Being the opportunist I am, I thought maybe I'd use Santa's impending visit to motivate the kids to clean up a bit. You know, "We don't want Santa to break an ankle, do we?" I thought I had them, too. Thought it was working. Then I realized that every time I threw out the Santa threat and they jumped to attention -- a motion I assumed meant they had heard, understood, acknowledged (HUA!) -- they were actually scrambling to find something new to play with/add to the floor.
So last night, in a fit of pissedoffedness, I actually fell back to a universal parental admonition: "Jesus, Ethan! How many times have I told you to pick this crap up? I swear it's like in one ear and out ... well, ... out the same ear I guess because you only have one. But while it's in there it's ... while it's in your head, there ... you're obviously ignoring it. Squeak."
I turn to Sandi, looking for help. She is purple, quaking in silent laughter and covering her mouth and nose to catch any dinner she has not yet swallowed. I don't want to say that her reaction and the subsequent weakening of the lesson is the reason the floor's always so damn dirty, so I'll just change the subject.
The holidays are a special time; an annoying time. Often punctuated by flourishes of absolute vein-opening stimuli. To whit, I present Aunt Mary's 2007 "gift" to our family. Quid pro quo, Aunt Mary. Hope those rabid badgers are working out for you.
When I was a kid we used to visit my aunt and uncle and their family in Frenchtown, NJ. They were so, SO different from us that I found it hard to believe we were related at all. For instance, they all seemed happy and well adjusted. They were genuine, caring people who truly enjoyed each others' company and whose home often served as the hub for bigger family reunions. To this day I count them among the most amazing folks I've ever met.
I was a really shy kid back then and I spent most of my time at these get-togethers watching the older kids, marveling at what it must be like to get all the grownup jokes. To be so god damn cool. I studied them like a fanatic would study a world-class athlete. And the coolest of them all by far was Chrissy. She with embroidered denim jacket and Joni Mitchell smile. Floppy, over-sized hats and sunglasses. Peace sign necklaces and leather chokers. Total hippie. I watched her with fascination, having never before seen anyone so comfortable in their own skin. Her energy was massive yet controlled, as if she ran on some Star Trek-age propulsion technology. It was as if she moved space silently and effortlessly around her while the rest of us bulled our way through it. I was insanely intimidated by her/in awe of her, as she represented a league of human being that was way beyond my ability to fathom.
So we didn't talk much, although it's not like she ignored me. Far from it, she always went out of her way to say hi and she never talked to me like I was a little kid. Which I was. Still, she made me feel part of it all. She was just cool.
A few years ago the now-grownup me had the chance to sit and talk with her at yet another family reunion. For the first time ever we really talked. Like peers from the same generation, not relatives from polar opposite backgrounds separated by a decade. And you know what? She was even cooler than I'd built her up to be. We talked for what seemed like hours about I have no idea what, and it was the most comfortable I'd been with anyone for a long time. I met her son that day and remember thinking how they seemed more like a team than a mother and son. Tight. No secrets. I was jealous. And watching the two of them interact helped me consider how I'd like to raise my sons. To this day I measure my relationship with Thomas and Ethan by the watermark she set.
Chrissy died this past Saturday. Cancer. She leaves behind so very many strong and lasting impressions -- many she probably wouldn't expect. Like the impact she made on me. A toast to the cool girl. Bravest hopes for all who remain.
"Silence knows, can't drown a heart." -- Jay Farrar