Why La La Land would’ve wrecked me if I were still 22

famiLee

There is a gaggle of girls in this coffee bar spoiling the ending of “La La Land” and I take umbrage. They are loud and sighing and I’m annoyed.

But I should warn you that this post probably contains a spoiler or four, as well.

Like the rest of earth that needed to see what would happen if Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling put on tap shoes and started singing, my beloved and I went to Los Angeles last night for a couple of hours. We also went back to our twenties when we were full of friend-roomies and durrnnk parties and all the ideals our 22 year-old hearts could contain. I would not go back to that time on a permanent basis, though. I needed Jesus and a budget more than I can articulate.

lovey.tractor

We loved “La La Land” like the rest of the universe. We were wrecked by it, too. From this vantage, though, Loverpants and I can safely wonder and wander through all the What Ifs and not be completely devastated. We are committed to the happiness and holiness of each other and our children and right now that looks like trading off time to write blog posts and play frisbee in equal measures.

However, if I had seen this film when I was 22 and was fully convinced I needed to move to NYC and get an MFA and find my voice in the basement of moody unnamed coffee bars, I probably would have tore a page out of main characters Mia and Seb’s playbook. They decided they needed the space to pursue their own dreams. Their creative endeavors could not come to fruition if they stayed together in the same geography, looking up at the same stars from the same latitudes and longitudes.

And that’s a lie I so wanted to buy when I was in my early 20s. The lie that one can *only* pursue creative dreams when given the maximum space and resources one can afford. It all seemed easier to clean house to make space for more short story drafts than to have to compromise with another whose time and talents pulled equal rank.

I tried to break up with Loverpants and he with several times. I felt ashamed that I was doing the un-feminist thing by moving to be closer to him after college. Even a month before our wedding, I was still fighting to get into law school until I realized that law school wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted stable professional footing. Even more than than that I wanted a happy, stable marriage. I deferred law school and ultimately never went and have exactly zero regrets.

Throughout our relationship and marriage, we have pursued various degrees, moved to support one another’s professional dreams. I was pregnant and adjusting to life with a baby for much of grad school. Some would say these were not ideal circumstances, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They added a richness and a texture to every pursuit. I worked harder and more efficiently because I had a baby who napped for two hour windows. My degree mattered to me because I wanted to make my daughter proud. Loverpants built a private practice from our kitchen table. I wrote a book while rocking our son to sleep. Time and Fit are the non-negotiable factors in a relationship’s survival, whether starry-eyed millennials or obedient Dave Ramsey-like Baby Boomers.

who is johnny bravo w/ these ladies?

Mia and Seb’s relationship is familiar, I’m sure, to many creative dreamers who don’t want to trump one another’s artistic aims. It’s familiar to me but allow me this microphone: It’s not the only narrative that will net a Mostly Happily Ever After. Partnership adds something wonderful to the creative life, whether one’s role is co-author or sideline cheerleader. I’m glad to have been able to play both roles and look forward to wearing a many more hats before the curtain falls.

Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.

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On buying a pee stick or three at the Dollar Store

I parked next to the Dollar Store in the less-densely packed parking area because I like 90 degree angles and the other spots had those 45 degree angled spots that you need a protractor in order to fit properly. Don’t look at me like that.

In the process, I learned that the shady area next to the Dollar Store is also the official make-out spot of my municipality.

Ironic since that’s the kind of trouble that probably got me into this mess.

Ohhh ho ho ho. I kid.

C’mon. A Dollar Store parking lot? We are more caviar than that.

We are Publix kind of people.

Anyway. Of course I was going to the Dollar Store to buy the pregnancy test because even though there are goalies in place, you can never be too sure. You would think someone who cares so much about 90 degree angles would probably have spreadsheets of her menstrual cycle (stop gagging and grow up or I’ll put you in a binder full of women) but I work in a place among some 650 uteri. Every month is a new adventure with new ovarian tales to tell. Also, it is well-documented that you can still get a false positive if you are one of the very lucky, which I am.

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I later regaled my husband with this, the evidence of heavy petting in cars outside the store that sells the oft-desired Wet n’ Wild nail polish and syrupy bottles marked simply Cola. He wanted to know who the kids were. Really? Stay classy, hubs.

When I found myself in the aisle where the dollar preggo tests usually are (it’s almost like I’ve done this before, I know!), they were all cleared out. Because I was determined not to be like Blossom Russo buying maxi pads for the first time, I decided to ask a stock clerk if they were all out of pee sticks. That required me to say aloud the words, “Are you all out of pregnancy tests?” Ugh. Hand me some orange Tic Tacs and call me Juno. I should mention the stock clerk was wearing a scraggly beard costume, basically from the neck up with some festive head-boppers. Exactly the kind of person who just knows where everything is.

She said, “Oh, they’re at the front.”

Which to me means they are behind lock and key and you need a front desk clerk to retrieve them.

So I ask the cashier if she can help me with pregnancy tests. She wanders over to a regular ol’ shelf with all manner of impulse buys. Because you know sometimes you’re just in line buying nail polish and you think, Oh, it’d be good if I pick up some lip balm if my lips get chapped and a pregnancy test or four in case I get knocked up. Love being spontaneous! Living dangerously in the Dollar Store!!!

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She hooked me up with three tests. One to try first, one just to be sure (because for the price of a dollar, science can only get you so far. If you want an insurance policy on whether or not one test will tell you whether you have a womb squatter or not, you have to pay the big bucks). I tossed in one extra so I wouldn’t have to go through this ordeal again. Like, next month.

The front cashier was also in costume, wearing pink spangles from head to toe. She explained it was in support of her auntie who had passed away from cancer. So now she knew something about me and I knew something about her. The transaction was already taking place with no dollars even exchanged! Ah, poetry of life.

As she was bagging up my items another family was approaching the cashier so Pink Spangles said, super on the down-low, “Did you need anything else besides WHAT I HELPED YOU FIND?”

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Ummmm. I don’t know what she wanted me to say. How about a can opener, and while you’re at it, maybe some Botox and is this also the place where I can vote early and often?

Speaking of votes, the results of the pregnancy test were negative but the outlook is positive for keeping my supply of tests well-stocked.

 

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Drinking Icees, Slurping up forgiveness.

I check my Swatch watch when I wake up. It’s darling but it always needs to be wound so the time can’t be right. I putz about the bathroom and find my other watch. Oh mercy.

The kids are both still in their pajamas. They’ve probably watched 286 cartoons between the two of them today.

“Guys, Mommy slept in. It’s already noon. I’m so sorry.”
“WHAT?!”
“We missed my swim lesson?!”
“I know. I’m so sorry.”
“WE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!”
“No, baby, we just wasted the morning. Mommy forgot to set her alarm.”
“Mommmmmaaa, I wanted to go to my swim lesson!”
“I know. How about I make it up to you and we can go to Lake Winnie today.”

***

The kids are moving in slow motion and all I want to do is reverse the clock, sit down and eat a bowl of granola and drink coffee and not feel frantic. Swimsuits elude us. Applying sunscreen is work.

“What’s going on, Little Man? Can I help you?”
“Mom, I just feel grumpy.”
I’m proud that he has accessed a feeling instead of casting blame.
I sound like a self-esteem manual from 1989.
“Mom, I’m grumpy because I’m sad I didn’t get to go to swim lessons.”
“I know, Son. I hope you can forgive me. I messed up.”
“I forgive you.”

***

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giant side

We are walking back to the car. We have laughed, we have floated on the lazy river inner tubes several times. We have eaten funnel cake. We have had a good day.
“Mom, I’m still really upset I didn’t get to go to my swim lesson today.”
I don’t remind him that he got to shoot down a colossal waterslide, drink a giant Icee, and ride all the rollercoasters he could handle for the last six hours.
I don’t tell him that a whole afternoon at Lake Winnie beats any doggie-paddle lesson any day.
Instead I tell him the thing about forgiveness that is so hard to do.
“If you forgive someone, you can’t keep bringing it up. You know just like how God says when He forgives us, He casts our sins into the sea and doesn’t remember them anymore?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s what we have to do.”

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***

The next day he is unlocking the front door and turns to me as he opens it. “I forgive you for sleeping through my swim lessons, Mom.”

***

The day after that, he hugs me unbidden and says, “I still forgive you for sleeping through my swim lessons, Mom.”

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