Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poignancy

Why is it that the most memorable moments of life are often the most painful, as opposed to the most joyous? I guess pain leaves a more indelible mark and for some quixotic reason makes a person want to record it for posterity. I once briefly kept a journal in my teens, lots it, rediscovered it years later, opened to the first page and went "Oh my GOD, I had forgotten that horrible episode, I wish I'd never found this stupid thing."

Not that I am in any pain at the moment, thank you. But I did experience one of those moment of Deep Poignancy Verging on Pain this morning. We were getting dressed in our usual "this-is-the-third-time-I've-asked-you-to-put-on-your-socks" fashion. Ben was just about ready to leave early to talk to the builders before going to work to attend the 973 meetings that were scheduled for him while he was putting his mother in assisted living last week. Sarah was on our bed not getting dressed. Becky was in her bedroom getting something, and I was at the starting point of getting dressed (i.e., commando or nearly so). Suddenly Becky came in crying, not in the "Sarah was mean to me" or "I don't want to" way, but with real sorrow. Being a mother has given me that useful skill of instantly knowing what a cry means (I can name that wail in THREE NOTES!). Becky came in holding her infinitely precious Blanket Bear which she has had since birth. He is a once-pink bear head whose body ends in a blanket with satiny border, but most importantly, he has "ties" – a satiny ribbon that Becky has always loved to clutch in her fingers. And suddenly he didn't; the ribbon came off in her hand as she was swinging him around. She was suddenly and completely heartbroken in the way only kids can be. And so everything else fell away as I took her on my lap and told her I would sew him up right then and there. Which I did – but first I put on some underpants. She watched anxiously as I sat on the bed and stitched his ties back to his neckline with great care. Ben had to leave while this was going on, but he asked me later if Becky was happy afterwards. And I realized, no she wasn't, any more than a parent would be "happy" if they saw their child get hit by a car, followed the ambulance to the hospital in their bathrobe, then heard the doctor come out of the OR and say "It looked bad at first, but we did a minor procedure and he's absolutely fine – you can take him home." So not exactly happy – Becky was more like relieved, drained, smiling wanly but still clutching her Blanket Bear protectively even though he was all better. For her, it was extreme anguish followed 20 minutes later by "Cheerios – yay!" For me, it was "this was so sweet and so sad and I won't be able to think abut anything else all day and I still get choked up just thinking about it." And in one of those weird threads of circumstance, I was trolling through some blogs and links to links to other links and so on, and I came upon this (scroll down or search for "12.14.2004" as there is no permalink). So now I have to read everything this woman wrote because she's a terrific writer and I can relate to her as we have things in common like journalism (she's ex-Washington Post), having two daughters and a history of depression, about which she apparently has written eloquently in this book and this one, and...

OK, lighten up, Yak. Sarah is always trying to figure things out. I was combing her hair this morning in search of any stray nits (another lice outbreak at school – don't ask) and I muttered once or twice, "No, that's just a speck of dandruff." So of course she asked what dandruff was and I explained it was bits of skin that come off your scalp and that everybody has it to some degree. She thought for a moment and then said, "Kids have it the most because the skin keeps popping off 'cause their brains are growing. But Bubbie's brain is shrinking." Why of course! That explains why you will never find any bottles of Selsun Blue in Alzheimer's care facilities.

Unfortunately, one thing she is NOT figuring out yet is advertising. We watch lots of Red SoxNESN, which means we are all treated to endless repeats throughout the season of ads from the same sponsors, notably AFLAC** (which I don't mind), Southwest Airlines (which actually has some pretty funny ads, especially this one and this one from years past)... and a certain casino that has horrible ads featuring pseudo-show-tunes, an inexcusably ugly emcee-type guy and stereotyped sexist themes. Last year it was a squealing animated poker chip who flew all over the place and finally gave a falsetto sigh of lust as he landed in a woman's cleavage. This year the repeating commercial exhorts couples to rekindle their romance by going to this place – where the guy watches a boxing match alone while wifey buys lingerie, hits the slots and later slaps his gaze away from a showgirl. Nonetheless, the cheesily catchy jungle has the kids hooked. Anyway, this morning there was a radio ad for the same place describing a contest with a rapid-fire "your mileage may vary" disclaimer at the end, including "must be 21 or older to enter." Sarah stood rooted to the spot and when the ad was over, she turned to me and said, "When I'm 21, I am SO going to Foxwoods!" Oh the humanity.

** The early AFLAC commercials were great, like the one with Yogi Berra and the very first one, when NO ONE knew what the hell AFLAC was.

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