Monday, April 8, 2019

Bonus Material! The Nostalgia of Children's TV Theme Songs

In the weeks leading up to Mama, Mama, Only Mama's release, I am going to share some of my beloved chapters that didn't make the final book.  Here's the first:

The Nostalgia of Children’s Theme Songs 
Before I had children, I kept the television on for company any time I was home, mostly tuned to CNN or Law and Order. If I was cleaning the house, I turned on all the TV’s in the house to the same channel so I could move between rooms and not miss much. After Big Pants was born, I couldn’t stand to watch anything with any violence in it at all—my hands shook, my heart beat rapidly as I pictured all the mothers of the victims. Yet, I still couldn’t stomach silence, so I switched over to children’s programing during the day, and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos at night. The baby woke so frequently that I couldn’t follow a series from one week to the next. 

Big Pants watched the Boobahs as I got ready for work, and if for some reason they weren’t on, our day went to hell.  I had mocked my friends who let their babies watch TV before I had children, but I quickly learned that if I wanted to shower, the Boobahs were my best friends.  After I quit my job—he took his first steps when he was nine months old and I was at work, and I never went back to the office—our mornings were spent with Dora the Explorer, and Go, Diego, Go! (I once had a sexy dream about Murray on The Wiggles, as he was one of the only men to appear in my living room, albeit only on the screen.) I was fond of The Wonder Pets and the bizarre Yo, Gabba Gabba.  After we moved out, though, cable was the first thing I cut from the budget. Instead of the DVR and 8,000 channels Daddy Pants had, I paid $25 a month for the most basic of basic TV.  

            “Mama, can you pause this? I have to go potty,” Big Pants asked.
            “Mama’s TV doesn’t pause,” I replied. He was dumbstruck. How could a TV not pause? 

Daddy’s TV paused, and the DVR allowed him to watch whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it.  The idea that shows only came on at a certain time was incredibly frustrating to my three-year-old. Eventually, he adjusted, and managed to figure out the difference between DVDs, which did pause, and regular TV that didn’t. Luckily, our PBS station ran children’s shows all day long, though after Sesame Street at 5:30, they switched to grown up programing because they obviously didn’t care about our happiness. 

I don’t want you to think that all we did was watch TV, rather it was just always on. Mostly I sat on the floor and played Thomas the Tank Engine. Now, even though I had always considered myself a creative person, I was out of the habit of pretending. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the trains, so I mostly assembled the track and left the trains to Big Pants. Playdoh I was better at, but I didn’t get to really play with it, because it turns out that playdoh is very hard to get out of carpeting and babies are both quick and sneaky. But even though our playdoh time was spent in the dining room, the living room television sang to us: Sid the Science Kid, Super Why, and the dinging bells of Thomas, of course. Because our television shows changed with the divorce, their theme songs became triggers of wistfulness.   

When I now hear Dora, Dora, Dora the Explora! It brings me back to the time when I was married, just like The Red Hot Chili Peppers can flash me back to college. The theme song has become nostalgic, but loaded. I remember the clean carpeting of our house, and the hope I once had for our life there.  Also, though, it reminds me of the night that I knew I had to leave.  I had been clicking away at the computer in the corner of the playroom, ignoring Big Pants as he ran in circles around his play table. When I looked down, Tiny Pants had fallen asleep on a blanket on the floor.  It was the first time he had not fallen asleep in my arms. On the one hand, I was glad that he was an easy sleeper, but on the other, I knew that although I was physically present that evening, I might as well have been across town for all the attention I was paying to my children.  This wasn’t the type of mother I wanted to be.  I needed to stop obsessing about what to do about my marriage and just do something, otherwise my children would grow up while my face was turned towards computer screen. I couldn’t afford to live in the online world when my children needed me in the real one.  

Even now, ten plus years later, the cheery tunes of Go, Diego Go! send up a yearning, a feeling of trapped hopelessness in stark contrast to the cartoonish voices. Divorce is just weird sometimes.  Perhaps in ten more years it will be the theme from MythBusters or Young Sheldon that will return me to the past, but those memories will be of laughing with my children around the table, not of the angst of knowing it was time to go. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tiny Pants' First Birthday

Eleven years ago I had just given birth to a long, skinny, little baby with peach fuzz on his head and a finely tuned set of vocal cords. 

Ten years ago I was a newly-single mama who needed to somehow pull off a 1st Birthday party. I was overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I figured the best thing to do was just go to a MacDonald’s or something. My friend Kimberly, who had two babies nearly the same ages as mine—our youngest kiddos were born just a few weeks apart—insisted that I could do a more than adequate job at home.  

When you don’t have any family in town, you have to lean on your friends a little harder. Kim knew this, as she was the wife of a Marine and didn’t have family in town, either. 

She cooked pasta and stayed to clean it up after everyone left. My friend Amanda ordered, picked up, and paid for the Backyardigans birthday cake.

The only photos I have of that day were the ones she took. All my friends from church came. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I didn’t have a lot of space to fill up, either.   A small house becomes a large party fairly quickly. 

No, I didn't drop the baby. Probably. 

When I left my ex-husband, I had two kids in diapers and faith that we’d be better off in two houses, but not much of a plan. I had a brand new job and a happy little house, gas in my minivan and not much else. I leapt into the abyss and trusted the universe to catch me, and it did. Over and over. My friends held me up. My neighbors shoved my walk. My boss didn’t fire me when my kids threw up and I missed work.  Everything wasn’t perfect or easy, but I was incredibly blessed. 

My mother always said, “God looks out for fools and drunks.” I think God has an eye out for single parents as well. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tiaras Are Wasted on the Young

I love me a good tiara. You know—the whole Disney princess type of tiara. The problem is that we aren’t allowed to wear them anymore unless we are brides. Even then, there will always be a Snark Cadre whispering, “does she think she’s a princess?” a little too loudly as you walk down the aisle. 

The problem is that I don’t want to be a bride. I just want to wear a tiara. Is that too much to ask for? Sure, there’s the whole birthday, New Year’s Eve and/or bachelorette tiara, but those are cheap plastic and although I will admit to enjoying them it’s not quite the same. I want jewels or at least rhinestones. Something that require me to lift my chin and hold my head at the proper angle so it doesn’t fall off. 

Let’s face it, there are absolutely zero reasons for a forty-five-year-old woman who isn’t in the market to get married to wear a tiara in public, and I think that’s a shame. I’ve missed my window for prom queen (I didn’t peak until 40) and while we’re at it, why don’t grown-ups get to wear prom dresses either?

As a child I daydreamed of this beautiful life filled with elegant cocktail parties and fine dining. The last time I was at a fine dining establishment the people sitting next to me were in jeans and hoodies. Look, I love my yoga pants and hate freezing for fashion, too. I get it. But in my opinion we have become an overly casual society.  I love to buy pretty dresses, but there’s really nowhere to wear them to anymore. 

I’m not saying we need rigid dress codes. I’d just like an occasional Ball for regular people. A chance to dress up with a (fake) fur stole, gorgeous dress (tux if you prefer) and a mother f-ing tiara on my head. 

I will admit that my hair is generally sort of tragic and a tiara would solve a lot of problems for me. But more than that, I’ve never felt more deserving of a tiara. I mean, I’ve hit middle age. I’ve finally done some shit I’m proud of. Besides, I’m raising children. I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of glamour going on right now. Know what I do have? A sore back from sitting at the ice rink all winter and baseball fields all summer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to the games. I have made a whole surrogate family of sports moms. But I feel once one reaches 45 a tiara is an earned right. 

Who do we crown now? Teenagers voted queen of something or other by the majority of their peers or judges at pageants. Young women promising their lives to someone in marriage. That’s about it. Why are those roles the only crown-wearing achievements?  

How about get a college degree, wear a tiara for a month. Got a promotion, did an art installation, wrote a book, acted on stage…all crown worthy in my opinion. Have a kid? Tiara. Bought my first home? Crown me.  Learned to ride a horse or a motorcycle or a jet ski...built a deck or plunged a toilet…there are so many accomplishments that merit recognition. Heck, sometimes just surviving another trip around the sun is an accomplishment greater than anything else. 

I could form a committee. We could go around with a pile of tiaras and award them to deserving women. And of course, we’d wear our own as well. We could start a trend. Who’s with me?