Archive for October, 2013

Hey there!

Do you read Writer Unboxed? No? You should. If only because I had a very depressing post planned for today, and then I remembered that nooooo, I couldn’t write that because I had a much more optimistic post about storytelling scheduled to be up on the Writer Unboxed web site.  See? WU already has made your day better. Go check it out! (And please feel free to leave me a comment.)


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I have terrible muscle memory.  Ages ago, the first several times I tried aerobics, I always went left when everyone else went right. When I rode, my biggest fear was rarely the size of the jumps — it was doing them in the wrong order. (From personal experience, I can tell you there are few more humiliating experiences then being alone in the arena and having the buzzer sound with someone yelling “OFF COURSE!” Not that that ever happened to me.  Ahem.)

On the flip side, once I get that memory, I have it for years. (Seriously. Anyone want to see my step aerobics routine from the 1990s?) Writing is a bit like that, too.  If I can get my butt in the seat, if I can doodle around for a 45 minutes or so, the words start to come without my thinking about them. My fingers and my brain wake up and remember what to do so long as I stay out of their way.

These days, I’m trying to instill a different kind of muscle memory.  I sit by my children at night, taping together a Halloween costume, hearing them recite Spanish phrases, helping with new math. I do this not because I am so enamored of new math (which is different from the new math I had as a child, which must now be old math and is still ghastly) but because I’m hoping that I can instill in them, in their minds and their hearts and in their very muscles themselves, how much they are loved. I want them to remember without even thinking about it, to simply know it the way their lungs know how to breathe, so that when our relationship isn’t as simple, when the questions are so much harder than  How do you say cold in Spanish? and What is the lowest common denominator?, their bodies will remember what their brains may not.

Does muscle memory come easily to you? When is it useful?  And if you have time, check out this gorgeous video which includes footage of my riding crush David O’Connor almost going off-course at the Sydney Olympics.  (It happens around minute 13, but the whole video is worth a watch.)

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The days pass slowly, but oh! The years are flying by!

The days pass slowly, but oh! The years are flying by!

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Whenever we see babies, I always think (and sometimes say) how much I wish you and your brother were still that age. If I say it aloud, someone — usually a stranger — will tell me I don’t mean it, that (insert age here) is a lovely age, too.

Here’s a secret: I do mean it. I mean it with all my heart.

I’d take three again, the year you had such terrible tantrums I feared for your well-being, actually called the doctor to see what I should do. I’d take three-almost four again, when you started preschool and we began that long, slow separation process that still continues today.

Image Five, when you started kindergarten, and I watched you walk so bravely into a classroom filled with strangers, then went home and cried with your brother? Absolutely. The delicious chubbiness of nine months, when your elbows had elbows and your hair was something from a Shirley Temple movie goes without saying.

Even twelve. Someday, off in the very close future, you’ll be sixteen, and I’ll be longing for twelve — the year you are almost, but not quite, as tall as me, the year you’ve started a new school with new challenges and new friends and new opportunities, the year you’ve begun to look so much less like a child. Someday, I’ll see the year of twelve in a haze of golden light, because it will be a year that you were still mine.

You’re not, of course. You never have been. You have always been very much your own independent person. But it’s easier to pretend when you are little that I can hold you forever, keep you safe, keep you happy, keep your heart from being broken and your spirit intact.  I could still soothe your hurts with a hug or a kiss, distract you with a lollipop or toy. The hurts that are coming — and you will have some — won’t be banished so easily. The joys that are coming — and you will have those too — won’t be as easily shared. They will be your own, and you may tell me about them or you may not.

So I miss three. And eleven. And every single age you’ve been, even as each one takes you a step further down your own path. I’m glad I’ve been on this journey with you, glad to be your traveling companion, if only for a little while. No matter how far ahead you may wander, I’ll always be here cheering for you (quietly, so as not to embarrass you).

I may miss three, but I’m awfully proud of twelve.

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Today two things happened: I realized I didn’t have a blog post planned, and my daughter thought the dog looked like he wanted an adventure. I will never say anything about blog posts in the dog’s hearing again, so help me.

My kids go to two different schools now, in two different towns with different schedules, and the Slobbering Beast does not like this. He hates when a kid leaves the house on his/her own, as my daughter does when she is carpooling, and this morning he stuck to her like glue. “I think he wants to go to school with me,” she said, and at her words he went and parked himself at the door. “He looks like he wants an adventure.”

We laughed about it and I moved him out of the way and then she left for school and I went up to have my own adventure waking the boy, but not before letting the Beast out. On days when I don’t drive the carpool, the routine is we wait for the girl to leave, The Beast goes outside for a short run around the house and a cookie from the neighbors, and then he comes in for breakfast. 

But this morning, he met his match. I heard a loud noise, like a flame-thrower — Whoosh, thump, whoosh, thump — but when I looked out the boy’s bedroom, didn’t see anything. About five seconds later, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, telling me a hot air balloon had almost landed in our yard. Now, the Slobbering Beast does not fear much, but apparently this thing descending from the sky was the breaking point for him. He galloped out of the yard and headed for the hills. 

I am blessed with very good neighbors. While I yelled for the boy to GET UP! GET UP NOW! and grabbed my car keys, they were already in action. One stayed at home to relay messages and three headed out to search. The boy and I looked too, with no success, until it was time for school. I was just heading back and turning onto the road where we hike when I got a phone call saying he’d been spotted on the trails. I looked ahead of me and there was another neighbor, waving me down.  I pulled in and started calling, and within five minutes the Slobbering Beast came crashing through the undergrowth, looking a bit wild-eyed. He’d taken the cookies the neighbors had bribed him with but wouldn’t let them grab him. I’m not sure if he was spooked or just enjoying his time off, but he’s back, looking quite content. 

Next time in the morning I will say something more useful, like “I wish the Slobbering Beast would bring home a million dollars,” and see what happens. Although perhaps he already did — my neighbors are worth at least that. (Thanks, guys.)


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