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Archive for the ‘Outings’ Category

Country Time

For Robin’s birthday, we visited her family in Georgia.  She comes from a small town — and when I say small, I don’t mean a town with a McDonald’s but no Taco Bell.  I don’t mean a town where the mall has a lousy selection and a cheesy fountain. 

I mean a town without a gas station.  A town of fewer than 300 residents.  A town where the only street light is the blinking caution light you roll through as you pass the abandoned mill.  A town where there is one restaurant, named simply, “The Chicken Place,” that until last year was housed in a defunct gas station with sagging old-time pumps.  In this town, Robin’s father was at various points both the mayor and the fire chief, and neither of those was his full-time job. 

It was the perfect place for some R&R in the midst of a summer of nonstop travel.  We lolled in the pool, walked in the woods, played with kids and, of course, ate and ate and ate.  Miles disappeared into the play room at Nana and PaPa’s house for long stretches of time with his cousins.  I curled up on the couch with a book for most of a day.  At Aunt Martha Ann and Uncle Bill’s house (clear across town, about a quarter of a mile away), we feasted on turkey, cornbread muffins, black-eyed peas, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, garden-fresh sliced tomatoes, creamed corn,  sweet tea and caramel cake.  Miles climbed tractors, a boat and a handful of lawn mowers.

So, basically, it was exactly like daily life in Brooklyn.  (Not.)

Into the woods.

 

"Miles have it?"

 

Nana's kitchen.

 

Turn signal.

 

Photo by Taylor Davidson.

Boat!

 

Cousins.

 

Homeward bound.

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Peas in a pod.

On the way home from music class Friday morning, we stopped spontaneously at a large, lovely playground that we don’t get to very often.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, so we usually go somewhere closer unless we are meeting someone.  Miles, thrilled with his good luck, clambered up a metal ladder (when did he start climbing ladders?!), chattering away in multi-word sentences (when did he start chattering?!).

At the top of the slide, he shouted joyfully, “Binn!”

Playgrounding in February.

“What Miles?”

“Finn!  Finn! Is she?  Where … is she? Where?”

I realized with shock that he was remembering the last time we’d played at that playground, almost a month earlier.  We’d played with his very best friend, Finn, and he expected her to be here today.  He scanned the playground eagerly from his perch.  Big kids shouting, tots racing through a water sprinkler, everywhere the hot sun.  No Finn.

Of course he expected to see her.  We see Finn at least once a week, and it had been much more than that since our last play date.  But Finn was on vacation with her moms.  “Sorry Miles,” I said.  “No Finn today.”  After a few seconds, he gave up, skidding forlornly down the slide.

Spring.

He’s been this way about Finn for quite some time.  Like the first time I mistakenly mentioned we were going to Finn’s house an hour before we were supposed to leave.  Miles marched to the door and began banging on it, chanting her name.  In case I wasn’t getting the point, he grabbed his shoes from the bin, thrust them into my hands, and entreated, “Go!” 

For several months, I was sure he thought Finn’s name was “More.” 

“Do you want to go see Finn?” I would ask.

“More, more, more,” Miles would chant, firmly signing “friend” with his hands. 

“Are you saying more friend?”

He’d look at me.  Concentrate. “More.” (Sign “friend.”) “Please.”

Got milk?

They met at two months old in a coffee shop.  A mutual friend connected Robin and me with Finn’s moms, Alicia and Melissa, because we were lesbian families who’d had babies within two weeks of each other.  At that point, Miles and Finn were bald and squirmy grubs, rooting for the breast.  They couldn’t have cared less about socializing.  Then they moved on to parallel play, eyeing one another with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, until their first tortured attempts at sharing.  Now their friendship is a passionate and intense toddler love fest.  He mostly calls her “Binn,” and she mostly calls him “Biles.” They’re a funny pair, both blonde and blue-eyed, running around like a couple of Scandinavian elves out of a fairy tale.  They scream each other’s names. 

“Biles!  Biles!  Biles!”

“Binn! Binn!  Binn!”

“Biles!”

“Binn!”

They debate the finer points of Elmo and Ernie.  They hug, they read, they giggle, they grab, they cry, they push, they chase.  

So funny!

A few months ago, we asked Miles and Finn for the first time if they would like to kiss each other goodbye.   We were finishing up a play date, and they’d been milling about, grabbing toys off the ground, turning in circles, grabbing the dogs’ tails. 

Both stopped.  They looked at each other.  And then they bolted — not away but toward each other — collided belly to belly and nose to nose, and bounced back, stunned.  Contorting with suppressed laughter, we asked if they would like to try again.  Finn smiled.  Miles approached.  He tilted his head and teetered.  Finn grasped his arm and leaned and… contact! 

The smooch train.

With Finn and Alicia, we go to the playground, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the amazing sandbox at Pier 6, the Transit Museum, the park.  Sometimes Robin and I babysit Finn, and other times Alicia and Melissa babysit Miles.  In the Fall, Miles and Finn will be together in a cooperative preschool, which means Alicia and I will be taking turns (with other parents) teaching and providing snacks. 

Best of all for me, as the kids’ friendship has developed — in between the breastfeeding, the diapers, and the snack times — Alicia and I have become great friends too.  We sneak in actual, adult conversations sometimes, conversations that help keep me sane and balanced.  On weekends sometimes we get together all six of us: four moms talking and two toddlers climbing and babbling.  In those moments, I realize just how eloquent our son really is.  More.  Friend. Please. 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Two little monkeys jumpin' on the bed.

Play date.

 

Push!

 

 

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On Sunday afternoon, RJ and Robin and Miles and I stood outside our apartment building. 

“You look so rested,” RJ was telling me.  “Doesn’t she look like she just came back from a vacation? Your face looks different.”

“It does,” Robin admitted.

Which was kind of weird.  I hadn’t come back from a vacation; in fact, I’d just returned from a three-day trip in which I flew to California (with a layover in Minneapolis), attended a memorial service, slept very little, got up in the early morning dark, and flew back to New York (with a layover in Minneapolis).  On the various planes, I’d been squished in between snoring businessmen, stuck without food for hours at a time,  and, worst of all, had the window seat next to a couple returning from a fractious visit to their in-laws.  (“He was mocking me the whole time.” “That wasn’t mockery — why would you say that?” “He was mocking me.  You never notice it.”)  All of this followed by a harrowing cab ride complete with a skidding, screeching  near-death on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I’d had, by most people’s reckoning, a brutal few days.  Yet I felt magnificent.  Why?  They were three days without Miles.

I’m not a horrible mother.  Really.  I just needed a long break, a break so long that I would be forced to stop planning, coordinating, anticipating, meeting needs.  A break in which I would be Not In Charge of Anything.  A break in which I would not wipe anyone else’s bottom, prepare anyone else’s food, wipe up anyone else’s spills, bathe anyone else’s body, convince anyone else (ever so cheerfully) to please, please, please climb the stairs or get out of the tub or let me put on your shoes or sit on the potty instead of running around naked and shrieking.  Yet as much as I needed such a break, I could not imagine taking one, and I could not imagine being without Miles for several days.  The longest I’ve been away from him is ten hours.  Leading up to my departure, I was anxious and fearful.

Then I got on the plane.  Almost immediately, I started having thoughts.  I thought about Robin dancing, my years working at a newspaper, the neighbors we had when we first moved to Brooklyn.  I thought about college and friendships, about my childhood cat, about family, about the man whose life I was traveling to celebrate.  And then I thought, “Hey, I’m back!  I’m Melissa!”  Meaning, not Miles’ mom.  Meaning, the person I have been my whole life, since I was a kid, that consciousness that has accompanied me through decades and changes of scenery.  That consciousness I’d somehow lost track of.  For the last two years my brain has been tuned to a different channel — the channel of snacks and naps and meal plans and housekeeping.  The noise of daily parenting had become so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. 

Three simple days.  I read three books.  I listened to people.  I went where I was supposed to be.  I carried only the things I needed.  (No toy trains!  No sippy cups!)  I felt calm.  And I made a list of what I need to do to feel this way again.  It included things like nights out, yoga, back-up day care, meditation, reading books, writing in a journal.

 After the list, I turned to a fresh page and wrote one sentence.

It was: I don’t want to lose this.

This is dedicated to all those parents who are so busy doing they don’t have time to think.  Let’s figure it out together.  Let’s change the channel sometimes, if only for a few minutes.  Let’s listen to ourselves.  And then let’s gather up our partners and our children and hold them in our arms, as I did with Robin and Miles on Sunday, and let that peace emanate from us to them.

You missed me. Admit it.

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Yeah, so I haven’t been on the blog too much. Here are some recent photos, in no particular order, with no particular theme. My apologies — more entries soon!

Crib.

Seriously?

The reading room.

Train to D.C.

Raisins.

So fresh and so clean.

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Okay, I’m sure by now you’ve heard this, but I must shout it from the rooftops: NEW YORK LEGALIZED GAY MARRIAGE!!!!!

Yay!

 

The world does not contain enough exclamation points to express our joy and excitement.  What does it mean that we can get married legally in our own state?  After 12 years together and 8 years of marriage (in a beautiful winery ceremony that wasn’t legally valid), after getting married by a judge in San Francisco City Hall in 2004 only to have our marriage declared void by the courts six months later, after settling for domestic partnership in the state of California and the city of New York, after vows and daily life and bringing each other coffee and making a baby and then surviving the first year with said baby — after all that, we can get legally married in our state. 

Pretty jazzed.

 

It means that when we have a second child, we won’t have to go through the whole adoption fiasco.  It means that in New York state, our family will be treated as a family instead of as a collection of strangers who happen to live together.  I will

Family pride.

no longer have to check the box for “single” when I fill out official forms.  We can file our state taxes together, and Robin can declare head of household.  There will no longer be an invisible asterisk hovering in the air when I call Robin my wife.

In short, it is amazing.  So yes, we’re going to get married again.  Yes, yes, and yes!

On Sunday, to celebrate, we marched as a family in NYC’s gay pride parade, walking alongside Big Apple Dodgeball. (Yep, that’s gay dodgeball.  Just let the image sink in for a moment.)  Robin has played several seasons of dodgeball, mostly before becoming a mother, and she is well respected within the league for her athleticism and sportsmanship.  The dodgeballers showered love on Miles, the first official dodgeball baby, and cavorted about shooting each other with water pistols.  The crowd held signs reading, “A Promise Kept” and “Thank You Governor Cuomo.”  They wore stickers saying, “‘I Do’ Support Marriage Equality” and “God Made Me Queer.”  Onlookers oohed and ahhhhed over Miles, and he got lots of laughs with his T-shirt that read, “I was hatched by a couple of chicks.”  The mood was ebullient and the weather perfect. 

Miles held up beautifully as we trekked 40+ blocks through the city, ending in the Village, near the site of the Stonewall riots that sparked the gay rights movement.  Close to the end of the parade, the streets narrowed and the cheering intensified.  I felt both enclosed and uplifted, buoyed by the shouts of support.  Sure, some of the people were just screaming for the dodgeballers to throw them free candy and inflatable balls, but still!  It was beautiful!

Dodgeballers.

 

Wonderful and super.

 

California, you are going to have a pretty hard time winning me back now. 

Jubilation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you have superior produce, access to beautiful hiking, and transcendent Mexican food.  You are home to many of my dearest friends and to much of my family.  But you have broken my heart repeatedly.  You spit on my relationship one too many times.  Despite your reputation for inclusive liberality, you have allowed hate and fear to prevail.  I’ve found a better state, a state that will treat me right.  California, unless you can get your act together, we’re through for good.  And I’m not looking back.

 

 

Having a ball.

 

Giddy optimism.

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Required reading.

I remember when Miles found his hands.  He was just a wiggly little grub, fleshy and bald, grunting and trying in vain to roll himself over.  He’s still exploring his body and what it can do, of course, but lately his awareness has expanded beyond himself.  About a week ago, he discovered the existence of tails.  Before that, he met and befriended his shadow, waving shyly at it whenever the two meet.  And lately, he can’t stop thinking and talking about nighttime — specifically about the moon and stars.     

Cookie!

I blame Signing Time Volume 3 for this; it taught him the signs for night, day, sun, moon and stars, among others.  (Cookie?  Really?  Thanks a lot, Rachel Coleman.  Did we really need to teach him how to demand a cookie?)  Now Miles sits alone in his room, hunting through EVERY one of his books to find moons and stars.  “Mama?  Mama?  MAMA!” he hollers.  I run back to the bedroom, hands drippy with dish suds, convinced that he’s tangled in the curtains or trapped under a bookshelf  — but no.  He holds up a picture of a beach ball with a star on it.  “Star?” 

He spots stars when we’re out running errands, glimpsing the five-pointed beauties on flags, construction vans, the handles of snack cups, handbags, posters, strollers, t-shirts, canned foods, and even tattooed on the toe of a nurse who was checking him for Coxsackie virus (which he had — ugh). And where there’s stars, he’s downright indignant not to encounter their usual celestial chaperone, the moon. 

“Moon?” he asks me beseechingly, holding his hands up in the “where” sign. 

"Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews.

“No, there’s no moon there, but aren’t those stars on that beer truck lovely?” 

“Moon?  Moon? Moon?”   

At first I was tempted to see profundity in this interest of his.  I heard the booming voice of a National Geographic film narrator in my head, intoning, “From our earliest days, mankind has been entranced by the heavens.” Indeed.  Why is Miles so captivated by the moon and stars of all things?  What does he think they are?  I imagine Miles pondering the origins of life, yearning wordlessly to understand his place in the cosmos.  Who am I?, he might be wondering.  Why am I here?  Then I remember how much he loves garbage trucks and construction equipment.  Hmmmph.  Do garbage trucks and bulldozers evoke the mystery of creation, destruction and decay?  The building up and tearing down of our flimsy plans? The impermanence of human experience? The futility of desire?  Or does he just like loud noises and moving parts? 

Every night, the same two books.

Well, I was enthralled with this moon/stars thing.  But what once was cute, I have begun to loathe.  Must we read “Goodnight Moon” every night now?  We must.  Must Mommy draw moons with the sidewalk chalk every time?  She must.  Miles asks me to draw a star on the sidewalk for the 917th time and before I can finish it, he  shrieks, “Moon?  Moon? Moon!?!” because stars need the moon.  Right now!

In those moments, I wish this whole moon thing could be over FOREVER and I wonder why I ever thought he was poetic or even charming — in fact, maybe he has some mental defect! a moon fixation! —  and he’s pointing at my desperate, smearing moon-deficient sidewalk-chalk galaxy and walking backwards away from me, chanting  and signing “moon, moon, moon” as I clasp my hands over my ears to drown out that hateful word. 

Just when I’m ready to sell him to a roving band of gypsy astronomers, he falls silent.  He stares rapturously at the flowers in the window box.

He approaches the flowers.  Signs flower.  Squats, bends, sniffs.  “Mmmmm.”  Smiles.

Could he be any cuter??  Jeez.  I relax.  For now.

Smelling the flowers. Literally.

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Dear Miles,

Today is adoption day.  In a few hours, the three of us will appear in court.  A judge will look at some paperwork, perhaps say a few words, and declare us a family.  But I think you know that we have been a family all along.  Momma becomes your legal, official mother today — and that is cause for celebration.  But she has always been yours.

She was with you from the beginning. 

She cradled you in the early days at home.

She held you in her hands.

She soothed you into sleep.

 

She is yours, from the inside out.  For your whole life.

Happy adoption day, Miles.  Happy family.  Happy love.

Love, Mommy

 

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