Sunday, December 19, 2010

In good hands

I've always half joked that I married this man for his hands.

But it's partially true. As a woman who has spent a lifetime feeling shy about the less-than-petite size of her hands, the first time I felt his large, warm hand confidently take mine, as we rushed down a side street in Lienz, Austria, after our very first official dinner date, I swear I heard the universe exhale.

What I didn't know, was what good fathering these hands were capable of. 

Now, all those years later, if I could wish for anything, in the whole of the entire crazy tilting world, I might be tempted to wish that my daughters will never, ever, for as long as they live, forget their father's patient, warm, strong, infinitely- generous helping hands.

Sort of new BabyCenter posts here and here and here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time in a bottle

“I sharpened all these pencils,” was the first thing Isla said to me this morning when I came lurching, all out of focus, into the cold kitchen.  

She’d been up for a while, but had moved around the house so comfortable in her skin, quietly sharpening her colored pencils, that none of us noticed. She wasn't even bothered by the freezing floor tiles on her bare feet. The rest of the world didn't matter to her. Her world was complete.

For a fleeting, poignant moment in time, the earth’s usual rotation was suspended, like the arm of a record player, hanging, poised just over a spinning disc, knowing its power, for once it lowers and makes contact with the vinyl, the entire room will be at its mercy.

Even after she saw I was awake, usually her cue to tap into her inner needy person, she didn't seem all too interested in me. She went into her room, sat on her bed, and sang a quiet song to her stuffed animal, Pepsi.

My children have been bowling me over lately with their quietness. Their presence in this house, when they are in confident, self sufficient, moods, not needing a thing, is when I can most clearly see who and what they are, and when I most profoundly feel how much I love them. They are not demanding my love, they are simply drawing it out of me, pulling it like an endless, magical thread, calling upon it without saying a word.

And the more we have these moments in our house, the more I am sure that the earth is indeed spinning, and rotating, at warp speed and I have not the slightest modicum of control over where we are headed and how fast.

Because once you get so accustomed to the noise and the din and the chaos of being needed every second of the day, the sound of that din, when it stops, is as deafening as a door slammed in your face.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Haircut regret and recovery, and why I'm glad I'm not Meg Ryan

I just found out that a guy I once knew, not an old boyfriend, but the friend of a brother of an old boyfriend, won an Academy Award for a documentary film he was involved in making.

The film, called The Cove, exposes a massive dolphin-slaughtering operation in Japan. It's one of those powerful artistic projects that evolve organically from passion to product.

It’s a film meant to create awareness and accountability, and inspire activism,  in an otherwise inactive, unaware, lawless world.

When I think about projects like this film, and about people who use their life, time, and energy to create such meaningful art, I feel slightly ashamed about my burning desire to write an entire blog post about my new haircut.

I want to tell you how much I hated it at first, but how it’s growing on me now, and how, just this morning, I caught a dusky, early-morning light reflection of myself in the mirror upon first standing up, and fancied myself to look a bit like Angie Dickinson in her Police Woman days.

(Now that I have Googled her and seen all those images, I realize my mistake.)

When I’m not looking in the mirror I like to pretend I look a bit like Meg Ryan. It’s amazing what it does for my morale. But then I get a glimpse of myself and the fantasy pretty much stops there.

But what I have that Meg Ryan doesn't, is Ian. And I say this because Meg Ryan once asked Ian for a ride home at a bar. But he didn't give her one.

But not for lack of trying. Long before he knew me, in what must have resembled a waking nightmare, Ian met Meg Ryan in a bar in Vail, Colorado. He was there for a Ski World Championships as the manager of the British National Ski Team, and he and the team were out partying after the races.

He got talking to a pretty woman at the bar and quickly figured out he had seen her somewhere before. I don't know Meg Ryan but I admire her judgment. Because, of all the cool dudes in the bar, she asked my future husband, the world’s safest guy, out of the blue, if he could give her a ride home.

Normally the designated driver, Ian agreed to give her a lift, then felt around his pockets for the keys to the team van and remembered he had given them to one of the athletes. He searched, frantically around the crowded bar for the holder of the keys only to find the pretty girl had disappeared by the time he “got himself sorted.” 

I love this story. I almost missed Ian as well.  Of course I’m reading way too much into her request for a ride, but it’s kind of fun to do that.

So anyway, this was supposed to be a post about a bad haircut. What on earth compelled me to let a strange French woman cut my hair so short?

After catching sight of myself in a store window, looking like a much older version of myself in high school-- same messy, no-style, longish hair--I turned into the first sans- rendevous hair salon and said, "J'ai besoin une coupe."

She washed my hair, which was probably all it really needed, sat me down in front of the huge mirror of truth and said, how short. She gestured towards my collarbones, and I gestured towards my ears, then we settled, somewhat hastily, on my chin. Before I could even think of reconsidering, my hair was dropping to the floor.

It's okay, it's okay, I thought. I've had short hair before. I liked it. Didn't I? 

I was a bit in shock when I left, but tried not to show it. Then, I found myself in that tricky situation of trying to resist looking at myself in the rear view mirror while I drove. Then I found myself in that worst position of looking to everyone I saw, scrutinizing their faces for betrayal, to find out if my cut was a hit or a miss. This is the worst, most self-fulfilling prophesy, because if you suggest you aren't sure about it, you come off as overly needy and people start scrambling to reassure you. But the reassurance doesn't feel genuine. Because it probably isn't because your negative vibes and insecurity are flowing right into that person's head and out their mouths.

It's best, I find, not to mention it. That way, if someone has something to say, they can say it at their own will. And, I find, people generally won't say anything if they don't have anything positive to say. Ian said it was "nice." Then he went and ruined it by saying he liked it long, too.

But Esther loved it. Whether she was being dutiful or not, she made a point to tell me over and over just how much she loved it. Even when I lost face a bit in front of her and admitted to not just being unsure about it, but maybe actually hating it.

"Well I don't care what you say," she said. "I think it looks nice."

Isla, on the other hand, finds my haircut "stupid." 

Funny thing, I've felt surprisingly more light and upbeat since ridding my head of excess baggage. And the cut has indeed grown on me. Every once in a while, when no one's looking, I reach for my pistol on my hip and assume the Police Woman stance in the mirror. Just like Angie Dickinson.

Ready to save the world. Now I just have to figure out how.

New Momfo posts here and here. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Cute French waiters, new boots and snow

Walking the streets of Dijon in the snow last weekend, despite the mushy mushroom moistness of my not-waterproof boots and sopping-wet socks, was perfect.

Just like I remember feeling on our yearly November trips to New York City as a child, Essie and Isla were humming with enthusiasm, plugged into the people, the lights and the action.

We licked practically every store window we passed. Isla stopped to lick a few without telling us and gave me a fright when I realized she was no longer with us. That one window display with the moving, breathing polar bears kept her pliant little mind very busy as she contemplated how those bears got into the store,where they pooped, and whether or not they were dangerous.

We hadn't intended to stay the night, but just to have lunch and visit the Christmas Market and maybe buy Esther a pair of new boots as an early birthday present. The market was dull by Bavarian standards, but there was vin chaud. We stuck the kids on the Santa train for two trips while we cradled hot styrofoam cups and smiled as we felt the hot wine go straight to our toes.  

Boot shopping consumed us as the snow consumed the streets. We went into a half a dozen shoe stores, filled with 3,000 variations on the same damn theme, city boots. How does anyone decide?

Esther and, then Isla, both found what they liked, in the same shop. We bought them, and they wore them out of the store, stopping on the sidewalk to spray them with waterproofer.

Funny how a new pair of shoes can change your stride, your attitude, and your entire demeanor. Another disconcerting example of how money does indeed make you, at least temporarily, profoundly happy.

We tried, really we did, to go home, until, stuck in a slow- road- to- nowhere traffic jam on the way out of town, as it snowed harder and harder,  I willed Ian to turn around and head back to the little city of light.

Once we found a hotel, and faced another restaurant meal, oh bummer, I dove through a rapidly lowering window of commercial opportunity and explained to my family that I just had to go out and buy myself some dry shoes, and socks, as well.

I raced along the slippery lit-up streets and alleys, doing flybys in a half a dozen shops and ending up in a Gap, of all places, shopping for pants I really wanted, but didn't need. 

I tried on a ridiculously tight, yet vaguely- flattering, pair of stretch jeans and wondered, in that tiny dressing room, with my soaking -wet socks leaving a puddle on the floor, if I could really get away with them. It's times like these when I could use a girlfriend. Esther had wanted to come with me, but I knew I needed to hurry so I turned her down.

When I tried to find a larger size, the saleswoman said, "But if you get a bigger size, they will be....bigger."

"Exactly," I said.

"But, those you are wearing are perfect."

"They're not perfect," I said, "They're too tight."  Then I thought, "And I'm not a teenager, or French."

But she was right. The next size up was too big. In a bold, rebellious move of optimism, I bought the tight ones.

Dizzied by the choices of fashion boots, and feeling as if combining tight jeans and fashionable boots on the very same day was just too cliché, I found a pair of practical, waterproof, high-end shit kickers, and sprinted back to the hotel to show off my booty.

Everyone, even Ian, approved.

Three girls and three new pairs of boots, one pair of tight-stretch jeans and one man who will never understand us, poured smugly out into the magically- glowing streets in search of a restaurant for dinner.

We wandered, hand- in -hand through the labrynth of cobblestone, with me stopping to occasionally pull my shirt down, because I could feel the air blowing through the gap between it and the low-rise waistband, why do I do this to myself?, until we finally stepped into a warm, casual gallete/crepe restaurant. Once inside,  Isla and I became instantly smitten with the young waiter.

I was stealth, but Isla was shameless.

She did everything she could, short of punching him, to get him to look at her. I can't blame her, really. He was adorable, very sweet and boyish, very French. Am I setting my girls up for eternal discontent? Will they forever be searching for a boy who speaks French and knows how to wear a scarf when they get back to America?

We had a delicious, warming, cheap meal in the glow of red- beaded lamplight, then headed back out into the night.