Monday, May 24, 2010

Hi-ya Cha Cha Cha

I’ve started watching Say Yes to the Dress as my Friday night guilty pleasure while I wait for my husband to come home. I am in awe of happy little families who all go dress shopping together, mother and daughter, hand in hand, tearing up at the sight of the perfect wedding gown. How lovely it must be to have such a close and loving relationship with a mother.

That is not my life.

My mother is not close or loving with anything other than her dogs, a fact to which she readily admits. My mother’s family is coming into town and it just so happens they will be here near her birthday. Her cousin wanted to get a cake and since they are not local, I told him I would do the honors. When given the choice of birthday cakes at a local (high-end) grocery store, my mother flat out refused to go pick one out (I was buying), as said store was 20 minutes out of her way and she’d get stuck in rush hour traffic. My mother gets out of work at 2pm. Unless she milked the cows, churned the butter, grew the cacao trees, and went to pastry school while at the store, she could reasonably be home by, say, 3pm. Which, considering she lives an hour outside of the nearest city, would get her well out of harm’s way of traffic. But no. So, her second and more devious plan to thwart me from celebrating her birthday is to create a cake out of thin air, claim it is her favorite, and demand it as the only choice for dessert.

Now, though I desperately tried to get away from this madwoman as soon as humanly possible, I was probably home for most of her birthdays up to and throughout college. So, assuming we are only counting those celebrated in NY, and those I am old enough to remember, I should have eaten this cake at least two dozen times. That would be a cake I’d remember. And yet, I don’t. And I like my cake. So either she is making it up from scratch or she had it once, at some random baby shower or birthday party and conjured it from memory just for the fun of sending me on a wild goose chase.

I will admit that birthdays were not big occasions in my family. They were usually ignored, forgotten, or celebrated in tandem with another event. Now I make sure to make a big as celebration as possible for my own family and once dragged my poor, exhausted husband out for his birthday dinner after a week of hellacious travel just so he could blow out a little tiny candle at his favorite restaurant. But growing up, this was not the case. So I don’t understand why, when given a chance to properly celebrate with people who don’t see her enough to dislike her, she is being so incredibly annoying.

Truth to tell, my mother has always been difficult. I could fill a dozen blogs with stories about her random clothing choices, her rude behavior, and how she tried to humiliate me at my own wedding. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this sentence, “I have never said this to anyone before, but your mother is crazy,” I would be the one telling D-list celebrities that they are fired. I have heard this from coworkers, from groomsmen, from relatives, and from hairdressers. To know her is to have a story about an ill-timed, ill-judged, and ill-mannered comment made by her. She has burned more bridges than Alexander and Napoleon combined. She is impossible. She is obnoxious, and she and my husband absolutely and completely ignore one another.

Many well-meaning friends have offered me recipes and support for making the cake myself. Rather than call every baker in the area, it probably will be easier to attempt my own version. It will make me look like a good and dutiful daughter and she’ll have to act like a thankful and loving mother. Neither of us will feel that way, but will certainly act it. And if she doesn’t eat the cake, I’ll feed it to her dogs. I’ve heard they just LOVE chocolate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It’s Like a Spa Day . . . with Cheese Fries

Every year my husband goes away for a weekend with his friends. They call it the Ultimate Testosterone Invitational (UTI for short) and plan months in advance to do manly things like golf, deep sea fish, grille, gamble, and drink copious amounts of sub-standard beer while studiously avoiding any mention of their families. They stay in dive motels, tripling the occupancy rate while halving the oxygen level in the bathrooms and end the weekend with the traditional trip to Hooters for their fantasy football draft.

I too have started an annual trip with several girlfriends. However, other than a chance crossover in location, the trips could not be more different. I end the weekend rested, refreshed, and rejuvenated. He comes home hungover, haggard, and hazy. I come home with freshly-painted toes and freshly-popped kettle corn. He, well, does not. They may sound so similar – a trip down the shore – but they are so very, very different.

My weekend was awesome, but to be honest, rather more exercise than I had bargained for. We purposely started one of our mornings with a brisk three-mile walk. For fun! Another day, we walked up 199 steps to see the ocean from the top of a lighthouse. Would you like to know what the ocean looked like from the top of the lighthouse? About the same damn way it looked at ground level. The only difference was the amount of human remains. You see, some complete idjits decided the absolute best moment to grieve and remember the passing of a loved one was to dump their ashes in high wind among a crowd of strangers in the middle of the day at the top of a f’ing lighthouse. We thought, at best, that they were sprinkling good luck salt, or at worst, were dumping coffee grounds. Nope, instead of inhuming their dearly beloved, we were inhaling him.

Though to be honest, there was probably more protein and fiber in that gust of grandpa than there was in a single item I ate the entire weekend. Pizza and pancakes, Chex mix and chocolate chip cookies, burnt bacon and beer, spicy salsa and small ice cream cones – diet was definitely a four-letter word. We were disappointed we forgot to break open the feed bags of popcorn and we complained when our French fries were not liberally coated in cheese. So while I can (and did) grumble about the blisters I developed endlessly walking on the sand and the street, a lovely pedicure soothed my savaged soles and those extra miles helped soften my hardening arteries.

I also learned lots and lots of new things on my weekend away! I learned that children can get fake nails. Big, long, fake ones pained with black tips. (No really!) I learned that no matter how cold you are, you and your friends should never wear matching sweatshirts, even if they are sale, and I learned that no matter how late you want to sleep, your internal body clock cannot be reset. Among other lessons? Semen can be brought into almost any conversation and surly waitresses are as much a staple of breakfast dining as coffee in chipped white mugs. I learned that I can wear pants to bed if necessary, that dolphins are easy to find (I stopped counting at 20), and sun-brewed iced tea mixed with fresh lemonade makes the best Arnold Palmer you have ever tasted.

And finally, I learned that, in the end, it is probably best that my husband and I enjoy separate weekends away. After all, the girls and I never did turn on the television, kick our case, or stay up til midnight. My husband would call that hell, but I call it heaven. With cheese fries.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Ugly Duckling

Do you think that you would know if your own child was ugly? Oh sure, everyone is beautiful on the inside, blah, blah, blah, but I’m not talking about the soul, I’m talking about the face.

Today, at the library, I saw two children that were just completely unattractive. The shorter one was bowlegged, with a severely receded hairline, albino coloring, bug eyes, and thin, scraggly hair. The taller one was rocking a disheveled mullet that was also oddly straight in some areas, curly in others, knotted all around. Both children wore severely stained, ill-fitting clothes. The mom wore a beautiful hippie dress, lots of jewelry, blown-out hair, and cute shoes.

Now, I fully understand “judge not lest ye be judged” particularly when it comes to dressing children. My own daughter has insisted upon outfits that could bring on hysterical blindness and my son could get dirty in a sterile room. For all I know, both kids could have been up since the ass crack of dawn, gone through three outfits, and burst into hysterics at the sight of a brush. These things have been known to happen. But the bottom line is that even well scrubbed, suited, and straightened, those kids had been hit with the ugly stick. And I wonder, if, or even when, the mother will realize it.

All babies are odd-looking. No matter the method of birth, the end result is that a very big head and body has been pushed or pulled through a very small opening. Their eyes are goopy, they are odd colors, and they are covered in slime. Or so I’ve seen on A Baby Story. I have remarkably little insider knowledge of the whole birthing process, but that is a story for another time. Only the parents of such a creature could coo over its loveliness. At what point can a mother look at the creature she created, the little persons she grew and think, “Ew”?

Is there a moment of calm (not one where you are covered in something sticky and/or when the child is trying to break the sound barrier using sheer lung power alone), that you can look at your own child and finally notice that both eyes are wonky, his head is misshapen, or she has more resemblance to Sloth from Goonies than anyone on either side of the family? Does that moment really ever occur? Do parents ever really see their children that clearly? Or is parental instinct so strong that even if the child looks like it hit every branch of the ugly tree on its fall down the evolutionary ladder, you still think he or she is the most beautiful child in the world? Obviously, grown children present their own problems and as my relationship with my own mother attests, parents may love, but they may also actively dislike.

Honestly, I don’t have any particular insight into this issue. My daughter was told she was beautiful so often as a baby that long before she understood the meaning of the world, she would smile when it was uttered. If I could count the times someone complimented my children’s looks, then followed up that perfectly innocent sentence with, “And they must look like their father,” well, then I wouldn’t have been an English major. My fingers and toes don’t go that high. I did always thank people for the spirit of the compliment, if not the execution, though. I am nothing if not polite to your face.

Do I think that the library mom saw her children the same way I did? I doubt it. I bet it takes a pretty long time for the rose color to wear off a parent’s point of view. But boy oh boy, I hope she has some alcohol on hand for when she finally sees them in the light of day. She’s gonna need it.