Cursing the Disco

A few sleepless mornings ago, my gloom was closing in on me so tightly that if I had started lighting candles to keep from cursing my darkness, I could have burned down our house – no small achievement when you consider it’s mostly concrete.

We’d come home late from a sad trip the night before.  I knew the upcoming work day would likely go long, to be capped off with an evening session of  ‘Are You Smarter than a Seventh Grader’ with Thing1 (complete with commentary by Thing2).  I was exhausted before I even got the kids up for school.

But the insomnia that was the door prize that came with my depression turned out to be a blessing (or a curse if you ask Thing1).  As I tossed and turned counting the minutes of sleep I wasn’t getting I suddenly remembered that there was a pile of new, unplayed songs on my iPod.  As I  had mapped out our trip a few nights before, I’d clicked back-and-forth between iTunes and the map site, absentmindedly clicking the ‘Download’ button here and there.

The thing I love and hate about iTunes is that it’s so dang easy to engage in a little retail therapy without wondering where to hide the bags or if I want a song badly enough to be willing to dust it later.  That’s how I ended up with 30 new songs in the time it took to print my maps and reserve a hotel (I think that’ll hold up in court).

So with an hour to myself before I needed to get the kids up, I hopped out of bed and pulled my purchases into a new playlist, hoping the songs would be safer than using fire to fight off my funk.

I find that when I’m in a bad mood, I tend to get a little nostalgic about my music choices, and my indulgence in retail therapy a few nights before was not a sign of a good mood.  And, when I saw that bunch of Earth, Wind & Fire tunes for $2.99, I clicked on it.  I love those songs because they evoke memories of my dad’s mix tapes painstakingly recorded on reel-to-reel, as well as images of the god-awful clothes of that era that are still preserved in photographs for eternity and future blackmail.  But, as anyone who’s heard the songs knows, they’re also killer dance tunes as Thing1, my twelve-year-old (much to his horror) was about to discover shortly.

I got my playlist loaded and synced just in time to push the kids out the door.  Most mornings Thing1 is the arbiter of musical taste in the car.  He’s currently in a two-year Beatles and Stones phase, and when Boogie Wonderland came on, his hand automatically moved to the forward button.  But I was ready for this and intercepted him.

“Leave it,”I ordered with the mock seriousness it takes to command his obedience.

“Okay, Mom,” he laughed, pretending to be in awe of my display of authority.  My mood brightened as we jokingly argued about my musical choices.  I turned up the volume, and, in the rearview mirror, I could see six-year-old Thing2 in his carseat bopping his head happily to the beat.  It was infectious, and I started dancing a little too.  I knew I might have lit one too many candles at that point.

Real fear crept into Thing1’s eyes, and I knew what was going through his mind.  Would the song end before we hit the school parking lot?  Would Mom hit the rewind button?  Would Mom still be drive-seat-dancing when we arrived?

We got closer to town and the song switched, but to Thing1’s chagrin, there were no Beatles tunes in the on-deck circle.  Thing2 and I continued to dance, though I restrained myself a bit as we got closer to town and the traffic got thicker.

“Mom.”  Thing1 murmured as we turned onto the school street.  “Mom.” He grew insistent as we got closer.  A stalled line of cars came into view ahead of us as we approached the school, and my own dancing ceased.  Thing1’s confirmed belief is that his authority over my behavior is in direct proportion to his proximity to middle school, but in reality, I just remember how much middle school sucked, and the threat of my dancing or singing in public is an empty one.  Today, though, it would have been fun to keep that fire burning a little longer.

I drove him up to the door and wished him a good day.  I told him I loved him, and as he climbed out of the car, shaking his head, he muttered what so many young people climbing out of Pintos and Pontiacs shaking under the weights of dancing middle-aged moms with too many choices on the eight track or cassette must have muttered before him: “I hate Disco.”

If I Didn’t Laugh

I got up at 5:00 AM this morning, but my mind was not on my keyboard.

Instead, I was thinking of my lovable mutt, Katie, who had been locked in the mudroom overnight.  She had returned home just as the sun and the mercury were falling, reeking from a game of ‘I dare you to rub in that’.  It was too late to give her a bath, but at 5:00AM this morning, I knew something would have to be done and the knowledge that I would be the one to do it whatever it was.

So instead of doing something useful or soothing (like writing), I wasted time in the reading room playing iPod Scrabble.  The pup was quiet, the kids were quiet, and there I stayed almost until it was time to launch the morning school routine.  Sadly, avoidance therapy didn’t make the dog smell any better.

The boys and I managed to get out of the mudroom without inhaling too much of the stink. I actually found some comfort in the routine of hustling them into the car, scraping the windows, and attempting to break the sound barrier to get them to school on time.  The ride home was much slower, and the closer I got, the slower the car seemed to go.

I knew Katie would need a bath, and I knew it would be a soaking wet dirty job that had to happen inside.  I knew the country store stocked all sorts of useful pet supplies (the owners are mushers and religious about quality dog products), so I stopped in on the way home.  I tried to drag out the shopping trip, but there was an online meeting at 9:00AM, and I knew the bath had to happen soon.

I got home feeling vaguely depressed and with the nagging feeling that I wanted a vacation.  As I wandered through the house, getting the bathroom ready for a canine client and finding an extra leash and an old towel, however, my grooming plan began to form, and my spirits lifted a bit.  I knew I would be soaked when the bath was over, and I doffed my clothes on the bed.  Wandering from room to room, I thought once again how grateful I am that the only things outside our sliding windows are trees, and I wondered if my sense of propriety was about to reach a new low.  It was.

I had everything ready and was about to open the mudroom door and leash the dog when I remembered we had garbage bags in the cabinet.  Figuring one of them would make a great poncho, I reached in and pulled out a 30 gallon bag.  It looked big enough to shield my girth from water, but there was still a problem.   It was clear.

By the time I had ripped a neck and arm holes in the ‘poncho’, I was chuckling.  Katie didn’t mind my fashion faux pas nearly as much as she minded being popped into the tub and scrubbed down.  I was now literally elbow deep in the job I had dreaded all morning, and for some reason, I was smiling as I washed and soothed.

I know some folks might say it was just getting the thing over with that made me smile.  There’s probably some truth to that, but, as I tore off my rated-R dog-washing poncho, a little part of me decided that truth doesn’t have to be stranger than fiction to be funny enough to get you through the day.  But sometimes it helps.

Waiting to Exhale


Thing2 – Cheese, as he wants to be called these days when he doesn’t want to be called SuperDude or SpiderMan – is six.  He’s been six for all of two weeks, but he seems to understand that, as his birthday approached, we were crossing a divide – at least when it came to our bedtime routine.

Cheese co-slept with us while he was nursing, and, when he transitioned to his own bunk in the room he now shares with Thing1, his 12-year-old brother, I adopted the practice of lying down with him at bed time.  I did this with Thing1 for a short time, and it seemed to smooth out the rough spots as he became more independent.  With Cheese, however, at least one of my reasons for this routine was selfish.

Thing1 is already taller than I am, and, while he still needs hugs and comforting when he’s down, I still marvel at how quickly he went from my arms to my lap and then to the world at large.  I know it is going even more quickly with Cheese, and when he embraces his independence, this special time will be gone forever.  The next epoch will be just as special, but our quiet time at night gives me the chance to be mindful of this one – of his arms around my neck and of the melting of a smiling imp into a serene slumbering angel.

As his birthday approached, however, our routine became more and more brief – he doesn’t need help getting ready for bed.  Increasingly the routine consists of Thing1 and Cheese giggling as they brush and wash and bustle into their bunks.  They whisper their secrets in the dark and then, more often than not, snoring replaces the giggles before I have a chance to sit down for a snuggle.

This is as it should be, but five is not six, and even six still needs a snuggle some nights.  As we move closer to the divide, however, even our snuggle time has changed.  The giggling does not stop merely because Mom is there.  Often I spend as much time shushing as snuggling, and it is always at bedtime that I get to hear the newest phrase Thing1 has acquired ‘on the playground’ before dutifully passing it on to his brother.

It was when the first phrase of the evening emanated from the top bunk last night that I realized that I was about to be relegated to a role on the sidelines of the bedtime routine.  Thing1 was already giggling when I kissed him goodnight, and the grin on Cheese’s face should have been a clear sign that my presence could only amplify the silliness.  I had just wrapped Cheese in a hug as the first classic line floated down from the top bed:

“Beans, Beans, the magical fru -”

“That’s enough,” I interrupted before Cheese could learn any new poetry.  But Thing1 began again, and I could feel Cheese beginning to quake.

I shushed.  They giggled.  I shushed again, and quiet reigned.  But not for long.  This time, the line was a whisper, and I found myself working not to chuckle.  Cheese held his hand over his mouth, and I knew even the hint of a giggle from me would send them both over the edge.  So I held my breath.

Thing1 knew it was time to quit, and for a few minutes I only heard an occasional squeak as he suppressed a laugh.  Cheese quickly lost his fight with sleep, and I was finally able to breathe without a giggle and without contributing to more chaos.

I stood up and gave Thing1 another kiss on the head before heading back to the living room for grown-up time.  But as I walked out to the bright kitchen, I exhaled again and my smile faded.  I knew that the boys had begun adopting their own routine, without my help.

There will be more silliness and snickering from the bunk room, and we’ll chuckle as we listen to their whispering. They will become more independent in this routine, just as they have become during the day.  They are both a long way from true independence, but we are at the end of an era, and I think I am already missing it.