Never say Never

Three things I never thought I'd see myself doing:

1. Wearing an Alfred Dunner shirt
2. Calling a dog an asshole
3. Saying, "Man, this veggie burger is awesome!"

Yesterday I did all three. SIMULTANEOUSLY.

It was the 4th of July, and I was down to one kid. I'll be honest with you: for the first time, ever, I didn't have to refer to my dog-eared divorce decree to see whose holiday this was. I knew that the kids were all going to make plans with friends, and if they didn't, they were just going to stick around here. I have no idea if it was technically "my" holiday, and much to my amazement (/sarcasm) I didn't hear anything from Big Daddy regarding plans. So I approached it much like any other day.  

Charlie, Molly and Henry all had big teenager plans. They set off on their various adventures, one.after.another. Until it was just me, and William and Walter. 

I had no plans this year. None. If you know me, you know holidays aren't my favorite thing. Fourth of July seems kind of innocuous when compared to the BIGGIES like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but it still smarts. It's a time of family, of camping and BBQ and picnics. We don't really have "family", the kids and I. At least on my side. My mom and stepfather do nothing. My dad and stepmom have rejected communication from me, and I can't begin to describe to you the pain I feel when my stepsister posts things on facebook about her "awesome dad" and her "amazing family". Because that used to be my awesome dad, and my amazing family. It's not anymore, and before I become mired in a maudlin bawl-fest I'll stop. 

But that's why the holidays, even a "hot-weather, bang-bang let's grill some doggies" one like the Fourth, fill me with anxiety and tooth-gnashing angst.

When I want to beat myself up, I play a mental game called "Which one of my psycho traits will I pass on to my kids?". Yesterday I had a rousing game of it going on. I imagined generations ahead of me, filled to the brim with grandchildren and great grandchildren who face each holiday with trepidation and stress. Like blue eyes or wavy hair, in my head I've managed to burn my whackadoo brand into the DNA of people who have yet to be created.  And the game continued as I watched William just sort of linger around, not saying much but with an unspoken question in the air: "What are we gonna do today?". I did my usual "Hey, buddy. Whaddya feel like doing?" and a couple rounds of my famous "We Should..." and "You Know What Would Be Fun...." and then I busied myself with laundry and watering plants and writing.  

I passed on an invitation to my BFF's cabin, partly because Molly and Charlie both have to work this weekend, and partly because of the fact that my BFF is moving to her cabin until mid-August and I thought this would be a good time to cut down on the cocktails.  It's not easy to do that when your drinkin' buddy lives two blocks away and always has a fun new vodka flavor chilling in the freezer. So of course when the holiday melancholia began settling in, I started having second thoughts about my decision to not go up north. I pictured my kids, tanned and laughing and jet-skiing and I felt like Shitty Crazy Mom. 

See..this is what really effs me up on these holidays. My mind does a great job of painting beautiful pictures of what EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING and of WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING. In my head, every single person on this big blue earth is out there having fun, bonding with relatives and creating yet another picture-perfect memory for their children. And what I need to remember is that yes, some people are doing that. But others aren't. 

So I announced to William that we'd be taking Walter to the dog park. And so we went. We spent about an hour there, and without the distractions of dirty clothes and dishes to be put away and wifi, we talked a little bit about what we should do that evening.  "You want to go see some fireworks?" I asked him. We were sitting on one of the few semi-shaded park benches, watching Walter engage in his awkward play with a couple of his new dog pals. William was tossing woodchips through the holes in the chain link fence that surrounds the park. He replied, "I dunno. Do you?"

I worry about this 13 year old kid. I never used to. Now I worry a lot about the fact that I haven't been worried about him in the past (go look up self-flagellation in the dictionary and see if my picture is there, mmmkay?). There has been some trouble with this boy and some of the whippersnappers in his posse. Not awful, lethal, "go to the emergency room in an ambulance" sort of trouble, but trouble nonetheless. So a lot of these boys have spent Summer 2013 on some form of lockdown. William included. 

And thus the worry: is he becoming depressed? Does he have any friends anymore? Am I ruining his life? Funny how a question about whether or not we're going to see fireworks causes such introspection, huh? 

I like fireworks. They're awesome. What I don't like are: crowds, sweating, mosquitoes, parking, and crowds. And any fireworks display worth seeing involves all of these things. Did I mention crowds? I will never forget the hour I spent in the car, back when I was married, after seeing a fireworks show not too far from our home. Big Daddy at the wheel, me next to him, and four increasingly fidgety and whiny angels in the back. Big fresh mosquito bites begging for attention on my legs, a husband swearing not-so-surreptitiously under his breath and at least three kids who should have been in bed hours before. Getting out of that parking lot was a Herculean feat, and to this day I can't believe we made it out of there with all four kids and with a marriage (somewhat) intact. For some reason, when I think of fireworks, to this day I am thrust back into that muggy night. 

We decided to discuss the fireworks over dinner, and since we had Walter with us we decided to check out a dog-friendly drive in restaurant in the area. Galaxy Drive In is the place, and if you want my mini review? It was awesome. Super fast, very friendly service, good food that was so cheap I did a double-take at the bill. Plus, they let us bring the dog. So local peeps? Go check it out. 

That's where we were when I found myself wearing an Alfred Dunner shirt, raving about the half-eaten veggie burger that was clutched in my talons, and talking about how nice it was that Walter isn't such an asshole around other dogs anymore. Only I said "a-hole" because William is just a child. 

The Alfred Dunner? Judge away, people. It was on clearance at JC Penney's and if you are a woman of a certain girth, you know fat beggars can't be choosers when it comes to summertime clothing. This one is a rarity: 100% cotton, and the neckline doesn't go down to my bellybutton (why, oh why, do so many shirts over a size XL have such deep v-necklines? Because I'm fat means I want to show off my enormous boobies?). And yes, I said fat. I'm not fluffy, I'm not curvy. Right now, I'm fat. There's no pussyfooting around it (you don't hear "pussyfooting" much these days. Please don't Google it.). Maybe when I stop eating my feelings and get off my ass more often, I won't be fat. But for now, I am.  Anyhoo. This shirt is great, except for the fact that I have to wear a cross-body purse with it at all times to avoid giving off that maternity vibe.

The veggie burger? Don't tell anyone but I'm taking baby steps towards becoming a vegetarian. Maybe. Or maybe just switching to buying meat that was treated humanely before it became meat. Don't get me wrong, we aren't big Fred Flinstone-meat eaters around here. Burgers once in a while, sometimes chicken, a fair amount of bacon. But my conscience is telling me things, and also the kids are watching some really eye-opening videos in school. William now refuses to eat McDonald's because of the abhorrent conditions under which their livestock is kept. Molly educates me in the evils of additives like nitrites and hormones and antibiotics every time we go to the grocery store. So yeah...that veggie burger was awesome. Remember..I said baby steps.

And my dog, who used to be such an asshole to other dogs that I'd get anxious if we saw another pup walking ahead of us on the sidewalk...he's not so bad anymore. Besides, you can't really call him an asshole when he does stuff like this:

In the end, we skipped the fireworks. Someone in our neighborhood began setting them off around the time we got home from dinner, and Walter, who has never batted a ginger eyelash over loud noises before, started getting panicky.  William and I sat out on the deck for a while, and every so often, we'd see a colorful bloom of pyrotechnics above the treetops. 

And that was just fine.

I know that missing fireworks isn't going to ruin my son's life. I know that holidays aren't as important as the demons in my soul make them out to be. I know that raising kids is tough and that sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees in teenage-dom. I know that the only one who cares what I'm wearing is ME and I know that all it takes for me to feel better about myself are a few less cocktails and devoured feelings and a few more morning walks with my dog. I know that veggie burgers can be tasty. I know that my dog used to be kind of an a-hole but how can you not love a canine who cuddles with a boy?

And I know that this has been one looney-tunes blog post. My apologies and I promise to get back to "normal" ASAP. These holiday blues can suck it.


  1. OMG Jenny you crack me up!! I wish you lived closer! I was just like you yesterday...one kid was working and the other went to a party. So that left my oldest daughter and me and I felt the same way "what do you wanna do?". I really didn't feel like doing anything but was feeling guilty that we weren't at a pool or a party or the beach like everyone else. After taking the dogs for a walk and making a grocery store run, we decided to drive to the airport to see US troops that were coming home...spur of the moment plans we saw on tv that turned out to be terrific! Then we went to a local creamery for some home made ice cream. Came home and just chilled with the dogs since they were terrified. We didn't go see fireworks either and she was okay with that. It was different but it was okay anyway. Not sure what her dad did and don't really care anyway.

  2. Jenny, my dear, if this is what you mean by "whackadoo" or "looney tunes," then you and I are exactly the same kind of crazy! I'll confess something: for as long as I can remember I've been prone to the holiday blues myself (yes, it even happens to those of us who are close to our families). And I've only recently started to figure out that the culprit is my own unhealthy thinking habits of irrationally thinking "Everyone else MUST be having soooo much more fun than me" and/or "We SHOULD be doing/I WISH we were doing (something other than what we're doing)...then I'd feel much better." (Sound familiar? ;) See, you aren't alone! Part of what happens is that if it strikes me that my spouse isn't in a good mood or not enjoying himself, then it must be at least partly my fault for not planning different activities. Never mind that the REAL problem is it's hard for him to unwind and unplug when he's got time off of work, and he's just fine with what we're doing -- it's nothing to do with me at all. (And again I say, you're not alone in making yourself nuts!)
    Like I said, I've only just started to figure out that these crazy-making thought patterns are my problem, and to internalize the messages "don't compare your life to other people's!", "it is what it is," "I am plenty good enough," and similar affirmations (these apply to you too, just sayin'...:) And, if Hubby and I'd ever had kids, God only knows how often I'd have had to be locked up for worrying obsessively that I was ruining their lives with my craziness...Here comes that refrain again: YOU AREN'T ALONE!!
    I am so glad you, William and Walter wound up having a happy and peaceful time yesterday after all...and NO, of course not going to fireworks will not scar William for life :) We don't much like going anymore for the same reasons you don't -- plus, the dogs get so scared we can't stand the idea of leaving them home alone on the 4th. We set our own fireworks off in our driveway after dinner (the dogs don't hear 'em), and that's all.
    Oh, and btw...our Polly can be an a-hole too, with all due respect to her...
    Hope you feel better now! Actually, your post has reassured ME a lot about my own nuttiness :)

  3. Jenny, we don't have any reliable family either. All holidays suck for me if I give into what they represent and compare my plight to others. They are so much easier to ignore and isolate in my home.
    You make a lot of sense to me.
    For fireworks, since I have younger children, we do the drive into downtown, park illegally 15 min before they start, stand outside the car and swat at bugs, then drive home. The fireworks sucked downtown, lasted only 15 minutes and they had two incidents where shit tons of them blew off together close to the ground so you couldn't see anything but the tips.
    Fireworks, the 4th, and holidays are over-rated. I won't buy into these things once my kids are older and want to be with their friends.
    Can I feed you and any of your kids this summer? Or just take you out for a veggie meal? You crack me up.

  4. I stayed at the hospital all day with mom, and I was bummed because we didn't get to have family time. So then we decided to take the kids to a movie. Well it is impossible to find a movie for all of them since they range in age from 10-18, so we opted for kid-friendly and cheap-- Epic at the cheap movies. Well Spenser and Reed and Summer (Spenser's gf) bitched about it until I didn't even want to go. Then they said they were going anyway so we all went. Syd and Macy loved it. Reed thought it was stupid. Spenser and Summer left as soon as it was over without saying goodbye or thank you for the $15 popcorn and coke.

    So yeah I hate holidays too.


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