Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Person in Charge of Me



Crying and swimming always make me tired; together, these two activities can make for centuries-long slumber.  Since the comfort of sleep has been beckoning me too much lately—an Amber Alert for my spirit—the person in charge of me wants to make sure that I really deserve sleep when it finally arrives, and for God’s sake it better be a natural sleep too.

Therefore, on the day that I cry on the phone with my sister, perhaps the saddest of sad days so far, I am inclined to listen more carefully later when one of my cats wants to tell on another.  What other good are you doing? the person in charge of me asks as I sink into the couch.

I roll my eye and turn my attention to my middle child, Lucy, lying like the Sphinx next to me, ready to indict her little brother, Leo.

“Mother,” Lucy meeps to me.  She can never say anything without emphasis.

“Yes, my sweetpea,” I say back.

“I just wanted you to know that when you were gone to get your pedicure earlier, and when you came back and the cooking string was all over the place, it was…um…Bubba who did that.”  She pauses.  “Not me.”

Lucy stretches out and tilts her eyes back at me like she’s telling me something I don’t know.  I resent her in that moment.  I deserve the lesson, but somebody has to be the leader around here.  I revert back to firm verbal footing while continuing to put the lotion on its skin: “It’s not nice to tattle,” I say.

I wonder in my brain, far back from the fences of reality, where and when the people of my household starting calling the most recent arrival “Bubba”.  It’s not his given name, and no one heard it from my lips, so I deduce that it must be something organic to do with the pronunciation of “brother”, or perhaps—all nature dismissed—because his father calls him that.  Or both. 

“Well I wasn’t trying to tattle so much as I was trying to tell you that in addition to loving you and needing you and wanting you all to myself, I wanted to remind you that playing with string isn’t safe for kittens, which I had to learn myself.”  She stops meeping and conveys the rest with eyes full of soul: I’m sure you remember.

Well, I’d only had one kitty before Lucy, and he didn’t like string, so I had incorrectly assumed from that experience that none of my cats would ever like string, and never imagined that I would ever acquire a string addict.  It took a few clean-ups in aisle nine for me to figure out that string wasn’t just a toy to Lucy; it was an infatuation, to the point that if she could have survived on eating string alone, she would have. 

“I remember, sweetie,” I say, scratching her chin.  She conveys the rest: I just wanted you to know that when I saw what Bubba was doing, I shooed him away and then—though it was very hard—I didn’t eat any, either.

She’s reminding me of what a good girl she is, when I already know it so much.  I have been remiss in acknowledging and rewarding good efforts around this place, including my own.

The person in charge of me gives me permission to cry one more time, but just for five minutes.  Then she makes me swim. 



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Resentful Kitten



I am home from my latest travels, freshly and rightfully scratched by my cats whose pedicures are long overdue.  I sit quietly on the sofa, cross-legged, sorting my thoughts into wants, needs, and dislikes.

When my resentful kitten can’t resist me any longer—though judgment lingers in his eyes—he comes next to me and pushes his big black noggin towards the open palm I offer.  He keeps coming until his entire face is nuzzled deeply into my palm, which has served as the warm belly of his missing biological mother for fifteen months.  He sits down next to me with his nose pressed firmly into my palm, eyes closed, his twelve-pound adolescent build at attention.  I gently cup his face with my fingers, and his shoulders relax.

These are the times we have our best conversations.

“Mama,” Leo murmurs into my lifeline.

“Yes baby,” I say.

“It was very hard for me when you were gone.”

“I can see that,” I coo like maybe the Beaver’s dad would in his most feminine moment, but no more than that.  “What was the hardest part?” I say to Leo.  I smile even though I don’t feel like it, trying to look like I know what to expect even though no one is looking at me.  

My palm is now warm and moist, Leo’s face buried into my gentle grasp of his head.  His shoulders are beginning to droop, and the drool has come.  It doesn’t seem like my baby wants to concentrate on the negative; maybe he just needs to get something off his beautiful chest.

“Hey,” I say, gently rocking his head to wake him up a little.  “What was the hardest part?” 

“Well I just kind of end up feeling like a second-class citizen when you choose all that other stuff over me,” he sighs onto my loveline.  

I’m making the people who live in my own house feel like second-class citizens.  My God what a horrible person I am.  

How many wet noodles would Dear Abby recommend.    

*


I put Leo to bed later that night, pulling my white sheets around his black stubbiness, his nose this time firmly embedded into my armpit. When I wish I was asleep but I know Leo is, I sprawl forth my spirit unto the Lord, as far as I can get it untucked from the binds around me, and ask what the expectations are these days.  I don’t use swear words, and I keep my tone as even as possible.

“The expectations are the same as they’ve ever been,” the Lord says to me.

“I cannot believe you picked that line to convey to me what I already know,” I say before I realize I’m talking back again.  “You know I hate that song.”

*

I awake in the morning when it’s still dark outside, a piglet in my armpit.  Two of my smallest movements usher in the other loves of my life.  We play tiny-catch and make forts inside; I make coffee and fill the bowls.  

Excursions are made in laundry baskets held high to the ceilings with the holder shouting out appropriately-matching lines from movies, the most cherished still wondering if they are cherished at all.