A Mother’s Best Asset

She steps into the exam room, staring at the chart the nurse shoved into her hands and is quickly trying to assess my medical history in the 5 steps between the door and the exam table.

She looks up, squints at my forehead a wee bit too long, and then fixes her gaze just a bit lower.

“Your friends must be envious of your skin!” she proclaims, making me question either her eyesight or her medical credentials.

Possibly both.

Apparently she missed the reason for my appointment that clearly states “35-year acne sufferer” and “what the hell can I use for these wrinkles” as reasons for my dermatologist visit today.

“Um, NO,” I say, maybe a little bit too quickly. “My skin is nothing to brag about,” I add, instantly wishing I were sitting in the dental chair instead.

With nitrous oxide.

“Your neck!” she exclaims, “The skin on your neck is smooth and firm, beautiful,” she says, with a glint in her eyes that almost makes me believe her. If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter.

Maybe she had wine with lunch.

At this point, I am forced to ponder my neck… a part of my body I have never considered as a separate entity, I guess. The biggest job my neck has is holding my head up and supporting a necklace now and then. And even then I have been known on many occasions to simply rest my head on my desk after a particularly strenuous bout of editing. So even my neck can be lazy.

My neck? Never a point of conversation until now.

My babies have nuzzled my neck after midnight feedings, when the lure of sleep called to me from the bedroom but motherhood won and I stayed just a few moments longer on the couch to drink in their sweet, milky scent. My neck has comforted a little girl with a broken arm, a boy who lost his grandfather, kids mourning the loss of their first family dog and a dear friend who lost her husband too early and too tragically. My neck snuggled my mother when she lost her husband too many years too soon and cradled my husband when he lost not one but both of his beloved grandfathers.

I have craned my neck ever-so-slightly to see if a teenager’s car has pulled up in the driveway yet… at half past 11. My neck has betrayed me with osteoarthritis and sent me to physical therapy on more than one occasion.

My neck? It may not be much to brag about, or a part of my body that my much-younger friends will envy. But this neck — my neck — has proven to be an incredibly valuable part of my anatomy that I simply take for granted most days.

“Yes,” I stammer. “My neck is amazing,” I finally say.

And I smile a little bit bigger…

In spite of the huge zit on my chin.

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Mirror Image

Who is this woman and what has she done with my youth?

It was just here a minute ago.

Or did I just set it down for a moment when I was at The Alibi? The Office on the Beach?

Maybe someone will turn it in to Lost and Found.

I may have taken a wrong turn at sunbathing in baby oil and spent too much time worrying and developing a scowl.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

I’ve tried to take good care of myself.

The younger me didn’t know how good she had it; knees that weren’t baggy, hair that didn’t require chemical intervention at six-week intervals, a jack-rabbit metabolism, and a face free of wrinkles and age spots.

This new woman? She follows me everywhere. Shows up in restaurant bathroom mirrors, reflections in the windows at Starbucks, all those fancy-schmancy mirrors in the Crate and Barrel store.

She looks a bit tired, takes longer to rise from a seated position, and her shoes may qualify as sensible.

It’s not my mother.

Because in those Crate and Barrel mirrors today? My mom was next to me on one side; my daughter beside me on the other.

There was no denying it today.

I am in that middle place.

In the middle where you can remember being your mommy’s little girl; going out shopping together or just hanging out.

Until that was no longer cool.

In the middle where you can still see the beginnings of your own motherhood journey; still remember holding those crying little ones and rocking them ever-so-gently.

In the middle where your kids become self-sufficient, busier with their own lives, less likely to need you for something.

In the middle where I can also see forward to my own mother’s life.

Kids grown, out on their own, no longer needing to worry about daily tasks of motherhood or trivial questions like peanut butter and jelly? or pink shirt or yellow?

This woman who stalks me? She’s not half bad.

She’s got a pretty good sense of humor, as long as you don’t ask her kids. She loves her family, likes a good pizza, a nice glass of wine, and plays a mean game of Scrabble.

And since she’s not going anywhere soon? I’ve come to like her.

But I still check the Lost and Found occasionally.

Visit with an Old Friend

There are certain people in our lives who have a major impact on who we become. Their actions determine the course our lives can take, whether good or bad. Their impact may never be known to them, unless they stay in our lives or we have the chance to visit them later in life.

I decided it was time to pay a visit to one of these people.

Me.

As I approach the front door, I see something that looks like a stuffed animal hanging from the handle.  “Baby Sleeping“, it says on a little eyelet heart in a cutesy blue script. So I do what anyone else in this situation would do.
BAM BAM BAM!!
It takes a few minutes, and then the door opens slightly.  A thinner, less wrinkled, short overalls-clad version of me peers out.
“Hi,” she says in barely more than a whisper.  “My baby is sleeping, can I help you?”
“Actually,” I say confidently, “I am here to help YOU.”
“You look familiar; do I know you from the Mom’s Club?”
“Something like that. Mind if I come in?”
“My baby’s sleeping, so I am very busy right now.”
The older, more confident me won’t take this as a no.  “Thanks, I won’t stay long,” I say as I start to push through the door.
Younger me steps aside and I walk into the family room. Scanning the room feels like thumbing through an old photo album. Like if I had really managed to prepare any photo albums in the past 16 years. Familiar items long since discarded grab my attention from shelves and the coffee table.  The whole room is neat and tidy and the place is deadly quiet.
“So you say you’re busy, but what exactly are you doing while the baby sleeps?”
“I have lots to do. I empty the dishwasher, put away the toys, organize the board books by category, alphabetize the alphabet blocks, fold laundry, clip coupons, read Parenting magazine, pay bills, and mop the floor. I would vacuum, but I don’t want to wake the baby.”
“OK, here’s the deal with all of that.  It’s pointless, useless drudgery!  Eventually it will all get done anyway. You should be taking a nap when the baby naps! Maybe if you did that, we wouldn’t have so many wrinkles and such a dull complexion later!” I worry that I may sound angry or bitter, so I try and soften my tone a bit. 

Maybe I am a little bitter about the wrinkles, since she sure doesn’t have many.

“Do you really think it matters that the blocks are in alphabetical order?” I say. “That the books are sorted into categories? Can’t Board Books be a category all its own?”
“It matters to me. It makes me feel like I have some control over my day, like I’m a good mom,” she says, now eyeing me a bit more closely. “Wait, did you say “we” when you were ranting about wrinkles?”
“Yeah, take a good look sister, ’cause I am the 46 year old you,” I say, hoping it doesn’t sound mean or threatening.  OK, maybe just a bit mean.
She takes a step back, analyzing my hair, my face, and my clothes.  “What’s the deal with your pants, they aren’t long enough!” she says, sneering at my capris.
“These, my dear, are capri pants. They will become quite popular in a few years. Because you ate so much ice cream, loved you some hot dogs and some bacon, and didn’t exercise at all, now I have to wear capri pants instead of shorts. You left a lot of cottage cheese on these thighs for me to deal with.  And while we are on the subject of clothes, you might want to re-think this whole short-alls thing.  They aren’t working for you, and the pointy white Keds don’t complete the outfit; they make it worse.”
She looks shocked, but quickly regains her composure. “But I’m comfortable, and these are cute!”
“Cute is for babies! You will never again have the body of a 30 year-old. Never. You just don’t appreciate it now, so you cover it up with short-alls and t-shirts. Live a little! Enjoy what you have!”
She glances down at her outfit, brushing breakfast crumbs from the bib of the overalls. “I am a mom. I will dress like a mom and act like a mom, not like some teenage hottie.”
I try and control my laughter, but she’s almost too funny to watch. “That’s not what I mean! Just live a little, fix yourself up a bit, do it for us. Take up jogging, buy some fashionable clothes, start getting facials, use more sunscreen, and please….lose the bangs.”
Now she looks angry. I think my visit may be coming to an end.
“Thank you for your visit, but I’m really not interested in my life 16 years from now! This whole conversation is just a bunch of malarky! You seem to be blaming me for all of your flaws when, in reality, I’m sure there are tales to be told of life in your 40’s that certainly aren’t MY fault. Don’t you still eat ice cream and bacon? Enjoy that glass of wine before bed? Exercise only when it’s convenient?”
Sensing that I’d better go, I stand and head for the door. “It’s been nice visiting with you, and I hope you’ll think about what I said.” Before leaving, I turn back briefly. “Oh, and those perfectly nice C-cups you are nursing the baby with? Enjoy them while you can. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

Malarky

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To an Old Friend

Dear Body,

I am writing to let you know that you are letting me down.  You are not holding up your end of this bargain we entered into almost 46 years ago.  I am not one to shame and to blame, but here are the facts as I see them.

The skin that miraculously stretched (and then stretched some more) to accommodate baby #1 and baby #2 has decided that it will stretch no more.  Now it has decided to sag, especially around my knees.  Not that knees are very beautiful in the first place, but they are especially eye-catching when they have saggy skin on top of them.  And not in a good way.

Fine print on the television screen no longer appears as letters or numbers, but rather a squiggly, white blob.  I can squint and maybe make out a few words, but squinting contributes to other problems (see below).  A bigger television set would mean completely replacing the entertainment center….$$$$$.  I guess I could just wear my glasses, but they make me look old.  OK, look older.

My face has started to resemble a road map.  Actually, I guess it’s more of a topographical map, complete with all of the waterways and valleys.  The area around my eyes has many little rivers and tributaries, which I am sure are made worse by the squinting to make out the fine print on the television set (see above).  The valleys that extend from my nose down towards my chin are referred to by dermatologists as “parentheses”, in an attempt to make them seem more benign.  Some mornings, when I look in the mirror I expect to see a word between them, like my face has turned into an English paper.

The latest curve you have thrown at me is unruly eyebrows.  My hair is naturally wavy, which can be a good thing on top of your head.  Not on your eyebrows.  If I trim them back, I risk bald spots that will need to be filled in with pencil or sharpie pen.  If I leave them alone, they resemble what my hubby calls “Senator eyebrows”.  Look at those old guys next time you watch CNN.  You’ll see what I mean.

I have chronic bursitis/tendonitis in my hips which prevents me from running a marathon.  OK, I didn’t really want to run one anyway, but it’s easier to blame you.

Was it something I did to cause you to rebel? 

I apologize for the brief addiction to Diet Pepsi in the early 80’s, for the late nights and greasy cafeteria food in college, and for the years when I didn’t exercise at all.  I’m sorry for the hours spent by the backyard pool, sizzling myself in baby oil.  Maybe I didn’t appreciate you enough when you weren’t causing me any problems.

Is it too late for us?  Can we move forward together in partnership?  Or will I be fighting you every step of the way going forward?

I would love to be partners again and make this work out.  Speaking of working out, maybe you and I can hit the treadmill this afternoon.  Or get an iced mocha at Starbucks……