Museum of Motherhood

Thursdays with *Dr. Mama*, “If by ‘Serene’ You Mean…”

“If by Serene You Mean…”

By Amber Kinser

My life is a big fat mess of contradictions.  Yesterday was illustrative, but really you could pick any day.  Any day at all it would be, well, either a bit fat mess, or a big fat mess of contradictions. But probably never not one of those and hardly ever not both.  Anyway, so yesterday.  I’m sitting on the couch with the fireplace burning, my Scottie dog, named Fiona (Queen of Scots), sitting at my shoulder on the back of the couch; I’m leisurely grading papers, my son’s in the family room watching TV on his holiday break, I’m drinking a hot and robust cup of English Breakfast tea—ball, not bag.  The serenity of this image belies the high-pressured deadline confronting me of submitting my final course grades online, particularly in light of the fact that I’ve underestimated (perhaps grossly) the time it would take to read the final papers and calculate final grades so my plan to ‘wrap this up’ in the morning and do some shopping later is a total wash.  The clock is ticking, the morning is as good as gone, and I. must. stay. focused.

My son is watching the TV in the other room on surprisingly low volume so I don’t have much in the way of distraction so it’s pretty serene.  If by “serene” you mean having a basement that is flooding downstairs and a backhoe in my yard getting ready to dig up all the new ‘landscaping’ (I use the term loosely)we did this spring to get down to the pipes that are busted, and all of this to the tune of a couple grand the week of (our version of) Christmas.  And the wet vac humming loudly downstairs sucking up what turned out to be 15 gallons of water (every drop of which I paid for in my oddly high water bills of late—apparently not odd enough to prompt me to figure out what the problem was, mind you, but odd enough for me to think: that’s odd, as I’m authorizing the check) in a desperate attempt to save the 1 year-old carpet that I recently replaced after the LAST  *@#^&  flood down there caused by a broken water heater.  Or something.  I can’t remember—all the broken water thingys are starting to blend together in my mind…the slow leak on the icemaker that occurred over the course of months and months creating mold that dudes in hazmat suits had to come in and fix…the day I walked down the basement stairs to find deep water.  And a container of lip gloss floating by.  I can’t remember if it was ankle-deep or knee-deep but I remember that stinking lipgloss for god’s sake and the thousands of dollars it took to fix the problem of our house sitting atop some water reservoir something or other.  All these are different houses, mind you, but wow, I’ve had it with water problems.  And that’s what makes me glad I’ve got a leaking in-ground pool.  But I digress…

I’m trying not to think of the fact that my parents were here in the midst of the last water fiasco, walking on saturated carpet in the guest room where they stay downstairs and me doing a fair job of not being humiliated by the whole thing.  I’m trying not to think of the fact that they’ll be relegated similar circumstances in a couple of days if we can’t fix the current problem.  I’m thinking about how much it stunk down there during my parents’ stay—that wet, mildly sour smell, not really offensive so much as just stinking unpleasant.  And this thought is awakening my olfactories just enough to note that Fiona, Queen of Scots, still at my shoulder, stinks.  So there’s another thing, and another bill I have the fortune of dealing with this very hectic week.  But I am pulled from my reverie of stinking carpets and stinking dogs by my son’s entry in the room.  “What are you watching in there?” I say, making relaxed conversation in an attempt to trick myself into relaxing and having not learned from my near fatal attempt at relaxed conversation when I asked him last week about the book he was reading. He’s watching Myth Busters—a science show that we both like and he especially likes, largely I think because they do a lot with explosions—and No Dog Left Behind (I’m wishing my dog and her stink could be left behind) which is a show, he tells me, about marines in Iraq rescuing dogs or, to use his summary, “like all these really big guys playing with these little doggies and it’s really cool.”  Then suddenly though not surprisingly the conversation switches to “Can I light this candle for you mom?” The trained maternal mind fills in the missing parts:  so I can run my fingers through it and burn bits of paper in it which you’ll try to ignore until you can’t anymore and just snap ‘ohmygod what are you—STOP IT!’ “It’s no problem, mom,” he says.  “No,” I say, “the only problem is that you are standing there, not dressed, in track pants only [despite what our friend this morning called a ‘balmy 24 degrees’], and there are people we don’t really know coming in and out of our house [trying very hard to make me miss my deadline] and you need to be dressed.  “How about if I just stay on the couch with a blanket?”  “How about if you get dressed so you can actually get OFF the couch?”  The phone rings and it’s my partner and I wave my son off to the upstairs.  I recount the uninteresting details, badly, of the copper piping and the ‘pinholes’ caused in this kind of copper piping over time by our city water—I’m pretty excited about the city water in my English Breakfast tea as I hear myself recount—and besides by this point I’m boring myself to death.  And anyway the volume of my son’s television shows now seems disturbingly loud so I end the phone call and start to say something to him but then realize that it’s not that the volume on the television that has increased; it’s that the motors on the backhoe and the wet vac have turned off.   But before I can tell him to turn it down to accommodate, Fiona has slipped into some psychotic episode, barking crazily at the backhoe guy who, it should be noted, has been here for quite some time but who she keeps seeing another new stranger at the door.  Ohmygod, “Fiona!  Seriously?  Dude is hooking us up here.  Back off.”

So about $1400 later the pipe is ostensibly fixed, and if you don’t come too close you can barely tell my yard was hosting backhoe services most recently (pay no attention to that now-crushed liriope).  Today the basement doesn’t seem to smell.  Images of floating lipglosses and moldy walls are receding.  Grades are in (6 minutes late but who’s counting). My partner is taking Fiona to get her hair did.  Target let me return the peacoat I bought two months ago and have been meaning to take back every since but could not stinking get there until last night. My holiday shopping and wrapping are in terrific shape and I’ve made round 1 of my annual holiday cheese Danish.  The downstairs is still trashed but a lot can happen between now and Friday.  Then again, a lot can happen between now and Friday…


About M. Joy Rose

Woman, Mother, Human, Rocker, Educator, Activist Director; Museum of Motherhood President and Founder; MaMaPaLooZa Inc. a company by Women, Promoting (M)others for social, cultural and economic benefit. Dedicated to a more educated, more peaceful, more musical planet.


6 thoughts on “Thursdays with *Dr. Mama*, “If by ‘Serene’ You Mean…”

  1. I am jealous at how much you accomplished. I still haven’t wrapped a single holiday gift.

    Posted by Kelly Church-Hearl | December 24, 2010, 09:08
  2. Kelly, Thanks for reading and posting. I’m stunned that what feels to me like flying by the seat of my pants (not really sure what the metaphor means actually) looks to someone else like getting a lot accomplished, but thanks for the compliment! Hope you got done all you need to get done. (That sentence needs some grammar repair, I’m pretty sure).

    Posted by Dr. Mama | December 29, 2010, 12:08


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