Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Meet the Birds

Call me Betsy. It's not my real name, but it protects the innocent. I’m under 50, but not for much longer; the mother of two boys, ages 14 and 17; a gratefully retired lawyer; the author of an unfinished-but-pretty-damn-funny-and-full-of-potential novel; a so-so wife (it’s the thought that counts, right?); a tragically bad housekeeper; and an ambivalent Southerner. I spend an amazing amount of time on what I like to think of as “child maintenance” –- carpools and college planning and co-chairing school events that I’m really not all that interested in attending. Sometimes –- oh okay, lots of times –- I have snarky and unkind-but-true stories to tell about the people I encounter in my daily life (myself included). You may think “she shouldn’t say that,” but in your heart-of-hearts I know some of you’ll be whispering “I’m glad she did.”

As for the rest of my brood, there’s my husband, Bob, who hasn’t bailed out on the law yet. I am forever indebted to him for saving me from a life of billable hours and advance sheets. He works for a big corporation, loves not to spend money, “fixes” lots of things around the house, and fortunately for us all is quite receptive to my fashion advice. Billy is our 17-year-old. He’s involved in the maximum number of extracurricular activities allowed by law and is determined to live at least 12 time zones away from us as soon as is legally possible. And then there’s Ben, 14, who never met a Simpsons episode he couldn’t quote chapter and verse and has the hots for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

We live in a suburb –- let’s call it Fox Valley –- of a mid-size Southern city. Citizens of this community tend to be well off, conservative, gregarious, thin, and blonde –- in other words, pretty much the antithesis of me. Yet I call many of them my friends. I’m watching their children grow up and they’re watching mine. I doubt I'll ever be "from here," and yet sometimes, this place feels like home.

For much of the last 17+ years, I’ve been first and foremost a mom. Like many of my peers who earned expensive graduate degrees and then decided not to use them, I’ve treated child-rearing as rocket science rather than something that women have been doing since the beginning of time, including some mothers who were certifiable bumps on pickles but managed to raise productive citizens nonetheless. Now my children are getting older. They need less of me – still the best part of me, but not all of me. And I welcome and resist that change in equal measure. Sometimes eagerly, sometimes with a breaking heart, I’m emptying my nest. That's a lot of what I'll write about.

I've also entered what even the kindest of folks would have to describe as middle age. That means things hurt: my feet, my back, my hips, and sometimes, even now, my feelings. Sometimes I'll write about that, as well as wrinkles, gray hair, my neck, my memory (or lack thereof), and various forms of puffiness.

I'm a girly girl from way back, so sometimes I'll talk about clothes and makeup and shoes and how I look. I love to cook so I'll talk about recipes. I have 20 to 30 pounds that continue to return home to me like the prodigal son, so I'll talk about losing weight. It probably won't take you long to notice there's an inherent conflict between the recipes and the weight loss. To quote then 4-year-old Billy, when I nagged at him about something he kept doing, "That's just the way God made me. You'll just have to get used to it."

I'll talk about housekeeping, and it won't be pretty. Apparently, I am constitutionally incapable of keeping a house either clean or orderly, despite the fact that nothing would make me happier. (A nicer gal would say something here about world peace, but I warned you, I'm not that kind of girl.) If I found out I had six months to live, I'd ask those Magic Moments people to get me a full-time maid.

And sometimes, I'll just talk about what's going on, in my household, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my region, my country, and/or my world. I was raised in the South, so I'll try to be sweet, but I'm not making any promises.

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