Emily and The Tree

Little Emily loves the Japanese maple in the Maywood yard.  It’s over fifty years old, planted by Emily’s great-great grandmother Retta. And it is the perfect tree for little ones to learn to climb on.

The main trunk divides into two very low to the  ground, so little legs can easily climb into it.  The next branch is a short leg swing above that, providing a perfect spot for a three year old to sit and ponder.  Of course, the natural thing to ponder is how to get up higher in the tree.

“Help me up,” she says.  “I want to go up there,” she says, pointing to a branch that is over my head and absolutely impossible for me to reach.  I can’t put her there.  The only way to get there is for her to climb there herself.

“But I want to go up there,” she says.

“You have to do it all by yourself.  You have to think about it and figure out how to do it.”

If you think that three year old Emily thought about it and climbed up to the high branch, you will be wrong.  I turned around to watch out for her little brother and–that quick–she fell out of the tree.

Boom. Right onto her elbow on a stick.  Instant adult panic that she could have broken her arm on my watch while the parents were away.  Instinctive reaction to protect her, take her away from the dangerous tree and go back to the house for a popsicle.

That’s when she amazed me.  She got up, surprised but not crying, and she climbed right back into the tree.

emily & the treeThis time she had real respect for the tree.  She carefully considered where to place each foot, how to hold on.  Her goal was no longer how to get up to that very high branch.  Her new goal was to master the distance from the ground to that first branch.  And she did.  While I diligently spotted her.

Oh, the Winnie-the-Pooh lessons to be learned from Emily and The Tree.  On the way to school Monday, I thought of how I wanted my students to be more like courageous Emily.  They tend to want me to implant knowledge in their brains, like Emily wanting me to put her on the higher branch.  However, they panic when things are difficult, fear making mistakes, and want to bail on the whole learning process when it doesn’t go as quickly as  they want. They also absolutely, positively do not focus on anything for longer than a nano-second.

“I want to tell you a story,” I began first period class.

“Are you going to yell at us?” they asked. (They are so paranoid.)

“NO! I just want to tell you a story!” (Ok, I might have yelled that a teensy bit. Sometimes their way of thinking makes me crazy.)

So I told them about Emily.

“Are you saying that learning French is like climbing a tree?”

Um, yes.  And then I told them what branch they were currently on and how we were going to climb today to a higher  branch.

“Are we going to fall out of the tree?”  they asked. (FYI, these are high schoolers and 8th graders.)

“Actually, yes, some of you are going to fall out of the tree.  But we aren’t up very high.  You will not die.”

That seemed to calm them down.  Apparently they believe that learning will kill them.

Friday, my colleagues and I attended a workshop on Teaching the 21st Century Learner.  The speaker was good and had extensive handouts of his very scripted presentation that covered all the usual blah-blah about active learning, none of which I can recall without reading the handouts.  His presentation did not teach me nearly as much as I learned from little Emily.

  • Students want to climb high.
  • Students want the teacher to put them where they want to be, but…
  • Students have to do the climbing themselves.
  • Students are afraid to make mistakes, but…
  • Students learn from their mistakes.
  • Students need diligent coaching and spotting while they climb.

I’m tempted to assign tree-climbing for homework, but they would fall from their trees, injure themselves so they couldn’t participate on their sports teams, and I would get blamed for such a stupid idea. I guess instead I’ll focus on how to better coach and spot them.  They do want to climb, and I don’t want them hurt on my watch.

 

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Bee-bopping the Christmas Bread

It’s raisin bread day. And I’m hopping around the kitchen with Pentatonix “Carol of the Bells” on repeat, trying to nail my part. The KitchenAid mixer is thumping bread dough in time to the music. Maywood Man joins in with the tenor part.

Oh how they pound, raising the sound.

Who knows what the bees are doing out in the yard. Inside we’re a-buzz–humming and oooing and ding-donging away.
Pretty much everyone I know would laugh to watch us. Not that we’re singing…but that we’re bopping.

I hope the bread turns out. Distracted baking results in disasters, like that time I accidentally hit the broil knob on the oven during the last ten minutes of baking and burnt a whole day’s worth of bread making.
My “MERRY CHRISTMAS! THERE’S YOUR BREAKFAST!” has gone down in family history as the best angry outburst I’ve ever terrorized the family with.

This time, though, I actually am trying to pay attention. Ding-donging aside, I’m noting all the little things that make for good bread…the little things that are not on the PDF of my handwritten recipe that I emailed my daughter. The little things that I’ve learned in the 40–gack!–years I’ve been using my grandmother’s recipe. The little things that my daughter might not know to do and will doom her entire Christmas morning to an epic fail.

I did tell her that perfect dough is warm and soft like a baby’s butt.
I did say to add the raisins before all the flour…they blend better that way.
I did say that the bread is done when you thump the bottom and it resounds like a drum and not like a thunking blob.

Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. (Now it’s Little Drummer Boy on repeat.)

I didn’t tell her that the perfect temperature for dissolving yeast is when the water is just hot enough for her finger to stand it without burning.
I didn’t tell her how to knead it. Or to be sure to take her diamond ring off before doing so.

I told her the perfect place for the bread to rise was in an oven preheated to “warm.”
Did I tell her to turn the oven off?

For my sake, I hope her bread turns out lest I get blamed for failing to transmit the full recipe. As insurance though, I have an extra loaf rising just for her.
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!

post scriptum…insurance loaf to be delivered due to a case of 24 hour Bah-humbug attacking the 3 year old and preventing Mommy from attempting the bread.

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Where’s Mom?

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been home hours ago. Maybe she’s napping.

“I’ve been texting and calling her for days and she doesn’t respond.”

First thought: She’s lying on the floor of her condo unresponsive and/ or dead.
Second thought: My sister is calling me because she’s having the same first thought. She could just go over to Mom’s and let herself in, but she’s calling me because she doesn’t want to go over there by herself. She wants me to go with her and call 911 and read the advance directive that Mom has posted on the fridge.

“She was alive on Sunday, ” I say. “She rsvp’d for Thanksgiving.”

“I know,” my sister says, ” I saw that she signed up, but she hasn’t responded to me since.” (We use an online sign up program, so everyone coming to Thanksgiving knows that Mom is bringing shrimp and her famous Vienna Cake.)

Ok. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I saw her sign up post but haven’t talked to her for a couple of weeks.. Days have passed with no word from her.
Oh wait…was this the week she was going on a bus trip to West Virginia with her church friends? Or did she already go on that trip? I talked to her about a trip…wait…that was the trip to Cape Cod. The trip where none of the other travelers drank and she felt awkward having her vodka at dinner.
More guilt. I should know if this is the week she is going to West Virginia. I should have it marked on all my calendars in bold letters: MOM IN WEST VIRGINIA.
I tell my sister, ” This might be the week she’s on a trip to West Virginia.”

“Why doesn’t she tell people these things?”

“She told me.”

“She should tell more people.”

“I think she doesn’t so that we will have to get worried and call each other.”

“Well, I am nearly hysterical with worry!” says the sister who decades ago called Mom in post-partum distress threatening to harm someone. Mom flew in her car to save the baby from a crazed mother. When she arrived, the baby was quietly settled down for a nap while my sister calmly prepared a cup of tea.

“You do have a history of overreacting.”

“Wait…she’s texting me. She’s in West Virginia. I have to go. I’m going to call her and yell at her for scaring me.”

Poor Mom. She has forgotten the most important part of hide-and-seek….stay hidden.

I Took My a Grandson to a Peep Show

 

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Yes, I did. I took my 8 year old grandson to a Peep Show. I can’t think of a better way to spend Easter Monday. Two floors of the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster were devoted to creations made of marshmallow Peeps.

(For those of you dear readers who live on the other side of The Pond, Peeps are marshmallow chicks…and bunnies…that are an essential part of any well stocked Easter Basket. They are pure sugar, guaranteed to send little ones into a sugar frenzy before breakfast.)

Entrance to the show was free but we bought ballots to vote for our favorite creations.
Life size Teenage Mutant Ninja Peep Michelangelo, submitted by Tristar Martial Arts, was my guy’s favorite. It also took first place as the audience favorite with 2807 votes and won the Sponsor’s Award from Just Born, Inc., the makers of Peeps.20140421-222233.jpg

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I was impressed with a replica of VanGogh’s Starry Night by Carroll Springs School, which won the Masterpiece Award. 20140421-222614.jpg

 

20140421-223010.jpgA Peepcock was pretty sweet too.  It came in third place with a popular vote of 1790 and also won the Director’s Award.

In the theatre we sat down with some popcorn to watch a reel peep show…videos starring Peeps. Some videos featured live actors encountering Peeps. Others starred Peeps encountering live humans. In one horror clip the Mama Peep answered her door and got eaten by a human head! Another little film, voted the Best PEEP Film,  called Peep War 2014 involved a peep-eating turtle. I’m not too sure why the film starred a plastic turtle, but the stop-motion scene of the turtle devouring the Peep was pretty good. The videos were clever…and very homemade. The grandkid was inspired.

With visions of movie greatness in his head, the single package of yellow Peeps in Grandboy’s Easter basket was not going to suffice. We had to buy some green Peeps for his video creation.
Back at home we downloaded the free Lego Movie Maker app, and the budding film genius got to work preparing a Minecraft Peep version of the Three Little Pigs with Creeper in the role of the Big Bad Wolf. (Coincidentally, one of the Peep shows had this very same theme!)
Backdrops were made. Props gathered…wood blocks, leaves, Play-Doh. Characters prepared…3 yellow Peeps and a green Creeper assembled with toothpicks from parts of green Peeps. Then the task of learning how to use the app: how long to maintain each slide, how to sync the audio with the freeze frame, how to add the “Kerpow!”  We were doing some pretty cool editing, if I may say so myself.  The best part was that he was doing most of it.  I was…cough, cough…the technical advisor.
When it was time for The Boy to go home, he had only filmed half the story.  Ahhh…but we had filled an entire day.
Stay tuned…if he ever gets this film finished, maybe he’ll let me post it here.

 

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How do you like your Peeps?  Fresh or stale?

How do you like your Peeps? Fresh or stale?

A Peep for everyone...even French teachers!

A Peep for everyone…even French teachers!

 

Bug

Nothing connects people quite like a stomach bug.
First, there’s the line of transmission. Person to person to person. Who gave it to whom? It’s not enough to get the bug. One must know where it came from. Preferably so one knows whom to blame.

My recent bug came via a vomit bath from my five month old granddaughter. I don’t blame her. But the germ lineage was still important. Her parents had it. What day exactly??? Did it come from them? Day care was closed last Friday because of it. Aha, so we can trace it to day care. Blame duly assigned.

Another way bugs bring people together is phone calls.
“So, Mom. That Easter Egg hunt tomorrow? At your house? Well, um, nobody wants to come.”
That was the last phone call. The lead-up calls went something like this:
“Mom is throwing up.”
“There is no way I’m going over there.”
“Me neither. I’ve already had it and it’s nasty. I don’t want the kid to get it.”
“Your kid gave it to Mom.”
“But the other kid hasn’t had it yet.”

Oh, so I can get the bug but I can’t return it. It’s ok. I’m not offended. I didn’t want to see them either.

A few days later, I get a pathetic text from Daughter Number 3. Her household has been attacked. Mom down. Dad down. And Kid #1. All almost simultaneously. (Hah, but I know they didn’t get it from me!) As I write, her gang is all tucked in bed. Anyone wanna bet that the nine month old gets it at 2 a.m.?
Here’s the third way that bugs bring people together. Family togetherness. Times like this create family history. Mother holding her barf long enough to comfort spewing toddler while Daddy lies moaning in bed. Such family tenderness. Ouch.

This darling daughter was too young to remember the time her sisters and I holed up in my bedroom for a day. Oldest sister and I were too sick to move from bed except for mad dashes to the bathroom. I never knew a kid could throw up so many times. The three year old and one year old were given a box of Cheerios and apple juice and had to play at the foot of the bed and watch tv until Daddy came home from work. I dared not call the grandmothers. I knew they did not want to get it.

Plus, my ordeal was nothing compared to my mother’s ordeal. A stomach bug once felled my parents and 6 children at the same time. Both grandmothers were called in to manage us all. And this was back when sickies were supposed to actually stay in their beds tucked under their covers. And doctors made house calls. The doc came and, after checking on all us kids, checked on my parents who were also lying sick in bed. My grandmothers trotted up and down the stairs with (untouched) food trays and aspirin and thermometers. (My brothers slept way up on the third floor. All those stairs!) My poor mother lay in bed while both her mother and mother-in-law ran her house. You know a woman is sick to allow that scenario to play out.
Ah, but what great family lore.

Now as for that rescheduled egg hunt. All our households have had the bug except for Daughter Number 1. How long is everyone contagious?

Christmas Trauma

I don’t know whether my youngest daughter had the most traumatic childhood ever or whether she’s just the best at guilting me over it.  For years, she has been giving me grief for not buying a Baby’s First Ornament for her the year she was born.  Her oldest sister has a lovely  Hallmark ornament from her birth year.  The second sister has a photo ornament from her first year.  (Older sister also has a photo ornament from that year, since I went ahead and bought one for each child at the time.)  But the poor youngest child, the one of whom I took pictures but never got them developed, that child never got a Baby’s First Ornament.  And she’s never let me forget it.

This is a vintage nursery school ornament.  It's over 20 years old.  Not bad for a cardboard egg carton.

This is a vintage nursery school ornament. It’s over 20 years old. Not bad for a cardboard egg carton.

It’s not that she isn’t represented on the Christmas tree.  There are a myriad of little ornaments from Sunday school classes and dance classes.  Oops.  She didn’t get the dance class ornaments because she didn’t take those dance classes.  She was a tippy-toe walker and the pediatrician said that ballet and tap would be bad for her hamstrings.  Well, at any  rate, there is a cardboard egg-crate bell that she made in nursery school.  It is, quite frankly, not too pretty and I tried to hide it in the back of the tree once, but she noticed.  It is now displayed right in front where she can easily find it and I won’t get yelled at.

The reason I didn’t get her a first year ornament was because I was busy hand stitching her a Christmas stocking.  Her sisters at the time had dollar store basic red fuzzy stockings, but I wanted them to have special handmade stockings like I had growing up.  I started with hers–a lovely stocking with Santa’s face on it and white satin stripes on a red background.  Given my ineptitude at sewing, it’s a wonder I accomplished the task.  I admit that I did get neater and more intricate on the subsequent stockings for her older sisters, but hers was the first and I did finish it by Christmas. And she liked it.

That is, until it got lost.

Yeah.

When she was about seven.  When she was still big into Santa.

I’m reasonably sure that the stocking was mislaid among the empty Christmas boxes and discarded.  Problem is, the loss was not noticed until December 24 of the following year when I pulled out the stockings to hang by the chimney with care.

Zut, zut, et zut!

Personally, I always thought this was not too shabby for a last minute fix.

Personally, I always thought this was not too shabby for a last minute fix.

In a Christmas Eve panic, I pulled out one of the leftover fuzzy dollar store stockings and glued a felt snowman, some snowflakes and the child’s name on it.  Next to her sister’s carefully crafted stockings it looked, well, pretty crappy.   But, hey, there was at least something for Santa to fill.

Every year after, I forgot until December 24 that she had a crappy stocking.  Finally, when she was in maybe high school, I bought what I  thought was a cute  reindeer stocking at Greetings & Readings.  But when I got it home, I realized it didn’t hang in the same direction as the other stockings.  So, while it was better than the crappy red fuzz, it was not really acceptable.  Or accepted.  But we hung it up anyway until she got married and was free to start fresh and have perfect Christmases forever.

This year, I was checking Facebook and what to my wondering eyes did appear but an apology from this self-same daughter.  With a two year old and a baby, she now understands.  She forgot to order a monogrammed stocking for the baby.  I’m wondering how many years it will take her to remember to order a monogrammed stocking.

In the meantime, not to worry.  MomMom here has some spares.

2 rejected stockings

At least I’m not pregnant

Q: What does a pregnant daughter have in common with her mother who is getting a hip replacement?
A: Physical limitations, lack of sleep,  pathetic body image, and an overwhelming desire to go through torturous pain in order to be done with this!

Monday morning, bright and early, I head to the hospital to get a new hip.  Sunday, I stopped by Pregnant Daughter #1’s house to hoist the two year old grandson up in my arms for a big hug.  After surgery I’ll be on weight restrictions and will have to limit my hoisting to grandson’s baby sister.  Ah, but when Baby comes, Daughter #1 will be able to resume lifting the two year old because her belly won’t be in the way.  Trade-off.

Saturday I visited Pregnant Daughter #3 for the same reason.  She and I have been grunting our way to the finish line of the school year together.  Both of us have been tackling to-do lists with Time as our enemy.  I felt a little bad sitting around her new house on Saturday while boxes still needed unpacking, but it’s not like I could do much to help.  Still, maybe I was keeping her from doing things.  “It’s ok,” she said. “I can only work for 15 minutes before needing to sit down.”  Just like me, she’s trying to get things done in short spurts followed by longer bouts of recovery time.

Friday I tried to visit Pregnant Daughter #2, but she needed a nap. I was certainly not going to keep her from a nap.  I’ve been into serious napping myself lately.  By the end of the school year, I was needing an hour nap just to generate energy to cook dinner.  That’s when Long-Suffering Hubby took over the cooking chores.  (He was too hungry to wait  for me to wake up!) Fortunately for me, he’s good in the kitchen.

Last month the family went to Cape May for a celebratory weekend.  I was afraid that I was going to be the wet blanket in the group,  but when all three daughters announced that they needed naps before dinner, I didn’t feel so bad.  And my hobbling on a cane wasn’t much different than Daughter #3 moaning about groin pain from walking too much.  I knew exactly how she felt.  The pain of a bad hip feels just like the pain of walking too much in your third trimester.

Last week Pregnant Daughters 1 and 3 were complaining about difficulty sleeping.  I was right there with them.  Rolling over?  Oh my gosh.  It’s hardly worth the effort.  Daughter #1 decided one night that it wasn’t, so she didn’t.  But sleeping on one side all night left her with a pain in her shoulder that did not  want to go away.

Friday, as part of my get-ready for surgery, I had a massage.  The masseuse asked me to roll over.  Groan.  “It’s ok,” she said, “Take your time.”   She was really nice, but there is just no way that “take your time rolling from your back to your tummy” doesn’t make one sound like a totally pathetic loser.  This is a skill that I mastered when I was about four months old.  The only other time in my life when I couldn’t roll over was…when I was pregnant.

Pregnancy is one of those times when catching a glance at one’s reflection can be demoralizing.  Watching oneself do the old lady hobble toward the reflection in a store window is just as hideous as watching oneself do the pregnant waddle toward the window.  Of course, my daughters all look really good when they are pregnant.  Daughter #1 is still really tiny except for the huge basketball she’s carrying in front.  However, watching her from behind last week while she sat in a swing with her little guy, well…she still sat like a pregnant woman.

So Monday, after months and months and months of waiting for the school year to end, I look forward to the surgeon taking  a power saw to my hip.  Yank this thing out and let’s be done with it.  It’s bad when you would rather do that than pretty much anything else you’re doing.  It’s not unlike reaching the end of a pregnancy.  Why would anyone look forward to going into labor?  It’s because it’s a lot better than staying pregnant.

Q: So what’s the difference between having hip replacement and having a baby?

A: When it ‘s over my life will be easier than it was before.  And I will get to sleep through the night.

Sorry, girls.  ; )

Granddaughter eyes

My little sister in 1969.  I was too trapped in the stare-down to get a picture of the grandbabe.

My little sister in 1969. I was too trapped in the stare-down to get a picture of the grandbabe.  Grandbabe didn’t look quite as worried as little sister here, but the eyes are just as penetrating and the face is awfully familiar.

I’m in a stare-down with a toddler. I lie on the sofa and she sits on my chest.  She has already pulled off my glasses and she is looking at me.  She’s been babbling non-stop all day but now she is silent.  Looking.  Deep into my eyes.

She doesn’t blink.  She doesn’t realize it’s a stare-down.  I’m not equal to the  challenge.  She’s not just looking at me.  She’s looking into me.  I feel her searching to the depths of my soul with her big, innocent eyes.  And she doesn’t blink.  Her eyes may be innocent, but they cut no slack.

“Who are you?” those eyes demand.  She knows me quite well.  Her eyes are asking the deep question that I haven’t even figured out yet: “Who are you?”

She doesn’t blink, but I do.  My eyes are burning from her intense gaze.  And I can’t keep a straight face.  She’s so serious.  I start laughing.  She still stares.

“Why are you laughing?” the eyes demand.  The eyes do not inquire, by the way, they demand.

I’m laughing so hard now that my nose turns Rudolph red; tears leak from my eyes and stream down my face.  I  try to hold it in.  She is just inches from my eyes.  But the effort just makes me explode.   Her eyes will not stop staring at me.  They take in the tears and the laughter but they keep probing into my soul.

“What are you doing?” the eyes demand.  But she isn’t worried.  She isn’t upset.  She just stares at me, wordless, trying to figure me out.

The more she stares, the harder I laugh.  In her stare, I see her mother and her aunt and my baby sister at that age.  Staring.  Figuring.  I recall the story of my mother sending me to my grandmother in a taxi at about that age. (It was 1957–a different era in a small town, ok?)  My grandmother never wearied of telling me about my big brown eyes staring at her from the cab.

This babe’s eyes are not brown, but they are big and penetrating.  And in all their penetrating seriousness, they have completely melted me.

The Chair

When  parents down-size and elderly relatives pass away, stuff gets scattered and settles into the homes of different family members.  Pretty much every room in my house contains something that originally came from someone else’s house, from the lamp and mirror in my office to the china cabinet in the dining room.  Once in awhile someone in the family, someone who has been over a bazillion times, will say, “Hey, didn’t that (fill-in-the-blank) used to be in (fill-in-another-blank)’s house?”

Last week we were gathered at my sister’s for Easter dinner.  We’ve all been there a bazillion times.  This time, a group of siblings were dining in the music room.  It’s not like we’ve never been in the music room; we just never ate there before.  Someone looked toward the corner of the room and noticed the chair.

“Hey, look, it’s The Chair.”

The Chair

The Chair

Lo and behold, there was The Chair that used to be in the living room of our home before our parents downsized to a condo, oh, twenty years ago.  It’s been in my sister’s house ever since.  Somehow we had never paid any attention to it until this very moment.

The Chair, in its pre-redo floral slipcovered days, was the setting for one of my earliest memories.  My mother sat in it holding my brand new baby sister.  My brothers and I sat on the sofa waiting our turn to come meet her.  I, at age four the eldest of four , went first. Then my three year old brother came forward, followed by my two year old brother, and finally my one year old brother, who promptly slapped baby sister in the face.  That’s why it’s one of my earliest memories.  Who’d forget a scene like that?

"I did not slap my sister."

“I did not slap my sister.”

"Trust me.  I did not slap my sister."

“You can trust this face. I did not slap my sister.”

"Huh? What?"

“Huh? What?”

"Don't blame me.  I wasn't born yet."

“Don’t blame me. I wasn’t born yet.”

The Chair.  You’d think we had only had one chair in our house, the way we preface it with a definite article.

One of the in-laws commented, “It’s in such great shape.  Did Theresa have it redone?”

“Oh, no,” we replied.  “It’s in great shape because no one ever sat in it.”

Why did no one ever sit in it?  Because it had been redone.  Of all the pieces that my parents gained when my grandparents downsized, The Chair was one piece that my mother actually had reupholstered.  The other pieces (two golden-clad loveseats come to mind) were adopted and used to death.  I’m  guessing that those were the pieces my mother hated and wanted desperately to replace.  The loveseats must have been really good furniture, though, because it took seven kids years to destroy them.   The Chair, however, reupholstered in white (what was my mother thinking?), was now new and was not to be soiled by our grimy little bodies.

So we did not sit in it.

Well, ok, sometimes we sat in it.  On rare occasions.  So rare, that people piped up with stories about The Chair.

One sister-in-law: “I sat in the chair once holding Danny when he was a baby.” (Danny is now in his late twenties.)

Did he profess his love in The Chair?

Did he profess his love in The Chair?

The Chair figured prominently in some stories about wooing spouses.  In the one story that I dare share, my brother-in-law told my sister he loved her for the first time in The Chair.  She tried to re-enact it.  She made him sit in the chair.  She sat in his lap.

“We were sitting in this chair the first time you told me you loved me.”

“We were?”

“Well, you did it in sign language.”

“I did?”

Moment killed.

Did he forget that he professed his love in The Chair?

Did he forget that he professed his love in The Chair?

Every sibling then sat in the chair and we took photos.  Proof that we had sat in The Chair. And now I remember the biggest reason we didn’t sit in The Chair.  It’s not that comfortable.

It's a good chair for a Grand Duchess, though.

It’s a good chair for a Grand Duchess, though.

Epic inertia

Epic inertia.

Epic inertia.

inertia \i-ˈnǝr-shǝ\ n. a property of matter whereby it remains at  rest or continues in uniform motion unless acted upon by some outside force

epic \ˈe-pik\ adj. extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope

I’m not a physicist, so I have never much pondered the uniform motion aspect of inertia.  To me, inertia has always connotated the slothful inability to get moving.  Which is where I am today…on an epic level.  But why am I epically, slothfully immobile?  It’s because of the epic inertia of the holiday season.  There has been non-stop activity since before Thanksgiving.  Go, go, go, plan, plan, plan, shop, shop, shop.  And then on December 26 I stopped.  By delicious deliberate choice, I did absolutely nothing on December 26 but sit by the fire and read.

And now I can’t get up.

There was an attempt on the 27th which resulted in a nap.  And then, that evening, a vague ” I don’t feel well” which kept me lying in bed all day the 28th.  The 29th I sipped ginger ale and chicken soup and gently did laundry.  The 30th I woke up hungry and attempted raisin bread, which my body begrudgingly accepted.

My sister thinks it’s psychosomatic, that I’m reacting to continued holiday festivities.  I’m willing to hear her out because she herself has been demonstrating negative inertia on two tasks: cleaning her office and calling me to help plan Mom’s 80th birthday party.  That she  called three days before the party showed evidence of some epic procrastination.  In order to avoid calling me, she even attempted to organize her office, but that was so tedious that calling me seemed like the lesser of two evils.

Epic is the operative word here.  Like the little engine that could, the thought of getting started and chugging up that mountain is an agonizing thought.  I think I can, I think I can…no, I can’t.

I’m gonna blame it on Dad.  He’s not here to defend himself.  Seven years ago, my siblings threw a 50th anniversary party for our parents.  It was really nice in the midst of a year full of weddings and graduations and anniversaries.  And Dad pronounced it good.

“Epic!” he said through joyful tears.  “This is epic!”

In a normal family, “epic” would mean a once in a lifetime event.  In our highly competitive, anxiety ridden, over-achieving family, “epic” means “this is the new standard.”  This is why my sister-in-law is still recovering from her daughter’s September wedding.  It was epic.

This is also why my daughter, in a post-partum struggle, was insulted when her doctor told her she would  be a perfectly average mother.  “Average? Did he just call me average?”

Yeah.  Average.  It’s okay.  This Christmas I actually did less shopping than usual, relieved of the need to provide an epic Christmas for everyone.  Guess what?  Christmas was really nice.

I am capable of putting together a large party blind-folded with one hand behind my back and the other hand holding a cane.  Surely I can handle a few party-platters from Wegman’s. The outside force of people showing up at my house in two days begins to operate.  I slowly get off my duff (which is also reaching epic proportions) and gently start moving (because not all of my inertia is psychosomatic).  By Tuesday, forward motion should be propelling me with some positive inertia.  Who knows, maybe Wednesday will actually find me ready to be back at work.