Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Summer of Yes

If this spring has me taught me anything, it's that life really is too short.

So I am embracing that this summer, and declaring it The Summer of Yes.
Less thinking, less rules, less contemplation.
More freedom, more flexibility, more fun.

We were on our way to my parents' at dusk last Friday.
They live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by quiet woods, lakes, ponds, hills.
As we sped past a Painted turtle tucked into its shell in the middle of the highway, the Lil' Dude begged her Daddy to stop. Too late, we dodged it and flew past.

I told her how it seemed like when I was a little girl, I was always harboring a turtle or two. The perks of growing up in the middle of nowhere. She has already dabbled in some turtle-raising of her own; she mothered a 50-cent piece sized baby Painted turtle last winter named Florence.

RIP, Florence the Machine. You weren't long for this world. We won't forget.

So I told her as we left that turtle in our rearview, we would most definitely stop for the very next one we saw.

And of course we did. The Dad stomped on his brakes, and I sprinted back to the creature holding the Puke Bucket from the car. Car sickness; the struggle is real. I grabbed the turtle, allowed it to pee as they always do when a predator threatens, and stuffed it the bucket. Painted turtles are great pets because they are sweet, lumbersome, docile.

False. This particular Painted wanted to eat my face. Mean ... the remaining five minutes to my parents' seemed like forty as our beloved new pet clawed and hissed and clawed and scraped up my shins and arms as I tried to keep it contained.

The Summer of Yes. Hashtag; parenting.

My Dad always supported my creature-finding habit and this time was no different. He got down the kiddie pool and together he and the Lil' Dude set about arranging the turtle- a boy named Clem by now- in its forced habitat. Home sweet home.

It turned out Clem the boy turtle was mean for a reason- SHE, now renamed Jewel, had eggs to lay.

Oh Mama, I'm so sorry about the little adventure I just forced you to take as labor was imminent. How rude of me!

So we explained to Kid Rock that this particular turtle was not going to be part of her Summer of Yes. She could spend the night in the blue plastic pool, but the next day needed to go to a pond to let nature continue its course. She understood, however sad it made her. Some days I swear her bravery about does me in.

So that's what we did. Drove two miles to the nearest pond and furthest from traffic with Jewel tightly secured in a brown grocery bag. No more bucket turtle management for me. Hell no. I walked with my girl, her hand in mine, and the bag in her other, and we shimmied Jewel out of her cargo hold and she slid on her belly like a penguin directly into the water. Go be a Mommy! We shouted.

When she left, the Lil' Dude made her Papa promise pinky-swear he'd look for other turtles, and hopefully baby ones, for her to adopt since Jewel didn't work out so well.

Imagine our shock when my own Mama called tonight, asking to speak to her granddaughter. She had some news.

"Guess who is back? Jewel."


Sure enough, that Mama turtle hoisted herself approximately 34,987 turtle miles, literally up hill both ways, back to where she was forced to temporarily reside thanks to The Summer of Yes. Two miles in real life. Without getting smashed on the road or eaten alive. She's currently furiously burrowing her nest right in my parents' dirt driveway to lay those eggs. 3 days after she left the premises.

And because we asked with incredulousness in our voices, how do we know it's our turtle?

She's marked- probably forever- with some doggie toenail marks right on the top of her shell. That poor girl is probably permanently terrified of dogs as the Beagle and my Dad's dog batted her around a bit when the Lil' Dude wasn't supervising Jewel's territory.

Now the Great Turtle Watch 2014 is underway, and someone way over here (135 miles) is already preparing to become a mother herself to however many babies a Painted usually produces in a ... what? Litter? Gaggle? Posse? of turtle eggs.

I could easily use this amazing tale to spin an analogy of mothering and sacrifice and resolve to protect our offspring, uphill both ways. But I won't.

Sometimes all it takes is one little Yes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Mighty

This week you told me it was no longer acceptable to refer to any part of you, physical or physiological, as little. Moving forward acceptable addressing includes Big Girl, First Grader, Child. You're my little girl with (some) little baby teeth and the littlest ponytail. It's your last day of school. 

For you, this has been a long time coming. I think the conscious countdown began around Day 47. I assume your wonderful teacher who is in her 20 or 30th-something season of teaching started said countdown. Even sunshine burns if you get too much; there IS such thing as too much of a good thing. And other assorted and relatable cliches. 

I talked to your Grandma G. earlier this week about my plans to volunteer at school all day today, and she told me to soak it up. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was a 6th grader and said right around 3rd grade I no longer passed the volunteer slips onto her. I no longer "needed" her to be part of my life at school. Shit. Hindsight is always 20/20. She went on to say "kids these days" probably are even younger than I was when they shut their parents out. Shit. 

Your Dad and I continually go back and forth on your life. I probably would have kept you as an infant ... Maybe until last year. He's been pumped for driving lessons and team tryouts since you were swaddled. I think that is just the dynamic of genders and parental roles. The bigger you get, so does your stuff. I liked having a diaper bag full of cups and compartments and extras and the things I needed to pacify or calm you. I carried all the answers and solutions around with me. But now, you carry your own bag. Your little (sorry) chin trembled last night as you replayed your day to me- why wouldn't your friend let you sit with her on the bus when she had just Tuesday morning? I don't know, sweetheart. I am 34 years old and I have no idea why people act the way they do from one day to the next. Maybe it's what the carry in their own bags, they stuff they don't let anyone see. I do know it certainly isn't for me to worry about and I try hard each day not to. You will have to, too. 

You had a wonderful year. You're a lot like your Mama- you love social settings, rules, routines. I loved school- ask your Papa about any of my GPA's and he'll tell you I learned a lot more outside the classroom than in! But my attendance record was sterling. I hated to miss out on ANYTHING. You're the same way. We call you the Mayor- you know everyone, and your school is large, spanning Pre-K through 8th grade. You know everyone's siblings and neighbors and cousins and daycare affiliates. Last names, first names. Today you attended the 8th graders' graduation and you are "just going to miss them so much!" Of course you are. You can't teach humanity or interpersonality so that's all you, baby (sorry) girl. I am so proud of you. I always, and still to this day, take great pride in being the girl my Grandma or own Mama ask about people- what was her name? Where did they move to? That skill will get you far. Keep honing. 

You're thrilled for 1st grade; you're excited for your own desk and to be able to read more. I just don't want you to grow up too much this summer. Sooner than later, we're going to tell you your beloved Grandma G. has cancer and that she will be working on her health and recovery for a long, long time. She will shave her own head before medicine makes her bald. She will look sick and act sick and not be the superhero you've always known. Up until now, you think she's had the world's longest lasting stomach ache. We didn't want to taint your last weeks of school with any of the above. I know, it's not my job to protect you from life's shitty stuff. But it is my job to put you first and make what I believe are the best decisions for you, while I am able. 

You had a wonderful year. I already said that. You had your locker moved once because you were too slow in the mornings, chitchatting with your neighbor. You also sat out a recess recently for The Woodchip Incident. But you know what? You told us about both of those occasions. The school didn't notify us. Hell, if they had to report every minor incident students do, they'd never be able to teach. Truth. Thank you for telling it. It's what I am most proud of you for all year long. I'm also pretty proud of you for not getting sent to the Principal's office, or setting fires, or taunting kids, or disrespecting your teacher. And there was just that time or two we let your lunch account balance slip below $0.00 and we forgot Sharing Day items three times. But who's counting?

I'm so proud of you. I am as excited for your summer as you are.
And I'm so dang lucky I get to be your mom.
To my mighty kindergartner!

Mama loves.