Oh Oz-matoz. My Great and Powerful boy. You steal my
breath with your wet-lipped smile and those eyes that give you away. Today I
got a Facebook memory served up from May 30, 2011 at 12:14am. It was my status update that said simply: Here we go. And away we went.
Who was the first baby ever born? you like to ask me, and
I stumble a bit with evolution and the Bible before settling on I don't know.
You have a scientist's mind, always asking questions, and
I have a mother's mind, always thinking I need to have the answer. But a lot of
the time/most of the time, I don't, though I am hoping we have a few years
before that becomes unflinchingly obvious to both of us. Who was the first baby
ever born? Might as well have been you because the world cracked open new the
moment you came into it.
And here we are--you are 7. Most mornings now you wake up
at 6am and get yourself dressed while singing a song that goes like this: I
love sunny daaaays, when anything is possible... You may have made up this song
on your own, I am not sure. But I do know that when you draw, you act out every
single sketch in a loud, throaty falsetto, even if you're just drawing a
straight line. Woaaahhhh guys! Over here! Here we go! For a line. Just a line.
With you, a line is a possibility, something to be toed
then crossed, danced across really, a horizon stretched as wide as your smile. Here we go indeed.
Happy birthday my sweet, smart, delicious Ozzy Fozzy.
I wasn't sure I was going to write this letter here, but I just kissed you goodnight and realized I had to. Because suddenly you exist in the same world as green juice, the internet, social media...you know how to pronounce foyer, who Putin is, you follow #timesup on Instagram. I realized that this letter is not some future possible something you might read someday from the backseat of your flying car, but a now, hit publish and there you might be. Hello.
Oh Zo. How are you 12? Where did the time go? A dozen years ago I gave birth to you, but you gave me life. You with your impossibly large eyes and that freckle on your lip. Next week you get braces for that one tooth that won't grow in, and it's not so much that I am afraid of change, but I am afraid of how quickly I will get used to you with braces. I am afraid that one day I won't remember how your teeth looked "when you were little," the happy round shape of Chiclets, as if a child drew them in with a very soft crayon.
Here we are where there are edges, and I am still trying to cover them with my palm so that you don't hit your head. Of course you are too tall for that now. At 12, I watch as you and your friends try on growing up like a pair of my shoes that even I am not comfortable wearing. Walking around town by yourself, posting selfies, talking about another girl's hoops as if to measure something ineffable and uncomfortable by the circumference of earrings. Some of your friends have boyfriends. Other friends are no longer really friends at all. Today you got a bad grade on a math quiz, and I know how these things can splinter. But I also know that you are unflinchingly kind. You are not afraid to be soft, and it is my birthday wish for you that this softness is unbreakable, that the boys and the posts, the crop tops and Instagram stories of places you were not invited, that these do not make you hard. That you always know that there is a center, as shy and as brazen as a magnolia, a place where you belong and are loved. And that place is inside of you.
I love you, I love you, I love you, my sweet petunia-faced birthday girl. I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to be your mom.
I finished my Christmas shopping. We took Santa pictures, went ice skating, Christmas caroling. I sent out holiday cards. I felt grateful. I yelled at the kids for bickering. I bought myself some presents. Polished off a tub of English toffee whilst watching The Crown and Googling Prince Phillip. We decorated Christmas cookies. I had a few ugly cries over my brother being gone. Felt grateful despite. I went to holiday parties, drank wine, took antibiotics for a sinus infection, decided I am fine with not being good at wrapping presents, stood in line at UPS, the grocery store, felt grateful some more, tried to find Christmas crackers but they are sold out, and now it is the eve of Christmas Eve, so Zoey and Ozzy stood in front of the tree, because tradition, and yes, I am so very fucking grateful.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of the above, and so much more. Happy everything to you and yours. Love, S
a series of unsynchronized schedules, I was alone in my house last night for an
hour or so, and I am NEVER alone in my house, like, ever. Giddy with the expanse
of the hour, I wondered, should I take a nap? Watch tv? Do dirty things, paint
my toes, shop online? But no, somehow I ended up unloading the dishwasher and
asking Alexa if she thinks Trump will be impeached.
looks like you're asking about Trump, she said, and then gave me NPR headlines
on his latest embarrassment.
house was so quiet with only me and the clink of clean dishes, so I kept
talking to Alexa.
do you believe in ghosts? I don't have a view on the supernatural.
are my mom and brother watching me? Sorry, I don't know that one.
when will I die? I'm not sure you really want to know the answer to that question.
In 2015, the United States' average female life expectancy was 81 years.
what is the meaning of life? The answer is 42, but the question is more
what is the sound of one hand clapping? It is the sound of a High Five.
I had asked Alexa about the chickens and the eggs, what I should be for
Halloween, why do birds sing, and could I get more cowbell, my family finally
came home and it was the comfortable chaos of baths and brushing teeth, books,
bed. But that hour--it was nice. Like therapy, just me and agenda-less Alexa, monotone
jokes, answers and matter-of-fact don't knows.
All images are from this amazing post of abandoned states, postcards of better days
lined up with now. As the post says: They have a surreal quality. Ephemeral, disposable, they served only one
purpose—to let someone know "I'm here. I'm thinking of you."
Lastly, I still don't know what Alexa meant when she said the meaning of life is 42, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't haunting me, but nonetheless, here is a funny SNL bit on Alexa.
Wildfires, hurricanes, mass shootings,
Harvey, Trump, the horizon like a set design of flat layers beautifully still with
melting plastic and ash.
I force myself to remember that there
are also school photos, library books, The Beatles, chai lattes, kitten videos,
a piece of paper that Ozzy left on the table with a list of words he practiced
writing in green crayon: egg, cow, vase, wagon, clock, pumpkin, nest, car, pretty,
black, go. I tell my children that there is way more good in the world than
there is bad. (I tell myself that, too.)
This one has
a thing for blondes. A type, for sure. He currently has crushes on 5 girls,
each one blonder than the last, and I try not to let it bother me, that I am
not his type. His mother. Oedipal Ew notwithstanding, it's a glimpse into
a future wherein I am not the only woman in his life, and I swear I am okay
with that. Or I will work on it and will be when the time comes.
This one just
came over to me as I am writing this even though I told him I need alone time, and he stood next to me and read,
This one, this one has a thing for bananas? He has a dimple in the strangest
place on his face, a little below his bottom lip on the left. Sometimes he makes
me so angry, and then—that
This one came
with me car shopping the other day, for a used Audi. At the dealership, the man
helping me was dressed in a 3-piece suit and clearly did not want to waste his
time on me and my used (up) budget. Still, I asked for a test drive, and
driving down the street in that butter-soft Audi, the man rattled off specs on
the Bang & Olufsen sound system, seeming to know that I had no idea what he
was talking about. He asked me what music I wanted to listen to as he fiddled
with his phone. Anything, I said, when from the back seat, Ozzy said he wanted
to hear The Buttcracker. The Nutcracker? the man said smirking, and Ozzy said
no, not Tchaikovsky, The Buttcracker, in the tune of farts, please. I nodded
yes, yes, that is what I want to listen to, to make sure the Bang & Olufsen
sound system was up to par. So the man found it, and we drove on in plush,
oh, how that car drove beautifully silent!—listening to a ballet of farts. You know, that one.
Just stopping in here to tell you that I thought my brother was haunting me through Ozzy's remote control fart machine, mostly because we lost the remote to the fart machine forever ago, and suddenly the machine started farting on its own.
...I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner. Fart from the other room.
...Sleeping in on Sunday morning. Fart across the house.
...In the bathroom, big fart. It totally wasn't me.
I tried to ignore the fact that unlike most siblings, my brother and I did not have a relationship rich in flatulence, that if he was going to communicate with me from the dead it was unlikely to be through farts, but I guess I miss him so much I was willing to think maybe? That is until we had a massive heat wave and figured out that our ceiling fans run on the same frequency as the fart machine, so whenever anyone turns the fans on or off or up or down, the fart machine rips one from the other room. (Please nobody show Ozzy this new trick.) Consequently, I have requesting a reading from Tyler Henry because something tells me he is true and does not fart either; he has yet to get back to me.
So there's that.
It's been a few months. We went to Costa Rica. Spent the summer swimming, surfing, fighting, reading, trying to find the best mascara. I think this might be it. Zoey is now in middle school, Ozzy now a Cub Scout. There are hurricanes and wildfires, earthquakes, North Korea. The world might be ending but I kind of doubt it, because it is September, and everything is too beautiful.
I never meant to become a tragedy porn (star). Of course
I don't think anyone does, really. It just happens. The first bad thing.
Another. (And thenanother, if you're me, another after that.) How people turn
to look, and they are nice about it, how they slow down. But you can feel it,
the looking. It's human nature, after all. I have looked at a thousand
tragedies myself, still do. The meaningful squeeze of a shoulder, faces
crumpled in concern but also naked curiosity, relief. There's nothing wrong
And maybe I did this to myself. After all, I write about
it. Even when I sit down to write something funny, the sorrow spills out. Grief
unspooling like those black snake fireworks coiled and lazily roiling, a
sulfuric intumescent sadness that twists itself uncomfortably until it's just a
pile of ashen turd on the pavement. Yes, that's what it's like. Sodium
bicarbonate sadness in my belly.
Of course it's also like this: Alexa! I say. Play
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah by James Basket! And we dance in the kitchen, me, Bryan and
the kids, Ozzy so proud that he taught himself to whistle. My oh my, what a
wonderful day. I post happy photos on Instagram because I am happy. It is
summer. I go out to dinner with friends. My brother recently died of a drug
overdose, I am able to say now with what I think is a normal look on my face,
knowing that they are getting the wrong impression of my brother. He was not a
drug addict like that, I want to say but I don't, except I guess he was a drug
addict like that. I'm sorry, they say. Thank you, I say. Plenty of sunshine,
comin' my way...
I called the Medical Examiner's Office every few days to
see if the toxicology reports were done. I couldn't understand how Chris
Cornell's report took a week, but my brother's report would take over 12 weeks.
We finally got my brother's report on the day that Carrie Fisher's toxicology
reports were made public. Carrie Fisher had cocaine, methadone, ecstasy,
alcohol and opiates in her system, although cause of death was sleep apnea. WTF?
My brother's cause of death was listed as accidental, an acute hydrocodone,
carisprodol, meprobamate, and gabapentin intoxication. A bigger WTF, if you ask
me. I think I was hoping for something harder, like heroin, so I would know
that he was in deep. But maybe that is me being naive, not understanding yet
that an addiction to prescription pain meds, muscle relaxers and nerve blockers
are just as hard as heroin. I have ordered the full toxicology and autopsy
report, looking for answers that I know are not there. Sometimes I think if he
was going to die doing drugs he should have at least had more fun. Again, me
being naive, stupid, and I shouldn't think that.
Instead I think about how I look when I am crying while
driving home from work. Stopped in traffic on Valencia Street, I wonder if
anyone sees me. I put my hand to my face and feel dramatic. Then I think about
how we are all on stage now with social media, or maybe it's just how it is
being a girl, thinking about how you look even when you cry. That thought feels
very un-feminist, and I push it away. Analyzing the crying makes me stop crying,
but I try to squeeze out a few more small sobs because I can feel it in my
chest all tight and kinetic. More than likely it's that I feel as if I am in a
movie, that this is not my life, that this is not me driving down the street
trying to cry in my car because my brother is dead, because I don't have a
brother anymore, because I have no one to talk to about the smell of the rotten
plums from my childhood. I poke at my insides with these thoughts as if they are a sore in my mouth.
Alexa! Play Poop in My Fingernails!says Ozzy when I get
home, even though I asked him not to play that song. I take away his Alexa
privileges but not before I hear, I wipe really hard, and my toilet paper is
weak, sometimes I break right through and my fingernail is rubbing up against
my poopy butt-cheek... How long is too long to not get over your brother dying?
Oh, I know there is no right answer to that, and I know that even if there
were, I am only 3 months out, so not even close to a time limit that doesn't
exist. Still I feel like maybe I should get over it. Move on. Write about the
way my hair feels now that it's long enough to brush against the tops of my
shoulders, how Zoey is going to middle school next year. (!) I really don't want to be
anyone's tragedy porn, but here I am, making jokes because grief is
embarrassing, and because resting on it too long is annoying. Like the song says, you're
never gunna get it completely clean, poop in my fingernails, poop in my
fingernails. I grab Ozzy's hand and we dance, me hoping that him telling Alexa
to play that particular ditty was a non-sequitur, not a segue of action into
Dear Ozzy, Here we are at 6, and oh, but you are a beautiful scheisse of a boy. Such a Gemini, I told someone the other day, the softest, wet-lipped thing I ever did see, one minute squeezing my heart with ohmygodIlovehimso, the next, that same heart squeeze a grip of fuckingstopitrightnow! But always I love you. I love you, I love you. I love you so much I can't breathe.
You sound like you hate me, you say in what is either the saddest thing a boy in trouble has ever said to his mother, or the most genius manipulative thing a boy in trouble has said to his mother. No matter. Either way I tell you I will always love you, even when I am mad at you, even when I yell at you. I love you. I hope that you hear it, because I will keep saying it, just as certain as you will keep not listening. This is who you are, my Ozzy boy. Had I named you Robert maybe you would have listened, an Eli would have been quiet, but I didn't. I named you Ozzy and you do not listen. You do not toe the line. You whine. Yell. You laugh too loudly, say hello to everyone who passes by, you color with crayons as animated and hard as road rage, you fall to the floor just because you think it's funny, even when there is no one around to think such things. You fall simply because it is. Funny. You are my Ozzy, and I love you, my wild-eyed boy who kisses me each night with carbonated lips mid-story, your face smelling of swimming pools and coins.
Unfortunately for you (and my family), I suck at cooking. BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER ANYMORE BECAUSE WE FINALLY REMODELED OUR KITCHEN! Let me back up to 1979 when our kitchen was last updated. Then fast forward to a few years ago when I entered a contest I saw on the Ellen show--she was partnering with Houzz to remodel someone's ugly kitchen for free. I had an ugly kitchen, so I took a bunch of pics and submitted them. Before you get all excited for me, this is not a post about how I was on the Ellen show and got a free remodel, because me and my ugly kitchen were not chosen. Apparently my kitchen is not Award-Winning Ugly, which makes it even uglier so it should have won on technicality.
I just mention the Ellen show because I found my pics from when I entered that contest. And no, I did not artistically stage the pic with that cupboard open; it simply wouldn't close. Ever. Closed cupboards are for Ugly Kitchen Posers.
I believe this photo was to illustrate the mold growing beneath the sink. Whenever you ran the garbage disposal, you had to open the these doors because sometimes, inexplicably, just as a fun surprise, the pipes would burst spewing water and food bits.
Perhaps I ought to have entered the contest with a video as so many of the uglies were ugly in action, such as the dishwasher, which popped out of the counter with a loud ka-thunk every time you opened it.
Oh 1979 kitchen, you sexy linoleum beast, you.
It took a few years of me giving the stink eye whenever I'd open a cupboard and the entire panel would come off in my hand, but eventually Bryan agreed that Ellen or no Ellen, we needed to remodel the kitchen. As an aside, it makes me laugh a dark, sinister laugh whenever people say to me, oh, how lucky your husband is an architect! He can just remodel your house whenever you want! To which I pull out the ol' cobblers children go shoe-less line. I will say that having an architect husband is lucky in that he has connections, said sans dark sinister undertones. Bryan got us deals on deals, and for that I owe him a back massage (safe to say that here as he doesn't read my blog). It's hard to compare photos because we took out a wall to open up the kitchen, or perhaps I should say Ozzy took out a wall.
Try explaining to a 5 year old boy why sometimes it's ok to swing a hammer into a wall, but not other times. You ready for an After?
New counters, new cupboards, new floor, sink, appliances, new everything.
I am a sucker for a pop out window (which we did not replace, and which Bryan regrets, but whatevs, I needed a spot for my neon rainbow, duh.)
This is the wall we took out, and it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. (Note: we did keep some chalkboard wall, which should be a staple in all households, in my opinion.)
The view into the kitchen now. And yes, we totally play "restaurant" and yes, I did get a bell that I ding and I do yell "order up!" to call the kids to dinner.
Also yes? I got a print of Rapper's Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. Once you get it down, nothing makes you feel more bad ass bouncy cool than rapping it a cappella.
Everything about this makes me happy. So take that Ellen and Houzz, that's that, a wrap on our kitchen remodel. I still suck at cooking, but who cares when I have a fresh kitchen with a neon rainbow and can rap a hip hop, the hippie to the hippie, to the hip, hip-hop, and you don't stop, the rock it to the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie the beat. Order up, S
Hi, I'm Susannah and I love shiny things, swimming, the smell of fresh cut grass, orange blossoms and horse shit. The feel of my children's eyelashes on my cheek is a live virus that grows in me, multiplies and sustains. I will never understand Amish Friendship Bread.
I write for love but money works, too. Email me for more info, or just to say hello.