My son James has a philosophy, and it goes something like this: “All friends … all the time.”
Right now, I am hunched over a tabloid magazine in my sweats, chewing on a few little doughnuts. (I laugh; they’re called Donettes. For some reason, this strikes me as absurd, and I continue to chuckle; an unfocused laughter that lasts several minutes.) A dog drags in the room, hoping that somehow, for some reason, I will want to go out in the 20-degree weather for a long walk. “No,” I say shortly, dashing his hopes and returning to my tabloid magazine. That’s right – I’m out of gas mentally, emotionally and physically. Only a few things get me this way – school projects casually mentioned by a kid at the eleventh hour, President Obama’s stimulus plan and school vacation week. Right now it’s the third thing – school vacation week. It’s Wednesday, and I’ve already had it.
I don’t really have an excuse, because I am just dealing with one child at home right now, my 9-year-old James. But James has a philosophy, and it goes something like this: “All friends … all the time.” I looked at him recently over dinner through narrowed, assessing eyes. James was explaining his Hierarchy of Friends to his father on a dinner napkin, drawing arrows everywhere with a dried-out Sharpee. “James, buddy,” I said, “you need to live in the here and now, to appreciate and develop the ability to ‘just be,’ to live in the moment and yet seize the day. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, ‘Is it not better to read thy books in thy bedroom than to bug thou mother to drive to cosmic bowling or purchase more movie tickets? Is it not a pressing matter to leave thy mother in peace when ‘American Idol’ is on than to beg for thy friends to sleep over?’” James rolled his eyes. “He didn’t have many friends,” he mumbled to his dad, who started to laugh and then became unusually engrossed in his vegetables when he saw my school-vacation-week face. James has never met a 9-year-old boy he didn’t want to try to hang out with. “Playing alone” is just not in his vocabulary, or in his being.
Couple this with the fact that the Girl Scout cookies arrived today, and we have trouble. Girl Scout cookies are a gift from God that reminds us of the possibility of sustained happiness in this life (if you aren’t an idiot and order only one box) and also they keep our minds off of Obama’s stimulus plan, and the hope of any human ever reading the whole thing. Interesting fact: Girl Scout cookies come in sleeves that are totally portable. Simply stick a sleeve in your purse (not the pants pocket though, fellas, that would just look wrong) and enjoy them while you are driving to cosmic bowling, or the movie theatre, or to pick up gaggles of boys who are in the middle of a weeklong sugar high. You can enjoy them either sitting or standing, and if you get the Thin Mints, you can refer to them as “protein wafers” if you are out with some Uber-moms whose idea of a snack is a low-fat latte and two fat-free mints. Also mumble the words “anemia” and “blood tests were of some concern” and you can eat sleeve after sleeve while you watch 9-year-olds wrestle in the movie theatre lobby.
On school vacation week the old ATM card is also getting quite a workout, although since the economy became such a mess, I have changed one behavior – I don’t keep my receipts anymore. I just throw them right on out. I have developed what I like to think of as a Scarlett O’Hara way of dealing with the economy, which is namely, after I withdraw money for yet another round of cosmic bowling for James and Company, I say, “I’ll just think about that tomorrow.” I say it out loud, with a Southern accent, for emphasis. A funny thing I have noticed when withdrawing money is that no matter how many years I have been going to the ATM, I never pull up close enough to the portal for comfort. Last week in my first yoga class, I was trying the “Warrior” pose, and I realized that it should be called the “Not Pulling up Close Enough to the ATM” pose, because it is the exact same thing – arm outstretched, waist straining, legs aching. Conversely, I am going to chant, “The moons are in the house of my fathers” while withdrawing money in my ATM and see if my Karma re-adjusts, or becomes lightened or loosened, or whatever.
So on we go. We’re trying to be happy for friends and neighbors who have gotten to actually go away somewhere for the school vacation; we don’t begrudge people anything. (Although, if we forget to water your plants or feed your dumb fish don’t blame us, we have lives, we’re busy, too.) And yesterday a nice moment happened, and I think I’ll hang on to it – James and I (and a friend, of course!) were out to breakfast and I began to look around. Moms sitting at different tables were so relaxed, makeup-less and dreamy over coffee, really enjoying their children. At almost every booth moms whose husbands had to work this week, like mine, were taking a little time to stare into those faces and really listen to the forgettable, the mundane, the unimportant. Because to a mom, these things never are forgettable or mundane – they’re little pieces of their children that they don’t see and hear nearly often enough. There’s magic in the mayhem, and there’s even magic in the boredom, if you want to find it or if you can believe that it’s there. I’d bet my Girl Scout cookies on it.
You can connect with Deirdre at www.exhaustedrapunzel.com.