Susie skirt at the Kennedy CenterThe 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....