Speaking Mom

I don’t speak Spanish, but I speak another romance language (French), have been around the block a lot and even have two fabulous bilingual nephews, so I know a few words and phrases. When I listen to songs sung in Spanish, what I understand goes something like this:

“I know….here….blood….I don’t know….eat….no more….if….I don’t know….bad….pain….I’m sorry.”

In the past week or so, I’ve had serious conversations with both my sons. With Seth, it started because he accused me of meddling in his social life. Apparently, some garbled version of my visit to the guidance counselor last spring got back to him via the loose lips of a fellow parent to whom an abbreviated version had been told in confidence. Said parent told his son, who told Seth, and things got more and more telephone gamed out along the way.

What really happened was I alerted the guidance counselor to the goings-on of this group of girls who’d been texting Seth to death and requested that, if possible, they not all be in the same cluster this year, and plus, please put Seth in a 7th-grade cluster where academics, as opposed to “shut up and sit down,” are the main focus. I did not, as Seth dramatically accused, tell them to keep him away from all his friends forever and ever.

I addressed his concerns as best I could, stressing that my job as his mom is to get his back and look at the bigger picture, that I’m walking the middle ground of giving him as much privacy as I can but also keeping an eye on things.

With Owen, I held forth – passionately and eloquently, having been granted one of those transcendent parenting moments that come about now and again – on the far-reaching value and joy of learning to play the piano. Owen is good at the piano and has really big hands – he can already reach a ninth – but he gets growly about practicing and going to lessons, even though he enjoys them when he gets there and he loves sitting down and playing with me.

Again, I referenced the bigger picture, and how having learned to play the piano at his age (10) will stand him in good stead as he gets older and wants to do anything from being a techie for a musical to sing in a chorus. It’s like having a job doing something you like: even though you mostly enjoy it, there are always going to be tedious aspects. In the case of the piano, for Owen, these are reading music and doing the correct fingering. For me, it was the sinister circle of fifths, which Owen, incidentally, eats up with a spoon.

When I speak with such intensity about such important topics to my sons, I have to believe they’re listening. Or rather, that they hear me.

“….my heart….dance….sing….but….sadness….I love you.”

What they retain and what it means to them? I don’t exactly know and can only hope for the best. Perhaps it’s like what I hear in those Spanish songs that speak to me so soulfully: a few key words, and a vast and earnest outpouring of true, pure emotion. Heart to heart. Down to the most basic, human elements.  La vida.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 6:51 AM  Comments (1)  

Chicken-Like Soup for the Old School Femme Mom with Two Sons, Divorced from a Regular Lesbian, Now Affianced to an Old School Butch, Living in the Suburbs and Driving a Broke-Down 10-Year Old Minivan Soul*

When the boys are at their other mom’s like they are now  (we share custody), I am always sad. Sometimes sobbing sad, sometimes weepy sad, and sometimes just sad behind my eyes and in my heart.

Just now I was upstairs making Seth’s bed, and I realized how much it helps to be in his room, smoothing wrinkles out of his sheets and making sure his bed is cozy and inviting for when he gets into it tomorrow night. Neatening up in his room also helps, but I try not to go crazy, because he likes things to stay kind of messy and friendly. Owen, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind if I neaten up, and that helps feel me better (as baby Seth used to say) when they’re at Anne’s (my ex and their other mom).

Making a menu with my Beau and laying in supplies for the time the boys are with us also helps – it cements into place the fact that they will be here soon, under our care.

Researching summer camps (even though it’s a time suck) keeps me connected to them.

Making appointments with guidance counselors and teachers, keeping track of sports games, even if we’re not going – all of that helps.

But the bottom line is that the boys are elsewhere just about half of the time, and that is always going to be a heartbreak. Is one of these chicken soup things supposed to end on a cheery note? If so, too bad. Divorce is not cheery, at least not when it comes to the kids involved (it’s cheery that I no longer have to live with Anne, very cheery indeed!). It sucks. Divorce really, really sucks. And I miss my babies. Damn it.

*#1, New York Times Best Seller List for 15 months straight

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 10:11 AM  Leave a Comment  

Owen the Banker

I just got back from a ceremony in the elementary school gym swearing in the 9 or so 5th graders who have volunteered to be bankers for the school bank, sponsored, of course, by a local bank here in town. Owen, coming from my ex’s house, was wearing a suitably banker-ish blue striped button down shirt over sports pants – very natty. The banker guy had them stand up and swear a mighty swear, “I promise to do my duty for the school bank and obey the rules,” something like that. Then they all got caps with the bank logo on them and got their pictures taken. Before the ceremony started, I had been looking around the school gym, thinking about how this is our last year here, and feeling a bit choked up.

I’ve gone from homeschooling to being pretty active in the school community. I hadn’t thought I’d ever put my guys in school. Divorce and many other complicating factors have dictated otherwise.

I am a bit more humble than I once was about parenting. When it comes to just being a human trying to get along. So I am happy to report that, although I felt incipient cynical rumblings about 5 bankers being in my baby’s elementary school with their predatory claws extended and a money-eating gleam in their eye, I shoved it down and allowed Owen his glorious moment, a huge proud grin on my face. He got sworn in, then rejoined his class, where his two buddies (Ms. Tomboy and Mr. Greek God) shoved and joshed him around.

I’m still grinning.

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 1:17 AM  Comments (2)  

Particularly Egregious Cell Phone Crimes and Why Do We Live in the City?

I suppose most of us are inured to the egregious nature of cell phones. Just the idea of them is offensive, if you ask me, and certainly most of us have been made to listen to intimate and/or abusive and/or mind-numbingly dull conversations at top volume in public places. Here are two cell phone situations I hadn’t yet come across, and I am still a bit stunned. Will the madness never stop??

At the New England Mobile Book Fair, a venerable local institution, I looked forward to a quiet pee after a rather long drive to get there. Not to be. Not only was the bathroom totally stinky, but the person who was sitting on the pot stinking things up was also on a business call: “No, my understanding of this clause (plop) is that to interpret it properly (slight straining noise followed by plop) you have to consult the literature….” Etc.

As I was driving along in a neighboring town, on my way to pick up Owen from his piano lesson, I noticed a father and son pair walking along. I think, but cannot swear to it, that they were holding hands. In his other hand, the son was holding a cell phone, and talking on it seriously. The father was looking straight ahead with that distinctive I-know-I’m-superfluous-and-have-been-shoved-aside-for-something-so-much-more-important-but-I’m-really-ok-with-it embarrassed cell phone look. He was carrying his son’s school back pack. Did I mention the son looked to be about 8?

My poor Beau comes home on a regular basis moaning about living in the city, “But I don’t understand – why does anyone want to live here?” She lived for a long time in Vermont and can’t wait to get back there. She moved here for love of me and most of the time living with me and the boys outweighs her loss of easy access to the great outdoors.

What we have here is the lesser outdoors, although it can still be very exciting. Our across-the-street neighbor’s cat was killed by coyotes, for example. I see foxes, an unidentifiable fearsome creature who menaced me (perhaps a fisher cat), raccoons and skunks on my early morning walks (sadly on hiatus now because my back has gone Out and is taking its own sweet time returning), so there is a lot of nature drama, although not tracking deer through the early dawn forest (once there was a deer in my neighbor’s back yard, though, poor confused and hapless thing).

I don’t have any great love of the city so much. I’ll be glad to move back to Vermont with my Beau when the time comes and the boys have Flown the Nest. By then, cell phone reception will be UNIVERSAL. How joyous.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 11:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

No Lovin’ Queers Allowed!

A Ranty Review of No Girls Allowed

I came upon this graphic collection of stories (as opposed to “graphic novel”) at the library, and quickly checked it out. I was thinking of some of the tomboys I know who could really do with a book like this. One little girl in particular was very interested in going to “Twelfth Night” because she heard the women dressed as men. She was disappointed with the whole thing, I heard; not quite what she’d hoped for, all that tittery het titillation. And No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Willow Dawson, Kids Can Press, 2008, also disappoints.

The subjects of the stories are: Hatshepesut, Mu Lan, Alfhild, Esther Brandeau, James Barry, Ellen Craft, and Sarah Rosetta Wakeman.

Hatshepesut and James Barry are the only ones who don’t have love interest of the male persuasion – they don’t have no love interests at all, despite the fact that James Barry, for one, seems to me to have very probably been queer. The rest of them dress as men for various reasons, including helping to save their husbands (Ellen Craft impersonated a white slave owner to get herself and her husband up to the north and freedom) but end up getting together with men and being happy to don female weeds once more.

Let me ask the question I asked when I reviewed My Dog Tulip by J.A. Ackerley in a previous blog: In this day and age, can’t we expect a little more? Can’t we expect the queers to be seen and recognized? (Speaking of queers and dogs, here is a weird thing: James Barry always had a poodle, apparently, and always called it Psyche.)

For those little tomboys who are yearning to put on boys’ clothes and have adventures that don’t involve marrying men in the end? Maybe just one wee story? In a book about women dressing as men? Hello? I know nothing about James Barry (born Margaret Anne Buckley) other than what I just read in this book, but obviously she felt very comfortable in men’s clothing, was hugely ambitious (she became an incredibly renowned and popular doctor), and – I’m just guessing here – PROBABLY HAD A SEXUALITY!!! Now, there’s a concept. Surely someone knows something about this and just a little of her love life could have been included – the straight women’s love lives were front and center.

Ok, even if little to nothing is known about James other than his passion for poodles called Psyche, couldn’t the writer and illustrator have included just one story about a woman who dressed as a man because she was QUEER and it allowed her to get on with her life and marry the woman she loved? All I’m coming up with here is Patience and Sarah, who aren’t real people (only wonderful butch/femme characters from Isabel Miller’s fabulous novel, Patience and Sarah), but just because I’m blanking out on my queer history doesn’t mean there isn’t anybody.

If you got up the guts to check this book out, you little tomboys out there, you would get something, yes, but maybe not what you were really, subconsciously, looking for, not that potentially life-saving nod to how you imagine yourself as a grownup. And that is a real blow to your love, freedom and adventure; not at all what the book so earnestly set out to do. And BOY is that a shame!

Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 6:23 AM  Leave a Comment