There is a turd sitting in the middle of the sidewalk a couple of blocks away from my house. I saw it when I was walking the dog. The flies lifted off and made a leisurely flight to the shelter of the grass strip between sidewalk and curb. A small nod to their abhorrence or a defensive maneuver?
There's still a part of me that sputters in indignation when a turd pops up right in the middle of my morning. I call this part Buttercup. Buttercup is the one who reads up on these things and she can tell you that there are at least 2 ordinances being flouted by the neighbor and his or her smallish dog. Beyond the letter of the law, however, is the matter of decency--decent dogs who sleep on dog beds stuffed with cedar chips and upholstered with stiff moral fabric know that you go in the grass...and that's only because you can't get a good grip on the toilet seat without thumbs. She looks at the turd and wants explanations. What deviant little creature would do such a thing?
Because Buttercup (and every other upstanding citizen of the borough) knows that this is a public right-of-way. That means that god and country wanted some pavement here so that pedestrians could stay out of the way of the cars that are clearly meant to burn fossil fuels and expel noxious fumes 5 feet to the left. You can check the plat maps down at borough hall. That's where the fundamental truths lie. In the closet right next to the one where they store the cotton candy machine that comes out for fundraisers.
The plat maps will also show you where the sewer lines run in case you're wondering where turds really ought to be...flushed down using potable water into a pipe that only runs directly into a stream when there's a big storm. There are people paid to take care of stuff like this. They spend their days thinking about shit so that you and I don't have to. Because civilized creatures don't squat in the middle of the sidewalk Or, if they do, a more civilized creature comes and at least wraps that turd in plastic and sends it off to the landfill
A turd! Right in the middle of a pristine slab of pavement, lounging there so casually as if it has a right to exist. As if it has anything to do with the rest of us...
So, I was just about to kick it into the grass so that we could all forget about its existence and return to our normally scheduled, feces-free programming. But something stopped me.
I'm still a city dweller at heart and even the non-Buttercup parts of me understand how to get along to go along. I carry many bags and keep my dog on the leash whenever we head out for a walk together. But, it's August, the month of joy and despair and I kind of want one of my unsuspecting neighbors to step in dog shit and to contemplate the importance of shit as he's scraping it off the bottom of his shoe. Or to have the temporary feeling of good luck that comes when he narrowly avoids stepping in the shit. The bad, the good, all of it--all of it is necessary.
What's the difference anyway? Turd? Sidewalk? Flies? People? A million seeds that can't grow in pavement? People who don't walk enough to warrant a sidewalk anyway? Who am I to say how things ought to be?
Tomorrow is their 5th birthday--my daughters who are cursed with a mother who writes about dog turds on the internet in connection with their birth. Maybe R will never find out.
I don't know how to feel about 5 years. It seems to be the magic number of years that it has taken to get alright with R's death and to feel like a halfway decent mother. I can't/won't forget how my R suffered for those 12 days and I will regret that I couldn't give her something better for the rest of my life but, the central fact of her existence is separate from that pain. She was mine and she was perfect for me because she was mine.
Somehow this is harder with the daughter that I see everyday. For her, just the fact that she survived is so amazing to me that I can't figure out what happens next. Yet, I feel the unsolicited advice bubbling up. It used to be the basics like 'don't talk while you're eating' and 'put your bike helmet on' and (at night while watching her sleep) 'please wake up tomorrow.' But it's getting more nitpicky as she gets older and the stakes are raised. I worry about the future and the way she gets frustrated about coloring and writing her letters.
"You survived." I want to say, "You barely made it. Who cares about school?"
But that would be some crap parenting so, out comes the advice. She makes her B backwards and I point it out to her because I know that she'll be pissed when she notices it later. And then the tears and I immediately regret opening my mouth because she is almost five and just the fact that she is almost five is enough perfection to sustain me for the rest of my days on this planet. But, the B was backwards and we can't have meltdowns over backwards Bs so I tell her she needs to calm down and now I'm squelching her self-expression...
Every parent probably feels this way. I'm sure every mother I know gets accidentally wrapped around the axle of good intentions sooner or later. And every other mother probably tries to back away from the situation and reassures herself that this isn't a big deal...in the grand scheme of things. She may even utter it aloud, "Hey, settle down. It's not like someone died."
But still, my girls and I have come so far together over these five years. August is still challenging and exhausting for me but I'm thankful for both of my daughters and everything they've taught me.
Happy birthday to you, C and R!