(Red, White and) Blue Monday

Formerly a fashion statement, now a work requirement. My youngest child (who, technically, isn’t a child anymore) is leaving for Air Force Basic Training (aka boot camp, aka Hell) tomorrow. We’re not quite sure how long she’ll be gone, because after graduation, she’s due to attend two or three technical schools. The length of her absence depends on the availability of space at the schools. She could be gone for two months, she could be gone for six or more. We just don’t know. In the meantime, she’s leaving behind the Grandpea, whose loving care will be provided by the Pea’s father, Amadeus and me, among others. It takes a village to raise a child, and this kid’s got one the size of Bangladesh.

I’m incredibly proud of my daughter. She’s as strong as a steel beam, as determined to succeed as Moses was to get to the Promised Land. For her, the Promised Land is an expanse of G.I. Bills, education and a secure future for her and her toddlerette. It blows my mind that she’s made this decision. You may remember reading about this little hellion over the years (I’ll add some links at the end of this post in case you don’t). This is my wild child- she of tats and piercings and detentions and in-your-face arguments with teachers and principals, usually regarding her principles. She refused to even pledge allegiance to the flag for a while there. But here she is, just a few years later, ready to kick ass, defend and serve. She scored extremely high on her ASVAB exam, which is the reason they’re sending her to all of those schools.

Despite the fact that she’s gutsy and intelligent, I worry about her on an almost hourly basis. She’s lovely, she’s tiny, she’s a girl working amongst a bunch of Big Burly Guys. My little girl. Behind her tough-broad façade lies a gentle, trusting angel of a thing. Her heart is beautiful and marshmallowy soft, and she’s still at an age (twenty-two) that she sometimes gives it too freely. It’s a rite of passage that we all go through, those years in which we learn to make it on our own, discern who the good guys are and determine who we let into our circle. For me, it was a difficult age, and I’m having flashbacks of creeps and predators and soul suckers. I was a lot more naïve and confused (and stupid) than she is, but still…

They’re going to scream at my baby, those Big Mean Drill Sergeants. They’re going to make her run forty miles a day and sweat until she collapses like a wilted collard green. They’ll force her to wear granny panties, sleep under an itchy wool blanket, eat K-rations and scrub toilets with a toothbrush. Worst of all, they’re going to take away her hair products and makeup. They obviously don’t understand the power of femininity. The eyeliner pen is mightier than the sword.

Anyway…it’s been a rough week. Amadeus and I took her to dinner on Friday, invited her over on Sunday and she’s coming to hang out with me later today. She and her little nuclear family are clinging to each other for a few last hours, and we’re clinging too. Tomorrow, I’ll go with her to her base to see her off, and though it’s only about forty-five minutes from here, I’m guessing that the ride will seem as long as if we were driving to Potsdam (Germany, not New York). It’s a new chapter, an exciting time. We all know she’s going to excel. She has no doubt she’s made the right decision. It’s one of those retrospective deals, where in the end, we’ll all be thankful that she did it. But for now, we’re as blue as the square behind those stars on an American flag, the one she’ll be proudly saluting from here on out.

I’ve come here seeking solace and distraction. If you’re reading this, and you send me a few words of cheer– a joke, advice or a happy little line or two (or a quarter of a million dollars)– I’ll send you a coupon for a free copy of my e-book, Peculiar Rhymes and Intimate Observations. This offer ends tomorrow, December 4th. After that, I’m sure I’ll be okay. I think. I hope.

Cheer-Sending Options:

The Comments Section of this post

E-mail: moonbeammcqueen at yahoo dot com

Twitter: @moonbeammcqueen

Thanks so much, everyone– I hope you have a happy, healthy, wondrous week. ♥ ♥ ♥

A few wistful, long-ago posts about my daughter:

Mother-Daughter Tattoos

My Daughter: In Trouble Again

A Visit From My Daughter: The Worn Carpet Treatment

The Grandpea: An Update on the Most Incredible Child Who Ever Lived

It’s hard to believe that the Grandpea is now two. She’s smart and funny and beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my first, only and favorite grandchild. Babies are magic– toddlers are magic and mayhem. When the Pea and I see each other, she laughs and wiggles with excitement (so do I, but it’s not as cute). “Mimi!!” She claps her hands and hugs my neck and plants one on me. Can you imagine a better greeting?

She wobbles over the threshold and happily destroys my house, giving me a refresher course on toddler terrorism. She’s a 25-pound wrecking ball. She orders Theo the Wonderdog® around, because he’s one of the few living beings in our condo that’s smaller than she is, including houseplants. She assumes a deep and commanding boss-the-dog voice. “No Theo, NO!!!!!” Theo just sits there looking puzzled, because he’s simply been lying around doing nothing.

The Pea is joy and mischief, innocence and destruction. She kisses and hugs and ruins our rugs. She’s one of the happiest people I know. She also throws temper tantrums better than anyone I know, but she calms down easily and we move on to other matters. Toddlers are so easily distracted.

I love seeing the world through her eyes. She walks Theo and laughs hysterically as he leads her around on his leash. It makes me wonder how the world appears at her eye level, because frankly, when I walk Theo, all I see is a tiny mutt who likes to pee a lot.

There’s a lot of inventory in this world, and she’s taking it all in, item by item. She’s a baby inquisitor, asking question after question about trees and paper clips, caterpillars and carpet tacks. To every answer, she says, “Oh, okay.” Example:

Grandpea: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a spatula. You use it to turn things over when you’re cooking, like pancakes or eggs.”

Grandpea: “Oh, okay.”

My God, that laugh! That smile! Amadeus thinks she’s swell too. Her delight in the smallest, simplest things melts our hearts. It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time that we were fascinated by a piece of tape. She’s the sunshine in the windows, brightening our house with her presence. We’re always a little happier and a lot more exhausted when she’s here. She’s much more fun and peppy than our adult friends, and we’re unburdened of the demands of imposing parental rules and regulations. We color and sing and sit on the patio listening to birds. We play guitar and discuss politics, and I never make her eat her green beans. She loves us.

Bossing the Dog, circa October 2011

She also loves her Hello Kitty shoes, her soft, polka-dotted blanket, Elmo, orange juice and baths. Her mom allows her to chomp on ice cubes, which disturbs me. She loves her thumb, her wrinkled right thumb, which plugs up her little mouth when there aren’t ice cubes in there. I see orthodontia in her future. She loves cell phones, which she flips open with expertise. “’Allo?” she asks, very French, very sophisticated. She props the phone on her shoulder and has extremely serious discussions with non-existent callers, which lets me know that my daughter’s  given her high-level training in the art of the long drawn out conversation.

The Pea has a strange, fierce obsession with singer Brad Paisley, whom she calls “Peasley.” If his fan club had a toddler division, she’d be president. I’m not quite sure how her Paisley mania started, but she knows all the lyrics to “Mud on the Tires,” and several of his other hits. It’s impressive, considering that she’s still working on the “ABC Song.” Without fail, at some point during each visit she begins chanting, “Peasley! Peasley!” I open the laptop and pull up a YouTube video or two. Or seventeen. I once played her an entire Brad Paisley “Live on Letterman” concert. She curled up in my lap, stuck her thumb in her mouth and watched her cowboy-hatted hero for a solid hour. Somehow, he comforts her.

Our favorite activity is story time. When I’m at her house, she goes to the shelf and brings me her entire library, one tome at a time. We lay in her little youth bed among her twenty thousand stuffed animals and read about Loraxes and coyotes and a boy in a boat. One night, she presented me with a new book, one that her mommy ordinarily keeps hidden. It seems to be her very favorite, and it’s become one of mine as well.

Here it is:

Go the F**k to Sleep, Written by Adam Mansbach

She wasn’t supposed to find it, but find it she did. Now that the Grandpea is at the parrot stage of childhood, the reader faces the challenge of finding substitutions for some of the words. Believe it or not, it’s a gorgeously illustrated lullabye of a book that just happens to prominently feature the word “f**k.” It also happens to be hilarious. Reading it reminds me of what my daughter’s going through these days– the exhaustion that goes hand in hand with being a working mother; the frustration of waiting for your little one to drift away to the Land O’ Nod because you’re dreaming of carving out about fifteen minutes of sweet, precious alone time before you conk out too. You’re depleted, your patience is gone, your baby’s bouncing like Jello-O on a spring, and though you’re stroking his hair and softly reading his fifth bedtime story of the night, a part of you longs to shake him like a pom pom and scream, “JUST GO THE FLOCK TO SLEEP!!!” Oh. That’s one of the words I’ve substituted. Flock.

Anyway, for your listening pleasure, here’s Samuel L. Jackson in all his thespian glory narrating “Go The F**k to Sleep.” Warning: He doesn’t substitute. I’m going to go call the Grandpea now. I just want to say, “’Allo.”

Gratuitous GIF


Okay, actually it’s a JPEG. I’ve been swamped with work, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. As soon as things settle down a bit, I’ll be back with a full report. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the Grandpea. I love that little goofball.