This morning, having given my notice to my music directors, I started telling selected parishioners that next week would be my last week on the job.  I was surprised by the depth of response.  One man threatened to cry and told me he loved me.  You never know, even when you’re singing like a pig, who might just really have a taste for piggy singing.

After work I rushed to Gideon’s birthday party at the local splash park.  I am not a fancypants hostess and the whole kid birthday party ritual has become something of a factory since the parties of my  long-ago youth.  (Cake, ice cream, play in the backyard.  Done.)  I’d forgotten entirely about the requisite party bags until late last night, when we hastily made baggies of popcorn and trail mix and stuffed them into paper lunch bags stamped with a monkey.  (Yes, I, Mothra Stewart, did the stamping myself.  What a woman.)  The whole experience magnified my ever-present feeling that everyone knows how things are supposed to be but nobody will tell me.  Standing there, squinting in the sun as my sons played in the water was really enough for me.  I didn’t see why I had to be the one to time the serving of the cake.  My favorite part was leaping over the wall to hand off the party bags I forgot to give to the first guests to leave.  Mothra Stewart, meet Queena the Worrier Princess.

We had leftover food so we took it to the local hospital.  The ladies all wanted to engage Gideon and ask how old he was, wish him a happy birthday, etc.  He would have none of it.  Like his old mother, that one is.  Talk to me about something that matters.

I paid a visit to a house of mourning today, to sit with a friend whose brother died.  I almost didn’t go, for my usual reasons (shyness, sense of seventh-grade inferiority, fear of saying the wrong thing, it’s late and I’m tired, kids need me, blah blah blah) but then told my boys that when someone’s brother dies, they need their friends to be near them.  I have not had much experience with shiva calls; I wish they could all be so loving and warm.  Although there were tears and sadness, the room was alive with detail, memory, the way he laughed, his long-ago appearance on the David Letterman show (yes, really!).  I left feeling that it was not just any brother who died, but a very specific one.  May his memory be for a blessing.

After that, the grocery seemed too brightly lit.  A slightly sketchy but very funny guy was chatting me up over the mangos.  It was all pleasant and flirtatious until I mentioned I have two small children.  His fingers crossed as if my children were vampires; he said, “I managed to avoid that lifestyle.”  He joked about borrowing children just so he could give them back.  I hate the way I feel when people joke like that, as if they are claiming cool and I’m the old bag who sold out.  That lifestyle you dismiss with a derisive swipe, sir, happens to be my anchor to this sweet, sad, scary planet.


One thought on “Encounters

  1. I totally concur on the birthday parties. Earl did most of the last one we had and that was wonderful.

    I wish people who do not have children would, in general, be more sensitive to those who do. Anti-vampire fingers told you a lot about Mr. Mango, though. I sometimes feel like the old bag who sold out, too, especially when my being a parent is portrayed as an inconvenience (at best) or a liability (at worst) by the childless. I get upset, but then usually calm down by telling myself that they just have no idea, about any of it. And then I have to force myself to think of something else.

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