The Lament of the Cider Maker’s Wife

I have three goals in life, but they are all negatively phrased. They are things I want to get through life without doing.

Lately I’ve added a fourth goal, which is to remember my three goals. On a recent visit, my dad found my three negative life goals intriguing. He phoned me later to discuss them, but I couldn’t at the time remember for the life of me what the third goal was.

Now that I’ve remembered them, I’m writing them down:

  1. Never sue anyone.
  2. Never rent a storage locker.
  3. Never get a divorce.

These seem simple, but I realize that they are tied to big-picture philosophies that can be phrased positively, yet not quite as succinctly as the yang to their yin:

  1. Try to get along with people, and don’t hold resentments or try to get even (not even with that ahole who honked at me in Ballard, where it is illegal to honk, and who didn’t even look at me when I rolled down my window to shout bleep at him when he ran the red and damn I hope that guy gets his nuts sued off someday when he hits a bicyclist or pedestrian).
  2. Don’t get tied to material stuff and don’t own more than I need.
  3. Marriage is hard work but worthy work, and my long-term marriage is one of my proudest accomplishments, especially in this day and age.

Obviously, life can throw curveballs, and I also need to remain flexible.

  1. If someone through meanness or carelessness incapacitates me or one of my loved ones and I subsequently need money to care for myself or them, of course I would sue for it. One does what one has to do. There are good reasons for lawsuits.
  2. If I had the chance to live somewhere exciting for a year, of course I’d get a storage locker for irreplaceable objects, like that wedding dress that I’ll never fit into again.
  3. And I would urge anyone with an abusive partner to get their butts out of that situation. Not all marriage is worth saving. It’s only a sacred bond if both parties respect each other and that bond. I got lucky. My guy is quirky (maddening! aggravating! there’s a cow horn in my dishwasher! we drove to a winery yesterday for a tasting and we left with an empty 55-gallon drum tied to the car roof!) but trustworthy (when I asked, he told me exactly what the 55-drum on the car roof and the two in the vehicle cost…at which point I upped my order to include the vintner’s private reserve and a few others, instead of the one token bottle of Chardonnay I’d planned on, indicating that the Man I Married should pull out his wallet to pay for it). However, I’m lucky I live in a society where divorce is an option when someone is miserable in a marriage.

I am largely content in my marriage, though there are sometimes minutes or hours or days when I’m miserable in it, such as that car ride home with the 55-gallon drum lashed to the car roof.

Worth the price if FULL of wine

It wasn’t so much the cost I minded as the noise. Anything over 43 mph and we had a 55-gallon bagpipe droning an excruciating dirge, which I shall entitle Lament of the Cider Maker’s Wife. I’m not sure if the noise was caused by the friction of wind through the tie-down straps, or wind through the small opening in the drum to which MIM had cleverly affixed the strap hooks, or whether it was the unholy manifestation of the screaming in my brain. Around the block would be one thing, but we had 66.12 miles to travel—us, the mobile embodiment of a soccer stadium swarming with vuvuzelas.

I turd you not, this is exactly what we sounded like [click here], but louder.

“This sounds just like the load of wood we carried home on the car roof last weekend,” the Little Monster piped up from the backseat. I couldn’t see him, blocked as he was by the steel keg wedged in the seat next to him.

The Little Monster and I should be grateful that MIM left room for us in the car; he had planned to purchase more than three drums. Before you give MIM credit for not stuffing one of us into a drum, I must point out that the drums don’t open (except for a 2” hole), which is why the clever vintner was selling them. “They’re difficult to clean,” he noted. You might be wondering: if a professional vintner has difficulty in cleaning these kegs, how in the world is the Man I Married going to manage? Ah, Grasshopper, trouble not your meditative thoughts with this conundrum, because he will probably never get around to it, and, if he does, it will keep him busy enough to prevent him from purchasing other equipment, except for special cleaning supplies.

But even the noise I could take. What I couldn’t take was when I turned to the Man I Married and asked, “Is it safe?” It’s second nature for me to visualize disaster scenarios like the drum tearing loose and crashing through the windshield of the car behind us, resulting in 1) us being sued because we’ve killed, paralyzed, and/or disfigured the extended family traveling happily to Great Grandpa’s 101st birthday party, and 2) losing everything in the lawsuit except worthless sentimental crap that we’d have to shove in a storage locker while we lived on the street, until 3) we divided up all of the useless crap after the divorce because I would never forgive him for the unsafe 55-gallon drum on our car roof that wrecked our lives. But I have an active imagination that is very adept at Technicolor visions of worst-case drama, to which he usually gives me the “thigh pat,” which is the nonverbal condescending communication that translates as, “Of course it’s safe, honey. Stop your constant worrying, which, although amusing and endearing, is also tiresome. The world is not about to end, and I would not endanger my family so recklessly. The load on the roof is secure, I assure you. Trust me. I have huge amounts of experience with buying large, expensive objects which I will spend the next few years carting from place to place while I figure out what the hell to do with them.” Yes, all of that can be communicated with one touch.

But he did not give me the thigh pat. He shrugged and shouted over the noise, “I have no idea!”

If looks could kill, I need never worry about #3 on my list, because I would be a widow instead of a divorcée.


The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

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Sweeping Mother’s Day under the Rug

This is the first Mother’s Day card that my son made for me on my first Mother’s Day as a mother, a day that I had long awaited with rose-colored glasses:

The card accurately sums up his confusion and the resultant catastrophic day that we had. A rabid squirrel on heroin would have been sedate in comparison to the flipped out mess that bore some resemblance to a six-year-old boy. Yes, the card says, “Ragin.”

Like so much else that first year as a new family, we didn’t see it coming. How could we not have, I wonder in retrospect? I was his twelfth mother. Any idiot could have guessed that the day would not be at all Hallmark. Happy Mother’s Day would be a loaded concept for a child with his background—loaded like a cannon stuffed with Spagghettios; light the fuse and you’ve got yourself a big ole mess amidst the chaos, usually with a dog wolfing it all down just to upchuck it later in your shoe closet.

My eyes were officially opened. How horrible a day must it be for half a million foster kids in this country? Or for those who had lost their mothers, perhaps too young or tragically? Or, like me, who had tried for years without success to become a mother? Or for mothers whose child had died? Or, perhaps most of all, for the mothers who couldn’t mother, like the one whose biological son now makes Mother’s Day cards for me?

We had been told during our foster-adopt certification training courses that there are no orphans in this country in foster care. None? That’s right. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Extended family members step up for orphans. Even if that’s an exaggeration, suffice it to say that a majority of kids in foster care have living parents who are unavailable to them. The best case scenario for foster care is that it’s a temporary arrangement with the goal of helping to reunify the biological family. Mother’s Day must be intensely baffling for those kids.

So Mother’s Day, now that I’m finally a mother, is a melancholy day.

Mother’s Day reminds me of all that my son has so unfairly lost, and all of the confusion that he continues to wrestle with. Mother’s Day also reminds me of my own mother, who deserves a good Mother’s Day from a daughter who is as wonderful and attentive to her as she was to her own mother, which I, unfortunately, am not. She deserves better (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!).

Last year the Little Monster made me a card at school, and it hangs on my door. He wrote this:

Mom,
nice, loveing,
helping, cooks, cleans,
drives, cleans, smart & strong, talintide,
Always there for me.

I thought that perhaps we’d finally made progress and he had made some peace with Mother’s Day.

Then the school principal called the next day. School principals don’t call to let you know that all is going well. No dodged bullet there.

This year, the Little Monster gave me my Mother’s Day present a couple of weeks ago, a beaded bracelet he made during Arts in the Schools day at his amazing elementary school. He couldn’t wait for Mother’s Day to give it to me. I have to say, objectively speaking, that it is gorgeously crafted and displays his undeniable talent.

Just as well that he gave me the present early. I was also already contacted this week by the Vice Principal. So he got a head start on the whole shebang this year.

Notice that the Little Monster got “cleans” into last year’s card twice. I guess I clean a lot (you’d never know it to look at my house). How nice that he notices!

So, since this mother is so good at cleaning, perhaps I’ll just sweep Mother’s Day under the rug.

Although the flowers I just got are awfully nice.


The Strangler Fig: Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Now on Kindle at Amazon.com

Six sensual, darkly fantastic tales that reimagine classics such as Dorian Gray, Helen of Troy, and The Yellow Wallpaper. The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories author turns to a darker eros with her new collection of haunting and magical tales, which have appeared in various fantasy, horror, and literary anthologies. About 100 pages.

From New Orleans to Mexico to ancient Hawaii: An obsessed paparazzo stalks his subject–a famous singer whose photos morph but face remains unchanged. An unborn triplet haunts and taunts its mother for the choice she made. An infertile woman seeks to learn the language of the dead baby she continues to carry.

Surreal, slipstream, supernatural stories, in which fertility and infertility take a stranglehold on possessed minds. Collected from the pages of Best of Crossed Genres [Year One]: Fantasy & Science Fiction with a Twist;  Thou Shalt Not: Stories of Dark Crime and Horror;  the South Dakota Review;  Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica;  and others.

Cover image courtesy of Rhonda “Shellbelle” Renee © 2009, ShellbellesTikiHut.com

The Theoretical Dump and Run, V

Read Parts I & II          Read Part III                Read Part IV

Conclusion: GUILTY!

Time was running out. I had not checked in on the Little Monster at the birthday party like I’d vowed. I could hustle back empty-handed to the game arcade, but priorities are priorities. It was now essential that I fork over major dough to prove to myself that I’d had some lovely, carefree me time a week before Christmas. I MUST BUY PERFUME. But I could no longer smell a thing, although it would be safe to say that I reeked.

So away from the perfume I flew like a flash;
I threw open the store doors though I’d yet to spend cash;
I staggered outside, smelling like resin and cake;
If only these shoppers knew what was at stake!
I’d not once checked my kid,
to see what might be the matter.
How the Bad Mommy Police Would natter and chatter!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a whole perfume store, and oh did I cheer!

Actually I think it was more hysteria than cheer.

I entered the store and found the back corner, which is where people who look like me belong in stores that look like that.

And—again—what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, like, a normal person.

No feather boa. No desperate smile. She looked…competent. She looked…organized. She looked like she had things to do.

“Can I help you?” she asked me, which is just about my least favorite question in the English language, to which I usually respond with a rough translation of GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!

I think I audibly moaned. “I don’t know! I’m overwhelmed!” I waved around my scent sticks like an ineffectual fairy with a dead wand. “I can’t smell anything!”

“Ah,” she said, “you need coffee.”

She uncapped a container of espresso beans and waved it under my nose. I descended from my panicked high. I settled back into a state of…me. I was suffused with the sudden knowledge that I didn’t need to buy anything.

“It does get overpowering,” she said, straightening boxes, managing to look briskly busy but also attentive to me. Bless my soul, but I do believe what she possessed was a brain. “What sort of scent do you like? Floral or citrus, or…?”

“I have no idea.” I muttered something about my recent experience with chocolate and amber and ultra-feminine roses. “What’s popular?” Couldn’t I put my trust and faith in the female masses? Or the men who liked something enough en masse to buy it for them?

“Well?” she mused. “This one is my favorite. I can wear it any time, any occasion, all day long, and I’m always happy with it.” She rattled off some lingo about top and bottom notes, and how it finished, and she also dropped the amber-bomb. She mentioned a floral opening and a base of patchouli. Now that I could handle, shoving some Bob Marley up that Elie Saab’s rosebud.

She efficiently spritzed it onto a stray stick, fanned it around away from me, and then handed it to me.

I liked it in a mildly pleasant, nonoffensive sort of way. And the bottle was mildly pleasant in a nonoffensive way. In fact, the dispenser was metal; unbreakable is not insignificant when you live with an active Little Monster who is slowly, inadvertently, destroying the house, sure as a huffing and puffing wolf. Any screw to his curious eyes is meant to be unscrewed; any paint meant to be peeled; any nail meant to be pried out; any wood meant to be chipped; any wall meant for new art.

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“‘Guilty’,” she said.

SOLD!

I would’ve bought that stuff if it had smelled like a turd packaged in crapper-shaped plastic.

I hadn’t found a book, nor a perfume that paid literary homage, but let’s talk symbolism! Guilty as charged! I’d dumped my child in a gaming center, which, despite our therapist’s assurances to the contrary, could be rampant with drunk pedophiles and inattentive chaperones! Despite my best intentions, I had not checked on him even once for close to two hours now. No matter that none of the other boys’ parents had the slightest intention of checking up on their kids during their two-hour window of freedom. He was different. I was different. I was a paranoid fruitcake, and I had every reason to be. We both knew the hard way that the world was full of terrible, terrible people.

Still, I had just enough time to make my purchase.

“And who was helping you today?” the woman at the checkout stand chirped at me, holding up a pen and a form. I figured there was some sort of compensation system, and I really wanted to reward the sane lady who had talked me down from desperation. I said that while I did not know her name—I practically did not know my own name at that point—I gestured in her general direction and motioned something about a ponytail.

The salesclerk glanced to where I pointed. “Oh,” she sniffed, setting down her pen and form without writing anything. “A rep.”

Clearly a subspecies not worthy of note. My kin.

I stepped outside, breathing in the lovely rush of carbon monoxide, and tucked my little bag into my purse so that the Little Monster wouldn’t see it; it had to show up magically in my stocking on Christmas morning. Still, it would be difficult to hide the evidence of my floral-amber-chocolate-citrus-patchouli reek. The Little Monster has always been hyper-vigilant, which, although it’s probably a symptom of PTSD, will someday make his future life’s partner very happy. The Little Monster notices things like when I get a haircut, which is not so true of straight men like the Man I Married. The Little Monster says things like, “You look nice,” when he immediately sees that I’ve showered and changed out of the outfit I’ve been wearing for five days straight. He also says that I smell nice when I’ve used a small amount of scented hand cream.

These adorable traits coming from my sincere little man break my heart almost more than anything else, because they are so touching, so lovely, yet they are surely rooted in a sad history, a tool he used to survive—and, yes, to manipulate. I don’t think I noticed anything at all about my mother’s appearance until I was on my own at a late age, because she was always so safely there. She was a reliable background to a secure childhood, in which she would always be my mother, my father would always be my father, my bedroom would always be my bedroom, and I would never be harmed. She wasn’t wallpaper, not invisible, but she wasn’t a person. She was simply my mother. The one who was always there in the waiting room or the parking lot or the audience, always on time, always with a load of groceries needing to be put away, always with a book.

But to the Little Monster I was a person first. His mother second. A mother-person who now smelled suspiciously like I’d spent two hours in a perfume department. I got ready for the barrage of questions from him as I plunged into the dark cave of the gaming center, wondering how to fudge the truth (okay, LIE!) when he asked me if I’d bought anything.

I swam through the murk, still too shell-shocked from the perfume department and the size of the new debit on my charge card to care much about the gunfire and bombs going off around me. And then the group of boys appeared out of the electronic jungle like an opening scene from [insert name of Part Three of violent misogynistic action superhero Armageddon zombie thriller most likely featuring Tom Cruise movie here].

The birthday boy’s mother herded the group of boys toward the exit. She never stopped walking as she greeted me while heading purposefully outside. She cattle-dogged the Little Monster away from her herd and thus returned him to my care. As she strode toward the door and what I hoped was a Tequila Sunrise waiting for her at home, she said to me, “He was AWESOME.”

Not good. Not fine. But AWESOME.

Well, knock me over with a feather boa.

Still, he was wired for sound. “Mom! [something about car wrecks]! Mom! [something about monster guts]! Mom, can we [something about returning to wreak havoc upon aliens]?!”

I waited for the dust to settle and the usual questions to start, like, “What did you do? Where did you go? Did you eat anything? Why do you smell so weird?”

But he didn’t notice me other than as a sounding board. He didn’t smell me. He didn’t ask a single question about what I’d been up to. He was too busy being a boy. A normal, happy boy who had been treated for once like a normal boy. And I was just his mother, that peculiar combination of background noise and chauffeur. The one who showed up on time to pick him up and take him to his next adventure. Not a person with a story to tell or a worry in her head—just Mom.


The Strangler Fig: Stories by Jennifer D. Munro

Now on Kindle at Amazon.com

Six sensual, darkly fantastic tales that reimagine classics such as Dorian Gray, Helen of Troy, and The Yellow Wallpaper. The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories author turns to a darker eros with her new collection of haunting and magical tales, which have appeared in various fantasy, horror, and literary anthologies. About 100 pages.

From New Orleans to Mexico to ancient Hawaii: An obsessed paparazzo stalks his subject–a famous singer whose photos morph but face remains unchanged. An unborn triplet haunts and taunts its mother for the choice she made. An infertile woman seeks to learn the language of the dead baby she continues to carry.

Surreal, slipstream, supernatural stories, in which fertility and infertility take a stranglehold on possessed minds. Collected from the pages of Best of Crossed Genres [Year One]: Fantasy & Science Fiction with a Twist;  Thou Shalt Not: Stories of Dark Crime and Horror;  the South Dakota Review;  Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica;  and others.

Cover image courtesy of Rhonda “Shellbelle” Renee © 2009, ShellbellesTikiHut.com