Sitting outside, in the back yard, Jack and Fiona are at Costco with my husband. I have to take a break, reflect on what I wrote this morning. It’s almost spring and flowers are beginning to dominate bare branches, I love winter flowering trees. I love the moist ground, still wet from winter rains, the decaying leaves, the new bugs and spiders, old webs that didn’t get knocked down in the winter winds, and the sun feeling closer than it has in months. I think of fertility and my experience. I wonder why I clung to beauty and that it was the goal for so long. I have judged myself daily, comparing myself to an unrealistic idea of what is beautiful? Fertility is beautiful. Being born into a beautiful new thing. I am so far from that sweet smell newborn babies have. I am so far from that beauty because I was not fertile. The image of healthy, glowing, pregnant woman? Or that sweetness of just having given birth sweet smell of placenta, baby poop, an open vagina, all bloody, sweat, and the image of the beautiful woman and her beautiful baby lying on her chest? I wanted that. I wanted to be that woman, just like a flowering winter tree, bringing new, undamaged life into the world. Natural and unscathed, “it happened so quickly, we barely tried” I would say. After the birth I would be glowing, my picture would get 1000 likes on Facebook. I would have taken the naked pictures when I was pregnant, and I would be allowed to share them on Facebook because I covered just the right spots and a naked pregnant woman is a subliminal message that propels mankind. This post would get 2000 likes. I would be a Goddess. Why are we obsessed about this? About being this? Why was I? Why was I ashamed that I could never be that goddess, my uterus broken, I was up in age, I shouldn’t even be trying to have children, “It’s not fair to the children for women to have IVF at 39, they won’t live a long enough for the child.” I read this once on Face Book. I was so upset by it and it became my truth. I was disgusting.
“The last time I took you guys here, you were little babies. It was one of the first times I took you out to breakfast alone.” I say.
“We were babies” Jack says.
“Yes, and you were crawling and wouldn’t stay still. I tried to put you in high chairs and everyone was looking at us.” I say.
We sit in a far back corner, Alan sits down first. Fiona, Jack, and I all sit on the booth side. Alan keeps telling the babies to be quieter, and reminding me I’m talking loud too. I eat my Huevos Mexicana, cut up Jacks pancakes, get more syrup for the kids. The waitress is standing at a table across from us, there’s mirrors lining both walls, so I can see her face too. She’s telling two men at the tables all about her x-mas.
“Oh, now listen to this, she said she was coming” the waitress says.
“Mmm mm” one man at the booth says, engaged in what the waitress is telling him.
“I was surprised, I mean I know she knows she should just quit because her days here are numbered. Well then, she calls me at 3:00 and tells me she’s not coming. How rude was that? I’ve got the tables set all the food ready, then my aunt calls and asks if they can “Stop By”, the waitress does this in quotation marks. It’s supposed to be a work only thing. “You weren’t supposed to be here for another hour I tell them”, the waitress says. Later in her story she says they didn’t end up eating dinner till 9:00 and the people didn’t leave until 11:00, and she wanted to kick them out way earlier. The guys sitting at the booth with omelets and hash browns getting cold on their plate because the waitress is telling them this big long story participate slightly, but finally when the waitress leaves they start finishing their breakfast. I hear the whole conversation and I’m all the way on the other side of the room. A couple is sitting beside us, reading the paper. They never make eye contact when I look their way after Jack and Fiona do something super loud, crazy, whiny, annoying, something three-and-a-half-year old’s do. I catch the old man look over several times and ever so slightly shake his head in disapproval. It was most prominent when I ordered a second helping of syrup for my already out of control twins. It was a very noticeable shake. What ever I think, he’ll get over it. Cranky old guy. I know they just want to enjoy a quiet breakfast but so do I. I say to Alan they should have a kid’s section and a non-kids section in restaurants.
The old lady and man are done, they fold up their San Francisco Chronicles and leave them on the table at Egg Woods. The lady leans in towards me, she leads with “They are really cute kids, she inserts this into her monologue several times. She says, “But you’re really loud and that makes the kids talk loud”. She tells me how that’s the same thing she told her daughter in law, that she was so loud, that she yells all the time and her daughter in law needed to quiet down. She told me her daughter in law had a set of twins as well and one other kid. I said, “She probably has to yell so she can be heard in her house”. The old lady just looked at me. Then I told her, knowing that it’s true, I do have a loud talking voice, and I’ve been told before. Alan tells me to hush constantly, he says you’re talking too loud. Still I responded defensively by saying, which is true, “My daughter has hearing loss, our house is really loud to compensate for that.” She leaned away, didn’t say anything else after my rebuttal.
I started to get mad. I should have said, “Did I ask you your opinion?” or “I’m sure you do some super annoying thing that someone wants to tell you about”. But I didn’t, just smiled. I started to think about how loud all the other people talked, what about the waitress? I even heard her say the best part of her night when her family was there was when the little kids locked them selves in the dog carrier, she said she wanted to leave them there for the rest of the night. Kids are annoying. I’m annoyed, I was so fucken annoyed by my kids all day. They drive me bananas. When we got home, Jack pooped out side and I just hear him say he wants to smell Fiona’s butt “All Day Long” No ones perfect. But I would never do that to someone, a stranger, tell them something negative about themselves in front of the woman’s husband and kids! Beady eyed old lady at crappy, greasy, gossiping waitress diner.
I can’t believe I only have maybe twenty minutes left before my morning free time is over. I feel a panic in my chest. I sat outside in the back yard under the sun this morning, alone with the robins. It was so beautiful. It was quiet, only the sounds of the chimes and birds chirping. The wind rustled a bit. Again, I was struck by how peaceful it is to sit alone in quiet. If I ever needed meditation in my routine now is the time. Maybe I should just tell the babies straight up, I need some quiet time when we’re all together. I can’t always answer so many questions, put out so many little arguments between siblings, wipe butts and feed constantly eating kids. They never stop eating or moving their bodies. It’s insane. Or talking. Kids. I’m SURE they are still too young to meditate but can’t they play quietly with their toys? And NOT watch T.V.? Jack wants to watch T.V. constantly. Oh Man. But they’re adorable kids. Last night Fiona said the funniest thing and I can’t remember what it was, but it was super funny. Jack gives me kisses and loves to hang with me in the mornings before school. We go for cool walks. Today we went to the coffee shop and I had an americano and he had a piece of lemon cake. It was fun. Fiona is wearing my bracelets! She is so sweet and creative, funny too. Last night during our bed time routine, Fiona laid her tinys(her little tiger blankies) over the vent as the heat came through. She wanted to make them warm. She lay her cheek over the blankies and stretched her legs out. She is so long, I was almost looking at a little girl, not a baby anymore. We read our books, there was a scene where the main character threw a rock threw at a window and he was put on the Naughty List! I told Jack and Fiona a story about when I was a little kid, maybe 7 or 8. I was playing rocks with some neighbors, two boys. I was with my friend, we were standing outside the chain fence around the yard and the boys were inside the fence by their dads Harley Davidson motorcycle. I hit the speedometer with one of my rocks breaking the glass. I heard their dad yell from inside the house. My friend and I ran as fast as we could, we hid in an old trailer in a field behind our house. We stayed there all day until night. I could here my mom and all the neighbors calling my name, “Jenny”, over and over again. I was so scared. Then I heard my pony neighing, I imagined my neighbors were steeling my pony for breaking the speedometer on the motorcycle. I told my friend and we decided to run back to the house to save Chu Chu. As I told this story to Jack and Fiona last night they were quiet, they looked at me seriously. Fiona said, “I want you to get your pony back” almost crying she was so sad. Then I realized I had to reiterate to Jack that throwing the rocks was bad and I was on the naughty list.
It’s a strange thing to be working on my book about my life ten years ago, examining my experience trying to have kids, looking back on my marriage, as my almost four-year-old son runs in to tell me My Little Ponies on! Thinking back on my time to “Think” back then, now I have none. I suppose if I woke up at 4:00AM in the morning I would have a couple hours. And I know all the parents reading this are thinking, “It gets easier” and I know this. It goes in waves, Nap Time was glorious, I had guaranteed time to write and paint and think. It’s been a hard road since then, no down time. I realize how fast this four years has gone, and even when I look back at my life since marriage it’s gone lightning fast. Yes, Jack and Fiona will be in primary school in a couple years and I know that is the beginning of them pulling away from me. It doesn’t change the moments in between, the loss of quality time for my marriage, and my head always on the verge of exploding. The questions and needs of Jack and Fiona are intense, non-stop. Sometimes I have to tell them “STOP” to nothing they are doing in particular, I just want them to stay still for one minute. But they keep going and going non-stop until night when they pass out. We are going through a period of extreme silliness and potty talk. Yesterday after preschool I decided to get them ice cream while I had my lunch, to sit outside in the plaza. I couldn’t talk to them because it was-poop-diarrhea-pee talk to everything. It’s just a phase, but it’s not fun to me. They are adorable kids, especially one on one it’s much nicer. Jack just asked me to put on his shoes, he’s naked and wants to chase Fiona. I guess I don’t have much of a silly side.
I can hear again. Airplanes in the cool dark November sky, humming birds starting to quiet down, there chirps become quiet and less frequent. Kids play with a basketball at the park. Motorcycles, A hum an echo of people talking, people laughing. I hear water running, my body aching, I munched it hard today at the ice skating rink. It was the kids first time skating, and Alans too. I used to skate all the time when I was a kid. I still Roller Blade. Jack wouldn’t try to Skate on the ice, Fiona was brave and came out. I skated, and it went well for a while. When everyone was done skating and were changing back into their shoes. I said “I’m gonna go one more time”. I went out and decided to skate faster since I didn’t need to keep an eye on Fiona. I started off, gliding one foot to the next. A guy in front of me said, “Whoa, that was a close one” when he almost fell. I hit some narley ice and started to fumble. Then BAM, I fell, left palm, right palm, right elbow skinned red, left front knee, skid both knees. “Are you OK?” someone asks. I look around hoping my kids didn’t see me munch it. I said, “I’m fine and laughed it off”. It hurt BAD. Skinned by the ice ain’t no joke. It burnt, and hurt, and was numb all at the same time. When I came home I took a shower and got dressed for dinner. If I would have put on my pajamas I would be in bed for the night right now.
Armageddon. I’m not feeling very comfortable with the thick, light grey, low lying, cool, eerie smoke-filled sky outside. Not one bit at all. It’s almost like in a movie, when everything gets still and then a catastrophic event happens. No one’s safe anymore. The hills look like they could ignite, like they are living creatures. I don’t hear anything right now except the kettle and the circulation fan. A few birds fly by and the trees start to rustle. I pour boiling water over coffee grounds. I think about how my personal, internal filter is completely gone. I’m exhausted after so many tragedies week after week. Jack and Fiona know about floods, hurricanes, white supremacists, gun violence, fires, smoke in the air, Trump, North Korea, sexism. I can’t protect them from all this information, and haven’t tried that hard. This is their reality, this is what they are growing up in. This is the world that they live in. I must lock them in the house today when they get home. They can’t play outside in the smoke. I don’t want them to watch T.V. either. It’s seeming stupider and stupider, those shows they watch. Especially Jack, his taste in shows is way too mature for his age. He’s starting to act like a teenager already and he’s only three and a half.
The shadows today are very strange. Muted shadows and reflections, almost an orange glow. Sun peers out through smoke, hit a book on my table. Still, I enjoy the quiet, the before every other minute I hear Mommy. I walk away for one minute, I tell Jack and Fiona where I am going, what I am doing and the minute I get there I hear Mommy. It’s an annoying phenomenon. Ten minutes. Shit that went by fast. I need more time before facing reality. Or should I say more time to not face reality, like time to go work in my studio! That is what I need today. Painting time.
What is it about Mondays? Every week lately, when I wake up Monday morning there’s a catastrophic event. Today, the Fires, burn hot, red sun, Smokey skies. Depression, fear, general sickness sets in. I panic. What will I do, kids wanna play outside. They are finally starting to relax indoors now after we spent the day at the mall. Stay away from the ash. People gather together indoors. A group of us meet to take the kids to the new My Little Pony Movie. After the popcorn, sour apple candies, and the seven-up; about fifteen minutes into the movie; Fiona crawled onto my lap; all the sudden My Little Pony had green eyed monsters running around. It got scary. Next Jack got scared, then Fiona’s two friends. Pretty soon we were all back out in the mall. I told the ticket lady the movie was too scary for three-year old’s, how do you make My Little Pony scary? And Why? She gave me a refund. We walked around the mall parenting. I was tired, from the shock and sadness over todays tragic event. I told the babies how lucky we were, to be safe from the fire.
Yesterday we went to the city, we hung out around Stockton and Grant. We ate Chinese food, walked through an ally where a man practiced Kung Fu, saw a mini Chinese parade with a paper dragon and giant drum, a loud Motorcycle parade rumbled by, Italians in Maserati’s, and the Blue Angels roared overhead. On Saturday we went to Pt Reyes, sat in the sun, wind, looking out into the great sea. Now I am back at home, it is a mess here. I can’t do anything to clean it, no energy, possibly a few loads of laundry, possibly the dishes. I feel so overwhelmed and short fused. My daughter is sitting right next to me, I tell her to give me space and she smooshes into me closer and closer. She keeps talking to me and I can’t help but laugh. She asks me why I’m laughing. I tell her she’s making me laugh, she gives me a hug. She has popsicle all over her face. Jack keeps asking me for a snack. I’m going crazy, but feel anchored , grounded by Jack and Fiona’s nudging.