Monday, February 28, 2011

Your Hometown

I drive without purpose, without a destination. 

I can lose myself in this town, in its streets, because I know them all by heart.   I open the windows, turn up the radio, turn off my mind, and just drive.

This is my hometown. 

There is no street not stained with my youth, my past.  The ghost of my younger self lingers around each corner. 

I drive by the house I grew up in.  The outside looks nothing like the home I knew, but when I close my eyes I'm able to walk through the heavy front door and up the stairs, into my bedroom, which smells like fresh air and perfume and hairspray.  My fingertips can mentally trip over things of significance:  pictures of friends stuck to the mirror, stacks of tapes and cds next to the radio, the phone on the nightstand with its knotted pink cord that I twist late at night, covers pulled up over my head as I whisper into the receiver while outside the night slips into early morning.  I can lie on the bed and see the familiar swirls on the ceiling.  I can look out the window, watching, waiting for headlights in the driveway. 

But I don't live here anymore.  So I turn my car around to go. 

At the corner of my street stands a girl I know to be 17.  It's early morning and she's waiting for the bus.  It's April, but it's cold.  She's not wearing a hat or gloves or even socks, because she's too cool for that. She hasn't bothered to zip her coat.  She's got her walkman and it's playing November Rain on repeat.  She's thin and pale and doesn't sleep much anymore.  She's taken to burning bridges; she's  about to implode. 

But she doesn't know that yet.  She only knows that the bus is late.

I want to scream at her to zip up her damn coat.  I want to pull her into my warm car and tell her to stay home from school today.  But I can see the bus coming up over the hill and I know she needs to get on it. 

So I leave her there. 

I drive up the main street in town, past the high school.  Just up the road is the library, where, if I were to go in, the librarian would greet me by name. She would smile at my sons. But she would not see what I see, a girl out front with long hair wearing a flannel shirt.  She's slipping her hand into that of the boy sitting next to her.  It's fall; the day is cold and brisk and gray.  But she is smiling, singing Van Morrison for him. He's looking at her and she feels warm.  These two are sure of everything.  They are still in love.

It's a good place to leave them.

The road continues through the center of town.  I'm stopped at the light outside of a bridal shop.  A young woman comes floating out of the shop, gown in hand, breathlessly gushing to the saleswoman about her impending honeymoon.  She cradles that dress like a baby as she guides it into the back of her car.  She's rushing, busy hanging up her veil on a small black hook in the back seat before flying off to tie up a thousand lose ends.  She is 26 and high on the excitement of everything that's about to unfold.  As I watch her I try to remember what mattered to her then, what she thought was important before her sons were born.

Because, for the life of me, I can't remember.

She's in her car now, and she's driving away from me.  I'd like to tell her to slow down, to not giggle nervously through her first dance with her husband, chattering away a moment she'll never get back.  I'd like to tell her that the day is going to go too fast, but even if I could say these things, she would not listen.

Just as I'm sure, somewhere, there is an older version of me driving these streets, with the windows down and the radio on.  She's watching me at 36 stride into a local bar, meeting friends for beer and trivia.  Maybe she's yelling to me to be careful. Maybe she's whispering to hold on to anything I can while it's still there to be held.

But it doesn't matter, because I've already passed her, taken my seat at the table, and ordered a drink.

I cannot hear her. 

And so she shakes her head and leaves me there, crossing over the town line as she goes home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Denial: A Baby Story

The bathroom was small and I was pretty sure I was never leaving it.

The woman on the other side of the door knocked. 

"Are you okay?  Don't have the baby in there!" she chirped.

FUCKING BITCH, I thought to myself, why THE HELL does she KEEP SAYING THAT?

"I'll be right out," I finally managed to say, although I was certain by then that it was a lie.  Leaving the bathroom was going to involve pulling up my pants AND washing my hands.  I couldn't remember how to do either.  I could only lean against the wall, close my eyes, and give myself over to the pain.

Clearly, I was very sick.

Which is why I was at the hospital.  I was definitely NOT there to have my baby.

Even if it was February 14th. 

My due date.

I had been to the Labor and Delivery floor once before, 3 months earlier, with regular contractions that landed me on bed rest.  Months went by and the baby stayed put.  At my 38 week appointment, my doctor told me, "You've already done the work of early labor; you can't dilate much further without being in active labor.  I'll probably be seeing you within 48 hours."

The next week, she told me the same thing. 

At my final appointment, I told her I thought she had my dates wrong and that this boy was probably going to be born sometime in June; he'd be the first baby born at 56 weeks gestation.  We scheduled an induction for the following week.

I went home to eat as many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as possible while I could still blame it on the baby.

So when I found myself waddling up to the woman at the desk outside of the Labor and Delivery floor, I tried to explain my situation to her.  No, no, I wasn't there to have my baby.  I was there because I had come down with a terrible stomach bug and I was concerned about the baby.  I was there to make sure he was okay. 

She asked me for my insurance card.

I asked her where the bathroom was.

"Try to breathe through it," was her super-helpful suggestion. 

"It's not a contraction," I insisted, breathing deeply and leaning forward in my chair to rest my head on her desk. 

"Mmmm-hmmm," she replied, her nails tap-tapping on her keyboard.

"Where is the bathroom?" I asked her again when the pain had eased.

She looked at my husband.  "And are you the primary insurance holder?"

BITCHBITCHBITCH, ohmygod, bathroombathroombathroomBITCHISGOINGTOBESOSORRYbathroombathroombathroom. 

I stood up.  I was an adult.  I could find my own damn bathroom.  She could keep her PRECIOUS, TOP-SECRET, CLASSIFIED BATHROOM INFORMATION, I didn't need her.  If I had to, I would make the 30 minute drive home to use the bathroom.  At least there I knew where they were.
"Wait," she called after me as I walked away, "we're not done here!"

 And so it was that I found myself in the tiny bathroom, uncertain of how to get myself out and wanting to punch The Bitch in the face as she parked herself outside of the door and waited, pen and form in hand.

She knocked again.  "Do you  need me to get a nurse?"

FUUUUUCCCCKKKK.  I needed her to GO.  THE.  FUCK.  AWAY. 

Now, in my memory, what I said was, "No, thank you."


My husband tells me I said no such thing.

In fact, according to him, there were no actual words, just some moaning, groaning, and assorted other noises that I SWORE I was never going to make, back when I naively thought that I would be in a state of mind to control such a thing.

But then, an angel appeared.

She was a nurse.  While I had finally found a moment of clarity in which to coordinate the pulling-up of the pants, it didn't last long enough for me figure out the hand washing.  My nurse, however, was an EXPERT hand washer.

I decided I loved her. 

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, The Bitch shoved a form in my face.  I scribbled my name and bit my tongue to keep from telling her what she could do with her form and her bathroom and her insistence that I was in labor when I was so obviously ill. 

I was immediately hooked up to a monitor to see if I was contracting. 

"No, no, it's a stomach bug," I told anyone who would listen.

The monitors, however, told a different story.  The contractions were piggy-backing; two 90-second surges in a row with a minute of relief before the next set of two began. 

Next, they examined me.

"Well," said my new BFF, the nurse.  "Your stomach bug has you at 8, almost 9 centimeters.  Did you WANT an unmedicated birth?"

Holy shit, I thought.

The Bitch was right. 

I am totally having a baby.

I asked for an epidural.

And while I waited for that, I asked for a Tylenol.

I pushed for three hours as Saturday night rolled into Sunday morning.

As I held my 8 lb 13 oz newborn, my nurse hugged me.

"Not a bad way to get rid of a stomach bug," she said.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Five Reasons to Stop Hating on the Snow (No, really.)

Log in to your Facebook or Twitter account and you'll see that people are talking about one thing:  snow. 

Also, Egypt. 

But mostly snow.

And people are pissed.

But snow's getting an unfair rap.  Everyone loves it at Christmas, yet by February we're cursing it out and counting down the days until baseball season starts.

The snow's not ALL bad.  Here are five reasons I've found to stop hatin': 

5) INCREASED SECURITY  With two feet of snow on the ground and another foot expected within the next 24 hours, there is no way in hell that Bad Guys can even GET to my house to steal my stuff.  Have you tried walking in thigh-high snow?  Even if they could get in, my ice-coated front steps and skating rink of a driveway would keep them from getting away with the loot.  I can't even coordinate carrying my son's backpack and the mail without landing flat on my ass.  Good luck trying to haul away my TV, Bad Guys!
(Author's Note:  This is in no way meant to be seen as a dare, Bad Guys.)

4) CANCELLING MY GYM MEMBERSHIP  Why would I keep paying my monthly gym membership when I'm getting a free workout at home?  In fact, since the snow started falling (wait, that implies that there was once a time when the snow did not fall; that can't be right...) I've been getting far more exercise than usual.  Everyone knows that shovelling counts as both cardio AND weight-training.  My upper body is JACKED.  Just the look I was going for.  Bring on the tank tops, bitches.  I'm ready.

3)  NOW I HAVE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT WITH THE CREEPY GUY UP THE STREET  So there's this guy.  Who lives up the street.  And he's kind of creepy.  My youngest son and I pass him every day on our walk to pick up my first grader from school.  He sits on a chair on his front stoop and pets his really ginormous dog.  Each day he waves at us and each day we wave back while I silently pray that his dog won't jump the fence and eat my five year old.  Now, we have something to talk about.  We roll our eyes and say, "Can you believe this?"  Or we laugh and say, "Why do we live here again?"  This perk is not limited to Creepy Guys Up The Street; it gives you an opening to make small talk with your mailman, the cashier at the grocery store, or the moms at preschool pickup.  Everyone's up for snow talk; it's the Great Unifier.

2)  HONING MY SUPER MARIO BROTHERS SKILLS  Santa brought us a Wii for Christmas, but the rule is that it's for weekends and No School days only.  Needless to say, it's been getting lots of extra use this winter.  As such, I can almost beat my seven year old at Super Mario Brothers.  Almost.  Four or five more snow days and I will totally dominate the next coin battle. 

1)  FREE BIRTH CONTROL  Somewhere in the far, far recesses of my memory, there exists a time and place where being snowbound was something to be excited about.  It meant loading up the cabinets with junk food, making a beer run, renting a stack of movies (omg, remember video stores?), and shacking up with your favorite person for the duration of the storm.  What else is there to do when you're stuck inside for 48 hours straight?  Now, however, a 'long duration snow event' is more than just a polite way of saying 'a really awesome sleepover that falls in the middle of your work week'.  Now it means that your kids will never go to school again; they will forever be home (yelling, fighting, and polishing off the Oreos you wanted to eat while watching the red carpet re-cap of the latest awards show and yelling at Claire Danes to EAT A FRICKIN' SANDWICH ALREADY!).  Nothing promotes abstinence like a string of snow days.  And not only do you NOT need a prescription for it, but you don't even need to hide the box under a copy of In Style magazine at the check-out.

So, while I don't necessarily WELCOME the snow, I'm ready to deal with it with my new-found optimism. 

Now, if only I can convince my husband to pick up Oreos on his way home...