Often

the words spark alive like a flame,

appear on my fingertips, and

speak their way home.

Often I feel like the outsider,

just watching this miracle take place.

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You can spend.

your whole life.

locked in your own head.

feeding those demons.

growing them.

until they completely take over.

and control every part. of you.

you deserve better.

you deserve better than a

prison. built by your own mind.

stop giving them life.

deplete.

 

 

She,

on a rainy/snowy second day of spring

Wednesday morning

reminds me a lot of a

broken soul.

Plain and pleasant,

nothing too noticeable about her

except

that she vanishes

behind long years

of calculated faces.

Most of my life I have struggled with social events,

but birthday parties are the worst. I admire people who can go to them, smile politely and enjoy themselves, which must include just about everyone. But me? My heart falls when one of my boys brings home a birthday party invitation accompanied with eager pleas of, “Can we go?” Sometimes, I’d try to hide it in the junk mail pile and hope they would forget about it.  No chance. I got the occasional reprieve if I could claim a work conflict but, most of the time, there was no excuse other than anxious-mom-who-thinks-talking-to-new-people-is-the-scariest-thing-ever.  So I went. Most of the time I’d try to hide in a corner, a bathroom, or even my car, usually behind a piece of cake. Any time someone talked to me, my sorry attempts at conversation would be something along the lines of, “I like bread. Bread is good.”

It was the best I could do.

I’ve been working on this, and have gotten better, although most birthday parties are still handled strategically with a plan and an escape route.

A few summers ago I was at a birthday party that I couldn’t avoid. Kevin had gotten the invitation three weeks prior and marked the birthday party on his calendar with a drawing of a big blue cake. Every day, usually multiple times a day, he would remind me of this event and that we should start preparing. If anyone mentioned doing anything else any time near the party, Kevin would immediately shoot down the idea. “We can’t because we have a birthday party that day,” he’d say. I tried to keep my feelings on the back burner since 1) I was getting better; 2) Kevin was obsessed; 3) the whole family was invited; and 4) the party was within walking distance. The perfect storm.

So, that particular morning around 8 a.m. Kevin started reminding us about the 1 o’clock party. The reminding continued like a cuckoo clock. The presents were wrapped. The card was signed.  We were ready. It was 1:04 p.m. We were still at the house. Kevin said with a bit of hysteria, “I feel like you all are acting like the party hasn’t already started!”

So much for fashionably late.

We walked there. Water games, a bouncy house, a Slip ‘N Slide. Kids with drippy green and blue popsicles were scattered around the yard.  I told myself I did not have to stay, but I chose to. A few minutes in, I thought to myself, “This party will go down in the books as the first one I didn’t have to hide somewhere.”

The birthday fun was exploding through the yard.  Older brother David was standing beside me, and a dad and his kid arrived.  The kid, who I will call Jake, was a friend of Kevin’s at school. So, Jake and his dad walked up to David and me. Jake’s dad introduced himself as Jake’s dad and stuck out his hand. I froze. A few seconds passed and I finally said, “I’m Kevin’s dad.” He looked at me, but just nodded. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

When Jake’s dad walked away, I realized what I had said. I turned to David. “Did I just introduce myself as Kevin’s dad?”

David laughed and said no, that he is pretty sure I didn’t, because that would be funny and he would have remembered that, but he admitted he also wasn’t really paying attention.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, about 75 percent sure.”

Great. I had a 1-in-4 chance of being a moron.

Maybe Jake’s dad didn’t notice. Of course, he did. He looked at you weird. David said you didn’t say “dad.” No, he said he wasn’t sure. You’re an idiot. You can’t even survive a child’s birthday party. Most people aren’t like this.

The birthday revelry continued. I watched the kids play, and ate some cake with fondant icing that tasted like plastic. I rebounded enough to have a semi-normal conversation with someone  that wasn’t about liking bread.

To make matters worse, David was invited to a birthday party that evening. Two birthday parties in one day. At the time David was 12, so my attendance was not required. Fine with me. As I was driving him to his friend’s house, he said, “Mom?”

“Yep?”

“The more I think about it, the more I think you did say ‘dad.’ In fact, I know you did, but I said you didn’t because I didn’t want you to worry about it.”

Mom got a present that day, too.

 

 

Love poem no 2

I wasn’t looking for you—wasn’t thinking about you

When I first found you.

To think, I could have missed you—

But then, no, I couldn’t have ever missed you.

You are forever stamped into me—

Thank you for taking me by surprise that day.

Before I ever found you, you were already there.

You have always been there.

We are alike

we both wake up early

every morning

with a few words

 

Yours are go outside

here’s your food

mine are a little more than that

or so I’d like to think

 

You pee outside, gobble up your breakfast

I sip my dark roast and play with my words

you go back to sleep

head on my leg

while I write

hoping to create

You said you need a what?

 

A few months ago, around 6:50 a.m., the boys and I were on our way to school when David, my 14-year-old, from the backseat says, “I guess I’m not going to my band concert tonight. It’s really not a big deal.”

I nearly swerved off the road. There are only two concerts a year, and they are both quite the events. “What? Of course you’re going. Why would you say you aren’t?”

“My white shirt and the black pants are too small.”

I nearly swerved off the road again. “Really? When were you going to tell me?”

“I forgot.”

“So you decide to tell me on the way to school on the day of the band concert when you know I have to work all day.”

“Sorry. I don’t need to go. It’s not a big deal. My band teacher will understand.”

“Oh, so she has been preparing you for months for this concert and you think she will totally understand if you don’t go because you failed to tell your mom in time that you need new clothes?”

“Maybe.”

I was afraid of anything that might spill out of my mouth and I guess they were, too, because  we drove to school in silence.

After work I rushed to Kohl’s to find the required white dress shirt and black pants and, of course, they weren’t on sale. What choice did I have? I was being held up at the point of a band concert. I bought the clothes and picked up David from wrestling practice 30 minutes before he had to be at the concert.

“You really didn’t need to worry about it Mom. My band teacher would understand. She’s pretty reasonable.”

Um, you’re welcome.

***

A few weeks later Kevin and I were sitting at David’s wrestling match. Now, these matches typically last around three hours or more, so a wrestling match night is a late night. Kevin, my 9-year-old, between bites of popcorn, said in the most nonchalant voice, “Mom, can we stop by Walmart on the way home?”

“Why?”

“I need something for a project.”

“What project?”

“Something about solar systems. It’s due tomorrow.”

“Kevin, please tell me this is a joke.”

“I forgot about it until just now.”

Frantic, I sent a text to his teacher, apologized for bothering her at home, and said Kevin told me he has a project due tomorrow and this is the first time I have heard anything about it. (No smiley face.)

She texted back promptly and said that, yes, there was a discovery project on the solar system due in the morning, and it was also the end of the grading period, so he couldn’t turn it in late.  (Smiley face and a thumbs up.)

That night was spent gluing and coloring Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Around and around we go.

The rules are simple: Tell me your due dates; give me notes from school when you get them; let me know what you need for a project a week ahead of time. Nowhere in the rules do the words “last minute” appear. I know they’re genetically capable of advance planning because when a friend is having a birthday party in two weeks, Kevin hands me the invitation right away and reminds me about it five times a day. They can do it; I just know they can.