I just don't even know where to begin. The default setting seems to be eating toast and watching Pomplamoose videos on YouTube, so...yeah. I guess I should start with the overdue library books and the baskets of clean folded laundry, the diapers waiting to go in the dryer, the breakfast dishes. I should start with the real estate agent who's waiting for me to schedule viewings (on which subject more below). I should start with getting some things together to send to the people who were so generous while we conducted our whirlwind tour of Tornado Alley. But all I really want to do is sit in a quiet tidy place and not do much of anything at all.
Visiting a gravely ill parent is sort of unspeakably difficult, especially if you missed out on a lot of the intervening decline. Emotional tectonic shifts combined with the riptide drag of a bunch of little kids who want you right in the here and now, providing crackers and strawberries and little plastic toys, they cause you to kind of lose your train of thought permanently. That train derailed and rolled down an embankment and took out a rusted old water tower on the way down.
It was way harder because Sean was away until the day before we left -- I've been on solo parenting duty for nine of the past eleven days, I think. Boo frickin' hoo, I know, but it contributes to the overall...wha? (Although there was a high point: Jenn came to visit, and Sophia has requested her immediate return.)
So that's what's going on. My tether to the right-now is pretty thin, so I have to do just one thing at a time: put a dish in the dishwasher. One folded shirt in a drawer. One email. One library book in the car. Making the choice to be here, to stay here, that's the thing that can keep you alive.
* * * *
In other news: I need your wise consult, internets. We recently learned from our landlords that the house we live in is going to be sold to someone who will most likely tear it down and build new on the site. Our lease will be honored through its end in July, but not renewed. There is also, the landlord mentioned, the possibility of the buyer providing some sort of financial incentive for leaving before the lease runs out.
What kind of incentive, we asked -- and got back "Well, what were you thinking?" as a response. And what I'm thinking is that the buyer is hoping that we'll open the bidding pretty low. And I want to make sure we get as much as is fair out of this, because we were really not as ready to buy now as we were going to be in a year (we'd thought about renting for 2 years to save up a down payment).
So we're wondering what to ask for. One suggestion was to ask for the amount of our rent per month, for each month that we leave early. So if we left six months early, six months' worth of rent money goes to us. No, it's not entirely logical, but it's a starting point. Clearly we'd want to prorate it so that the sooner we leave, the more we get, but how much per month is fair?
For reference purposes, if someone is buying a house in this neighborhood for a teardown, the lot alone will run you upwards of $200K, and probably closer to $300K. Our rent is $1350 a month (and we will NOT be buying in this neighborhood, as much as I love it -- gentrification hath progressed too far). Would $1350 per month early be too much? $1000? What do you think?
Man. All it takes is one whopper of a credit card bill to make me awfully antsy about the financial situation. Yeah, it's an outlier (a conference, trip to see Dad including airfare, hotel, and car rental, and the deposit on my braces) and yeah we can pay it in full but whoa Moses it makes me queasy.
So I started looking at job postings.
Fifty-seven SALES OPPORTUNITY, Chipotle cashier, Earn Money From Home Typing Medical Things! and Wanted: Pediatric Oncology Researchers later, I am remembering why I am planning to go to nursing school.
Half of the posts were for RNs and NPs and LPNs. Full time, part time, take your pick.
And all I have to do is take the GRE and about 16 credit hours of prerequisites for which I will have to take out loans and oh yeah wait for the baby to get a little bit older and get straight As and do really well on the GRE and...
Piece of cake, really. Ha ha ha.
In the meantime I will just feel antsy, I guess. Although I am seriously considering applying the Chipotle job, or package handling for UPS -- something for a few post-dinner hours each night, or maybe on weekends. The library jobs I'm qualified for are all full-time, and we aren't in dire enough straits for me to be ready to leave Daphne all day. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't have the faintest idea of how to parlay this internet-writey thing into any kind of paycheck.
Anyway, that's enough of that. Feel free to judge me as I visit Target to purchase a $5 DVD for the plane ride on Friday.
Every time a picture of Zachary Quinto pops up on my screen (why, internet? I haven't seen a movie in years and no, I do not want to receive his "tweets," unless that is a new slang term you kids are using for Thin Mints) all I can think is "Skeletons of Quinto." For the rest of the day. You're welcome.
BUT it's nearing Halloween, and there are skeletons everywhere, including in my own family. Nothing about which we didn't have a general idea, but urgh, the specifics. Anybody who's dealt with an addict for a loved one probably knows the combination of gut-drop and forehead-slap when you kinda knew, but you didn't know. You didn't know about that.
I hate it when people allude to fascinating prurient details and then won't share, because why the hell did you bring it up if you weren't going to deliver? Come on! If there's anything the internet is for, it's the divulging of humiliating specifics! Well, that and YouTube videos of people lancing their own boils. So, um, sorry. Even I have my limits.
And you know what I like to do when I skate too close to my limits? Distract myself! Yes, I like to distract myself with fun, shiny, twirling pinwheels of sparkles and harpsichord music! Whee! This time around the pinwheels are made of real estate listings, and boy howdy, can they suck up an afternoon. Boring old settled married folks like myself can get about real estate, I am learning, like freewheeling single ladies get about the dudes.
I never stalked a guy, but I drive by houses of interest on a daily basis.
I check their online profiles obsessively; I zoom in on their pictures to deduce key information from the background detail. I pay attention even to the ones that are taken already -- hey, you never know. Somebody might take a job out of state. Somebody might go to a nursing home. Things happen. When they do, I'll be there with my earnest money.
Yeah, yeah, the analogy kind of has its limits. What crazy thing have you done in the name of real estate?
Up until a few weeks ago (has it really ended?!), Sophia was...not herself. Same whale-tail hairstyle, same chirpy little voice piercing the silence of a car ride to inquire whether we could stop at a drive-through, or what it might feel like to be a dead chicken. But she wasn't Sophia.
She was Amelia, dammit. Or Maria. Not Sophia.And never Sophie.
It was probably three solid weeks where Sean and I were corrected every time we used the hated original moniker; we thought it was cute, if a little aggravating because she would yell at us every time we screwed up. But she took it to the next level. Nice lady in the store wants to know your name? It's Amelia.
She even managed to keep it up after surviving an assault in the stupid McDonald's Playplace tubes; the mother of the offender, in enforcing an apology (and doling out several of her own), asked my daughter what her name was.
"Ah-huh-mee-huh-lia," she said through sobs. "Amelia."
So the little boy apologized to Amelia, and his mother apologized to Amelia and Amelia's mommy, who was trying to rein in the gape-jawed look of astonishment she'd given her kid. Kid was serious.
* * * *
When my sister Gretchen was maybe five, we watched some Saturday morning show involving the San Diego Chicken. Gretchen adopted the name, and informed the children at the pool, when they asked her to play and what her name was, that she was called "Sandy Eggo Chicken."
She also wore invisible underpants and a plastic Tom (as in, And Jerry) mask on a regular basis. But I digress.
Me, I always wanted a more solid, somewhat androgynous name. Jean, maybe. Robin. Possibly Joan. I don't know what glamorous life I envisioned living with this newer, spiffier name, but that was the dream. I was able to work some of it out by naming all my baby dolls Jeff or John, and thankfully my children today are not saddled with matching four-letter "J" names, Duggar style.
* * * *
Amelia has fallen by the wayside, though Maria still puts in an occasional appearance. It's Sophia most of the time now, and to hell with your baby nicknames, Ma -- there's no more Phidie, there's no more Beetle. Sean and I were talking about it, this weird impulse to craft some other identity besides the one you're given, even at an early age, and I asked him if he had a name he always liked better.
Oh sure, he said. There was a clear favorite. Left to choose his own name, he would be -- I would be married to one Mister Doctor --
Back when we lived in a bad slice of a decent neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia, I was visiting with our immediate next-door neighbor. She was either a cancer survivor or currently suffering from cancer, fibromyalgia, or MS, depending on when you talked to her, and she smoked more than any ten people I've ever attended creative writing class with. Her apartment, a tiny carriage house a few yards from ours, was literally hazy with smoke even when she wasn't currently lighting up. I felt awful for her elderly greyhound, trapped in a nicotine-stained tchotchke-stuffed apartment, and also for myself on the one occasion I went in there. I was about nine months pregnant, which posed no obstacle to her cracking open the next carton of menthols.
"Yeah, the neighborhood's a little rough," she said, poking her cigarette in the direction of the row of tumbledown houses behind ours as I attempted to breathe through my sleeve. One of those houses had recently played host to a murder, the shooter still at large. "But I've never had a problem. See, what I do, is I go over there with my camera -- I'm an amateur photographer -- and I walk around taking pictures of all the hoodies sitting on their porches. They're all hoodies over there."
Hoodies? I asked.
"Yeah, you know, hoodies. Gangbangers and whatnot. So I take pictures of 'em and then I tell 'em it's just for my photography class, but after that, they know who I am, see? And they know I know who they are."
Either the middle-aged white lady was far more versed in urban slang than I was, or she had coined a sort of near-miss nickname for the sketchier elements in our neighborhood. It was the urban dictionary equivalent of the Mom Celebrity Translator.
* * * * *
My latter-day Hoodies are friendly people. While the kids from next door helped Sophia paint our sukkah "wall" (okay, it's a thrift-store sheet) in the driveway, another neighbor, his youngest son recently off to college, joined me on my please-baby-take-a-nap walk. We ran into the woman on the corner who let us cut down some of her bamboo to build the sukkah, we ran into the family who'd just moved in up the block, we stopped and chatted with the neighbor woman who grows tomatoes in her front yard and makes sure we pick a handful every time we go past.
It's a pretty nice way to live. As we loitered in the alley hacking at bamboo with first pruners and then a hacksaw, we saw kids -- nine- or ten-year-old boys, a six-year-old with his big brother, an older girl and boy with a basketball -- walking down the alley, engaged in the business of feeling out of the public eye but really watched over pretty well by a street full of adults who knew who they were. They all smiled politely, said hi, looked with interest upon our bamboo-hacking activities. Most of the elementary school kids in this neighborhood walk to school a few blocks away. Apparently our street has a huge block party for Halloween.
I just can't get over our good fortune in landing here. Until I go to school and get a job and pay off student loans, we probably won't be able to afford a big house -- but I'll take a smaller one if we can just stay in this friendly, walkable, neighborly little slice of happy.
A strange thing happens when you divulge your truest, ugliest, most conflicting sentiments on the internet. People read them.
I know, right? Shocking. People read them and they respond to them. They tell you they know, they experienced something like it, they never felt that way but now they understand a little better how it might feel.
And then they compliment your writing.
No, no, no, oh my, no, don't stop. By no means should y'all stop. It's just -- how can I put this delicately? In fact, how can I put this at all? Real tragedy (and, okay, sometimes imagined tragedy, like dealing with customer service at Comcast) brings out the best in my writing. Out of the grief and horror of infertility, lengthy grinding illness, the accrual of a thousand losses, an anticipated hold time of seven minutes or more, comes a work of taut lyrical beauty, five hundred words of diamond-sharp eloquence to pierce your soul and remind you why you switched to DirecTV.
All right, I am making fun of myself here, and so what? The fact is I am left with -- everybody jump out from behind the couch and scream "Surprise!" -- ugly, conflicting sentiments. Bad thing translates to opportunity to hone craft translates to compliments from readers translates to the blogger feeling mighty decent about her own skills as she re-reads her post that brought so many readers to tears and then remembers -- shit. Oh yeah. That.
It is an...unforeseen condition on my part. I thank you with all my heart, internets, for reading my posts and for responding. It helps, it honestly does. But whenever you read a particularly tragic post, remember that most of the time I am sitting there snickering at my own ridiculousness even as I grieve. Most likely I am eating some sort of non-dairy pudding-type product as well. We all have our coping mechanisms.