Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mommy gets her groove back, or The Conductor

Mommy laced up her writer/performer shoes recently. After a few, baby filled years off the "scene," mommy was anxious about performing/reading a new piece in a cool show called Salonathon. Mommy read the line up days before and noticed she was on the same bill as a Pushcart prize nominee, a Neo Futurist, and a critically acclaimed stand up comic. Shit. 

Mommy, Daddy said, You are going. That's the end of it.

It turned out to be awesome. The entire show was incredible and Mommy was not bad either. Daddy sat at the bar, looking handsome in his best black cowboy shirt and drinking local draft beers. 

Here is what Mommy read:

If you’ve been on the CTA recently, you’ve probably seen my son. Small, blond, suspect look on his face. He’s either clinging to me or staring at you because you are smoking, eating or soliciting. But, He might be kneeling at a window seat, twitching from head to toe with happiness at being on the train and being able to recognize the letters of his favorite signs:

A, “a—a—Addison”, mommy! “Puh, puh--Paulina!  Ssssss-Southport!

The team of specialists at his school  who diagnosed his autism call this twitching behavior “flapping.” And yeah, that’s what it looks like. But my husband and I call it sparkling.  His fingers dance up next to his ears and he jumps up and down. If he’s excited and happy about something, then he sparkles!

Also, it sounds better than flapping.

But if you see him and he’s not sparkling, chances are that you have called attention to yourself because you are leaning against the doors and that is not okay on the CTA. Or perhaps you are hogging a seat with your gigantic bag. Or maybe, and worst of all, you are eating a cupcake in plain sight of everyone, including a tired hungry rule abiding 5 year old.

“Mommy! My lil buddy might say, “Why does she have a cupcake? Why mommy? The man said no eating! You cannot eat cupcakes on the cta. Right, mommy? Right?”

Though he doesn’t like to talk to everyone, he has no problem talking to me, in front of everyone.

“I don’t know, Lil Buddy.”

“But the man says no eating, smoking or soliciting. “

“I know, honey.”

“ And she is eating. She is eating a cupcake”

“And that is not nice!

My strategy at these moments is to come up with something wonderful that will make him sparkle. I might say, “Look there’s an airplane!  Or “Look, it’s Ellies’ building,” because Lil Buddy’s friend Ellie lives in the Hancock building and it’s hard to miss it or I might say “Hey, there’s the river!” because the river is just plain cool and on a sunny day, guess what, it sparkles!

            We live near the Kedzie stop on the Brown Line, and ever since he could sit forward facing in a car seat, Lil Buddy has been mesmerized by the CTA. He knows that it ends at Kimball and travels as far as the Loop.  But  The Brown Line is especially great because it passes right across the street, in front of your very eyes. And there is nothing more magical to Lil Buddy than a good old fashioned rail road crossing, complete with looming striped gate and giant clanking bell sound.

            When were at home and he’s in his room playing with his Thomas trains, I’ll hear him say things like, “Kedzie is next. Doors open on the left at Kedzie. Smoking, Eating, and Delivering are prohibbed on CTA beehickles. Priority Seating is sirtended for the elderly and passengers with disavilities.” He doesn’t get the words exactly right, but there is no doubt that this kid loves mass transit.

One day Last summer we were sitting in a coffee shop in Edgewater while the car was getting oiled and cleaned at the Toyota dealership.

“Mommy!” said Lil Buddy, looking up from a cookie, “Look that’s the CTA!”

“It sure is honey!”  I said. “that’s the Red Line.”

“oooh, the red line,.”

We watched the red line come and go. Lil Buddy sparkled.

“Mommy,” he said, “Does the red line go to Kimball or the loop?”

“It goes to Ninety fifth St.”

“Ninety-fifth. Ninety fifth. Ninety fifth. How do you spell Ninety Fifth?”

“Hey kiddo, “ I said, “do you want to ride the red line? We can go to Argyle.”

“Um, okay, yes!” said Lil Buddy.

So we walked to the Bryn Mawr platform, rode the escalator and waited.

Lil Buddy hopped up and down.

“We will see gates and flashing lights, Mommy?”

“Um, No honey. Not on the red line.”

“yes flashing lights! Yes”

“Well, Lil Buddy, the red line only goes up high or underground. It doesn’t go on the street like at Kedzie.”

“It does have flashing lights mommy! It does, it does.”

“Lil buddy. It doesn’t. It only does up high or underground, not on the street.”

“Yes flashing lights mommy! Okay? Okay? Okay mommy?”

“okay,” I said, lying through my teeth.

Lil Buddy sparkled as he looked out the window across the east side of the tracks. There were rooftops and parking lots and alleys but no flashing lights.

“where are they, mommy? Where are the lights?”

When we got out at Argyle, Lil buddy looked around.

“I don’t see them,” he said. “let’s take the escalator!.

Out on the street we saw barbecue chickens, noodle shops, and gift stores with waving cats  but no flashing lights.

“Hey,” I said, “Lets get a lucky cat!”


“Okay”, I said. And I silently reminded myself to stay calm. “let’s walk around the block ,” I offered.

“no, Mommy! No, no, no!”

“Well, what would you like to do?” I said.

“I-WANT --TO –SEE—FLASH-- ING --LIGHTS!” He said, his tiny voice seething with anger.  “SEE Lights NOW!”

 I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and wished really hard. Oh God, please! Please please please let there be a giant railroad crossing with a big Yellow and black sign and a gleaming red  and white striped gate and giant fucking clanging bells and flashing lights when I open my eyes. Oh my god, please.

But I opened my eyes to see only my small, angry child foaming at the mouth with disappointment. Lil Buddy’s face was red and streaked with tears.

“mama!!!!” he cried.

“Baby,” I said, bending down to stroke his arms and try and calm him down. “It’s okay.”

“Noooooo!” he cried out, miserable, sounding as if someone, maybe me, had just hit him. Passersby on the street looked around. They stared. They thought about calling DCFS.

“Sweet pea,” I said, “let’s take a balloon breath. Come on! In…and out…and in….”

“No……….Maaa…..maaa “(with heaving breath sounds)

“Okay, I’m going to count to five and then..”


“Okay, honey, tell me…do you feel annoyed right now? Or is it more like a number 5 frustrated? Or are you all the way up to a ten and filled with rage?”

“(hyperventilating) Rage!!!!”

He flailed his arms enough to bat my hands away. He stomped up and down and began to swat at me! “Flashing lights! Flashing lights!”

Out of nowhere, a very fit mommy or nanny came around the corner pushing a fancy double stroller. Her angelic twins eyed my flailing, crying son as he hit and scratched me.

“Not nice,” said one of the little angels. Fit mommy just stared with judgement in her eyes.

“Lil Buddy, Please, “ I said, “You have got to calm down. They just don’t have flashing lights here. Okay?”

He sobbed and sobbed and collapsed in a heap. I carefully wrapped my arms around him.

“Why there’s no lights, mama?”

“Because honey, look, all the train platforms are up high.” He looked up and cried harder.

I rubbed his back, he put his wet face on my knee. We sat  in front of a windown filled with lanterns and lucky cats.

“Hey kiddo, should we go get the car and go home?”

“Yeah.” He said, and then he perked up and said “What’s that?”

“Whats what? I asked

“That!!! That that that that!” He pointed violently in front of our faces.

“That’s the Broadway bus, honey. Number 36.”

He looked dreamily at the giant, hulking city bus, watching those magnificent doors open and shut.

“Do you want to take the bus back?” I said.

“Yeah!” said Lil Buddy.

So we waited for the Broadway bus, and luckily, another one came quickly.

Lil Buddy snuggled up next to me on a seat and looked out the window. He got his sparkles back, watching everyone come and go.

“Mommy! What comes after Argyle?”


“after that?”


“after that ?”


And on and on we went, to the delight or dismay of our fellow passengers. We stopped naming stops at 35St. cause Mommy couldn’t remember anymore.

On the way home, in the car, Lil Buddy talked non stop about the trains. How some have crossing gates and lights and some do not. Some are down low, and some are up high. Some go underground. We passed as many red line stops as we could, taking a close look at their features.

“nope!’ he would say happily, “No flashing lights!”

At home as I fed Lil Buddy’s baby sister and unloaded the dishwasher, I listened to him playing with his trains in his room. I wondered what red line announcement he would zero in on. Or which station names he would make up. But this is what I heard:

“Next stop Argyle! Route 36 to Broadway/Halsted. “    pshhhhhhhhh (he made the sound of the doors opening)

“please move to the back”

Your safety is important.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Guilt

Mommy raced to get the kids home after work. After finishing up some grading and organizing at school, going to the bank to withdraw babysitter money, and going through a drive through for some much needed caffeine, Mommy finally reached Lil Buddy at 4:30. She was off schedule. She was supposed to get him at 4, then Sweet Potata at 4:15, so they could be home by 4:40, out the door for trick or treating at 4:50. Her plan was to walk two blocks into the adjoining, really nice neighborhood; the one with the pretty houses. The one with no graffiti. The one with a Starbucks and a college campus. That’s where they would trick or treat. Just 5 or 6 houses until Lil Buddy grew tired. Maybe more. It would be perfect.

But Mommy was really late. She got Lil Buddy at 4:30, then Sweet Potata at 4:45. And Sweet Potata needed extra time to get her coat and shoes on over her chubby ladybug costume. Her striped black and red legs kicked wildly as mommy carried her to the car. She squealed with delight. Mommy looked down at Lil Buddy and a tiny train conductor smiled up at her “Happy Halloween Mommy,” he said. With a CTA patch on his shoulder and hat, and a mass transit map in his pocket, he looked like a very small city official. Mommy wanted to scoop him up too.

Lil Buddy turned in circles on the lawn as Mommy buckled Sweet Potata into her car seat. The seat belt was tight over the lady bug stuffing. Sweet Potata didn’t complain though, she just looked at mommy with big eyes.

In the car, Lil Buddy said, “I’m tired. I wanna go home.”

“But we’re gonna go trick or treating,” said Mommy. “You want to go get candy and treats,right?

“Umm, okay,” said Lil Buddy. Mommy was a little surprised, but then again, this was the time of day that they usually headed home. Lil buddy would take off his shoes and then curl up on the couch. He was exhausted by 5 everyday.

Mommy cringed with working mom guilt. She should have just left school at 3, gone right to Lil Buddy, and then Sweet Potata. Everyone would be more awake, but Sweet Potata would have had to wait until later for dinner. She held onto hope that the kids would make it through a few houses. This was the first official year that Mommy took Lil Buddy trick or treating. In the past, they went to Lincoln Square for a Halloween party and trick or treating on the Saturday close to Halloween. That was enough. But Lil Buddy was 5, and Mommy was certain that he should officially trick or treat on Halloween night. Mommy was determined to make that happen, even after a very long day at work.

Mommy parked, and then took her “minute.” She always took a minute or two to gather herself and find the energy to haul the kids and all of their collective stuff out of the car. To decide what should stay. This time, though, her minute was only 30 seconds. She opened the back door and unwrapped and pulled Sweet Potata from her seat. She held her 20 pound Sweet Potata on her left side and opened the passenger door with her right. She reached down and grabbed her bag and through it over the right shoulder. She closed the door and opened Lil Buddy’s door. She carefully bent down with baby and bag, to un latch his seat belt. She helped Lil Buddy out with her free right hand. She watched for cars with one finger on Lil Buddy’s hood. She closed the door. The whole gang carefully crossed the street and went into the house.

Mommy put bags down, and passed the baby into another hand as she unlocked doors and mailboxes. Mommy’s legs burned as she carried baby and bags up to the second floor. Inside the door, Lil Buddy took off his shoes and coat and lay on the couch. Mommy wanted to do that too.

“No, honey,” said Mommy, “We are going out, remember? Trick or Treating!”

“Rookayyyyyy,” said Lil Buddy.

Mommy summoned her last energy reserve to unload stuff, bundle herself and the kids for the cold, and find Lil buddy’s plastic pumpkin. She saved some energy for the stroller.

Back at the car, Mommy did what she thought would be her final heroic physical act of the day. She unlocked the trunk and pulled the giant Jeep “beep beep” stroller from the car, with Sweet Potata in her other arm. The she unlatched it so it could unfold by doing this graceful side bending/pair skating move with the baby. She squatted with baby and adjusted the recline on the seat. Sweet potato squealed with happiness. Thank goodness she loved riding in the beep beep. Mommy’s left shoulder was about to go numb. She plopped Sweet potato in, strapped her down, blanketed her feet, and put the steering wheel attachment on so she could push buttons and make music. She popped the front wheel on to the lawn and then heaved the whole thing up to the side walk where Lil Buddy was waiting.

“I’m sooo tired!” he said.

“Oh honey!” said Mommy, “this is going to be fun! Think of all the candy you’ll collect!”

“I don’t want candy, Mommy! Just treats.”

“umm, okay.” And they headed down the block, turning left to cut across to the college campus and take a short cut to the Nice Neighborhood.

“My tummy hurts my tummy hurts, my tummy hurts,” Lil Buddy cried out. He clutched his tummy and bent forward. He did his fake whimper. Mommy new that despite the amped drama, he either did have a hurt tummy, or he was just really really tired. Mommy was way off schedule and Lil Buddy was way past his tired point. She cringed with guilt again.

“Do you need a little snack?” asked Mommy, pulling  a bag of bunny grahams from her pocket.

“no!” said Lil Buddy. But Sweet Potata reached for them so Mommy gave her a few.

“Do you need to go potty?”

“No! my tummy hurts!”

“What do you want to do honey?”

“I want to go home and rest on the couch.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want to trick or treat?”

“No! Rest on the couch!”


“Okay,” said Mommy. “let’s go.” And she steered the beep beep back toward home. The walk was long! Lil Buddy was miserable. “Roh!” he moaned.

She rubbed his back with her free hand. “Almost there,” she said.

As they rounded the corner, she realized she didn’t have a plan for the stroller. Daddy was supposed to meet them while they were out, but he wouldn’t be home just yet. She was not about to fold the stroller and put it back in the car with one hand. She decided to bring it in the front door.

She let Lil Buddy in, then pulled Sweet potato out. Baby was miserable that her ride was over so soon. She yelped and yelped.

She moved the stroller to the side and quickly took the kids up to their apartment. She let them in. She put Sweet Potata down on the floor and took off her coat and hat. She helped lil buddy out of his coat and hat and shoes and he went straight to his bed.

“do you want water? Some crackers?”

“no, no, no. I want to rest,” he said. Mommy shut the door and ran down the stairs to the stroller. She looked at it and thought for a moment. Then she dragged that thing up two flights of stairs to the apartment. She wheeled it in and Sweet Potata squealed. She picked her up and put her back in it. Sweet Potata played with the steering wheel and buttons. She was delighted. Mommy wheeled her into the kitchen and started dinner.

At this point, she hoped Lil Buddy would just fall asleep from his long day. Sure enough he did.

Mommy felt some guilt but she knew that Lil Buddy had all the candy and fun he needed on Halloween. Next year she would get it right.

She turned on the oven and then reached for her phone to text Daddy:

Plz gt wine