On The Eve Of My Son’s 21st Birthday

Twenty-one years ago I was pregnant with my son.  I had wanted more children, but it didn’t work out that way.  I can still have a child, but wouldn’t want to.  It was a beautiful, balmy, late September day today, but it started out more overcast and muggy than it was twenty-one years ago.  It was sunny by this afternoon, and I decided to take a drive in the hills.  The leaves are just starting to turn, but the scenery was lovely anyway.

All those years ago I had woken up feeling fine, and had to run some errands.  My mother was staying with me at my apartment in Vernon, Vermont, to help out after my son’s birth.  I began feeling strange shortly after waking up, but thought it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I went about my day, driving my mother into Brattleboro later that afternoon to do some grocery shopping.  While we were at the grocery store, I began feeling more odd and nauseated, but I didn’t feel like I was having contractions because I had some serious contractions the week before and gone to the hospital in the middle of the night where I was chided by the nurse on duty for not knowing false contractions from true ones.  If it were all happening again, I’d tell her what a stupid thing that was to say to someone who, a) never had a baby before, and 2) could have been in real labor regardless of what she thought.  I know she was just taking out her bad day on me, but I wish I had been more outspoken back then!

So, I reluctantly went to the hospital so that they could run a monitor strip on me to check contractions.  I got to the hospital around 5pm, and my mother and I were put in a room and the nurse on duty asked us if we wanted something to eat while we were waiting as it was dinner time.  I had some peanut butter crackers because I wasn’t feeling very well, but thought I should eat something, and my mother got a meal.  It was after 6pm by this time, and I was still waiting for the nurse to come and hook me up to the monitor when my water broke.  My mother started laughing as I blurted out “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”, while trying unsuccessfully to make it into the bathroom – as though I had an uncontrolled bladder issue…

The nurse came in moments later and said: “Well, you’re not going anywhere now!”  I got moved into a room in The Birthing Center, and I told my mother she could just take my car back to my apartment until I had the baby and would have my sister drive me back, but my mother no longer had her license and didn’t feel comfortable driving in the dark anyway.  My sister was living fairly close to the hospital so she was able to get Mom and have my brother-in-law bring her back to the apartment after my birth coach arrived.

My son’s dad was living in New Jersey during the week for work and told me he couldn’t get back until that Friday night or Saturday morning, and it was only Tuesday.  That was disappointing, but not really unexpected.  My birth coach, Ruth, was a friend I had known since college, and she had two teenaged girls and was probably the best person to have with me.  I had decided to forgo any drugs, and even an episiotomy.  (I’m just grateful being tied to a tree wasn’t still in vogue.)  I was determined to do everything ‘right’.  I ended up with forty-two stitches that my doctor said would have been less if I had let her do an episiotomy.  Lesson learned, doc!

Not to be too graphic, but my response to the more intense contractions was throwing up.  Ruth ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I was resting, and I had to ask her to please chew some gum, or somehow get rid of the smell of peanut butter on her breath because it was making me more nauseated than I already was.

She laughed because I was worried about hurting her feelings.  At the height of contractions (nearing the, literally, eleventh hour of labor) I told Ruth that I didn’t think I could keep doing it, and to her great credit she didn’t laugh at me, or roll her eyes, but just squeezed my hand and told me that I could, in fact, see it through.  I didn’t freak out and scream like the clichéd ‘woman having a baby’ motif, but it was the hardest, most painful, experience I’ve ever endured.  After my doctor sewed me up I told her that I was never going to have another baby.  She said “If I had a nickel for every patient that said that, I could retire now!”

At 5:49am on September 26, 1990, I gave birth to an 8 lb.,1 oz., 19.5 inch long, beautiful boy.  He remains the absolute best thing I have done in my life, and I would do it all again.

I love you, my dear son, more than I have ever loved anyone else.  I am so happy I got to be your Mom.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

September 11th, 2011

Ten years ago I had woken up around six-thirty am, so sick I could barely see, and called my upstairs neighbor whose son and mine went to the same school, to ask her if she could bring my son to school.

I woke my son up to get ready for school, telling him our neighbor would bring him in.  Not only was I physically sick, but I was so emotionally distraught that I was telling my son how sorry I was for anything I had ever done, or that he was sad about, and that I loved him and wanted him to be okay in his life.  I’m sure it frightened him but I had no control over what was happening to me and thought I might not make it through the day.  I was sobbing and hugged my son goodbye, telling him I loved him.  I suppose I should have gone to a hospital, but I just wanted to go back to bed.

Several hours later I woke up feeling much better, and realized I had missed an appointment so I called to apologize and reschedule.  The woman on the phone sounded incredulous that I’d be calling over something so petty as she said “don’t you know we’re under attack?”  I said, “What?!”, and she said, “Haven’t you been watching TV, or listening to what’s happened?!”  I felt defensive and responded that I was ill and just got up and hadn’t done anything yet except to call her office.  She softened her tone a bit and told me to go turn on the TV, and then we hung up.

It was just after ten am, and I couldn’t fully grasp what had happened for quite a while, and in a daze from whatever strange illness (now gone) that had overtaken me, and the events that had happened while I slept, I got dressed and drove to my son’s school to bring him home early, and went to pick up my mother to come be with us, and then I rented four comedies that I cannot remember the titles of.  I find it interesting now that in my shock I wanted my son, and my mother, and to laugh.

There was a gathering in the local park for anyone who wanted to process the attacks as a community, and I went to that, still in shock. It felt so incongruous that it was such a gorgeous, sunny day.  It seemed that it should have been raining and dark at the very least.

It took several weeks to really process it all, and I canceled going to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park within the first few days of the attack because Boston was on alert for terrorist attacks, and Fenway Park was a target – as was anywhere with a large gathering of people at that point.  Nothing happened, of course, and I’ve always regretted not going as though by that act I let the terrorists win, but I wasn’t willing to put my son or myself in danger for an ideal.

During that time I found out how much my son was affected by the attacks when he told me he was afraid that the terrorists were going to blow up the bridge we drove over every day on the way to and from his school.  I told him that the terrorists wanted to harm what they perceived as our money and power centers most of all, and that I hoped he could stop feeling afraid because now that we were aware that some people wanted to cause America harm, it would be much harder for them to do that again.

I think it took about six years before I stopped being so hyper-vigilant about traveling, especially because I flew to San Diego in 2005 and there was a high terror alert when I changed planes in Maryland.  I suppose it was good to be aware, but unless I wanted to take a bus home from there, there wasn’t much I could do about it.  It was a very anxious plane ride back to Hartford that night, and while I love flying, I’ve not been able to relax on a commercial flight since September 11th, 2001, and that fear has only been reinforced by the various attempts at blowing up a plane since then.

I thought about my sickness that morning of the terrorist attacks, and how utterly emotionally out of control I was, and I believe I had an empathic premonition of the attacks.  I have no other explanation for the extreme state I was in, and how it was gone a few hours later when I woke up, except for feeling somewhat groggy.

I am so sad for the loss of life that occurred, and sadder that it led our country into a war on false premises.  We lost far more people in Iraq through the actions of a President and politicians opportunistically ramming through their agendas while the populace cowered in fear and allowed actions to be taken in our name which we would never have allowed otherwise.

If there is a prayer-answering God, I pray that will never happen again, but I understand humanity well enough to know that we’ll always be duped when you drape the flag across whatever crisis you’re trying to sell and shame people into feeling unpatriotic if they disagree.  Now I need to go get some Freedom Fries and slap a magnetic yellow ribbon bumper sticker on my car…

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

County Fair

This is the weekend of our yearly county fair and it’s always fun.  I only like roller coasters these days, so the rides don’t attract me, but I enjoy people-watching, and looking at all the offerings of food and merchandise.

It’s still hilarious to walk down the game aisle, listening to the hawkers trying to draw customers in.  My favorite is the Quarter Game.  It’s an easy win game that takes in a lot of money because there’s no limit to how many people can place quarters on a square.  The game isn’t gaffed because the house already always takes in much more than it gives out.

I like seeing if I can figure out how the other games are gaffed.  I read an article on that once, but can’t remember how most of the games cheat the player.  Several games cost so much to participate now that it’s not worth trying to win something.

The fairs in my area are mostly agricultural, and have sheep-shearing and cow-milking contests during the day, as well as all the prizes for best in show for all the farm animals and poultry entered.  Farmers, gardeners and other hobbyists enter their produce or creative works in the hopes of taking first prize, and the big parade that officially opens the Fair is also a prize-winning venture for the best float.

During the Fair there are tractor-pulls and pig races, comedians, magicians, and even a death-defying act or two.  The biggest draw is still the Demolition Derby held on the last day of the Fair.  I think my favorite aspect is the food.  It’s the only time I eat fried dough (with maple cream) from one of the local farm vendors, and of course, french fries with salt and vinegar.  They never taste as good as they do any other time I’ve had them outside of the Fair.

I used to go with my mother and my son every year, which my son tolerated for his Grandmother’s sake as he entered his teens.  He’d spend the day with us and go off with his friends for the rides in the evening.

It’s especially fun to see people I almost only see at the Fair, whether they be vendors, or the bathroom attendant who has such a big personality that I’m sure she garners the most tips.  She told me that she travels to all the fairs up and down the Eastern Seaboard during the summer and fall, and makes enough money to live on the rest of the year.  I can’t imagine doing that for a living, but it obviously works for her as this is the sixth year I’ve seen her at the Fair.

There is something about a carnival atmosphere where personality aspects not normally present are coaxed out – much like Halloween.  I feel like that most of the time around my group, but it’s so fun when others meet me there.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Cruisin’ Back To School

My son and I rode to Boston this morning.  He drove and I did my best not to be anxious.  I had to trust, yet again, that he was paying close attention.  Even if the potential consequence was a smashed car and no injuries, I can’t afford losing my vehicle, or having to get major repairs.  I got a ticket for speeding on our last trip back from Boston, and I made sure to stay with traffic this time, or to only go a few miles above the speed limit.  I, unfortunately, love driving fast.  It is so hard for me to plod along wasting my time driving when life is waiting for me to get where I need to be.  I am not one of those who looks at the journey as part of the experience unless I’m traveling where I’ve never been.  If I could teleport, that probably wouldn’t be fast enough for me most of the time.  I want to live in the future and be able to come back to the past at my leisure while everyone else is catching up with me.

The hundred-dollar ticket would have been worth it if my insurance didn’t also go up as a result.  Today, ironically, I didn’t pass one police cruiser on the way home, but the people behind me sure were annoyed with my reasonable travel speed when the double-lane road changed to two-way traffic.  I could have driven in the breakdown lane to let people pass, which I sometimes do, but I was going over the speed limit, so they needed to wait to pass me on a straightaway, and glared at me as they went by.  I always hope that people like that will be stopped up ahead because I appreciate a good comeuppance, but I also hate it when that happens to me, so I just thought: ‘whatever’, as they zoomed out of sight.

Driving in Boston is always a hassle when school’s starting up because people triple park sometimes, or the usual two lanes which are already choked with traffic becomes one lane for miles, and blaring horns are just a pressure release valve because no one can go anywhere no matter how long or insistently they beep.  I’ve become better at not adding to gridlock.  I’ve learned to stop before a cross-walk, or at a yellow light, if I can see that traffic up beyond the intersection isn’t moving.  I try to drive considerately, and I have had excellent luck driving into and out of Boston over the last few years.  It helps that I’m getting to know the city somewhat as well.

I do think I could enjoy living in the city but, like most other people, I’d rather live outside of the constant din of traffic and people.  I’d rather have my home in a more bucolic setting and my career in the frenetic city center.

My son’s dorm is closer to the campus center this year, and I hope that will be a nice change for him.  He’s anxious about the work-load and being disciplined enough to maintain decent grades, and I reminded him that his scholarships depend upon him staying at a B average.  He’s motivated enough that a poor mid-term showing would kick him into high gear, but it’s more stressful that way.  I was one of those students whose every paper turned in may as well have been soaked with sweat for how hard I had to work at it, and while other classmates of mine breezed through and gathered A’s, I rarely got higher than a B for my efforts.

My son will get through it, regardless of the stress or ease, and it will be sooner than he could imagine now.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Six and Four

That’s how old the boys are that I provide child care for occasionally, and spent my day with at a lake yesterday.  I used to watch them regularly but changed jobs last year.  The older boy was just two months old when I started the job.

My son was in full-blown adolescence then so it was perfect work for me to watch a child who needed and wanted me as my child was pulling away.  The difference between my son as a baby and the baby I was caring for was so stark.  I didn’t know a child could be so easy to care for.  My son’s pediatrician told me that my son was a ‘high need’ baby as I sat in his office back then, crying from lack of sleep and feeling so inadequate as a parent, and indeed, I was nursing him every two hours, which continued for seven months before he stopped nursing so voraciously, and he was colicky as well.  My mother came to help me during that time, while my son’s father was two states away at his job, coming back on weekends.  My son’s father and I weren’t happy as it was, and having a child only put more stress on our relationship.  We broke up and I moved out when our son turned a year old.

When my friend’s second boy was born, I began watching him at two weeks old, and he was an easy baby as well.  I loved caring for those boys.  It was so good for me because I wasn’t watching a whole group of children as I did when I worked at a daycare center, and I didn’t have twenty-four hour responsibility for them.

I still had parenting duties with my son, even though it wasn’t very joyful anymore, but I had enough positive experiences that dealing with my son’s adolescent angst and unpredictability was more manageable than it might have been.

I would give my son hugs and tell him that I loved him every day, as he stood there, arms by his side, at least allowing me to hug him briefly.  I would say that although he was rapidly changing, I was not, so it was going to take me far longer to adjust.  It was so painful for me to go from living with a boy who wanted to be with me, who called out to me several times a day that he loved me, who enjoyed spending time with me, to the stranger who I now occupied the same physical space with, but could hardly be further from emotionally.  Oh, and did I mention I was living with treatment-resistant depression, and I was a single parent?

I might have screwed up far more than I did with my son if it hadn’t been for my childcare job.  As the boys got older, they were somewhat in awe of my son, especially the older boy I watched.  When my son was there the older boy wanted to follow him around and it was sometimes a challenge to help my son have private space when the boys were with me.  I would usually see if my son could spend time with one of his friends during school vacations or days when I had the boys and my son was around.

I took those boys on many adventures during our days together, but our favorite pastime was finding cows.  I’d drive them to farms and we’d visit with cows and read books about cows, and while other animals were included, cows ruled.

I don’t think I could love those kids anymore if they were my own, and I’m so grateful when I get to watch them now.  The last few times I spent with them, the older boy has been questioning me about why they don’t see me that much.  I explained that I had another job, and they have school now, and days that I could see them their schedule and mine didn’t work that often.  He looked at me and said, “Well, we just don’t see you enough.”

So, I can’t get adult relationships right in my life, but I have a six year-old who knows how to work a room!  Yesterday before I left he hugged me and said “I just don’t want to let go.”  I said, “I know, me either!”  The younger boy and I have a happy, loving, and super fun connection too, but the older boy knows how to articulate what he’s feeling, and isn’t shy about telling me.

I have to figure out how to spend more time with them because they’re going to be seven and five in a few months, and the opportunities to spend significant time with them grows slimmer with each year.  While I so enjoy working with children, it can also be heart-wrenching.

I’ll be bringing my son back to college in a week, and he’ll be back home for Thanksgiving and his winter vacation, but he won’t be back next summer.  We know we love one another, and our bond is solid, but he’s a man now – no matter how much I wished to keep him a boy – and I feel the grief about losing him rising up all over again.  I don’t need to be consoled through platitudes or pity – not that anyone is trying to – but I do need a new purpose and I don’t know where to go or what to do yet.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Long Ago Summer Night

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, by, Meatloaf, is playing on a humid July night. I’m reading Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Eyeball, by Paul Zindel, on the hood of a friend’s Chevy Cavalier, waiting for a few of my other friends to show up and decide what we’re going to do with the rest of the night.

It’s quiet on the Avenue, but I hear the strains of Meatloaf out of the jukebox coming from the bar next door, and I look up from my reading to watch the moths and other night bugs swirl around, looking like aberrant snowflakes in the street light above the car I’m perched on.

My shorts and top cling to me in the sticky humidity, and I hope we decide to go swimming in the Green River, or at the Leyden Glen.  We had been removed from there by police officers the week before, but they couldn’t be there all the time, so we took our chances going back on hot, humid nights.

I had worked at, Zapmia Pizza (baby), earlier that evening, and was glad to be done with my shift on such a hot day. I was anxious to meet up with my friends, and hoped they would show up soon.  Debbie was the first to arrive. I was so absorbed in my book that I didn’t notice her until she hopped up onto the car hood, causing it to buckle a little as she plunked down, but the hood popped back up as she shifted her weight toward the center next to me.

We exchanged greetings and then chatted about the book for a few minutes, and finally other friends started arriving so we made our evening plans.

I remembered this so strongly tonight that I could feel the night air around me as I did back then, and hear how the music sounded muffled until a patron went in or out of the bar and the music would blast out from the entrance for a few moments until the door was shut once again.

While I don’t miss that time of my life, and especially what was happening to me, I dearly miss my friends and the closeness we shared.  A part of my soul is back there with them – maybe it’s even trapped in some odd space/time continuum – or perhaps less trapped than enshrined.  I get to visit the museum exhibit in my mind, but it’s an empty picture of the vibrant life that was actually there.

They were the people who knew and understood me on a level that no one else will ever come close to, but they live on in my heart and soul, and I hope I live on in theirs.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

The Wild Ride

It was in the high nineties yesterday.  I helped my mom run some errands and then we had lunch and I brought her home.  The path down to her place made me feel like I was walking through a rainforest with the sounds of various bird calls, insects, and the weak sun filtering through the tree canopy on such a hazy, humid day.  I imagined that life was this way before we humans arrived, and would continue long after we leave (provided the Earth hasn’t been sucked into the sun by then – or whatever event precedes Earth’s demise).

I knew a storm was forecast for later in the day, and as I drove home, I could feel it coming on.  My gas warning light came on a few miles before I was near a gas station, but I was fairly confident I would make it as long as I didn’t have to idle anywhere.  I vaguely wondered if it would use more gas to turn off and on my engine if I did get stuck in traffic, but I wasn’t hindered by anything.

As I pulled into the gas station, however, the ominous clouds I had seen forming on the far horizon were now headed over the gas station canopy, while another cloud bank was converging into the one over me.  There was eerie greenish light in the storm clouds and a fierce wind picked up while torrential rain poured down.  I don’t know why I didn’t just stay there and wait out the storm.  I think I was worried about the gas station not being a safe place to be, so I pulled out, barely able to see through the rain pounding my windshield, even with the wipers on fast.  Traffic was stopped at a tree that had fallen across the road, so I made a U-turn to take another street.  I watched the tree limbs above me bending and swaying and while I was prepared to stop quickly, I had already decided to keep moving unless forced to stop.

I took the least tree-lined route, instead of my usual one, and at first I thought I had gone the best way; the rain had lessened in intensity, but the storm continued with lightning flashing and the wind still whipping as I turned up another side street hoping to avoid traffic or any accidents.  There was a tree in the road ahead of me, and a pick-up truck drove over to my side of the road, narrowly missing me as the driver careened around the tree and then corrected to get past my car.  I rounded the corner to see another tree down, but it had fallen at an angle with a gap large enough for my car to pass under it – which was really dumb of me, I know – but I was in amygdala/panic mode, not neo-cortex/processing mode.  I got through that to see another tree up ahead and someone ahead of me getting out of their car to check it out.  I put my window down and yelled at her not to touch anything if there was a wire down.  She ran back a moment later saying that there was a wire in the road.

My car has four-wheel drive and I told her I could avoid most of the tree top by driving up the hill around it, and she told me she was going to follow me.  I knew it would be easy to navigate that, and I waited to make sure the other driver got around it before continuing on.  I called the police to let them know that three trees and a wire were down on that road.  There were lots of tree limbs and other debris scattered about the road, but no more whole trees.  The storm was passing and I had turned on my radio after leaving the gas station in case there were any emergency broadcasts, but there was only regular programming.  I thought that was weird because it was such an intense storm, but I guess I was unlucky enough to be at the head of it.

The shape of the storm front reminded me of some kind of alien craft.  The entire edge was rounded while lower clouds were being kneaded into the larger mass, and it was very fast-moving.  I feel stupid now that my last act could have been putting gas into my car and trying to dodge being tornado fodder.  The best thing I could have done was to go inside the store and wait out the storm, or at least park beside the nearby open field.  I’m not sure getting into a ditch would have been a good idea unless I actually saw a funnel cloud because the rain was pouring so hard the ditches were flash-flooding.  Death by drowning might have been preferable to being sucked up into a tornado, but that’s a tough call.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to choose.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.