Why moms do the dishes before they leave.

Several weeks ago, I was at my daughter’s house.  I went because she and her husband are teachers and my grandson was sick.  Again.  For the millionth time.  And, like lots of young couples with toddlers, they were out of sick leave.  So, I loaded up my car with the presents I had been picking up for my little guy along the way and a few fun things for his mom and dad and got ready to make the nine hour drive to where they live.  My husband was headed the opposite direction.  To Mississippi and Louisiana for work.  We kissed goodbye and went on our way.  The trip was uneventful.  Nine hours of James Michener’s Poland and wind and trucks. And, finally, I was there.  Their little white house with the green shutters and three of the people I love most in the world.  I was glad to be there.

For the first three days, I sat and rocked my sick little grand baby and let him watch every version of Hickory Dickory Dock that exists on the internet.  French. German. Disco -style.  We watched them all.  Repeatedly.  I would have done anything to make that little guy feel better.  He was feverish and croupy and miserable.  And, I was glad to be there. Glad I could take some of the pressure off of his mom and dad and let them get a week of work in without a dreaded phone call to their boss to say they would be out for the whole week. Glad to just “mom” them all for a minute.  The plan was for me to stay for two weeks and then for them to come back home with me for spring break.  We were excited about the thought of a whole week together with Pa-paw.  There would be trips to the park and dinners out and fun.  It would be family time and a way to keep my grandson out of day care for three weeks to get good and well before school started back.

During that entire two weeks, I was also watching the news.  The Covid-19 situation was ramping up.  Everyday was news about its’ spread and the tragedy that was starting to unfold.  Phone calls would go out to my husband every night.  This is scary.  I don’t think the kids should come back to Houston.  Maybe, I should come home early?  Surely this isn’t going to get as bad as they think? But it was and it did.  Finally, I made the decision to leave early.  I have Lupus and I have to give it just enough deference to keep myself healthy enough for emergency nine hour trips and grandsons who need me.  Other than that, I flip it the bird everyday. That last sentence made me smile. It’s really how I feel about the whole subject.

So, I broke the news to my kids.  I was leaving and they weren’t.  We were going to have to save our spring break for another time.  Maybe Easter. Maybe a glorious Easter by the lake–like last year.  We could hope.

Nobody was happy.  Well, maybe my son–in-law wasn’t as sad as my daughter.  Either way, I got up that last morning and saw them all off to work. I hugged my little guy’s warm little self and told him how much I loved him.  I hugged my son-in-law and admonished him to take care of everyone and I squeezed my daughter until she pulled away–much as she has been her whole life.  I waved from their front door, smiled and blew a million kisses while they backed out and until they were gone.

And then I cried.

I cried for the entire hour it took for me to pick up their house.  I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and swept the floors.  I made the beds and picked up Everett’s toys.  I scrubbed the counters with bleach and straightened the chairs around the dining tables. It wasn’t that it was that messy–it was just that it was the last way I could “mom” them before I left.  Before I got in my car and drove away–finally acknowledging that a pandemic had come to America.  That the future was uncertain.  That there was no way to know how life was going to change.  When they came in that day, I wanted them to know a mom had been there.  Someone whose job it is to make things better.  Make the house smell good.  Sweep away dust and crumbs and mess.  Someone you can lean on.

Finally, everything was done.  I left them a little mad money where they would find it the next morning when they made coffee and a note that said “I love you so much!” and then it was time to go.  I drove the nine hours home with Poland and wind and trucks and then I was there.  With my sweet guy.  Hugging in the garage.  So glad to be together and safe.

Since then, it’s been our own little house and each other and the news.  We are self-quarantined and I have spent most of the time watching the coverage.  My heart has been shattered watching the news from Italy.  I’ve prayed for all of the truckers I saw on those two trips and resolved to do so from now on.  I’ve made all of the mixes I bought at the craft shows last Fall and I’ve watched too much dumb television.

And, through it all, I’ve wished I could make it go away.  I don’t want my friends to be scared or for doctors and nurses to be overwhelmed with what is being asked of them. I don’t want the nice man I met in the ESL class I taught to lose his restaurant.  I want everyone to be ok.  Unfortunately, I can’t fix any of it.  I can’t make any of this go away.  All I can do is the same thing I did in my daughter’s kitchen that morning while I bawled.

I can try to make things a little better.

I can mom.

So, I’ll put a teddy bear in my window for the neighborhood kids to find on their bear hunt.  I’ll call people I’m worried about.  I’ll reach for my husband’s hand while we watch TV and make him his favorites for dinner. I will make sure the underwear and socks get washed and I will remember to laugh.  I will watch for opportunities to be a helper in the world and, more than anything else,  I will pray.

Pray that the Good Lord is gearing up to mom us all.  To sweep away the mess and restore order.  To straighten what has been knocked over and to allow us to come home one day and find our little corner of the world has been put to rights.  That maybe He has a beautiful Easter planned for us.  And, that if that is not the case, that it will be ok anyway. That, throughout this chaos, we will feel gathered up and protected and restored. That we will continually find little gifts hidden in our lives straight from Him to say I love you so much.  A little mad money for the future.

The future when we have come through this.  When stores are open and I can go buy a pizza and joke with my waiter.  A future when I am, once again, in my church with my hands raised praising God for his blessings.  A future when Easter baskets are being planned for.  A future when my kids ring my doorbell and come through that door in a rush of luggage, and noise and excited dogs.  A future where I am squeezing my daughter until she pulls away.  When that day comes, my house will be ready.  There will be something that smells good cooking and maybe a puzzle ready for the kids.  There will be clean underwear and socks and toys placed in my grandson’s cabinet.  I will be there too.  In the middle of it all.  Making a grocery list and ready to mom.  And, I will be glad to be there.

I love you world.  There is a lady in Houston praying for all of you and ready to mom if you need me.









You’re not my Today.

It was a two-story, unfinished, disheveled and much loved house on a quiet street in a little Texas town.  That was the first place I remember starting my mornings with The Today Show.  Waiting my turn in the bathroom or shoveling corn flakes in my mouth at our old red table I would watch whatever Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumble were talking about.  Some of it I understood.  Some of it I didn’t.  But, I understood it was all about us.  Us meaning Americans.  And, I liked the feeling.  I liked the way Jane’s eyes crinkled at the corners and I liked Bryant Gumbel’s grin.  They were a part of the routine of my day. Alarm clocks, my parent’s voices in the kitchen, jeans not dry in the dryer and The Today Show.

So, when I went off to college I took The Today Show with me.  Then it became Katie Couric with her bright smile and, still, Bryant Gumble with his dry humor that woke me up for my 8:00 A.M. class.  Many mornings I would get dressed with the stress of being late and that theme song playing in the background.  I started to understand a little more what they were talking about and mostly didn’t care.  There were cute boys to smile at in my Psychology class and I was too young to believe anything really bad could happen.  At least I didn’t believe it until the Gulf War started.  Then, it was a group of us gathered around a TV in someone’s apartment trying to figure out what it all meant.  Ramen noodles and worry and The Today Show.  That’s how I remember those days.  I felt my immortality for the first time.  And, not only mine, but those of the young people around me.  All of a sudden, life changed.  A little of our carefree spirit was gone and The Today Show changed for me too.  I started to watch it like an adult.  I needed them to give me information I could use.  Information that could frame the way I viewed my world.  And, they did.  I was a faithful viewer.  I watched and kept watching.

I was still watching in 2001 when 9/11 happened. That morning.  Who can forget it?  It was a sunny New Mexico day and I had my windows open to the morning light.  I was curling my little daughter’s hair.  Springy, blonde curls that were so fine I burned my fingers each time to hold them onto the curling iron.  It was my own children’s corn flake and homework morning and The Today Show was on.  Katie Couric was still there with her warm smile and now Matt Laurer was there too.  We liked him then.  He was a good thing to wake up to every morning and, when I needed them, they both got me through that horror.  That feeling of watching those planes hit and fellow Americans die.  I didn’t sleep in my own bed for weeks, because I was afraid I might miss some news I needed.  Some little bit of information that I could use to protect my family.  And, through it all, our television was tuned to NBC.  They were Americans just like us.  Their grief was ours and we were all on the same team.  Lots of other things were broken in the world, but not that.  Not that morning staple that had been with me my whole life.  That was something I could count on.  America’s morning show.  As American as apple pie and baseball.  And, even though I knew I liked President Bush and some people didn’t, I still felt like there was a place for me in The Today Show’s audience.  We might disagree, but we were all Americans.  The same except for our differences and that didn’t really matter.  Because being American superseded that.  Or at least I thought it did.  I truly believed I mattered as a viewer to The Today Show.

I thought that for a really long time.  Until I didn’t.  One day, I don’t even know when, I faced the painful reality that I was not a viewer that The Today Show cared about.  I guess it must have been in my mid-thirties when I realized that my concerns weren’t being represented in the news pieces wedged between the light interviews with celebrities and recipes for whole-wheat pancakes.  For instance, the issue of abortion.  This was an issue fundamentally important to me and I never saw a story that represented the way I felt about it.  Instead, with deliberately chosen words and stories, there was always a hand in the middle of my back pushing me toward the conclusion they had reached.  There was only one right way to feel about the issue and it was theirs.  I would watch in the mornings as I drank a cold cup of coffee and waited for my teen-ager to find her books or favorite pair of shoes and feel a frustration building in my gut. Eventually, I accepted that I was never going to be represented in their reporting.  I had no choice but to conclude that my half of America was irrelevant to them.  This puzzled me, because my journalism professor had made me, a young aspiring writer, rewrite news stories over and over until she couldn’t discern my point of view.  It was hard to keep myself out of my words, but I understood that it was the difference between news reporting and writing fiction.  Ultimately, I decided news was not what I was meant to do.  I have too many feelings to keep them out of my writing.  My feelings are my words.  But, for those that chose the other path, I really wanted them to adhere to that standard.  I really wanted The Today Show to tell the story of the half of America that supports abortion and then I wanted them to tell mine.  They never did.  Not about that issue and not about many, many others.  But, I kept watching.  I’m loyal.  The same lady has cut my hair for years.  I always shop at the same grocery store.  I am that person. I kept hoping that, maybe, someday their journalism teacher would call them all on the carpet and tell them their feelings were showing up in what was supposed to be news.  Your chocolate is in my peanut butter.  That type of thing.  But, it didn’t happen.

Now, I am in my 50s and I still tune in every morning.  I keep hoping to see some fragment of how I feel reflected fairly in their reporting.  I’m beginning to think I should just go join all those folks looking for the Loch Ness Monster.  I would probably fit right in.   Apparently, I am doomed to be an eternal optimist.

I will say that I don’t always watch the whole show anymore.  I catch the first fifteen minutes and sometimes I tune back in to see Steals and Deals–I like a good bargain. Or, I’ll watch the cooking segments.  I love it when you can tell they hate the food, but they have to smile and say “Yum” anyway! It always makes me laugh but, for my news, I am forced to go elsewhere.  I’ve created a weird conglomeration of different sources to try and get an accurate representation of issues.  It’s exhausting, but I do it.  I want to be an informed American, but I don’t want to be an ignored one.

Actually, that’s their fault too.  They’ve done so many stories on how everyone matters.  Find your truth! Live your best life! Lean in! Continuing to watch them would be failing to validate my own feelings. That can’t be healthy right?  As it is, after watching, I sometimes feel like I need to go watch “He’s just not that into you.”

Maybe, this blog post, is me coming to terms with this obvious breakup with my old friend. It’s not me.  It’s them.  I am not a viewer they want.  Guess it’s time to take the hint.  Does anyone know if they show re-runs of Captain Kangaroo anywhere?  I loved that part where they gave away the bike. If only it included a cooking segment I would be set.