BABELICIOUS

I’m going to be a grandmother again. So are two of my girlfriends, and another one just became grandmammy of twins. That’s what happens when young couples go messing around, or fly off to another country to undergo In Vetro Fertilization. At least an airplane ride and intrafallopian tube transfer can spare the neighbors the torture of hearing something else.

In the eighties, I always hoped I would get knocked up by watching Magnum PI. I wanted my children to be sired by Tom Selleck so they could have his strong stature and deep dimples. Plus I thought it would be nice to raise our offspring in the guest house of a posh two hundred acre beachfront estate and have Higgins to babysit. He seemed like the grandfatherly type. Well, that didn’t happen. I raised my offspring in a cozy quartered barrio shoebox surrounded by neighbors who never wanted to babysit. I suppose I haven’t set a very good example to young women by saying I would have slept with Tom while I was married. But I’ll betcha millions of his other women viewers would have put aside their guilt associated with the blessed sacrament of wedlock to do exactly the same thing. Perhaps I should be emphasizing the importance of a strong bond between two people. Not give a lesson on lust. But I gotta say, this child stuff starts with lust and continues with lust, when your every desire is be around that baby and grandbaby.

My first pregnancy, someone should have congratulated me on staying nine months sober. And while birthing, I was looking at a future already limited by pain and the failure to comprehend the arcane art of common childbearing, as if it was testing my endurance levels for teen exposure. I was a modest infant deliverer, and found it demoralizing retreating to a table disrobed. My doctor began breathing a bit heavier, so I assumed he either had respiratory problems, or a passion for expectant mothers. I shouldn’t have worn perfume that day, or makeup.

Then the moaning began. I figured if Empresses of the 1800’s were satisfied using chloroform while laboring children, I just knew it wasn’t going to be good enough for me. I wanted something that would take the edge off for the rest of my child filled life. Or at least be inoculated with the highest quality palliative painkiller for slicing my privates and yanking out darling dumplings from my pressure cooker. But my epidural didn’t take. The doctor said that when I stopped choking him, he’d do whatever he could to deliver the baby to me. He was somewhat gentle, a mild cross between my butcher and Edward Scissorhands. I grunted, groaned, cursed the ceiling tiles and the nurses who stood there acting like I was a complete wimp. I doubt these women were mothers.

A lady friend of mine said she never needed anesthetics. I asked her if she gave birth to ants. My mother told me, “This pain is the hardest to endure, and the easiest to forget.” She had ten planned pregnancies, bless her poor strained body. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my weebles hadn’t weighed in at hippo poundage plus forty thousand ounces…kicking and screaming for some nourishment and a lifetime pass to Disneyland.

My sweaty experience was part due to the dedication of….. you probably thought I was going to say my husband. The daddio and meekly ministry of labor would have rather sat in a bar sipping brewskis than watch me scream. After a faint moment of falling over, I would have easily dabbed his lacerations with anesthetic. So I assumed he would be just as accommodating by sitting there nicely holding my hand. What I really wanted was Cheerios. All I remember is him saying, “It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. Breakfast isn’t for another eighteen hours.” I would have fired him if he didn’t have a larger family to support. It was time for him to go home and make room in his wallet for photos of another fine babe, and relinquish those pictures of Raquel Welch.

I took in all those live and learning fundamentals of parenting. My first daughter pooped mustard colored feces and I frantically called the doctor. My second daughter pooped up a penny and I started her future jean fund. My third daughter promoted literacy while pooping by reading Dr. Suess over and over. The teen years were a tad harder. I knew not to have any more teenagers after the third one. Nora Ephron said it perfectly. “When you have teens, it’s good to own a dog so someone in your house will be happy to see you.”

Being a grandmother means living happily ever after. It’s a time when we finally get parenting right and we can reap the benefits of adoration. I will never again be in grave danger of screwing up suppers or playtime activities. We provide good times, lots of treats, and know that only eggs can become rotten. The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is because they have a common enemy.

My ten year old granddaughter announced that she’d like to visit me for a week, alone. When she comes, I need to remind her about human frailty. She already knows about Humpty Dumpty falling and that Jack tumbled down a hill cracking his head open. So she needs to be aware of something. If I’m going to jump rope with her or do some trampolining, she should remind me to wear a bra, and pad the cement.

STARSTRUCK

There’s one precious thing I gave my mother besides three glorious granddaughters. A little piece of Paul Newman.

It was Grand Prix weekend in Detroit twenty some odd years ago and my mother was visiting me for a few days. I had just moved into my townhouse, so she delighted and amazed this house host with unpacking, room organization, and deep cleaning from ceiling to floor grout. And when I say cleaning, I mean disinfection and deodorizing as if she was sanitizing surgical equipment in an operating room. If we were eating meals and I got up to go to the bathroom, I was surprised she didn’t clean and wax my wood chair while I was gone. I was already high on life. Double high once mom left vapors of ammonia. Needless to say, she was pooped after all her laborious workouts. Too pooped to go out with me and enjoy her several sips of Chablis in our annual happy hour excursions.

One night I had plans to meet up with several friends at a local Italian eatery and my mother stayed behind. We knew the waiter who approached informing us that race car driver Paul Newman was dining in another room that was divided by a large drapery. There were stocky grizzly bear type bodyguards securing the area, ready to claw anyone that came past the barricade to interrupt Paul’s meal with any of their stalking procedures. It was like trying to look behind the Iron Curtain. It pained me that my mother was sitting at home instead of with me where she could pine for her idol in person. She could have possibly been the one in charge of feeding the dashing and debonair man grapes, or fanning him and diverting those Michigan mosquito’s that hot summer night.

The eatery was both restaurant/bar so my friends and I proceeded to get a drink on the bar side and snack on spinach dip while waiting for the Grand Prix honoree to leave. I had schemed a thorough exit scenario in my head, mostly because my mother would totally want me to touch the guy so I could go home and touch her. I called it association by handshake or suffocating bear hug. My big plan was to bolt out the bar entrance door and meet him on the sidewalk, hoping to heaven that I didn’t have spinach sprouting from my teeth. I must remember never to eat greens right before approaching a major movie star. I don’t normally go around lurking into other people’s lives unless there’s a darn good reason to lurk. Except ambushing is usually when two people are meeting on a sidewalk together and only one of them knows about it. Perhaps he’ll just see me as an unpaid bodyguard, not a star thirsty psychobabe. My harmless observation did make me wonder if he ever got the feeling that he was being watched. I wanted to explain to him that it wasn’t my car sitting in his driveway on those other numerous occasions. I’ve never done anything crazy, except for the time I was on my bicycle throwing Bit-O-Honey’s to pedestrians and telling them bees were sure to follow.

What I had was a cool hand Luke moment, and a failure to communicate. I didn’t want to stand on the sidewalk and stare. I read that when a person stares, their pupils dilate 45% larger. And it isn’t necessarily a result from wearing contacts inside out. I entertained thoughts of craziness again by getting down on all fours and conjuring up some baseless narrative that I was discovering a cure for cracked cement. Or explain why certain ants survive pedway living. Either way, crouching down could have created some serious problems. The last thing I wanted was for him to not see me, trip and fall, kill himself, and leave his wife to hunt me down with revenge. It was dark, so I could have shammed him into thinking I was Harry Reasoner wanting an interview. I could have also belted out, “My mom has a killer crush on you,” and hopefully say it without all the charm of Lizzie Borden. I began thinking that bringing up clutches and carburetors might be good topics. Although I might have been better off singing the classic Dean Martin tune How lucky can one girl be in four part harmony. But my singing skills would only get me close to a vocal coach. I tend to talk to myself when needing expert advice on what to do in situations like this. I kept busy perfecting my introduction techniques. Unlike Paul, who perfected everything including acting, coffee, and savoir-fare.

The moment finally arrived, and the mighty Mr. Newman came out smiling at me, opening that huge door to smile back and say something constructive. What I saw was a man who remained ageless. He made facial lines look fabulous. I was hoping he’d say the same about me. I didn’t know what else to do other than express my heartfelt feelings, reached for his hand then blurted out, “Darn, Joanne found you first.” He chuckled, and I slipped away. He probably never believed that I was doing this for my mother.

Life only stops at train tracks, and when you have just touched Paul Newman. Worry wormed its horrid way back in when I realized I may have soiled his palm with chip and dip remains. He had no idea the stuff I held back. Feeling complete, I stepped away from him as giddy as a lynx that had just devoured its prey. I couldn’t wait to get home and shake my mother’s hand to give her that little piece of Paul Newman. I told her that lots of liquor gave me the guts to approach him. She was surprised that I wasn’t arrested for spunk and unsoberly.