Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Unless There Is Blood

I’ve seen many houses with “Family Rules” signs hanging on their walls. Some of those family rules are things such as:
Always tell the truth
Pay with hugs and kisses
Do your best
Keep your promises

I have yet to see one that reads, 

Don’t bother me on the lawn mower 
unless there is blood

and that was probably the number one family rule we lived by growing up. 

I never understood why my mother was so weird about her weekly time on the lawn mower, but I rest in full understanding now that I’m a mom. 

Besides the day-to-day lessons and laughter in raising two kids, the absolute highlight of my week is mowing our yard. It is the hour and a half that I have a task in front of me that doesn’t require cleaning maple syrup off a TV remote or disposal of any bodily fluids. It doesn’t require muck boots or fly spray, proofreading or editing in red pen. It is an hour and a half of me time. During a phase of life where I don’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom without an audience, an hour and a half of me time is quite significant. 

While I mow the yard, 
I play questionable music from college, way too loud through my ear buds. 
My mind drifts between travel and children and memories and places and people

My goodness, I love people. 

By the end of my lawn mowing chore, I have the world’s problems solved, though no one has asked my opinion. But since you’re curious, I’d start with major jail time for people caught littering. Because while I do love mowing the yard, I do not enjoy picking up endless amounts of trash along our ditches. To the person who threw out a single black sock, two rubber gloves, three Bud Light bottles and a lint roller: Please tell me what the rest of your life is like. 

On the lawn mower I develop my grocery list, but I have no place to record it. 
I mentally add on to my to-do list and cross things off, too. 
I rarely take phone calls on the mower, because I figure that if I cannot disconnect from the world for an hour and a half one time a week, I probably have bigger problems than tall grass. 

I generally pay no mind to the passing cars and trucks, but I will say it’s astonishing how many people go by our house on Thursday afternoons when I get the mower stuck in the fence. And the honking rate really spikes when they see Cody come pull me out with the Kubota. There is something about that activity that really gets people motivated to lay on the horn while passing Sankey Angus (and it also gets Cody’s blood pressure elevated).

I sincerely enjoy mowing the yard, having one task in front of me that I can complete without interruption. 

I remember well one weekend circa 1995 that my brother had his best friend, Ben Warner, over. Ben’s joints were very….fluid. I don’t know if he was double jointed or triple jointed, but he was able to bend things in directions that would have easily qualified him for the circus, had he not other aspirations. In fact, quit scrolling and try this: Bend your wrist down so your fingertips touch your elbow. Try it. You can’t do it, can you? Ben Warner could do it in 1995. 

Anyway, Luke and I came up with a grand plan to frighten our mother: We’d send Ben over to stop her on the mower and tell her he fell out of a tree and broke his wrists. Ben would then demonstrate two “broken” wrists. 

As we watched from afar (because we weren’t stupid), Ben ran over to mom and pulled his stunt. And Mom proceeded to jump off the lawnmower, as mortified as we expected her to be. 

I think Ben’s dad came and picked him up not long after that.   

I look back now and I realize that wasn’t nice of us, at all. She was likely extremely deep in thought, perhaps in middle of writing her grocery list or trying to figure out how to get George H. W. Bush back into office. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Down the Aisle

My cousin got married last weekend in one of the most beautiful, elaborate weddings I’ve been to. This, of course, coming from someone who used a pair of tree pruners to cut branches off her favorite tree at the farm to create her wedding bouquet. So when my cousin, Joan, asked Caroline to be the flower girl I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive. 

A lot of coaching and bribery goes into getting a three-year-old down the seemingly endless aisle of an enormous Catholic church. At the rehearsal, I picked a place to sit during the wedding and kept reminding Caroline that when she got to the alter, she needed to take a left, then another left, and I’d be sitting in the pew waiting for her. This is confusing for someone who doesn’t know left from right.   

So, during rehearsal, I found a statue of a saint that she could identify, walk to, and there she would find me. It happened to be a Saint with a dog, cat, and mouse at his feet, which confused me greatly, but Caroline thought it was absolutely wonderful. We decided that I’d sit next to St. Martin de Porres, patron saint of people of mixed race, barbers, veterinarians and more. I have a real knack for getting Caroline into situations where she only asks a lot of questions, and this saint selection was one of those situations. I instructed her to not worry about St. Martin de Porres’ physical traits and pets, just focus on the puppy and kitty and getting down the aisle. 

The rehearsal itself gave me confidence that she knew what she needed to do, when and how. But could she walk a quarter mile down the aisle in a fluffy white dress with hundreds of strangers looking at her? Time would tell. 

We arrived at the downtown Indianapolis church Saturday afternoon just in time to get dressed in a dark, quiet corner. Once the fluffy white dress was on, Caroline was a magnet for attention and that really bothered her. Every time someone would say hello or tell her she looked beautiful, she hid behind me. My confidence that she would make it down the aisle was waning.  

We tried to stay out of the way as parents of the bride and groom welcomed guests. We sat by the Holy water font and Caroline asked why everyone was washing their face when they came in the church. Of course, we didn’t have time to go into a full explanation, so I quickly told her they probably had a snack on the way to the church and they needed to clean up. She begged me to carry one of her horses down the aisle with her. I figured that if it got her to her destination, we could do that. So with her petite rose bouquet, she also held a brown pulling horse figurine in her tiny hands. 

The gorgeous bride arrived, and Caroline was quite intrigued that she had a group of princesses behind her holding up her train so it did not drag the ground. All of a sudden, mere minutes before she was supposed to walk down the aisle, Caroline had a mini-breakdown that her flower girl dress did not also have a train. She began walking around with her knees bent, looking behind herself, hoping it would make her dress drag on the marble floors. “Great,” I thought to myself. “She’s going to walk down this aisle appearing to be crippled just so her dress will drag the floor, and everyone is going to wonder why Joan asked a toddler with a mobility problem to be the flower girl.” 

Some clenched-jaw instruction convinced Caroline to stand up straight and tall just in time for her debut. 

The grand doors opened, and I whispered to Caroline that I’d meet her at the puppy and kitty. 

Do you know when honey gets crystallized and thick and you can’t get it to drip out of the jar? 
That’s how slowly Caroline walked down the aisle. 
Do you know when you’re late and a train stops over the tracks, only inching along for twelve agonizing minutes? 
That’s how slowly Caroline walked down the aisle. 
She actually walked so slowly, and carefully, down that endless aisle that the pianist had to play her song a second time. 

But she made it down the aisle. No tears, no turn arounds or panicked yells for mommy. I became the proudest mother in the world, and I was sitting in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church! 

In the thirty minutes that followed, Caroline asked a series of questions which included but was not limited to:

  • Why did the Priest show up in a white bathrobe?
  • Why did Uncle Rex, who was seated behind us, have his eyes shut when we weren’t saying a prayer?
  • Why didn’t I bring her cold milk for doing a good job?
  • Why couldn’t she lay down on the kneeler inside the pew?
I’m so thankful it wasn’t a full Catholic mass. 

We made it through the rehearsal, wedding, and reception without any catastrophes, and when you’re dealing with a three-nager, that seems to be a major accomplishment. On the way home I looked in the rearview mirror to see a sleeping toddler in a puffy white dress with barbeque sauce down the front of it, holding her brown horse. 

I guess it is true: 

You can take the girl off the farm, but never the farm out of the girl.

As a side note, my sweet niece Marlee wore this dress at our wedding on August 10, 2013. You may have read about her here. 

And six years later to the day, Caroline Jean fit into it perfectly.