it was a long night. Matthew woke up crying at two-thirty and wanted neither to cuddle in bed with me nor go back to sleep in his crib. what he seemed to want the most—to play, specifically with his freshly-laundered clothes, which i had folded five hours earlier and left in the living room—was not on the list of acceptable pre-dawn activities. eventually, around five a.m., he stopped tossing and turning in mama and dada’s bed (and stopped trying to wake dada up by smacking his sleeping face) and fell asleep. that’s when i fell asleep too, only to hear the alarm clock go off forty-five minutes later. no gym for me this morning. i hit snooze once, then turned the damn thing completely off.
around seven-thirty i awoke to Matthew babbling and touching my cheek. better than an alarm clock, sure, but dear god was i tired. the thrill i got from sleeping in until nine a.m. on Saturday, when the kiddo was at my parents’, was all but gone, those extra hours robbed from me blind by a blossoming molar in my child’s upper gum.
my plan had been to go to the gym—for the third morning in a row; so far i haven’t been able to string together more than two consecutive workouts—and be showered, dressed and ready for the day by the time Matthew woke up, which might mean i could leave for work at eight o’clock (lately i’ve been leaving closer to nine).
instead, my son and i yawned our way through breakfast. we put away his laundry (he unfolded each item and handed it to me to refold and put away), read a book and went back to bed. well, Matthew went back to bed. he was rubbing his eyes and i knew he hadn’t slept well, so i figured he needed an early start on his morning nap. by this time it was eight-thirty, a full half-hour after i had hoped to be out the door.
hope springs eternal, right?
anyway, when i got out of the shower i heard the kiddo crying. found him standing in his crib with his chubby little ankle and calf stuck through one of the slats. (i fear this is the start of something…the last thing i want to hear in the middle of the night is the thud of my child on the floor, having vaulted himself from his crib.) i un-stuck him and brought him into the bathroom so i could finish my five-minute-or-less-get-ready-for-work routine. (moisturizer? check. mascara? check. eyeliner applied to one eye only because the clock is ticking? oh well.)
Matthew entertained himself banging on the glass door of the shower stall, unspooling the toilet paper roll (caught him early this time; he’d only unspooled about six feet), and opening and closing the cabinet under his dad’s side of the counter. after the thrill wore off, he reached into the cabinet and grabbed a bottle of Target brand ibuprofen.
“no, Matty, no. no touch,” i said, and put the bottle back.
with what i can only describe as utter glee, he opened the cabinet again and got the bottle.
“no, Matty, no. please listen to mama.” put them back.
but the third time’s a charm, right? he didn’t even hesitate before reaching right back in.
“mama said no, Matthew.” i picked him up and moved him away from the cabinet. then i took the child guard from the cabinets beneath my part of the counter (i had ordered only one, because i wanted to make sure it worked; a second one is on its way) and put it on Michael’s.
undeterred, Matthew made a beeline for my cabinet doors. but i was standing in front of them, blow-drying my unruly bangs, and he could not get in. he whined and i failed to budge. i thought for a second he had moved on, perhaps back to the toilet paper, but then i glanced down and saw his little hand reaching up over the counter, like a mini flesh periscope, about to home in on my glasses.
i couldn’t help it; i laughed. he reminded me right then of E.T. for some reason. so curious, so fascinated, so eager to understand the world and so hell-bent on touching everything.
“OK, kiddo,” i said, quickly putting away the hair-dryer and scooping him up. “help mama pick out something to wear.” i put him down inside the closet as i flicked through my hangers, searching for the least-wrinkled, least offensive shirt i could find. the process lasted only about three seconds, but when i looked down he already had both hands in his daddy’s hamper, was in the process of pulling out a shirt in need of a wash.
he’s tireless, my kid. even after an awful night’s sleep. and exhausted as i am, i would have given anything to stay home with him today. though the deeper he gets into his second year of life, the more challenges we face, i’m really, really loving the process.
the molars? not so much.
Thursday night, nine-thirty.
we’re parked at the end of a road called Muffin Place, which is just off Blueberry Lane—really—and which ends about 10 feet from an inlet off the Long Island Sound. the air, which was hot as a dog’s breath all day, is now simply warm and gently rustling the tall grasses and tree branches around us. across the way, the backsides of houses along the water ooze a homey yellow glow through open windows—the kind of light that has always made me feel reassured and homesick at once.
our mission tonight is to see the same starry sky we saw, accidentally, nearly five years ago. we weren’t really together back then, though i guess i can’t say we weren’t not together either. we just were. and we had, once again, hit the road without a destination in mind. we just climbed into the old Explorer and drove. for two people who had trouble living in the moment, we did exceptionally well at winging it on road trips. that dinosaur of an SUV was our bubble, the one place trouble didn’t seem to touch us.
i have thought about that trip a million times since it happened. i kept meaning to write a short story about it, or maybe a one act play, just to preserve it somehow, the details, the memory. but i never did. i think i knew i could never convey in words how beautiful it was—to me, anyway—driving north along Route 1, next to the person i was sure would always own the largest part of my heart, no matter what happened, talking more seriously and more meaningfully than we probably had in years.
it sounds funny to say it now, considering all that’s happened in the intervening years, but i don’t know if i’ve ever in my life felt as safe as i did in that car that night, that crisp, ink-black, early-November night almost five years ago.
neither of us remember how we found Old Saybrook then, only that we wound up there after stopping in New Haven for dinner and some meandering on the campus of Yale. we don’t remember either why we stopped the car and got out on a little side street in Old Saybrook—which is when i looked up and discovered the spectacular sky.
i have this thing about stars. for as long as i can remember, being able to see up into the vast universe has kept me grounded. i am thankful for the constant reminder that i am so very small and insignificant to the world at large. whether i’m gazing at a harvest-orange moon hovering in the treetops or straining to see a few stars amidst the glare of the city, the night sky soothes my soul.
when i saw the stars in Old Saybrook that night five years ago, it felt significant, somehow. as if being able to see so many at once (which i hadn’t since a vacation to Lake Tahoe when i was twenty-three, which turned out to be another subtle but game-changing event in the history of me) reinforced my deep-down belief that the tide was turning, that after so much turmoil, life would start making sense again.
i never forgot those stars.
which is why, when i suggested a day trip to Mystic, Connecticut last Thursday, i pointed out that we could stop in Old Saybrook on the way home. i was feeling down, disappointed in people i didn’t want to be disappointed in and just a little emotionally askew. time with my family is what brings me back to center, always, and so that’s what i asked for.
it was a hot day on Thursday, but a good day. after dinner, as the setting sun painted the sky in layers of peach and pink and gray-blue, we sat by the Mystic River devouring ice cream. a while later, we strolled back to the car, tucked our drowsy son safely into his seat and pulled onto Route 1.
hello, old friend.
it was a new world this time, as we were traveling south rather than north. we veered off at one point onto route 156 and passed through Niantic in East Lyme, which looked magical in the twilight, and continued along the water past Rocky Neck State Park (where a deer galloped across the road and into the woods), wound our way through Old Lyme, back onto Route 1 and then onto route 154, which would take us in a loop around Old Saybrook.
“i remember that,” we found ourselves saying, and, “this looks familiar” about places and things that had been hiding in the corners of our memories all these years. when we came to the causeway, it was like no time had passed. i remembered everything i was thinking and feeling on the night we first found this place. i tried not to look up, i wanted to wait, but my eyes kept darting toward the sky and i could tell already that the stars were not the same.
we rolled down the windows to smell the air and drove slowly, dark water on one side of us, glowing homes on the other. runners and bikers who’d wisely out-waited the sun huffed along the sandy shoulder. i envied them, admired them, imagined what their lives were like, living in such a quiet, tranquil place.
after we made our way back across the other causeway, we pulled off, onto Blueberry Lane, for no other reason than it was the first side street we came upon. then we saw Muffin Place and laughed as we turned down it.
and that's how we got to now—nine-thirty on Thursday night, by the glassy water in good old Old Saybrook. while the baby sleeps in the backseat, we slip out of the car and stand on either side of it, staring up. just as i'd known, the stars above us are not what they were. there are more here than at home, but nowhere close to our November sky. the haze of the day is lingering, the air is too heavy. but it's okay.
i don't need them tonight. not like i did then.
after a minute or two, we get back in the car. there's nothing left to see. the person next to me, the one who has and always will own the largest part of my heart, puts on a song, our song. This Must Be the Place. we are very different on paper, the two of us, but in all the right ways, all the ways you can't put down on paper, or even really talk about, we're the same. this song, this night—this life—proves it.
the drive back is almost three hours. we take Route 1 for a while, grab coffee to keep us going and eventually get back on the highway that will take us home the quickest. even though i know better, i keep glancing up, through the glass of the passenger window, just in case my stars were running late that night. but each time i peek, the sky looks the same.
but it's okay. i know they're there. they'll always be there.
|how could you refuse to play with this kid?|
the beautiful new park that opened near our place a few months ago is, in many ways, a blessing. it's huge, it's well-maintained, it’s perfectly designed and has everything a little family could ask for (except bathrooms—HUGE miss). it also offers a sweeping, pretty spectacular view of Manhattan. i get a kick out of imagining telling Matty one day that he used to play in the 'shadow' of the building where daddy asked mommy to marry him.
did you catch that? used to play. because i am willing to do almost anything in order to give Matty his own space to play, like a backyard—even moving to the suburbs. because i hate that beautiful park. well, not the park itself. it’s the people in it i can’t stand.
the place is full of mean kids. that’s how i see it these days. when it first opened and i witnessed some unruly behavior, i figured, ‘ah, that’s just how kids are.’ but more and more i’m seeing full-on bullying and (in my mind, even worse) just truly bratty, not nice kids. and of course, even if their parents are somewhere nearby, they’re engrossed in conversations with their friends or on some kind of electronic device or other.
yesterday i took Matty to the park around five o’clock. it was still packed and even though i knew he’d love to toddle around under the funky sprinklers and other structures that spray water, i knew the big kids would pay him no mind and he’d get clobbered. so i bypassed the entire playground area in favor of the ‘beach’—a swath of white sand along the waterfront dotted with white Adirondack chairs and blue canvas umbrellas. compared to the playground, it’s peaceful.
i spotted a free chair and dragged the stroller to it, lugging Matty in my free arm. we plopped down and i started building sandcastles, which the kiddo promptly crushed with glee.
a few minutes later, another mom and little boy took a seat behind us, about five feet away. the boy looked about three years old. Matty—who loves other kids—immediately took notice and started to walk over. (it took a little time; being so new to walking, trying to navigate a beach on two legs is still a challenge for him!) as soon as the other little boy spotted Matty, he scowled and said, “No, no, no,” grabbing his sand toys protectively.
his mom, sitting in the Adironack with her iPad in hand, just laughed and went back to watching her movie. her child kept scowling at my kid, so i turned Matty around and distracted him with his own sand toys. i was so livid. i get that kids aren’t always wild about sharing and perhaps a slightly older kid sees a kid Matty’s age as a “baby” and who wants to play with a baby? but hello—it would have been nice if the mom said, “now, honey, you can play for a few minutes with the little boy. he’s just being friendly!”
maybe i’m nuts, but i was really appalled. and i was just glad Matty had no idea what was going on. he’s like a puppy—wants to say hello to and play with everyone, especially if they’re his size. i am so proud of the fact that he’s not shy (mostly because i was shy as hell as a little kid). and i just felt really mad yesterday that this mom let her kid get away with being such a snot (i’m sorry, but you should have seen his face—you’d agree), mostly because—i’m assuming—she just wanted to watch whatever on her iPad and not deal.
Matty then moved on to peeking over the railing at the edge of the beach. there were some interesting shrubs there and he could also watch the people passing on the walkway. we were spotting airplanes flying up over the Hudson when i caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. it’s no secret that smoking is one of my biggest ‘issues.’ i really have no patience for it, for many reasons. and when i smell smoke in a place where there’s kids—even an open-air place like a park—i want to scream.
i glanced to my right, yesterday, and saw a woman about 20 feet away sitting in one of the Adirondacks. she had a rumpled blanket at her feet on which lay a brand new baby. he was on his back, arms flailing, crying that scared-angry newborn cry. she held a bottle to his mouth with one hand, a lit cigarette with another. i could tell from her shape (having been there myself) that she had definitely recently given birth to him. she was the mama. nearby sat a woman in khaki pants and a forest green nurse’s smock. didn’t take me long to determine she was the baby nurse. i watched this woman—the mother—intermittently for a long time. she seemed perfectly content to let that baby lay there, essentially on the sand, as she chain-smoked. he kept crying and after she fiddled with a pacifier (which he wouldn’t take) for several minutes, she declared him “gassy” and asked the baby nurse to try and see if he’d settle down for her. she handed the baby off and lit another cigarette. i’m not even making this up.
i really had to conjure up stores of self-control not to walk over there and say, “you might want to try cuddling your baby. you know, holding him instead of just letting him lay there like a dog while you expose his teeny, tiny lungs to your disgusting smoke.”
i just truly couldn’t believe it. i go bonkers when i see anyone smoking near kids—and i see it a lot, unfortunately—but a new mom smoking so close to her newborn baby? i can’t. i just can’t.
Matty kept trying to go play with the little boy behind us and i found myself glaring daggers at Smoking Mom, so i finally gave up and decided it was time to go. we left the park via the waterfront walkway and i let Matty waddle next to me. as we strolled toward Hoboken—very slowly—i imagined our someday-backyard, which will have big leafy trees and in which no one will purposely cut him in line for the slide, no one will tell him to get away or refuse to let him play with his bucket, and in which i won’t have to sit there trying (and failing miserably) not to judge other moms.
it’s not that i want to keep Matty from knowing there are people in the world who aren’t always nice, who don’t always act in the best interest of others, et cetera. and in many ways i think it’s good he’s exposed to so many people on a regular basis—it’s probably why he lacks the stranger anxiety i had. but jeez. at least where we live, there seems to be a higher percentage of distracted, unaware and/or jerky parents—who are, not surprisingly, raising similarly jerky kids.
compared to sharing space with them forever, a private, tree-filled, cozy backyard is all the more appealing.
today my cousin Scott—aka the one person who prepared me more than any book, class or fellow parent did or could for having a boy—graduated from fifth grade.
one of the most enduring memories is the night the power went out while Michael and i were babysitting. not the best scenario when you’ve got an uber-energetic four-year old on your hands, but—we somehow procured a flashlight and found plenty of ways to entertain ourselves. there was a point, though, when we fell over laughing. as the flashlight illuminated his little body, Scott noticed his shadow on the wall. with his voice full of awe and solemnity and a twinge of trepidation, he turned around to us and said, “dyes?” (read: guys) “do you see whoth behind me?”
my other favorite Scotty moment was from around the same time. i think it was during another babysitting gig. he asked me at one point, “have you seen my doose.” i thought he was referring to his juice. i think at the time he was working on some chocolate milk, so i keep trying to give him his milk, explaining there was no juice. finally, out of sheer exasperation, he flung his arms up and said to me, “not doose, dooooooze.” i think his dad stepped in at that point and got Scott his toy tool belt. he’d wanted tools, not juice.
oh, this kid. i really can’t imagine life without him. it would certainly be a helluva lot duller. i’m eagerly awaiting the details of his ‘graduation’ today, which wasn’t a formal cap-and-gown ceremony. at his school they call it a clap-out. bubble wrap is put on the hallway floors, all through the school. the other students then line the hallways and clap as the fifth graders run by, on the bubble wrap, making a racket i can’t even imagine. waiting outside for the soon-to-be middle schoolers are all the proud parents (as my Aunt Val e-mailed me earlier, “the clap out starts at 1:00. my face will be red and blotchy from crying at 1:05.”).
what a cool way to celebrate a pretty big milestone. and what a cool kid my little baby cousin Scotty has grown up to be.
last night on the way home from an afternoon at Belmont Park—in which it took us over two hours to travel 20 miles—Michael played Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on CD. yes, compact disc. the CR-V came with a built-in CD player and though we rarely use it, it’s always loaded with favorite discs for emergency use. and last night i guess was an emergency.
the album came out when Michael and i were twenty-five and had been together less than two years. in other words, we were still in the tortured, dramatic phase of things. i said to him last night that i couldn’t remember anymore what those days were like. i used to remember every goddamn detail—direct quotes from fights we’d had, what i was wearing when we went to this place or that, what we’d been eating when we had conversation #1,657 about our future, etc. etc. etc.
now? when i try to remember it’s like i’m trying to peer at something through Saran wrap covered in Vaseline—in the dark.
“it feels like a movie i saw years and years ago,” i said to him, referring to our dating years. “or a life that someone else lived, not me.”
i went on to blather about how crazy it all is, this life thing—you feel like you’ll be young forever and then all of a sudden you’re in a car next to your husband with your sleeping child in the backseat, listening to an album that served as a soundtrack to some of your most acute growing pains, unable to remember anymore the details of that time that once were so vivid…
it made me think of something i heard on Friday. we have a monthly luncheon at work during which a senior executive from within the company speaks to us about his or her career. it’s pretty informal but always interesting. on Friday we listened to a senior VP who took a refreshingly meandering route to his current position. he’s a kind, funny gentleman with a self-deprecating sense of humor. he confessed that he’d recently had a rather sobering, out-of-the-blue thought, as he and his partner were searching for an apartment to buy together: “i guess i’m not going to move to Paris after all.”
moving to Paris had been a fantasy of his back when he was younger. it was that idea he kept tucked in the back his brain, his “someday” plan, that wild-and-crazy thing he was going to do before he got too settled or old to do it. he said his next thought was, “maybe this is what they call a mid-life crisis.”
i found myself nodding my head, not because i’m anywhere close to having a mid-life crisis, but because one does feel aware, as one gets older, of running out of time for the foolish, frivolous, spontaneous and/or impulsive things one thought she might do once upon a time. and it’s sort of a bittersweet realization.
i’ll be honest—i feel relief more than anything at not still being single and ‘free’ and having to go out on weekend nights and paint the town red or however kids call it these days. i’m really, truly content with life as a thirty-five year old. but it definitely blows my mind to think how quickly time has passed, especially when my twenties seemed interminable as i was living them.
Father Time is a stellar pickpocket—he’s in and out and off with precious years before you even sense his lurking presence.
|a boy and his grandpa|
yesterday i wrote about how lucky i got with my husband. i do think that luck has so much to do with it, but i also have to give myself a teeny tiny bit of credit here, because i knew very early on—somehow, somewhere, deep in my gut—that Michael would be a good dad.
and my dad-standards were sky high, having been raised by the best dad in the world. no, it’s true. i did a survey, i conducted research, i compared data. my dad is, indeed, hands down, the best. there are a lot of runners up, of course, but he maintains the 'best' title to this day.
when i was in PA last weekend, Matty was having some trouble sleeping in the Pack ‘n’ Play (his room at home has no windows and is thus very dark; the guest room at Grammie and Grandpa’s has two windows and rather translucent shades) and at the end of Saturday i was feeling pretty pooped. i’d wanted to go in the hot tub—mostly to soak some work-induced tension out of my shoulders—but when my dad asked me, after dinner (and after Matty had cried himself to sleep upstairs), if i still wanted to go in, i said, “nah. too tired.”
five minutes later my mom (who’d been in the kitchen) asked me the same thing. when i gave her the same answer she said, “what? are you sure? go in the hot tub!” and with that she twisted my arm. i crept upstairs, tip-toed into the guest bathroom, quietly pulled on my bathing suit and held my breath as i headed back down, silently praying for Matty not to hear me.
i spent the next forty-five minutes—maybe it was a full hour—sitting in the hot tub across from my dad, talking about everything from pensions and 529 plans and living wills to favorite memories of my grandma (his mom) and what sports Matthew should play when he grows up.
it had been a long time since we’d done that, just the two of us. back in the day, our after-dinner conversations were epic and legendary. sometimes we were inside at the dinner table, long after the dishes had been cleared; sometimes we were outside by the pool, citronella candles lighting our way. we’ve been known to kill two bottles of wine on a Friday night, yammering away about the most random array of subjects.
some of my most cherished memories, i can assure you.
i can also assure you that i don’t know what i’d do without my dad. i can’t even think about it. he’s been a trusted advisor, an unfailing cheerleader, something close to an antagonistic big brother, a great listener, a corny joke-teller (i can never stop myself from laughing), a source of reassurance and a great person to visit Yankee Stadium with.
in other words: one of my best friends.
so on top of the trillion other things i have to thank my dad for this Father’s Day, i will also thank him for instilling in me crazy-high dad-standards. because of him, i knew the qualities to look for in the man who would become the father of my children.
as a result, my dad’s grandson has an awesome dad and the best grandpa in the world.
love you, daddy!
this is just a partial list of things my husband does—some on a daily basis, some on a weekly basis, some on a whenever-he-can-find-the-time basis.
on our wedding day, during our vows (which we wrote ourselves), i said that marrying him felt like winning the lottery. back then, i meant it wholeheartedly. today, i mean it even more.
i admit, at times i took it for granted—took him for granted. especially after i went back to work last summer and taking care of Matthew became a full-time job for Michael—who still had to go to his own job after spending all day taking care of Matthew. i was so tangled up in my mess of feelings about having to leave my baby that i kept forgetting how lucky i was to have the partner i had. somewhere in the back of my mind i think i just assumed everyone’s husband was like mine.
oh, silly girl. silly, silly girl.
i know now that most husbands are not. most husbands do not wash and fold their wives' unmentionables along with a load of bath towels and six hundred onesies. most husbands do not whip up delicious dinners just from things they can find in the cabinets and produce drawer in the fridge. most husbands do not clean their homes from top to bottom on random weekdays while simultaneously entertaining and taking care of their one-year olds. most husbands do not wash dishes, shop at the A&P and balance the checkbook. (not to mention manage a top-notch fantasy baseball team, take care of relatives in Brooklyn, keep up with gym workouts and maintain a proper recorded-shows-to-available-memory ratio on the DVR.)
mine does. MINE DOES. somewhere along the way over the last year it hit me that i am the luckiest wife on the planet and on most days it’s all i can do not to break into a happy dance on the sidewalk because of it.
and, you know, on top of everything he does for Matthew and for me, my husband also happens to be one of the funniest people who ever lived. he keeps us fed, he keeps a roof over our heads and he keeps us laughing. i mean, really laughing.
can i say this again? i. won. the. lottery.
this morning i made a quick, pre-work trip to Target for a few things and as i drove down one particular road near our place, i remembered driving along that same stretch not long after we moved—and before Matthew arrived—during one of our first exploration adventures. it was such a special time, so full of excitement and anticipation. and i realized this morning that it’s just a drop in the bucket. we’ve had so many of those times in our eleven years together. growing, learning, sharing, fighting, laughing, discovering. and i can't even imagine all the memories we have left to make.
it really is the greatest honor, pleasure and privilege to be spending my life with Michael. i think about it a lot more often than he probably knows—i count my blessings, over and over and over.
because not only is he my best friend and one incredible husband, he is the best dad a little boy could ask for. you should see Matthew’s face light up when his dada walks in the room. or hear him giggle when daddy makes a funny face or tickles him in the right spot. i love watching the two of them sitting together or playing together or sleeping together. they’re pals, they’re buds, they’re two peas in a pod. and i know Matthew is growing up with a phenomenal role model.
(here’s a little secret: Matty’s dad is my role model, too.)
happy father’s day, hubster. i love you.
i’m what seems like the odd sort of mom who isn’t usually eager to get out of the house sans kiddo. part of it is due to the fact that Matty is an easy-going, adaptable kid. we can take him places—almost any place, actually—and he does just fine. but most of it is due to the fact that i’m forced to be out of the house for so many hours during the week (damn job!) that the time i get to spend at home feels especially precious.
after last Thursday evening, i have come to realize that dating my husband is pretty damn awesome and i—we—need to do it more often.
as an early Father’s Day gift, i surprised Michael with tickets to a show at Maxwell’s, a music venue in Hoboken he’s been waiting to check out since we moved. some of his favorite bands have passed through the small but somewhat legendary bar/club less than a mile from our condo and i thought we were overdue for a visit.
my parents—ever the reluctant babysitters (please read sarcasm there)—agreed to come up the night before their regularly-scheduled gig so Matty’s mama and daddy could go out and enjoy the evening without worrying that every hour was another twenty more bucks owed to the sitter.
and enjoy the evening we did…! we really haven’t had a night out like that in a very, very long time. we tried last fall when i got tickets to a Yankees playoff game (it got rained out, so our night was cut short). we also had a wedding last November, for which we were away two nights and which was a total blast, but we were always with a bigger group of people. Thursday night, it was just the two of us (and, you know, the rest of the people at Maxwell’s), which meant a lot of (rather hilarious) conversation and a lot of laughing.
we got there on the early side and sat at the bar, where we had a few pints and shared a plate of chicken nachos. it literally felt like 10 minutes had passed when we realized the opening band had started playing in the next room. we headed in, found a good spot on the floor and didn’t leave until the lights went on—which was, for the record, around one o’clock in the morning.
it felt like the old days, but better. (in the old days, even if we were having the most awesome time, our conversations inevitably turned toward the topic of ‘us,’ specifically the ‘future’ of ‘us,’ which almost always ended weirdly, thanks to the alcohol we had already consumed. thankfully, these days the conversations inevitably turn to how awesome our son is. and how awesome we are for having made him. ha!)
perhaps the best part of the night was the fact that Michael had recorded some of the bands’ songs on his iPhone voice/sound recorder. except at one point he forgot to hit “stop” and wound up recording the last hour or so of our date. which included the part where we—who were desperate for a slice of pizza—had to settle for McDonald’s. just thinking about it makes me start laughing. (for example: it was wildly funny to me to realize how familiar Michael was with the inner workings of the Hoboken McDonald’s after midnight—apparently he stops there occasionally on his way home from work—and how he was looking for a homeless guy named Bobby to whom he regularly gives his Extra Value Meal sodas—and how happy he was when he found him ambling down the sidewalk as we exited the place with our brown paper sack of Quarter Pounders and fries. “hey, Bobby!” he called, walking toward him. “please, take my Sprite.”)
i will admit that i woke up at six a.m. on Friday feeling absolutely ancient and sincerely regretful that i’d had so many pints of Blue Moon. i know i can’t behave how i used to, but when you’re caught up in the moment it’s difficult to remember you’re not still twenty-four, isn’t it? anyway, despite the hangover, it really was the best time i’ve had in a long, long while. i love our family days (obviously) and life in general is quite sweet these days, but there’s just nothing like a good old-fashioned date with the hubster.
already i can't wait for the next one.
oh my god, these kids are killing me.
all week i’ve been interviewing fresh-out-of-college, B.A.-in-journalism-degree holders for a couple junior copywriting positions. i’ve gone through this process before, but never at this time of year, when recent grads are still wide-eyed and high on graduation and determined to get a job ASAPotherwisetheirliveswillabsolutelyend.
oh, honey, i want to tell them. take a little time to breathe. you’ll be on the hamster wheel soon enough.
but i guess the job market is a lot tighter now than it was in 1999. these kids have to be looking for jobs so soon after graduation (or, in the case of a girl i interviewed this afternoon, a few days before graduation). and for that i feel sad. no time to rest, no time to digest the four (or more) years they just spent finishing their schooling, no time to mentally transition from the bubble of childhood (yes, from this vantage point, i consider college part of childhood) to flying-without-a-net adulthood.
these kids i’ve been interviewing, though—they’re just so eager. and enthusiastic. so much so i think some of them might actually explode right out of their skin, flying madly around the room like a balloon someone blew up and let go of. they make me want to hug them and slap them simultaneously. “sweetheart it’s going to be okay. now—whack!—pull yourself together. take a breath. take a few breaths. this job is not awarded to the person who can string the most sentences together in thirty seconds….”
the thing is—the thing that makes me feel a little bad, actually, a little fraudulent—is that many of them have worked more places than i have. better places for sure. in the last week i’ve interviewed Huffington Post bloggers, kids who’ve interned at Glamour, W, Food and Wine, Country Living, Esquire, ESPN…. i mean, we’re talking stellar resumes here. their GPAs are insane.
and here i am, interviewing them. me, who clawed my way to a 3.0 at the end. who accepted a job with Glass Digest when i was still a few weeks from graduating (i quickly came to my senses and reneged). who spent four clueless years toiling at Seventeen because i had no flipping clue what to do with myself.
another girl i interviewed today had an internship in Ireland with an American magazine that keeps a small, regional staff in Dublin. at some point during our conversation i definitely slipped out of ‘interviewer’ role and just wanted her to keep telling me stories about her experience there. they didn’t have that when i was in college!
i mean, i’m humbled by what these kids have done by the age of 22, i truly am. but the one thing i have that they don’t—and the reason i’m the one interviewing them and not vice versa—is life experience. which is still more valuable than any degree, any internship, any study abroad program.
i know magazines aren’t easy to work for, they don’t pay well until you get far enough up the masthead (which is a very tough climb) and it all tends to feel a lot like high school. i know that it’s great to say you live in Manhattan, but you’ll likely be paying (literally) for the relative thrill of saying it well into your 30s. i know that wanting to change the world—even a little bit—is very noble, but working at a non-profit is not the way to do it. i know that lying on your resume is still a no-no, but pretending you know how to do something is an absolutely necessary skill if you want to succeed. (you’ll figure it out along the way.) i know the more insecure your boss is, the bigger a jerk he or she is likely to be. you just let their craziness roll off you; you could do their job ten times better and they know that, which is why they’re yelling at you in the first place.
i know that after sixteen straight years of schooling it’s really hard to stop evaluating yourself—no test scores? no report cards? no final grades?—and the impulse to find other ways to judge yourself (number of promotions, number in your paycheck, number of hook-ups, number on the bathroom scale) is strong. but i know it’s very wise to accept the fact that progress is achieved more subtly in the real world. it should not be a competition. there is no dean’s list, no honor roll, no summa cum laude in life.
and i know that jobs are absolutely essential to survival—especially in New York—but they’re a means to an end. they’re not the end. you can’t live to work or you’ll crash and burn. you’ll lose your friends. you’ll miss the boat on so many things—love, travel, happy hours, time with your family. the things that actually make life worth living.
i asked the girl i interviewed this afternoon—the one who still has to graduate—if she had any special celebration plans. she told me her school does a lot of nice things for its seniors, taking them to a major league baseball game, a trip to the zoo, etc. “but i'm not focused on it, my head is all over the place,” she said. “i’m thinking about the job search and moving to New York…” i said, “try to enjoy it. you won’t get it back, this time of being a graduating senior. it’s such a magic time.”
she smiled and nodded but i knew she had no way of knowing what i meant. someday she will. someday she’ll be the one conducting interviews, remembering—and so viscerally—being the age of her interviewees, being so new and pristine and anxious. and she’ll want to tell them the same thing i wanted to tell her.
slow down. savor this time. be irresponsible, be foolish, make mistakes. don’t try to be perfect; people are more interesting when they’re not. everything will be OK. i promise. it will really be OK.
have i mentioned we booked a trip to Disney World? well, we did. in September, for five nights. i really, really wanted to take Matthew there. partly because he already loves Mickey Mouse; partly because Michael and i took our first vacation together to Disney World and it seemed fitting we take our first family vacation there; and partly because i’m wildly impatient and have waited enough years already to take my kid to Disney World—i’m not waiting until he’s, like, five. please.
anyway, as a former Disney cast member (‘former’ sounds so much better than ‘terminated’) i’m well-versed and steeped in the corporate philosophy—everything is magic this, magic that. for example: on Saturday night Michael and i were finalizing our dinner reservations for while we’re there and called the Disney Dining hotline to ask a few questions. the word “magical” was used about 12 times by the customer service associate on the other end of the line.
don’t get me wrong—i love it. and i’m fully expecting to have countless ‘magical’ moments when we’re there with Matthew. (and countless meltdown moments, too, but i’m choosing to focus on the positive.) and maybe it’s because i’ve been reading the Disney-with-kids guidebook and we’ve been talking so much about our plans, but i’ve been noticing more ‘magic’ moments in our regular life, too.
like last Thursday evening, when we had our first family picnic night of the summer. the idea—of having dinner once a week at one of the Hudson River-facing parks near our condo—came to me a couple weeks ago, when Michael and Matthew met me at the PATH station after work. Michael got on the PATH to go watch a hockey game with some friends in the city and Matty and i took the scenic route home, stopping to play at a park. it was a lovely time of day to be there and it got me thinking about the nights my parents would ‘order in’ dinner at the town pool. my mom and i would usually spend most of the day there in the summer, and on certain nights—the best nights—my dad would meet us there and bring a pizza from Garibaldi’s with him. i don’t know why i thought that was the coolest thing in the world, but i did.
anyway. so last Thursday was our inaugural family picnic night. Michael whipped up a great pasta salad and packed it up along with some watermelon, Matty’s sippy cup and a blanket. i met them at the park and while the actual eating-on-the-grass part was trickier than i anticipated with an active one-year-old (rookie mom strikes again), the whole evening was pretty awesome. among the highlights: Matthew toddling behind his little walker-toy along the park pathways, stopping to wave at every single person who passed and refusing to continue on until said person responded. he wants to know, interact with and smile at everyone, like a little mayor. (and a lot like his dad.)
later, when the park closed, we walked on—even though it was approaching Matty’s bedtime—and found an ice cream truck, where we indulged in some soft serve (Matty’s first taste—he approved). the night air was so lovely, we kept strolling until we came upon the Hoboken Little League field, where a game was just getting started. we parked the stroller and watched a rather intense inning of baseball (nine to 12-year olds).
though i was paying attention to what was happening on the field (poor little pitcher named Chris was getting lit up after whiffing the first two batters), somewhere in my mind i was thinking that i was pretty sure i’d imagined this sometime in the past—watching a random Little League game with my family on a warm, summer(ish) night, the lights of Manhattan winking in the distance… even if i hadn’t imagined it exactly, i couldn’t have written it more perfectly.
my feelings on Saturday were similar. Saturday is, for the record, my favorite day of the week. it’s the only one we can spend in entirety as a family. so, really, i live for Saturdays. this past one we took Matthew to Turtleback Zoo. it was a really great day. and not because anything crazy-exciting happened. just because we were together. i think it was while were watching the white-faced gibbons (a kind of ape) swinging and singing—actually that was crazy-exciting—that i realized how utterly complete i feel these days. is that weird? it had nothing to do with the apes, per se; it was just nice to stand there as a family watching these creatures do their thing. we weren’t in a rush anywhere, we weren’t stressed or worried about anything. we didn’t have anywhere else to be. we were just together and happy.
like i said: magic.
- coloring book
- pop-up book
- sticker book
- chapter book
- riddle book
- crossword book
- picture book
- comic book
- coffee table book
all of the above are actual books i believe pre-teens should focus on instead of getting tangled up with Facebook before they turn 13. i’m sure you can all imagine how i feel about this, which is why i’m saying nothing more.