Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
It started in early spring. I’d stop in at a plant shop and flirt with the greenery. I wouldn’t buy, only touch. I’d rub my hands along leaves, stems, picture them pot-less, wondering what was happening beneath the soil. I’d go home and fantasize about them, about them belonging to me, and me satisfying them.
I’d visit the shop again, maybe inquire about some of their likes and dislikes, get to know a few of them a little better. I’d play ini miney mo in my head Will you be the lucky one? How long will we will last? Right when the unknowing got unbearable, I’d buy one. I’d cradle it home, pick a spot for it, and place it gently. Here you go. Now we try to make it work. Please, let’s make this work.
First it was one, then two. All of a sudden I was picking up new beauties every week. In the course of 2 months, I acquired 8 new obsessions.
A long time ago, I had a bit of a green thumb. I was even somebody who bought discounted plants and could bring them back to life. But more recently, I’ve discovered I’ve lost my undeniable touch, and it’s shaking my self esteem. How could I be so good at something 10 years ago, and now be void of skill? Is this something I should prepare for when it comes to motherhood, wifehood, friendship or something else? No thank you.
And so I fight.
The Creeping Ivy – beautiful and touchable with miniature oak leaves that started to die. I was horrified and touched it more, panicked and watered it more, but continued to watch it wilt. I changed the lighting (candle light my sweet?), played Jann Arden for her, touched her in places she’d forgotten about and watched her bounce back to life. But then one morning I wept quietly beside her and decided desperate times called for desperate measures. I removed her from her pot and performed an impromtu surgery. I cut her in half and tried to decide which side had the best shot of surviving. I repotted the more lively side and said goodbye to the brown, miserable side that had peaced out. She toys with me. The side I saved hasn’t died. It hasn’t thrived. It is a zombie plant, stuck somewhere between life and Darryl.
The Bamboo plant from Canadian Tire ($10) – violated by my cat. The leaves were nibbled or eaten entirely and yet she stands proud in her…beer glass (?) and continues to green the crap out of the rainbow spectrum. She gives all the other plants a run for their money when it comes to colour. A survivor. Don’t don’t care what she looks like. She’s bad ass.
The Kangaroo plant – doing well. She gives me hope. There’s nothing wrong me with me, I tell myself. If she can be happy here, then the others are being picky.
The Orchid. The Geisha of house plants. I knew it wouldn’t last. With the beautiful orchid, I enjoyed our time together. She wooed me, gave me pleasure. Our shared time was beautiful, memorable, but there was no lasting power there. We were not soulmates, we were in love for a night and I was relieved when it was over. She left her expensive pot and I still don’t know what to do with it.
The Aloe. Omigod the Aloe. What am I doing wrong? I look around and everyone, I mean everyone seems to be able to keep an Aloe alive. I’ve seen the craziest people host the heatlthiest aloes, meanwhile I’m starting to use my Aloe as material with my therapist. Sometimes it stands up straight, sometimes it wilts. At times I think it wants more from me, and I cater. I touch the soil, I stroke the tentacles, one time one fell off into my hand. I was mortified. I came home the other day and a new juicy arm was developing. Playing hard to get, clearly.
I don’t know what my relationships with these plants mean. It feels important, it feels like a test, like a calling. Please need me I whisper. Please make me your number one. Your North. I’ll provide everything if you keep loving me.
And so, I keep growing up plants.
1.i) Do not compromise on cleanliness. Pick up, wipe down, wash, dry, fold and hang immediately so as to avoid feeling like things are falling apart. If the apartment is sticky, messy and smells bad – people will worry. Personal hygiene also applies.
1.ii) Stop whatever you are doing – driving, showering, performing open heart surgery – to take off the Power Ranger suit that is now unbearably uncomfortable for the toddler. By-pass all your parental discipline morals and just end the screaming. Hear the tsk tsk of others at your jellyfish spine and be thankful you know how to give in when necessary. You’re a winner.
1.iii) Carefully explain to your daycare provider that the bungie cord around your son’s chest was put there voluntarily and that the term ‘Hooker’ was conjured up by him, because of his observant nature and the fact that there are hooks on either end. Comment briefly that it was part of a Power Ranger suit and leave the establishment confidently, but quickly.
1.iv) Heed your husband’s advice and ensure the right element is on when you make dinner (it might take 3, or 4 checks). Use your newly learned skills to make a smoothie for the kids, and promise to play Horsie from the living room to the bathroom to get the toddler in the bath. Brace yourself for sore knees.
Day 1 was a complete success.
A) Enjoying the euphoric facade of Day 1, convincing myself that every day will be just like this one. Also, in bed at 9:30.
B) Grateful that my daughter is old enough and wise enough to sense my tension and knows how to diffuse any situation. I’m going to owe her big time after this…
Successes, mistakes, regrets and lessons are the themes of this chronicle. It will be a month long project, aimed at keeping me creative and armed with a sense of humour. It’s not a long time, I recognize that and I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited for the change. As my mother texted, ‘A change is almost as good as a rest’.
My goal will be to write every day, an odd thing to fool myself into thinking I will have time for. I will be transparent, ruthless and will record 2 things each day that were awesome. I am hesitant to make it more than 2 – anything more than that seems wildly unrealistic.
To set the stage, I dim the lights, draw the stage curtain and invite you into a minimalist scene, where 4 people stand centre stage. A family. Tired, but well fed. A slideshow of images, cataloguing the last few months plays behind them. The typical: family tensions, relationship woes, toddler power struggles. The unusual: a couple of car accidents, depleted bank accounts, a job laid off. The slideshow ends with an audio text of a young man asking the man of the house to leave for a month and help him with his new business. Lots of work. Good money. The man walks off stage, waving and downloading new apps on his phone to make video chats easier. The woman of the house and her two kids stand in the spot light. Their faces grow in tension and the light fades just as all three are about to wail into the darkness….
I love this.
I love this. That my son is sick and needs to be up every hour in order to have his nose wiped, to be held in an upright position and that I have nowhere to be to. I love that I can be exhausted, at the end of my rope emotionally and physically, and I have no boss to answer to, no co-worker to get along with and no customer to satisfy.
I love that my apartment is messy with toys and clothes everywhere. I love tripping over scooter cars and hearing a battery powered animal call from the living room while I make my tea. I love that everything sort of smells like wet towel and that the garbage reeks of dirty diapers, the dishes are stacking up on the counter and the recycling needs to be taken out. I love that as each of these things get taken care of, I feel lighter and more capable. I love the look of an empty garbage can, I love the smell of clean clothes, fresh towels and I love having a counter clear of clutter.
I love this. I love picking up after my daughter who leaves her clothing lying on the ground after furiously pulling out all the possible outfits in the morning and finding socks under her bed, under her carpet, strewn on a jewelry box. I love re-hanging all her shirts and and re-folding all her pants and re-pairing all her clean socks. I love making her bed, making it just the way she likes, the top folded down so that the covers don’t ride up too high onto her face while she tries to fall asleep. I love picking up hundreds of tiny elastics from her Rainbow Loom set that her brother or the cat stuff in their mouths and putting them all in an old baby bottle tightly sealed and out of harms way. I love finding markers and crayons absolutely everywhere and placing them in the garbage so that one day we will have to start fresh again and buy a full set and begin all over again. I love that we can argue about cleanliness, about responsibility and about learning to keep things organized. I love that we have come so far.
I love paying off debt. I love paying it off because all my demons and all my bad habits have a huge party in my head and try to get me to do things like buy new boots and new sheets and a new watch and they throw things at me like ‘you’re so irresponsible’ and ‘you’ll never amount to anything’, and I ruin their fun by kicking them out of my head and all of a sudden it’s quiet and I’m left sitting with myself. I love it because sitting with myself is really hard and it makes me eat a lot of chocolate and I evaluate every square inch of my life and I’m a Taurus so I remember everything which means evaluating everything takes a long time, but time is what I have.
I love having a pimple on my neck. I love it. I love it because it makes me feel like 16 years old again and I’m almost about to cover it with make-up and then I remember that I’m not 16 and I have nowhere to be. Fester away.
I love nursing my 16 month old. I love not feeling conflicted about nursing past a year, and I love how surprisingly loving it is. I love that my son is old enough to know when something funny is happening and can laugh while at my breast and we giggle together. I love that he is aware of what he needs and can point, hop or clap for it. I love what he needs is something physically provided by me, and will wait if I’m busy, or will laugh his way to the sweet spot if he gets it right away. I love that I think by nursing him longer, he is learning more about sharing than he would if he was sent into a playground and told to share all his toys. I love that I watch him restrain himself when he gets very excited and has to remember not to get so excited that he accidentally bites, and I think he is learning about self regulation and having respect for others regardless of his own feelings.
I love not having everything I think I want right now. I love watching my jealousies and insecurities battle it out and I love knowing that so much of what I want has nothing to do with me but has more to do with all of you and how I want you to see me. I love removing that hold over myself, and seeing that I make things very complicated by hosting a civil war. I love the image of myself at war with myself and then I can see how wasteful it is and I choose wholeness for a moment and I think to myself “I’m going to live from this place more often” and the moment passes and I watch myself get split down the center again, but it’s okay because over time wholeness will last longer than a moment and there will be less inner conflict.
I love winter. I love it. When temperatures drop to -30 and I have to bundle the baby up and push the stroller through snow because the city hasn’t cleared the sidewalks, I remember how much I love it. I love when my lungs ache and the cold triggers my asthma and I feel out of shape and embarrassed that I’m not tougher, I remember that I’m tough in a different way. I love when strangers don’t move over for me and the kids but instead plough straight into us and I’m forced to move to the side because I take the opportunity to explain to my kids that that is the perfect example of how not to be. I love getting inside and the mad dash of removing outter wear and the snow on the stroller melts into salt puddles and kids are crying and cold and look to me to take off mitts and boots and I’m cold too but I remember how much I love the feeling of sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and seeing my kids faces bright red with cold and they look healthy and happy and I love that.
I love it.
Facing 10 days in a row of my husband working means fending for myself against the likes of my children. You know you have hit a new phase of life when your kids legitimately scare you and you imagine hiding from them for realsies, because you know what they need from you is likely going to kill you. Parenting in the winter is a different kind of hell than parenting in the summer. It’s something that should offer support groups and safe words for when you are at your wits end. As a general rule, I do not like to be cold, so the winter offers challenges that I am not always up for.
Today my daughter foamed at the mouth when she learned that the canal in our glorious city is open. Skating! Can we go skating? I neeeeeed to go skating! You said we could go skating when the Ottawa River opened! It’s not the Ottawa River. Fine, the Ottawa Canal, you said it, you said we could go! Much like a hostage situation, I had no choice, and I didn’t want to make her mad. She can be unpredictable when she’s mad. I looked at the clock, did some quick nap math, and decided that we had a small window of opportunity to head to the canal and do the traditional winter fuck outdoor skate thing.
You know what the best part is about going skating on the canal with two kids? Nothing. I don’t care who posts fun pictures of themselves with their kids on Facebook, I don’t buy it. It’s hard as fuck and yes, I’m swearing in my blog today. We have to drive closer to the canal because having grown up doing this as a kid, I know that at the end, there will be tears and signs of frostbite, so it’s imperative that we get the fuck out of there when the time comes. But driving means dressing the baby in sweater layers for the car ride and putting on his honking snow suit on the side of the road so he will be warm in the stroller. Driving means finding parking, which means likely having to walk anyway so that’s what car dumb means. You get a car, you get dumb. Now I don’t have skates. I don’t care for skating and I refuse to spend money on skates. The baby can barely move in his huge snowsuit so here we are, bundling and unbundling and peeing and rebundling all so that my daughter can skate while me and the baby walk behind her. Talk about low status. But you put on your stupid parenting hat and you do it.
You know, even when it’s good, it’s bad. Yes, I had a moment when I felt like the world was a tiny bit okay because a stranger offered to help me and the stroller down the stairs. Yes, I had a moment of feeling grateful that the sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing. But I’m not fooled. I know that in about 30 minutes the whining will begin, the toes will ache and that’s not even including my stress that the baby won’t stay docile, but will scream or be too cold, so I snap with my awful mom voice “When I say it’s time to leave, I don’t want to hear one single word of protest. We leave. Do you understand?” Oh mom, you’re so fun.
So my daughter skates. I walk. The baby strolls. My black heart experiences a tiny bit of remorse for being so impatient, when I see my daughter smiling and laughing even though I’m shooting her death glares. The innocence of childhood. She seems to barely notice my foul mood and I think it’s probably a survival instinct. Children must have a way of blocking out their shitty parents’ behaviour in order to enjoy life a bit. We make it to the fence, the barricade that means we have to turn back. I’m about to tip my hat off to myself for not insisting we turn around sooner, but then we change directions, and it becomes clear why the skate/walk there was manageable. Now the wind is slapping us in the face and what seemed like decent weather was actually just shoving us along making the skate/walk seem nice and now we have to walk the 3km against the wind. Any minute now.
One too many drops to the knee, that whole stupid helmet thing means her ears are freezing cold, and the baby has had enough. She wants to stop. Nope. Nope. Not stopping. Now you skate goddamnit. My face is frozen into a permanent scowl and my once strong stride has become slippery and shuffled. It’s now that I notice all the people. Of course I notice them because they’re all skating toward me, with the wind, and they don’t know what’s coming. I see the 12 year old girls in matching coats. Skate clubs. I see the older couple in stride unison. The speed skaters that truly make the rest of us look like fucking idiots. I see the confident woman skating forward while her confident boyfriend skates backwards and I feel sort of aroused. I see the university guys in their hockey gear and sunglasses and I kind of hate them but I also really love them. I see the token Asian tourist, who have skates on, but lets be serious, aren’t skating. I see the functional skaters, the ones with those tiny backpacks on that are definitely filled with bottles of water and solar blankets or something and they are literally skating from one side of the city to the other as transportation. I see the families. I see the singletons. I see the paramedics. I even see the grouchy mom, pushing a stroller and every now and then giving her daughter a thumbs up when she gets back up from a fall, but is really just doing it so she won’t have to head over there and coddle the sore knee because it’s so fucking cold now and we just have to power through.
By the time we get off the canal, lifting the stroller up the stairs on my own because the world is not so okay anymore, my daughter is crying because her ears are so cold and the baby is screaming because it’s nap time. Now we undress him so he’ll fit into the carseat but I don’t take off his snow pants so I drive home with him unbuckled, and I hear the whimpering of my daughter in the back who between breaths asks if she can have a bath when we get home, and I know this is just the way it will be forever. It will always be hard. But we did it. We did it and we get to say we did it. But lets not pretend it isn’t the hardest fucking thing in the world.
I binged on youtube videos when I should have been showering and cleaning.
On a healthy day I think celebrity culture is insane, and we would all be better off just living our own lives instead of checking in to see what our favourite actor was wearing or what they said about anything at any time. My personal experience with it has led me to believe that too much of it can cause a huge gap between real life and the tactfully projected life through pictures and statuses, and can make one feel lacking in just about every aspect of life.
Today I saw celebrities get standing ovations for raising their kids without the use of a nanny. I saw women clap and cheer at a man who was working, while his wife stayed home to raise their new baby at home. I saw Ellen Degeneres learn that an epidural didn’t mean ‘natural’ in the birth world. I heard people with more money than some countries talk about the hardship of planning for their kids’ future. I watch these videos like I’m watching a train wreck – I want to look away out of respect because what I’m watching is so terrible, and nobody should be seen like this, and yet I’m forced to look because it’s so unbelievable that it’s hypnotic.
I imagine that if I were a celebrity, after having lived my non-celebrity life up until now, I would likely be too embarrassed to talk about some of these things as though they were so novel. If somebody cried because I discussed my decision to have a home birth, I might feel more compelled to send them some information on continuing education rather than the remarkableness of my decision. If Ellen Degeneres learned that my husband and I had decided to raise our kids on our own without money, but with a blind understanding of the importance of quality of life, I fear she might fall off her chair and give away more iPods than she’s allowed. I wonder if being at a gala of great importance would be overshadowed by a cluster of people hanging on to my every word as I explained things like grocery shopping without a car in a Canadian winter, or nursing in public or my daughter asking if she can wear a head scarf one day because she has so many muslim friends at school. I’m not sure I would be able to take all these people seriously if parts of my life that seem so simple, so necessary would be celebrated as though I was the only person in the world doing it.
I’m sure there are celebrities who grin and grit through their teeth at these stories they have to tell, knowing that a great many people have also opted to not have nannies, in less comfortable circumstances, and I have a lot of admiration for them. It can’t be easy to talk like you are the first person to discover that breastfeeding can speed up weight loss after pregnancy, but there she is, enlightening the audience, and you have to hand it to her for having the balls to maintain the interview rather than get serious and tell Katie Curic that her questions are stupid.
All of this to say, today if you are working and budgeting, or raising some kids or getting into a fight with your partner, just imagine the applause an LA audience would have for you if you had more money, a couple of red carpet pictures in People Magazine and had dated Chris Pine. As I scrub the slow cooker and try not to slip in the oily bathtub because my daughter decided it would be fun to put baby oil in her bath last night, I will be imagining the reaction of a room who can’t believe I live this way, and how hard they would be clapping at my strength and endurance. If I have a room of applause following me around in my head all day, I might actually be able to get through it a little easier. God Bless LA audiences.
This afternoon, in the balmy heat of late November in Ontario (wtf) my daughter was outside playing in the courtyard. Her friend was with her, a quiet, shy french girl named Bev. Bev is entirely awkward and likes to repeat herself and I get a huge kick out of her. Typically she ends up crying because she has gotten dirty, or because all the other kids are playing with worms. To look at her, you wouldn’t think those things would bother her. She has short hair, extra weight around her middle and I’ve never seen her in a skirt. On more than one, two or three occasions, it has been Bev who has unwittingly stepped on the one piece of glass that mysteriously sat in the grass for months. One time she stepped on a nail and it went right through her flip flop. There was no emergency, no skin was broken, but Bev shrieked and produced tears faster than a faucet pouring water. The courtyard isn’t even dangerous. It’s a community garden, a compost centre for our building and how Bev manages to find glass and nails just speaks to her energy. One day when some of the kids made my daughter cry by excluding her in the group game, it was Bev who left a note for her explaining in choppy english that she ‘hopped everitig was beter tomoro’. It brought a tear to my eye and I threatened my daughter with things like cutting the wires of our tv, or poisoning our cat if she didn’t make sure she thanked Bev at the end of day when they got home from their schools.
When Bev knocks on our door to ask if my daughter can play, I am pretty sure she is about to start crying. The courage it takes her to come over is met by me throwing my daughter out by the ear as her reward for being so brave. I feel protective of Bev, but I am also always on the verge of laughing when I see her because she is such a caricature that I can hardly believe she is not putting on an act. From my theatre days, I can safely say that Bev embodies every essential aspect of a clown, and she would put Mump and Smoot to shame (sorry guys).
This afternoon, as I checked in on the girls playing from my balcony, I saw Bev blindfolding my daughter as they played some sort of hide and seek tag challenge. I went back to cooking dinner. Later, I saw them squatting over a pile of leaves and when I called out to make sure they were doing okay, Bev shouted something that partly got lost in the wind, but that partly was just literally gibberish. Tossed the salad. Since I had noticed that the wind was getting stronger, about 10 minutes later I perched myself on the balcony chair and gave my daughter the 5 minute warning that it would be time to come in. In an instant, a gust of wind picked up all the leaves and a cardboard box from god knows where and hurled them into the air. A delighted shriek from my daughter as the wind picked up again and her sweater got tossed into the air and thrown closer to the gardens. Another blast that had me sitting up and taking a closer look as the strength of the wind awakened my goosebumps and I took quick stock of branches and anything around that could blow into the girls. The smile on my daughters face was in stark, violent contrast to the look of utter concentration and borderline panic on Bev’s face, as her body stood rigidly and took the slaps of the leaves in her face. For minute the wind died down. I could hear a couple of sighs of relief coming from Bev’s face, since her body was in full rigour mortis. And then the rumblings of wind coming from somewhere, and all the leaves were being whipped into mini tornados. I was standing again, calling for the girls to ‘get out from under the tree!’ They couldn’t hear me, and I could not hear them – for a minute, I was genuinely scared. And then – as if by comedic magic, Bev decided now was the time to run. She took a ginger step, giving the slightest movement to her stiff body, and the wind pounced. I’ve never seen somebody thrown by the wind, but I can assure you it is as hilarious as it sounds. Half her body looked light as a feather (clearly riding the wind current) and the other half was as deadweight as tends to happen when we take a fall. Out of kindness, the wind landed her relatively softly on her front, but her feet gave a thud. The wind bowed out, and I could hear the exclaim that didn’t even end in an exclamation mark – ‘The wind just threw me.’
I couldn’t stop myself and had a decent long laugh. I continued to laugh throughout dinner, and when my daughter kept asking me what was so funny, I had to shake my head. I don’t know how to explain such deep humour. But I do keep hinting to my daughter that she should stay friends with Bev as they grow up. I’m pretty sure she is a comic genius and will be a grounded friend to have. Despite the wind.