I hold on to Jackson’s arm as he flings him self around me on a set of bleachers. It is Layla’s eighth grade graduation and I was trying to hold onto some sort of emotion long enough to be nostalgic. It is really hard when my head turns like a wind up toy every time Jackson breathes funny. Josh had already taken Cece out to the hallway but I was stubbornly holding on to the notion that I would see them announce her name. I craved hearing the words they used to describe her, creative and poetic. I fought the urge to raise my hand and list off additional synonyms for Layla Taylor: artistic, unique, passionate, genuine, old soul, good friend. I can go on and on and on – and not just because I am her mother. “Are we bringing them to the ceremony?” she asked, in the snarky teenage tone that suddenly worked its way into her inflection range. “They can’t stay home alone.” I said, in my new defensive tone – a mom/teenage hybrid. This is common now. Teenagers and toddlers are the epitome of the self-centered years, the time in your life where being an asshole can be explained simply by referencing age and everyone nods in agreement. Trying to explain to Layla that Jackson’s behaviors are mostly because toddlers lack impulse control is like explaining to Jackson that Layla is hormonal.* Back in the gym, as I am just as focused onto Jackson and I am swallowing my tears as a beautiful girl stands on the podium, with a soft pink dress that contrasted her bright green hair, and she is giving a speech about how much middle school made her grow. I envied her, almost as much as I envied Layla, at the very beginning of adult hood with so much ahead. Like a Hallmark greeting card, I mouthed the words along knowing the theme and how graduations go. I look at Jackson; he is sitting on the step smiling at me. That smile, the way he twists his lips into a perfect little grin, he looks angelic – and completely full of mischief. I see the spark and he ignites, across the gym floor. I am spry and suddenly thankful for all the running I do as I dart across he gym after him. I could hear the entire gym laughing. My mouth can’t figure out whether to laugh or cry and my lips start shaking at the confusion. I realize half my bra may be hanging out, but I am moving too fast for anyone else to notice. “Good catch” someone comments as I scoop him up and drag him into the hallway.
(notes on a work in progress)
I am at work, juicing citrus, part of a new normal I could have hardly imagined one year ago. I am in the middle of prepping for a shift when it hit me –suddenly, I always feel like I am in the middle of something. Every once in a while, I get into a perfect grove. But today, a tiny paper cut on my middle finger is reminding me that citrus is not my friend. I try not to let the little springs of juice touch my finger. A sharp sting tells me I am not successful. There are always tiny scrapes on my mom hands. From attempting to put a hat on a Lego during their pleading screams, both of us fearful that it cannot be done. (Since it can’t) to pulling a special toy out of a nook and scraping my hands along the uneven ridges of cheaply made storage furniture. I suffer through this, my least favorite part of the job, squeezing limes and calculating how many margaritas this evening will bring. Once the bottle is filled with sour liquid, I pull out a piece of masking tape and mark the date. I think of my grandparent’s basement. The tools, the pens, paper, safety pins, thread: all of life’s potential clutter was always neatly organized and categorized by markers and masking tape – the weapon of the obsessive compulsive, the organized. After a memory-filtered tour of my grandparents’ house through childhood-coated glasses, I am jolted back to real life. Back to the citrus soaked bar fingers and back to this informal midway process of nearly everything in my life. I imagine sitting between two strangers on the bus, claustrophobically placed in the middle by no fault of my own. They sat next to me, boxing me in. And that is where I feel I am right now.
We had a cat. She hides under couches, behind doors or in the dark corners of the basement, terrified of strangers and half the people living in our house. Except Layla, she loved Layla and they were best friends. That is the hardest part. She was the runt of the litter, the shy one, and Layla immediately loved her. It took her eight years to go out side. One day, we watched her boldly come to life and walk out the back door and onto the end of the deck. She never went farther than that. But don’t worry, she didn’t die a virgin. A male cat snuck inside and her life was different, for that moment. “What is happening?” The girls asked. “Is she ok?” Then we continued our awkward talk about sex and other adult things.