Archive for December, 2006

This Non-Denominational Holiday Message Brought To You By…

December 23, 2006

Have A Happy Hasselhoffian Holiday.

Her Bad Mother Headquarters will be shuttered for a few days while Her Bad Family journeys west. If you’re looking for holiday reading, why not visit the Magi?

(Thanks, Jana, for making certain that Santa dropped a little Hoffy goodness in my stocking.)

Many Impossible Things

December 20, 2006

The other morning, I was idly scanning the newspaper while supervising Wonderbaby’s breaking of the fast (corn puffs and an orange and waffles spread with apple butter), when I happened upon this headline: Imagine there’s no Santa.

There’s a happy holiday headline, I thought. I read further. It was an op-ed piece by a woman with school-aged children, concerning her discomfort with the Santa myth and her decision to not let her own children be misled by that myth. I just can’t do it, she said. I just can’t shake the feeling that my sons need to be able to trust that all their parents ever told them was the truth. This, because the story of Santa is, of course, not true.

Of course.

If you were to ask me, casually, if I thought that the most familiar Santa stories – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Rudolph, et. al. – were based on fact, I would say no, of course. I don’t believe that a fat man in a red suit runs a sweatshop, exploiting cheap elvin labour, at the North Pole. I don’t believe that he keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, nor that he flies around the world Christmas Eve, dispensing gifts and small bits of coal according to the dictates of that list.

I don’t believe that reindeer really do know how to fly.

But neither do I believe that Santa stories are lies.

Plato wrote, a very long time ago, before there was a Christmas or a Santa or anything of the sort, that there is a very important difference between what he called lies of the soul and verbal lies, or lies in speech. A lie of the soul, he said, is a lie that misguides the soul, misdirects the soul away from truth. It’s a lie that causes the soul to become confused, and so, ultimately, unhappy. A verbal lie, on the other hand, might be as simple as a little white lie, told to avoid hurt, or it might be something more noble. A noble lie is a lie in the sense that it veils the truth, but it veils the truth in such a way as to make it comprehensible to those who are unable to grasp truth in its fullness. It orients the soul to truth, without revealing truth openly (the truth being like the sun – it can be blinding, and so we must, most of us, shield our eyes.)

When I teach the story of the noble lie (which appears in Plato’s Republic) to my undergraduate students, they usually respond, initially, with indignation. It’s a lie, they say. It is meant to deceive, and deception is bad. Yes, I say, deception is bad. But not all fiction is deceptive. I remind them of origin stories, the story of the Garden of Eden and of the Fall (which, forgive me, I do not regard as plainly factual); I remind them of fables and myths; I remind them of the stories that we tell children, stories that we use for the purposes of teaching.

Stories like that of Santa, which, I think, teaches something about generosity and goodness and the idea that all children deserve to be (even if they are not in fact) loved. That the best way to celebrate Christmas is to give gifts without the expectation of reciprocation, to quietly slip a little happiness into the stockings of others. (We could, of course, go darker with this story, and expand upon the ‘naughty and nice’ proviso, and say something about cold and coal-dark hearts being undeserving of gifts, but I am skeptical of the quote-unquote truth of this part of the story and so I will likely – because it does not accord with the quote-unquote truth that I wish to communicate to my children – delete it from the version of the story that I tell them. Such is the power of the parent, who as primary storyteller is both poet and philosopher-ruler.)

(I could, of course, say something here about religion and the original story of Christmas and the purposes that these stories serve and what it might mean to refer these stories as noble lies. But that is a much longer and more complicated post – and in any case it is a post that I have already attempted – and so you must just accept these concerns as subtext.)

But there’s more to this than the question of whether such stories are deceptive. The author of that article wrote that she taught her children that Santa is a character of fiction, no more real than Muppets and Pokemon. Which is fine, I think – except that when I think of my own childhood relationships to characters of fiction, what I remember most fondly is the wonderful uncertainty of those fictions. Grover might have been real (I still experience shudders of disappointment when I see pictures of Muppets lifeless in the hands of their puppet-handlers). So too Peter Pan, and Alice and the Cheshire Cat, and the Tooth Fairy. And Santa. Those characters, and so many others, were fascinating to me because they made demands upon my imagination – they lived only through my imagination, it was my imagination that sustained them, that made them walk and talk and breath. Had they solely been one-dimensional figures, words and pictures on a page, had I been certain that they were not real, they would have remained flat. Lifeless.

Their stories had force, for me, precisely because those stories occupied and energized that wonderful space between my heart and my mind where truth and story and fact and fiction are blurred, where the impossible and the not-quite-possible and the possible become deliciously tangled, where disbelief is always suspended. They lived – they live – and became real in the space of my imagination.

I will never try to convince my daughter that the Santa in the mall is the real Santa. I will never insist to her that there is, in fact, a real man in a red suit living at North Pole with a harem of elves. I will never try to make her believe. I will, however, tell her stories about Santa (of all varieties), and I will tell these in my most assured voice, with my most sparkling eye, with my most animated gestures. And if she asks me whether Santa is real… well, I suppose that I’ll be honest with her. I’ll say that real can mean many things; I’ll say that sometimes it’s enough to believe in something with all your heart to make that thing real in many of the ways that count (to love that thing, to derive hope or comfort or inspiration from that thing). I’ll say that while I can’t personally confirm that there is a Santa who lives at the North Pole (never having been there myself), that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible that there is a Santa. I will say that it is, in any case, important to believe, sometimes, in impossible things. I will say, with the Queen of Hearts, that I myself have been known to believe in as many as six impossible things, all before breakfast.

All of which is to say that I will encourage her to reach her own conclusions, and that I will encourage her to be broad-minded in pursuing those conclusions, in pursuing understanding of seemingly impossible things. I will give her the opportunity to believe, to embrace the stories and let them live in her imagination. I will let her have her Santa, whatever that means, if she wants him.

Until it all gets too Sears Portrait Studio, at which point we’ll have to kill Santa off.

(Audience participation! What do you tell your children about Santa?)


Please go visit the Magi.

The Gift of the Magi

December 18, 2006
In The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry tells the story of Della and James, a cash-poor young couple who, unbeknownst to each other, give up their most prized possessions – she, her lustrous hair; he, his treasured gold watch – so that each might afford to buy the other an appropriately wonderful Christmas gift. The story teeters on the razor-thin edge that divides tragedy and comedy: at its end, each discovers that the other has sacrificed the very thing that each hard-won gift was intended to adorn – the bejeweled combs cannot grace Della’s shorn hair; the platinum fob will never hold James’ pawned watch. The gifts are, for their giving, rendered useless. ‘Foolish children,’ says O. Henry, ‘who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.’

Most unwise, we are told, are these givers of these useless gifts, made useless by having been given unwisely. Most unwise, especially, when considered against the Magi, the wise men, who originated the practice of Christmas gift-giving when they brought gifts to the baby in the manger, gifts that were without a doubt, according to O. Henry, wisely chosen and wisely acquired: gifts with utility, with exchange-value; gifts that could be exchanged if duplicated or found to be useless. Why, then, he asks us rhetorically, does he bother with a story of two foolish children, whose gift-giving was unwise?

He bothers with the story, O. Henry says, because these two gift-givers, so apparently foolhardy in their giving, were in fact the wisest of gift-givers. Not – on my reading of the story – simply because they sacrificed to give, but because they sought, at any cost, to give gifts of the heart. They were directed, in their gift-giving, solely by love – not by utility or exchange value or convenience or any of the conventionally ‘wise’ criteria that are applied to the art and science of gift-giving. They sought to give that which would most touch the heart of their beloved; they gave from the heart, to the heart.

The gifts that I have been witness to this past week the gifts to my nephew, which were and are in fact and effect gifts to me – have been wise gifts by any criteria. These have been practical gifts – you have, those of you who contrived and executed the auction and the letter drive and those of you who spread the word and participated, given gifts of eminent practicality and utility. The money raised by the auction* will help the cause of furthering research into the disease that will take my nephew, research that will, one day, save the lives of little boys – if not in time to save my nephew’s life, then in time to save some other beloved nephew, son, grandson, friend. There is no more practical gift, no more useful gift – no gift more immune to the vagaries of exchange-value, to the risks of duplication – than the gift that helps to save a life, any life.

But there’s more to these gifts than their practicality and utility. These gifts – the gifts of time and money and energy and word that went into the auction and the letter-drive – have been the wisest gifts, and you the wisest gift-givers, for the fullness of heart in these gifts, for their embeddedness in heart, for the fact that they demonstrate so completely the power of heart and love and for the fact that they simply demonstrate that there is so much heart and love and goodness out there. That the world holds so many Magi.

I don’t know quite how else to put this, to put my feelings, my gratitude, the burstingness of my heart, into words other than to say this: I have never, ever, been given such gifts. Yes, of course, I have been blessed with the gifts, the heaven-sent gifts, of life, love, child, family, friends. These are immeasurably precious, of course. But never have I received such an overwhelmingly generous gift, such a grand gift, as the unexpected orchestration of this most amazing gesture, this series of gestures, this outpouring of love for my nephew on my behalf. It has left me speechless, wordless, astounded. It has, in some moments, left me in puddles – great, sopping puddles – of tears. Happy tears, grateful tears.

Love is not a gift that you can use, in any conventional sense. It is not a gift that has monetary value or exchange value or use-value in any strict sense, capitalist or Marxist or Maussian or otherwise. Love is functionally useless, effectually valueless, as a gift. But it is the greatest gift. The wisest gift.

This week, you’ve given it to me in spades. You are the Magi.

click image (me make button!)

(take button! take! take! e-mail me for code)

This is the least that I could do, by way of thanks, for now. It’s not combs for your hair, or platinum fobs for your gold watches, and I didn’t sell any prized possessions to acquire it. It’s just a little linkage. Which is to say, it’s you, wrapped up nice and given back to you. Visit, and enjoy – this is your love, all in one place.

(It’s wonderful.)

*Over $3000 dollars raised by the auction! $3000+ dollars to go to MD Canada in Tanner’s name. THANK YOU.


Please let me know if I missed your post about the auction, or if I failed to notice that you posted an auction button, or if I did notice and just plum forgot. If you participated in the auction by bidding/raffling/telling your friends/wishing on a star, or if you helped your children to write letters (which you can still do – there’s no deadline for this most wonderful project), and would like to be linked up on the Official Magi List, drop me a comment or a line. And if you’d like your own button (my first ever attempt at button-making!), let me know and I’ll send it to you.


Her Bad Mother got tidal waves of love and a Dad Gone Mad t-shirt and all WonderBaby got was this stupid orange.


Why I Will Be Receiving A Small Lump Of Coal On Xmas Morning

December 15, 2006

We interrupt this week’s ongoing tidings of comfort and joy to bring you this moment of yuletide trauma:

Does she weep because her mother has abandoned her to the clutches of a fat, bearded old man in a stupid outfit, or because she is being forced to endure tacky white leather furniture in a Santa Castle that looks like the lobby of a Motel 6 in Vegas? You decide.


If you would prefer to have your spirits lifted and your heart tugged, you can find my sister’s beautiful note of thanks to you all for having such big hearts HERE.


You still have all weekend to bid raffle tickets over at Her Bad Auction. You didn’t know that spreading the love was such fun, did you? (And, again, do let me know if you have written a post about it or put up a button. I want to thank everyone properly.)

Her Bad Auction


December 13, 2006

From my sister, Tanner’s mom, after seeing the auction site:


I am blown away… it brings me to my knees in gratitude that this kind of kindness exists – for Tanner’s sake. He is one hell of a little kid.

He’s a strong-willed little kid, full of spunk and piss and vinegar. I admire him more than anyone in the world and he has only just turned 7. He sees life through eyes filled with wonder and joy. He is still mostly oblivious to what others see or think of him and I strive each day to teach him and show him how important it is to love ourselves. God made us who we are and He does have reasons – even though we may not see them now… I know that Tanner will be stronger than me, and I know that he has something to teach this world – something about love and kindness and strength and faith. I am learning every day.

I cherish this little boy and every moment he is on this earth and I know you do too. Try not to be sad, but to watch him in wonder and learn from him too. We take a lot of things for granted in this day and age; to see and feel what Tanner and other children or people like him have to face is quite humbling, but that is good, the world needs it.

WE can forget how to love and cherish. All you have to do is look at Tanner or other children who are sick and open your heart, and not forget.

I would love for you to send a big heartfelt THANK YOU to your blogging buddies.


Consider it done, little sister. Consider it done.

On behalf of this amazing little boy, and his family – MY family – I thank you. From the very bottom of my bursting heart.

Her Bad Auction

Please, go, visit, shop, write letters, spread the love.

(And, any of you who have posted the button or written posts about the auction, please leave me a note in the comments. I’d like to thank you all properly, by visiting and by linking you up in a thank-you post this weekend. Those of you amazing, amazing people who donated items, you’re on my list already!)


*Katannuta (Mangala Sutta Vanana #25): To be grateful is most blissful.

Of Platitudes and Percocet and, um, Love

December 12, 2006

I was feeling pretty good this weekend: I had managed to reach a point where I could be philosophic (as they say) about the gloomy turns that life had been taking. I found light and poetry in my reflections on death. I swore my commitment to love and light over gloom and dark. Life was giving me lemons, and I was making lemonade! Go me!

So it was with light heart and sparkling eyes that I loaded WonderBaby into our car and, with the Husband, plotted a sunny afternoon drive to a small town just outside the city, the kind of small town with cobbled streets and old stone buildings and little cafes and all the sorts of things that you find in pretty small towns that are keenly aware of the effect of their charms on romantic city-dwellers like myself. It was a sunny day, a mild day, and we were meeting friends. Maybe, later, we would find ourselves a Christmas tree. We would be light-hearted. Happy. Grateful for our wonderful life. Somewhere, I’m sure, an angel was just about to get her wings.

Or not.

We were only about fifteen minutes into our trip, still in the city, stopped at a light, when our sweet day came to a shattering end. I heard the crash, the thundering clang of metal on metal, felt my body lurch back and forward and back again. I felt my neck twist and my back wrench and heard myself scream and then all I could think was the baby the baby the baby and I didn’t think about the pain in my neck as I spun around in my seat and grabbed at WonderBaby, clutching her arms, her legs, running my hands around her little neck as she stared back, wide-eyed, terrified, and I cried are you alright are you alright?

She was alright. She moved, she turned, she didn’t flinch as I poked and squeezed. She didn’t cry. She just stared.

Later, after Husband had restrained himself (with difficulty – my sweet, gentle husband restrained himself only with difficulty) from attacking the silly young man who had sped into us, and after he had dealt with police officers and after he had declined the ambulance to take us to Emergency himself, he said, we were lucky.

We were lucky.

We were fine. WonderBaby was thoroughly examined and determined to be unscathed (this, after she had overturned the waiting room at Pediatric Emergency). Husband was sore, but unhurt. I was (am) hurt, but nothing insurmountable: whiplash, torn muscles along the spine, an embarassing stint in a neck brace that wounded my dignity, somewhat. It was scary – really really scary – but we’re fine.

I’ve had to keep reminding myself of that. I spent some hours struggling with disbelief – why me? why this week? – before the pain got too bad and I relented to a dose of percocet and a Beverly Hills 902010 marathon, after which deep thoughts – any thoughts – were impossible. For a while, the next day, I thought, maybe this is funny, in the manner of being absurd. But I soon dispensed with that thought – it wasn’t funny. We were very close to being more badly hurt. My baby was in a car accident. Some tard got a bit itchy on the gas pedal and put my child in danger. My family in danger. He hurt us.

But, but… true to what I said in my last post, I can’t dwell on the bad and the sad and the scary and ever-present spectre of death. I can’t live sad and afraid. What I can do – what I must do – is be grateful that we’re fine, especially when some others haven’t been fine, won’t be fine, some others close to me. If anything, Saturday’s car accident serves as a reminder of how true is the maxim that we must be grateful for what we have, embrace what we have, seize it and squeeze it hard.

Such platitudes, but so true: life is fragile, and short, and bitter and sweet. Precious, for its fragility and its sweetness.

Precious, too, for the love that abounds in the communion of lives – and for the love that has been running over the cups of the blogosphere this week. While I was brooding, friends were joining together to take calls to action a little further than I ever imagined.

Kristen telephoned me on Friday to tell me that she and Julie, with the help of a host of other folks with big, big hearts (see full list here), had come up with a crazy, wonderful, spectacular idea – to lift Her Bad Spirits and make the world a better place. By doing something crazy, wonderful and spectacular for Tanner. They were putting together a raffle-auction, to benefit Tanner, to raise funds to be donated to MD Canada, in his name. And they were going to solicit letters, too: they would ask parents to ask their children to send him a card, a note, a drawing, a piece of cheer to brighten the life of a boy who has struggled with being different, with being marked as different because he has a disorder that is crippling him and that will, one day, kill him. They were doing all this Tanner. And for me, because they know how much I love Tanner, and how very much I wish for happiness in his short life.

My heart nearly burst. It is still bursting. It will ever be bursting, from this outpouring of love.

(I’m tempted, here, to make a joke about how maybe my over-bursting heart was kind of an air-bag against all the badness of the car accident, which happened the day after I received word of the auction, but then I’d have to account for the decidedly non-bouncy chest that contains the bursty heart, and the joke sort of starts to fall flat – no pun intended – because I got too literal which is why I avoid jokes and why was I trying to be funny in this PROFOUND post anyway?)

Go, go, see what they have done, are doing. Join in. Buy tickets. Have your children write letters. Spread the love.

Her Bad Auction

And accept my deepest, most hearfelt thanks, for being my friends, and for always reminding me that this world, this life, is indeed filled with so much love, so much laughter and so much joy.

Thank you.

Another View of Distance…

December 9, 2006

… a happier view. I know that this post has a dismal start, but it gets better, albeit somewhat sappily better. And – gratuitous WonderBaby photos!

I was thirteen years old when my grandmother, my mother’s mother, died. I was devastated. She had been as much my friend and my ally as she had been my grandmother: she conspired with me to find magic in every corner, to find excitement and adventure in every moment of the day. I adored her.

At the time, I found it difficult to understand that she was gone for good. I remained convinced in my heart, for some time, that I would find her again, somehow, that I would encounter her at a bus stop or in a café, that someday I would turn a corner and she would be there, again. The finality of death was beyond my psychic grasp: it just wasn’t possible that someone I loved so much could just be gone, forever gone. That she ceased to be present in my world did not, it seemed to me, stand as proof that she had ceased to be. I could not comprehend, with my whole soul, the concept of ceasing to be. I was still attached to her, and so – I felt – she still must be. I understood mortality, but I did not feel that understanding in my heart and in my soul, and so I did not understand death, really.

Fear of death, to me, was fear of loss, the disappearance of someone from the landscape of my life, the alteration of that landscape forever. My fear of death is, I realized this week, still this: fear of loss, fear of altered landscape.

My husband said to me, this week, as we reflected upon the shadow of death over our landscape – my (step)grandmother in a coma, the diagnosis of skin cancer in my mother, my nephew’s continual decline – that he was feeling the weight of his own mortality. That all this talk of death was increasing that weight, a weight, he said, that seemed to have fallen heavily upon him in the very moment that his daughter was born.

Time and mortality have taken on a different meaning since we had WonderBaby. Time feels more measured: how old will we be when she starts school? When she finishes school? When (if) she gets married? Has children of her own? Will we be here? We so badly want to be here. The fear of death that lurks in our hearts is a fear of absence, of a forced exile from her life, of missing that life. Part of my reaction to the sudden appearance of the shadow of death in the lives of my grandparents and my mother was rooted in exactly this fear: they will miss her, they are missing her, this distance in time and space is a sort of exile and the time for overcoming it is drawing short.

The fear that is provoked by my nephew’s condition is somewhat different, but not unrelated. I fear, deeply, the loss of him. But the deeper, stronger fear – the deeper, stronger sadness – is of his loss, the loss of his future. The foreshortening of his horizon, the erasure of his landscape. The greatest loss, when he dies, will not be mine or my sister’s or WonderBaby’s – it will be his. This is what hurts the heart, provokes the fear, draws the shadows closer. This is what every parent fears – the loss of the promise of such a beautiful life, the unfolding of a horizon drawn short.

But what I was reminded of this week – by my mother, who wisely pointed out to me that love is stronger than distance, than loss, than fear, and by my friends (by you, such precious friends), who have been gathering their trumpets to demonstrate that love blares louder than any fear (more on this on Monday) – was that death can shrink in the face of love. If not in fact, then at least in spirit.

(Banal, I know, but don’t the insights of the heart usually sound banal? They sometimes have a tinny ring when spoken aloud, a dull weight when plotted across the page. But they feel warm in the heart, and that’s what matters to me right now.)

My grandmother is in a coma, my mother is being treated for skin cancer and my nephew has a terminal illness. These facts are inescapable. But the pain and fear that could attend these facts is escapable. I needn’t dwell on the inevitability of loss; I needn’t dwell on the threat of pain. With my nephew in particular, there is a life, a now, to be celebrated (a life that we will always celebrate, even when the now has passed.) There’s love. There’s a lot of love.

I understand death, now, no better than I did when I was a child; I cannot fully reconcile my head and my heart to loss. I know that I have no control over death – I will die, my child will die, we all will die, there will be loss, inevitably, we will face loss. But I know this, too: I do have some control over life, over how much joy I put into it and pull out of it. I have control over love.

I cannot breach the distance of death, but I can extend love over any distance. I can love to the moon and then around the stars and back again. I can love to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, to the level of everday’s most quiet need. I can love higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide.*

Love has its own distance. I can control that distance, extend it as far across time and space as my heart allows. Those distances are great – wonderfully, powerfully, blessedly great.

*(I can borrow fragments of poetry from Browning and Cummings.)

(I’ll be back up and visiting this weekend, as my spirits are somewhat restored. I’ve missed you. Sorry that I haven’t kept up with all of YOUR lives.

And, big, wonderful things are afoot this coming week. Fantastic, heart-bursting things. Check back Monday.)


Okay, so it’s not Monday, but here it is: the awesomest friends in the world, led by the super-awesome Kristen and Julie, decided that they would do something awesome to make my world seem a little less unawesome and here’s what they came up with:

Her Bad Auction

It’s a super-awesome amazing project, an auction with items donated from across the blogosphere and beyond, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Muscular Dystrophy Association in Tanner’s name.

I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow, much more. ‘Til then, go check it out, and plan your bidding. And feel all warm and fuzzy about just how extraordinary people can be.

What Makes Life Brighter…

December 7, 2006

…when it seems dark: people who care, who reach out, who provide kind words and warmth and support and love. (And, sometimes, cookies.)


I don’t have the words to say thank you, adequately, to you all. So, just – thank you.

Miles To Go

December 5, 2006

My heart is sore, my thoughts are tangled, my fingers are numb; I stumble toward writing but the writing, right now, does not release or calm or soothe.

December has come in fighting, raining blows upon my heart.

My step-grandmother (the only grandmother that I have had since my mother’s mother, the grandmother of my heart, passed away when I was thirteen) lies in intensive care. Dying, my grandfather says. A fall, an injury to the head. Subdural hematoma. He sighs, his voice tired, pained, over thousands of miles of telephone wire. He doesn’t know what he will do. My heart pounds and strains; I try to comfort him; we’ll come out, we’re coming, we’ll come soon, we’ll come see her, come see you. He doubts this, doubts that we will be able to see her, doubts that she will last that long. I whisper promises to call, to comfort, whatever he needs, whatever they need; we’ll be there soon, I say.

The next morning, this morning, I call my mother, who is estranged from her father, my grandfather, to urge her to call, to comfort, to set aside hurt and grievance, to be there. Of course, she says, of course, but haven’t I told you? Her own news came just yesterday. Skin cancer. Melanoma. Malignant tumour. Cut out, dug out, stitched over, but still. It lurks. I’m fine, she says. I must be vigilant, she says, on my guard, but I’m fine. I don’t believe her. Cancer is too dark a word; I can’t wrap it in light.

The distance between me and family – so many miles, so many hours, so many days – stretches, stretches. I have struggled – do struggle – with my distance from Tanner, from my sister, from that measured life, from the many joys and from the many pains (more and more he stumbles, they stumble, it is getting more difficult to veil the truth with cheer.) I have struggled – do struggle – with my distance from my father, who misses the embrace of family, who needs me, I know, even though he won’t say so. I struggle, struggle, struggle with distance. I miss them, they need me, I need them, it hurts.

Love can make any distance shrink, disappear; it draws the horizon to us, it allows us to touch the sun, feel its warmth, even when it is so far. Pain, fear – these make the smallest distance in time or space seem infinite, insurmountable. So far to go, so difficult the journey, why am I not already there?

My heart is sore, my head confused. Expect quiet from this corner for a few days.

The Gods Must Be Dadaists

December 2, 2006

Well, your responses to my rant about the mess and ick of family life made it clear – not that it wasn’t already – that we’ve all got shit stories. And pee stories and snot stories and vomit stories and bum-wiping stories and all measure of grossness to recount. Our attachment to these stories is, I’m sure, what makes parents borderline-intolerable to people who do not have children and whose idea of pleasant social chit-chat doesn’t include casual tales of household mayhem involving fecal matter. But we can’t help ourselves, can we? Shit doesn’t just happen, when you’re a parent – it HAPPENS. Shit announces its arrival with a fanfare of farts and then runs and explodes and splatters itself onto the scene. It’s kind of hard to ignore. And so, yes, it figures prominently in our stories.

Shit – and its supporting players, Snot and Mess – were, as story-fodder, good to me this week. It was a low week; it has been a low/dark/gray couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling with some strain of existential influenza and it has darkened my mood and dampened my writing, kept me trapped in an undertow of gloomy thoughts and morose reflections. Until the other day, when the shit and snot and mess hit the proverbial fan and I realized, suddenly, that this parenting gig really is one great big fucked-up messy monkey festival – insanely stressful and demanding and, wouldn’t you know it? really, really funny. Oh, epiphany! Oh, insight! Huzzah for Her Bad Mother, finally getting – really getting – what ancient dramatists and third-rate screenwriters and countless bloggers more enlightened than I have understood all along: this shit’s funny. Don’t take it too seriously.

I won’t say that the sun suddenly burst through the clouds and thawed my chilled spirit. It didn’t. I’m still feeling, inexplicably, tired and gloomy. But a laugh was wrung out of me, and – AND – I found something to write about that was not heavy with angst and anxiety and relentlessly moody introspection. Shit! Mess! Lopburi monkeys! Comedy is, after all, literally (reading it from its original Greek – komos – as we must, for we are nothing if not pedantic, even when speaking of shit) a revel, a chaotic frolic. There is comedy in the shitty, messy frolic that is the care and feeding of young children. Write about the shit!

So I did. And we all felt better for it, didn’t we? (Cue collective sigh of contentment.)

My only regret was that the shitty, messy, Lopburi monkey morning that inspired my entirely unremarkable insights was not, end of the day, all that remarkably shitty. It was messy and chaotic and frustrating, but there was nothing extraordinary about that particular mess, that particular chaos. It was mundane chaos. Ordinary shit. Oh well, thought I – it’s still funny. It’s still revelatory. Hit publish.

End of story, right? Ha. Would that it were. That story had one more chapter, and I now have evidence for what I have always suspected: that the gods are watching me and reading my thoughts and looking for any available opportunity to mock me. How else to explain the fact that this morning, mere days after my revelation about shit and my reflections concerning the mild corresponding disappointment that I didn’t have a better shit story to support that revelation, I would find myself on the receiving end of a projectile shit, round and firm and disgusting and approximately the size of a softball, launched from the diaper of a bucking WonderBaby and onto my forehead?

Let’s see that again, in slo-mo: a poo – a great big spherical shit – launched from the unfortunately springy diaper ‘neath my excessively bouncy child’s rear end into the air and squarely onto my waiting forehead, where it rested for an interminable second before plopping, with a disturbingly gooshy thud, onto the floor.

I sincerely hope that you, dear readers, are laughing, because I – still recoiling from the shock of having had shit on my face and preoccupied with the task of disinfecting my head – have not yet been able to muster a laugh.

Somebody better find this shit funny. If you do, could you please remind me again that it is funny and that I will, someday, laugh at this myself? Because that shitball seems to have knocked that newly discovered appreciation for potty humour right out of me.

**Because you asked…

How It Happened: WonderBaby has to be changed on the floor, because her mobility and strength and resistance forbid balancing her on a table, even with multiple strapping devices. So, I was on the floor, squatting above her, my head MUCH too close to her bucking form, the bouncing of which caused the change pad, and my hand, and the diaper and shitball to fly upward INTO MY FACE. Which from now on will be held as far back from the fly-zone as possible, and will be protected by plastic goggles and a helmet.