Monthly Archives: February 2011

Romance for Dummies

My husband is a hopeless romantic. Albeit an accidental one. Of course, he’s always done the stuff that hopeless romantics do. He sends me roses—just because. He writes me poetry and remembers our anniversary each November. He surprises me on my birthday, without fail and bestows upon me sinful quantities of chocolate on Valentine’s Day—knowing full well that I’d do almost anything for a slab of milk chocolate almond bark. And though I love him dearly for doing so, those are not the things I find especially romantic—never mind what the world at large may opine.

No doubt, he’d be stunned by this news, and perhaps disappointed to think he’d been missing the mark all these years. But he hasn’t been missing the mark. He’s simply oblivious as to why I find him wholly irresistible. Indeed, he’s clueless when it comes to recognizing what he does so completely right. Hence, the ACCIDENTAL component of the hopeless romantic equation.

That said, he unwittingly seizes the ordinary moments of life and somehow makes them special, which, to me, is deemed slightly wonderful and oh-so-romantic. More specifically, he leaves endearing, little notes everywhere with nary a holiday in sight. I stumble upon them throughout my day—under my pillow, in the kitchen, thoughtfully affixed to my computer screen, where I cannot help but notice—and smile. “I LOVE YOU—ALWAYS,” it will read, or “I’M PROUD OF YOU.” Then again, some of his messages are entirely pragmatic: “I FED THE DOG ALREADY. DON’T FEED HIM AGAIN,” or mildly sarcastic: “REMEMBER TO PUT THE FISH IN THE FRIDGE OR WE’LL ALL DIE OF FOOD POISIONING.”

Either way, I’m instantly charmed.

Likewise, my Romeo is liable to warm my heart by bringing me a beef and cheddar panini from Jazzman’s—an exceedingly delicious mid-day indulgence inspired entirely by that-which-moves-good-deed-doers-to-action. What’s more, the man has texted me while perched atop the lawn mower—proclaiming his abiding love for me under the blazing sun. Or maybe it was to remind me to pick up an errant flip-flop in the lawn. I can’t remember now, but I’d like to hope it was the former.

While I was pregnant he satisfied all sorts of culinary cravings, too, whipping up a shameful quantity of raspberry milkshakes and fetching dried apricots in the dead of night. He also tied my shoes, as the swell of my freakishly large belly thwarted my every effort to reach my knees, let alone my feet.

Further, the man has no qualms whatsoever in dealing with our brood when they are beyond the point of persnickety at mealtime, obscenely tired and cranky at the close of a trying day, impossibly giddified over this or that perfectly inane thing or even while hurling profusely into a big bucket—all of which I find inordinately romantic. Strange, but true. Plus, he fixes stuff that’s broken. He ferries children hither and yon. He masterminds our every holiday feast. He cooks and shops and bears in mind what he’ll need for meals—which isn’t normal, I’m told. Not for a man. Nor is suggesting that on some lazy afternoon we should rent Doctor Zhivago—an epic love story in the truest sense. “What’s so weird about wanting to watch a movie together?” he’ll ask, puzzled by my stunned silence.

Oblivion abounds, my dear Romeo.

Lately, said oblivion has risen to a new level, giving me reason to shake my head in disbelief. Just before Valentine’s Day, following an appreciable snowfall, he got up at dark-thirty to take the dog out, which necessitated shoveling a path in the back yard so that our vertically challenged pooch might not disappear altogether in a snow drift. “How thoughtful,” I mused. Some time later, I went to the window to admire what he had done. Lo and behold, he had carved a most enormous heart there in the sparkling snow—roughly 20 feet across with an arrow piercing its center. “Whoa,” was all I could mouth, astounded by this wonderful thing he had surely done to woo me once more—as if Aphrodite herself had guided the shovel there in the grayness of dawn.

Naturally, I showered him with gratitude, wrapping my arms around him and pulling him closer to the window so we could gaze at this thing of beauty together, hand in hand. “How sweet and kind and UTTERLY ROMANTIC of you!” I gushed.

“Romantic?” he repeated, fumbling over the word and glancing in the direction of the window.

“Yes! ROMANTIC!” I affirmed, sure that he was merely playing dumb. “How on earth did you do such an amazing thing?!”

What amazing thing? I shoveled a path in the snow. For the dog.”

“No no no. That’s not a path. That’s a HEART! A GINORMOUS HEART NESTLED BETWEEN THE PINES JUST FOR ME—FOR VALENTINE’S DAY! That was so completely ROMANTIC of you!”

Stupidly, he looked out the window and back at me with an expression that clearly conveyed the wheel is spinning, but the hamster is dead. It was the point at which he could have and should have rescued himself. A simple nod of agreement and a half-hearted smile would have sufficed. But no. Not for my oblivion-minded Romeo. My (accidental) hopeless romantic.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with my dear, sweet Romeo).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Be Mine, Valentine

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I simply cannot wait. The world has been doused with a palette of pink and red hues since mid-January and my appetite for chocolate and sweet nothings has officially been whetted. Ironically, however, I think I felt a greater sense of eagerness and excitement over the coming holiday as a third grader than I do now (no offense to the love of my life who makes it his business to woo the socks off me every hour of every day).

But from my perspective, February 14th somehow held even more promise than Christmas Day or birthdays back then. There was something marvelously alluring, indeed almost magical, about the air of mystery surrounding the customary trading-of-valentines thing. Maybe it was the not-knowing aspect with which I was most enamored. I loved that wild-with-anticipation feeling as I thumbed through my cache of tiny envelopes and heart-shaped lollipops, cleverly skewered through cards I would soon ogle. And the thrill of having to wait and see who would deliver what sort of message to whom was beyond compare. (Even an eight-year-old has a vested interest in the politics of social networking and acknowledges fully the veneer—I mean the sacredness of camaraderie). But it was the sheer open-endedness, veil of anonymity and overwhelming pandemonium of the event that made me drunk with joy.

I get giddy just thinking about it.

And yet there was more. I was mesmerized by the passion with which classmates seemingly approached the making-of-the-valentine-collection-devices (i.e. the crafty boxes and brown paper bags we poured ourselves into, plastering them ridiculously with construction paper hearts, glue galore and pathetic looking cupids). Maybe that explains why I’ve felt compelled to festoon every in-box I’ve had since then, hopeful they would somehow appear more inviting to those who had good news to deliver—during February, or any other month.

But maybe, just maybe, I so greatly revered Valentine’s Day as a grade-schooler because of the grand and glorious party that customarily consumed much of the school day afternoon—that coveted window of time after lunch and before dismissal when no one wanted to work anyway. It was something we all looked forward to with untold enthusiasm. Books and pencils were jammed hurriedly into desks while cutesy napkins and cups took their places. Foil-covered chocolates, Red Hots and Sweetheart candies stamped with coy little messages were doled out by the fistful as were stickers and gum, pencils and erasers. And without fail, someone’s mom made each of us feel extra special by placing a big, heart-shaped, slathered-oh-so-generously-with-icing cookie, before us. No one left empty-handed or found themselves wanting for anything—except for maybe a bigger bag to help us haul it all home.

Oddly enough, that may, in fact, be what struck me most about that magnificent day of yore—the dumping of the bounty in the middle of our kitchen. With a deafening crash it cascaded to the floor and lapped at my ankles—serving as consummate validation that I was worthy of befriending. It was then the process of sorting began—the good stuff and the really good stuff were categorized and piled accordingly. Everything had value and deserved careful inspection—even the foolish tripe I’d never use or eat in the decade to follow. Like a pirate I pored over my loot, swimming in a sea of wares, reveling in my good fortune and newly forged friendships. I sang the praises of this or that custom-made valentine to whomever would listen and gleefully accepted each invitation to “Be mine!” It was sheer bliss, I tell you—in a cupcakes-with-pink-frosting sort of way.

Oh, to be a third grader once again….

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Holiday Hokum, Me Myself and I

Matters of the Heart

One day not long ago I was assigned a task with a difficulty rating of eleventeen and warned not to screw up under any circumstances (death and/or dismemberment excluded). More specifically, a certain resident of this household (who will remain nameless to protect and preserve her privacy) charged me with the responsibility of delivering an extraordinarily important valentine under the veil of complete anonymity—come hell or high water. Needless to say, the pressure to perform was on.

“Now Mom, let’s get this straight. You promise to drive to his house and put this valentine in his mailbox while I’m at school, right?”

“Right. I promise.”

“And no one will see you, right?”

“Nope. No one will see me.”

“And you won’t tell anyone, right?”

“Not a soul. It’s our little secret.”

“Good. Because I don’t want him (i.e. he who will also remain nameless to protect and preserve his privacy) to know that I’m his secret admirer and if I hand it to him at school, he’ll know (Well duh). And if I hand it to his sister, he’ll know. And if I hand it to his teacher, he’ll know. So it has to go in his mailbox. Today. After the mail gets delivered. Okay?”

“Okay. Today. AFTER the mail gets delivered—lest the dear mailman inadvertently stumble upon said nugget of wonderfulness in the great abyss of the mailbox, feast his eyes upon all-that-is-sweet-and-sentimental, ogle its multitude of carefully crafted, penciled-on hearts and feel all warm and fuzzy inside, pondering the delicious possibility of having a secret admirer somewhere in the vicinity. A secret admirer who would, indeed, invest inordinate quantities of time and energy in order to fashion the consummate valentine—one imbued with sweetness and crafted with care.” Not that the mailman in question doesn’t deserve such a valentine or couldn’t actually have a host of secret admirers eager to shower him with sweet-nothings and whatnot. Maybe he does.

At any rate, I completed the aforementioned mission and kept my vow of silence—till now—because, of course, I can’t help but dwell on the notion that some day (no doubt, all too soon) that child of mine will no longer be filled with the innocence and pureness of heart required to orchestrate such a deed. She’ll be far too grown up for such foolishness and it’ll be far too much of a bother to spend so much time painstakingly decorating something for someone who won’t know from whence it came anyway—which saddens me greatly.

“How completely juvenile,” she’ll likely huff at my suggestion of engaging in a little Valentine-ish fun and brightening someone’s day in the process. “That’s baby stuff, Mom. Everyone knows that.” A roll of the eyes and a flip of the hair will no doubt accompany her remarks.

I suppose I can add it to the list of that which no longer thrills my brood (i.e. hugs and kisses in public, lavender-scented lotion after a bath, help with tangles and pronouncing large and unwieldy eighth-graderish words). Soon, I fear, my charges will stop inviting me inside their sprawling blanket forts to read books and to share secrets. Worse yet, they’ll outgrow the desire to build them altogether. And although I can barely tolerate the scourge of disorder said fortresses bring to my home, I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Likewise, I’ll miss being asked to care for a bevy of stuffed animals while a certain couple of somebodies are away at school. And I’ll rue the day that my van Gogh-inspired progenies no longer insist their prized artwork be displayed on our refrigerator-turned-monstrous-collage—an entity so completely blanketed with bits and fragments of our lives, to know my refrigerator is to know my family.

Regrettably, I can accept what the passage of time may bring; but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to let go just yet. Indeed, my youngest charges are decidedly too cumbersome to hold in my lap, yet I still rock them on occasion. I haul them upstairs to bed now and again, and I reach for their tender hands when we go for walks—walks during which they’re too busy catching snowflakes or harvesting stones to notice my hand in theirs, warm and familiar.

I kiss them in the dead of night, too, just because.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (contemplating matters of the heart on Valentine’s Day and every day).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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It Was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

My mother warned me there’d be days like this—days during which I’d rather swallow a cheese grater than raise children. Times when I’d seriously toy with the notion of running away from it all, forsaking those who depend on me to scrub grass stains, to scribble sappy little lunchbox notes and to be the voice of reason for my woman-child/co-ed. There would be an abundance of woeful moments, too (she assured me), when I’d bury my miserable self in the deepest, darkest recesses of a closet in hopes that no one, least of all my needy charges, would ever find me in such a sorry state—desperately clinging to my last marble.

Those unbearable chunks of ugliness, Mom promised, would be sandwiched in-between chapters of sheer joy and passages of tolerable madness—but they’d be there just the same. Shame on me for not believing her.

I had to actually visit the horribleness (as well as the pleasure) myself in order to be convinced of its existence. Like so many things in life, the highs and lows of parenthood cannot be experienced vicariously. They must be lived—for better or for worse. Tuesday, the 26th qualified as “for worse” for me. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day—in a hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. I have no doubt that Judith Viorst, of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame, would be proud of me for painting the picture so vividly. 

That being said, every joint, muscle and square inch of skin ached with unprecedented intensity. Every solitary strand of hair pulsated with pain and my head felt as though it would explode (which might have been an improvement in retrospect). Even my teeth hurt. For what seemed an eternity, tsunami-sized waves of nausea crashed over me unrelentingly. At one point, I distinctly recall wanting to be put out of my misery. Like a horse with a bad leg. “Just shoot me already!” I groused to no one. Because, of course, no one else was lying on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m. in a pool of self-pity gazing at the underbelly of the loo and wondering when the urge to retch would strike again. If nothing else, having such a vantage point reminded me that my bathroom needed cleaning. Desperately.

Not surprisingly, such a ludicrous thought made me chortle—despite having reached the absolute depths of despair. There I was, seized unspeakably with an ailment that can only be characterized as evil and nestled in what I believed to be abject squalor. But like a fool, I was SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING THE POSSIBILITY OF CLEANING MY BATHROOM. How absurd is that?! I rarely allow such frivolities to enter my mind on a good day, let alone one in which I’d been hit by a bus.

What made matters worse (and what could be more vile than bowing to the porcelain god—again and again and again?!) was that one of my brood was stricken a mere ten hours later—in the very same hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. Blarrrrg!

As a parent, I felt dreadfully inept—dragging my sickly body to and fro in an effort to aid this smallish child of mine. My paltry offerings were limited to reassuring her that EVENTUALLY this horrid malady would go away and find someone else to torment. I then bestowed upon her a pail and advised her never to let it leave her side—even as she slept (i.e. tossed and turned and groaned and moaned roughly 637 times) in my bed. (Indeed, I had found a surefire way to add drama and excitement to the bedroom…will she, or won’t she hit the bucket/make it to the bathroom in time?)

And to illustrate, once again, that bizarreness knows no bounds, the event itself became a twisted sort of competition—between and among those who spewed forth with wild abandon. “Mom, I beat you! I threw up 22 times and you only did it 5 times!”

Yes, we counted.

What’s more, the wretched affair had become a bit of a spectacle to the non-vomiting child in the household. “Let me see! Let me see! Oh, that’s really GROSS!” Clearly, the circus had come to town—complete with freakish sideshows and crowd-pleasing performances. Had I possessed an ounce of strength, I could have choked a certain member of the peanut gallery—or at the very least, I could have planted the seed in her mind that she, too, would soon be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in a hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. Needless to say, I wanted nothing more at that moment than to desert my post. Indefinitely.

Mom was right. There would be days like this.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, Sick-O Central

The Protocol of Love

No one writes love letters anymore it seems—the carefully folded squares upon which fools in love used to pour their hearts and souls, wooing the socks off each other with amorous prose and flawless penmanship. There was something to be said for the renderings of hearts pierced with arrows, too, and the TOGETHER FOREVER proclamations that were scribbled in the margins, punctuating the sentiment that flowed from their pens. Never mind the curlicues sprinkled like confetti across the pages of so many heartfelt messages. The handwritten letter, it seems, is all but extinct.

And while Hallmark does its level best to provide us with a host of perfect wordages for every occasion and our love affair with the instantaneous nature of texting, et al. has blossomed beyond all imagining, somehow these methods of communicating fall short. That said, they lack a certain warmth and palpable quality that only handcrafted ink-on-paper love letters possess.

But it’s unlikely that generations from now any curious-minded descendents of my children will happen upon a bundle of yellowed envelopes in a forgotten corner of anyone’s attic. And even if someone did, said discovery certainly wouldn’t be as remarkable as the cache of a dozen or so letters my husband and I unearthed in recent memory—the ones that were affectionately penned almost seven decades ago by a man deeply in love with his future wife—a man who had joined the Navy and was stationed far from home—a man who would one day become my husband’s father—a man that I, sadly, never knew, but whose letters have helped me bridge the gap.

My mother-in-law, of course, had carefully tucked the aforementioned keepsakes away, and it was some time after her passing that we stumbled upon them in a dresser drawer along with war rations and assorted snapshots from their early life together. Call me crazy, but I can’t imagine anyone digitally preserving treasured emails and text messages for much the same purpose. Alas, the world’s collective mindset has become far too intent upon immediacy and the disposable nature of things for that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, the entire landscape of courtship is a different place these days—no thanks to technology. Evidently it’s no longer in vogue to spend a Sunday afternoon having dinner and getting to know the parents of one’s love interest. The youth of today can’t be bothered with idle chitchat or something as dreadfully dull as sitting around in front of a fireplace, tackling a project together or (gasp!) playing cards at the kitchen table. Never mind taking the time to become familiar with his or her family traditions, cultural background or getting a grip on the dynamics within the family unit itself. Evidently, Facebook is the place where those things are shared nowadays—unless and until messiness ensues (i.e. breakups and whatnot). “What then?!” I ask. Does the proper protocol involve un-friending the would-be significant other/potential mate of one’s child? For all intents and purposes, that seems completely gauche to me. And awkward at best. Needless to say, life’s muck-in-the-middle doesn’t translate especially well via social media. A Facebook fail, as it were.

Furthermore, since the advent of cell phones, parents are virtually removed from the day to day connecting with those who feel compelled to telephone ad nauseam. Personally, I like intercepting those calls for my daughters because it gives me a fleeting chance to become better acquainted with the gentleman caller—whether he happens to fit the profile of an axe murderer, he is the epitome of son-in-law-material, or perhaps the most charming fourth grade boy the world will ever know. That said, I’m in no hurry to add Thing One and Thing Two to our ever-expanding cell phone plan. Our land line is just fine, thank you very much.

Likewise, I will rue the day any daughter of mine announces she’s getting married—unless, of course, the aforementioned epitome of son-in-law-material with whom said daughter would be enamored had had the presence of mind to seek our blessing and approval first. As it should be. However, I fear that sort of creature is a dying breed. Even still, I hope he’ll craft an abundance of handwritten love letters—ones that she will save till the ink fades, but not the memories they make together.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the changing face of love).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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