Because bricks are quite handy. You can throw them at thy foes, you can trip over them, breaking your big toe and getting to use the crutches that you've always thought everyone looked so cool using, and all you have to suffer through is some armpit chaffing. Also, a broken big toe. You can deliver that crucial memo from the 14th story of your office building to the 3rd story of your office building with lightening-fast efficiency by using nothing more than a $0.002 rubber band and any old brick you find laying around. Or kill your boss. Either way, you'll be in line for a promotion.
I like bricks. More specifically, I liked aesthetically pleasing configurations of bricks. Did you know that I once had an aptitude for and a very promising career rut carved out for me in mechanical engineering? True story. You wouldn't believe what I could do with a ruler. In fact, if I had enough balls to go digging through my storage closet that is most likely, by now, host to 3 out of 5 of Canada's most deadly spiders, also my Christmas decorations, I'd be able to find a stack of old blueprints with, like, 1990 written in the date. And drawn in pencil. *gasp* See, back in the stone ages when I was dipping my pen in the blueprint ink, people still used drafting tables and mechanical pencils and T-squares. Now there are twenty four versions of Autocad out there. I once bought Autocad for Dummies, thinking it might be fun to try my hand at it again, and I couldn't understand the acknowledgments page of the book.
You know, it's kind of messed up that the very same people who can doodle out an entire city, or an aircraft, or a satellite in their spare time can't think of a way to make the lead in mechanical pencils stronger than a dried spaghetti stick.
An then I married an Ivy League architecture major and we've been happily employed in the restaurant industry ever since. At least my wasted education was free.
But we do both find ourselves drawn to the linear. The only pictures we have hanging in our living room are of houses, or parts of them. My bathroom has a big ass schematic of the Brooklyn Bridge hanging in it. All of the furniture is square and all of the frames are level. We're sort of neurotically straight, actually. The clutter all over every square inch of our lives offsets it nicely, though.
I also find myself, on occasion, taking pictures of buildings. I'm normally a portrait sort of girl; I wouldn't take a picture of grass or water drops unless there was someone in it. Every know and then, however, I find some building that strikes my fancy and I can't help myself but shoot it. Like in Mexico, when I found a cathedral with this entrance.
I actually love the fact that there's a big, fat thumb smudge right in the middle of that picture, so shut up. There's this building that I stumbled across in Chicago this summer.
Pretty freaking cool, isn't it? There's this shot of the Chinese Gardens in downtown Vancouver, and I love it because I can't decide if it's the very essence of serene or if it's the fucking creepiest sort of "crawling out of these trees to get you" picture.
Either way, I'll take it. My neighbor Anjou took this one in Cairo, but it's all rights reserved so if you want to see it, you'll have to click. It's totally worth it.
And this one I love, I love so much, because if there's anything I appreciate more than gorgeous detail, it's religious irony.
But holy crap is that every gorgeous. Even if it is in abject defiance of the second commandment.
I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you.
Well, that's not exactly true. It's close, just replace working with sitting on my ass eating Klondike Bars and waitress with housewife and, by proxy, legal prostitute and cocktail bar with a socialist country that will never be America, no matter how hard it tries to be. Kind of like a Palm Treo. Ain't never gonna be a Blackberry; also, less expensive with better customer service.
BUT IT STILL ISN'T A BLACKBERRY, DAMMIT.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the day I met you being all groupiesque like everyone in the goddamn world, I've come to realize, is with you in public. My first clue should have been that I wasn't the least bit nervous or intimidated in meeting you, which has only ever happened to me when meeting the three people who, until .5 seconds previous, were in my vagina. And even that was a little awkward.
But there's nothing in the world better than holding the baby who's been screaming in your face for six hours straight and just puked in your mouth for the 13th time and saying, "Oh yeah? I totally pooped on your face once." It's the little things.
So I met you and you were as gracious as I've since seen you be with everyone who has to take a moment of your life to paw on you, and that's totally your own fault because you are a goddamn magnet. People can't help but be drawn to you. We want to touch you, to stand near you, to hear your soft words and smell your subtle perfume and languish in your gentle presence. You are such a different creature than the one you play on the internet; she is rough and jaded, you are soft and fragile. She is loud and boisterous and headstrong, you are above all other things humble and meek.
And I am in love with the both of you.
I can't put my finger on the moment when you bewitched me, but you have. You just came along with your shotgun and your knitting needles and your squadron of conflicting rebellions and you laced our hearts together. Our lives up until this point have run on the most uncanny sort of parallel, and I didn't realize how much I needed someone who knew, who really knew because they'd been there, too, what is was like inside my head and my heart and my soul. I needed you, and you came along just in the nick of time.
Or maybe it was all the dildo talk, I don't know. Either way, I'm rather fond of you now, and so is my husband.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I thank the flying spaghetti monster every day that I get to have you in my life, that I have this bosom companion out there and that we actually managed to find our way to each other. Through the internet. I guess I should thank Al Gore, eh? Or maybe Al Gore is the flying spaghetti monster. Oh my god, Al Gore is a deity. And good for him for sticking to the Buddha diet plan rather than that emaciated, nailed to a tree one the Vatican seems so fond of hanging all over the walls. Really, you're the fucking Messiah. EAT SOMETHING. I'm pretty sure they'll let you run a tab if you're strapped for cash. Or hell, I hear Judas has some extra change laying around somewhere. Hit him up.
See, Tanis, my birthday present to you is making a shitload of people unsubscribe from my blog so that you can remain the most widely read blogger in Canada. Also, offending our lord and savior. I love you that much.
So, on your birthday I can only offer you what you've showered me with since the day I met you in a smokey bar in San Franciso just over a year ago, and that is the promise of silly days to come
And love when you are in need
And wisdom and counsel on the days when you are lost
And the courage and strength to get up every day and make it a little better than the one before
But most of all, I promise to be here, always, no matter where the actual "here" ends up being. I'll always be as close as your heart, because I just don't think I could breathe without you. And thank you for that. I needed that the most.
Every night at dinner, we sit together and I ask each boy how their day at school was. They both say, "humnaschmurna." Then I ask 2of3 what his favorite part of the day was and he says recess. I ask 1of3 next and he says quantum physics.
I have vastly different children.
At this point, we usually eat and talk about that kid who got in trouble or the new toy in the Scholastic flyer or which dead animals they'll be dissecting this year. Last night, I wasn't feeling up to pig-gut talk, because I am an old fuddy duddy and no fun at all, so I asked 2of3 if he'd made any headway with his girl.
Last year, he fell in LOVE with a grade 4 girl. Like, wrote her sonnets and shit. This year, she's in 5 and he's in 4 and maybe the kid stands a chance, right? It was worth asking. We talked about her for a while and then I asked 1of3 if there was anyone special in his world. He said NO. I said, "Really, no one? And he said NOMAWMNO. I told him I wasn't trying to tease him, that I really, honestly wanted to know and he said, "I know you're being sincere, mom, but JUSTNONOWSTOP." All one word.
I said Huh. I said that wow, I had my first major crush when I was 6 or 7. They asked about him and I told them that he was the popular, rich-ish kid who tormented me from the first day of first grade until the last day of fifth grade. I told them what a bully that guy was, that I have dreams about him still, I just beat the snot out of him in them now. I told them that I didn't know why I had such a hang-up for Mr Matt Crowers, asshole extraordinaire, but I did.
Then I told them about Keith Scheshpin, and I know for a fact that's spelled wrong but I can't for the life of me remember how to spell it right. I told them out how cute he was, and how responsible he was, and how much older than me he was, so much that he didn't even know I existed. But he went to my church and I luuuuurved him, for a very long time. And now I can't remember what he looked like, not at all. Not even hair color. Love is fickle.
And then I told them about Jason Morawski, my very first "boyfriend." I was 13, he was 12, and I still have a metric shitton of pictures of him in my keepsake box. He was my first kiss, if you count a very tightly-closed lip-bump a kiss. I told them about how much Jason and I liked each other...like, we'd totally hold pinkies when no one was looking. I told them about how Jason's sister was my best friend, so I could never totally be swoony over Jason because I had to share my heart with him and his sister as equally as I could.
1of3 interrupted me and said, "So, he was just about my age, huh?" and I so totally threw up because man oh lordy, maybe I only tapped lips with that boy and just once, but I thought about much worse and he was the same age that my baby boy is almost now and that is just gross and wrong and I cannot believe some girl is going to think those thoughts about my baby like, next year, and still have his school picture from this year in the bottom of a wooden crate in 2030. God help me. God help ALL OF US.
And then I told them about Chris Sanders, the boy in my church congregation from New Jersey who was my first very much so real kiss, and who was very much so older than me, but the kiss was totally called for because we were close friends for a really long time but since he was so very much older than me, we never could "like" each other. But he came to hang out with me the night my mother snuck out while I was in the shower and took my brother and sister with her so that, when I left in a few hours for the airport to move in with my dad, I couldn't say goodbye to anyone. Not the best night of my life. So Chris came over, helped me un-child-lock the MTV and get the buckles on the suitcase closed and he kiiiiiiiissed me before he left that night. Like, 'soap-opera, arm around the waist, been waiting two years to do this' kiss.
Dude, first kisses are the greatest kisses in the history of kissing mankind. So are last ones. Especially when they happen at the same time.
And then I told them about Andy Ritchie, who went to high school with me and was as close to a 'boyfriend' as I had in high school except that he didn't go to my church and in my religion, you don't associate with people who weren't also a member of that religion, so I couldn't ever be his girlfriend. But I wanted to be, oh god did I ever. He was Irish and Portuguese, making him just about the most beautiful human on the planet, with the best hair, and he was an artist. He introduced me to Jane's Addiction and camouflage clothing and he actually came to visit me after I moved to Colorado in our junior year of high school. But I never got to have the first kiss, or the last one, with him.
I kept talking, because I don't know when to shut up, as if you didn't notice that by paragraph 83 of this post. I told them about a boy I met in high school named Scott who didn't really like me so much but I was infatuated with. Over the moon for. Obsessively stalking. Whatever. I told them about how much I wanted that boy to like me, and how much he didn't until after high school, but then he asked me to marry him one day on some train tracks behind my house.
And then I told them about this other guy I met, right after I broke up with Scott, and how I knew the very second I saw him that I wanted to marry him and have a bunch of babies with him. It took him a while to warm up to me, but eventually he came around and we fell in love and his name was Josh (our last name). They giggled.
And then 2of3 said, "Jeez, mom, I was wondering how long it was going to take you to get to our dad." Great, my kids think I'm a ho.
As if that's not bad enough, 1of3 said, and I wish I was kidding, "Mom, I think it's kind of weird that you've always had crushes on boys who you couldn't have." I said, "whuu?" and he said, "Mom, all of the guys you liked were either too old, or hated you, or went to your church, or didn't know you existed. Why didn't you just like someone who liked you first?"
You know what? We're eating in front of the tv from now on.
Three kids in, I know a few things about how their little brains develop and one of those things I can track like clockwork is the leap into empathy. I've watched each one of my children go from one day, not being able to think past their noses to the very next day, taking on the weight of the world. All children do this. I didn't realize when my first kid was one year old that he was incapable of feeling sorry or understanding what share meant or realizing that pulling momma's hair hurt her, because and I hate to go all Freud on your buttocks but I'm going all Freud on your buttocks, he was still stuck in his Id.* By kid three, I had that one all figured out, and good GOD did my parenting life get easier. Banging your head against year old bricks walls hurts after a while.
Somewhere in-between the Ego* and the Superego*, in my opinion, is where the capacity for empathy lies. It's the instinctual part of the Superego, the ingrained tendency that makes a person able to accept moral guidance and incorporate it into themselves. If I'm correct, and I'm probably not, I think it was Freud who thought that the only real instinct we have is sucking; that everything else is taught or developed. I bet I'm wrong, and I should probably just erase that line, but it goes to my point so I'll leave it. I went to public high school; sue me.
I Sure Hope There Aren't Any Psych Majors Reading My Blog, Because I'm About To Talk Out Of My Ass Aside:
*For all you non-geeks who don't study psychology for fun because you have lives or something:
Id is the personality that you're born with, the one that functions solely on need. (Or, as Freud would state, pleasure.) It makes sure you get what you need, and it doesn't much see past that.
Ego is one step past that. It still wants and pursues getting its needs/desires filled, but can assess situations and comprehend realities. It starts to understand, not just demand.
Superego is what happens when you introduce a belief structure and nurture the ego. It's your ability to adopt what you are taught is right or wrong. It's your moral makeup.
I think empathy is instinctual. I think that, unlike walking or talking which also just happen, that empathy is actually a necessary development, like the ability to suckle. You need it to survive. You know how you sometimes notice that your infant or toddler can immediately sniff out the good guys from the bad guys? That's what I'm talking about. Children instinctively can read people; they'll know who is going to love them and feed them and they know who's a risk. Like my neighbor baby, how he doesn't cry when the 11 year old holds him but he does when the 9 year old does. They both love him equally, but the 9 year old just isn't physically big enough to hold him safely. And the baby knows that, instinctively. No one told him that, my boy doesn't hold him any differently than his big brother does, and the kid has never so much as seen a measuring tape..he just knows. It's survival.
Random excuse to insert british sub-pop aside:
I also believe that you can over-develop a child's empathy-drive once the Superego kicks in and turn them into paranoid introverts who are so afraid of what everyone thinks of them, they are socially crippled. I think you can under-develop it and have children who grow into adults who are pariahs.
*ahem* I think that the one, and maybe only, distinct advantage to having multiple children is that they are given more opportunities to develop empathy, and therein humility, than a single child. Take my three; the first two were born right on top of each other and so have always had to take each other's feelings into consideration. My third? She's more or less an only child. She's coming into this stage WAY later than her brothers did, because she's really never had to before.
Until just recently, if she hurt someone or did something naughty, she'd instantly burst into tears because she knew that tears were called for, she just didn't know why. She felt what the proper feeling was, she just couldn't categorize it because that empathic sense hadn't kicked in yet, so what she'd do it start rattling off everything she could think of that might quantify the bad feelings floating in the air.
"3of3, you may NOT grab the gerbil by its tail and wing it around. That HURTS Niblow." This makes no sense to her, because she isn't in pain, so the gerbil couldn't be. If it's real, it has to be happening to HER. There's your Id.
"Momma! *tears flow* I tired! I hungry! My self hoits! I meed take a nap! You hoit me!" Straight to her Id; her base needs. Freud wasn't as insane as everyone thinks he was. Coke whore incestuous pedophile, sure, but a very sane one. He'd totally get the chair today.
She's also not really ever had to fight for anything; attention, toys, food, education...she's had me, more or less undistracted, for her entire life. And the thing with children developing empathy isn't that, like we associate with the word, that they become sensitive, kind, humans...it's that they start not just understanding the feelings of others, but are able to manipulate them. They are able to get into your head and feel from your angle, and use that information.
For the most part, this means that when my daughter's friend hurts his toe, she can realize that he feels pain even though she can't feel it, she can assess that pain and imagine it, and she can then take steps to alter it. She can pull from her surroundings and change his perspective on his pain, with a candy or a toy or a joke.
What this also means, however, is that when her friend makes her angry or accidentally hurts her when he takes one of his toys out of her hand, she can feel that pain, she can take the steps she needs to alter it (telling me) and then she can project it onto him. She can pull from her surroundings and change her friend's perspective, to make him feel her pain, too.
She can understand situations and assess them, and it doesn't always happen in the happy way.
She can walk right out of the front door, right after she's ratted him out and I've consoled her, and march across the street to that boy, her friend, and say, "My momma says you a baaaaad boy", even though her momma said no such thing. She knows that boy will care, because she understands his feelings, and when he asks, "Did she say she didn't like me anymore?" she'll tell him that I did. Just to rub it in. Just to manipulate his feelings and force-feed him her pain. Just to make him cry, too.
What she doesn't get, because she hasn't reached the Superego yet, is that what she's done is called "mean" and "lying" and because she's just done what comes naturally and hasn't yet learned the societal, moral ramifications of reverse-empathy. Or being a shithead. Call it what you will.
She can be a week from four and not know what a lie is because she has no reason to lie in her everyday life. She's never emotionally challenged because she deals with ME all day and almost no one else. Her brother, my middle son, had lying down to an artform by the time he could string a sentence together, because he had an older brother. His older brother had dominating and, well, mind-fucking down by the time his brother had lying down, because he had a little brother. My third has a mom and some playdough. My third is behind the curve.
My third had to learn what lying was today when I ran outside, grabbed her by her little arm, drug her back over to her friend and asked her, in front of him, if she'd said what I heard her say. Luckily, she's not actually consciously "lying" yet, so much as assaulting feelings with skill, so she naturally fessed right up to it. She had no idea that she could lie her way out of that one....yet. And then we talked about hurting people and making up mean stories and all the while, I held her right in front of her friend so the only thing she could see was his sad little sweet face and she GOT it. She said she was sorry. She offered him a hug. She took her little butt in the house all by herself for the few minutes it took her to process the concept that she'd hurt someone, with her mind.
A belief structure was put into place today, and that was that she may not use words to hurt people, especially not made up ones. A bridge between the Ego and the Superego was built. And I realized that if I don't get have another baby or enroll this kid in preschool soon, I'm totally going to have to change her name to Heather. And hide the drain cleaner.
Today is the last day of summer, and the first day of your fourth decade of life. If you've done, if you ever do, nothing else, you've changed my life forever, for the better, and I just wanted to say thank you for it.
Thank you for being my husband's big sister, for kicking his ass when he needs it, for listening when he needs it, for being the one thing in his life no one else ever will be. Thank you for being my babies auntie, for being silly with them and loving them as much as your own, for always being there for them whenever, wherever. Thank you for teaching 2of3 how to speak in complete sentences and let me tell you, Stop It Bitch has come in handy so many times since he was one. *wink* Thank you for teaching 1of3 to roll and jump and play. He forgets to do that sometimes, just like your brother, and you never let him forget to just be a boy. Thank you for taking my little girl's hand and heart and being as strong a force in her life as I am. Every girl needs a team of strong and different women behind her, and you bring her something I never will be able to, and I thank you for giving that to her so freely.
Thank you for this.
Oh my god, thank you so much for this. Thank you more for this than for anything else in the world. There aren't words at all, so I'm not going to look for them. You know.
Thank you for being my big sister. Thank you for taking me in and loving me just the way I am. Thank you for giving me someone to look up to, someone to learn from, someone to aspire to be like. Thank you double so for not making me go through the same initiation that your brother and sister had to in order to be your sibling. I don't think I could effectively dodge knives now. I'm getting older, too.
But more than anything, thank you for helping me not be so afraid. Thank you for being there on the steps with me the night before I signed a dotted line and became some man's wife, thank you for being on the other side of an airplane concourse and a bathroom door the day my entire world bottomed out on me. Thank you for never being more than one phone call, one car ride, one train trip or one airplane away. Thank you for showing me that anything is possible with enough dumb courage. And Valium. And most of all, thank you for helping me not be afraid of the future. I mean, if this is what forty looks like, sign me the fuck up, yo.
I love you. You were the best thing to ever come from me walking down that aisle 11 years ago. Well, after the whole "eternal love" and "devoted family" and "beautiful children" bits, of course. Happy birthday, sissy.