Friday, July 31, 2009

Snap! Goes the Matron

For a time, the Matron followed a blog in which certain posts were labeled "fun with teens." The content of those posts was precisely that - -fun and light-hearted. This mama clearly enjoyed the neo-adult era.

Then the blog abruptly ended after her sixteen year old son and his girlfriend announced they were having a baby.

So much for fun with teens (or maybe a little too much fun FOR the teens)!!

The Matron felt a bit like that this morning. She went from having yesterday's Buddha-like conversation with her eldest to being whipped about this morning like Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio on the Titanic.

Turns out that while Stryker was sleeping some demonic hormonal unhappy monster snuck into his room and possessed him!! This creature exists in complete combative existence with the rest of humanity -- especially his family.

Fortunately for the Matron, this unexpected transformation took place on the day that the children are headed down to Grandma Mary's for an overnight. The first of the summer. They are scheduled to return tomorrow night, just after dinner.

But when the Titanic is shipping and you're clinging to that deck for dear life?

While the unsuspecting children are en route, you call Grandma Mary to see if she can keep them an extra night. Regardless of whether or not they want to. . .


Ooh, she is SOOOO excited! And currently ALONE IN THE HOUSE for about the first time all summer! Who says sex is better than solitude?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Actual Conversation

Stryker: "I think I pretty much do believe in reincarnation."

Matron: "Yes?"

Stryker: "It sort of makes sense, like seeds turning into plants that rot and turn into soil. Right?"

Matron: "Well, I think so."

Stryker: "But the thing you turn into sort of depends on what you were. I mean, if you're a nutrient dense plant you're going to make good soil. If you're a sort of a runt week, your soil will be lame too."

Matron: "Makes sense."

Stryker: "I'm a little worried that I might reincarnate into somebody who sits around and watches TV all day. I have that in me."

Matron: "Yes, you do. But you also have lots of wonderful parts of yourself that you could cultivate: kindness, compassion, intelligence."

Stryker: "That's true. I could pick one good thing and start really focusing on that. Which do you think, Mom?"

Matron (oh no! let's not limit ourselves to ONE): "How about a combination of three or four. Let's see. . . intelligence, kindnes and compassion? Love, respect, intelligence and fortitude? You could be 90% love and divide the remaining 10% among two other qualities--

"Mom -- you're getting too enthusiastic."

Matron (reeled in): "Sorry."

Stryker: "I'm going to pick kindness to animals. Whenever I want to lay around and watch TV, I'll do something nice to a dog instead. Like pet them or give them a treat."

Matron: "That sounds perfect."

Stryker: "You know what's strange, Mom?"

Matron: "What?"

Stryker: "I feel a little bit better about the world, already."

So does she.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calgon, Take Her Away . . .

Last night, an actual hunk o' wood fell into Merrick's eye! This was about the size of a pinky nail; the offending item came from Stryker's loft bed, under which Merrick was playing.

It took about two minutes for her to calm the weeping child and one mirror for him to see his own problem. He stood bravely while the Matron swiped out the wood with a q-tip.

The entire ordeal took less than 10 minutes.

Let's compare this with the six hour Shakespearan tragedy that unfolded today after something got in Scarlett's eye -- an invisible, intangible something that nobody actually identified or discovered, but required a trip to the doctor and not one, but two runs to a pharmacy.

Throughout, imagine Scarlett, weeping. The entire time.

Matroon: "I don't see anything in your eye, at all."


Matron (she's only about an hour in): "Good heavens, Scarlett. Last night Merrick had a piece of WOOD in his eye and that only lasted ten minutes."

Scarlett: "THIS IS WORSE!"

After an hour of rinsing, soothing and squinting while Scarlett wept, the Matron tossed in the towel and brought the diva to the doctor, who also found ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in that child's eye -- and he had the benefit of illuminating drops and special lighting.

Doctor: "There's a little bit of inflammation in the area where it hurts. Maybe the gnat or eyelash or whatever was in there irritated the tissue. We'll give her some antibiotic drops."

Matron to self: or q-tips, fingers, t-shirts and cotton balls exploring for the invisible non-existent created that inflammation. Grrrrrr.

Scarlett was all groovy and happy and without wail the whole way home because the good doctor deployed magic numbing drops

which wore off the minute they returned home.

Scarlett: "This is agony!"

The Matron called the doctor who assured her that the antibiotic drops would help the pain, a statement the Matron immediately viewed with great suspicion. But she rushed to the pharmacy in the face of Scarlett weeping: "What about my audition tonight? I can't move. I'm in such pain! My audition, my audition!!"

Rush, rush, rush back home with the antibiotic drops. Two teaspoons of tyelnol.

Scarlett: "MY EYE! MY EYE." This while on the floor with a wash cloth on her face. "My audition! How can I go onstage!?"

Yes, an audition looms ahead -- 6:30 pm.

So the Matron calls the doctor who faxes the pharmacy and the Matron says to the children: "If we're going to make that audition and get the prescription, we've gotta go!"

Children as in plural and not all hers, because Scarlett conveniently has two friends over for a playdate, company for the trip to the doctor and witness to the drama. Of course, everything is better with an audience. Now company for the audition.

While roaring to the pharmacy with Scarlett languishing on her friends' shoulders (really, she is ready to play the role of the consumptive 19th century woman, fading), the cell phone rings.

Pharmacy: "We don't have the medication. We have to order it for tomorrow."

Scarlett: "MY AUDITION! How can I audition?"

Matron to Pharmacy: "Can we get this somewhere else?"

So the Pharmacist calls all the numbers in his arsenol, including two hospital pharmacies. Nobody has that damn medication. The pharmacy has to order it so it won't be avaliable until 10 am tomorrow. Mind you, the last half hour of pain negotation as taken place in rush hour traffic. They are halfway to the audition, which is in a western suburb.

Matron: "Scarlett, are you going to be okay to do this?"

Scarlett: "I don't want to go. I don't want to audition."

The Matron has spent the past three hours trying trying to get her daughter to feel good enough for this audition, in direct response to her daughter's panic about said audition. Three hours.

Matron: "Is this because you're eye hurts or because you really don't want to do the show?"

Scarlett (sighs -- instantly without pain, as if suddenly bored or nearly asleep): "I don't want to do the show. I'm not interested."

They are 20 minutes into a 30 minute drive to get there. The Matron thought she just might pull over and die. Or kill someone.

Matron: "Why didn't you tell me this sooner? Like an hour ago? Or yesterday?"

Scarlett: "I just decided."

Friends, the Stage Mother that says 'follow the child' without comment wanted to say 'okay,' turn around and go home. The manic furious mama who just spent her entire afternoon catering to the needs of this child wanted to shame her (yes, make her feel BAD), toss AN ENORMOUS tantrum and drink an entire bottle of wine. The third part of her wanted to show her daughter that when one draws other people into a commitment, that commitment must be kept.

She kept driving.

Matron: "Scarlett, we're on our way and it would be rude to waste my time by not going."

No comment from the netherlands, where Scarlett continued to hold her eye and moan. A few minutes later. . . .

Matron: "We're here."

Scarlett: "I was just telling these guys that I really hope I get this role. It's a great role."

Matron: "I thought you didn't want to audition."

Scarlett: "I changed my mind when I saw the building. It's a cool building."

Here, the Matron experienced the tantrum-bottle of wine-sensation again-- a not unpleasant out of body event that turns her several lovely shades of greenish red. Yes, a color that is greenish red really does exist but you have to be one of Scarlett's parents to see this.

Scarlett auditioned for a stage production of this while the Matron and Scarlett's friends waited, not unlike the captive audience they'd been all afternoon. Oh - and were soon to become again, as there was an entire anguished drive home.

The consumptive is currently in bed, munching on popcorn and reading a book-- with a garish eye patch oinvolving lots of tape across her entire face -- her idea, a visual reminder for her family that she is in PAIN and must be coddled. Scarlett self-reports that she may very well not survive until the pain medication arrives, 10 am tomorrow. For the item in the eye that nobody actually saw or that quite possibly really existed.

Yesterday, Merrick had a piece of WOOD in his eye. Ten minutes.

The Matron is working on that wine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

She Made It




This would be the Matron, inching her way back from the Fourth Annual Thompson Backyard Theater Production--starring and directed by, Scarlett. There she is, pausing between orders.

Every night from 5:00-8:30 about 15 children undertook the serious but pleasurable business of Art. They worked, folks. They memorized songs, script, blocking and dance. See this child?

He was Howie in Ramona and is every bit as insane as her daughter. Get the two of them together?

Scarlett: "Who's your favorite actor?"

Naveh: "Beside me? Then Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks only in Philadelphia. And you?"

Scarlett: "Beside me? Then that would be Meryl Streep, Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Okay, now local talent. Who?"

Naveh: "You mean beside me?"

And so on.

The Matron did not even ask his mother for permission to put him on the blog because he already currently resides in the public domain. Here is the stage on which the production unfolded.

There were several six year old fire-fighters. Here is a conversation that occurred between one of those, Joey, and his 9 year old brother, Sam, who was not in the play but bore witness to Scarlett's firm hand.

Sam: "Wow. That Scarlett sure is bossy."

Joey (who has been in theater exactly 3.5 hours his entire life, considering rehearsal started at 5:00, ended at 8:30 and it is now 8:35) with passion: "That's because she's the director!"

A convert, that fast. The Matron apologizes to his mother.

The Matron will admit to wee bit of weariness by the time the final Friday night rehearsal rolled in. Despite the fact that she suffers from a severe and perhaps even certifiable Incurable Clutter Brain Suck she allowed the clean wooden halls of her hallowed home to become a back stage production area. For seven solid days -- little piles of angels wings here, sunglasses and suit coats there, dining room table and plates over in that corner. Every night those children roared their way through a dining room full of food and the spoils flew. You get the picture.

During rehearsal week, she conveniently had two huge work deadlines and, because she has so much spare time, decided to take a play writing class so that her work could be critiqued and rejected in yet another genre. If only she could do poetry, she'd be a completely well-rounded failure. Then there's Abby the Foster Dog, who, it turns out, has a real taste for the flesh of children.

All three of hers are currently terrified of this dog. Two have been bitten. The director is thus far, spared.

But on that weary last day of rehearsal (you try spending seven nights in a row with 15 children who sing, dance and do NOT mind being center stage every minute), one parent showed up with this!

Call her sentimental, but the sentiment brought a little tear to her eye. That, or it was that three of the six-year old firemen were taping themselves shut into small containers and boxes with duct tape?

Matron to large plastic tool container duct-taped shut: "Merrick are you in there?"

Merrick, muffled: "yes!"

Matron: "Can you breath?"

Little silence while he is testing.


Those children needed more stage time!

The children greeted that cake like magic. It sat alone on a place of honor and they all paid homage, shuffling through.

"Did you see that cake!"

"We have cake!"

"That is the BEST cake ever for the BEST pageant ever!"

It warmed the Matron's crusty little heart to see something so simple bring genuine joy -- and gratitude.

She too was grateful for that cake: thank you!

And thank God-Allah-Oprah-Buddha-Universe the show went off without a hitch. The curtains are packed away until 2010 and on Sunday, the director informed her family that she had just gotten her first real sleep in a week.

"Well you and Dad didn't know this but I did not sleep a WINK all week. I was completely stressed!!"

Like mother, like daughter. . . .

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake

This is the title of a book of which the Matron is extraordinarily fond: Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake. Morita Psychologist David K. Reynolds wrote that book; he describes Morita Therapy as Zen meets Freud. How the Matron loves that collision! Her delicate soul and psyche seem to exist precisely on that plan – part cosmic and part neurotic. Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake points out how silly and self-induced the obstacles to our happiness can be. Take a big drink, darling!

Zen Koan

Doshin (monk): “Open the gate of release for me!”

Sosan (other monk): “Who has constrained you?”

Doshin: "No one constrains me."

Sosan: "Then why do you ask for release?"

The moral of these stories? Suffering is frequently self-induced. Our minds can be the meanest enemy because we cannot escape. You take those troubles -- the worry, the self-doubt, the anger, the fear -- wherever you go. Unless you can find release.

Here is a poem. Stay tuned for post-poetry Dr. Matronly Follow-Up.


I loved booze,

and pills I loved more.

I still love them.

I still want them.

My wine, my Dexamil,

my after-dinner tall

tumbler of scotch,

my morning black espresso,

my Valium at work,

and more Valium.

It worked.

The Dexamil let me drink,

the drink kept me from feeling,

the Valium kept my hand from shaking.

The Dexamil let me drink

in the face of my psychiatrist saying,

I think you drink too much—

I think I won’t see you if you drink.

In the face of fines,

in the face of swinging at a cop,

in the face of connecting with a two-by-four,

in the face of cops looking down at me in the middle of

Amsterdam Avenue

in a Brooks Brothers suit, a briefcase,

in the middle of Amsterdam Avenue—

Where do you live, sir? We think you should go home.

I drank at Hanratty’s for four reasons:

it’s near where I live,

they cashed my checks,

they closed at one,

and they took me home.

At home, I would have another

scotch and a pill,

at 5:30 get up,

drink coffee, take a pill—

I had—I have

a responsible job.

I was always the first at my desk

and last to leave.

I never wanted to work.

I wanted someone else to take care of it all.

I don’t know why I’m alive today.

I don’t believe in God, I’m a strict Freudian.

When I stopped, I thought,

This is unspeakable deprivation.

I whined and cried.

I sat in the back eleven months

pitying myself. Home

from dinner with board members,

with two glasses of wine, the first in a year—

I opened the half bottle of scotch

a guest had left. It was months under the sink.

Often I’d thought of it. Always,
I knew it was there.

I poured scotch into a tumbler,

and I couldn’t drink it.
I couldn’t. I thought, I can’t go through all that again.

That was ten years ago.

My hair is gray. A doorman

with whom I left a package yesterday

described me to my friend as “distinguished.”

Lots of things are the same.

Some things are changed, changing.

I love booze in my dreams.

I drink booze and take pills in my dreams.

I don’t ask Why

do I love alcohol? Instead,

I have habits strict as the former ones,

meetings, books, service.

The dreams full of booze keep telling me what I am.

Late in my life,

In the numb elegance of this city,

I made a decision—

or the decision

shining in the soft, brutal darkness

took hold of me—

to live.

Often I am peaceful.

I never imagined that.

Sometimes when the going gets rough -- the worry and doubt compile or the bad habit feels like a hook that cannot be shaken from her spine, she thinks of this poem and the poet who wrote it, Joan Larkin. And the Matron softens herself. If you drink the water that surrounds you, you won't be thirsty. Sit in the soft brutal darkness. Let the decision, whatever it is for you, take you in its hand.