Can you believe it? You’re six years old! In only ten short years, you’ll want to “unfriend” me after each post like this. You won’t be able to, however, because you’re not allowed to “unfriend” me on any social media, and you know that’s the rule, young lady, so no car for you Friday night.
Getting a little ahead of myself, I think.
Evie, although it sometimes makes me a little sad, I love watching you grow up. You’re always surprising me. You figure so much out on your own, yet you always want to know more. You want to know “why?” about everything. At the end of a long day, this can be exhausting, but I do my best to explain the world to you. And for what I don’t know I make up the most interesting explanation I can. Then I google it for you and decide to just go with what I made up in the first place. Your daddy will always explain it later.
Your sense of humor is developing right along, too, which delights me to no end. You’re really funny, girl! You find the funny in most everything as well, which I think tells a lot about your character. Also, you’re learning to laugh at yourself. This is most important, Evie. People want to be around those who don’t take themselves too seriously. You keep that up. Also, I can’t wait to hear your first belly laugh. Soon you’ll discover how much can be healed with just a good belly laugh.
You want to do more things all by yourself. I know this is important, and I respect that. This is part of how you figure out how to live in the world. It’s a great big crazy world, Evie, and a strong sense of independence will take you far in it. All I ask is that this desire to do things for yourself extend to getting yourself dressed in the morning, getting your own Popsicle and making an honest effort to look for whatever vital trinket you may have lost. This would help me out immensely.
Your personality is developing in so many ways, Evie. You are becoming who you are. I never realized until I had you that this is a process. A person’s self isn’t born, it’s built. Built by the things they see, the people they know, the places they go. As a parent, I am most fortunate to watch this process and hopefully play a positive role in it.
Even today, six years later, I’m still so amazed that I get to be your mommy. What did I do to deserve such a beautiful, wonderful responsibility? I don’t think I’ll ever be sure, or that I need to know. I do know that I love you. I love you more than I could ever explain to you. Love is sometimes too big to tell each other about.
I think in some way you understand that. .
I will tell you the same thing I try to remember to tell you every night: “Love you, love you, can’t get enough of you.”
Happy birthday, baby girl.
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the reasons my slack ass has not posted to this blog in, lo, these many months:
1. Spending a lot of time eating food that is amazingly bad for me.
I try to eat well, I really do. That is a straight up lie, y’all. I don’t try to do anything but figure out how to lose weight in a magical, mystical way that requires absolutely no discipline on my part. And it takes a lot of time to flip through all those dusty spell books piled up in the cold, cavernous dungeon where my willpower used to be. I just finished a novel in which one of the characters, a terminal cancer patient and leg amputee, jokes that at least he lost weight after the amputation. Friends, the thought of it gave me pause…just for a moment. But in that moment’s pause lies everything wrong about how my brain sometimes works.
Today I have ingested two cups of coffee, a protein drink, a Quarter Pounder and fries, a Coke Zero, a box of Goobers and a doughnut. I’m now drinking a glass of wine, which means the Cheetoes will be arriving at the party soon. Nary a vegetable in sight on that menu. Said menu left me cold and lifeless on the couch at 4:30 this afternoon, feeling the thousand chemicals I’d scarfed down having their evil way with my insides. I have no perk. No pizzazz. No inclination at all to do anything about it, including going to the grocery store to buy healthy food because I’m trying to lose weight, dammit, and that’s where they keep the red velvet cupcakes and pastrami.
2. Rejoining the rehab gym. Despite my horrid “diet” (read: slow march towards scurvy), I did rejoin the Gym of a Thousand Senior Citizens in an effort to maintain some semblance of health. God, I missed them. But there they were, still gettin’ it on treadmill and workin’ out in full jewelry and makeup. I am taking more of the classes now, which I hope will keep my interest peaked. I tell you what, there is nothing better than watching Blanche from The Golden Girls planking like a windsuited golden goddess right in front of you. I love to grapevine with these ladies, y’all. We grapevine, we squat, we crunch. Some of us have a bad habit of walking out 20 minutes into every freakin’ class we take, but what are you gonna do? Martha was never known for her stamina and at least we have a 20 minute marker for our workout.
Also, I’ve decided that all my workout clothes will from now on be black. This is an arbitrary, crazy rule I’ve set for myself, but, dammit, if we can’t set weird rules for ourselves that have no basis whatsoever in any kind of logic, then our forefathers labored meaninglessly, and all of the struggle for rights and independence since then is pointless.
I think the wine’s kicking in.
3. Singing “Let It Go”. If you have a girl child under the age of 10 and do not know everything about this song, including lyrics, choreography, costuming and the precise moment when Elsa takes off her other glove and throws it away (hint: “Well, now they knooow…”), then…I don’t know what to say to you. I honestly don’t. Because I don’t know if you’re blessed or cursed. On the one hand, I’ve come to understand why professional torturers incorporate repetition into their routines and how hearing the same song sung over and over again day in and day out may make you want to stab yourself in the eyeball with a ballpoint pen, but on the other hand: Best. Fucking. Song. Ever. Seriously. Every time I watch that part in the movie, I’m filled with a computer-animated grab bag of emotions that swell inside me like a…well, like a “swirling storm inside” and make me want to shout at the screen, “You go, Elsa!” But Evie asked me to stop doing that, so now I just say it on the inside.
I just have to say, Adele Dazeem, or whatever your name is, I never really got into Wicked, but I’m sorry now that I didn’t. I have never heard anyone, anyone, bring a song to life they way you can.
4. Watching House of Cards. Good lord, that show. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen two in the morning, but thanks to House of Cards, two in the morning and I have met again. Damn you, Netflix, for giving me two whole seasons of all the wonderful, wonderful “underbelly of Washington” intrigue, the moral angst, the connivery, the breaking of the fourth wall, the designer suits, the full 25 minutes of every other episode where I had absolutely no idea what was going on but loved every second of it anyway. I had 26 episodes of that damn show at my literal fingertips, and I watched them ALL in under two weeks. I watched while folding laundry, while waiting to pick Evie up from school, at the gym, in the bathroom, in the gym’s bathroom. I contemplated watching in the car, but I’m pretty sure you can be arrested for watching TV while driving. But I would have gladly been arrested for you, Kevin Spacey, you magnificent bastard.
5. Trying to convince my child that arguing with me when I tell her “no” only serves to enforce the “no” rather than reverse it. Y’all, sometimes it’s like battling a three-foot tall public defender dressed in a Merida costume who follows me around the house, incessantly debating the issue of whether having ice cream for breakfast or wearing said Merida costume to church should be admissible. Only this public defender uses whining as a strategy (not unheard of), throws herself dramatically around (also not unheard of) and has grape Popsicle all over her face. Some days. Lord, some days, I am so DONE with the arguing over every little thing, EVERY little thing, that I am unable to communicate a coherent thought and find myself whipping around, throwing my hands in the air and proclaiming, “I AM THE ONE WHO SAYS THE ‘NO’ AND YOU ARE THE ONE WHO DOES THE ‘NO’! THE ‘NO’ IS THE THING THAT MEANS THE MOST!”
I actually said this. I think. It was along those lines.
So, as you can see, I’ve been rather busy with all the things. That being said, however, I promise to keep y’all more in the loop. I know. I’ve promised it before. But I really mean it this time. You know I love you bitches.
Sometimes, raising a child is a lot like walking into a spiderweb: it’s sticky, you flail about wildly for reasons known only to you, and onlookers wonder if maybe you need help. And you’re left wiping the product of another being’s various orifices off your person for the rest of the day.
I have somewhere I’m going with this, I swear.
So, throughout Evie’s short life, we’ve experienced very little vomit.
Oh, sorry. Disclaimer: THIS POST IS REALLY GROSS.
Anyway, very little vomit. There was the time late in the night when her stomach violently rejected the McNuggets she’d had for dinner. Why her stomach was so offended by perfectly good pink slime, I don’t know. There was another time when her stomach decided against a crap ton of red grapes she’d had before bed. Why does vomit so often come in the night? The red grapes episode was especially fun because of my decision to just scoop up the soiled sheets and blankets and dump the whole thing in the washer. Did you know that washing machines won’t dispose of red grape skins for you? They won’t.
But these episodes, exciting as they were, were short-lived. We’d never experienced a long term stomach virus. I’d never had to deal with a continually puking child and all the magic that comes with it.
That is, until two weeks ago. Evie woke up a couple of Saturday mornings ago, took a look at the beautiful sunshine and blue sky and decided it was a good day to throw up all over it.
Her first session began on the couch where she suddenly turned an interesting shade of green and began to gag and cough. Instant panic. Everything went in slow motion. Gill grabbed Evie up by her armpits and raced her into the bathroom. Then, as most fathers witnessing a barf-spewing child would do, he ran away. I took over, and we got through it. It was awesome.
Then, miraculously, Evie was fine. She played, she laughed, she began to whine about what we were going to do that day. Well, thought I, maybe it was a fluke. We’ve had flukes before. McNuggets, red grapes. Flukes. Let’s go out!
I can laugh about it now. Bitterly.
First, Evie, Evie’s Mimi and I painted pottery. Then we went to lunch. I ordered Pukey McBarferson dry toast and Sprite, just in case. The waitress eyed us suspiciously and disappeared into the back to thoroughly douse herself with Purell, I’m sure. Then, we went Target. Because of course.
I won’t be able to go back to Target for a while, I don’t think. At least a month or so.
Upon our arrival at Our Lady of the Red Bullseye, Evie seemed like she felt kind of puny. She’s just tired, I told myself. And we have a protocol we follow at Target when Evie’s tired. I plopped her a cart, and we headed for the Home section. There I plucked two overstuffed pillows off the shelf, along with a nice, cushy blankie. I stuffed the pillows around Evie and wrapped her in the blankie. I made sure she was comfy-cozy. Because I’m an awesome mommy. An awesome, thoughtful mommy who has no critical thinking skills.
And, yes, I can see NOW what’s coming next. I didn’t at the time. I DIDN’T AT THE TIME.
The ironic thing is, right before it happened, I made a point to move the Vitamin Water I’d bought for Evie out of the cart so that it wouldn’t spill all over the blankie and pillows. It was then that a pocket of righteous suck opened up.
There was a little sound she made with her throat, a little hiccupping sound. Then, the suck. Waves and waves of vomit issued forth like a dry toast and Sprite geyser from my baby girl. Oh, and strawberries. I let her have strawberries at lunch. Well, rent them, really. It just kept coming, y’all. I tried to stop it. Oh, how I tried. In a moment of blind panic, I reached out my hands and tried to catch it, to contain it. I tried to keep it from pouring like strawberry-scented lava all over Evie, me and the poor blankie and pillows who were just sitting quietly on the shelf and never asked to be a part of this madness.
Y’all, it was everywhere. And when it was over, Evie sat silently in the cart, staring straight ahead, not moving. But I knew we had to move. Quickly. We had to make it to the bathroom before, God help us all, it happened again. However, as we were at the very back of the store, the bathrooms were approximately 452 miles away.
Imagine this coming towards you in Target as you’re benignly shopping for your 4×6 picture frames, tube socks and Endust: a woman, her arms covered in a mysterious pink goo, trying frantically to push a shopping cart with her elbows while inside, amidst a plush nest of goo-covered throw pillows, crouches a small child, wide-eyed and also covered with goo. Behind the cart rushes another woman, desperately trying not make eye contact with anyone. They weave wildly through the aisles, looking much like a crash team frantically piloting a gurney off an ambulance and into the ER, if the gurney was a red plastic Target cart filled with home goods and the crash team carried purses and Vitamin Water. As the gurney-cart rushes past you, you catch a whiff of that unmistakable scent, you realize the goo is vomit and the child probably has a stomach virus…and you still can’t figure out what the hell just happened.
We made it to the bathroom. I cleaned Evie and myself up the best I could and left her with Mimi in the bathroom to find a new shirt for her, take care of the vomit-covered cart and maybe run far, far away.
I got the cart cleaned up, many thanks to Elias, a former Marine and now Target employee who told me he was on a 10-year no vomit streak. After he finished “defecting” the strawberry throw pillows and blankie and hosing down the cart, I wonder if Elias is still on his streak.
I guess I’ll never know because I’m never going in that Target again. Incidentally, they assumed my original intention was to buy the defected pillows and blankets. I didn’t correct them. I’m sorry for it. I know it was wrong. But I just could not suffer the humiliation of actually purchasing and disposing of vomit-covered sofa accessories from Target. They get enough of my money. They can’t have my dignity. Plus, oh my God. So embarrassing.
To top it all off, I almost shoplifted the shirt I grabbed off the rack for Evie.
And I don’t think any of us will be eating strawberries for awhile.
6:00 am – Alarm goes off. Sounds like chaos and everything terrible. Hit snooze.
6:09 am – Alarm goes off. Interrupts interesting dream set in my childhood home and involves a large lizard who is actually a puppy but is also Eve but not Eve. Hit snooze.
6:18am – Alarm goes off. HATE. Hit snooze.
6:27am — Alarm goes off. Should probably get up now. Have to pee. Hit snooze.
6:36am – Alarm goes off. Have a vague memory of friend Nia, an elementary school teacher, getting in my face about getting Evie to school on time after she witnessed my usual constantly-running-at-least-ten-minutes-behind performance during Vacation Bible School. “You cannot be tardy!” she declared, her finger wagging and ponytail swinging. Hit snooze.
6:45am – Alarm goes off. Feel like maybe Nia is lurking under my bed, ready to pounce. Get up.
6:46am – Pee forever.
6:50 am – Stumble towards Evie’s room. The first day she was up and already dressed. Subsequent days I found her bundled in blankets, close to coma. Because she’s mine.
6:51 am – Roll in the crash cart, charge up the paddles and hit her with some juice.
6:55 am – Coffee. The world makes sense again.
7:00 – 7:45 am – Make breakfast, pack up book bag, get dressed, find Eve’s shoes, try to do something with Eve’s hair, try to do something with my hair, make beds, pee again, wipe breakfast off Eve’s face, clean up Eve’s attempt to make her own chocolate milk, load dishwasher, forget to charge phone, call Eve’s name 541 times to get her attention, remember to charge phone, fill water bottle for gym, finish coffee, want to die.
7:45 am – Drive to school. Rock it right the hell out to “Daylight” and “Some Nights”.
7:55 am – Wait in car line. Car line sucks. Eve sees several cranes perched on the roof of one of the houses. Do voices for the birds. Eve laughs so hard she gets the hiccups.
8:00 am – Notice that several parents are walking their kids into school. This is not proper procedure. Really want to yell out the car window, “YOU’RE TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN THAT RULES DON’T MATTER!”
8:15 am – Eve peaces out. I want to go with her. This is not proper procedure.
8:30 am – Hit the gym. A lady on the next treadmill asks me if I’ve had laser treatment on my face cause I have some scars, and she wonders if it really works anyway because I do have lines around my mouth. What the hell is wrong with people?
9:00 am — Home. Fully intend to shower. Get caught up in piddling around the house. Vow not to check email, Pinterest or Facebook in order to keep the day moving.
9:10 – Maybe just a little peek.
10:30 am – Sittin’ at the laptop, reading an article I found via Pinterest on why homeschooled kids are better off.
10:35 – Miss Evie. A lot. Everything feels weird. Disjointed. Confused. Legs feel cold. Throw a blanket over them. Realize that being wrapped in a blanket makes me even more pitiful. Make a cry face. Feel lonely. Check Facebook.
11:00 – Shower. The first couple of days I didn’t put on makeup or in any other way prettify myself. I was just going back downstairs to wrap myself in that blanket, the only thing in the world that really understood my pain, and make more cry faces. And no one was gonna see my scarred up, deeply lined face anyway. The third day I realized maybe for the first time what it meant to make myself pretty just for me. That putting on makeup, blowing out my hair, moisturizing and picking out a cute outfit even if no one else was gonna see me that day but me was a gift I could give myself because I deserve it. I don’t deserve to look in the mirror and not like what I see. I deserve to feel good about how I look because I’m important to me. And no one else is gonna do it for me. I kind of really got that for the first time. Then I thought about starting my own talk show. Then I would have hair and makeup people, and all of this wouldn’t matter anyway.
12:00 pm – Hungry. One day I fixed myself a nice piece of broiled salmon and sautéed spinach with butter and garlic. The next day I ate an entire Totino’s Party Pizza all by myself. No one else here, people.
12:30 pm – Look at the couch. I could totally have a nap. No one would know. Just the cats. And they’d nap with me, thereby making them co-conspirators and so not likely to give me up. A nap would be nice. But what if I sleep too long and miss picking Eve up? Oh God! Little Evie, her little ponytail wilted and uniform all sweaty and disheveled, head hung low as she’s forced to wait in the school office while they try in vain to locate her mother, who’s probably a crackhead and is too strung out on the crack to remember to pick her child up at school. I don’t think I’ll nap.
1:00 pm: Register an account as a writer with a web-based company who brokers deals between writers and companies looking for specific content. Get scared. Run away.
1:30 pm: Is it time yet? No. Still have an HOUR AND A HALF. WTF, man!
1:35 pm: Should I nap? Screw it! I’ll nap. Set timer on phone for 60 minutes.
1:36pm – 2:35pm: Watch timer.
2:36pm: Leave to get Eve.
2:50pm: Sit in car line, listen to Dr. Laura and mentally re-decorate the outside of peoples’ houses.
3:15pm: Eve’s in the car, buckled in, water bottle and snack in hand. Radio’s up and we’re outta there. I check off one less day until summer vacation.
**As this blog’s writer, I reserve the right to justify my actions, rationalize my behavior and just generally make an ass of myself any damn time I want. With that in mind, I want to assure all of you that last week was an anomaly. I set aside last week to do next to nothing, ruminate, have feelings about my feelings and feel sorry for myself. I’m being plenty active from here on out. For those of you who are surprised at this caveat, bless your heart. For those of you who were wondering what the hell I plan on doing all day, I am happy to inform you that I have a two-page list, front and back, signed and notarized, containing just what the hell I’m doing all day. I’m carrying it around with me, in case you want a copy.
I have a new song that I like to sing. I didn’t write the song. Ms. Alicia Keys did. But I’ve totally bogarted it and made it my own. It goes a little somethin’ like this:
“My thighs are on FIE-yer!
My thighs are on FIE-ah-ah-ah-yeeerrr!”
I mostly sing it when I’m walking up or down the stairs. Or getting in or out of the car. Or just whenever. Sometimes I substitute “knees” for “thighs”. Sometimes it’s “arms”. Or “calves”. Or gluteus maximus. But that’s mostly because I just like saying “gluteus maximus”. It sounds like a super hero. I…am…GLUTEUS MAXIMUS! Fear my ASS!
If you’re a Facebook friend of mine (and lucky you!) then you know I’ve recently joined a gym. If you live with me, you most certainly know it because you’re either routinely being dropped off in the gym’s childcare room or you’re trying not to laugh when I am wholly unable to get myself out of a sitting position several times a day.
So, yes. I joined a gym. This gym is very close to my house, which is why I joined. I could walk there. If I did walk there, I wouldn’t have to join there, which is a little embarrassing, but, hey. By the way, it’s called The Wellness Center. Which is another nice way of saying that I feel very young every time I go — very young and very nervous about maybe breaking a hip one day. Those who have broken a hip and go to The Wellness Center look straight up pissed off. Whether it’s at their broken hips or at me, I don’t know, but I don’t make eye contact, and I don’t ask. See, The Wellness Center is attached to the hospital. (Said hospital will come in very handy should I really, seriously not be able to get up out of my chair soon.) Little old folks (bless their hearts) go to The Wellness Center as part of their physical rehab after breaking hips or having heart attacks or one of any number of conditions that might land them a part in a bad infomercial. And they are just not happy about it. At all.
There are other little old folks, of course, that Rock. It. Out. With their head bands and crazy-loud spandex and full jewelry, they take those recumbent bikes to school, y’all. God bless ’em. I love to watch it when a particularly provoking story flashes across Fox News on the TV’s above them. Those legs get to goin’, sister. I hope to be in the shape they’re in when I’m eighty. I hope to meet my best friends at The Wellness Center for a walk on the treadmill and a gossip about the friends that aren’t there.
As for me, the treadmills and I have a good relationship. We don’t throw down or anything, but we get the ol’ heart rate up and a good sweat happening. You see, walking and I go way back. Waaay back to the fat days. No, not those fat days. The fat days before those. I love to walk. I love to throw on my big white tennis shoes, strap on an audio book and my pedometer and geek out on down the road. Walking’s low impact, low maintenance and good for the soul. However: Florida. And hot. And I left more than my heart in North Carolina. I left my elliptical. People, over the past week I’ve come to know an important truth: getting our cardio right under blowing air conditioning vents while gazing up at The View, sipping Dasani and mopping our brows with free towels are our God-given rights as Americans.
So that part’s good. And familiar. And awesome. What’s new to me about joining the gym are the classes. The classes are why I channel Ms. Alicia Keys fifty times a day. The classes are why I may end up in traction at the same hospital where I work out.
The first class I took was Pilates. Here’s my experience with Pilates: nothing. I bought a Pilates DVD in 2001. I watched it one time. Watched it. One time. I didn’t actually do any of the Pilates exercises. Should this keep me from taking an advanced Pilates class? Please. Reckless is my middle name, bitches.
Ow. And also, ow. It hurt. It hurt so bad. It hurt all over. It hurt in places where I don’t think any muscles resides. I really think my actual fat was hurting. Is that possible? I don’t know. But, ow. The body is not supposed to do some of that stuff, I’m convinced. And that instructor must be on PCP or something because she was actually doing it. All of it. I looked over at her a couple of times as I lay prone and helpless on the floor, fully expecting to witness a full-body levitation. Crazy.
Later that day, as we lounged by the pool (which is always what I should be doing instead of taking Pilates), I told my friend Kelly that I was sore.
“You’re already sore?” she said. “Oh, boy. Wait until tomorrow.”
She was right.
That was Pilates. The next class I took is called Total Body Toning. Being that I’ve totally got cardio covered, I really wanted to try some strength training. You know, to keep from getting The Hump. My grandmother is currently looking down at me and shaking her head because lifting weights is so unladylike. Given that she’s the one from whom I will inherit The Hump if I don’t work to strengthen my upper back and improve my posture, she can, and with all due respect, suck it.
Upon entering the Total Body Toning class, I found that the same instructor who taught Pilates taught this class. Wonderful. Undaunted, I introduced myself and thanked her for a great Pilates class on Friday.
“Oh, yes! I remember you!” she said and smiled.
She then began to pull out the class’s equipment for me and give me a brief rundown on what we’d be doing.
“And don’t worry about routines or coordination or any of that. We don’t really focus on coordination in this class.”
I ask you, why did she feel the need to mention coordination to me? Twice?
Anyway, I enjoyed this class much more than Pilates. Working with free weights and body bars and big inflatable balls, etc. is, although strange for me to admit, fun. Really fun. I huffed and I puffed, sweated copiously and turned red as a tomato. Very unladylike. I also kind of liked watching my itty bitty muscles pop meekly out like little bald groundhogs testing the weather, seeing if it’s safe to come out. It’s safe, little muscles! Come on out and keep me from looking like a blonde Quasimodo! And after the class I felt really good and not like I was gonna die. Always a good sign.
(Also, just between you and me, that big inflatable ball is much fun to roll around on. I’ve got plans to take it for a spin around the room one day after everyone else has left class. If you come with me, it’ll be like a party!)
But, sore. Another friend told me sore was good. That it meant I was gonna get a great ass. Since that existed before the gym (hee!), I’m hoping for my burgeoning batwings to shrink. That’s a new and concerning problem.
In closing, let me admit that when I joined the gym, I worried that I would feel out of place. What if I did something stupid or violated some unspoken code of gym ethics? What if I turned the treadmill up too fast and went flying off backwards? What if everyone stared at me? What if I didn’t belong?
The first time I climbed gingerly up on their elliptical and tried to figure out the controls while trying not to look like I was trying to figure out the controls, a lady hopped up on the machine next to me and took off on her workout. She was very trim and fit, with tight, tight spandex and a severe platinum-colored haircut. “Great,” I thought. “This is the person who’s gonna work out next to me? Really? Should I move? Was joining a gym really a bad decision?”
It was then that the woman starting humming. Sporadically. Unmelodically. Loudly. I nonchalantly checked to see if she was wearing headphones. That would be no. More humming. Random, short bursts of loud humming. Then a bit of incoherent mumbling. Then more humming. Then a little chuckle.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself. This gym is right where I belong.
Evie, today is your fifth birthday. How can this be? Just a short time ago, we were bringing you home from the hospital. We had no idea what to expect from you. I’m sure you felt the same way.
Five years later, we know you very well. You must feel the same way.
Evie, sometimes I imagine your reading this blog when you get older. I hope you get a sense of what it’s like to know you, to love you, to be your mother. I hope it makes you laugh. I hope it makes you think. I hope you don’t decide to sue me for invasion of privacy.
On the first day of your fifth year, I can’t help but feel we’re entering a new era. I look at you and see absolutely no trace of the chubby baby you once were. And yet, at the same time, that’s all I see. I know that’s all I’ll ever see when I look at you, even when you’re many times older than you are now. This is something that used to frustrate me about my parents — they see me through a little-girl filter. But they can’t help it. I understand it now, as you will if you have children.
Anyway, as I was saying, the new era. You’ll be entering kindergarten this fall. We’ll be apart for larger and larger chunks of the day. You’ll be out in the world. You’ll meet new friends, learn new things and begin to discover who you are apart from being my little girl. Evie, this both thrills and terrifies me. Because although the world is wonderful, it is also terrible. It will be terrible to you. And I won’t be able to protect you. And there will come a time when I won’t be able to take the hurt away just by holding you. And then maybe there will come a time when you won’t even want me to hold you anymore. Terrifying.
But today, on the first day of your fifth year, you’re still my little girl, both in reality and in my imagination. I’m so grateful for these few short years I get with you where that is so. The older you get, the more I realize how short and precious this time is. Believe this, Evie: I rejoice in and treasure every single minute of it because of who you are. Your little self has completely filled my heart and my soul with so much happiness and joy. Being your mommy has clicked my life into place, and for that I am so grateful to you.
Happy Birthday, baby girl.
I’m a big fan of old. Old people, old houses, old towns. Old has experience. Old has depth and character. Old usually has wisdom. And old tells great stories. I’m also a fan of imperfect. Disheveled, dilapidated, crumbling. Imperfect is always, always more interesting than perfect and pristine.
So it should be no surprise that after laying eyes for the first time on Tarpon Springs, Florida, which is the oldest town in Pinellas County, I fell instantly in love. It also didn’t hurt that this little town is, essentially, a fishing village with a predominantly Greek population. I mean, really. Tarpon Springs and I were meant to be together.
I wish I had a picture that conveys the town’s charm and eccentricity, but this damn Prius. Seriously.
Blah, blah, blah, Greeks, sponges, oldness.
The downtown “strip” is lined on one side with boats that much resemble the crews who sail them. Careworn, craggy and smelling of salt, wind and sun. The spongers sit on the docks beside their gonna-need-a-bigger boats, their full-featured Greek faces seamed and tanned from years on the water, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, laughing, shootin’ the shit and just generally being very Greek and fisherman-y as the warm Florida sun sets behind them and soft breezes bear the smells of grilling lamb, handmade soap and the ocean. Y’all, I almost turned inside out from happiness.
And what do the women do? They run the tourist shops, selling miniature statues of Greek gods and goddesses, glass jars full of “Evil Eye” talismans and handmade soap. The tourists eat it up, man. It’s so Greek. However, these ladies don’t play. You get ONE buy 4 get 1 free deal, my friend, and your free soap is the GREEN soap. Thaaat’s right. We will TELL you what your free soap is, lady. Have a nice day!
But for all their micro-managing of soap special offers, these ladies have a definite no-rules attitude toward libation consumption. It’s always time to drink right the hell here, so suck it, Buffett.
Now. Get ready, friends. I would like to take you all along with me on a photographic journey through the highlight of our trip. Remember how I told you I was a big fan of the old and decrepit? Well, I’m also quite fond of the creepy, unusual and just not right. In fact, if you put all these things together, old, decrepit and weird…well, you get the Pope, but you also get the Tarpon Springs Aquarium. This place was just so wrong. Which made it sooo right.
I’m just gonna go ahead and start out with something ripped straight outta your nightmares and mine. If I’m ever stricken dead from fright, put out an APB on this terrifying creature.
This is an Alligator Turtle who bears a strong resemblance to my 7th grade English teacher. The picture doesn’t really show the size of Mr. Alligator Turtle, but he is freakin’ huge. So, you’re probably thinking gentle giant, right? Wrong. This guy actually can be a threat to this guy:
Thaaat’s right. The Gentle Giant will straight up throw down on some gator. So, naturally, Tarpon Springs Aquarium put them both in the same tank. To make it even more morbid, above the tank, right in the sight line of Hannibal Gator Turtle’s current roommate, they hung the skull of the last alligator who bunked up with Satan’s housepet. You can clearly make out where the Gator Turtle chomped down so hard on its victim’s head, it broke through the skull bone. Sweet dreams, alligator!
Moving on to the big-ass snakes. The boa constrictors and pythons at the aquarium were very interested in Evie. While visiting their tanks, I kept turning around only to come face to face with one pressing itself right up to the glass. I’d yelp and yank Evie away and then try to explain to her why she shouldn’t be afraid of snakes. It’s just a lost cause, and I’m tired of the charade. You should be scared of snakes, Evie, because they will totally eat you. To wit:
The good people at the Tarpon Springs Aquarium felt inclined to post right much literature outside the snakes’ tanks that regales visitors with tales of toddlers being swallowed alive, grown men trying to fight off giant pythons with knives and losing and giant pythons escaping from this same aquarium and roaming freely through folks’ backyards. This little display was carefully pasted onto a small piece of cardboard that was leaned up against a snake tank. I made the mistake of taking the cardboard down for a closer look and came face to face with this:
And then I screamed and ran.
But we can’t move on from the snake area before I share this with you. Okay. A giant python was in the process of eating an alligator. Because of course. Now, the alligator was still alive while being eaten by the giant python. Because of course. So, in one final desperate attempt to survive, the alligator opened its enormous jaws and…split open the giant python from the inside out. What I love about this story is the picture. If I hadn’t told you what happened, would you have been able to make out what the hell you were even looking at? I know.
On to the shark tanks. Yes, that is totally a tiger shark getting ready to attack the head of our tour guide. No. But still! Given that Stephanie was, just moments before, actually swimming with sharks and feeding them, this picture could easily show up on a top ten list of eerie photographs one day.
You’ll notice there is metal screening completely covering the top of the tank except for a small square where guess what? People can stick their hands in and feed the sharks bits of raw shrimp skewered onto wooden sticks that could never, ever, ever be long enough for me to STICK MY HAND IN A SHARK TANK.
More informative literature about how sharks will most definitely wipe out all of mankind one day.
I’ll tell you what the hell happened, friends. A fisherman managed to hook a particularly large tarpon fish and was reeling it in when a tiger shark swam up like a bullet shot from the bowels of hell and, with one bite, ate half of the fisherman’s enormous catch. I guess he felt the need to reel the rest of the ravaged carcass in. I don’t know. I’d have just let the mother have the whole thing.
I think this expression pretty much sums it up. Also, she appears to be giving the sharks the finger, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
Friends, you might think I was frightened by our trip to the Tarpon Springs Aquarium. And I was. But that’s the point. Tarpon Springs charmed me and terrified me and thereby won my heart. Others may prefer Busch Gardens or Disney, but I’d take a python-induced anxiety attack followed by lamb gyros and cold beers by the water while watching the sun set any damn day.