© 2008 denise


[ This week, I've invited a few individuals to post on The Gui Girl while I try to get a handle on my new career and life. Today's post was contributed by Eric, the author of Blog-O-Plenty. His _own mother_ thanked me in person for encouraging him to write, and I must say we are all richer for it. I can't even believe he can write about skunk pee, mink butt, and beaver stretchers and do it with such earnest enthusiasm and sincerity. Me? I'd still be peeing my pants laughing over "beaver stretcher". Related: I now have a new catchphrase. "I saw me some hobo!" ]

Since Denise and I talk so much about raising our daughters — and in the course of those conversations, about people and feelings and such — I’m fairly certain this little piece can find a home here on the GEE-YOU-EYE blog.

I recently returned from a nice — albeit exhausting — vacation in Colorado. Wife, daughter, me — we three — went to stay with an old college friend, Chris and her family.

Chris is a strong woman. Knows what she wants. Says what she wants. Knows better than you. Sometimes I find her abrasively funny. Other times? Simply abrasive. Fact is, I’ve always struggled to like her. Since she and my wife have been friends for many years I was willing to spend time with her. I’ll be patient, I thought to myself. I’ll put up with her. I’m such a kindly person. Even though she irritates me, I’ll tough it out, I thought.

That being said, Chris has raised two terrific boys. They’re something like 14 and 12. They’re filled with witty comments — snide and clever — and mad imaginations. They seem nothing like their mother, and very much like her at the same time. They’re just polite enough. Just responsible enough. They’re sincere and irreverent. Comfortable. So very comfortable you can’t help but like them.

Chris has filled their beautiful house with inspirational quotes. They’re written on cards taped to the refrigerator door. They’ve been thumbtacked to the ceiling above the boys’ beds. Inspiration is etched onto mirrors and painted on walls. Imagine an entire house as if it were the inside of a philosopher’s bathroom stall, sans phone numbers. But the quotes aren’t sappy or superficial. They read like chicken soup for a young goll dang soul. These words are spot-on. “Believe in yourself,” one simple postcard insists. “You are unique.”

Beside the bedroom light switch a sign reads: “Brush your teeth morning and night.”

The living room wall: “Be nice or leave.”

There are longer quotes, from poets and such. Too long for me to remember. But I can still see those signs, those desperate and prescriptive placards, urging the reader to be true to themselves, have fun, act their age, respect life and play and laughter.

We sat in a dimly lit dining room, empties cluttering the table.

“I Fucking hate people,” Chris said in a late-night moment of candor. “I just don’t want to be around them — any of them.” Then she laughed, her eyes looking away.

Right then I realized those house-filled quotes were as much for her as they were for her boys. I knew that although this woman wasn’t particularly happy with her life — something she didn’t necessarily hide from her kids — she’d somehow managed to raise her boys perfectly. They were grander than her. Already at this young age they’d somehow surpassed her and their father.

My wife had always said Chris was a great mom, but I had no reason to think it was true. I mean, the woman BUGGED me. And she never struck me as being overly kind.

Yet here it was… proof. Two great young people. I knew for certain they’d one day make great older people.

I suppose there’s nothing new in any of this. We all hope and pray, after all, that our children grow to be more successful and happy than us — somehow better than us. Whole being more than the sum of its blah blah blah… But when you see it — when it’s just happening right before your eyes… hell, it’s just miraculous.

Course I was half drunk when this happened, and thinking way too much. Nothing much worse than a thinking drunk, I suppose. Anyhow, I wandered down the hallway and into the bathroom to pee. A Dr. Seuss quote, stenciled flawlessly onto the wall, greeted me. But when I turned to the toilet is when it really hit me. I mean, there are truly those moments, ya know? Those OH. MY.GOD moments of clarity. They don’t just happen in the movies. M. Night Shamalamadingdong is not the only one with catastrophic surprises, moments of truth, of understanding. OH.MY.GOD Bruce Willis is DEAD!

I looked to the toilet. There on top of the tank, next to some pretty candle or something (what am I, a decorator?) was a lovingly framed bit of writing:

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” -The Velveteen Rabbit

I read it again and again. Then I read it again, long after I’d finished peeing. Suddenly the overwhelmingness of life washed over me. The complicatedness of being swept through me. Clarity.

I swallowed hard, walked out the door and back down the hallway. I looked at her for only a moment before sitting down beside her. Her sharp edges had never before been so delicate or sad.

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