Friday, September 16, 2011

I Am Not Buddha, Nor A Magic Lamp

The collective pregnancy rants topic of the moment: unauthorized belly touching.

I am not in favor. I need to end this ridiculousness.

I am totally fine with Vor touching. He should be touching. He touches all the time. My mom did it without asking, and while it made me uncomfortable, hey, it’s my mom. It has nothing to do with my mom, but the fact I have issues about being touched. So, my mom and dad his mom, and our siblings get free touches.

There was no holding off my cousins and second cousins and aunts and uncles when I went to my family reunion. But I am pretty close with all of them, and they’re family. Again, I know I have touching issues. I made the decision ahead of time to be okay with it, and overrode the uncomfortableness.

People who are friends either know me well enough to know that it is not okay, have been given permission, or have been told that it is unacceptable.

Not okay are complete and utter strangers. For example, the random creepy guy on the street who comes at me with his hands out. I used my best rude aggressive lawyer voice, asked what exactly he thought he was doing, and he stopped dead in his tracks.

Here’s the category I have a hard time with: the acquaintances. The people I have to interface with to get my job done. Okay, fine, specifically, the court clerks and bailiffs and court reporters. I have to be really really fall down friendly nice to these people. They make the wheels go around in the courthouse and if they don’t like you, those wheels grind to a halt. I am more than happy to tell them fun details, spin around in a circle so they can see the increasing size, and tell them due dates, what the room looks like, etc. Rubbing my belly? No.

There have been two offenders so far. First, is one who came up and more scratched my stomach rather than rubbed it. I smiled at her and stepped back, but I really don’t dare do anything more than that.

The second one is worse and is getting on my nerves, because there have been two touching offenses. The first time she rubbed the bump, I was so shocked that she was doing it, I didn’t react. Then she proceeded to tell me that I should name the baby after her. I left pissed, and Vor had to hear me rant about it.

The second time, she caught me unaware again, as I was having a conversation with opposing counsel—you know, those crazy things we lawyers do and WE DON’T LIKE TO BE ITNERRUPTED WHILE DOING THEM?—and she cut in between us and stood in front of me, rubbed the belly and told me it must be a girl because I was carrying low and wide.

I was all (in my head) Listen b!itch, it’s a girl because her daddy’s sperm’s DNA said so, and for no other reason. And she’s low because I’m freaking short. And she’s wide because I have no torso, I’m all leg. Outwardly, I smiled and backed up. Then she has the nerve to say (1) that I should name her after her, again, and (2) you can really only just tell that I’m pregnant, not fat.

BUT SHE IS A CLERK AND I CANNOT DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN SMILE.

The normal side of me wants to say, Please don’t do that. The hateful side of me wants to slap her hands away next time. The passive aggressive side of me wants to rub her stomach and see how she likes it. The really non confrontational side of me wants to just ignore it and seethe underneath. The balanced side of me is thinking about lying, and saying the doctor said no rubbing, because it is starting to cause Braxton Hicks.

Then, of course, God struck me down for thinking that, because now I have to started to get Braxton Hicks contractions.

She is clearly going to do it again. I am less annoyed by the somewhat rude comments than I am the fact she thinks she is free to touch MY STOMACH. Not hers, mine. And because I need her to make my job easier, and she could make my life a living hell, I don’t know how to deal with it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Before, Then, Now, Therefore

Is it possible that ten years have gone by? That I was seventeen ten years ago? That seventeen years ago, very early in the morning, the biggest problem I had was my upcoming volleyball match against our arch-rival, and the fact our class dues were so high I couldn’t pay them all at once?

A friend of ours once said that he read some study about memory and false memory, and how 9/11 fits into that. According to this study, most of what we remember about 9/11 is not really what we remember, but more of a collective memory of our memory and the things our friends, families, and even strangers told us.

When he said that, I thought, screw that. That day is horrifyingly crystal clear.

Tuesday was current events day. I remember listening to the news on the way into school. I got to drive my Dad’s car that day, because I had an early meeting for our senior class before school, and a volleyball game after school. I was waiting for some interesting piece of news that could be mine to bring up in class. Nothing came. It sounded like some of the most boring stuff on earth. It was about 6:15 in the morning, and I was rushing to get my college level statistics class that I took before school even started.

That statistics class dragged. Our senior meeting dragged. Then, thoroughly tired already from being up so early, I dragged myself to my first high school class of the day. AP Gov, with Mr. Ashley, our narcoleptic teacher. I kid you not—he had narcolepsy, and would randomly fall asleep. Since I was in the AP class, we would sit there quietly, working, until he woke up. I make no promises for what the other classes did, but I’ve heard they were, uh, creative.

AP Gov class started at 9:45. We flicked the classroom TV on, as we usually did for current events day. We were the first ones to find out about what was happening. We all stared at the TV in disbelief. I remember I had the seat closest to the window, and I was sitting on my desk so I could see better.

I stood up, and the teacher looked at me. Go tell the principal, he said, in a monotone voice. And then he made eye contact with me. Go call your brother, too. He knew my brother was a fighter pilot, and spent a lot of time at the Pentagon for this particular assignment. I rushed out, and dropped the news on the principal. I scrambled down to the payphones. As I did, I could hear the vice principal getting on the PA system, turning on every TV in the school, and tell people that something terrible was happening.

I dialed. Mom? Where is Pilot (my brother)? Do you know—She cuts me off. I know. I got a call a few minutes ago from him. He said, Don’t talk. Just listen. Turn on the news and watch. I want you to know I am safe, but you will not be able to reach me for a few hours. I love you. Tell everyone else I love them. Then he hung up.

I staggered back to class. Although he’s never told me, I suspect he was one of the fighters scrambled in the air that day. I got back into the class room in time to see the first tower fall. I sat back on top of my desk, and rested my arms around the around the girl in front of me. She was sitting on her chair, shaking, and I remembered that her dad worked in the WTC, in the only remaining tower.

Like little robots, we eventually stood up, knowing it was time to change classes. Just before 10:30, the bell rang. Just before 10:30, just as the bell was ringing, the second tower collapsed. The girl I had been hanging onto collapsed onto the floor, knowing that she had just seen her father die on TV.

The rest of the day, we were mostly silent and on automatic pilot. Our principal, a kind but often impractical nun, decided it would be best for us to go about our day, and told everyone to turn off the TV’s, and essentially, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The vice principal, a more practical and more forceful nun, scoffed, and went around turning the TVs on manually, saying, this is your history now. Watch it.

My volleyball game was canceled. Which was unsurprising, but we were all upset, because it was normal and distracting, and we wanted normal and distracting.

I drove my Dad’s car home from school, and people everyone where beeping at me and waving. It took me a few times to figure it out—my Dad has Army National Guard Plates on the car, because he was in the service for 30 years. He had just retired two months before. A guy at a stoplight pulled up next to me and rolled down his window, so I did too. Have you been activated? I was just activated. No, I answered, this is my Dad’s car. I have to get it home to him. Good luck. Be safe.

My Dad was already home. He had been furiously calling everywhere he could, trying to get himself reactivated, even though he had retired. My Mom and I (and I suspect the rest of the family) were relieved. We already had enough family members in the service. Dad was frustrated. I trained for this for years, he said. And now I can’t help.

Swim practice with my synchronized swim team was canceled. My sister and her husband and kids came over, and we spoke with my sister in law on the phone often that night, and waited for my brother to call and say he was okay. At that point we knew that many of his friends—people we had known since his Academy days—were dead. They had been at the Pentagon.

It’s been ten years, but I wanted to write this all down. I don’t know that in another ten years it will all be as clear as it is now. I wanted it written down for me, and for my daughter. I wanted it written down for E, the girl I held and rocked as she saw her dad die on television. I wanted it written down for my family, my brother, and my nieces and nephews, who were so young. I wanted it written down for B, a woman I knew who managed to survive the attacks in NYC, only to die in the most senseless plane crash, along with many other people I knew. I know its long, but isn’t everyone’s story?

Where were you?

Friday, September 9, 2011

NFB

There are two random things swirling around in my head: (1) My niece Prada started college this week. (2) My grandma used to write checks for us for Christmas, and on my brother’s, in the memo spot, it always said “NFB.”

I swear, these two thoughts are very related.

First, the checks. We would get checks for Christmas, and they were in small little stockings, hanging over the fireplace at my grandparents’ house. It was generally understood that they were for the down payment on a house, the college fund, or in my case, the high school—college—down payment on a house fund. My sister’s memo and my memo always said Merry Christmas! (at least, from the time I could remember—I would have been about five and my sister would have been 21). My brother’s always said NFB.

Have you guessed yet? NFB = Not For Beer. My brother, away from home starting at age 17 at the Air Force Academy. Even after he turned 21, it remained a family joke, and his checks always had NFB written on them. My brother would always look at it, thank my grandma and grandpa, give them kisses, and then say, “Not for books, right, I promise NOT to spend any money on books!” My grandma would faux pull out her hair and my grandpa would shake his head, while my grandma gave my brother a faux lecture on beer. It was all in good fun.

Fast forward to July of this year, when I went to Prada’s graduation party. I still can’t believe that the tiny squishy niece my sister and brother in law brought home from the hospital and plopped in my 8 year old arms is almost 19 and at college. She’s taller than me. She is beautiful and kind and wonderful. She’s my niece, but she’s also like my sister.

Anyways, my mother has taken up knitting stuffed animals. Vor and I have a veritable menagerie for le bebe Hershey—giraffe X2, elephant, turtle, fish, owl, bird, mouse, pig, lion, and monkey. We also have a teddy bear. So I go into to my sister’s scrap book room to drop off Prada’s graduation present

(a very entertaining present, by the way. I made a list of everything I could remember running out to a store to get at an ungodly hour because I ran out or no one had or it was vitally important that I have a back up, etc. This resulted in a very big bag of individually wrapped presents: umbrella, blank notes with envelopes, thank you notes, post it notes, tape, staples and a stapler, hole punch, storage cubes, expandable file folders, highlighters, flashlight and batteries, and so on and so on. I also had a list in there of things to remember—ALWAYS keep a pair of slippers under your bed and a very warm LONG bathrobe nearby, because we live in Buffalo and you never know who is going to burn popcorn at 2 am in the DEAD OF WINTER and set off the fire alarm.)

AHEM … into to my sister’s scrap book room to drop off Prada’s graduation present, and I see a little knitted stuffed teddy bear sticking up out of a bag. I recognize it as one of my mother’s knit jobs, so I take a peek, and there he is, and darling and purple and white, the colors of Prada’s new university. He is knitted to make it look like he is wearing a varsity jacket, and it is TOO CUTE. Attached to his hand is a small envelope, so because I am nosy and inappropriate, I also take a peek. I know my parents gave her money that is going directly to her account at the bookstore, and they plan to cover her textbooks for college. I peek.

There’s the check to Prada, and in the memo line it says NFB.

I cried.