Archive for July, 2008

Camper Gone Missing



“How’re you doing? Don’t you just miss her so much?”

This was the third such phone call I’d gotten in the first 24 hours since my nine year-old left for her first week at camp.

“Yeah, I miss her a lot. It feels weird without her.” But I was faking it. The truth was that I didn’t really miss her at all. Since she’d been gone, things had been really quiet. And uninterrupted. With my husband traveling, it was just me and my younger daughter, Caroline.

And Caroline still loves me. She still sits in my lap and rubs my back. She still holds my hand when she’s worried and gives me bear-hugs at bedtime. Even when naughty, she’s still under my thumb. If I count aloud to five, she stops doing what she wants to do and does what I want her to. She’s such great company.

But Elizabeth is so much harder. It’s true what they say about them growing up so fast. At nine, she thinks I’m a dork, picks out her own clothes, sulks, whines and seems to hate me most of the time.

When we dropped her off at camp, I felt so self-satisfied. I’m such a good mom. I’d labeled her underwear, packed her sunscreen in a Ziploc, and scooted her off to a camp right out of a Hollywood movie: birch trees, a shimmering lake and musty wooden cabins. She was thrilled. I was too.

Then I got home and realized how easy it seemed without her. Maybe it’s because she’s too much like me. She feels things deeply, she’s not good at being alone, and she expects a lot from the people around her. She even looks like me. When I look at her blue eyes — clouded with disappointment, I feel I’m looking into my own.

By Wednesday, I started to feel guilty for not missing her. “I have a secret, promise you won’t get mad.” I told my husband. “I don’t really miss Elizabeth.”

He was surprised. So was I. How could I not miss my own daughter?

Maybe it was because I hadn’t slept well all week. I was preoccupied, I guess, and I’d kept busy.

Caroline and I went to the pool. We browsed the isles at Target. We went out for dinner. “This isn’t a date, Mommy” she told me over a plate of Pad Thai. “There’d have to be a boy and a girl for this to be a date.” We went out for ice cream. “Mommy, you’re my best friend” she said. We had a lot of fun, just her and me.

Suddenly the week was up. We drove to camp to pick up Elizabeth. I think I miss her now, I told myself. But why did I feel so detached?

We pulled up to the camp and parked the car. The campgrounds were as pretty as I remembered, but I wasn’t that interested in looking around. I felt a magnet pulling me so strongly to her cabin that I could hardly breathe. I broke into a half-run. When we got closer, I saw this tall blond dart out from her cabin and run towards us.

That’s when I almost collapsed. I burst into tears. She was tall and graceful. How had I forgotten that? I pulled her close and moved her dirty hair out of eyes. She brushed my hand away, grabbed her sister and ran down the road. It wasn’t until later when out of nowhere, she lunged at me and hugged me hard that I knew.  

Maybe she fights me because she’s been attached to me for so long. On some level, she knows the time is coming when she needs to start pulling away. Maybe I do, too.

I realized at that very moment that while Caroline fills my heart, Elizabeth moves my soul.

Man, how I’d missed her.



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Here’s what happens when you cross a hypochondriac with the only small town doctor that her crack health care insurance covers: 


I’d been having this hip pain which I attributed to my running hunched over with a crooked hip from my scoliosis (ahhh Deenie, yes, I think of her often).  After one late night of internet medical research, I discovered I likely have is a sciatica problem — the back problem du jour, no? Yoga and ibuprofen, right?


Then about a week ago, after the long holiday weekend of scrunching over in a car for hours on end, lifting heavy things, carrying children, plus a few rounds of drunken, competitive badminton, I thought very little (unusual for me) when I got this weird tingly feeling in my ring finger and pinky – that is, until I mentioned the numbness to my friend, the cancer survivor.  I told her I had a weird numbness in my last two fingers. She told me that numbness should always get checked out.


“Why? Could numbness be something bad?”


“You could have tumors on your spine.”


Okay.  I’ll give her a long leash for saying that — she did survive cancer, but WTF? I didn’t sleep a wink that night.  The next day I went in immediately to see the small town crack doctor.  I was expecting her to confirm my second diagnosis made after another late night of internet medical research: I have a sciatica problem and I also have a pinched nerve. 


Meanwhile, the doctor doesn’t ask me anything. She doesn’t ask me, for example: what do you do for exercise? Are you on the computer a lot? Do you have any pain in your neck? What kind of shoes do you wear? Have you injured your neck/arm/elbow recently? Have you tried Ibuprofen? Nothing.


Instead she whacks my knees with her rubber hammer and has me squeeze her fingers.  I tell her I’m sure I just have a pinched nerve but I just want to make sure I don’t have tumors on my spine.


“I doubt you have any tumors on your spine” she says.




“I also wanted to make sure I don’t have MS or something” I say.


“Yeah, I thought about MS” she says.


Thought about MS?


“But you don’t think I have MS – right?” I say.


“Well it is suspicious that you have two injuries affecting nerves in your back.  I wonder if that’s a coincidence” she says.


Suspicious? Wonder? Coincidence?


“Well,” she says, glancing at her watch, “I think we should start with muscle relaxers and steroid injections and then go from there”.


“But DO YOU think I have MS?” I say.


“No, I don’t think so, but if you want I can do an MRI on your brain, that way we can tell for sure.”


“Do you think I NEED an MRI on my BRAIN?”


“No, not unless you want one.  Let’s start with the muscle relaxers.  If you have MS or tumors on your spine, the muscle relaxers won’t mask that.”


Mask it?


“So you DO think I have MS.”


“No, I don’t think so,” she glances at her watch again, “but talk it over with your husband and if you decide you want an MRI, just call me.”


“Do YOU think I need an MRI on my BRAIN?”


“No, but if you want one, call me.”


“But why would I want one, do you think I NEED one?”


“No, let’s start with the muscle relaxers first and see if they work.”


I swear to god.  This Abbott and Costello thing went on for like 10 minutes.  I was seriously wetting my pants.  MRI, Tumors, MS, Brain.  Are you kidding me? I mean who wants an MRI?


I didn’t sleep for like three days.  MRI, Tumors, MS, Brain, MRI, Tumors, MS, Brain.


One week later and the tingling is gone. I swallowed a bunch of vitamin B (more late night internet medical research) and have tried to stay off the computer since this seemed to make my fingers more tingly (Hmmmm – coincidence?). My back is better, too.  I’ve been running less, stretching more and we rotated our mattress.  


I’m still worried, though. Every time I have an itch, a tingle or my foot falls asleep, I worry/obsess. MRI, Tumors, MS, Brain.


Warning:Hypochondriac and Crack Doctor – Do not mix.   

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An Unfashionable Report


While I would never say I was ever fashion-forward, I never thought it would get this bad.  I just got back from the grocery store when I realized I was still wearing my pajama top.  I did take the time to put a bra on, but then why did I put the pajama top back on over the bra? How did this happen?


It got me thinking – how far have I fallen? Let’s take a look:


The other day, I tried on an old maternity dress that didn’t sell at my garage sale.  I thought it looked kind of cute and seriously thought about wearing it.  I came to my senses long enough to change, but I confess the dress is still hanging in my closet (of course I’m not pregnant).


I have light blonde eyebrows so I have to pencil them in.  Once I walked around for an entire day with only one eyebrow drawn on before anyone said anything (it was 6pm before a close friend kindly commented).


Too many times (i.e more than once), I’ve realized that I forgot to brush my teeth – no biggie, just a full day of coffee drinking, hummus eating, and chatting in the faces of friends and strangers.


The other day I went running in a t-shirt that said “I Survived the Norridge Earthquake”.  Um, 1994?


Oh, my favorite: Once I was standing near my table at a restaurant when some woman came up and asked me to seat her and her three friends (“table for four” she kept saying over and over as I stood there looking dumbfounded).  Based soley on my outift, she thought I was the waitress. 


None of this includes my near daily habit of spilling food on myself, smearing deodorant on my shirts or the fact I always seem to forget that low rise jeans should not be worn with my granny undies from Cosco (not that I meant to buy granny undies of course, there was just some misunderstanding with the term “hipster” — note: hipster they are not).


I keep waiting to turn around and find Stacy and Clinton lurking behind me but with my luck, I’ll turn around and find an old boyfriend (while wearing my stained pajama top and one eyebrow).


So what happens now? I’ve done the first step. I admit it: I have a problem.  I’m staging my own intervention, starting my own support group. Everyone is welcome.  Come as you are.   



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connecticut 013

“So how do you like it here?” she said pouring me more coffee.


I’d been here less than six months when I was invited for coffee by a mom I didn’t know. She was tall, blonde, and liked to talk about martinis and golf. Other than that, her invitation was as unfamiliar as she was. 


Her house was pretty and decorated. There was homemade banana bread arranged on a white platter and coffee served in delicate mugs that burned my palms.


It felt like an audition. I’d heard she was part of a book club that might be accepting new members. I loved to read. I really needed this gig.


I chose my outfit carefully that morning. I was in JCrewville now – my black work clothes were useless here. I threw on a khaki skirt, red t-shirt and flip flops. It wasn’t Lily Pulitzer but then, neither was I. 


Scootching forward on her toile couch, I tried to sound bright. How should I answer this? 


“Well, to be honest,” I said swallowing the sticky bread, “I’ve sort of had a hard time adjusting. I, um —“


“I know it’s hard here” burst in the other guest. She was another blonde who had been here several years. Her husband was a native – born and raised here. She seemed eager to want to show me the ropes.


“Let me give you one piece of advice” the Native’s Wife said. “Too many people make the mistake of attaching themselves to a clique too quickly and then regretting it. Take your time. Get to know them. Then choose your clique.”


She was dead serious. I sank back into the couch.   


“Hmmmm…” was all I could manage, remembering to blink.


I still think about that coffee date. It was one of those lacerating moments when I realized life here would not be what I expected. Something was definitely amuck. I was beginning to get the picture: go to high school, graduate, go to college, graduate, move to a big city, start a career, build a career, get married, get promoted, have a baby, get promoted, quit your job, leave the city, move to a small town, poof! You’re back in high school.


Choose your clique wisely?  Hmmmm… 


I’ll say this: when you’re a stay-at-home mom, friendships are everything. There’s a lot of mental monotony with ushering kids around and fixing meals.  Housework is draining on the good days and degrading on the bad ones.  So we SAHMmies really need friends to keep us going.  Unfortunately with so many intelligent mommies running around with too much un-channeled mental energy, the making of friends can get shockingly competitive and grossly strategic.


Since moving here, I’ve been counseled on who to suck up to and who to avoid. I’ve been warned not to associate myself with a particular person because it could alienate me from others. I’ve been told which volunteer activities will make me the most “visible”  — oh, and I’ve been scolded not to complain or people will think I hate it here (gasp).   


I can’t say I’ve been entirely innocent either.  Living in such a small town, I’m aware of the perceived social categories. To claim it hasn’t influenced me would be a lie.   


Yet as a mother of two daughters, I am shocked at how often I need to sternly remind myself of this.  I am the mom. We are the mothers. They learn it from us. We have to be strong and authentic, so they stand a chance.


After seven long years, I only have a few friends here. They are funny, interesting and kind. I’ve chosen them selectively because I enjoy them for who they are, not because of their perceived social standing.


Truly, I wish I had more — but I refuse to drink any Kool-aid, and I keep thinking we’ll be leaving here one day to move to a place where things are different.  But is there really such a place? I refuse to give up hope.


I also have these great friends cherry-picked from other places in my life. They are scattered across the country but they are near to me in so many ways. Without them, I’d be certifiable…and an orphan.


I’ve also spent a lot of time alone — more than I ever did before. It’s not always by choice, but at least I know I can do it now and not get all wacky. I couldn’t have said that seven years ago. Plus, spending a fair amount of time by myself has forced me to think a little more for myself. And that’s not such a bad thing, either.


Choose a clique wisely?  Hmmm….


I’ll wisely choose not to.

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