Sunday, August 22, 2010

10 G's For Some Double D's

     "So did you finally decide what you're gonna do with the money?" I asked when she walked into my classroom.
     It was the same question I'd asked her countless times in the last two years. The other teachers and I had had fun trying to guess what she'd decide to do with the $10,000 she'd be inheriting on her 18th birthday from her deceased father.
     We'd made sure she had our input.
     "College?" one of us had suggested.
     "I know, a trust fund for Nikki! She's only two, by the time she's 18 interest will accrue and..."
     We had all learned to expect her 16 (and then 17) year-old eye roll.
     "Nope. A car! A month long cruise! Another car!" she'd counter.

     Finally, her birthday was a few weeks away.
     "Guess," she said.
     "The Land Cruiser?"
     "The cruise..."
     "Nope, give up?" she asked. I said I did because it was obvious she wanted me to.
     She drew in a long dramatic breath. "A boob job and a tummy tuck."
     "Ha!" Typical of her sense of humor, I thought.
     She seemed confused at my response.
     She wasn't joking.
     " just had a baby. You're 18!!! I-I-It'll all bounce back!" I stuttered.
     "Nope, nope. I've tried everything. Sit-ups, diets.  I want to look like a normal teenager again. I'm sick of my belly ring jiggling way after the rest of me has stopped moving," she said with a set jaw.
     "But you're not a normal teenager. You're the mom of beautiful Nikki..." I said with a sigh. Because of course, she wasn't listening. She had whipped out a stack of brochures and I found myself staring at a bunch of glossy before and after pictures of boob jobs and tummy tucks.
     "See, these are the ones I'm getting: The Teardrop Shaped Ones," she said, as if we were chit-chatting about earrings. "Oh, and I'm getting double D's," she added.

     I called her mom.
     "Oh, yeah, so she told you, huh? Were you shocked?" she chuckled. "I think it's a smart decision. It's like an investment," her mom explained. "A car will eventually go out of style, with a trip all you have left is pictures...but I told her, 'if you look good, mija, you could get a man. A good one.' And then she and Nikki won't have to worry about nothing."

     Soon after, the newly minted 18 year-old walked into the classroom with her tear-drops threatening to burst out of a stretchy tank that stopped in the nick of time to show off the taut new navel. She had apparently had enough bling left over for a new belly ring...and a tan.
     "Wow," I said.
     "I know, huh? You can't even tell I had a baby," she beamed. "I think my dad would be proud."


Friday, August 20, 2010

A Night. Tie-dyed Skies.

     We decided to take an evening walk. It was still at least 90 degrees outside, but shades of pink had started to tie-dye across the desert sky and there was at least a breeze.
     Paul and my dad walked way ahead of us, while my mom and I walked with the kids.
     "Just let them walk ahead," I said, "we won't get lost." I shouldn't, since we were staying at the same time-share in Palm Springs that we'd been coming to when I was still breast feeding Eli under a towel by the pool. People look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them we go to Palm Springs in August, when the temperature could easily topple over 110 degrees. But it's off season and cheaper, and hey, you just make it work.
     The place is built around a gulf course, with rolling grassy hills and lakes where ducks shimmy around in.
     On the walk back to our rooms the kids started to whine. The breeze had stopped and suddenly it was hotter than hell.
     "Carry me!" Savvy whined.
     "How come she only gets to be carried?" Eli. He'd plopped down on a curb and said he was walking no further. His legs were sweating, he said.
     My mom leaned over and whispered something in their ears. Suddenly the three of them took off running. By the time the rest of us reached the pool area, they had already stripped down to their bathing suits and dripped over to us by the gate: "Ha!Ha! We got in the pool and now we don't have to go to bed at bedtime!" Eli nanni-nanni-nannied, jumping back into the pool.
     My mom looked at me with her signature innocent shrug and bewildered eyes. "I don't know...they just got in..."
     It was 8:30 and the pool was aglow with white lights under the stars.  Occasionally a breeze would blow and tiny white lights twinkled in the  swaying palm trees.
     It was dive-in movie night, a staff person announced. A pool full of people cheered as this theater-size blow up movie screen was erected right at the edge of the pool. Just like that we were watching, "The Tooth Fairy" from the water!
     Paul had gone off to the adult pool, where it was quiet and the pina coladas flowed. He asked if I wanted to join him. "The kids are with your parents," he said.
     I looked over at the kids and my parents.  My dad and Eli were out in the middle of the pool where Eli (who had quickly gotten bored with the movie) was trying over and over to achieve a perfect flip in the water, the skin on his tummy stretched taut over his ribcage with every try. "Watch, grandpa! Watch what I can do!"
     My mom and I sat at the edge of the pool, where Savvy was performing one of her "princess dances" for us on the top step. My mom had gotten the giggles when Savvy tried to twirl and fell backwards into the water.
     "Stop laughing, grandma...or I won't dance. any. more," she said, missing another step as she tried to stomp...and toppling into the water again.
     I love to see my mom laugh like that. Totally uninhibited throaty laughter that leads to snorts. The kind of laughter that gives my dad his cue: "Stop, Stella, you're gonna pee."
     I thought of all the family vacations we'd taken when we were little. I remember thinking that it was worth all the stress of getting there, because soon I'd get to see my mom laugh like that and watch my dad make her laugh even harder. Seemed like so many lifetimes had gone by. Why did everything have to get so hard? There had been so many scars since...licked wounds, broken hearts. It's a testament to what a family could survive, forgive, I guess. Because there we were...a family vacation just like when I was little, only with my husband and two kids. Ha! It was surreal. I squeezed my eyes tight. It was one of those moments you just can't plan and all you can do is try and brand it in your brain, engrave it in your heart.
     "Nah, I think I'll stay here," I told Paul. I had pictures to take.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zumba, Kids: Revisited

It was a week ago today when I started to panic.
It was the start of the much feared Three Weeks With the Kids.
A routine was going to be my saving grace, I decided. Sunday night I sat down and drew up a behavior chart (complete with key of what every color meant...stole this from a 1st grade teacher), a schedule...
And still....the panic at the thought of being alone with the kids. With my own kids.

But it wasn't the first time I'd felt that fear. It's been there since the very first night I was alone with Eli in that hospital room, only hours after he was born. I'll never forget the instant the door clicked, and the icy silence that followed. All day there had been people. People bringing me flowers, food. People holding the baby, taking pictures.
And then there were no more people. And I looked over at my new baby, and he looked over at me, and who knows who looked more terrified.
From that night in the hospital on, I have felt the terror grip me whenever I've alone with them.
I am only a little more confident now than I was then, but only because one day I realized what I was afraid of: me.
Not just: what if I don't know what to do.
More: What if someday I just...can't...just don't.
What this looks like is me opening the front door and running down the street, pulling at my hair, shrieking.

The good news is that work is over and I have returned to Zumba. Thursday night I moved up one row in the class...was in the second to last row. It's clear I may get those crazy dance steps long before I master the kid thing. 
Once again, I witnessed the phenomena of the hottest chicks in the class: The Front Row Dancers, turn into pumpkins, (A.k.a moms) when they picked up their kids from childcare. The hotter the dancer, the crazier her kids were, it seemed. Coincidence? Of course not! We are all, I think, whispering the same thing to ourselves in class: 'Dance, momma, dance, and everything'll be alright...'

I started thinking about how Zumba is so much more than nostalgia for the clubbing days.
Zumba is The Dance Class for the Rest of Us.
It was like when I ran...(well, participated) a half-marathon last year. Just as I was about to quit, when I thought I'd reached down down and found nothing left to keep me going, I told myself: 'remember all those times you were picked last for the kickball team? When you weren't asked to dance at the stupid 6th grade dance? ...and the mother of all remember when's: the time you told everybody you'd failed PE on purpose because you didn't want to mess up your hair, when really you just could not think of failing at yet another sport? Well, don't be a weak ass! Run!'
I managed to hobble across the finish line. I'd like to to think The Rest of Us were redeemed.

And I can't quit now. Second week Alone With the Kids starts tomorrow. When I reach down down and feel like I could find nothing more to keep me going,  I hope I remember to take a deep breath and: 'remember that first night in the hospital room, and I thought I couldn't...?'