Monday, September 29, 2008

30-day Chip

Do you get a little chip for surviving time living with teenagers? If so, Gabi & I just earned our 30-day chip!!! My little Gabi-roo turned 13 one month ago and we have had super-high highs and some super-low lows. I have to admit that her turning 13 is a struggle for me. I still want her to be a little girl who I can hold onto and keep safe and innocent. I still want her to want to sleep in my bed (believe it or not!) and choose going to the movies, or the even just to the store with me, instead of playing Rock Band with her friends. (Although it is hard for anyone to compete with the awesome force that is Rock Band.) But she is a little seedling struggling toward the sun of independence, and I need to nurture that as much as it may challenge me.

She is really developing a cute sense of style and I recognize myself in her unique fashion sense, artistic sensibilities, and her fierce determination to be an individual. That recognition is both exciting and terrifying. I know that my tendency to melodrama, overwhelming impulse to imagine worst-case scenarios, and desire to control everything are not helpful things to inherit. But I know she can withstand this stormy time and that we will make it through to the other side in tact, even if we come out a little scratched and bruised and clinging to each other for dear life. While it may all seem intense right now, I know it's just life, and that the good truly outweighs the not-so-good. So, as I accept my 30-day chip, I end by saying, "My name is Rebecca, and I am the mother of two teenagers."


I didn’t know where I was going until I got there. I knew the side door to the garage would be open. Nyla was one of those trusting (and forgetful) souls who believed that no one was going to enter her home to do her harm or take her things. And she had already replaced the side door and three window screens from having to break her way into her own house. The way she figured it, trying to keep strangers out was costing her way too much—and the only person who seemed to be breaking in was her.

I let myself in, gingerly stepping over the full trash bag she’d left by the garage door so she wouldn’t forget to take it to the bin in the morning. I softly padded across cold cement, up two stairs, and noiselessly opened the kitchen door. The light over the stove was on. A nightlight to guide her to the sink for a 3am glass of water. One year I had given her a crystal carafe and tumbler set designed specifically to quench middle-of-the-night thirst, but she still stumbled out of bed and poured a fresh glass from the tap.

I opened the fridge. I was instantly dazzled by the display of sparkling green bottles full of fresh, mountain spring water, various organic foods in mostly-recycled containers, free-range brown eggs, soy milk, and hiding shamefully in a dark, lonely corner—the Reddi-whip. I grabbed it, popped off the cap, opened my mouth, and covered my greedy tongue with sweet, dairy goodness. I replaced the contraband, closed the fridge and made my way to the hallway. I opened the coat closet and started rifling through bags and coats. Without even thinking I put all the cash I came across into the pocket of my sweater, along with a random credit card and the Starbucks gift card I think one of her students gave her for Christmas. While checking the pockets of Nyla’s brown tweed coat, I felt something unexpected: a cigarette. She quit last winter, so it must have been there for a while. I found some matches, sat down on the floral love seat and watched the minute hand on the giant wall clock while I smoked Nyla’s secret, stale cigarette. When it was finished, I let myself out the way I came, took a moment to make sure the stars were still where I left them, and walked down the gritty driveway to the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A story begins...

I was 38 years old when I walked away from home. It was a perfect fall night: big yellow moon, constellations out in all their glory, the slightest chill that makes you want to wrap up in a cozy sweater. I was sitting on the back porch, listening to comfortable music. Smiling. Sipping wine. I felt like dancing. I stood up and started to sway and then to spin. And then the back porch wasn’t big enough any more and I walked onto the grass. And then the fence was too confining so I opened the gate and walked into the street in front of my house. I didn’t like the glare of the streetlamp on the corner, so I walked further to find a place where the stars weren’t blocked by other lights. I had bare feet and a soft grey nightgown on. I could feel the gravel and asphalt digging into the pads of my feet and sneaking in between my toes. I had on a nubby, second-hand sweater at least 3 sizes too big, and I held it tight around me as I sought the purer night.