Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Nesting Loon - Tales from the South

Remember George Bailey - the richest man in town? That's how I felt at my Tales of the South premiere on July 19. Well, to be honest, I didn't feel that way until later. That night and the previous week, I went round and round the bend: the world might be falling further into chaos, but what about ME?

My tale was of my two-year madness while waiting to hear that our youngest daughter was waiting for us in China. (That six-month old baby disappeared, and in her place is a teenager - enough said.) I am still high from the response of the audience: they laughed in all the right places, shed tears in others. Friends in the audience supported me both through that long wait and through this one, because I also went a bit barmy at the thought of appearing in front of an audience. 

Years ago I worried that my baby might be ugly; this time I obsessed over how my looks. I wanted to look casual and chic, as if I had been to a clambake on the beach and didn't have time to change for a formal dinner party. I would show up with windblown hair and my cheeks kissed by sunlight, laughing and apologizing for my casual wear. The women in their designer gowns would wonder "how does she pull it off? Except for her slightly fishy smell, she makes us look like real bowsers."

After days of agonizing, I wore a $12 sundress from Half of Half.  Because it was sleeveless and short (attire usually reserved for watching television or working in the yard), I HAD to tan - just as I did all those years ago in my nesting phase. However, slapping some tanning lotion on my legs wasn't enough:  I went to a place similar to a car wash where you stand in a booth and are blasted by chemicals. (I also read about places where I could have a Professional blast me with chemicals - it's called Airbrush Tanning. I am not making this up.)   I felt as if  I'd come from a day of installing asbestos while chain smoking Camels. However, after I staggered into the lobby, I found out that included in the price was a second round.  I can't turn down free stuff! So I went back two days later. I put on my little protective cap but forgot to cover the back of my head, so part of my hair got tanned too. I thought it looked kind of punk.

I got a real haircut (vs. my $6 cuts at that place where the clowns stand by the side of the road in the heat, luring you in with great deals. I could write a whole blog about how much I hate clowns, so even I am curious as to my motives on that one). My real hairdresser (who forgives me when I get $6 cuts and trim my own bangs) offered a a generous gift: on my way to the Starving Artist Cafe, I can pop in and she will pouf my hair. Because she knows that no matter how good the cut, I can't take care of it. The last time I used a blow dryer, I smacked myself in the forehead with it (I am not making this up either).  To top it off, I got a brow wax:  I look much better with two distinct eyebrows. Because I'd gone so overboard on my dress, I gave myself a pedicure.

What made me feel like George Bailey the next day was thinking about the many friends who had shown up for moral support - two long tables filled with them, my current husband and my daughters' friend from pre-school, Billie. (The girls were at Red Cross Camp.) They all beamed with happiness for me - had you seen them, you might have thought each of them had won the lottery. Most had been through my initial journey, and here there were, all these years later, still listening and resisting the urge to say "Snap out of it! Can you think of someone besides yourself for one minute!!!!"  I sat next to a friend who suggested that I take a big swig of wine right before going on to calm my nerves; you couldn't tell from her demeanor that she has a child in the hospital.

I raise my glass to all of you - I would be writing from the asylum without you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Mermaid's Tale

I've been thinking all day about about an incident I left out of my original post. The first full day of vacation, my youngest buried herself in the sand, which for some reason prompted me to go into Hulk Hogan mode. I kept hurling myself down on her in that wrestler's move -- although I was not springing back up. I was cracking myself up while she obviously thought it was too lame to even remark upon - she just kept rolling her eyes. I might have been literally cracking myself up though: a full 14 days later, after a pound of BC powder, I still feel like I cracked a rib. Which reminds me of doing the same thing several years ago at the Clinton Library: the girls were rolling down the hill and kept saying "Come on, mom! It's so much fun!" Again I couldn't resist: I brought my hands to my chest (to cut down on wind shear), rolled down the hill and suffered for two weeks.

The moral of the story: don't roll your chickens before they are hatched.

I wish I'd saved the blog I started in the middle of our beach vacation last week - I had my laptop on the table outside and couldn't even read what I was writing because the sun was so bright. It had something to do with bliss.

Now that I'm back to reality, I can't recall the exact feeling - I published it by accident and frantically called my daughter to come NOW and delete it. It might have had a spelling error or something, and I can't afford to lose any faithful fans.

The funniest image I have from the trip is me, rolling around on the beach in my old-lady bathing suit, as shown below. It's a one-piece with a skirt almost to my ankles.

The waves were very strong the whole week we were there. They battered and bruised me, and in the end took something precious from me. At one point they almost succeeding in ripping my left arm from its socket; at another point I almost chipped a tooth; several times I was spun over so many times I didn't know which way was up. A couple of times I felt as if I'd been punched in the face, which was painful but an effective way of clearing my sinuses. Then I would head out again - this is my idea of fun. On more than one occasion, I almost staggered to the safety of the beach, only to have the waves cut me down at the knees. I can't spring up gracefully like I could in my youth. First I have to make it to all fours, get my balance and then do the old heave-ho. This particular time I was knocked down and then just for fun, the waves hit me again and again so that I was literally rolling around on the beach, flailing, in shallow water. John and the girls missed it, but I hope someone who was feeling kind of blue saw me, because I laugh every time I think about it.

For a little night music, we headed to the beach to listen to fiddler crabs play their tiny fiddles; a crowd-pleaser was Some Enchanted Evening. They played their little crab hearts out until tourists with flashlights hunted them down and accidentally stomped them to death. They died doing what they loved.

We also entertained ourselves with a new family tradition: squeaking in the sand, which involves shuffling around in circles and making the sand squeak. We even learned how to do it backwards. I couldn't tell whether onlookers were jealous or thought us pathetic. Certainly no one asked us to teach them the moves.

I did something I've always wanted to do: parasailing. The sea was supposed to be brimming with life that day - sharks, turtles, rays - although all I saw was a dark hump in the ocean that might have been a turtle or a ray or a patch of seaweed. I told my youngest daughter that I should have nicked her a few times so we would have sharks circling below.

My oldest daughter thought it bizarre that we risked our lives on some frayed rope handled by men who spent eight hours a day with the sun beating down on their heads.

My friend Lynette, who has known me since my 20s and takes certain liberties with me, drove twice from Pensacola to visit. She also experienced a great loss on her second visit: the use of a couple of her toes, which she broke while frolicking in the waves with us one evening. We got up to find a scribbled note on a paper towel saying she would love to stay but had to seek medical help.

I was reminded that I have a habit of posing like this with my girlfriends, even when we're not at the beach.

As to what I lost at the beach: my wedding rings. I forgot to take them off for our last night swim. As I was howling in the sea at my loss, my girls held me tight (as much as they could, since we were still being battered about) and comforted me, while my husband dived repeatedly to look for my rings, reminding me that this was a loss I could bear. I hope a mermaid found my rings and treasures them as I did. Maybe she'll return them to me one day.

As for me, at that moment I realized what I had not lost. And I hope the mermaid who inherited my rings is as lovely as the two below.

 -- this is dedicated to my husband John and my girls, who remind me each day of my bounties.