Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Nothing like a little classic clowning to cure what ails ya. You know, the good old bits – like the straight guy who knocks his head every time he tries to open a door. Or the delicious chestnut of the clown carrying a plank on his shoulder through a crowd, pivoting to predictable results. Or the joy of jugglers tossing stuffed animals.

Nothing like the sound of your daughters’ tumbling and uncontrolled laughter as they watch, riveted.

I couldn’t stop giggling myself, at the clown dogs in little cardboard cars, and the roller skating ballet.

Randy caught my eye and we looked at each other for a long moment, each of us holding one of our girls. This was our making up. The fight was over.

Today’s Go Dog Go production was a full-blown spectacle, under a yellow and purple-striped big top tent with ten dog-clowns and a live band and elaborate costumes, plenty of clever stage business and crazy props.

The climax, where Pink Dog in her frilly and teetering hat approaches her formerly negative friend, almost teared me up. After rejection upon rejection, she still carries the hope that he will, he will, like her hat. And he does! Hooray, and confetti!

Inspired by Pink Dog’s persistent faith, I am subjecting you to the ridiculous conversation that birthed today’s stupid fight:

Him: Do you have the tickets?

(What he meant: I am gently inquiring. Honey, did you buy tickets?)

(What I heard: Beep-beep. Must be in control. Are the tickets physically in your possession?)

Me: No, they’re at the box office.

(What I meant: I bought the tickets on-line and they are being held for us at will-call. Boo-ya! Aren’t I the capably prepared momma?)

(What he heard: La, la, la. I didn’t buy the tickets. We'll just buy them at the box office. Why are you even worrying about the possibility of us driving all the way downtown to a sold-out show? Why are you worrying about our children wailing “I want to see the doggies!!”? How silly of you.)

On the way to the circus tent:
Him: Is there a plan B for the tickets?

(What he meant: Since you didn’t buy the tickets ahead of time, what will we do if the show is sold out?)

(What I heard: I don’t really think you are capable of handling an on-line transaction.)

After hearing this final spice dumped in the stew of miscommunication, I simmered for a while, then blew up.

Since I’m embarrassed by my tantrum, I’ll fashion it in evasive Nixonese:

Words were yelled. A wood chip was kicked, sullenly. Someone actually said, “Stop sh**ting all over my beautiful life!” (Okay, that was me. Yeah, it was all me. Wearing a pout as wide as Emmett Kelly’s greasepainted mouth.)

Thank God we were both able to laugh over this later. Thank God my husband puts up with my drama. Thank God he’s the kind of guy who can appreciate the absurdity of the situation.

But what about the little witnesses? What do you do once you climb down from your own pile of hurt and start to see your children again? And you must get off that mountain. Because you have never lost the understanding of what it means when a child sees her parents fighting. The sight of us, the sound of our voices, has a power to work on her life that is more geological than emotional. Her life’s foundation threatens to shift and shake with earthquake force. You have always understood how your fighting can hurt them. How do you come back?

You take a deep breath through your nose. You exhale through your mouth, trying to relax the tight band across your shoulders. You rally. You make a plan. You list. You feel hope as you list.

1. Hug them, hold them close, sit one on your lap and smell her humid hair, her soft curl of an ear, whisper “seepa, seepa, seepa” and “I love you.” Apologize. “I’m sorry I yelled.”

2. Make up with Dad, quick. Apologize, whatever it takes, then kiss and hug him in front of them. Say, “look, Mommy and Daddy are hugging!” Invite the children over. Yell “group hug!”

3. Go to the zoo together, the street fair, the park. Watch the children make their play in the sunshine, eat some ice cream, take pictures. Stand next to your husband, your wife, and give each other a quick one armed hug as you watch the kids play because you both remember that here before you is the entire reason you must, it is imperative, make each other as happy as humanly possible.

4. Hope. Try another hat. Keep trying and keep hoping.

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