Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Yesterday never got any better. It got a bit worse, in fact, because the Volvo? She’s dead. I’m fairly confident she can be brought back to life. Reasonably confident. About as confident, anyway, as I was that I could replace her water pump, that I could effortlessly repair our toilet, that no one would come into our yard in the middle of the damn day to steal a 9-year-old’s bicycle and that there was no way this week could get any worse (this all eludes to previous posts on Urf! that I’m just not interested enough in linking to, but which you could browse for and research yourself though, as I told Brooklyn Dan, I wouldn’t recommend it). So now I get to find out what it takes to install a new alternator in a 1991 Volvo 740 wagon. Replace the battery, too, though that seems simple enough, even for me. I’ll probably be doing this on Father’s Day, which only seems fitting since I got Big Mama a water pump for that very same vehicle last month for Mother’s Day.

It took me nearly two hours to get home from work last night with the gracious help of Aunt Elizabeth who lent me her Jeep to boost my car and then came to retrieve me a half-mile later when it quit. She then stayed with me through several more attempts at jumping and various other pokes and prods under the hood. Eventually we abandoned the Volvo and she drove me home. I returned a half hour later with my neighbor, the Mechanic Savant, and a battery borrowed from one of his many vehicles. We did a quick, jerry-rig installation (the posts were opposite what they should have been for my car) and five minutes later I was on the way home. The Mechanic Savant has a case of cold Milwaukee’s Best coming his way. The victory was bittersweet, of course. I retrieved the car without the aid and expense of a tow truck, but she’s just sitting out front now, immovable, like a giant Swedish paperweight.

Later, Kristy, GK and I were lying in bed watching disc 3 of season 3 of Rescue Me and, though Denis Leary’s sarcasm and Marisa Tomei’s tomeis were doing their best to distract me from the day’s stresses, my mind would invariably wander to transportation problems, finances and bike thieves. And then GK became very animated and she pointed at me and said, “Dada,” and then to herself and said, “Baby,” and finally to her mother to say, “Mama.” And I smiled, which is something that has been difficult for me these past six days.

After Rescue Me, and after GK fell asleep, I was reading an article on Paul McCartney in the June 4th New Yorker. McCartney’s three grown children are a fashion designer, musician and potter. How wonderful, I thought, to be in the position where your kids could do whatever they wanted without concerns for financial stability or economic success. What I would love for my own children is for them to be able to follow their own dreams and passions regardless of the monetary rewards or the necessity to sustain themselves and their families with those pursuits. But I know they’ll never be in that position, that I will never get them there. And then I wondered what they want for us. I don’t think they want me staying up late at night worrying about bills or me unsmiling and tense because the car or the air conditioning is broken. I remember, as a kid, wanting my father to be an artist. He was just that, though he worked for a major corporation, and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t just stay home and paint all day long. I was sure he’d be happier doing so and that’s how I wanted to remember him. I wanted my mother to tend her plants all day. That’s all. Just take care of my siblings and me and spend the afternoons spritzing her house plants with that little brass watering can.

Obviously those memories of childhood can’t sustain a family of six, but I’m becoming ever more aware of how my weekday life is affecting my weeknight life as the tension follows me home to seep into the fabric of this family. The irony of me working so hard to take care of our home and these kids just to have all of that work and worry make me inaccessible to them later on is overwhelming. It seems that big changes need to be made, some hard questions need to be answered, and I’m just wondering if it’s perfectly sane to take career advice from a group of one- to nine-year-olds.