Friday, November 18, 2011

The Craftsy Aunt

By now, the news has been delivered and I can see the moment in my mind's eye. The scene is my brother's kitchen in Vermont, bright, spacious, a little cluttered but only because my sister-in-law is a culinary maven. I have never been to their home, but I imagine the kitchen is openly connected to a family room, full of comfy cushy chairs that match. They have a nice size television, a fabulous stereo, and probably several video games strewn about the floor.

This is all foreign to some one like me and so my mental picture has been colored by visits to homes of my children's friends. I choose to describe my furniture as "eclectic" - meaning it is old and doesn't match. Our home entertainment is "simplified" - SpongeBob DVDs, teasing the cat, and board games. Our clutter is "junk" – crap my kids bring home from school that I KNOW I will need some day.

My sister-in-law gives the news to my 16 year old niece, who isn't quite sure how to react. The eye roll? A shout of glee? She chooses cautious optimism; she's a good and thoughtful girl. She is smart, logical, and has the world at her feet. She takes the "wait and see" attitude.

"Your Aunt Lisa is crocheting a gift for your birthday."

No other words churn such complex and conflicting feelings in a kid. Maybe she would score with a cool hat, a nifty scarf, some trendy fingerless gloves? Or…..what if Aunt Lisa missed the memo on making yarn art cool? There is the chance she could end up with matching cozies for her bathroom's toilet seat, Kleenex box, and extra roll of toilet paper. Oh, why does she have to have a "craftsy" aunt anyway? There are just some adults who don't know the value of a gift card!

I never had a Craftsy Aunt and now know that this is the missing element of my life that has lead to all my troubles. A more traditional school of thought would attribute my broken marriage, chronic financial woes, and general bitterness to some deep seeded childhood event, chemical imbalance, or that blow to the head when I was 12. I know better. If only I had a Craftsy Aunt to make me ridiculously impractical and horrifically unattractive birthday and Christmas gifts as a child, I would not need to rely on visits to my kids' friends' homes for a peek into that idyllic home in Vermont – I would be living there.

And so after years of searching, I now know my mission in life is to realign our universal balance by filling the role of the Craftsy Aunt. When I DO remember a birthday (because Craftsy Aunts are often scatter brained and forgetful), my weapons of choice will be crochet hook, hot glue gun, and googly eyes. It is a thankless job, but I believe in grassroots social change. With my bedazzled baseball cap, ugly Christmas sweater, and carpel tunnel brace, I crochet on for all those nieces and nephews. Such sacrifice and selflessness will only be known years from now, when those nieces and nephews look about them and realize all they owe to that Craftsy Aunt Lisa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn Romance

I dream of you. You invade my nights, possess my days, grip my soul. When I wake, my first thoughts are of you. I look at the clock and begin the eternal countdown to the time we are together. I am yours.

I know what it is to taste you - earthy, base – you are all the sustenance I need and all the food I will ever want. To feel your silken warmth under my hands sends my blood racing yet soothes the static in my mind. When I come close to you and your smell, my heart pounds in my chest and I can barely hear the world around me through this internal clamor of anticipation. Your flesh caresses my eyes when I look down at you; my lips quiver as they lightly brush you.

I ask myself why I am obsessed with you. The answers flow from my mind quickly and numerous, blending together and swirling all around, confusing my logic and tilting my sense of balance. I know our time is brief and clandestine and I know that you will only be here while the leaves blaze and dance. I don't know if you will be back, or if this visit will be the last. I cling to you and try to pull every sensual moment from this fragile time together. You hurt me and I know it, but still I am drawn to your ability to electrify my senses and, every time I walk away, I begin planning the moment of my return. I hope you will still be there but want you to be gone. Each encounter maybe the last. No one understands; they are all fools.

"That will be $2.06."

"What?" Damn this intrusion into our private reality!

"Pumpkin spice cappuccino, right?"

"Oh, yes. Sorry."

"That's ok, hun, I like those things, too. Do you have your Speedy Rewards card?"

I hand her the red, white, blue, and black plastic along with three ones. Ninety-four cents clangs out of the change machine. She scans my card and a coupon spits out of the top of the register.

"Hey," she says," a free drink! Guess I'll see you tomorrow." She winks at me and I know she understands. She knows the power of you, she feels your viselike hold, she will see me tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cymbals (or How a Series of Events Made My Daughter Debutante for a Day)

"Lisa, how is your sense of rhythm?" While it sounds strange, those who know St. Helena School will understand that it is no surprise to hear this question walking up the stairs on the Thursday before our parish's big fall festival. Many things come together at the last moment. The music teacher went on to explain that the St. Helena casual marching band was in need of a cymbal player in two days to march in the big parade. Being the pushy mom I am, I volunteered my clarinet playing daughter as the hero who would come to the rescue. Being the self conscious 5th grader she is, she started quietly protesting immediately in the form of a slightly whiney, "I don't know...." with eyebrows raised. The effect was a sense that perhaps this was not a wise decision; perhaps that by carrying out this plan, I was tinkering with the balance of the universe. I wasn't buying - she was going to play in that casual marching band.

For the entire next two days, I wheedled, lectured and asserted my role as parent. She WOULD help out the casual marching band, she WOULD play the cymbals, and she WOULD have fun! After all, the entire event was loud and crazy and she got to CRASH the cymbals together!

The morning of the parade arrived and she put her foot down. It was HER life! I could NOT make her do it! She would NOT do it! I was proud that she was willing to take a chance and question authority, like all good Catholic youth need to do. Through my pride I announced that, yes, she would do it, because I was the lady with the ride tickets, the cash, and the transportation to the festival.

It was nippy and she needed to keep her hands warm to play the cymbals, so I instructed her to find a pair of gloves. With tears in her eyes and a crack in her voice, she chose the cheap white stretchy gloves from Walgreen's. If she was going to have to march to her doom crashing the cymbals together, at least she could do it in comfort and elegance.

The usual ordered chaos awaited us at the staging area for the parade. We dropped off my youngest, who was marching with the Brownies at the front of the parade, and headed for the spot where the St. Helena casual marching band was to meet, near the middle of the line. Dragging her feet, whimpering in agony, complaining about the weather, her shoes, her overbearing mother, her life, my reluctant cymbalist followed me. As we came closer to the group, she began to accept her fate, to buck up to the situation, to face her destiny with the courage that is a true Gonzalez. Yes, I thought, this will work out fine. She will be just fine. This was another victory for parents everywhere. We were only a few feet away and it was almost over.

My resolve began to feel justified with each step and then: "Rocky! You are going the wrong way – the fifth grade is meeting down there. Aren't you lucky?! You get to ride in a LIMO!" Bless her heart; she is one of the nicest women I know. I imagined my fist crashing into her nose, and the emanating sound was a musical combination of crunching bone, popping cartilage, and the crash of the cymbals.

"Rocky's in the casual marching band!" I smiled, grabbed my kid's sleeve and hurried toward the tuba. "She won't be riding in the limo!" with a wave and a smile I tried to close this deal before her almost 11 year old brain could even start to protest. I was too late. Seconds later, in searching for the cymbals, the casual band leader announced that that the cymbals never made it to the parade as they were forgotten in the music room. It was over. I thought I was advancing to sweet victory. Fate's cruel voice laughingly whispered that I was actually casually marching, sans cymbals, to bitter defeat. With a squeal and a hop, my 5th grader bolted down the line toward her class, toward her limo, toward her own victory, on this fine Autumn Daze morning.