We were having a bad day.
Brooklyn was a snowy wonderland, and we were inside, getting mad at each other. Nothing worked right. The place was a mess. We should clean more, we should be more organized, but there's never enough time. We were in each other's way, because there's not enough space, never enough space, and we yelled. Then we hugged and apologized and then discussed our rational and well-thought-out points which devolved into more yelling, and then a second round of hugs (shoved together by Henry, who had really had enough of our behavior). We retreated to our corners. We pledged to be better in the future.
Outside the sky was turning bright, and there was all this snow, crying out to us, SLED ON ME. Now. Jerks. It was time to cheer up. Because: snow! Last year it never snowed, after all, and the sled sat in our upstairs hallway, whimpering softly to itself. Personally I loathe sledding, but the men in my family want nothing more than to hurtle down slopes, and I like to watch them and wring my hands.
We layered up and trudged outside, where the fun times could be had. Only, Henry's boots were bothering him. We're a few blocks to the park, but every few feet we had to stop so Henry could examine and adjust his boots. He was pretty grouchy about it. He kept taking them off. We were losing our patience. Everything, I thought, is terrible. We are incapable of joy. Around us all the happy families were passing us on their way to the park or back from the park, laughing, holding their sleds, probably going home to whip up artisanal hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.
One block, two blocks. The wind was gusting in our faces. The seventh time Henry stopped to adjust his socks I wondered why we bothered going out, ever. Why everything had to be so fucking hard. I sighed heavily and Scott cursed under his breath and Henry was, I am sure, heartily sick of both of us.
Finally we got to the park, where everyone in the universe already was, and all having a delightful time. No one seemed to mind that they were sharing a relatively small hill in the park with everyone else in the universe. People were crashing into each other, sledding into each other, squealing and cheering. I stood up there, watching them all, wondering how they stood it.
There ensued some complicated sledding adventures. Complicated because there was too much humanity present on the hill to actually sled, and also the boots. THE BOOTS. By the time we left I was sure I had gone terribly wrong, not just in one area of my life, but every single one of them. Henry insisted he could barely walk, and he was being pretty dramatic about it, and I thought, this is because of the morning we had. Because I lost my shit and yelled loudly enough for the neighbors to wonder about me. I have literally hobbled my son.
When we got home I took a close look at his boots. Turned out they were TINY. Because the last time we needed snow boots it was 2010. They were at least two sizes too small. We didn't hobble our child emotionally. WE HOBBLED HIM WITH SMALL BOOTS.
Then we ordered him a pair of new boots, put on a movie, drank hot cocoa, and had a perfectly lovely day.
It occurred to me later on, Small Boots is every imaginary problem I torture myself with. Every dilemma I'm sure is insoluble, but could be fixed, if I dedicate some energy to focusing on solutions instead of the problem. And really, we have no big problems. We need a few feet more space, a few hours in the week. Boots can be purchased; time can be found; a few household-management changes can keep us from blowing up after a stressful week. It's all Small Boots. I'm no life coach, and I promise not to make this my catchphrase, but you have to admit, it has a ring to it.
Entries in family (19)
We were having a bad day.
I keep absentmindedly rubbing the inside of my eye. Not the INSIDE, it's not like I'm rooting around in my optic nerve. I mean the part around the tear duct. Probably I mean "the tear duct." This move then activates mysterious Itch Receptors all around the inside rims of my eyelids and subsequently I want to spend the rest of the day scratching at my eye-coverings with a shrimp fork. What kind of fucked-up god or Science Devil decided this was a good plan, to make the tear-duct area so exquisitely sensitive to any kind of rubbing/scratching/poking? All it takes is the least pressure with my finger or knuckle or dog nose and then JUST LIKE THAT mascara is running into my cleavage while I claw at my face. I can't remember if this happens all the time or it's some kind of allergy-related itchiness. Has it happened my whole life? My brain has cleared all the eye-scratching memories right out of my head. It's like there have been more important things!
I do clearly recall the time I scratched my cornea, because you don't forget a thing like that. I still maintain that my corneal scratch was more painful than childbirth. Certainly less rewarding. Absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. Except for an infection a couple of months later, which was just as painful and decidedly un-cute.
How did I scratch my cornea, you may be asking? Here is the true answer I gave to every medical professional I dealt with that day: I poked myself in the eye. With my finger. The entire story is that I was trying to get something out of my eye when my cat startled me, but the cat detail didn't seem important. I can't blame the cat for this genius move. The fact is, when your finger is already resting against your eyeball, you should concentrate. And really, what could the cat have been doing that was really so alarming? I can't even remember. This was a cat we had long ago. She's dead now, and cannot answer my questions. Even if she had leapt off the armoire and sailed past me like a flying squirrel I should have at least REMOVED MY FINGER before turning to see what she was up to.
This actually looks like something my old cat could have done. She was kind of flappy.
Speaking of eyes, which it appears I am doing, my sister tore her retina a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't anything she did or (fortunately) anything I did (I would really hate to have injured someone else's eye with my wayward fingers); apparently this can just…happen. Bodies! They are totally fucked.
She had to have emergency futuristic laser-cat surgery (except without cats) and then, you guys, THEN. Then she was instructed to not move her eyes for a week. A WEEK. I still cannot get over this. The period has already come and gone and I am still talking about it to anyone who will listen. No eye movement for a week! She could not: read, email, Internet-browse, cook, use a phone, or take a walk. All she could do was watch television (from a distance), and, I guess, stare into space. Probably she could also bathe. BUT NO READING THE SHAMPOO BOTTLE. No reading! At all! Do you know how much daytime television she had to watch? How many Dove commercials about the perils of discolored armpits? Do you think this caused permanent emotional scarring because I DO. It scarred me, and I only had to hear about it.
I called Liz a few days into her no-eye-moving trial and I was like WAIT A MINUTE WHAT ABOUT RAPID EYE-MOVEMENT. How do you control your dreams, Liz?! And then she had to explain to me that the goal was to minimize movement as much as possible, that of course some movement was inevitable, and I breathed into a paper bag and we were both okay.
And then my eye started itching again. I wasn't going to call her back to update her on this itching situation. But then I realized she had nothing better to do than to listen to my problems, and anyway she shouldn't watch that much Kathie Lee and Hoda. And the moral of this story is that I am a really, really good sister.
Oh, you guys said some lovely things about my sketch-paintings. Thank you! My heart is warmed. Now I have Hot Heart Syndrome. The doctor said I'll be okay, as long as I'm not startled or upset, ever.
So listen, I would love to illustrate whatever, but I can't draw anything that isn't right in front of me. This is my terrible secret. Seriously, I have no visual memory. I can't even really picture what an elephant looks like right now, much less draw it. (It's gray! And…and looks like a briefcase! Wait, no, that's wrong. Four Ionic columns and a cloud?!) If I were to illustrate, I'd need to see everything I needed to represent. This could get tricky for, say, a children's book. "Listen, I'm glad you want me to illustrate Mr. Wubs and the Tricky Mubbles, but unless you get them all to my apartment and force them to stand still, I really can't do business with you. Yes, the Mubbles too. I understand they're tricky. Not my problem."
Changing the subject awkwardly: On Christmas day, my parents gave me a pair of warm mittens. They are adorable, in addition to being warm. (It was not the only gift from them. My parents are nothing if not overly generous.)
ANYWAY, after we were done gifting, my mom said, "By the way, the mittens came with a hat, but I think there's something wrong with it." She showed me the hat, which appeared to be perfectly acceptable and something I would happily place on my head.
But then I tried it on:
"You see?" she said. "I don't know why it looks so goofy."
"I can't see," I said. "I'm so confused. Everything is dark. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME." I stumbled around and my mom laughed a whole lot. I suspect this was a Christmas gift to her.
And then my sister walked in and said, "Yeah, you have it on backwards. Also, don't tie it, oh my god."
This reminded me of this one summer in college when I worked as a bank teller, and I was terrible at it, just awful, and a fellow teller said to me, helpfully, "There are different kinds of smarts. You have book smarts. You just don't have…life smarts."
It took me this long to discover that I also don't have hat smarts. At least in this case I can blame my mom.
While sifting through boxes of embarrassing photos and scrapbooks, I came across this missal I had received as a gift on my First Holy Communion.
Here I am on that day:
I haven't removed the veil since.
This is clearly a missal meant for youngsters, so that they may be instructed on how Mass works and not suffer an attack of the conniptions when the priest announces that he's about to feed the congregation the body and blood of a human being.
Here's the missal:
Its contents are a rare treat of 1970s sincerity and inadvertent double entendres. I finally figured out how to operate our scanner, so now you get to enjoy it along with me!
"'TAKE AND EAT' says the LORD"? Is the Lord saying it, or that shady character in the vestments?
"Do not fear me, children. I bear snacks. Sacrament-snacks."
I won't really show you every single page, but I especially love the beginning, in which we're told that we begin Mass, basically, by feeling terrible about ourselves. Also: it's very important to have sorrow, but we don't have to feel sad, but we have to mean what we say, which is that we feel sorrow? So we feel sorrow but not sad but how does one feel sad without sorrow or no wait the other way sorrow not sad but sorrow DOES NOT COMPUTE [everything overheats]--
"I humbly beg your forgiveness for this carpeting, O Lord."
"Behold! A trim man-child brings me The Gospels!"
"He looks taller when he's reading. Or is that simply because I'm farther away now? Perspective is a funny thing. I think that's in Paul's Letter to the Corinthians."
"This is how I read books. But how do I turn the page, children? HOW?!"
Please note that last paragraph:
"Gifts look best when they are gift-wrapped. So, we come to Mass well-dressed. The priest, especially, in his beautiful vestments, is 'gift-wrapped.'"
"Who wants to unwrap Father Kevin?… anyone?"
"The body of CHRIST would you kids cheer up? No one's making you stand up here! Okay, I guess your parents are. You got me."
I could go on. I really could. But honestly? I feel a little guilty. And I think I might be going to hell for this. I just hope that I get off easy and maybe spend a few millenia in purgatory, amen. Oh, and in case you're wondering:
"Wait, where are you going? I'm making espresso."