Good Gracious

gracious

I’ve been having an epiphany of sorts for the last few months.

Is that possible? To have an epiphany that stretches out over days and weeks? Perhaps a true epiphany is more like that typical “Aha!” moment. The lightbulb winking on and whatnot.

But the mommy brain I’m working with these days isn’t the speediest of creatures. Just this morning, I locked my scooter keys inside the seat compartment before I even pulled out of the garage.

And let’s not even talk about Monday, when I parked the scoot on Mission Street and walked away from it, leaving the keys dangling in the side lock ALL DAY LONG. How people passed up that opportunity for free wheels for 8+ hours is possibly proof that everyone else’s brain is just as sluggish as mine.

So it’s no wonder that this particular lightbulb has taken a looong time to illuminate. But now that it has, I can’t get the buzz out of my brain.

Being gracious. That’s the long and short of it.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea, turning it over and over as if in doing so I will discover some new meaning, a hidden key.

Becoming a parent makes you think of yourself differently. In some ways, it spotlights your biggest flaws, or turns up the volume on small eccentricities that you previously thought of as cute but now realize are just juvenile.

I have never made any bones about being a bold-faced misanthrope. I’m not a people-lover. Especially not en-masse. Crowds make me twitchy. Parties make me crave a quite nook and a book.

In my twenties I wore my misanthropy like a shiny silver badge. I flaunted it. I reveled in it. I embraced my inner grinch and dressed him up in big black boots.

I toned it down when I hit my thirties. I got more comfortable in my own skin and discovered that I was fine just being who I was instead of showing and telling all the time.

But I could still whip out the grinch at a moment’s notice, withering strangers with a glare. My sister has dubbed it the “Bugle Boy look” because of the time ages and ages ago when she and I went holiday shopping and for some reason ended up in a very long line at a Bugle Boy outlet. Someone tried to jump the line in front of us and I melted the skin off their face with my stare.

The thing I’ve begun to realize as I’ve gotten older and, yes, as I’ve become a mum, is that I tend to glare alot more than necessary. It’s my default setting, especially under duress.

And it’s not only strangers who feel the sting. I can whip it out on those closest to me, too. Even more so sometimes because I tend to filter my thoughts alot less around the people I heart the most.

But now I’ve had this epiphany about graciousness, and I’m trying very hard to be more selective about my misanthropy and grinchitude. I’m trying to save that withering glare for the occasions that truly call for it, such as keeping the skeeves out of my way when I’m strolling the baby.

I’m finding that I can be really good at being gracious if I stop to take a breath and put some thought into it.

Taking a few seconds to think before I speak or react or even blink gives me a chance to remember that it’s not all about me and how I’m feeling today. The stranger to whom I’m about to give a verbal smackdown might be having a much shittier day than I am, and I, in these few seconds, can either add to that pile of shit or shovel some of it out of the way.

So I’m working on it. It’s hard, especially when that default grinch setting is so easy to flip.

Recently we had a house full of people who have a history of putting me on edge, and that tense, prickly feeling has only increased now that my baby has been added to the relationship equation.

When I admitted to myself that I was going to be unable to defuse the grinch in this particular situation, I opted instead to stay silent so I wouldn’t say something stupid. In my head I kept hearing that old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Going mute isn’t exactly gracious, but it’s a step up from bitchness, so I’ll take it. This new attitude will take some time to cultivate, after all.

But I’ve had the epiphany. I’ve seen the light. And I know it’s time to grow up. It’s time to be gracious.

-Lo, who will still wear stompy black boots, don’t worry. She just might remove a few of the pointier spikes.

“Blink and they’re two”

mood: peaceful | drinking: yep

sixweeks

Strangers stop me on the street now. They peer into the pram, ask me, “How old is she?” And exclaim, “She’s so tiny — so beautiful — so precious — la la la.”

But they also, down to nearly a person, tell me, “It goes so fast. Before you know it she’ll be two — be going to school — be driving a car.”

Don’t I know it.

Today Lucette is six weeks old, and I can hardly believe how fast the time already flies. We’ve spent the last week holed up in a swanky hotel suite in Las Vegas. Bruce has been here on a job, and Lulu and I didn’t want to be home alone just yet, so we came along. She and I have had lots of time to snuggle, to bond, and to figure each other out.

The other night, sitting on the couch with the Vegas lights blazing like stars far below us, I promised her that I will always do my very best. In hindsight it might look faulty, but then this is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. And no matter what, I will give it everything I’ve got.

Hopefully that will be enough.

-Lo, who finds it surprisingly natural to refer to Bruce as “your daddy.”

Down on the farm

mood: sleepy | drinking: water

tractor1

There is something about going back to the farm that never gets old.

I haven’t lived there for at least 15 years now (and have no intention of moving back), but I love to visit. Of course, the actual farm I grew up on is now home to strangers, and the big grey house where all my childhood memories took root is now painted a trendy shade of purple.

My parents moved to a different farm, 8 or 9 miles away from our old home, when I was just a year or two out of college. But they’ve been there long enough, and I’ve visited often enough, that it’s endearingly familiar.

This time I went back with Bean in my belly, and my sister and nephew in tow. The little guy is now nearly 3, and old enough to get really excited about things like tractors and horses and big piles of sand.

Every day we were there, as soon as my nephew saw my dad he’d say, “Papa, I ride tractor? I ride big tractor? I ride bucket tractor?” And my dad, the ever-obliging grandpa, would prop Jude up on his lap and drive a never-ending series of tractors up and down the driveway.

Watching my parents as grandparents is delightful. Although, as my sister pointed out on this visit, my mom would never have given us all those sugary treats when we were kids. We had to suffer through “chocolate chip” cookies festooned with nasty carob droplets. But my nephew? He gets the real thing. Plus brownies. And M&Ms. And ice cream cake.

Now that grandchildren are making their appearance, my mom and dad are beginning to rearrange their lives in preparation for an eventual westward move to California. Even if Jude were the only grandchild, they’d make the move, but now they’ve got Bean due to show up soon, and later this fall we’ll meet my sister’s second child.

It will be amazing to have my parents just an hour or two away, instead of thousands of miles. Just to be able to make impromptu plans that don’t involve plane tickets and rental cars would feel miraculous.

But I’ll admit it, I’m going to miss showing up at the old stomping grounds. I’ll miss the red barns and the Midwest accents and drinking “pop” instead of soda.

I’ll miss the thrill of seeing, after years of absence, sights that used to be as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.

I’ll miss the sense of history embedded on every backroad. Here is where I learned to drive, as did my father before me. Here’s where I had my first kiss, where I earned my first paycheck, where I ran barefoot chasing lightning bugs.

I love San Francisco, and I have 10 years of history here, now. And soon Bean will be making all of her childhood memories here, in our little house by the sea.

But part of me will always be a farm girl, able to scale fences and bridle horses and remain totally unfazed by the presence of poop. And I wouldn’t change that part of my history for anything.

-Lo, back to the city life.

We are family

mood: busy | drinking: water
momdad_muir

The Mama & Papa Witmer were just in California for a visit. (They’re pretty adorable, no?)

I always look forward to the parental visits. Having moved so far away from the place where I grew up, I don’t often find myself reminded of my childhood.

But seeing my parents always brings back a flood of memories, and we usually end up around the table swapping stories that start with, “Remember that time…”

I have no doubt that becoming a parent myself will alter my view of my own mom and dad. For the first time, I’ll be standing in their shoes, forced to make some of the same decisions they had to wrestle with when my sister and I were tiny.

Boy and I have already started talking about how to let Bean be whoever she (or he) will be. How to let her (let’s just go with her for now) grow up to be confident in who she is, even if that “who” isn’t quite what we expected.

momdadme_muirI’m sure when I was a little two-year-old tow head running around pulling puppy dog tails, my parents didn’t expect that one day I would change my hair color a ridiculous number of times, date a boy in a band, stop going to church, get tattoos and buy a motorcycle. (Not necessarily all at the same time, of course.)

I’m sure, when they tucked me in at night, they had very different ideas of who I would become.

But they have let me grow up with grace. They let me make decisions they didn’t understand. They let me disagree. They let me go.

It couldn’t have been very easy for them.

But the freedom they gave me has made me a better me. And I think it’s one of the many reasons I actually get excited when my parents are coming to town, while many of my friends live in dread of that day.

If we start now, and we practice really hard, I hope that Boy and I can give Bean the same freedom and let her fly.

-Lo, who somehow also grew up to be taller than both her parents.