Friday, September 12, 2008

My Mother, Myself, The Sequel

Since Mike proposed, I have been in Brideville. Picking colors. Looking at flowers. Hunting for the perfect shoe. (Check 'em out above - Hot, I know!) And my mom has been at my side for the whole ride. Planning a wedding, I see, brings the mother-daughter dynamic right into the forefront. Because when are personalities more at odds than when standing amidst a sea of white tulle?

I wanted a simple dress. The big puffy styles with the six-foot trains are best left to women who are marrying royalty. Mike is a king, but only to Elyse and me. At the dress shop, Momma kept unearthing lacy contraptions with big skirts. I tried them on to please her.

“Oh, this is it!” she cried when she saw me in a lacy sheath with sequins detailing and a substantial train.

“It’s not me.”

“Are you sure?” She peered over her glasses. “Look at it again.”

I was sure. It took another 20 dresses before she begrudgingly admitted that the first dress I tried was more my speed. It was an ivory column with minimal detailing.

The salesperson came in with an armful of veils and tiaras. “I won’t be needing any of those.”

“Just try a few on.” The salesperson put on a veil and a tiara. “It’s not me.”

“You’re no fun!” Momma snatched off the veil and put on a different one. I frowned and slumped my shoulders. “I don’t like this one either.”

After Momma fussed for a month about my no-veil-no-tiara credo, my aunt helped her to see my point of view. “Remember how awful she used to look in Easter hats as a kid?”

Then there was the guest list. “75!” I announced. By the time my mother made her additions, the list count was up to 102. “I don’t see how you thought that you could have a wedding with just 75 people,” she said.

“Because that’s what I wanted.” My shoulders slumped again.

“Well, now you have 102. You will just have to deal with it.” I dealt with it by cutting 20 people from the guest list. My apologies go out to my co-workers. I’ll bring in pictures, I promise.

A few weeks later, Elyse and I were getting ready for church. It was chilly out, and I had a pink jacket for her to wear. She wasn’t interested.

“Come on Pumpkin, it was a gift.” Her braids hit her cheeks as she shook her head from side to side. “It’s Ralph Lauren!” I said this with a flourish, as if it would make a difference to a three-year-old. It didn’t.

I was finally able to bribe her with a bowl of grapes. Elyse took off the jacket as soon as we got into the car.

“You’re no fun!” I told her as I backed down the driveway.

So another mother-daughter relationship unfolds just as the one before it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could not imagine planning my wedding without Momma. She would follow me from here to Mozambique to find the perfect shade of purple paper for my wedding invitation. And all the while, she keeps me grounded, from going over the edge and pulling my hair out over party favors. It’s not a job for the faint of heart.

And sometimes, we do agree. She does love the purple shoe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meet Me at the Altar

"You and Mike have been together forever; you got a baby. Are ya'll getting married?"

I've been dodging this question, and ones similar to it, for about three years now. Forever, in this case, began at a cook-out in 2002. My mother and Mike's aunt are friends. He and I teamed up to play spades against a couple who kept dealing from the bottom of the deck. I had never been dealt a hand that bad before or since. We lost the game, but Mike won my phone number.

Our daughter will be four at the end of the year. With her birth, came a meshing of lives of which neither of us was quite prepared for. You learn a lot about your partner at 2 a.m. when the baby's crying nonstop. Mike's gentle, unselfish nature became even more apparent. He would offer to sit up with Elyse so that I could get some rest. The next morning, I usually would find him on the sofa with the baby sleeping on his chest.

But living together has not been all hearts and butterflies. Our quirks began to show almost immediately, and we have had to navigate them as we created our family. I work days. He works nights. I'm a neat freak. He's a slob. I eat quasi-healthy food. He could live off Top Ramen noodles, homemade cookies, and anything covered in a cream sauce.

The quirks are still there, but we've found a way to respect those characteristics that make us who we are. The single-story house that we moved into right before Elyse was born now feels like a home we've made together, as long as I steer clear of the basement. The neat-freak/slob debate is still a hot-button issue there.

To be honest, I was starting to ask the "when" question myself. I figured that 2008 would be the year or bust. After all, it has been six years. A girl can only hold out for so long.

I came home on Monday feeling far far less than glamorous. I missed my hair appointment the weekend before, and I needed a relaxer. Bad. When I shampooed my hair. I didn't remember that I was out of conditioner until my hair was soaking wet. I used some Blue Magic that I have for Elyse, and the reaction between that and my chemically-treated hair brought about an invasion of acne that I haven't seen since high school.

Mike emerged from the basement, saying that he was on his way to work. I wondered just how junky the basement was this week. I went to our room to change. I could hear our daughter, ever-in-motion, running down the hall.

"Mommy! Daddy said marry me."

"Daddy said what?" I looked down, and the first thing I noticed was how beautiful Elyse's smile was. The second thing I noticed was that she was holding out a ring box.

"Seriously?" Mike entered the room smiling.


"Yes, seriously." He got down one one knee. "Will you marry me?"

We spent the next 15 minutes lying on the bed. Elyse was bouncing up and down while singing nursery rhymes. "I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to keep building our family." The puffy hair, the pizza face, and the junky basement all faded away in this moment. And I felt like a princess.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I've been thinking about my "real age" since I took that quiz on the web a few months back. I'm not bothered by my numerical age, but the quiz did get me to thinking more about my lifestyle. I eat right, get a good amount of sleep, and take care of my appearance. But I'm seriously lacking in the social/hobby department.

I go to work, come home, spend some time with Elyse, and then go to bed. It feels like the life of someone twice my age. So I've been trying to do a better job of keeping in touch with friends and rekindling some old interests.

Some colleagues in the office have been taking tennis lessons, and they extended an invitation for me to join them during a weekly practice session. I was excited, but nervous. I haven't played tennis seriously since high school. Plus, my equipment was a little shoddy. I found my racket underneath a stack of junk in the basement, and the handle's grip was cracked with age. My tote was full of dried-out grip tape and deflated tennis balls.

And to top it all off, I didn't have anything to wear. I've always wanted one of those cute little tennis skirts, but they were not cut for the big-booty girls back then. and my mother refused to get me one.

I know, I know. When you chase a ball across a slab of concrete under the blazing sun, you should not expect to look great while doing it. But you should dress for the occasion, and I was hard pressed to find a pair of shorts. After a little digging, I found some gray ones and a fading DST t-shirt. I looked at the shirt and considered for a moment how much older it was than my daughter. But I quickly pushed that aside. Thoughts like that were sure to drive up my real age.

It was scorching hot yesterday, and after a few minutes on the court, I was covered in sweat and ready to sit down. I had forgotten how miserable that feeling is. I had also forgotten, though, how much fun the game is. I saw a few flashes of greatness during the hour that I played. Slim moments of excellence when my body remembered the perfect shot. Like that backhand swing that makes the ball sail just above the net. Or the volley that your opponent can't get to fast enough. Those moments were few and far between.

I came home tired, but fulfilled. I left my racket in the TV room as a reminder to pick up some grip tape this weekend. I wasn't even sore. But I shouldn't have counted my chickens so soon. I woke up this morning with a tight back, and now every muscle in my body hurts. It's 9:30 p.m., and I've been in bed for nearly an hour, covered in heat wraps and muscle cream. I'm not sure what makes this situation sounds worse - the aches and pains, the early bedtime, or the stockpile of ThermaCare wraps and Ben-Gay.

Nevertheless, I am still in good spirits. I did something that I enjoy, I spent time with friends, and I got in some exercise to boot. I just need a few weeks (or months) to get in better shape. I should pick up some more sports creme when I get that grip tape. And a water bottle. Oh, and I'll take a look at tennis skirts. Venus and Serena have made a serious impact on the game. I should have no problem finding one that works now.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chris Update

It's been nearly a month since Chris left for the cancer treatment center. She was to be gone a week for diagnosis, but she decided to stay and receive treatment there. Two rounds of chemotherapy. I sent e-mails, a birthday card, and a hot pink pashmina --a series of one-way messages to let her know that she was in my thoughts.

After nearly three and a half weeks, Chris sent out an update. "Well, praise be to God because the PET scan showed that the cancer has NOT spread to any other part of the body at all. They were also able to re-assign the stage from a IV to III."

Praise Him indeed. This message was well worth the wait.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Elyse and Papa

A few months ago, my father volunteered to pick Elyse up from daycare on Fridays and keep her overnight. On Saturday morning, they have breakfast at IHOP before he brings her home. I've always wondered what they do on Friday nights, and now I know. Here's a video of Elyse and my dad dancing at our family reunion this past weekend. Sorry about the unsteady hand on the video. I was too busy laughing.