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Tag Archives: Incoherent Ramblings

I apologize if you’ve read this elsewhere.  I wrote a companion article to it and you can’t have one without the other.  Sorry!

When I was younger I used to think about what it would be like to be a mother. I always knew it would happen one day, even when I wasn’t altogether sure that I wanted to be somebody’s wife. Back then I imagined that my first child would be a girl and that we would be madly in love with each other. There would be none of the mother/daughter angst I had with my own mother, no sir. We’d spend all of our time together painting each other’s toenails, doing each other’s hair and being bestest best friends.

I didn’t exactly get my wish. My first child turned out to be a boy, and while he does worship the ground I walk on we do not paint each others toenails. It took another seven years before I finally got my wish and had a girl to call my very own. Apparently my husband had his own ideas. He’s been plotting against me ever since Janey was born. When she was tiny and used to cry Mr. Rizzuto would run for the hills.“Can you take care of that?” he used to say. “I don’t want her to associate anything bad with me.”When that didn’t work he’d pretend that he was extremely busy with other things until I finally got up and dealt with her.

His plan was successful. Now Janey and her dad have a very exclusive mutual admiration society. My daughter is now 18 months old and for the last several months she’s been “talking.” Her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, but there is one word that she just doesn’t want to say: mama.

Naturally her first real word was “daddy,” or “da-ee,” as she puts it. Da-ee was used not only to address the man in question, but also in reference to anything happy or pleasant.

“Da-ee!” she’d say, pointing to the cookie jar.

“Da-ee!” she’d say when it was time for The Wiggles.

She even took to calling me da-ee. I guess she figured I’d know who she meant, so there was no point in learning a new word.

“Da-ee!” she’d say, holding her arms out to me.

“Mommy,” I’d tell her. “My name is mommy.”

“Da-ee.”

“Mommy.”

“Da-ee.”

“Oh, forget it,” I always ended up saying. I usually got tired of the game before she did.

“Why won’t she say my name?” I would ask my husband. “Doesn’t she like me?”

“I don’t know,” he’d answer, smirking. “’Daddy’ is easier to say than ‘mommy‘. Maybe ‘mommy’ is too hard. Why don’t you tell her to call you ‘mama’?

I decided to give it a try. Every time I picked her up I’d point to myself and say “mama.” I’d show her pictures of the two of us and say “mama.” Every sentence I spoke to the kid was punctuated with the word “mama.”

Eventually she learned a bunch of new words. Still, she refused to acknowledge me.

“Do you want some juice, Janey?” I’d ask.

“Joos!” she’d say.

“OK, but can you say ‘mama’?

“Joos,” she’d answer, holding her sippy cup.

“Mama.”

“Shoos,” pointing to her feet.

“That’s right! Those are your shoes. Mama?”

“Daw,” pointing to Puppy R.

“Yes, Puppy is a dog. Mama?”

“Daw,” pointing to Noggin R.

“That’s right, Noggin is also a dog. Puppy is Noggin’s mama. Can you say mama?”

“Bay-bee,” pointing to herself.

“That’s right! You’re the baby. Mama?”

“Day,” pointing to her brother.

“Yep, that’s Damian. Mama?”

“Beep!” poking her belly button.

“Smart girl! Mama?”

“Joos.”

“I’ll get your juice when you say ‘mama.’”

“Joos.”

“Mama.”

“Fiddlesticks.”

“Mama.”

“Antidisestablishmentarianism.”

“Mama!”

“Joos!”

“Oh forget it!”

I started to give up hope. I resigned myself to the fact that she was going to be a daddy’s girl through and through. I told myself it wouldn’t be so bad, at least my son still thinks I walk on water. Besides, one day she’ll get her period and her dad will be nowhere to be found. She’ll be back.

Last week I had a really bad day at work. I came home angry and tired and headed straight for the shower. I was in the bathroom, dripping wet and mumbling to myself about polishing up my resume when a heard a little voice at the bottom of the stairs.

“Mama?”

“What’s wrong baby?” my husband said.

I heard him scoop her up and walk up the stairs with her. The bathroom door opened and I stood there with a towel around me. Janey held out her arms.

“Who’s that?” said Mr. Rizzuto

“Mama,” said Janey, and wrapped herself around me.

I hugged her even harder.

“That’s right,” I said. “Mama.”

Now Janey calls me Mama all the time. In the morning she wakes up and says “Hi Mama!” I come home from work and she says “Hi Mama!” I’m thrilled to pieces. Isn’t she sweet?

The other morning I was dropping her off at the baby sitter’s when we ran into one of her contemporaries. They stood out on the sidewalk for a couple of minutes patting each other on the shoulders.

“Hi!” said the other baby.

“Hi Mama!” said Janey.

Isn’t she sweet.

My husband scribbled this on a notepad and slipped it to me. All I could do was roll my eyes.

Lately things have gone missing from my house. That’s not all that unusual given the fact that we have a tween, a toddler and two dogs. At first we lost the baby’s bottle, the cap to our air mattress and a bottle of prescription medicine, all in the space of three or four days. We found the air mattress cap eventually, it was in Janey’s toy box (she can be a little squirrel-like sometimes). After that we just shrugged our shoulders and chalked it up to “one of those things.”

About a week ago something really odd happened. I was getting myself and the baby ready one morning and I was holding her and one of her shoes. She was holding the other shoe. I walked downstairs, sat down, put her shoe on and reached for the one she was holding. It was gone.

Not just sorta gone. Gone. Ceased to exist. I looked everywhere. The last time I had seen it was thirty seconds earlier. I retraced my steps (bathroom-stairs-chair) about three times. I still haven’t found it. You tell me where it went. A few days ago my husband lost his glasses. Now, if you’re one of those people with truly terrible vision you know that you just don’t lose glasses. If I ever lost mine and didn’t have a backup pair of contact lenses I wouldn’t be able to leave my house. My husband has the same problem. Every night he puts his glasses either on the floor next to the bed or on the dresser. But they’re gone. He woke up one morning and they were just not there.That evening he gave me his hypothesis.

“You know,” he said, choosing his words ever so carefully, “someone did die in this house.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, incredulous.

If you knew my husband you‘d know how ridiculous that statement was. He’s an atheist. Not just any old atheist. You might say he’s Atheist Plus. He’s a confirmed skeptic. He doesn’t just not believe in God, he doesn’t believe in anything that you can’t quantify, measure, explain and verify with a double-blind study. It goes with the territory of being a biologist.

Since I’m a Martin Sheen Catholic, it sometimes makes very interesting conversation around our house. Mr. Rizzuto hasn’t talked me out of being a Catholic, but he has definitely talked me out of believing in ghosts. I used to think idea of ghosts was fascinating. Now I just think it’s silly.

“Well,” he continued, “remember that lady in the picture?” Oh. The lady in the picture.

When we first bought our house a little old man dropped by and told us that it used to belong to his grandmother around the turn of the (20th) century. Apparently she was killed on the street out front when she was hit by a vehicle of some sort. He left us a picture of the house with her standing in front of it. She’s wearing a big flowery hat, the shadow of which obscures her face. She’s also wearing a long white dress with puffy sleeves. Very spooky stuff. I suppose if I were going to nominate anyone to haunt a house it would be her.

“Are you saying that that lady is haunting our house? Are you OF ALL PEOPLE saying we have a ghost?”

“I’m not really saying anything…”

“OK, why would she be haunting the house? She died outside. Shouldn’t she be haunting the street?”

“Well, don’t you thing she’d spend her time trying to get back into the house?”

“So why is she taking our stuff?”

“She’s still pissed off at being run over!”

Duh.

This afternoon Mr. Rizzuto thoroughly cleaned out our bedroom. He even cleaned under the bed. We don’t normally talk about what might be going on under the bed.

“The glasses are not here,” he proclaimed. “They are not in the house.”

“OK,” I said. “Maybe you got up, went to the bathroom, put your glasses down and they fell behind the sink or something.” I was really reaching.

“I’ve never done that before, but you’re probably right.” That’s when he picked up the notepad and wrote me the note.

Whatever. I wasn’t going to sit around and listen to some nonsense about a shoe-stealing ghost. What would the kids think? Kids rely on their parents to keep a cool head at times like these. So I did what any reasonable person would do. I went upstairs, locked myself in the bathroom and said a prayer to St. Jude.

Superstitions. Phooey.

My husband, Mr. Rizzuto, is a biology teacher. Specifically he teaches botany to middle-school kids. He is also an avid photographer. This means that he spends a great deal of time growing things, thinking about growing things, talking about growing things, taking pictures of the things he wants to grow and schlepping the family along behind him on his wildlife outings.Mr. Rizzuto’s passion at the moment is mushrooms. He even has a mushroom field guide, which is essential. Apparently there are several mushrooms species out there that are not only poisonous but look a lot like perfectly innocent, edible mushrooms.“You better hope I never decide to kill you,” I tell him sometimes. “I know just how I’ll do it too. I’ll pull the old switcheroo with the poisonous mushrooms and tell them I made a horrible mistake. Now change the baby.”Mr. Rizzuto’s goal in life is to get a booth at a local farmer’s market and sell pricey mushrooms to yuppies.“Do you have any idea how much hen-of-the-woods mushrooms are going for these days?” he asks. I don’t even know what a hen-of-the-woods mushroom is. But being the dutiful wife I bite my tongue and mosey on over to the high-end grocery store to price them. He’s right of course. Yuppies spend upwards of $30 for a pound of fungus. They come in strange colors and shapes and have weird names. Some of them you can’t even get unless you have a highly educated pig to sniff them out for you.

Today it was unseasonably warm out. Mr. Rizzuto wanted to take full advantage. “It’s nice out,” he said. “Let’s go take some pictures.”

This was not good news for me. While I support Mr. Rizzuto in his scientific and artistic adventures, being his assistant is not all it’s cracked up to be. It usually involves Mr. Rizzuto walking through the woods mumbling Latin names to himself while I follow behind with an increasingly heavy baby strapped to my back. All the while I have to entertain my complaining 8-year-old who wants nothing more than to be locked in his room with his Game Cube and 60 pounds of Halloween candy. Once I had to jump up and down on a log so Mr. Rizzuto could get a picture of spores floating out of a puffball mushroom. I don’t complain though. After all, the mushroom business could be very lucrative and I have to pay for college for two kids. And possibly a pig.

This morning we struck gold. We found puffball mushrooms, shelf mushrooms and, joy of joys, oyster mushrooms.

“Look at that!” Mr. Rizzuto exclaimed. He spotted a big bunch of oysters. Attached to a 60 foot tree.

“How are you going to get them down?” Dante asked. “I wanna go home. I didn’t want to come here anyway. I’m missing Pokemon.”

“Waaaaahhhhhhh!” said Janey.

“Honey, the baby’s getting tired of this. She’s heavy. I’m sending Dante to find a switch that I can beat him with, and I think I just saw the Blair Witch. Can we go?”

“OK, just let me climb the tree. It’ll only be a few more minutes.”

An hour later we were back in the car.

“Oyster mushrooms, Wanda. Can you believe it? We’re going to have oyster mushrooms. You can cook them, right?”

Great.

After much debate, research and some internet surfing I decided to just toss them into my smothered chicken. Luckily, according to Wikipedia oyster mushrooms are often eaten because they don’t have a poisonous counterpart. But just in case, as we always do when mushroom tasting, we kept one in the fridge. That one is for the coroner to identify.

“If these mushrooms are poisonous I’ll bleeping kill you,” I tell Mr. Rizzuto

“Does Dante know what to do if we get sick?”

Good question.

“Dante! You know what to do if there’s an emergency, right?”

“Yes,” he says. “Call 911.”

“Good,” I tell him.

“Don’t forget to put the dogs under the stairs,” Mr. Rizzuto adds. Excellent point. If the dogs are allowed to roam free the paramedics will need paramedics.

“Well honey, being married to you is never dull, “ I say.

“Really? Well, look on the bright side. If nothing else you’ll have something to write about.”

“I’ve already got it right here,” I tell him, tapping my head. “But if these mushrooms are poisonous, I’ll bleeping kill you.”

With that he gives me a sideways smile.

“You won’t have to.”

One of my favorite movies is “Dazed and Confused.” In one scene, one of the characters tells his friends why he no longer wants to be an ACLU lawyer. One day at the post office, he tells them, he realized that he would just have to accept the fact that he really didn’t like the people he wanted to help.

I came to the same realization a while back, only I was at the laundromat.  Mr. Rizzuto and I are renovating our house. One of the things on his to-do list is to hook up the dryer, which involves cutting a hole in the wall or some such thing. It hasn’t been done yet, which means that after washing my clothes I have to schlep down to the Golden Island Laundromat to use the dryers. 

At first glance the Golden Island looks as though it might be a state-of-the-art place. There’s a big screen TV, a jukebox and big hulking arcade games. It even has a soundtrack. …A ella le gusta la gasolina…Dame mas gasolina!…. Great, huh? Then you look at the machines and see that 75% of them have little yellow post-it notes on them. “Not working.”

There are several larger signs posted around the place. One warns customers against leaving their children unattended, and it states that the Golden Island is not responsible if the children are hurt or sold into slavery. There are droves of unattended children there, video games notwithstanding. They like to run around the place and terrorize poor unsuspecting adults. A favorite game is to push laundry carts around the tiny, narrow little aisles. And curse like sailors. They also like to take turns standing in front of the automatic doors, which is a real hoot in the wintertime. There’s another sign that says people may be hanging around for no apparent reason, and if they did, well, that was no concern of Golden Island’s. That particular sign is for the little man.You see, there’s a little man that hangs around the place and tries to pry loose change out of people. You walk in with your eyes on the floor. It’s important to avoid eye contact. As you make your way towards the dryers he says to you, “You need help mami? You need help you just tell papi!” I always just shake my head and say “no thanks.” On the way back he says, “You have tweny fi’ cents?” He points his finger up and thrusts it in your direction. “You have one quarter for Papi?”

Now, by this time I’m usually pretty pissed off. I will already have been on the phone with Mr. Rizzuto, calling him every name in the book, and telling him that I‘m never coming here again. But sometimes I give the little man a quarter anyway. Sometimes I just mumble “no, I’m sorry,” and keep it moving.

But what I really want to say is this: “Look papi, congratulations on your entrepreneurial spirit. But if I could afford to pay people to do my laundry I wouldn’t be hanging out in a place like this WITH THE LIKES OF YOU NOW WOULD I?”

Of course I never say that though. I’m a good liberal after all.

You probably think I’m pretty nuts. Maybe I am. But if that’s the case then my neighbor is certifiable. The Golden Island once had a restraining order against him. This is what happened.

The Golden Island doesn’t have coin operated machines. You have to get a little card and put money on it as you go, kind of like a debit card. One day J. put $20 on his card but the machine registered $0.

“My card says there’s no money on it. I just put in $20,” he said.

The attendant looked him up and down. “I have to ask my supervisor,” she said.

“But I just lost $20!”

“She’ll be here later.”

He started to feel a little flustered. “I have to do my laundry!”

She sized him up again. “You have to wait. And anyway, how do I know you really put that money in there?”

Next thing you know J. was over the counter and busting open the cash register. We got a call from his wife a little while later asking us to talk to the police and tell them that J. isn’t a psycho. And to help carry the laundry home, since J. was in jail.

I tell people this story and they wonder what the hell kind of people live in my neighborhood. Little do they know how close I am to scoring my own restraining order. “Respondent is hereby ordered to stay at least 100 feet away from Papi…”

Still, my liberal guilt gets to me when I have thoughts like that. One of these days I’ll have to straighten out my karma. Maybe I’ll give the little man all of our Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles to cash in. That’ll keep him in quarters for months.