Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Favorite Year(s)

:::NOTE: I'll be taking a sort of "writing maternity leave" starting after this post. While I have this baby removed and recover from that, a handful of my super awesome friends are taking over. I promise they are each and every one way cooler than I am. :::


When I was a teenager I spent my summers working at the local JCC, first as a "CIT" (counselor-in-training, aka an unpaid babysitter) and then as a junior counselor. 

Every spring we were given the choice of any age group to work with, and while most of my peers fought for the older kids, I happily signed up for Chaverim, the 3-5 year olds.

These kids were my absolute favorite. They were still little and cute, and I could fit three of them on my lap at a time during Friday Shabbos singing. They thought I lived in the classroom. Most of them still needed help getting dressed for swimming class. They colored themselves with crayons and called going to the bathroom "making," as in, "Meri, I have to make."

Once, I heard giggling - from several voices - coming from our bathroom. There was no lock on the door to keep the kids from locking themselves in, so I peeked inside. There sat about four or five of my campers, perched around the rim of the toilet, little naked toushies in a row. I asked them what they were doing.

They were having a making party, of course. DUH.

How could you not love that, and I don't mean in a weird way?

Most of the kids I babysat, too, were 3-5 years old. I got 3-5 years old. I am expert at 3-5 years old. 

Kids that age still take everything at face value. They are absolutely unself-conscious. Their imaginations have kicked in, hard, and the crazier thoughts they have the more it all makes sense to them. If it enters their minds, it comes out their mouths. 

The 3-5 year old age range is just fine by me. I know it. I love it. Everything before, and everything after...I just try not to let them accidentally die, and maybe don't grow up to hate my guts. When they're teenagers I'm pretty sure, based on my own parents, all I have to do is pick from ignoring them, laughing at them, and telling embarrassing stories to their friends.

As I sit here waiting to go through the chaos, roller coaster, and exercise in sleep deprivation torture that is infanthood again, I keep reminding myself that before I blink, the Duke of Juban will be 3. My older son, the Juban Princeling, is 3, and although at times it felt like several decades passed during those first agonizing six months, here we are - he's 3 years old. He sits on the couch in his shiny blue scooter helmet, and Darth Vader costume, holding his blankie in one hand and his sippy cup in the other, with his dress-up knight doll resting happily by his side. His fingernails are painted blue because that's his favorite color, and what else would you do when you have a favorite color but paint it on your nails? (Liberal disclosure: blue is not his favorite color because we pushed it on him in some attempt at obeying gender rules. Blue is his favorite color because that's the color of my mother's car, and he is obsessed with her car.) His favorite word is "poop," and sometimes out of nowhere he'll stick out his butt and make a fake farting noise and then crack up. He insists his toys be friends with each other, and doesn't understand why Darth Vader has to be a bad guy. He comes into our room, sometimes, during the night and wants our attention but knows he's supposed to be quiet when people are sleeping, which is how I woke up last weekend to a fully extended, lit up light saber inches from my face.

Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with love and adoration I want to squeeze him and kiss him and hug him and never let him get older.

If this isn't the cutest, sweetest thing
you've seen all day, you are DEAD INSIDE.

And it's this, when I see him doing his "foot dance" (hopping around the living room on one foot) or when he tells me that the unborn baby's favorite color is purple, that I know will get me through those first months I'm so dreading, the months when we do nothing but give, give, give to this little sack of neediness and dependence. But some day the Duke of Juban will turn 3 and do things like call me his best friend, and run into my arms when he gets scared, and have entire conversations with me about the importance of proper vitamin color selection.

Eventually the Princeling, and, later, the Duke, will each turn 6 and I'll once again be utterly clueless as to how to deal with them. I assume I just throw food in their direction, hose them down once in a while, and hope they don't kill me in my sleep.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Joy(lessness) of a Valentine's Birthday

When you're a kid and Valentine's Day means little more than candy and Strawberry Shortcake/Transformers cards from your classmates, having a February 14th birthday is really not such a big deal.

Then you get older.

Junior high rolled around, and my priorities in life were:

  • Do I take the laces out of my Keds, or keep them in?
  • Are my acid-washed Edwin stretch jeans acid-washed and stretchy enough?
  • Do I have enough pins on my (acid-washed) Hard Rock Cafe jean jacket?
  • Is my hair permed enough?
  • Do I own enough yellow ribbon t-shirts to support our troops in Desert Storm?

In junior high, most kids didn't have "relationships" yet, and those who did were considered weird and/or sophisticated. My best friend Tia had a boyfriend who drove, and that was an enormous deal. 

What I do remember about Valentine's Day in junior high was that everyone got those shiny silver helium balloons to schlep around.

This was a problem for me, because it was also tradition to get your friends shiny silver helium balloons to schlep around on their birthdays, so that in every class they had to feign embarrassment and be all, "Yes, it's my birthday." 

But since my birthday was February 14th, my balloons from Tia went largely unnoticed. 

At least, I assume they went largely unnoticed. For my 13th birthday I was sick as a dog and had to stay home, and around lunch time I got a phone call from a pissed-off Tia hissing into the phone, "Where the fuck are you? Do you know I have to carry these stupid balloons around all day?"

As if I woke up on the morning of my own birthday with a 102 fever just to piss her off. Somehow she has managed to overcome this kink in our friendship and stick by me for the past 24 years.

Me at 16, circa 1992. Yes, those are clear braces.
No wonder I didn't have a boyfriend.

Then I got to high school, and the pain of a February 14th birthday started to sting a little bit. I had exactly two boyfriends in high school: one lasted for the first two months of my sophomore year, the other lasted for the first three months of my junior year. So, no Valentine's boyfriend to buy red carnations for me. No stupid pink bears to carry triumphantly through the halls. No chocolates to share. 

Most of my friends in high school just happened to be members of the school choral group - like a real life "Glee," but somehow even more gay. For Valentine's Day they did "Singing Valentines," where you could embarrass the crap out of someone by sending half a dozen or so singers to their class to serenade them. Since most of the singing group were my friends, they came to my 3rd period class for my 18th birthday and sang both "That's What Friends are For" and "Happy Birthday." 

To this day, that goes down as one of my best birthdays, ever. (Along with my 30th, when I took a personal day from work to stay home and watch the entire box set of "Firefly.")

Things I am sick of hearing when people find out my birthday is February 14:

  • Oh, your parents must extra love you! (Why, do your parents extra hate you because you weren't born on Valentine's Day?) (Also, do you realize this means that for 18 years my parents didn't get to celebrate Valentine's Day alone with one another?)
  • Do you get extra presents? (From who? My non-existent boyfriends?)
  • Your parents should have named you Valerie! Or Valentine! (Your parents should have named you Dumbass.)
  • Is it because you are extra loveable? (You tell me, after I finish punching you in the throat.)
  • Oh, that's Valentine's Day! (Is it? I HADN'T NOTICED.)
  • Don't you just love it? (No.)

Then I got to college and pretended like I was too existential to care about Valentine's Day. I wore a black knit beret and red lipstick, smoked clove cigarettes, and told everyone within earshot how nothing meant anything anyway.

My 20s rolled around and things got awkward. My girlfriends and I tried very hard to ignore Valentine's Day by focusing on my birthday instead, but even one's best gal pals can't hide from you the sight of all those lovey dovey couples out at dinner. One year we went to Eve Ensler's "V-Day" at Madison Square Garden, and that was kind of awesome. Queen Latifah performed and even Oprah showed up.

However, the year I was dreading happened for my 23rd birthday: the year all my friends had someone to spend Valentine's Day with, and I (still) did not. 

Back then air travel was dirt cheap, so I bought myself a ticket to England and spent the whole weekend in a small town where everyone thought my American accent was sexy and Valentine's Day was not a very big deal and I had to try real hard not to ruin the plot of "Friends" for people.

Finally, at the end of 2002 I met the Man Who Would Be My Husband. By Valentine's Day 2003 we were still too new, so I sent him an e-card and he texted me that he thought I was pretty, and sent me some chocolates and a little ceramic dragon.

And now all 26 of those lonely Valentine's Days don't matter, because all my future Valentine's Day birthdays belong to the man who has spent not one, but now two pregnancies of mine, listening to me talk about my digestive issues in harrowing detail, massaging my swollen feet, and picking up all the slack around the house, and still tells me, genuinely and sincerely, while I'm wearing the same faded grey undershirt (of his) and worn out maternity yoga pants outfit I've been wearing for four months non-stop, that he thinks I'm the sexiest, most beautiful woman in the world, and how he thinks he's the lucky one to get to travel our life paths together.

So, suck it, stupid Valentine's birthday. I win.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Spooky Kind of Love

Recently, the hubby and I have decided to re-watch the entire X-Files series.

Because, you know, with a baby due in about five weeks, we figured now is as good a time as any to jump into a new project. 

We probably won't watch the entire entire series; let's face it, at some point the show jumped the shark, turned around, jumped it again, and then did one more for good measure. It just so happens that this moment coincided with David Duchovny's leaving the series, but I like to think he left because the show went downhill, and not the other way around. I remember trying to watch it without D.D., for Gillian Anderson's sake, because feminism, but it was so painfully bad it made my eyeballs hurt. (What's Gillian Anderson up to these days, anyway?)

Right now, though, we're still in the middle of season 2, and aside from a few groan-worthy Creature of the Week eps (S2E7, "3" is so bad it made me want to punch myself in the throat, especially coming hot off the heels of the kick-ass 2-parter where Scully gets kidnapped by that crazy guy and sent in his stead to the aliens), it's still really good.

Back in the 90s, my brother, Mr. Funny got me into the X-Files. There's something tremendously satisfying about rewatching a favorite TV series, especially one as smart and fun as The X-Files. Like hanging out with old friends you haven't seen in a while. And it's especially awesome to watch the show with my husband, whom I didn't even know back in the 90s when The X-Files originally aired. We're both coming to the show with our own memories of it, and sharing those memories, and creating new ones together.

There's also a certain sentimental value to rewatching a show from the 90s: seeing those enormous cell phones, watching people use microfiche instead of the internet, the photos of Janet Reno and Bill Clinton in Skinner's office. I mean, honestly, what would Mulder have done with himself had he access to the internet in his cases? 

Actually, after the first episode I had an idea to start a blog from Scully's POV called "Shit I Have to Put Up With," where I'd write her thoughts from each episode. But, you know, baby coming. I swear kids ruin every damn thing.

Sample blog entry for the non-existent "Shit I Have to Put Up With: Agent Scully's Rantatorium" 

I was a little gassy today. Mulder thinks it's aliens.
Other things Mulder thinks are alien-related:
  • It's raining
  • He found a grey chest hair
  • Someone pressed all the buttons on the elevator
  • The roach coach across the street stopped selling chimichangas 
At least I got to do an autopsy, so the day isn't a total fail. Mulder was all, "The guy's not even dead yet, Scully!" but whatever. He was dead *enough*.

Because Scully has a total boner for doing autopsies. Like, all the time. You could make an entire drinking game out of Scully's autopsy boners and be drunk, like, every episode.

One of these days Mulder will let me autopsy him. And that? Will be a great day, indeed, my friends. I wonder what the inside of his stomach looks like? I bet its sexy. Whew, is it getting hot in here, or is it just this dissected lung I'm holding?


So this new guy, Krycek. Is. Totally. Hot. I keep asking Mulder if Krycek has asked about me, but you know my stupid partner. He's all, "Aliens!" and trying to cockblock me. Douche.
Krycek was totally my X-Files boyfriend back in the 90s, and we've finally hit the part in the series where he shows up. Except now his character seems so young and naive, and instead of being a horny late teen/early twentysomething, I'm now a mid-30s wife and mother and I feel a little dirty crushing on him. Oh, Krycek. You are so shady, and it's totally sexy.

Rewatching the show, I'm also reminded of the political tone of the 1990s, and how The X-Files helped usher in an era of government conspiracy porn: Men In Black, Conspiracy Theory, Independence Day, Alien Autopsy, etc. Remember the good ol' days, when we all thought our nation's biggest threat was secret aliens? *wistful sigh*

So. Have any of you ever re-watched an old favorite TV series? How was it?