Friday, April 29, 2005

Sara Crewe on Flight 105

Update as of 5/8/05: I wrote this post a few weeks ago; I've revised it very slightly and am entering it in the May Blogging for Books competition hosted at The Zero Boss.

This month's theme:
For this month's Blogging for Books, write an original blog post about one of three topics: lying, fornicating, or going home.

Background for those of you visiting for the first time: I originally wrote this post just after returning from a week-long trip home to New York to visit my dad and stepmother. I was travelling alone with my daughter; my partner stayed in Seattle, where we live, because she had to work. There's no lying or fornicating in this story, but now that I think about it, there are at least three journeys home.

I'll start at the end of the trip, because I don't want to forget about this.

The flight back East was exhausting but low-stress: it was a redeye, and Mermaid Girl slept almost the whole way and was sleepily good-natured through the two hour layover (at 6 in the morning, East Coast time. In Philadelphia. It would've almost been faster to just take the train from there to NY. But it worked out fine.)

The way back home was a different story. The plane was late, and crowded, and the flight attendents were crabby (they snapped at me for taking MG to the bathroom while they had their drink cart out. Hey, she's four, you know? She had to GO!) and after an initial nap MG was bored, bored, bored.

She drew in her new Hello Kitty coloring book. We played several dozen rounds of open-hand Crazy Eights. Open hand allows the adult to do her best to throw the game in favor of the kid, but even so the luck of the draw sometimes has its way, and after she'd lost a couple of times MG was ready for something else and started nagging me to read to her from A Little Princess.

I didn’t want to, for a few reasons:

1) She’s much too young for this book. I first read it at 7, when my favorite cousin gave it to me for my birthday, and was planning to give it to MG when she's about the same age. It is one of my favorite books in the entire world, despite (or maybe because of) a heroine who's a little too perfect: smart, wise, kind to children and servants, beautiful in a dark-haired elfin way, and a good storyteller. I love the theme of the Power of Imagination. I love the twists of fate and the Victorian London boarding-school setting. I love the Tasha Tudor illustrations in my copy. I love everything about it--MG is even named partly after the heroine--and want her to love it too and not be ruined for it by too-early exposure. But she heard me mention it one day and was entranced by the title (a princess! And with the same name as her! What's not to like?) and would not rest until I started reading it to her. Which I did, shortly before our vacation.

2) We were about to get to the Really Sad Part, wherein the heroine's fortunes plummet with Dickensian suddenness: in one swell foop, she's transformed from a pampered heiress and "show pupil," adored by her classmates and showered with love and presents by her only living parent, into a penniless orphan who barely escapes being kicked out onto the cold London streets, and spends much of the remainder of the book toiling long hours as a servant, sleeping on a hard bed in the attic, taming rats, etc. I'd been dreading this part, particularly because it looked like it would fall during our vacation, when MG was deprived of the company of her most-beloved parent. I'd managed to make it almost home without reading it, but now the time had come.

3) The book was packed in the blue backpack, which was shoved into the overhead compartment, which meant I'd have to disturb the dapper, polite, napping man on the aisle seat so I could wrestle it out of there.

But I was desperate, and there were over two hours left to go before we hit Sea-Tac, and she wouldn't be fobbed off with any of the other books we'd brought. The dapper guy in the aisle seat woke up and said he had to stretch his legs anyway, so I dragged out the book and started reading.

It was a tough go. The book's vocabulary and sentence structure are complex and require a lot of explanation, so I kept having to stop and backtrack. And MG was fidgety and distracted. Even so, when it's revealed that Sara Crewe's father is dead, and that Sara is now an orphan, and that none of the adults involved cares about her at all, only about her money, and that the only person who grieves for her is the scullery maid she's befriended, my girl got it."Do you understand what that means, that Captain Crewe is dead?" I checked in before continuing. "No more parents," MG said solemnly, her eyes big. "And what else?" I pressed, feeling heartless but wanting to make sure she understood the change in Sara Crewe's fortunes so the rest of the chapter would make sense. "No more love," she almost-whispered.

I kept asking if she was sure she wanted me to go on reading, and she kept insisting she did. So I plunged on, right up to the heartbreaking moment when Miss Minchin, the cruel, greedy headmistress, calls Sara to her sitting room to explain that henceforth she will work as a servant in the school where she had been the most privileged of students. At that point, MG called it quits, too distracted by the plane noises and the family behind us to concentrate any more. She pulled her coloring book back out and I put A Little Princess away, relieved at the end of the emotional onslaught and the shoulder strain: side-by-side in a crowded plane is not the best physical setup for reading a wordy chapter book aloud.

I was about to start in on the in-flight magazine when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the quiet guy on my right, the one who’d been mostly napping. "I just wanted to thank you for that reading," he said.

"Oh!" I'd been so focused on MG that I'd forgotten anyone else could hear us. I'd been reading pretty dramatically, trying to bring the book to life for her through the welter of Victorian verbiage; I hoped I hadn't been too loud. "Well, thank you. It's one of my favorite books," I explained.

"Mine, too," he said, which surprised me; A Little Princess is a pretty girly book; most guys haven't even heard of it. "My father used to read it to my older sister, and I always loved it. And--" at this point his voice broke, and I noticed he was holding some tissues and showed signs of weepiness underneath his sunglasses--"I'm flying back to Seattle to bury him, and hearing you read from that book, and that scene, it just--it just moved me. It was eerie, hearing that story again, right now."

So, I leave it to you: Coincidence? Fate? God? Or the spirit of Frances Hodgson Burnett, from beyond the grave?

Myself, I got shivers.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dad, This is for You

Hey, how come no one's written any comments on my stunning and hilarious posts about our NYC trip?

Oh, I haven't written any posts. Jeez. Details, details.

Right. Well, we just got back last night. It was hard to post while I was there on account of the previously-mentioned single-parent gig. My dad (hi dad!) is now a hard-core Booland fan; every time I got near the computer for five minutes he would say something like "Are you posting? Are you posting??" But I couldn't concentrate for long enough to write anything; all I could think about most of the time was something along the lines of "Is Mermaid Girl eating anything? Is she already exhausted even though it's only 10 in the morning? Is she about to have a meltdown? Should I take the stroller today or make her walk all over the city? Am I letting her watch too much TV? Am I spoiling her? Maybe I'm spoiling her."

Then she'd yell from upstairs, where she was watching "The Music Man" for the seventeenth time while eating her daily breakfast of corned beef and shredded cheddar cheese. "Moooommmmmyyyy!" she'd bellow, and that would take care of even that tenuous train of thought.

We've been home together all day and have pretty much happily ignored each other. Life is good.

Okay. Have to go unpack now. Then I will write something about our trip that isn't about MG's dietary or sleep issues. Honest.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ungrateful venting about my perfect child

Every time I go on a solo trip with Her Mermaidness--and this is the fourth so far by my count--I almost immediately am struck with more awe and respect for single parents than metaphor can encompass. A mountain of respect? A full-night's-sleep of respect? Ohhhh, I'm so giddy with renewed respect that I can't even tell you.

Actually she's been very good, very restrained, patient polite, charming: all you could ask of a 4-year-old guest at her grandparents' house. But she does need to know WHERE I AM AT ALL TIMES. Which starts to wear. She's plugged in to "Elllla Enchanted" right now so I have a half-hour or so.

She won't go to bed until I do. This is standard for Mermaid Girl on vacation: she's a reluctant-to-bed girl at the best of times, and if we're somewhere new and exciting the possibility of missing something is just too much for her to bear and there's no point in even trying to get her down until there's nothing else going on. I suppose if we invested lots and lots of energy in it we could manage, but hey, it's our vacation too.

Usually RW and I take turns on bedtime when we're on vacation, as we do the rest of the time-- it's just that vacation bedtime duty involves the whole evening, and also sleeping next to the Girl all night as otherwise she wakes up in the middle of the night in a strange place and freaks out. But due to the draconian vacation policies of RW's place of employ, I'm on my own this time. So my evenings are pretty much shot.

(I remember last April, when MG and I went to San Francisco to meet up with my dad and stepmom who were going to a conference there, in our hotel room at 10 PM or so, hearing the cable cars clanging below me, all the riches of the City so tantalizingly close and yet completely out of reach. Thinking of visits to Rosie and Nora back in our 20's, when we'd hit Amelia's and also their neighborhood bars. Dancing! Drinking! Going to bookstores and Osento! And then to be back again, lying next to my restless then-3-year-old. Grounded.)

So far there's nothing I even want to do by bedtime this trip; I'm too beat. Also, I'm getting a bit concerned that for three days MG's eaten nothing but lunch meat, Babybell cheese, and a couple of carrots. My stepmother, a gourmet cook, (who by the way cooks a mean gefilte fish, very good for breakfast also I discovered this morning) was taken aback at the first meal we had here: she'd prepared a lovely little bowl of spaghetti for MG and I abashedly explained that the kid won't eat tomato sauce. We haven't been here for a couple of years and in that time MG's culinary tastes have narrowed considerably. When she was 1 or 2, I swear, she ate everything. Now she'll only deign to touch the aforementioned items and maybe an egg. Oh, and french fries. And tuna fish, SOMETIMES.

At home we give her a choice between what we're having and a piece of cheese or some peanut butter in a bowl. Maybe we're catering to her too much, but I don't want to make food a big-deal power struggle, and if she doesn't get regular protein hits she becomes Low Blood-Sugar Monster and honestly, no one wants to deal with that. So I've been passing her bits of turkey breast and corned beef every hour or two, and keeping her sippy cup filled with milk. It doesn't seem like the healthiest diet in the world, but hey, she's functioning so far and that's pretty good.

Oh my time's up and I haven't even gotten to the seder last night or the Upper East Side day (pilgrimages to the Alice statue and the Eloise picture) on Friday. The next two days are the most chock-full of activity--another seder, an afternoon with RW's visiting Danish relatives, brunch tomorrow with friends visiting their parents, and a photo session--so I'm probably offline until tomorrow night. By which time I'll probably have more pointless grousing to do about MG's minor flaws. Poor kid.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What are they wearing in NY these days?

We leave on the redeye tomorrow night! So tonight is Packing Night. And me on 5 hours of sleep because I was so wired from my exciting outing last night.

My stuff is easy: all my black clothes go in a black bag. Add a dress for the seders, a few books, the cell phone, my schedule and painstaking list of everyone's phone numbers, and I'm done.

But for MG! what to take? Turns out none of her dresses go with her tights or her sweaters. We don't care, mostly, but she does seem to be aware that she's headed for the fashion capital of the continent. She has no short-sleeved shirts that are acceptable, apparently; the ones I showed her out of her drawer made her cry. I think the pressure's getting to her. It looks like it won't be short-sleeve weather, anyway, so just as well.

And the little black cocktail dress handed down from God knows where? A problem, because we have no black tights! It seems a shame, because where on earth is a 4-year-old going to wear a black cocktail dress, if not New York City during Passover week?

I hope the mismatched look is in among the preschool set this year. Because that's what she'll be wearing. With black Mary Janes, the only shoes she has that aren't falling apart.

And then, Mondays can be unexpectedly satisfying

Especially when I top off a surprisingly productive workday by (gasp!) getting out of the house in the evening!

I know, it's shocking. I was shocked, myself. But I managed to do it. And a good thing, too, because I was getting really, really crabby. (Could you tell? From that last post? Um, maybe not; it was pretty subtle.) Thanks to Kim, who invited me to the Ayun Halliday reading, I actually went out and did a grownup thing. Jay did a great write-up of the great reading--it was all just as he says.

And not only were my new blogging friends there, but I ran into an old friend from my earliest days in Seattle, and she and her partner invited me out to dinner after, and we talked for, like, an hour! And I only monopolized about two-thirds of that time with cute little anecdotes about the Mermaid Girl. I really did try to not be a completely boring mom.

But they asked good questions. They're both really good listeners. I found myself saying things I didn't know I thought, and wanting to run home and write about them.

My friend said, "You were so shy, when you first moved here," and I said, "Well, I'm still shy, I just don't have to get out so much," and she said very definitely, "No. Not like you were then."

We talked about how people see you, and how you see yourself at different times in your life, and how you remember those times later. Like the single time I wrote about a few days ago: I have this idyllic, sepia-tinted memory of it, me roaming the streets of Seattle, carefree, alone and autonomous. But at the time I was pretty consumed with loneliness and anxiety. So what was it really like? Which layer, which version, is true, or more true?

When I got home, RW and I started talking about the different lives you can have in one lifetime. Just in her time in Seattle, she figures she's had at least three: the madrigals-singing one, and then the theater one, and then a little break, and now this mom-life that's going on five years. I had my single, bookstore-collective, knocking-around town life, and then graduate school, and now this work-and-mom-and-occasional-synagogue gig.

Both of us feel like we're heading into a new phase, somehow, this year. Looking for new things to do and to think about, meeting different people. Starting to stretch our limbs and get out into a world that's not only about parenting. Even though this is mainly a mom blog, blogging feels like part of that for me. It's exhilarating to have friends again, to connect on a regular basis with people I don't live or work with, to keep up with each other's lives and have little jokes and people we know in common.

But it's good to get out, too, and see people from my lives past and present, face to face. Ironic and nice that blogging should have led me to do that tonight.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Short and not all that sweet

I hate Sundays. Especially Sunday nights.

I think that's all for the moment. Sorry.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Garbo blogs!

It's not the way most people who know me now think of me, but for the first decade of my adult life I was what you could call a loner. I lived by myself for two years, and was single with housemates for many years before and after that, spending most of my free time in my own company. And yeah, I was lonely, but I got used to a certain level of autonomy and privacy. Because I'd never been in a couple, I took it for granted that whenever I wasn't working I could just knock around town, not having to account for where I spent my time or check in with anyone or make sure anyone was okay.

It's no slur on my spouse or child to say that sometimes I miss that alone time. I've lived with RW for seven years, and had the same job for almost that long. Since the Mermaid Girl was born, I don't go to many places that aren't work or home or some kind of childcare situation: everywhere I go, most people know me, or feel like they do. Everything I do, or don't do, affects someone else. If I don't want to talk, they might think I'm being unfriendly. If I'm crabby, they remember it, sometimes for years.

I miss being a stranger among strangers, an anonymous soul in the city. I miss being able to just be, with no one trying to talk to me or get my attention for anything. The kind of zoned-out state you can be in when you're riding a bus, or wandering in a bookstore, or sitting in a cafe, or just walking around on city streets. Alone, with other people. It soothes me.

And I miss being alone in my home: getting up and not talking to anyone until I feel like it; just puttering around, maybe cooking or doing dishes or folding laundry, with only my thoughts and the radio for company. I miss reading at the table.

RW and Mermaid Girl are away for the weekend, camping with MG's best friend and her mom. So for a few days, I'll be living something very close to my old life, without the anxiety and loneliness that went with it. Since I got off work this afternoon, I've wandered around the public library, enjoying being a patron and not the Library Lady. I went to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner (RW doesn't like Ethiopian food), and read while I was waiting for my meal. I spent over an hour at the video store, looking at one DVD after another and thinking about which one to watch all by myself. I picked Donnie Darko; I've been hearing about it for years.

I'm going to go watch it now. Then tomorrow I'm going to vacuum and do some other chores, but also read whenever the urge hits me, and take a nap if I'm tired. I kind of hope it rains, so I don't feel any Pacific Northwest Sunshine Guilt for spending a sunny day in the house. (Though I hope it's sunny where RW is, so she can have a glorious weekend.)

If this went on too long I know I'd start to feel sort of rattly and weird. And I did get a little pang when I saw the blond child, about MG's age, in the public library on the way home from work; suddenly I missed her desperately and wished I could see her right away.

But really, I need a hit of this every once in a while. It's my old home, my home alone in my own head. And while I wouldn't want to live here full-time any more, it's a nice place to visit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Lightness of Being Unbearable

I feel obliged to note that lately, when Mermaid Girl hasn't been reaching new heights of self-care and saving the U.S. economy, she's been being JUST AWFUL. Terrible. Bratty. Obnoxious. Tear-out-the-hair aggravating.

I don't even have any cute little anecdotes about how awful she's been. Mostly her awfulness is an endless reiteration of the following scenario:

1. She asks for something: a later bedtime, an extra dessert, more TV time, a trip to the park before dinner, another game of Crazy 8's, whatever.

2. We say either
a) No, or
b) Some time-buying half-assed stalling thing along the lines of "I don't think that's a good idea right now, but..."

3. Before we can get to the compromise suggestion or enter into any further negotiation or discussion, she falls apart: screaming, crying, pouting, proclaiming that we're MEAN and TERRIBLE and there is NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS DAY, THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF HER LIFE. Then more crying. Followed by, if we're at home, stomping into her room and slamming the door. It's like living with the worst kind of teenager. Except we still have to wipe her butt when she poops.

All in all, it's been a crabby and ennervating week for all three of us. RW and I are pretty good at holding the line-- we've had a lot of practice-- but it takes it out of us. It's the shortness of her fuse and the immediate overblown detonation that does it: there's no ramp-up, just a total meltdown seemingly out of nowhere.

Oh, wait, I just remembered a good one:

A couple days ago I picked her up from preschool, as usual. The first thing she said when she saw me was "Can we go somewhere before we go home?" This is a common question, and the common answer is "Not Today." But on Monday I was happy to be able to say, "Sure, we can go to Overpriced Market On the Way Home to pick something up."

Imagine my astonishment when she immediately started howling and berating me to the tune of "NOOOOOO, I DON'T WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE INSIDE! I want to go to a PARK! Inside places are STUPID! They are LITTLE BABY PLACES! You don't CARE about me!"

She followed me out the door and up the street to the car, wailing and keening and insisting that only a park would do and that she hated inside places. I kept miserably, doggedly repeating that I was too cold to go to a park and wasn't going to change my mind, but we certainly didn't have to go to Overpriced Market if she didn't want to, and she calmed down after a few minutes. I'll say this for her: she doesn't hold a grudge, and though she hates it when someone else tries to cheer her up, she can pull herself together if you leave her alone and don't get in her face.

So she was happily chatting away by the time we drove past Overpriced Market. "Hey!" she exclaimed brightly as it flashed by on the left. "I do want to go to Overpriced Market now! I changed my mind!" But by then we'd passed it, and I said we weren't going back, that she'd already said many times she didn't want to go and by now it was too late and we needed to get home.

Whereupon the whole shebang started over again, right where she'd left off: wailing and screaming and gnashing of teeth and oh, did you know that my kid has the meanest, most uncaring mom in the whole world? And that Monday was the worst day ever?

And so it continued until we got home and I stuffed some protein into her.

I'm sure all this awfulness means she's on the brink of some fabulous developmental breakthrough. I just hope it happens before we hit New York and all our friends and relations get the only impression they'll have of her for the next year or two. For their sake and hers. And mine.

Just in case, I'm bringing lots of portable snacks.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Happy Days Are Here Again

Hey, Mermaid Girl invented the New Deal tonight!

It’s all because RW has been holed up in the attic all weekend working on the Taxes. Poor woman. She’s always done her own taxes: mortgage, freelance work, multiple self-owned businesses and all. Before Mermaid Girl was born, I did my own too, but they were easy because I have no assets and a boring conventional income-generating setup. Now my valiant spouse does both our taxes, so she can run them through multiple scenarios and figure out how much we save depending on who claims the Girl. (It’s an interesting setup, since we live together and are both MG’s parents but can’t file as a couple, at least in this country. It’s like filing as divorced parents who happen to live in the same house.)

Tonight I was tucking MG in after a harrowing day full of meltdowns and screaming fits (and MG wasn’t doing so great, either). She was muttering about how she wanted Mama, she missed Mama, where was Mama anyway?

Me: “Doing the taxes.”
Her: “Stupid taxes. I wish I could take all the taxes and rip them up and throw them in the garbage.”
Me: Bla bla about how taxes do good things, like paying for schools and police officers and roads and food for kids who don’t have any money and also doctor visits for people who don’t have money and etc. Even though sometimes the President and the people who make the laws decide to spend our taxes on things I don’t like, they’re still basically a good thing. Because, you know, we’re good public-good liberals around here, and I want to raise my tax-hating baby right.
Her: “What kind of things you don’t like? Like wars?”
Me: “Yeah. They have to pay the soldiers, and pay for the weapons.”
Her: “We’re not paying for any wars. Stupid George Bush. He’s just a baby.”
Me: “Well, we can think of our taxes as going for the other stuff.” [Because I am just not getting into the tax-resister scenario with her this year.]
Her: “I wish I was President.”
Me: “What would you do if you were President?”
Her: “I would say, no more taxes! I would throw them all in the trash.”
Me: “But what about the roads? And the people who need to go to the doctor?”
Her: “I would pay for it myself.”
Me: “How would you get the money?”
Her [vaguely]: “By doing good things.” [suddenly struck by inspiration:] “I would build the roads! I would pay the people who don’t have any money to build the roads and buildings and things!”
Me: “And then they would have enough money to go to the doctor, and for food?”
Her: “Yeah.”

That’s my girl. Still not clear where she’ll get the cash to finance it all. But that’s always the tricky part, isn’t it?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Turn around, turn around*

*Blinking in the unaccustomed light of the Create Post screen*

The events recorded herein actually took place three or four days ago, but Blogger was being a pill. The Girl is even more grown up now than she was at the time of writing. Wait-- I see her in the driveway. She's starting up the car! There she goes...

Yesterday at dinner Mermaid Girl coolly picked up the gigantic pitcher of orange juice, poured some into her cup, and set it carefully back down on the table, while we gaped.

Me: I've never seen you do that before!
MG: Yes, I'm like a grownup now.

At bedtime she stalled for fifteen minutes or so, then just when I was about to tear my hair out she traipsed into the bathroom, opened the toothpaste, squeezed some onto her toothbrush, and brushed her teeth by herself, all the while with this insoucsciant "oh, I do this all the time" look.

THEN she got out a washcloth, wet it at the faucet, washed her face, and arranged it over the edge of a shelf to dry.

I guess RW and I can just sit back and drink coffee for the next six or seven years, right?

*post titled with a nod to Malvina Reynolds. *Sniff* Waaah!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Food, sex, death, family, and money. And a hacking cough.

Topics I've been inspired to write about in the last week, from the profound to the worse than trivial, but didn't get to the laptop in time or was too sleepy, and now can't remember exactly what I wanted to say:

1. The student whose father died of cancer a week ago Thursday, and how that's affected just about everyone at work: kids, parents, staff. Her courage in coming back to school the next Monday, and her classmates and teachers, who let her just be a kid, play and goof off and come to the book fair last week, and the staff members who then came back to the book fair and asked for a copy of her wish list and bought her everything on it.

2. The book fair itself, and the trials and tribulations thereof. (Note to self: need more volunteers for takedown next year, but it's next to impossible to find anyone to come in on Friday afternoon. Maybe I could pay people in books.)

3. How I looked at my next year's contract and realized shockingly that I will be making a reasonable amount, or reasonable by my lights. How I have so much less than so many families where I work, but so much more than Mermaid Girl's preschool teachers, and how I remember being a preschool teacher in my 20's and thinking the parents--in retrospect, middle-aged people who were mostly like I am now--were immeasurably, unconscionably rich. What was the significance of all this? I forget, but had a lot of ideas last Friday, some possibly unbloggable.

4. The hula performance MG and I went to last night. The chaos of the buffet, and then the wonderful dancing, MG rapturous whenever her cousins were onstage, but not wanting to join in herself even when invited. Her emerging anxious perfectionist streak. And then dessert after at the cousins' house, girls rampaging everywhere and MG hunkered down with the Polly Pockets. RW and her grandmother, who is visiting, met us there after a quiet dinner on their own. RW's grandmother, a powerhouse activist and climber who was in the Danish Resistance, met the cousins' grandmother, powerhouse doctor and academic who escaped from Austria during WWII. They totally hit it off. And the cousins' mom with wine talking so great in the kitchen about how another hula mom had said she liked hula more than ballet because ballet was too sexual, and all of us cracking up because hula is obviously so sexual.

5. Buffets in general, and how I hate waiting in line for food, it makes me totally nuts. And cranky.

6. A question: is it possible to have viral and bacterial bronchitis at the same time? And if so, could one type hang on even after two weeks of trying-to-sleep-more-and-beat-this-thing followed by ten days of antibiotics?

Yeah. It's been a week.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


My friend Rosie Bonner is putting me to shame. Not only has she started a second blog, for long-form essays, but her initial post is totally stunning. Not that I'm biased or anything. But I keep clicking back just to read it again. It's a great take on the high expectations of youth vs. the realities of what, to be honest, we have to call middle age. (Well, early middle age. The age Rosie and I both are, whatever that is.)

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll blow bubbles.