Friday, June 20, 2008

The Full Moon Has Her Way With the Matron

Last night, the Matron was offered an exquisite moment at a Parkway Little League Board Meeting. Because she is that kind of person (not parent, person), the Matron is a Board member for her sons' Little League chapter. Even as she is the kind of person who steps up to the plate when asked, she is definitely not schooled - or comfortable-- in the world of Sport.

Scroll back to last week! Big tournament! Bases loaded, last batter, the other team at bat! Score? Tie! Can you say tension? The other team's batter whales into the ball which soars about one million miles high right above Stryker's open glove. When her child caught that ball and sent the game into extra innings (as opposed to losing!) the Matron's knee's buckled and she fell and grabbed the Board President's gruff hand and said: " I can't stand it!"

He said: "Now I can go to my grave. See what happens when you don't bring the laptop?"

Scroll back even FARTHER. The Matron has a big brain, Anti-Body reputation at Little League. Not only does she read books instead of watching games (usually), she is dressed entirely inappropriately for ball parks (she likes heels and skirts for these events). But as a Board member, last year, she wrote a $119,000 grant for that organization! Which they got! Fields redone, parking lot paved, safe driveways. So she's been a teeny tiny bit the Academic Writer We Are Happy to Have but Don't Understand.

She's not saying this to self-aggrandize. It's context. Trust her!

So last night, the Board -- a hockey-stick wielding, football-watching sort of bunch who know the name of the Viking's quarterback and the roster for the Twin's basic line-up (is line-up the right word?) -- had their monthly meeting at Parkway Little League fields, well after the players had left. The sun parted ways with the sky, a thin gray veil of night slowly descended. The fields had just been mowed, and the sweat and joy of 50 boys still hung over the fields.

Sitting at the park, the Board President cracked open a case of Michelob Light. Cans.

He tossed beers to the Board members, warning "shhh! We don't normally do this!" And when he got to the Matron, knowing the glass slipper she wears to Parkway, he said this: "Mary! I brought a 2005 Pinot Noir. Would you like some?"

On my God! She nearly fell over! Is she actually that bad?

She took the beer. It was a beautiful night.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Matron and Her Warts

Yesterday, the Universe grabbed the Matron by the heels, picked her up, spun her around and then gave her one great big thunk on the head before setting her smack damn down in Sigmund Freud's lap.

Here's what happened.

After dropping off Merrick at Art Camp, the Matron propelled herself into 3 precious hours without the five-year old. She zipped into the grocery store, zapped over to the pharmacy and zoomed home where she put away groceries, swept the kitchen floor, wiped counters and did a forty-minute top-to-bottom declutter.

This left her with a tidy house and 90 gorgeous minutes to write!

The first hint of unrest came when the Matron's blog made her feel bad about herself! (sorry, friends, but this is the wart post! promise you'll love her anyway)

Good ole Google Analytics reminded her that she did not have thousands of readers -- just a flux from 77 to 200 (and she adores and thanks you, every last one and your pets and children!) But Heather Armstrong does what millions of American women do every day (following Oprah's latest diet advice) and she gets 462 comments!

Ego thus fortified, she turned to revising her novel, Prairie Rat, into a YA manuscript as editor and agent have suggested. It annoyed her that she had the idea for the book in her late twenties and was--after the book had been unsuccessfully shopped as an adult manuscript--back to page one. Well, 37.

Back story: the Matron has won several writing awards! In 2003, her agent showed Prairie Rat to New York Publishing who said it was more appropriately a young adult. The Matron turned up her nose in artistic huff -- and while pregnant with Merrick and moving into a new house--wrote a second book in just 6 frenzied months. That book went through nearly 30 publishers and didn't sell, although late in 2004, the Matron did receive all 30 of those rejection letters at once, in one big care package from the agent. Can you imagine how much fun that was?!

The Matron didn't do much writing after that. She told herself it was because of the baby, the rose bushes, the volunteer work. But she was wounded.

Stryker pops into her office. "Mom! Mom! Can you take us to the dog park with Scruffy?"

Matron: "Dog park?"

Stryker: "The one I went to yesterday with Henry. It was awesome!"

Matron: "I don't even know where it is. I'm working."

Stryker (yells without moving): "DAD DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE DOG PARK IS"

Matron: "Please! Leave!"

He does, yelling to Scarlett, who is now equally vested in said outing.

Ding! New email. Turns out Scarlett did not get Baby Jane (although her audition got a rave review) but another little girl got it who had 'the look.' Of course, who introduced the competition to the theater and the whole deal? The Matron. Because she really truly thinks that parents with acting kids should support one another, even if it means sending someone just as cute and tiny and quirky as your own kid to a good audition.

But, still. She felt unrest, disorientation. Grumpy, like all was not right in the world.

Back to the book.

Scarlett is at her shoulder. "Mom, Mom! Can you google the dog park?"

Stryker at her side: "It's on Arlington and Awkright or Awful or something like that. I'm sure we can find a map."

Scarlett: "Is that an email from Actress X?"

Matron: "Please don't read my email! Yes. I'm super sorry sweetie, but they gave the role to Greta."

Scarlett: "That's okay. I told you I think she looks exactly like Baby Jane, plus I'm making that movie."

A dark cloud enter the room. She wants her child to be more competitive! What is wrong with that daughter! Where is the drive, the desire to win? Scarlett's good mental health annoys the Matron and this thoroughly disorients the Matron, who very much would like to be alone to work on her novel or sort out her psyche.

Stryker: "Mom! I can't stand it about the dog park. Please, please, please!"

Scarlett: "Just look! Can't you just look!?"

This banter continues for several minutes, with bathroom breaks. Seems they hear 'no' and 'I'm working' for about 15 seconds and then turn into used car salesmen:

"When will you be done?"

"Scruffy will love it!"

"Looks like you're sending email and not working, Mom."

"It's summer vacation!"

"We never get to do anything spontaneous!"

"Are you still working?"

The following is said in precisely the evil, passive-aggressive, pent-up, toxic tone you might imagine:

Matron: "You want to go to the dog park? I'll take you to the dog park, by God."

And she yelled for Satan's Familiar, got the leash and stomped (with a book) to the van. God, she was angry! Foul and mean!

The children sat silently in her stew, wondering.

Stryker: "Mom? Are you mad?"

Matron: "Yes! I am furious! The last thing in the world I want to do is take you to the dog park!"

Scarlett: "Then why did you?"

Here, she is silent.

But once they arrive at the park (after attempting a couple of scowls and starting to sour on meanness), the Matron sets her children down and says this:

"I'm sorry. I am in a horrible mood and feel full of anger and strange feelings I can't identify. I'm trying to shake it off, but I can't. So I shouldn't have taken you to the dog park but because I felt mean and icky, I just got mad and said yes. On the other hand, I also felt that you wouldn't ever stop asking."

Scarlett gave her a hug. And Stryker?

"You're right Mom. I wasn't going to stop until you said yes."

Zing! The Matron nailed that one. Here, they had a long conversation about that dogged 'must-have-now' gene that Stryker inherited from the Matron herself and how this deep tissue fear of the word 'no' will actually not work to his advantage in every situation.

Stryker: "Wow. If I ask for something like that over and over again, will you remind me of this? I really don't want to do this again."

Matron: "Me neither."

And as Satan's Familiar got the romp he didn't deserve, clarity slowly slowly hammered its way through to the Matron.

She wants to win! This is her wild and precious life and she wants more from it. A friend once asked her if she wanted fame or money and she chose fame. Which would mean readers. The competitive spirit the Matron wished for Scarlett? Hers and hers alone. And she was feeling down and out, under=appreciated, shorted.

Because she wants the book deal.

Thus sorted, the Matron was able to go back to more of her regular self - yet she remained DOWN about that not adequately successful self the entire rest of the day. But Scarlett no longer annoyed her (except in the regular way), she could not care less if Scarlett was cast as the Virgin Mary, Captain Hook or announced that her acting days were over, and she didn't practice any more passive-aggressive tricks. She was centered and clear in her Foul Mood.

But the funk was thick enough, the unhappiness and desire and drive powerful enough, that later, while Stryker and Merrick fought relentlessly about whether or not Stryker would be allowed a sip of Merrick's large black cherry juice and they were hurtling down the freeway in the van at a healthy clip and the boys would not stop fighting -- the Matron rolled down the window and poured the damn thing out at 65 miles an hour.

And that felt good!

Today, she revised 5 more pages. Because rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean -- or what your heart desires, is it?

And she had to wash the van.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Template of a Tuesday

"Mom! I don't know what you're so upset about. Tricking your little brother into eating dog food is a time-honored American tradition, an inviolable right of the elder sibling."

By vocabulary or topic, you know which kid is talking! And tricking . . . and taxing the Matronly psyche before she had finished her morning coffee.

The younger set occupied one part of the Matronly brain, the older set, another.

These flowers popped a couple of days ago.

The Matron credits the woman who owned the house before she did: there are hundreds and hundreds of flowers! At the moment, peonies--throaty red, white, hot pink, pale beauties--radiate in about a dozen places.

At about 11 am, the Matron had the spontaneous and irrepressible urge to bring her mother-in-law an extravagant bouquet. Grandma Sophie loves peonies. Nothing compares to her passion for these gems! And the Matron--despite their many differences--adores Grandma Sophie.

Digression! The Matron's mother-in-law learned to tap dance in her sixties! Not long after she earned her college degree. How can you not love that?

So the Matron phoned her sister-in-law to make sure Grandma Sophie was home. Yes! In fact, it was bridge day and Grandma Sophie was hosting the girls. A flower infusion appeared preordained.

The Matron collected an armful, a staggering array of peonies, the kind of bouquet that gets front row at the Oscars! There were more than 30 stems, so heavy the vase needed a seatbelt. She left the canine chef in charge and drove 20 minutes to the suburb where Grandma Sophie lives and rang the doorbell.

Was the Matron overcome when Grandma Sophie misted and choked at the sight of her daughter-in-law, at noon on a weekday and twenty miles from home, on her doorstep staggering with bounty? Not yet. It was when she walked into the living room and witnessed the bridge party--the girls.

This was a roomful of gray-haired very old, frail looking ladies. Sitting around the two card tables in Grandma Sophie's posh town-house, the eight women looked as much parked in a nursing home as in someone's house. There was at least one walker. The babies in the bunch were pushing 80.

And as the ladies all cooed and awed and declared the Matron one fine daughter-in-law--and as Grandma Sophie sniffed and misted -- the Matron turned to look at her beloved's mother, who was once as strong, sure, and steady as the Matron felt, and she saw for the first time in Grandma Sophie, this: a white-haired, old, frail and vulnerable woman.

She wanted to throw her arms around Sophie and say: "I will always be strong! I promise to surprise you with flowers and love and great-grandchildren! I will hold your hand, wipe your brow, let you live in someone's bedroom, drive you to the pharmacy and listen to the stories about way back when! Whatever you ask will never be a bother! I love you and promise this is not the last surprise I will offer, not the last act of love and never, ever, the last flower."

Instead she hugged her and just said: "I love you! Have a great party!"

And as she drove off, all misty-eyed herself, she thought of those roads ahead --for her own fine self and Grandma Sophie--and how one day, the Matron would be the gray one, sitting in that room, playing whatever hand she was dealt.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How My Children Fall into the Background

For the record, the Matron eschews Indoor Climbing Activity, like McDonald's PlayLand! (group shudder!)

But today she was persuaded to take the offspring to Lookout Ridge, one of those sprawling indoor jungles. Because she had been there once before and recalled promising laptop possibility, she put hers in a bag and said: "Yes!"

Friends? Can you say Heaven-Nirvana-Spot on Oprah all at once? Her children--all 3, even though Stryker had a good decade on a quarter of the crowd -- fell into the urban playground and disappeared!!

The Matron could not have been happier! She pulled out her laptop and escaped, entirely.

Background. This indoor fake-jungle is in the basement of a large building housing an indoor garden and pond, pleasant cafe, and library. What's not to love? But while the children exhaust themselves in the play area, the parents sit placidly in four rows of chairs lined up to face the jungle -- and two lovely long tables with outlets in the back. This area has not garden, no nicety, just chairs and those two tables facing the jungle where children play.

Every so often, as the Matron (at a table) worked on Creation and Art, she would look up from her laptop to experience one of these two thoughts:

1. Why are these people sitting on chairs and staring at the jungle without books, computers, magazines, knitting or craft? Just sitting and staring at the fake trees hiding their children. Don't they know they could be reading?

2. Hope my children are still in there.

Oh, she soon learned they were.

Stryker came out, followed by a gaggle of boys.

Stryker: "Mom. Meet my minions. This is Henry, Seth, Christopher, Thomas and Tray."

Matron: "Minions?"

Stryker: "I've got more inside."

And he turned on a heel and plunged into the jungle, with a gaggle of six-year olds in hot pursuit.

Whenever the Matron looked up to experience her two thoughts, she noticed that Stryker had become the Pied Piper.

Then, as she was working, she heard a dim roar get louder. The entire basement complex began to vibrate and hum. From the depths of the jungle came this:

Stomp, stomp, stomp. Stomp, stomp, stomp. "WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU. WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU."

The room fairly exploded with the sound: WE WILL WE WILL ROCK YOU!

The placid parents looked around, surprised and uncertain. Awake. And not entirely happy to be placed in Unusual Situation. Not one child was in sight, not even a toddler. The children had been replaced by this: WE WILL, WE WILL, ROCK YOU!"

The Matron had not one doubt about who was in charge of this impromptu rock concert. She strode--bravely, brazenly in the 'socks only' area on her very fine high heels and yelled: "Stryker?"

Stryker: "Yes?"

Matron (sensing the room's instant discomfort): "Stop it."

Stryker: "Minions! Cease and desist! Call down!"

Traipsing back to her table, she noticed how many parents were packing up to leave all of a sudden.

She understands that some children are mellow, laid back. Why couldn't she get at least one of them?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stage Mother

Yesterday, Scarlett spent an hour with the woman writing and directing the small art film in which the Matron's daughter plays the main character.

The other main character is from Slovenia. Afterward, the Matron was treated to this --

Scarlett: "Mom! Where's Slovenia?"

Matron: "Um. Far away? Across the Atlantic ocean?"

Scarlett: "MOM! That is not enough! Does it snow there? Is it by France? Is it by China which is way far away from France AND Italy? What do people wear? How do their faces look? Do they speak English or is there a Slovenian?"

And then Scarlett burst into tears and threw herself on the bed (well, on the mound of clothes and notebooks and plates with half-eaten bagels providing protective cover for that bed), wailing.

Matron: "Sweetie! You don't have to do this, you know. It's 100% your choice. If you don't want to be in the film, nobody will be mad or disappointed. Only do what you want to do."

Scarlett (weeping): "I REALLY WANT TO DO IT I JUST NEED TO CRY."

And so she did, for about half an hour. When whatever spirit possessed her decided that this host's flora had lost its funk, she picked herself up and googled herself to Slovenian Expert.

Later, at the behest of the tornado sirens, last night at the convenient hour of 10 pm, the Matron and her family huddled in the basement while the wind romped its way through the city. Afterward, John retrieved all the yard toys, pools, and chairs from the street and the neighbors' yards and the Matron worked on getting three children back to the beds they had barely been in due to a plethora of Party (graduations, potlucks, festivity in the summer).

It was the perfect moment for this --

Scarlett: "MOM! Who's going to run the music for Peter Pan?" This would be Scarlett's annual Backyard Theater Production, which is really a multi-family event and attempts to cast everyone that comes into Scarlett's acquaintance.

Matron: "Now is not the time to worry about this."

Scarlett (sobbing): "If Cela can't do the costumes for the mermaids, what will I DO? How can I get those tail-things! And will Daddy use the pool or do we make a fake lagoon? Have we figured out the flying problem yet?"

Matron: "Honey, you don't have to do Peter Pan. This should be fun!"


Yes, this feels like a good time is being had by all. Fun, fun, fun, sings the Matron.

Today, the Matron got an email from a local actress whose initial email to the Matron was somehow lost in electronics. A 'hey now this is short notice can you swing it' email.

Could Scarlett audition for the role of the young Baby Jane in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Tomorrow?

You would think the Matron would've detected a pattern by now. But no, she was unsuspecting, unprotected, forgot her facial gear and body armor.

Matron: "Scarlett? X is doing a play called Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. She wants to know if you want to audition to play Baby Jane."

Scarlett (bursting into tears): "NO NO NO!"

Matron (surprised): "Really? Okay then. It's good you're making your own decisions!"

Scarlett (weeping): "Why are you yelling at me! You're yelling! I can't believe you're yelling at me!"

Here, the Matron pauses to consider what planet she had just landed upon. As far as she could tell, no yelling had transpired. The Matronly yell is undeniable and penetrates walls. In fact, she considered her response 100% appropriate and on the perfectly sane parenting page.

Matron (very very gently, as if talking down someone from that roof): "Scarlett, I apologize if my voice was loud. I think I was surprised and my voice registered that? I'm really not yelling, okay? This is totally not a big deal and it's great to be clear about what you want to do and what you don't! That's a very good quality you have."

The Matron pats her daughter's head, reorients herself to Earth and starts upstairs.


Matron: "To email X and tell her that you're passing on this."


The Matron was suddenly, profoundly, permanently exhausted.

Scarlett? She had phone calls to make! If she did not immediately watch that movie, the big one would hit California and send millions to their death! Without that movie, she would probably be felled by a mysterious coma or Satan's Familiar hit by a car.

Hmmm, hums the Matron as she considers the latter.

Back to reality, as such. And after Scarlett located said movie, she breathed fire and impatience down the Family Neck until one parent picked up and drove to the video store.

She's watching the movie at this very moment. The Matron even heard Merrick sing a bit of "I'm writing a letter to Daddy." She apologizes in advance to her youngest child's future therapist, having to tend to all the trouble that keeping up with the big kids caused him.

Given the theatrics of the last 24 hours, the Matron is not entirely happy to note that her daughter seems somehow well-suited for Baby Jane. Don't they share such placid temperament and easy-going ways? She also now more fully appreciates that all the world's a stage to her daughter. The Matron and her family are captive audience (and supporting roles) for the next decade at least. One wild ride.