher is a tough act to follow! Some of the same
kids who were in her kindergarten class last year are in her first
grade class, which pleased her. I'm hoping she won't have any trouble
making friends. Naturally I think she's a fabulous kid, the greatest,
but objectively speaking I do know that she can be terribly bossy -
just like her mother! - and I hope it doesn't interfere with her making
some new friends. There is so much good in her. Yesterday at lunch she
gave 15 cents of her own money to a little girl who'd forgotten her
milk money. And she has a natural enthusiasm for learning that should
help make first grade special for her. She'll learn to read and write
this year! Magic time! All things considered, this should be a
memorable year for Jamie.
then there is Kacie P. ...
brand new kindergartener! She strode into her classroom with confidence
and eagerness. While other, more timid children clung to their mothers,
my Kacie ran ahead of me with barely a backward glance, found herself a
desk and immediately began coloring and pasting. I was pleased and
relieved, but not especially surprised ... that's just the way Kacie
is. Absolutely fearless!
First day of kindergarten, September 1988
L-to-R: Tracy, Kacie, Jerome
September 10, 1988
a.m.; waiting for Ray's folks to come and pick up the girls for the
weekend. The apartment is a mess but I don't give a shit ... I'll spend
the day cleaning after the kids are gone. I woke up with a crummy cold
and my period. Piles of dirty laundry have the hallway completely
blocked off. Fat lethargic flies are buzzing around two bulging, smelly
boxes of garbage in the kitchen. Three days' worth of dirty dishes are
strewn across the countertops. I'm still in my bathrobe, and my chin is
covered in enormous watery pimples, and Ray is still laying in bed like
a lump, and I've got CRAMPS again ...
So why, then, in the
of all this chaos and physical discomfort - the makings of a truly
fucked-up Saturday are all in place - why am I feeling, if not exactly
on top of the world, then at least somewhat GOOD? Why aren't I hiding
in my bedroom closet with a box of Kleenex, a pound of M&M's
and a fifth of vodka??? ...
why! Beautiful, glorious, devil-may-care Saturday. Work all day, play
September 12, 1988
Saturdays" have an annoyingly inevitable way of turning into Monday
girls are out in the
kitchen making salad for their dinner ... a steady stream of argument
and discussion is drowning out Stevie Nicks on the stereo ... warm,
stuffy, sleepy late-afternoon. I have a killer cold, and the
combination of antihistamines floating around in my system have had me
knocked off my feet for most of the day. I've been bitchy and awful to
everyone today: Wendy, Lori, Ray, Shannon, Dee, Maryann, Erin, all the
September 29, 1988
weeks later. Ray
something yesterday about how "fast" time seems to be passing these
days. So it's not just me. I thought maybe I was the only one living in
perpetual Fast Forward, but apparently others are feeling it, too.
it is, nearly the
September, and autumn has pretty much arrived.
Monday morning 9 a.m.
October 10, 1988
I'm having one
hell of a
time getting anything written lately ...
a foggy October
I've been up for about an hour. Jamie woke me around 8:00 with a
frantic, whispered "MOM! You've got to fix me a lunch - it's FISHSTICKS
today!" As a matter of fact it isn't
today, it's chicken nuggets, but I got up anyway and supervised her
quick bowl of cereal, helped her get dressed (green corduroy skirt and
vest, flowered blouse, white knee highs and boots), and then saw her
off at 8:40. Everyone else slept late - Ray is still in bed now - so
it's been quiet around here all morning. Jerome, Kacie and Kyle are
sitting at the kitchen table with bowls of oatmeal, watching "Sesame
Street." They won't leave for school for another two and a half hours.
André is asleep on the sofa. I've got my coffee by my side
and relatively few demands on my day, and I feel pretty good. (For a
see, what's been
around here lately? The girls have been in school for about a month
now, and they're both doing pretty well. Jamie had a tough time in the
beginning, learning to like Mrs. R. She came right out and said that
she didn't like her new teacher, and that she didn't feel Mrs. R. cared
for her very much, either, and that she didn't want to go to school
anymore because of it. I was very upset by this. She was so
enthusiastic about kindergarten last year, so in love with the whole
idea of school, and then suddenly this year she seemed so let-down. It
hurt to see it. I never went so far as to try and have Jamie
transferred to another teacher, but I did call my mom (she works for
the school district) and talked it over with her. We both agreed that
the best thing to do would be to just give the situation time to
resolve itself, and to hope for the best. After a couple of weeks,
happily, Jamie seemed to settle in with her new teacher and got used to
the differences, and gradually the complaints lessened. At one point
she even said "I like Teacher now." That's another thing - she always
refers to Mrs. R. as "Teacher" - she never calls her by name. A far cry
from last year's "Mr. Gallagher this" and "Mr. Gallagher that"!
anyway, she does seem to like a lot of things about being in first
grade: recess, assemblies, learning to read and write ("I wish I had
she said wistfully last weekend),
going to the school library and bringing home a new book every week,
and eating her lunch at school every day. We qualified for reduced
price lunches, so on the days she "buys" it only costs forty cents;
other days, she carries her lunch in her hot-pink Barbie lunchbox.
never really comes
out and talks about school - you have to pry the information out of her
- which is not to say that she doesn't like kindergarten, because she
does. It's just not a big deal to her. Changes never seem to faze her
much, and the fact that one minute she was here and the next
minute a schoolkid, well, that's just the way it is, and what's all the
fuss, anyway?? I'm just glad that we've got a way now to channel some
of that energy and curiousity of hers. She was literally bouncing off
the walls this summer. Kindergarten couldn't have come at a better time
for Kacie. She needs some fun and some direction and some time away
from home (and from me, just like Jamie did last year), and she needs
someone patient and kind and motivated like Mr. Gallagher, who can help
her learn to listen and share and concentrate a little. Her best friend
Tracy (who lives next door) is in her class with her, by the way. This
is the first real "best friend" Kacie has ever had, and it's fun to
watch the two of them together: they're like two little freckled peas
in a pod. (Jerome started the year in the same class with Kacie and
Tracy, but a week later they transferred him to Olympic Elementary, a
few blocks away, for the purposes of evening-out class sizes at both
have a new car, by
Grandma Vert bought Ray and I a 1977 Chevy Caprice last week for
$2,000. Ray has been doing yardwork for her for months now, and they've
managed to strike up a rather unlikely friendship. (Grandma
affectionately calls him "That boy.") Grandma made a deal with Ray that
if he went and got his Drivers License - it had expired a few years
back, just like mine - that she would buy us a car. The station wagon
was on its last legs, and my brother never did fix my Malibu, so it was
an offer we couldn't refuse!
October 19, 1988
next week. Gloomy,
morning ... it's been cold enough lately to necessitate turning on the
thermostat and plugging in the electric blanket at night ... to put
hats on the girls when they leave for school ... to slip into a sweater
in the afternoon while I'm doing my housework ...
was evicted from her
apartment last week, so I'm not babysitting Zaydra anymore. It's more
an emotional loss than a monetary one: Dee had become a friend these
past couple of months. The night she moved out, she came over to say
goodbye and give me a hug. Afterwards, I said to Ray, "Another one
bites the dust." He thought I meant another collapsed babysitting
arrangement, but I was referring to the end of another female
friendship. They never seem to last around here. I know I'll be seeing
Dee from time to time - she still owes me money for babysitting, for
one thing - but I don't expect us to ever be particularly close again.
Ray said something about how it's "these apartments" - that making
friendships in "these apartments" is a futile thing to do, because
sooner or later one of you moves away and the other is left behind.
why bother even trying to make friends here anyway? And I have to
agree with that, in part. We've been here for two years now, and in
that time it's been a steady stream of hellos and goodbyes: Stephanie,
Tammy & Terry, Kelly, Wanda, Michele, Dee ... all have come and
gone. On the other hand, I have to place some of the blame on myself -
on my social awkwardness, my aloofness, my desire for privacy and
solitude. Making friends is so hard for me.
we've got a one
boy named Justin here until 11:00. He and Kyle are running at full
throttle around the apartment. Kyle looks so BIG next to Justin! When
the big kids are here, Kyle seems like the little one ... the baby in
the group ... but right now, standing next to one-year-old Justin, Kyle
seems amazingly more mature and verbal and socially developed. Not a
baby at ALL.
Just as I
writing that last sentence, he came up to me and asked for his "ba-ba"
- probably because Justin is drinking one - and I reluctantly complied.
"Wouldn't you rather have your big boy cup?" I asked him, but he was
very firm about it. "No, I want BA-BA," he said. Maybe there's a little
bit of baby left in him, after all!)
"Mommy, how many
Kacie (look of exasperation)
Kyle: "YES me can!"
October 24, 1988
folks ... it's MONDAY
I got up a
hours ago feeling typically Monday-morning-gloomy, but then I got a
couple of things done that I'd been putting off (calling the phone and
cable companies and buying us some more time to pay our bills), and now
I feel remarkably better. As usual, we blew most of our money this
weekend, but at least the rent and utilities are paid and there is food
in the apartment. The kids even have their Halloween costumes already -
Ray took them to Fred Meyer on Saturday afternoon. Jamie is Raggedy
Ann, Kacie is Scooby Doo, and Kyle is a devil for the second year in a
row. (Appropriately enough.) It's the usual mix of good news/bad news,
financially speaking. We don't seem to be making any progress, but on
the other hand we're not moving backwards, either. That familiar old
only trouble is that
didn't CONTINUE to feel "remarkably better" throughout the entire day
... by mid-afternoon it had all deteriorated into the usual Monday
gloom. All kinds of goofball things kept going haywire on me
everything from the apartment manager finding Kyle wandering alone out
in the parking
lot, to the kids not getting picked up at school (John & Lori
seem to have vanished from the face of the earth).
October 29, 1988
Saturday ... it's always one or the other, isn't it?
is laying in our big
watching "PeeWee's Playhouse" on a portable black & white we've
borrowed from John and Lori next door. I just carried a cup of coffee
in to him. "You can't dink around for too long," I said sternly. He is
supposed to do some yardwork this morning for a neighbor of Grandma
Vert's, and we need the money.
can't drink my
CAN'T DINK AROUND
LONG!" I say again, louder this time, and he finally gives a little
"grmpf" of comprehension.
9:30 a.m. now, and
every indication of being a fine, beautiful autumn day. Crisp, clear
and cold - just the way I love it.
is a gigantic
sitting on the floor a few feet away from me, uncarved at the moment,
bearing a handwritten name-tag: NORMAN. The girls and I were going to
carve Norman last night, but I had a sore throat and fever and simply
wasn't up to disembowelling pumpkins. But we'll probably get
around to it today: I'm feeling better, it's a nice Saturday, and
besides, Halloween (as Kacie reminded me this morning in bed) is TWO
has joined me here
kitchen table, and is working now on a crayon drawing of Gumby. "You'd
better not write about me dumping a bunch of fish food in the fish bowl
this morning!" she warns.
Jay. I won't.
I've got my work cut out for me today.
Jamie, age almost-seven
Kacie, age 5-1/2
Kyle, age 2-1/2
November 2, 1988
it: cold, soggy and gloomy. If there weren't so darned many kids
squeezed into my apartment this morning - and if I hadn't woken up with
the first rotten chest cold of the season - I might actually be
enjoying the rain. As it is, I'm wondering how in the heck I'm going to
get through this day in one piece.
have a new kid today,
yr. old Michael. He and his mother moved into the complex this weekend.
I'll be watching him on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 to 4,
for $1.25 an hour. Michael and Kyle are sort of 'getting acquainted'
this morning, which amounts to running around the living room with
handsful of Matchbox cars and growling like monsters. Kyle seems
pleased to have a new friend, but he's acting more aggressively and
territorially (and NOISILY) than is normal even for him. I guess he's
just excited. Michael is quiet, blond, taller than Henry by two inches
(although younger by three months), and - so far - relatively unruffled
by Kyle's aggression. But it's only been an hour. I'm sure that by the
end of the week his true colors will emerge, and I'll know for sure
whether I have another angel or another monster on my hands.
driving me crazy. The other day Ray and I were watching him pitch a fit
about something or other - his zillionth temper tantrum of the day -
and we just looked at each other and sighed. ("This is it: the
last two year old.")
I honestly don't know if I could survive another
Terrible Two. The girls were bad enough (although I must admit that the
details of their toddler years have already gone soft and fuzzy around
the edges of my memory). But Kyle is the worst, the absolute,
He actually believes that everything revolves around
him, and if everything, I mean EVERYTHING, isn't done precisely the way
he wants, there is hell to pay. NO one else in this family is allowed
to turn the TV off or on, open or shut doors, flush the toilet, bring
in the evening newspaper or feed the goldfish. ONLY KYLE. I can't pick
out his clothes or throw his wet diaper away - HE has to do
it - and when I fix him an
occasional bottle, only HE can get the milk out of the fridge. (And
then I have to put the regular milk into the ba-ba BEFORE the chocolate
milk, never afterwards, or else we have to dump it out and start all
over again.) No one is allowed to ride his yellow toddler car or his
rocking horse. He might let you play with his Matchbox collection once
in awhile, for a minute or two, but when he decides he wants them back
you'd better be prepared to surrender them willingly ... or lose some
hair. He hits, kicks and throws things at us constantly. Just now he
came up to me and announced that he wanted "chockit" (chocolate milk).
When I said "no," he first tried to tear this page out of my journal,
then pinched me HARD on one arm. He yells about EVERYTHING, and he
calls us every obscene word he's ever heard on the playground: last
week he called me a "fuck bitch." I get so tired of the sound of him
yelling that I have to leave the apartment a couple of times every day
and just go out and walk around, or sit on the steps outside our
apartment for a minute, just until my brain stops rattling around
inside my skull. He is infuriating, tyrannical, destructive, mean,
selfish and generally very unpleasant to be around 50% of the time.
50% of the time he is our wonderful, affectionate, beloved angel
... the little son that Ray and I both adore so completely. The
changeling disappears, the horrid, mean-spirited monster, and in his
place is this sweet-faced, tender, funny, charming little boy. He
climbs up onto my lap, grinning, and says "Know what? I yuv eyoo!", and
I think "This little boy is NOT the same little boy who spit on me five
minutes ago" ...
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Kyle
Note the next morning:
and I were laying
big bed last night watching "The Wonder Years" when he suddenly
initiated his familiar "Know what?" game. "Know what, Mom?" he said
merrily. "What?" I replied, expecting the usual "I yuh yoo" punchline.
But this time he surprised me. "You're CUTE!" he said, instead, and I
burst into laughter, much to his delight. Where on earth does he get
these things?? Who taught him to say the word "cute"? Why does he do
something so outrageously adorable the very day his mother wrote three
pages in her journal all aboutg what a little DEMON he is .. ???
... KNBQ, "Golden Oldies" ... warm eggnog and rum ... Lori and John
next door, our new best friends ... Parent/Teacher Conferences ...
"Roseanne," "Murphy Brown," "Ramona" (on PBS) ...
November 4, 1988
cough, kept me
long into the night last night. Heavy coffee seems to be the only
solution this morning. Jamie and Christopher just left for the rainy
walk to school - Jay was pouting because I made her wear a heavy coat
and a scarf. ("But I can't play on the BARS in this coat!" she whined.)
Now I've "only" got Kacie, Jerome, André, Michael, and (of
course) The Boss! (Actually, Kyle seems to be in a better mood than
usual today ... he and Michael are sitting on the living room floor,
filling aluminum pie tins with Matchbox cars and then spearing them
with forks. "Pie!" Kyle says happily. Michael looks at me and grins.)
a strange, fleeting
longing for the Kirkland house this morning. It took me by surprise,
because most of the time I hardly think about the place anymore ... and
when I do, it's usually with affection or nostalgia. But this morning
what I felt was an accute stab of longing, regret, loneliness for the
place. It occurs to me that I may always have these feelings at this
time of the year, for the rest of my life. I'll probably always think
of the years we spent there on days like this.
November 16, 1988
rain, twelve days
We've had a clear day or two, here and there, in between downpours. But
mostly it's been just like this.
looked cute when
Chris left for school this morning - jeans tucked into white boots,
Kacie's blue jacket, a "Little Red R ing Hood" scarf on her head and a
pink vinyl purse slung over one shoulder.
December 2, 1988
How on earth
be DECEMBER already??!?)
may be my final
this journal. It hadn't actually occurred to me, until now, that this
journal is nearly a year old. Most of 1988, encapsulated in one
notebook! I wish I could have written more consistently, but I guess
that these little bits and pieces of 1988 will have to do. Tomorrow
I'll buy a new notebook and start all over again.
however, one last "word portrait" of Polenville in December 1988 ...
to rain again.) Our hearts are lighter than usual, though - it's
Friday, it's a payday, Ray has the day off, AND it's December! Kacie is
sitting here at the kitchen table, singing "Then He Kissed Me" under
her breath, contemplating the remains of her chocolate doughnut. Her
face is smeared with chocolate and her hair is in its usual birds-nest
condition. She scoops some chocolate icing off the top of her doughnut
and sucks it absentmindedly off her finger. "Did you know I'm at Table
One now?" she asks suddenly, and then she offers me a bite of her
doughnut, smiling happily. Life is good for Kacie P. right now. She
loves kindergarten, she loves Mr. Gallagher, she loves her best friend
Tracy. The world is an interesting, friendly place filled with
doughnuts, Christmas cartoons and endless possibilities.
going to be when you grow up?" I ask her, and without a moment's
hesitation - her enormous, denim-blue eyes unblinking in their resolve
- she says "A singer." She pronounces the word with a hard "g." There
is still a trace of the old Kacie-baby-talk in her speech these days.
"I'm gonna be a sing-GER. Is that okay?" (She and Jamie both harbor
this same ambition. I think they plan to grow up to be the Ann
& Nancy Wilson the 21st century.) I smile at her and say yes of
course, she can be anything she wants to be - your standard
enlightened-Mom-of-the-80's kind of answer - but actually I'm smiling
more at her nose than at her career ambitions. I love Kacie's nose. I
remember when she was first born, she looked so much like Ray that IK
was afraid she'd also inherited his formidable schnozz. It looks fine
on him, handsome even, but on a little girl ... ??? But luckily she
wound up with something infinitely more feminine and delicate; one of
those sweetly upturned noses you see on Dutch dolls, made all the
sweeter by the sprinkling of caramel-colored freckles. With her
beautiful blue eyes and her cute little nose and her peaches and cream
complexion, Kacie is a wonderfully lovely little girl. It's not a
ruffles-and-ringlets type of loveliness - there's not a prissy bone in
her body - her hair is always a mess, and there's always food or
Kool-Aid stains on her mouth and her clothes, and she's usually got her
shoes on the wrong feet or her sweater on backwards or her coat on
"There's not a prissy bone in her body."
Jamie's 7th Birthday
December 11, 1988
will be the final entry ... !
can't believe I'm up
early on a Sunday, of all days. But I am. (And the coffee is sitting
next to me to prove it.) I woke up around six, after a restless and
uncomfortable night here on the couch, and I simply felt like staying
up. Ray and the kids remain solidly zonked. I went in a minute ago and
checked on "the boys" - Ray and Kyle, both snuggled into my bed - and
"the girls." Everyone is snoring peacefully.
new Fleetwood Mac
(New song on VH-1 right now ... "As Long As You Follow.")
December 14, 1988
(Note: This is from a scrap of
paper, tucked into the back of
little boy in red
train" overalls is standing in front of me at the moment, trying
desperately to get my attention:
gonna buy me
"You need you' colors, Mom?"
"Dat HURT you, Mom?" (pinching my knee)
"Gettin' ready a' GO?" (to the laundry room)
"Dese my socks, Mommy?" (no, they're Kacie's)
"What's DAT, Mom?"
"Dat HURT you, Mom?" (standing on my foot)
a clear, cold,
December morning. I've been up for an hour and a half, trundling
baskets of laundry to and from the laundry room. I'm not accustomed to
being outside this early in the morning, and it's exhilerating. At the
moment I feel like I could climb mountains. I'm charged, energized.
Mountains of laundry to fold and iron, mountains of dirty dishes to
wash, mountains of unfinished Christmas cards to finish writing ... I'm
out mountains -
List Your Assets
(from someone else's perspective, someone who knows and likes you and
has a good intuitive sense of your character)
children; seven year marriage; got myself and kids out of mess in 1986,
then off welfare in 1987
way you treat other people: Forgiving,
tolerant, generous, courteous, loyal
about people and life in general:
Apreciation of the things that count, deep love of home and family
artistic talents, excellent typist, facility for language
thoughts & feelings:
Spiritual, proud of the good things I do, proud of my talents
characteristics: Pretty face
(when properly maintained),
pretty hair (ditto)
Preserving family lore (through photos, journals, scrapbooks, etc.),
collecting music (through cassette tape compilations), personal
education, relevant background
data: Happy childhood,
supportive family, solid religious
foundation to fall back on
would like myself
much better if I were more:
- At ease around
(about food, work, parenting,
- Ambitious - or
at least if I had some actual goals
- Patient with my
would like myself
much better if I were less:
- Obsessed with
order (and bothered by my life's lack
around the kids
- Apologetic when
it isn't called for
- Determined to
have my own way all the time
I Liked During
Lee Summer, "I
Wish I Had
Natalie Cole, "Pink Cadillac"
Midnight Oil, "Beds Are Burning"
Joan Jett, "I Hate Myself For Loving You"
Robert Plant, "Tall Cool One"
Pat Benatar, "All Fired Up"
Toni Childs, "Don't Walk Away"
The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
Pink Floyd, "On The Turning Away"
Bruce Springsteen, "Brilliant Disguise"
next previous home
to throw a rock?