Spring Vacation continues. Fortunately the weather has been cooperative: today it got up to 68 degrees. The girls pestered me yesterday to let them go up to the attic and get their swimsuits out of storage. Jamie is wearing hers already this morning, under a pink and blue romper that is miles too short for her. She's growing out of everything. I can't believe how tall she is now, or how long her legs are. She reminds me of a baby colt.
Kyle: "I know who your boy is!"
Kyle: (beaming) "I'm are!"
Still feeling the reverberations of an unpleasant argument with Jamie this morning.
Today is "Clash Day" at school - the kids are supposed to wear something a little wild and wacky - so when Jamie P. came strolling out of her bedroom this morning looking like she'd just stepped out of a Nordstrom's catalog (immaculate white turtleneck tucked into tailored lavender corduroy slacks, neat leather belt, gold pendant watch), I thought maybe she'd forgotten it was Clash Day. "I'm wearing two different shoes!" she said, haughtily. I'm sorry. I should have shown some restraint at this point, but I couldn't resist needling her. I mean, there was Kacie, bouncing around in purple pants, an orange and yellow striped shirt and green vest (Kacie was born for Clash Day) ... and then there was Jamie, looking more like brunch at Bellevue Square than Clash Day at Bow Lake. It was just too funny. "Why don't you try changing into a nice blood-red turtleneck?" I suggested, but she turned up her nose at the idea. Undaunted, I offered to help her find something to wear. We went into her room to look at clothes, but she sat on her floor with her arms crossed, wearing her Pouty Face. "I'm sure we can find something for you to wear," I said with determined cheerfulness. "You have so many clothes."
"I don't have any clothes," she said petulantly. Until then I'd found the situation amusing, but her sullenness and her whiny comment about not having anything to wear (believe me, this person has clothes coming out the wazoo ... I know, because I'm the one who picks them up off her floor and launders them and attempts to find room for them all in her overflowing closet and bulging drawers) ... well, it just pushed the wrong button, and I slapped her face. Not very hard, honestly, but a slap nonetheless. She burst into tears and ran out of the room, then ate her breakfast in stony silence. Kacie was still bouncing around in her godawful outfit, happy as a clam. I made a big fuss over her: we even tied a red bandanna around one knee, á la Punky Brewster. After breakfast Jamie wordlessly slipped to her room and changed into the red turtleneck. She gave me a look that said, Is this any better? and I said yes, now she looked wonderfully terrible, and we put one of my old scarves around her neck to complete the "ensemble." Neither one of us said anything about me slapping her, and by the time she left for school she was smiling again.
I still feel terrible about slapping Jamie. I've made her a little card that says "I was wrong and I'm sorry," and I'll give it to her when she gets home from school. It's not that I think a card makes up for what I did. I'm not trying to excuse my behavior. I almost never hit my kids, but even once in a while is too much. I just want Jamie to know that everyone goofs, even Mom ... and that it's important to clear the air and try to make amends.
I'm sorry, Puss! Please forgive me. I love you!
Kyle celebrated his fourth birthday this weekend. I realize that every time one of my children hits another birthday I get sentimental and say things like "I can't believe Jamie/Kacie/Kyle is one/two/three/four already ... it seems like just yesterday ... blah blah blah." But I can't help saying it again. I can't believe Kyle is four years old already!!!!!!
Kyle had a birthday party this year with lots of his favorite people: Jerome and André, Sean and Scott (from Shannon South), Joey B. and his sisters, and of course Jamie and Kacie. They had lots of fun. Unfortunately, when the party was over disaster struck: Kyle took a tumble down the front porch steps and split his lip wide open. It bled like crazy, and he was in pain for the rest of the night. For the past few days he's been walking around looking like he was in a prize fight, poor little guy.
May 8, 1990
Jamie's Spelling Homework:
1. I want lots of money. 2. I have seen a clown. 3. I got a scene in A Trip To Oz. 4. I didn't know that. 5. I'm not a morning person. 6. I'm very lucky to have a nice Mom. 7. We studyed the body. 8. I'll do that later. 9. I like my face. 10. I wish I was done. 11. Are bodies are good to us. 12. I forget what extinct means. 13. I want to go to the Atlantic Ocean. 14. I forget what migrate means.
Kyle: "I'm gonna be two mans when I grow up -- Indiana Jones and Batman!"
Kyle: "Don't worry about me, Mom. I'm tough."
Kacie just brought me an "early Mother's Day" present ... a slightly-wilted marigold in a little planter, which I've ceremoniously placed in the kitchen windowsill. This reminds me of when she was just a little thing and brought me wilted dandelions, and the cute way she used to say "I got FOWRS for you, Mama."
I've taken on an enormous new babysitting commitment this week. One of the moms from Jamie's Brownie troop called me out of the blue a few days ago (her name is Janet B.) and asked if I could babysit her three children, four days a week. Joey is Kyle's age, and he's here from 10 a.m. on. His two older sisters go to Bow Lake with my girls: Tia is Jamie's age, and Jessica is one year older. They all get here after school around 3:30, and then the B. kids are here until 7:30 p.m. (They eat dinner here.) I've agreed to babysit them on a trial basis to start. Last week was our first week, and so far it isn't completely awful. The kids are nice, their mother is very nice, and I'm being well-paid. I still don't know whether this will be a long term arrangement, but for the time being the extra money is great.
May 12, 1990
Jamie had been abducted, and Kacie and I were handing out Missing Child leaflets to people passing by. Suddenly I was overcome by wrenching grief. I began screaming "JAMIE! JAAAMIE!" I was thinking "God, I want this to be a dream but it's not, it's real." That's when I woke up.
After my nightmare I was so relieved to wake up that I jumped out of bed, ran to the living room where the kids were watching cartoons, and flung my arms around a visibly startled Jamie. She and her Brownie troop are going to the Seattle Aquarium today, and the truth is that I'm halfway paranoid about letting her go, thanks to the dream. "You be very careful today!" I told her, and she rolled her eyes at me.
Kyle: "I'm waitin' for my damn breakfast."
Yesterday was my tenth Mother's Day. Kacie went to Sunday School with Tracy (who spent the night) early in the a.m., but Jamie came into my room while I was still in bed and brought me my gifts. She made me a card at school, plus she bought me some things at the Aquarium on Saturday: two little soaps shaped like a whale and a seashell, a coral pink trinket box to add to my collection, and beautiful green and yellow candle shaped like a bird.
When Kacie came home from church, she gave me an eclectic assortment of gifts she'd chosen and wrapped herself: a card, two pencils with the erasers bitten off, some broken jewelry, and a plastic egg filled with pennies.
Kyle gave me a Mother's Day gift too. When we got home from our shopping trip, he and his Daddy mysteriously "disappeared" into the garage. Shortly afterwards Kyle came into the living room carrying a great big envelope ... a Mother's Day card he'd "signed" all by himself. I was very surprised!
May 29, 1990
Henry P., Ray's beloved grandpa, passed away Thursday in Tucson. I had to call Ray at work and break the news to him over the phone. Ray was very upset, of course. At first we didn't think there was any way we could afford to fly him to Tucson for the funeral, but at the last minute Barbara offered to pay for his ticket. He left yesterday. The kids and I took him to the airport, and we watched his plane take off. He'll be back in a couple of days; the funeral is today, but he wants to spend an extra day with Bev and the rest of his family.
It's been strange having him gone all week. I felt a palpable lump in my throat as I watched his plane take off Monday morning. And there have been other odd, unexpected moments when I've missed him: when I was putting his clean socks away, or when I was cooking dinner for the kids and realized I didn't have to fix him a plate. On the other hand, I've reveled in the comparative freedom and peace of this week. I've loved having the car, I've loved spending my own money and buying my own groceries, and I've loved having the bed all to myself!
It all ends tonight, though. His plane comes in at 10:35 p.m. - Lori and I are going to go pick him up. Oh well. Kyle has missed his Daddy terribly, and I know the feeling is mutual: when we talked to Ray on the phone last night, I could hear it in his voice. He misses his little buddy. It'll be a big thrill for them both when he comes home.
Kyle: "Mom, when are you gonna be done huggin' me?"
Mom: (enjoying an all-too-brief moment of tenderness) "When I feel like it."
Kyle: "Oh." (Pause.) "Well, I want you to feel like it now."
June 19, 1990
Well, my trial by fire has begun ... Summer Vacation 1990 is here. On board this year: Jamie, Kacie and Kyle, Danielle W., Jerome and André, and Jessica, Tia and Joey B. Nine kids.
Jamie and Kacie both brought home very good end of the year report cards. I was especially pleased with Mrs. McCall's comments about Kacie:
"Kacie had a wonderful year. She has grown both academically and socially. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching and helping her gain new skills. She has great determination to learn new skills. Please encourage reading, writing and the use of number concepts throughout the summer. Have a great vacation."
Kacie definitely seems more centered and self-assured than she was at the beginning of the school year. I'm delighted with the changes in her.
Our first summer in this house ... I wonder what kind of summer it will be? The kids already miss the big swimming pool at Shannon South, I'm afraid. We went over to John and Lori's last weekend for Tracy's birthday, and it was odd seeing my kids splashing in the old familiar pool ... odd and sad. It's not that I miss the apartment, because I don't, but I do miss the convenience of having a pool right outside my front door.
Jamie goes to Camp River Ranch for a week next month. Except for one Brownie overnight last month, she's had no camping experience. So the idea is new to her. She's excited but her excitement is tempered with uncertainty. I loved River Ranch when I was her age: I hope she loves it too.
Janet B. just dropped Joey off on her way to work at the pet store. She and I are becoming very good friends: I enjoy her quirky personality.
July 10, 1990
Jamie is now at camp: we drove her out to Carnation on Sunday afternoon. I just finished writing her another letter: this makes five I've written so far, including the one I mailed the day before she left and the little note I tucked into her suitcase ...
Yes, I miss her, but it's not an obsessive, overwhelming thing. As for all the letters, well - that's reflex. I remember how nice it is to get mail at camp, OK? We even sent her a "care package" yesterday, filled with felt pens and a steno pad and toy bracelets and a Teen magazine.
The toughest part was dropping her off on Sunday. I was just fine during the drive to Carnation ... light-hearted, happy, enjoying a drive in the country with my family ... but the instant we drove into that camp, a very odd thing happened to me.
This is hard to explain. Bear with me.
About a week before Jamie left, I dreamed that I was going to Girl Scout camp. When I got there, however, I discovered that the camp had been torn down to make room for a shopping mall. I was outraged. "How could they do this to Camp River Ranch?" I cried. Just then I glanced beyond a grove of trees and saw a cluster of "covered wagons" ... the tent-covered structures from Wagons East, one of the units I stayed in at camp. "That's Wagons East!" I cried joyfully. "At least part of the camp is still standing!" More than anything in the world I wanted to run over and get a closer look at my old camp unit, but for some reason I wasn't "allowed" to. When the dream ended I woke up feeling sad and frustrated.
It's been 22 years since I've been to Camp River Ranch. I expected it to be drastically changed, but the very moment we started driving up the heavily-wooded mountain road, things started feeling familiar to me. And that's when it happened: I glanced over to my right, through a grove of trees, and there they were ... the covered wagons. Exactly like my dream. I was hit by a tidal wave of emotions - surprise, pleasure, nostalgia, longing, and an overwhelming desire to jump out of the car and run over for that closer look. It was downright spooky!
... When we drove away from camp, Jamie was already in the capable hands of a nice counselor ("Troll"), standing in a circle of little girls, learning her first camp song. In spite of myself, I cried my heart out the whole ride home.
July 12, 1980
How are you? I'm fine. We are having a swimming test! And I'm swimming in levle 2. I have a friend named Jennie. Me and Jennie are swimming buddies. Can you please send me one role of 12 pic. film. Becase we are going on a lot of hike's and I want to take lots of pic. of the swimming test. Gotta go now! Say hi to Dad, Kacie and Kyle! Oh yea! Sniffer to!
P.S. Can you send 5 more stamps?"
July 19, 1990
A week later, and Jamie is home safe and sound. Picking her up on Saturday was a million times easier (emotionally) than dropping her off. There was one major glitch on Saturday, though: we were confused about the pick-up time. I thought we were supposed to be at the camp at 11:30, but actually the pick-up time was 10 a.m. By the time we got to River Ranch, Jamie was the only camper left waiting for her parents. She was nearly hysterical. "I thought you guys had been in an accident!" she sobbed. I felt horrible about the mix-up, and I apologized all over the place to the counselors and to Jamie. We exited the camp with very red faces.
As we drove out of the camp I said, "Goodbye, River Ranch! See you next summer!" Jamie, who was in the back seat of the car with my tape player hungrily devouring the Paula Abdul tape she hadn't listened to in a week, said "I don't know about that." Apparently camp wasn't the greatest experience of her life after all. For one thing, she was very homesick. I'm disappointed that camp wasn't more fun for her, but I've chalked it up to experience. Another example of me trying to foist my childhood onto an unwilling Jamie ...
After we picked Jamie up and dried her tears, we stopped at Remlinger Farms and wandered around for an hour or so, looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, arts and crafts, plants, etc. When we finally got home Jamie immediately ran to say hello to her mouse, and then to look at her bedroom. While she was gone I completely cleaned the room -- I even put up a collage of Paula Abdul posters -- so everything was neat and pretty as a surprise. Later that afternoon Ray took all three of the kids swimming at Angle Lake, and then we went to dinner at Garcia's. So it was a nice homecoming for Jamie. I'm glad to have her home!
July 28, 1990
Very early on a sunny Saturday morning. Jamie is at a slumber party (at Alex R.'s) but Kacie and I couldn't sleep so we're out of bed early. Today is Waterland Festival day! Something we've been looking forward to all summer. For weeks we've been dropping all of our spare change and extra dollar bills into a pickle jar, just for this day. Last night we counted it: $63.60! Plus my babysitting money. We should have enough to do anything we want at the fair.
The Waterland Festival was great, in spite of the heat. We got there early on Saturday morning, while the fair was still being set up. The kids and Ray and I killed time by taking a walk along the pier. By noon, things had finally begun to open up around the fairgrounds. We had the kids' picture taken at a "computer photo" booth before we did anything else. The picture was digitally transferred onto a big wall-hanging (it says "Kids For Rent"), which I love. After that we had lunch: burgers with fried onions for Ray and I, pizza sandwiches for the kids, and a huge basket of curly fries. And then we hit the rides. Kyle loved the little kids' rides; the girls went for the bigger, scarier stuff. I went on the Scrambler with Jamie and Kacie, and it was wild and wonderful. It made me feel like a kid again!
When we'd exhausted the rides, we walked around the arcade and tried our hand at the games. Ray had some success with the dart-throw and a couple of other games. He won a stuffed Ninja Turtle for Kyle, small stuffed whales for the girls, a tiny shot glass at the dime toss for me. Both of the girls won goldfish. They had to toss ping pong balls onto a table covered with hundreds of plastic goldfish bowls, and if the ball landed in a bowl, they won a fish. Jamie won one on her very first toss! And Kacie got hers on her last attempt. "Thank you God!" I whispered when Kacie's ball finally, FINALLY landed in a bowl. (Of course, the fish died two days later.)
Another very long shadow has been cast over our lives this summer, and it's never far from my thoughts: Grandma St. John has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and according to Mom she only has a few months left to live. Very, very sad.
We went over to see Grandma for a while this weekend. Here's where things get serious, I'm afraid, after a light-hearted weekend of family fun. Grandma looked drained, colorless and withered: that shocked me. It took every ounce of poise within me just to keep a "normal" conversation going. (Afterwards she told Mom that she "really enjoyed" our visit, so I guess I did OK.) After a while I was seized by a suffocating need to get out of that house. It was as close to a panic attack as I've ever come. I thought, If I don't get out of here right now I'm going to lose it completely. Ray was outside, walking around Grandma's yard and drinking his zillionth beer of the afternoon, and I whispered to him that I needed to leave. We went back into the house together and said our good-byes. I put my arm around Grandma's shoulders and kissed the top of her head, promising that we'd be back "soon." "Well, I hope so!" she said cheerfully. Ray promised that he'd come back in a few days and trim her hedges, and the kids all hugged her, and then we got into the car and drove away.
(We never saw Grandma St. John alive again.)