Amaya Rain

Wife. Mother. Crazy woman.

Talkin’ ’bout my Generation.

I come from a line of strong-willed women on my mother’s side (my father’s side as well, but I’m not going there, because, well, I don’t like them as much as the women on my father’s side. There. I said it. Neener neener ppphtt). And while I know that my personality, and my actions as a mother come from them, I think I need to put in all down in writing to get some perspective. I think I’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

My great-grandmother was a firecracker. When I was young, I thought she was just your typical Grannie-type: old. She lived out of state, so my time with her was limited, but oh, the things we did in that time. She would bring me outside to her vegetable and flower gardens and let me run around while she would weed and pick and pluck and would make sure to leave some yummies for the birds. She’d let me watch all manner of crazy kid things (like Sonny and Cher) on her tv and wait to catch her beloved 700 Club after I was done. She’d just sit and hold me, or sit on the other side of her television parlor and let me spin in this really great green spinning chair. To me, she was everything that was wonderful and good in the world. She was selfless and beautiful and a wonderful old fashioned woman.

As I got older, I noticed some of her “faults”. As it turns out, she was actually rather vain and hung up on “appearances” – she’d never go anywhere without being well-groomed, wearing her pink lipstick and lavender water. She picked only the best fruit or vegetable from the vine, and would leave the less beautiful specimens for the birds. I caught her cringing out of the corner of my eye, and realized that she’d change the channel the split-second that my show was over. She had lots to say about politics and society that I wasn’t sure agreed with (her favorite line whenever “mixed marriages” were brought up was “girls marry boys, whites marry whites”.) And although everyone in my family had a great laugh about it (and still do), I really didn’t appreciate that as I played with a loose tooth, she’d knocked the hell out of my arm to get me to yank it out rather than watch me play with it.

Then I got even older. And I saw a woman who had bucked the system as a younger woman – she’d been married four times to three men, and had beat the crap out of the woman who was the mistress of Husband #2&3 (the court didn’t prosecute her because she was “protecting her family”). She was strong, having taken care of not only her own siblings but in later years, the aging siblings of herself and her ex-husbands. She was an elderly woman with strong values of family and spirituality, no matter how outdated or misguided I thought they may be. She’d been through the Roaring 20’s, the Depression, two world wars, survived miscarriages and stillbirths of children. She was a perfectionist in so many things, and she’d learned that after so many years, she deserved the best, and she gave her best to others as well.

She certainly wasn’t perfect – no one ever is. But she strived to be as good as she could in everything she did. She didn’t have the vanity of the rich, well, barring that facelift she had in the 70’s. She drove an old, but well-kept, car. She had an old, but well-kept home. A lot of her clothing was probably decades old, but it was really all of classic design and quality construction and some of it I’d love to have my hands on today. She may have always chosen the prettiest produce, but she never sacrificed taste for beauty.

I think I could say she was a perfectionist who knew when to quit.

I can’t say that about myself. I call myself a disillusioned perfectionist. I quit when I can’t take the pressure anymore, that enormous amount of self-induced pressure. In building my wardrobe, I look for comfort or trend, never finding a middle ground, never finding that classic feel that I loved so much on her and admire so much in others. I may choose pretty produce, but it tastes like crap, or I may pick ugly produce and not care how it tastes. I go without makeup for weeks on end (and did before the babies, so I can’t blame them) with my hair in a wild bun on the top of my head, or else I am in full regalia. And let’s please, please not talk about when I go out for the rare night out on the town. I can stress for a week about how perfect I feel I need to look. If I can’t find that perfection, then I usually put on a little lipstick and pull my hair up and apologize about how traffic made me late or the washer broke or something. I’m finally married, and plan to be that way forever, but I almost married two other men before him, and dated a whole bunch more, so I suppose I gave my nod to my great-grandmother’s man-choosing (in)abilities (I also took one back, numerous times).

It has taken a while, but I think I can finally look at the woman as a person, and not the shining light on the pedestal or the rug beneath it. And I can look at bits and pieces of her, and see parts of myself. Unfortunately, I don’t see the parts of her that I really admired.

Maybe I need to work on that.

July 8, 2006 Posted by | Ancestors, Heredity, Perfectionism, Reminiscing | Leave a comment

Kids in the ‘hood.

 Somewhere between myself and my daughter, the world stopped teaching children common sense.

Not that I’m claiming to have a lot of it, nor am I claiming to have had a huge chunk of it when I was her age. But she and her friends threaten to force me to ram my head through brick. Truly.

We live in this little dead-end, cul-de-sac type of neighborhood. There about 6 houses on our street, almost all with kids or grandkids. There’s a big tree about three-quarters of the way to the main street, which is the cutoff point for all kids to be running, riding bikes, etc.

So the most intelligent thing in the world to do is to put up a bike ramp, put concrete blocks under where you should be catching some air, and have it past the big tree so that you can get some good speed up so you don’t kill yourself. Really, it makes sense in their heads.

As far as the man who turned accidently on our block today? To him, not so much. I’d dare say that the look on his face with a nine-year-old not-small boy on a bike at full speed flying through the air at him was probably a little more than he could handle.

Kids have so much more to deal with today than we did back then. There was a kidnapper-murderer on the loose when I was their age, and our parents just said “don’t go near any vans”. They have so many safety rules and safety words and code names and organic produce and “stay away from peanuts” filling their little heads that somehow there isn’t any room for good old fashioned common sense.

Hey kids! When you decide to do the Jump of Doom, let us always assume that hitting the fence at the end of the street, or even a house, is better than what you will hit if you go the other direction. Let’s assume that putting something in, oh, fabric to jump over may save your tires if you don’t make the jump (shhhhh, don’t mention their heads. You’ll lose them). Let’s assume that when we play with water balloons, throwing them into the faces of the other kids trying to make the Jump of Doom isn’t too polite.

And can someone remind the kid that already broke my daughter’s arm before that it’s still not cool to push folks off of the trampoline. The surgery for the pins hurts just as much at 9 as it did at 7.

[Of course, let’s not discuss when I made “salad” with poison ivy for the boy next door, or threw rocks at his head, or used to try to throw sticks into the spokes of his tires to see how high he could fly. Because, of course, I knew better back then…]

July 8, 2006 Posted by | Common Sense, Other People's Children, Reminiscing | Leave a comment

Spit.

 When I was taking some time off between high school and college, I lived with some friends in a college town. You couldn’t beat it with a lint brush – my rent was $87.50 a month with utilities divided four ways. And we even had a pool. Ahhh, bliss.

We lived on the third floor overlooking the pool. I had a bad habit of forgetting my keys, which normally wasn’t a huge problem, with three other roommates, and a party that was pretty constant for the six months I lived there. But on one bleak winter night, the party had moved to a bar, and none of my roommates were yet home, so we – we being a group of about 10 of us – tried to pass the time. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors. We tried to figure out who among us had the ugliest feet. Eventually, the guys started spitting into the pool. Now, this wasn’t environmentally hazardous, as the pool was shut down for the winter and, really, how many toxins can be in college guys’ mouths that can’t be killed with chlorine once the summer comes around? Don’t answer that.

It was my turn. Being a bit tipsy, my mouth was dry, so I had to think of things that would make it wet. Strawberries. Hot fudge sundaes. That guy coming home with us who I hadn’t met before but who had the sexiest pair of at-least-20-eyelets leather boots.

Yeah, my mouth watered, and I was ready.

I swished it around my mouth, placed it at just the right point on my tongue, leaned over the railing, and let loose.

Of course, it fell straight down. No air. No flight. No arching of the bodily fluids. Let me tell you, I was pissed.

And tonight, I think about that night, so very long ago. And I look at my sleeping son, under a year old, remembering vividly an episode earlier today…

where he’s already showing up his mommy. He got at least a foot and a half out.

Damn.

July 8, 2006 Posted by | Reminiscing, Spit | 1 Comment