Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time. (

Last week I heard a discussion on NPR about nostalgia and since then I’ve been thinking about the memories that cause me to experience nostalgia. These are a few:

  1. My dad is an avid cyclist. Actually he’s avid for all things fitness and I can only hope to be as in shape as he is when I’m 63. He got my sister and me involved in biking pretty early and that soon led to bike trips. This is essentially where people pay money to ride hundreds of miles with hundreds of other people and then sleep in tents every night. As an adult, I’ve been confused by my friends who pay money to run long distances in races, but I recently joined that trend and even though I still think it’s a little crazy, I’m planning to keep at it.
I believe we took our first bike trip when my sister was twelve and I was fourteen. An important aspect of the bike trip was training, because on average we would need to bike fifty miles each day, for six days. So my dad set out to get us in shape. Just so readers have a point of reference, my mom refuses to let my dad even attempt to “get her in shape”. He’s intense about training and exercise; he’s been logging his workouts and exercise goals since he was a child, so it literally makes me laugh as I’m writing this to think about my dad setting out to prepare us for a bike trip and the thoughts that were probably running through his mind. His regimen meant long rides on the weekends and some training on the stationary bike. He would load up the Honda Civic hatchback with our bikes and we’d head out somewhere in the country to bike a planned route. My dad had these little maps that he attached to the top of his bike bag and I wouldn’t have known if we ever got lost or not. We just knew we were going to bike until we got back to the car.

Getting back to the car was the fun part. Once the bikes were back on the bike rack, we’d drive to a gas station and my dad would buy Gatorade and a medium bag of spicy Doritos. And my sister and I would sit in the back seat chugging Gatorade and eating all of the Doritos. It was the best. I’m not sure why, since as an adult I never ever drink Gatorade and I rarely eat Doritos, but this is the memory I always come back to when I think about those bike trips and those training rides.

(There are many other memories regarding those bike trips that I’ll share in another post)

2. My dad has always worked late. He has a demanding job as a psychologist and after seeing patients well into the evening he would go to the gym, so this meant my sister and I spent lots of evenings alone with my mom. We’d often just stay home and do homework, play outside, or watch Rescue 911 or Home Improvement--which is really funny to me now because my husband grew up without a television and he’s recently been watching reruns of Home Improvement since we don’t have cable. Sometimes though, my mom took us to Beachwood Place Mall. Not for shopping, just to walk around--something to do in the winter I guess.

I tried to find a little history about the mall and its renovations, but couldn’t find much. The mall is very different today than it was in the 90s. For us, the mall was very exciting because where they now have an open area with escalators, they used to have a fountain with a glass elevator that would lower near the water. Near the fountain was the food court, whereas today, the food court is on the second floor. We almost never ate at the food court because it was too expensive, or my mom didn’t want us to eat unhealthy food and just told us it was too expensive, so instead, she would pack sandwiches in brown lunch bags for each of us and we’d sit on the steps to the fountain. My sister and I thought this was great fun--especially watching the glass elevator going up and down. Whenever I go to Beachwood Mall and pass through that area I remember sitting there, in a spot that no longer exists the way I remember it, with my mom and my sister eating our packed sandwiches just outside of the food court.

3. When I see mothers nursing babies I feel a pang of longing for the many hours I spent nursing Isabella. Isabella’s infancy to toddlerhood was simply the best time in my life. I felt a sense of belonging for the first time in my life and I was proud of my body for the first time in my life. Breastfeeding and La Leche League led me to establishing my most valued friendships with women I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Eleven years later each of those women, even though a few I haven’t seen in over a year, hold a very special place in my heart.

I used to sit in a very uncomfortable glider I bought at a second hand store, nursing Isabella to sleep and singing Amazing Grace and Grace Flows Down over and over again. Isabella would fall into that drunken baby stupor, milk dribbling down her cheek while I soaked in the weight of her, and felt as if I couldn’t bear to part with her, ever.

I think nostalgia shows up when you least expect it. It’s so interesting how very small, seemingly inconsequential details, will immediately jog a memory. Last week, we were having dinner and Walter asked how my grandma was doing, and before I responded he said, “‘bout half?’” because this is what my grandpa always said when we called and asked, “how are you, grandpa?” In the moment, I had to blink away tears and still do as I’m writing this.

Maybe after reading this, you can take a moment to remember the “happiness of a former place or time”.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Why do people have kids?

Last week Isabella and I were in the car together, and she was in the back seat because I don’t let her sit in the front. I don’t think I’m ready to have a front seat companion and even though she's eleven, she's probably not even big enough. My general rule has always been, no talking in the car. It’s my sanctuary or something. The rule started when Isabella was a toddler. She was basically born talking and since I’m a fairly quiet person who is extremely sensitive to noise, it just made sense that everyone should cease talking for at least ten minutes on the drive to the library, or the grocery store. So, it’s worked all of these years. My kids look at books or we listen to an audiobook, sit in silence, or very rarely, listen to music. But then over the last year I’ve realized I should probably allow talking because that’s supposed to be a good time for parents to bond with their kids or something like that.

With the ban on talking lifted, it meant on this particular day that I got to hear about Meth and how it destroys your body and could very easily blow up your house if you try to make the drug. Noted. So far sixth grade has been most beneficial for learning all about drugs and alcohol in health class. I don’t think she’s learned anything else. And as I was listening to the riveting facts regarding Meth, I thought, why do people have kids? I mean, really, what is the reason? This also gives you a window into the weird thoughts in my brain.

When you sign up to have kids, you also sign up to be in a perpetual state of exhaustion, give them all of your money, put stress on your marriage, have stretch marks in places you didn’t even know you could have stretch marks, and thanks to birth, lose your ability to hold your pee. So why on earth do millions of people sign up for this? And why do the people with kids get confused when other people don’t want kids?

I actually don’t have an answer. I googled: “why do people have kids” and it led me down the rabbit hole that is the internet, citing reasons like, “to give and receive unconditional love” and “fix the mistakes of their parents”. First of all, Isaac doesn’t even tell me he loves me back. When I drop him off at school I say, “have a fun day! I love you!” and he says, “bye, Charley!” and runs to the building. He also doesn’t hug me, so the whole love things is definitely not a good reason to have a kid. Secondly, you might fix the mistakes of your own parents but you are surely going to make a million of your own mistakes, so that’s a horribly selfish reason to bring a human into the world.

I got pregnant with Isabella when I was in my last year of college (which was actually my fifth year of college). Before that I had a surprise pregnancy and before that, I wasn’t planning to ever have kids. I know, crazy turn of events. Doesn't make sense to me either, but something weird happens to the brain when you read those two lines on a positive pregnancy test. For me, after the panic dissipated, I thought what power my body had to hold and grow a life. And then I immediately fell in love. I am completely aware that it may not be this way for everyone, but with our first pregnancy that came and went so quickly, I fell in love, plain and simple. And though my miscarriage was extremely early, apparently these days it’s called a “chemical pregnancy” which seems so cruel, I felt like a mom, instantly. Because what does a mom do: protect, grow, love, nourish...whether you’re newly pregnant or the mother of three...and as I had a miscarriage, I felt I’d failed at all of those things.

From that point it seemed only natural to me that I would want to get pregnant again. I desperately wanted that life inside of me again. So I did, and I graduated from college about a month before Isabella was born. Two years later I still wasn't interested in having a second baby. I loved Isabella so deeply (and still do, obviously) that I couldn’t imagine having another child and thought we were perfect with just Isabella. But after some convincing, I told Walter he had two months and if I didn’t get pregnant one of those two months we were done. I got pregnant the first month. And of course, I fell in love.

But all of this still doesn’t the answer the question: why do people have kids. I mean, I didn’t have any good reasons to have children or get pregnant while I was still in college and planning to follow the path to become and English Professor.

So I thought about it some more and I came up with a few reasons:
  1. Once they’re old enough, they can get stuff for you so you don’t have to get up and do it yourself. This is assuming they can actually find what you ask for, so this isn’t always beneficial since kids are born blind and I'm not entirely sure that the male species ever recovers their sight. Literally, my kids can’t find something that’s right in front of them.
  2. They provide an excellent source of entertainment. Kids are basically a built in entertainment system. From the first sound they make you’re just in awe that they could do anything so wonderful as that little coo.
  3. They say ridiculously adorable things. Like last week when we were at a store and Isaac said, “hey Isabella, when we get outside, do you want to play that game where we try not to step on the cracks?” Obviously Isabella rolled her eyes and said, “no, I don’t want to play that game” in a disgusted voice, but she’s 11 and has been kidnapped temporarily by monsters that I assume will return her loving self when she’s about twenty.
  4. Hypothetically, they’ll take care of you when you’re old. This is assuming you don’t screw up their childhood.
  5. Even though I tell the people in my house if they say, “mom” one more time I’m going to change my name or explode, I still love it.
  6. Now that they’re older we can actually do fun things like play games that I actually enjoy and have real conversations...about meth.

This list is not conclusive and I don't pretend that it comes close to answering the main question.

I never had a strong pull to be a mother. In my mind it’s hard to believe we actually signed up for this job. Kids manage to drain you physically and mentally, every single day. They are literally the neediest creatures on the planet and always need food. But we get up every morning (and for many of you, multiple times each night) and do it all over again, pray we get it right, and love them as deeply as one can possibly love another.