In medias res
Yesterday was Charlie's birthday party. Five four-year-olds descended upon my house at the appointed hour, and, at the giddy instigation of my son, created a fracas. The children played with toys, shotgunned cunning little boxes of chocolate milk, and ended up under the guest bed happily poking each other with the surplus curtain rods I had so imprudently stored there. The adults drank beer, shouted to be heard over the preschool melee, and benignly ignored the kids until the stroke of four o'clock, when they all filed out in a prompt and orderly fashion, leaving in their wake a terminal moraine of birthday rubble.
Charlie had a riotously good time, and wept piteously as he went to bed: "I'm so, so sad because I want to do more birthday party stuff." And if dissolving helplessly into tears isn't a valid gauge of success, well, I guess I don't know what is. I too was exhausted by it all, a fact that freaks me out more than a little. I am too old for this shit, I thought as I woke up this morning feeling hung over and wrung out. Last time I thought that, I was crawling off the futon of a stranger, unable to find my pants, rifling through his wallet for cab fare, furtively pawing through his medicine cabinet looking for any unused narcot — uh, I trust you take my point.
So while I was up to my ass in glow sticks and blue frosting, The New York Times was running this Public Editor column about the Alex Kuczynski article:
Kuczynski, who said she disagreed with her editors over the photographs before publication, said she felt they were "incendiary" and distracted from the story. Hilling, clearly portrayed in the article as middle class, described the porch as "the ugliest part" of her renovated, 135-year-old home. She said she felt the photo of her was "contrived."
(In the comments that followed the original story, Hilling says that the photographer asked her to take off her shoes. Yeah, I'd call that contrived.)
Hilling said she was a bit frustrated by the pictures and Kuczynski's story. "It was her opportunity to tell her experience," she said. "I wish there was a way for me to share more of my part in it."
So do I. Hey, Cathy! Get a blog!
Ben was delectable, so plump and succulent that I kept moving aside his clothing to look for his pop-up timer.
Charlie was similarly great — helping me bake, batting around leftover party balloons, being thoroughly agreeable in every way that mattered — until it all fell apart at bedtime. I'd promised he could have a cookie after his bath if his behavior stayed good. And then he was in the bathtub and I was in the laundry room, and I could hear him splashing, not innocuous little splishes but tsunami-grade waves. I was sending him desperate telepathic messages: Stop it. Oh, please stop it. Please don't make me ruin your night. But he kept on doing it, to a point past which I could no longer ignore it, to a point where he was swamping the goddamn Edmund Fitzgerald. So I had to ruin his night.
The poor kid shoots himself in the foot an awful lot. Every time he makes a bad decision — a phrase we trot out with robotic frequency — we remind him that it's up to him to choose how to behave, and that good choices have good consequences, and bad choices mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah. (Imagine me saying that in the Charlie Brown teacher voice. Good Christ, even I'm bored by it, and wander away during a Dolly Madison commercial.) I hope he is taking it to heart, the idea that he has it within himself to govern himself appropriately and, hey, that shit gets you cookies. I hope some of it is sinking in, even if only slowly. But at the moment I feel skeptical and, if I'm honest at the end of a long day, defeated.
Defeated. And cookies. This afternoon's batch was an aesthetic failure. I wanted Charlie to be able to help, so I took the dough out of the refrigerator before it was thoroughly chilled. Of course they spread most disappointingly. But going into the kitchen just now to
cram them into my mouth slide them virtuously into the wastebasket uneaten destroy the evidence — so ugly are they that I can't countenance giving them away — I noticed that they look kind of familiar. Kind of like...embryos. Sort of. If you squint. And have glaucoma.
A Christmas tree. Acrobat school. And some stories about pants that are so funny you'll wet yours when you read them. I promise. Money-back guarantee if you don't find yourself incontinent.