Friday, February 26, 2010


Today, all faculty in the state college system were required to attend an all day professional festival at a local college.

The fun part is where you get to eat synthetic material masquerading as food that you didn't have to prepare while kidding yourself that this was nutritious--and the other fun part is talking to your colleagues. The second thing is better and won't give you a high fructose hangover (unless you're talking to people who teach English).

The not so fun part is the Zombie-like slog through various panel presentations: the good ones actually make you wake up long enough for the ice to melt from your eyelashes and in others the ice starts spreads to your heart which stops beating.

Not that she had an opinion on today's events.

But here's her take-away, friends, for everyone who ever doubted the psychological power of a nice heel or tailored skirt.

The Matron woke to a 6:15-7:15 am dribble of Satan's Familiar (food, outdoor elimination in theory), Stryker (food, indoor elimination, lots of conversation about today's science exam, his broken computer, the ways in which religion will kill you and that's his own special understanding, trust her), green tea, oatmeal, early morning email and the newspaper. When the bus rolled away with her eldest and she went upstairs to wake the rest of the sleeping family, the Matron was confronted by: What To Wear.

It is 7:22 and she needs to be across town and surrounded by colleagues at 8:00 (and still navigate two children). She has been awake since 6 and is still in her pajamas and wearing glasses. Her hairdresser promises that there is an afterlife (sorry Stryker) if only you wash your hair every FOUR DAYS instead of every other.

She is on day four and not seeing Eternity.

With a few minutes to go, the Matron was all 'what the hell because I am going there' and rolled on a pair of jeans THAT EXACTLY MATCHED HER HAIR. After all, this was just nearly anonymous panel skulking, right?

But as she was gathering her belongings at the front door, she was possessed by a vague, sense of unrest and then a distant, blurry memory surfaced to shake a finger: you went to this conference last year, dummy. A dim postcard picture of the event popped into her mind. And nobody looked like they were at the gym on Saturday morning.

She scuttled upstairs and exchanged the jeans for gray pants with brass buttons, a good blouse and big earrings. Casual but crisp and professional enough to carry the hair.

At the end of the day, what does she have to say about that decision, right before she pours that Friday afternoon-time-to-make-dinner glass of wine?

Thank God.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stage Mother Without the Stage

Scarlett stepped onto a stage to rehearse her first show in October, 2006; she had turned eight in August. Until February 14 1010 – that is THREE YEARS and four months, friends—that child has been in a play. Let’s say this in a different way: Scarlett has been spending most of her evenings away from home for the past three and a half years.

Let’s say it this way: For the first time in three and a half years, the Matron or her husband are not required to leave their warm, comfortable home and two other children at 9:00 or 10:00 pm, nightly, to go retrieve Scarlett.

Roll the situation over on its side: For over 1/3 of her life has been constituted by theater.

Angle down to the seven-year old level and you find this: Merrick has been missing his sister every evening for three and a half years and now SHE IS HOME.

Merrick would be the only family member happy with the new arrangement.

Scarlett? This child is having a hard time adjusting to normal life with the family, largely because her ‘normal’ has been something entirely else. Her normal has been work, art, company and audience. Sort of hard going from being Ramona Quimby and Annie on national stages, back to regular old Scarlett (if there can be a regular old anyone with that name). Now she’s moving through the house unsatisfied with her options. It’s a good thing there’s Hulu because she can watch Glee (when she’s not singing along to the soundtracks from Rent, Grease, Chicago, The Sound of Music, and Fame).

Matron: “Does it feel strange to not be in a show?”

Scarlett: “Hmmmmmm.”

Matron: “Do you want to talk about it?”

Scarlett: “Hmmmmm.”

Matron: “Do you want me to start sending you new auditions?”

Scarlett: “YES YES YES YES YES!”

You see, Scarlett was supposed to be in a show right now but that was postponed until the fall (The Miracle Worker, a final romp with Helen). So she was also relatively ill-prepared for this unexpected, showless, state.

Colonists who’ve taken off their shoes and settled in, will remember that Scarlett was also invited to L.A for pilot season. Before the parents could even MAKE that decision, Scarlett decided to stay here so she could audition for a show traveling to New York. Audition she did, but the theater company decided to only cast 13 and up. Scarlett is 11.

And unmoored. Suddenly without the anticipated Miracle Worker, no LA and pilot season, no show in New York. All of which were either supposedly in place or within reach. Poof, vanished.

Now, the past three and a half years in theater have introduced Scarlett and her mother to a number of very fine human beings—artistic, intelligent and talented. Scarlett has brushed shoulders with fame and the famous have been generous in return. And in the midst of one of Scarlett’s huge acting successes, one of the most famous of these people---a beloved actress—took the Matron aside and said: parent toward the no. Parent toward the day the work dries up, because it will; it always dries up for everyone.

Famous Actress: “It’s easy to be generous and nice when you’re on top. You work on the other end, when it all seems dark.”

Thank you, honey.

The Matron has been waiting for this day and it is here. It is dark. It is a quieter-than-normal 11 year old in her room listening to music, a child wandering downstairs and asking “what is there to do,” a brave spirit clearly pretending when she’s laughing at the table and looking happy. The new normal is home with no real reason to hurry with that homework anymore, no friends to look forward to every evening. This day has brought a return to regular bedtime with her brothers instead of midnight at candlelight with parents, eating popcorn and unwinding from the show.

Parenting in the darkness. Sigh. It’s a lot harder than anticipated, friends, and feels a lot more uncharted. But she’s doing her level best to model for and offer to Scarlett all of the other wonderful ways in which life says: yes, yes, yes. Not only always onstage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Decades In

Most nights, the Matron and her husband make their respective ways to bed, separately. Why? Yours truly needs Alone Time. Space. SPACE sorta like rocket-ship, outer-space, don’t come near this woman, Space. So this is why John watches Letterman in the family room, while the Matron perches in the kitchen, two whole floors away. Where she also enjoys her nightly snack of (Drum roll ) cauliflower. Trust her on this –microwave cauliflower until it’s a little soft, toss in some poppy seed dressing, diced red onion and tomato and you have a filling low calorie bedtime snack. And if you’re in the kitchen, you get to eat with nobody watching.

Now look what’s happened. She started out writing about sex and somehow ended up on food.

Which is sort of the eventual point-- that backburner, not-so-dependable, shape that sex takes in a seasoned marriage. At least this marriage.

So on those nights when she and her husband emerge from their private spaces to enter the bedroom at the same time-- or do stay together, in front of a movie or watching the news or are so spent from the day’s dramas they stumble in immediately after the children—those nights, there’s always that tension, that unspoken waiting in the dark: to see what will happen next.

A few nights ago, the Matron lay in the dark next to her husband, in one of those silent spaces. She could just feel—or at least imagined she felt—every fiber (especially a few of them) in his body screaming: SEX SEX SEX NEED SEX.

The Matron? Uh, not so much.

But she felt very very badly about it – and wondered suddenly if the poor man was really being, well, generally under-serviced—not just tonight but routinely.

Hmmmm. . . how to broach the conversation? Delicately? Just so?
Matron: “John? Do you wish I was the kind of forty-something wife who routinely jumped your bones? Who wanted a daily romp or who did crazy things like jump out of closets naked when the kids weren’t home or wanted to have sex on appliances?”


John: “Not so much.”


John: “I don’t think I could handle that. Wow. I can’t believe I said that. Not so much.”

Matron: “Then, do you wish you could return to the old days, pre-children?”

John: “Wasn’t that what you were just describing?”

Matron: “You flatter me. But really?”

John: “Everybody’s waiting for those good old days to return about something. Maybe ours is daily sex. But the good old days are just that, old. No, I’m pretty happy with what I have now.”

Here, insert a pleasant pause in which both parties allowed that to settle into their souls: happy with what is now.

Then a few small sighs and twists and turns start shifting the male side of the bed.

John: “Uh, honey. . . . listen. . . . even though I just said what I said, we could start that tomorrow and tonight try the whole crazy daily insatiable romp thing? Hmmmm . . . ?”

Matron: “That’s the spirit! But this flesh isn’t there tonight.”

John: “Okay, how about if I give you a really good back rub?”

And he did—and you know how sometimes one thing leads to another? It didn’t. And that’s about being okay with what is.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Birthday (But Two Days Late) Merrick!


You know you're the third child when your mother --- on the actual DAY of her other children's birthdays -- posts long, loving picture-filled posts about these babies.

The third child?

Well, she forgot!

More accurately, she was busy organizing the World's Most Amazing Birthday Party in the History of Childhood (At Least Yours). Why? Because the birthday party featured special guest Uncle Steve (married to Daddy's TWIN sister) the Canine Cop and Cody the Police Dog.

Merrick, at your birthday you and seven of your closest friends watched a 90 pound German Shepherd take down Daddy. Who was wearing protective gear, but a major success, nonetheless.

Even though Uncle Steve does not share your blood, you share the same He-Man spirit. This is as close as it will get, honey.

Saturday, you turned seven. Let's just trip down memory lane, shall we?

Your mother never thought she'd have children. There's evidence of this somewhere, a wedding video replete with martinis and cigarettes, in which she swears off children like fleas. Three months later? Pregnant. Once she had one, she knew she needed a bundle of children, a pack. Not that she necessarily enjoyed children so much. Just that your mother recognized her own intensity demanded distribution among many rather than laser-like focus on one.

Because of -- well, big busy beautiful Life with complications -- your conception was delayed until your mother saw the big 4-0 bearing down, fast. Later, your parents decided, for the first time, not to find out which gender was brewing.

But one night, your mother got up to use the bathroom for the 200 millionth time. She looked out the window. Brittle snow and a bright moon, a black northern night. And as she turned from the window, she knew you were a boy. She felt you.

When you finally arrived (9 lbs and 11 ounces of you!), your parents simply threw you into the mix. One of the pack. So there was a lot of this:

You proved to be durable, of flexible purpose.

Usurped from her place as the youngest, your sister observed: "Merrick's head looks like a big chunk of meatloaf. He's a meatloaf head."

Mama asked: "How do you feel about your baby brother?"

Scarlett: "I half love him and half hate him."

Mama: "Have you ever seen meatloaf?"

Scarlett: "I have now. Meatloaf Head."

Meatloaf Head, your big sister's Love Half soon swelled to a Love Whole.

But the name stuck. Meatloaf Head or MLH for short. You also received no small amount of affection from your big brother.

Those big kids touched the moon! Later bedtimes! Books they could read without Mama! The freedom to stand up and grab a glass! They could perform miracles like making Barney appear on the television, cut shapes from paper, and make Grandma's voice come through the telephone. Their powers were magical, enviable.

So there was also a whole lot of this:

You are all about catching up. Keeping up. But sweetie, you stand alone in your love for our puppies. Here you are with the regal Thurston. The family misses you, gentle friend.

Your brothers and sisters came without the Zap Tingle Itch Ow! Skin with which you were born. Shorts? One pair will do, those with the perfectly worn elastic and tag long cut off. Shirt sleeves must fall 4 exacting inches below the shoulder with a neckline soft and pristine. You now need 20 minutes to put on your shoes because of that dreadful sock seam. The sock seam is Evil Incarnate. And it hurts your skin.

You loved motorcycles early, and still do. You got your first ride on a real motorcycle when you were three (ssshhh! don't tell Child Protection!). It was just 5 miles an hour and one block long, but still--you had arrived.

Even though you scream "Don't say that!" when she does: you are the Matron's sweet baby. You know that book, Love You Forever? Every night she sneaks into your room and stare. How lucky did she get ?

And when she can't get through that book without weeping? Scarlett steps in. "Here, Mama. Let me read that for you." Thanks, darling. Only makes her cry harder.

Merrick, you love weaponry, dogs and cats, stuffed animals and spicy rice and tofu. You are always good for a cuddle. You are a good friend and are lucky enough to share your brother's wicked sense of humor. Here, you decided that getting tied to a tree would be a really good time.

If your Ninja Turtle Sword is on the third floor and you're in the basement, your legs will hurt and tummy churn and certainly, your Mama will retrieve it? You have a way with balls and sport, batting like a 10 year-old, making basket after basket and catching Daddy's hard balls.

You play with this dog like you were one of the breed. Don't be. Remember, we're talking about Satan's Familiar.

Even though you can't read yet, you can slide down the stairs on your belly and will volunteer to be buried alive.

And you put on footie pajamas-- the minute you get home from school, every day! She figures you're a Coach Potato in training. You wear each pair until the toes are frayed and failing.

You are still comfortable in body and not in book. But she's learning that's okay.

Seven years on this planet! A wink and eternity.

Oh, and your Mama? The one who had her last baby (that would be you) right after turning a certain ROUND NUMBER starting with 4 (but cannot be named sorta like the elder son) has officially become a sentimental weenie: one big fountain at the thought - seven.

My baby.