June 12, 1992

The last day of school

They're here. It was actually quite funny when they got home ... I stood at the front window and pretended I was sobbing hysterically as they walked up the street. Then I ran and hid in a bedroom closet. They came in giggling and yelling: "MOM! I'm HUNGRY!" "MOM, KACIE HIT ME!!" "MOM! MOM! MOM!" Finally they found my hiding spot and dragged me out, and we sat at the kitchen table and looked at report cards. Now they're settled in the living room happily munching on hamburgers and potato chips and watching All My Children. And thus begins our summer.

June 16

The kids are upset and worried because one of our kitties seems to have run away. "Domino" (the black & white kitty) took off last week, and we haven't seen him since. This morning Jamie is making "Lost Cat" signs to put up around the neighborhood.

June 25

We are in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave. Today is supposed to be "ten degrees cooler" (meaning 85 instead of 95) ... wow. Andrea stopped by on Monday evening with a brand-new kiddie pool for everyone to use this summer. Jamie set it up the next morning next to the swingset, and they've practically lived in it ever since. (I even went and sat in it for a while on Tuesday, when the temps were sizzling.) The kids have also built their annual summer fort, out of picnic tables and an old shower curtain, and this is where they've slept for the past three nights.

I've found an alternative to Girl Scout camp for the girls. It's a church camp near Lake Stevens, from July 20-24, and it will only cost $161 to send them both. ("Only"??? That's a laugh. Frankly, $161 seems like an enormous amount of money to me at the moment.)

June 27

Last night Ray told the girls that if they clean up the back yard and the garage, he "might" write them a check for camp when he gets home tonight. So Jamie was tromping around the yard at 9 a.m., picking up candy wrappers and Ninja Turtles and dirty towels, and Kacie is still out in the garage working ... I can hear her sweeping and listening to the radio.

June 1992

I wasn't watching Josh & Mak anymore, and when Andrea suddenly got fired from her job I was left without any babysitting ... or babysitting income.

I honestly don't know what to do at this point. I thought things were going to be tough financially (if not emotionally) with Josh and Mak gone, but that's nothing compared to this. Now that Andrea's been fired, I will have absolutely no money of my own. Shit. I was hoping this would be an uncomplicated, pleasant summer for a change. Last summer Grandma V. was dying, and the summer before that it was Grandma St. John. I was counting on this summer being smooth and easy, and now here I am back to rationing groceries and making "Babysitting Available" signs and scrounging spare change from the bottom of my purse.

Kacie: "I still think I look like ... what's her name, what's her name? ... Marilyn Monroe, except I have brown hair and freckles."

July 1992

Kacie and Kyle have a new thing they like to do every morning ... they hop onto their bikes and ride them as fast as they can, around and around and around the house until they're completely exhausted. As I sit here at my desk, I can hear them whizzing past the laundry room door, laughing and shouting.

Jamie, of course, is draped across the living room sofa, watching her beloved Price Is Right: her idea of exercise is walking down the street to check the mail.

Our Evening Routine:

... Ray goes to bed around 9:30, and the kids and I settle into the living room with all the lights turned off and watch TV until late, then I fall asleep on the sofa and the kids stretch out on the loveseat or the floor. We wake up in the mornings around 8 a.m., when the children at the daycare behind our house start making noise. I turn on the news, open the doors and turn on the fans, make a pot of coffee for the girls and I to share ... the kids make their own breakfast, usually cereal and toast or a poached egg ... it's a sweet, friendly little routine we all enjoy.

July 1992

My Pet Peeves This Summer:

1. Kids running in and out and leaving the doors open.

2. Constant requests for snacks and drinks.

3. Teenage neighbors with mega-noise car stereos ("The Boogie Brothers").

4. Joey B.'s bizarre daily phone calls to Kyle.

5. Dirty towels.

6. No money of my own.

7. The stinky litterbox in the laundry room.

I'm really trying to make the groceries stretch, so last night I cooked some frozen fried chicken we got from the Food Bank a while back. I warmed up some leftover mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it, and there was fresh coleslaw I'd made the day before. As meals go, it was nothing to sing about, but I was secretly pleased with my resourcefulness. So when Ray literally tossed it into the sink and made himself a sandwich instead ("I bought $140 worth of food and I'm not gonna eat no Food Bank chicken!" he snarled at me), I burst into tears. I felt like he was spitting on my efforts to economize. I'm not bringing in any money right now, and trying to be resourceful and thrifty is virtually the only contribution I can make. So when he tossed my dinner aside, it was a real slap in the face: he might just as well have said, "Your efforts are puny and meaningless."

The kids were shocked, and they immediately clustered around me on the sofa, offering comfort.

I find it frustrating - and ironic - that two months ago I was complaining about babysitting. "I hate it. I mean, I really HATE it," I whined in my journal. And now I would give my eye teeth to have just one customer.

July 17, 1992

I guess it's true what they say: be careful what you wish for.

I was wishing for "just one" babysitting customer, and what happens? Karen S. calls me late in the afternoon and asks if Josh and Mak can come back! I shit you not. Apparently things aren't working out at their new daycare ... Mak hit another child over the head with a shovel, and Karen was politely asked not to bring him back. So they're here again, starting today. I would be lying if I said I wasn't uneasy about them coming back, considering the trouble we've had in the past: it's not my ideal babysitting job. However, my brief and frightening brush with unemployment this summer has convinced me I can't be picky.

July 18

Jamie is out in the back yard, filling up the swimming pool for later today. She has a new electric-green swimsuit this summer, and it startles me every time I see her in it ... there are new curves this year that weren't there before, and she is gorgeously tanned. Who is this lovely, nymphlike creature?

July 20

I am alone!

Kyle left yesterday morning to spend a few days with his grandparents in Bellevue, and this morning the girls left for Camp Cedar Springs. All three will be gone till the end of the week. Of course, my solitude is temporary - I've got to babysit later this week - but for right now it's just me and the kitties and The Price Is Right and a pot of coffee. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I had a lump in my throat when I hugged the girls goodbye, I must admit. There are some things you never get used to: saying goodbye to my kids is one of them. Kyle called me last night from Bellevue, and his sweet little voice tore through my heart like an electrical current. I am hopelessly, idiotically, permanently attached to my children, and no goodbye will ever be completely painless, I'm afraid.

July 22, 1992

I got letters from both of the girls today!! That did a lot to improve my mood. Here is Kacie's letter:

"Dear mom, dad

right now I'm in my bed. I just got up. Were going to have a Western day. Oh and I boght some thing for you and Kyle dad. I met 2 new people and food is ohka it's only my 2 day and it feel's like home. Well I don't want to spoil to much good by. I love you"

Jamie's letter says:

"Dear M, D & K, Hello! How are you? I'm fine. We had a great service today. And for lunch we had hamburgers. I bougt a tee-shirt and hat. Better go now! I will write you again! Love, Jamie."

July 24

A couple of days later, and my ladies are coming home this afternoon!! I'm so excited, it's ridiculous! Their bedroom is immaculately clean, and I put a vase of fresh-picked roses on their vanity this morning. Last night Ray went out and bought them a few small "Welcome Home" gifts ... hairspray and mousse, nail polish remover, a teen magazine for each of them ... and these are arranged on the vanity with the roses, as well as some Avon goodies I got in the mail yesterday, the new Avon catalogs, and a postcard from their Grandma Beeson. I've laid in a supply of chips, cookies and Pepsi for them, and I've taped all their favorite shows (The Price Is Right, Saved By The Bell, Beverly Hills 90210, The Young And The Restless and AMC). Now I sit and wait for them to call from the church and say they're back.

Jamie called at 2:30. "We're back!" she announced. "Can you come get us?" So Josh and Mak and I trudged over to the church to help them carry their stuff home. Kacie saw me first, and she ran over with a big happy grin and hugged me. Then Jamie, who was standing in the doorway of the church, shouted "MOMMY!," and literally hurled herself into my arms, wrapping those long legs of hers around my waist and nearly knocking me down. It was very unexpected and funny and sweet. After we got all the sleeping bags and suitcases hauled home, they ran around the house in a flurry of excitement, exclaiming over their beautiful bedroom and all of the goodies, asking for all the latest news, etc. It was a fun afternoon. Camp, apparently, was an unqualified success. I was afraid Camp Cedar Springs would be a poor substitute for G.S. camp, but the first thing they said - both of them - was "I LOVE Camp Cedar Springs!" They definitely want to go back next year.

Late in the afternoon I received a happy surprise. Kyle called me, and in that chirpy little voice of his he announced, "I'm comin' home, Mommy!" Peg and Don brought him home at 7:30 that evening. He bounced into the house wearing a new neon-yellow Batman T-shirt and carrying his Game Boy. "Grandma and Grandpa bought me Super Mario Land!" he shouted, and then he proceeded to sit and play it for the rest of the evening, even as Peg and Don were trying to coax a goodbye hug and kiss from him.

I think he was glad to be home. With the girls I had no doubt, but with Kyle it's hard to tell. The only family member who rated a genuinely warm greeting from him was Spud the Kitty. But I don't care. I'm deliriously happy to have all three of my baby chicks back in the nest.

July 27

Good grief ... you should see this house. It looks like we suffered a major earthquake over the weekend. Which, in a way, I suppose we did: the kids are home! Laundry up to the ceiling already, not a single clean towel in the entire house, candy wrappers and magazines strewn across the living room, small brown footprints tracked across the kitchen floor. What really amazed me is how quick the fighting started again. As soon as Peg and Don left on Friday night, they started fighting over the Game Boy. They fought over who got to sleep on the loveseat. They fought about candy, about phone calls, about the TV.

August 2

Kacie has gone to Sunday School, Jamie and her friend Nicole are at Trailer Town getting their daily fix of junk food ... Kyle is wandering around the house in his p.j.'s, looking for something to do. I can tell this is going to be one of "those" days, when he follows me everywhere and asks me a million questions.


I was right: he is my constant and faithful shadow today. When I was putting a load of laundry into the washer, he perched himself on the edge of the machine and helped me drop dirty towels into the swirling, soapy water. "When will Jerome and André come and spend the night?"" he asked me, wistfully. Then when I went into the kitchen to make a fruit crisp for dessert (using the last jar of Grandma's peaches), he dragged a stool over to the counter and "washed" the dishes. Now he's squirting window cleaner on the cabinets and polishing them with a towel, humming to himself as he works ... a sweet little boy in cut-off sweats and messy hair.

I read an amusing Daphne du Maurier short story today called "The Blue Lenses." It's about a woman who has been blind for a short time, and after she has an operation to restore her eyesight, everyone she sees (her husband, her doctors and nurses, etc.) has an animal's head instead of a human head. The type of animal they resemble reflects something of their character: friendly doctors are terriers, the nurse who is secretly having an affair with the woman's husband is a snake, the husband is a vulture. At the end of the story she undergoes another operation, and this time everyone looks normal again ... except that when the woman looks into a mirror, she has an animal head. ("The eyes that stared back at her were doe's eyes, wary before sacrifice, and the timid deer's head was meek, already bowed.")

I told Kacie about the story and she was amused by the idea. "What kind of animal head would I have?" she asked me. I thought about it for a minute. This week we watched Shannon Miller win an Olympic silver medal in gymnastics, and Kacie has been tirelessly practicing cartwheels in the back yard on an old sleeping bag ever since. "You'd be a monkey," I said. "Not one of those big ugly monkeys that sit around all day, but one of those cute little monkeys with the bright eyes and really long tails, the ones that swing back and forth in the trees all day." She thought about it for a moment, as though trying to decide if she liked the idea, and then she nodded in pleased agreement.

Kyle, we decided, would be a little terrier puppy, or maybe a boxer: something small and compact and full of his own imagined ferocity. Jamie would be a deer, still a little unsteady on its new long legs but beginning to acquire a graceful beauty.

Ray was harder. "A bear?" Kacie suggested. Maybe. Maybe an old sleepy bear, ambling about in the woods, looking for food and a scratchy tree to rub his back against and a nice dark cave to sleep in.

Which left me. Kacie was horrified by my first suggestion: "I'd probably be a pig," I said. I was thinking of my appetites - all of my appetites, not just the ones for food, but my "appetites" for words and quiet and knowledge and music and everything else - and the way I overdo everything, how a little never seems like enough. "NO!" Kacie said, frowning. "That's not right at all!" "Well, how about a guinea pig? Or a mother hamster?" I suggested next. I was thinking about a little creature scurrying around in her cage, rearranging her sawdust all day long: a parallel to my own continuous housecleaning and re-decorating and fussing over every minute detail of this house. But Kacie didn't like that one either. "I think you'd be a lion," she said decisively. I was surprised. Why a lion? "Because you're hard-working, and you protect your family ... and you're wise," she explained. And after a minute of mulling that one other, I was pleased. A lion. A lioness, actually ... fiercely protective of her young, proud, territorial, fearless.

So there we are: a bear and a lioness, a monkey, an adolescent deer and a terrier pup. Quite an interesting menagerie, wouldn't you say?

Summer 1992 Is:

Camp Cedar Springs ...

The Summer Olynpics in Barcelona, and Shannon Miller ...

Tea in the microwave ...

KING-AM Talk Radio ...

Bill Clinton and Al Gore ...

Babysitters Club books ...

Swimming at Shannon South in the afternoons ...

Ray's zucchini and tomatoes ...

Kacie practicing gymnastics in the back yard (until she split her head open in the swimming pool) ...

"Boogely-Boog" (my annoying new nickname for Kyle) ...

Hurricane Andrew ...

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow's custody battle ...

Tiny Toon Adverntures, Beverly Hills 90210 and Gilligans Island ...

Continued ...


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