Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Artist in residence

So last night I asked friends on FB if they would have a painting of their house done if someone came along and was painting pictures of neighborhood houses.

Overwhelmingly, the response was an enthusiastic yes.

Except my friend Eric, who was all, "This is a trick question."


Here's the story. Last weekend this guy set up in front of our house and was painting a picture of the house across the street. He had a couple other paintings with him.

Nick and Betty got all chatty with him. Nick brought him a glass of water, as it was hot out. I took the kids to the park and when I got back, the man and Nick were each enjoying a nice cold beer.

When  Nick came inside he said, "He's going to do a painting of our house."

Personally, I hate this kind of thing. Nick shares his father's love of artists' renderings of buildings in one's life. And we've inherited approximately 97 million etchings and paintings of various edifices at Harvard and Oxford.

Nick knows how I feel about this, but in an effort to be more positive, I said, "I'm in favor of supporting local artists."

This is a true statement. I do feel like it is important to support artists and art.

Our local artist, it turns out, told Nick he charges by the day, and our house, he thinks, will take about four days. Also, he's storing his other paintings in our foyer, so it reeks of oil paint.

Also, at various points during the day he rings to ask to use the phone and the bathroom. Betty let him use her phone but I told her for safety it had to be outside, on the sidewalk. I let him in yesterday to use the bathroom but left the doors open.

I mean, we don't even know him. I think he lives kind of on the edges, possibly because of some kind of addiction problem or mental illness, but is probably harmless. But who the fuck knows? Years ago, an old colleague of mine was murdered by a homeless man that he'd taken under his wing. Honestly.

Yesterday evening, when the kids and I returned from the park, the artist asked me what I thought of the painting. I said my opinion wasn't important, because it's Nick's. Then he said that he needs to buy more paint, and so he needs some money. Again I said this was all on Nick.

So last night, when I learned that he charges by the day rather than the product, and Nick was all OK with it, and it's going to wind up being way more than I believe it is worth, because I don't want it in the first place, and also I don't want strange men pooping in my toilet, I lost my little mind.

I said, "I was trying to be positive but I personally think it's ridiculous to have a painting of your house in your own house."

Many people seem to like the idea, but it's not my thing.

Although I realize that my feelings at this point are a lot more about feeling imposed upon by the guy than about this actual painting. Even though I don't feel the need for a painting of our house.

But then, you know, I thought back to when I lived with Maude, and we had this giant zigzag patterned couch that she and Lyrae rescued from the curb when our neighbors couldn't get it in their door.

It was hideous and perfect. And unique. If I ever saw that couch again even from a distance I would totally know.

So Maude, who is an artist, suggested painting a picture of me reclining nude on the couch. We'd hang the painting above the couch. And then when people came over, we'd sit with them in the living room and watch them feel all awkward.

We never did it. But I still like the idea.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another installment: Meet the family

Sometimes I think back to the crazy that I pulled some truly wonderful people into, and it's hard to believe that: 1. my life was actually that out of control, and 2. that I was that cavalier about inviting others along for the ride.

March 2, 2001

We don’t exactly have a plan, but we head for a strip of motels on Route 7 in Falls Church. This was where my dad was last time, and since he didn’t take the car, it seems likely that he could be there. And we need to feel like we are doing something.

We have only been together a month, and here he is, driving me around to find my dad.

My brother calls almost immediately and says, “There was a charge on the card at 4:15.” He gives me the name and address of a motel in Falls Church. We are very close.

We pull up right out front, and I jump out. The reception desk is just inside the front door, and Ben joins me just as I am telling a now-terrified young woman that I know my dad checked in at 4:15 because there is a charge on his credit card. He is going to try to kill himself, and I need the key to his room.

People never quite know what to do with this information.

She is flustered, and her hands shake as she picks up a sheet of paper. Everything is happening too slowly and I am considering walking behind the desk and taking over when a very large police officer comes in and asks for the same information. She gives us the room number and is fumbling to find another key. She is on the verge of tears.

Ben, the police officer, and I take the elevator up one floor. The doors open and we walk very fast, so although Ben is moving as fast as he can on crutches, he lags behind. We get to Dad’s door, and the officer pounds and booms, "Open up!" I put a hand up to hold him back. “Please,” I say.

I knock and say, “Daddy? Daddy, it’s me! Can you open the door?”

At this point a clearly inebriated guy in the next room has stepped out into the hall to see what’s going on, and our giant officer orders him back into his room. He complies without hesitation.

Dad opens the door, wearing nothing but a white undershirt and underwear.

He says, “Hi, sweetheart!” It is clear that he is seriously fucked up.

By now Ben has gotten to the door, and I say, “Dad, this is Ben. Ben, this is my dad.” Ben holds out his hand and says, “Nice to meet you, sir.”

Dad shakes his hand warmly and invites us in. “Come on in, kids! Would you like something to drink?”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't know when this chance might come again. Good times got a way of comin' to an end...

My kids have a bath just about every night.

This is not because I am persnickety about cleanliness, but more because it's an established part of their bedtime routine and they love it. They play and they goof and I dose the water up with lavender and Epsom salts and still it does not drowzify my little girl. I try, I do try.

Sometimes I join them. There used to be a lot more room in the tub, but they've both grown so much that those days are drawing to a close. It's going to make me sad, as I love when India reaches over and rubs my back with her little washcloth.

Anyway. I like to get clean before I cuddle my sparkly clean little kids. So sometimes I just jump in first as the tub is filling and rinse off, and then I put on my jammies, which are typically boxers and T-shirts, so that once it's filled the tub is all theirs.

As I've said before, they are often naked from the minute they walk in the front door, or sometimes they manage to keep their underwear on for dinner, but they are most certainly nanga punga by the time they get upstairs.

So Friday evening I performed my ablutions while they were running up and down the hall like lunatics, as they are wont to do prior to the bath. I  had just put on my boxers when I heard a loud  thump and then India started to cry. I knew what had happened. She'd clocked herself on the dresser in the hallway. I briefly considered pulling my shirt on first, but rushed to her instead.

My baby, my wailing baby, was standing arms outstretched, waiting for me to pick her up. "Maaaaamaaaa! I bumped!"

I held her and kissed the top of her head and swayed with her and made soothing little noises. It was so lovely, just like when she was a wee baby and we had all this skin-to-skin contact to promote lactation and bonding and such.

I closed my eyes and reveled in the closeness and the memories.

She got very quiet, and I was wondering if it was tapping into baby memories for her as well. Ohh, so sweet! We were clearly having a moment.

And then I felt my nipple being squeezed by dextrous little fingers.

There she was, so close to these objects of fascination. All she had to do was reach out and carpe the diem.

She beamed up at me, nipple held tight. "Boomps!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Like a river flows surely to the sea

Tomorrow is our sixth wedding anniversary.

In six years of marriage, we have: had two children; lost two parents; sold one condo; bought one house; sold Betty's house; moved Betty in; and lived through four years of construction. Have I left anything major out? Possibly.

I'm not a math person, but this is a lot to fit into six short years.

Also, Nick has grown a beard and although I don't generally favor facial hair, I think he looks like a pirate in a good way. But that actually has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Or maybe it does. I don't know.

What I have really been thinking about, however, is our wedding.

We debated having a wedding or taking the money and putting it towards a house, because even if you are not buying a dress and you find a reasonably-priced (for the DC area) venue, weddings are spendy. So we thought about it pretty hard.

And we are both still so very glad we chose the wedding.

Not just because we wanted to have a ceremony in front of our loved ones. Nor because I loved wearing the dress that my mom and her mother had made for Betty's wedding. Nor because I delighted in my only opportunity to wear a veil. Nor because I have ever felt more beautiful. Nor that having a wedding brought great joy to our parents. Or even because we love cake and we had an amazing one.

Although all of these things are true and I reveled in every moment.

The biggest thing I am grateful for is that we had a joyful event with so many of our loved ones. I've been told that people gather for weddings and funerals, and it is true.

If I have one regret, it is that we did not video the part of the ceremony where the guests were invited to stand and speak as they felt moved to. It was my favorite part. I mean besides the rings and the death do us part, of course.

Many people said amazing, beautiful things. And some funny ones. Jane said, "I take partial credit for this. I told her to marry the man with the boat!"

We had everyone sign a piece of paper after the ceremony, and we were going to have it framed with our vows, which were rather simple. But in the end we got it framed alone, and it is simple and beautiful. I particularly love that if you see it on our wall and don't know what it is, you just think it's art.

I look at our pictures on occasion, and I look at the signatures on the wall every day. Some of them are people we loved deeply who are no longer with us. My dad. Our friend Bill, who became a sham Internet minister to marry us. His wife Gouri. Maude's mom. Nick's dad.

Some of them are people who live far, far away, and traveled great distances to join us. Australia. California. England. France. The Netherlands. Macedonia. Poland. Texas. I may be forgetting a country or state of notable distance.

People we would never, ever willingly let go of. People we would see all the time, if we could. And for one evening, we had them all together in one place. We laughed so hard with them. We danced. We hugged them all tightly. And we will always, always have the beautiful memories.

You may have thought, reading the first line, that this would be an homage to love.

And it is.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Our own personal dictator

Please forgive my photo editing skills. They're about as terrific as my math abilities.

This is Kim Jong India, our personal household dictator. Her preferred torture methods are sleep deprivation and the piercing of eardrums with screams. These are sometimes used together.
She's never been delighted about going to bed, but for a bit she was nice about it, and I thought we'd turned a corner, but it was short-lived. So now I read to her and Jordan, and then I leave her in her room and let her scream while I put him to bed. After she's raged for some amount of time, she's ready to settle, and I can sit with her and she'll agree to go to bed.

If she isn't done raging, however, you cannot get her into bed without a struggle. And then she will rage again. She puts her mouth at the base of the door and yells, "MaMA! MaMA!" She'll cry, she'll scream...and she'll be all fine and delighted when you come in.

It's making me pull my hair out. It takes about an hour of this before she actually goes to sleep.


You will often hear her pad down the hall at 6 or 6:30 in the morning yelling, "Jo-dan! Wake up Jo-dan! Wake up!"

He'll whimper, "Please, India. I don't want to get up."

"Get up, Jo-dan! Get up!"

Then she drags him down the hall into our room, by which time he's fully awake and ready to have some fun.

This means that by the end of the day he is absolutely spent, and by 8 pm you can set him cozily in his bed and kiss him goodnight.

While you take another hour with the back-and-forth with Ole Kim.

And now! Now she's started this terrible phase of waking up WIDE AWAKE anywhere between 1:00 and 3:00 am. Sometimes she will come sleep with us but more often she is ready for a dance party. You can take her back to her room and she will scream like all hell.

Last night she strolled on into our room at 1:30 saying there was a spider in her room. She climbed into bed, stayed an hour or so, then went back to her room. At 3:00 am Nick heart the floor creak, looked down the hall, and there she was, turning on the light in Jordan's room.

Hell broke loose when Nick took her back to her room.

Initially I thought maybe she had a cold or something that was waking her up. But it's been long enough that I'm starting to wonder if, at age 2 1/2, she's been recruited by the dark side.