when she reaches out
with her pick-me-up-Mom-arms
I just can’t resist

I grew up in a small town where everyone was familiar, if not related. My family and I had moved there when I was in fifth grade and I was still considered “the new kid” in high school. It was the sort of place where someone in a pickup truck would slow down and yell out the window, “Leslie John, your father is going to hear about this!” when they saw that I was up to no good. There were no strangers. There was no anonymity. Also, no forgiveness, I felt. It was like going through life with my resume stapled to my forehead, if my resume included every stupid decision I’d ever made along with my typing speed.

I reveled in the obscurity that came with college and the bigger towns I chose to live in after I left home. I didn’t mind being nameless and unknown. I found comfort in the crowd where there’s nothing remarkable about being poor, or a preacher’s kid, or from a crazy family. I could find community among people who shared the circumstances I was ostracized for in my tiny hometown. I had the room to be me, or at least to try to figure out who that was. And that felt so good, I never thought I’d go back to small town living.

But here I am, once again, in a small town.

For the first few years we lived here, I stayed under the radar as we traveled to the next town for most of our shopping and entertainment, and even Julia’s preschool. Now that she’s in Kindergarten and I’m teaching Kindermusik, there’s no more hiding. We exist in our town. It’s on the record now. And people notice if I go to the IGA in my pajamas. Dave finds this appealing. He says, “It’s friendly,” looking like he just wrapped himself up in a snuggly blanket. He’s kicked off his shoes off and started cozying up to this place. I’m feeling awkward and fidgety and like I can’t breathe. I want to put curtains up in the windows I used to insist be uncovered so the light could pour in through them. I’m thinking the fact that the old house hasn’t sold is a sign to move back into it.

No one is with me on that one.

The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with this place or any place, really. The truth is, I can’t shake this underlying belief that it’s just a matter of time before anyone that gets to know me will find something about me that sends them running in the other direction; that it’s just a matter of time before I am left alone; that it’s just a matter of time before they decide I’m just not worth caring about. I think I’m just trying to beat them to the punch.

I envy people
who just don’t care. It must be
so liberating.

there are some mistakes
you can’t undo and trying
only makes it worse

I woke up yesterday morning without the help of an alarm. I had slept until my body had its fill of it, which should have felt heavenly as I spend most of my time ravenous for rest and grateful for every opportunity I have to get some. But it didn’t and I wasn’t. Because it was Thanksgiving. I know, that’s the day you’re supposed to be thankful for everything, but it just didn’t feel right. I was supposed to be chopping and stirring and stuffing and luring grumbly tummies to the kitchen with the sounds and smells of the year’s best eating. But our meal would be coming later rather than sooner, because Dave was still at work.

My girls were snuggling tight to me, which sounds very sweet until you consider that they come climbing in my bed in the night so I may act as a human shield against monsters. Also, because I am warm and able to reach the lights. Still, it was an appropriate way to start the day, I guess, as the things I am most grateful for in this world are those little cover hogs. I hugged them close and sniffed their heads and tried to stay still so the cuddly quiet might last a little longer, but Julia had begun to stir. Thirty seconds later she was jumping on the bed shouting, “Happy Thanksgiving!” followed by, “Can I play the zombie game?”

Of course, she couldn’t, because my meanness doesn’t rest, even on holidays.

I decided to satiate my desire to prepare food by making pancakes, but it was like having someone scratch your back about an inch from the itchy spot.

I calculated my cooking time for each dish on my menu and drew up an elaborate preparation schedule. Even then, I didn’t need to begin until 1:30 p.m. and all I could think about was missing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade thanks to our television service budget cut. I was getting moody. And mean. Over what? I’m the woman who had Christmas a whole day late last year! What did I care that dinner was going to be at 6 p.m. rather than 1 p.m.? For some reason, I did. A lot. Maybe it’s because the whole, “At least we’ve got each other,” doesn’t feel so comforting when your other isn’t there.

Eventually, Dave meandered home and I was able to do the thing where I pretend I’m too busy to hug him hello and then smile with my face, but not my heart when he asks me if everything’s okay. And because he’s a good husband, he played right along and followed me around, begging for my love and attention until I was ready to give it to him.

After that, we had a wonderful meal followed by a viewing of Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas that we’d borrowed from the library. And as I sat there draped with sleepy kids next to a husband who was laughing so hard I could feel it more than hear it – seriously, the man was crying – over the outtakes, I thought, “Well, it’s not Tivo, but it’ll do.”


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