Sunday, August 21, 2005

One is the loneliest number....

Ever just want to escape? Just for one day, even one moment, be someone else without the ties that bind -and often gag ?

Disclaimer: I love my family, nearly all of them. Would say all, but let's be honest here. That implies several people whom I seldom see and barely know. So, nearly all. Yes. Nearly.

But there are times I could happily run away, giving no forwarding address. Comes from the attendant pressure of meeting everyone's daily needs, or simply trying to, and often failing.

Lest I sound the pathetic whiner (okay, and truth be told, part of it is just that) a little background is in order - the bulk of my family consists of elderly parents and two teenagers, all four of which are working really hard to raise me alone. Or kill me. Whichever happens first.

Being truly present all of one's waking hours is the hardest job any person could ever have. Stuck between layers of parents and children, the solid mass of seeming promise in the middle, spread out so thin that cracks can be seen by the naked eye from miles away, there's nothing left of substance. At the end of the day, just getting through is enough, with or without any presence beyond the physical.

Full sensory engagement is too large a luxury.

Last known person to handle full time work and full time family with a constant smile and souffle was June Cleaver. Rumor has it she didn't get that last name by accident, either. What eventually became of said weapon is classified. The pictures of Ward and the Beaver were leaked to the Internet, at Ugly stuff, folks.

I'm no June.

Then again, I've no Valium scrips, either. Another mainstay of 50's motherhood.

Forget becoming everyone's tv sweetheart; I'd settle for an uninterrupted night of television, absent the sibling rivalry, barrage of parental phone calls, and all the work that glares accusingly from across the room.

The last full night I've had to myself took place in September 2004. A lot has happened since then. Time to hear myself think? Slated for October, 2007.

When did life become such a daily grind, and how?

Somewhere between 33 and 36, I'd wager. Around the time I started hitting the sheets, instead of the bar, at 10 p.m. Around the same era my kids ceased being cute little bundles of gratitude and giggles, and started wanting bigger and better stuff: high speed Internet, big screen televisions and expensive game systems.

After getting all those things, now I come home to a house with one child on the Internet full time and the other flicking through channels on digital cable. They take turns. Only not with me.

Now that the kids are older, nothing is off-limits and tucked away in my own corner. Not the cd's, taken over by my oldest. Not the computer, of which my youngest is a new fan. My clothes? Appropriated. Shoes? Borrowed "for a sec." Books? MIA. Gilmore Girls and "Party Monster" dvds? Scattered.

All the good entertainment is taken. There's nothing to do. I'm restless. Wind up taking a nightly drive, singing loudly along with "Wig in a Box" for a natural decompression. Driving through nearby hamlets, waiting to be arrested and committed.

At least the cd player and car are still fully mine.

It's weird, being both parents, and suddenly parents to my own parents.

Good thing I'm no Miss Cleo and couldn't have forseen this, ten years ago. Because we certainly are better off, in the non-material ways, where we are instead of where we were.

A lighted crystal ball might've meant freezing in fear, at one point.

After laughing at seeing myself cut through the cord for the parents' electrical hedge clippers, oh, five times, I might've thought: "Whoa - condos here we come." It would've been impossible to imagine, giving someone shots of Procrit in the stomach, or lifting a 180 lb body off the ground, or sitting idly by while my own child was out somewhere until 1 a.m.

Tonight, trying to organize school supplies for one, running around doing last minute shoe shopping for the other, it's just another night in the daily grind. One where bed and duty duke it out, and I'm pulled in 27 different directions all at once, not a single one of them with my own name on it.

The days of silence and reflection after 9 p.m. vanished a few years ago and took my relative sanity with it. If I knew then what I know now, I mightn't have been able to accept doing any of it.

But that's the point, I guess. Because every so often, I do get a glimpse of what the future holds. Like last winter, for instance. It was 57 balmy degrees at 4 a.m. Christmas morning after the ghost of furnace present had given up. Too cold to sleep.

Grabbing the electric blanket, I watched the sun come up to the sound of Bing Crosby's "Would you like to Swing on the Star." It was just me, our dog Marlon and the four felines for hours on end.

At one point, I looked around at the festive, glowing Christmas tree, the old movie flickering onscreen, myself in pyjamas and a room filled with just pets and eerie silence. And I did see the future. One that was empty, too quiet. One where I wasn't needed.

Despite the lack of sleep, extra money, spare time and the luxury of coming home to a clean house and open computer, I really never want to trade the chaos for quiet. Okay, nearly never. Yes. Nearly.

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