Short Fiction

Squirrel In The Grill

The baby was up all night, poor thing.  Poor new mother, her night clothes covered in snot and sour milk, standing over the sink.   Too tired even to decide if she wanted a shower or a cup of coffee.  And nobody around to care.

They were new settlers in a new suburb.  Great big house with no furniture in it yet, only one baby (so far), now standing on a patch of cold brown sod.  It was so nice when they moved in last August.  A ticklish breeze and the smell of fresh grass made them feel like adults — or maybe it was the mortgage and the big-ticket lawn mower?  They closed the season with a Labor Day barbecue for their friends.    It was right before her last trimester and she felt so happy, ready for their life to really begin.

Now the winter was ragged and rough.  He forgot to cover the grill the last time they made steaks back in November.  Then snows covered the yard and grill covering wasn’t as much of a priority as being a new father and revving up his new snow blower. She sighed and chewed at her chapped lips. The baby’s crackling snores came out of the nursery monitor and she stiffened just a bit.

She wasn’t sure what she saw.  It was just a sensation of movement outside, maybe a bird?  She watched.  It was a fat squirrel squeezing out of the side vent of the grill.  Its bushy tail made a flourish as it hopped on the rounded stainless steel top.  Its eyes were bright and it moved with the agility of a creature used to the luxury of deep and uninterrupted sleep.

She looked down at her mismatched, dirty pajamas and noticed her clinging, greasy hair. She wondered if that squirrel was a mother, leaving her babies to get a breath of fresh air and something to eat.  Or maybe to just be a squirrel again for a little while.  A warm tear rolled down her cheek.  This wasn’t how she thought it was going to be.  No, not at all.






Mom’s Slingshot Theory

During the luxury of a first pregnancy you have this rich, fantastic experience of imagining your baby not just as an infant, but all through his or her life.  In most of these fantasies you imagine your child as a sports phenom, a musical prodigy, a high-IQ intellectual achiever, POTUS, or maybe winning a world-renown prize.  And you picture yourself in the background or standing proudly off to the side, beaming in the reflected glory of your progeny.  Clearly, your (and your partner’s) DNA played a BIG part in this result.

Reality sets in not long after that baby arrives, when you realize your one job is to keep this howling creature alive through 24 hour intervals.  The baby does not care if you have eaten a meal, taken a shower, or that you were asleep 5 minutes before his most-recent demand.  Mother Nature knows this and did two things:

  • 1.     She made the cry of the human baby impossible to ignore, and
  • 2.     She made human babies so cute and irresistible that we WANT to take care of them.

Not long after we get the hang of taking care of this new baby something shifts.  Baby will want to do more on her own, to become independent.  So here’s where my Slingshot Theory begins.

Pretty much right after you greet this baby you treat her like a very large marble, and you put her in the pocket of a big slingshot.  As a Mom you spend a lot of your energy and strength pulling back the metaphorical pocket holding your bundle of joy, and when you can’t hold on any longer your baby is catapulted into the Infinite.  I picture myself standing next to the flaccid slingshot, panting and sweaty, mouthing a little prayer of safekeeping.

Because as much as you try to convince yourself that you control the way your child interacts with the world, the reality is you don’t.  You should protect and guide your child, but at key points along the way you have to let go.  Your first day back to work, her first step, his first day of school – all of these events are navigation away and apart from each other, and they make it easier for the bigger “firsts.”  All you can do as a parent is to give that child the tools and resources to leave you, to become independent, to render you obsolete in this job.   Still, you are both at the mercy of the Universe.

The greatest joy the Universe can bestow is to return that child back to you as an adult and ultimately, a friend.  At least until you enter your dotage and need somebody to take care of you until the Universe claims you back.

So, today I want to salute all mothers who have kids out there in the Universe, or are about to launch them.  And I salute the children who have come back and kissed those mothers.

And to my own children:  I never doubted that you would grow up to be the fine, kind women I know today.  You honor me by living your independent lives, and that is a blessing all its own.

Happy Mother's Day from  Can I Take A Nap!
Happy Mother’s Day from Can I Take A Nap!

Hard Candy Shell But Soft On The Inside

To all the mothers of the world:  new moms with still steaming babes, old moms with wrinkled children, moms with secrets, sleepless with worry moms, reluctant moms, moms to everybody’s kids from the block, moms with loss, my mom, my sister who is the best mom, and all the moms we  remember today — thank you for all you have done and continue to do.  The world is a better place because of mothers every day.


It’s Mother’s Day. Bring Out the Port O Potties!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, but I will not be deviating from my usual Sunday routine….. unless the establishment where we have Tex-Mex brunch between 11 AM and noon is overrun by mothers.  As you might imagine, last weekend Cinco De Mayo fell on a Saturday so this local joint was well-prepared for the cerveza swilling hordes and set up a cluster of port-o-potties in the parking lot.  They were still standing last Sunday when we arrived for our usual guac-fest.  I asked our lovely server if she worked the previous day, and her eyes grew wide as she told us, ” You wouldn’t have believed how many people were here!  And so many fights.”

So the G-Man and I could not help but hope that tomorrow we will beat the Tex-Mex Mother’s Day lunch crowd, but there WILL be Mother’s Day port-o-potties in anticipation of all the families coming to celebrate their maters with margaritas and fajitas.

So to all the Napsters out there who are mothers or are honoring mothers in your life:  Have a beautiful day.   But no fighting over the warm tortilla chips  or I’ll be sending you out into the parking lot over by the port-o-potties.