Sunday, March 27, 2011

my life right now

On Saturday last week, my mom and I babysat for the excellent Bob, or Toddlin' Bob, as I call him (progressing from "Baby Bobby.") He is the two-year-old son of a family friend, which is sort of an awkward and misleading term that doesn't catch any of the sense of "she baby-sat me when I was in early elementary school and I was super disappointed when I got old enough to hang out by myself in the house; worked in the clinic for my dad for five or ten years or something like that; twenty years of shared history and love and I am happy every time I see her." I don't even like "surrogate sister," because sisterhood's not really in my experience, you know? And from my mom's description of her childhood, sisterhood involves all this fighting and crap that doesn't really play in here.

In any case, we babysat the Bobster for about six hours while his parentals were at a birthday party. We magically avoided all the toddler terrors (tantrums, separation anxiety, refusal to eat, refusal to share, pooping in inappropriate locations, etc. etc.) that I somehow imagined all toddlers to engage in, all day, every day, prior to my acquaintance with this little guy. He ate yogurt rather than the expected sandwich stuff for dinner (oops) but also rather than his first suggestion, "Cookies!" We watched a lot of Caillou (pronounced Kai-you) from PBS, which is sort of mesmerizing in its overwhelmingly wholesomeness. Let's play together! Let's rescue the toy dinosaur from lost-and-found! Let's search for the kitty who wandered away! He currently loves his special "Kiss" toy (his version of Kris, my mom's name), a little plastic ramp with holes in the top, which he can push colored balls through using a plastic hammer. (He also has managed not to clock anyone with any of these components yet, which is a mercy.) The Bobster is machine aficionado; he can already identify a combine, a backhoe, a tractor, a bulldozer, a train, and so on, but is not too interested in animals (though he loves to visit the clinic and see the puppies -- his phrase.) We re-read his "John Deere Valley" book (the marketing is a little unnerving, there -- it's kind of stunning how a company that originally produced only farm machinery now makes everything from work boots to children's books) and played with his toy backhoe (sized for a two-year-old to ride -- yikes).

Bedtime went pretty smoothly. Perhaps the greatest moment of the night happened when it was time to put pajamas on: we helped him out of his size 24months jeans and t-shirt, and Mom took him into the bathroom to (hopefully) potty one more time. He then appeared sans diaper but with an enormous smile in the bedroom doorway to pronounce gleefully, "I'm naked!" This prompted hysterical giggling from both my mom and me, so he had to run around repeating it some more. Which was pretty great. (We later learned from his mother dearest that we were supposed to chase him.)

I, bizarrely enough, was chosen to read the Bob (I keep wanting to type "the Bob" or "the Bobby" because obviously he is THE ONLY BOBBY EVER. Also, to be honest, he has been kind of a little delightful object -- a wonderful, living, breathing, gorgeous object -- to be hauled around previous to this, but now he's really a PERSON. It takes some adjusting to) to sleep. He recently switched to a "big boy bed," two mattresses on the floor which take some effort for him to climb up on. I lay next to him in bed. We read a book about God and heaven and polar bears first. I'm not sure how much he understood, but I guess he likes the sound of someone reading, and I spent a lot of time pointing out fishing poles and seals and flying polar bear angels and other such details. The next book, which I must look up because the illustrations were gorgeous, was a sort of repetitive thing about all the cars on a train.

Bobby, sadly, did not approve of my train noises. He kept interrupting my onomatopoeic chuff-chuff-chuffing to say brusquely, "Stop that. Stop doing that."

I asked him if I should leave the small lamp in his room on when I left. He was definitely in favor, which apparently is not to routine. Oops. He felt asleep sucking his thumb and clutching Marty the Monkey.

I love Bobby so much my chest aches. It's weird. I'm not sure I ever want to have children, if only because I would have this heart-hurty feeling all the time.

Went out to eat with my mom, Joanna (Bobby's mom) and Chris (Joanna's sister) at Gurney's, which is probably our oldest local sit-down restaurant in town (since the 1980s). It used to be a grocery store, back in the day (probably the 1940s-1970s day, when it was "Moore Brothers Grocery.") We were going to go for sushi in Omaha, but that was the afternoon we had ridiculously huge hail and a tornado pass within a mile or two of town, so we decided close to home was best.

I had a French dip sandwich. It's amazing how much delicious difference just toasting and buttering the sandwich roll makes.

Lowlight/highlight of the evening: My bursting out, "It's not like everyone can put a cat in the freezer, like we can," during a lull in the conversation. (It was relevant at the time.)

Last night my parents and I went out to the Eagles' Club for a fundraiser. I guess the Eagles are found in most states in the U.S., but if you're not familiar with them, they're sort of a community and charitable group like the Kiwanis or Elks' Club. The Aerie in Missouri Valley is sort of an old-timey (by which I mean, hearkening from the 1970s) bar, attached to a community center type room with a stage and a kitchen.

This fundraiser benefited the local Eagles, because I guess they provide their facilities to a lot of other groups free of charge. The music was provided a group fronted by a 21-year-old who usually sings in a casino in eastern Iowa, covering songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

We sat at table with a close family friend, who had originally invited us. The meal (served lunchroom buffet style by volunteers with SMALL LADLES) consisted of scalloped potatoes (probably rehydrated from dried boxes, based on the texture) with ham, green beans (canned!), rolls with Country Crock spread, salad mix, and a choice of dessert slices: Pink strawberry-flavored roll cake, apple bars, spice cake with cream cheese frosting (no raisins! praise the Lord!), fudgey cake, lemon pound cake, and so on. So, comfort food central, in other words. Other than a somewhat concentrated lump of powdered cheese found in the center of my scalloped potatoes, I was pretty happy to chow down. (I have Opinions about green beans. Sometime when I'm bored I'll probably blog about them. Suffice to say that as a child I thought a tasty snack was a cold can of them with a bit of Lowry's seasoning salt.)

I did not share my spice cake, because I am a cold-hearted bitch. My mother and the other ladies at the table carefully shuffled bites of their desserts around the table so that they could each have a taste.

The group turned out to be very good. I recognized almost none of the music but enjoyed it. During the second fast song a couple got up and started swing dancing, and they were also very good. I guess I wasn't expecting anything in particular, but I was still a little surprised, and a little sad that I was surprised. It makes me wonder how much of my hometown and the people living in it I ignored growing up. Apparently there used to be a dance hall in the park across the street from my house, and older people will sometimes tell my mom that they have fond memories of going there as young people. It's gone now -- they ripped it down and all the raccoons living underneath came across the road to live in the junky shed behind our garage. This all also made me wonder how much of a snob I'm becoming. I mean, I feel reasonably confident that even amongst the socially fluent of those I went to college with, the vast majority couldn't dance as gracefully as the middle-aged and elderly couples I was watching last night. (I took particular joy in noting that the school nurse during my elementary school years, who lives down the block from us, and her husband were delightfully light on their feet as they boogied -- her word -- around the floor. They would dance one song, sit down for a minute, and then promptly jump back up because the next song was one they had to dance to, as well.) My family didn't dance, though I entertained brief notions of making my dad reprise his role in the father-daughter dance during my senior recital.

The other thing I noticed was that I felt really (almost unusually) comfortable sitting there watching people, even though I didn't know most of the people there. I think this was because for once I felt like I didn't stick out with my (shall we say) hefty body build, even given the weight I've gained over the past four months (heads up, it's not exactly an inconsequential amount!) Sometimes it's reassuring to be reminded that yes, I do come from somewhere -- my stodgy personage is not some freak of nature, despite how it feels when I am sitting in a train full of slender Spaniards or Japanese or even Bostonians.

It was great. I wish I had had a camera.

My dad had to do several really awful euthanasias in the clinic this week.

The last one was a couple who brought in their little girl, who was maybe four or five, with them to put their small fat old dog to sleep. She (the child) clearly had no idea what was going on, and I guess they hadn't figured out in advance how to explain it to her. It was made worse by the fact that the dog was still alert and chirping anxiously every few minutes. The two euthanasias before that, earlier in the week, had been dogs who were in such great misery, barely moving and barely conscious, that it wasn't the kind of painful choice that this clearly was. I don't think any pet owner wants their animal to feel frightened or upset at the end, and when the dog is up and looking around worriedly, it's much worse.

Child: What's Biscuit doing?
Woman: The doctor is looking at her.

(a little later, when the man appeared, crying a little, from the exam room holding the dog's body wrapped in a plastic bag)

Child: What's in the bag?
Adults: [no answer]

(a little later)

Child: Where's Biscuit?
Man: Biscuit is in the car.
Child: Was Biscuit in the bag?
Man: Biscuit isn't feeling well.

This just made me want to burst into tears. I'm guessing they didn't have any place to leave the little girl, a friend's house or something, while they put the dog to sleep. I'm not sure how I would explain to a child that young what was going on, either. I think I would lie and say that Biscuit had gone away to live with another family.

Sorry for the low-quality writing. Just wanted to get some thoughts out.

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