The River

by the Coconut Girl on September 26, 2014

We went down to the river

And into the river we’d dive

Down to the river we’d ride

–Bruce Springsteeen

Vapor rose from the river just yards from where we stood. I saw it reflected in the surface first.  That’s how still the water was, like a mirror that had closed around our legs. My children and I stationed ourselves at different spots by chance: my son by a fallen tree, my daughter on a sandbar, and me on the bank, scanning for broken glass.

The hot air sucked in the mist. I pictured Betty Draper, styled in 50′s housewife boredom, dragging on a cigarette. I grew up in the 70’s, and still, many mothers smoked.

They were also mostly home. At least in my neighborhood they were. So were the kids. Not all of them, but enough to cobble together a passable afternoon’s play. If a kid wasn’t playing in the street, it wasn’t because he was off learning lacrosse. He was grounded. Or grabbing an elderly neighbor’s weeds by the handful for fifty cents an hour.

As I waded towards my children in the river, my toes snagged a wet wig of algae. “Gross!” my son called, holding up a used Band Aid that had floated over the little dam he’d built. There was so much to say about it, I sighed and said nothing.

Water comes in handy in emergencies, and not just the fire and chemical kind. I drove my kids to the river because we were on our ninth consecutive day of playdate fails. When I picked them up from school that afternoon, I delivered the news:  it would be just the three of us again. They cried tears of frustration. “Did you text Allyson’s mom?” Yes. “Did you call Jeremy’s dad?” Yes. “Did you stop by Michelle’s house?” Yes. “Did you…did you…“ Yesyesyesyesyesyes.

I knew the river was the only safe route to dinnertime. Just like tub baths were the only navigable path through weeks of flu when the kids were little.

In general I like to think I’m a decent parent, but when it comes to scheduling my children’s social lives, I’m deeply ineffective. I try, but I’d need an Excel spreadsheet to track their friends’ activities. Only a few children reside in our neighborhood, and when we knock on their doors, echoes answer. I call and text parents to see if their kids are free. They write back, “Would love to see you, but we’re at SoccerPianoGymnasticsGuitarJudoAfterschoolBaseballYogaGirlScoutsAutoMechanicNursingHome-WellChildAppoitment.” Like me, they’re juggling a lot. Too much. We live parallel, separate lives.

When few people can be found, sometimes it’s best to admit you’re sunk, and go where there are no people at all. Nature’s good company. Even medical waste is, like that Band Aid flipping in the white water. I knew the kids would protest going to the river, and right on cue, they did. Enduring the disappointment of others is a hard-won skill, but an essential one in parenting. Either I’ve mastered the reality that I can’t fix everything, or it’s mastered me.

We waded farther up the river. Grey fish darted from rocks, and we chased them. Our feet sank into soupy sand flecked with mica. My son flung his empty water bottle up river, and we sprinted to straddle its path downstream so it would float between our legs. Why? Because why not.

“Sadie!” a voice called from the woods along the water’s edge. From the brush bounded a large golden retriever that soaked us as she ran across the water, zig zagging from bank to bank. Several more dogs followed, and we forgot that we’d been driven to this spot by loneliness. We left not long after, our feet pruney, and our work and school clothes splattered with mud.  On the drive home, my children silently pulled wet rocks from their pockets. They turned them over to inspect all sides, and the hands on the clock clicked effortlessly to 5:05.

 

 

 

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Chicken Cleavage

by the Coconut Girl on September 8, 2014

Don’t worry about the big bulge on my back; it’s just my eight-year-old son under my shirt. He’s been my Velcro Buddy since school started last week. This close proximity only poses a problem when his SuperGlue Sista (my ten year-old daughter) has her head up the front of my shirt. We just walk sideways, the three of us, from the dining room to the kitchen, trolling for food.

There was a time when two other orbs under my shirt provided some nourishment. But the big, talking, school-aged orbs presently portruding from my torso prefer that I cook. Cook a lot. Cook constantly. Cook totally different meals for each of them. One wants cornichons, seaweed sheets, and Middle eastern dips. The other wants sides of cows.

“I saw that the debit charge from the grocery was over $400,” my husband texted me the other day. I told him it was all the food. Especially the meat. For years I barely bought any. There was the bi-monthly box of organic breakfast sausage links, but that was about it. Now my third grader has a barrel chest rivaling Jack Lalanne’s. I can’t serve up the protein fast enough.

The shirt-spheres and I shuffle over to the CSA bag we filled at a farm on Saturday. Let’s see. Miniature purple onions. Whole, unwashed okra. Rock-hard carnival squash.

The freezer’s no better. Mangos, rice, popcorn, ice.

What I need is a chicken cleavage for my son (pig out, Sigmund Freud), and a babaganoush bra for his sister. Then they’d be happy. And by happy, I mean full for ten minutes.

Writer Andy Moore reflects in a funny-poignant essay about parenting college-aged kids,

For all the hullaballoo of raising small children, it’s really just one constant thing. A humongous deal that’s no different day-to-day.

With all due respect to Col. Moore (a friend), them there’s fighting words.

Today for my small children, it was chicken fingers and brown rice sushi, a sports tryout rejection, and a best friend who moved to Cali. Yesterday it was hot dogs and stir-fried tofu, the retirement of a lifelong lovey, and the first solo trip to the pool showers.

The menu changes too often at the Coconut Cafe, almost minute-to-minute. Which is why the patrons sometimes pull their chairs in verrrrry close so they can hear the house band: Lub Dub, Lub Dub, Lub Dub.

 

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Caps

by the Coconut Girl on July 9, 2014

Along my route home last night, I saw two people standing alone by the side of the road. They’d pulled over to photograph a town-wide rainbow that followed a sudden thunderstorm.  I was inside a home-improvement store when the deluge hit. Rain pounded the metal roof pan overhead. For a moment, the other shopper in my aisle and l forgot our projects.

“It’s a double rainbow,” a store employee said from under his plastic poncho as we loaded wet boxes of snap-n-click flooring into my car.

A few minutes later, on the parkway that leads to my neighborhood, I saw double again. Two new, green tractors with enclosed, empty cabs sat parked on the road’s grassy shoulder at the mid-point of a curve. As I hydroplaned by, I longed to see the operators. Surely they were guards from Buckingham Palace in black caps. What a strange wish it was—but a wish all the same—to see them at their posts, keeping watch.

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My Writing Life

by the Coconut Girl on July 4, 2014

Blog hops are catching on like wildfire, and I’m so excited to participate in one thanks to my friend and fellow-blogger, Miller Murray Susen.

What’s a blog hop? It’s when a group of bloggers post on a common topic in a loose sequence, and then refer readers to other participating bloggers they admire. For this session, the topic is “My Writing Life.”

1. What am I writing or working on?

My short-term writing projects are the posts I write for the Coconut Girl. My long-term project is a book for new moms. I also have a novel underway; the manuscript coughs “A-hem!” from inside my desk drawer once every few months. I fantasize about big, muscular blocks of time (>45 minutes) when I can sit down and work on the book projects. My other projects include being the primary caregiver of two amazing, sassy children, and several house renovations and additions. I write and design for families.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work differs from others in that it’s not always writing. Posts on the Coconut Girl shape-shift. While most are essays, others are cartoons, songs, or infomercial spoofs. For me, parenthood is a 500-horsepower creative engine. The barrage of stimuli from being a mother and a professional blows my circuit-board daily. The flying sparks turn into posts.

I feel so fortunate to live in the age of blogging because I’ve never been exclusively an architect, or singularly a writer. Instead, I’m a strange, sardonic, and sentimental creative concoction of many things. I can be completely myself on the Coconut Girl, and my readers keep reading. Lucky me!

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write because I have to (see blown circuit-board, above). When I saw the movie “American Beauty” years ago, I really related to the character who films the plastic bag blowing in the wind. Part of me is that character observing the bag, and part of me is the bag. I have to step outside my billowing and eddying life in order to see the beauty in my hectic days. Writing lands me in a place of gratitude.

4. How does my writing process work?

I almost always write late at night, when my children are in bed, and my husband’s in the den watching TV. Usually it’s my first quiet moment of the day. Some people get up early to exercise or meditate; I postpone bedtime to write.  I turn the radio off, and fill a glass with something reachable in the front of the fridge, like pomegranate juice, or beer. Occasionally, pomegranate juice and beer.

Most times, I don’t know what I’m going to write when I start. I just have a tightness in my chest that I want to loosen. It’s like pulling a tangled necklace out of a drawer and wanting to brave the knot because the necklace is important, and I want to wear it properly. To begin an essay, sometimes I’ll look at recent photos I’ve taken, or at objects my children have made or taken apart. There’s always something beautiful or disgusting that makes me realize something about them, and about myself.

For blog posts, I typically write directly into the WordPress user interface, rather than composing first in Word. This is a risky strategy because the blog log-in can time-out, or a random internet glitch can suddenly delete the post. The scale-tipping upside, though, is that the blog interface feels laid back, immediate, and unintimidating. Maybe it’s the beige background, or the lack of formatting options, I don’t know. But I do know that I write better when I’m just casually typing, Man, not writing. If I allow myself to perseverate over diction or phrasing, I can fall from the wire.

Once I have a draft done, I immediately go back and revise it a few times before I post it. Otherwise, the odds are good I won’t have time to get back to it for a week or more. And because I write a lot about fleeting topics related to my family, my connection to that particular moment will have receded by then. The next morning, I re-read the post and make any necessary edits that my late-night brain missed.

*            *            *

And now, in keeping with the blog hop format, I’d like to introduce you to a blogger I admire, Jocelyn Johnson. Jocelyn writes at Jocelyn’s Stories about motherhood, art, and the world we live in—and the intersections between these things.  I’ve known Jocelyn since our children were very young, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her better through her lovely and insightful writing. Thank you, Jocelyn!

I’d also like to thank Miller Murray Susen again for inviting me to participate in this blog hop. Miller’s hilarious-poignant observations can be found on her blog, Amomynity.com. Her enthusiasms include writing, acting, teaching, directing, storytelling, lady arm wrestling, and child wrangling.

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A Stop in the Hall

June 10, 2014

With so many worthy causes to devote one’s time to, there’s not much use campaigning for more interesting hallways by restaurant bathrooms. And yet, being someone who spends a lot of time in these spaces waiting for my children, I wonder: what if these corridors were beautiful? My son peeks around the restroom door on [...]

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Yucky Lunch Box

May 12, 2014

The person who invented the vomit idiom, “take another look at lunch” knew what she was talking about. I’m willing to wager a pack of King Dongs that the phrase struck her, like a wave of nausea, as she emptied her kids’ lunch boxes at the end of the day. Perhaps she was decanting a [...]

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Internet Security

May 1, 2014

I_smell_good_I_smell_so_so_good That’s what’s known as a fantastic website username. And this related password will get you an “Excellent” rating as you type it in: I_smell_so_so_so_good_always_n_not_just_4_today Note the password contains a capital and a number. Sadly, those examples are already taken. But this username may still be available: I_smell_really_good_I_smell_really_really_good It goes with this password: I_smell_really_really_really_good_I_do_4_real_realer_realist_reals Unfortunately, [...]

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Parcels

April 28, 2014

Ah. It’s a book bag. Oh. It’s a sack of money. A-ha. It’s a bottle of hooch. What do these things have in common? 1) I thought they were babies, and 2) none of them were babies. Yes, I was way off the mark. But in fairness, all three infant imposters were the chesty parcels [...]

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Walk the Line

April 21, 2014

We fell fifty feet into the water. Just before the terrifying plunge, a pair of vultures mocked my family and me: “You want a laughing place, eh? We’ll show YOU a laughing place!” Wet but alive at the bottom of the five-story drop, my family fell again. This time, into a grateful embrace. Around us, [...]

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Going for a Run

March 27, 2014
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