I'm going to start importing some of my old blog posts back to 2008. This is one of my faves - written back when I had a one and five year old at home, full time. I spent most evenings blogging about my imperfect life as a "stay at home mom" and drinking a lot of Yellow Tail, while my husband watched Orange County Choppers in the other room. I turned this into a 3rd person story for my memoir. It was a dark time...
Barney is a Hack
(and other important truths)
She sat in her daily uniform - an eggplant velour sweatsuit over baby faux-rock- concert tee (today it was the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour) - humming to the tune which echoed from the little green room at the end of the hall, “…and that’s what an island is!” She was certain the damn purple dinosaur ripped off this particular melody from Jimmy Buffet but how is any freakin’ toddler gonna know that? Well the mommies are onto it. “Barney must be exposed for the hack he is!” she thought as she balanced her checkbook at the kitchen counter. $38.52. And it was only Wednesday. She heard clunking and jamming coming from the hall. Her two-year-old was changing the video tape herself (this was a newly acquired skill).
And there it was, that voice. Leah gazed out at her flourishing suburban tomato garden, sipped her decaf green tea and fantasized that she was the demure blonde (fake) chick with the dreadful baby-sweet voice that invented those Baby Einstein videos (she knew the voice was blonde because the founder gave a personal introduction with each video, in all her blondeness). “Hi, I’m Julie Clark, founder of the Baby Einstein Company. Enjoy the show.” Every time Leah heard it, she wanted to puke. Hi, I’m Julie Clark, I’m rich as fuck. I have Thirty-eight MILLION dollars and fifty-two cents in MY checking account. And MY husband works for ME!”
Why couldn’t she have come up with that? It’s pure genius. All you need is a video camera and some toys, kids, dead artists and classical musicians. You can steal from them and nobody cares. This totally pissed Leah off. She was smart and creative, even blonde (fake also). Why didn’t she think of it first? Why couldn’t she think of anything to make a million dollars? Even a few hundred would help at this point. She was grateful to be able to be home with her own child, but money was getting tight these days. If things didn’t look up soon, she’d be forced to go back to a cubical and her daughter to some eighteen year-old moron for eight hours a day in an institutional-like setting where they serve beanie weenies for lunch. Her philosophy was, since she went to the trouble to have the kid, the least she could do was raise it, imparting onto it her own dysfunctional personality traits instead of someone else’s.
If she had thought of the video idea, the sad thing was, she’d never follow through with it, anyway. She never seemed to finish anything. She hadn’t finished her graduate thesis. She couldn’t even finish washing dishes, – she had to leave something in the sink – or roll the window of her car all the way down. When she did laundry (it was hit and miss), she washed a load and left it in the washer for a couple days, until it mildewed and she had to re-wash it, or worse, her husband discovered it first. She did stay home all day after all, what did she do?
Well, if you must know, she spent a lot of time on short-lived projects, like painting, writing toddler board books, working on the memoir she started four years ago, or the occasional editing project she was sent from her sometimes-employer. Every now and then, she sent out a submission. She had received twenty or so rejection form letters (the really nice ones actually had someone’s signature in blue ink) in the last few years. She had come up with several killer entrepreneurial ideas, but none really stuck. Right after having the baby, she wanted to write a book on pregnancy (she knew everything since she had been pregnant…once), then there was the small ad agency, and the pop-culture-themed bistro. For most of these things one needs determination, or more likely, financial backing. With determination, one may be able to get financial backing, but, well, it’s a circular problem.
Leah wasn’t sure if it was a millions bucks, or immortality that she truly craved in life. She always thought she would have made her mark by now. Complete and total rejects are doing it on reality TV these days. What has this world come to? At thirty-three, she had never had anything published, never sold a painting, and she wasn’t a rock star – specifically Olivia Newton-John - like she’d planned to be when she was eight (if you consider Olivia Newton-John to be a rock star). But, when she thought about it, she’d never really tried, besides singing Hit Me With Your Best Shot at karaoke or getting onstage (half-drunk) with her now-ex-musician husband in the bars he played. She wasn’t even a member of the choir in high school. What was she thinking. It was too late for her.
She often felt guilty. While Leah was working on all these never-completed projects, what was Zoe doing? From three months on, well, take a wild guess. She was watching videos. At about four months of age, when Leah was certain the immobile infant still couldn’t budge from the little pillow contraption she built around her on the bed, there was a loud thump on the bedroom floor. Leah ran around the corner to find baby Zoe face-down, wailing. She thanked God that room was carpeted, and that they couldn’t afford one of those waist-high fancy beds, or there would be something worse than rug-burn on Zoe’s forehead. Eventually, after collecting (and contributing to Julie’s fortune) a video or DVD on practically every trip to Wal-Mart – Baby Van Gogh, Monet, Da Vinci, Shakespere, Bach, Beethoven, Noah, and the list goes on – they began to explore other options. Leah had thankfully discovered that she could rent videos at the library for free, and that’s when Barney came along, with some other child-idol characters. A new struggle began. With all these choices, Zoe went back and forth on which video to watch, pitching mini-fits, “Wanna watch Barney ABC!” and just as the tape went in, “No, wanna watch Dora! No, Baby Monet!” Finally Leah would just leave the three videos and let Zoe take control of the VCR. And she thus became fluent in VCR operation.
Don’t overreact and call S.C.A.N. just yet. She didn’t just ignore her child all day, sticking videos in front of her (she had always said her kid would never even watch TV). They went to toddler story time at the library and to the park and chatted with the other baby-Mommy combos. They colored and painted together and read lots of books (the kid was a mini Picasso and could actually recite pages of Dr. Seuss). She just used videos as babysitters at certain times during the day when Zoe wouldn’t accept that Leah was either actually working for money or just on a never-to-be-completed non-paying project. Besides, the videos were entirely educational (her kid would most certainly be a genius prodigy child).
She remembered at age 30, how she was a divorced, working, thin and stylish party girl living alone in a cool apartment within walking distance to bars. She had a brand-new shiny Volkwagen Beetle that she didn’t need and couldn’t really afford. Her life was rather carefree, excepting all the debt she had accrued from the divorce, graduate school, and …the partying. It was carefree because she just didn’t really care. She made her minimum payments every month, so what was the problem? She thought her job basically sucked, but then, not altogether.
And then something happened…
At age thirty-one, the working party-girl lifestyle became a faint, distant memory, overnight. That’s what happens with pregnancy. One day you’re just a person, the next, you’re a pregnant person. Two very different things, indeed. The night before, she was drinking margaritas and singing karaoke, and then, the next day, found herself a couple months pregnant. The good news was that she still squeezed into her size four jeans. Jeans that, two years later, she wouldn’t be able to tuck a butt-cheek into after the 50-pound weight gain that she had so shamelessly accomplished during pregnancy and never fully lost (a weakness for chocolate cake, key lime pie and three-a.m. grilled cheese sandwiches had been her secret weapon, for those who are seeking a significant weight gain). The bad news was that she and the baby’s father were not even together, she had no health insurance, she had no idea what to do! But, it all somehow worked itself out.
She and Zoe’s father were married now. Since having Zoe, they had both grown up (mostly) and settled down. They were Parents. Good ones. They had a happy, mostly functional family. And now, Barney songs, quoting Dr.Seuss (why doesn’t Eminem just admit that’s who he stole his rhyming pattern from?) for fun, and the words “pooh-pooh” were everyday realities. She felt out of touch. She didn’t know the difference between last season’s and this season’s Manolos. She carried a diaper bag, not a Prada. Her left ring finger donned a Scott Kay, not a Harry Winston. She worked from home; she had no place, besides the local college beer joints, to show off these ridiculous things if she could afford them. But, if she did go out on her scheduled Thursday night with girlfriends, she knew she still had the mojo to get some cute twenty-three year-old MBA major to buy her a dirty martini, if needed. At least, she still had that.
She knew that, once not long ago, Julie Clark must have been just like her, sitting at her laminate-top kitchen counter, balancing her thirty-eight-dollar checkbook, and drinking her Celestial Seasonings tea. She knew that Julie, after the tea, also proceeded to make her trip to Wal-Mart, the bank, the post office, and maybe even Target (if it was a really good day). But Julie knew then, deep in her little blonde heart, that someday her voice would make someone puke, and it was all the comfort she needed to get through the day. Look where that optimism got her!
Leah smiled, and licked the envelope, the inside of which was a children’s book submission (she gave up her dirty memoir months ago). From the hallway rang a sweet, but utterly endearing voice, crying out, “Momma, I got pooh-pooh!”