Friday, July 13, 2007

love power art song

Naiomi is Schmin's girlfriend. Some days she's his fiancee. Other days even his wife. It depends, I suppose, on what's transpired between them the night before. I do not speculate about it much. I figure their ebbs and flows, their mountains and molehills, belong to them.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shaken (to my very foundation) the day Schmin called to announce that they were planning to be married -- that week. When I asked if Naiomi was pregnant, came the answer: We don't know yet. This happened on the kind of day when you walk into your apartment and there's Lucifer, frying frankfurters on your hotplate. You look down and notice that, though its coils are red hot, the thing isn't plugged in. That's how you know this guy's the real deal and you have indeed, officially, arrived in hell.

I was going through so much the day Schmin called with his wedding and possible baby news that I had to laugh to keep from crying. The Bubs reminded me that whatever choices Schmin makes are not about me. I've read The Four Agreements. I know this -- intellectually. But emotionally, it's a different story. Emotion is where the clandestine mines lie. Emotion is where it's all about me. Emotion is where loving a child finds its home. Naturally, when said child plunges himself into a situation that can most charitably be described as half-baked, it feels personal.

I spent my youth in a hail of maternity; nearly all my adult life fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities of raising a son. Now that Schmin is 22 and living on his own, I am tasting freedom. At first I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt lost, without direction or purpose, but I am growing beyond this.

A grandchild most assuredly does not figure into my sexy new mix. A little critter trailing behind me calling me Grandma -- even an adorable one who worships me like Schmin worshipped my mother -- would cramp my style. It happens every day, especially to those of us who have children young, but my list of life goals does not include "Become Granny at 41."

No, no, no.

But how many things must we offer up in life? A shitload.

With no small degree of difficulty, I hold this up to God and say, God, I guess I'll go with you on this one.

God being God and all, she is offering me a little something in return. For the time being, I am neither a mother-in-law nor on a one-way ticket to Grandmaland.

I won't court trouble by believing myself to be untouchable. I am dealing with people (to whom I sometimes refer as "those two idiots" but I am above that today) in their early twenties. In their early twenties and so crazy so crazy in love. They could show up on my doorstep tomorrow with a set of triplets and a marriage license issued by the state of Nevada. In case I am someday to become eternally tied to their union and resulting offspring, I decided to make nice.

To make nice, and to make Naiomi a tote bag.

This was not the hardest decision because I really like the girl. I completely violate agreement number two (or is it three? or one?) of the four agreements by taking things personally every chance I get, but thankfully I can set it aside long enough to exercise compassion and empathy.

I know Naiomi and Schmin get into arguments and fights. That's why the wedding's on again off again. I know she's helped him become more mature and responsible, but I also know he finds her controlling and overbearing. Recently, I had a "not my baby" moment over something she did to him. (You know, Uh uh, you don't treat my baby like that. Not my baby.) I offered it up and kept working on the bag. I had some ambivalence about this, until the other day when I recalled my own young self. I think of the line from Rickie Lee Jones' "Flying Cowboys": Oh I was a wild, wild one. I wasn't completely wild, but I had a chip on my shoulder as big as St. Louis. That day as I stood in the mirror, thinking about what Naiomi had done to Schmin and fixing to get mad and put my own stuff in the tote bag, I remembered Randy, my first love, and how I'd taken all his pictures, from kindergarten through high school -- practically every school photograph taken of him up to that point -- piled them up, and set fire to them on my mother's balcony. I have deeply regretted this over the years. Not only was it an affront to Randy, but so unfair to his mother, who never hated me for it, though I couldn't understand why. To say I had an anger management problem as a teenager is an understatement. There were reasons I was the way I was -- reasons I hadn't learned to deal with in healthy or positive ways -- but, still.

Funny thing, I hadn't spoken to Randy in more than ten years and didn't know where he was the day I thought about what I'd done to his pictures. I stepped out of my bathroom and my phone rang. It was Mr. Stevens calling to tell me that Randy had just found him on MySpace and sent him a message asking if he was Steven Fullwood from Toledo and if he knew my whereabouts. It was absolutely a Twilight Zone moment, except I am coming to believe more in God tapping us on the shoulder in ways that look like pure weirdness, but are really intended to show us something about grace. I have since spoken to Randy, though the conversation was too lighthearted and sentimental for me to bring up the photographs. Mostly, there was relief because we finally know where to find one another (literally and figuratively).

I finished Naiomi's bag and took it to SnB for show and tell. A few days went by before Naiomi came to pick it up. In the interim, Natalie joked that she had wanted to tell me at SnB that I should keep the bag for myself (maybe she was serious, a wee bit). I joked that I was thinking about it, and that Naiomi had one more day before I claimed it as mine and handed her a sweater tote and told her that was her gift. I will confess, here and now but never again, that I did take the bag for a spin to Baja Fresh the day before she came to get it. My excuse, er, reason, was that I needed to know how my bags carry so I can get the proper strap length, the precise aerodynamics.

Truth be told, I get my greatest inspiration when I'm designing things for other people. I stall when designing things for myself. The words I embroidered on the back -- love, power, art, song -- came to me while I was standing in line at Central Library, waiting to check out a pile of sewing, crafting, and art books. I'd gotten all fired up leafing through the books and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the bag to finish it up. I thought about the work I'd done on it so far, thought about Naiomi, and something told me those were the words she could use. I jotted them in a notepad because I'm bound to forget things, and embroidered them at my first opportunity. The bag became even more hers at that point.

Not only did I get the joy (I'll call it what it is: ecstasy) of making this bag, but I can tell you it's brought me closer to Naiomi and Schmin. At the end of it all, no matter what choices they make, I want us to be in this together.

An aside but not really an aside, a warm hello to Amy in Australia. Last week, Amy left me the loveliest, most generous comment. Thank you, Amy. I'm glad you're here.


Ellen Bloom said...

Excellent story, Carlita. You really are a good writer!

You know that I "heart" the totebag...very, very much.

Frank said...

You are SO talented! I love your designs. I'm constantly awed by how clever you are.

Adrienne said...

Love the story girl! Love thebag too!!!

jessie said...

You certainly seem to have a handle on your emotions about this issue. If you can't control them, at least you can identify them!

If you do end up being a grandma at 41, you'll be way hotter than most of the other grandmas out there. :-)

MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

I do love that bag, and I totally would have kept it for myself (if I had your talent). I don't know what I'm going to do when the WMG starts dating. Good thing she knows she's not allowed to, until she's 57 or I'm dead.

Deborah said...

whenever I 'experience' my boys become more more men, I recite the Gibron poem to myself to remind me that "your children, are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of life, longing for themselves..."

Kelly said...

Love the bag! And the post - how well said! Do you have a tutorial for the bag at all?
-Kelly in Chicago

sahara said...

It's okay to take it personally for a minute. And yes, it's half-baked, they ARE immature; it's all that, but that's what love and youth is. You made out okay.

Please, do not start visualizing a grandchild following you around. Set up boundaries, so you can be a sexy woman, instead of a babysitter. And, of course Naiomi is overbearing––she's learned a whole different set of lessons––fortunately, your youth will make you a good mediator.

I know I sound selfish, but I've had to rescue a friend of mine who became a grandma at 40. She saw it as a punishment for her on youthful maternity. Her resignation to grandmahood, predicted a future of internal resentment, coupled with the continued infantilizing of the couple; talk about overbearing.

Once she set up some boundaries ("I'm only your babysitter when I feel like it, and NO, handle your own fights."), everybody became happier and better off. When we get together now, it's easier for her to see her daughter-in-law as an adult.

sappmama said...

Thanks, my friends, for these comments, they are a comfort to me. :)