Wednesday, September 23, 2015

She's Losing Her Baby

Bowtie, mismatched shoes, negligee &
drinking straw glasses.
I'm about to lose the best roommate I ever had.

All of her important belongings are packed and waiting by the front door, ready to be moved out of the house and into the dorms at Southern Oregon University, and by the time you lay your eyes upon this, she'll be unpacking five green & blue plastic totes full of clothing and school supplies. It occurs to me that this will be the first time in her life that she's making all the decisions about where her stuff should go, because the last time we moved into a new house with a new room and new places to put things, she was 4.

My daughter is going off to college this weekend.

Our relationship has been a simpatico one, almost without fail, since she was kicking around in my belly 18 years ago. There were a few colicky moments back in 1997, but other than that, we've been best buddies. She was my maid of honor. The person I get to schlep my laundry up from the basement. The person I've been watching The Voice with for years. The gal I just taught how to drive. My only baby, who's become an adult.

I'm gonna miss that girl.

For weeks we've been slowly going through her bedroom, organizing everything she owns into a few distinct categories: Stuff to take, stuff to keep here, stuff to give to her 8 year old cousin, stuff to give away to charity, and stuff to throw away. We've thrown away a lot of stuff. Apparently I raised a hoarder. We've got 2 car loads to take to Goodwill, two giant bins of toys and clothes for cousin Lena, the bookshelves in her room are organized with all the clothing, books and knick knacks she wants to keep at home, and my final thought leaving her room last night was that her bedroom is finally looking like a bedroom should look instead of like a tornado just hit. And everything she's taking is waiting by the front door.

All her stuff, and two sad dogs who know sumthin's up.
Last night we finally made it to the closet, where there lives a huge trunk full of dress up clothes. She's had it since she could walk. We brought it from Alaska when we moved to California.  We spent most of the evening going through it, deciding what was too gross to keep, and what needed to be kept for future costume parties, future potential children, and future Halloween escapades (she is going to Ashland, after all, home of the craziest city wide Halloween party in the mythical state of Jefferson).

Size 9 feet stuffed into size 5 shoes, and
one sad little puppy.
Trying on pretty much everything in the bin before making a decision on whether to keep or toss it, Sophia threw away the disgusting Dollar Tree wigs, but kept the purple fishnet stockings. Kept the bow tie, threw away the one black heel and the one gold heel. Threw away the pink pajama top with the puppies on the front, size 4-T ("Look Mom, I'm a hooker. Or Katy Perry."), kept all the rubber masks and the teeny little Uncle Sam hat on a headband. She kept the "Super Sophia" cape with a giant green S on the back I made from a pair of my purple satin pajamas when she was 3, and the pair of giant sunglasses, but tossed the pair of size 5 periwinkle heels from 1978 that my sister gave to Sophia along with a prom dress with a broken zipper, a stained negligee that finally fits her and doesn't look half bad  except for the stains, and a wedding dress that's too big even for me. Every one of these items was paraded out through the living room for me and the dogs in the most hilariously grotesque fashion show to ever hit the runway of our living room (and believe me, we've had plenty). She tried on my valkyrie costume (KEEP), her mad scientist smock (TOSS), a pair of tan 70's bell bottoms (KEEP) and at one point she walked through the house wearing leopard spotted shoes. Mismatched leopard spotted shoes: one was a platform heel and one was a furry slipper (TOSS).

Giant sunglasses
Last night I laughed so hard that I cried, but there are more tears - real tears - waiting in line for this weekend when this amazing soul, this joyful, thoughtful daughter and friend, moves out of the house, probably forever. Some of those tears are sneaking out now, but I know there's more to come. Lots more.

As I was going through a drawer with puzzles missing half the pieces, compact discs and random hair ties, I came across a cassette tape with a recording of a radio show I did back when I was 8 months pregnant with my little fashion model, the day before I left Alaska on the trip to Oregon to give birth. It was called "She's Having A Baby."

My friend Suzanne had told me that while I was pregnant, I should try to love myself a little extra, and take some time to do the things that really make me happy, because after the baby arrived, I wasn't going to have much time to myself for a long, long time. She was talking about reading books and getting massages, and I did those things. I also started a major genealogy research project, and started working on a new radio program idea I'd been thinking about, which was, for lack of a better description, an audio tapestry. I came up with a topic, and then went out on the streets with a tape recorder, and interviewed people about the subject, and then scoured the radio station's music library for   related music, and then I wove it all together. "She's Having A Baby" was the first one.

When it aired, 18 years ago this week, it was one of my proudest and most meaningful moments as a broadcaster. I was taking stories and music and bringing it all together in a way that was more fulfilling than just about any other thing I'd ever done on the radio. And it was dedicated to my (not yet born) little pumpkin.

A sidenote: Four and a half years ago, when Adam Mankowski walked into my office and suggested I write a column for A News Cafe, my first response wasn't what he expected. 
 "What in the world would I write about?""How about music," he said."Ohh, that would be sooooo boring," I replied.
And then I started thinking about that radio program.  And I told Adam how amazing it felt to weave stories and experiences with a playlist of music that went together perfectly. If I only there was a way I could do something like that for the internet. He said, "I think that's a great idea for a column. That's what you should do. Now how do we make that work?" And that's how the Mistress of the Mix was born. (Adam, you have my eternal, heartfelt appreciation and thanks.)

So last night as I held that cassette tape in my hand, holding back a few of those sneaky tears, I remembered back to that time when my daughter was growing inside me. Remembering how nervous and excited I was to meet her, wondering what she'd be like, how she'd turn out, and whether I'd love - or even be able to handle - the job of being a mother, and whether she'd even like me. At the time I couldn't even comprehend the fact that some day she'd be all grown up and I'd have to find a way to let her go.

I knew that the Spotify Playlist I put together to prepare to welcome my baby out of the womb and into my arms would have to be the same playlist I would share with you today when preparing to let her go out of my arms and into the world. I'm renaming it though, to "She's Losing Her Baby."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

She Drives Me Crazy

The first time I remember getting behind the wheel, I was in the 8th grade. It was a 1971 Ford Galaxy 500. A huge, ugly gas guzzler. I was 13, hanging around with the wrong crowd, and Tony, who worked at the skating rink, let me drive around the neighborhood for a while. I felt all grown up, and a little bit like an outlaw.

After that, I didn't have the opportunity to drive much, and my parents made it pretty clear that I wasn't going to be allowed to drive their vehicles unless I was paying for my own insurance, so I ended up catching rides with friends, taking the bus or walking everywhere during my teen years. I graduated from high school and started college without ever even getting my driver's permit. In fact, it wasn't until I moved to Boston to be a nanny, and was told that I would be given a car to use (another Ford, this time a baby blue Maverick). So I ended up getting my driver's permit the day before my 18th birthday, and by the time Christmas came 2 weeks later, I already had my license. And the next day I flew to the East Coast, getting my first real legal experience behind the wheel in Boston, in the middle of winter.

But enough about me. This is about my daughter. Just like her mother, she made it all the way through high school without a driver's permit, and is now, just weeks before leaving home to move into the dorms at Southern Oregon University (my alma mater), is finally learning how to drive.

And guess who's teaching her.

It's not my father, who is a bonafide, card-carrying race car driver. And yes, there's an actual card. My husband tried his hand at it for a weekend, and decided that if he and Sophia were going to remain on friendly terms, he'd better bow out. I know I could send her to driver's school, but we've only got a few weeks, and it's going to be the last quality time I spend with my girl before my little bird flies away. And I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm also a former Class C licensed school bus driver who went through rigorous training. My fingerprints are even on file with the FBI. So it's me.

So, these days when I get home from work, we put the top down on the Mustang with her in the driver's seat and me next her, holding onto the the things my stepson calls the 'Oh Shit Handles'. She slowly slowly slowly backs out of the drive way, and we head out onto the roads of Shasta County. She's so careful, trying to follow all the rules. She puts her blinker on long before she turns, tries to keep her hands at 10 & 2, and works so hard at trying to make sure that she's not going over the speed limit that at times I've had to remind her that it's just as bad to go 10 miles under the speed limit.

We had one pretty hairy incident last week during her first night time drive in my car, when she turned the corner so gently that the turn signal was still going. Attempting to turn off of the blinker, instead she turned off the lights. I started yelling.
"Turn the lights back on!" 
"How?" she  yelled back.
"The same way you turned them off!"
"How did I do that?"
Meanwhile, she had pretty much just rolled to a dead stop in the middle of the road, which, thankfully, was our own quiet street (except for the yelling).

And there was another moment when she had a really, really good day. She drove on the freeway for the first time, and survived. She pulled into a parking spot in the Target parking lot and was perfectly lined up between the other cars. She pulled out, backing up fluidly, and got back onto the freeway, merging perfectly. Her turns were executed brilliantly, her stops were smooth. Back home, she pulled into the driveway at an excellent angle, and came to a beautiful stop. She turned off the headlights and the engine, and smiled as I told her what an amazing job she'd done. We high fived.

And then I realized that we were rolling backwards. Panic ensued.

What I'm realizing about myself is that when I start panicking, I lose my ability to communicate effectively. Instead of saying, "Rotate the turn signal lever to the left side of the steering wheel forward to turn the lights back on," I'm yelling, "Turn the thingy! Do the thing! Gaaaahd!" And a few other words start flying out of my mouth. I know, that's not helping much.

What else probably isn't helping is when I say things like, "Brake! Brake! Brake!!!!!" followed by "Gentle. Don't brake so hard." And then I'm constantly saying, "Pick a lane, you can't have both of 'em!"

I know it's not easy for her. I think she's feeling defeated, like a failure because driving doesn't come naturally to her. And she's being so careful, so slow, that she feels like apologizing to everyone else on the road. 

Well, here's what I have to say to my daughter about driving. I'm talking directly to you now, Miss Sophia.

Yes, you're driving me crazy. But you're doing fine.

Yes, you're going slower than everyone else. That's because everyone else is going 15 miles over the speed limit. Get over it. But I'm still going to remind you that it's okay to go faster (I'll try my best to stop yelling, "Punch it!")

Yes, you're bringing the car to a full and complete stop 10 feet before the crosswalk at the intersection. Hey, at least you're not rolling all the way into the crosswalk, blocking the way for any pedestrians. Props to you. But I'm still going to remind you that it's okay to bring the car a few more feet forward. 

Yes, it's a white knuckle experience for me every time you turn a corner because I'm imagining the car going out of control and flipping over. And every time you back out of a parking space or out of the driveway because I'm imagining you ramming into something. It's my imagination, and I can't help it. I've got a great imagination. And I'm your mother. I worry. But guess what. You haven't backed into anything, and every scratch on that car was already there when Aunt Laura & Uncle Greg gave us an amazing deal on their old car.So cut yourself some freaking slack and wipe that apologetic I'm A Failure look off your face, because you're not. You're learning.

If you need any more reason to cut yourself some slack, remember that I'm the one who totaled two cars in a 24 hour period while behind the wheel of my 40 foot bus (they were parked cars with no one in them at the time, and I was distracted while trying to pull away from a curb both times). Shit happens. And shit's gonna happen. It hasn't happened yet, but I can't help but imagine all the possible scenarios that my one and only baby girl might get into. I seriously can't help it. I'm your mother. I know I'm driving you crazy right back.

So maybe I'm not the best one for this job. But I'm committed to it, and I'm gonna stay right by your side, firmly belted in, trying not to grimace or gasp or yell unholy words too often, and we'll get through this. And in two weeks, you'll be gone, off to college. And if you think the current situation is driving me crazy, just wait until you're gone. 

And now, to everyone reading this, I've got something to say directly to you as well. If you're driving or walking anywhere in the 96001 or 96002 zip code during the next 2 weeks, keep an eye out for a sweet metallic gray convertible mustang with two blonde chicks in the front. Have a little compassion, because this isn't easy for either of us, but we're doing our best.   To make up for the inconvenience, I've put together a sweet little playlist full of driving tunes for you to stream off of Spotify. Buckle up my friends, and enjoy the music.