Friday, May 29, 2009

Yoo hoo! Has Anybody Seen My Sanity?

If you've spend any time in my kitchen at all, you likely have noticed the plethora of magnets adorned with pics from 50s-era advertisements. Lovely, wholesome women basking in the glow of motherhood and wifery (hey, ma, I coined a word!) As opposed to the cheery phrasing the ads most assuredly held 50+ years ago (from a real ad: "Look at the money my smart wife saved with Philco!"), the magnets are adorned with phrases like, "They're not looking, I could escape!" and "I'm one cocktail away from proving his mother right." My personal favorite--a lovely young miss, staring out of the confines of her magnet with a wistful expression, accompanied by the words, "Her greatest regret was not having more sex."

I'm sure you've seen these novelties in those trendy, self-consciously hip boutiques that feature $85 aprons and chick-lit novels with faintly sardonic titles like "Some Like it Haute." I love these silly magnets. Whenever I happen to glance at them (which occurs several times a day, given their location smack in the middle of the fridge door) I can't help but smile a little.  Their sentiment--and the juxtaposition of smily happy 50s wife with the sarcastic yet oddly cheerful 'tude of today--strikes a chord.

It sounds a little strange, summing up your life in a collection of sarcastic refrigerator magnets, but at this particular juncture of my existence, it feels right. I spend vast amounts of time simply trying to hold it together. Example? Tonight, after rushing around all day like the proverbial headless chicken, I found myself setting the table with dishes straight from the dishwasher. No big deal, right? I was placing the last fork next to the last plate when I realized the dishes hadn't been washed yet. But it gets better. For a second (actually more like 3 or 4) I considered just using them anyway. 

Mom of the year, right? 

I ended up not forcing the girls to eat off of last night's dishes. Luckily for them, there were still clean bowls in the cupboard. Yeah, eating steak out of a bowl isn't the way it's normally done, but at least they weren't consuming bits of left over sushi with their t-bone. Yeeewww...

I was done, though. With the girls, I mean, not the dishes. They weren't being particularly naughty. They were just being themselves--squealing, laughing, playing the perennial favorite dinner game "ocean" (wanna play ocean?--mouth opens, resplendent with masticated food--see?). I didn't yell, though. I didn't even raise my voice. I just folded my arms on the table and laid my head on them, waiting for the chaos around me to subside. 

And it was at this point I could have broken down into hysterical sobs (no, it wasn't just over the dishes thing, or even the exceedingly challenging day I'd had--late for every appointment, and every red light seemed bent on making me even later--I'm not a total martyr. Life is stressful right now on alot of levels, just like it is for everyone right now). My other choice was to just laugh it off. I've been blessed with the ability to laugh off most situations. It's usually pretty easy for me to just see the funny side of every situation. But tonight I just wanted to sit there at the kitchen table, the remains of dinner all around me, my head on my arms, and just feel sorry for me. You ever feel that way? I hate even admitting it...

But a strange thing happened. Suddenly, it got quiet. No just quiet, but eerily quiet, as if every living creature in the house had disappeared. Even the dogs ceaseless panting fell silent. I looked up and was met with two solemn-eyed little girls, watching me with a caution that was both sweet and amusing. I had a sudden realization. Had I yelled at their misbehavior, they likely would have continued it. Yelling mamas are easy to ignore, I've discovered. But utterly giving up was something they'd never seen before. My youngest gave me a big hug. My oldest did, too (crushing my pinky toe with her track shoe in the process). I smiled in spite of the pain from my protesting toe. My heart melted just a little as they squeezed me between them. We exchanged "I love you"s. Then they dashed upstairs, each trying to out-race the other to the shower. 

I'd love to say my mood instantly lifted. It didn't. But after they'd been tucked in (our nightly "Harry Potter" read aloud, prayers said--Nati saying hers while hanging upside down off the headboard of her bed but they still count, right?--and kisses doled out) I came downstairs to attack the load of laundry that waited for me on the couch like a giant lazy dog. With the majority of the day behind me, the house quiet at last, no more appointments to meet, no more red lights to fight, I was finally able to see the humor in the day. 

Those refrigerator magnets strike a chord because they are true. The image of the smiling mom/wife is what we present (or try to) the world. The flip comment underneath the picture is how we feel, but would never admit (except, perhaps, to our very closest friends after a couple glasses of wine). In any event, I can't possibly be the only person out there who feels this way--else, who is buying all those refrigerator magnets??


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