Great Gran 1909 – 2014

Eva family045 Eva Worsick fam010I woke up this morning to the sad news that Eva’s Great Grandmother, Dorothy Kinder, known lovingly to us as “Great Gran” passed away in her 106th year early this morning. This was not entirely a surprise, nor was it a tragedy, but I shed a tear for the wonderful woman I was so happy to have known in the last years of her life.

There were two stand out qualities of Great Gran that I admired and both had everything to do with her longevity: her optimism and her spirit. When we skyped Chris’s mom and dad this past weekend, they let us know that the end was near. Great Gran was asleep most of the time, and barely eating a spoonful; she had occasional moments of lucidity and was still managing to slap the nurse. “That’s the Great Gran I know and love!” I thought.

The last several months have been hard on her three children. As her great age began to take its toll, her spirit never dwindled but she became too great a liability for the home she was living in. When the staff were not looking she would run away like a rebel teenager bucking authority. Once she was discovered in the local pub and had to be taken home- which made all of her relatives around the globe giggle, but it was as funny as it was sad. During another thwarted escape attempt, she tried to hitch a ride on a street corner but luckily the car she flagged down was the owner of the old people’s home who promptly returned her to the premises. Eventually as her mind declined a victim of dementia, but her spirit remained she needed more care and was moved to another home, and was forced to give up her room with a view, which for an artist and a woman of the world was one of her last pleasures.

The family tried to make her comfortable but she became more and more paranoid and at one point asked Shelagh to light a candle for her, get a piece of the alter and something Jesus had touched. When we were away in New Hampshire, we got a phone call from Chris’s sister to let us know that Great Gran had had a stroke, but that she had only temporarily lost feeling on one side, but that she was all right. We marveled she survived. The following day the phone rang again and we all braced for the news we received today. But Uncle Ross informed us that actually they had done a CAT Scan and that Great Gran had not had a stroke, just a seizure, and she recovered just fine. As the nurse said a week or so ago, “Dorothy always surprises us.” Great Gran I think we thought would live forever.

Today her life ended and she is, we imagine finally at peace. Her legacy in our family, affirmed. I can see her qualities of spirit and optimism in both Chris and Eva, and here is ever hoping some of that rubs off on me. Like Bette Davis said, “Old Age is Not for Sissies.” Great Gran was brave, brash, funny and beautiful. Although Eva won’t grow up to remember her two visits, I will remind her of the Grand Old Dame and make sure she lives a life, which Great Gran would be proud of and I am sure she will as I do not think apples fall far from the tree. At home we have one of her paintings, and a needlepoint she completed in 2013 at the age of 104, small works of her hand which Eva will have to “remember” her by, which is what she said when she gave us the painting, giving us both time to get used to the idea that she would not in fact live forever. Something else will live forever though, the interview I filmed with her in the courtyard of the pub down the road from her home a few years ago, when we quizzed her on her life, and when Eva is old enough I will let her watch the interview and eventually she will appreciate it, when she is old enough to be interested in her family and our collective past.

Cheers to a life well lived, to Great Gran, Dorothy Pilling Gregory Kinder 1909 – 2014

To read more of Great Gran’s life read my post from her 105th birthday in January this year at the link below.

https://derelictmom.com/2014/01/17/do-you-remember-the-titanic/

Xx Derelict Mom

Escape from Alcatraz

Despite my decision to enact a moratorium on family holidays, we accepted the generous invitation of my parents to take Eva and the family dog, Piccolo to spend the holiday weekend on a luxury island off St. David’s. My father and a business partner have a holiday rental on a St. David’s outcrop, which they market to tourists and sometimes when it hasn’t been booked up there will be a weekend, which is free for the family. Don’t ask me why they asked us, maybe after my other siblings declined for other social engagements. My whiney screeching child scares off social engagements so Chris and I were free to accept what would turn out to most certainly be our last invitation. If my parent’s didn’t want to have Eva to spend the night before our holiday weekend, it will not ever enter the realm of possibility now.

One day after work, Chris came home nose in his blackberry as usual.

“Martin’s friend Kevin is visiting and we are planning on a night out on Saturday the 29th of August.”

“That is when we are going to be on the island.”

“I haven’t had a night out in 2014.”

“You are not counting your happy hours.”

“I would like to go. I will kayak out the next day.”

“Are you that desperate?”

“Yes”

“You don’t have to kayak, my brother will pick you up and bring you out.”

“Okay. Agreed.”

The week before our mini-trip, Eva came down with the dreadful summer cold that was going around nursery. Never to miss out on a contagious illness, Eva contracted the dreaded cold and cough the week before Labor day. When Eva comes down with an illness it is marked by a restless night of lots of crying and little sleep, I knew that this meant the cold had arrived, but when my 9am shoot the following day did, I was wishing for pajamas and an early night fall.

The worst childhood illness is by far the stomach flu, because as a parent you usually get sick too, and then there is cleaning up vomit and diarrhea multiplied by people in the household, because no one escapes. But at least the Norwalk virus only lasts 24 hours. The second worst childhood illness is the cold and cough combination, and that is what Eva contracted. Which meant not one night with frequent wakings but many because the cough was worse at night; she would hack and wake herself up then she would fuss because she was overtired then when she would eventually go back to sleep she would wake up again with a night terror brought on by lack of sleep or she would hack until she threw up. This series of events started the vicious cycle because without sleep the cough got worse, so the nights got worse, etc. etc.

And at the peak of this illness, I had visions of Eva taking long naps while I read my book with Piccolo on the hammock on Labour day, and so I began to pack her bags for the mini-trip.

After almost three years, disillusion runs high and I am still having fantasies about my life before Eva instead of getting used to the fact that I will not have an hour to myself for many years to come, maybe when she learns to read.

When I started hunting around for a portable water bowl for Piccolo, and Chris was ironing his outfit for his night on the town he said,

“I don’t think it’s the best idea to take Eva AND Piccolo out to the island by yourself.”

“I want him to come!’

“What if he goes missing in the bushes, why don’t I bring him out tomorrow.”

“On the kayak? Just kidding. Okay you might be right.” And I put down the water bowl.

As I counted the bags of food, clothes, toys and books, my mothers words rang through my mind.

“Don’t bring too much stuff.” I didn’t really think that was possible and my mother should no, she ships her entire wardrobe around in advance.

Before I boarded my dad’s boat with all the bags of supplies I said to Chris,

“I think I have packed everything.”

“Oh I am sure you have forgotten something, but I can bring it out tomorrow.”

“Okay have a great boys night out, Eva and I will read stories by the campfire.”

“See you tomorrow.”

When we arrived, we heaved all the groceries and supplies and suitcases into the house. I unpacked Eva, showed her her bed and mommy’s bed and explored the house. Her favourite feature was the extremely steep steps with out a proper railing, which was in the center of the house.

All I could think was, “If she falls down those steps, Chris will kill me.”

It was then I realized that luxury houses were not built with child proofing, nor were their modern sleek lines and glass furnishings at all suitable to allow a kid to run around in. The entire place was a very pretty version of hell for the mother of a two year old. And I was facing the night alone.

We capped off the afternoon with a tantrum because we could not work the television, and therefore she could not watch her favourite cartoon.

“Scooooooby Dooooooo” she kept saying in sobs.

“I really need to figure out how to download those on the ipad, I am sorry Eva.”

Not that that made any difference.

When she had finished sobbing, she agreed in exchange for stories and her milk that she would go to bed. Unfortunately for me “go to bed” doesn’t mean, “go to sleep.”

I put her down on her mattress on the floor, having learned on holiday that she was not really ready for a big girl bed. I laid next to her, read her lots of stories and then stroked her arm and leg and face in little fairy circular movements which she says helps her sleep, but I think she might be testing me to see how much she can ask me to do for her before I give up, get annoyed, and leave. But today given the circumstances I was willing to do a lot more than normal. How I envied the parents who just plop their kids in bed and say “Go to sleep.” I guess that’s what you do to number 2 because you still have to read books and go through the bedtime ritual for number 1.

Eventually, she was content enough for mommy to leave her so I slipped out and flipped off the light.

“WAAAAAAAA”

“Fuck, I forgot her nightlight.”

“Mommy I am scared. Tell me a story.”

I wonder if she is scared because I swore, not at her but at the dark. Twenty more minutes of reassurance, stroking, and stories, after I had figured out how to turn on the closet light to cure her fear of the dark. I slipped out, scaled the stairwell and poured a glass of wine.

A few minutes later a face appeared at the bottom of the stairs,

“Mommy I am thirsty.”

“So am I.” I thought.

So I got her a drink and took her back to bed. Bedroom routine x3

I snuck back upstairs, and made the salad for dinner.

A face appeared a few minutes later at the top of the stairway.

“Mommy I am hungry.”

“So am I. “ I thought.

“I want strawberries.”

So I cut her some strawberries and she ate half of one strawberry. Clearly this was a new delaying tactic… strawberries.

Bedroom routine x4.

I was starting to get lactic acid build up from climbing the stairs over and over again.

We sat down and ate dinner, and I finally relaxed into my Holiday weekend, sure that she had to have collapsed by now. As we were clearing up that same face appeared at the bottom of the steps to my astonishment.

“Mommy I am scared.”

I looked at my watch 11pm.

“I am just going to go to bed with her, “ I said.

And I climbed down the stairs for the last time until morning, I thought.

“Do you want to sleep in mommy’s bed?”

“Yes.”

So I snuggled with Eva in the bed, and all I could think was thank God I didn’t bring Piccolo.

At 4am I was awoken by a mini puke/spit up next to my head and loud screaming.

Three glasses of wine and five hours of sleep don’t mix very well, but I staggered out of bed trying to man handle my screaming, coughing child. At some point I got the whiff of spit up emanating from my hair.

“Did you have to throw up into my hair?” I thought.

“Mommy my mouth hurts.”

“You coughed so much you threw up, and the throw up is hurting your mouth.”

I took her into the bathroom and told her to open wide, which she tried to do but I could not see in until she began screaming. I carried her into the hallway, where her screams bounced off the post modernist open plan house.

“Powerful acoustics.” I wondered when Gigi and Hamma would wake up, but I could hear them safely snoring.

“We will get you something to drink to make it better.”

When I got upstairs, I opened the fridge door.

“Fuck, I forgot the Nurophen! “ Her pain relieving medicine and her night light, the two things I forgot and the two things I really could have used.

She started crying again until I stuck the bottle in her mouth and prayed for sleep.

“How could I forget the Nurofen!” I wondered. I had a line of empty bottles on a shelf at home, like I used to have a line of Bacardi light bottles in college, and in Eva’s drawer there are more syringes than in a crack dealer’s bedside table. Not that I believe in over medicating your child, but when you have really had enough of being up all night, a good pain reliever comes in handy.

I went upstairs and downstairs meeting her every demand, stroking her back, her face, her arms, singing, making up stories about magic trap doors in her closet, fairy houses, and building a bunny burrow under the sheets. She fell asleep for a few moments a few times, short lived and very very disappointing.

By 6am we were permanently upstairs and out of bed. We had tested out every outside chair together and I explained to her what happens in the sky when the sun rises and that it turns the sky pink, her favorite color. As soon as I told her that, I knew we were up for the day and sleep was not going to happen, so I suggested we move to the hammock in a last effort to bring on slumber.

“Yes” she said and within a few minutes we were swinging under the morning twilight.

And then a minute later, “ I want to get off.”

“Yeah so do I, off this bloody island.”

“Let’s go to the dock.”

We sat down on the floating dock, watching the sunrise. I tried to feign gratitude and appreciation for beauty but all I wanted to do was go to bed. As we sat and walked along the dock and looked for fish- who were all asleep, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself, and think about that woman who drove her car with her five children into the sea. If I had five children, I would have asked to carpool. If I had five of these who kept me up all night I would not survive, I already have several auto immune diseases, a burnt out thyroid, shot adrenals, hibernating mitochondria and several parasites, including the one looking for fish over the edge of the dock. So I thought nothing of adding a IUD to make sure I didn’t get anymore.

“I think we better go upstairs.”

“Why?”

“In case mommy falls asleep and you fall over board, everyone will think I pushed you.”

“Let’s go upstairs and make eggs.”

“Okay.”

I had read somewhere that eggs had a lot of omega fats and that they were good to fight off post partum depression, something I had clearly been suffering from since her birth, but on second thought I would rather self diagnose myself with toddler induced insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder which happens after giving birth to children like Eva.

I eventually fell in and out of sleep on the couch while playing Peppa Pig toons on my ipad off of youtube. I was so tired I fell asleep while listening to “My Name is Peppa Pig….” I had either a dream or a hallucination that I was trapped on an island with Peppa Pig and her entire family, but then I woke up to Eva banging my temple with the reflex hammer from her doctor kit and then I knew that no I was trapped on an luxury island with my family, in a Peppasode called “Escape from Alcatraz.”

When I had had enough of being tortured with toddler sized multi coloured doctor instruments, I took Eva downstairs, where the snoring had stopped. Miss Eva slipped through the door into my parent’s bedroom where they complained about not having a good night’s rest.

“Tell me about it, I have been in toddler hell since 4am.”

“Hamma will you take me to look for fishes.”

“Yes.” Hamma was always the weakest link.

As she took his hand, I made good my escape into the bedroom. A few hours later I woke up, recovered.

By the time I surfaced, most of my parent’s lunch party guests were en route, so I had to quickly make the salad and dressing I had been assigned to make as part of the party pot luck.

When the first guests arrived I was still in my nightgown, perpetuating the night from hell, and come to think of it, I probably still had spit up in my hair.

“Go downstairs and get tidied up, I know Dr. West has seen everything, but no one else has.”

You would think I was in a negligee not a Williamsburg dowager night dress, but it was more unseemly than anything else, especially with spit up as an accessory. Eva and I went downstairs to try and reinvent ourselves before everyone else arrived which we achieved barely.

I was more than relieved to see Eva’s Daddy step off the boat, and as soon as she saw him she burst into tears, more or less as she had been doing all morning, and her speech had morphed into a mono syllabic whine.

I quickly debriefed him as I handed her over and sat down for a minute of silence and a glass of lunchtime wine as Chris attempted to put Eva down for an afternoon nap.

About when Chris determined that the nap was never going to happen because she was just too sick, overtired, out of place, and generally pissed off, it started to torrential downpour, putting the breaks on our escape plan. These are not common in Bermuda, but during the month of August we had record rainfall. This narrowed our play area substantially, especially when we brought Eva near the lunch party, and explained that she had been up from 4am and was sick and that was why she was screaming and ruining their afternoon- there was not much sympathy from the congregation of adults who hadn’t been in charge of a toddler for over thirty years, because if you knew my mom you knew she liked to keep younger friends in case the older ones started to die off.

Chris let Eva look out the window, played hide and seek and make believe. At one point we rendezvoused on the couch when it was clear the rain was here to stay.

Chris said to me with a pleading tone,

“We are stuck on an island and we can’t get off.”

“It’s still your turn with the gremlin.”

“If it doesn’t stop raining we might have to spend the night.”

The wine flowed as the revelers had an easy excuse not to leave.

“We can’t get wet.”

So they made sure their wine glasses were never dry.

I was enjoying myself as Chris and Eva paced up and down the open plan designer showcase house, desperate to find a convincing argument for why coloured fragrance hand soaps are not block like crayons with which you can draw all over the walls.

I had packed all our bags. They were waiting by the door for the first party weary guest to offer us our escape route.

Finally it came, a beautiful rainbow glistened in the sunlight and rain as the downpour subsided to a sprinkle and there was a collective movement to leave.

“Finally! “ I said to Chris

“The Vodka must have run out, your mum is sending the boat back for supplies and we can stowaway.”

And so we boarded with our seven bags, which had barely been unpacked. Holiday weekend thwarted by sickness, rain, and an optimistic mother of a toddler.

Once home, we unpacked our bags from the dock and put everything back where it had always been, careful to put it back exactly in the dust circle it left behind, and convinced never to move it ever again.

Chris and I finally were able to connive Eva and her cough to go to sleep at 8pm and we were able to enjoy an evening at home, like the many before and the many I hope in our future.

The luxury island was a nice idea but maybe we could escape there when Eva is a teenager and wants the house to herself.

I said to my mother while at the island,

“I can’t wait until she is seven.”

But I am thinking now that “I can’t wait until she is seventeen.”

I might regret that statement later but for now let me wish away the toddler years but be grateful for our Escape from Alcatraz.

Xx Derelict Mom

Family Holiday

If the title of this week’s blog sounds like a Peppa Pig episode – it was intentional.

“I’m Peppa Pig, snort this is my little brother George. Snort snort, This is Mummy Pig snort and this is Daddy pig, snort. Laugh. Peppa Pig. Snort.”

Ad infinitem.

In case you don’t know who Peppa Pig is, which probably means you don’t know anyone who is two- here is a link to one of Eva’s favorite episodes “Night Animals.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSJx-c32J4A

The Peppa Pig obsession/ TV watching/ ipad watching got so bad even the grandparents asked us to turn the volume down. All I could think was:

Gigi can you take back the ipad. Gigi? Gigi?

But we were on holiday in the U.S. with Chris’s parents Shelagh and Duncan and Eva. If I had one regret in my child rearing experience it is that I ever let Eva watch a cartoon ever. After one cartoon they are hooked. It has to be worse than crack. Although not all kids are born addicts. My sister’s kids (the perfect ones) happily watch thirty minutes then go and do something else. For Eva there is nothing else to do, there is just things to do to waste time until she can watch some form of television. She is an addict and part of that is my creation.

I probably should have probably seen this coming as I was called square eyes as a child and could never get enough TV, which may just perhaps have had some bearing on my career choice. This vacation made me realize that if I didn’t break Eva’s TV habit soon it would not only drive me around the bend but she might, god forbid, grow up wanting to become a documentary filmmaker, and I just can’t have her do that.

In baby class they tell you a child must not be in the vicinity of a television for the first three years of its life. I did what I was told, almost. I did not let her watch television until she was two and a half and when we started letting her watch it we tried to limit her exposure to certain times or situations, but soon the monster otherwise known as Peppa Pig took over.

I used to say, “You can only watch toons when you are sick,” which is such a first time parent trap. From that point on, every day when she woke up she said.

“Mommy, I am a little bit sick.”

“Where are you sick?”

“My tummy. Can I watch toons?”

And if that didn’t work,

“Mommy, I have a boo boo, I need a plaster.”

Peppa Pig plasters- flown specially in from the U.K from her long-suffering band aid buying relatives.

As soon as I had affixed the bandage, she would say, “Can I watch a toon?”

Her manipulation hit an all time high, before our holiday after I surfaced from my bedroom after being sick for two days.

As soon as she saw me, she announced,

“Mommy I am a little bit sick, I am not sick like you are sick, but I am sick like me.”

“What do you mean how is Eva sick like Eva?” I asked

“I am a little bit sick so I can watch toons.”

After that elicited no response, Eva began to wail in agony.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“An ant bit me, I need a plaster.” She lifted her right foot onto the chair.

“Can I watch a toon?”

“No.”

She began to fuss and cry so Hamma picked her up to cheer her up.

A few minutes later, she tried again.

“My foot is sore, can I watch a toon?”

And she propped up her left foot in false agony and tears.

“Is that the foot the ant bit?” I asked her.

“Yes” she said with a painful yelp.

“No it was the right foot.” Hamma said with a giggle.

I had to give her credit for her persistence, a reoccurring theme.

While still popping antibiotics, Eva, Shelagh and I boarded a plane for the U.S. for our summer holidays. Daddy had found a way to have three days off at home for Cupmatch before joining us to watch cricket with his dad.

I was a bit nervous, as we had not been away for about a year and travelling with Eva at this age was entirely different than the year before, but I was armed with the ipad- all would be okay even though we were travelling on the busiest day of the year in Bermuda, the Wednesday of Cupmatch. It was also the first flight that Eva would have her own seat. The long queues were tempered by little Eva excitedly tiptoeing so she could see out the window at the airplanes on the runway.

“Airplane, I am going on an airplane.” She sang and danced and ran around, while mom and Shelagh dragged the carryon luggage through the airport. I had done her hair in pigtails so that when she had a tantrum she would at least be the cute kid with pigtails having a tantrum, rather than just another snotty nosed kid losing it in a public place.

When we were leaving the house, I had been sure to pack Eva’s blankie in my carry on- because she was particular about the softness of blankets and she was as attached to her cuddly blanket as her bunny. It was not something that could be forgotten. After we checked in, I put Eva in the stroller and put the blanket over her, catching the distinct whiff, well it wasn’t a whiff – it was the persistent odor of pee.

The day before, derelict mom had had a moment of fluster when she put Eva down for her nap without a diaper and Eva had wet through the bed. I jammed all the blankets in the wash or so I thought. As it turned out, I had neglected to wash the one blanket that was making the trip and so make the trip it did. The odor of day old pee wafted around us, like the smell of an old folks washroom. When we approached security, I took it upon myself to warn them.

“We had a little accident on the blanket, so I would hold your nose.” I made it seem like Eva was guilty of wetting herself that very moment rather than draw attention to the fact that it was actually mommy that packed a pee soaked blanket without noticing. When in doubt, blame the toddler.

The security lady put on rubber gloves and gingerly sent it through the scanner. We carried the blanket around the airport, occasionally someone would catch a whiff and we would stand next to an elderly person and no one was any the wiser.

To my utter surprise and amazement when we boarded the flight, little Eva ran into her seat, climbed up and put her seat belt on like she had been a frequent flyer in a past life. I tried not to react but I was relieved that she didn’t fight the assigned seating like the anarchist most toddlers tend to be. I knew that it would only be a matter of a small increment of time on the hour and a half flight before Eva rebelled against the common order. She was good for about ten minutes, until the plane was fully boarded with 100 other people ready, bored and gawking ready to judge my parenting skills which I was always the first to admit were lacking.

Ding dong. The seat belt light went on, and the plane began to taxi back from the runway.

“Mommy, I have to pee.”

I sighed, and then like lightning I grabbed the toddler and released her from the seatbelt like taking a gun from its holster and I ran with her down the aisle to the bathroom as Eva clenched her hello kitty underwear in an attempt to stem the flow.

I locked the bathroom door and plunked her down on the potty in time. “Phew we made it. “

We were back in our seats, belts buckled before the jet engines engaged.

“Mommies need to be fast.” I told Eva.

“Airplanes are fast.” She said.

The rest of the flight she played with her mini peppa pigs, her sticker book, her quiet book, and then I decided to whip out the ipad, little did I know she would wake up out of a cartoon haze two weeks later with crossed eyes and a grumpy dependency on electronic entertainment.

About ten minutes after the pilot announced our decent into Boston and put the seat belt sign on, a little finger tapped my arm.

“Mommy I have to poo.”

I sighed again but harder this time and then repeated my holster release of child from seatbelt and began the illegal sprint down the aisle to the bathroom during landing.

“Wait” Eva screamed.

I paused, convinced I was going to have to go back for my change of clothes.

“I need my books,” Reading on the potty had become a habit at home, a habit which she could not let go of while on a plane in mid descent.

To avoid a tantrum and poo combination I ran back to the seat grabbed two Curious George books and sprinted back to the bathroom, not knowing when we would come out or if anyone would miss us when they boarded the next flight. I stripped her off and let her dangle into the potty while clutching my legs, and to my total shock and amazement and enormous perfectly formed poo emerged in record time and we were back in our seats, hands washed, and belted in before the plane hit the tarmac.

“Must have been the pretzels.” I thought.

“Maybe I need to feed her more fibre?”

With Eva’s history of plane travel no one was more shocked than me that we made it to Boston without being fined for some incident with excrement ( a near miss) or for refusing the direct warnings of the cabin crew- a habit of toddlers.

While waiting at the bag claim, I overheard someone say to the friend who picked them up,

“There were loads of kids on the plane, and I was surprised they were all really well behaved.”

Oh if only she had known how close it was from an entirely different outcome. I inhaled a large breath of pee blanket and sighed in relief when Eva, Shelagh ( Nana) and yours truly finally turned the key in the lock at the Boston apartment.

The following three days were a challenge as I like most Bermudians had a large shopping agenda. Imagine you get off the island once a year and have to do all of your shopping in three days, with a two year old, a stroller and her grandmother all in tow. Underwear check, socks check, CVS check, makeup check, shoes check, birthday presents check, weird health foods from Whole foods – check etc etc etc.

I am sure Nana, along with all the staff of the apartment building think Bermudians have a shopping addiction but what we have is shopping deprivation and we have to make up for it either online or in a three day metropolitan visit or both. To my surprise Eva liked going shopping even though she took to running as fast as she could through the aisles of Marshalls and hiding under the clothes racks but she couldn’t stay hidden for long because her little pigtails stuck out where ever she went. But the exercise of chasing Eva around a department store while pushing a stroller and trying to buy clothes gave rise to all my small town paranoia that my child would be baby snatched in the big city.

Nana and I, and Eva popped into a CVS drugstore one day to pick up some necessaries like lipsyl and hairspray. Eva wanted to get out of her stroller so I lifted her out and she ran ahead of me up and down the aisles. I followed her as quickly as I could but things happen quickly and as I rounded one aisle I found little Eva with a little old lady who had bent down and was giving her sweets. I ran up to her, bent over and snatched them out of her hand. Then I said, pretending to be nice to the potential childnapper.

“Mommy will decide when Eva will be allowed to have sweets.”

Which started the never-ending chorus of,

“I want my sweetie, I want my sweetie.”

So I made Nana buy her a package of M&Ms, which she scoffed the entire package in one sitting and then passed out in her stroller. I am not sure if the old lady was a childnapper but who in their right mind gives a stranger’s child candy. That was as close as I ever want to come to seeing Eva’s face on a milk carton and it was only day two of our two week holiday.

For Part II, of the Family Holiday tune in next week.

Eva on plane

A Reading

Derelict Mom, has been well – derelict – and not written a blog this week. Next week’s blog will be ” Family Holiday” because I was on holiday for the last two weeks. I will explain the italics later.

So this week please enjoy this video of my reading of an excerpt from my first publication, “A Real Mother.”

Thanks

Xx Derelict Mom

 

Gigi Saves The Day

As a working mother I seem to perpetually spread myself too thin. Although I try my best to avoid this it seems the world conspires against me, with an unpredictable job and a toddler’s unpredictable immune system. 2014 was always going to be a busy one, I dubbed it “The year of the visitor” as we had Chris’s aunt and uncle visit for ten days, his parents for three weeks, his sister and her family are coming for a week later this month, and then Eva’s godfather for ten days or so in September. When looking ahead I knew July was going to be a bit of a nightmare. My friend and co-co-director Kara could only come to do our shoot for our documentary, for ten days at the end of July, so we booked that out to shoot our many and varied interviews for our current film. During that week my in-laws would arrive, and the day after the shoot ended I would be flying with Eva and my mother in law to Boston. Nothing like leaving no time to pack, that was acceptable only before I had a two year old- if I forgot something like her bunny, then I might as well fly home. It was also the week of my husband’s 48th birthday, considering I forgot his birthday last year it was high time I made up for it, before Linked In beats me to the punch again with their scheduled happy birthday email- damn automation. Chris had reminded me several times of the date at the beginning of the month so I would not forget but I had my own version of automation- I decided to throw a party. I invited all the relatives who were in residence on the family compound to dinner for Chris’s birthday on Saturday July 26th, in the middle of our shoot and four days before we left for Boston. Hey at least I wouldn’t forget.

To make matters more confusing, I got the dates mixed up for Auntie Zoe’s holiday and she was planning to be away from July 16th through August 4th, not from August 1st through the 14th as I had planned for our holiday to coincide with hers. With my shoot beginning on the 19th of July I would not only have a shoot, guests, and a dinner party to throw and a trip to plan, but I would also have no daycare. This was an impasse. The only answer was to ditch Eva with daddy over the weekend of our shoot, which did not make me the most popular wife or mother, and then on Monday and Tuesday I had to ditch the shoot to take care of Eva, which did not make me the most popular co-director with my co-directors. To make matters worse both Eva and Chris were recovering from the summer flu, and I had finally made it a mission to take my old man of a dog, Piccolo for his yearly checkup several months late. At the vet appointment I learned that he needed an operation immediately to have several teeth removed before an abscess grew so in addition to everything else my firstborn had to go under the knife. So when my in-laws arrived fresh off the plane I ditched them not only with a two year old but also a dog recovering from surgery and disappeared to join my fellow filmmakers who I then abandoned at 5pm to run home, take Eva to swimming lessons, come home prep her for bed then cook dinner for four people and think about doing it all again the following day.

Around the same time every client I have had in the last two years called, emailed and asked for something to be done immediately and without delay, none of which was possible because my editing suite died and was stumping the apple technicians who could not figure out what of a myriad of possibilities was preventing my computer from even turning on. In the meantime, I resorted to leaving Eva watching cartoons on YouTube on my laptop in order to cook dinner, organize the shoot or otherwise get rid of client demands. When I came back Eva had not only chewed through the power cord, she had also removed five or six letters off of the keyboard, she was part toddler, part tiger or so she told me.

“Eva, mommy’s puter is not a toy.”

“But mommy I know it’s not a toy, but I am pretending it’s a toy. Roar Tiger” while making claws with her hands and trying to bite my arm.

What do you say to that? I just sighed. I wasn’t sure what was going to go wrong next but I ran around unplugging appliances sure that the house was going to burn down, well it didn’t but my fridge died, so we fed on rapidly defrosting mystery food for a week.

Amid all this chaos, there is always the unforeseen to tip things totally over the edge. In our case, it was a hostile take over of sorts, what happened next was that it rained. Although rain in and of itself is not a game changer, it invites a congregation within the house, which are unwelcome by the human inhabitants: ANTS. Five days into our shoot as I collapsed into bed I heard the distinctive ear flap of my dog Piccolo and then I felt an ant crawl out from my hair line, then another one on my ankle, then one bit my butt when I had the nerve to roll over. At midnight I flipped on the light to reveal the invasion, which had infiltrated the last bastion of peace for any over subscribed working mother, my entire bed. They were everywhere, I killed what I could see and tried to go back to sleep. Five hours later when they were biting my eyelids I gave in and got up without any sleep.

The following day I made it to my shoot, but almost crashed the car a few times, and found it difficult to finish my sentences but it was almost over, the next day I only had a dinner party to prepare and a forgotten birthday to make up for. I went to bed early, my husband very generously switched sides of the bed with me after I shared with him my thoughts that entire world, ants and all had turned against me, that or I was high on ant venom from the night before.

The following morning I woke up, momentarily victorious that I had slept through the entire night without being bitten by an insect or wild animal, until I got up and collapsed back into the ant’s lair. It was the flu, I was on fire and I could hardly speak but it was okay I only had a dinner party to prepare. I managed to eek out

“Happy Birthday” with a flu-ey exhale.

“I have to go to work” Chris said.

“On your birthday?”

“Yes.”

The day before his company had been taken over -not by ants but by another company, and the future was as uncertain as my dinner party. After Daddy went to work, I did as any hard working responsible birthday party host would do, I put my toddler in front of the T.V. and got to work making the starter course, and the dessert. After completing a culinary masterpiece tomato orange soup and chia seed pudding, I made Eva lunch and force fed her as the room spinned, my head pounded and the annoying Peppa Pig theme tune repeated ad infinitum. When the clock struck one, it felt like cocktail hour had finally arrived. I measured up a strong bottle of milk and gave it to Eva to sip until the heady eyelid drooping arrival of naptime dawned.

I propped her up in bed under a pillow and prepared to sneak out of the room. As I turned the doorknob Eva cried.

“Mommy I have to wee wee.”

It was her new procrastination.

“No you fucking don’t have to pee.”

Immediately I felt guilty, I didn’t think I had ever sworn in front of Eva. I am pretty sure she thought I was speaking Spanish anyway but she was a bit shocked by my tone of voice, and so was I, it was more than I had said most of the day.

I picked her out, put her on the potty, read her another book, and then put her back to bed. Within five minutes if anyone followed the trail of pain pill wrappers and Ricola sweets they would find me, prostrate on the bed surrounded by the dead bodies of about one hundred ants, murdered by me in fever fueled “fucking” rage and the few survivors drowned in a feverish sweat, even the ones that clung to my eyelids.

When Chris came into the room when he got home, he found the outline of a dead body drawn by the tiny black ant bodies outlining where I had collapsed. I managed to say “happy birthday “ in half enthused baby sign language. I didn’t cancel the birthday party, nor did I promise it would go forward. At four pm I surfaced to take the beef out of the working fridge so it would return to room temperature, something no one else would remember.

At 5:30, an hour and a half before the guests were due to arrive Chris returned to my flu lair and announced,

“Your mother, back from her trip, has taken over the party.”

“Thank god for mom.” I said and rolled over.

Somehow like a miracle worker, my mother was able to whip up a chocolate cake complete with home made cream cheese icing, roast potatoes and cooked my roast beef tenderloin to perfection. The guests were notified of the location change, and I was left in peace.

Chris had a birthday party after all and I survived the night.

The next day, I did not come out of the bedroom and I had only two visitors.

My mother came first to see if I was still alive.

“Thank you mom, for saving the day.”

“Not a problem” she said bringing me tomato soup, taking my temperature and checking my medicine dosage.

“I guess moms are really good to have when you are sick or you need to throw a party.”

“The show must go on.”

A little later on, a little face appeared at my bedside, it was my second visitor, my daughter Eva coming to check on me.

“They told me you went to work. You didn’t go to work!” she said with a tone of total disgust of having been lied to.

She played with me for about forty-five minutes bouncing on my bed and being generally worried about my wellbeing. When her father had been sick with the flu the week or so before, she had gone into see him and announced,

“Mommy will be very upset if you die.”

When I was sick I think she was more concerned about who would make her lunch and dinner.

About forty minutes later someone realized Eva had escaped from the playpen. She gave me a kiss to get better and was ushered out, but within the hour she was back checking up on me again.

“Mommy will you be better tomorrow?”

Amazingly I was much better the next day and although I had to cancel the rest of the shoot, I was able to leave on our family holiday a few days later.

And Eva also returned to her normal self.

“I like Daddy better than you.” She said the next day.

“Why?” I asked

“Because he is taller than you, and he has bigger hands.”

“Okay” I said knowing I would not be able to change that.

“I love you mommy, but daddy is more fun.” I might have been wiping her butt when she delivered that line. I was growing accustomed to her abuse as any mother must.

The day we left for our trip, my own mother showed up the morning to help us pack, she took us to the airport, gave us the keys to her apartment in Boston, my parents house in New Hampshire and the keys to their car. She made sure we packed the ipad she had given Eva and that we had all the right forms and passports. She also took Piccolo for two weeks at her house, allowing him to sleep in bed with her every night, so he wouldn’t miss us too much while we were gone. And when we get home rest assured there will be a carton of milk in the fridge she will have bought for us, because that is what mom’s do they save the day.

We were about to pull out of the driveway for the airport when she yelled,

“Wait, you have forgotten Eva’s bunny.” Picking it up off of the front stoop where it had been draped over a suitcase, fallen off and almost been forgotten, she passed it through the window to Eva.

“Thank God!” I said. “Thank God for Gigi.”

Thanks Gigi for saving Chris’ birthday and all the days in between.

Xx Derelict Mom

#Momcan’tgetsick

P1020185 P1020199

 

 

Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 2: Wedding One

When the week of the family wedding arrived there was a sense of anticipation palpable in everyone except the two year olds who had no idea that they were expected to preform in the wedding by walking down the aisle, pretending to be the cute well behaved children they were not, throwing flower petals instead of tantrums and smiling on cue. What Eva and her cousin Sadie had planned for the day was unknown. Their parents knew that the success of the entire week of events would somehow depend on a precise series of events being adhered to, and if any of them went wrong, it could spell a total and mounting disaster, late bedtimes, missed meals, and then there is always throw up. Throw up ruins everything.

The wedding events began with a party at my mother’s house, of course. Proper Etiquette requires the Groom’s parents to throw the rehearsal dinner, but for my mother there was no such thing as a rehearsal it was HER wedding. She had already had several rehearsals (daughter number 1 and daughter number 2: and daughter number 2’s wedding 1 and wedding 2, to the same man- just to clarify.) So just in case you are counting: with child number 3, it was going to be wedding number 4 and she was going to out due herself, or me as it would turn out.

There were weeks of ruminations over the menu and the guest list, my mother enlisted all of our opinions and could still not make a decision. My opinion was void when I suggested a gluten free/ dairy free menu. What no fried chicken? My mother had passed her love of fried chicken- I think there is a gene- to my brother, but somehow they compromised on fish and chips. It was close but slightly more sophisticated. My mother liked to pretend she was sophisticated, my brother, sister and I went along with it, rolling our eyes behind her back. Once when she invited the Governor over for “luncheon” she introduced her housekeeper Alda, who on the day she made dress in a white top and black pants, and said she had been in her employ for twenty one years. My mother was bragging, and Alda still doesn’t speak English so their relationship works out quite well. But then on another day she cut out an employment ad placed by an older couple in her circle of friends, and was laughing that they were advertising for a driver and butler who would be in charge of “Marketing” which meant she told me, going to the grocery store, not marketing as in my sister’s career; my mother rolled her eyes. I suppose sophistication is relative.

Speaking of relatives, I rue the day I ever spent weeks in past less busy decades crafting slideshows for relative’s birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. After giving birth to Eva, I decided I would retire from this pastime and would no longer be available. And then my brother had to go and get engaged. I agreed to come out of retirement for this special event, as long as everyone in the family would keep it a secret so in the event that I did not have a chance to complete it no one particularly my brother, would be left disappointed. You have to keep your cards close to your chest when you are a parent because time seems to evaporate in increments of bedtime stories, swimming lessons and the aforementioned tantrums. As much as I try and plan ahead it never works out, inevitably I ask my parents to babysit and my sister has beat me to it from now through 2016. So in November, in a rare moment of peace I decided to start collecting pictures, and over the next several months I was able to sort, select, meet with and scan about 500 pictures from Danielle’s family and my family to aggregate a collection of childhood through adulthood pictures of both Danni and Gee and begin figuring out what themes would appear in the slideshow. I was careful not to give away what I had planned in case I would not be able to deliver, but my mother would take care of any kind of dalliance, doubt in my ability, or scheduling conflict by at some point around Christmas spilling the beans to my brother that I was creating one of my slideshows. I sighed and knew there was no way out. You would have thought being under employed for several months would have given me ample opportunity, instead I was applying for jobs, launching a fundraising campaign etc etc. in order to be able to pay for the necessities of life as you do and the slideshow got a sideline.

In the blink of an eye, and what seemed like only a few diaper trash empties later, it was May 1st, four weeks before the wedding. If I didn’t start now I would never finish. So I started by putting 500 photos in chronological order, that Xd a day off the calendar. As the days continued I was struck with the most obvious inspiration, I would craft the slideshow interspaced with clips from one the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. My husband constantly quotes from the film, and it is in our DVD library and evidently every kid growing up in the UK watched it every Christmas Day. Oh the Brit’s are so inspired. Now it was my turn.

I used this apt clip in my slideshow from the Wizard of Oz

The similarities were just too funny to not include. The raven haired Danielle is a fan of Cairn terriers, and she grew up with her parents at the West end of the island and her husband to be, my brother Giles grew up on the East End of the island, and of course there is a historic rivalry between the East end crew and the West End crew, which they were defying with their marriage. But really the 20 mile spread between homesteads just made their dating life inconvenient in the beginning and the wedding events difficult in the end. Therefore my mother decided to throw the rehearsal dinner on the Thursday night before a Saturday night wedding, to let all the weary travelers have a rest day in between events. She also wanted to make sure her party didn’t suffer from anyone deciding to save themselves and their energies for the wedding night and that none of the guests on her side of the family would miss the five o’clock wedding because of a hangover.

I was still editing the slideshow when the men came with the tent, but luckily I was exporting it by the time they left. My husband had vetted it the night before and by the time I burned the DVD the caterers were arriving to set up the food stations, but the censorship authority was still open with Judge GiGi presiding. So she took out thirty minutes of her dressing time to watch the slideshow. At the end she was a good sport and her only comment was “It sounds like Derelict Mom.” “Who Me?” I said. I was a bit nervous about the reception at the actual event because although my mother had grown to accept and expect that I was going to call her “The Wicked Witch of the East,” I wasn’t sure my brother’s mother in law would be okay with her new nickname, “Wicked Witch of the West.” But I couldn’t resist and if I was going to spend three weeks crafting a thirty minute slideshow it was going to be funny.

After an extended cocktail hour, the guests watched the slideshow and laughed and enjoyed the pictorial walk down memory lane and no one seemed to hold it against me. Relief hit with a wave of fish and chips and red wine. As I was eating my dinner the speeches began, now it was everyone’s chance for a tribute. Maybe I had taken all the jokes, but there were more tears than there was laughter. My mother although not allotted a speech, took to the microphone anyway.

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman” She began.

My dad yelled from the crowd “Do you want your pitch fork or your axe?”

“I want everyone to know that I posed for those pictures in the slideshow.”

“There is a saying,” she continued, “that goes your son is your son until he marries his wife, but your daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.”

“I know this to be true as I have two daughters, and have yet been able to get rid of them, but we are happy to have Danni in our family and we have grown to love her as our own daughter already over the years.”

This was my mothers attempt to be soppy.

And then just because my mother cannot help her self from indulging in an inappropriate confession, she added

“When Danielle first met Giles she couldn’t have been more than 15 and she got off of the boat one day after hanging out with Giles and some friends, and it was late and she insisted she had to return to her home in Somerset, but I insisted that she stay the night….. but of course I didn’t mean in Giles’s room. But I wasn’t trying to match make or anything.”

At this point, I was thinking I should have set up Danielle as Little Red Riding hood in my slideshow and my mother as the Big Bad Wolf.

She was always trying to be the “cool” mom by the time my brother was a teenager, she always said what she got up to when she was young was far worse than anything we could imagine. I never believed her until recently- but that’s a story for another blog.

And then, not to be outdone, my sister gave a speech comparing her experience of running the NY marathon with my brother to the marathon of marriage. A few minutes before she asked me into mom’s computer room and asked me to vet her speech which she said she had just typed up that very instant, but when she read it, it felt like perfectly timed advertising copy. She was in the business.

“Marriage is like a marathon.”

“I am only at mile five, but I know that there are uphills and downhills, struggle, and balance, compromise, sacrifice, joy and camaraderie.”

Then her husband yelled, “and smelly feet.”

Instead of mile five, I thought, child number 2, was probably a more fitting marker to marriage and the uphill climbs, but it wasn’t my speech.

“It is not the finish line, it is the journey,” she continued striking the perfect balance between tears and composure.

“The people here around you are your water stops and your medical tents.”

At that point her husband looked like he was downing his entire glass of wine, just to get through her speech.

Afterwards, she wiped away her tears and hugged the bride and groom.

Then it was Christine’s turn, the mother of the bride. She kept it short,

“I think I am having a good time, I have been called a witch, the only problem I have so far is there wasn’t a sign to tell me where to park my broom.”

Then one of the bridesmaid’s got up, and started to cry before she could speak. She made one very salient point though, about marriage, which bears repeating,

“There is a saying that the most important things in any marriage, is one, a sense of humor and two a short memory.”

I would also add that these two qualities also come in handy within a family, especially when a family member has a blog called Derelict Mom.

After dinner the core group of hangers on, that would be myself, my husband, my sister and her husband, my brother’s groomsman and his wife who live on an island in the harbor and my parents settled in on the porch for a night cap and for some a cigar. It had been a successful evening therefore everyone had to celebrate until 1:30am on a school night. Luckily I disappeared in the vanishing act of an early bedtime (by Spurling standards) by midnight. For the rest of them, the only thing that vanished was groomsman Jeremy’s pack of cigarettes because my mother and sister chain smoked them all. At least my mother had given up bumming weed off my brother’s friends after he turned 21. The next morning it wasn’t the toddlers who looked like they were going to be sick, but the adults when they counted the cigarette butts and empty wine bottles. That Friday felt like the night after a party rather than the night before a party but there was one responsibility we had to adhere to that day, and that was to attend the actual rehearsal at 5pm, at the other end of the island.

 

Tune in next week for Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part III: Wedding Two

Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 1: The funeral.

The auspicious arrival of wedding fever was set to kick off at a preparty at my brother’s god mother’s house for lunch on May 25th a week before the wedding. In the Spurling family there was always a pre-party but in this case it turned out to be more of a wake. Sudden death, like overtime in a football match, is certainly something derelict mom thinks is an apt description for the last week of a single man’s life, but on this day it was as tragic as it was symbolic.

The Saturday morning started off like most of the others, up with Eva, breakfast and a pint of coffee for mommy dearest. When Chris stirred I went in to see if he had had a pleasant morning.

“How was your sleep in?”

“I have been counting, Babe has barked 56 times.”

“Babe is a morning person, we are not.”

“Fifty – Seven” was Chris’s only reply as he pulled the pillow over his head.

Eva and I wandered next door to see Hamma and Gigi. We played with Babe so she wouldn’t bark, and then Anna Laura and Sadie showed up to go swimming. I declined an invitation to join in because I had already decided to bake a paleo dairy free gluten free apple pie. I am a baking geek I know and so when they all descended on our little beach I retreated to the kitchen to whip up my dessert. Chris took Eva to join in on the fun, and soon most of the family was in the water, it was in fact a Bermudian tradition as the beginning of summer is celebrated on May 24th Bermuda day. Out came the noodles, the floaties, out came the rubber rafts, out came the kayaks and the swimming implements got bigger and bigger as each kid tried to out do a grandparent, while Anna Laura and Chris tried to make sure no one drowned, a kid or a grandparent. And then Piccolo my little dachshund got in the mix, barking and running his little roly poly body up and down the stairs, dreadfully worried about all his humans and their dangerous obsession with bathing in the sea.

“I am worried about his heart,” my mom said watching Piccolo run up and down keeping up with Babe, the Doberman who had a bit of an advantage.

“Whose heart?” Said Chris

“Piccolo, he shouldn’t be doing so much vigorous exercise with all that excess weight.”

“The vet said he should exercise.”

‘The Doctor said I should too.”

“Time to abandon the floatie.” Chris pointed to the teddy bear floatie mom had appropriated off of Eva who was crying.

“She should really have water wings.”

“Maybe, if you can convince her to wear them, she goes everywhere naked.”

My mother decided it was time to show off, so she broke out all of Babe’s water toys, which just drove Piccolo even more crazy. Meanwhile to appease my mother, Chris put Sadie and Eva in a kayak and was floating them around like twin Queens of Sheba.

My mother threw a Frisbee, it narrowly missed Chris’s head but I am sure if it had hit him she would have said it was an accident.

Babe bounded after it, effortlessly and with much enthusiasm. Babe and my mother’s game of water fetch was her favourite thing to do in the world, and here we were finally the first day of summer and Babe was loving it.

At some point Chris made the parental judgment that Eva was waterlogged, when her knees began to look like raisins and he brought the kayak back into the beach, wrapped her in a towel and told her it was time for lunch and left about ten minutes after Sadie and Anna Laura had left to shower and change next door for the party.

When Chris came into the kitchen, I looked at him and asked,

“What’s all that barking, why is Piccolo barking like that?”

I said unfamiliar with the regularly occurring summer cacophonies as I tried desperately to hang on to the vestiges of our mild winters, hence the baking of an apple pie.

“Oh your mom is throwing toys for Babe.”

“Oh, of course.” I answered and resumed the finishing touches on my culinary masterpiece.

“Where is dad?”

“He went out for a kayak.” Chris replied.

Chris rinsed Eva off and was watching a cartoon with her when about ten minutes later I brought her some lunch. I could still hear Piccolo barking.

“That’s weird,” I said to Chris.

“What?” Chris answered.

“Piccolo is still barking.”

“There is nothing weird about that, I assure you.”

“Yes there is, I said.”

“Look”

I pointed to the clock.

“My mother can’t possibly be still on the beach, she needs at least thirty minutes to put her face on.”

“Her face?”

“You know, her makeup.”

“Oh.”

“And listen..” I said.

“He has probably gotten stuck trying to climb a palm tree again. Let me go out and see.”

Meanwhile I had no idea what had been transpiring on the beach because I was elbow deep in almond flour egg batter and coconut stewed apples. As I wandered out of the garden toward the beach I dodged, chewed Frisbees, dog toys, sticks, and children’s floaties, discarded swimsuits and partially deflated water wings missing their pair. As I rounded the stairs I located Piccolo barking on top of a kayak at Babe who lay in the sand, understandably exhausted from all her running about.

“Mom?”

“Dad?”

I figured Mom had left to get dressed as she often will leave Babe on the beach, who eventually gets bored and comes home. And I figured Dad had done the same, and left his kayak pulled up on the beach.

I took another look at Babe from the top of the stairs.

“Babe, Babe!”

No answer.

Piccolo kept right on barking.

“Oh god, Oh no.”

I noticed she wasn’t looking at me, and then I surveyed the scene, instantaneously remembering my CPR training from age 14. It was at that moment I observed a large bowel movement next to her in the sand.

I ran down the stairs and put my hand on Babe, and tried to move her head. I stroked her fur, and all that came to me was “Oh Babe.” And I patted her again.

I stood up, picked up Piccolo and told him.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

Piccolo was very upset. I ran up the stairs with him in my arms and brought him inside to Chris and whispered so Eva would not hear.

“Babe had a heart attack on the beach and she is dead, look after Piccolo and I will find my parents.”

He nodded, and I locked Piccolo in the living room with Eva and Chris and sprinted next door.

Babe was really my mother’s dog, she was home the most, fed, bathed and walked her, and they had a mother daughter bond, that she didn’t really have with her biological children. So naturally, I ran yelling to my parent’s house looking for my mother,

“Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom where are you! “

Out of breath I checked the shower, she wasn’t there, finally she emerged from the back with Anna Laura, Sadie and a pair of scissors, they had been half way through cutting Sadie’s hair.

Out of breath and high on adrenalin, I started half yelling half breathing.

“Mom, you have to sit down right now, I have bad news to tell you.”

She looked terrified and sat down, my sister then came rushing out.

“Oh good, you are still here, you sit down too, I said to them.”

They looked ashen.

“On the beach,” I said, “Piccolo was panic barking on the kayak. I ran out to see what had happened and…”

“Oh my god “ my mother said, swooning with her hand over her eyes.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

“Oh, is that it?” Mom looked relieved.

“What!!! Babe Died” I said.

“Oh Phew” my sister said.

“What do you mean, phew?” I said about to pass out from the sprint I had made in record time.

“Babe is dead.” I said again.

“We thought you were going to say your father.” Anna Laura said.

“Does anyone know where your father is?” mom asked

“No, I said- I came yelling and I didn’t see him anywhere.”

“He went out on a kayak.” Anna Laura said.

“The kayak is on the beach, he must be back somewhere?”

“Let’s go see Babe,” My mother finally mustered.

“What shall we do with her?” I said pointing to Sadie who looked like she was about to burst into tears.

“We should bring her so that she learns.” Anna Laura said.

“Okay, I will get Eva too but we all need to remain calm.” I said even though I had unintentionally let everyone believe that Dad had had a heart attack on the beach by accident.

We reconvened on the beach around Babe’s body. Myself, Eva, Chris, Anna Laura and Sadie.

Mom bent over and tried to feel for a pulse.

“Mom, I already did that, she is gone.”

“Shall we do CPR?” Mom said

“No mom, she has been gone about ten minutes, there is no point, it was a massive coronary.”

Just then we noticed something on the horizon. My father, paddling back to shore.

Like all dreadful moments, when you can see something has happened but you can’t tell what, Dad thought something had happened to one of the kids but upon counting heads, he realized he was only missing a fury one.

“We can’t just leave her here.” Mom said.

Chris volunteered to get a wheelbarrow while we filled my dad in on what had transpired.

“How many valiums did you give her last night in the thunder storm?” I asked.

“Three.” Mom said. “And she had her pee pill this morning and her eye drops.”

“Too many medications.” I said

“She only has half as many as me” Mom replied.

“Did you give her your pee pill by accident, that would probably kill a horse” I said.

She ignored me and instinctively, like you do after you put your child to sleep, started collecting Babe’s toys which lay scattered on the beach, a testament to her last happy moments doing what she loved. She took the Frisbee and fired it in the air trying to make the garden but it got my dad right in the face.

“Jane!!!!’ Somehow the trauma of the moment had made my mother a perfect shot.

The drama of the moment had everyone else scurrying about.

“Jane, we need an old sheet or something to lift the body in.”

My mother left and returned a few minutes later with my father’s limited edition St. David’s landmarks, hand-woven furniture throw, a collectors edition item from the American Indian descendants of the Pequot tribe.

“You can’t use that to wrap her body in” My father yelled.

“Why not?” my mother asked, always ready to throw his historical interests under the bus, or in this case the dead body.

“Because,” my father stammered not wishing to say he didn’t want to part with the throw.

In the meantime, Sadie and Eva stood together looking over the sea wall at all the activity. Listening to them talk to each other helped give the moment some levity and inspired this blog post.

“Babe died.” Sadie said to Eva

“Mommy, why did Babe die?” asked Eva pulling on my pant leg.

I crouched down between them.

“Because she did a poo.” Sadie pointed at the poo.

“No, Babe died because it was time for her to go to heaven and become an angel.” I said.

“Poos go in the potty.” Eva pointed down at Babe’s body.

“We are not going to die, Eva, because we do poos on the potty.” Said Sadie.

Hamma and Gigi and Chris moved Babe into the wheel barrow and wheeled her back to their house, outside the gate to the garden where all the pets are buried and where Chris and I got married.

Hamma laid her body on the grass.

“Now we have to clean the sand off of her.” said Gigi.

“What! “ said Hamma, “Why!”

“Because she is covered in sand and she can’t be buried with a sandy face.”

My father sighed and went to fetch the hose.

“In a situations like this, you just do as you are told.” He said.

I thought by situation he meant “marriage” not “death.” I wondered what he would do if he could go back to his “sudden death” week before he married my mother. I know he attempted to delay proceedings but she insisted that they get married before the end of 1969. He waited until December 27th but now it’s been almost 45 years… forty five years of fetching the hose.

My mother affectionately washed off Babe’s body. I wondered if the next step was taxidermy, but then I realized that that was something only I would consider, and my dogs were small enough to fit into a freezer, Babe was not.

Chris stepped in and decided to dig the hole in the garden.

“We had better do it now before rigor mortis sets in.” He returned with a shovel and got to work.

“I’ll call the Jones’s and tell them we will be late.” We were always late but they deserved a warning that we would be arriving even later and with a large risk of spontaneous crying.

Mom was already crying and so Sadie went around and hugged everyone to make them feel better. Whereas Eva just wanted to know,

“Why is Daddy putting Babe in a hole?”

“Because after she died, she needs to be buried and then she will go to heaven to become an angel.” I replied doing my best. I probably could have done better if we had had more warning.

My sister piped up, “But you said you were a heathen on your blog.”

“I am a heathen but I still believe in heaven and angels… and fairies and ghosts.”

“Mommy what’s a heathen.”

“It’s your mommy’s nickname.”

We decided to go to the party and return afterwards to host a proper funeral. Meanwhile my brother arrived at the party and was told by his godparents the terrible news. He was shocked and devastated, devastated that the sister he lost was the one that didn’t talk back, and the one who couldn’t read or write blogs, and for a moment Babe’s passing took emphasis off the event at hand. The rest of us arrived forty five minutes late, the approximate time needed for Chris to dig a hole and the rest of us to argue about it, shower and dress.

And so my brother’s wedding pre-party became Babe’s wake, as the family, the wedding party and the soon to be “outlaws” toasted to her memory. Who doesn’t love a dog, even one that barks fifty seven times at 8am.

Later at the funeral, even Chris wiped away a tear for Babe, for the dog, who would never bark for the fifty eighth time. I played Taps on my laptop and read a poem by Lord Byron.

Epitaph to a Dog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaph_to_a_Dog

It begins:

Near this Spot
 are deposited the Remains of one 
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
 Strength without Insolence, 
Courage without Ferocity, 
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

It ends:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; 
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

A video of the funeral:

http://youtu.be/sy0tU3KxpcU

A week before my brother’s wedding, my mother had lost more than a friend, she had lost her last daughter, her final child, and when my brother was lost to the institution of matrimony, when he and Danielle exchanged vows she would for the first time, have an empty nest. My father was going to have to take Babe’s place in my mother’s affections, by peeing the bed, being spoon fed, stealing roast beef, and tearing up my mother’s decorative pillows, it wasn’t after all, far from believable. A few days later after Hamma was forced to go on my mother’s regular dog walk at Ferry Reach, I found Hamma hiding Babe’s collars and leashes and he tried to give me one of her dog beds, out of fear that my mother would have his initials embroidered on a new cover by LL Bean.

It was clear after the wedding, my mother would need a new focus.

Stay tuned for Two weddings and a funeral part 2.

Here is a note that came back from Eva and Sadie’s nursery the following day as Auntie Zoe had been informed by both girls of Babe’s untimely demise.

Babe died003

Babe was always part of the fun.

Babe was always part of the fun.

A Flask of Gin ( Meet the Fockers Part III)

Three weeks after our bridal shower the day arrived for Bridal Shower number two, hosted by the Bride’s mother, which was the bridal shower I thought would adhere to proper wedding etiquette as all showers I had been to at that point had been hosted by the Mother of the Bride. This one of course was the first I had attended that had been usurped by the Mother in Law of the Bride. I decided to look it up just to be sure, and where else would I go but to my mother’s idol’s website: www.marthastewartliving.com. As it turns out, I was wrong, but my mother was not right either. To Quote directly “ According to tradition, a shower should not be thrown by the bride’s immediate relatives such as her mother, future mother in law or sister since it would appear that they were asking for gifts. The maid of honor usually hosts. “ Well we all got that one wrong, but the gifts had already been bought and accepted so we were all, already offending common proper practice. To Hell with Rules! Bring on the presents, or parcels as it would turn out.

As anticipation mounted for the big Saturday night festivities, the uninvited male members of the family started to tease those of us who had cast our busy social lives aside, our usual Saturday night rendezvous to attend a teetotal dinner come shower, come Moroccan game night. It was exciting for me, as my Saturday nights usually consisted of putting a toddler to bed, cooking dinner and watching TV, the only difference from any other day of the week was that I didn’t have to pack a lunch for the next day, clean up, set my alarm, and I could enjoy a nice glass or more of red wine. Giving up the red wine and getting a toddler free evening and not having to cook dinner seemed like an even trade for me. But for my mother, alas, she would be missing a party somewhere, an invite turned down out of familial duty, a vodka tonic turned down with pure will power. This was not going to be easy for her. She promised she would be on her best behavior, a voluntary contribution tempered by the fact that she had already outdone the mother of the bride with her over the top lavish bridal shower number 1 three weeks before.

See blog posts Meet the Fockers part 1:

https://derelictmom.com/2014/05/23/meet-the-fockers-part-1/

And Meet the Fockers part 2:

https://derelictmom.com/2014/06/06/meet-the-fockers-part-ii/

She had recovered from her party and had convinced us all she was going to put her most gracious foot forward, it turns out on the gas pedal.

“ I will be the designated driver.” She volunteered while batting her eyes and coyly smiling.

“Mom, it’s a teetotal party, we can’t drink too much lemonade.”

“Think of what could happen if your sister drank too many sugary drinks.”

Visions of the game Nazi flashed through my head.

“I’ll drive.” My mother insisted.

This was mom’s attempt at generosity and grace. Then next week she would say it was someone else’s turn to drive home from the raging party, so she could swig a wine with out fear or inhibition.

On the night of the shower, Mom put her best face forward, got decked out in her Moroccan clothes she had purchased on a reluctant trip there several years ago. My Dad giggled as she sighed, without knowing what the girly night ahead of her had in store. Mom was not much of a girly girl, despite the makeup, the walk in closet and hefty credit card bill, she loved to shop, go to the spa, and entertain but if she was invited to a girly trip or a dinner party without men, she would decline. I don’t think she could think of anything worse than spending a weekend with her two daughters and now she was about to get a third one by marriage. Mom only really preformed for men and so an estrogen filled evening untempered by booze was going to be hard. I figured she would be uncharacteristically quiet the entire time. I wasn’t all wrong.

She pulled her car around to the front of the house and honked the horn. Chris kissed me goodbye.

“Before you go, give this to your mom.” He handed me a flask, which he had filled with gin and three cans of Perrier.

“Tell your mom to have a roadie on me.”

This is a reference to two years ago when I climbed into the passenger seat of their car to attend our Easter brunch, and found a discarded roadie- a plastic cocktail glass with red cocktail straw and slice of lime fermenting on the floor mat from the night before. At the time I was still expressing breast milk for Eva and was struck with both jealousy and amazement. To be nearly 70 and still be drinking roadies, ah that’s the life. And to this day I do not know how she convinces my father to drive home from every single event.

When I climbed in, I offered her a gin and soda. She laughed.

“We aren’t really going to drink it are we?” She asked.

“No of course not! Unless you think they will just think it’s mouthwash?”

“No, we better not.”

I put the flask and Perrier cans on the floor of the car, and laid back to enjoy the thirty minute drive to Paget, without worrying about a toddler or stop signs or traffic, that’s the life for a busy mother, thirty minutes of uninterrupted looking out the window.

Then it started, the continual pestering.

“What do you think they will have for dinner?”

“I don’t know, maybe a Moroccan dish!’

“Oh No, I hate Moroccan food.”

“Why do you have to be obsessed by food.”

“I hate Morocco.”

“What do you think she will be wearing?”

“Who?”

and on and on and on.

We picked up my sister and twenty minutes later we finally arrived. We were the first ones there. Rich, Danielle the bride to be’s step dad directed us around the back to secretly park as the party was supposed to be a surprise, but my mother had already blown that too. Maybe on purpose? Maybe by accident?

“Why did you tell Giles?”

“I felt he needed to know?”

“Why?”

“So that he could bring her a little bit late, in case we were late.”

“Mom, that defeats the purpose.”

“I don’t like surprises, and he is just like me, and anyway Danielle doesn’t know.”

“But you know, and I know that if Giles knows he will give it away.”

“As long as he doesn’t bring her on time then it will be okay.”

“Mom we are early. We are never early.”

“Great, it’s just going to be awkward without anyone else around.”

I open the door to exit the car. Mom yells,

“Wait! “

“What?”

“Aren’t you going to cover up the flask?”

“You didn’t cover up your roadie in 2012. No one is going to see it.”

“You never know! “ Mom said.

So we got back in and put the flask on its side underneath the floor matt.

“There no one will ever know.”

“It’s not like we drank it anyway.”

“Yeah but no one would believe you.”

We are ushered into the house through the back door by Christine, the mother of the bride.

“Hi Jane, thanks for coming” Christine says.

My mother grins and without any hesitation responds,

“Christine, are those eyelashes FAKE?”

Christine blinks several times trying to take in my mother’s version of “Hello, How are you.”

“Yes,” she admits blinking vigorously already defeated.

Mom- 1

Mother in Law -0

Anna Laura and I look at each other too bad we weren’t wearing black and white stripes as we may have some refereeing to do tonight. Thank god my mom hadn’t touched the flask, it could be worse.

Next, Christine said,

“What would you like to drink?”

I ushered my first prayer of the evening. “Please mom, don’t say wine, please don’t say wine.”

“Iced Tea.”

PHEW…

The dog barked and I thought, thank god someone else, and so the other women began to arrive, parking behind us in the backyard. Company at last.

And then finally, DING DONG. The doorbell rang. The Bride and Groom arrived, and we all conspicuously hid in the lounge before jumping out and yelling “SURPRISE!”

Danielle’s mouth dropped she feigned surprise. They were perfectly late, I am sure my brother had let it slip but I could not be sure.

Rich ushered Giles out the door as they were taking him to his own special stag party, an AA meeting, and dinner at Specialty Inn. I am sure my long suffering husband would have given up beer to join in but he was babysitting a toddler and a few Coors Lights at the time.

The men disappeared and Christine put her party hat on.

“Let the games begin!”

“Oh no, I hate games I thought.” I would rather watch my ice cube melt.

I had visions of passing life savers on toothpicks and playing pyramid but I would be spared, THOSE games from my youth.

“QUIZ TIME.”

Oh that’s not so bad I thought. Christine began passing out tests and pencils. She was once a teacher, and somehow that doesn’t surprise me. I had a feeling the family was about to gain another game Nazi.

I could hear my mother sharpening her pencil in the background, she was quiet but it might have just been the Iced Tea, or maybe it was her game plan.

“Our first game this evening is Guess the Bride.”

I flipped through the fifty page document of wedding photos where someone had painstakingly cut the faces out of each bride’s picture, and then photocopied masses of copies. I supposed she needed something to do last Saturday, but maybe cutting out famous brides faces gave her some sort of passive aggressive pleasure, I know it probably would for me. Maybe when Dani and Giles are expecting their first born, I will recreate the game with famous new moms, and cut the faces out of the likes of Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the rest of those skinny bitches who spend maternity leave in the gym. Ahhh just the thought gives me passive aggressive satisfaction.

I was always good at fantasying and by some miracle I won the guess the bride game, although I have never picked up an issue of BRIDE in my entire life. Full of pride and surprise I accepted my gift of scented bamboo reed diffusers.

“Thanks, just what I wanted, bamboo sticks.”

Cocky and self assured I started the next game, name the movie, the actress and the year of the bride pictured.

“I am really good at this game.” I said.

I was too big for my britches and came in an underperforming second or third. But then I realized I was not much into bride movies anyway, and Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride had been the stumper for me, not that I am running out to see it now or anytime soon.

“That was fun,” I announced.

“Next” Christine stood up to move on proceedings.

I looked over at my mother, she gave me a smug half smile, I looked down at her test sheets, 2 out of 50 and 10 out of 32. I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t trying or she really didn’t know.

“I am too old for this game.” She said with regality.

“Next,” Christine called the class of women to order.

“Next, we are going to play Pass the Parcel.”

All of the women already gathered in a circle looked around at each other with a pretend excitement.

I whispered to mom, “If you are too old for the quiz, then you must be about to be reincarnated for Pass the Parcel.” And I made a sign of the cross like the good catholic I was not.

Christine launched ITunes on her laptop and started the music, we were to pass the parcel until the music stopped. She admitted freely herself that she was attempting to recreate Danielle’s birthday parties when she was growing up, but I am thankful that she did not go as far as to play nursery rhymes. I had no need to relive my childhood as I was living Eva’s right now.

I wondered if Pass the Parcel was a passive aggressive way of pretending her daughter wasn’t really old enough to get married, or maybe she was just desperate for grandchildren. That would be a good thing, as my mother was not, she already had three and was struggling to come up with creative excuses not to babysit. If this was what Christine wanted to do on a Saturday night, then my mom’s future Saturday nights were going to be free to partake in many roadies to come.

As Pass the Parcel progressed the person it stopped on had to unwrap a layer and then could take the lollipop or present that was on that layer, but they would also have to read the poem and do the dare.

The dare, sounded risqué, but the poems certainly were not. As each parcel unwrapper read off their sentimental poem about mothers and daughters, my mother’s lip curled in distaste.

I could read her mind, “Cheesy” she was thinking.

Her secret hope that my brother might be gay so that she could get another son-in-law to outnumber the women in the family was not going to happen, but as long as there weren’t any more sober bridal showers in her future, she might just make it through the night. My sister and I weren’t sure. My mother was in denial, she was marrying off her son, getting a third daughter and god forbid more grandchildren, and now Pass the Parcel. We were all having flashbacks to 1985 or maybe it was just withdrawal symptoms.

Our side of the family had been neglected by the music wizard, but when it stopped on one of Danielle’s bridesmaids and her dare was “Share your most embarrassing moment.” The three of us looked at each other with a sigh of relief that the parcel had not landed gracefully within our grasp, for fear one of us caught off guard would answer honestly. Of course all of those stories probably contain a roadie or two and Pass the Parcel was not really the venue.

By the end of Pass the Parcel we were all worried that Musical Chairs would be next and my mother would end up with her ample derriere wedged on top of a younger, quicker Christine in a chair but it was not time for more games, it was finally time to eat.

My mother and Christine have one similarity they both are amazing hostesses, and Christine had a spread of Moroccan food that was twice as much as all of us could eat, all of us of course except for my mother.

Never reluctant to grab a dinner plate, my mother uncharacteristically hung back, then gave herself several ungenerous portions while Christine introduced each food group,

“ We have roasted butternut squash with cinnamon, Chicken and prunes, and a kale and chickpea salad.”

My mother looked like she was choking on a digestive enzyme as she chewed on a piece of butternut squash wishing it was a roast potato. And Kale, she never touched super foods unless it was a Smirnoff raspberry martini, and she could have used one of those right about now to make up in calories, what she was loosing in appetite.

The rest of us thought it was delicious. As we were finishing up dinner, the boys arrived back. I could sense my mother’s relief for male company. She began picking on my brother within two minutes.

“Why are you wearing that shirt?”

“You need some new clothes for your honeymoon, which reminds me.”

“What mom?” Giles answered.

“I have forgotten to give you, your Trousseau. Do you know what a Trousseau is?”

“No” he said.

People were milling about getting ready to leave.

I was thinking mom would be the first one out the door if it was going to get her home quicker and closer to that raspberry martini, but now that my brother was back she had threshold paralysis.

“Come on mom I said, every one is getting ready to leave,” as the other girls said their thank yous and goodbyes. I was desperate not to be the last ones here in case my mother tried to touch one of Christine’s falsie eyelashes.

My sister and I gathered her bags, and as I put them at her feet, she asked

“Do you know what a Trousseau is?”

“Isn’t it like some sort of hope chest?” was my answer.

“Wrong” she said. I was actually right.

And then proudly like she had won a game of jeopardy after loosing at pass the parcel, announced. “A trousseau is gift of clothing for the honeymoon.”

“Isn’t that for the bride?” I asked. Right again.

“It doesn’t matter, I can give one to the groom if I want.”

“Of course mom can do what ever you want.”

“A Trousseau is a gift of lingerie for the bride to use on the honeymoon.”

“You bought Giles lingerie for his honeymoon?” I had visions of Giles running around Venice Italy in a Chippendales outfit.

“I bought him clothes for his honeymoon.”

“Then stop calling it a Trousseau.” I said.

By this time the family squabble had distracted my sister and I from our mission to leave. My mother would not stop talking so we ended up outside with step dad Rich who was directing traffic exiting the back yard.

“I think I better back your car out of the yard for you because it’s tight getting out.”

He offered.

“Oh that’s nice of you.” I said.

“Or would you like to do it, I can direct you.”

“Oh no, that’s okay you can move the car if that’s easier,” I said, looking forward to a snooze on the way home and not wanting to volunteer to be the driver as mom had already gracious offered to stay sober.

“Oh we don’t have the keys,” I said looking through moms purse.

“I’ll go and get them from her.” Rich said

He came back dangling mothers keys as mom stood in the entry way still talking about Giles’ Trousseau to his mortification.

Anna Laura and I follow Rich around the house to the backyard, as we walked into the lawn area, I suddenly remembered our drive to the party. My stomached turned and it was not the butternut squash, I had remembered, THE FLASK. My first thought was “Thank God mom put it under the floor matt and on the passenger side.” But it was too late, Rich was steps away. As he was turning the key in the door, I thought about yelling something about a shooting star or a meteorite but it was cloudy and he would have thought I was crazy, so I just watched it happen.

Anna Laura climbed into the back seat and I returned to the passenger seat. As I opened the door treading very lightly on the floor matt while getting in, I was hit with a waft of something so pungent it was unmistakable, GIN.

Rich didn’t seem to blink an eye, he got in and turned the key and began backing us out of the yard. My mind was racing… Mom had laid the flask on its side under the floor matt and it had clearly leaked- proof perhaps that we had not in fact consumed the Gin, but would that matter in this situation? I think not. As Rich backed up the Perrier cans started to rattle around, I slipped my foot out of my shoe and tried to contain them as the little car made tight turns backwards and forwards out of their driveway. Finally brilliance struck,

“Smells like Windex” I said.

“Hmmm” Rich said.

“I think he bought it.” I thought.

Rich put the parking break on outside the front door, there was a slight tinkle of aluminum can on titanium flask but I was betting Rich was going deaf. I rattled my bamboo diffuser reeds hoping to mask the sound.

Mom climbed in and as she was driving home we told her about the flask. I fetched it from underneath the floor matt and sure enough it had leaked. I read the engraving on it.

“Awarded to Chris Worsick for outstanding athletic achievement September 1980.”

“They gave him a flask for athletic achievement?”

“It was England in 1980. It probably hasn’t been used since 1982.” I said.

“Shouldn’t have married an older man.”

“You tell Chris, he could have ruined the wedding!”

“No mom, that’s your job.”

“So what’s really in Giles’s trousseau- did you get him a thong too?”

Meanwhile, Anna Laura looked up Trousseau on her blackberry,

“A trousseau is a wine grape also known as Bastardo, it is also a syndrome- a migratory thrombophlebitis.”

“An over mothering syndrome or under grandmothering syndrome.” I said.

“Migratory Thrombophlebitis sounds bad.” Mom said.

“It is bad, you probably get it from drinking too much Gin.”

“Or from playing Pass the Parcel.”

We topped the night off with a night cap when we got home and celebrated what was just a precursor to the main affair. The wedding was only weeks away…..

Stay tuned for the wedding series of blogs: “Two weddings and a funeral.”

Meet the Fockers Part II

Continued from Meet the Fockers Part I:http://wp.me/p4b9qN-3q

In the days leading up to our bridal shower for my brother’s bride to be my mother ordered my father to the liquor store to buy wine then she added more food to the menu right at the last minute just in case there wasn’t enough. Truth there was always too much food and wine. My mother was into abundance not scarcity, even if there were hungry and sober for that matter, children in the third world, that was not going to keep her from going overboard and dancing dangerously toward wasteful and indulgent.

Then mom went to work making her famous Iced Tea, one cannot forget the Iced Tea. All of her preparations and rushing around, picking extra flowers, getting Alda, her long suffering housekeeper to polish the silver again and again. All of this over productive possibly counter productive busyness was distracting her from her chief worry. What was really bothering the hostess but that she was afraid to admit was not that the silver would not sparkle but that about half the people that were coming to the shower were teetotal and not only would they have the clarity to notice the smallest tarnish on the family silver they might just notice that the other half of the family were boozers. There wasn’t much of a middle ground, and to make it worse all of the teetotalers weren’t on one side of the family or the other and neither were the boozers. Parties were complicated but the wedding was going to be worse.

My brother, who suffers from paranoia over his mother’s hypothetical behaviors calls up the day before the shower.

“What ever you do mom, don’t say here is the wine and the wine glasses, then point to a jug of Iced Tea and say, here this, this Iced Tea, This is for YOU and point to the teetotaler.”

“I am not going to do that Giles, I have already made signs to put in front of the Iced T, I am going to call it AA Punch.”

“What.”

“Giles it’s a joke.”

“Mom you know I don’t get jokes.”

My mother has a propensity to be lavish. Right before the shower, she pulled out of her suitcase of lingerie. As she was holding up the skimpy bits of – I am not sure you can call it clothing, she said.

“I think I have over done it again. I have bought too many.”

“Perhaps” I say tilting my head wondering how you would wear anything that is called “floss” as clothing. My mother asked,

“Would you like one of these?” she says holding up a pair of thongs.

“To wear to the shower?” I say confused.

“No to keep.”

I pause, go in for a closer look, shake my head at my mother in disbelief, and looking down at myself, at the thong and then at her, I respond.

“Mom, I wear briefs.” I extend the ample tummy control elastic and let it snap back into position with a loud crack like the sound of a horse crop.

“I don’t think so. “

The day of the shower, looking forward to what the day held, I was overly ambitious and decided to wear a dress that was still too tight despite the singular pound I had lost running around the town over the last month. To rectify the bulges in the wrong places I put a sweater on to hide said bulges and to my surprise when I arrived at the gathering my mother seemed content in my choice of outfit. She really must be worried about the party if she can’t bring herself to criticize my choice of dress, my lack of makeup and messy hair, I thought to myself.

Meanwhile the boozers had a head start but the teetotalers caught up, matching each other drink for drink. The libations were flowing when the games got underway. My sister Anna Laura, aka. game Nazi, took over so my mother could enjoy a refreshing glass of Iced… T… Terre di tufi white wine blend, followed by an Iced Tea chaser.

First we had a How Well Do You Know Danielle quiz. The first question was, What is Danielle’s favorite movie. Instead of guessing wildly or putting down a predictably cheesy title like The Notebook, I scribbled in “Meet the Fockers” obviously subsequently inspiring this post. Although I scored a nort on that question I came out on top of her new family members and won a prize. I think it was a cream egg, my sister’s subtle tactic to tempt me out of my feeble attempt to divorce from chocolate. Such feeble attempts were almost always doomed if attempted around Cadbury mini and cream egg season. Oh well

The questions continued:

What is Dani’s favorite colour.

I wrote “Hot Stripper Pink” as a joke.

How did they meet?

Giles was dressed up as a clown for Halloween and Dani was dressed up as Pocahontas and as it is typical of American Indian’s to lack the enzyme that digests alcohol she developed a permanent condition of beer goggles and took home a clown and ended up marrying my brother!

How long have they been together?

I lost count of how many years they have been together but I can count the fights, the midnight phone calls, and brotherly lectures from Chris, they are the notches in the bedpost of any relationship.

When were they engaged?

I remembered this one- The Queen’s Jubilee. Although my brother denies knowing it was the Queen’s Jubilee part of me suspects my mother put him up to it. She was certainly jubilant when Giles got down on one knee and gave Dani, the diamond ring my mother had given him to give her. The same 10,000 dollar diamond my mother had turned her nose up to on Christmas 2003 when my father gave it to her unset in a box, leaving its fate, design, and ultimate owner up to her. She chose various settings, wore it a few times, decided she didn’t like it and put it aside for Giles. A cast off.

But Dani was smart and she took the diamond and made her own beautiful ring, sort of what she is doing to my brother, taking my mother’s tarnished diamond and making it her own. Got to admire a girl’s ingenuity and for that manner her lingerie, and she has plenty of that now.

****

After eating lunch on the patio we went inside to continue the refreshments, have desert and more wine for the boozers of course, and have Dani open her gifts.

The gifts were a blend of bowls and glass wear – the practical and then the sexy, mostly Lingerie. Why so many bowls I thought to myself before answering my own question. She would of course have to have something to fall off the dining room table and break, when my brother came home to find his bride to be in that number.

My sister had had the forethought to get my brother to pick out lingerie. We could tell immediately- it was the black ones, unfortunately not Hot Stripper Pink as I would have guessed.

When the combination of kitchen bowls and adornments met Lingerie boxes in various stages of unwrap, the curious men started to show up.

My dad popped in with that look of interest and fear that become men when they are outnumbered. Looking at the lingerie as it was revealed from its packaging

My father, Danielle’s almost father in law said ,“ Dani, you better not answer the door in that.”

Dani giggled in a funny, only for Giles, way.

Then Uncle Michael showed up for a reason I forget, he too looked a bit mystified at the collection of women in their best dresses and makeup sipping or gulping depending on what side of the divide you were on, teetotal or boozer, but regardless we were all outnumbered by wrapping paper and underwear, thongs to be exact.

After Dani had unwrapped my gift, the turquoise apron with a hot pink embroidered, “Spurling’s Slave.” Fortunately for me they were able to cover up the thread that started to form a “U” before Chris saved the day. See my previous post for the whole story

LINK…

When my gift was revealed my sister shook her head.

“ Does that underwear match the apron?”

“No,” I said.

“Why should we pretend she can be perfect, when her husband will never be! “ I thought to myself.

“Imperfection is empowering.” I thought, “Just wait till she becomes a derelict mom.” All that lingerie will be replaced by nursing bras and XL spanx.

After my gift had been received I went to fetch Eva from her nap so she could have a brownie too. I missed most of the final game, which was another quiz, this time it was, “What would Giles’s say.” All the ladies, mothers and friends, had to draw a question out of the fish bowl and ask Danielle the question, she had to guess what Giles’s answer would be, and then they would tell her the actual answer.

When you have a toddler you tend to miss out on the best jokes, bits of drama, or otherwise trivially important moments you never even knew were so important before you had kids.

It was getting risqué and Dani got upset and refused to answer the question, “What would Giles say was the moment you embarrassed him the most.” Which made us all think the answer was way worse than it was.

Bridal shower

It got awkward for a minute, the teetotalers got quieter as the boozers got louder. The teetotalers got closer to the edge of their seats while the boozers sunk more comfortably into theirs. At the same time, with the addition of a gluten free brownie my stomach had grown and distended beyond the confines of my too tight dress, so every so often I would hear a punctuating pop as the zipper popped open, it seemed to be in concert with Dani’s mom, who had taken to popping bubble wrap from the gifts, when the ice tea ran out, punctuating every awkward question and answer.

When the games and gifts came to an end, we decided to try the new bridesmaid dresses on the two girls, Sadie and Eva both 2, both too into dressing up, parties and brownies to be properly tamed. My mother had gone to great pains and deliberation to buy two flower girl dresses. There were more colour swatches, bows, dresses, consultations, web surfing, flying to Williamsburg to go to the fancy dress shop, that I was beginning to think it was no longer my brother’s wedding, but my daughter’s coming out party. Several dresses, and even more shoes later their outfits had been decided. Eva happily transformed out of her Saturday wear into her flower girl princess dress, the problem came when my mother began to worry about the white tulle getting caught up in brownie, chocolate crème egg or worse, grape juice box.

All the guests had ohhhed and awwwwed at the girls in their miniature half ballerina, half wedding dress miniatures as they ran around in full irate princess mode. After a few minutes, my mother tried to convince the girls to take the dresses off. At about the same time, Dani’s mom excused herself to go to the bathroom and probably collect her belongings for a swift exit. While she was absent, my mother’s determination to preserve the white tulle hit its peak.

“Eva it is time to take the dress off.”

“Mom, she doesn’t know what time means.”

“She knows what off means.”

“Noooo” Eva said, the “oooos” dragged as her top lip puckered and her bottom lip protruded and her hips swung the tulle against my mother’s wishes.

I was making no efforts to get it off, I figured she could wear it while I finished my glass of wine but my mother’s disapproval took over.

“I don’t want her to mess it up.”

“Well then we will have to force her out of it.”

“Do it.”

“Okay”

I place my wine glass slowly down on the outside table; I slowly bend over hoping to coax the zipper down without Eva noticing.

“ Just take the dress off already,” my mother says, impatient with my bending to a toddler’s wish- way of doing things.

Mom bends down right as I had just got the zipper down a couple inches and grabs Eva.

“The dress comes off now.”

My mom holds her up in the middle of the room and begins to shake Eva so the dress will fall off, white tulle untouched. The faster my mom shook Eva the higher pitched her screams became.

At that moment Dani’s mom returned from the bathroom to find my mother shaking Eva, screaming in the middle of the party. She stood in silent shock, the ice cube in the last glass of Iced Tea slips, the dress falls off and Mom sheepishly hands me my screaming now naked toddler.

Meanwhile Dani’s mother must have had flashes of her future grandchildren with shaken baby syndrome and is probably right now hatching a plan to move my brother and her daughter safely to the other end of the island. She said nothing but made her exit soon after taking the rest of her banoffee miniature pies.

A few minutes later after Eva had recovered from her tantrum with the help of the last chocolate brownie, I led her through the house to say goodbye to the teetotalars, she cried.

“Mommy, my arm hurts.”

“That’s okay Eva, GiGi didn’t mean it.”

Suddenly I had my own childhood flashback. One day afterschool my little sister had thrown a predictable tantrum about not being able to consume vast quantities of sugar as is every child’s dream, having to be marched through the sweet aisle at the local pharmacy. As she was reaching for a package of black current fruit pastilles my mother yanked her arm out of reach of the candy display. My mother’s enthusiasm was no match for my sister’s ear piercing frustration at being whisked away within moments of success. My sister’s public performance reached new levels of achievement in drama when she insisted in tears and pain that her arm hurt.

“You hurt my arm, you hurt my arm.” Floods of tears, and the attention of the entire community of shoppers, led my mother’s tough exterior to crumble.

“Are you really hurt?”

“Yes.” My sister sobbed, holding her arm complete with floppy wrist.

“It’s my shoulder, you pulled it out.”

“Oh my God” my mother said overcome with guilt scanning the audience of cough drop buyers.

“We will have to get the doctor to check you out.”

She marched us both through the doors of the pharmacy into the doctor’s office, which was conveniently still open.

After a quick examination of my sister’s shoulder and arm, and a bit of a wink, he proffered,

“I think she will survive, nothing is out of place, broken or bruised except an ego.”

He gave my sister a lollipop for being a good patient. Her eyes light up because in a way she had won more than a lollipop.

That night my mother retold the saga to my father who quietly nodded, but taking in every detail he hatched a plan.

The next day on speaker phone a woman called my mother at home.

“Hello, I am looking for a Mrs. Jane Spurling.”

“This is she.”

“I am Mrs. Butterfield from the Department of Social Services.”

“Pardon.”

“Department of Social Services mame, we have had a report of public child abuse.”

“Who me?” a quiet but guilty voice came across the line.

“A member of the public has made a complaint that you were abusing your child at Robertson’s pharmacy yesterday afternoon, and that the child was in an ill or injured state as a result.”

“But But I took her to the doctors, you can ring them, she was really fine.”

“That does not make it right.”

“I promise to never do it again.”

“We will be arraigning you on charges to be determined by the family court.”

Before my mother burst into tears, the caller revealed herself to be my father’s secretary put up to it my father and his conspiratorial friends. For the thirty years since, this story has continued to give all of us many occasions to laugh, especially my sister who has always had the same persistent knack at getting her own way. My mom had not changed much either in the intervening years, and it was not the first or last time my mother would be had by a practical joke, including the one that my husband Chris had in store for her for Bridal Shower 2. Tune in next week!

Welcome to the family

Welcome to the family

A reading by a derelict mom

I have been asked to do a reading next week Friday, June the 6th at 6pm with music and readings at my local book shop, THE BOOK CELLAR on water street in St. George’s. Come one come all for Books, Brews, Music and Muse Part 2.

https://www.facebook.com/events/313127172176264/

Here is the excerpt from my published piece, “A Real Mother,” which I read at my last reading. I will be reading something new next Friday. You will have to wait another week for Meet the Fockers Part Two in case anyone was waiting for it! I was going to write it today but my brother’s rehearsal dinner last night has left me exhausted ( read between the lines- hungover.)

 

So here you go:

I was daydreaming, counting the cracks in the wall of the exam room, wondering when my husband Chris would ever paint over the bits of plaster in our bedroom, when the doctor began her palpation of the baby bump. She took her hand and made the shape of a cup with her thumb and forefinger and felt for the babies’ head.

“I think the baby is breeched.”

“What do you mean breeched?”

“She is the wrong way around,” the doctor replied.

“What do you mean the wrong way around?” I started to notice I was parroting her answers, hoping they would sink in, as I tried to let go of my birth plan.

“Most babies by now have turned their head down and will soon drop into the birth canal.”

“But last week you said she was fine?” I insisted, for the doctor must of course be wrong.

“Babies move. Her head and feet are upright, she is bent at the waist and her bum is headed for the birth canal, a Frank Breech.”

“Can I give birth to her that way?”

The doctor shook her head.

“You wouldn’t want to, and we don’t allow it in this country.”

‘In this country’ had the deafening ring I knew not to argue with.

“We will need to book you in for a C-section. How is Wednesday December 21st?”

 

 

 

“O.K.,” I said with disappointment, and a sort of hollow feeling imagining a man in a white coat just coming in and handing me a baby. It seemed like there would be no real arrival, that it would be like planning an event, picking up a passport or takeout. Here is your baby. Condiments are on the left; napkins are on the right. I was sad. I would be robbed of the experience of a natural birth. I was sad for about five seconds. I had worked so hard at denial and now that I didn’t even have to push her out and it was nobody’s choice, it felt like a Monopoly get out of jail for free card.  So why was I so disappointed? Part of me thought birth was like a roller coaster: you went into labour and you couldn’t get off the ride, and once it was over it made you thankful that no matter how hard the baby screamed at night, at least it was the baby and not you screaming in pain, fear and exhaustion. At thirty-five they can’t say, “Oh she is just exercising her lungs, to help her breathe better.” They call you a wimp. My secret was I already knew I was a wimp and I was frightened.  Now I didn’t have to give birth, I could just lie down on a bed and be given drugs and operated on. A big slice in the shape of a smiley face cut above my pubic bone, my guts moved to one side and the baby taken out, everything put back in and sewn up.  A few hours to rest from surgery and it would all be over and at the same time just beginning.

But the more I thought about the IV, the surgery, the room with ten people dressed in masks and greens scrubs, the more I started to get nervous.  Was surgery better or worse than pushing a grapefruit sized head out of your vagina? I started to second-guess myself. A natural birth was what I wanted.

“Only 5% of babies are breeched, they don’t know why – it could be the shape of the uterus or that the baby decides she wants to be upright.”

My reality was making me feel guilty for all the haughty moments I had over the last few months thinking that if I was prepared enough it would all go as nature intended.

 

 

My daughter’s intentions did not cross my mind and as I contemplated how she had decided on her own path to her birthday, I wondered how many of my future life-altering moments would be decided by my offspring. I had done all the birth classes and now a butt-heavy baby had chosen my fate. I was never sure in my professional or personal life if I hated surprise or certainty more, or if I hated each for not being the other.

I searched the Internet. Pictures turned up everywhere of pregnant women in unthinkable positions. The number one recommendation to turn a breeched baby was to find a pool and a maternity swimsuit and do headstands holding your breath, the inversion method. I was left with the image of myself in a neoprene parachute like bathing suit attempting a headstand in the pool with the National swim team doing laps around me. A pregnant woman’s crotch teetering dangerously into their lane was not necessarily the motivation they needed. I had my doubts that I could lift my legs upside down without tearing a muscle, which had all shrunk and tightened around my favourite sitting position since the fourth month of pregnancy.

I looked up acupuncture and discovered there was a maternal treatment called moxibustion.  I made an emergency appointment for the next day. My acupuncturist let me know she needed my husband there to help. Baby classes, baby books, doctor appointments, baby showers, and now moxibustion – this was not going to be easy. Coming through the door he hit his head on a wind chime. He stared at me with a glare.

“Humour me,” I asked.

“You forgot your patchouli oil and your hippie beads.”

“Please don’t be negative.”

“Why did I marry a bohemian?”

His suit looked confining in the waiting room filled with framed landscapes, houseplants, and a natural sounds CD playing in the background. I stared into a magazine while he typed vigorously on his blackberry. My acupuncturist came out and motioned to me that she was ready to see us.

We walked into the office where she laid out the special herbs I would need to bring about my miracle.  “All of this so I can put myself through two days of torture,” I thought. She began what felt like a satanic ob-gyn ceremony.

“Chris, you will need to do this for her every morning and every evening from now until the baby comes. You will need to both be positive and visualisation is very important. Are you with me?”

I elbowed Chris.  He was gaping at the bookshelf of book titles, including Seeing the Future in Snowflakes.

“We are going to tilt you slightly upside down.” Her hand eased the upright back of the chair toward the floor, tilting my feet upward on display.

“Are you okay down there?”

“Yes.”’

“You should try to relax.”

I saw her reach into her drawer and take out a box of matches. I knew she wasn’t a smoker. Chris’s eyes darted between me and the doctor, and the box of matches. She continued, unfettered, taking out a pack of Rizlas. I worried that treatment of a breech baby was turning me upside down on a tilt table and the doctor and Chris were going to get high. She unravelled two papers and opened a little package containing an herb-like substance. With the ease and practiced hand of a drug dealer, she rolled the herb in her fingers, sealing the papers with a quick flick of the tongue. Her able hand held up the spliff in the air announcing, “Now we begin moxibustion.”

“What is that, ganja, weed?” Chris exclaimed.

“It’s mugwort.”

Chris gave her a doubting look.

“A Chinese herb that will stimulate blood flow to the uterus and has been known to turn breech babies. What you do is…”

She took out a match and struck it underneath her desk. It glowed as she held it to the spliff, gently encouraging the flame. The half-witch half-drug-dealer then stood above my feet.

My toes began to wiggle in fear and dread giving me away. Without noticing, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then theatrically moving her arms, hovered the giant spliff above my feet. I was waiting for someone to burst into, “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home,” but everyone was silent in abeyance and some of us were laughing inside.

“You hover it as close as possible to the outer side of the little toe,” she instructed. “Can you feel that?”

“Yes.”

“It should be a gentle warmth.”

“Yes.”  I could feel something but all I could see were plumes of smoke and imagined that my toe hair was now on fire, as it (like the rest of the hair on my body) had grown to an unimaginable length.

“And then after a minute you do the same on the other foot.”

She demonstrated.

“Okay, now you try,” she said offering Chris the spliff. He reached out his hand, pausing it in midair looking down at me for encouragement.  Chris held the smoking ember and moved it closer as I jerked my foot away.

“Now you just relax down there.”

He waved the spliff next to my left little toe; I could feel the warmth, but could not feel the baby move at all.

“When do you think it will work?” I asked from below.

“You have to encourage the baby. I will send you home with the mugwort.”

She turned away to assemble our dime bag, when Chris took the spliff to my other toe. He held it too close.

“OWWWWWW,” I yelped and flayed my foot in every direction.“You burned me!”

“I am so sorry,” he said, astonished.

“Not too close,” said the doctor. She tilted me back up, and Chris put my shoes back on, inspecting the burnt toe.

“Now, do you have some way to lie upside down?”

The dog ramps we had all over the house to help my dogs climb up stairs and protect their backs, flashed through my mind.

“Yes,”

“Then you are all set. You have four weeks; if you do this your breech baby will turn.”

“You seem so certain,” said Chris, with the obvious tone of disbelief.

“Just do it,” she said and handed him our dime bag.