Monday, April 22, 2013

Yarn Bombing

Susie skirt at the Kennedy Center
The runners of Philadelphia wore Red Sox shirts this evening to commemorate the Boston Marathon Bombings.  I told my kids to say, "Go Red Sox!" to the joggers as they passed.  Some of them gave us thumbs up, and I started to blubber.

The girls and I had abandoned dinner to pick Jack Peter up at karate.  His karate teacher, Sensei Brandon, speaks to Jack Peter in a Samuel L. Jackson voice.  As I grabbed the bag with Jack Peter's karate uniform, Sensei Brandon commanded, "Jack Peter, YOUR MOTHER does not carry your karate uniform; you are IN CHARGE of your uniform."  It's amazing how quickly Jack Peter will man up for Sensei Brandon.  I imagine Jack Peter's four uncles doing the same for the infamous "Grandpa Jack."  I adore the manliness of my husband and his brothers.  I'm glad someone is here to prompt my son in that direction because it's not happening over here in glitter-shoe-pink-hair-knit-skirt fairy land.

Jack Peter even pushed the girls in the stroller for half a block.  Another deep-voiced black man had watched JP hop onto the stroller and said, "You should be pushing that stroller; what are you doing in there?"  To my surprise, Jack Peter hopped out, told me to walk ahead and pushed for half a block until the front wheel tapped the heel of my boot, the stroller bounced back and hit him in the nose.  Steel jumped out of her seat, guided him into it and tried to make him laugh so he'd stop howling while Toby stroked him with her little fat hand. God, I hope they always have each other's backs like that.

This evening the pictures of the "suspects" in the bombing were released by the FBI.  They look no older than my oldest niece.  That fact makes me as sad as knowing that one of the victims was about Jack Peter's age.  Tim just rejected a job in Boston at Northeastern University.  Neither of us was prepared to move to Boston despite his admiration for the program at Northeastern and for the academic environment of the Boston area.  I feel like a sham being overwrought about the "Boston Marathon Bombings," but I cannot help it.  To the untrained, not-from-New England-ear, my father's thick Rhode Island accent is the same as the ones we've been hearing on the radio deflecting the inquiries of the press.  Not too many years ago, my mother and her, now deceased, soulmate were at that finish line cheering on his daughter as she crossed the finish line.  Most of my high school shenanigans occurred in Boston.  I am linked to that city whether I admit it or not.  I listen to the stories of the stalwart Bostonians and can't help but feel pride.  In the next breath I feel shame at this sudden, emotional appropriation of my Massachusetts roots.

What is it to be from Massachusetts?  I can tell you that my mother is busy knitting red, white and blue skirts for me, Steel, Toby, Gillian (my niece) Jana (my sister in law) Hope (my god daughter) to wear on the 4th of July.  The 4th of July celebration in my town is not unlike Patriot's Day in Boston just on a smaller scale without any major sporting events except for watching the hot-dog-eating-people on TV at the end of the parade.  Why is my mom knitting those skirts? 1. because we will look so cute at the 4th of July parade where we will see all of her friends. 2. because she lost her soul mate on Labor Day, and that is the productive way in which she grieves.  I believe that both of those reasons are what it is to be from Massachusetts, and you can bet that she's getting all of that yarn on sale too.

These are just mine...I owned the one Jen is wearing and dyed it for her because she's not really a pink person.  If I had a dime for every person who asked me for either a skirt or the pattern, and if I had a penny for each time Jen gets asked....

At some point during that 4th of July celebration, one or both of my girls will remove their shirts because it will be hot, and they will be sticky with the candy that gets thrown from the fire engines in the parade.  They will be wearing the skirts and sandals and nothing else.  Is unabashed nudity part of being from Massachusetts?  I don't know.  I do know that my mother sewed my bikini bottoms for most of my childhood.  I suppose I should really say "monokini;" she refused to sew a top "until you have something to put in it."   To her friends she would say, "I won't have my daughter sexualized by a ridiculous 2-piece bathing suit!"  Sadly, I still don't have anything to put in my top, but when I see little girls at the Jersey shore in their hoochie-mamma spangly 2-piece swimsuits, I understand.  

My mom routinely scaled three flights of stairs naked in my youth until the washing machine was moved from the basement to the 3rd floor.  Then she only had to streak down the hall if she forgot the fabric softener.  I watched my father's morning routine EVERY morning.  I just loved the bristle-y sound of the razor on his whiskers.  On a good day, he'd dot my nose with shaving cream or my mom would give me a spray of her Chanel #5.  My dad was immodest until I turned 12, then the towel went on in the shower before he emerged.  I'd see his disembodied arm reaching for the towel as mine does at the YMCA when I come out of the showers.

I've had two brushes with my lenient attitude towards nudity in the past two weeks.  I went swimming last Saturday at the Y.  I usually go with the kids, but Tim urged me to go on my own.  He and I had taken advantage of my mother's presence and gone out to a bar the night before.  In a drunken moment of "clarity," I'd told him that I was finally extricating myself from my desire to have a 4th child.  A hungover swim was necessary the next morning.  To get to the pool, one walks through the showers.  I always take the locker next to the door to the showers, so I can grab my (completely dry) towel as I re-enter the locker room.  I don't like carrying it into the pool.  I swam, showered and opened the door to the locker room fixing to grab the towel and staunch my naked floor drips.  I was greeted by a woman sitting on the bench in front of "my" locker.  She had an incredibly adorable 5-month-old girl in a snuggly strapped to her expansive chest.  I was paralyzed, swooning over this gorgeous baby forgetting entirely about grabbing my towel.  The baby's 3-year-old sister danced around as I cooed.  I couldn't ignore the 3-year-old, so I, the naked white lady, chatted with her, as well.  Meanwhile, poor mom of 4 was shouting at her two boys to "TURN AROUND AND FACE THE WALL!!!!!"  She was in there with 4 kids trying to get them all ready for the pool.  She was perfectly happy to talk to me about her gorgeous baby; she'd just snap at the boys periodically, "FACE THE WALL!"  I finally realized that, as much as she loved my adoration of her youngest, my presence was creating anarchy in the other 3.  I slunk off to the curtained changing area with my bag.  As they all left the locker room for the pool, I heard her shouting to the boys, "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AROUND FOR????? SHE'S GONE!  GET INTO THE SHOWERS!!!!"  

The only thing I take away from that experience is that I can still bring Jack Peter into the women's locker room for 2 more years.  Her boys were 5 and 8.  The policy at the Y is that one can have kids of the opposite gender in the parent's locker room until they are 5.  I sent Jack Peter into the men's room once because we'd gone with his friend, Caspar.  Caspar said that a naked man was saying "potty talk."  I'm not sure if that was just a guy on his phone changing into his clothes or something weird.  Jack Peter did not corroborate the story, but it was enough for me to think twice about making JP deal with the men's locker room on his own for a while.  From that baby meltdown, I also should admit that I'm not fully committed to giving up on a 4th child.

I did test the theory that Steel is looking embarrassed in this image because we are wearing the same skirt.  I copied her green Susie skirt/black tee outfit exactly, and she was pleased.  My mom has knit 3 matching skirts for Heather and her 2 girls.  The older, in Kindergarten, said, "Mom, we are never going to be twinsies, alright?!  If I'm wearing mine, you CAN'T wear yours!"  I'll be so sad if Steel is like that in a year's time...

The second nudity issue happened at the park.  The girls and I stopped to play before getting Jack Peter.  Steel was flipping around on the swings and bars.  Every time I saw her knickers, I'd sing, "I see London; I see France; I see Steely's underpants!"  I left the girls to the play equipment to hang out with a girlfriend.  All of a sudden 2 black women were screaming at me..."Your girl's underwear are showing!!!!!"  My response was, "We don't really care about that sort of thing, but thank you."  Was I referring to white people from Massachusetts when I said "we?"  I'm still not sure what I should have done.  I used to have blue leotard-material "bloomers" to put over my underwear when I was doing penny drops in 4th grade, but that was way back when knickers were all white and knicker-looking.  Steel's were a very bikini-esque blue.  Also, I was 10; she's FIVE.  Who cares about her cute little undies???

I might as well move from nudity to public urination.  Yesterday, poor Toby had to confront the fact that she will never pee standing up with any aplomb.  We had taken 30 minutes to pull ourselves out of what was supposed to be and early Sunday dinner with friends.  The house was big enough that 5 kids disappeared while we drank a new drink...Dark and Stormies; I'd happily have sat there all night.  I suddenly realized that Monday and possibly the whole week was going to be hell if my kids weren't sleeping in the next 17 minutes.  Toby announced as we were finally getting into the mini van, "I have to pee!"  We were not going back into the house.  I held her as she "popped a squat" in my friends' yard.  (I'd never heard that term.  Deena told me that Toby could "pop a squat" in her yard anytime in response to my guilty, "i let my girl pee in your yard" text.)  Toby had attempted to do it standing, but she's still small enough that I can pull her pants down to her ankles, flip her around and bend her over in a pretty fluid motion.  I think she was disappointed.

Queen's Fat-bottomed Girls rocked the Honda Odyssey on our way home.  As we flew down the off ramp from 676 Toby asked, "Mama, are WE fat-bottomed girls?"  I replied, "Well, it's all relative.  Living in Philly, we don't really have any claims to that title, but I'll put it this way, if you grow up looking like me, it's more likely you'll be with a bottom guy than top guy." (especially if you keep wearing those flouncy Grandma Susie numbers...)

I cried a little again listening to the coverage of Boston's attempts to return to normalcy this morning.  Unravelling the root of my sadness has been hard.  I feel lucky and happy so much of the time.  I get weepy and proud when I watch runners cross the finish line of the marathon.  I feel connected to their triumph.  I'm uplifted by their accomplishment maybe because I too, once ran a marathon.  But I feel the same pride watching anyone try hard and succeed because we are all connected.  Conversely,  I feel so sad when two brothers, 19 and 26 arrive at the conclusion that bombing innocent people is the right decision.  We are all failing, and I have no idea what to do about it.

California girls in Susie skirts.  It's a nationwide revolution....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I'm brining a turkey as we speak.  At one moment today I was brining a turkey, dying a lightening bolt into my son's hair, working at the studio and resisting the temptation to micro-manage my new studio assistant with some very intricate bubble wrapping.  If I'd answered the phone, I'd have been talking to my mom, as well.  Maybe that's why I liked being pregnant so much.  I could have been doing all that AND making a baby.

Right now I'm in charge of 4 kids who are watching Return of the Jedi for movie night.  In full-disclosure of my multi-tasking scenario, I might add that I'm on my second rye and ginger of the evening.  I think of myself as someone who recognizes and craves the finer things in life.  My relationship to rye and ginger is an anomaly.  Rye and ginger is a "Nanny drink."  Tim's mom started us on them.  For her, it has to be Canada Dry Ginger Ale, but she's never balked at Windsor Canadian, the cheaper version of Canadian Club.  There's an even CHEAPER version, Canadian Gold with which I made her a drink 2 nights ago.  She didn't bring it up, but, when prodded, she admitted that it might not be as smooth as Canadian Club.  Honestly I sort of like that rough edge; I'm becoming a cheap date.

One of the four kids, Jerrod, is not mine.  He's been eating since he walked in the door 3 hours ago.  He's onto the pistachios now.  On his way back to the movie room, he asked me for a bowl for the shells.  I handed him one, and he said wide-eyed, "You gotta alotta small bowls!" in his perfect, "What you talkin' about, Willis?" black urban accent.  I said, "Jerrod, I make small bowls for a living."  He looked at the side of his bowl, shrugged and walked back into the movie room.  He's not impressed.

In, yet another attempt to multi-task, I agreed to let a friend, Gavin, film me at the studio answering a few questions.  He's got a great gig casting for a Walmart "Real Mom" campaign.  Every Tuesday, for a year, he needs to come up with four moms who will agree to do their shopping on camera.  Two of the four get $250 to shop and then another $250 credit at Walmart.  One of them has to do a commercial.  Usually Gavin puts an ad on Craigslist telling moms to video tape themselves answering 5 questions.  He forwards the videos to some guy in California, and that's it.  He forgot to place the Craigslist ad, so he had to come up with some moms fast.  I figured the pink hair would be a Walmart ad deterrent.  Although honestly, my multi-tasking capabilities did not extend to thinking through the humiliation of having all of Philadelphia and South Jersey witness my mock surprise in a Walmart ad.

Heather was the other mom.  We caravanned to a random New Jersey Starbuck's to meet with the little marketing team.  They gave us $250, and we were let loose to shop at Acme. (a local grocery store) Heather and I had spent an entire swim at the pool and another phone conversation plotting what we would buy.  We could spend $250, but only on 40 items.  It was challenging to come up with that many over $5 things at a grocery store.  Both of us are from New England.  Clearly we weren't going to get 40 items that came to a penny under $250.

We convened at Walmart to have the contents of our carts analyzed.  The pink hair theory wasn't looking good.  One of the marketing people had a dyed black overgrown mohawk with clippered pink hair on the sides of her head.  The camera guy had shaved eyebrows and a purple/black goth look.

During the cart analysis Heather and I were treated to a tour of the 250,000 sq. foot Walmart by Chris, the rotund manager.  He was probably a good looking guy in high school.  He commented on his weight every few minutes.  He presents his love of food like a fascinating hobby.  Some people play piano; others knit.  Chris eats.  Both Heather and I immediately digressed into our brown-noser-in-high-school persona.  We feigned interest, asking pertinent questions about his Walmart.  Chris happily responded, and it was fun for the first twenty minutes.  An hour and a half later I could only assume that Chris had a little crush on Heather.  He'd gone into excruciating detail about his saga with Walmart's corporate headquarters in procuring pork roll for his store.  With a proud swipe of a borrowed inventory gun we marveled at how many pork rolls Chris has sold in the past 3 months.  I'm still wondering what percentage of those went home with Chris.  I'd never heard of pork roll.  Shocked, he went into the dietary needs of his mostly-Italian demographic.  He was getting a little too deep into the Feasts of the 7 Fishes and directing the bulk of the information to poor Heather.  I finally said, "Chris! Heather's kids are named Luca, Ciela, and Gia; She could write a book on Jersey WOP culture."

Sadly, the commercial mom is picked by the percentage of savings she would have gotten at Walmart on her shopping trip.  My olive oil and Starbucks coffee put me in a 19% savings category.  Heather's Doritos and Reynolds Wrap left her with only a 17% savings.  Even though she would have been way cuter on camera, and she would have been happy to leave Rene, her husband, to cope for a day, Heather got to go home.  I, on the other hand, had to say, "Awesome!" and "Great!" for the next 6 hours.

My first issue was the make-up artist.  She listened to my "less is more" caveat in all areas but lip gloss.  I could feel strands of it connecting my lips when I spoke.  At 39, I would have just gooped my way through, assuming that she's the expert, but I'm 43 now, so I actually said something every time she re-applied.  The next problem was my inability to stop saying "Oh my God!"  The chunky Mormon girl from Walmart Headquarters with iridescent purple eye shadow followed us around on the shoot making sure that no legal boundaries were crossed.  Once she'd told me I couldn't say "Oh my God!" it was impossible for me to stop.  In the bathroom, not peeing on the shackle-like microphone stuck to the back of my leggings while worrying whether the sound guy was listening proved difficult as well.

Thankfully there was Dave.  Dave is the actor who has to explain gleefully on camera to moms every Tuesday how much they would have saved had they shopped at Walmart.  Dave abandoned teaching elementary school after a after a talent show because a student's mom responded to Dave's skit with another teacher, "You're good at that!  You should be an actor!"  

Dave hopped down the aisle with my Starbuck's coffee in an Easter basket singing Here comes Peter Cottontail effortlessly springing into his spiel.  He could look directly into the camera with the right amount of handsome authority, jauntily discussing savings percentages while helping me not collapse into a puddle of "Oh my God's!"  That's serious multi-tasking, and it's his gift.  I'd just been discussing Justin Timberlake with poor Shaina, my new studio assistant.  (Poor Shaina because she has to listen to me talk about stupid crap like Justin Timberlake's willingness to flog Bud Lite) Why the hell would he want to do that?  He doesn't need the money?  I asked Dave if he got famous, would he still do a Bud Lite ad?  He said, "I can't answer that."  Maybe doing a Bud Lite ad for Justin Timberlake is like my making a lamp finial.

I had an experience 10 years ago that gave me great admiration for models.  I got a call from Danny, my English stylist friend in San Francisco, "CHICKEN, all of my models are too skinny, and YOU'RE TOO FAT!  You need to have a 26" waist in 2 weeks to model a $10,000 wedding dress on the local morning TV show."  I ate oranges and soup for 2 weeks, and the dress was swimming on me.  A professional model, my friend, Jennifer, and I had to turn around on a little stage in these dresses and smile.  I was appalled at how effortless the model and Jen flowed as they spun around.  I looked like the dwarf next to the little girl in this Velasquez painting.  I just don't have that fluid, "Look at me, I'm fantastic" gene. 

Tim has gotten countless texts saying, "Did I just see your wife in a Walmart ad?"  Picking up Jack Peter at after care, I was greeted with, "When did you start working for the devil?"  Apparently there was a print ad too, so I could also be humiliated in front of people who don't watch TV, as well.  Perhaps my Walmart ad is running at the same time that I'm blogging.  I can be blogging and flogging at the same time.  There's always a silver lining.