Eat Your Crusts

   I'm not sure if our family is busier during the holidays or the springtime.  From March through May, we celebrate my Mom's birthday, my Dad's birthday, my mother-in-law's birthday, Baby Girl's birthday, our wedding anniversary, Little Girl's birthday, Mother's Day, my niece's birthday and now the end of the school year.  Father's Day and my father-in-law's birthday are a couple weeks away.  Whew.  I make a real effort to be present and honor each day.  But sometimes a few of the parents get late cards in the mail or a verbal IOU at their birthday dinner. 

   Of all the special occasions this time of year, Mother's Day is the only one that really lingers for me.  (What is it about certain words that I can only read them one way?  When I read/say the word "linger" I immediately start singing The Cranberries "Linger" in my head.  Sorry.  Random.)  After each of the girls' birthdays, our parent's birthdays, or even our anniversary, the day is done.  I breathe a sigh of relief that our family of four has managed to show up to each event with a recent shower, dressed in clean clothes, and that neither child went missing or broke a limb.  Whether it's because I'm a new mom still figuring out what it means to be *MOM*, or because of a paralyzing tragedy a few years ago, the spirit of Mother's Day tends to hang in the air for a few days, or even weeks, months, or years following.

Making Mother's Day gifts (for myself and the grandmas) at a pottery studio in 2010.  I will always treasure those gifts.

   As a kid I made the standard scrambled eggs and can of pillsbury cinnamon rolls breakfast for my mom on Mother's Day, which just so happened to be the perfect showcase to present my according elmer's glue/construction paper/dried noodle masterpiece where I had scribbled in marker a million thank-yous for kissing my boo-boos and giving me medicine when I'm sick.  As a teenager, I'd drag myself out of bed, thank Dad for making breakfast, hand my mom a Hallmark card filled with all the words I should have been saying aloud to her every day (while thanking her in my head for not killing me after I tried to sneak out the previous weekend), and then pout all the way to and from church.  (I dare not pout in church.)  And in my early twenties I would, though hungover on 99% of my Sunday mornings, put on my best church clothes and apple-of-my-mother's-eye hairdo and smile, saunter into church as if I never missed a service, and gift her with flowers, a gift certificate and a loaf of steakhouse rye from her favorite bakery.  But all those years, I never "got it".  I never understood how special it is to be a mom until just a few years ago.

   It was the fifth of May in 2007.  My husband and I had just married fourteen days prior, basked in the sun and the fullness of love on a week-long honeymoon, returned home with funny stories and a perma-grin, and settled back into the reality of work and routine.  He called me from the station.  I could feel the sadness through the phone before he even spoke a word.  His nephew had just passed away that morning.  The words "his nephew" don't even make sense because we never got the chance to learn their meaning.  One of his sisters lived in Colorado and they didn't talk to each other very often.  They were very close growing up and loved one another dearly, but had just become busy and distracted the past few years.  We enjoyed the updates during her pregnancy and were so happy to hear when she gave birth to Baby Boy a few months prior and all was well!  Now to find out he had passed away at barely three months old was.......numbing.  We didn't know how to react.  Initially, my husband and I shared the usual, "Ohhhh, how sad and awful for her," emotion as we tried to understand, simultaneously agreed that we had no idea how to help her and hung up the phone.  Within a minute or two, I called him back and said, "We have to go to Crested Butte.  We have to be there for her.  Now...," and he interrupted me to say, "I was just picking up the phone to tell you the same thing.  I'll book the flights.  You clear your schedule.  And pack."

   To say we had no idea what to expect is the understatement of all understatements.  I feel a bit uncomfortable revealing the details of the trip because it isn't my story to tell.  I'll only share a few moments.  Imagine I'm thumbing through a cartoon flip book (only the images aren't funny sketches but tangible moments so raw and earth-shattering that they're almost beautiful) and I'll stop a few times to offer a glimpse:

   We tiptoe off the pond jumper plane and slink into a rental car with a barrel wave of snow on the windshield....[ffffffft, flip, flip, flip, flip]....there are no words, my husband opens his arms and his sister collapses in them.......with hands all joined, seeking strength the words are chosen for the funeral.......in a metal shop of a close friend, embers are dissipating into air so thick with despair, the four walls are bulging from our heavy hearts, and the urn is being welded.......the anticipation of the arrival of Baby Boy's father's best friend, Shooter Jennings, and all of the expectations of a rock star and his entourage are erased when two long-haired, musically inclined guys shaded in tattered t-shirts, jeans, and dark sunglasses embrace and cry.......we drown our sorrows in beer, tequila, and a jukebox only to find ourselves belly laughing as if in slow motion in the middle of a field filled with the warmth of spring peaking over the mountains just enough to reach us.......

.......at the burial she is overcome with grief and torment, my husband scoops his sister up and carries her to the car.......in a creaky, cozy house the lights are off, candles are lit, everyone circles around, sits indian-style on the floor and soaks up the acoustic guitar as it plays "Daniel" by Elton John.  We find out why we lost Baby Boy- SIDS.  Mother's Day comes a week later.

<3 Baby Boy <3
March 4, 2007 - May 5, 2007

   Now I "get it".  Mother's Day isn't just a day to sneak off for a massage at the spa or to sit with your feet up while your husband volunteers to fumble around in the fridge, trying to find something the kids will eat.  It's about being grateful.  Be grateful for your mom and all the events and moments that came before you.  Be grateful for all the sacrifices she made and all the steps she took to give you a better life.  Be grateful for everyone in your mom's world that supported her when she was raising you- even all those years you don't remember now.  Be grateful she brought you in this world but didn't take you out.  [Ha.]  Be grateful that even though she was your *MOM*, she was still just a person- human enough to be flawed with enough mistakes that allow her to forgive you easily when you make the same errors.  Be grateful that you both still have a breath in this life and quit whining about what happened when you were 10, or 16, or 22, or yesterday.

   Each year when the pear trees start to blossom and bathing suits return to retail racks, I gear up for the busy season.  With Little Girl in school this year for the first time, our usually full plate has turned into a Vegas-style all-you-can-eat-buffet debacle.  Last Friday I fulfilled one of my newest commitments and went to the last PTA meeting of the school year.  Instead of hearing from a speaker like we usually do, we went around the room and shared what was supposed to be two tidbits for Mother's Day- one being something special about our own moms, and the other being what it means to be a mom ourselves.  Two women into the circle and most of the room were teary-eyed, all clutching our hearts.  I sometimes forget the struggles many, many women/couples endure to have children.  There is an understanding when socializing with other mothers that we all have kids and we're all on the same page.  But after listening to all the stories of multiple miscarriages, years of testing, IVF, and hopelessness all leading to surrogacy, and the battles with rare diseases in both mother and child, I realize I take for granted how easy it was for me to become a mom.  In that little room of a small church on a quiet side of town, the enormity of fulfillment and triumph overpowered us all. 

   Leading up to my turn to talk, I was scrambling in my mind trying to come up with the right thing to say- just the right words to sum it all up.  In a nutshell, it went a little bit like this, "Now that I am a mother I have learned so much about myself, my husband, and even my own mom and dad.  They weren't/aren't perfect and neither am I.  But I am grateful for all the things that come with being a mother.  Some bad always comes with the good." 

   For instance, a quiet morning filled with play-doh and dress-up clothes can quickly turn into a minefield of meltdowns and tears by lunchtime.  The other day, my girls were eating picking at/dissecting/avoiding eating their lunch while simultaneously whining about what I served and demanding more play-doh time before naptime.  I had had enough dilly-dallying and was rushing them to their beds by pointing and waving my finger, threatening a Texas summer without water if they didn't eat their lunch.  They complied and started nibbling.  A few minutes later, I looked down at Little Girl's plate and noticed that even though I had removed 98% of the crust off her sandwich, she was still eating only the bread that led up to the almost non-existent crust and therefore creating a newly rejected, wasted edge of perfectly fine bread.  "And," I added, "eat your crusts!" 

   That's pretty good advice for me too.  Life is going to present you with many sandwiches.  (No one appreciates sandwiches, or in this case a sandwich metaphor, more than Joey Tribbiani from Friends- except me.)  As a whole, these sandwiches and all their ingredients ("ingredientses")  are going to be a positive experience.  They'll help you reveal your preferences, hone your decision making skills, and remind you to not be on the lookout for a trade-up.  Eat the sandwich.  Eat the whole sandwich, even the crusts.  Sometimes we have to put our selfishness and our "I-don't-wanna"s aside and eat the crusts.  Eat your vegetables.  Pay your car insurance bill instead of buying a ticket to the game this weekend.  Forgive people in your life for not being perfect.  Eat your crusts.  The crusts will make you appreciate the rest of the sandwich more.  You may even find you enjoy the contrast of the two.  After all, if you never have a bad day, then how do you know a good day when you see one?

   On my journey to swallow my pride and become more selfless everyday, I am learning more and more what motherhood means.  Motherhood to me is the sum of all these little moments...
  • holding a piping hot chicken nugget in front of the A/C vent in the car while my starving children exaggerate their hunger by shrieking in the backseat
  • squealing after finding a wet squirrel (stuffed animal) in the washing machine and then giggling to/at myself for forgetting I have kids for a moment and thinking it was real
  • abandoning my usual class of fellow moms in the morning at the gym to leech off the energy of the unattached, working women who go to evening classes (where I'm reminded it is possible to own cute workout clothes)
  • replacing dancing in the pool in the Cayman Islands while my husband sings Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" to me, with standing up at dinner clapping and singing "There's a party in my tummy! So yummy! So yummy!"
  • turning into my mom a little bit by saying all the things that drove me crazy, "Because I said so," "Someday when you have kids...", "Girls!  Separate!!"
  • soothing a sick baby back to sleep with tender words and soft lullabies when I'm so tired I could cry
  • stopping my yard work when I hear a plane overhead, waving and saying, "Hiiiii airplane!" only to look around and realize I'm the only one outside
  • berating boys at a splash park for picking on my daughter only to walk back to my husband and hear he just did the same thing to the same boys five minutes ago
  • making up little white lies to protect my children, "No, the caterpillar isn't dead.  It's just sleeping."
  • having no other option than to laugh when someone hands me a booger and to cry happy tears when they learn a new word or can count higher than before
  • feeling a warmth so deep and unyielding when a pair of tiny arms wrap around my neck or miniature fingertips pull my cheek to their itty-bitty, puckered lips
  • remembering that some women want nothing more than to experience my darkest moments as a mom, if nothing else
  • and lastly acknowledging all my mom (and dad) did/does/do for me, and enjoying the time we still have left
   All of that earlier talk of sandwiches is making me want to slap on a pair of Phoebe's maternity pants...

 and figure out how to make, then immediately consume, that sumptuous sandwich in Spanglish.

   Well, well, well.  After googling the Spanglish sandwich, I discovered I am not alone in being affected by these cinematic sandwiches (I remember all but two very well):

And here is how to make the one in Spanglish: 

(I swear this chef and kitchen were featured on Top Chef Texas in the Pee-Wee Herman challenge.)

This is life.  This is the only one you get.  Dive in.  Make a great sandwich.  Eat your crusts.  I know I will.  And I'll probably try adding this fascinating event to our spring lineup soon, the Grilled Cheese Invitational.

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful and beautifully said and written. Thank you for making me laugh and cry...