Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I’ve been feeling a little bit awkward lately because my left hand is naked. The other day I started twisting my rings like usual and man, it hurt. They were weirdly stuck. Upon closer examination, I’d bent the hell out of both of them.

wedding ring

So they’re at the jeweler getting banged back into shape, and all I’m wearing now is my dented flesh. It’s a pretty serious dent, actually, because Cute W and I have been married for 21 years today. Woo, hoo! Someone asked if we were going on an anniversary date, but since Thursday is gymnastics practice (J) and soccer practice (M) and yoga (K), we are not. We will, sometime soon. I promise. We did manage to get new bedding for the new bed, though:

bed

Although if you’re a longtime reader, you might be sad that I set aside the old duvet that merited an anniversary post 3 years ago. Oh, my gosh! Was that three years ago? Anyway, I’m not getting rid of it, of course.

The marriage nostalgia and wedding ring repair reminded me of one of my favorite ring stories, the time when I lost my diamond.

The year was 1999, and Cute W and I were buying our first house.  Except that we lived in Brooklyn, so the “house” was actually a two-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up co-op apartment. Notwithstanding its small size, it represented a sizable investment for us, especially since we both had graduate school debt already. We had decided that it was time to buy after Cute W had signed a three-year contract for a new job. We’d taken a look around our super-cozy one-bedroom apartment that had made one friend say, “Wow, you guys must really love each other!” and decided that three more years there was way too many. That was also the apartment where a mouse once ran over my bare foot while I was washing dishes. Incidentally, I think that colleges and universities are doing a real disservice to today’s young people by offering such comfortable and congenial housing. I don’t know how we would have survived the squalor of Manhattan and Brooklyn living if our middle class standards hadn’t been radically lowered by our years of cement-block-style college housing.

But I digress. The point is, on a lovely spring evening we found ourselves literally pacing around our mouse-infested apartment, hectic with anxiety over whether we were making the right choice to commit to a big mortgage and purchase a larger apartment in a sketchier neighborhood. And then we decided that the antidote was to take a bike ride.

We had just purchased a pair of bikes as a celebration of our impending apartment purchase. For years, we pretty much couldn’t own bikes, unless we were willing to lean them up against our futon or our kitchen table when we weren’t biking around. The co-op offered basement storage, which is exactly the sort of thing that means a trumpet fanfare if you’re living in New York City. We’d bought the bikes, but we hadn’t had a chance to ride them far. Why not distract ourselves with a little ride to our new neighborhood?  Or, our new almost-neighborhood, because while we weren’t going to be quite in Park Slope, we’d be close enough that we hoped that the tide of gentrification would engulf us soon.

We set out in the twilight, and right away, I felt shaky. I hadn’t had a bike since high school (which is another story), and I was out of practice. I know, I know: riding a bike is a lot like. . . riding a bike. But just like in a car, I feel anxious and accident-prone. Cute W, on the other hand, started at a perfectly-normal-person clip, and I didn’t even get a chance to pant, “Slow down!” at him before I panicked and squeezed both the handbrakes. And went flying over the handlebars, smacking both hands and my head into the Brooklyn street.

Luckily, I was wearing my helmet. It could have been ugly. As it was, I was shaken up, but not hurting too badly. I’d hyper-extended both of my arms, and I tried to shake out my elbows, wanting to quit immediately. But then we’d be back in our apartment with feelings of failure and cowardice to compound the debt-anxiety. So I hopped back on and pedaled at Cute W’s newly-moderated pace.

But it wasn’t going well. Biking was alright, but my elbows were beginning to swell and throb. Each time we’d stop and start again, the pressure of leaning onto the handlebars made me almost cry. I was trying very hard not to be a wimp, so I kept pedaling, and we made it to the park. At which point I conceded defeat. I called out to Cute W, half -weepy, that my arms hurt too much and I was ready to head home.

And it was just after we’d decided to go back that I looked down at my hands and saw this:

 

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The prongs of my engagement ring were squashed over like a garden plant that had been stepped on. And the diamond wasn’t there.

Here’s where I became a teensy bit hysterical. I started screaming at Cute W to leave me behind and haul ass to the scene of my recent crash. He refused to leave me biking alone and argued that for the moment the most efficient thing to do was to continue the torturously long circumnavigation the park (you’re actually supposed to bike one-way around the street that surrounds Prospect Park, or at least you were at the time) and try our best to calm down.

He was emergency-calm and I was emergency-freaked. At one point, he said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a material thing.”

And I half-shrieked back, “Yeah! That I inherited from my DEAD MOTHER!!!”

Which, you have to admit, is an unbelievably awesome come-back. I mean, if you want to get competitive about it.

So much for a throw-your-cares-away bike ride. We pedaled in near-silence through the dark streets of Brooklyn back to the crash-site.

And unbelievably, as we approached, there was a beautiful twinkling under the nearby streetlight.

My heart hitched with joy, and then I realized that the twinkling was way too unbelievably easy. I’d crashed right in front of a neighborhood bodega, and the street was littered with shattered glass bottles. If I’d bothered to look earlier, I would have seen the beautiful twinkles everywhere around me.

We paced the area. Parked cars had moved and new cars replaced them. We knew that someone could be speeding away from us with a diamond imbedded in their tire rubber, but we had to look. So we looked. And looked. It became obvious that we were hunting for something, and occasionally someone would offer to help. But we demurred. It would be too easy, we thought, for someone to pick up the diamond and slip it into their pockets. After a while, Cute W walked one of the bikes home and returned with flashlights. And we looked some more. Then he walked the second bike home returned with a broom and a dustpan.

We decided that we would do one final, thorough hunt, dividing the street into an imaginary grid to make it more systematic. Cute W swept all the debris from a small square into a pile, and then I picked through it.

At that point, we’d been searching for hours, so we’d become a bit philosophical. There was a natural disaster somewhere, and reminded ourselves that we were fortunate for the excellent weather. I’d started collecting the slivers and chunks of bottle glass. The glass really was lovely, and I imagined that I’d take it home and wash it and place the pieces into a small jar. The glass-filled jar would shine in the light from a window in our new home, and it would be a meaningful reminder of. . . something. That the everyday, left-behind moments that we’d collected together were more important than any single object . . . ? Yes, of course, I thought, eyes filling with tenderness.  And then I saw the diamond, and I was like, screw that.

I yelled, “I’ve got it!” And Cute W, who had also noted the way that shattered glass can look like a diamond over the course of the evening, answered with a skeptical, “Are you sure?”

“Oh, I’m sure!” I crowed. “Now that I’ve got my diamond, I realize that all this glass looks absolutely nothing like a diamond!” He bounded over, laughing, and we hugged in triumph.

Part of me wishes that I’d kept the pieces of glass. But at the time we just wiped our hands and the diamond on our jeans and left the glass behind, twinkling in the dusty streets.

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day Weekend Starts Early at Our House

I’ve updated the Events page, and here’s the KidsOutAndAbout list of local Memorial Day Parades. I’m also going to be on WNYT Newschannel 13′s Live at Noon tomorrow (Friday), talking about Memorial Day Activities with Kids and various local events.

Yesterday began inauspiciously when I woke up and realized that I hadn’t yanked the lawn waste to the curb the night before. No sooner did I think, “Well, there’s still time to do it quick” than I heard the rumble of the truck. It was stopped right next door, and theoretically I could have run outside and dragged two cans’ worth of tidying-before-Niska-Day weeds and tangled shrubbery. But I was still in my nightgown, and I just couldn’t bring myself to scamper out there, baubles bobbling, so to speak.

And then, I remembered about 15 minutes before my veterinarian appointment that I had a vet appointment for Isis the cat. I went out to the garage to get her carrier, and when I came back inside, she was AWOL. She’s disappeared. It’s almost as if she was a psychic who sensed a rabies vaccine shot looming. I ran around the house and the yard for the next ten minutes before giving up. I had to call the office and explain my utter lack of pet-parenting competence. I was told that it happens all the time.

Today Cute W took the day off to go on a school field trip to 5 Rivers with J. Alas, the tragic irony that we’d have a string of fabulous days, and then the nature center day is when there’s lightening, hail, and a tornado. What a bummer! Poor J was packed off to a regular ol’ school day, where reportedly some of her classmates wept in disappointment. Luckily it’s being rescheduled.

The cancellation left Cute W and me with unexpected time together in the middle of the day. We ended up mattress shopping. Our 21st anniversary is coming up, and we’ve had the same mattress all that time. A few years ago Cute W suggested that we get a new one, but at the time, I argued that it wasn’t worth buying a new mattress until both our kids were totally over jumping on the bed. I just imagined it driving Cute W crazy. Well, they’re basically too big now. Although, honestly, these new-fangled memory foam-style mattresses don’t seem like they’d be that great for jumping, anyway. Which seems like a tragic loss to American culture. In any case, we hopped from bed to bed miming sleep and discussing our options while the sales guy and a manager doted over us because it was the middle of a slow day. My personal favorite part was when Cute W said something about how we had to consider not only how it felt to lie still on the bed but also if we wanted to do something more, um, active. Which he was apparently trying to be subtle about, but subtlety is not his strong suit. I probably spent about 45 seconds with my face covered with both hands, howling with laughter, while the two men ran to a desk and huddled together over sudden urgent business. I tell you people: we have a really good time just walking around.

Cute W met J right after school and took her out for ice cream since they hadn’t had their quality field trip time, and now that she’s home from gymnastics, they’re watching Godzilla.

Oh, and I’ve been cyber-shopping for a new duvet cover to go along with our brand-new mattress. I sent Cute W a few links, marking one as my favorite.

He called out, “Okay, I don’t like your favorite.”

“Oh, yeah?” I replied.

“It’s just too [is it possible to hear a nose wrinkle? Because I'd swear that I heard his nose wrinkling]. . . it’s too mauve.”

“Uh-huh. . . .” I answered, in what I thought sounded pretty neutral.

“Never mind,” he conceded. “We can get that one.”

Holy cow, I love that guy.

Well, the duvet cover decision has not yet been made, but the mattress will be here on Saturday. Whoop, whoop!

 

I Want Candy

During that bleak period when the only Easter candy remaining is a couple of chalky-looking, fake-grass-encrusted jelly beans and Mr. Ding-a-Ling cannot yet be relied upon to follow a regular schedule, my town fulfills the children’s urgent need for sugar and artificial flavors and colors by holding a Niska-Day parade. Full disclosure: I love the Niska-Day parade.

Pondering Niska-Days Past reminds me of our own history in the town. Niska-Day was cancelled due to snow back in 2002, the year that we moved in, and although I’d had no plans to attend, the snowstorm in May sure did scare the hell out of me, if nothing else. By the following year I was marching in the parade with the Niskayuna Moms Group and wishing that I’d been more aware of the adorable parade route neighborhood back when we’d been house hunting. The years went by and we marched with NMG and later the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School, glad that they were usually next to each other in the parade for maximum sociability.  And meanwhile, each year, I’d seethe with Neighborhood Envy until we scored our own house on the parade route. What matter than the house was smaller and uglier than our old one, when this one offered up quick walks to school and prime parade viewing?

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Updates

I’ve updated the Events page again. I have been updating, you know.

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But what I haven’t been updating is my Playground List. Remember how waaaaaaay back I’d created a special playground survey? The idea was that we could crowd-source and get information about playgrounds from all over. Anyway, I made a big push and twisted friends’ arms to fill out surveys, and we ended up with more than 30 playgrounds on the list.

And then I blew it off.

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Mother’s Day Report

Was that the most fabulous weekend ever? Just about. I hope that you all enjoyed a lovely Mother’s Day. It was one of my favorite Mother’s Days since I’ve acquired the Mom title. First, everyone did a fabulous job of letting me sleep in. Everyone understands that I enjoy sleep, but in past years, it was just too difficult to contain the excitement. This year, everyone was mouse-quiet, and I slept until 8:30 am, which was plenty. Shortly after I woke up, I went into my lovely master bathroom and found that it looked even more like a spa than usual:

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Little J had left a note “To: Mom . . .  From: Who?” and it was such a good idea (my old robe was getting shabby and the soap coordinates perfectly with the room) that I ignored J’s note and assumed throughout the entire day that it was a family gift, spearheaded by Cute W.  Until bedtime, when Cute W said, “Yeah, that was all J.”

Huh?

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In Which I Forget to Do My Best and Just End Up Sobbing. And Eating Cupcakes.

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J and I were both awake at around 4:30 am, and we spent the next couple of hours alternately staring at each other and chatting. She was worried about her test. The test that she’d thought was easy, the test that I told her did not matter at all.

At one point I asked, “What do you think would happen, if you failed? Like, if you failed wildly, what are you afraid would happen?”

“Mrs. D. would lose her job,” she answered. Promptly, like it was so obvious.
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Do Your Best And Forget the Rest

On Sunday at about 11:45 am, I was running around like a maniac looking for a pair of white shorts. M was going to guest-play with the U-13 girls’ team, which is short on players, and an email had requested white socks and shorts if possible. I’d found some white socks, and Cute W had claimed, earlier, that we had a pair of white soccer shorts for M. But he wasn’t around, still gone from his own morning soccer game. I had passed through wondering and into a low-level anxiety stage which involved texts and voicemails requesting the whereabouts of both shorts and husband.  So while I was hunting for shorts, I was telling myself that even if Cute W didn’t drive into the driveway at any moment, which he was totally going to do, I couldn’t do anything until the police or EMS contacted me to tell me which hospital he was recovering in.  And meanwhile, there was the dramatically urgent matter of a middle school girl in need of an item of clothing.

And it was at just about that time that I remembered the birthday party that J was supposed to be attending that day. Which had started at 11 am. At a location in the opposite direction from the soccer game. And for which we had neglected to purchase a gift.

Ohhhhhhhh. That is not a good feeling.

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Sisters

Well, they're both funny. J's note under the tree she's always climbing.
Well, they’re both funny. J’s note under the tree she’s always climbing.

We’ve had a rather dramatic home lately. I hate it. Still, I guess that there’s one perk: parenting multiple children is good preparation for writing characters.

I’ve been meaning to do more creative writing–that was part of why I reduced this blog, really. The truth? I haven’t done much.  But when it comes to thinking about characters, I know that as a reader, how I feel about the characters has a huge impact on how I feel about the whole book.  If I don’t like any of the characters, I don’t like the book (I’m talkin’ to you, Madame Bovary! Also, come to think of it, Twilight). But if I love the characters, or if the author gives me enough information to make me empathize with the bad guys, that’s a huge part of what makes me love a whole story.

Watching my daughters interact sometimes feels like reading a book that’s become frustratingly predictable. Each of the two protagonists are uniquely lovable, but their vastly different personalities and character traits lead to misunderstanding and heartache, seemingly at every turn. I enter a scene, catch a snippet of dialogue, and I know both how and why it’s going to play out, yet I feel powerless to stop it.

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The Limits of Magical Creatures

I’ve had a bit of low-level anxiety this April about Easter.

Growing up, the Easter Bunny used to always bring me a new outfit, suitable for wearing to church that day. It was a lovely tradition that I planned to continue with my own children. Early on, in fact, the girls did get cute little dresses. Except that they had very strong opinions about their clothing preferences, and finding a dress that they were willing to wear was a challenge. In fact, it was too challenging for the Easter Bunny. For the first several years of the girls’ life, the Easter Bunny made all sorts of slacker moves, like handing out the exact same stuffed bunnies and chicks from previous years, because it turns out that if you put something away in August, toddlers forget that those furry items ever existed by the following spring, so they greet them like new. And yes, that sounds sneaky and clever, sure, but then the Easter Bunny would totally fail Easter with loser moves like gifting M with a large white chocolate bunny when it turns out she doesn’t like white chocolate anymore. Not as bad as that idiot Santa Claus, who once

 

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