December 30, 2009

Her California Cousin



Sweet P and her cousin have known each other since birth. They are not first cousins (and I could tell you how exactly they are related, but it'll hurt your brain), but they were born four months apart.

As toddlers they lived less than a mile apart and could pronounce only the vowels in each other's names-- no one else knew of whom they spoke-- and spent most of their time taking toys from each other and crying. They bathed together, ran through sprinklers together, and gave each other hair cuts. Once, in a fit of frustration, Sweet P pulled out her cousin's hair. It was a low point. Still, they belonged to the same playgroups and were guaranteed to see each other at least twice a week.

As preschoolers, Sweet P and her cousin learned to have animated conversations (which only they could comprehend), always argued over who got the pink cup, played dress up and Play-Doh, and created intense little imaginary worlds. It was a challenge to draw them back into reality, as if they'd entered their own bubble where they were the only existing people. They promised to marry each other, and when Sweet P's cousin's little brother came along, Sweet P had a full-blown throw-herself-on-the-floor-kicking tantrum because she wanted one, too.

In kindergarten Sweet P and I lived with her cousin and family, so the girls started school together, and the school folks thought they were twins. The cousins didn't want to marry each other anymore but wanted to take turns marrying one little golden-haired boy who may or may not have known he was of interest.

And it went on like that (although we did eventually find our own apartment a few blocks away). The girls played soccer together, read the same books, wore matching Halloween costumes, went on vacation and camping trips, had sleep-overs with the same group of friends (mostly from their old playgroup), and birthday party extravaganzas. It was a good ten years. Then, poof: we moved to The Woods. California Cousin drove across country with Sweet P and her dad by way of goodbye.

California Cousin is visiting us in The Woods this week. She hasn't been out since that cross-country summer trip. Some things have changed, as they must. There's no more Play-Doh or dress up, as far as I can tell. While Sweet P is fascinated with fashion, her cousin refuses to wear buttons. They've both given up soccer. They're reading different books and have made new friends.

I'm happy to see that they still don't need much besides imagination to entertain them. The last two days the temperature has leaned toward, or leaped below, zero, and the girls have not complained. They spent most of yesterday reading aloud to each other animatedly from the most recent installment of an old, favorite series (the name of which I'm not sure I'm allowed to divulge). Today they've finished the book and are designing homes and characters for their own stories and giggling over their drawing mistakes.

Suddenly the girls, who are seated next to me at the table, have begun to argue heatedly over the placement of a house window. Sweet P tries to draw the window on California Cousin's paper as Cousin pulls the paper away, "If you put the window there, it'll be looking into your house," she says. Sweet P disagrees.

"Are your houses supposed to be attached to each other?" I ask.

But they don't answer me; they don't even hear me. They're inside their bubble again, hearing nothing but their own laughter.

December 27, 2009

A Change of Dream

My friend Reggae Mama and her family moved to The Woods from the Bay Area just a few months before we did. She recently told her husband that she wants to buy a house now. She's ready to have two feet planted on the East Coast instead of straddling the country with one foot in California.

I know I have one heavy foot in California, but I'm not sure how to drag it out this way-- or even how to know that it's arrived. Our home-buying was built into the move, so I can't use realty as an indicator of my readiness to be fully here. I can't imagine there will ever be a time when I'm not a little bit homesick. As usual, I watch my dreams for a sign.



This is what I see when I dream about California. I'm always walking through the neighborhoods where it's sunny and every flower is blooming. Since we've moved to The Woods I've had the occasional dream that I never left California, or that I've moved back there. R doesn't exist in these dreams-- or if he does, it's as I'm waking, realizing that I don't want to move without him. It makes for a quiet morning.

This week I had the same dream of walking the sidewalks past the brightly painted houses. It's warm and breezy, and I'm inspecting neighborhood roses. Then I return to an apartment where Sweet P and I lived together before R came into our lives, but in the dream R and I rent it-- it's our vacation spot.

I look around the apartment and think about how lucky I am to have this place to visit whenever I want, when all of a sudden I realize how much it costs to keep up an apartment we only use one or two weeks a year. It's an outrageous expense that we can't afford.

I decide to tell R, when I go back to The Woods, that we should give up the California apartment and save our money, use it to improve our home in Massachusetts. I'm a little sad about it, but I know it's the right thing to do.

I woke up, and I wasn't grief-stricken. I was happy that my subconscious finally caught up with reality-- that the idea of going back to The Woods was just a natural course of dream events instead of the drama that cried me awake.

Having one foot in California isn't as expensive as renting an apartment there, but there is an emotional cost, and I'm not sure I can afford to pay it much longer. Maybe if I can't drag my foot over here, I can make it dance.

On the flip side of my subconscious, I also dreamed I was having Christmas dinner with my dad, so there are many miles to go down that path before I wake. One journey at a time.

December 17, 2009

Rocky the Red-Nosed Froggie




Each night after Buckaroo and I read stories, turn off the light and tuck in, he asks me to make up a story, and then he gives me the subject. Usually the stories involve him and his best little buddy riding a roller coaster. I attempt to make the stories as brief as possible as the goal is to get Buckaroo to nod off. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the adventure of it and forget I'm trying to get him to Bedfordshire.

Tonight Buckaroo asked for a story about a red-nosed froggie. I named him Rocky, and the first story I told was how Rocky lead a rescue team to a boy who was knocked unconscious while ice skating-- maybe not the best choice for a two-year-old's bedtime story, but I've had a long day.

Buckaroo requested a second story about Rocky hopping through the snow, and this is what I told him:

One day Rocky's wife asked Rocky to pick up a few things at the store. It was bitter cold outside in the middle of winter, so Rocky bundled up in his hat, coat, mittens and scarf, grabbed his reusable grocery bag and began the long hop through the snow.

As he made his way along the road, cars sped past him and would sometimes splatter him with muddy, icy, puddle water. The wind bit at his cheeks, and he struggled as his little frog legs sank into the frosty powder with every step.

Rocky decided that hopping in the snow was for the birds, so he leaped out into the road just as a truck blew past, and he landed smack in the middle of the truck's bed. He rolled this way and that and tried to find a toe hold as the truck bounced through potholes and slid across ice patches. Finally he wedged himself in against the wheel well and held on with all of his strength.

When the truck finally squealed to a stop, Rocky was shaking all over, even his teeth were chattering (do frogs have teeth?). He managed to clamber out of the truck and find his way to the store. He bought butter, bread, cheese, and apples, packed up his bag and headed back out into the chill.

He soon spotted another truck, but this time Rocky wasn't so lucky with his leap. The heavy bag must have slowed him because instead of finding himself in a truck bed, he was hanging onto the bumper. The wind took his hat, threatened his scarf, and his bag of food was whipping wildly in one hand as he clutched the trailer hitch with the other. His eyes teared with the sting of the cold, and he couldn't see where the truck was taking him.

After what seemed like months, Rocky saw the blurry vision of his favorite old oak tree as he was racing by it, and he let go of the truck. It was a rough landing. Rocky banged up his knee, and his groceries tumbled all over the road. He found himself a walking stick, gathered up his bruised apples and scuffed cheese, and hobbled home.

Inside the house he emptied his bag of booty onto the table and plopped into the nearest seat, assessing the damage and catching his breath.

Ms. Frosch-Frog found the band-aids and tended to her crimson-cheeked husband as he shivered and puffed in his chair. She kissed him very tenderly on his cold forehead
and whispered, "You forgot the milk."

I know. I left the red nose out of the story line completely. Buckaroo wasn't bothered. Maybe you can fit it in somewhere?

December 6, 2009

Spray-O-Matic

I wonder if the progression of one's perfume choice says something about her. Here's mine:

1. Love's Baby Soft
2. Stetson (I know, it's men's cologne. I wore it anyway).
3. Obsession
4. Tresor
5. Truth
6. Now I'm lucky if I remember to wear deodorant (or everyone else is lucky). Also, I've become aware of other people's scent sensitivities, so if I wear perfume I have guilt.

My friend Sparkle Mama (formerly known as Green Mama) and I went out for a bit of shopping and a bite last weekend, and when we ventured into the scary little bathroom at the Mexican restaurant, Sparkle Mama pointed out the Spray-O-Matic and noted that she had not seen one since she was a itty bitty.

I had never seen one.


The idea, I guess, is that people like me who forget to spray themselves up before going out on the town, can sneak off into the powder room and and splash on a scent. Only a quarter a squirt!

Sparkle Mama and I decided to test it out. The only available scent I recognized was Obsession, so I went with that one. It did look somewhat toxic right out of the nozzle and honestly, it smelled a bit toxic, too-- like old lady powder gone way south. It was not the Obsession of my youth.

When I told Sparkle Mama I had never seen, let alone experienced, the Spray-O-Matic, she wondered if they were just a local gadget since the one before us seemed to have been crafted in Massachusetts.

I tried to Google around for more information on the company but found only the Spray-O-Matic name on a list of possible polluters in Lawrence, MA.

Oh, but I have a feeling they are polluting dive bathrooms all over the state. Perhaps you have a Spray-O-Matic story of your own?

December 2, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

I've had a string of dark days, and today was a day of pulling myself out of the muck. As a get-out-of-bed motivator, I decided to make a photo journal: One Day of Life in The Woods. 6:50 a.m.: Sweet P plops Buckaroo into my bed, and I grab the camera. R is long since out the door.



7:15 a.m.: Sweet P leaves for school-- without a coat or mittens despite the 28 degrees outside. She did toss a hat on her head as she sauntered into the frost.






7:20 a.m.: Buckaroo's morning wrestling match with the doggie.



8:25 a.m.: A bundled Buckaroo, ready for Bella's morning walk.


9 a.m.: The ponds and puddles have a thin layer of ice.


We could hear geese a-honkin' in circles above. Buckaroo hoped to spot an aardvark, inspiring a long conversation about where aardvarks live.

10:15 a.m.: After a dash back home and tidying up, we're on our way to meet R at his office for a lunchy date. Buckaroo also requests a visit to the bookstore, but we have to be home in time to shuttle Sweet P from school to her riding lesson.

Have I mentioned my fondness for stone overpasses?

11:30 a.m.:Buckaroo wakes from a quick shnap.



And he's not so happy to be in the car!

We usually go out for sushi, but R had a special surprise for us: HMart!





More than a grocery, HMart also has a yummy food court-- similar to a mall, but with much tastier food options. We shared palak paneer and chicken tikka masala. Buckaroo called his "spicy rice," and gobbled it up. We bought some ice cream mochi for the road. The cashier was very flirty with Buckaroo and gave him a pink cookie.
The stinky durian is, I am told, beloved by many and also smells like cat poop.

12:30 p.m.: Said goodbye to R and made a quick stop at the bookstore where Buckaroo enjoyed a few minutes of playtime and stories.



1:55 p.m.: Starbucks. I used to refuse to partake of The Bucks, but that was in Alameda when Peete's was across the street. Now there are only so many places a mama can sip a decaf eggnog latte with whip in The Woods. Interestingly, these drive-through guys are quite entertaining. This guy, for example, sang "mah nah mah nah" at me every time I began to order at the drive-up intercom, until I finally just had to stop laughing and shout over him.

2:10 p.m.: Sweet P is often hungry-grumpy after school. She perks up when she spots the Starbucks banana bread. She spat out the walnuts.

2:20 p.m.: Stop at our little local market for a small purchase and change because the riding instructor takes only cash.

2:35 p.m.: The stable.


Buckaroo and I spend a little time swinging and sight seeing-- the boy does love a tractor--
while Sweet P rides.



Sweet P and DaVinci work on corners.











4 p.m.: At home, Sweet P does her usual-- homework, staring at herself in the mirror, and talking on the phone. I have to remind myself that she hasn't quite reached teendom.


She would have chatted all night, I fear, if I had not reminded her that it was time to practice piano.










6:30 p.m.: R returns and we have our usual fare of pasta with meatballs. Buckaroo could eat a meatball at every meal. In fact, he may turn into a meatball one day. We would still love him.




7:30 p.m.: Sweet P and Buckaroo paste snowflakes to the front door.

I planned to photograph the bedtime routine, but, as so often happens, the night fell apart soon after snowflaking, so that particular chaos will have to be left to your imagination.