Monday, March 14, 2011

Explaining Rainbows & Dodging the Bullet

My son is 4 years old. That means we're really in to words now. We're into rhyming, sounding things out and even trying a bit of spelling now and then. And he wants to know what every single one means. Sometimes, it is surprisingly easy.

Walking with daddy a while back they passed someone with a rainbow patch on his jacket. "Why does he have a rainbow?" our son asked. "Well, because he's gay," said daddy. "What's gay?" Perhaps because he was honestly curious about what I would say and I'm the one who writes on and off for Xtra West, daddy told him to ask me when he saw me later that day.

"Well, you know how mommy and daddy are a couple, we're together, right? Well, if two men are a couple or if two women are a couple, they are 'gay'," I said. (I wasn't going to get into explaining the the entire LGBTQ alphabet soup just yet). "Oh, okay," said M and that was that. See, easy, right? I was feeling cocky.

Well, life knows how to keep cockiness in line. You may recall recently one of our cats, Bella, had to be euthanized. Friends volunteered to take our son out that morning. He knew the cat was very sick. I told him she was dying and that he needed to say goodbye before he left; that she wouldn't be there when he came back. I was crying, so maybe he didn't ask questions because of that.

The next morning he sprinted into our room, climbed on top of my husband and asked, "When's Bella coming back?" This time it was his turn and frankly, I was relieved that he got this one. "Buddy, she's dead. She's not coming back." The other day, my son said, "Bella's with Grandma Sue." He knows his Grandma Sue died before mommy and daddy got married, so daddy must have had to elaborate on his answer at some point.

Then last weekend, the vet dropped of the urn - yeah, we're those people - and before he got to our place, I panicked. "What if M asks what's inside?" I asked my husband. I'm not a fan of sugarcoating things. Give me rainbow flags over that damned Rainbow Bridge poem any day please, because we all know how I am about death. Love is easy for me. Death? Not so much.

Don't get me wrong: I don't set out to scare or scar my kid. But at the same time, I don't want him to be misinformed. I tell him as much as I think he needs to know in basic terms and sometimes (like last weekend) I also cross my fingers that he doesn't ask for more. How do you explain cremation to a 4-year-old? Yikes.

Luckily, we dodged the bullet on that one. He didn't ask. But I'm sure one day he will notice the two urns, one Bella's, the other Bob's (another feline) on the shelf. Hopefully I'll be equipped to answer that one without giving my kid nightmares.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Fog is Lifting

For the past while, I've been trying to figure out what the hell my problem is. Yeah, there have been deaths - most recently one of our furry felines - and stresses of other sorts, but I knew deep down that wasn't it.

Recently, I landed a freelance piece with an editor I used to write for on a regular basis. I haven't written for her in about three years, not since I returned to working full-time after my maternity leave. Anyway, there was a story idea that had been nagging at me that would be just perfect for her publication. (I'm not giving more away until the story has actually gone to print. Call me superstitious.)

I finally pitched it. She said yes. I did an interview with my story's subject. It went well, we flowed well together, interviewer and interviewee, which makes writing a profile on said interviewee that much easier. Afterwards he noted how easy it had been talking to me. And I remembered a former colleague having said I was good at putting people at ease. "Yes, I'm back!" I thought to myself. I was pumped!

And then I waited. My editor is away on vacation and told me to have my completed story in her in-box in three weeks, in time for her return. Then life happened. Specifically, I had a terrible couple of weeks. I had to make some stressful grown-up decisions that just about sucked the life out of me. Forward to one week shy of my editor's return and I figured I was actually going to have to write this thing. After procrastinating further by going for coffee with a friend when I was supposed to be writing, it was time.

It was slow going at first. I flipped through my notes and cued up my digital voice recorder. I reheated my coffee. And then it came. I actually remembered what it was like to write a journalistic feature story. I didn't have to start at the beginning, I just had to start writing and I could reorganize everything - descriptions, anecdotes and quotes - however I see fit. Hearing my interviewee speak I had that, "Holy shit, THIS is what my story is really about," moment and damn, did it feel amazing. I realize that when I write this way, I have the control I have been seriously lacking in other areas of my life lately.

Yes, folks, I'm going to have to do this more often. It's been way too long.