“I’m takin’ the phone off the hook,” Mama said, strangling a bottle of wine. “Leave it be.”
She vanished into her room while the twins and I huddled together under blankets trying to keep warm.
At least tomorrow was a school day.
I’m the youngest of three, the baby of the family. This isn’t something that I’m just coming to terms with now at 40-something; it’s something that’s practically been branded.
When I was little, Marco (3 years older) and Melinda (7 years older) would tease me all the time. That’s all I really remember about my youth with them– the endless teasing and taunting. Marco wasn’t so bad; he just didn’t want me hanging around him and his friends which was hard for this baby to comprehend because all I ever wanted to do was “boy things.” Melinda, on the other hand, oh was she ruthless. Actually it wasn’t so much teasing that she would do either. She just had these ridiculous expectations and when not met, she could be darn right brutal doling out her punishment.
It’s probably typical sibling behavior, but it doesn’t negate the fact that I very much felt like the odd one out when it came to my siblings and family.
When my parents split when I was 9, both Marco and Melinda instantly sided with our mom, leaving me, the baby, to vacillate between Mama and Papa.
Soon, it became quite clear that I was used as a fucking pawn.
Papa would ask me about Marco and Melinda; Mama would ask me if I had the child support check. Neither of them ever asked me about me and that’s not me being a baby, that’s me being a pre-adolescent needing reassurance, love, guidance and getting anything but.
Poor me, I know.
Every single time my dad would ask about Marco or Melinda, I would feel a sting inside. A slice to my heart. I tried convincing myself that I was being dramatic and that of course Papa loved me like he did them. I tried convincing myself that the only reason he always asked about them was because he missed them and they refused to have any contact with him. But. The bottom line is that it made me feel like… well… nothing.
I honestly started wondering if maybe the only reason my dad picked me up for weekends was to get details about Marco, Melinda, and my mom. Yet I never said anything to him about how it made me feel; I never told him to stop.
I would continue gossiping and when it would be time to go home, I’d inquire about the check to give to Mama when he dropped me off. Lord knows I didn’t want her wrath bestowed upon me if I came home without some money.
Fast forward a lifetime and honestly (and sadly), things haven’t really changed.
Today my 80-year-old dad can’t go a day without complaining that he hears from nobody and that he has to go on The Facebook to find out anything. And he always, always asks if I’ve talked with my one nephew (my brother’s oldest 23 year-old son). Rarely does he ask how my own daughter is doing. Maybe it’s because he sees pictures of her on Facebook; maybe it’s because he knows I won’t ever let that ray of sunshine turn grey.
It’s a damn good thing I have faith in myself.
It’s a damn good thing I’m a great mom.
I may not be the best (attentive) wife, but my mom pants are always on.
I refuse to do unto my daughter what was done to me.
She won’t be getting belittled on the daily. She won’t be made to feel like nothing on the daily. It’s not going to happen.
She won’t be branded to feel insignificant.
Papa gave me my first real bike when I was about 10—a brand new, purple and sparkly 10-speed. I rode that bike like it was my job, and I felt like a rock star while doing so despite its awful girly feel to it (if there was ever something I was not, it was purple and sparkly).
This is when 10-speeds were to bikes what the latest iPhones are to cell phones today. So as all the other kids rode their much smaller, probably hand-me-down bikes, I floated along on my brand new 10-speed (though I admit to being jealous of those with BMX bikes—why I never was gifted a BMX bike, I don’t know).
Really, I was a rock star. So much so that my 10-year-old self would ride my sweet 10-speed bike in the middle of the street!
It wasn’t a busy street, just the street we lived on: a side street where the traffic could only go in one direction and where stop signs were placed at the end of every block ensuring motorists maintained the 25 mph.
When I wasn’t riding my awesome 10-speed in the street, I was racing it through the alleys. Up and down and all around the several blocks surrounding our home in the burbs. The wind whooshing through my thick bowl-cut hair. The sun tanning my olive skin. I loved the sound the bike would make when I stopped pedaling and just coasted along, my nose turned up at the others who weren’t on 10-speeds.
Yeah me and my 10-speed bike.
We lasted all of maybe two weeks together. But that’s the good thing about being a kid. Things seem to last way longer than they actually do in GrownupLand where two weeks would be a sneeze in comparison to the eternity of two weeks when you’re 10.
We had a good run…till I was pedaling my sparkly purple 10-speed down the street like a rock star and hit a pothole in just the right way that catapulted me over the front handlebars, slamming me, face first, into the cement road.
I didn’t feel like much of a rock star walking my stupid fucking bike home with blood dripping from my nose and mouth.
I never rode that girly bike again, nor have I gotten on a 10-speed since.
Tomorrow is a big day for my little girl.
As much as I want this change to happen, as much as I know this will be an amazingly good change…I also know that I’m going to cry. A lot.
I sat here today for over an hour trying to decide what the cake I ordered for tomorrow should say. The cake that will feed all the kids and all the staff (and then some) at Lovie’s daycare.
Tomorrow is her last day there. The cake is to help celebrate this milestone and help us say goodbye.
It would’ve been her last day there long ago, but there wasn’t an opening in her new school until now (summer program starts Monday). While Lovie is doted on like crazy at daycare/preschool (they treat her like a pop star), it’s really much more of a daycare environment than a preschool one. I’m not saying she should be schooled the entire day, but she’s so smart and I don’t want her to get bored (and Montessori school, which she’ll be attending, seems to be an amazingly perfect fit for Lovie and her independence and love of learning).
So tomorrow’s the day we finally say goodbye to daycare.
We’ve had some rough moments these past four-plus years—from getting ready in the morning to leaving her friends at the end of the day—but for the most part it’s all been pretty damn great. Especially since I’ve been able to spend nearly two hours more a day with her because the daycare was close to my work.
But tomorrow will be the last time we’ll spend so much time together during the work week. Tomorrow will be the last time I get to peek at her through the rear-view mirror as I drive the 20 miles to daycare to drop her off, or the 20 miles from daycare driving home. Tomorrow will be the last time we can jam out to Pompeii or Happy or yes, even the Wiggles. Tomorrow will be the last time she can ask me to stop for an Icee or chocolate ice cream because after tomorrow, we’ll be literally two minutes from home.
So what do you have written on a cake for such an occasion?
I almost went with a silly “got cake?” message. Then I thought maybe “eat me” would be fun, too. But this isn’t fun. This saying goodbye to the people who helped mold my baby into a little person, who helped her and encouraged her to sit up and crawl and walk and run and eat with a fork and use the bathroom, isn’t a ton of fun.
So then I thought maybe a simple “Thanks” on the cake would suffice. But really? “Thanks” on a big-ass sheet cake with a smiling sun and flowers?
Eventually I opted to leave it blank. Let the smiling sun and flowers speak for itself.
Tomorrow is a big day for my little girl… and me.
I’ve tried SO hard not to get too excited. I really, really did. But … man, I can’t help it anymore. After Sunday’s game, I can’t help it. After all the attention the GREATEST GAME IN THE WORLD is finally getting in this country (#USA), I just can’t help it anymore. I can’t contain the excitement, the emotions regarding the US team in the World Cup.
See, I’m first generation born American (Chicago, IL). That means that both my mom and dad were born and raised in other countries: my mom hails from Austria, my dad from Italy. You don’t get more soccer than that.
Their love of the game was instilled in us very early on. Then the Chicago Sting formed just a few years after I was born so I absolutely grew up with soccer, soccer, soccer.
And it was amazing. It IS amazing.
For years I struggled with being a soccer fan in the US. It’s just not a popular sport here. Yes, it’s getting more and more popular– especially with kids– but it just doesn’t really get a lot of respect. I mean, even with the US team in the World Cup on the brink of possibly advancing to the next stage, there are still people talking about how boring the game is, etc.
I don’t get it. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried to see where they’re coming from. How they can think a sport with a ridiculous amount of time outs is more exciting than the pace of soccer. How they can think hitting a ball and catching it and running around bases is more exciting than soccer where they are in constant movement.
But I stopped. Long ago I stopped trying to defend soccer. I know it’s the greatest game in the world. I know most other sports derive from soccer. I know it’s bullshit that American Football stole soccer’s real name. I know.
And now… now?? Even if you hate the game, even if you find it as boring as watching the hair on your toes grow, even if you have no interest in the game whatsoever, you still hear about it.
And that it why I’m so emotional. That is why I can’t contain my excitement.
Because for the first time in my 40-plus years, people in this country are truly becoming excited about soccer.
So clearly I suck at posting daily. Such is life sometimes.
Day 5= song that often gets stuck in your head.
I’m gonna go with a more recent song for this one. It’s one I didn’t really care too much for until I saw the band perform the song live on Saturday Night Live. From that performance on, I just couldn’t get enough of this song. Still can’t! I even got my 4 year-old asking for this song and she’s normally one that demands “kids music.”
Day 6= song that reminds you of a best friend.
Heh, this one makes me smile so much. It brings me back to a time in my life when things were just starting to get really messed up in life, but not so much that I didn’t still have a ton of fun. I was about 10 when this came out and was in a brand new school. It was the first time I switched schools so I was still OK with the change. I was still outgoing and playful and … ten. I met a girl who lived two streets away from me– Shari. We became pretty inseparable and this song was super popular during that time. Listening to it brings me right back to her apartment with her younger brother and older sister. I can still see us all just running around the apartment scream-singing to this song. Good memories. Good, good memories that aren’t very common from back then. Also, I was SURE they were singing “Warm my cold Italian heart” back in the day. Ha.
Don’t forget to check out more songs at Stuphblog’s place.
Even as an adorable baby, I had dark hair and lots of it.
As a little kid with no real say-so in much of, well, anything at all, my hair was kept super short.
(I suspect it’s because of how much hair I had, and maybe because it was the 70s and short, bowl-cuts were hip? But really, folks? Stay away from putting a bowl atop your child’s head!)
When puberty hit, my hair started getting some texture to it, and it hasn’t stopped since then.
Now in my forties, I have super curly hair with the added bouncy bonus of silver grays, and until last Monday, my hair was long.
I generally wore it tossed together in a ball of sorts atop my head because it just gets to be too much and I hate sweating and feeling hot and let me tell you, all that hair gets HOT.
For the most part, I’ve really grown to like my hair. A lot. Even the silver. But there are times when I’d love to do something different; I start looking into shorter cuts and dream of someone cutting my hair the way I want it cut, opposed to the way they were taught.
My hair is not like duct tape. You don’t (wet it,) pull at it, hold it, and cut. It doesn’t work like that. I mean, sure it does, but then when the hair dries, it will be inches shorter than when it was wet, and it will, inevitably, look like shit.
I’ve always loved Posh Spice’s cut—long in front, short in back—but never dreamed it would be possible to do on my super curly hair.
Then during one of my wanting-to-do-something-different moods, I stumbled across pictures of short curly hair in an inverted bob (Posh cut). Regardless, I was terrified of going for it because I still hadn’t found anyone who would cut my hair dry– or they would cut it dry but then they’d still do the whole treating it like duct tape thing (pull, hold, cut).
Finally, after a miscarriage in 2008 and feeling like I needed a drastic change, I went for it. Of course the end result was ridiculously short and so awful I begged that my husband never let me cut my hair short again. (He keeps a picture on his cell for when I get in the mood to do something different.)
Since that horrid cut, I’ve gotten my hair cut a total of two times excluding last Monday’s cut, because last Monday, I got my hair cut at a joint in the city (Chicago) that specializes in the DevaCurl cut.
I kinda love it, and for the first time (in for)ever, I felt like I finally found a place that really understood me and my hair… until I went and picked up my favorite person in the whole world—my 4 year-old daughter—and, once in our seats in the car, asked her what she thought of my cut. I mean, if you want an honest opinion you ask a kid, right?
She wasn’t too happy.*
The moral of the story? If you have naturally curly hair and can never seem to be happy with a cut, look into the DevaCurl way. Oh, and don’t get a drastic cut and ask your kid how it looks if you’re looking for positive reinforcement.
*This week she’s used to my hair again and doesn’t cringe or cry when she sees me.
It’s hard not to smile when she does.
Never forced—those are everywhere—her smile brightens the dim,
lifts the despondent.
Her goodness, her kindness, her warmth…
it’s like she tries to infect us all with it through that smile.
She’s the epitome of stunning beauty—it radiates from her core.
What a gift she’s been.
What a gift she’ll be.
Even when the smile finally fades and her last breath is taken.
originally written 3/21/2013 here–one week before my Oma took her last breath