Monday, April 30, 2007

Goodbye Eastern Market, Baseball Dates, and The Mysterious Rage Disease

Anyone who knows Dan and I knows that we were great fans of Eastern Market, the farmer’s market and flea market space just north of Pennsylvania Ave., the main building of which burned early this morning. Since the first month we lived here, most of our weekend plans have included breakfast and browsing there, and we are both deeply dismayed by the loss of this national treasure, a 207-year-old building on Capitol Hill that was designated as market space by President Thomas Jefferson. It is our most fervent desire to see it rebuilt.

Went to the Mets / Nats game Sunday afternoon. At one point, I asked Dan if we had accidentally taken the Metro to Shea Stadium instead of RFK, based on the mobs of rabid Mets fans.

Am I crazy, or are there some excessively sorry-looking first dates clearly taking place at Mets games? By sorry-looking, I mean: guy with artsy-looking haircut and man-clogs, girl with artsy-looking haircut, denim miniskirt and Uggs, carefully not touching each other. Not that, you know, there’s anything wrong with a first date at a baseball game—in fact, that’s the kind of first date I could really get on board with. But most of the spectators at yesterday’s games were comprised of:

--Sorry-looking first dates, as detailed above.
--Youngish, white yuppie families .
--Guys in Mets t-shirts with slicked-back hair, smoking clove cigarettes on the concourse and looking like they were auditioning for extras on an episode of “The Sopranos.”
--The guy sitting in front of me who, inexplicably, smelled like meat.

Guess which one we were.

By far, the best part of the game: a guy who Dan and I have begun referring to as “Superfan.” He was around 40, wearing a red Nationals baseball cap that was heavily crusted with dried sweat, sitting a couple of rows in front of us, over right field, and throughout the game, he literally screamed at Austin Kearns, the Nationals’ right-fielder. “A.K.! A.K.! UP HERE! TWO-FIVE!!! A.K.!” Dan and I were both waiting to see Superfan burst into tears, scream, “AUSTIN! I LOVE YOU, AUSTIN! I LOVE YOU!” and throw his sweaty underpants out onto the field. Finally, around the eighth inning, Austin finally looked up and threw his practice ball up to Superfan. And for one horrible second, I experienced pure terror as a major-league-thrown baseball came flying toward the skull of my sleeping toddler in my arms, and I had no extra hand with which to deflect this ball, as it occurred to me that Superfan could be insane, or looking away, or in some other way incapable of catching this ball.

But he wasn’t. And he caught it. And Max kept sleeping. But if we have our choice, in the future, I hope to always sit near Superfan, because damn, what a big ol’ sack of fun times he turned out to be.

Congrats to Max’s god(ess)mama, whose head, spinal cord, and various other bits passed their semi-annual examination with (mostly) flying colors last week. Keep your chin up, kiddo, the bad stuff will be over before you know it, and you have something great to look forward to. And you have The Mysterious Rage Disease. I wonder if we could convince your world-class neurosurgeon to refer to it as such from now on. Because, you know, I think this would make it one hundred percent more awesome.

Although I know nobody cares about my dreams, I have to tell about this seriously weirdo one that Dan had last night. He has the most surreal dreams of anyone I know, but this takes the cake: our family was being pursued and abducted by large, breaded, rectangular chicken planks. Do I have no imagination at all? My dreams, with the exception of the lesbian sex dreams, are always of things that could actually happen.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hip-Hop Pooh; MoCo-Bound

Max's God(ess)mama Auntie Kimberly (she's a Pagan) and Uncle Michael are here! Yay! That means two things: noisy toys manufactured by Disney (Max adores his horribly singing and dancing Winnie the Pooh more than life), and Fun In The MoCo! Dan and I rarely go to Rockville or Bethesda, unless the God(ess)parents are here. White Flint Mall! Expensive coffee! Hooray!

Best of luck to God(ess)mama on her multiple tests, exams, and appointments at the NIH this week. We love you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Morning Max

In the dining room of the rental house in California.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why I'm Like This

Hello. My name is Molly. And my father is an alcoholic.

The fact that my father is a truly toxic human being has been a major factor in my life. You might guess that about me.

When I was five, my father, in the middle of a fight with my mother, called me into the dining room. He gave me a hug and sent me to the kitchen to get him a Kleenex, and when I came back, he was gone.

I can count the number of times we’ve spoken since then on two hands, and the number of times I’ve been in his presence since then on one.

It has taken me a long time to realize that this is a man who I don’t want to know. It is not okay with me that he abandoned me. It is not okay with me when any man makes a conscious decision to let their child grow up without a father, but in particular, the fact that he found it less inconvenient to flee the state of Michigan and change jobs every three or four months for the next thirteen years than to pay child support—I find that offensive in a very profound way.

When I was 18, he gave me this explanation: “It seemed better for you for me to not disrupt your life.”

I find this to be a particularly loathsome piece of bullshit, which I did not call him on at the time, because, like him, I am not interested in personal confrontation between us.

Had he said this, I would have found it infinitely more believable: "It seemed easier to keep my life unencumbered."

It seems wise on my part to avoid anything personal with him at all. Because, as it turns out, he seems to lack the ability to do anything except scar me emotionally in very extensive and harmful ways.

When I was a teenager and fought with my mother, and my mother would declare, “This is exactly what your father would do,” I found that more insulting and hurtful than anything anyone else could possibly say to me, mostly because it was clear that she was saying that I compared in some way to the worst person I knew.

And I have not ever really forgiven her for that. There are other things I haven’t forgiven her for either, but that is the big thing.

When I was 19 years old, for Spring Break I flew out to Colorado to visit my father and his wife. In the Denver airport, we walked right past each other because we did not know each other.

Let me put this into perspective for you: my child, my 22-month-old baby boy, has never been out of my sight for longer than a work day since he was born. If we were in a public place with thirty crying children, I would be able to find him by his cry. I know the sound of his laugh like it’s my own heartbeat. You could blindfold me, and I would know him by his smell. Show me a tightly-cropped picture of just one of his blue eyes or a chubby, dirty fist or his toes, and I would know in an instant that whatever it was, it belonged to him.

My father walked past me, looked straight at my face, and did not know who I was.

I knew then that, no matter what else happened during that trip to Colorado, that he and I would never be more to each other than polite acquaintances, if that.

And throughout the trip, we were indeed polite acquaintances. He and his wife were kind and hospitable, welcoming me into their home, seeing to it that I enjoyed my vacation. But I don’t think that I ever called him “Dad.” I don’t think I ever called him anything.

In the years since then, it has become clear to me that I am not a priority to him. It’s not like I am a low priority. I am not a priority at all. If he thinks of me at all, there is no sign of it. And I am okay with that.

I would just as soon not be thought of by him. His particular brand of toxicity is not one that I would care to expose my child to. I cannot explain to him why his grandfather—who, to the best of my knowledge, is not aware of his existence—is not interested in knowing either of us. I cannot explain to my husband, whose father was the Best Man in our wedding, why I would just as soon not be let down yet again by allowing him back into our life, and therefore did not invite him to—or inform him of—my wedding. Even if he wanted to be let back into our life, I have reached a point where I will not allow him to do more damage. Giving him no power over me, over my emotional life, is the only way I can do that.

And I cannot explain to my father why it is that, on my Spring Break trip to Colorado in 1995, I took pictures with a camera that I knew had no film in it. But it’s because I couldn’t allow myself proof of this time that I was spending with him. Something in me turned off to the experience, and on some level, I know that it was my way of protecting myself from connecting to him. I don’t think I could have connected anyway.

I could not have chosen a more different man with whom to have children. Dan loves Max with every cell of his being, and if anyone ever tried to take Max away from him, I can easily picture Dan tearing them to pieces. This is not a man who would ever be okay with not knowing his boy. I will never have to worry about that.

I don’t blame my father’s drinking for the way he is. Lots of flawed people (is there any other kind?) love their kids; lots of alcoholics give a damn. I have no idea what is broken in him that he is unable to care for his children in any meaningful way. I can’t remember a day in my life with my father when he didn’t drink.

But to be fair, we've never had many days together.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Squeal Like an Irresponsible Little Pig

Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger: definitely my choice for parents of the year.


22 Months: Dear Max

Dear Max,

Tomorrow you’ll be 22 months old. Your father and I talk every day about what a big man you’re turning into, and how amazed we are at your ability to do so much on your own, and at the same time still be that baby that we fell in love with. It seems like every time we turn around, you’ve got a new trick that seems to highlight all of the things that you’re still not quite grown up enough to manage on your own—you can do a somersault, but you can’t say somersault; you can feed yourself, but not with a fork; you can scale the fence that used to keep you roped off from the dangerous part of the living room, the part with all the cords and electrical devices and the machetes and hard drugs, but you can’t scale it without falling on your head and crying.

Last night, after you went to bed, I went out without you or Daddy. I went and met a new friend for drinks in Alexandria, and I had a great time with her, a better time than I’ve had in a while with anybody besides your dad and you. I think she’s the first real friend I’ve made in a while, and that highlights to me how I’m still the same as I used to be, how hard I struggle with being shy and never being the one to make the effort to be friends with someone. If there’s anything I hope that you don’t inherit from me, it’s my shyness, because I’ve felt lonely for a lot of my life because I simply lack the ability to be the first one to speak. Having met this nice lady, though, is reassuring for me because I met her through her blog, and the internet makes me feel safe. And I am reassured that you won’t inherit my crippling shyness because you are so much like your dad in that way—you have the effusive and outgoing nature of a born politician. You are the Bill Clinton of toddlers.

Two weeks ago, we got on a plane and went to California. To my horror, we were absolutely those people, the family with the inconsolably screaming child on the plane, and nothing we could think to do helped you at all. You wanted to get down and play, and talk to the other passengers, and investigate every aspect of the plane, and we couldn’t let you, and you were furious. We even planned to fly at your bedtime—but you didn’t want to sleep, you hate to sleep, sleeping is stupid and Mommy is stupid and Daddy is stupid and this car seat is stupid, and nothing will ever be good again. Having to de-ice the plane wings on the runway in Denver did absolutely nothing for my anxiety level, which is naturally kind of high, made higher by the fact that you were clearly miserable, and of course just brought to a head by the fact that in two hours, we would be on the ground in San Diego with my mother, your Grandma, who I love but who makes me bite my nails with anxiety just by her mere existence. But, as it turned out, San Diego was mostly all right, even though Grandma worried constantly about pretty much everything all the time. I see now why I am the way I am.

You were so cute at the beach. We took off your shoes and socks and rolled up your jeans and set you down in the sand, but instead of taking off running for the water, like your Daddy and I both thought you would, you whimpered, took ahold of the bottom of my shirt, and clung to me, asking to be picked up. I don’t know what scared you, if it was the waves rushing at you and retreating or the noise or just the feeling of the sand under your feet, but you were afraid, and you wanted to be carried. Daddy and I took turns trying to encourage you to play in the sand, to splash in the shallow water, but when we set you down, you would turn and make a beeline for the boardwalk, or ask to be picked up again.

In the last few days, I’ve tried to keep you away from the television. Earlier this week, there was a shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia, and you are much too little to understand this, or the pictures on TV, or why all of these people are so sad. Parents everywhere are trying to give their kids age-appropriate explanations for what happened to the 33 people who died, and you are too little for any explanation at all. I know it will happen again, and I will have to explain it to you then, but I don’t know how, and it’s things like this that make me wonder how I will ever manage to let you out of my sight. It’s one of the ironies of parenthood: we are working so hard at making you enough of a grownup that you will be ready to leave us behind and face dangerous and scary things without us.

I am dismayed by your passionate love affair with “Blue’s Clues.” Your father and I were able to keep most annoying kid’s TV out of your realm of awareness for the 14 months that I was at home with you, but since I went back to work and you went to daycare, it doesn’t seem to be a possibility. For the longest time, we thought you were saying “new shoes,” which didn’t make any sense, but then your babysitter explained that you were talking about “Blue’s Clues.” Shortly after that, you began referring to any person or thing that you particularly liked as “Steve,” after the host. It made for some strange conversations with you. “Max, what do you want for dinner?” “Steve.” “Goodnight, Max, it’s time for bed.” “Okay, night-night, Steve.” You refer to Daddy’s computer as Steve since that’s where you watched DVD’s on the plane, and you also call the television Steve. The best part about you and that show is the awful, atonal singing that you attempt when Steve sings the mailbox song. Clearly, also inherited from me as well, as my singing voice can melt the paint from the walls.

I have to admit something: I am stealing the idea for these letters to you. The woman I’m stealing them from writes such unbelievable letters to her daughter, and I can’t help myself because it’s public knowledge how hard she’s struggled with motherhood, her fight with motherhood is famous, and yet, her letters to Leta paint such a realistic portrait of how much she loves her daughter and what parenthood has meant to her and made her realize about herself. The fact is, I haven’t had half the challenges that this woman has had, a fact I’m grateful for every day, but you’re just as worth fighting for. You’ve been just as powerful in my life, and every hard thing I do, I would do over and over again for you if I had to.