But I Can Do His Laundry

I saw an article about helicopter parenting the other day, and in it, among many other things, the writer bemoans the parent who allows her college-aged child to come home to have his laundry done by his mother. I won’t link it here because well, I do that, and I have absolutely no problem with it.  Here’s why.

I can’t fix anything for my son any more. I can’t, and I don’t want to. I’m helping him grow wings after all, in these years of crucial wing-growing pupation.

He’s 18 years old, a freshman in college. He doesn’t live in my house. He doesn’t ask my input about what he can and can’t do. He doesn’t call me when he’s lonely (although I did get one vaguely sad text one time) and he’s no longer a consideration in groceries we buy and/or daily plans we make. I can’t hug him before I head up to bed every night, nor can I kiss the best part of his face, the place just in the back of his left ear, whenever I feel like it.

It’s killing me. It is so, so hard.

I miss him. I miss his voice and his feet thudding down the stairs. I miss his crumbs on the kitchen counter, and his wet footprints on the bathroom mat. I miss the way he gulps the milk he has with dinner, and how he suddenly has something very important to do when it’s time to clean up the dishes.

I can’t fix the fact that he’s not particularly happy at school. I can’t fix that he hates his history and biology classes. I can’t get him a job. I can’t make his dorm wing suddenly friendly and outgoing. I can’t run upstairs and grab the bandaids, swipe some Neosporin on that sucker and call it a day. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. And it never will again.

But I can do his laundry. I can take it out of the dryer, piece by piece, every single thread of cotton bought by me, and know that there will come a day when I will have bought none of it, not one item.

So, yes, I’m that mother who gladly does the laundry when it arrives at her house – a house that’s just a little bit dimmer without my son in it. Say what you will, or think what you must. I have no plans to stop doing so.

David Sedaris, April 11, 2017

 

 

I don’t always travel out of the country to make dreams come true. Sometimes I drive with my husband to the University of Maine in Orono in the middle of a work week. 

I do live a fairly rockstar life.

Back in April I attended a reading by David Sedaris, a writer I want to be admire. When I die and am finally granted knowledge of how all the cogs in the wheel of my life fit together, I hope an explanation of David Sedaris’ impact on me is first on the highlight reel.

I love him, by which I mean I love his work, and the too-limited version of himself I get in his published pieces. On the surface, he’s nothing like me. He’s irreverent. Fearlessly honest. Quirky. Unblinking in the face of difficult topics to address over dinner. Also, gay. He craves attention. He chooses to wear culottes. He doesn’t own a dog. He smokes (or used to). He claims to enjoy flying.

I guess that’s what I like in a writer? Sure, we’ll go with that.

Unquestionably, for you, readers (are you still there?), there’s a writer to whom you feel rooted kinship, right? You feel like if you met him in a coffee shop, you’d soon find yourself chatting not only about the time the eleven-year-old you rode for two hours in the back of your parents’ station wagon, dodging hot ashes from a Marlboro being flicked out the window, but also about how, when your beloved Mrs. Magrogan died you wanted to kick yourself for not actually reading the copy of Sophie’s World she lent you, because she knew you’d “get it” ( You didn’t.) He’d ask if you still have the book. (You do.)

David Sedaris would understand those heartbreaking things. And he would find humor in them, so you could live with the memories and still keep breathing.

**

I’ll share with you here a  favorite excerpt from a piece he wrote in 2008, but that could easily have been written last November. The man just gets me.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I love the way he entertains, line after line, page after page, but then boom!, slaps me upside the head with some truth I had conveniently ignored. And it’s usually hidden in the tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. The more he digs, the more he reveals, the closer to the truth he comes. He makes me laugh, but there’s a lot more to him, of course, and even more to be discerned with every piece he publishes, all of which I own. 

Yes, I will lend them out, for a price.

The price is my name on the top line of your will and don’t try to negotiate, hostage.

It’s not important that David Sedaris is nothing like me. Truth be told, I think there’s a chance he maybe is a tiny piece of me – out there living in other parts of the world, saying all the things I wish I dared, and embracing every quirky, awkward, brilliant and achingly scarred part of himself, all while standing in front of a crowd.The man is a nova – a star that continuously sheds its outer layers without destroying itself, becoming brighter as it goes. This is his life’s work.

He’s far from done, and I’m totally along for the ride. But though I envy his indomitability, I’ll leave the culottes to the man up in front of the crowd.

Not Traveling Now

A friend stopped me in the sheets and towels aisle of Reny’s recently to tell me how much she liked this blog, but how she wished I’d post more often. I don’t want to misquote my friend, so I’ll sum up her message with the words my brain heard her say, which I’m sure aren’t perfectly accurate. But they were something like: Your life can’t possibly be all that exciting as when you’re traveling.

To which I laughed, and said in return: You bet your ass it isn’t.  

I’m still trying to put Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands into words, the task equivalent of summing up an epic poem with a haiku. But I’m also living my life, which is abundant with laundry, dirty dishes, appointments, soccer games and work. I mean, writing is maybe, maybe the 27th thing on a priority list of taking care of business. And I told my friend that. And she said, and this time I’ll quote her word for word: give us a dose of the real life, too. 

So, ahem. Attention. Some real life for you.

I’ve been trying to teach my dog Reuben some damn manners. He’s basically a good dog, I think. I’ve never had a dog from puppy stage and trained him myself before so I’ve nothing to compare. He’s great most of the time.

But he CAN’T. CONTROL. HIMSELF if other dogs are nearby. He must sniff their butts, then lower his elbows to the ground with his own butt high in the air, then roll over to show he’s subservient, to every single dog he sees. But first, he must bark so loudly, and with so much authority, that people cross the street to avoid him. It’s a sound that rises out of him like a harmless burp, but it sounds like a dire warning.

Which is a problem, because he doesn’t care that you’ve crossed the street to avoid him. He can still smell you, and sooooo wants to be your BFF. Also, to be clear, though he be little (45 pounds) he be strong. He has pulled me off my feet several times before just to go up to another dog, roll over on his back, whine incessantly, and demand to be loved like the diva he is.

Last weekend Luke and his soccer team ran in the Pancake 5K past our house. I decided to use this crowded venue for a bit of dog training. I walked Reuben a full mile before the racers even began – in an attempt to tire him out a bit. (It didn’t. Nothing short of playing with other dogs at Wag It all day does that.) Anyway, I took him out, armed with a thousand treats to keep his attention should other dogs happen to also be out walking. (And in the three plus years we’ve had Reuben I can count on one hand the walks I’ve taken with him when we didn’t see other dogs.) So, for a full mile he did very well, focusing on me (the liver and salmon treats, really) when other pups trotted by, and sitting nicely as all the runners from the 5K made their way down the street past us.

I made the mistake of being proud of this thing that felt like accomplishment.

We got back to the house. I needed to throw the poop bag into the receptacle we use, which is between the house and garage. Just as I reached out to take the cover off the galvanized steel bucket, Reuben sensed or smelled a dog walking by out front. I didn’t see the dog because of the giant forsythia bush that blocks the view to the street. Well. Note to self: never let your guard down while still out in the neighborhood.

Reuben barked and took off, taking me with him. I dropped the poop bag and tried to grab a strong hold of the leash, while being dragged – first sideways, then in a squat position – along the stone path, at the end of which he pulled me, like a water skier, straight through that forsythia bush, which is a solid four feet taller than I am and wide as a truck. My hat got caught up, and my sunglasses got completely destroyed by the sharp, leafless branches of the bush, while my hair was pulled out of my head in two spots. Crikey, it was a sight.

I think the only thing that stopped him was that the woman on the other side of the forsythia had heard that giant bark. She’d already begun to cross the street, taking her Australian Shepard with her. Plus I had finally gained control of him, and was holding tightly, hair in every direction, one pant leg up past my knee.

All this maybe lasted 20 seconds.

There you have it. That’s the way things seems to go for me. I’m always trying to catch a fly ball — I got it, I got it, I got it…………….I don’t got it. Basically I’m kicking ass at life; a life that’s mundane and astoundingly vibrant, and mine.