If you’re going to get an annual update from a family, it usually comes in the form of a Christmas newsletter. Well, in 1974 my liberated mother decided to get her Erma Bombeck on and send out the update in the form of four-page article called “Dear Diary, or How I Spent My 35th Birthday.” If you’ve ever wondered how a blog-post would have read in 1974 (although, that’s something fairly specific to wonder, so likely, no one has), here’s your answer. Apparently, my mom had the makings of a blogger, long before the concept existed. She was, and still is, a woman truly ahead of her time.
And now, without further ado, I give you February 1974 and my mother’s 35th birthday …
“Happy birthday,” he said, as I gagged on the overpowering smell of his hairspray.
Where does it say that a wife should have to endure the noxious fumes of a man’s vanity? Where does it say that the husband has first crack at the hairdryer in the morning? I say, beware, girls, of the nice guy who fits in perfectly with your dreams of the ideal man and father for your children! I am convinced that these so-called “nice guys” are the ruination of the truly liberated woman. I’m so liberated that I find myself in a kind of oppressed liberation. With him sitting on the sidelines, full of self-satisfaction, watching my every move and thinking to himself, “You got yourself into this mess, Anita, and you can get yourself out of it.”
Wait a minute. Give the man credit for something. He did build me five rabbit cages. Controlled breeding, you know. But, did he help me when the male got out and played havoc with the females? Not him! It was raining out, and he wasn’t going rabbit chasing in the rain.
Anita, grab hold of yourself! It’s only 7:00 in the morning and rehashing the past isn’t going to make matters any better. Right! I’ve got to get up and get the kids off to school.
I dragged my coffee craving body into Brian’s room, only to find an empty bed. It really made me feel good to think that Glenn (the one with the “dry look”) had gotten the children up. What a thoughtful gesture for my birthday! I was fantasizing again. I’ve got to stop doing this. Glenn has all he can handle taking care of himself in the morning.
Brian wasn’t in front of the TV, and it was apparent that he was in the bathroom because of all the moaning and groaning coming from that direction. I opened the door, and there he was, curled up on the floor, his eleven-year-old body writhing in pain. I think he said something about catching Allen’s gas.
Oh God! Why me???? Today of all days: my 35th birthday. I was planning on putting on something attractive and walking to the market to see if any truck drivers would whistle at me. I may as well forget it. The truck drivers are on strike and the only thing I have that is attractive is a pair of jeans and a sequined t-shirt that lost most of its sequins the last time I washed it. Ah yes! And my tennis shoes with the hole in the toe.
I gently helped Brian back into bed and made for the kitchen and my cup of coffee that was so cold my sugar lump wouldn’t dissolve. I was sitting, contemplating my fate when Allen entered the room. Tears were gently flowing down his chipmunk-like cheeks and he sounded so funny when he sobbed that he couldn’t find Pooh Bear.
“Look under the bed,” I said. “And why do you sound so funny?”
“Mommy, it hurts my throat when I cry loud.”
At this stage in my life,, I have become a firm believer in predestination. And today, God had meant for me to stay home for reasons that only he knew.
Allison, our stoic 9-year-old, who is so brave that she let Daddy take out a half-inch splinter from her finger without even flinching, walked into the kitchen and suddenly clutched at her stomach as though being stabbed by a dagger.
“I think I’ve got Allen’s gas!” she cried.
“You don’t catch gas,” I said, restraining the urge to tell her that I’d take ten gallons.
“Then it’s food poisoning and I’ll probably die.” Again, clutching her stomach.
“It’s the flu and it will be gone in twenty-four hours, please go back to bed.” I’d like to be gone in twenty-four hours — to Las Vegas, and lose myself in the slot machines. My dreams of riches were quickly abandoned when the telephone rang.
“Happy Birthday!” chimed my friend.
“What’s so happy?” I said. “I’ve got three kids home from school today. And, I don’t have the courage to tell them that the eggs we’ve been hatching in the oven, that were supposed to be chicks today, won’t hatch because I forget to take them out the last time I pre-heated to 450.”
She hung up.
Allen came out with Pooh Bear and said he was going to feed the rabbits. Now, I know better than to let a 5-year-old be responsible for latching a cage door correctly. But, somehow it didn’t matter. The cage door didn’t close. Because I looked out the window and there was Grey Momma digging fast and furiously in a hole that was already pretty deep.
I watched as she collected bits and pieces of dry grass and disappeared down the hole. It didn’t hit me until she started pulling out her fur that she was going to have babies.
“I don’t care how sick you are,” I yelled. “Everyone out here to catch Grey Momma! Remember what Daddy said about controlled breeding???”
After many minutes of flying fur and foot thumping, Grey Momma was back in her cage. Now, my cup of coffee in peace and quiet. Allison, still clutching her stomach started to cry.
“What now?” I asked.
“The babies will die if they don’t have a nesting box and some straw!”
“Okay already, I’ll get a box and straw …”
I put on my best outfit (sequined top and tennis shoes) and departed for the market. At the produce section, I announced that Grey Momma was going to have babies, and I needed a nesting box. The produce manager (who was rather good-looking), looked at me in a manner that wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. After all, just a small inkling that he thought me attractive would have made my day.
Instead, he directed me to a back room and told me to take my choice of boxes. My choice, for those who might be interested, was Coachella Valley Citrus. Remember that, rabbit lovers. On to the pet store! A huge bag of straw, and the most ungodly case of sneezing and watery eyes I’ve ever had.
When I arrived home I was greeted by David, our 14-year-old babysitter, who was also home sick from school.
As he put it, “If I’m sick and the other kids are sick then no one can give anyone anything.” With logic like that, who’d argue? David was also the neighborhood vet, and I needed him during this time of crisis.
The kids took over and made the box with straw and my last skein of yarn. Loving care went into the making of that nesting box, and when it was done, Momma rearranged it the way she wanted it. Then we sat on the patio waiting for something to happen. I had to go over to school for the talent show rehearsal, so I left David with the children and went off to bigger and better challenges.
Who’d ever thunk that 70 kids would sign up to display their talents? Some birthday. Some rehearsal — the tumbling act almost chest-rolled off the stage, the mike went dead right in the middle of the “Cutie Pie” number, and every time the Jumping Jacks jumped, the needle on the record player did, too.
I canceled the rest of rehearsal until the equipment could be repaired. At last, I was going home. After 70 kids, I must admit that my three would be a joy to come home to. I smiled a self-satisfied smile as I drove into the driveway. And what to my wondering eyes should appear??? But three miniature kids who yelled and cheered, “BIG GREY MOMMA HAD 10 BUNNIES!”
“Just think, mom,” said Allen, in his own special way, looking up at me in adoration. “You and the bunnies all have the same birthday.”
“Daddy brought you flowers,” Allison chimed in. “And Brian wants to know when we can have cake.”
“After dinner,” I replied, as I picked up the phone and dialed the pizza place. “Two large cheese pizzas and a submarine sandwich. Please deliver.” Such elegance, sigh …
After dinner was cake eating time and time for gifts. The Elvis Presley record that Allison had ordered hadn’t arrived yet, but she was sure I would like it. Allen gave me a calendar and Brian gave me notepaper. The “biggie” came in a heavy box that the kids said, “Daddy helped us pick out!”
I opened it up, and there before me sat a beautiful, avocado-colored, electric can opener. “Be thankful,” I thought. “Kay gets measuring spoons.” I turned to Glenn, smiled, and said that I thought it might be a blender.
He smiled, paused, kissed me on the cheek, paused again and replied, “Blenders are for anniversaries.”
I wonder when the trucker’s strike will be over …?
I’d like to thank my mom for allowing me to post her article here. I’m both surprised at and proud of the similarities in our written voices. And I’m a little sad that the internet took so long to show up. I totally would have followed her blog!