Weddings, Then and Now

 

 

 

 

I’ve been married for so long, the adorable little kid who was the flower girl at my wedding was the beaming bride this weekend at her own wedding. In an effort to keep myself from dwelling on how damn old that makes me, I’m choosing to focus my attention on love, in all its iterations – from shiny and new to comfortable and timeworn.

Firmly in the comfortable camp is my husband and I who are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, we won’t have a chance to acknowledge the milestone until later in the week during a break between basketball carpool and volleyball games. At this point in our lives, an hour together with a strong drink and an uninterrupted conversation that doesn’t devolve into coordinating our calendars qualifies as a date.

I’m beginning to understand the wisdom behind the adage that the first 20 years of marriage are the hardest. I don’t know who said it or when – it was probably meant as a joke – but the idea actually makes sense. There are a lot of difficult marital miles that need to be navigated in those first two decades.

We’ve faced the typical bumps in the road: cross country moves; stressful jobs; a health scare; kids; vomiting kids; kids who refuse to sleep; kids who go through an Elmo phase; kids who turn into moody teenagers; kids who… you get the picture.

Fortunately, we’ve also developed skills to help smooth the path. We can still make each other laugh. We’re good at picking up the slack when the other person needs a break, ensuring there’s at least one patient, organized and upbeat spouse at any given moment. I’m good at ignoring the near constant din of sports on TV and he’s good at ignoring the basket of clean laundry that sits unfolded for a week. I think that might be the key to our longevity: focusing on the few things that are truly important and offering each other grace with everything else.

The happy couple who got married this weekend is still giddy and glowing and marveling at their good fortune of having found each other. Love was such a tangible presence at their wedding, it probably should have showed up with a gift from Crate & Barrel like the rest of the guests. I found myself emotional (and maybe ugly crying a little) as I witnessed not only the shiny new love between the bride and groom, but also how their parents, family and friends cared for them so deeply and wished them well.

I hope the honeymoon phase of their relationship lasts a long time. But I also hope they grow to appreciate the little acts of daily marital maintenance that help sustain love over the years. My husband making me a cup of coffee just the way I like it or texting me a link to a story that he knows will make me laugh can feel more romantic than the rare candlelit dinner.

Lest we get complacent, I also hope the comfy sweatpants stage of our relationship can be reinvigorated by the newlywed love we saw this weekend. The logistics involved in keeping a family sheltered, clothed, fed and relatively happy can snuff out the levity and spontaneity that fuels romance. And since a marriage can’t be sustained by coffee and Onion articles alone, we need to flirt with the person we fell in love with, not just appreciate our hardworking partner in the journey.

Perhaps the best thing about being in love is that even though it will change over time, if the person in your life can make you laugh, make you think, make you feel seen and understood and desirable, then you’re with the right person — whether it’s been one week or almost 20 years. Congratulations to the newlyweds and happy anniversary to my love.

 

 

 

 

Magic

FullSizeRenderI turn the volume up as soon as I hear the opening riff. I match Robert Smith word for word while driving my daughter to volleyball practice:

Show me show me show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream, she said
The one that makes me laugh, she said
And threw her arms around my neck

Show me how you do it
And I promise you, I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you

Wistful, I sigh. Unimpressed, she groans.

“What a stupid song about magic tricks,” she says.

“What? No, it’s a love song. The trick isn’t literally a trick, it’s a kiss or maybe just that butterflies-in-your stomach feeling when you like someone.”

“Nope. It’s about a magic trick. Thanks for the ride. See ya.”

The car door closes with a solid thunk and she runs to the gym, leaving me with memories from long ago and the accompanying soundtrack.

I can hear Belinda Carlisle belting Mad About You as I fall hard for a cute boy in junior high. Unfortunately, I hear Whitesnake questioning Is This Love during my first kiss. (Don’t judge. MTV was on in the background)

I remember panicking as I realize I’m in over my head at my first concert: Oingo Boingo. Sporting a seafoam green turtleneck, a short black skirt and tragically, black and white polka dot suspenders, I spend the bulk of the show worrying about the possibility of getting high from secondhand smoke. Nancy Reagan’s admonition to just say no reached at least one kid in the late eighties.

Fortunately, by the time Depeche Mode’s Violator tour came to town a few years later, my friends and I were seasoned concert veterans, a tight group of high school seniors naïve enough to believe the lyrics as we sang along:

All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms

 At prom, we busted a move to, well, Bust a Move and then later slow danced to Wicked Game. We rebuffed boys who thought whispering the lyrics to More Than Words would be their ticket to getting lucky. And finally, we said goodbye to high school with a rapid-fire sing along in the car to It’s the End of the World as We Know It while driving to graduation.

It’s all there, the entire beautiful, gawky experience of growing up, woven between lyrics and melodies of songs that I will never forget.

And yet my own kid thinks Just Like Heaven is about a magic trick.

Jolted out of my reverie as I pull into the garage, I don’t bother getting out of the car before turning to Google. I read segments of an interview with Robert Smith while still sitting behind the wheel.

The song is about hyperventilating – kissing and fainting to the floor.

Exactly. Feeling relief that love is not dead, I keep reading.

The opening line of the song (show me show me show me how you do that trick) refers to his childhood memories of mastering magic tricks.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

So… I guess we’re both right?

I was fourteen when Just Like Heaven came out, the same age my daughter is now. I suppose there’s a chance that when I first heard the song I, too, thought it was about pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Maybe songs aren’t infused with meaning until we’ve lived with them for a while and they become tangled with memories. The time, place and people around us become as integral to our experience as the tune itself.

Feeling melancholy, I make a Spotify playlist featuring almost four hours of music from back in the day. It’s a nice distraction while attending to the mundane tasks of adult life – cooking, cleaning, errands – but it isn’t necessarily a place I want to linger. Nostalgia has a way of obscuring our view when given enough psychic real estate.

I will, however, revisit songs from high school when I need to muster empathy for my teenage daughter. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to navigate intense joy, heartache and camaraderie all in a single morning, usually while sporting a chin zit. I think listening to The Smiths might make it easier for me to relate.

And while I can’t expect my daughter to like my favorite songs from twenty-five years ago, I can enjoy watching her cue up songs for her own playlist. I just hope the mix contains something similar to Just Like Heaven, paying tribute to both the love and, yes, magic that is part of being a teenager.

Feeling like a moody teenager? I’ve got a playlist for you:

How To Break Your Heart in an Afternoon

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Drag your family to San Francisco’s MOMA for one of your infamous Forced Family Fun Days.

Endure eye rolls from your daughter who is running on two hours of sleep thanks to a slumber party the night before.

Give your son the stink eye as he wanders from gallery to gallery stating loudly, “THAT is not art.”

Gasp as your son mistakes a ledge with a sculpture on it for a bench, and almost sits on the art.

Apologize profusely to the museum security guard.

Snap a photo of your daughter, long legs, waterfall of hair, and realize she is the most radiant piece of art in the room. Feel a lump in your throat as you see her, perhaps for the first time, as the young woman she is becoming instead of the child she once was.

Watch your son masterfully create a photo at the art kiosk and know that, despite complaining, he is enjoying your adventure. Smile as he hands you a printout of his creation for safe keeping. Feel grateful he still trusts you with his treasures.

Convince your kids that the giant rust-colored sculpture on the ground floor is entitled “Cinnamon Roll.” Wander through the spiral labyrinth laughing, losing your family along the way. Remain confident that if you keep going, you all will find a way back to each other. Cross your fingers and hope that’s true forever.

Walk outside and spot the tapas bar that was your old hangout when you lived in the city. Realize that you and your husband started meeting there after work almost 20 years ago. Tell the kids that you’ve changed your lunch plans and lead the way into the restaurant.

Feel a pang of nostalgia when the sangria and patatas bravas are just as good as you remember. Watch your kids adventurously taste everything you order. Feel pride that they like to cook and eat and try new things as much as you do.

Think back 20 years to your old job and your old colleagues who’d gather at the restaurant’s long bar after a long day. Remember the good times you had drinking pitchers of beer while playing darts. Question the wisdom of combining beer and darts.

Remember how much you complained about your job back in the day. Realize that you were lucky to be doing interesting work with great people. Understand that petty annoyances are quickly forgotten while memories of the good times endure.

Acknowledge the same thing is true for parenting.

Forgive the eye rolls, the endless bickering, the declaration that, “I’d rather be shopping.”

Recall how 20 years have passed in the blink of an eye – a blur of exciting days and wasted days and heartbreaking days and joyful days. Fear that the next 20 years will slip away even more quickly. Vow to pay attention, focus on the good, appreciate moments of happiness, write it all down. Smile at the three people you love the most in the world and start planning your next Forced Family Fun Day.

Ho Ho Huh?

IMG_8346So Starbucks has found itself in the middle of a brouhaha (more like a brew-ha-ha, amirite?) over its austere red ombre cups for the holidays. Internet outrage abounds. Not only are some people offended by the lack of vaguely Christmas-y doodles on the new cups, but other people are offended by the fact that people are offended.

And even though I think this news has run its course, Donald Trump — arbiter of all that is rational and compassionate – is weighing in, so I can’t let it go. Trump suggested boycotting Starbucks. Good luck with that. He also promised that if elected, everyone will be saying “Merry Christmas” again. Which begs the question that I shout at the TV to Trump and all other politicians again and again: how exactly are you going to do that?

Ok, here’s the thing. If today is one of the 364 days of the year that is not your birthday, I won’t walk up to you and say happy birthday. Similarly, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I won’t wish you a Merry Christmas. If I don’t know you well enough to have insight as to what you celebrate in December but want to wish you well nonetheless, I’m going with happy holidays. That just seems to make sense, right?

Starbucks chose a simple red cup to acknowledge the upcoming holidays. This should not impact anyone’s holidays. I think the bigger question needs to be why are corporations so deeply involved in our families’ celebrations in the first place?

Just as I don’t need a pumpkin spice latte to let me know it’s fall, I don’t need a decorated cup to let me know the holidays are coming. Nor do I need Lexus suggesting that a luxury sedan wrapped in a big red bow is a reasonable gift this time of year. Instead of worrying about whether or not companies use the word “Christmas,” why don’t we push back against their efforts to whip us all into a gift buying frenzy in the first place?

We consistently say the holidays aren’t about the gifts, they’re about people – family, friends and those in need. Therefore, the most important thing to be spending this season is time. Time with people we love. Time helping others. Time cultivating gratitude. This isn’t news. We all know this. I’ve even written about it before (although in a much more profane way) in this post.

But it takes blinders, earplugs and an iron will not to succumb to the message in the media. I’m glad Starbucks’ cupgate happened in early November so I have a head start in thinking about what’s truly important this season and how my family will celebrate. I simply want time with them. Maybe even at a Starbucks, sipping hot chocolate out of a plain red cup.

Happy holidays, may you spend wisely this year.

New Favorite Song

He flopped into the car, exhausted and sweaty from a late-night basketball practice. It was the last stretch of my inane day where I seemed to do nothing but chauffeur kids, run errands and burn almost a half tank of gas in the process. Both of us too tired to talk, I flipped through stations on the radio.

The opening riff of a song caught our attention.

“This is my new favorite song,” I confessed, turning it up.

“Me too!”

I smiled and glanced over at him, watching his face as the realization hit: mom and I like the same song. He was trying to figure out if his musical taste was lame or if mine was cool – the only two possible explanations for this newly discovered commonality in our Venn diagram.

Undaunted, I started to sing along, catching only one out of every three words:

Mmm and lied, mmm mmm so bad
La la la vow, never get mad

He laughed, knowing he could do better. Too tired to be self-conscious and protected by 8pm darkness where no one could see in the car windows, he joined in.

I nudged the volume up a bit and added steering wheel drums. He cringed – nothing is more embarrassing than my steering wheel drums — but he kept singing.

There comes a time, in a short life
Turn it around, get a rewrite

The song ended, as did our spontaneous moment of musical bonding.

Anyone who hangs out with me knows that I spend a lot of time grumbling about the pace of life with big kids. They’re old enough to have talents and interests and a desire to pursue them. But they’re not old enough to drive themselves to the never-ending practices and games that take place in far-flung locations at all hours of the day.

It’s insane. But just when I’m ready to crack, life offers a crystalized moment of raw love: a connection over a song while driving home from practice; a good talk after a disappointing loss; a sweaty bear hug after a game-winning shot. It’s all there, tucked into the pockets of quiet within this loud, busy life we’ve created.

There comes a time, in a short life
Turn it around, get a rewrite

 Message received.

I know I’m lucky beyond words. I know this time is short and that in a few years they’ll be independent and I’ll miss all those miles on roads to kids’ activities. I’ve always known these things but sometimes it helps to be reminded. Recharged and refocused, I’m changing my tune… but keeping the steering wheel drum solo.

The C Word

Like most people, I appreciate a good four-letter word. I try to use a modicum of discernment around my kids, but let’s just say my language has helped them build a robust word bank to tap into for just about any situation. For the most part, their language didn’t faze me – until the day my daughter used the C word.

Let me back up. She dropped her phone. Cracked the screen. It wasn’t a surprise. In fact, I was astonished the phone remained intact as long as it did.

“Oops, that was the third time today I dropped my phone.”

See what I mean?

She refused to use a drop-proof case. She scoffed at the suggestion of applying an extra layer of protective glass. She didn’t carry a purse, yet the phone traveled wherever she went, often barely tucked into the back pocket of her jeans or precariously perched in the palm of her hand.

She’s at the age where I can’t micro-manage anymore. I’ve attempted to raise kids with minds of their own, encouraging them to be leaders instead of followers, assuming that those kids grow up to be interesting self-actualized adults. The caveat is that kids with minds of their own are not always the easiest to parent.

So she didn’t listen to my suggestions and she broke her phone. Just like I said she would. This is why I am grateful for what the parenting literature calls “natural consequences.”

When I saw the cracked phone, it took every ounce of self-restraint I had not to skip around the house singing, “Neener neener neener I told you so. Now it’s your problem, sucker. Listen to your old mom next time. I’m not as dumb as I look.”

Instead, we talked about those pesky natural consequences. Well, I talked. She mostly rolled her eyes. I explained that I would drive her to the store but she was going to be the one to chat with the sales clerk and gather the information necessary to figure out the most cost effective way to fix her phone.

Then she dropped the C word:

“So I just go in there and be cute?”

WHAT? CUTE?

No! You go in there and be CONFIDENT. You go in there and be COMPETENT. You ask intelligent questions and make an informed decision. CUTE? Where did that come from? Who is this kid?

Well, she’s a 13 year-old girl. And she’s discovering the power of pretty.

It’s a fine line, especially at this age when self-confidence swells and shrinks faster than Taylor Swift’s list of frenemies. I want my daughter to recognize and appreciate her beauty while at the same time understand the difference between recognizing it and relying on it. While the former might bolster confidence, the latter is simply a crutch – an unstable one at best.

So what’s an overthinking mother to do? Acknowledge what’s in front of her – an undeniable cuteness – while coaxing out the more lasting qualities that will serve her daughter long after the cuteness shtick gets old. I gave it my best shot.

To her credit, after I stopped lecturing, my daughter walked into the store, used her big kid voice and got the information she needed — no hair twirling, uptalking or giggling necessary. She eventually paid half the insurance deductible with money she earned over the summer and got a replacement phone.

These days, her new phone is carefully ensconced in a sensible drop-proof case instead of a super cute pink plastic one. Substance over style. A choice I hope she makes again and again.

Let It Go

I didn’t snap until May, which is damn impressive considering the movie and its earworm of a soundtrack had been out for six months.  Despite the fact that my own kids weren’t that enamored with Frozen, the rest of the country was, and so we suffered.  All of us.  Until inspiration struck during a car ride on Mother’s Day.

We weren’t even listening to the Disney Channel or KidzBop or any other station that panders to pint-sized tyrants with horrible taste in music.  And yet, the familiar opening notes of Let It Go started to fill the car.  I groaned.  And then impulsively blurted out:

“Hey kids, here’s a fun fact.  Did you know that this song is really about farting?”

They looked at me, horrified yet curious.  “Just listen,” I told them.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

I heard giggles from the back seat.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!

 Bigger laughs fill the car.  By the time we got to the chorus, they were roaring.

 Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

The song finished, cementing another bond within our family: a juvenile, gross inside joke.  I made them promise not to repeat it and made my son pinky swear to keep it together when his teacher plays the Frozen soundtrack during free choice time at school.  They agreed, and considering that I didn’t receive any phone calls from the teachers, I think they kept their word.

I frequently lament the fact that time with my kids has passed way too quickly.  I miss the details about life with little ones: footie pajamas, counting to “eleventeen,” the smell of baby shampoo.  Predictably, I’ve turned into the weird lady at Target who grins way too enthusiastically at anyone under the age of two.

But as much as I miss the baby stage, big kids have their advantages.  Aside from the obvious stuff like not pooping on themselves and knowing how to start the coffee maker for me in the morning, it’s also been fun to give them a glimpse of me as a person, not just me as a mom.

They’re old enough to be able to handle (and perhaps even appreciate) that I have a dry sense of humor and a fondness for the occasional, well-placed curse word.  It’s time for them to understand that I cry shamelessly at all happy, sad and sappy occasions. Especially the sappy occasions.  And they need to know that I will never, ever be a morning person.

It’s kind of a relief to outgrow my role of angelic caretaker and become more of a camp counselor – still in charge but also able to bend the rules occasionally.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over longing for the baby days, but when I’m feeling nostalgic I’ll try and remember that toddlers never would have laughed with me about poor flatulent Elsa encouraging little girls everywhere to just let it go.