Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Yes, I’ve become that child-baffling creature, the grown-up who doesn’t just want to swim.
I remember how my mother would stand in the water up to her knees, chatting with her friends for hours. Eventually she would slowly walk into the deep water and swim long lengths of breast stroke, still chatting with her friends. Then she would get out of the water altogether and sit on the dock or in a beach chair on the pool deck, reading or chatting some more. Huh?
Meanwhile I could swim forever. From the rafts to the dock to the shore in endless circuits. Jumping in again and again. Tipping over each other’s inner tubes again and again. Diving for pennies bright against the blue bottom of the pool. Crying when they made me get out, even as I shivered uncontrollably, my own lips blue.
Now, though, it’s my children who swim forever. M lines up for the diving board and jumps off again and again. E discovers that it’s fun to go underwater with goggles and dunks herself again and again. I make them get out when it’s time to go home. Their lips are blue, but they cry in frustration and plead for just five more minutes.
When they beg me to come in I demur--it’s too cold, I don’t want to get wet, maybe later. Because it is too cold and I don’t want to get wet. I’m happy standing in the water up to my knees, chatting with my friends.
Then I get warm enough and go in and it’s great. I float on my back in the middle of the pond, looking up at the fringe of trees and the great bowl of sky, the din of the beach a faraway comforting murmur. I catch E as she jumps off the side of the pool again and again. I stand just close enough to the spray that it cools without soaking me.
Then I get bored and get out. I chat some more with my friends or read my book or just lie on a towel. My children are baffled. They can’t understand why I don’t want to swim. I am baffled. I can’t understand how I became such a grown-up.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
What I remember most about that house, though, is how hot it was the one summer I lived there. The windows were always open wide and there were 17-year cicadas. Every night before bed I would take a cold shower and lie down, still wet, with the fan at the foot of my bed blowing straight up my body, hoping to fall asleep before I was dry and the cicadas drilled holes into my brain.
I never had air conditioning in Washington, though I did spend a summer seeing a man I should have left in May because his apartment was so delightfully icy.
In Berkeley the kind of heat that makes you yearn for ice cream and frigid movie theaters was cause for celebration, for drinks outside and leisurely evening saunters around the neighborhood.
In Red State, though, summer could be brutal: heavy and wet, the kind of heat that makes it hard to breathe and makes you understand why murder rates go up in July and August. It was particularly brutal the summer M was three. The thermometer hadn’t dipped below 90 in as long as I could remember (memory shrinks in such weather), and M and I hated each other. The pool had grown old, and besides, we were hot again as soon as we left.
So one day I threw all my principles to the wind and decided we were spending the day at the mall. I trumped up some errand and off we went. We shopped, we window shopped, we lunched at the food court, I bought a magazine and sat on a bench while she played for as long as she wanted at the indoor playground. We were cool, we were happy, we loved each other once more. We bowed at the altar of air conditioning
I got pregnant with E the following March. I knew I couldn’t spend a pregnant summer like the one before, so we installed central air in May. Of course it was the coolest, rainiest summer in memory.
In subsequent years, though, I got used to my air conditioning. I’m a bit of a climate Nazi. I don’t turn on the heat till we’re all shivering in sweaters, and I used to put the air on only when summer became unbearable. But slowly I relaxed. If it was humid but not hot, I put on the air. If it was just hot enough that we started to snap at each other, I put on the air. If the air was on, I stayed in, forgoing cool evening breezes on the deck.
Our new house has no air conditioning. Luckily, we still have our fans. There is one in the living room and another in the dining room, both oscillating as I write. M is reading in a cold bath. E is lying on the floor eating frozen peas, still frozen. We spent the early afternoon at the spray park around the corner and later S is taking the girls swimming with his parents. Tonight we’re taking them to my mom’s and escaping to an air-conditioned movie.
I’m not quite sure why it isn’t that bad, though. Perhaps because this is the heat of my childhood, not the wet wool blanket heat of Red State in July. Perhaps because it’s supposed to go away tomorrow. Perhaps because in the city there are spray parks and air-conditioned movies we actually want to see and grandparents. Or perhaps I’m just caught in a romantic delusion and we really need to hie us to Home Depot and lug home some air conditioners. Yeah, I think that’s it.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I get to see K and J [who are spending the night on their way to camp] and I get to see [cousin] L again and I get to go swimming [at L’s pool party] and go to the pond [more swimming and probably a picnic dinner].”
OK, I'd say she's pretty lucky.
I got out of the habit.
I don’t want this blog to become a diary, and I’m a bit narcissistically preoccupied these days.
A big piece of my blog identity was alienation in Red State and now I’m alienated in Blue State which just seems too screwed up even to address (though it’s a different kind of alienation: there I was alienated in the macro and at home in the micro; here I’m at home in the macro and alienated in the micro).
I have too much to say and nothing to say.
But writing anchors me, especially when I’m at my most disequilibrious. And I don’t start work for a while, so I will need some discipline, as well as something that reminds me that I’m me, not just stay-at-home summer mom of squabbling girls.
So I might as well blog.
Though I’m not going to promise every day. (Especially for the immediate future, because we are in internet hell--the attempt at DSL was a total bust, so in a fit of rage I cancelled it and signed up for cable which, just our luck, can’t be hooked up for another week, so I’m schlepping the laptop with wireless card to the café, but I haven’t figured out how to make Eudora send email on this network and I hate my webmail program, so if I owe you email, you’re still going to have to wait…)
Friday, June 24, 2005
In Red State Capital City Suburb, we basically had two sets of friends: friends from work and friends from the neighborhood. When we announced that we were moving, my friends from work were pretty surprised. Most of them are not from Red State either, but they are deeply committed to work and have accepted the fact that doing the work they do (and I did) means living where you can work, not where you want to live.
Our neighborhood friends, on the other hand, got it immediately. They were sad we were leaving, but most of them are from Red State and an awful lot of them are from Red State Capital City Suburb. They live around the corner from their cousins and see their siblings at least once a week, if not daily. They take out the garbage and shovel snow for elderly aunts. Their parents take care of their kids every weekend, some even every day after school. They’ve always felt for us, with our family so far away.
In fact, it was watching their lives close up that made us realize what we were missing. That and spending $1,400 on plane tickets or driving for 24 hours every time someone turned 75 or got married.
S and I met when we were in high school at the synagogue that both of our families still belong to. Save one sister out in California, our entire family lives in the vicinity of East Coast Big City: my parents both live in City, his parents live in Town, his brother lives in Nearby Town, his sister lives in Suburb, and my sister lives two hours away in Country Town. And that’s just the immediate family: East Coast Big City is also home to countless family friends, high school friends, college friends, camp friends, etc.
The idea that our kids could grow up having Friday night dinner at Grammy and Grandpa’s, actually knowing their cousins, bringing real grandparents rather than loving neighbors to school on Grandparents Day, well, it was pretty compelling. (There were a lot of other reasons we moved, and maybe I’ll get into some of them, but I can’t promise, as I’ve been processing this move for over a year and I’m a little maxed out on it.) (I will say, however, for the record, that we did not move because of the election. In fact, the election made us want to stay and fight the good fight in Red State, but we’d long since decided to move, so that particular good fight will have to be fought without us.)
Our new house is in Town, where S grew up. We’re ten minutes by car from his parents, and last Friday afternoon the girls and I walked to their house, via ice cream and the library. We’re just ten blocks from the Town-City border, and less than a 15 minute drive from each of my parents in City. M and I are planning a walk to my mom’s house some cool day soon.
But proximity is only the beginning of the difference. What’s really different is having family be a part of everyday life, rather than an occasion. Which sounds like a quantitative difference but is actually qualitative. If you go to Friday night dinner at Grammy and Grandpa’s once or twice a year, it’s a big deal. You need to be on your best behavior, and you need to get along with your cousins because you never see them, and you need to make stilted conversation about jobs and vacations and movies because that’s what you talk about with people you never see. But last Friday night at my in-laws’, Grandpa cooked while Grammy and I read in the living room and M, E, and Cousin T went to the playground. Later M got tired of playing so she read while E and T played. We all teased T about the way she races through the blessings. We chatted during dinner and it didn’t matter that our conversation was unmomentous.
And it’s not just Friday nights. The day our moving van arrived, M and E spent the whole day at S’s parents’ house with T. The next day T spent the day with us. When M and I were out shopping near my mom’s house one day last week, we called her and she met us for lunch. S’s brother stopped by one evening to see our new house and ended up going to see Favorite Musician #2 with us the next night. (Sorry about that cryptic post, but if I said who Favorite Musician #2 was, the identity of East Coast Big City would be really obvious, and I don’t want to go there.)
M wants to have the last word here: So to sum it up, all I’m saying is that pretty much we really like East Coast Big City and our family. [I’m not sure if that “I” is me, Becca, or her, M, since she dictated the sentence and I typed it. She says it’s me. I’ll take it.]
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I love America's natural wonders. I've seen a lot of natural wonders in a lot of countries (and I must admit that, as a waterfall experience, Victoria Falls trumps Niagara), but there's no question that America's natural wonders, hell, America's nature, is pretty damn great. Yosemite? Badlands? Yellowstone? That's good stuff. Big Sur? Coastal Maine? Vermont mountains? Definitely worth loving. As is Niagara Falls.
I love America's diversity. Yes, I know: racism, conflict, hypocrisy, the melting pot bullshit. But Niagara Falls on a steamy June Sunday is all that's good about American diversity: lots of different kinds of people--middle-American white folks, Indian grandmas in saris, Puerto Rican moms pushing strollers, black couples on first dates--screaming the same screams at the same spray on the Maid of the Mist, eating the same ice cream cones, throwing the same sticks over the same fence at the same overlook. Niagara Falls is a vision of what we could be.
I love America's parks. From the playground around the corner at our new house, to the state beaches filled with picnicking families, to the national parks you see once in a lifetime, if you're lucky. Parks are great, America has lots of them, and Niagara Falls is a lovely one.
I love the way Americans do happy. Maybe this one isn't so nation-specific, but maybe it is. Americans certainly do anger and sadness and the full range of emotions, and we do a lot of them ugly. I'm sure on a steamy August Sunday, there would be a lot of whining toddlers and cranky teenagers and frustrated parents at Niagara Falls. But on that steamy June Sunday, everyone at Niagara Falls was, miraculously, happy. Smiling, laughing, joking, squealing happy. I don't think it was just because we were happy, though we were. It was something about the beginning of summer, and all that water, and the flowers in bloom, and being just a little too hot so that getting cold and wet up close to the falls was a perfect pleasure.
It's nice to be reminded of what there is to love.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
"Favorite Musician #2!" I exclaimed. "We're going!"
When I lived in Berkeley and Red State, listening to Favorite Musician #2 sing about East Coast Big City was one of the surest routes to pleasurable nostalgia. To have him come to East Coast Big City just days after we move back, and to Everyone's Favorite Club no less, is positively karmic.
We've just dropped off girls at Grammy and Grandpa's, and we're on our way.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Thursday, June 09, 2005
- How enchanting it is when E looks up at me and whispers, "You're beautiful."
- M's third grade picnic. How I organize the picnic every year which is (shh, don't tell anyone) the easiest thing in the world but I get enormous props for it from M and everyone at school. Hanging out with my third grade mom posse. How sad it makes me every year that the kids who have the hardest time in school--and the hardest lives--don't make it to the picnic.
- Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin and A.L. Kennedy's Paradise. OK, so one's about a school shooting and the other is about a hopeless alcoholic, but they are two of the most beautiful novels I have read since I can remember. If you're the slightest fan of great writing and novels that make you think, go read them now!
- How I feel like such a grown-up when I'm on the phone to my realtor, especially when I'm leaving her voicemail. Which makes me think of a conversation I had maybe fifteen years ago with a friend a few years younger than me about how I felt like I would never be a grown-up and she felt like she was already a grown-up. She's now married to a famous man 20 years older than her and has stepsons ten years younger than her and an architect-renovated city house and a country house with an apple orchard where they have a cider pressing party every fall. She still seems remarkably grown up to me.
- The rate at which vodka tonics should be drunk to maintain tranquility without tipping into either a buzz or distress.
- The excellent new stages my kids are in. E is suddenly a big kid, tall and skinny, growing out her bangs, independent and articulate. M has become a nine year old: absolutely certain that she is the only one who has any sense because little kids are little, teenagers are ridiculous, and parents, well, parents are hopeless (credit to S for this observation, but he's absolutely right). Luckily this is as charming as it is annoying.
- That after all Courtney has said and done, I still love Hole.
But the moving van comes tomorrow, the computer is getting packed today, there's kind of a lot going on, and I think I need to stop blogging for a bit. Maybe a week or two.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
First I found the poster N and D, K's kids, made for my shower. I didn't really want a shower, but K and some other friends insisted, so we decided to have a travel-themed shower which ended up being lots of fun. The poster had a landscape with flowers and stickers of globes, airplanes, and teddy bears holding globes. At the top, in a combination of stickers and writing, it says "BEKS SHAWR ONLY GRONUPE WUMIN AT N---S AND D---S HOUSE." I think N must have done the writing which is that kindergarten kind of block print. N just finished her first year of college.
Then I was packing shoes and I found my wedding shoes, the most expensive shoes I ever bought, not to mention the most expensive shoes I ever wore once. I thought about getting rid of them, because let's face it, I will never again wear cream-colored satin pumps with pointy heels and toes. But I didn't because, well, because they're my wedding shoes. I might give them to the kids for dress-up, though.
Then I was packing some photo albums, including the proofs of our wedding pictures which I stopped to look at. We have an album with maybe 80 pictures that the girls love to look at, so those images are all seared into my brain. But this was everything: me looking pinched in the pictures with my (no longer) step-mother, and her looking even more pinched; shots of every single moment of the ceremony; endless shots of people talking and drinking on the lawn; lots of food; lots of dancing; couples stealing kisses; children running on the lawn at dusk; people I'd forgotten were there and was so happy to see.
They're the kind of pictures that just make you want to do a Blue Skidoo right into them. It was such a great wedding: everyone was beautiful and happy, and the weather was perfect, and the garden was blooming, and the food was delicious, and the band was loud, and the dancing was wild. I even still like my dress!
(This is not meant to imply that in the past I have ever seen dead quintuplets, but rather that these were quintuplets in person, not in a newspaper photo.)
Monday, June 06, 2005
In recent days, the right-vs.-left debate over embryonic stem-cell research has been intense.
After the recent passage of a House bill containing funding for such research, it appears to be opposed only by the most hard-line Republicans.
With promises such as regrown spinal-cord tissue allowing the paralyzed to walk again, many people find it hard to draw the line and say no.
It should be made clear that the opposition does not oppose private dollars being used for this purpose.
If the promises of stem cells are as great as proclaimed, private corporations should be eager to take up the research.
In the May 26 Associated Press article "Embryonic stem-cell debate moves from House to Senate," it is mentioned that proponents of government-sponsored embryonic stem-cell research "say the embryos involved would be discarded anyway."
While using only existing embryos may seem to be a good place to draw the line, I fail to see how this will guarantee that the federal government does not cause new life to be created for the purpose of destruction.Here's what I don't get (and I feel like I've blogged about this before, but I'm not quite sure and I'm too lazy to troll through my archives): if you are opposed to research on embryos, because you believe that embryos are people too, how can you possibly be ok with anyone doing the research? How can you justify voting no on this bill because if the government doesn't support the research, private corporations will surely take care of it? This reasoning is simply specious.
I feel the same way about exceptions to rape and incest in anti-abortion laws (this is what I feel like I've blogged about already, though now that I think about it, I may just have commented about it on someone else's blog): if you think abortion is killing a baby, then it is killing a baby no matter how that baby came into being, and you should be against it no matter what. Stick to your guns, as it were.
Killing is serious business. I'm against it--I won't say no matter what, because, yes, if I was alone in a room with Hitler and a gun in 1933, knowing what we all know now, I might very well kill him. Still, I'm all for anyone who opposes killing people. This is why I am against capital punishment, and I want my wars to be pretty damn justified.
One of the many reasons I support abortion rights is because I do not believe that having an abortion is killing a person. I believe that actual people are more important than potential people, so I strongly support stem cell research. I think it's great when an infertile couple can have a baby using someone else's frozen embryo, but I don't believe those eight cells are a baby, snowflake or otherwise, and I don't think that adoption is the right term for what that couple is doing.
I have a great deal of respect for the seamless garment people, like the activists at Sojourner. They believe in protecting life in all forms: they are against abortion, capital punishment, war, and poverty. I don't agree with some of their positions, but, like I said, I respect them, and I prefer to respect my opponents.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
[So I got a glass, filled it halfway with water, brought it to her and asked what the glass was. She said it was half-full. I asked her what the other half was. She thought for a moment and then said "Half-empty." I said, "See, it's the same thing, it just depends on how you look at it." She thought about that and nodded. Then I asked her if she wanted a drink of water, and she did.]
[I'm glad she said it was half-full.]
First I stopped next door to give B and L (parents of said girls, and I keep meaning to blog about how much we adore them, but it's kind of a boring topic) (actually it's not, because in this stratified country, our cross-class, cross-politics, cross-religion friendship is really quite interesting, so maybe I'll blog about it sometime, but not now), anyway, I stopped to give them a bottle of margarita that the B's brought over last weekend when we had B and L and the B's over for a rowdy night of adult drinking and children running wild. I knew we weren't going to drink the margarita, because we are effete snobs who make our own ginger syrup for daquiris, but since B and L are rednecks who drink margarita straight from the bottle (when they are not downing our ginger daquiris), I figure they'd be happy. They were. In fact, B was particularly happy because L was about to send him out to get her another bottle of margarita. So I hung out with them for a bit, and B teased L and me about being lesbians, and L and I discussed how her next husband was going to be white-collar, and we all gossiped about the new principal, and then I went on with my walk.
I only made it half a dozen houses before D stopped me to talk about my girls, and painting their house, and how their dog was coping with the loss of their other dog (he doesn't really care). Then I went on with my walk, waving to R and S (different S) who were sitting on their porch swing.
Around the corner, I came upon S (another S) and P, kids in M's class who live next door to each other. They were roller blading, and their moms were sitting on P's front steps. I told them I was escaping my family and invited them to join me. They laughed. S wanted to join me, but her mother explained that that wasn't what I meant.
It was high school graduation yesterday, and you could hear the parties all over town. When I saw a teenage couple carrying towels, I said, "you must be going to E's house," and of course they were. E is the only senior in the neighborhood with a pool.
A car pulled up and asked me for directions to a street that I didn't know, which meant it wasn't nearby. I knew the woman was a mom in M's class, but I couldn't remember which kid. Then she said that her daughter had gone home with M (different M) and H, and I realized which street she was talking about and told them how to get to M's dad's house.
Then S (yet another S) and C stopped me, and I must have stood outside their house chatting for half an hour. S is the chair of the Arts Council at M's school and I'm a member. We met when J and J still lived across the street from them. While we stood on the sidewalk chatting, L and R passed by, and I said, "You must be going to graduation parties." L is the high school art teacher, and they were all dressed up. I introduced L to S, and we talked about art in the schools.
Then I went on with my walk. When I passed V and J's house, I saw S's car outside (still another S) and figured they must be barbecuing. Then I got home and put my exhausted fussy children to bed.
If you've made it through this post, you can see how boring and lovely life is in Red State Capital City Suburb. I will miss it.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
This is not in itself as damning as it might sound. Every year, right around now, all the ants in Red State Capital City Suburb decide that they would rather be inside, which is kind of funny, because right about now, all the people decide that they would rather be outside. Then again, maybe that's why the ants come in.
Only the most vigilant of homemakers can vanquish them, and we are not so vigilant as all that. Usually they hang out for a week or so, we are disgusted and discuss them at great length but don't do much about them, and then they leave.
This year, however, the ants have decided not only that they would rather be inside, but that they would rather be inside the dishwasher. Which on the one hand means they are not swarming the counters, which makes their presence in general somewhat less disgusting. On the other hand, it means that when you open the dishwasher to put in a dish you are confronted with hordes of swarming ants, and when you open the dishwasher after it has run, you are confronted with swarms of drowned ants. This is truly disgusting.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Does anyone else feel a kind of letdown at knowing who Deep Throat was? I mean, it's a good story, and I have no problem with learning that it was Mark Felt, not that I ever heard of Mark Felt before Tuesday. Still, whether you want to cite Carly Simon or Jacques Lacan, there's no question that the state of uncertainty, anticipation, desire, whatever you want to call it, has a certain pleasure that knowledge cannot equal.
I mean, to go really trivial, isn't the moment at the Academy Awards when they show the five tensely smiling candidates for Best Actress, and you say to your sister on the phone, "I bet it's going to be Gwyneth," a lot more fun than actually watching Gwyneth up there on the stage weeping in her pink dress? Or, to go romantic, isn't the moment just before the first kiss, when you know it is going to happen, but it isn't happening yet, one of the best things ever? So, yeah, you can sign me up for the "Mark Felt is a hero" team, but the romantic, narrative-loving, existential side of me misses the mystery.
The other thing Mark Felt made me think about was 1974. I remember things before 1974. I remember the hall in the apartment we moved from when I was 2 1/2. I remember the light on the brick sidewalk when my father brought me home to meet my new baby sister (I wasn't yet 3). I remember the cottage we went to in the summer until I was 5, and I have a fair number of memories from nursery school and lots from my early years in elementary school.
I think my first political memory is from 1972, when I was absolutely sure that McGovern would beat Nixon, because my parents and all their friends were voting for him. For some reason I remember the Watergate break-in too, though I wonder if my memory of that came after the fact.
But 1974, when I turned 10, was the year that I truly became aware of the outside world. Indeed, 1974 was the first year I was aware of as a year:I remember forgetting to write 1974 instead of 1973, though I don't remember writing 1973 the year before. Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, and I was completely obsessed with her, so I read the newspaper every day, which means I also read about Watergate every day, though I'm not sure I really understood it. I remember Maureen Dean's ponytail and and John Dean's earnestness and Martha Mitchell's nuttiness.
I remember the night Nixon resigned as clear as day. We were at the house we rented each summer, after we stopped going to the cottage. It was right on a lake, and there was a big house at one end of the lot and a little boathouse at the other. In between there were trees and a barbecue and a hammock and sometimes a tepee and a big pine-needly space where we played. There were always a lot of people around, friends of ours visiting for a few days and friends of the owner's who stayed in the boathouse.
I don't remember who was there that night--I think maybe my friend Natalie's family--but there were a lot of people. We were out by the barbecue and it was dark and someone brought a radio out and we stood or sat or squatted in a circle around it, all listening to the resignation speech, quietly, in the dark, by the lake, and I remember thinking that this was really, really important.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I'm not good with the margins of illness, for me or my children. Give me a fever, vomiting, splitting headaches, nasty rashes and I'm good to go. I can put myself to bed, no problem. I can snuggle sick children for hours, plying them with Advil and popsicles and Playhouse Disney and cool washcloths on their foreheads. But you know those times when you feel kind of bad but not quite sick, and then you wonder if this is maybe just how you always feel, because you can't really remember what feeling good feels like, and maybe this is it, but not really, because really you don't feel so good, but then again you don't feel so bad either? I suck at those times. If it's me, I drag myself off to work and am miserable. If it's the children, I dilly and dally and dither, and unfortunately too often get frustrated, which doesn't help matters at all.
I have friends who, if a kid says they don't feel well, automatically let them stay home. Said kids are none the worse for wear, perfectly well-socialized and well-educated, but that just doesn't sit right with me. From experience, I know that a kid who feels a bit bad at breakfast often feels fine by the time school gets going. And I basically think you should be where you are supposed to be, unless you are really sick. However, there is always the possibility that feeling a bit bad at breakfast is a harbinger of feeling ghastly by noon. And then there's my working mother guilt. Do I want my kids to be well enough to go to school/sitter because it's a hassle for me to stay home? Or am I really looking out for their best interests? Ugh.
This morning was one of those mornings. I let M and E stay up too late last night, and the girls next door have been sick for a few days. So when M started acting pathetic, there was conflicting evidence. Overtired? Coming down with whatever the girls next door have? It was clear that she wasn't her usual perky self, but she wasn't SICK sick, that is, sick enough for me to decide unilaterally that she was staying home. And there's only a week left of school and her last Junior Great Books class was this morning and she's already missed a lot of school this year, so I was kind of pushing school, though I said that she needed to decide, since she was the only one who was inside her body and truly knew how she felt.
She couldn't decide, I started to get frustrated, I put her on the phone with her dad, he decided she was going to school, we hung up the phone, and she collapsed in tears. After lots of tears and snuggling on the couch, I finally got to the bottom of the situation: she felt a little bad, but really she was worried because she couldn't find her Junior Great Books book and she hadn't done her reading. At this point, I wanted to shake her. But I didn't because I am a nurturing and supportive mother. Instead I came up with a solution: I would write a note to the teacher explaining that she couldn't find the book and asking if she could borrow someone else's book to do the reading before Junior Great Books. I promised her that we would find the book, and if we didn't we would pay the school for the book. I promised her repeatedly that nobody would be mad. She started to perk up. I also told her that when she was worried about something she should tell me and we would come up with a solution, but not going to school is not a solution. By then she wasn't really interested in listening to me but was scurrying after her shoes.
On the way to school, I asked her what the lesson of the morning was. She said, "Tell Mama." And that was exactly the right answer for her. But I'm not quite sure what the lesson is for me.
[The piece that is left out of this story is that we are moving a few days after school ends, so our house is a half-packed disaster, hence the lost book, and M is stressed, hence, perhaps, the overreaction to the lost book.]