My Dog, My Virginity, and My Job Walk Into a Blog Post

Yesterday was my puppy Jack/Jack-Jack/Jack-Jack-Attack/Jacques Cousteau's third birthday.

*Pesky facts aside: Yesterday was (most likely not) my puppy Jack's 3rd birthday. We found him behind a trash can. However, yesterday was day (20 years ago) that I lost my (first*) you-know-what, and I thought it would be kind of nice to have a reason to eat cake and have a party on that day every single year for the next 12-15, the dog-gods willing. Because I'm glad I lost my you-know-what, and I'm glad I found a puppy behind a trash can. So.

Funny thing, giving your dog a piece of birthday cake that's shaped a lot like a slice of pizza. It's not that they don't totally get the concept of fire, it's just that they don't totally get the concept of fire. Or waiting to eat their birthday cake that's shaped a lot like a slice of pizza until you've all sung off key and blown their candles out for them. They also don't get the concept of birthdays. Bygones. 

And if you give a dog a piece of birthday cake that's shaped a lot like a slice of pizza and it also happens to smell a lot like pizza, your dog will give you the above look. Which totally makes is all worth it. 

Today is my one-year anniversary at BlogHer. I celebrated by having a baby with my boss.  This is what it looks like

*In case you're in the market aside: Jenna Hatfield make an excellent midwife/80's rap earworm-implanter.

I kind of can't believe it's been a year since I started working for the same company who has done so much for me over these past eight years I've been blogging. I always used to tell anyone who asked that I could only credit any measure of success I've ever been blessed with to Lisa Stone, who believed in me and my writing before I even knew what I was doing was worth being called writing, and WAY before I had any idea that *I* was worth much of anything at all.  And now I get to get up every morning and try very hard to do that which was done for me? And I get to do it with a team of some of the most amazingly smart, talented, sharp, and well-shod women I've ever had the honor of working with?

That's a cyclic relationship that I am totally happy to perpetuate. 

*You never get a second chance at a first impression, but for $65,000, you can get a second chance at losing your you-know-what. I don't really suggest it. 

61,416

I laid beside you in your bed tonight, staring up at the yellow and blue and green stars that flickered and danced through your ceiling fan and across the expanse of your little 10X15 vaulted sky. You rested your head against the space where my neck and my body meet, and in those few moments there was no way humanly possible for me to hold you tightly enough. 

I know that you are seven now, and i remember what seven means. Your biggest brother was seven when I started this old blog, back before I had any idea there would ever be a you. Your biggest brother, well, he seemed enormous at seven, most certainly seasoned enough to stand with my midwife between my knees and help you come into this world. I looked at him and saw a dude, a manling, a thing becoming, and I look at you seven years later and I see the itsy bitsy tiny helpless little gelfling they carted away to the NICU because if there is one thing in this life you will do right, it is make the grandest of entrances. 

The day? night? incomprehendable expanse of time from when you left my body until you entered my arms? after you were born, I held you much like I did tonight - in your bed, buried under blankets, staring into the dark. We laid beside each other for hours - 10, if the nurses tell me correctly, and we didn't have much to say to one another. You nursed until you couldn't muster enough strength to continue, and I stared at you though the thickest haze of exhaustion that only comes from doing something truly other-worldly, like falling though the air or surfing inside of salt water tubes or creating the most exquiste human being to ever grace the earth, and I kept staring into your then-blue eyes without blinking once, until I had little choice but to declare you the wildest thing of all. 

That night you were 24 hours old, and tonight you somewhere around 61,416 hours old. The best thing about you is that tonight, my mind was just as blown as it was that first night we hung out all night watching Law & Order reruns and eating really atrocious Jello cups. You have changed everything I ever thought I knew about anything. You've changed the way I see my life, the way I see the lives of others. You've changed me at the core of the person I thought I was, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. 

But I know what seven means. I know that you need me to start easing up on my grip. I know you need me to hold you just as tightly, just maybe sometimes not, like, in front of your friends or stuff? I know that you're about to start pushing off of me and rowing into the seas of your own life, and so you're going to have to forgive me for a little while while I lay in your bed more often than you think I need to and stare at the ceiling with you. It's really not that you're the only person in this house with a not-Ikea mattress (thought that is true and totally a bonus), it's that I can still smell you brand new in my arms. I can still feel you warm on my neck. I haven't quite figured out how to see you as gigantic, a womanlingthing, a lady becoming, and I am almost, but not quite, possibly ready to start talking about that. 

Under fake stars.

Under a ridiculous amount of blankets. 

In our own little world. 

For as long as you will let this magic keep happening.

Happy 7th birthday, my angel. There is nothing I love more than being your mom. 

Six now, forever and ever.

Three nights ago you wept in your bed, crying over the unfairness of all of this happening to you. "I can't grow up, mom. Five is my favorite number."

Five was my favorite number, too. I used to tell you that five was the perfect age to be, because it was just enough to grab your face with and smush it. Five was also the perfect number to hold your little baby foot with.

Still crazy after all these years

Your foot isn't so baby little anymore. Nothing about you is. You learned how to say 'th' this year and I can't believe that I am the kind of person who could spend all day listening to a child say tha-ree! but it truly is the most beautiful sound in the word, you soaking in the world and wringing out little bits for the rest of us to taste. One of the many things you've taught me about myself that I never would have guessed on my own is that there is nothing I would rather do with my days than listen to you sound out the world around you.

I imagine you on the school playground with your friends learning how to jump rope and braid hair. You come home and you tell me all the things the other little girls have taught you and I wonder what you're teaching them in return. You know so much more than I ever could have imagined you would, so much more than I ever did at your age. 

At the same time, you know nothing that I knew when I was six, and I don't think I'll ever be given a greater gift than that. I have to lie to you so often about my childhood, because the stories you do hear are so far from fathomable, they frighten you.  You with your magical little ways have taught me somthing I guessed all along, that any story can become truth if it is simply told enough times. You are making the stories I wish I could tell you come alive every time you make me re-write the oral history of my life and whisper it sweetly into your sleepy ears.  

You ask my why I love you so much and I reply why, of course it's your giggle, except when it is your hugs, but of course when it isn't your smile, and only when it isn't the way your beautiful little mind works. I tell you that I love you today, and I will love you every day of your life, because I have to, the same way I have to breath in and out. You ask if I will ever stop loving you and I tell you that loving you is the air around me and inside of me, in my veins and my lungs and the very fiber of my being and that my love for you is what has made me a complete person. 

Six years ago, right off of 9th and Colorado in Denver, you with your collapsed lung and prolapsed cord, born purple and raging if for no other reason than to scare the living shit out of your brother on the very first moment of your aquaintance, you breathed life into a woman you hardly knew but who had been waiting her entire life to meet you. I held you all night that night, watching you sleep for the first time.

Sleepy

Every night since then has felt exactly the same way. I can never escape the wonder of you, and I don't ever want to. Every day with you has been as amazing as the first day you came into my life, because you continue to be the most incredible creature this world has ever known.

My favorite number will always ever be whichever you are, little girl, forever and ever, amen.

Many

Of course I had the Brookview nightmare this morning. 

I haven't had a Brookview nightmare in so long, I forgot what they were like. This one was so strange, so fucking obscure, so ninja-like that I hardly noticed the signs of what was coming. Do your dreams give you warnings, too? That stretch of Governor Prinz Boulevard that turns inland right before the Philadelphia Pike exit, the right turn onto Chesnut Drive from Veale Road, those are my 'Turn Back Now' signs that white people always inexplicably ignore in the movies, and I always do in my dreams, until it is too late.

What does it mean that my warning signs are always in a car, that they always, literally, lead me to that place? If your degree could only explain that to me, it will have been worth the price tag.

I dreamed that present-day me was in the car with one of the leaders of my old church. We were on our way to visit his wife in their home. We talked about the tattoo he regretted getting, and I tried to explain why I didn't regret mine. He was nice until we passed those apartments right before the bend, then the conversation turned - not mean, just serious. Then he got my age really wrong, and I realized that maybe he, or I, wasn't on the level. Then he kind of implied that I would be back again. Then he opened his front door, (the one he, in reality, doesn't live in, the one in Brookview) and I accepted his invitation to enter the bad part of the dream.

The interesting thing about my nightmares is that, even on a subconscious level, I look for the best situations - I seek something I can walk away from that makes them sting less. Like the fact that the homemade, cedar table with the wooden stirrups they were going to strap me to when they took my baby from me had pink, fluffy blankets and the exact kind of yellow and pink fuzzy slippers I like the best - the kind I buy at airports when my flight gets delayed. In the third of a second before I ran, I thought, "Well, jeez, at least they care enough to make sure I'm comfortable and warm."

Unlocked doors, an old car, a gate, sunlight, pavement. Hot, black, sweating pavement. The same pavement that is always in this dream. Pavement that laid five minutes between my house and my grandmother's. Pavement I don't ever want to know why I keep running across.

Pavement you stood on, it just was piled up alongside what used to be a road. 

That used to be the house I lived in.

There is something comforting in knowing that someone took a fucking wrecking ball and tore the source of your nightmares right fucking asunder. That nature came along and zeroed out everything you thought could never be haulted. Standing in the middle of that was a thousand times more healing than all the dreams I used to have of watching my old house gurgle and spit and drown beneath a mudslide. 

The neighborhood swimming pool. really.

Looks kind of pretty now, (don't you think, in an urban decay sort of way?) that place where my brother and I died over and over again.

And I never would have known that if it wasn't for you. I never would have had the chance to go back there and stand in the middle of that if you hadn't been willing to drive me out of your way on a whim, to help me break through a fence, to drive a car not rented in my name over my hills and far away to a place that doesn't exist anymore, except in my dreams that can no longer resolve, because the faster I run, the less real that pavement feels under my feet. Because it doesn't exist anymore.

And somehow, that has something to do with you.

Today is your birthday. The day we took those pictures was mine, in a way. You're the only person I've ever shown this part of myself to, and I'm trying to learn how to balance the person I want you to think I am against the person you now know I am. 

I know you like lemon squares and you know the smell of the dumpster I used to play in. I once watched you break yourself against a fighter's glove, and you've seen me break in two in the middle of a creek and beside a pile of old concrete quickly becoming a field of dreams.  

It means something that you, who pulled me out of what I thought I was going to be and into what it turns out I am, are the one person to cross the imaginary line I drew in the sand in 1992 between that life and this one. So, of course that line is going to blur on your birthday, because you're a part of that field, that story, that life, now.

Maybe you always were. 

Relative

It's not that you used the word "boobs" to test out fonts on the powerpoint project you were working on in History class, it's how hard you teacher laughed when he told me about it.

Because that's the effect you have on people. Things bounce off of you and change on their way back to everyone else they reach. They're softened and distorted and askew and in every way made better by having touched you.

God knows I am.

It's not that you worship Eminem despite my most sincere (and hypocritical) protests, it's that when you get the fishtank you've always wanted for your birthday, you named those tiny little fish who help you fall asleep at night Marshall and Mathers. It's not that you were so pissed that I wouldn't let you sit with your friends at junior high school orientation, it's that you couldn't stop laughing at me for forgetting to wash my drawn in mustache off my face before we got there.

How far your grow from me is always relative to how close you need to be to me. Every time you push, you simultaneously pull. You are as ready to grow up as I am to let you, and you want to reach this next level in your life as much as I am anxious to watch you grab your life and live it.

It's not how hard you cringed while we sat on your bedroom floor before dawn this morning, surrounding a little, flaming birthday cake, singing Happy Birthday to you in grossly distorted keys, it's that afterward you crawled around the circle of your family, hugging and kissing each one of us, even your big brother whom you forget in that moment is a total dee-bag nerf-herder.

It's not that you in every way remind me so much of myself that I hurt for you sometimes, because I know what being the kind of person we are does to people like us and all I can pray is that I did better by you than was done by me, it's that you in every way remind me so much of myself sometimes that I thank god for you, because I know how easy it is to forget what being a person like we are means we can be, and all I can do is pray that you will never forget the wonder that you are.

But you haven't forgotten. And I think you're rubbing off on all of us.


And thank god for that.

Happiest eleventh birthday, my angel. Thanks for picking me.