by Tanya Ward Goodman
I was in third grade and it was Halloween. A bunch of people had gathered at our house to eat and drink before heading out to trick-or-treat. My mother was dressed as a gypsy fortune-teller. She swirled around the house in satin skirts and a patchwork vest, dispensing red wine out of a big green jug. My father took one of his sign-painting brushes and painted “5¢” on the bare flesh just under her collarbone. He added an arrow pointing into her cleavage and then painted a half moon on her cheek. She stood very still while he did this.
My father didn’t usually wear a real costume – that is to say he didn’t dress up like a vampire or a clown or a goblin. He wore his standard uniform of paint-spattered blue jeans, cowboy shirt with pearl snaps and Tony Lama boots. Over all of this, depending upon the chill of the evening, he might throw a fleece and leather coat with silver arrows on the collar. He might wear a grey felt top hat or a brown derby or maybe the big black Stetson. In our house there were a lot of hats hanging from nails Dad pounded into the ceiling beams of the living room. There were lots of cattle brands burned into the floorboards. There was a stuffed moose head wearing wire rim spectacles and a big glass cage where our iguana ate bananas and spent all day and night under a 40 watt bulb. What I mean to say is that Dad didn’t need to think about what he was going to “be” for Halloween, because he’d already decided who he was going to “be” for life.
Halloween was a big night for my brother and I. We often started planning our costumes in August. With the late summer monsoon clouds filling the New Mexico sky, we thought ahead to that night in October when the air would be crisp and cold and filled with the scent of woodsmoke. We knew there would be a pot of chili on the stove and a tray of caramel apples. There might be candied popcorn or cookies sprinkled with sugar. There would be empanaditas – the little crescent moon pastries filled with green chile and cheese. There would be the gutting of pumpkins for jack o’lanterns and the salting and roasting of seeds. And then, there would be candy. Free candy. While we planned our costumes, we also planned what we would do with the candy. We strategized. We plotted. We knew there would be trading and stealing and most certainly a fight over baby Butterfingers and miniature Snickers. There would be elation and awe and gratitude for the gift of a full size candy bar. There would be bingeing and hoarding and stomachaches and the inevitable let down that is the first day of November when Christmas is far away and Thanksgiving has only pie to recommend it.
I was dressed as the Pink Panther this year in rosy fur and a paper mache mask that smelled of flour paste and newsprint. I was disappointed that the costume had turned out baggy and shapeless – more like a Pepto Bismol yeti than a panther. The mask was bulky and awkward and made it hard to see. The big muzzle weighed it down and pulled at my hair. With the fur hood over my head and the mask on my face I could feel sweat prickle on my scalp. I wished I had chosen a more beautiful costume. I wished I were more beautiful. I had a big crush on most of the boys trick-or-treating with us. It would not be untruthful to say I had a crush on all boys. I kept these crushes very secret. I had already read my way through the school’s SRA Reading Series. I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit in second grade. I was a smart girl. In my third grade mind smart girls were not boy crazy. They had more serious things to think about.
But I did think about boys. I thought about them the way I thought about store bought candy. They seemed as delicious and mysterious.
One boy was dressed as a Banshee, another as Big Foot. The Banshee was always losing the headpiece to his costume and Big Foot tripped constantly over his huge Styrofoam feet. The Banshee could draw any kind of animal, but was especially good at cats and hippos, which were my favorite. Big Foot had beautiful eyes and a sprinkle of freckles. He had a teepee permanently set up in the woods behind his house. In a perfect world, one of these boys would have taken my hand. In a perfect world, the Banshee’s grease paint would not have rubbed off on my pink fur and Big Foot would not have been so darned interested in my brother’s Matchbox Cars.
Bob Dylan was on the stereo and the grown ups were laughing in the kitchen. My aunt had wrapped herself in an old kimono from the closet and jammed chopsticks into her upswept hair. She rouged her lips. An impromptu Geisha.
“Are you ready?” My father bellowed. “Are you really, really ready?” He used his best carnival voice – the same one the midway ride boys working the Flying Bobs use when they ask, “Do you want to go faster?”
“We’re ready,” we screamed.
“Your chariot awaits,” Dad said ushering us all out the front door.
The Red Van sat in the driveway. This was Dad’s most recent set of wheels and my favorite ever. Dad bought the white delivery van used and had the whole thing spray-painted fire engine red. He cut a hole in the roof and installed a Plexiglas dome on top. Inside, he built wooden cabinets to hold his brushes and paints and added a sleeping platform covered with a thick foam mattress and patchwork quilts. There were velvet pillows and dangling crystals. There was a glass eye glued to the gearshift and plastic dinosaurs parading across the dashboard. Two big doors at the back swung wide and we all clambered aboard.
“Don’t forget your hat,” the Banshee’s mother cried.
“Have you got your feet?” Big Foot’s mother asked.
We had hats and feet and masks and paper bags to fill with candy. What we didn’t have were seat belts or even seats. The adults lounged on the mattress and the kids all crawled underneath the platform. We were squashed together in the dark with the smell of turpentine and enamel paint, wine and caramel. The engine revved and someone slammed the back door shut. We bounced up the driveway and onto the road. The night had begun.
This was no neighborhood to wander in careful groups. There were no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no streetlights and no close gatherings of houses. Trick-or-treating in the mountains meant driving down darkened driveways, up winding roads and rambling for miles in search of a lit pumpkin. We hit the Tiltons, the Mullendoors, the Chesters, the Fullertons. We tumbled out at the Houseman’s to find giant tombstones set up in the front yard and the soundtrack of wolves cranked on the stereo. At stop after stop, my father flung open the back doors of the van and we poured out, shouting and running, up the wooden boardwalks and gravel paths and dusty driveways. We opened our bags to receive chocolate, gummy skeletons, orange jawbreakers, candy corn. We opened our bags to popcorn balls and home made cookies in little wax paper bags. Back in the van, we peeled foil wrapping and sunk teeth into marshmallow and crackle.
“More?” my dad asked.
“More!” we shouted. “More.”
In the van, under the platform, the sway of the road jounced me into the Banshee one moment and into Big Foot the next. What if, what if, what if one of them opened their arms to catch me? My heart beat hard beneath pink fleece. My face felt hot and red under my mask. If I’d been a fortune-teller, I might have painted my lips, made them ready for kissing. I might have had skirts to swish and swirl and long, mascaraed eyelashes to flutter. The Pink Panther costume was for kids. It had been a bad choice – so frumpy and unromantic.
“Have you got your hat?” The Banshee’s mother shouted.
“Where are your feet?” Big Foot’s mother asked.
Dad pulled the van into the parking lot of the Bella Vista Restaurant. I could smell the all-you-can-eat fish and chicken from the parking lot. We teemed up the steps behind my father.
“It’s a restaurant,” I said. “Will they let us trick-or-treat?” I wanted to believe they would and that no one could say refuse my father, but I was also worried that this place with its white table cloths and fancy folk from up the city would not have us.
“Of course they will,” Dad said. “We’re the Red Van Raiders. We’ll take them by storm.”
At the bar, my father ordered a beer and the hostess filled our bags with starburst mints from the bowl by the cash register. A waiter brought a plate of French fries. We jostled against each other, shifting the hot fries from hand to hand. We pilfered wrapped toothpicks that tasted of mint.
My dad draped an arm over my shoulder and raised his beer in a toast.
“To the Red Van Raiders,” he said. “To you, daughter.”
I looked around to be sure that Big Foot and the Banshee could see that my father was the leader of the Red Van Raiders. He’d given them membership in something so great and powerful that a restaurant would give us food for free.
We tumbled out of the restaurant and back into the van, teeth chattering, tongues flapping, elated by our success. All night, we’d been welcomed, heralded, celebrated. Our paper bags bulged with treats, our breath was sweet with sugar already consumed. No boy held my hand that night, but I felt embraced by the world, filled to the brim with sweetness and excitement. Next year I might wear skirts and paint my lips, but for now, this, this was more than enough.
Tanya Ward Goodman is the author of “Leaving Tinkertown,” published by the University of New Mexico Press
By Danny Thomas
its time to write
part of the reason that I have not written recently
is that I have been trying to figure out how to make up for lost time
how to catch the blog up
well it aint gonna happen
here’s the thing
between the new life of working full time at an amazing job,
and having an incredibly busy and wickedly smart toddler,
with two amazingly active and outrageously clever big sisters,
and an unbelievably driven admirably ambitious spouse,
all of whom eat on dishes and wear lots of clothes that need to be washed,
I’m having a slightly hard time balancing all these blessings…
and saving time for a creative life.
I haven’t sat down to write a blog or a song in 3 months.
It’s not as painful as I thought it’d be, I’m too distracted or tired to spend too much time dwelling on it…
What happens is – on the rare occasions when I’ve cleared the decks and I have a bit of me time , I spend it either exercising or with a cocktail and whichever episode of Skins or Louie I happen to be on…
I will just pick one of the bloggable highlights from the last three months…
as a sort of post-cardy attempt at catching this blog up on summer, and back to school and the astounding development of this lovely family…
a few weeks ago I was a little uptight at bedtime…
maybe more than a little…
there are nights when I get wound up
at bed time
largely due to my own choices;
waiting too late to start bedtime,
not checking on the room before we head in to read stories,
(I have a hard time putting them to bed in a cluttered mess)…
sometimes though I get pushed to the edge because it takes
the rugrats far too long to settle…
and it turns in to a game.
with Lil Chaos it’s an ancient pattern that we found ourselves in when she was just a toddler…
It became a power struggle at an early age and there are still some remnants of that struggle hanging on…
at any rate, on this particular night,
I lost it…
I basically jumped right to mutually assured destruction,
I went nuclear..
without sending in ground troops or firing a warning shot…
I came in to the room,
I was tired,
and began grumbling
and was never able to get myself to zero
when things finally got tidy and I was ready to read
and Lil’ Chaos started to kick and fuss and flop around in her bed
I walked out
and told them they’d have to put themselves to bed.
I’m sure there are plenty of parents who believe a 5 and 7 year old should be putting themselves to bed all the time.
I love bed time these days.
It is our time.
Certainly, Jen will tell you, there are times when I need a break.
When I wish I had the gear to nurse the little one to sleep if she’d have me.
but most of the time, we are reading great books
and having interesting chats
it is a good together time
and I feel it is part of the foundation I am setting with the girls for
communication and openness…
not this night.
The thing that sucks
when we reach the “no story time” consequence
is that we all pay the price.
In a big way.
When they lose my help with bedtime,
it becomes a protracted,
This night I was stuck
not wanting to deal with the saga
and wanting to stick to my guns.
my blessed daughter,
in all her wisdom,
gave me an out…
as I was storming out,
grumbling about the endless
and socks and underwear
and Barbie clothes on the floor
and the piles of crap on every flat surface…
and the kids’ inability to be calm in bed…
I heard my words,
probably my fathers words,
come out of my daughters mouth…
“Will you stop for a minute and listen to me?”
her clear, calm, adult tone jarred me out of my preoccupation…
“I have three ideas for you Dad, three ways you wouldn’t have to get to this point.”
“Start with smaller consequences; like, say this is the last page or last three pages or something, instead of not reading at all, take away pages or chapters instead of the whole book…”
“don’t let yourself get so mad about all this stuff… count to ten, take a breath…walk out of the room for a minute…“
“and you could just ignore me.”
On so many levels – she convinced me – she came up with good ideas…
and also showed me that something is making a connection in there.
That, not only is she absorbing all the crap I spew daily,
she is able to volley it back to me and school me with it…
all three of my kids have had at least one or two moments like this,
in the last few months
showing me incredible levels of development and maturity…
over the course of this big transition…
from summer to fall,
no school to school,
pre-k to kindergarten,
1st to second grade,
at home to full time day care,
part time worker stay at home dad,
to full time worker,
summer “off” to back to teaching.
But lets face it we are perpetually transitioning
life as we know it is an endless tunnel of transitions…
There is not an end “thing” to become…
We don’t transform from chrysalis to butterfly
because it doesn’t stop
until we are dead…
and maybe not even then.
As soon as you think there is some routine to settle in to…
the lawnmower breaks,
and your car needs a new clutch,
and ballet gets traded in for taekwondo,
or something bigger…
At this point I am convinced it is more about
perpetually becoming a butterfly…
or finding your butterfly self in each moment.
By: Ann Brown
What with Yom Kippur being just around the corner, I have taken a moment to reflect upon my life. And so, in the spirit of numbering my days, I have gone back and calculated a few things.
I present to you, my Jewish year 5773 in minutes:
Minutes I spent this year telling Robin I don’t want a dog, under no circumstances should he bring home a dog, and fuck him if he gets us a dog: 287.
Minutes it took me to love Phila: 1.
Minutes to forgive Robin for bringing home a dog: I’ll let you know.
Minutes it took Phila to retrieve my brand new Wacoal bra from the dirty clothes hamper and then bury in the backyard when I wasn’t paying attention: 2
Minutes I spent crouched under my bedroom window listening to the gardeners laugh and discuss my bra when they found it under the lilac tree the following week: 45.
Minutes I had to spend hearing them say, “ai yai yai, es por una ballena”: 50
MInutes I died from embarrassment when I looked up the word “ballena” and found that it does not mean “ballerina”, as I had hoped, but instead, means “whale”: 7
Minutes I have spent this year waiting for the fucking printer to print: 5,000.
Before I realized that it wasn’t connected to my computer: 5,002.
Minutes I have spent this year in the cracker aisle deciding between regular Wheat Thins and Reduced Fat Wheat Thins: 1,250.
Pounds I have lost due to eating Reduced Fat Wheat Thins: zero.
Minutes I have spent this year attempting to balance on one foot and put one foot into my underpants and not fall over: 36500.
Minutes I have spent this year figuring out if my bra was inside out or right side in before I wrapped it around my waist to put it on: 365 x 4.
Minutes I have spent this year trying to hook my bra from the back: 400,000,000,000.
Minutes I have spent this morning hoisting my bra around to the back and then up to my boobs after finally just hooking it in front like an old lady: shut up.
MInutes I have spent this year looking for my phone to see if I’ve missed any calls: 10,000.
Calls I have returned after I see I’ve missed them: zero.
Minutes I have spent this year hiding while watching someone I know come to my front door, knock, and finally go away: 30
Minutes I have spent this year doing Pilates: zero.
Minutes I have spent this year looking for rogue old crone chin hairs on my face: a million.
Minutes I have spent this year in front of the bathroom mirror, tucking my arm flab in to see what my arms would look like without the flab: 100.
Minutes I have spent this year doing arm exercises: 1
Minutes I have spent this year worrying about melanoma: 674,344,980,000,000,001
Minutes I have spent in the sun this year: 674,344,980,000,000,000
Minutes I have spent this year in the shower not remembering if I’ve already washed my face: 3500.
Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about the new bathroom tiles: 22.
Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about my hair: 28.
Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about the situation in Syria: 11.
Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about sex: 1,000.
Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about food: 999.
Minutes I have spent during meals this year thinking about sex: zero.
Minutes I have spent this year ordering the same sleeveless linen blouse from JJill this year because I forgot I already had the exact same one in my closet: 4.
MInutes I have spent staring at my dog today while trying to write this post: 331.
By: Ann Brown
Oh my GAWD. Robin is such a baby.
All I said to him yesterday was, “About 50% of the time, I wish you were dead”, and he cannot let it go. All day long – at the hardware store, at lunch, at the river – he’s all, “really? You wish I was dead?” And then I’d have to go over it again: “Nooooo. I said that 50% of the time I wish you were dead. Jesus. Do you even listen?”
God. He’s like idiot.
We ran into our friend Nancy Levine at the grocery store. We haven’t seen her in a long time. I was about two seconds into my hugging her and Robin breaks us up, taps Nancy on the shoulder and says to her, “Ann wishes I was dead.”
Talk about your mellow harsher. No wonder he has only, like, a hundred FB friends. The man needs to get over himself.
Nancy smiled that smile you give someone when you aren’t quite sure if they are going to set themselves on fire or something. Robin – and I give him credit for this – quickly added, “but only 50% of the time.”
Nancy let out a sigh of relief and said, “Oh. Well, sure. Who hasn’t wished that?”
Frankly, I’m still not certain if she meant “who hasn’t wished their own husband was dead 50% of the time”, or if she was saying “who in the world hasn’t wished ROBIN was dead 50% of the time?” but I kept my mouth shut because either way, the conversation was going my way. Plus, I’ve met her husband. He seems nice enough but after a few decades, I bet he gets on her nerves and she has to work off her vitriol. I see her around the hood, running. Running. In the rain. In the heat. She’s in incredible shape.
During sex last night, Robin was huffing and puffing and he said, “don’t worry. I’m almost at, like, 70% dead right now.”
You know, I am beginning to regret ever sharing my feelings with him. Now he’s making this all about him. “Oh, Ann wants me to die”, “Wah wah, my wife wishes I was dead, poor me”. And I have to keep patiently reminding him: Only fifty percent of the time.
I am like a saint, right?
He looked at me with wounded eyes. He was probably thinking, “what kind of she-devil did I marry? Who talks like this to their spouse?” And then he probably starting thinking about his old girlfriends, none of whom would have ever thought about his death, much less say it out loud. He probably wondered where they are now, and if they might be on Facebook and what their boobs look like. Hah. Dude, we’re all rounding 60 years old. We know what their boobs look like. Let it go. I’m sure they have.
He said, “is it so you can marry another man?’”
Oh my God. I laughed so hard I almost stabbed myself with my pitchfork. Men don’t get it.
“No,” I explained. “Why would I want to do that? Another man? More pee on the toilet seat? Another blow job I have to give?”
“Then why?” He asked.
“Well, because.” I said, “You know. Just because. It would be kinda neat. For a change up.”
He considered that for a moment.
“Couldn’t we just go on separate vacations or something? Do I have to be dead?”
Well, I just couldn’t upset him any more, so I agreed to separate vacations. Fine. No death. It’s a compromise.
Because they say that marriage is a fifty/fifty deal. But I really know what that means.
by Tanya Ward Goodman
The mouse is named “Candy Corn.” He is grey on the top and bottom with a white middle. When we first saw this mouse, my daughter proclaimed in very passionate tones that he was “the mouse of her destiny.”
In the words of Taylor Swift : “Trouble, trouble, trouble…”
“We have a dog,” I said. “A dog that really needs to be walked and fed.”
“But this would be my own pet,” my daughter said. “I would take care of him and train him to live in my pocket.”
Because I’ve recently set some mousetraps in the basement, I worried about what might happen if this pocket training exercise failed.
“We have to talk to your Dad,” I said. I acknowledge that I totally and completely took the easy way out by saying that. I knew for a fact that my husband was going to close down this discussion pronto. As an added bonus, he would look like the bad guy while I would come off as simply non-committal.
When my husband opened our door, our daughter jumped on him.
“Mom said we could talk about getting a mouse. He’s the best mouse. The most perfect mouse…”
My husband wondered if he could come inside before he thought about adding a member to our family. He wondered if he could take off his jacket and put away his bag. He wondered if it could wait until after dinner.
Our daughter grew stormy. The emotional clouds gathered, but they did not let loose their store of tears. A minor developmental miracle. But she did not relent. The mouse was ideal. The mouse was her soul mate, her best friend, her animal totem. The mouse was needed.
My husband wavered. It was hard to remain strongly against the mouse when the movement FOR the mouse was so intense, so heartfelt. We sent our daughter up to get her pajamas on and when she was gone, we huddled.
“Why not?” he said to me out of the corner of his mouth.
I shrugged. We’ve had small pets before. Two hamsters, “FlowersHeartsandStars” and “Sunshine” were short-lived furry friends. Their deaths left me strangely bereft.
“These things hit you hard,” my husband said. “This mouse might not live very long.”
“Mice live for three years,” our daughter called down from upstairs. It must be said, her hearing is very good.
“This is the kid we’ve got,” my husband said.
This is a kid who saves bees from drowning, who rescues mosquitoes from the bathroom and sets them free into the night. She mourns the death of an earwig. She recently asked to clean out the garage in the hope that we might turn up a rat. She’s decided that when she grows up, she’ll find nearly extinct animals and keep them safe until they have babies and then release them back into the world. She wants a horse and a cat and a bunny and a mouse. The mouse will leave the daintiest of footprints on our house – the mouse is basically a fish with fur. Why not a mouse?
My husband thinks we should wait until morning to tell her that her wish has been granted. He wants her to learn the value of patience, but me, I’m the kid who eats the marshmallow right away. Why prolong the moment when we can be the beneficiaries of her complete and total love? Why wait? Besides, what if some python owner buys Candy Corn for snake food? We can’t risk it.
Our daughter’s screams are joyful. Her hugs are fierce.
And our family has one more member.
By: Ann Brown
Nina and David are coming up to visit next week. And may I just say, YAHOO.
We have begun planning. Nina emailed this morning to say that all she wants to do is lie around on the back deck chaise lounges and eat sushi. I am exceedingly relieved to hear that because last year, she and David started each morning at 7AM by going to the nearest gym for a workout. Then they wanted to get out and experience all that the Pacific Northwest – and life – offers. That was a long weekend for me.
I am, however, in a water aerobics class this summer so I don’t have to feel like such a workout loser in front of them. But I’ve only had two classes and frankly, the pounds and inches are not dropping off as quickly as I had hoped. Nina and David might not even notice that I have worked out for two hours already this summer. Unless they are reading this post. Which I don’t think they do. Being so busy experiencing life and being at the gym and all. I really don’t know what I see in them.
Last year when they visited, we instituted a new tradition: Morning Fire and Truth Circle. It was mostly just sitting around the back deck, hungover, in the morning, staring at the still-burning embers in the outdoor fireplace and finishing up the hooch from the night before, but I like to give things Capitalized Titles. And calling our new tradition Fell Asleep Drunk In My Own Vomit Last Night On The Back Deck lacks a certain, I don’t know, heft.
Truth Circle needs its fake, weenie, wannabe Native American props. So I found a twig, which we christened The Talking Stick, and reminded everyone of The Rules: One may speak only when one is holding the talking stick. I suppose Native American babies are born understanding this but middle aged Jewish adults needs remediation. Our people is not a patiently waiting for our turn to talk kind of people. We are more of a pretending we are listening to the other person but really just formulating our next comment in our heads sort of folk.
My family had tried using The Talking Stick a few years ago when we were embroiled in a heated argument about using the term, “gypped” (from “Gypsy”. Which is derived from “Egyptian”. So it’s twice offensive). My family tends to interrupt and yell and bang our shoes on the table during polite discussion, so my sister grabbed the kitchen broom and declared it The Talking Stick, hoping to restore Native American grace, order and courtesy to our brawl.
It worked for about three seconds. Then one of my kids realized we have TWO kitchen brooms. And Alia grabbed a spatula. You can see where this is going. In the end, all seven of us were screaming at each other, making our points, arguing everyone else’s points and holding on to our person Talking Sticks – mop, Swiffer, you name it. My Talking Stick was a colander. Which I used to cover the face of the person who tried to talk when I had something to say. Ah, the gentle traditions of the Native Americans.
I know it sounds odd that we would have been arguing over the topic of using an offensive term. I mean, it’s not like any of us was in favor of being culturally insensitive; it’s not like when we had a family fight over whether or not it’s appropriate to interrupt someone in order to correct their grammar. Which it totally is. Because people should know. Yes, they should. Shut up. No, you shut up.
Where was I? Oh, right. Nina and David.
We will probably have to institute The Talking Stick when Nina, David, Robin and I make our daily plans, as there are issues such as which winery to visit and whether or not we’ll use low-sodium soy sauce on the sushi, and the four of us are pretty opinionated. David suggested in his email that we allow filibustering this time but I told him that I am not certain I can stand for eleven hours without leaning against or holding onto something. And then David suggested that I could hold on to his, um, Talking Stick. His exact words were: I’ve got something you can hold onto.
I generally scoff when David works blue, but I have to admit I laughed at his offer. And then I pointed out that he ended his sentence with a preposition.
Sometimes – coming out of the shower and catching a glimpse of my naked self, for instance – a great notion is born. Like, to get rid of mirrors in the bathroom. Or blind myself with an ice pick.
Last week, however, I had a new notion:
A water aerobics class at my friend Andrea’s pool! By invitation only! Members hand-picked by me!
The requirement to join was that each invitee had to prove self-loathing in a bathing suit. And I had to believe them. None of that ersatz self-deprecation hiding some, “I love my big, beautiful body” crap. Self-acceptance bugs the shit outta me. Life is too short to hang with people who are happy with themselves. Or with others. Or pretty much anyone, really.
I told Andrea, “I am going to invite a bunch of old fat women to your pool. You may not come out of your house. Your children will have to be blindfolded. And your husband better not get near any windows or I will kick his ass.”
Now, Andrea’s husband is about as buff as they come. I couldn’t kick his ass even if he were already dead. But Rich is Jewish and Korean. I knew he’d stay away. He knows better than to fuck with a strong woman.
And so it began.
Three of us descended into the shallow end of Andrea’s pool last Tuesday. Two of us came out an hour later, as I was still stuck in the deep end, wrapped around my styrofoam noodle, desperately flutter-kicking my way back, trying to hold onto the fucking useless “shelf bra” that had disengaged itself from the blouson top of my bathing suit when I was showing off by attempting to stand on the submerged noodle so it would pop itself – and me – up in a spectacular Esther Williams-esque finale to the first class. I sort of have a problem with showing off when I am feeling insecure. It never ends well for me but I never seem to learn.
We did a lot of laughing, the three of us that first morning. We did a little less laughing this morning because One Of Us made a careless comment last Tuesday that the workout wasn’t so difficult, so our teacher amped up the aerobics part of the experience this morning and we didn’t have much extraneous breath for laughter. Last Tuesday, the only time things got serious was when Roberta told Helene about the pork won tons at a new Chinese restaurant downtown. I have never seen such a serious look on Roberta’s face. And we’ve discussed the Holocaust together.
I have no idea what the instructor thinks of us. She is a cute young thing; we are, perhaps, the first Jews she’s ever met and we are certainly the least athletic students she has ever had. I would like to believe, however, that we are the most willing students she had ever had, being as she tells us to get on our noodles and start kicking and, by God, we do it. For a few seconds. Until we get tired. Or I think of something funny to say. Or Roberta has to pee. Roberta is the Bad Girl in class. She’s our Pinky Tuscadero, pretty much doing whatever the hell she feels like doing in the pool (I can only hope it’s not peeing). Helene is vying to be Teacher’s Pet, I think. She got all giggly and shit this morning when the teacher told her that she was keeping her elbows tucked in nicely during the arm exercises. She turned around to make sure we all heard that she had been singled out for commendation. Yes, Helene. You are the best student in the class.But watch your back. Roberta could fuck with your noodle.
Shit gets real in old lady water aerobics class.
by: Danny Thomas
it’s been way too long since I’ve posted…
I’ve been trying, believe me, I’ve been trying.
it’s a combination of this new life using up all my time and wearing me out,
and the million billion things having this new life makes me want to write about…
but i have been letting these things block me for too long –
I am just going to try let it all out today in any fashion possible organized or not…. and unblock…
with the hopes that I can work to fit writing into my schedule again – even though so much of it is filled now with working…
sometimes the best way for me to deal with a million billion things – especially things as peripatetic as thoughts -
is to make a list,
so that’s what I am doing today to liquidplummerize my writing and get back into a cycle…
some of the million billion thoughts, in bullets… they are almost all contradictory…
• I am finally having to grow up, put the big boy pants on and carry some economic burden.
• it sucks to grow up
• its great to grow up
• its nice to support my family in this way
• it feels good to relieve my wife of some of our economic stress
• its hard to support my family in this way
• it does not feel good to have the pressure of supporting my family factor in to how I feel and think about my job performance
• I am not built to work like this
• I should be making art and music and writing
• I can do anything I set my mind to
• It takes time, practice, learning and patience
• this is a great job with lots of interesting challenges
• its fun and hard and exhausting learning new stuff
• learning new stuff=making mistakes=emotional roller coaster
• I need therapy
• I need acupuncture
• I need a massage
• emotional roller coasters are hard
• learning new stuff, making mistakes, overcoming hardship, enjoying challenges = good things to model for my kids
• working full time makes me miss my kids a lot during the day
• missing my kids a lot during the day makes it easier to put up with a lot of their shit on the evenings and weekends
• we really play hard and relax hard and our togetherness is more together now that i work full time
• it is hard to fit exercise in to this full time work life
• it is hard to fit a creative life in to this full time work life
• it is hard to get the laundry done
• it is hard to keep up with the dishes
• the kitchen floor is gross
• the dining room floor is gross
• the stairs need to be vacuumed
• I can barely read more than 3 pages of any book at night – including Winnie the Pooh, to my kids – before my eyes slam shut.
• it has been hard to learn how to work from home and sometimes hearing my kids in the house and not being able to go to them, or hearing my wife get hassled by the kids and not being able to come to her aid – is like torture
• shifting from part-time, non-profit, artsy jobs for the last ten+ years to a more than full time, corporate, sciencey, start-up job is a major culture shock
• add to that working from home and the work itself…
• this process been layer upon layer of multitudinous learning curves
• I wish I could talk to my dad about all this
• his job 30 years ago was a lot like what I do now…
• he was training people to use computerized accounting systems
• I am training people to integrate accounting systems and put those systems on the cloud…
• cats in the cradle…
• my dad would have a lot of thoughts on dealing with the internal turmoil of being a poet type person who has to “punch the clock” as it were – to make ends meet.
• there are so many things about this job that are great and interesting and unique…
• it is a great fit for a creative person in many ways
• there is so much opportunity to be innovative and imaginative and problem solve
• and work with people…
• and there is also this voice in the back of my head doubting if I can hack it
• and also questioning if it is the right place for me
• it might be the same voice…just…disguising itself…
i am so glad i have my family.
by Tanya Ward Goodman
My Grandmother’s death has brought the family together, but my daughter’s loose tooth has given us something cheerful to do. We are united by Sadie’s tooth. When she wiggles that darned thing, we stop thinking for a moment about how hard it will be to sell the house and what a waste it would be to send that antique cameo necklace into a hole in the ground. No matter how we feel about the President, gun control or healthcare, the loose tooth brings us all together. We plot and plan for extraction when wills and accounts and phone conversations with lawyers are the dark alternative.
Sweet Sadie with her big smile and her curly hair is an eight year old in a house full of sad adults. She feeds her virtual Ipod horse and talks to the very real cat. She curls up on the wingback sofa and flips through scrapbooks hoping to find photos of someone she knows. My uncle says we should reach up behind the tooth – get a nail under the raw edge. “Move it sideways,” he says. My brother makes a lasso of dental floss and spends the better part of an hour trying to slip it around the tiny tooth. Sadie chews gum and eats the hardened caramels we find in the kitchen cupboard. She wonders if she started running fast and fell down the big hill, the tooth would get knocked out on its own. When she is tired of grown up conversation, she cries and shouts that it’s not fair to have a loose tooth. It’s painful and keeps her from eating all the things she doesn’t like, though a child at a funeral can get by on only Jell-o salad and soft white rolls. She wiggles the tooth and lets others wiggle it. Fingers yellow with nicotine have touched the pearl of this little tooth. The funeral leaves us soggy with tears and chilled to the bone in the Dakota wind, but the tooth doesn’t come out.
The tooth is wiggly on the plane and in the taxi and keeps my girl awake all through our first night at home. She rages and gnashes and I think perhaps the tight set of her jaw will push the thing right out.
At dinner on our second night home, she asks for pliers. We have guests, but they seem not to mind, so I give her a Leatherman. We watch as she grabs and slips, grabs and slips. Someone suggests a paper towel. Once again this tooth is a project. We’re in it together and Sadie is happy to be right in the middle. There is wiggling and working. There is a ten-minute bout of frustration. Tears are shed. And just when we are all feeling like it should be over, just when we’ve begun to turn back to grown up talk, she pulls it out. Her smile is broad and bloody. The tooth is white and shiny in the black metal pincers.
And then, like that, we’re back on the girl.
by Tanya Ward Goodman
Though they couldn’t be less alike, I am lucky to have two moms: the one who spent 36 hours in labor before I was cut from her belly and handed over to the nuns in the small brick hospital where I was born and the one who wore a dress the color of jacaranda blossoms when she married Dad just before my twelfth birthday. They have both been such strong influences in my life that somehow even my body reflects equal parts of these women. I have the height and lean arms of my stepmother, the woman I call “La,” and the sturdy legs and curving hips of my mother. My hands are square and rough at the knuckles like my mother’s hands, punished by years of gardening without gloves, and like La’s, whose hands ache at the joints from the effort of turning cold clay into coffee cups and cereal bowls on a wheel.
It is not just my body that bears the imprint of these women. Thanks to my mother, I have the ability to identify plants and discern a raven from a crow (the raven is bigger and looks blue in the sun). From La, I get my drive to action, my need to fix things. These forces brought me to New Mexico to care for my father when he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes these two influences are at war. The shyness and insecurity I inherited from my mother battle it out daily with La’s brave and often blind self-confidence. Guided by the force of her will she is often able to muscle through situations that would terrify my mother. She is, for example, navigating the unknown territory of my father’s illness while Mom stands at the edge of the forest and waits for someone to bring a map.
The strengths and shortcomings of my two mothers are tangled up with all that I have been given by Dad. Dad shares Mom’s reverence for the beauty and uniqueness of the world, but his intense drive to create quickened his pace, kept his hand moving over canvases and sketchpads late into the night. That pace is slowing now, which trips up La and me. I have come home to be with him and share this time, and I want to follow Dad’s meandering, but my responsibilities often lengthen my stride.
When I look in the mirror, I see Dad’s green eyes staring back through mine. I see his long torso reflected in my own. If I cut my head open right now, would I also see a faint shadow of forgetting?
Adapted from my memoir, “Leaving Tinkertown” which will be published in August of 2013