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.
A Confidence Makeover
I started wearing glasses when I was twelve. Most girls cringed at the idea, begging to replace sophisticated specs for the chore of touching and maintaining their eyeball every day. Not me, I was secretly happy the day I found out I had to wear glasses, and an obsession was born. I am the kind of girl that dreams of a collection of glasses that would rival most shoe collections. So, I wrote my own little makeover story—a story where glasses equal sophistication and sexy intelligence.
Around me, people were shopping for toilet paper and shaving razors, and I was endlessly putting on different pairs of glasses. I was at my eye appointment in a big box store sometime during my early teens. I pressed my finger on the nose pads of yet another pair of wire rim glasses. I was unimpressed and picky; I was looking for refinement, as I always do with new glasses. The selection looked so ordinary and plain. I ruled out contacts about as fast as my mom said no to the purple-tinted ones. I couldn’t remember which solution was for cleaning and could barely tell my left from my right (a skill I am still mastering). I already knew I wasn’t the kind of person who could take on such a responsibility, for life, unless I planned to enjoy frequent bouts of pink eye. The first time a contact fell out of my eye, I reacted the same way I do when a stink bug lands on my arm—a shrill shriek, followed by hesitation to touch.
The makeover story is always about the girl, an ugly duckling, who goes off and gets new clothes, a hairstyle, wears makeup and ditches the glasses only to become pretty and popular. I wasn’t that person either. I sought out the unique, a way to be unapologetically myself—the girl with her face in a book and a cute pair of glasses who clearly spent many Saturday nights alone watching melodramatic 90s teen comedies. I began to idolize that face, the dark hair, and the thick glasses. I wanted to be some combination of Lisa Loeb and Daria—artsy and sarcastic. After the long deliberation at the big box store, I found my perfect tortoiseshell “nerd” glasses in the sunglasses section. Can you make these into regular eyeglasses? I asked. They were perfect. “And you say, I only hear what I want to. “
Modern day me is still a misguided teenager at times, standing idly in my underwear looking for a perfect outfit an acceptable outfit that will make up for today’s batch of insecurities. My beautiful high heels are tucked away in a bag, reminiscent of the days when I wore confident career clothes. The days when I had two kids and time. Now I settle for something quick—jeans, black t-shirt or a simple dress. It is all thrown on and no longer prepared. My tired (at home) mom wardrobe hasn’t experienced summer yet, so getting dressed has been one wardrobe identity crisis after another. I pull aside the splashes of color and pattern that was my old life, the one that no longer fits my fourth child postpartum body. (It is still under two years, so I am still allowed to call it that, right?) I ultimately end up in something black, the color of elegance and convenience. It is plain, easy; the way things have to be now. I channel my middle school uniform days and rely heavily on accessories to declare my individuality. (Does this choker make my neck look fat?) I look at my nightstand; it holds a cute ring, an old Anthropologie catalog (in case I win the lottery), a sewing kit, a pictureless frame and three pairs of glasses. I put on my new clear frames. Girl, mascara, now. They tell me. I think about writing my own makeover story. A tired mom, returned back to a new state of ugly duckling. She gazes longingly into her closet, yearning for the days when all those beautiful dresses and printed pants fit without shapewear or a promise to lose ten pounds. The magic wand of time waved over her, and that side-boob fat went away. She knows she can’t go back. After four kids, her body is totally new and once again different—just like her transformation. Her goal isn’t to be popular or get the perfect guy; it is for her to feel confident. She puts on her clothes and shoes, resting into her vanity with an open makeup bag. The crystal glasses capture the sunlight of another beautiful spring day. The perfect finishing touch, like a tiara for her face, that amplifies her beautifully tired eyes. I see the world clearer now, thanks to a quick confidence makeover and my sexy, sophisticated glasses.
This essay was written for DiscountGlasses.com who provided me with my beautiful new facial accessory. After I perused their large selection of affordable frames, I chose the one I wanted, uploaded my prescription and I had my new glasses in mere days. If you are like me and dream of a large collection of frames and are super frugal, this is a great option. Thanks to DiscountGlasses.com, I am one step (pair) closer to a selection of glasses to fit all of my (many) moods.
The trees sway in the breeze with abundant swagger. Each one is a mural of vibrant color and I absorb it all as I take my usual morning run through the graveyard. Running has become as much of a constant in my life as toddler tantrums in grocery stores. The trees around me, they were dormant a few weeks back, dormant and bare. Their winter hibernation was building up radiant color for the spring renewal. Now they are alive with color, different vibrant colors. Each one is completely unique. Just like us – I think as I round the corner and press myself up the hill. My lungs are getting heavier now with the humid spring air. They are just like us. No comparisons, no apologies, just shining our most beautiful colors. One tree is purple and the next one is a bright, almost neon, green. The purple tree with the fragrant soft buds faces the green tree. Does it wonder if it should be green too? Do the other trees expect it to be green? In front of the purple and green trees were two smaller trees that had yet to bloom. They were twigs, jetting out of the trunk and pregnant with buds. They looked like old, arthritic fingers – like the grandparents I imagine are buried underneath. That is really all I want to imagine, grandparents and great grandparents that lived long, joyous lives, not the ones whose dates I shudder to do the math on. The twig trees seemed oddly proud of the way it formed a branch web over the purple and green tree. It was as if they knew they hadn’t even begun to reach their potential.