Hands, Feet and the World
Still Summer 2010
“Stay a child while you can be a child.” -Stephen Sondheim
I MEAN, really, how hard can it be to take care of two children under the age of four (one being the bad seed, Rhonda was her name in the movie, so from now on to protect the innocent and that’s me of course, we shall refer to her as Rhonda) for a few hours a day, while their mother naps upstairs in the master suite? I MEAN, my mother did it and she wasn’t allowed to nap, she wasn’t allowed to take a break for that matter. My father had her so busy preparing meals, baking from scratch, cleaning and disinfecting the house, making my clothes, making our lunches, even creating the art work that hung on our walls. One of my most vivid images is of what seemed to me at the time to be a life-size piece of artwork that hung above our TV set in the family room. It was a replica of The San Gabriel Mission made out of titles, a mosaic so to speak. I clearly recall the recreation of this historic establishment that was in fact about fifteen miles from our house and in the town my mother grew up in. I remember the kitchen table being strewn about with pieces of tiles, some cut into squares, some not, burlap, and the smell of glue: talk about a craft project, this was hardcore. The mission was all traced out and my mother cut each tile into the appropriate size and color and then glued it to her masterpiece.
I also remember when I was in high school a project of hers where she used tiny scrapes of material to reproduce Monet’s Lily Pads. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but now that I look back with some perspective, it was pretty damn impressive. As the years marched on and we kids flew the coop and she traded in one husband for another, these creations became less and less until they were non-existent. I wonder what made her stop and if her being suffered in some way from their exit.
I digress, back to the bad seed. For over a year now, I traded in my pumps & twin sets (let’s be real here: if I’m wearing a twin set, I’m pretty sure I’m dead) for child chasing shoes & spit up wear, in a sense Garanimals for adults. Remember those? If you paired the lions or graffics like in concentration, you’d have an outfit that matched – walla!!! If I had a device like that to date I would save myself a ton of time in the morning, as it is, these days, I can barely pull an outfit together – I barely recognize myself when I look in the mirror. I gain weight; I shove mac & cheese, turkey dogs, cheddar bunnies & alphabet cookies into my mouth at every turn. I read children’s library books until I’m blue in the face. I come up with clever games, cookie baking sessions, day trips & special projects to amuse the youth and in return I am screamed at, told “I hate you” and bit on the arm on more then one occasion by sweet, sweet Rhonda……man oh man and I’m praying for a lightening storm. I know in my heart that all children aren’t bad, the bad seed’s brother is a joy and delight, but he is sadly, ignored and over looked by all of Rhonda’s drama. I have a butt load of nieces and nephews and they were all great kids who I enjoyed spending time with every chance I got, but this is another tale. I find myself dreading going into work and feel like I’ve pretty much just traded one bad job for another.
I thought hanging with kids all day would bring back my innocence, remind me of the simple things in life and give me a fresh lease on life. I thought that I just might look back on my youth and find joy and memories that have been lost. And some days were just like that –carefree stolen moments that felt like summer could last forever and when I got home at night I could still feel the cool grass on my bare feet…..not a bad way to send a work day.
Yes I am a slave; a slave because I have to make money and, because I’m working like a dog, cooking and cleaning for other people and then going home and having to attend to the like for myself. There is no joy, there is only dread and I cannot continue to live like this – it’s not good for me, or The Bad Seed. I need to chart an escape route and come up with a plan of action.
Perhaps it’s time for Rhonda’s mother to stop ordering take-out and reclaim her place at the dinner table and face her children instead of running away from them. Maybe she needs to build herself a replica of The San Gabriel Mission. If I stop coming she will step back into her rightful role? But, I know too well that I will simply be replaced – a role I have come to know all too well. My thoughts return to my own mother and I know at times I was the bad seed; we definitely charted some rough storms together.
On a recent Mother’s Day I was perusing the card section of some local drug store while nearly puking in the Hallmark section. I seemed to always find my way to the blank card area, as they say less is more. At the more appropriate and realistic blank card section, my eyes spot Monet’s Lilly Pad and I’m transgressed to a time a place that seem to be in a galaxy far, far away. I make a note to self to ask my mother why she ceased with her artwork. I know presently that she is having issues with the working mechanics of her hands. I think of my art and how in the recent years I’ve let it ride on the back burner, again, are we more a kin then I’ve let my thoughts allow? Until now I never thought we had much in common or shared many traits, with most of my family in general I felt like a foreign exchange student that stepped out of the sanctity of her room every now and then to forge for food….perhaps once again, my perception is askew. Motherhood is not something I understand from first hand experience, though I have loved many children in my lifetime. Regardless of the roads we take or the paths that end up choosing us, I believe in my heart that we all try to do our very best. Maybe Rhonda’s mother just needed a little more time to except her faith, maybe I provided her with a brief sabbatical – who knows. When the moment of truth chimes from the eternal grandmother clock – in that millosecond in the darkest moment in the night…..I, truly know my calling, my faith – the issue at hand is when the cock crows and the dawn does its dance…..will I step up to my plate, to my faith?
“The hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.” -W. R. Wallace