Tuesday, 30 December 2014

To the woman writing the "To the Woman" letter

I know what you are doing, woman with the smirk and the giant Jackie-O-like sunglasses that fail to cover it. I can tell you're not a fan. As we speak, you are writing me one of those letters titled something like:  "To the Woman Who Let Her 4-yr-old Cry Non-Stop for 25 Minutes at the Pool", aren't you?
Our happy place
Yes, my child has been crying, or rather whining, for me to come into the pool for many minutes now. And yes, he might have greatly impeded your reading of Ken Follet's: "Edge of Eternity". Coincidentally, your own child of similar age has been behaving like... Well, I don't even know like what - I have never NEVER seen a child not make a peep for an entire morning! I only noticed a second ago that there is even a child next to you. Is she yours? Don't get this the wrong way, please, but I want your child!

Before I go any further let me remind you that this is a family-friendly community. Please accept that booking a trip here to visit your parents at this particular time of the year will eventually involve other people's children. Some may cry. In the baby-boomer era, Florida is bursting with so-called "55+" neighbourhoods - perhaps you convince your folks to move?

In the meanwhile, I've been asked to be the escort to the washroom, how many times? I have seriously lost count. I provide healthy snacks on demand. You see this blue and white box? It's the fridge equivalent of Mary Poppins' bag. Between two boys, these tasks are pretty much on-going. I am also frequently charged with pressing the button on the fountain to refill water guns - apparently, it's not nearly as much fun unless the water is ice cold! In addition, I sit like a hostage for 40 minutes on an 'airplane' assembled of lined-up deck chairs pretending to hold a proper boarding pass and passport for the 6-year-old pilot who checks in passengers himself. And he is meticulous - there is no way to escape!

I successfully arbitrated a number of "I had it first" conflicts thereby preventing World War III. I re-applied sun-screen according to the instructions while chasing the swift and slippery semi-greased children so I can finish the area under their eyes without touching the eyes, mouth or nose and so possibly risking a visit to Emergency. I've been a life guard, making sure at all times I keep track of the two heads that are popping in and out of the water, now that older kids have taught them how to 'thunderbo-o-o-o-lt!'. Then the drinking of pool water - gurgling it and then spitting it at each other while laughing uncontrollably, which also poses a safety hazard.

The reality of my happy place.
Ironically, I too had a book open on my electronic device: page 79 of 1441. Yup, ten days into it and I'm making good progress. My book club is scheduled for the third Tuesday in January, but I thought I was in excellent shape with these two plus weeks in Florida -  who can't finish a book, for once, on such a long and relaxing vacation? But, my friend, I am yet to be on that lounge-chair adorned with my favourite beach towel - that is secured by a clip in the form of a flamingo no less - for longer than five - not fifteen, not fifty - uninterrupted minutes.

So, when I refuse to get wet in order to play "ding" please consider cutting me some slack. You see, I invented the game we fondly call "ding" few years ago. Fully immersed in water, with my arms outstretched to touch the edge of the pool, I play the 'security' at this very gated community. When the visitor arrives at the entrance ramp (aka my arm), he needs to recite his first and last name, age and the purpose of his visit. When the ramp opens, I must sound the "ding" to mark the occasion while, needless to say, delighting my visitors. While at the gate, the older one is required to list his full address in Florida, including the zip code and my cell phone number - a precaution from a few years ago when he wandered away in the local outlet mall (saving that for the reformed-shopaholic post.) So, “ding” is certainly an educational game. After a few entries, these visitors simultaneously become both cocky and crazy and start skipping the intro part, one jumping over the ramps, the other one diving under. At that point, I have no other choice but to dial 911. When the police car arrives (me again, this time with sirens) it takes them both to jail (stairs of the pool) where they have to sit and count (the JK sentence) or do simple math, such as adding to 10 (suitable Grade 1 punishment). Now that I see it in writing, I am surprised they love it so much given the heavy math content.

But this is not the first time you and I met. I saw you at the gym yesterday morning when you walked in on my moksha yoga sequence just as you were picking up two 25-lb dumbbells so you could complete the most punishable sit-up routine I have ever witnessed. Really, I wouldn’t have looked, but you parked your mat right in front of me, obscuring my view of the pool. I could see nothing but your face in pain, to be specific, that bulging vein - the arteriovenous fistula - rapidly growing in the middle of your forehead. Just for the record, I’m no slob either. I power walked six miles, pausing only occasionally to talk to a passerby or two, before I returned to my pigeon pose, trying to save these gluts from aching tomorrow. The fact that my toppling tree kept toppling is because you, Woman - writing the "To the Woman" letter to me as we speak - for whatever reason chose my knee as your focal point as you completed your self-inflicted boot camp. My yoga teacher taught me to breathe into my ribs and smile with my eyebrows; I understand that that expression might have thrown you off.
My walking trail
My meditation path

The way you keep glancing at me while still scribbling no doubt suggests you do not approve of my figure. Trust me, sister, neither am I. But somehow, all this walking I am doing fails to make a visible effect, although it makes me insanely happy on the inside. Who wouldn't be happy walking through this tropical paradise, appreciating life and everything in it? Well not everything, I suppose... Not you. Not today.

Back to my child's whining - and yes, I am aware he is still whining - I am really not ready to commit to the "ding" game yet. This might surprise you but I am, sort of, a retiree at heart. When we come here in April or during the summer, I am the first to rush into the ocean, never mind the pool. But in late December I am more the type that contemplates for a minute or two or ten on each step before getting deeper. The spa is, on the other hand - totally my cup of tea.

This crying marathon actually started when I got up from the lounge-chair, clear no reading was going to happen, but headed for the hot tub instead of the pool, starting the jets full force. My right ankle thanked me!

You see, as I am replying to your letter that I haven't actually read yet, the jets are so loud I don't even hear my kid yelling any more. And no, I'm in no position to change my parenting for your comfort. If I do, he will drive our rent-a-car tomorrow. Or eat sixteen fruit yogurts, all blueberry, instead of dinner. Or sleep and shower with my iPad - the one I have that book club reading on.

The spa's bubbles ended their 15 minute sequence. All is quiet. And look, my boy is contently playing in the shallow part of the pool all by himself! And now, NOW you are leaving?! Or no... You are coming to talk to me? To personally hand me your letter?!

“Here, your mom asked where we got three-wheeled bicycles for my parents. It was at Engel's. Here is their address and website. They're pricey but very safe. Say Betsy sent you!"
“Oh... Thank you...”
“Also, I wanted to ask you... Where did you get your bathing suit? I love that frilly little skirt!"

“Simon Chang... in Costco...”

I simply adore Byron Katie. I love her observation: "Defence is the first act of war". Teaching us to lead the life without explaining, without justifying and independent of the good opinion of others. Just loving what is.

When will I learn? Until then, beach it is!
"If you're happy on vacation clap your hands (clap, clap, clap)..."

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