Monday, June 28, 2010

So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen

Regrettably, there was no Dunkin' Donuts farewell party for me in the firm cafeteria this morning when I arrived to collect my belongings.

I whisked my little boy through the front entrance in his stroller and down the hall.

"This is where Mommy used to work."

My name plate was still hanging outside my office door. All of my personal effects had been boxed up by a legal assistant already. There wasn't much work to be done or celebrating to be had. I, at the very least, deserved doughnuts, or so I thought.

It's been one year since I learned in a 30 second "conversation" over the phone that my maternity leave had morphed into "eternity leave." Of course, in the past year, I have earned the title, "Employee of the Month (or make that Year)," (along with many of you, I imagine). So, today, when I packed up my car's back seat with my framed diplomas, state bar admissions certificates, and my super cool personal note from Spike Lee, it was bittersweet.

I had my baby with me, two strollers from his fleet, two blankies from his collection, a Thomas the Train bath toy, a little fire truck and a stray plastic fish. I watched him doze off in my rear view mirror, his chubby cheeks pink from the record heat. All was right in the world.

I don't remember what was playing on the radio, but in my head, I heard:

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say "cuckoo"
Cuckoo, cuckoo

Regretfully they tell us Cuckoo, cuckoo
But firmly they compel us Cuckoo, cuckoo
To say goodbye . . .
. . . to you

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu

So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen
I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye -- Goodbye!
I'm glad to go, I cannot tell a lie

I did leave one thing behind. Underneath my name plate on the door, I wrote on a post-it:

"is gone on eternity leave."

In the meantime, life certainly goes on . . .

Friday, June 18, 2010

Have I Told You That I Love You Today?

My dad used to ask me this every morning before I headed off to school. He was handsome, charming, and a true gentleman.

Having grown up in the age of free love and rebellion, my dad was also wild and unpredictable. From spontaneous whipped cream fights to screaming contests at the dinner table, he believed that childhood should be one thing and one thing only: happy.

My dad would wake us up at 11pm to catch the midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show on South Street. We would take road trips to Disney World at a moment’s notice, with him howling in excitement at the thought of riding the backwards roller coaster in pitch darkness.

On Halloween, my dad would bust out his legendary collection of costumes. He would run around the house in capes, monster masks, and do just about anything to spook trick-or-treaters, even jumping out of a rocking chair and right through the front window screen.

My dad was always cold, ever since his army days, when he patrolled the German border, through frigid winters. He wore flannel pajamas in July and pleaded for a “hot dinner” every night. He always made sure that we were warm too.

He bought me red fuzzy feet-in pajamas until I was 15 and constantly worried that my bedroom was drafty. Suspecting a problem with the insulation, one day my dad decided to investigate. Wearing his favorite Cole Haan loafers, he slipped into my bedroom closet and busted through to a crawl space. He accidentally stepped off a wooden beam and onto the insulation, which sent him crashing through the ceiling. He landed downstairs, in the dining room, covered in plaster and dust, inches away from the glass table, on his feet! Home improvement was not my dad’s forte, but still, he was our hero, always holding down the fort for his girls.

My dad loved having daughters. He appreciated the little things, like our all day shopping sprees, impromptu “fashion shows,” and the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting from the kitchen or our Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven.

There was just one thing that made my dad absolutely nuts: boys. Let’s just say he was slightly protective. Okay, overprotective. He once threatened an 8 year old neighbor boy who threw pebbles at my sister at the bus stop. But that was nothing compared to the time he chased down and frisked some teenage boys- in his underwear- after they turfed our front lawn at 2 a.m. Or the time he warned an oral surgeon to be gentle while extracting wisdom teeth from my sister and me. (My dad scared the surgeon so much, HE had to be extracted from the office!) My dad always made it clear that his girls were the most important things in his life. He warned a former boyfriend of mine as we were departing for a week in Alaska, “Look, if you see a bear, let the bear eat YOU, tell Stacy to run!”

My dad is young and vibrant, but he’ll tell you he has the mileage. He also has soul. He, who inspired, loved, and cherished us, who lectured us on everything from the lyrical genius of Bob Dylan to the “righteousness” of salmon, who never got rid of my size 3 red cowboy boots in his closet, has something in him that is pure magic.

Maybe it's in his love of nature and garden creatures and shamans of all kinds. Maybe it's in his "isms," such as, "If you're not a little weird, you're not worth knowing." Maybe it's because he's not above speaking to a dog. Maybe it’s the way he twirls us on the dance floor or makes elegant widows feel like schoolgirls again. Maybe it’s the way he delights in hearing his beautiful grandsons say the words, “Pop pop.” Maybe it’s the way he loves my mom, his high school sweetheart, who could not have possibly imagined the journey she was in for when she hopped on his 1965 Triumph motorcycle.

The magic of my father is woven so deeply into every thread of my life. From the steamy summer nights when we’d catch lightening bugs in the backyard, barefoot, in our pajamas, to the long walks on the beach, jumping waves in the ocean, and feeling the sun shining so bright on our faces. Through every season of every year, that magic left a trail of unforgettable memories. Like the time my dad put down the roof of his convertible and drove us through a beautiful snowfall, with us wrapped in mohair blankets, to our new home. He was never short on creativity.

I don’t know if a father is born with this magic or it simply emerges the first time he sets eyes on his newborn baby. I do know that something magical passed down from one generation to the next when my dad asked me, day after day, with a glimmer in his eye, the very same question I would ask him this Father’s Day,

“Have I told you that I love you today?”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Father's Day

“I wish it was the 1950s and I could hang out at a bar, smoking a cigar with my buddies while you’re in the delivery room,” my husband sighed, half-joking. He told me this at least once a week throughout my pregnancy.

“Sorry, it’s 2009, and you’ll be in the room!” I explained for the hundredth time, rolling my eyes. “This is all part of the deal.”

“Alright, I’ll be there, but I’m not watching,” he insisted.

When the time came, during a rare March snowstorm, not only did my husband make good on his promise, he even watched.

He watched as I labored on our sofa for 6 hours. He massaged my feet and timed my contractions, jotting down each time he saw me close my eyes and grimace.

He watched as the pain grew more intense. He placed a cool wet washcloth on my forehead and called the doctor.

He watched as I got an epidural. He held my hand when my heart rate dropped and told me about the road trip we would take this summer.

He watched as 10 hours ticked by and doctors and nurses rushed in when the delivery grew complicated. He stood by my side and wiped the hair off my forehead.

He watched as I pushed. He cheered for me, squeezed my hand, and reminded me to breathe.

He watched when our baby boy willed his way into the world. He kissed me. He cried.

And I watched too.

I watched as he lifted our newborn son and kissed him. I saw his heart open and unconditional love flow out.

I watched how he cradled him like a tiny football.

I watched as he fed our baby and changed his diapers when I was in too much pain to do either.

I watched as he slept next to me on a chair in the hospital, never leaving my side.

I watched as he learned how to swaddle better than the maternity nurses.

I watched as he jumped out of bed in the middle of the night to feed our son.

I watched as he changed the baby’s clothes so delicately and bundled him up to keep him warm after his bath.

I watched how he spoke and sang to our son and how excited he was to see his first smile.

I watched as he told our baby boy all of the wonderful things we would do with him as he grew up.

In those seconds, minutes, hours, days, and endless nights, I watched my husband become a man. A father.

And so it is time that my husband gets his wish. For father’s day, in addition to our baby boy, the most precious gift in the world, I’m giving him that cigar that he wanted. He’s earned it. Happy Father’s Day!

(this appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News last year, but I thought it was worth reprinting in honor of my husband's 2nd Father's Day).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Bad News Babysitter

Our babysitter can now add "DUI" to her resume.

Let me clarify: our FORMER babysitter, A.K.A. CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY.

Yes, the woman who brags about her sexual exploits the way other senior citizens boast of the polyester slacks they bought on sale at Loehmanns, now has a DUI under her girdle. At least in theory anyway.

She confessed to my husband that she hopped behind the wheel of her car all boozed up and bumped into a neighbor's car. Her front end damage tells the whole story. It was so bad that she's now driving a rental car, which has developed mysterious dents over the past week.

Did I mention that CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY doesn't see well either? That's when she's NOT liquored up. She's had various eye surgeries over the past year and she should have her driver's license confiscated or at least locked up in a safe with tiny numbers that only someone with 20/20 vision could see.

CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY was sipping tea at the small table outside her home yesterday. It was an odd sight to see her with a teacup instead of a wine glass.

"This is my new drink," she cackled to my husband. "Because one glass of wine turns into two, two turns into three, and then I get in my car and . . . "

You know the rest.

" . . . I get in trouble," she giggled, rolling her one good eye.

You're probably wondering why we would ever in a million years have this nut babysit our precious boy. Two reasons: guilt and desperation.

From the moment she noticed my protruding belly, CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY begged us to babysit. And, one night, we had a rehearsal dinner to attend and no sitter in sight.

We justified to ourselves, "CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY has a very big heart, loves our baby and our baby, too, gets a big kick out of her, especially when she plays "Bom Bom Butz" with him and they head butt one another.

Maybe it would be okay, for just a couple of hours?"

We called her. Within seconds, she was banging on our door like a disgruntled Census worker.

"Okay, here are our cell phone numbers, here is his bottle . . . "

"Can I just throw it in the crib with him?" CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY pondered.

"No, they don't do it that way anymore, you need to hold him while he has his bottle," I explained patiently, trying to ignore the fact that my recently ironed hair was starting to frizz from beads of sweat at my hairline.

"And here is his blanket that he sleeps with." I handed her a soft breathable baby blanket.

"We're fine, we're fine! Go 'head, go have fun!" she cackled.

As our dinner rolled on hour after hour, I pictured CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY holding my baby on one skinny hip, smoking a cigarette, mixing a gin and tonic, while pulling sizzling Shrinky Dinks out of my oven.

I threw back a vodka cranberry. I imagined her feeding my baby Pop Rocks, chasing them with a bottle full of Pepsi, and showing my son how to cruise the Internet for porn.

He's gonna be a good lover! CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY once told me after my 8 month old patted her cheek, as most babies do.

"Okay, that's it, time to go home!" I announced to my husband abruptly. I pushed back my chair and said the fastest fifty goodbyes possible.

We found CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY with wild bedhead from being curled up asleep on our sofa.

"He didn't want to sleep!" she bellowed, cackling. "So I brought him back out to play!"

"Was he good?"

"He's a doll! An absolute doll!" she yelled to the entire neighborhood. (Maybe she has hearing problems too?)

As I thanked her and showed her to the door, my husband tiptoed into the nursery to check on our son.

"He's fine, babe, he sleeping like an angel . . . " he reported on his way back to the kitchen.

"Thank God," I replied.

"But . . .

"What?" I spun around.

"he was sleeping with this . . . " He held in his hands a KING SIZED chenille throw blanket that we keep on our sofa.



"That CRAZY OLD . . ."

She must have brought him out to play and he probably started sucking his thumb and fuzzing the nearest blanket in sight, and then she probably tried to pry it out of his hands before carrying him back to his crib. He clearly won that battle (if it was a battle at all) and she figured, what the hell? It's a blanket. He can have it in his crib with him.

"I need another drink."

"He's okay, he's fine," my husband smiled.


Okay, what should you take away from this cautionary tale?

1. Do not let anyone babysit your child out of guilt.
2. Do not let anyone babysit your child just because you're desperate for a sitter.
3. Avoid a babysitter who has at least one bum eye.
4. Avoid a babysitter who is approaching 80 years old and hits on your husband. Kind of.
5. Avoid a babysitter who has a DUI, or by the luck of the draw, avoided getting one. Don't go anywhere near her while she's in a vehicle.

As for CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY, she still holds a dear place in our hearts. However, she will never babysit my boy again and if she wants to come over and play, fine, but I am putting away my son's fleet of vehicles. If she wants to hop onto my baby's Harley, dump truck or red wagon, she'll need to pass a Breathalyzer first!