Friday, August 12, 2011

Lunch On a Bush

As I was walking toward my front door today, I passed by my recently-trimmed forsythia bush. My peripheral vision caught a slight movement on the rounded top and when I looked closer I saw an adolescent Praying Mantis perched there. She was busily munching on the head of a brown moth and did not notice me at first. I called to my son inside the house. "Come out here for a minute!" He came and spent a few moments trying to focus in on where I was pointing, since the mantis looked so much like a folded leaf. "Ah" he said finally. "I see it." The mantis was chewing. We could see her mandibles moving. She lifted her front leg (hand? claw? paw?) to put in another morsel when suddenly she looked up and froze. "Who are you?", she asked us, somewhat annoyed. "This is MY moth and anyway, you are not supposed to see me here." "So sorry," we said, hastening to add in a friendly tone, "go on with your lunch. We won't bother you."

Her name was Helen and she was about three inches long, with brown wings and lime green head and legs. Helen was unconvinced about our benign intentions. Giving us backward-glancing dirty looks, she clutched her moth, wiped her mouth (I think it was her mouth) and walked away on the top of the bush. "Hmmmff!'" she mumbled, her mouth still full.

Now, I love to watch spiders in their webs attached to my clothsline, butterflies on my zinnias and bees in my honeysuckle. But watching a mid-summer Praying Mantis is especially thrilling, maybe because spotting them is such a rare occurrence and because they are so large and alien-like. But unlike other bugs who seem to love flying and buzzing around humans, the mantis (what's the plural? Mantii? Mantes?)always seems annoyed and put out when noticed.

So I asked the retreating Helen. "Why don't you like us watching you, even when you know we mean you no harm?" Without stopping or looking back, she answered. "How would YOU like it if a giant bug-eyed, antennaed buzzing thing watched YOU eat your lunch?"

I thought about this. Helen was right. No one likes to be caught with their mouth full, especially when it is full of moth head, or worse, mate head. In teenage Helen's case, I have a feeling eating the moth's head was just practice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Teenage Drama Queens

My second daughter (fourth child) is into drama. I mean at school, onstage. She has been in every musical, dramatic performance, dinner theatre and young playwrights show since elementary school and she is now going into her senior year of high school. By her own count, that adds up to some 35 or so performances.

All her friends are part of this same thespianic circle. Her boyfriend too. They sing at my table and dance in my living room. Our four dogs include themselves in the mix, barking and circling the vertical players. Needless to say, my house is seldom quiet and we are often out of food but never bereft of dirty dishes. It is not uncommon to enter the kitchen in my pajamas and find someone - who I may or may not know - with their face in my refrigerator. "Hi, Mrs. L!", they say with cheerful ease. "I'm Maggie. Is this the last of the milk?"

This hot August morning, when I got up and went downstairs, I found sleeping bodies sprawled all over the living room. Three on the couch. One in the Lazy Boy. One on the floor in a sleeping bag. As I tiptoed around, taking stock of who was who, I saw that I had the entire core drama club right there. They had just come off a successful weekend run of 42nd Street in which they sang, tapped and snappy one-lined their way into the hearts of a large portion of the townspeople. They greeted adoring younger fans in the lobby afterward, signing autographs and taking pictures. As the mom of one of the stars, I also got to bask in her peripheral light, accepting lauds and praise for her talents with feigned humility.

Most of the time they are regular healthy teenagers. They complain too much, clean up too little and often treat their mothers like pariahs. But they are good active kids, serious about school and loyal to friends of whom I am lucky to say I unanimously approve.

"These are the days to remember, though they will not last forever," is a line from a Billy Joel song. As Billy's voice reverberates in my head, I attempt to make the day stand still for a moment. Savor the noise. The mess. The living, breathing, scattered organism that is the healthy, happy teenager, God bless 'em, every one.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letting It Fly

So, I am in what is often called Middle Age. If that is true and I am at midpoint in my earthly existence, then I should die at 110. This a happy thought, since it has only been three years since I came out and I would like to think that I have a long time left to enjoy my new sense of identity and freedom.

Now this 'coming out' event was not so much of a pronouncement (except to husband and kids) or even an event at all, as a gradual awareness dawning on most people I know. I, myself, knew it always to be true. There were many years that I thought a change of team was possible, but not really, if I am perfectly honest. Doing this sort of brave new thing at any point is hard, but factor in five kids, a (then) husband and 50-plus years of relationships with family and friends, I'd say it is positively heroic.

I look the same as always. I think. Well, I did cut my hair pretty short and I do favor sports bras over regular hook ones. I have a small bumper sticker that is a navy blue square with a yellow equal sign on my car. I can play 'Closer to Fine' by the Indigo Girls on the guitar and I think Jane Lynch is wonderfully funny. But I still believe in the importance of shaved legs and armpits (OMG!) and my main incarnation as mom has not changed.

My partner and I and our daughters went to the beach on a recent blazing hot day. We go regularly in the summer and sometimes like to walk up and down the shoreline holding hands. On this day, umbrellaed directly behind us on the sand was a group of four friends. These girls looked pretty gay, especially two who were obviously partners. One of the two was sunbathing on her stomach with her swimsuit top untied, like many girls do, usually careful to not prop up too much. This girl didn't care. She sat up, chatting with her friends and spooning with her girlfriend on the blanket, letting her womanhood out for the world to see.

Our daughters were amused and slightly scandalized by this and the event was the topic of much discussion as we sat there. They didn't think such exposure was acceptable behavior. We looked around. Several men of various shapes strutted the shore in tiny Speedos, their bulges clearly defined. How was this somehow okay? Oh, and a couple of them were sucking face with their girlfriends on the sand and in the water, their hands groping at will. No problems here, right?

I admire that young woman on the blanket - for her bravery and for her honesty. She was at the beach. It was hot. Womens' swimsuits are tight and uncomfortable. She was more covered up still than those men, and her public displays of affection toward her girlfriend were careful and G-rated. Okay, make that PG.

This later-in-life Rainbow Connection has many many benefits. My partner and I are slowly becoming more affectionate in public situations. We walk arm in arm and hand in hand on any street that is not right in our own town. Our kids see us hug and kiss each other hello and goodbye. Our friends, families, pastor and church people know we are a couple. Our kids refer to us as 'the moms'. I feel like the me I was born to be (pardon the dumb rhyme). I stand a little straighter. I wear two piece swimsuits for the first time in my life. I sing louder in church. I dance in the house and accept all ridicule happily. I fall asleep with and wake up to the person I love. I am learning to let my freak flag fly.

Make that my free flag.