rooted, but still growing

Archive for July 2008

So how wrong is it that I was late getting back to work from lunch because I was in my car in the parking lot listening to the new single by New Kids on the Block?

 

And just how is it that 15 years after the NKOTB hysteria just the sound of them can make me melt into a giant adolescent puddle? Seriously. After hearing the song the first thing I did when I got back to my office was check out their website. It’s a good thing the Internet didn’t exist back in the day or my little third-grade self would have been thrown in juvie for stalking. I loved New Kids on the Block. Actually I think theirs was the first music I listened to that wasn’t country, though I’m not exactly sure who it was that introduced me to all the one-strap overall wearing, falsetto-singing, baby-faced goodness and mass hysteria.

 

We all had our favorites back then. Mine was Jordan Knight. And while most of my friends opted for Donnie or Joey, occasionally someone would declare their love for Jordan and we’d get into a jealous tussle because, you know, you can’t like the same guy. Especially in the high-drama world of elementary school.

 

There was one thing that never changed, though – no one liked Danny. We all thought he looked like a monkey, and he never got any good tabloid or Teen Beat press. I remember spending an entire Sunday afternoon with my friend Elizabeth trying to learn dance moves from the New Kid music videos, and pouring over magazine articles and photos. I think she even had New Kids on the Block collector dolls. My personal merchandise collection was limited to a few posters, cassette tapes and a t-shirt (the image of which was timelessly captured in a dazzling photograph of me with moppy blonde hair and my shirt tucked into the elastic waistband of bright blue cotton shorts. Ah, the early 90’s).

 

I was heartbroken when the ‘Kids went their separate ways, though I apparently got over it and didn’t give much thought to them after that, despite Jordan and Joey’s attempts at solo careers and Donnie’s foray into acting. Now that they’ve reunited, though, I find myself searching for tour dates. I never had the opportunity to see them live. I wouldn’t say it was a lifelong dream or anything, but it would be sorta fun to catch a concert and relive my childhood fantasies. The only hurdle besides finding a close enough show date would be finding someone to go with me. Steve adamantly refuses on the grounds that it would knock him down a few notches on the manliness scale.

 

On a more adult note, we closed on our house and started moving in Thursday night. With the help of our awesome neighbors and a few of Steve’s buddies we got all of our furniture except the computer desk moved in yesterday and were able to spend our first night in the house last night. I’m not sure whether it was sheer exhaustion, a rotated mattress or just the fact that we were in our house, but it was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in ages. I truly love this house – there’s just enough room for everything without it feeling cramped. It’s perfect for our lifestyle, it’s comfortable, it’s affordable, it’s just … fantastic!

 

There’s still a lot of work to be done. We have little things that still need moved, plus a craptastic garage at the townhouse to clean out. I need to buy shower curtains and rugs to decorate the bathrooms, plus miniblinds and curtains for the windows. It’s a good thing we don’t have many neighbors because they would have been treated to (or tortured by?) quite the peepshow this morning as Steve and I got ready for work. We’re buying a kennel for Waylon this weekend and my parents are planning to bring her over either Friday or Saturday. I’m so excited to see how much she’s grown since I last saw her.

 

And I just had my first-ever six month job review. It went really well, despite all the worrying and spazzing I did about it. I’m sure I’m about to jinx myself because whenever things seem to be going really well something goes terribly wrong, but I’m in a really, really happy place right now. And I like it!

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We get to close on the house at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon. Let us all stand and emit a collective shout of joy: 

 

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!

Today, I went through a drive-through.

The window was on the passenger side.

WTF???

The worst of it is over and normalcy has finally come stalking back into our world after a rather haughty goodbye when the boys arrived. It’s still a bit weird at home, what with all the quiet and being able to watch something other than Family Guy on television.

Steve and I had a good, long talk last night that was about three years overdue. See, we’re pretty good at communicating the everyday stuff, like what time we’re having dinner, what our plans are for the weekend, when one of us is angry at the other. But when it comes to emotional, important life stuff, we have some work to do. He’s a bottler and doesn’t reveal much of anything, while I’ll tell you anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know (though the words are often muffled by a snotty nose and wet cheeks.) We were sitting on the back patio enjoying the evening air, talking about the boys, and the conversation kind of naturally led to places I’d been trying to work the courage up to lead it for the past three years. I wish we could have done it sooner, as I learned some things that made me feel a lot better about the struggles I’ve had in this relationship. But the point is I know them now, and thus better understand current situations and the inevitable future situations that arise.

It seems we’re playing a “one step forward, two steps back” game with this new house. All of the paperwork has been completed on all sides (or so we’ve been told); all we’re waiting to do now is sign everything and officially close. Last week they said it would be today or tomorrow; today they’re saying Thursday. I don’t want to complain too much, but both the realtor and lending agent declared at the beginning of this process that we wouldn’t have any problems closing on or before June 30. Here we are almost a month later and we can’t get anyone to pin down a date and time for us to just scribble our names. Things have gone relatively smoothly, but you would think that in the midst of a housing slump everyone involved in this sale would be anxious to get it finished. Nobody gets paid until the paperwork is signed — and there aren’t too many realtors selling houses out there.

I guess I’m just really eager to get into this house because it’s a chance to start clean — not that anything has happened to require one. I’m rather snake-like in that every so often I like to shed my skin, become reinventive. It’s why I go through my closet every few months and get rid of things I don’t wear — clutter makes me crazy. There have been so many things going on these past few weeks that I’m in near-desperate need to de-clutter my brain and get my priorities lined out. I finished a course in my master’s program today and, thanks to a scheduling screw-up, I have a nine-week break before I start the next one. Instead of spending my evenings writing papers, I can now focus on packing and organizing for the move. Cleaning has always been therapuetic for me — so all of this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Oh, and before I forget, today is N’s birthday. He’s 14 years old. Happy birthday, N!

The boys went home early this morning. After getting about an hour of sleep we drove the three hours to the Pittsburgh airport with just enough time to get checked in and to the gate for K1’s flight. A few minutes later, he was gone. N’s flight left just a short time later. No time for long goodbyes, which was both a blessing and a curse. Steve and I stood arm-in-arm at the windows, watching the planes take off and wiping away tears. 

And then it was time to hit the road again. I slept most of the way home, while Steve made the necessary phone calls to their mothers to let them know the boys were in the air. K1 made it to Minneapolis before we got home. He was sad that he didn’t get to hug his dad longer before getting on the plane. His first flight by himself went well — he tried so hard to be tough. He told Steve he got to sit next to a really pretty girl on the plane who was flying for the first time and was so nervous she had to breathe into a paper bag. I’m sure our little charmer wasted no time comforting her. 

We got back to our house at about 11 a.m. I headed directly for bed. Steve tortured himself by sitting in the boys’ empty bedroom for a few minutes before joining me. N called while we were asleep to tell us he made it home. Steve said he sounded rather sad, but was doing o.k. It sounds strange but I think it’s a good thing that the boys get so sad when they leave — at least we know they miss us and want to spend time with us. It would be far worse if they spent their summers here pining to go back home. 

We slept until about 6 p.m. and have been just hanging out in the quiet, feeling bummed and watching tv. It will take a few days for everything to return to normal. Thankfully we have busy schedules looming. Everything is finally in order for the house — we’re expecting to close this week. We’ll probably start moving things a bit at a time as soon as we get the keys. I’m looking forward to finally being in our own home but I’m completely overwhelmed at the thought of physically packing up our stuff and moving it to a new location. Last time we moved Steve’s company paid all relocation expenses and we had a moving company handle everything. This time we have to do it all ourselves — yay. If it were up to me I’d just toss most of it out and start over, but then I guess that wouldn’t exactly be practical or economical, eh?

I’m also really looking forward to getting my dog back. I haven’t seen Waylon since I dropped her off at my parents’ house back in May. They tell me she’s gone wild, so it will take some work getting her calmed back down to the point of being allowed in the house. I want her to be indoors but we’re concerned about her destroying the new house. It’ll have to be a gradual process.

Like most things, I guess.

And so It has arrived.

 

Tonight we dig under beds searching for lost socks and books. Tonight begins a round of tearful faces and too-long, too-tight hugs. Tonight no one eats because all stomachs are too sunken, too knotted, too upset to handle nourishment.

 

Tonight we pack up the boys.

 

Tomorrow we send them home.

 

To say this is the most dreaded day of the year is the king of understatements. One cannot allow oneself to devote even a second’s thought to thinking about sending the boys home because it has the potential to ruin the entire summer. And despite that, it still comes. No matter how much non-thinking and grunt-down wishing we devote to it, we still must send them home.

 

Steve is heartbroken. The boys, too, are upset. K1, even, who talks of little else except his home and family back in North Dakota. It’s devastating to watch because you know I loves his home but can’t bear to think about how much he’s going to miss his dad. N is more guarded, more cautious about his emotions. He admits he’ll miss it here, but that’s as far as he’ll go. Yet I know he craves a father like Steve, because of all the children he’s most like Steve. Private, off-color, brave.

 

How odd to have to put them on separate planes. One bound for the southern border, the other headed toward the northern. To know they’ll miss each other, too. And to find joy in knowing they’ll miss each other. Odd indeed.

 

This is not how I pictured my life. My cookie-cutter life, protected by a mother and a father, cousins, a grandma just over the next hill. The security and confidence that comes from growing up in a traditional family unit. None of them – Steve, N, or K1 – have that. They’ve known only broken families. Everyone living separately.

 

Until me. The unifier? I never would have believed it myself. To be responsible for keeping one person in one place long enough to begin patching and mending – well, it’s quite a heavy duty. Underappreciated, too, but what can one do about that. Mistakes – I’ve made so many, yet also learned volumes about this man who is to be my husband, his past, his legacy. And myself. God, the things I’ve learned about myself – pride in resiliency, shame in jealousy. The work is not done and never will be.

 

For now we devote our focus to bridging the miles anyway we can – telephone, e-mail, cards and packages through the mail. Christmas hopefully will bring us all together again, and we’ve made that a goal. But to say I won’t enjoy the quiet, the 10-month respite I receive to return to life as I know it – that would be a lie. There’s still much to do, much to discover, challenges to meet, thoughts to think. And as before, it begins tonight.

Those of you who are mothers understand what it’s like to spend an entire week with a child attached to your body for stretches of not only hours, but days and weeks. I am not the mother of young children and thankfully Steve’s boys are old enough to be self-sufficient. My skills in relating to children, however, render me near-defenseless in situations where I am in direct contact with them for any extended period of time. Like a week in a beach house.

 

I adore our nephew Garrett. I’ve been around plenty of great children in my life but this little guy melts my heart faster than a warm M&M. He was born one month before Steve and I began dating so he’s also the one person in the family I’ve known his entire life, which is oddly important to me because I often feel rather left out at family gatherings. Steve, his brother and sister-in-law all grew up together, and there are so many things about Steve’s past that they know (and I still don’t) that it kind of bothers me, given the situation we’re in with ex-wives and stepchildren.

 

Anyway, Garrett and I have sort of cultivated a bond throughout the three or so years he’s been on the planet. We play and laugh and conspire to take Uncle Steve’s baseball caps off his head. I pretend to take his nose and ears, he fake cries until he gets them back. I’d consider it a mutual infatuation, stemming from his uncanny resemblance to “Stitch” from the Disney movie and my fearlessness at climbing down to a child’s level to act silly for awhile. In short, we’re best buds. It was I who helped him over his fear of the ocean, my lap he wanted to sit on when we all just hung out, and me he wanted to hold his hand as he splashed around in the waves. He’s a little monster sometimes when he gets tired or hungry, and especially when someone blocks his view of the television. But he’s mostly just a delight.

 

And funny! It’s amazing to hear what tumbles out of the mouths of children. After waking up late one day I trotted downstairs and greeted him with a “Good morning, Garrett.” His response? “Good morning, Chickenbutt.”

 

Or anytime I’d tell him something was about to happen:

Me: “You’re going to spill that if you’re not careful, Garrett.”

Garrett: “No I not.”

Me: “Yes you are.”

Garrett: “No I not.”

Me: “Yes you are.”

Garrett: “Not I not (giggle giggle).”

Me: Yes you are.”  And so on.

 

Or whilst carrying him through historic Wilmington:

Garrett: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a sushi bar.”

Garrett: “Oh. I don’t like sushi bars. I like candy bars. I get them at WalMart.”

 

Or watching him gaze into my cosmetic mirror:

Garrett (looking at himself): “Hey, how’d I get in there?!?”

 

It’s going to be a long time before I get to be an aunt again. Garrett’s parents have decided they already have their hands full with him and his older brother, Jacob, and are finished having children. My sister and brother aren’t near parenthood anytime soon. I’ll have to be content being Aunt Jenny (Or Jim as Jacob likes to call me) to these two until the next little comes along. It’s a responsibility I full-heartedly accept.