This morning, cringing, I casually asked “any big plans today?” while sitting at the breakfast table. My mother in law mentioned gingerbread houses and ice-skating and then shot back “you? Big plans?” and that’s when I had to say it: I was – gasp! – Leaving the house with BOTH MY CHILDREN, ripping said children from the warm embrace of grandmotherly love and endless Hershey’s kisses, for a play date (read: sanity saving soul feeding visit with my chosen family) with Ona and her kids. MIL got up from the table. Whispered quietly to FIL. Sat back down at the table. I slunk off to the bathroom to confront my husband, accusingly: “did you not mention that we were going out today?” “Dude, it’s fine. They don’t expect ToddlerA to do gingerbread houses. No one is mad at you. Stop reading in” And that’s when I realized- Thanksgiving Fiasco ’06 may color my interaction with relatives for the rest of my life. Word to my peeps: don’t leave the room silently for any reason when we’re having a conversation during the holidays, lest I begin to freak out and replay every single word I just said looking for the offensive bit. (to be fair, I imagine there are plenty of offensive bits in my general conversation. I applaud my in-laws and really anyone who survives a conversation with me)
So really, everything was OK and we were allowed to leave the house and no one shed tears and when we came back it appeared nothing had been broken. Because this family is SANE. And I was able to connect with Ona and finally feed my soul a little. And ToddlerA ran around a kid-style house, leaving a trail of mostly harmless debris in her wake. Plus I think I won cool points when I didn’t let ToddlerA into the master bedroom with her spoonful of peanut butter (to Ona’s whispered, “THANK you!”), thereby saving Ona from having to be That Host, the one who has to rein in someone else’s children which really just isn’t something you should ever have to do but especially not if you have 4 of your own to rein in. I hope I did OK, but it’s possible ToddlerA was a little nuttier than usually allowed because holy crap I was just so happy to see the kid not climbing on stuff that lets face it, is really too beautiful even for ME to be allowed to touch. Today I realized that it’s remotely possible that I might have spilled potato chip crumbs on the couch. I almost had a heart attack until I realized that there is a 13 year old in the house and also a 10-year-old frequent visitor this trip and even if TeenHer sounded credible in her denial, I could totally convince everyone that the 10 year old was making messes; who would believe him over me, right? Except I know that my husband would give me That Look when we climbed into bed, the one that says ‘I know you. And I’ve seen you pour milk down my favorite T shirt while trying to take a sip, and I am the one who catches it when you spill pasta sauce into your lap and brush it away with your napkin. And I’ve seen the crumbs stuck between your ginormous boobs and growing belly, so don’t try to play ME for the fool!’. Which is OK, because he’d never rat me out. That’s what partners are for.
Being here reminds me that I really am fortunate and connected. I tend forget that fact living in the Deep South and because 99.9% of my human interaction is with a 2 year old, and then there will be one night or one lunch or one shared cup of coffee that reminds me: just because my People aren’t all right next-door doesn’t mean they’re not there. I have the fantastic luck to have a small group of easy friends (and siblings!) with whom I, when reconnecting after sometimes months and months of silence, don’t miss a beat. There is no awkwardness after that first real push (and I found last night that I’m not the only one who has to do this) to just pick up the damn phone already or just go to the damn restaurant already. No “where have you been, why have you abandoned me” talk.
Just catching up and catching on and soul feeding.
I spent a while last night berating myself before I went to sleep, chiding myself for saying something rude, for talking sort of snarkily about someone to Ona, and so today I had planned to say something apologetic, to attempt to make myself look a wee little bit less of a raging bitch, like “dude, I mean, that’s just MY very limited experience, you make your own experience because I’m sure things aren’t REALLY the way I read them” and when I started to bring it up today I was met with a fit of giggles and a resounding “ME TOO! OMG THANK YOU!” and that’s how I knew I would always love Ona. That, and she let my 2 year old have paints, and all the graham crackers she wanted, which is good because I’m a fudgeup and forgot to pack snacks or even a change of clothes. Which of course means I can never, ever make fun of the way my husband packs (or um, doesn’t pack) a diaper bag. What has happened, I’m afraid, is that being here with all this grandparently duty shouldering has atrophied my mothering skills. Hell, I’m not even sure I’d recognize my kids in a crowd anymore. It might be time to go home. Um, or move here? Perhaps they can do like the Mad About You couple and buy the condo next door and then just knock out a wall or two, make it one big old family abode.
I have pictures of today. I’ll post them! Soon.