As I mentioned earlier this week, we were up in northern Wyoming with David’s family, laying his mother to rest. Despite the circumstances, wintery weather in Wyoming, and the extensive miles put in over a short time – about 1,600 miles in four days – it was a good trip.
We stopped in Denver on the way and picked up my stepdaughter, Lauren, and her kids, our grandchildren. They rode with us there and back again. Of course, #kidsthesedays have all sorts of electronic devices to keep them entertained in the car on long road trips. So, Aerro and Tobiah had their games and tablets – and also borrowed my phone, my tablet, and their mother’s phone.
Yes, they overran my data usage and I don’t even care. I’m totally a sucker.
I also brought along some books to read to them – some of my very favorites that I’ve kept all this time. One of them was Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I’d always loved that one, for the wiliness of the fox and how he outwitted everyone. Aerro picked that out for me to read, because foxes.
So, I’m reading along – and Tobiah was totally drawn into the story, too, despite initial grumpiness – and we get to this scene near the end. Mr. Badger expresses reservations about what they’re doing.
Suddenly Badger said, “Doesn’t this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?”
“Worry me?” said Mr. Fox. “What?”
“All this … this stealing.”
And Mr. Fox goes on to explain that they’re taking food they need to live from the farmers who tried to kill them. The animals are just trying to live. On the page below, Mr. Fox explains:
“If they want to be horrible, let them,” said Mr. Fox. “We down here are decent peace-loving creatures.”
Badger laid his head on one side, and smiled at Mr. Fox. “Foxy,” he said, “I love you.”
I might have paused a little at that, I’m not sure. It did kind of read funny. But Aerro spoke right up and said, “Well, that was awkward.”
Which totally cracked me up. I don’t remember ever noticing that before, but Aerro sure knew her boundaries there. I confess it bothered me more that Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Badger were the first to become weak from hunger, while the men folk remained strong and resolute, and even the small badgers and foxes could keep digging. And then Mrs. Fox, so weak from starvation and dehydration that she can’t help dig is still able to muster the energy to cook a feast with all the food the others acquire.
I nearly caustically commented that the females were no doubt weak from popping out so many babies, but I do try not to editorialize. At any rate, so are our expectations and assumptions laid in, yes?
I might not be saving this book any longer, alas.
Along the way, I stopped into the Borders and found Enemy Within cozied up with the Iron Duke. In broad daylight, even.
I started reading Enemy Within, too, and *love* it. No, I hadn’t read it before. I read a draft of Marcella’s second book and my comments resulted in her gutting it, rewriting and missing her deadline by, oh, a couple months. She says I shouldn’t feel guilty.
Now I don’t because if Enemy Within is what she’s capable of producing, then I’m glad I held her to a high standard. I realize I haven’t read any classic sci fi in a while. I know I’ve never read a post where the main character has been imprisoned and tortured by insectoid aliens. The latent psychological trauma is gritty, moving and incredibly well done. Romance-wise, I’m all about the hero getting through to trauma-girl where no one else can.
(Currently plotting time away from work today to read more, more, more!)
Anyway – I went shopping for diapers for little Aerro. I mention this here because everyone seems to forget I have grandchildren. I bought a few cute things, too, but for a tiny baby she has lots of stuff already. My stepdaughter and son-in-law are doing cloth diapers this time around and they do need more of those. Lauren told us the brand they planned to use, which I ought to be able to buy in Target.
So, I went to Target, I went to the cute baby stuff section. Nope. Several burgeoning couples were there with the baby-registry scanners having a grand old time, but no sign of diapers anywhere. I went wandering forlornly, expanding my circles outward through the various stages of clothing for kids, teens, adults, fat adults, cars. Finally a worker in the automotive section spotted me for what I was, completely at a loss. I hesitated to say I was looking for diapers – of course, he immediately laughed at me. I wanted to explain that I figured they didn’t keep diapers in automotive (being clever like that) but that I was on my way to somewhere else where they might more logically keep it.
The baby section, right? No no no.
He says “see this big wall right here?” Yes, even I can spot that big wall. “Go to the opposite wall on the other side of the store.”
Right. Paper towels, cotton balls, Q-Tips, tampons, depends and…diapers! Organization by function. All absorbent materials must be shelved together.
Then they didn’t have the kind Lauren said. So, I’m the woman on her cell phone getting the man at home to look them up. Turns out Target sells them in Colorado, but not New Mexico. Not in Wyoming, either, David discovered. Why? It’s a mystery. Emptier landfills in Wyoming and New Mexico, perhaps.
So, we’ll order online. I bounced off to the bookstore and to get a pedicure like the light-hearted non-diaper buyer I normally am.
I’m not quite sure at what point in my life I became the non-maternal type. When I was younger, I babysat all the time. I didn’t have much social life, so I babysat pretty much every weekend and on weeknights, too. I cared for newborns, even, which was the big money in those days. I could change any diaper in a flash.
A friend of mine has a daughter who just started her sophomore year at a prestigious Ivy League college. She’s always been a startlingly intelligent and talented girl. However, she has never had a job. Last summer, strongly encourage by her parents to start getting a feel for the earning money thing, she babysat for a friend’s baby. When the baby’s mother returned home, she saw a Google page up for “how to diaper a baby.”
I love this story.
But I was not that girl. I always had the idea, as most girls do, I think, that I’d have babies someday. Somewhere in the sweep of graduate school, acquiring stepchildren, and trying on careers, I never got really excited about having babies. Once, when I was 36, a woman I knew asked me if I’d regretted never having children. I replied that I didn’t know I’d never had them yet.
Yeah, it was a bitchy thing for her to say.
I did think, though, for a very long time, that I might wake up one day and have the overwhelming urge to have a baby. That clock that women talk about would suddenly tick-tock in my head and I wouldn’t be able to hear anything else until I had a baby in my belly.
Instead I became completely obsessed with writing and becoming one of the great writers of my generation. Or possibly just supporting myself as a writer. Both of which have the added bonus of never requiring diaper-shopping.
People talk about being childless-by-choice. I’m not that. I helped raise Mike and Lauren from the time they were five and seven years old. And I never really decided not to have children of my own. Instead, I never decided to have babies. Kind of like I never decided to move to Thailand. It’s just that, most people never decide to move to Thailand.
It could be pointed out that a lot of people don’t necessarily decide to have babies either, but fall into parenthood, as it were.
I suppose I’m just on the opposite wall from everyone else. On the other side of the store, wondering why anyone would dress up their car in zebra print.
She’s actually my second grandchild, as her brother, Tobiah, turned two this summer. Their dad, Damion, has gorgeous eyes, too, so I expect both kids will be heartbreakers.
It’s funny how many people don’t know I have stepchildren. I look young for my age anyway, due to good genes, a long-term skin care program and a happy life. But I also acquired my stepchildren young. I was twenty-four when I met David twenty years ago. At that time Lauren was six and her brother, Mike, was eight.
So they could have been mine biologically, too, if I’d gotten started early. One of Lauren’s best friends had a baby at sixteen, so she’ll be on my same track.
It seemed David and I were always out of step with the other parents. Most of them were older than we were – or maybe they just seemed older. I was still in grad school. David had gone to college late and was in the early years of a new career. Neither of us had any money. We lived in a tiny apartment, with a grocery budget of $50/week, and Mike and Lauren stayed with us every other weekend, all summer and visited once a week for dinner. Our friends always forgot we needed to either bring Mike and Lauren along or find a sitter when they threw impromptu parties on kid-weekends. None of our friends had children. And the parents of the kids’ friends seemed so much more fixed in life than we were.
By the time Mike and Lauren were older, that was when our friends started having kids. Many of my cohort, my high-school and college friends now have children who are around ten years old. Lauren had her first baby at twenty-four. The same age I became a stepmother, I pointed out to her. She seemed young for it, but then, so was I.
Am I young to be a grandmother? I suppose so. But I’m hearing people say 60 is the new 40, which means that 40 must be the new 20. By that measure, I acquired stepchildren when I was in grade school.
Age is a rapidly changing concept these days. People may not be living a lot longer, but they’re certainly more youthful for it. Here we are, twenty years later and David is back in school, training for a second career – or perhaps third, depending on how you look at it. Mike is back in David’s home town, doing the things David did in his twenties, before he went to college. Lauren has a son who is two years older than her new daughter, who was born the same weight as Lauren was.
It all cycles around. David and I are looking forward to spending time with Tobiah and Aerro (named for the snowboarder in last winter’s Olympics, if you were wondering. And Nicole is Lauren’s middle name) as they grow up. We have more room and more money now.
And we’re still young. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Welcome to the world, Aerro. We love you.
All in all, it wasn’t so bad.
My mom and I went through everything and decided on keep, save or store. She’d already culled quite a bit, which made it all easier. We purged all of Leo’s things years ago, after he died. Then more when my mom married her David and she made space for him to move in.
The hardest part was the jewelry. For both of us.
For every pair of earrings, for every ring and necklace, there was a story and a memory. Who gave it whom on what occasion. Some pieces were from the 60s, gifts from my dad. Some had belonged to my grandmother. We ruthlessly categorized – some I took, some she’s keeping, some goes to be appraised and sold, some for my aunt to look through.
The jewelry is when we cried.
But at least we got to do this together.
My mom and I have had a long-standing joke, whenever she brought home a great new piece of art and I said I liked it, she’d answer “good, because it will be yours someday.” Sometimes it gave me a thrill, thinking of the day I’d get to have that painting or sculpture. Until I remembered that would mean my mom would be gone.
I never could get myself through it.
Now I don’t have to. I brought home some of my favorite things now, the ones that won’t work in the Tucson house. Others I’ll take after the house sells. It feels good to have everything accounted for.
I’m giving my old dollhouse to Lauren, for our granddaughter to be born in October. The carpet above were pieces I’d cut for the dollhouse and carefully stored. Yes, they were remnants from our own house. The yellow was in my bedroom, the tile in the kitchen and the green throughout the rest.
My mom wants you all to know that she had that carpet out of there by the 80s. We were just stunned at how bright it is. Didn’t seem like it at the time.
I’m also lucky that way. I have friends whose parents never did redecorate since the 70s. One mother had a house with a different color for every room: purple living room, red rec room, green kitchen, yellow bedroom – and didn’t want to change a thing to sell it.
It turned out to be a pleasant weekend. We got a great deal accomplished and spent some time together on the patio, where we spent so many family occasions.
David and I called Lauren this morning, to sing her happy birthday over the speaker on his cell. She’s 25 today, sleeping in after a night of sushi and dancing with her guy. His folks took baby Tobiah last night, so it was a rare free night for them.
And we asked her if she’d gotten the card we sent. There’s a gift certificate inside for a hefty chunk to squander at a salon — David’s idea, to pamper the young mother. The man knows what women like, I can attest. Lauren said she’d have to check the mailbox. Which they usually don’t. For days or weeks at a time.
How can you not check your mailbox, I asked her.
Well, all her bills come online. All messages are emailed. All they get in the mailbox is junk and it makes them mad to look at it. So they don’t. I told her there was probably a “save the date” notice from her cousin in there, for his summer wedding and she sounded bemused by the possibility. This is so Gen X to me.
You may have noticed the impassioned comments on my last two posts from Politico08, exhorting me to use the term “Generation Jones” instead of Cuspers. The article he/she (I’m betting on “he”) cites, Jonathan Pontell, is compelling, in a thrilling political-rally kind of way. Though I view anything in USA Today with a bit of a jaundiced eye.
I must confess, I don’t like “Generation Jones” much. (Not only because I’ve got a “Me and Mrs. Jones” ear worm going now.) I never loved the term “jonesing” either, having heard it WAY too much in high school. There was nothing my cohorts didn’t jones for. Which is, I suppose, the point.
But I do feel swept up in the idea. The last line of the article says, “We’re not late Boomers; we’re late bloomers.” There’s something to it, the feeling that we’re coming into our own. After spending most of our lives thus far in the Boomers’ deep shadow, that we’re emerging into the sun. I began hearing when I was in middle school that my generation was cynical and selfish. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. I do believe that there’s a middle ground between socialism and free-market pillaging. I believe that we’ve caused a drastic shift in the global climate balance and that we can do something about it. I’ll pay some bills online, but I prefer to mail checks for others.
It’s exciting to feel that maybe we are our own group after all. And more, that we can be effective. “Yes we can” might have sounded like a political line at first. But it does embody my approach to life. It’s certainly how I answer clients — even if it means I’ll figure out later how I’ll do it. It’s how I approach all of my problems — with the belief that an answer can be found. Maybe that is what our generation has to offer.
So, I’ll hop on the wagon, for solidarity’s sake. I won’t give up my fondness for the grey area. But I love feeling like we’re finally out there doing something. If you all want to call it Generation Jones, fine by me.
We’ll see who’s the greatest.