Last night, somewhere in the space between asleep and awake (but trending towards asleep), I had A Moment. It was a little like reliving the minutes before my C-section, when the anesthesiologist and nurse had a little bit of a freakout about how much my blood pressure was dropping after the epidural. I vaguely remember them addressing it, but mostly I was bewildered & living outside of that reality, until I started wondering why the anesthesiologist was rubbing my forehead. It seemed a little familiar for a man who seemed so clinical just a few minutes ago. Then I realized it was Andy, and that he was by my side because they were about to slice a baby out of me, and my forehead was one of the few places he was allowed to touch me. Everything was fine, and the whole affair proceeded without complication, but those few minutes were surreal, and probably as close as I’ve come to experiencing the existential exit ramp.
So. last night, as I was falling asleep, I unintentionally revisited that mental space. I stayed up too late reading a magazine and then watching the new episode of Bob’s Burgers, so I was over-tired without being anxious about it. It’s a different mental space than being overtired because your toddler is teething, though that was the underpinning. I waded into out-of-body territory, as though I were in the hospital and on my way out. In a flash, I had a vision of my List of Regrets, presented to me with lucidity upon last night’s imagined impending death. I now share them with you, that we may all live better.
1. I never made an appointment at Aveda to get that bikini wax.I know winter is upon us and there’s no tropical vacation in sight, but before I died, I wanted to become the kind of women who got bikini waxes on the regular.
2. I haven’t finished the Advent calendar. I started it and hung it on the wall, but I haven’t written the numbers on the postcards yet, or affixed ornaments to 21 out of 24 pins. If I’d died last night, Charlie would grow up not knowing what the hell that thing is on the wall that he’s been looking at all childhood long. Andy’s certainly not going to finish it; he doesn’t have my vision!
3. I didn’t lose those 7 pounds. In seven pounds, I can check off the “overweight” box on medical forms rather than the “fatty-fatty-no-friends” box. It’s weird that they have that box on medical forms. I should probably find a new doctor.
4. I haven’t folded the laundry. If I die today, I’ll never know what it feels like to have all the laundry clean, folded, and put away, with all the clothes Charlie has outgrown successfully donated to needy babies.
5. I never got my master’s. This seems less daunting than finishing the laundry, though, so my hope is that I’ll actually do this at some point.
6. I’m not caught up on my magazines. That stack of Real Simple and American Theatre isn’t going to read itself. Oh God, I hadn’t even considered the complimentary subscription to various parenting magazines that started arriving in the mail once I started purchasing pregnancy tests on the regular. (Seriously, I have no idea where that came from, or how Similac knew to send me a sampler pack. Big Data, amirite?)
And sure, depending on how long I get to hang out on my death bed on my way out, I might also really regret never seeing Paris, not getting to meet my grandchildren, and not living to see the day that we commute in flying cars. But after having a faux-near-death moment of clarity last night, I know what’s really important.
Here’s the half-completed Advent calendar. Feel the regret with me.
My father-in-law lives with us and takes care of Charlie while Andy and I are at work. For the record, this is a fabulous arrangement. He is, however, at a crucial point in his ongoing War on Squirrels. Few things make him happier than being able to deny happiness to the squirrels who live in our yard. Those decorative porch pumpkins? It’s November 2nd. They have to go. Today. Because Halloween is over and the squirrels have taken an interest. We cannot leave them out until the day after Thanksgiving as I’d planned, because the squirrels are already sniffing them, and probably licking them too. And if the squirrels enjoy a festive holiday gourd, the terrorists win.
Our squirrels are, in fact, a tremendous pain in the ass. We have this lovely apple tree that we’ve never been able to eat one apple off of, because the squirrels get to them first. Though I really enjoy the idea of having a home-grown apple, I was always too taken with the adorableness of my fluffy little squirrel friends sitting on our porch and gnawing away at an apple bigger than their head, like they think they’re people. Even when a squirrel made a nest right outside my bedroom window and I could hear the scratching inches from my head in the middle of the night as she nibbled through our screen, my primary thought was, “Oh! How nice! She’s getting the nursery ready for her baby, just like me! We’re like twins! And she goes so well with the ‘Critters of North America’ decor I’m working on in here!” But then I did let the cats into my room to stare her down, because in practice, I don’t need a next of baby squirrels sleeping next to my head, no matter how goddamned adorable they are.
When Ed moved in, the squirrels went from adorable nuisance to The Enemy at Home. They’re into the bird seed, they’re digging up the flower bed, AND they’re still eating the apples. Probably they would kill us in our sleep if we let them. So the last 14 months, while primarily being dedicated to the care and nurturing of my child, have secondarily been committed to contraptions, concoctions, and incantations directed at the Enemy Squirrels: pepper spray on the apple trees, peppermint oil around the bird feeder, pepper seeds in the bird feed, cages around the plants, wire around the everything, plastic owls and eagles placed menacingly around the porch, an ever-expanding and increasingly greased up bird-feed-holding pole (that the squirrels continue to climb by simply modifying their previous behavior), and, most importantly, dropping everything at a moments notice to run our back and turn the hose on a squirrel when caught in an offending action. Since the squirrels have outmaneuvered us at every turn, getting stronger, jumping higher, and getting less picky about what they want their pilfered crops to taste like. It would seem that the conclusion is the resignation that we just can’t have nice things, and neither can the squirrels. Ed recently uprooted the vegetable garden and removed the bird feeder; I give it a week before he chops down the apple tree while shouting, “If I can’t have you, nobody can!”
Lest the enemy get a pleasant meal, we’ll be having decorative autumn gourd for dinner tonight. I’m searching the internet for a “wow your guests when you bake this soup in a pumpkin and be festive!” recipe, aiming for one that I have most of the ingredients for. Since I’m an ideal homemaker, this will work out perfectly. There’s no need to wish me luck.
Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, it’s time for the youthful rebellion I couldn’t pull off in the days of my youth. Growing up Evangelical (and occasionally Pentecostal), Halloween was the actual work of the actual devil. Therefore, as children we were only allowed to participate in church-sanctioned activities, like dressing in non-scary costumes and attending the Harvest Festival in the church parking lot, or heading to the Fellowship Hall to watch a documentary on Satanic ritual abuse. In our church community, my parents were among the more liberal. I recall another parent asking my mom, “You allow your children to watch The Smurfs? Even though Gargamel practices witchcraft?” But there were plenty of things were weren’t allowed to do, including, but not limited to:
- Eating Count Chocula, or any of the other Monster cereals
- Watching other witchcraft-based features, such as:
- Hocus Pocus
- Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes
- Disney’s The Black Cauldron (which tipped my mom off with its suspicious PG rating)
- Anything with “Witch” in the title
- Small Wonder (which I assumed was because of its alignment with the dark forces, but turned out to be because my mom rightly found it too annoying to have on in the house.)
- Hocus Pocus
- Reading any of the Bernstein Bears books where anything is described as “spooky.”
- Carving jack-o-lanterns with spooky faces. It was okay to carve pumpkins with faces, as long as they looked good-natured. Turkeys were the preferred design. Especially if the the turkeys had accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and savior.
- And, for a couple years, saying “Happy Halloween.” Instead, our youth leadership favored “Happy Hallowed King,” which took the focus off of Satan and put it back on Jesus, where it belonged.
Now that I’m older with a child of my own, I’ve decided that I’m committed to a spooky fall season. At least until like November 3, at which point I’ll be committed to a fall season of thankfulness and togetherness. My family and church really had a handle on the latter; lots of time was spent applying hot glue to fallen leaves and raffia for festive seasonal decor. But today, I’m doing something completely radical: I’ve eaten my morning bowl of Count Chocula, and I’m going to make Tootsie-Pop ghosts. They’ll be handed out to our trick-or-treaters, and might even line the lawn on Halloween. Last night I bought a package of something billing itself as “Spooky Fabric,” and I’ve placed it over the railing on the porch. I’m ready for this.
I also bought Charlie a book called Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin in preparation for taking him to the Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival last weekend. The book is not as spooky as I’d like, but it’s seasonally appropriate. He’s got a hand-me-down Cheerios Halloween activity book that is ridiculous, but that he loves. (It’s a heavy-handed marketing product. “Hey, kids! These ghosts need more Cheerios so their souls can be at peace! Can you help them? By buying Cheerios?”) We’re going to a Halloween party AND handing out candy. Yesterday we watched something on Netflix about Curious George’s scary something something pumpkin something. I’m gonna make the house look as haunted as I can. Because I’m an adult. So I’m gonna dress up my Tootsie Pops like their ghosts.