Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Gift Therapy December 9, 2011

When I was six years old I broke my arm. It was ugly, and was the moment I first learned my body could be the cause of much pain. And trauma.

Probably more trauma than pain actually. Because the whole experience was traumatic. From walking the block home from my friend’s house clutching my wrist, to watching my little brother screaming as he was restrained from getting in the car with us, to every second at the hospital.

My god the hospital. Nothing but a blur of scary looking strangers moving too fast, talking too loud, and making my arm hurt more. My clearest memory is of being in the X-ray room and desperately begging and negotiating with the doctor for my mom to come in with me. Which was a huge effort for me since my major life goal at six years old was to talk to strange adults as little as possible.

So I think it was more the trauma than the pain that led to me cocooning myself on the coach for the first week or so. I don’t remember much about that period other than making a decision to never, ever, move my arm, or any other part of my body ever again. Ever.

My memory of my time on the couch is through my 6-year-old, prone eyes. I see the high back of the couch,  my cast encased arm in its blue sling, the blankets and pillows that surrounded me, and a bunch of small glass animals lined up along the back of the couch, along with random other trinkets and toys, because my dad kept coming home from work with presents for me.

Specifically he hit this line of little glass animals. They were probably marble more than actual glass, and they were all the same brown and white swirl, but they were every kind of animal you could think of, and each day he brought me a few new ones. I remember laying on the couch and seeing these little presents lined up all along the back of the couch, and wondering why I was getting so many treats when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. Eventually I figured out that they were meant to somehow compensate me for my pain and suffering. I think my most vivid memory from that time is of everything lined up on the back of the couch, my parents hovering in the background, because it was a few days before I was willing to move enough to touch them or play with them.

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Chris broke his collar-bone last week while playing street hockey. The thing about a broken collar-bone is that there’s just not much that can be done about it. We saw a specialist and he told us that Chris didn’t require surgery. He said that it was 50/50 whether surgery would make him heal better, and that either choice Chris made, surgery or no surgery was a valid choice. Chris opted for no surgery.

For him that means a sling, a prescription for oxycodone, and just waiting for the bones to start to knit back together, (which in people over the age of 30 can take as long as 6 weeks.) It means pretty constant pain and discomfort for him, because while the pain killers seem to take the edge off, he’s never completely comfortable.

For me that means just watching him suffer. It means trying not to notice when his lips turn white as he braces against a wave of pain, of trying not to flinch when he does this one kind of exhalation that he only does when he’s hurting and can’t get comfortable. It means not being able to really hold him or offer any help in making him comfortable. Above all else, it means feeling endlessly helpless.

I find myself constantly wanting to buy him presents. Because I apparently have the same coping skills as my dad.

And now I totally get where my dad was coming from. It’s really frustrating to see someone you love be broken and not be able to fix it.

But my dad had it easy. I was a six year old girl. He could buy me glass animals, doll house furniture, Barbies, anything pink. Plus I was prone on the couch, and so he could literally shower me in presents and at least look down and feel like he’s done something.

But I’m dealing with an almost 39 year old man, so my options are lot more limited. He’s sticking to our diet, so I can’t shower him with cupcakes and apple turnovers, and even if I could, he won’t sit still, so anything I’d pile on him would just get all over the floor and I’m not wasting frosting like that.

So far, all I’ve come up with is spicey kettle corn that I got at a farmers market last weekend. I wanted to dump it on him like confetti, to try to achieve that feeling of showering him with gifts, but he insisted on just eating it straight from the bag like a normal person.

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My only option at this point is to put all my pent-up gift giving urges into shopping for his birthday next week, and then Christmas. We decided to do stockings for each other, and so my most pressing issue at the moment is finding a stocking that is approximately 4 feet long and 2 feet wide.

Also, if anyone knows where I can get a moon bounce and a fire juggler who will do adult birthday parties cheap, let me know. Thanks.

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Thankful November 30, 2011

I’m big on tradition. I like the predictability. The familiarity. The control.

Over the years, I may have been known to…react strongly to a suggestion of changing any of our holiday traditions. And by “react strongly” I basically mean pitch a fit, and as a result, I’ve probably held my family hostage in our traditions for the past 30+ years.

But now, this year, I suddenly find myself a little less concerned with traditions and more concerned with flexibility. Possibly because I have a  motivation to be flexible.

And that motivation may or may not be named Chris.

This is my first holiday being part of a real couple. We’re talking serious milestone here.

And as always, major milestones tend to cause me some level of panic – mostly born of a fear that I’ll stumble over the milestone and tear a big hole in the fabric of our relationship somehow.

This was probably one of the scarier milestones so far, because it actually requires decisions and action and involves lots of other people. With the other ones, like our 6 month anniversary, or meeting the friends, I could navigate them by just avoiding any sudden movements or major personality changes. But the holidays are a totally different ball of pine needles.

I spent a few months obsessing thinking about options.  I knew enough about his work schedule and family demands to realize he wasn’t just going to be able to jump in the car with me on the day before Thanksgiving and head to my parents house for a long weekend. Which is what I’ve done for Thanksgiving every year since I graduated from college.

And I knew enough about us to know that I wanted to spend the holiday with him if there was any way possible.  All of a sudden traditions didn’t seem as important as finding a way to balance his holiday experiences with my own.

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I’m pretty sure that’s called growth, people.

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But, at the same time I was struggling with a special holiday edition of  the type of fear and insecurity that accompany my milestones: If I just didn’t go home Thanksgiving, is it wrong to choose my boyfriend of not even 10 months over my family? What if I regret my choice and miss my family and we have our first bad weekend ever? What if he comes with me and realizes that my family is too overwhelming and he misses his quiet vacation days? What if I suggest a change in my family’s tradition and they all flip out the way I always did when someone suggested changes?

But then, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, when we still hadn’t made any firm plans, I got an email from my mom saying “maybe this is the year you don’t come home, maybe this is the year you have a Thanksgiving with someone else.” From some mothers that would have been a trick, a passive-aggressive plea to in fact be sure to come home for Thanksgiving. But from MY mom it was permission.  Permission to break with our family tradition, permission to experiment with a new tradition, with putting someone other than my family first.

It took away some of the fears, but didn’t completely solve the problem. I still didn’t know if our relatively young relationship could handle the weight of replacing my family.

But before I could respond I got an email from Chris confirming his work and family schedule would allow us to spend Thanksgiving day with his family and then drive the 7ish hours to see my family on Friday and stay until Monday.

I knew my mom always served a second Thanksgiving on Sunday of that weekend to use up leftovers, and so I told her we’d join her for that meal, not wanting to ask her to cook twice or for everyone else to change their plans. I figured it would mean not seeing all of my siblings, but it seemed a reasonable compromise.

A few days later I heard from my mom that everyone had jumped at the idea of moving Thanksgiving to Sunday. It turns out, everyone else was ready to experiment with new traditions as well.  One brother had a private Thanksgiving day with just his wife where they spent the day eating, sleeping and drinking on their own schedule. One sister went to her husband’s family’s Thanksgiving for the first time in years, and my other sister didn’t have to feel like she was missing her family’s celebration as she spent Thanksgiving day with her husband’s family and she was now able to invite another brother and his family to join them for a traditional Italian Thanksgiving (they serve raviolli instead of turkey!)  Basically, it worked out great for everyone to have Thanksgiving on Sunday, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction to my first attempt at making new traditions.

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As Thanksgiving got closer and standard small talk with friends and co-workers became “what are you doing for the holidays”, I heard tale after tale of couples torn between two competing families. I heard stories of couples who skipped Thanksgiving all together and went on vacation, who had to manuever around complicated alternating year schedules and manipulative, guilt tripping parents who had no interest in sharing or experimenting with different traditions.

I know I’ve heard these stories in past years. In fact, I know that one of my best friends has endured guilt from her mother for the entire length of her marriage for every holiday she’s spent with her husband’s family, even after the marriage ended. So I know this is a thing. But I never really heard those stories until now.

And now I know that what I have to be thankful for this year, beyond all of the obvious things, is that I have a family that cheerfully got behind moving Thanksgiving from Thursday to Sunday, and that I have a boyfriend who was willing to spend two days in the car to let me spend time with my family.

I know that part of my family’s flexibility comes from the fact that I’m the last person in this big old family to need a change. Until now I’ve been static as all around me things have changed: marriages have ended and started; people have moved houses and states; babies have been born and teenagers have appeared fully formed.

I was always the least flexible because I had the least motivation to want change. In some families that would be the kind of thing that comes back to bite you. But not in my family. And for that, I am grateful.

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Of course, we still have Christmas to figure out. To me that’s a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving, so its still a new milestone.  I think its something to do with the presents. So it may turn out that my family has exhausted its flexibility reserves and any attempt to change our Christmas traditions will be met with rigidity.

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Or maybe this blog post will be enough positive reinforcement to grease the wheels for Christmas. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

 

Just Drop the Presents and Back Away Slowly… December 22, 2010

Filed under: Home — Meredith @ 3:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

  

The other day I was reading a post on my friend Tara’s blog about how her son is suddenly afraid of having Santa come into   their house. And I completely empathized with her son, because when I was little  I’d   had the exact same issue.  Although no one offered an alternative, like Tara did for Declan…I was expected to simply suck it up. But then it WAS the late 70’s, before parents got all coddling and super sensitive to their children’s phobias.

When I was little, we had a ritual for Christmas morning. My little brother usually woke up first, and then would wake me up, and then we’d wake our older sister up, and then we’d go wake up mom and dad. Once dad was up, we had to wait with my mom in their room, while my dad went downstairs and did…stuff. I never thought to ask what he was doing, because I assumed I knew. He was obviously first checking to make sure that Santa had in fact come (I recognized that mine was just one family, one house, among millions, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to expect that mistakes could be made, homes over looked); and second, assuming Santa had come, daddy was checking to make sure he’d also LEFT (I recognized that Santa had a lot of work to do in one night, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to assume that at some point, he might want to sit for a bit, and being old as he was, could easily nod off.)

When daddy came back upstairs and gave the all clear, we would line up at the top of the stairs in order from youngest to oldest, and then run down the stairs taking a sharp left at the bottom into the living room with the tree and all the presents.

The Christmas I was 4, when I entered the living room, I saw the blanket from the couch drapped over part of the wing back chair and covering a large and suspicious bulge in front of the chair.  The wing back chair was exactly the type of chair a man of Santa’s stature might choose to sit in, should he be so inclined to “set a bit”, while visiting our house.

I looked at that blanket covered bulge, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Santa had in fact, chosen to set a bit and had fallen asleep. Daddy had then addressed the issue by covering him with a blanket, clearly hoping I would not notice. I decided to go along with the plan, and carefully avoided the area.

After I had opened all my presents, my mom said “Wait, there’s one more!” I looked around, wondering what box I’d missed. Then she said “How about you look under that blanket?” I. Was. Horrified. Several questions ran through my head: WHY would I want to see what was under that blanket? Was he holding my present on his lap? Had he fallen asleep mid unloading? What if he got mad because I woke him up?

I shook my head, declining the offer and picked up a new toy to play with.

“Come on!” My dad said cheerfully. “Look under the blanket!” Had my parent’s lost their minds? Did they think that just because I hadn’t cried at the mall in a few years, that I was somehow over my fear of Santa, and to the point that I wanted him to become a house guest?!?

“NO!” I said and tried to move further away from the blanket.

“Oh come on. Just peek under there,” my mom encouraged. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Why, I wondered, did Santa have to pick THIS HOUSE to fall asleep in? Why not a home where they wanted him? And now I was convinced, not only that Santa was there, but that my parents had been brainwashed by his elves and could no longer be trusted. In a tearful panic, I crawled onto my sister’s lap and begged her to be the voice of reason, and possibly my new guardian.

To be honest, I don’t remember what she said, but I remember everyone laughing at me, and me not caring, but starting to wonder if maybe they didn’t realize Santa was under there. Then my sister said “How about if I take the blanket off?” I had a wave of panic, and immediately got out of her lap and hid behind her as she leaned forward and started to pull at the blanket. I covered my face.

“LOOK” my mom said, and I hesitantly moved my hands and saw…

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a beautiful, blue and white Holly Hobby kitchen set, all assembled and ready to play with.

And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy Holiday, with just a tiny bit of crazy in it so you’ll have stories to tell 🙂

 

Holiday Memories December 16, 2010

Filed under: Home — Meredith @ 3:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You know how a specific song will evoke a specific memory?

Like, Little Drummer Boy always reminds me of Christmas Eve when I was really little, because my mom would play it on the record player while my little brother and I marched up to bed to wait for Santa. 

Which is a nice, warm holiday memory.

Then there is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, which also evokes a specific memory from when I was around 7 or 8. It came on the radio while I was with my mom and I started singling along and then my mom said “Ugh. I hate this song.”

Me: Why?

Mom: Because, its sick.

Me: uh… whaa?

Mom: It’s about a kid spying on his parents doing grown up things.

Me: But its funny because it’s his dad and not Santa…

Mom: Maybe. Or its a special friend of mommy’s. But that doesn’t really change anything. Mom and whoever are having a little holiday fun, a little role play, and the kid’s watching. That’s sick. But not as sick as writing a song about it like its funny.

Me: uh…whaa?

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I’ve thought of this conversation every time I’ve heard that song since. Every. Single. Time.

For 26+ years.

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And you know what? It kinda makes the song more interesting. I see a little movie in my head while I listen. A movie that has… evolved as I’ve gotten older.

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 And you know what? My mom was right. No child should witness that kind of thing.

 

 
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