Indulge me, won't you? and hazard a guess:
How many text messages do you think Youngest sent and received in the last month?
Indulge me, won't you? and hazard a guess:
How many text messages do you think Youngest sent and received in the last month?
Two days before I took the picture of the vodka bottle in Oldest’s bathroom, I was in our garage/gym/laundry/storage/TV room when I heard Oldest’s car come up the driveway. We had had a fight the day before and were now speaking only when required. I heard him get out of his car and walk to my car. I heard him rustling around in the plastic shopping bags I keep in the trunk. I don’t even think I went so far as to wonder why. It was a slightly odd occurrence. I may have wondered idly, "Why the fussing? Why not just get one and put it to use?" But probably not. I was still annoyed. I didn’t think anything of it.
Despite the fact that he made an effort at dinner that night to participate, to pull his weight, I was still annoyed with him. He got up after dessert and said he was going out. From outside, I watched as he walked across the length of the living room. He carried a plastic Whole Foods bag. I noticed that he carried it a little oddly, not hanging from the handles, but slightly strangled, a shade too tight, a hairsbreadth too self-conscious. I was still annoyed. I didn’t think anything of it.
In the night, he walked past our room without announcing his return. I was still annoyed. I didn’t think anything of it.
The next morning, I went rowing early and as I eased my car into our crowded driveway, I saw his car. Something made me think of the rustling of plastic, the strangled hold. The idea of the bag, like a particularly buoyant piece of wood pushing its way through the flotsam on a crowded watery surface, arrived at the top of my brain. What I thought was, I wonder what was in that bag?
I went to have a look. It was right there on the passenger seat. Since I don’t much believe in snooping, you might think I would have been more conflicted, but I wasn’t. I looked in the bag.
Two half-empty bottles of Coke. One half-empty bottle of Jim Beam.
I don't know what or how to think.
Not that I always, oh, well all right, not that I ever do it, but I know that in highly charged situations with one's children, it is always a good idea to examine one's own emotional terrain before engaging with them in theirs. To wit, I grew up in a house in which half empty vodka bottles, some stashed in hiding places, some in plain sight in the liquor cabinet with a tell-tale loosened, carelessly returned cap, figured mightily.
That may have had just a little to do with my obsessive organizing of the pantry, dontchathink?
I am here to report on our newly-refined Easter egg hunt. As you may recall, the idea was that each person would write a word on his or her egg, a word that described something he or she wants in life. A sampling of words written on eggs: joy, light, today, $, inner peace, being, my thumb, a 6:20 2k, driver's license, awareness. After each person found one egg, we went around in a circle and talked about our reaction to what we had found.
I found $.
Not what I had expected from my experiment in deepening our holiday tradition.
That said, it was interesting to be brought to thinking about money, the idea of finding it versus earning it, how lucky we are that we have enough of it.
And being brought to a place of gratitude, that's a deepening.
Writing the words with the "invisible" crayon was only marginally successful. Requires a bit of practice. The effect, if it works, is fantastic. The word is ghostly against the colored dye.
Note to self: next year, stronger dye.
But the newly revised Easter egg hunt? I think we'll keep it.
I hope all your celebrations bring you a deepened sense of connection to what is most important to you and those you love.
Here is what I saw when I walked into Youngest’s room today. He was sitting in front of his computer, casually tipped back in his chair, while simultaneously a) video chatting with a girl AND b) talking on his cell phone to someone else AND c) communicating via iChat with four other friends.
This was one of those moments when I am brought face-to-face with the differences between the world I knew as a child and my children's world. I know I want for them the best of what I had as a child, and I attempt to spare them the worst. But when it becomes clear that they are growing up in a world that is radically different from mine, I sometimes lose my bearings. I don’t know what to think. This is not a state of mind I am particularly comfortable with, as you might have guessed if you have been reading this blog for, say, a day-and-a-half.
There are numerous ways the scene in Youngest’s room bore no resemblance to my childhood. First, and most obviously, the computer and the cell phone. Neither existed when I was a child. For the twelve people in my family, we had one phone line with three phones. When I was an adolescent, my brothers and sisters and I fought to use the single line. I remember talking for hours to my best friend, T, in long, meandering conversations punctuated only by the sound of increasingly annoyed siblings picking up the phone to see if they could grab the open line. I treasured those conversations in part because I was exploring the first real friendship I ever had, but also, probably, because I must have taken an obscure pleasure in holding onto something that my siblings wanted.
Everyone in my current family has their own cell phone. I have been known to tell, make that yell, at my children that the only reason they have a phone is so that I can get a hold of them when I need to. The fact that they never have to fight for the land line is just an ancillary benefit of my desire to be able to stay in contact with them. Or is it?
I read somewhere long ago about a study of adult sibling relationships which compared the adult sibling relationship of those who had shared a bathroom growing up with those who did not. They found that children who shared a bathroom grew up to have closer relationships with their siblings than those who didn’t. This makes great intuitive sense to me. If you are forced to share, you are forced to learn the arts of relationship: compromise, flexibility, turn-taking, respect for the needs and time of others. My children, each with their own cell phone, have one less opportunity to learn those lessons that I and my siblings were forced to learn.
So back to Youngest, video chatting and iChatting and cell phone chatting. The scene is not exclusive to him, by the way. I have walked in on both Oldest and Middle in similar circumstances. Youngest looked up from his many conversations and grinned at me. I shook my head in wonder and consternation and left, becoming more positive with each step that the signal of real friendship, of intimacy, of connectedness would be lost in the chatter of new technology.
And then, I remembered that, right after the phone was invented, before every house had a dedicated phone line, everyone in town shared a party line. The town’s news: births, deaths, war, peace, feuds and reconciliations all were announced through a shared line.
The technology has changed. Youngest doesn’t have to fight, as I did, over the vehicle with which he connects to his friends. That is something new. And yet perhaps it has also come full circle. Because he can share, as I could not, his news with his whole town.
Maybe what I walked in on is nothing more than a 21st century party line.
My mother, bless her, is a bulldog.
She called this morning, early.
“I have been thinking about your Easter egg hunt,” she announced without any preamble. She then proceeded to convey to me what I think is probably the apotheosis of the egg hunt - or at least it will be in our house. Here is the plan:
Every member of the family gets one egg upon which he or she writes a word that represents something he or she is hunting for in life. For family members who need a little inspiration in the word department, I am going to print out these suggestions. On Easter morning, everyone hides his or her own egg and hunts for the eggs that the others have hidden. Once you have found an egg, you stop hunting. That way, we each find what another is searching for.
I decided to run the plan by Youngest, since he so adamantly insists that he not get cheated out of the fullness of his youth just because his mother can’t deal with loss and change.
“Youngest,” I announced (you might notice the resemblance to my mother) “we are not going to be having a typical egg hunt this year. We all know there is no Easter bunny…”
I trailed off. The look on his face stopped me cold. He stared at me, wide-eyed, open-mouthed. The picture of shock. How dare I say such a thing?
He kept staring.
I laughed some more.
His face didn't move at all.
I laughed so hard I banged my forehead on the steering wheel.
He surreptitiously checked the look on his face in the rear view mirror.
I couldn't believe he could hold it so long. I kept laughing.
He kept staring.
I gave up.
“OK, OK, there is an Easter bunny."
His face returned to normal, a picture of benign interest.
"But we are going to handle the hunt the way we handle Christmas stockings,"I continued. "We are all going to give the Easter bunny a hand.” I then explained the re-born Easter egg hunt scenario.
“Sound good?” I asked.
He nodded his assent.
“Great. So off the top of your head, what word do you think you will put on your egg?”
“Mom,” he said slowly, as if speaking to someone exceedingly dense, “That is not something I can come up with off the top of my head. I am going to have to think about that. It’s gonna take some time.”
He knows his own heart and mind, my Youngest.
After reading all the thoughtful and thought-provoking comments on that last post, I have spent more than one day puzzling over whether or not to let the Easter bunny hop off into the sunset. When I couldn’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, I decided to go back to the source.
My source, that is.
“Mahhhhhhmmm,” I cried when my mother picked up the phone, just as my boys yell for me from the depths of their rooms, “I don’t know what to do about Easter.”
We discussed my dilemma, the sense I have of being trapped by the trappings of our traditions, the unhappy disconnect between the purpose of the celebration and its expression, my discomfort with the commercialism that has crept all over the holiday like some sort of toxic mold.
She is devoutly Catholic, so her go-to response when asked how to rein in the sugar-crazed insanity is to go back to the story of Christ.
“That’s not going to work for me,” I pointed out. It is a source of great sadness to her that most - make that all - of her children have, how might I put this politely, ambivalent feelings about Catholicism.
In the awkward pause that ensued, I changed the subject to my paper easter egg. One thing I realized after posting the picture of my beautiful paper egg is that there isn’t an Easter bunny anywhere to be seen on it. Just daffodils, narcissus, forget-me-nots and pansies. What, I wondered, would happen if I simply took the Easter bunny out of the equation?
I mean, I love the concept of the egg hunt. I can easily see the egg hunt as a metaphor for the essential human quest for meaning, for wonder, for a connection with the mysteriousness of life.
In that scenario, the eggs themselves are the point. Not the candy, not the coins. The eggs become symbols of what we hunt for, all our lives.
I am so fine with this idea.
Did I tell you my mother is no slouch in the holiday department? Well, check this out. She had the idea of writing words on the eggs. You know those crayons that you can use to write on the eggs so that, after you dye the eggs, the letters stand out bright white against the color?
Well my genius mother suggested writing words on the eggs. Words like: Joy. Wonder. Enlightenment. Mystery. How's that for deepening the tradition, reconnecting with the point of it all?
So now, my brilliant readers, will you help me with my re-born Easter egg hunt? I’ve got a lot of eggs to hide and those eggs need words. What do you hunt for in your life? What would you most like to find?
I was talking with my mother the other day when she asked me casually, "What are you doing for Easter?" I pulled a complete blank. It was almost as if I didn't know what she was talking about. To buy some time, I asked when it is this year. She told me, but I can't remember what she said.
That is how not into Easter I am.
I had not even thought of Easter until that moment. It's just not on my radar. For one thing, we don't go to church. I was brought up Catholic and thus am familiar with the old saw that Easter is a far holier holiday than Christmas, but I am so disgusted with the Catholic church that it has tainted the few - make that the one - positive association I have with Catholicism. And any magic the Easter bunny once held for my children has long since dissipated like an early morning mist.
If I purchase gifts, my children will happily open them. If I go to the trouble of buying three dozen eggs and assorted dye kits, hard boiling the eggs, laying out the newspaper, mixing the vinegar with the dye in appropriately-sized cups, and laying the entire creative endeavor out on the kitchen counter, they will happily dye a few eggs. At least three minutes worth. If I decorate the house with the paper easter eggs I have bought at the flea market in years past, they might notice them. If I place assorted jelly beans in the paper eggs, they will definitely notice them. If I pull out the easter baskets and fill them with foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and life-sized chocolate replicas of the Easter bunny himself, they will happily consume them. And if I make an Easter ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon souffle, they will merrily scarf that down too.
There is no doubt in my mind that everyone would enjoy Easter if I decide to create it. But the question for me today is, should I? Or is it time to let the Easter bunny hop on down the bunny trail for good?
Sometimes I feel that as a mother, I am the keeper of traditions that then end up keeping me. This has, oh, everything, to do with the fact that I do all the work. And when I am all caught up in the buying and the wrapping and the decorating and the buying of the stuff that I didn’t buy the first time, I lose myself and my own work.
Apart from the fact that it consumes me for at least a week, there are other perfectly good reasons to not celebrate Easter. To wit, its now wildly commercial nature and the fact that we are completely non-religious.
I do want celebratory moments in our family life. But do they need to be linked to ancient traditions that I don't espouse?
Part of me wishes I could take the Waldorf route and celebrate the equinox, or whatever planetary event it is that is supposed be the harbinger of spring, but I really don't have it in me.
I decided to check in with Youngest and get his read on the situation. As he dropped his backpack and opened the refrigerator for an after-school snack, I asked cautiously, "Youngest, do you even care if we celebrate Easter this year?"
"What!" he asked with a slightly panicked look. "When is it?" He seemed worried that we had somehow already missed it.
"I don't know exactly," I replied vaguely, "sometime over vacation."
He knew instantly where this conversation was going because he actually pointed his finger at me and declared in a loud voice, "We WILL be celebrating Easter! Easter is my favorite holiday ever!"
"You don't even know when it is," I replied mildly. "How favorite could it be? I was just thinking..."
He interrupted me, "I am ONLY thirteen! You overestimate people's ages."
He makes a point. There I go again, prematurely ending motherhood.
OK. Fine. For at least one more year, the Easter bunny can make a stop at our house. But I am NOT helping him hide his eggs.