The evening before Labor Day

by emily on August 31, 2014

Zachary had his tenth birthday party yesterday, a week in advance of the day. In contrast to his brother’s party, Zach asked to have a few friends over, order pizza, make sundaes, and watch Episode IV. I told him he’s my new favorite child.

He’s going to be ten, which means I’ve been a parent an entire decade. I’m somewhat tenuously connected to the Me who came before this decade. She seems insubstantial, a wispy prelude lacking three-quarters of herself. Even the Me from Los Angeles or London is hopelessly ill-defined. It’s not so much that I disavow my old selves as they no longer feel particularly relevant.

Is this how it’s going to go on? I’ll keep piling new selves onto the old, strokes of self atop self atop self, with streaks and drips from below marring the finish. I wonder if other people are like this or if most people walk around each day with their feet firmly planted in the person they were at five and seventeen and twenty-eight.

The odd thing is that I have a very good memory, at least for dialogue. I can remember things people said to me two decades ago, the place, the context, the exact words. And I have long relationships. Many of you reading this have been listening to me quote you back to yourself since we were nineteen or twenty. My husband and I have been together for twenty years come this October. And we still like each other.

It could be that the surface tectonics change drastically while the rock center remains. Or maybe I continue to build my core self with bits of the person I am on any given day, exfoliating the rest with a piece of pumice after the shower. Who the hell knows.

What is constant seems to be change and growth. My change, my children’s change, and their growth. Their legs—they get so long. They stretch these things out on their beds at night and I don’t recognize those long limbs as belonging to my little people. I glance back at the babies I read The Night Pirates and it all feels so recent and so distant and I get that dizzy feeling I get when Neil deGrasse Tyson tries to explain black holes.

Baby Girl announced to me this month that she wanted me to read her Harry Potter, but that’s obviously impossible because she is not old enough except she’s starting first grade and reading Judy Moody and Ramona.

So last week—with summer nearing an end as it does every year long before I’m ready—the boys piled into Lilah’s room at bedtime, bringing with them wider chests and grown-up teeth and feet that I’m not sure they actually wash all that regularly. Coming back for perhaps the only constant in the universe.

“Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived.”

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The Angry Inch

by emily on July 18, 2014

“Five feet, three inches,” the medical assistant person noted.

“No, I’m five feet, four inches.”

“No, you’re five feet, three inches,” she insisted.

“No, no. I’m five feet, four inches.”

“You’re almost five feet, three-and-a-half inches.” Writing it down. She was writing it down on my chart. It was going on my permanent record.

“Well, can you please write down the half-inch, then?”

This had happened to me once before, when I was in L.A. and pregnant with Lilah. But then I assumed that all the extra weight was lowering me into the floor or something, and by the time I noticed that she had shaved a whole inch off my height, the Person With the Chart had already moved out of the room and I was way too large to chase her.

Now, here I was, on a whole other coast, with a whole other measuring tape stuck to the wall, facing another Person With a Chart who was telling me I was 5’3”. Well, possibly 5’3” and a half. I was short enough to begin with, and yet they felt no compunction about stealing somewhere between a half and a whole inch.

That night, I fumed to my husband. “Do you know she stole an entire inch from me? I don’t mind that she clearly added five pounds, but she stole an inch!”

The next week I ran into our pediatrician, whose office is in the same building. I warned her that the building was unstable as the foundation was sinking a full inch into the ground. Or at least half an inch.

And there it rested. I walked around as straight as I could, trying to make the most of the height I had left. I mean, it’s not like anyone around here is tall. My husband is 5’7”, for heaven’s sake.

“No, 5’8”.”

“What? No, you’re not. You’re 5’7”.”

“No, I’m 5’8”. I just went to the doctor and they measured me.”

“You grew?” That seems patently unfair. Not only do men get distinguished as they get older, but they get taller?! “You stole my inch! They took it away from me and gave it to you.”

(The kids were sitting silently in the backseat watching their mother completely unravel, in case you were wondering where they were at this point.)

“I’ve always been 5’8”.”

“No, you haven’t.”

“Yes, I have.” He has not always been 5’8”. He was 5’7” when I met him. He’s clearly cheating.

“I’m sorry, but you’re three inches taller than me. Not five.” There. I had settled the matter. I could be 5’3½”, but J would need to be shorter, too.

Not three days later, I had to go back to the doctor to get my finger checked out. A different Person With a Chart took me back to the same measuring tape, because they need to know how tall I am to look at my finger. Here was my chance. I had to try.

“Last time I was here, they measured me at 5’3”. But I’m not. I’m 5’4”.”

She changed direction. “Let’s not measure you on that one. I don’t like that one.” Ah-ha! I knew there was something wrong with that tape. Like someone placed it half an inch too low on the wall, maybe? “Here, stand against this one. Make sure your heels are all the way against the wall.” I made sure. I waited, waited for the Judgment of the Chart. “Five feet, four inches,” she agreed.

“Can you, um, please make sure you change that on the chart?”

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In which the novice surpasses the master

June 26, 2014

Some days I don’t feel all that necessary around here. Today was not one of those days. Today was, rather, one of those days in which I felt with great, leaden spears the importance of what I’m doing. I felt more than I have in a long time—perhaps ever—just how unbearably significant and deliberate parenting […]

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A Very Harry Potter Birthday

June 21, 2014

There have been a number of requests for pictures of the party. Please forgive the text here, folks. I can barely stand up at this point. The greeting sign, which a random passer-by asked to photograph.   The kids came into the house through here, with the Harry Potter music blaring.   The Great Hall, […]

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Go big or go home

June 4, 2014

Benjamin’s birthday is coming up. While my other two children have normal birthday celebrations that involve things like gymnastics places or going to a play with a friend, Benjamin’s birthday always seems to involve something like a Greek mythology birthday cake complete with a Temple of Zeus constructed out of marshmallows and white chocolate or […]

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Sunrise, sunset

May 27, 2014

“Just let me finish the chapter,” she mumbled, not looking up from her Puppy Place book. This is the series—alphabetical and with several books per letter—about dogs who go live with a foster family until they find their forever home. I’m going on hearsay here, never having read one myself. Lilah brought several of these […]

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Walk for Hunger

April 28, 2014

I don’t usually hit my readers up for money. If ever there was a statement so obviously about to be followed by a “however,” it’s that one. In high school, every year I participated in Boston’s Walk for Hunger, a twenty-mile walk that raises money for Project Bread, a fantastic organization committed to building the […]

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To parents of small children

April 23, 2014

Parents of young children, I want to tell you something. You cook dinner in stages, starting usually about 24 hours before you actually put the food on the table. That’s when you do cook dinner, which—let’s be honest—doesn’t always happen. What? Oatmeal is a whole grain. If you serve it with chocolate milk and bananas, […]

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I don’t want to build a snowman

April 16, 2014

In keeping with my commitment to being the last family in town to get whatever it is all the other families are buying, I held out for a long time against getting the soundtrack to Frozen. (In case you’re wondering what other things my kids insist we’re the last family in America to get, we […]

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Darwin awards

April 9, 2014

“What’s this,” I asked the employee striding through the produce section. I thought I knew, but I’d never seen it for real before. She smiled. “It’s sugarcane.” “So, um, what do you do with it? I mean, how do you eat it?” “You have to peel it, but then you can suck on it. I […]

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