Uncommon Gratitude

It’s easy to be grateful for sunshine and babies and love.  It’s common to be thankful for family and abundance and safety.

But can I be thankful …

  • For a husband who rarely agrees with me?  Yes, because he challenges me to either compromise or to re-affirm my priorities.
  • That I don’t have everything I want, and sometimes not even what I need?  Yes, the limits and scarcity keep me humble and motivated instead of smug and self-righteous.
  • That my body is ‘only human’ – subject to illness and injury?  Yes, the body’s signals force me to respect my limits.
  • That I’m no longer youthful?  Yes, because I get to watch people fall in like with me for my other assets without the distraction of a stunning demeanor.
  • For people that test my patience?  Yes, they challenge me to elevate my game.
  • For my children, my little mirrors, who often reflect the worst in me?  Yes, they present me with countless opportunities see what I otherwise hide from my own awareness.
  • For ‘bad’ things that happen in the world and to the world?  Yes, these things give ‘good’ people a chance to shine.

All of these people and situations belie their purpose.  I can barely fathom what they’re about at times.  But their existence forces me to look outside my own parameters or else suffocate in my self-made misery.

This Thanksgiving, I remind myself of these overlooked blessings in honor of Mom who reminded me before every birthday party that we are to say ‘thank you’ even if we don’t like the gift.

Ode To Twinkie

Thirteen year old son and I sped through town like our lives depended on it.  In total, we hit five convenience stores and one major food store.  No, we weren’t pulling a Bonnie and Clyde, heisting these stops for cash.  But it felt like it.  With hearts racing, we considered all manner of threats at our disposal to get what we wanted.  We were desperate to find a single, traditional, gorgeous, Twinkie – the icon of my childhood.

My father was the first to break the news to me.  “Are you in mourning?” he asked, and went on to detail the tragic shut-down of Hostess, Inc.  I could scarcely believe my ears.

Those who have known me only since adulthood will be shocked to hear of my intense and solemn reaction to this news.  I haven’t eaten sugar, much less a processed treat, in fifteen years or more.  But for the twenty years prior, junk food comprised the majority of my diet.  So fond was I of Hostess snacks that a friend in college bought me boxes of them as a birthday gift.

For years I have chosen not to indulge, but now, being told that I can’t ever have another Hostess fix, well, that’s a new ball game altogether.

Just last week in the grocery store, nine year old daughter lamented that she had never tasted a Twinkie.  I refused her request on the grounds that we already had too much candy in the house from Halloween.  “Maybe after the holidays I’ll buy one for you,” I half-promised.  Little did I know that she may never get the chance to experience the joy of a Hostess cake. This is the real reason, I rationalized, for my frenzied search.  How could I live with myself if my youngest daughter never tasted a Twinkie?

Beagle was all too willing to join in the fun, pleased as punch to conspire with his ridiculously health-conscious mother in the hunt for junk food.  “I’ve never seen this side of you.” He said with amusement.

At one stop, Beagle tried bribing the young clerk for one of the last eight Twinkies he had cleared from the store shelf for himself.  “Nope, I’m freezing them for later.” The clerk coldly informed.  And I couldn’t blame him.  Every man for himself in cases such as these.

Our efforts yielded a sparse assortment of Hostess cakes – enough for each family member to sample only a slice of each.  During a bittersweet ceremony befitting deceased royalty, we consumed our plate of goodness.  We nibbled with respect, sharing memories of our first Twinkie encounter, voting on our favorite cake, and lamenting our future loss.  It felt as if my childhood was being ripped away bite by bite.

I had considered saving one Twinkie for posterity.  But then I remembered that I’m all grown up, sort of.  And contrary to urban myth, Twinkies do have an expiration date.  Succumb we must to reality.  It appears that Tallahasse (in Zombieland) was right when he predicted, “There’s a box of Twinkies in that grocery store.  Not just any box of Twinkies, the last box of Twinkies that anyone will enjoy in the whole universe.”

Sad, sad, times.

Loving Baby Teen

I wish I could tell you what we were fighting about, teen daughter and I.  But I don’t remember.  There was a disagreement, I guess.  Or maybe just a misunderstood intention.  Whatever the cause, it took me by surprise – for the millionth time.

It’s like that these days – parenting a teen.  One minute I’m cruising through a benign day without conflict, and the next moment I’m ripped from the illusion of peace into a full-blown drama.  With increasing frequency this scenario unfolds.  Yet still I fail to divert it.  I feel as helpless in this regard as I would trying not to fall out of bed.  And the only way to prevent that is to put up a barrier.

I’ve tried that, putting up a barrier between me and Principessa .  But it feels all wrong blocking her out.  I want to be a good parent, a constructive communicator, a positive influence.  But truthfully, I don’t always know how.  And I don’t always know her.  She is changing, as she should be.  As we all do.

I try to glean wisdom from my own experience as a teen and come up short.  I recall only years of unrest followed by an extended period of regret and blame.  My intention to be different – to overcome the stereotypical strain in the parent/teen relationship – falls unanswered to the bottom of the wishing fountain like a heavy coin.

Perhaps my wish is all wrong.  It does seem delusional to hope that we will be the first mother-daughter pair in history to emerge unscathed from the formative years.  But still, I wish.

Because I made a promise so long ago when I birthed her, my first baby.  Standing over her crib, staring into an angelic face, I vowed that I would protect her and nurture her and never, ever, make her doubt my love for her.  I prayed in earnest for the wisdom and courage to be the mother of my dreams to this deserved little being.

Sometimes I think I am that mother.  Other times I feel like the mother I battled at fifteen, beaten down and weary from repeated rides on the emotional roller coaster.  If only I could keep myself on stable ground.  This is the key I need – a way to hold steady whilst the teen tornado swirls around me.

I remind myself that teenhood is tough.  Impossible at times, as I recall.  No matter how overwhelmed I am, my adult life can never compare to the confusion, excitement, and uncertainty of the teen years.  With this in mind, I loosen my grasp on utopian ideals and renew a promise made long ago to the infant version of my young lady.

I will still love you and protect you and nurture you with the fever of a new mother, but add to that the wisdom of a seasoned one. Fifteen years ago you gave me the gift of motherhood – a gift I cherish more than any other.   I renew my commitment to that gift with a strength and compassion equal to ten million mothers.

 Principessa, you are growing into the person I tried to imagine when I first met you.  And I couldn’t be more amazed.  You are perfectly you.  And I am me.  I cannot guarantee that we will not hurt each other as we grow – we are as human as always.  But I can promise that I will never love you less than I did when I first held you in my arms.

 Spread your wings, then.  Take the world (and your mother) head on, and be the strong, independent woman you are.   You will always have me, you will always be my baby, and you will always have a home in my heart.

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