Friday, June 4, 2010

On Girlhood and Grandmas

I grew up in Northern California, in a lush land of wine-tasting, vineyard-hopping, Chanel-shopping yuppies and pot-smoking, granola-eating, Birk-wearing hippies juxtaposed together in an odd culture-clash mish-mash. I was raised in a big, messy house perched on a hill on five acres in the forest - thus, the name of this blog. My parents left San Francisco in the late '70s in search of a quieter world in which to raise their brood, and they settled in my hometown with the intention of growing grapes. The grapes never materialized, but they did manage to take a drafty six-room hunting cabin, add another wing, a second floor and a carport, and proceed to cram it with an overwhelming amount of books, furniture and knick-knacks.

My parents are master packrats, so more house simply meant more space in which to store the random objects that they couldn't seem to part with. Thus, I grew up in a world of STUFF - vast stacks of ancient, decaying magazines perched precariously in corners, long-expired coupons gathering dust in kitchen drawers, and tattered, discarded clothing perpetually threatening to burst out of jammed closets. My brothers also inherited this Mad Professor-like quality, as evidenced by their bedroom, with its colossal heaps of old toys, comics, and school papers circa 1992.

I, however, reside firmly at the other end of the tidiness spectrum, and seem to possess the sole neatnik gene in the family. Case in point: if I was ever upset as a child, I would lock myself in my bedroom and rearrange my furniture. Ahhhh, sweet relief... Coupled with the suspicious absence of baby photos, this distinction between my brothers and me provides irrefutable evidence to support my long-held belief that 1) I was found on my parents' doorstep in a basket, having been abandoned by well-organized gypsies, or 2) I am the (Type A) postman's child. Just kidding, mom.

General messiness notwithstanding, my childhood was spent amidst piles of home-improvement rubble, as our remodeled house was a perpetual construction zone - the sounds of the table saw echoing from the carport as my father chopped, cut, and nailed his way into his dream home, which my mother raced around attempting to keep the three of us out of harm's way. Her efforts weren't always successful - there was the time when Jason stepped on a board and a rusty nail plunged straight through his shoe into his foot. Or when Brandon cracked his head open when he slipped on the pre-carpet cement floors. But overall we emerged relatively unscathed, due either to incredible good fortune or to my mother's watchful eye, or to some combination therein.

Having spent the better part of her life wrangling three children into (fairly) well-functioning adults, one would think that taking care of an infant would be old hat for my mother. After all, when I was born she had three children under the age of five, my father never changed a diaper, and she lived to tell the tale. Certainly these child-rearing skills would magically come flowing right back when charged with caring for her grandson, right?

Not so.

I have learned that there is something about becoming a grandma that addles the brains of even the most top-notch mommies. It's like all the years of baby knowledge drip out their ears and are replaced with a surplus of googly-eyed smiles and incessant cooing. For whenever my mother has visited and I've left Carter at home with her for a few days, I've called to discover bottles undrunk, naps untaken, and meticulous schedules unfollowed. Any complaint from me illicits only a bemused chuckle and singsong "Uh-oh...Mommy's mad at us!!" on the other end of the line.

There are the domestic crimes committed, like the time when she washed my husband's dry-clean-only suit pants (the excuse - "I thought they were yours!" Um, HUH??), or, the most recent infraction committed during her visit last week: a super-helpful attempt to wash my cloth diapers (despite my repeated pleadings to refrain until I got home), which resulted in good ol' Grandma placing the entire filthy poo-stained bundle IN THE DRYER INSTEAD OF THE WASHER. Justification? "Well, at home my washer is on the left, so I was on autopilot."

Cue ranting, profanity-laced telephone tirade from yours truly, stuck at work with a dryer full of crap, and subsequent bleach scrubdown upon return home.

Despite these fury-inducing moments, my mother's recent visit was still lovely and all too brief. Carter loves his grandma and had a smashing good time showing off for her - gnawing on his blocks with his FOUR (!!) teeth, ripping apart magazines and pulling all the books off the shelves, one by one. And even though she's disorganized, occasionally drives me to drink and is no longer allowed anywhere near my appliances, my mother is simply wonderful.


The Mama said...

Oh wow - the diapers in the dryer... that is truly amazing. I am having a great laugh over that. It's funny how much your upbringing sounds like Uri's - I guess not surprising since you grew up so close to one another. Parents must have been thinking the same thing...

Katherine said...

Clearly your mom hasn't figured out your system yet. When it comes to 'grandma knows best', I just kinda go with it. As you said, it all works out.