Gotcha reading, right?

I have not blogged for a while, perhaps because I have been navigating with my kids the transition from the school schedule to the summer one, and all that really changes is that they’re home more. It’s great, the tempo is slower, there are no lunches to make and there’s no need to rush out of the house – and we did go swimming yesterday — but I miss the uninterrupted stretches of time I have when they’re in school, and I notice that my creative energy is sluggish. It feels easier to update my earthquake supplies and bleach all my sheets than to write a blog post, what with the frequent breaks to mediate disputes, enforce guitar practice, and make yet another snack.

Whatever. I’m here with you now, sweethearts.

We will not be discussing nipple clamps, per se, so you can relax about that one. But they have been on my mind recently, one of the many pieces of flotsam I observe floating through at any given moment. Who knows why? Probably because of the Fifty Shades of Gray analysis I read recently on elephantjournal.com: Trista Henderson’s “Fifty Shades of F*cked Up.”

There’s more, though. Flotsam. To wit:

I often dream of being in school, particularly back in graduate school in Pennsylvania. (Or I dream about gorillas, but hey.) Where are my classes? What am I doing here? How will I manage to finish this program, what with the fact that I have a family back in California? I am rarely naked in these dreams, however – a relief to all concerned.

At Kaiser recently, waiting for my appointment, two staff people, a man and a woman, both middle-aged, came out of a side door off to my right. “Well, we got the file cabinets from the boneyard,” the woman said, her voice full of relief. Definitions of “boneyard” from Wikipedia: An early 1990s Los Angeles glam-metal band featuring Chris Van Dahl; a concrete canoe team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; the massive online server created for the Total Annihilation series of computer games; a place for the storage and/or cannibalization of retired aircraft, ships, trucks, automobiles or other vehicles or machinery; an archaic word usually used synonymously with “graveyard.”

The other day I was at BART in San Francisco, buying a ticket, and the man who had been hustling for change nearby appeared behind me, smiling. “Hey, how’s it going?” he asked me, and I braced myself for the request for money. “I’m buying a ticket,” I replied, coldly, not looking at him. “Hey, ma’am, so am I, just buying a ticket,” he said, and I felt like a shit. When I got my ticket I turned and muttered, “Sorry about that,” again without looking at him. “Hey, it’s okay, lady,” he said.

How will I figure out who I am as my kids pull away into their independent lives? How do I keep up with the subtle nuances of what they need from me? How can I acknowledge in my deepest heart that they are separate, that they don’t exist to give me a purpose in life? Joan Didion, writing about her daughter Quintana in “Blue Nights”: “When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them…”  I read this and the words zinged down my spine. Depending on my children to depend on me is an unsustainable way to live. Remind me to break the habit.

A friend’s mother is visiting. She has emphysema. “I guess I’ve damaged my lungs a little,” she rasps in her smoker’s voice, and my friend’s husband responds with gentle sarcasm. “Mom. You have to use an oxygen tank every day – so yeah, I think you’ve damaged your lungs a little.” Gallows humor + sad intimacy = sweet and sour.

In Houston a few weeks ago, visiting with family, the group of us drove out to some property near College Station and spent the morning shooting firearms. I am probably not the first woman who can say that her 10-year-old son has now emptied a .9 mm Sig Sauer into a paper-and-plywood target, but the sentence still sounds weird to me. I, however, being a grownup, can relish all I want the fact that a handgun feels delightful in the palm.

Bottom line? There is just so much I don’t understand.

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About Kate

Things are weird in the wide world -- and like everyone else, most days I'm used to it. But to shake things up for myself, I like to notice and write about stuff that strikes me as both beautiful and strange, fascinating and repulsive, sweet and sour -- like how the steamy, stinky air that comes up from the BART vents at 16th Street Mission reminds me of being twenty-two, apparently immortal, and in love.

4 responses »

  1. Jaime Oyea says:

    Kathleen-
    Great post. Soon Joan Didion will be quoting you. Love, Jaime Oyea

  2. Deborah says:

    When I saw “Nipple Clamps” in my inbox first thing this morning, I decided I needed to be awake longer before I visited your blog. Now, it’s afternoon and I have just enjoyed another fabulous entry. Love your observations of the weird wide world – keep ’em coming. Also, that Joan Didion quote is awesome.

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