Monthly Archives: November 2015

Proof of Happiness

 

Photo Circa 1967
This instant photo sort of captures that certain je ne sais quois of mornings around the breakfast table at my house growing up. (Note the bottle of ubiquitous ketchup-required for all American meals.)

Instead of sitting to write my manifesto novel for Nanowrimo, I have been looking at old photos on my laptop. I’m calling it ‘organizing’ them, but what I am really doing is procrastinating wallowing in nostalgia. Some photos are incomprehensible. Why for example did I need to take a picture of my son’s gloves with his library book? Possibly for later identification when one or both got lost? The majority of the pictures, however, besides capturing the whimsical or inconsequential impulses of a shutter bug, seems to feed an insatiable need to record the best moments of life: the trips taken, the milestones celebrated and the triumphs achieved. The purpose of photographic evidence stems from a need to document a life well-lived. But what if it is an illusion? What then?

Old Photos007
The Christmas We Beat the Tree with a Broom to Remove the Needles. (We were kids, that’s why.) Hey, Cousin Todd. Remember this one?

I have been that relative. You know the one. The person who carried a camera to all family events, insisting on posing people or worse, snapping natural pictures of people unawares with their mouths open shoving a too-big piece of cake into their pie cake-holes. We are a much-reviled breed of enthusiasts* With the advent of digital cameras and cell-phone pics, we are much harder to spot. In fact, we may now outnumber those irritating people who hate getting their picture taken. Take that you privacy freaks.

Old Photos005
You can see the joy of parenting just oozing from my father’s face. It’s as if he is warning of what happens when you gamble with your dna.

What is the source of our obsession? Why do people like me seek to pin the memory to paper? To alter and revise our lives to show only the best? Perhaps, because joy is fleeting, it needs to be recorded so that we know it is possible. That, if after enough time passes, we can believe that we were happy. We are the Kodachrome revisionists—there is no negative we cannot develop into a positive.

Old Photos029
I am the chubby little chunk in red-n-white stripes. You can just see how thrilled I am about getting a baby brother. (No idea who the guy to the right is. Ignore his inclusion in this photo. I am.)

I have boxes of pictures that never see the light of day—and probably close to a million pictures stored on my computer of people and places that I have long forgotten except when I run across them. Much like an amateur archeologist discovering a lost civilization, I am forced to sift and wonder who these people are and why they were significant enough to retain forever housed in my limitless archives?

Old Photos035
And this is the photo AFTER I have airbrushed the ink marks, random stains, and wrinkles out of the picture. It’s as good a testament of my childhood as any: This is as good as it gets, people!

Following my father’s death, I revisited our mangled childhood photos that, as children, we were apparently inspired to embellish like budding, drunk Picassos. Laden with scratches and ball-point ink pen marks, these images inspire a never-before-awakened fastidiousness in me, compelling immediate photo-shopping. (There had to be a reason I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. manically scanning and airbrushing the evidence of our crimes.)** As if I could improve on life by erasing anything that suggests it was anything but perfect. This definitely falls in the category of a bit barmy, but with as few childhood photos as my mother managed to retain despite the depredation of bored children with scissors and belatedly developed film that all came out pink, I feel it my calling to save as many of these silly moments for posterity.

Old Photos033 - Edited
This is probably the frilliest I ever looked in my life. No wonder I have a lace aversion.

So I will share with you my imperfect life. The moments where I was less than beautiful and the bizarre revelations of the hidden-camera approach to self-awareness. And perhaps, in acknowledging my flaws and letting go of perfection, I can appreciate the imperfect memories that happen when I put the camera down.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Besides the term ‘Paparazzi’ there has to be a word connoting a group of photographers! ‘Flashers’ seems to already be taken, and while ‘Soul Snatchers’ has a nice ring to it—it might get shortened to ‘Snatcher’ I don’t think it will catch on.

**I think it’s called ‘plausible deniability’.

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Best Laid Plans…

A short note as I am still stuck in the land of Nanowrimo this month.

Fear & Terror
This image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/stuart miles

I tried a new method of approaching sleep last night: falling asleep while listening to a book on tape. Typically, I can trick myself to bed early, but it’s getting me to shut off my electronic toys that is the problem. So why not try a book on tape? You listen with your eyes closed! What could be better?
I probably shouldn’t have chosen a short fiction work that turned out to be a horror story about a woman haunted by demons in her sleep. I don’t know if listening to a reader hiss the ghostly words “Leave…leave…leaveleaveleaveleave LEAVE!” in your ear is meant to be restful. But I can assure you, it wasn’t a good night’s sleep for me.

#nosuchthingastoomuchcaffeine

Earning the Cupcake

Dear Diary:

“It’s day five; I don’t know if I’m going to make it out alive. If you are reading this, save yourselves…and send chocolate.”

Death By Cupcake

Much like the Montagues and Capulets, there is a plague upon this house. It started on Sunday.

Day 1—Sunday – Signs of Plague Appear

Drag child to public events, watch in horror his inevitable descent into phlegmy madness. I race through the stages of grief like its an Olympic event and I’m going for the gold.

(Denial)

Child: “Sniffle. Cough.”

Me: “No! You are not making that sound!”

(Anger)

Child: “Hack, snort, cough, cough, (insert revolting phlegmy sound here.)”

Me: “No no no no no. You can’t be sick! We just got here–trampoline adventure awaits and hockey practice starts at 3:00!”

(Bargaining)

Me: “Maybe it’s allergies. Or dust. Or you are just leaking. If you just go in and have fun, I’m sure you’ll feel better.”

Child: (Sucking inhalation of gargling nose noise.)

(Acceptance)

Me: “Well I guess you aren’t going to school tomorrow.”

Child: “Achkrkskhclag!” (Makes noise like a fork going through the food disposal.)

(Depression)

Day 2Monday – Home From School

Child is not the least bit tired. He races from room to room, stopping periodically to cough directly into my face or into the nearest plate of food.*

Speaking of food, have I mentioned that the microwave has been broken for days now? I eat cold left-over stuffed peppers rather than try to reheat them, because battling to get the microwave to function sends child into a fit of hysteria. I am near tears myself.

In an effort to reign him in, force child to clean room. Discover bed frame has actually warped into a vague ‘U’ shape. Child manages to keep room clean for about a minute.

bed frame
Purchased this year at Kidz Bedz–really, what they should be called is Cheap-Azz-Bedz.

While I am cleaning bathroom, child turns stove on, past the ignition point, filling house with gas. Discover window I had ‘fixed’ is actually still broken as now it won’t stay open.

Survive day despite child’s efforts. Find bottle of wine saved in basement for a ‘special occasion’. This day has been extra fucking special.

Day 3—War on the Home Front

I have battened the hatches and am maintaining a hostile truce with the enemy. My child is trying to drive me mad…or kill me. He keeps spreading mucous on everything he touches. Every surface is a burgeoning petri dish of bacterial possibilities.

He spends fifteen to twenty minutes running up and down the stairs like a maniac, giggling and shrieking for all he is worth. I am afraid to go downstairs to find out why he is so happy.

I suspect he is just thrilled to be out of school. His new phrase is ‘stay home’. Any communication is pretty big for a non-verbal child. So, I’m ecstatic to hear him talking, even if he sounds like a congested, thirty-year smoker.

Any time I leave him on his own, trouble ensues. At some point, he eats the small, rubber toggle mouse that came with my laptop computer and the grandfather clock is now missing its pendulum. He is like one of the scary, Weeping Angels from Dr. Who—I don’t dare take my eyes off him.

I certainly feel like weeping...
I certainly feel like weeping…

After he floods the bathroom and then sends water pouring down the stairs by overflowing the kitchen sink, I may have threatened to lock him in his room for the rest of his life.

I call for reinforcements.  Cousins come—bearing Lysol disinfectant and hand sanitizer, they’re not stupid—to help me eat pizza and drown my sorrows in a game of Settlers of Cataan. I feel human for a very short while. But then, they are gone and I am alone with him once more.

Day—Infinity?—Who the F*ck knows?

It feels like eternity since I have had a break. Now the only break I can envision is a total nervous breakdown. I am randomly shrieking at child and alternately trying to make amends for my horrible behavior. He is fairly oblivious to both my good and my not-so-good efforts.**

Despite being sick, he isn’t sleeping much, as a result, I’m exhausted. Everything is getting on my very last, razor-wire thin nerve. Every time he does something—turn off the fridge, steal my keys, pour the bottle of green dish soap into a garbage can in his bedroom for the second time—my patience is becoming dangerously frayed. Even my son starts to pick up on it because when I shove him in his room with a strangled threat to hang him by his toes and beat him like a pinata, he recognizes that maybe, just maybe, mommy isn’t kidding.

That night, I drive us to the nearby store and pick up some well-earned desserts.*** My son picks out the biggest, sprinkle emblazoned cookie and coughs hard enough to etch the glass with his breath. The clerk doesn’t say a word about the diet coke I buy along with my sugary confections—I suspect the desperation in my eyes is beginning to show—either that, or she wants my child out of her space as quickly as possible.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake--Savor the Sanity.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake–Savor the Sanity.

*****

Friday dawns beautiful—regardless of weather predictions—because I can finally send him to school. He is still coughing, but no longer shooting phlegm so I am calling it ‘good enough’ and shoving him on the bus. I ignore his requests to “Stay home Friday” and walk back to eat my well-deserved cupcake.

As I go to sink my teeth into its sinful, rich, cake-y goodness…I feel a tickling at the back of my throat…like I might have to cough. I suppress the urge and gobble up my treat.

Denial tastes delicious.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

* T-minus three days from transmission and counting.

**Putting him in his room repeatedly was for his own safety, I promise you, not just for my sanity.

***Ignore the fact that half the Halloween candy is already gone; I do.