13 August 2010
Mary Poppins Arrives
The night I broke my foot, Mike (who was out of town) suggested flying my mom in to help. And I said, "I'm fine! I can do it!" And Mike, stroking my ego, said "Yes, I know you can do it. But why should you?" And the only response I had was "Because I can!" Like I'd win some kind of prize. A prize for being exceedingly resourceful and not needing help. Probably awarded by your local chapter of the Sons of Norway. If you're Scandinavian, needing help is one of the seven deadly sins; right up there with hugging people who do not live out of state. Rules state you can only hug people who travel great distances to see you. Giving help - that I can do. But receiving help? Not so good at that. Because I can do it!
But his logic was......well.......logical. Why should I suffer on the couch in a strange house, in a strange town, with no one to lend a hand but one highly distractible 7 year old boy with no kinesthetic awareness? When my mom was probably sitting by the phone intuiting my need for help at that very moment? The decision was made. I agreed to call and simply inquire about the possibility of a visit.
Her bag was packed before I hung up the phone. Her only question was whether she should bake cookies and pack them in her suitcase or wait and bake them after she arrived.
And thus began a week of nutritious home-cooked meals (with side dishes!), a perpetually clean kitchen, disappearing piles of laundry and a fresh glass of water in my hands at all times. And she encouraged me to rest. Like go-back-to-bed rest. Which is nearly impossible to do unless someone tells you to do it; giving you permission. Protecting you from the judgement of the lazy police.
When Grandma first arrived, we made a grocery list based on the recipe cards she had packed for the express purpose of loving us through nutrition. I would sit in the car and rest my foot while she took Liam in the grocery store with her to "help." She went into the store with a list that said lettuce, chicken, milk and fresh fruit. She came out of the store with, among other things, marshmallows, BBQ chips, Gushers (what's that???), confetti frosting, Jell-o, Ritz Crackers and......wait for it.......SQUEEZY CHEESE! And we are NOT going on a road trip! In a word, Grandma is a sucker.
When she learned we had started a new allowance system for Liam - to encourage his helpfulness around the house - she tried to pay him for frosting a cake. Or eating the frosting that was supposed to go on the cake. A cake he begged her to bake. With the confetti frosting he begged her to buy. "Cake-making" is not one of his daily chores. His last name is not Ingalls. In modern times, cake-making is a recreational activity. A privilege with spatulas to lick. It would be like paying him to go on the slip 'n slide. However, I did not hate having baked goods in my house. Cake AND cookies. Simultaneously. So I guess I'll shut my cake hole.
Grandma was also the driver. Without her, we would have been prisoners in our own home, starving and smelly. But you have to wear your crash helmet because there's lots to look at and these New England roads are not straight. NOT STRAIGHT. You could head due north from your house without taking any turns - and end up back at your house. And these big seacoast estates are distracting to Grandma; she's all "Oh my heavens! Who lives there?! You should make friends with them." And I'm all "Don't crash! DON'T CRASH!"
In between bumper cars and bake-offs, Grandma was Liam's cruise director - taking him to friends' houses, entertaining him while we sat in doctors' offices, reading to him for an hour every night before putting him to bed (while I sat on the couch watching House Hunters......like I don't even have a child). She even offered to play video games with him. Video games make Grandma nauseous. But she saw the Wii and knew it would make him happy. "Wii," by the way, is pronounced "Why" in Grandma-speak. As in "Maybe after SquareBob SpongePants we can play the Why." It was so funny I couldn't correct her. Liam never corrected her either.......so he probably thinks he's getting a new toy called "the Why."
And when I mentioned that she did laundry earlier, I didn't mean laundry the way I do it. Which is wash one load when you need underwear, the rest can sit there til you need underwear again. Grandma's laundry is not just done - it's separated, treated, folded and put away. IN THE SAME DAY. She actually puts spray 'n wash on the bottoms of socks. "Oh my heavens, these are filthy." To which I replied, "Isn't that the part that goes in the shoe?" I guess she was scarred by an incident 40 years ago in which somebody commented on the cloth diapers she had washed. "They're a little yellow, aren't they?" this woman said. You mean the diapers that your baby poops and pees in? Yes, they're a little yellow. Bitch.
Yes, Grandma is a sucker. But she worked her tail off that week. Which allowed me to take the vacation necessary to get better - so I can have my life back. I just read a book in which the narrator loses her mother.........and mourns the fact that she just lost the one person who knew what she needed when she didn't even know she needed it. Everyone needs someone in their corner like that. Someone who knows what gives and takes away comfort; much of which has to do with food and cleanliness. Who doesn't feel better with a full tummy and fresh sheets?
The day after Mike got home, I woke up, THUMPstepped down the stairs, made my way to the kitchen table and sat down...........and waited. And finally realized that no one was going to bring me breakfast.