The Poor Dumb Kennedys

I live in what is arguably the most quaint, picture-perfect town in America. We are so adorable that when Hollywood needed to shoot a movie that took place in a camera-ready small town, they chose our town. In the middle of everything we have a square dating back about a hundred and fifty years that is now lined with specialty restaurants, boutiques and well-stocked gift shops.

I like it here a lot more than I thought I would, and everyone who knows me is surprised. I previously lived in two major cities where I ordered take-out, walked to go shopping and spent a lot of time stuck in traffic. Now I live near pastures, I cook, and the closest Target is twenty-five minutes away. It turns out I like having a lot of distance between me and everything else, and country living provides that.

My husband grew up here, which is why we wound up living in this one-Panera town. It’s the kind of place where people spend their whole lives. Everyone knows everyone — or they know someone who knows everyone —  and that one person who knows everyone is my mother-in-law. Forty years of living here has made her and my father-in-law into unofficial ambassadors and local treasures.

My husband and I can never argue in the parking lot of the grocery store or it will travel back to my mother-in-law like some country knock-off of TMZ where she’s a seventy-five year-old chipper blonde version of Harvey Levin. It’s enough to make me paranoid when I go out in public. I once yelled at my son at the Piggly Wiggly then looked up to see three people who knew me. I said to my husband that his family is so well-known and visible in these parts it’s like marrying into the local Kennedys, to which he replied, “Yes, if the Kennedys were poor and dumb.”

My mother-in-law did not appreciate his self deprecating joke. Mostly because the Kennedys are Democrats and she’s not, but she was also annoyed by the poor and dumb part. Let me be clear: she is neither. “It’s only compared to the Kennedys,” my husband explained. “Everyone is poor and dumb next to them.”

I’m not saying we’re hot stuff around here. Maybe tepid stuff. But since our little family arrived a few years ago we’ve contributed to the local flair. For instance, we practically doubled the Jewish population thanks to me and the kids. Every year on Hanukkah my son brings his classmates handfuls of chocolate coins and they love them. However, our other notoriety comes from being one of two families who lost a child to a rare form of brain cancer. When someone makes eye contact and smiles at me at the store it’s sometimes difficult to figure out the context of the greeting. I don’t know if they nod because they feel sorry for me or because they like me. I hate thinking they know me as the mom who lost her son. I like being known as the Jewish mom of the kid with the chocolates.

But I absolutely love being a poor dumb Kennedy.

 

If My Life Had a Sitcom Title it Would Be “Pushing Fifty and a Stroller”

The other day while we waited to be called for brunch, the overly cheerful hostess said, “I have a granddaughter that age, too!” There’s only one problem. My baby isn’t my granddaughter. She’s my daughter.

I’m old. And I have a baby. I’m an old new mom. But this isn’t my first rodeo. I had my first son at 33, and my second son at 39. I thought I was an old new mom then, but the universe said, “Ha! You think you’re tired now?” I was 47 when I had my daughter. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe what those first few months were like. There was a brief window of time when I was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at once.

That deserves repeating. Post-natal (hormone frenzy), perimenopausal (hormone frenzy), lactating (hormobaby-facene frenzy) and menstruating (hormone frenzy) all at the same time. People think I deserve some kind of medal for living through this without killing my husband, and maybe I do. But let’s consider my husband for a minute. He was living with a woman who was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at the same time. I’m pretty sure he deserves the medal.

I’m a much different mom now than when I became one at 33. I’m much more laissez-faire about the whole thing. Chicken nuggets for breakfast? Sure, why not. No bath tonight? Fine, more time to catch up on This is Us. Fell asleep in your clothes again? Great, that will save us time in the morning. At this point I’ve learned what the important things are and what’s not worth sweating. That, and I’m inherently lazy.

Back when I was a first-time mom I needed to be a good mom, whatever that meant. (I let go of that now.) With my oldest son, I was always present. I never checked out mentally when he talked or pretended to be working while actually playing Bubble Mania on my phone. I looked at every ingredient on everything I bought at the grocery store. I read to him. We co-slept. I took him to the park, museums, story time, art time, library time, mommy-and-me, Gymboree, My Gym, bouncy castles, carnivals, play lands, etc. I read parenting books. When he was diagnosed on the spectrum I advocated at his IEPs for the maximum amount of intervention.

He flourished and I thought it was because I did everything right. Then just before he turned ten he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and only had a few months to live. I bring this up not for sympathy or shock value, but to show that nothing sculpts motherhood into something unrecognizable like losing the baby that made you a mommy. I changed drastically after losing my oldest son, and not for the better. I no longer care if I do everything right. These days I feel accomplished if I can do anything right.dragonfly-friends

My middle son describes me as badass, mysterious and loving. But if I’m so mysterious then how come he can figure me out so easily? I used to think I was relaxed and sincere. An old friend once described me as down-to-earth, which I immediately confused with back-to-nature and argued that I did in fact wear deodorant.

This blog will be a lot of things because, well, I’m a lot of things. We all are. We are normal and boring and unusual and interesting all at once. I’ve experienced great heartbreak and tremendous joy. I can see the forest and the trees and both have their own beauty.

So join me — or not. It’s up to you. My blog may have a cute sit-commy title but life isn’t all set up and punch line. Whose life comes with a laughtrack anyway? Nobody I know.