Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rules of the Game in Stepford

OK ... let me just start by saying upfront that living in Stepford is not all bad. If it were, well, I’d be compelled to leave and after seventeen years, two kids, a yellow dog and house number three, I just don’t see that happening. AND, there are actually some really good things about living in Stepford. One of these things is its predictability. I like this ... I like things to be the same today as they were yesterday and I like knowing they will be the same tomorrow. For instance, I like knowing that it will take me exactly six minutes to get from my driveway to the church parking lot. This is important because I’m always running late and I hate being late for church.

There are two times a year, however, that I never know how long it will take me to get from my driveway to the church parking lot. One of these is Parrothead Weekend (when Jimmy Buffet is in town) and the other is Redneck Weekend (when Kenney Chesney is in town). Invariably, these two weekends are back to back. Invariably, I’m late for church two weeks in a row. I realize this is partially my fault for purchasing a house that has the Stepford Concert Venue in between my house and my church. However, the complete lack of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation by the Parrotheads and the Rednecks for how the game is played in Stepford got me thinking that perhaps someone (someone like me) should publish a Rules of the Game for our sweet little burb, a tourist guide, per se. So if you’re planning a trip to Stepford, take heed, and while in Stepford, do as the Stepford Wives do.

1) If one is good, way more is better. This applies to money, jewelry, houses, Hummers and Louis Vitton’s, just to name a few. This applies to just about anything with the noted exceptions of weight and gray hair.

2) The newer the better. This applies to everything listed above, but also includes wives and breasts. Wives would be listed in number one, except that it is illegal in Texas to practice polygamy—just ask anyone living in Eldorado at the moment.

3) Gadgets are good. I haven’t done the research on this, but I’m convinced that Stepford contains the highest per capita distribution of Blackberry’s, Bluetooth’s, and iPhones in the universe. My children are convinced CPS will take possession of them at any moment, because they are continually and purposefully deprived of cell phones of their own.

4) Bigger is better. This specifically applies to diamonds, houses, Hummers, and breasts. Under no circumstances does this apply to rear-ends.

5) Thou shall not approach the soccer field without coiffed hair and a full face of make-up. I violate this rule weekly, so I can convey to you with confidence that if people pretending not to know you hurts your feelings, you should not attempt this.

6) If you choose not to drive an SUV, a Mercedes or BMW sedan are the only acceptable alternatives. Stepford Wives live under a carefully crafted set of myths and one of those is that driving a mini-van will make you fat. Having driven a mini-van for the last nine years, I purport to have busted this myth. I believe there are those in Stepford who would say otherwise.

7) If you work outside the home, never, ever, ever say while discussing the fact that you have an occupation other than motherhood that you “have to work.” This is a poor reflection on your Stepford Husband that directly implies that his earning power is not up to Stepford standards. You’d be better off discussing a deficiency of what’s in his pants.

8) If you don’t workout and it’s not obvious, just leave it at that. If asked what gym you belong to, just say you use your home gym, even if that really means your dusty treadmill, a flat exercise ball and couple of sad hand weights.

9) Thou shall not clean one’s own house. You also must be prepared to lament the difficulty in finding a good maid the way that your unmarried friends still living in the city lament the difficulty in finding a good man.

10) Jeans whose MSRP are less than $150 are unacceptable. If you need to buy them off eBay to defray the cost, please do so, but by all means keep it to yourself.

I’m living proof its possible to live happily in Stepford while violating the Rules of the Game. However, this path is not for the faint of heart, insecure or vain. And lest I be deemed a hypocrite, I confess I see myself in a few of the Rules. You can’t live in Stepford for as long as I have without at least a few things rubbing off on you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mother's Days to Remember

“When’s Mother’s Day?” my eleven year old son asks from the backseat of my minivan.

“This coming Sunday, May 11th”, I answer.

And as so often happens, a simple question from my son inspires me to write.

I’ve had a few really special Mother’s Days in my life ...

1977—This is the first Mother’s Day I remember in detail, complete with the texture of color, sound, and smell. I had just turned ten and the Friday morning prior to Mother’s Day my mother woke me, before it was light outside, to let me know that she was in labor. Two days later on the morning of Mother’s Day, I was allowed to visit my mom at the hospital and meet, for the first time, my baby brother who now has a son of his own and another baby on the way. Until he began having his children, I was convinced I could never love another’s children as much as my own. I was wrong.

1995—I found out I was pregnant for the first time a week prior to Mother’s Day. I still have the Mother’s Day card my husband was smart enough to buy me and remember vividly the naive excitement regarding my pregnancy and what motherhood would bring. I knew that 1995 would be a turning point in my life. I knew that it would be a time when nothing that came before this year could compare to what would come after. I knew this would be the year I would finally become a grown-up. I just didn’t know how. I thought I did. I was wrong.

1996—I spent this Mother’s Day visiting the cemetery in a pouring rain, weeping for the baby boy buried in the tiny white velvet casket underneath a headstone with “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” engraved upon it. I seemed a million miles away from 1995. I thought I would never be at peace again. I thought I may never become a mother with a baby to hold. I was wrong.

1997—I spent this Mother’s Day learning to breastfeed my now eleven year old son. My husband surprised me with a ring that contained the birthstones of my son in heaven and the one at my breast. When my daughter was born three years later, she was kind enough to come two weeks early so that the ring now contains her birthstone as well. In the chaos of having a newborn after a very difficult delivery, I thought I would never get the hang of motherhood. I was wrong.

2007—Last year my son presented me with a most unusual gift ... actually, of all the gifts he has ever given me it is the one that is the most special. And as it often is with gifts that come from the heart, it is one I will never forget. The Friday before Mother’s Day I picked my children up from school and my son was in a very grumpy mood. Nothing I did seemed to make his mood any better. I inquired with his sister about anything that may have happened at school. All she could say was that he seemed just fine until I arrived to pick them up. His moodiness continued through Saturday and as he went to bed that night, I decided that he must be coming down with something. The next morning I awoke early to find him in the office using the computer. He knows he’s not allowed to access the Internet without permission and when he saw me he immediately told me that he was only using Microsoft Word and was not on the Internet.

As I proceeded to the kitchen for coffee, my daughter was coming down the stairs with a messy bedhead, sleep in her eyes, and a flowerpot with her hand prints on both sides. Always the morning person in our house, she all but screamed, “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!” As we were discussing what type of flower we should purchase to plant in the flowerpot, my son entered the kitchen with a single sheet of paper in hands. He handed it to me with a bowed head and tearful eyes. As I turned it over and began to read what was written next the to pink heart he had obtained from his clip art library, I too had tearful eyes. I was reminded of why I love being a mother so much and why being perfect either as a mother or as a child is never really necessary. The letter he had written that morning on Microsoft Word said the following:

Dear Mom,

I didn’t make the Mother’s Day project at school in the past week; so that was why I was about to cry. I’m so sorry, it’s my fault, I did not get my work done fast enough. I’m sorry.

As he allowed me to hug him I could feel all the distress he had carried with him through weekend melt away. For the first time in quite awhile, he didn’t let the hug go before I did. I’m sure this is why he was inquiring about the exact date of Mother’s Day this year. What he doesn’t know is that while whatever gift he is making me at school will surely make me smile, it probably won’t forever hang on my refrigerator and in my heart like last year’s gift.

Before I became a mother, I thought I had all the answers and would teach them to my children. I was wrong. It’s the other way around.

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