Fear of the Bad Man

There is a fear that follows me like a shadow. It has been with me ever since I was small. To be honest, I am still small and some days it seems that only the fear has grown.

It’s the fear of The Bad Man. You know, the man with the baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes lurking in the bushes or the guy crouching down and waiting beside your car in a dark parking lot.

I am talking about the pervasive fear of the predatory man that is perpetuated every time I watch the news or listen to the radio. He is out there, waiting and watching for his opportunity to cause harm.

As an independent, childless woman, I kept the Bad Man at bay, aware and defensive. Now that I have children to protect, everywhere I look, the potential for an interaction with the Bad Man is there.

We can’t go for a walk without the thought that he might be around the corner or back to the car from a store without an extra scan to see if he is following us. I lace my keys between my fingers or carry a metal water bottle, just in case. Yesterday, I priced out pepper spray options that I ultimately decided against due to the absolute certainty that one or two curious little boys would spray themselves.  

This fear is a gift from my mother, creative in her protection, she created the idea of the Bad Man and with years of constant reinforcement, it remains with me. I suppose it keeps me alert and present, albeit paranoid, anxious and a little neurotic, and therefore I keep my sons a little safer in a world that feels so very dangerous some days.

Does anyone else struggle with this fear?  How do you face down your fears, real or imagined?

Game Time

“We’re playing a game,” Little Legs shouted from another room.

The sound of running feet and paws and laughter followed.

Suddenly, the dog raced into the living room, took a flying leap and landed cattywampus on the chair next to me. It was no wonder how she hurt her leg just a week ago. She was miraculously healed, it appeared.

Little Legs ran after her with outstretched arms.

“We’re still playing our game,” he explained.

He grabbed her pink collar and tugged, trying to pull her off the chair.

“Come on, Coco,” he said.

“How does the game work?” I asked.

“I lock her up in her cage and then she breaks out and she bites me.”

“That sounds like an interesting game,” I said endorsing an activity that was certain to win a mother of the year award.

 “I’m going to go get Baby Brother now,” he said with a serious expression.

“He can play, too.”

Somehow, I sensed that Baby Brother was about to switch places with the dog and decided creative game time was over.  

A Spot of Sunshine

The two slipped outside, hand in hand, under a pure blue sky.

Even the shadows, usually cool and creepy, felt warm and inviting.

“Watch out for snakes,” his mother warned.

She didn’t want to believe that a serpent would dare infest her garden of Eden but knew it was possible.

She found the skin of one in the grass, brown and paper-thin, left behind as useless as heels and pressed pants during this phase of life.

Overhead two white cranes honked at each other,

Speaking the private language of family that they somehow understood.   

Framed

We pulled away from the curb with Baby Brother napping in back and Little Legs begging for a snack.

“Bar? Coo? Nana?”

(Translation for the lay person. I would like a fruit and grain bar, a cookie or a banana.)  

It was a devastating blow for the child to learn that we did not have any of these things in the car. To be clear, it was meant to be a quick trip to pick up a picture that was just framed. And the boy was not starving, by any means.  

With Daddy Longlegs at the helm steering us towards home, he asked, “How did it turn out?”

“Oh, it looks great, but you won’t be happy,” I explained.

“What do you mean?” Daddy Longlegs took the bait.

“Well, I think they did it backwards. The matting might be on the wrong side.”

I dug into my purse so Daddy Longlegs wouldn’t see my laughing face.

“I couldn’t bear to break it to Brenda. She was so proud of her work.”

“Brenda? Who is Brenda? Do I need to turn around and go back?”

“You might, but not right now, obviously.”

Baby Brother woke up and started making the sweet wah, wah, wah noises that usually led to full on squalling within a few minutes, while Little Legs kicked at the back of Daddy Longlegs’ seat, chanting demands for various snacks.

“Brenda showed me another project that she just finished so I know she worked hard on this one.”

It was a hand drawn, black and white, cross-eyed dog that stared out in two different directions from an off-centered picture on the wall.  She pointed it out after she found my order, tucked away in a stack of other pictures wrapped in brown paper.

“That’s one of mine, too,” she said proudly through her mask.   

“You did a fine job.”

I nodded at the picture on the wall with my eyes and then looked back down at the picture on the counter.

“Thanks, Brenda.”  

And she really did a fine job, but I was not going to let Daddy Longlegs know that until we got home.

It was my way of keeping him on his toes, as though the boys didn’t do it enough. This was our relationship after two babies.

Exciting, glamorous, and sexy.

 

Games

“Little Legs?” she called.

The baby was in her arms, freshly diapered and tickled under the neck. Her older son was right behind her pushing a truck back and forth across the rug, until suddenly, he wasn’t there.  

The room was conspicuously absent of vrooming.  

She stepped out of the nursery, pushing the door completely open.

The baby cooed and laughed with his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth, oblivious to his mother’s worry.

“Little Legs?” she called again, louder this time.

 She peered into the kitchen and down the hallway.

The door squeaked as it swung towards her and a tiny figure jumped out at her from the dark shadow.

 “Hide!” Little Legs shouted gleefully with his hands over his eyes.

“Oh God,” his mother jumped back and the baby lurched forward, his wobbly head guiding the way.

“Little Legs, you can’t jump out at me like that.”

His mother’s heart pounded in her chest and she felt sick thinking about the momentary lightness in her arms.

A wail rose from the baby in protest of the bumpy ride and his brother skittered off like a water bug shooting across a pond.

He was ready for the next game.

Baby’s Trip to the Doc

While driving home from the pediatrician’s office, I glanced in the rearview mirror. Baby Boy was already fast asleep, his face still red and splotchy from crying. Screaming and sobbing, to be more accurate.

It was the first time in a week that I had on makeup, a shirt with sleeves and pants without an elastic waistband. It felt good to see the outside of our house and spend time beyond our yard. I even dressed Baby Boy up in a brand-new outfit and brushed the few hairs on his head over to the side.

He looked handsome and well-groomed, for about thirty minutes.

It started with a total blow out, somewhere between the car and the exam table, which went all the way up his back. As I peeled off his onesie, once so cute, now smeared with a mustard yellow that would certainly stain, I sighed. It had somehow reached his shoulder which was impressive, but also disgusting.

We rushed to clean up the mess, which is a word that is far too simple to describe what happened in that exam room. Fortunately, we worked fast in our clean up efforts and were ready in a fresh diaper by the time the nurse arrived.

“Oh, I see he’s already stripped down,” the nurse said in surprise.

She expected to wait while I undressed Baby Boy and had to leave her usual barely disguised look of annoyance for the next patient.

After the nurse weighed and measured my sweet little homebody, the doctor breezed into the room wearing safety glasses and a face mask. Interestingly, it is far easier to show annoyance and irritation through a mask, than a sense of warmth and generosity. However, it’s not impossible and the doctor gave it his best effort, smiling with his whole face and crinkling the sun-browned skin next to his eyes.

Baby Boy was born into this strange world of only seeing the eyes of strangers and faces of family. I wondered how this would impact his development. Would the kids of 2020 be known as the Maskies who are only comfortable at home, using Zoom and Facetime to connect with real people?

I couldn’t spend too much time dwelling on the future because we only had a few minutes in the present with the doctor to ask all the questions about sleep, poop, play and development that kept me up at night, even with Baby Boy as a second child.

Doc looked down his nose at the report of Baby Boy’s growth over the past month and gave a whistle.

“Let’s get a look at Fat Baby.”

It was like that was his name. Obviously, the doctor was unaware of his position of thin privilege or that Fat Baby’s mother was feeling over the top sensitive about weight and fat rolls and labels.

At about that point, I started to fall apart, as though held together by a thread that started disintegrating the moment we left the house. Perhaps all the time away from the public had made me too sensitive or out of touch? Maybe it was the effects of the post-partum hormones? Maybe it was too close to lunch time and my blood sugar was dropping.

Whatever the cause, I shut down and focused on Baby Boy, aka Fat Baby, forgetting to ask my important questions and plans for sleep training. The doctor obviously did not mean offense and it was more of a compliment to FB’s primary source of nutrition, me, than anything.

Still, I wondered when the pandemic ends, and it will eventually, how any of us could possibly reintegrate into a world that doesn’t appreciate fat rolls?

Enjoy the Blow

It’s a direct quote from my dad

after he worked all afternoon with my husband installing porch fans.

He has a remarkable way with words,

although they are few,

they are carefully selected

like picking the juiciest peach from a tree.

They are always just right.

peach

 

Paint Splatters

paintHis tiny fingers wrap around my arm.

The contrast of white against brown startles me into momentarily wondering about the origins of this beautiful child.

He is another unfinished project, like the boards of the deck, half-way painted before being abandoned by a rain shower.

The splatters of paint on my feet are reminders of the job that still begs to be finished along with the dishes, mopping and yet another load of laundry.

Where is the time? And where does it go?

I have the same 24 hours in a day and somehow it passes through my hands like sand in a sieve, constantly flowing until suddenly there is not a grain or a minute left.

I know that everything will get done, eventually, but it won’t be today.

Today, I would much rather push trucks across the carpet with Little Legs and hold Baby when he cries, share a snack of applesauce and blow the white fluff of a dandelion into the hot summer air.

Today, the time goes where I want because I’m the boss.

I’m the mama.

A Simple Gift

bunnyThe trio left through the backdoor. The woman wore the infant strapped to her chest while the toddler had decided to live his life as a bunny and hopped along behind her.

“Hop, hop, hop,” he narrated.

They made it around the side of the house when the boy-rabbit stopped completely, and as though frozen, he stared at the sky.

“Come on, bunny. Hop this way,” his mother encouraged.

The sun was hot on her face and arms. She pulled the brim of the baby’s hat back, his chubby face was peacefully resting between her breasts. The heat only lulled him further into a deeper sleep.

“Its hot out here, let’s get to the shade.”

“Nah, nah, nah. Clough!”

Instead of following his mother where she stood under the protection of a grizzled old tree with pale, green lichens growing on the bark and long overhanging branches, he continued to stare up at the sky.

“Clough!” he exclaimed again and pointed.

Sensing that the boy would be rooted to the spot until she did what he wanted, she returned to his side and looked up, finally.

Clouds unrolled across the sky like waves of wind-blown sand on the beach, stretching as far as the eye could see, against a breathtakingly blue sky.

“Clouds in the sky,” she affirmed.

“Beautiful, thank you for showing me.”

Satisfied at last with his mother, the boy-bunny continued hopping through the yard.

His mother was left behind, humbled at the beauty of the day and that it took the fresh eyes of her son to appreciate it.

All it took was to simply look up.

Cannibals

The meeting started promptly at 1:00, right in the middle of a perfectly good Sunday afternoon. I wondered why I was participating with the bigger question of why I volunteered for anything else when my life was already bursting at the figurative seams with undone things, starting with a mound of laundry.

Yet, there I was, calling in to be counted for the rollcall and reviewing the agenda with my boys in the next room in the care of Daddy Longlegs and G-ma.

We were all accounted for except for one person who, unbeknownst to her, would be eaten later.

Shortly after the meeting was called to order, the leader brought up what she called, “the elephant in the room.”

She forgot we were only faces suspended in virtual reality, there was no room and there was no elephant.

“We have to address the recent chain of text messages. I think we all know what I am talking about.”

There was a quiet murmur of acknowledgement from the floating heads.

“Therefore, I am submitting a motion for the Texter to be removed from The Board.”

I gasped in silent horror, thankful for the mute option.

It seemed an extreme punishment for the offense. However, I was the newest person to join and unfamiliar with the group dynamics, processes, and procedures.

“I want to hear from everyone on this,” the leader requested.

One by one, all members present voiced their opinions with a unanimous agreement with the leader.

“She’s got to go and here’s why,” one member explained.

“I’ve been noticing her lack of enthusiasm for a while,” another shared.

“She’s always first to leave and last to arrive,” a third stated.

The elephant in the room was slowly torn apart, limb by limb, and picked clean until only the bones were left to dry. The decision was to be delivered via email with the offer of a phone call to work out any remaining details which the leader didn’t think would be necessary.

“Its what she wanted,” she reassured the cannibals who were still licking their lips.

They were temporarily satiated from their meal.

I wondered how long it would be before they felt the hunger pangs and turned their hungry mouths towards me. Somehow, I knew it would be a matter of time, especially now they had the taste of blood.

bones