Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have a tent for sale - cheap

 Lately I have been thinking about revenge versus karma, the timing of events and the meaning of why people enter your life for brief moments.  I am trying to understand what I am supposed to learn from these short and disastrous unions. 

When I was 24 I had a boyfriend named Lou.  He was the type of boyfriend that you have when you are young and don’t really know any better.   I wasn’t looking to settle down, just practice what it was like to have a boyfriend.  He was good looking in that, bad boy, dumb as a pile of rocks, really honey, we’re not here to have deep talks, you’ll hurt yourself, let’s just have fun with each other in New York City, kinda way.

We even took off on a cross-country trip.   Together, we bought a bunch of camping gear, including an ultra-deluxe LL Bean tent, plus the ugliest banana yellow 1979 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, complete with faux wood-paneling.  I think it got 10 miles to the gallon and we drove all over this country.  I had a once in a lifetime experience, but at some point while we were driving through Tennessee I knew that the shelf-life on this relationship had expired.

We got back to New York and sadly had a very ugly break-up.    I remember being devastated by the fact that in one moment this person who I spent nearly every day with for  two years was completely erased from my life.  True, we needed to end it, but it still hurt and cut deep.   There were no follow-up phone calls after, no running into each other at the same bars we used to frequent – nothing. 

I kept imagining what I would say when I finally did see him.  I practiced many witty quips and bitchy remarks and eat your heart out outfits.  But our paths never crossed.

Until one day, nearly a year after we broke up.  By then, I was well over him.   But I wasn’t over the fact that he owed me about two thousand dollars from the trip we took. 

I couldn’t have planned the moment any better.  I looked good and I was with friends.  We said hi and  talked in an easy, nearly flirty way.   In all of my imagined scenarios leading up to this moment,  I never practiced what I said next.  I told Lou that I was going camping in a few days with my girlfriends.  I said, “Hey, isn’t this the greatest coincidence that we ran into each other, because don’t you still have the camping gear? “ I continued, “I have a great idea! Can you meet me tomorrow with the equipment and tent so I can borrow it?”  “Well, sure.”  Said Lou.  “But I really need it back soon – it’s so funny that you are going camping, because I’m taking my brother camping the day after you get back.”  I smiled and replied,  “ I promise, I’ll give it back.“

  As we walked away my friend Fred turned to me and said, “Steph – you’re not going camping.”  “No I’m not Freddie.”  We laughed and rubbed our hands like cartoon characters with vengeful glee. 

I was shocked that Lou actually met me.  He was standing at the entrance of Central Park, at Columbus Circle with this massive amount of gear, stuffed into an army surplus duffel nearly the length of my body.  We agreed that he would call me the coming Sunday and meet that day so I could return the gear.   He was going camping early Monday morning.

 Lou called when I ‘got back from camping’. I politely explained to him that I would be happy to meet and give him the camping gear, as long as he gave me a check for at least half of what he owed me from the trip.   It seemed like a fair deal to me. 

He didn’t get the tent. And I knew that he would never give me the money.  I needed to get in that last killing blow.  I also took particular satisfaction in the fact that I have never used the tent – I don’t really like camping.   Right now it’s in the same spot I left it back in 1995 -  in my parents attic.

This time last year I went through a similar break-up with a friendship and I’m amazed at the parallels between the two.   We were friends for the same duration as Lou and I were together.  Our friendship had its limitations as did my relationship with Lou.  The friendship ended ugly and we eviscerated each other from our lives.   And over the course of a year we never ran into each other.  It will happen when the timing is right – just like with Lou.

Lou and I were never meant to see each other until that exact moment.  I didn’t know this at the time, but my twenty something self needed time to heal and recover from a nasty break-up.  Maybe it prepared me for what I have gone through with this grown-up version of Lou.  There is a reason we have never run into each other -  we have been like opposite magnets, repelling each other, staying out of each other’s way.

I know I can’t really act in the same youth-fueled vengeful way – although I’d like to sometimes.  Maybe that is where Karma comes in to play.  I’ve stopped preparing what I would say to this ex-friend should we run into each other face to face in the produce isle.  My experience with Lou taught me that I really can’t plan these moments.

Both of these shallow relationships have truly taught me a great deal – about the distrustful nature of some people, that everything, every relationship runs its natural course, and we can’t always predict when it will end.   Some last a lifetime, some exist in perfection in grade school.  And some only last two years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Birth-day Sophie!

Today is Sophie’s birthday – She is nine.  Every year I like to remember moments of the day I gave birth to her.  I will spare you the details of the labor and delivery.  They are equal parts, gross and mind-bogglingly painful and miraculous. 

I was thinking today about the cheeseburger I ate right after Sophie was born.

You see, once you are admitted to the hospital you cannot eat anything.  They don’t allow you to.  From the time I was admitted to showtime it was some eighteen hours later.  When all was said and done, I was ravenous.     To my great relief and joy, the hospital was equipped with room service.

I ordered my afterbirth meal.  It consisted of a cheeseburger, Mac & Cheese, chocolate cake and a coke. 

Within minutes – no kidding – manna from heaven appeared right in the delivery room.  The nurses took Sophie to do their routine new baby check. I was left to savor the greatest, juiciest, most satisfying burger I ever had the pleasure of devouring.   I was making love to this cheeseburger, and the nurses came back with a minutes-old Sophie. 

“Ma’am, your baby!”  The nurse beamed at me.

I sat in bed chowing a mouthful of burger, and I stopped and looked at her quizzically.  “My baby?”  I thought.  “She must have the wrong room.  I don’t have a baby.”  And then it dawned on me, “That’s my baby!! Holy cow – I have a baby!”  I had a moment where I panicked, “I don’t think I can do this.  Maybe I don’t have to.  If I just keep eating she may just leave me alone.  Baby?  I just want to eat.  How am I going to eat?”

I took Sophie from the nurse and I proceeded to successfully eat my first of many one-handed meals, one arm wrapped around Sophie, the other feeding myself.  I knew that something inside of me had fundamentally changed.  My DNA was rearranged.  I crossed across the chasm and stepped onto the other side.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I enjoy being a girl

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks – and in blogging terms that can be the difference between gaining some new readers and losing a few.  I hope I haven’t lost any of you.  Maybe you have all been having the kick-ass summer that we have been having.  One filled with ocean waves and parties, chlorine stung eyes, hot dogs and movies.   We have taken road trips and strengthened friendships, old and new.    Our soundtrack has been full on sugar-pop music, with Katy Perry as the band leader.

Right now, Sophie is having a sleepover with three girlfriends.   They are giddy with girly silliness.   Loud as bullhorns, these girls have scarfed down pizza, created candy-filled sundaes and washed it all down with cokes (gasp!).  We all curled up and watched the movie, Big Miracle, about the whales stuck in the ocean in Alaska.  I have come to realize that nine year old girls love animals, pop music, nail polish and food.  We have all of these on hand. 

I woke up to the sounds of giggling girls playing Mad Libs – it amazes me that they are really doing exactly what I did as a kid on sleepovers –  calling out to each other, “OK, I need and verb.”  “Pooping!”  “Now, a noun.”  “Boobies!”  It never gets old.  It never changes.

I want to freeze this moment in time.   As much as I am starting to realize that nine is a transitory year – she’s growing out of being a little girl and I have already experienced the crazy brain of hormones starting to wreak havoc on her moods-I don’t want her to forget this feeling of freedom.

Sophie and her friends can fart and laugh and cuddle with each other.   They may have grown out of dolls, but stuffed animals are still necessary for sleep.  And even though boys have just begun to catch their interest, in a new “Oh my gosh I think he’s cute!” squealing kinda way – they are still friends.   And these girls believe that they are smarter than boys and their equal in sports.  Sophie is free to eat anything and not criticize herself for being “fat”.  “We are going swimming later, so I need more whipped cream on my pancakes!”  She regards her body as strong and gorgeous - and she has her own style – as all her friends do.  I love their confident outfits of plaids and leopard prints and feathers in their hair.

I know being a girl isn’t always free – I respect that they have their own real worries and fears.  The world is opening up, and not all of it is nice and filled with My Pretty Pony.  I am not kidding myself; I know that other girls are sometimes their own worst enemies.  But I say a little mommy prayer that Sophie and her friends can keep this camaraderie and individuality going through middle school.  Because being a girl and having girlfriends is one of the most amazing things in this crazy world.