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Posts Tagged ‘completely makes six months of morning sickness worth the trouble’

 
|| December 11, 2012 || 5:23 am || Comments (11) ||

My father and my dad and my husband –all veterans, two of whom have served extensively in combat situations– all have distinct opinions on the overall accessibility of today’s military from a technology and media standpoint. As a former military brat and service member and wife I understand every argument they make against it.

Each and every one of them, in their own words, has expressed to me the need for a man down range to stay focused on where he’s at and what he’s doing at all times without compounding the heartache of homesickness or being distracted with any pettiness that is going on back home. I fully grok what they are saying. For the most part, I guess I don’t disagree.

As a military mom, though, things like Skype allow me to give my kid encouragement and reminders of who he is. Things like Facebook give me tender tugs telling me that though my son is a man doing a dangerous job, he is still the boy who had me sit down with him and show him how to tune a guitar and teach him about the circle of fifths and hey what key was that in and show me that chord again:

One of my favorite pictures of my father in country is of him sitting in a hut, barefooted and bare chested, pants pegged at the ankles and a harmonica slung around his neck. He’s cradling a guitar in front of him and his mouth is open in song. I own –at minimum– fifty service pictures of him, and that one gets the prized spot in my heart, because it shows something of who he is beyond the haircut and the uniform and the obvious tired that shows up in some of the photographs. It shows him to be a person grounded in something other than camouflage and orders and chasing clever, sadistic men through a wet canopy of trucked-up nerves.

I am forever telling my kids not to wish time away, but if I’m being dead honest with them and everybody else, then at present I am sloppily shoving days behind me like I’m paid to do so or sommat. This next year can’t possibly go fast enough for me. Tiny things like poorly-taped snippets of combat tedium shot in a curtained bunk warm my heart. I have to say, in all honesty, that they’d do so no matter whose kid was in them. And I’ll be damned if my brain can’t help but snag on (during my third or so viewing of that video up there) things like, “I think it would’ve made all the difference if the American public could have seen those nineteen- and twenty-year-olds with ukuleles in their hands, singing folk ditties, before they rolled home from Vietnam, before they disembarked from planes and ships bewildered and worn slap out and overwhelmed.

“America would have remembered that we sent boys in to do the work of men and sometimes the work of men is too much for anybody to fathom, even the men who are doing it.”

My son slings a rifle, my son sings songs that our people brought over to this country, my son loves his job and misses America right now. You miss him back, America, him and all the ones like him.

 
|| October 2, 2012 || 1:57 am || Comments (15) ||

Today I have been taking notes on mothers, on what they are, on what I am, on what we are to them. At first I took these notes mentally and then they began to sort of steamroll me and crowd for space and some of the better bits were sliding away while beseeching me to tether them to something more intractable than my headmeat. Then I remembered I have that fancypants phone with the infuriating Swype technology that makes plain ole straightforward words like ‘kale’ into messily unrelated, inexplicable nonlinear ones like ‘Kryzygstan’. How the fuck, brilliant technology, how the fuck do you imagine that a blip on the map central to nothing even remotely like the Piggly Wiggly down the street has anything to do with my grocery list? This part of technology, I do not get. This part of technology makes me want to abandon all the other parts of technology wholesale.

But the part of technology that is boon to me is the one that lets me forsake all the random scraps of paper and cardboard and envelopes that I’ve spent jotting ideas on and stuffing into a drawer until they come to fruition or I’m so embarrassed by them that they become lighters of candles burned too deeply down in the jar to reach (after that I run them under the faucet, so that not only are those terrible ideas and turns of phrase charred, they are damp and runny and pitiful, as well. They personify themselves on another level, and then I can avail myself of them peacefully…almost gleefully, in fact. It’s a good practice, the murdering of shitty ideas and sentences. It’s a holy and noble practice. It’s a practice I do not practice often enough, in fact — as is illustrated by this whole parenthetical hand job).

I once bought a hand-held tape recorder, a fancy one, with which to catch notes on the fly. I destroyed it or misplaced it or something. I bought another. It was summarily stolen. The two I got after that each got laundered. The first time was by someone ‘helpful’ who had never made a move toward helping –coincidentally enough– until there were copious story notes in my pocket and agony to bear witness to once my words were washed and warped and devoid of anything even approaching human sounds. The second time was by me, because life was getting in front of me at the time and I wasn’t on top of the details.

Fuck a recording device after that, right? Blackfeet pencils with creamy lead, paper with fixed spines, paper with adhesive triangles and see-through windows, paper announcing tallies for corn chips and Mountain Dews and Marlboro lights.

Note-taking. Drawer-stashing. Idea-marinating. Substance being grown there in dark, private places after the words were released from dark, private places. Writing starts in the stutter and sputter of a perplexed soul. Art starts in the confused cracks between points of understanding.

Oh Evernote, where have you been all my scattered, hyperfocused livelong life?

I downloaded Evernote several weeks ago but have only started using it in earnest over the last month or so and it is saving my creative beans, All You Folk. Now I can jot notes to my phone which are immediately synched up in a kanjillion other places in case I fuck one or more of them up with my frail analog tendencies. I can record snippets, too, and they are immediately swished up into the ether and synched to All The Places. I can scribble a note with my very fingertip, in my own handwriting. My literal hand, writing! I can snap a photo and jot to it with that same finger (or another one! if I’m feeling wacky like that). Save, swish, sync. I can sketch, saveswishsync. I CAN WRITE ON PAPER, SCAN IT TO MY PHONE, AND REMORSELESSLY DISPOSE OF THE PAPER IMMEDIATELY. Scan! *stick arms* Save! *exuberance* Swish! *triumph* Sync!

My God! Technology is bending to my mercurial but meticulous whims! Makers of Evernote, I owe you a baby, because telling you I owe you a beer doesn’t seem like a grand enough thank you.

So, babies.  Maxim said to me yesterday that he has been wanting to have a baby lately (Internet. Do not e-mail me. We are not going to have more babies.) and that made me thoughtful about myself as a mother. I try not to contemplate myself in such a fashion, at least not too very often, because being too self-aware as a mother is to invite yourself into all kinds of agony and also probably great heaps of nervous breakdown-ing.  I’m not being the slightest bit hyperbolic or tongue-in-cheek when I say that, either. You mothers know what I’m saying. I mean, be conscientious as shit, Moms, be present as all-fuck but don’t be too exploratory because your kids need you to make oatmeal and sign permission slips, and those things are hella hard to do when your cheese has up and taken a slide off of your cracker.

My own mother is going through something of a hard time, and I’m trying to be her cheerleader. My constant thoughts of her plus Maxim’s admission of baby longing made me think about what we are when we mother.

This song has been chasing me around for months now,

and it is wrecking me, wrecking me, wrecking me. Mary stays behind and cleans up the place.

I am about to mother my father into the grave; I can tell because he is making peace with things that I thought he’d outrun or abandoned.  He refuses to make plans. He tells me freely of the things that he has staunchly decided not to worry himself with any longer. He smiles while he tells me all these things, earnest. Still, he is afraid.

I am about to be the mother of someone who is halfway around the world being a man but who is still –somewhere in time– floating under my ribs as I coo to him, promising him future and love and arms that will always embrace him. I’ll will my ribcage around him when men who don’t consider my oh-so-painful love for him have their rifles and their hatred trained at him. I will rock and snot all over myself deep into many sleepless nights while I wish a vacuum around him where bullets are not even a thing, much less a danger to my boy’s heart, the one I carried in my own before it even had fancy trappings like chambers or valves or beats.

Today, unfathomably and up out of nowhere, I am a human being in a vast amount of pain and in need of mothering myself.

Tomorrow I may have a taste for lemonade and the mouth that comes away from the glass might be smiling, smiling, inviting you in, “Hello! I’ve missed you. Please come sit by me. Can I offer you some refreshment? Some peace? Some understanding or commiseration?

“I’m so glad you’re back. I miss you when you are away.” Tomorrow I may be mothering you.

Tell me something about you as a mom. It has to be private and it has to be liberating. I won’t judge you, and I will tear a strip off of anyone who tries to. Momming is hard, man. All we come equipped to do it with are these puny arms and these ache-prone innards, and that makes me proud of us for showing up, even.

If you’re not a mom in the technical sense, I want you in the fray, too. Tell me about your mother. When we take time to ponder them, they engender SUCH a profundity of emotion in us. Today I am sitting in that emotion and it’s surrounding me on all sides. It’s terrible. It’s transformative. The latter makes the former bearable.

So, then, uh, my kid is surprising me. That’s what they do, right? They surprise us. Kids are way meta with surprise, even: “I am even surprised that I managed to be surprised again. *boggle*” This is how they make us effectively insane as persons and (at least temporarily) ineffective as parents.

I keep forgetting to tell you that Mathias no longer wants to be Mathias to you. I think I announced this shit on Twitter one day, but I mostly write about myselfabsorbedself and my navelgazey perspective here in this space, so my kids don’t come up most of the time,

(I tell you with a great deal of delight that, ironically, my ‘u’ key is sticking today. This has great hippie-dippy Cosmic MeaningTM, but I am not about giving even two shits about that kind of thing today. Except that I find it funny that the universe is so intent on me not regarding others that ‘you’ becomes ‘yo’. So yeah, fuck you, everybody else, I’m on the Me Wagon for a couple of days.)

and when they do it’s because they are a player in my narrative, a supporting structure to the thinks that get kicked off in my headmeat.

So Mathias chooses to be Nick and I guess I’m cool with that; it’s just hard to adjust my fingers to typing ‘Nick’ rather than ‘Mathias’. Part of it, too, is this: Mathias is my baby. Nick is a nearly-grown person who is in so many ways already a man. It’s astounding, the self-possessed and confident way he already has about him at thirteen. Thirteen is supposed to be the age of awkward and foolish and slapdash. He is none of those things.

And, oh, all the ways in which he is a fine person! I respect my kid. You know, not just because he’s another human, but in the way I would respect another adult. It’s so fucking weird, y’all.

Okay. Nick, everyone. He is Nick. Let us all clasp hands and support one another through this trying change. We can do it, we totally can.

(I am looking at you, Chris. Cheerleaderboy lives on in our hearts and collective weirdo subconscious.)

One day last week there came a great knocking and clanging and it was perplexing, all of this unexpected noise from the center guts of the house. Onceupona, when Sam lived here, there was a perpetual and unending noise rolling through this joint whenever he was home. It ran between a muted guitar riff and the caterwauling of teenaged hysterics, but there was definitely always a ruckus emanating from Sam’s person. He gets this from me. However, in my defense, I am not a constant-ruckus person; I require the balance of silence and introspection in equal shares with my rowdy explosiveness. Sam’s very lowest every-moment setting is a steady rumble.

When Sam moved out, Quiet moved in. Quiet’s first cousin Civilized sat with us at dinner (the absence of beatboxing –which was STRICTLY AGAINST TABLE RULES, but Samuel charmed the pants off of those tedious rule-things constantly– and fart jokes ushers in an instant civility, so strange), the spectre of Mellow floated through everywhere, and this house was just a little off-square for a time. But we got used to the shape of Quiet, the tiny ways he displaced our Samuel’s lingering presence here,  and the coterie of cousins that he was constantly inviting in.

So yes, Quiet apparently stepped out for a latte or a nooner or sommat: Since a great knocking and clanging had not been in the household vernacular for some months and I went to investigate. Nick, who now for all intents and purposes is the shape of a grown man, had moved every stick of furniture in his room save for his massive desk-bookshelves combo. He’d only left that as it was because no other wall was really big enough to accomodate it.

He did a good job of it, too. The new layout made all kinds of sense and brought a cool new energy to his space. After the furniture shuffle, Nick began to remove things from his possession without prejudice and with a great sense of purpose. So far, six boxes of beautiful books have gone to friends in other states. A toybox and two big plastic bins, all slap full of toys, have gone to the thrift. A scooter, a box of jeans and a trash bag full of shirts followed them. Figurines and action figures (*wince*) and most of his Star Wars toys (DARTH VADER HELMET!!1! with voice changer) got the boot. The piggy bank his great-grandmother gave him and the ‘treasure box’ where he kept the special things he called ‘prizes’, these sacred objects, gone. No more lamp shaped like the head of Spider-Man. Goodbye, fish maracas and very awesome glockenspiel. Long-cherished blankies? Pshaw.

He did, however, spare the sock monkeys and his Father’s original Dr. Seuss books; they were boxed and shoved to the back of the closet. I suggested we Sistine Chapel the monkeys all over the ceiling of his room. For about half a second he got an amused-at-the-possibilities glint in his eye, then it passed and he hit me with a firm, decisive “No.” Well, hell. Kid, you are killing the fuck out of me.

But I’m delighted, you know?  His thorough shaking-up of things is brave after a fashion. He’s always been such a firm creature of habit. When we announced our intent to spend Christmas traveling a couple years back, you could see the physical effort he was exerting to hold himself together. There is also the fact that for years and years I was terrified that I was raising a hoarder of the highest magnitude. Every six months would find me in there completely overhauling his room from the ground up, swearingspittingfrothing, and I’d always end up with a minimum of three trash bags full of just utter nonsense and crap that had no business living in his dresser drawers and under his bed. So this whole overhauling his life thing, while sudden and unexpected, is weirdly rad.


My kid asked me for a world map. I found a still-wrapped one for a buck on thrift.

At the end of last year sometime Nick asked me for a gigundo world map to hang in his room. Only a couple months passed before I found one on thrift for a buck (I am amazed at how often this sort of thing occurs). In changing his room around, this giant world map ended up hanging at the head of his bed like a headboard. The kid’s poked little round-headed pins in it: Red pins are places he’s been, green pins are places he wants to go, and blue pins are places he wants to conquer and take over.

So far only Greenland and Iceland are screwed.

 
|| October 11, 2011 || 12:06 am || Comments (18) ||

Orange wasn’t always my favorite color; I think at one time blue was. Most of my adult life, though, the distinction of favorite has been assigned to orange.

One time a mess of us were out drinking and I found myself alone at the table with The Prime Minister. “So,” he said to me, “if you were a crayon, what color would you be?”

“Orange.”

“Why orange?”

“Because orange is vibrant and beautiful and draws the eye. It’s unique, but think about it: You can pair any color with it and the combination doesn’t look bad. It can stand alongside anything and work with it. It can stand alone and be even more striking.”

The Prime Minister looked alarmed. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, Jett.”

His reaction surprised me. What was so sad about it? I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it. I’ve never asked him to explain and I don’t know why –me with my annoyingly incessant questioning of every last thing– I haven’t needed that explanation.

Today Mathias said to me, “Hey mom….I’d like to show you a video that I found touching.” I’m so astounded by the person he is. He’s twelve and he is near-about six feet tall and he has this newly-minted manvoice in which he uses words like ‘touching’ to describe emotional states and not what he’d like to be doing to girls. It’s wholly incredible.

Well of course I found it touching, too.

I’m orange, through and through. I’m not going to be grey for anyone, and fuck any silly people that think I could even possibly do such a thing. Not only am I not going to be grey so that someone else won’t be freaked out, I plan on infusing the world with as much vibrancy as I can possibly muster.

I’m unafraid. You be unafraid, too. Go on and be pink or vermilion or blue or green. Not only that: Draw the color up and out in everything and everyone you possibly can. Life is very, very short, despite our longest and hardest days that seem to be unending.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My friend Keith wandered; I understood this, I am a wanderer too. He thought big thinks and he poured them out to me in letter after letter and then e-mail after e-mail. For each of all my unending questions, he had twenty. He was mild and brilliantly dry-humored and regal and kind. He was the guy who brought peace with him into a room, but he was not ever at peace himself. He was okay with this, in his way.

Keith was closeted the whole of his life, and now he is gone, and we –his friends– speak freely of his secrets because in the big scheme of things his orientation and even his illness didn’t matter. I just wish he had known that, had felt it in his middle and rested easy in the love that so many people carried for him, rather than worrying about currying scorn for who he caressed or kissed or bedded. He lived with our friend Stephen for a while, and Stephen tells me of how Keith would scramble, would put a dozen feet between him and anyone in the room if he chanced to get a cut, a scrape; he never let a drop of blood hit the ground.

He built easels that were every bit as artistic as the paintings he created atop them. He started doing this out of necessity: Who the fuck can wag a seven-foot easel from one coast to the other on their back? Eventually he settled back in Memphis into a nice little –if slightly ramshackle– midtown Victorian. These are some of my best memories of us, the ones in that house. One easel he built out of good cherry and I was blown away at the craftsmanship of it, all hand-rubbed and gleaming. He wanted me to take it, I refused. It was too grand. It was too perfect. He was a narrow-assed, mostly-broke artist. He needed the coin it would bring.

Of course I wish I had taken it. He was right; he could have built another. And another and another and another until the virus took over, shifting to syndrome, turning mean and taking his motor control, his lucid thought.

I just wish that I’d known that the last beer we were having together was the last beer were were having together. I would’ve made it last longer. I would’ve ordered us another round. I would have played one more game of Galaga with him in Young Avenue Deli. I would have leaned my head against that broad, bony shoulder one more again and told him another on-the-spot story. He turned my stories into paintings sometimes. Rich ladies in Memphis have my stories hanging on their walls and I miss my friend because forty is not at all an appropriate age for a man’s dying.

BKP, 1971-2011

The afternoon my twelve-year-old explained the overall purpose of his spring-loaded pocket knife to my husband they were sitting alongside one another on the couch. Mathias had just ambled off the bus a handful of minutes before and was  busily working on one of his kanzanillion* comics when he asked Maxim if he could walk to the corner gas station for a soda. Maxim paused to consider this; apparently the pause was a beat too long,  because Mathias felt the need to sell the idea to his father.

“Don’t worry, I have my knife in my pocket.”

“Mathias, you’ve not been carrying that knife to school with you, have you?” He lifted his sweet round face to Maxim,  away from his latest doodle.

“No way! It’s not for school.

“It’s only for rapists and terrorists, Daaaaad.”

Sweet Muffinasses, I am obviously parenting The Child Whose Mother Worked For Social Services Maybe A Smidge Too Long.

*this is too a word. I know because I’m the one who made it up in two-thousand and nine.

 
|| December 26, 2010 || 1:02 am || Comments (20) ||

Mathias used to get in trouble for not writing ‘properly’. His first-grade teacher upbraided him consistently for drawing stovepipe hats onto his ohs, for making his tees grab hold of a clutch of balloons, for mother birds dropping worms into the gaping maws of vees. The alphabet became a vibrant host of characters under his hand over and over again, just as it had ever since he was three or thereabouts.

Finally I wrote her a terse little missive

Please stop stomping all over Mathias’ creativity, for God’s sake.

in an even more authoritative hand than her own bitchy little flowery notes to my kid. There was a conference. I won. The details of that victory are unimportant.

Last year, when we staged an Epic Superior Invasion of New York City as a long-scrimped-for Christmas surprise for the children, we were delighted to find that there was a Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. Tim Burton is Mathias’  absolute hero in the creative maelstrom department. We wandered the exhibit and at one point Mathias stood in front of a piece mounted in the hallway, studying it intently. He took half a dozen pictures of this one thing alone. When I moved in closer behind him, wondering what he was focusing so much of his energy on, my insides smiled large.

It was a desk blotter covered with a myriad of fanciful creatures, elaborate scribbles and letters made into all manner of things. Characters of the characters, if you will. Mathias’ own brand of genius was vindicated. The details of that victory are important.

drawring

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Every year I address a slew of Christmas cards to friends and family. This is time-consuming, but I love it and therefore I put in the effort. When the children got old enough to join in, I put a pen in their hand and asked them to sign alongside mine and Maxim’s names. Mathias was just a tiny thing when he asked to be included, with an inability to yet write his name but completely capable of putting his own personality onto those cards. It took extra time, but I dug in and put my patience into overdrive (no mean feat, I assure you) so that Mathias could contribute.

The older he got, the more involved his card signing got, so that I had to abandon our loose assembly line where the five of us ringed the table, the children and Maxim with their pens ready while I oversaw the process of  cards staying paired with their respective envelopes. There was a four-person correspondence line and Mathias had his own separate time with which to carefully pen his name and a wild imagining or two. Nobody got frustrated that way, and the youngest got to indulge the creative impulse that seems to be his constant and unwavering companion.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve found my Christmas cards in the off season. I get some really lovely cards at extremely discounted rates this way. I found this year’s sometime in March, I think. They were the finest ones I’ve ever purchased, made of beautiful heavy stock with a glossy photo of stretched across four accordion-folded panels. The picture featured four of the gorgeous Neapolitan angels that grace the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas tree each year. The inside verse read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels… Luke 15:10′ and included a description of the angels and their history.

By the time Mathias finished with the cards, they were significantly more spicy. One featured a googly-eyed Santa with a speech balloon declaring it a ‘Merry Crunkmas’. I thought my favorite one must be the one where he edited the aforementioned scripture to read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels….AND PANCAKES.’ until I saw the very last one I was sliding into an envelope. It was to my parents.

victim of joy

I hope you are a victim of joy in the coming year. I hope joy wraps itself around you, rucks up your skirt and manhandles you like it has quietly desired you for a long time and finally decided to unleash the full force of itself on you.

And I hope it feeds you pancakes in the morning.

 

Sometimes life is clumsy with us, and completely artless.

Two weekends ago, I bought a pack of cigarettes. I was in Georgia to have eight stingy hours with Samuel, to try and avoid words like ‘combat’ and ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘deployment’ while doing so. It’s weird, yeah, hearing me talk about avoidance? It’s weird to me, anyway.

turning blue
:: turning blue ::

We had the eight hours after the Turning Blue ceremony where Samuel’s father pinned an infantry cord on the newest member of our family to become active duty military. It was an especially poignant ceremony because it happened at the very place where Sam’s father had gone to basic,  jump school and part of Ranger school. Couple this with the fact that it also fell on Veteran’s Day, well….of course the patriotic Southerin belle in me was all a-swoon and falling over. Certain things about me are grossly predictable and sappy; I’m okay with that.

infantry cord
:: sam’s father pins his infantry cord ::

Sam is a smoker now, and a dipper. This is despite my protestations, despite my reminders of how hard he nudged me toward quitting (what I saw as) my paltry four-stick-a-day habit. One time, five years ago and in an attempt to entice me toward quitting, Maxim said to me, “You’re going to feel like a supreme jackass when one of the kids starts smoking.” Maxim’s always been a quiet prophet, and wise. He is scary on the rare occasions when he admonishes me, because he does it with gentle love or wry humor. What is a person with a warrior bent supposed to do with that?

I do indeed feel like a jackass. Maxim was absolutely right, as always. How can I be annoyed with his loving rightness?

Cue us riding down the road, Sam and Mathias in the back seat, headed back to our chalet for the remainder of the eight hours after a trip to IHOP. The boy spent his entire time in bootcamp fantasizing about pancakes, bacon, french fries; he had asked for IHOP in October on the weekend of his thirty-six hour pass, too. At a grocery store stop he bought a pack of cigarettes and a large can of snuff despite my warnings that the outcome might not be a great one. Besides, you’ve been without all this time, why start back now? Of course he assured me, this new man-person who is now six-three or thereabouts, it’s fine, Mother, I’ve got this. Oh for all the lost nickels that could be paid out on each time I have reassured people around me after this same fashion.

(It’s hard to navigate where to be a mother and where to be a woman who respects the fact that her son is grown and should be left to his decisions without a degree of unsolicited cautionary language (um, nagging?). My mouth and my brain, they pull at one another, while another part of me entirely stands aside to observe and thinks, ‘Myyyy, what a queer state of affairs this one is.’)

Okay, yes, riding down the road: We had begun to slow for a red light when suddenly the rear driver’s-side door swung open and Sam vomited explosively all over the pavement. Maxim quickly but easily navigated to the nearest parking lot –it belonged to a mechanic’s shop– where Sam finished hurling. I ordered Mathias out of our car and over to Nana’s, which had been following behind us. I could predict what lay in store for us if he smelled or saw or heard puking for thirty more seconds.

Sam mostly missed the car. What got on the door was on the molded vinyl portion of it and not the upholstered section that would have held stubbornly to the stench. His arm was extended out the door, fingers still laced in the door’s latch, and was covered in ick. “Don’t move!” I ordered.

“Don’t worry.” he offered back weakly. Too much nicotine too fast and Jack was a sick manboy: None of us had seen Sam put in a huge dip before leaving the grocery store parking lot. The grocery store where, as fate would have it, we’d bought paper towels and a case of water. I pulled some of both out of the trunk and went to work washing the kid and the car as best I could, with him apologizing the whole time.

All I could think about as I was matter-of-factly correcting the situation was this time when he was three and sick, so sick, that I spent a seemingly endless four days and nights cleaning him up, patting and comforting him and singing to him and wishing it off of him and onto myself. He is grown and he has spent the last sixteen weeks learning part of what he needs to be a man and I am still his mother and he still needs me and oh Universe, you with your fucked-up little sense of humor in showing us what we need to be shown when we need to be shown it…. In trying not to laugh, I looked down at the pavement and promptly grimaced. There were undigested french fries there, nearly whole, because Sam had not yet learned to eat slowly and enjoy his food again.

When I got Mathias back into the car and settled, I climbed into the front, where Maxim and I snuck sideways glances at one another and foolgrinned, laughing silently with the unspoken ‘I told you so!’ hanging quietly in the air between us. It was enough that we both acknowledged it; it didn’t beg to be said.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I had already spent much of that weekend in Georgia waiting,  tracing the roof of my mouth with the tip of my seized tongue and wondering where to put all these emotions inside of me, unsure of what to vent or how to catalog those that went unreleased in some fashion. Fucking was out of the question, as the walls and floors of the chalet carried every little nuance of sound, so I’d bought that pack of cigarettes.

We sneaked outside, me and Samuel and my sister, to smoke together and talk. Sam was so full of stories. They just poured out of him one on top of the other and most were hilarious but some plucked at the taut strings of worry and dread and panic I could feel humming inside of me. My face, for once, did not betray me. Then we were at an Italian restaurant that night, laughing, sharing off one another’s plates, watching the time carefully so as to have Sam back at the ordered hour to prepare for the next day’s graduation. There were an even dozen of us around the table, oblivious to our surroundings, when this really gorgeous woman stopped on her way out. She looked to be in her sixties, and was one of those effortlessly elegant creatures that you might track across the room with your eyes, wondering where she got that magic and if she might share it with you.

She inquired after any Veterans that might be at the table and then thanked the four of us that were. Then she extended her hand toward Sam, thanking him and telling him she appreciated him. He rose, taking her hand, thanking in return and ma’aming and she just kept expressing appreciation and my napkin is big but holy Christ there is so much happening in me and oh shit can I please get to the restroom before I burst into this high maddening wail in front of hell and half of Georgia?

And so I excused myself to go collect myself; I patted my face daintily with a paper towel soaked in cold water just like my mother showed me when she was endeavoring to teach me the combined arts of being a Genteel Southerin Laydeh and a Proper Military Wife and Mother.

Then we found ourselves leaving –just Maxim and Sam and me– the polite little city of Columbus to take Sam back to post for the evening. We dropped him off and he acted skittish, seeming unsure for the first time since all this leaving us began; Sam fiddled with his belongings, moving from Maxim to me and back again (twice. thrice!) for hugs and murmurs of support, surrounded by dozens of other young men doing something similar with their loved ones. We broke from one another and Samuel walked back toward the Company area, a lone figure moving hastily between other young men walking, relaxed, in pairs and teams of three or four. I thought then how, when I looked up the meaning of Sam’s name after he was born, that I was filled with chagrin at finding the words ‘wandering cub’. I got back into the car and for the first time in sixteen weeks I lost my shit good and proper, the kind of shit-losing where there are sounds coming out of you that you don’t recognize because you don’t (or haven’t really ever) employed them  in your life. I wailed the entire thirty minutes back to Uchee Creek, and upon discovering the rest of the family was still out for ice cream, I asked Maxim to go inside and gave myself the liberty of fifteen minutes more of it.

Nobody tells you about this sort of moment when you become a mother because there are no words for it and maybe, just maybe, it would be a deal-breaker.

soldier
:: soldier ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On graduation day, we navigated the back roads and back gates of Fort Benning, throwing the post into a drastically different light. All we had seen to date was Sand Hill, (“Where men are made!”) which is dusty and brown and utilitarian for the most part. On main post I saw the vibrant military community I was accustomed to. I pointed out features of it to Mathias, who has no working history with the military whatsoever, having been born long after his grandfathers retired and his father and I had served.

About halfway to the National Infantry Museum, where graduation ceremonies were to be held, there was what can be best described as a lurch in my abdomen and then all hell kind of started breaking loose down there.

“You have to get me to a bathroom FAST, Maxim.” Cue mayhem and shenanigans. The road that the GPS wanted us to turn down was obstructed with a concrete barrier, which tacked an additional ten or so minutes onto our journey. Of course when we got to our destination the parking lot proved to be massive and slap full. Hell, the walk from the lot to the museum’s entrance alone was nearly the length of a football field.  There were a couple of ‘events’ between the time we entered the parking lot and the time I got to the bathroom; they were epic enough that upon my emergence twenty minutes later, Maxim stood waiting for me, grim-faced.

“Did you happen to bring a bottle of water?”

“I wasn’t really concerned with anyone’s hydration,” I hissed,  “I was focusing all my energy on not shitting myself.”

“I’m not asking for me, jackass.” With that he extended his closed fist toward me, turned it palm upward, then unfurled his fingers. There sitting in his palm was his emergency Xanax, glowing with the light of Heaven itself. In fact, I’m certain that tiny little angels were dancing all around it, singing angelic blessing over the hand that was so giving in the moment of a suffering woman’s need.

It was then that I realized that I must be scaring the piss out of my husband what with my keening snotfest and my uproarious bowels, because he does not come off with the Xanax EVER. The reason for this is twofold. One is because he has horrible panic attacks in the neighborhood of once a year and never knows when one might hit, so he keeps one lone Xanax on his person in reserve for that instance. Two is because his wife is a non-practicing junkie who would likely eat someone’s liver for its pharmaceutical content if she were strung out far enough, so why take unnecessary chances with the wagon hitting a rut and her taking a bad bounce off of it?

I scooped up that little coral-colored football quick-smart and dry swallowed it. Within thirty minutes, around the time the ceremony started, I had shaken hands with my mellow and promised it a pitcher of margaritas later if it would hang around long enough for me to get some good shots of the ceremonies.

the men of bravo company
:: the men of bravo company ::

They were, of course, stirring and beautiful.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I was standing in the kitchen later that night, whipping up some supper. The kids were headed to a football game later, but right then Sam was hovering around the edges of my activities, talking. Sam was looking forward to this brief time at home a great deal; he had a mess of support and love showered on him via the post while he was in basic training. He would endeavor to see as many of these people as he could for the two days he was here.

“Mom, I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt.”

I turned toward him. “Okay, shoot.”

“Well, when I was gone, I missed Scout most of all. I was SO stoked to get her letters.” I immediately thought of when they were small and how Sam, just a baby himself, was so excited to have a baby in the house. His first expectation every morning, even before he’d eaten, was to settle in on the sofa and ‘hold’ a tiny, birdlike Scout while she took a bottle. I was still breastfeeding then, but expressed milk just for this purpose, because he looked so forward to being near his sister and taking part in her care.

sibs
:: sibs ::

“That doesn’t hurt my feelings, Samuel. That’s one of the best things you could ever tell me. I won’t be around forever and I’ve always wanted the three of you to be close so that you’ll be involved in one another’s lives and look out for each other when I’m gone.”  He folded me into his arms then, kissing the top of my head the way he has ever since he shot up past six feet tall.

Sam then headed off to the other side of the house in search of Maxim and I turned back to the stove, finishing up the chicken enchiladas he’d requested as his first home-cooked meal in four months. I dropped my head and said quietly, half prayer and half admonition, “Just come home safe to us, Samuel. Go have your adventures and come home intact, inside and out.”