• Mother Hens

    We’re a lesbian couple in central Virginia and we're raising a child. Oh my god. We had a child. Read the rest over at Butch…and Pregnant.
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What Life Looks Like

I’m not sure what I expected seven and a half years in. I don’t think I thought that far ahead. In five years, we moved to a new city, found new jobs in new professions, bought a house, and had a baby. I think you’d agree that all available brain cells were occupied.

Today it all feels very adult. We go to work. We save money. We pay off student loans. Debra found a new job that’s both professionally rewarding and more time consuming and I’m often finding it’s just me and RR at pick-up, at gymnastics, at morning drop off. We work hard. We remark on how we actually do the amount of work commensurate with our salaries. You wouldn’t think that’s remarkable or unusual but there have been times where one or the other is more disproportionate and we’re both sitting at an even, if tiring, balance. We come home. She cooks, or I do. RR consumes popsicles and apples while decompressing over Captain Underpants. I frequently catches her reading, knees flopped open, hair hanging around her cheeks as she digs into a new chapter. One of us washes the dishes. We watch TV and read before going to bed. We aren’t as lively as we used to be. Or at least less frequently. On Sundays, we have dinner with my mom.

That makes our lives sound pretty dull and sometimes it feels that way. But, RR gets taller and more lovely. Her art is sometimes startlingly good. She tells jokes. She knows how to wink after a bit of sass. Debra is in a few bands and some weeks she’s out of the house several evenings. I tell myself I should use those evenings to write but mostly I read, then go to bed early. I suspect I’m the one that’s dull.

Maybe it’s just that we’re so close to March. It’s a dreadful time of the year. I guess what I’m saying is, seven and a half years in is pretty good. Even if it’s not very exciting.

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That Feeling When…

You check your voicemail because, even though you never check it, it has been a shitty week and why not because it can’t get worse, and you see a March message from your died-in-April Dad and you think, “I’m strong enough to listen to that and, man, it would be nice to hear his voice.”  and then you open it and it’s from your mother asking about Girl Scout cookies.

And then you fucking sob.

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And Now Thanksgiving

Grief kicks everyone’s ass, right? Oh the holidays are the worst, they say. That first anniversary…the favorite moments…birthdays… Fuck them. Also, why do they have to be right?

I got through Halloween, his favorite holiday. I am hoping that’s the worst of it. It’s not though, is it? It’s equally as bad as the rest. Take Thanksgiving, for example. I don’t have many dad-specific memories locked up in this one. Sure, I can see him carving the turkey (Badly. He insisted on carving the breast in long slices rather than crosswise) but I can also see my grandfather (also badly) and my wife (beautifully). I can see him raking leaves but also insisting on inefficiently blowing them into the wind. I can see him kicking back in an arm chair with a martini, football on, and a fire blazing while we wiped away sweat, splattered gravy, and otherwise created a Thanksgiving Masterpiece while making it look easy. I can imagine what RR would say when he started puffing his pipe. She would be HORRIFIED.

But here I am anyway. I can’t decide how many to invite or even what to cook. And I’d argue that deciding what to cook on Thanksgiving is pretty much the easiest thing you can actually do. I love having huge Thanksgiving parties. Last year we numbered 23 and 2 turkeys. I remember gazing down the long table (yes, one long table for the grown-ups) and thinking, “A few more could fit, couldn’t they? And wouldn’t that be fun?” I do most of the cooking and I love that, too. I love hearing my friends and family laugh as they get to see new people and meet up with old friends that were new just the year before. I love getting out the punch bowl and filling it with homemade eggnog that is, let’s be honest, mostly cream and alcohol. I love putting our 1950s house to the hospitality test and finding that it’s down for a good time, every. single. time.

I’ve been agonizing over a guest list. Do we invite everyone? I cry. Do we keep it family (chosen) only? I cry. You, know, that’s still a party of 13. I cry. Should my mom come? We cry. Should she go to my sisters? I cry. How many pounds of potatoes for an unknown party of people? I cry. Should we cancel the whole thing? I cry. Do we go on vacation? I cry. My wife is probably crying in frustration, even though she politely does it out of sight.

Someone decided we would stay home and invite our chosen family. My mom has gone to my sisters. She asked me if I’ve ironed the tablecloth (that is so long it’s meant for a table of 16). I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we might be eating from paper plates standing in the kitchen. I didn’t tell it because that was ripping a small part of me into pieces. I like these traditions. Not everyone gets that. I like having to hand wash the china and silver. I like wondering if that gravy stain will ever come out of the linens. I like saving our money so we can afford to entertain everyone.

I’m going to cry. Hell, I’m crying right now just thinking about it and I’m sitting in a coffee shop. This is only a tiny bit better than last week when I cried in my office, got my sandwich wet, and had to go to a meeting with no mascara and a red nose.

Fuck this. And, Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

RR > Gloom

I’m gloomy lately. It’s the best word for it. A sort of foggy shadow. You can still be happy in the gloom but the bone deep pressure of it is still there. I wish that it was more like passing clouds on a sunny day. I’d even take those days when cold wind and sudden storms gets replaced by a chilly blue sky. And, you guys, I complain a lot and loudly about those days. Ugh. Cold. Instead here I am in the gloom.

Like I said, there is still happiness and a lot of it. For example, RR is potty trained. When I typed that I wrote, “RR hasn’t had an accident in…” and then I realized that we are past the days of counting accidents like injuries at a construction site. We still ask, she still checks, but none of us are sure about when exactly the last day was. For those of you that got here by searching (and lots of you do, judging from search terms), the answer to “when will my child be potty trained” is, in our case, seven years old. We survived it. I wasn’t sure we would. I’m not sure how we did.

Also, I love being her mother. Every single day. She’s independent and delighted with each new milestone she achieves. She can make her own sandwiches, getting down supplies from the highest shelves. She charms strangers. When we stop at a light or go through a drive-thru it’s not unusual to find her batting her eyelashes and getting a genuine smile in return. She’s funny. So funny. She has timing, and delivery, and loves a ridiculous joke.

So far, the genetic gamble is paying off. Of course, it depends on a heavy dose of luck and the donor being truthful, but we did our best to engineer a little girl who looks like me, doesn’t struggle with her size, is chill by default, and has an easy talent for music and rhythm. Of course, she does love to read Captain Underpants books and watches too much My Little Pony. I spend too much time telling her to chew with her mouth closed. I lose my patience. She has the regular allotment of sass. I am over the moon in love with my family. And so, I have indulged myself and included the following. The gloom, you guys, it doesn’t lift but it lets life happen.

Post -Dad Halloween

I wrote this last week. Today is Halloween and it isn’t easier or better, though I hoped it would be. We have done some decorating and RR is getting to trick or treat (to her delight). All day I’ve felt prickling under my skin, like I just. cant. But I can. And I will. And there isn’t much more to say about that.

Today I saw an older man flanked by two woman moving ever so slowly down the street. One must have been his daughter – it was in the nose and the hands – and his wife, possibly, probably, judging by her own weary walk. They were holding his hands, holding him up, and I saw my dad’s late cancer gait and balance. I’m seeing my dad everywhere these days.

I’m trying not to be too critical of my grief. I vacillate between a neutral sad but not too sad and being overwhelmed by tears. I catch myself judging my own degrees of grieving, comparing it to my sisters’ (why are they still so deadlocked in sobbing) and my mother’s (if only she had just recognized the inevitable sooner) and sometimes I feel a bit proud of having kept a practical, realistic mindset throughout the last two years. And then, especially when I start crying and can’t stop (in the car, while loading the washer, walking the dogs, taking a shower), I’m frustrated for not being kinder to my family and for being prideful to begin with.

It has been worse this month. Much worse in the last week. I’m nearly crying most of the time and it just takes a tiny thing to tip me one way or the other. There’s a lot of beauty and good in my life and so, most of the time, I get pulled back in the nick of time and saved from the embarrassment and indulgence in tears for a person gone six months ago. Other times, I take the chance to break and find it’s for the memories more than anything else. Happy tears for having had those moments, but leaving me with a red nose and bloodshot eyes nevertheless.

My therapist once told me I was a pretty cryer at least. I choose to believe it, especially the times when I know it isn’t true.

Halloween was one of his favorite holidays and fall his favorite time of year. He delighted in decorating the house with tombstones and cobwebs, displayed evermore sophisticated fake limbs and rats and spiders, and ran surround sound speakers to our front walk which he could use to personally spook trick or treaters. He was kind to the little ones and devoted himself to getting at least one good jump out of the older kids. When he moved here he handed out candy while we took RR around the neighborhood. He never once had anything but compliments for my own displays which, while in the same vein as his, never have reached the heights he regularly achieved. Even last year, when he was at the end of his ability to walk at all and certainly couldn’t climb the stairs, he sat outside the house with a gruesome looking mummy bandage on his arm and a plastic, wiggling hand in the candy bowl, distributing treats and greeting the children.

My mom can’t drive in the dark. We’ll be on our own for Halloween this year. I just want to close the door, turn off the lights, and fast forward to November. We don’t have pumpkins or a halloween costume for RR (it’s coming, I’m not that terrible). My sister isn’t bringing her kids. There are no spiderwebs or tombstones. I can’t see my way through setting them up without sobbing. And that makes me cry more.

Tell Them You’re a Mama

The last two weeks have been a slog. Not caused by any one thing in particular, just the general press of life day in and out. I’ve been so busy at work that my wrist started to hurt from typing. Then there was less typing and more meeting and my ass started to hurt from sitting. Finally there was more teaching than sitting or typing and I got a cold for my efforts. These are not actual problems*. Still, September has been oppressive in its unrelenting pace.

And then I got a UTI and I hated the world. Especially the insurance company whose machines were down and couldn’t process my prescription. I spent any free time I could find (and that is rare these days) working on it, including the ride home where I called both the main insurance company (we can’t help you ma’am) and the prescription insurance company (the system is just down, ma’am, I don’t know when it will be back). RR was deeply concerned about me because, as you know, all things urinary are in her wheelhouse. Her little brow wrinkled more and more as I talked and she kept repeating, “Just tell them you’re a mama!” as if that would magically move mountains.

Sometimes Being a Mama feels like moving mountains, and sometimes you take a moment to ignore the burning when you pee and realize how grateful you are to have someone who thinks it’s the most important job in the world.

 

*I live in Charlottesville

Ting

For us, seven is the magic age of “what will I be when I grow up?” Now, her mother and I are pretty good examples for both doing what you love and doing what to have to in order to earn money while not killing your soul. And while we don’t want her to fall prey to the Dream Job syndrome (i.e. nothing is good enough if it isn’t The One), we also don’t want her to feel like she has to pick a path, prepare for it, and stick with it. At least, not forever.

The first job she reported wanting was a queen. She announced this about a year ago along with her plans for future residency (our basement) and children (two, twins, girls, who her mother and I will take care of). That was six. At seven we have a more practical job – an art teacher. Both residency and child-rearing strategies remain the same. I say practical with a bit of hesitation, I admit. She’s certainly talented, but is being an art teacher really a viable career choice? But then again, who am I to think it might not be? Besides, she’s seven and she’s still working on core skills like reading, math, and toileting (do not even get me started).

Art teacher sounds more realistic than queen and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually “art teacher with a tattoo artist side hustle.” Man, does this child love to draw on herself, others, walls, curtains, floors, etc. She loves the look of body art generally and begs for face-painting at every opportunity. She doesn’t ask for much else so this is a noticeable (and consistent) request. In fact, if she had free access to temporary tattoos, she’d plaster them all over her body. Which brings us to her latest efforts.

While at the pool this weekend, RR disappeared from view for 20 minutes. Debra was with her and looked all over but it was crowded and she was missing. When she reappeared, she had a large, glitter tattoo on her forearm spelling out the name of a new internet service provider in town. Yes, my child emblazoned herself with a glitter tattoo that turned her into a walking billboard. Best of all, she proclaimed, “This will last for THREE WEEKS!”

Giving the scrubbing I insisted she give it in the shower last night, I think it will, in fact, last three weeks. Can we at least get a discount?

TING