Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Am Not the Answer Lady!

Wow. Despite the fact that I am not yet working, I seem to have a lot going on. I spent all day Tuesday doing stuff related to my new job. Since I will be working in an agency that has direct contact with children, I had to fill out a stack of paperwork, which I then returned to the agency. They then arranged for a physical exam (to ensure I have no communicable diseases), fingerprinting (which is now done with a hi-res scanner -- no ink!), and background check (to make sure I haven't been convicted of anything nasty). I then had to return to the agency to turn in additional forms generated by said activities, and I have to go back to the hospital today to confirm the results of the tuberculosis test. Jesus!

I am glad that they are so cautious -- I guess by law, they have to be -- but I am lucky I don't have an office job where I'm trying to wrap everything up during my two weeks' notice.


Moving on, the other day Sweet William and I were talking again about my last post, about being poorer than my cousins and how awed I was at the stuff they had in their homes. Since Sweet William comes from a similar background, he could totally relate. He remembers being amazed when visiting his stepbrother's cousin's house and realizing, "They have three kinds of cereal!" Because at his house, there was one box and that was it. You had to finish off the first box before someone would buy a different flavor. His stepbrother's cousin would actually mix three cereals together, for example, Honeycombs, corn flakes, and oh, I don't know, Froot Loops.

Now I can put two and two together, and I can tell you that when Sweet William buys cereal, he always buys three boxes. And he always mixes them, usually adding some sliced fresh fruit, and he eats it without milk.

That got me started thinking about what I felt deprived of as a kid, and the answer is (predictably) odd. Whenever we would go to holiday dinners, I always went crazy for the olive and pickle dish. When I was a kid, I imagined that when I grew up I would buy olives whenever I felt like it. And now, I am never without a jar of Spanish olives in the fridge, and rarely without a jar of black or Kalamata olives. It's the Spanish olives that were the big deal for me, and even still, it's not like I pig out on olives every day. It's just nice to know that they're there.

The fact that I can walk into any 7-Eleven and buy a bottle of Pepsi whenever I want is a big deal to the 8-year-old who lives in the back of my brain. She does a little ecstatic dance while she waits for me to plunk down my money at the cash register. When I was a kid, I was only allowed soda on very special occasions at other people's houses, and then only half a glass -- and even then, only ginger ale. I wasn't allowed to have cola at these occasions until I was about 9 or so, and my mom strictly regulated it due to the sugar and caffeine. We never even had soda in our own refrigerator until I was a teenager -- and it was such a huge deal that it sticks in my mind. One day, I was helping my mom put the groceries away, and I opened one of the bags and found a gargantuan 2-liter bottle of Pepsi leering out at me.

"Oh my GOD!" I shrieked. I couldn't have been more shocked if my mom had taken up smoking. (And since my grandmother's sister had died recently of lung cancer, and my grandmother was subsequently trying hard to quit smoking, that is saying something, indeed.) "Why did you buy this?!"

My mom shrugged, as if all the habits of my lifetime to date were just a silly fleeting nothingness, and said, "I needed a boost."


My mom has been on my mind a bit these days, because Mother's Day just passed, and her birthday was yesterday, and we are estranged. I feel I am working very slowly through the five stages of grief for this relationship. And still, every time I think of her, I think, "I really miss my grandpa [her father]," who it would make more sense for me to be grieving for, although he died two years ago. It is all very complicated and tied up together.

My mom is largely responsible for instilling in me a fascination with human behavior and a love of words, music, art, and humor -- all of which are huge pieces of my life, and all of which have shaped the woman I have become. She was also and always incredibly supportive of pretty much everything I tried to do. So it is odd now not to have her in my cheering section, and for me not to be in hers.

It's a weird thing, this being a grownup. I'm still waiting to have all the answers.


The title of this post is attributable to my mom -- it's what she would say when we asked her innumerable questions she couldn't answer. Hear it in your mind's ear, said with a slight laugh, in an exasperated slight Boston accent. There you have it.

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