Archive for May, 2010

My Childhood Livingroom

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

           We pushed the large, bulky glass table towards the couch, against the wall with the window.  The beige lace curtains that Mommy had hung from the cheap white curtain rod barely hid the beige roman shades.  A small plastic ring swung below the brown tassels hung mangled and torn.  My little brother, Deeky, was three years old, and I was five.  We pushed the coffee table with its gaudy golden legs, as hard as we could.  Children’s fingerprints adorned the glass top, both above and below, mingled with the streaks left from the bright blue Windex.  Then we placed my sleeping mattress against the beige couch, a thin piece of yellow foam covered with a Holly Hobbie sheet, sewn carefully around it.  The sides of the couch covered in colorful squiggly lines of Crayola fun, which my brother had left one afternoon. 

            Deeky and I balanced our tiny bare feet on the fake wood and gold arm rests.  We jumped off the couch, flying through the air, like Superman.  My mother’s cooking wafted into the room.  We took turns jumping, over and over again.  We landed joyously on the mattress, happy with our newfound source of entertainment.  We had no television.  Only Daddy’s worn out old record player and milk crates full of vinyl records in the corner of the room, on the opposite side of the room.  The paper corners on the sleeves grown into puffy little white bumps on his beloved records with names like Elvis, Frank Sinatra and The Drifters plastered on the covers.

            Then Deeky announced, “I’m gonna fly this time!” I could not contain my excitement.  He jumped off and it was a glorious flight, farther than any of our other attempts.

            I saw his head hit the glass table before I heard it.  Bright red blood trailed down his blue and brown plaid flannel shirt.  My mother suddenly appeared, she screamed, “Why didn’t you watch him?” 

            He did not cry.

            I looked down at the sheet; red liquid seeped into Holly’s patchwork blue dress and bonnet.  My mother scooped up my brother and my one year old sister, her huge banana curls bouncing along with the quick movements. I trailed behind.  She yelled up into the stairwell, to the old Jewish woman that lived upstairs, her voice echoing through the hallway.

            He did not cry.

            I saw his wide brown eyes stare into me.  Blood matted his dark brown hair as he stood on the curb.  A big, checkered, yellow cab pulled up.  I was jealous; I wanted to sit in the little fold down seats in the back.  A chocolate coin, covered in shiny gold foil was placed in my hand; my fingers were slowly pushed around it to keep it safe.  “Bubula, he will be okay.  Let’s go play cards in my house.”

This was written as an excercise in my creative writing class, it is a short story.

Mommy Guilt

Friday, May 21st, 2010

My life has a  three dimensional essence in the last couple of weeks.  Ever since being accepted to an intensive summer program by Vassar College, I have suffered a range of emotions from overwhelming panic to euphoric excitement.  Everything in my life is now planned according to three things, before I leave for Vassar, the five weeks I will spend there and after I return home.  My children’s lives are planned according to this sudden turn of events as well.  My sister and brother will care for them while I am away.

I recently met some of the students that will join me on this academic adventure, all young and intelligent.  I also met students that have attended the program in the past.  I understand this is an Ivy League school, although I had never heard of this school before I applied.  I grasp the underlining meaning of the opportunity that has been set before me and how lucky I am to be invited to participate with thirty or so other students this summer.  I am aware of the rigorous road set out for me when I arrive, days filled with study, an intellectual boot camp of sorts. 

What makes it different is I am thirty-five years old.  I am a single mother.  I wonder who am I to think I can join this group of fresh young minds.  I am gripped with panic over being away from my kids for so long.  Mommy guilt floats around my heart and head like some evil little imaginary imp, waiting patiently for me to break down and stay home with my kids.  How will the little world I created move along without me here to guide it and if it can run smoothly without me; well what worth do I have in the big scheme of everything?  Of course, it is summer and my children’s crazy schedule will quiet like the summer nights soon to be embarked upon. I won’t be there to make the perfect pb&j sandwich, to kiss skinnned knees or be the driving force to awaken my son from the grips of teenage slumber.  Yet I am sure they will be fine…

Then I think about my boyfriend, we have never been apart this long in our almost three year relationship. My female brain blinks with envy and anxiety about the gorgeous new woman that will magically enter the room and lure him away from me.  Why do we allow dramatic classic film (by this I mean black and white between the 1930s and 1940s) images to conjure up ridiculous romantic scenarios?  Or is that just me?  To add to that, why are we always the mousy girl in the background left for the voluptuous woman in the red dress, leaning against a grand piano, singing in a sultry voice?  Again, I am sure he will be fine and will miss me as the weeks pass. 

I am anxious most of all, of keeping up with the assignments and spending five weeks with strangers that are sure to become my newfound friends.  All of us thrown into an amazing setting and supportive environment.  Anxiety will linger with me until it’s time to depart and I will eventually embrace it and shift that raw energy to my academic aspirations.  However, I wonder if the mommy guilt will remain…

Spring Cleaning

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

                Spring has arrived and with it the urge to spring clean. 

First there are the easy chores, scrubbing the stove top and counters or cleaning out the flowerpots on the deck (in progress).  However, then the harder part comes, going through the stuff.  The stuff we bought at a flea market or yard sale, interesting books never read or fifty cent CD’s full of music we never listen to.  As well as the clothes that don’t fit, but will, if my diet goes well.  My daughter trying to go through each tiny piece of plastic toy, trying to decide if she will play with it more than she has in the last year.  My teenage son ignoring the piles of clothes he has in his room, in an odd system of use that no mother will ever figure out. 

Yet I woke today with a renewed interest in finally getting organized.  No more searching for lost keys or that paper from my daughter’s school.  This is the dream. The warm spring air pushed against my blinds, the wonderful scent of earth, grass, and sunshine seeped into my home.  I could talk about the cleaning I did, but I am more interested in wondering how many other people find this chore overwhelming.  I remember when I was little, my mother would wake up and decide we were spring cleaning, but it would happen six times a year.  Perhaps when she felt that the apartment needed a scrub down and immediately she would fill up a bucket with soap and water, then she handed a rag to each of us and we went straight to work scrubbing our little fingerprints, jelly stains and scuff marks from our semi-gloss painted walls.  While we were busy with our chore, she would begin to scrub our couch with carpet and upholstery cleaner.  This would dry while she worked on the rugs and moved all the furniture from every room, vacuumed and then put it back.  Those nice “vacuum lines” overlapping one another over our plush wall to wall carpeting, I used to love pushing my bare feet through them, making designs. 

Last of all, she scrubbed the kitchen cabinets and disposed the old pantry items.  I have vivid memories of the entire process, which for many years I attempted to duplicate, until life got too busy to care if I cleaned every single square inch of my home.  Of course, when we were little we just had less stuff, but that is a conversation for another time.  I’m not sure what I am getting at with this post, but spring cleaning isn’t just about getting my home clean.  It’s the memory of my mother, who passed away five years ago, and all of the effort she put into our lives.  How many hours or cleaning, cooking, washing of our bodies and clothes that went by as she dreamed of things she might like to do one day.  She did many, many things for us over the years.  Spring cleaning was one of these things, not to compete with cupcakes from scratch, but just as important.

Mother’s Day is next week, as I spring clean, I think about her and all she did for us.