The thought occurred to me today that, now six days before Thanksgiving, I should theme the next few days of writing. Each day, I should consider something I am thankful for. Now, that I am home, considering writing, I thought since there are six days left, perhaps I could do a count down. What six things am I thankful for today, and tomorrow five, and so on.
So, today, the six things I am thankful for in no particular order:
A school for my son that is a community,
A boss who expresses gratitude each day,
A husband who surprises me with his silly sense of humor,
A possible change in neighborhood,
A considerate son who expresses his love and need for me daily, and
A commute that, into work, is less than twenty minutes.
I started drying my fork, and then I noticed part of my lunch was clinging, viciously, to the tines. In that moment, I was transported back to when I was a preteen, staying with my uncle and aunt for a month during the summer.
Here, in the present day, the work dishwasher is on the fritz. While we’re waiting for parts to arrive, we now have to wash and put away our own dishes lest the kitchen sanity spiral out of control. A colleague put a few signs up on Monday when they walked into a complete disaster of a kitchen – dishes piled everywhere. We all have important jobs to do, but no one wears the title of janitor or maid, so cleanup really has to happen per your own incidents. I’m reminded of the adage, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after your own mess.”
So, I’m scrubbing away at my semi-curry stained lunch (I made cheesy noodles last night for dinner, loaded with turmeric because the family can’t tell the difference, and I think it’s a fun way to sneak in an anti-inflammatory and whatever other great things turmeric does for you). And, I am transported to this warm summer where I was washing dishes with my aunt’s nephew. I suppose that’d make him my cousin once or twice removed (I’m not sure of the count).
My cousin didn’t clean a dish thoroughly. He left a spot. I was trained to return dirty dishes to the washer so they learned how to was dishes properly. And, as I did this, my aunt interjected. She said, “No, not in this house,” and with a flick of her finger, she knocked off the spot, rinsed the dish, and handed it to me for drying.
I think my aunt was trying to teach me about teamwork. Many hands make light work. We all make mistakes, but if we have the organizational goal in mind, we’ll get there. We’ll be kind, rather than right.
So, today is World Kindness Day. How have you contributed to our greater societal good? How were you kind today?
My husband was kind to me. He poured me a big glass of wine. I read Levi three books at bedtime, and he read me one. He read nearly every single word of 8 Silly Monkeys. I offered our back porch for a friend to store some things while she’s getting ready to move.
So, thank you flick of curry for reminding me that it is better to be kind, than to be right, on this World Kindness Day.
We are on tooth three. Levi has, now, lost three teeth. It seems like the first two teeth were over a year ago – but I think it was really just last spring.
I have a problem. That is, I forget to be the tooth fairy. I remember all the way up until bedtime, and then, somehow I forget.
So, we did a few things wrong this time. First, I forgot to be the tooth fairy. Second, I had previously instructed Levi to put the tooth in a bag. I was helping the Tooth Fairy – so she wouldn’t have to dig around under a pillow for the tiniest tooth you have ever seen. Rather, the Tooth Fairy simply has to fumble around for a bag, replace with the agreed upon trade ($1), and be on her merry way.
Levi was so excited about this tooth. In fact, he thought he lost it before he actually did because it was so wiggly, it wiggled to one side of his mouth over another that the gap left was enough for a tooth! It took another week for the tooth to actually leave his mouth, dangling by a thread the whole time. He even pulled it out this time. I did the last one – and that was awful, it made a noise. I think my son is more sensitive in the gums than I was.
Finally, the tooth leaves his mouth. It is a Sunday. he is thrilled to no end. The whole day goes by with references to what might be. He even sneaks it under his pillow before I could prep the whole bag scheme!
And, 9pm rolls around and I get into my nighttime routine. Then I go to bed. Then, I wake up, first with the husband leaving for work, and second with the small boy shrieking in terror, “The Tooth Fairy forgot to come! My tooth is still there!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Parent fail. Danger, Will Robinson.
“Oh, no,” I reply. “I bet she got really busy. I bet if you put the tooth under your pillow one more night she’ll come back.”
“Okay,” replies my skeptical son.
That night, I forgot again, to instruct him to put the tooth in the bag. But, I had a reminder on my phone. I would not forget! Bedtime comes, and goes. An hour goes by. My alarm goes off. Must be tooth fairy.
I enter his room. The light is low, as we’ve been keeping it on for 6-year-old fears. He is sound asleep. I slowly put my hand under his pillows, there are three. He doesn’t move. He is very sound asleep – out to the world. I pat around under his pillow. I cannot feel the tooth. I pat more, reaching further, towards the wall. I cannot feel the tooth.
I cannot feel the tooth! And, I remember, I didn’t have him put it in a bag! Argh! Night two of this? Seriously?
He has scooted down, so I gently remove a pillow, and another, and another. Pillows strewn about his room, there is still no tooth on his bed! Now, I start to remove covers. I cannot believe he’s not waking up. I still can’t find the tooth!
There is something miraculous about this stage of boy – sound asleep to the world, thankfully not wetting the bed, but awake at 6am, every day. After about 5 minutes of pawing and patting in his room. I give up and devise backup plan. I gently put this pillows back. I gently put the boy back. I gently put the covers over his snuggled body. He stops shivering, and cuddles his rabbit further in the covers.
I tip toe out the room. I go to the back room, grab a sticky, go to the kitchen, nab a pen, grab a plastic bag.
I construct my note.
I know you lost your tooth. But I cannot find it. Here is 50 cents. Please leave your tooth in the bag tonight, and I will come back one more night.
The Tooth Fairy
I sneak back into his room, and I gently push the bag and note and acquired fifty cents under his pillow.
In the morning, the small boy looked under his pillow, but he didn’t understand what he had. I had to explain it to him a few times before he got it. Bottom line, kiddo, the tooth fairy couldn’t find your tooth, BUT, she knew you lost it so she is giving you half the value. Find your tooth, put it back under your pillow (hey, how about in this bag she left?), and then you’ll get a dollar.
I had told him that he needed to find the tooth after school, but how can you do that when that’s the only thing on your mind? So, he found the tooth before school. I still don’t remember where he said it was.
That night, I remind Levi about the instructions. After an entire day has gone by, he unfortunately forgot. So, I had him get the note, and I reread it to him, and I reexplained it to him. He got the gravity of the situation: NO TOOTH, NO CASH. So, together, we put the bag under his pillow, and this time, the retrieval is much easier. I go in his room, with a new note that reads:
Thank you for following my instructions. I am sorry I couldn’t come the first night. Here is your dollar for your tooth.
The Tooth Fairy
P.S. Keep this bag for the next tooth.
The next morning, he forgot to look under his pillow! So, I remind him, and then he’s not excited about the dollar.
Right, the kiddo still doesn’t get money. He still thinks it grows on trees, or at least mommy and daddy. And, we’re trying to incorporate a value of work by charging for odd and regularly needed jobs around the house. But, mommy and daddy aren’t consistent enough for the message to stick.
So, the dollar sits by my bed stand for over a week. Until tonight.
Today is Veteran’s Day, and Levi and I had the day off. So, we had the whole day, together, alone. A few times today, I had Levi demonstrate how wiggly his other front tooth is. I even had him twist it back and forth like a soda can top, loosening it just bit by bit, as much as he could stand.
Until. Until he asked for something more to eat and the brown bananas weren’t good enough. He asksd, then, for an apple. He asked for it to be cut up.
“No. Eat it the way it is,” I demanded.
“Okay,” he agreeably agreed.
So, he sat next to me on the couch. Chomp. Crunch. Chomp. Crunch. Suddenly, he is searching for something. I thought he dropped a piece of apple.
“Mommy! Look! It came out and I didn’t even feel it!”
We had to write two notes to the tooth fairy. It is now 9:00 pm. I am going to wait another 20 or 30 minutes before I go in there to deposit the next dollar. Hopefully it will be more appreciated than the first.
We were asked to bring in an old Halloween photo of ourselves, for our coworkers to guess, but I forgot. Putting away another book, tonight, I grabbed the album I meant to grab all week.
Two things are happening at once: 1) I am already reviewing old files, and 2) now I am reviewing old pictures. Suddenly, a theme of lack of confidence emerges.
Let’s begin with the pictures. What an interesting life for a little girl to lead – navigating domestic instability, loss, grief, horror, eye surgery, and eventually domestic stability. Amidst the domestic stability, this little girl struggled with finding her place. There are forced smiling photos, a photo where others are smiling, and she is crying (not unlike my 6-year-old might). There are photos of genuine happiness. There are photos of athleticism and surprised affectionate attention. A girl, growing up, not sure what to make of it all. Trying, quitting, trying again, two-step backs, one step forward.
One of those tries was tennis. Being a college bound girl, she heard, often, that one must not appear lazy to the admissions people. One must stay involved, and better to be involved with things you like. One must be well-rounded. So, school, before, after, in between were all thins one must try to do. (Ironically, this is one without assessing how much one can handle.) A sport was decided upon, after some training during the summer. This was an individual sport, it was readily understood, and it was one that required practice. That is, this girl found, there were fewer people “gifted” to this sport unlike basketball, volleyball, or softball. You had to try. It was as if the sport was found. The existing coach had a system where the players were graduated from the junior varsity team to the varsity team, not on merit, but on age. She was “pro-seniority” if you will. This methodology served the girl well because it would show improvement on those college admissions applications.
Unfortunately, after her 10th grade year in high school, the beloved tennis coach decided to retire. A new coach was hired with, naturally, different ideas of how to manage the team and the success of the team. This coach was pro-merits. That is, one had to test or compete to be on the varsity team. Well, this girl’s idea of tennis had reached its plateau. She wasn’t getting any better, and she was then relegated, by merit, to the JV team, and not even good enough for singles. Though, she and her partner succeeded well in first placement in doubles.
In this small town fish bowl, their place was near the bottom. During the year, it didn’t matter. They did well with what they had, and they won nearly every match played. They learned to communicate, and were great partners.
But, the girl was loathe to be a JV in her senior year. How embarrassing to be a junior varsity player when in 12th grade. So, she capped her tennis career and opted for stage production in drama, after school sales for newspaper, her church, and a few other things.
She got into college, but the same pattern revealed itself. The awkwardness of finding one’s way. The inability to find a group where she fit. The difficulty in assessing who to trust, what people wanted of her, what she wanted, and how to get what she wanted from others. In this awkwardness, she had to stop, and she took a two-year break from school. During that break, she took on a few jobs. Never being one to be satisfied with the rote role initially given, she used her ability to learn quickly to climb as high as the organization would allow: and eventually, she was assistant manager. But, she couldn’t deal, again, with the bickering, the awkwardness, the inability of herself and others to cope with change – so she quit, again, and returned to the safety of school with renewed appreciation for the academic rigor.
This time, she took an apartment by herself, lest other’s drama infect her need to focus. The learning continued, and continues.
Now, 15 years later, she finds herself admits a new coach, changing requirements and expectations, and she is unsure of how to navigate. Given the various influences, this girl is slow to trust and highly skeptical. She is unclear of the others intent and how they desire to measure success. And, while this other is clamoring to prove her own worth, this girl finds herself having to do the same thing.