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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope you have a lovely holiday. I'm gearing up for two ham dinners today and four waves of gift-giving in the next two days. Stella is beside herself with excitement and Zoe is happily oblivious.

Safe travels to those on the move.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

red enough

Last week I posted about how people smile and gush when they see my little, beaming Zoë. What I failed to mention is that after some of them have exclaimed about her hair and her smile, they turn to me and say, “Where does she get the red hair?” or “Does she get the hair from her daddy?”

I try to keep the irritation out of my voice when I say, “She gets it from me.”

Then they look at me in a confused way, as if I had just told them that the red is actually from my grandmother, who happened to come from Mars, and all Martians have red hair, didn’t you know?

Sometimes they smile slightly, and say, as if they were humoring me, “Oh, I guess I can see that.” As if they had just conceded something. As if they were agreeing simply in order to placate me.

Now, I’m the first to admit that my hair has darkened and dulled over the years, but it’s still what I would call red. It’s still more red than blonde. It’s still more red than brown. It still put a check mark in the “red” box when I get a new driver’s license.

But many people seem to think you are only a redhead if you have flaming, crayon-red hair. I don’t know anyone with hair that color, do you? I know people with carroty red hair, with dark, auburn hair, with rust hair. And then there is copper. That’s what Zoë has, and what I had as a child: hair the color of a flashy new penny.

Okay, so I’m sensitive about my hair. When I was in high school it annoyed me when someone told me I was strawberry blonde. I felt as if they were trying to push me into another category, a whole different set of people. They were trying to make me a blonde. “My hair is not blonde,” I would insist. “It’s red.” And sometimes I would even clarify: “It’s actually copper.”

I have always identified as a redhead. It’s part of who I am. My grandmother was a redhead. One of my sisters is a redhead. My father was a redhead before he turned gray. And as a child when people called him red, he shook his head emphatically and declared his hair golden. (Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen that word; I would have called it auburn. Regardless, it’s obvious where I get my hair sensitivity.)

I put up with years of comments about how I must be Irish and how I must have a temper. (All redheads must be the alike, you see. We must come from the same stock. We must have the same temperament.) Invariably, I would become irritated and, if the commenter persisted, angry. I remember when my junior-high Spanish teacher insisted I was both Irish and hot-tempered. I said no, but he wouldn’t let it go. Finally I yelled, “I’m not Irish!”

He smirked. “But you certainly do have a have a temper.”

I was shopping with Zoë and Stella at the mall the other day and a salesclerk, an older man, began asking about the origin of Zoë’s hair color, and when I said it was from me, I thought he was going to have an apoplexy. “You can always tell,” he said loudly, “who is really a redhead.”

Hrrrrmuph. Oh please I was going say, giving him my most withering look. But he went on: “Hopefully you daughter will keep hers.”

He then expounded on the fact that Zoë was such a happy baby because I stayed home with her. (I had admitted, after being questioned, that I worked from home, but all he cared about was that I was at home, fulfilling my motherly duties.) I have all sorts of things I wish I had said to the blowhard, but I rushed out of the store, dragging Stella by the hand before I could think of them.

Now I am wondering: What is red enough? How much red do you need in your hair to be considered a redhead? I also wonder why this is such a big deal to people. Why do they feel they need to draw a line, put me in my place? Are they are worried that if they didn’t, all sorts of people (impostors!) would go around calling themselves redheads when they really weren’t?

Just imagine: thousands and thousands brunettes and blondes laying claim to something to which they had no right. The world might shift off its axis. The sun might fail to shine. Armageddon, people. It could happen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I don’t post about Zoë very often because, well, she’s a baby. She does baby things: covers her face with pureed carrots; scurries around the wood floor collecting lint and trying to get it into her eager mouth before I intercept her. She dances, rocking her body like the tiniest Deadhead when she hears any kind of music. She smashes bits of spaghetti onto the wall. And she sleeps and poops and cries and laughs. I’m not sure how interesting reporting on her progress as a person would be to readers. I admit that sometimes even I, her own mother, get bored after the twelfth time I have rolled the tiny soccer ball across the rug to her and squealed with exaggerated glee when she triumphantly holds it up to me.

But I wanted to take a minute to say how precious she is. It is difficult for me to believe that just a year ago I was sick and coughing with perpetual cold and heavily pregnant with her. How full of worry I was, counting the days until I was 28 weeks, then 30, then 32, ticking off each milestone with a statistic on survival rates and the probability of a disability. It’s difficult for me to believe that she came out of me at 6 pounds, which then seemed so huge and now seems unimaginably small. It’s difficult to remember those early months, holding her constantly, bouncing her for hours, staying up until she finally fell asleep nestled in my tired arms.

Zoë is now nine months old. She smiles easily and often, at strangers and people she knows. She is indiscriminately friendly. When I am out at the grocery store or Target (the two main places I go), people stop me constantly, huge smiles on their faces: “What gorgeous red hair!” “Look at that smile!” “She just made my day!” “She likes me!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if, as adults, we could walk around smiling, and we would get the same response? But if we pushed our carts through Target, making eye contact and giving everyone a huge smile, people wouldn’t think we were adorable. They wouldn’t tell us that we just made their day. Most would look away quickly and think we had a screw loose. (I’m speaking for the Midwest here. Things might be different elsewhere.)

Stella and Zoë and I have all had colds this week. (Mine has turned into a sinus infection, per usual.) But because I wasn’t feeling well, I did something I rarely do these days: I lay down with Zoë and we napped together. How luxurious, even with her coughing into my face and wiping snot on my shirt. She woke at one point and sat up, and I thought that was it, nap over. But then I picked her up and she fell back asleep on my chest. She’s a baby that likes to be on the go and she rarely allows me to cuddle her, so I had forgotten what it felt like to have her head on my chest, her face inches from my own. I touched her soft forehead and marveled at her hair, which, in the sunlight, is the color of a new penny. I gave her the softest of kisses, not wanting to wake her, not wanting the moment to end.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

blog love

Sista GP at a southern thang awarded me the Uber Amazing Blog Award last week. Thank you, Sista! I'm honored!

Now I must nominate five (or six) other blogs for the award. This is difficult for me because I love so many blogs, but here it goes:

speak softly—what can I say? Whether Vicki is writing about the loss of her son or editing her manuscript, I’m there.

from here to there and back—I just know that if I haven’t read Kristen’s blog for a few days, I miss it, and I miss her.

this momKyra is f****** hilarious.

when in cairo—A's writing about living and teaching in Egypt is often funny, often poignant, and always lovely.

A moon, worn as if it had been a shell—Reading Elizabeth’s blog is like taking a refreshing dip in irreverence. She’s not afraid to say anything.

A Girl’s Garden of Menopause—Ellen is hilarious and also irreverent. What is it about irreverence that gets me these days?

Okay, now these bloggers are supposed to:

  1. Put the logo (award image) on your blog or in a post.
  2. Nominate 5 (or 6) blogs that you feel are Uber Amazing.
  3. Let them know that they have received the Uber Amazing Blog Award by commenting on their blog.
  4. Link to the person who gave you the award (which would be me, of course).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

tonight! don't miss it!

This year’s Mother Words reading will feature the writing of my very talented Mother Words students, past and present.

Who: All mothers and friends of mothers
When: Wednesday, December 3, 7 pm - 8:30 pm
Where: Yellow Tree Theatre, 320 5th Ave. S.E., Osseo, MN

The reading is free and open to the public, and there will be wine and beer and snacks for purchase!

Directions: From St. Paul/Minneapolis, take 94 West to County Road 81 North. Take 81 north until you pass Hwy 169. Just past 169, there will be a Marathon gas station on your right. Turn right just before the gas station. The theatre is in a strip mall (but don't let that discourage you—it's lovely inside.)

Come and see why I am so proud of my students!