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3 kittens

Sort of moaning and quacking

Posted on 2014.05.19 at 12:55
Last week, I got a phone call from an unrecognized number. "Do you have a cat?" a young voice asked. I was sitting in my office, at 9 pm at night, after graduation on a Saturday night. No introduction, no ascertaining my identity. Just "Do you have a cat?" I started to explain that she had the wrong number, but when she repeated the cat-line, it occurred to me that this might be the babysitter. (I hadn't met this babysitter (actually, plural - two babysitters) because Jammies had handled the hand-off.)

So, "Yes. We have a cat. Is everything ok?" Obviously now I am picturing that the cat got outside and has been run over, or acting close to death in some other way.

"Does he make weird noises?" she asked.   OH. YES. He does.

"OH! yes, he does. Is he sort of moaning and quacking?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "It's really creepy."

"He just wants to be fed," I said, which isn't exactly true - he wants attention but only from me - "but he's been fed. So just ignore him. Sorry about that!"  The babysitter got abruptly off the phone.

It turns out that the babysitters were a very sweet pair of 8th graders, who we will be using again, in part because they'll be in town for five more years and seemed totally competent. I'm just very amused that they did not introduce themselves on the phone whatsoever, and just opened with "...do you have a CAT?"


Hawaii had her piano recital yesterday. It went as badly as possible. (The day before, the dance recital went smoothly. Pink sequins, upbeat tempo, shuffle-toe-tap cute.) Jammies' parents, sister, and her two year old and infant all came to visit for the weekend of recitals.

Hawaii was the only performer, and the audience was just family, plus the instructor and two of his friends.

First Hawaii started on the wrong song. She and I went offstage and looked at the music, and she started over. In the second song, she played a wrong note and got stuck. Then (apparently) the stranger-friends in the audience chuckled. Then Hawaii crumpled and refused to play. She left the stage, crying, and hid offstage in the tiniest corner, behind a bookshelf, and was shattered and crying and absolutely done.

I went back there with her, leaving the audience to squirm. It seemed highly important to me that we not end the recital on a note of horror and agony. (Something Kahneman peak-end experiences something.) So I kept trying to get her to create the kind of recital she'd like to have. Finally she answered that we should kick the strangers out. (Awkward, apologies, and done. Go away, strangers, it was sweet of you to come.)

We got her into the audience, where she huddled against Mimi. I sat up at the piano and cajoled Hokey Pokey and my nephew to come tinker on the piano, in order to just de-escalate the entire experience.

But Hawaii would absolutely not return to the piano.  We were nearing a face-off, because I felt like she just had to get back on the goddamn horse in some fashion. Eventually we kicked the family out, too, and it was just me and Mimi, and she picked one song to play. (Yankee Doodle, which is a duet with the instructor.) She composed herself and played it well, and recovered from a wrong note or two, just fine.

Mimi and I burst into applause, and Hawaii burst into wailing tears all over again - "I didn't want you to cla-aa-aap" she sobbed.  At this point I decided that ending on a note of horror and agony was probably okay, after all.  We packed up and the instructor and I apologized to each other, and left.

We've got about thirty minutes of torture on video, complete with empty stage, off-stage crying and negotiating, squirming toddlers in the audience, etc. Hawaii, some day you can show it to your therapist.


As I was leaving school last Thursday, there was a hitchhiker at the on ramp to the highway.  He was maybe in his 50s, with a long gray beard, and held a sign that said "Need money for fuel for spaceship to return to Mars." I recognized this as the opening scene of at least one Daniel Pinkwater novel, and that his sign was supposed to be taken seriously and would launch one thousand adventures. But of course thirty-something mothers-of-three, in our sensible work-appropriate outfits, sandals, and coral necklaces, are not characters in these novels. My job is to drive past him and represent the hamster wheel of blind adulthood, and hopefully a scrappy ten year old will come forward with a clutch of one dollar bills and they will embark to Mars. May they spare a moment to marvel at my tunnel vision, because it keeps the dinner on the table and the world going round so quit judging me, wise-alien-hobo.


My housekeeper invited us to her daughter's graduation party. She is graduating from UT. The other kids are also all enrolled in local universities. This family is pretty remarkable. They immigrated in the late 90s from Mexico, learned English here, and have built their lives from scratch since then. In the past year they all became citizens.

I went solo, what with the in-laws and cousins in town.

Here was my big traumatic fear: that in the course of the awkward smalltalk with other guests, the other person would ask me how I knew the family, and I'd have to say, "The mother is our housekeeper."  How stomach-curdlingly awful, and then what an asshole I am for feeling like I've got the raw end in this situation, right? I want all the perks of an upper-class lifestyle but without the inadvertent lording it over anyone's head.

It turned out that there were some friends-of-friends there, from a different math department, who are all very lovely and I ate dinner with them. The best part: eventually one of them did ask how I knew the family, and I could answer "Actually, through you guys!"  When we were looking for a housekeeper, my word-of-mouth travelled through adjacent math departments and ended up with these acquaintances. We all agreed that this family is incredibly resourceful and intelligent and and remarkable.


I have not yet told Crossfit Dude Bro Owner that I'm pregnant yet.  He is maybe all of 24, and does not have the best grip on the warm-supportive-mavericks ethos of Crossfit gyms.  At this point I look pregnant.  At some point it may cross his mind, but perhaps not.

My fear is that I can get kicked out, and I'd like to not get kicked out.  Pregnant Crossfit is a thing, with lots of internet resources for modifications and lots of spunky mavericks encouraging you to buck conventional wisdom about coddling yourself during pregnancy.  But of course, Crossfit Dude Bro Owner may just say "fuck the liability, go home."


parodie at 2014-05-19 19:27 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, poor Hawaii. I think you got good advice already, but perhaps to de-escalate/normalize, it would be helpful for Hawaii to see other student recitals - ideally someone struggling and then recovering. In my hometown there was a monthly student recital at the public library; perhaps there's something similar in your area?
heebie_geebie at 2014-05-19 19:34 (UTC) (Link)
That is a very good idea. I think I will absolutely follow up on that.
(Anonymous) at 2014-05-23 17:39 (UTC) (Link)
You could say "We're one of $mother's clients and we're so pleased for $grad" or something?
heebie_geebie at 2014-05-26 14:48 (UTC) (Link)
That's much better than anything I came up with. That sounds so prestigious.
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