“Sea of Love”

So I finally got to watch Juno during vacation, but this isn’t a movie review. I have a point, I promise.  There are numerous reasons why I like this flick.  The first time I watched it, I happily munched on my microwave kettle-corn as I soaked in the deliciously smart mouthed, intelligent protagonist. The script is well written; the characters are flawed and likable; it isn’t heavy-handed preachy, nor does it give the finger to traditional “family values.” It also revived an old pubescent crush of mine–Jason Bateman.* I’m so very glad to have had at least one junior-high celebrity that actually turned out to be talented. I’m sure River Phoenix would have also fit this category, but sadly, we will never know to what extent.

Anyway, so it was a nice little movie that I could enjoy… until the end at which point it went to a whole new level that packed such an emotional whallop for me that I’m still thinking about it. And the second time I watched it, it was just as powerful.

***SEMI-SPOILER ALERT*** Stop now if you don’t want to know how it ends.

Juno has just given birth to a boy. Adoption has been her plan from very early on. (In fact, the adoptive couple is the B-plot of the movie.) For the first time we witness Juno in a state of quiet and stillness, lying in her hospital bed. Her father gently strokes her hair and tells her that someday she will be back–meaning she will someday have a another child. A child that she will be able to raise and nurture. Her boyfriend Pauly enters the room still wearing his track uniform. “Nice legs,” she says, and dad leaves them alone.

Juno is not having second thoughts about giving up the child, but she is suffering. Without any words, Pauly understands this and quietly climbs into the hospital bed, holding Juno as she weeps into her pillow. Now, I’ll admit to being a sucker for a well-chosen, well-timed musical cue. This one was a deconstructed, simple cover of “Sea of Love” with delicate vocals.** What exquisite cinematography. The shot was from the vantage point of where Juno’s father was just sitting. The long close-up lets us really see Juno’s pain. The tenderness between Juno and Pauly is palpable. And the lovely Ellen Page freaking nails it without saying a word. A sixteen year old woman-child who is both experiencing the brunt of a difficult decision, but also sheltering in the love of her family and the father of the baby.

Perhaps this is so moving because Juno professed all along that she would give up this child. She seemed to understand well that her job was to take care of the baby to the best of her ability, and then to give the child to a couple who deserved a chance at parenthood. She seemed happy to do it. Not in a “Thank you, Adoptive Parents, for bailing me out of this huge mess I created so I can keep on being a kid” kind of happy. But in her words, an “I’m sixteen. I’m not well equipped” kind of way. This she knew all along, and she planned accordingly to give it to a couple who had been praying for a child.

What Juno didn’t know, what she never could have anticipated, what no mother (or father)-to-be can ever imagine, is how much she was going to love this child. It seems she was taken completely unawares of the power of this kind of love. Indeed, she was drifting in a sea of love with no boat, no oars, no buoys to mark the way to safe waters or back to shore. And this was when I did something I rarely do when I watch movies… I stopped analysing the plot, characters, and aesthetic. I just allowed myself to emotionally connect to that moment that resonated with me as a mother. Juno’s pain was not just the pain of giving her child away.

I remember feeling that way, and I’ve never given up a child. I don’t remember much about the hours, days, and first few weeks of my first-born daughter’s life. What I do remember is being completely bowled over by the sheer force of emotion this little creature inspired in me. I’ve never been one to really hold back or cut myself off from my own emotions. At least I didn’t think I was. But the magnitude of the love I felt for her caught me completely off guard. And I’m not a good swimmer.

I had no idea how overwhelming it would be. It actually frightened me because for the first time in my life, I felt as if my life depended on someone else. I honestly felt that if something were to happen to her, I didn’t know if I could stand it. If I were to wake up one morning, and she was not there, I didn’t think I could live through it. I felt helpless to her, this helpless baby that was mine to protect and to nurture.  If she was helpless without me, and I was helpless to her, then who was in control? Not me. Not me. And I’m not ashamed to say it completely freaked me out. I was overcome and drowning in a sea of love (and of sore body parts, poopy diapers, and sleepless nights, but that’s a blog for another day).

And the ebb and flow of this love was not predictable like the tides. Just when I thought I had a handle on it, just when I thought I could tread water, again another wave of love–the realization that no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to be as good as she deserved–would crash over me. Every mistake felt like failure. I remember chastizing myself for days because it hadn’t occurred to me that I could actually talk to her until my mom came over one day and starting chatting to her like it was the most normal thing in the world. I remember hating myself because she would be hungry, and I would hesitate for a nano-second because nursing hurt. The hours I spent nourishing her didn’t measure up to the fraction-of-a-second hesitation I harbored in my mind. I would have dreams of me and the baby in dangerous situations, and I had to choose between taking a guaranteed safe route but handing my baby over to a stranger, or holding onto my child and accepting a course with no guarantee of safety. My favorite dream was when I was trapped on a crumbling stair case and Bobby Knight (the hot-tempered basketball coach) stood at the top of the staircase with a long pole stretched out toward me, pleading with me to hook my baby to the end of the pole and he would pull her to safety. Yes, I really did dream that.

When my husband was chronically ill during my pregnancy and in LMG’s early months of life, I would catch myself imagining us (he and I) floating in the dark ocean, with no land in sight. We were bobbing in the water, and I had in each hand a long rope. At the end of one rope was a rowboat. At the end of the other rope was him. I couldn’t get him to hear me, to understand that I had a boat. He was adrift, focusing only on the pitch black night in front of him, and not the little bit of safety I could offer. This is not a metaphor for how my love for him could save him. We were both awash in a sea of love. Overcome by what we did not know, could not see, unsure of how much we could take, or how far we could go–together and alone. Alone was never an option. Yet, part of what made it so scary was because we loved each other so intensely. We were only thinking of, and trying to watch out for, the other. He could only think of the darkness that enveloped us and the threat it posed to me and our child. I could only think of not letting go of the rope that connected him to us.

Truth to tell, there are so many metaphors for that overwhelming, heart-filling, heart-breaking, bring you to your knees in joy, bring you to your knees in humility kind of love. Maybe it’s just me, but when that love hit me for the first time it was scary. It was emotionally painful. I felt raw, and exposed, and truly vulnerable for the very first time. Feeling love that strong will first make you aware of all the things you’re not, before you discover what it can help you to become. Sometimes I think we should talk about that more.

Yet, I would plunge into that ocean again and again and again. Sometimes I’m still not a very good swimmer. Sometimes that tide rolls me over, and I’m in way over my head. Sometimes I feel spat up on the shore, unlovable, and unfit to even tread love’s waters. I’ve learned not to fear those ebb and flows. To take them as they come. If I get tossed by a few big waves, I’m okay with that. They are still scary. I still don’t know how I’d live if something would ever happen to John or either of the girls. But the alternative would be to live life in the concrete, chlorinated pool, Sure, the water may be pretty, and I may be able to see the bottom, but nothing lives there. There would be a limit to the love that I could share. And I’d rather be helpless to the depths than be safe in the shallows.

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*I also liked him in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which did not get great reviews, nor is it the best kid movie ever made, but one could subject their children to worse movies–Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Have you ever seen it? Don’t.

** According to Itunes the artist is Cat Power. I highly recommend it, but it can’t be purchased as a single. Boo!

Happy to live under my rock thankyouverymuch.

It just occured to me about 43 seconds ago that I have not watched one bit of news, local or national, including the weather, in a week and I am just fine and dandy. If I’ve missed anything, I don’t wanna know.

Yesterday’s events, which I have dubbed “Happy Hoopla,” went off with pretty much no hitches whatsoever. It took awhile for the girls to come down off their toy and candy induced high. Just when things would start to calm down, another relative would show up bearing gifts for them. Our little house held thirteen people at one point, which is quite a few considering our little space. It was chalk full of fun and love, which is exactly the point, isn’t it?

Hope your holidays continue to be merry and bright!

A note to myself about Christmas.

So, I fully admit that when it comes to this Christmas, I have not had my eye on the ball. At all. My mind has been in about 16 different places, and Christmas had barely registered in my daily routine, let alone in my heart. This is all of my own doing, and I am not going to complain. At least I haven’t gone far into the commercial aspects, trying to assuage my mommy-guilt by buying Everything Under the Sun. It is soooo very easy to fall back on the whole Santa, reindeer, Frosty the Snowman aspects when there doesn’t seem to be time for anything. Especially when Santa and gifts and cookies and all that commercialism is exactly what kids want.

Everywhere I hear these admonitions about remembering the real meaning of Christmas, and they hit particularly close to home, because, well, this year I need that reminder. And while the nativity story is a beautiful one, I find myself thinking of what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph. First, to make such a long journey so late in her pregnancy. I remember when I was pregnant with Little Miss G, I didn’t even want to drive across town to the grocery store, I was so uncomfortable. Mary is often depicted riding on a donkey, but I can’t imagine that was much more comfortable.

Then there is Joseph, who must travel to a small, unfamiliar little town at a most inconvenient time. He sees his wife’s discomfort, and there is no place but a stable.  Can you imagine his anxiety? How hard it must have been for a man who wants to provide to the best of his ability to accept such a meager place for his wife to give birth to the Son of God? There was no one to help. No doctor, or midwife, or a more experienced woman to help her. Can you imagine what must have been going through is head, what prayers he must have been sending up to Heaven, as he cleared away the dirt and mess to clear a spot for Mary? But, if anything, Joseph is a study in humility and faith. I’m no biblical scholar, but as I’ve grown older, I understand the risks Joseph had to accept. He was reassured by the Lord’s angel, and his faith in God was unflinching, but just because he believed who this Child was, it was guarantee that all the people in his family and community–all the people who were important to him–would believe.

And then. There is the wonderful, perfect, Holy Child. A baby–tender, human, and sweet– just as all babies are. I imagine Mary nuzzling that brow with her cheek and whispering prayers of thanksgiving, like mothers every where, throughout time, do when they hold their newborn miracles in their arms and try to comprehend the life they have just brought forth. That same, warm brow that could now fit into the palm of her hand, would someday be pierced with thorns to mock him.

She holds his two tiny feet in her warm hands, admiring the tiny perfection of his toes. Those same feet would someday be washed in perfumed oil and dried with a woman’s hair, such was the woman’s love for Him. Later on those feet would walk to a place of agony and death to take the place of all sinners for all time, such was His love for us.

And finally, those hands, tiny little fingers curled into a fist, Mary slips her finger inside of his palm and marvels at the strength of  his tiny grip. Eventually those hands would reach out to the prostitute, the tax collector, the adulterer, the sick and the poor–offered in friendship, and acceptance, and love, over and over and over again, until finally they would be extended out and nailed upon the cross.

A woman as devout as Mary would know who this Child is. She knew that there would come a day when she will have to submit to Him, to serve Him, to accept Him as her Lord.

Did she know the pain He would suffer? There would come a day when He would be betrayed; when a crowd of His brethren would look upon Him and and shout, “Crucify Him!” She would have to watch her Son die. I am certain she knew that He would conquer death, but I cannot imagine that that would soothe the suffering she must have felt at His agony on the cross. I also cannot imagine her joy to behold her Lord arisen from His tomb, clothed in glory.

Yet for this moment, for this night, here was the newborn Son of God, the Lamb sweetly sleeping, the Messiah that had been promised to us all.  A baby, so much like any other newborn child, yet who was so, so much more that the angles sang for joy, and their chorus was heard on Earth.

Fa la LA la LA… la LA…la LA!!!

Christmas tally is as follows:

Times we’ve watched A Christmas Story this past week: 2 (LMG is a chip off the old block in the way she can quote movie lines)

Times we’ve listened to the “Mr. Heatmiser” remake by Big Bad VooDoo Daddy: 15 (love that song!)

Number of gifts I’ve wrapped so far: 7

Number of gifts John’s wrapped so far: I have no clue, but it’s a LOT.

Rounds of gift exchanges so far: 4 (work/school/out-of-town friends & family)

Number of requests for permission to buy girls a pet for Christmas: 1 (fish-permission granted)

Planned “holiday cheer” outings with friends: 3 (so far)

Number of times I’ve had to remind the girls that Santa is watching: only fifty-jillion

Number of conversations about Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in the manger and the “real” meaning of Christmas: only 1, but it has been ongoing for at least a month now.

The only thing that’s lacking right now is that I’d really, really love to take the girls to a traditional Christmas Eve service to hear a choir sing all those beautiful Christmas songs. The church I occasionally attend does not have a Christmas Eve service. I used to love the Christmas Eve services at my old church. My girls have never been to one, and I feel bad about that. They are truly missing out. I’m looking for a  “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night” kind of Christmas Eve.

Any suggestions?

Scathed, but undaunted.

Little Miss G doesn’t get sick very often. So when she woke up early Friday morning complaining that her throat hurt, I decided she was staying home and going to the doctor. I’m not going to toy around with wht might be strep throat less than two weeks before Christmas. So, to the doctor we went. As he was filling out her prescription he says, “Wow, I haven’t seen you for awhile. It’s been a good fall for you. Knock on wood.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “We have made it through the summer and fall relatively unscathed.” I’ve been so busy I hadn’t really noticed. Plus, the girls are finally getting old enough that I don’t have to run to him for every runny nose or every 24-hour stomach bug.

Yeah. So I think maybe famous freaking last words might have to become the official tag-line of this blog. About 35 hours after the doctor visit, Super L took a spill from her chair while eating dinner. This is probably about the third time she has done this recently, because she used to sit down and eat with single-minded focus, now she wiggles, she sings, she excuses herself to go get herself a clean napkin or another juice. She is perpetual movement lately.  It scares the be-jeebees out of John and me every time, but usually there’s some crying, a little consoling, and then a quick recovery. No such luck this time. It wasn’t good.

By the time I was able to scoot out of my chair and look under the table to see how she landed, I saw that she had her hand up to her eye and blood was seeping between her fingers. There was lots of blood and once we were able to really see the cut, we knew right away we had to go to the ER. Thankfully my brother was over when the whole thing happened, so we didn’t have to take LMG, and we didn’t have to call a sitter.

By the time we got her a little cleaned up and dressed, she was fine. She walked out to the car as happy as a clam. She walked into the ER as chipper as… whatever.  She was singing songs to the nurses. She was wiggling all over the ER bed. She was taking it all in stride.The pediatric ER doctor at first thought we might be able to glue the incision, but once she cleaned it she decided that the cut actually ran deeper and at an odd angle. It would have to be stitches. And the shot to numb her beforehand.

I know every parent knows the agony of having to watch/listen/assist when something must be done for their child that is painful, but medically necessary. I’m not a squeamish person, and I can be pretty emotionally steely when I have to be. But oh, as her daddy and I held her hands (and her legs) and a nurse held her head, my big, almost 3-year-old girl suddenly looked so tiny on that hospital bed and she was suddenly my baby again. It was all over and done with pretty quick, but still it seemed like forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that this was not a big deal. I don’t want to over dramatize what is essentially a routine procedure to treat something that happens to a bagazillion kids everywhere. She was such a brave girl. In fact as soon as the stitches were in and she was cleaned up, the nurse took her to go get a popcicle, which as every parent knows, popcicles and chocolate milk fix everything for two year-olds.

And can I just pause for a moment to say how much I love nurses. Especially the really good ones who know exactly what to do and say to little kids to keep them distracted when things are getting scary. And how to reward them when the scary stuff is over. By the time the popcicle was eaten, she was back to trying to climb and twirl and all kinds of other things. In other words, she is fine. In fact, when we got home she spotted her plate of food, still uneaten, sitting exactly as it had been when the whole thing happened. She clambered up into the very same chair she fell from and proceed to chow down. So in other words, she is totally fine.

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All Over You

Okay, not exactly sure what a meme stands for, but I got this from my friend Dana over at Looseyfur. I thought it was fun, so here I go:

1. Put your iPod or whatever music player you have on shuffle. (We own iPods… go figure).
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
4. Tag 5 friends who might enjoy doing this as well as the person you got this from. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY?  EZ by Pete Yorn

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?  So Cruel by U2

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? Afer Ventus by Enya

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? Lovetown by Peter Gabriel

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?  Nightingale by Norah Jones

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?  You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?  How You’ve Grown by 10,000 Maniacs

WHAT IS 2+2?  Help Me, Rhonda by The Beach Boys

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?  Count On Me by Jefferson Starship

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?  Fill Her Up by Sting

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?  5150 by Van Halen

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?  Life Support from RENT the Broadway Musical

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?  Not My Friend by Norah Jones

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?  You Left it Up to Me by Indigo Girls

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING? Wait by Sarah McLachlan

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?  Don’t Be Cruel by Bobby Brown

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?  Ronnie by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?  Vox by Sarah McLachlan

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?  I Feel for You by Chaka Kahn

WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?  Hit Peter Gabriel

HOW WILL YOU DIE?  Fear by Toad the Wet Sproket

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?  Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH? Home Again in My Heart by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?  Too Young by Phoenix

WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?  Dark Night of the Soul by Loreena McKennitt

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?  Charm by Wild Colonials

DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?  I’m Free by Jon Secada

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?  Kansas by Jennifer Knapp

WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW? Star 69 by R.E.M.

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?  All Over You by Live

I’m supposed to send this to 5 people… but, I’m not sure who reads this who has a blog, so I’ll just leave it to anyone who wants to continue it in their blogs or e-mail. If you do decide to try this, be sure to leave me a link to your blog or send it to me via e-mail. I thought this was fun.

Here fishy, fishy, fishy…

John and I have agreed, upon the recommendation of Grandpa, to increase the number of living creatures in our happy home.

We have agreed to allow Grandpa to give the girls a fish tank for Christmas. We even agreed to let him buy fish, too! He’s going to wrap up the tank and the paraphenalia, and on Christmas evening he’ll get the water, filter, lights, and scenery all set up… and then once we’re sure the water is de-chlorinated and ready to go, he’s going to take them to the pet store and let them pick out their own fish. I think this is a totally cool idea. As John said, none of our gifts are even going to matter now, so we might as well take them back. I think he might be right.

On flip side, John and I had agreed not to bring any more living things into this house until 1 masters thesis was completed and all children were totally potty trained. And while I don’t really anticipate fish taking up an inordinate amount of my time, I think back on all the other times I’ve thought this, and I want to kick myself and say… famous freaking last words!

I hope this isn’t going to be one of those times.

Memories, Vol. 1: The Oxydol Box.

It was a hot summer day that is typical of the Midwest, but my grandparents’ yard had huge trees that afforded a lot of shade. Besides, when you’re seven years old, heat is not really a factor. It’s incidental. It’s just there, and you keep doing whatever it was you planned to do anyway. It wasn’t a particularly special weekend, not a holiday, birthday, or anniversary, but nevertheless quite a few people had found their way to my grandma and grandpa’s house. My cousin Matt and I spent the late morning and early afternoon alternating between swinging on Grandma’s swing in the shade, playing Star Wars, chasing each other around the trees, and pestering my youngest uncle who had a volleyball net set up in the front yard and was playing with the neighbors from across the street.

Grandma and grandpa rented a farmhouse that they did not own, so there was quite a bit on that property that was off-limits to my cousin and me. For example, we were not allowed to explore the big white barn that sat far behind the house, or go to the pond behind the barn. We were not allowed to cross the far end of the circle driveway and play around the silos unless we had an adult with us. This didn’t really matter because the yard we were allowed to play in was absolutely huge according to my recollection, with a big open sunny patch in front of the house and a wide heavily shaded space between the house and the driveway where Grandma’s freestanding swing stood. All around us was corn fields, and the nearest neighbors lived right across the street. It was the only other house in plain view, even from Grandma’s front porch.

One place Matt and I were allowed to play was the small, cinder block shed that sat in the middle of the circle drive. Grandpa stored his tools in there, and we knew better than to mess with them, but we loved to duck out of the heat in there and cool off while playing in the big pile of saw dust and dirt Grandpa swept off to the corner. On this particular weekend, however, Grandpa had warned Matt and I to stay away from that little shed because he noticed some yellow jackets or something flying around there, but he hadn’t had a chance to find the nest and get rid of it. Bummer. But ok. I wasn’t a risk taker when it came to stinging things. I’m still not.

It was clear that everyone was going to stay for dinner, so my grandma asked my mom to run into town to buy groceries at Kroger and to pick up a box of Oxydol while she was there because she was also out of laundry detergent. I knew Grandma was waiting for Mom to get back from Kroger, but I kept running inside the house and asking Grandma when we were going to eat, hoping the answer would change, I suppose. And I actually remember her getting a little impatient with me, which I don’t recall ever happening before or since. I must have been really hungry. Matt and I had burned off a lot of energy running from the shaded side yard all the way up front to where Darrin and his friends were playing volleyball. Back and forth. Back and forth. Barefoot, sweaty, lay in the grass, swing on the swing, get a drink of sweet tea, lay in the grass, jump up and do it all over again.

When Mom’s car finally pulled into the drive I was ecstatic. Food! She parked in section of the circle drive that was closest the back door of the house, but it was still quite a way from the drive to the house. I went running along to the passenger side of the car, scooting sideways between the open car door and the cinder-block shed and jumping up and down chanting, “You’re home, you’re home, you’re home.” Matt came running along after us. She handed each of us a loaf of bread, grabbed the big box of Oxydol and told us to go to the house. We had barely made it to the front of the car when suddenly, and unmistakingly, this huge buzzing thing made a wide circle around all three of us. Like I said, it huge. It was loud. It was after us. It was sizing us up and choosing a target. We all three stopped instantly and stood silently in our tracks for about a second before Mom looked at Matt and I, and I heard her say, “Run!”

We did. And we were about halfway to the house when I accidentally stepped on Mom’s foot with my own, tripped and fell down. Instantly I felt this very large bug struggling around in my hair and bouncing up against my neck. The buzzing was so loud it sounded like a chainsaw. I was scared. Too scared to get up. It had already caught me, or rather, my hair had caught it, so running would have been pointless anyway. In my fear, I did what your normal reflex is to do; I grabbed the knot of hair that it was tangled up inside, and I was stung on the finger. It hurt. Bad. Mom picked me up and could see that it was caught in my hair. To this day I will never understand how she got that thing out of my hair alive, but she did. But it came back. Oh yes, it came back.

Once I was stung, I was completely unaware of what was going on around me. I suddenly found myself standing on my feet, but all I could look at was my left index finger that was throbbing with heat and pain and rapidly swelling. I remember standing on the walk looking down at my finger and crying hard. I had no clue that Mom had successfully disentangled the vicious creature, and I was unaware that it had come after me again. All I could do was feel the pain. So I stood there looking at my finger while my mom was heroically trying to defend me. With an Oxydol box. Every time it came near me, she valiantly took a swipe at it with the box samuri-style. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have this whole scene caught on video tape so I could see it for myself.

The insect clearly wasn’t going to give up on the fight. To this day Mom says she has never seen anything like it. Whatever I had done (jump up and down near its nest when I met Mom at her car), it considered me an intruder and wasn’t going to stop until I was either dead or no longer a threat to the nest. It continued it’s pattern of  retreat and attack, and my mom, bless her heart, every time she would swing that box she would miss this insect and give me a little more than a glancing blow, but not exactly a direct hit, to the head or back. It wasn’t enough to counter the pain in my finger because I didn’t even feel it… I didn’t even know it was happening. But…

…But to everyone else–my mom’s brothers, the neighbors playing volleyball in the front yard, all the great-aunts and great-uncles in the house–it looked like she had completely snapped and was beating the living daylights out of me with a box of detergent that was nearly as big as I was as I just helplessly stood there without moving. Shocked, they all watched this unfold. I can only imagine what must have been running through their heads. Meanwhile, mom is defending me with the box that must have started to separate at the seams, because when she finally landed a direct blow on the insect and to the top of my head, the box flew open and Oxydol went flying across the yard, through the air, settling softly on the deep green grass. Snow in July! Whopee!

Of course, it all happened so fast. After all that commotion Mom finally got me into the house, still bawling hysterically, and there was a lot of explaining to do. They all thought they had just witnessed a terrible beating. The only other person who knew that the yellow-jacket/hornet thing was even there was my cousin Matt who had made it safely to the house, but evidently hadn’t yet had a chance to explain what was really going on. Once it was understood that, no, they had not just witnessed a horrible incident of a mother completely snapping on her child, the story quickly became funny. I remember Grandpa, of all people, insisting that he be the one to administer the first aid to my swollen finger, and he quietly chastised himself for not disposing of the nest sooner as he wrapped my finger in gauze.

I don’t really remember what happened much that evening. Maybe because it was uneventful. Maybe it was because I had a mild concussion. Who knows. I was probably pampered a bit, and I probably took advantage of it. I would find out a few years later that Grandpa and my great-uncle had gone out late that very night into the summer heat with long sleeves, heavy pants, work gloves, and flashlights, to seek and destroy the nest. Har har Har! So I got the last laugh, you vicious, relentless, stingy-thingy.

This story used to be recollected fairly often at family get togethers. It always began with, “Hey, remember that time Rita beat Denise with that Oxydol box…” to which we’d all laugh and the story would have to be retold. Enjoy!