Crutches

I never completely committed to memory the instructions for making hard-boiled eggs, which doesn’t say much about my prowess in the kitchen—or the lack thereof. Generally speaking, I know what’s involved, but I struggle mightily with the specifics (i.e. how much water is required, whether it should be hot or cold to start and when, exactly, the boiling should cease and the simmering should begin). I’m challenged in the culinary arena to say the very least. (Confession: Some days I need a compass, a map and volumes of inspiration just to find the fricking stove).

Oddly enough, though, I know that on page 267 of my faithful Better Homes & Gardens cookbook those elusive egg-related answers await me. Go figure. I can’t remember a stupid recipe (that’s all of three steps long), but the page number I’ll need to get the job done is etched in my head permanently. It simply defies all logic and understanding—especially given the rarity of my kitchen-related ventures.

Interestingly, two-hundred sixty-seven isn’t my favorite number. Nor do the individual digits hold special meaning for me in any other context. And yet there it is, appearing instantaneously in the clearing of my mind, having made its way through the tangled forest of facts and figures housed there. A prized nugget of information that, intentionally or not, I tucked away at some point in my illustrious hard-boiled egg-making career. A crutch I turn to in times of need.

Likewise, I have difficulty remembering the exact wordage for Confession and Forgiveness, so each Sunday I mumble and stumble my way through the first few lines, hoping like crazy that my brain will eventually kick in and send the correct message to my lips. The Nicene Creed sometimes stumps me, too (hence, the moronic mumbling). But invariably—almost without thinking—I can churn out the page numbers on which each of the desired passages can be found—which is strangely wonderful, I guess. An uncannily remarkable and hugely perplexing talent all rolled into one (like reading upside-down and sideways to kids so they can see the pictures). But it’s not as if I deliberately tried to emblazon those numbers there. I can’t even rattle off my stinking cell number without first tapping my husband (the human Rolodex) or scanning the skies for some sort of cosmic clue. Nor can I readily recall which of my brood is allergic to the cillin family—which, needless to say, helped me capture the World’s Most Pathetic Mommy Award last year.

So what should I make of all this—that I’m lazy, exceedingly dependent or perhaps, just plain stupid? Then again, maybe my adeptness is a sign of brilliance and/or extraordinary resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Who knows?

Regardless of why it happens, the fact remains that it happens. There is absolutely no denying that when all else fails, I rely on my crutches to save the day. I’ve found that people can be crutches, too. I can’t put a price on the deluge of desperate phone calls I made to my mom as I clumsily managed motherhood for the first time—stressing obsessively over every little and not-so-little thing, like a blackened umbilical cord dangling by a sinewy thread.

“What have I done wrong?! Is that SUPPOSED to happen?! And why, oh why, won’t she stop crying…sleep through the night…smile on cue…and somehow TELL ME WHAT SHE WANTS?! And what’s with the mustard-y poops and the geysers of spit up and the white bump-ish things on her nose and the crusty stuff on her head and the tiny red spots she’s peppered with?! (Furthermore…) I can’t figure out the car seat straps…I can’t get rid of the bags under my eyes…my shirt gets soaked whenever she (or any other bundle of neediness) cries…my diaper bag is big and bulky and already I’m sick of hauling it around…I feel fat and frumpy and about as interesting as dirt…I can’t find time for a shower…a sandwich…a decent nap…or even three minutes to flip through a stupid parenting magazine—which, by the way, does nothing more than make me feel like a complete failure—I can’t even RELATE to the perfect little world they live in…oh, and the baby choked on a cracker this morning…fell out of her crib…rolled off the bed…licked the cat’s tail (and so on)…. I’m sure I’ve ruined this child FOR-EVER!!!”

Mom, sage and savior that she is, must have sensed the panic in my voice and so with each little (and not-so-little) catastrophe I presented, she spoke clearly and calmly, guiding me through the storm, filling me with the sense that I could do this and that the world really wasn’t crashing down all around me. “Things will get easier,” she promised, and I would be a good mom—despite myself.

Well, I have yet to see hard evidence supporting the entirety of that statement, but I remain hopeful that some day—with or without crutches—I’ll get there. In the mean time, Mom’s on speed dial.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (STILL doubting my ability to mother).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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