Wednesday, July 17, 2002

A Summer's Tale

Though I love cheeky croupiers and St. Tropez tans as much as the next guy, I don't spend entire summers in some tiny-yet-tres-tony European principality because, well, because I suffer from REALLY post post-partum depression. (Not to mention a nagging case of Inadequate Trust Fund.)

How post is my post-partum depression? Let me put it this way: My "baby" will be eight in August. And it hasn't helped matters any that my oldest celebrates his natal day in June, my little heiress in July. Which means I've been going on seasonal crying jags, spoiling for a fight, and/or feeling like a heat-seeking blowfish for 16 Junes, 13 Julys, and almost eight Augusts. In layman's terms? Since 1986, a good two-thirds of every summer vacation and/or just plain summer month photo taken of me has been unflattering.

There's the, "omigod, how will I ever stuff these things into the top half of this bathing suit" picture taken when the oldest was a hungry newborn and we took a trip to 105-degrees-in-the-shade Biloxi, Mississippi.

There's the "whaddya mean I'm 'too pregnant to fly?'" picture, capturing me at a LAX check-in counter in all my snarling, temporal vein-throbbing, swollen-footed glory. (Like it was my fault the girl child didn't make her debut until two-and-a-half weeks later than promised.)

There are countless snapshots of a scarily miscast Mother Machree who bears more than a passing resemblance to me, hostessing an equally countless number of "fun" summer birthday soirees: That's me hissing at the hired clown for forgetting to bring the dancing poodle. And, yes, that's me gritting my teeth at the magician who neglected to inform me his "act" was a blue one. (That's also me handing said magician his top hat, wages - sans tip - and showing him, his assistant, and her pasties the door. But don't look too closely; the tears on some of those five year olds' faces are absolutely heartbreaking.) And let's not forget that touching home movie, the one immortalizing "Cowboy Clem" and I in a celluloid contretemps over whose responsibility it was to scoop up "Petey-the-Pony's" prodigious poops.

Worst of all, though, was the summer I spent waiting for my youngest to be born. That was 1994, and I don't think I went anywhere (she said like a spoiled brat) but crazy that summer. In addition to my usual June and July "spells" - hey, if your kids are a year older, what does that make you? - I was having phantom labor pains for a baby being born 8,000 miles a way.

Though I put on a remarkably composed front for the pictures the social worker took for us, inside I was a mess. What female hormones get tweaked during an adoption? I haven't a clue. All I know is that mine were a mess. And how was I to justify the banana splits I craved with a (relatively) flat belly? Friends and family weren't any help, either. "Be patient," they'd say, which, in retrospect, was like telling Al Gore, "tough break."

I spent the end of that summer and much of the fall cursing the eminently patient Korean social workers I'd never meet - but who I knew were eminently patient because they never once hung up on me, even after I said something snippy like, "but WHEN is when? I'm adopting a baby, not a teenager!"

It's when I did finally bring the baby home (and he was indeed a baby at four months of age) that I got weepy. But they were happy tears, just like the ones I had when his brother and sister were born.

The camera, however, makes no distinction between happy tears, tears of frustration - like the kind caused by a misspelled name on a birthday cake or a nasty kiddie entertainer - and tears from an over-chlorinated hotel pool. But what are some bad pictures in the grand scheme of things? As long as I get to summer somewhere with my kids, I really don't mind. Really! For, if I ever am spending June, July and August in a tiny-yet-tres-tony European principality, you can bet I'll be too old to enjoy it. And much too old to tan.

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