On Call. Always.

“What does it feel like to be a mother?”


Quiet, and then Joni says, “You know those doors where you go in and you can’t come out?”


“What doors can you go in and not come out?” Renie asks.


“They’re in mousetraps.”


“Being a mother feels like being in a mousetrap?”  Renie asks, laughing.


“A human one,” Joni says.  “You’re trapped because you’re always on call.”


~ elizabeth berg

Danny Tanner

I’m at the White Chocolate Grill.  I haven’t been here since I came with Robb.  For a moment I thought I was sitting in the same table, but I think that’s only because I can so easily imagine him across from me.


That doesn’t happen very much anymore.  That sweet ache of an almost vivid memory.


It’s Gabrielle Monday: the boys’ weekly date with our babysitter, the neighborhood boys’ weekly delight as the prettiest girl in the history of testosterone arrives with all her charm and maternal instincts to grant me my night off. (Is there a chorus in your head right now?  There is in mine.  Always with those words: night off.)

I have challenged myself to eat somewhere different each time.  But I’m not sure what difference it makes since I’m always likely to order something with fresh avocado, a wedge salad, an aged balsamic, and preferably bread and soft butter.  But I pretend I am bold.


The boys have been watching an episode of Full House, on repeat.  Well, they’ve watched it twice.  But they haven’t deleted it from the dVR line up.  It’s the one where Danny goes on his first date after his wife has died.


Joey and Jesse are so excited for him to enter the dating scene.  Danny is nervous as hell, and he does all those stupid, goofy Danny Tanner things that are quirky and unrealistic.  The girl he is taking out is the Hive Mother of Stephanie’s Busy Bees Club.  She’s skinny, and she never takes off her Busy Bee Antennae.  Danny tells his daughters he’s going on a first date, and then he woffles back and forth – should he go, should he not – by cancelling and then affirming his date with Linda over and over again.


The thing is, in part, they’ve got it right.  Nervous as hell.  Stupid quirky things that I can’t believe could be realistic.


DJ is most offended by the idea of a new date, a new woman in Danny’s life.  Stephanie is her most charming life stage and doesn’t really know what’s going on.


(Sidenote: – It’s really a bummer for child actors who piqued at age 4 when they were hired.

Lucky find: Michelle Tanner.  Unlucky find: Rudy Huxtable.  It’s a gamble.)


Anyway, DJ does all kinds of things to guilt her dad into abandoning his date with Linda. She believes the date will mean Linda is her new mom.  She believes that even though the date might make her dad happy, her mom will be very sad somewhere.


Finally, Danny sits down with all three girls.  He explains that a date doesn’t mean marriage, which is something I remind myself often. Danny says something wise and important, although I have to confess I haven’t listened directly, in part because I don’t really want to think too hard about the words, and in part because I want the boys to believe they have happened on to this insider scoop on their very own, that they have elite, unauthorized information on the life of a single parent.


So, Danny says (something like),


Girls, I’ll always love your mom.

She was the love of my life.  She and I made three little miracles together, and I will always love her.  That will always be true, even if I marry someone else someday.

I know what your mom would want for me, because she and I talked about it before you were born.  We decided that we wanted you girls to be taken care of, and we wanted each other to be happy, not lonely.  


And the music rises, and he hugs each of his children, and they all agree he should go on the date with Linda instead of staying home to eat ice cream with the girls.  He pretends he doesn’t want DJ to call Linda, and yet he knows the number by memory.  The typical 555- of sitcoms.


And then Danny decides what to wear, and Joey and Jesse become his fashion coaches.  And the whole thing gets very distracting because I really want Joey to wear a belt with his Z Cavariccis.


The episode ties its neat and tidy bow as Danny and Linda are heading out the door.  Thank the heavens above that she has ditched the antennae.


I just kind of want to know about the date, though.  There’s something so sweet and innocuous about Full House.  Corny or not, I know it would go well and be over in 26 minutes.


The boys have watched this episode the last three nights before bed. Today, while I was doing dishes (read: cleaning up Tyler’s science experiment when he couldn’t clean up any longer because of his gag reflex), Tyler asked me if I feel lonely because Daddy is gone.  And I didn’t have to wonder where the question was born.


I think the writers of Full House should have invested more in Danny’s life in the later years, instead of all that nonsense with Jesse and Rebecca and Nicky and Alex.  But I get it: John Stamos is exponentially more handsome than Bob Saget.  Ratings.


Anyway.  My guacamole is here.  With a side of wedge salad.

Sicker Than Me

I needed a day to myself.  A day when I would simply set aside the list, even if I felt compelled to make a list in the morning just to take these items out of my mind and put them on paper instead.  List: Made.  And then: set aside.

Please forgive me, mothers of small children.  I know you don’t get a day to yourself unless someone gives it to you.  I know you don’t even get a few hours alone unless you work it into your budget, exchange a favor with another mom in captivity, or – in all humility – ask for help.  I know it well.  So when I say that I intended to take a day alone, you might want to chuck board books into my shins and gouge my eyes with your rubber-tipped baby spoons.

I understand.  And I hope you’ll get an afternoon alone.  Soon.  I know they are precious and rare, few and far between.

Weekends are my most intense stretch as a single mom.  Three days of ‘being on.’  Like a wedding photographer who works through the weekends, or like a pastoral staff who serves on Saturday and Sunday, I look forward to Monday.  Everything settles down just a bit.

Or just a lot.

I drop them off at school, and then I inhale the scent of coffee and exhale a breath of peace and quiet.  That’s what I was looking forward to on this Monday morning.

But then my son got a cold.  I gave it to him.  I’ve had this froggy voice since the middle of teaching at The Greenhouse on Thursday, which spilled into speaking at The Well on Friday night, which left me with little voice of parental authority over the weekend.

And bless his heart, his first words to me yesterday were, “Mommy, I’m sicker than you.”

Of course, it is a competition, you know.  And there’s little sympathy for the mom.  If she can get out of bed, with or without a choice, then clearly he’s sicker than she is.  (I won’t mention any names, but he reminds me of a certain father of his, who was always, invariably, sicker than me.)

I kept his gunky little self home today, because Show and Tell shouldn’t include this situation.

“What an opportunity to serve my family,” I said to myself.  I may or may not have gritted my teeth.

And now my day has an underscore of Tom and Jerry, popsicles and clear fluids, interruptions and suspicious requests for desserts.  And I’m realizing too late in the day that he really could have made it through his normal routine.

Moms of preschoolers, my heart goes out to you: this is what you do every day.

I remember it well.  And it’s a tough gig.

Take an hour off today. I certainly intended to.

2013 take away 1776

“The lights are out at the park.  Nobody is playing there.”
“Yes, that’s because it’s night time, and the park closes when the sun goes down.  Did you know that?”
“Yes.  And what happens if someone still goes to the park when it’s closed?”
“Well, a policeman could come and ask them to leave, or he might ask them to pay some money because they broke the rule.”
“Like $300.00?”
“Maybe.  Or like $100.  Or something.”  I don’t really know the fine for trespassing after dusk.
“Does everyone know the laws around here?”
“I think so.”  If not, they’ll know when they break one.  Or when they get caught.  For now, let’s assume everyone knows the rules.
“If someone sneaks into our bedroom, if we hear them stomp up the stairs, then we should pretend we are asleep, right?”
I want to tell them nothing like this would ever happen.  But then I remember a friend from my childhood, Rachel, who was awake when someone robbed their home, and she only knew what to do because her mother had told her to lay very still in the case of such an emergency.
“Yes, be very still. Pretend you are sleeping.  But remember: we have a security system, so the police would know we needed them and they would come right away.”
“Would they go one hundred?”
“I don’t really know what that means.”
“Would they go one hundred.”
Still.  I’m not clear.  And then I see three letters in my mind: MPH.  “Oh, 100 miles per hour?  Yes, buddy.  I’m sure they would.”
“Mommy, do you remember when the police came?”
“When, baby?”
“On the night daddy died.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“And you carried me really quickly out to Miss Melody’s car.”
“I sure did.”
“You carried me out because you wanted to see Daddy dead all by yourself.”
We haven’t talked about this in a long time. Your vocabulary has changed since we last remembered together.
“Well, I carried you out to Miss Melody because I knew Daddy had died, and I had a lot of decisions to make.  And I wanted you to be able to play and be happy for one more day before everything would change for you.”
“You cried a lot that day, Mommy.”
“I did.”
“Sometimes you still need to cry for Daddy.”
“Sometimes I do.  I cried for him today.”
I’ll tell you why another time.
“But tomorrow is a new day.  That’s what Chicken Little says.”
Yes, so does Scarlet O’Hara.
“Mommy, we need the new daddy.”
“We will.  We will have him when it’s time.”
“You need him the most, Mommy.  You need to stop crying.”
“It won’t be the new daddy’s job to help me stop crying, but it will be wonderful when he is part of us.”
“How old is our country?”
Quick math.  2013 take away 1776. “Um, I think about two hundred forty years.”
(I know it’s not right.  It was an estimate.)
“So on the country’s next birthday, it will turn 241?”
“I’m not really sure.”
I’m content to let them think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I don’t know how to do three-digit subtraction in my head.  I do know.  But I’m not doing it right now.
“How many dollars are three million pennies?”
And now I’m mentally moving the decimal point two spaces.  “Um, let’s see.  $3,000.00.  Or maybe $30,000.00.  We can figure it out tomorrow.”  I can’t seem to count the zeros in my head.
“Do all the people in the world like all the people in the world?”
And now we are discussing world peace.
“Well, not everybody likes everybody.  But it would be great if they all did.”
“But they people who have the devil in their hearts, do they like everyone?”
“I don’t really know.”  Someday he will see that even people who have Jesus in their hearts don’t always like everyone.
“Can I have dessert?”
“There are cookies on the counter.”
“Can I have juice?”
“You may have water.”
“I want juice.”
“You may have water.”
“Can you get it?”
“I will show you how in our new kitchen so you can forevermore get it yourself.”
We walk up the stairs with water cups in hand.
“Can you read us a story?”
“I can’t do stories tonight, lovey.”
“You never do.”
“That’s not true at all, and it’s not fair for you to say never.”
“Well, you don’t read the ones I like.  You only read grownup books to us.”
“That’s bunk.  Junie B. Jones is open on your nightstand.”
“I want you to read one tonight.”
“I’m exhausted, buddy.  I can’t read anything out loud tonight.  Plus, tomorrow we’re getting like 87 inches of snow, so I’ll read to you tomorrow, as many books as you want, whichever ones you like most.”
Pouty face.
Whatever.  Pouting doesn’t make the radar around here.
Kisses.  Hugs.  Prayers.
“Buddy, I’m sorry I was impatient tonight.  Please forgive me.”
“I forgive you.”
And it would be nice if you asked forgiveness for not listening well, but tonight I’ll model humility and not scorekeeping.

On my way out, I trip over Buzz Lightyear, who instantly and automatically declares an intergalactic emergency.
Buzz, call it a night.  We are two hours past bedtime.

Tuck just hopped down the stairs like a merman, both of his legs in one pantleg.  He says Tyler made him do it, since Tyler came down the stairs first and Tuck had to rush.  Nobody should be downstairs.  Everybody: Up.
If you knew how much I’ve done for you today, you wouldn’t use that tone with me.  Take your tone to bed.

Sometimes I wish there were someone else for them to call for.  “Mommy. Mommy.  Mommy.”  Incessant.
Except one of them says it so quickly that it comes out, “My.  My.  My.”  And the two kind of seem to mean the same thing.

I’m spent tonight.
Poured out.
Nothing left, guys.

I’d like to climb into someone’s arms.
Not just anyone’s, though.
It wouldn’t be his job to make me happy or less tired.
But it would be nice to have him here.
It would feel nice to feel safe.  And held.
And part of a team.

Strep Never Sounded So Good

Tucker had a lump sticking out the side of his neck.  Walnut sized.  Noticeable and concerning.

Very concerning.

I tried to minimize the concern, since Tucker’s mind always goes to extreme diagnoses and imminent death.  But I can’t say mine didn’t go there too.  And I wonder if he’ll ever get to a place in his life with the naivete of taking things in stride.

Turns out, it was a swollen lymph node due to infection.  He had strep throat.

The pediatrician said every single parent’s mind goes straight to “The Big C” when they see a lump protruding  from anywhere glandular in the child’s body.  (Count me among the majority.)  He said 99.99% of the time, a swollen lymph node is nothing to worry about, and one way I can tell is that a lymph node will fluctuate in size.  A cancerous anything will just get worse, if left untreated.

So the lymph node can stay enlarged for months, with still no need for concern.   Well, then.  This I can handle.

I’ve lost the privilege of believing it won’t happen to us.  It has.  It could.

A friend said, “A family like yours deserves a free pass.  You’ve done your time.”  His family is nine months into a battle with their daughter’s brain cancer.  His family deserves a free pass too.

Life doesn’t give it very many of those.

Strep has never sounded so good to me.