Thursday, July 28, 2011
Puttin' on the Ritz
Raucous laughter emitted from chubby-cheeked little faces is often the remedy for excessive brooding. The relentless triple-digit heat this summer has proved to be a perfect breeding ground for grouchiness, laziness, and an overabundance of self-depreciating contemplation. Even more annoying, my self-flogging seems to default to an examination of all my maternal shortcomings. As if the heat alone isn’t enough of a drag--I have the added pleasure of my own inner attacks on my mothering skills?
It took at least two tickle sessions with all three of my daughters the other day, before I was released from the devious concern that I’ve ruined (or at least partially damaged) my girls’ psyche as a result of my recent poor attitude. I seem to have overlooked two vital pieces of information: children are resilient and the summer won’t last forever (thankfully). I’m guessing it probably takes more than summer doldrums to permanently damage their little spirits.
As the magic of toddler tickles extracted the poisonous “I’m-a-bad-mom” thoughts from my brain, fresh material made its way in. Fresh, but not new—memory. And not simply any memory; the only memory I have set to the tune of “Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper--super duper.”
There she was in a top hat and cane—glorious in her tights and heels. I remember sitting there on the family room floor in complete and utter awe. “Can you hold this play money for me?” she asked. As she bent down to hand me the paper money her blonde hair mingled with mine; for a brief moment we were two halves made whole. “You can throw it during the chorus,” she instructed, “at the part ‘trying hard to look like Gary Cooper—super duper,’ okay?” I nodded enthusiastically. Super duper. My five-year-old intuition instantly registered the importance of acting as administrator of the play money . I remember the dry, smooth feeling of that silly money in my palm—worth more at that moment in my small hands than any true dollar.
This exciting event taking place in our family room was in preparation for a potential dance teacher position at an elementary school. She selected the quirky Taco rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, accompanied by a simple choreographed dance routine. Simple her audition may have been, but to me it might has well have been a Broadway production. The electricity of anticipation filled the room as we waited for the click of the tape recorder—the paper money still safe in my grasp.
1-2-3, Synthesizers, Puttin’ on the Ritz and my mom spinning around our family room like a chorus-line Goddess. Then the crucial moment arrived: “Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper” and somewhere between super and duper, I flawlessly released the fake money. I watched the green and white paper cascade down to her black-patent-leather tap shoes. The money thrown, the song over, I experienced the feeling you get when a really fantastic amusement park ride is over—a lovely mix of satisfaction and sheer let down.
When the music stops, so does the memory. I take comfort, however, in knowing the song and memory can be replayed. Every good ride must come to an end, but it need not be forgotten. A totem of health and beauty, before the ravages of sickness and sadness, she dances in her top hat and tuxedo leotard. I keep her and the memory close -- I imagine it’s tucked in the same place I keep the healing laughter of my three young girls.
My mom didn’t get the job. Perhaps what she was really doing that day, beyond either of our comprehension, was auditioning for a memory, the particular use of which is perfect for hot days and when I feel like a lousy mom. In the now, at least five rounds into tickle time, I surround myself in the collective belly-laughs of my children. Any remaining sour spaces have been eradicated and I have become part of the chorus of laughter. Maybe I’m not such a bad mom after all.
Being a good mom doesn’t necessitate donning a top hat and tap shoes; all that’s required is a simple song and dance, and maybe…a bit of a tickle. Enjoy the ride.