Oh, those were the days…
Worn wooden sides of a see-saw digging into your inner thighs as you hang, suspended waiting for your partner on the other end to gently let you down. But sometimes they didn’t.
“Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear let me down…”
“What will you give me?”
Remember this one? Then you’d start naming wondrous things like candy bars, puppies and ten-speed bikes, hoping that one of these would hit the sweet spot and you’d plummet to the earth ready for the next round.
Or how about this old rhyme…
“Teeter-totter, bread and butter. Wash your face in dirty water. If you don’t, I don’t care. I’ll pull down your underwear.”
This we did in a rhythm, up and down, up and down, our legs pushing up so hard that sometimes we would almost become airborne at the top, our hands in a death grip on the handle as our rears lifted off the seat.
I wonder who out there remembers these. Let me know. And if you have other teeter-totter rhymes, share them. I’d love to hear.
Yesterday was it for me. I was driving and turned to my son and said, “I’m really gonna finish this thing.” Then I repeated for myself. “I’m going to finish.” Not so much a validation but an observation.
Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that there are those of you out there that know already what I’m talking about. Cuz I’m sure you remember that moment – the epiphany that you will soon, perhaps in the next month or so, be able to type with confidence those two words. The End.
And I know that some of you might think I’m getting ahead of myself, that it’s not over ’til it’s over, yadda-yadda-yadda. But yesterday it seemed different – like it is now out of my hands and the closeness of it feels inevitable like chimes at midnight.
So today I wrote like the wind. And tomorrow I will as well. And so on and so on. Because it’s so close I can taste it. And I’m hungry.
(If you have had a similar experience, I’d love to hear about it!)
You know the kind. You may even have them on your fridge, scattered about. Mine are on the dishwasher – an easy reach for a little girl to tinker while her mother is fixing dinner. When she was younger, about five or so, the sentences my daughter composed were short usually article, subject, verb (The dog sat.) I would pat her head and tell her how proud I was as I stirred at the stove. Then as she grew so did the sentences, adjectives and adverbs thrown in for color. (The ugly man ate purple.) I might nod my head with enthusiasm, cradling the phone between my shoulder and ear while chopping lettuce. But after a while, like most things that are there, just there – everyday, her magnetic words blended into the background of my life.
It was perhaps last Wednesday that I spilled grape juice on the kitchen counter and it ran down the front of the dishwasher. As I was wiping down the stainless steel front I noticed my now nine-year-old daughter’s creations. They gave me pause. How the sentences had changed since I last looked – really looked. And I read and read and re-read. And laughed and cried and marveled at the brave abandon with which she strung these words together. And then envious that I no longer seemed to have the unbridled freedom of youth to just play and mix and take that risk.
I edit myself too much.
So here for your enjoyment are some of the creations that grace the face of my dutiful dishwasher (starting from the humorous and going to the sublime.):
I like ugly buttheads.
Woman will use a rock to smear diamonds.
He loves breast milk and juice.
Pound your peach after the blue moon.
Her sea spray lives in a place.
Scream through winter light and cool rain.
I watch water and sunshine lie on leaves.
Never let me dream about you.
*Some of these may have been written by my daughter’s friends as well. Nevertheless, they are priceless!
I think it was in fourth grade that I broke my arm. It was a dare actually, based on the lesser of two evils. Either jump to the sixth rung of the monkey bars or kiss Billy Riser. Well you don’t break your arm kissing someone now do you?
The whole class was watching. Billy licking his lips with his fat tongue. Allison with her fingers crossed for me like a best friend should. I spat on my palms and rubbed them together like a real fighter. Now I’d made it to the fifth rung plenty of times. It was the sixth that was the playground holy grail. Only Bethany had ever achieved that lofty goal and she let everyone know about it who hadn’t been there to witness it for themselves. Now I was standing on the edge.
My knees bent building muscle tension as the crowd hushed. Like two loaded springs my legs released and catapulted me into the air. But as I rose I already knew that I would come up short. And in the knowledge that I would now have to kiss Billy Riser I turned to him and stuck out my tongue, my eyes squinted shut.
This really messes up one’s landing.
Later at the hospital mother leaned over and asked as she swept my bangs from my forehead, “What were you thinking?”
All I could picture was Billy’s lips in a fish pucker. It’s best to leave some things unsaid.
My coffee’s still warm as I sit at the kitchen window and watch my kids walk down the stone path to the driveway. The bus should be here any minute. I catch a movement coming from the barn and see our flock of Buffs making a bee-line after the kids. Someone forgot to lock them in last night. They are hungry. I have visions of them hopping up the bus steps as the driver kindly keeps the door open.
So in my red flannel pj’s – the ones with the penguins in Santa hats – I bolt out the door into the cold. “Here Girls!” I call. “Here Girls!”
“Mom! What are you doing?” calls my teen, a look of terror on his face.
“Oh My God!” yells my fourth-grader.
It’s not the chickens they’re worried about mind you. It’s the sight of their mother in her night wear flapping her arms at a bunch of hungry waddling chickens and what this will do their reputations.
But once I’m committed to a cause I’m tenacious. “Deal,” I tell them as I round up my girls and usher them down the driveway back to the barnyard.
I’m not sure if the kids got any flack. They haven’t said. Nor have they thanked me for my courageous efforts.
It’s just something we mothers do.