Q and A with Icescreammama
Elle: Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?
Icecreammama: I’d like to be stuck in the elevator with the icecream man.
Elle: What’s one of your favorite movies?
Icescreammama: One of my favorite movies was Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Elle: If you could send any celebrity/reality star into space so you’d never have to hear about them again, who would it be?
Icescreammama: I’d like to send Lindsey Lohan into space along with her sistas Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and i’ll throw in Kate from Kate plus 8, just cause she bugs me.
I Had A Great Title, But I Forgot
I’m at the supermarket, about to pick up a cantaloupe, when a woman I don’t recognize walks directly toward my cart smiling.
“Hey,” she says, calling me by name. “How are you? How’s Howard and the boys?”
I stare a little too deeply into her face. Nothing. No recognition what-so-ever. I stall. “Good. Good. How are you guys doing?”
“Fine.” She goes on, not noticing my plastic smile and discomfort. “Jake is really liking camp.” Jake, I think, my brain fluttering at hummingbird speed to cob-webbed reference pockets for a connection. I wonder if he’s a friend of Tyler, Michael or Julius? Jake? Jake? I come up blank.
“That’s great.” I stall. An awkward silence follows. I focus my attention on squeezing a cantaloupe and gravely consider its worth, like I have a clue what a cantaloupe is supposed to squeeze like. Why doesn’t she just leave? Can’t she see she’s killing me, here?
“Ok, well. It was nice seeing you.” Finally, the torture is ending. “Call me up and we’ll set up a play date.” She sing-songs, then rolls away.
“Absolutely. Sounds good.” Waving her off, I chuck a random cantaloupe in my cart and move on, hoping not to bump into anyone else. Given the size of our town, however, the probability is more likely that I will than won’t. Come to think of it, I actually don’t think I’ve ever gone to the supermarket without seeing someone I know, or at least, someone I am supposed to know.
What is wrong with my brain?
This is a typical, recurring theme for me. I’m somewhere in town and a woman will approach me with a wide smile of recognition on her face. Sometimes I recognize them but can’t place where. Sometimes, I just don’t remember their name, and sometimes, I just have no idea. When we are out, Howard is constantly whispering in my ear, “You know who that is, right?” A good 90% of the time I don’t. The other 10%, he’ll be testing and teasing me. “Come on. Give me a break. I know who our next door neighbor is.”
“Just checking.” He’ll say with a wink. I did forget who his boss was three times already, maybe four.
It’s a running joke, but I worry. Why can I remember where the mask is to the batman costume we haven’t put on in over a year. Or the grey army man with the black gun. Or the fork with one bent prong. Why do I know where everything is but not who anyone is?
I can’t even say I know who my kids are all the time. “Don’t do that Howard!” I yell. “I mean Julius! Tyler! Crap!” Of course, you know, the kid standing before me is Michael, grinning like cat. Arggh!
When I meet someone now, I consciously try to remember their name. I verbally repeat it, like the memory experts say, knowing full well I sound like an idiot, or an anchorwoman. “Yes, Susan, nice to meet you too. And now, the weather.” We will chat for a few minutes, then Susan departs. “Who was that?” Howard will ask, coming up next to me. “No idea.” I answer, and I really don’t. “Something with an N, maybe?”
Why is this picture here again?
So today, I had another one of those moments. I’m at the gym and a blonde woman, who looks familiar but I don’t know where from, corners me on the elliptical machine and starts chatting happily. “So how’s Julius doing? Does he like the camp?” I nod as I always do. She must think I’ve overkilled on Botox, the way my face stiffens up. Finally, when she asks after my mother, I have to interrupt. Who is this chick? “I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name.”
She gives me an assessing look, but is still smiling when she says, “Of course, I’m terrible with names too. It’s Kate.”
“Of course, Kate. Sorry.” Who?
We chat a little more (Kate apparently is having a great summer and we are so setting up lunch!) and after she leaves, I’m left wondering. Kate? Kate? I keep thinking through the day. Who is Kate?
Later that night, I tell Howard about my experience, and how frustrated I was that I couldn’t place this woman and how uncomfortable that she knew so much about us.
“What was her name again?” He asked, poking his head out from behind his iPad.
I take a moment. I take another. I have no idea.
Mom Get’s Lizard. Mom Loses Lizard.
This is the day I lost my Smiles. For clarification, Smiles is our new baby bearded dragon. Also, Smiles isn’t technically mine. My nine-year-old son Tyler is his official owner, as he’ll happily declare for all to know. He was the one who begged for him mercilessly, who cried when we said we would think about it, who brought out the big guns and lamented his first born state of having to share everything with everyone, namely his two annoying brothers. Smiles, named for the wide, open mouthed expression on his face, was his – except when it became necessary to feed, care or pay any general attention to it, then as it turns out, Smiles is mine.
I can’t say I mind, I took a quick liking to the reptile. Maybe it brought me back to my younger days, scanning the bungalow colony woods in summer scouting for those bright orange salamanders. My friends and I would catch them, count their spots, declare their age, and put them in pitiful little Tupperware tanks that we would decorate with grass, dirt and rocks. No animals were ever so loved by their incarcerators, who routinely forgot to feed or give them water. Or in the case of my sweet younger brother – or at least sweet in this retelling – forgot to punch air holes in his plastic home. It took him awhile to figure out that his prized critters weren’t merely sleeping. I remember once, the devastation of leaving them out on the bungalow porch in the sun. You don’t want to know what I found when I returned from camp later that day. Let’s just say, to this day, I don’t eat dried apricots.
Even with the 30 year time passage, I should have known better then to bring another reptile creature into my life (are salamanders reptiles?). But go figure, I liked him. I really liked him. He isn’t orange or spotted like the “Sallys” of the old days. He’s a more lizardly grey brown, all the better for blending my dear. And he’s not smooth bellied and sweet, Smiles is a predator. Just watch him catch a cricket. Even lounging on his branch feigning sleep, in a flash he’s on the move. Snap, there go another cricket. I try not to think too hard about my transition from loving the innocent soft salamanders of old to the wizened, scaly dragon I identify with now. There’s something frightening there but again, I’m not thinking about that. Smiles knows what’s what. You’ve got to appreciate that.
In the week we’ve had Smiles, we’ve definitely bonded. I talk to him, bring him fresh vegetables, stroke his head, take him out to cuddle – don’t judge me, my boys are getting bigger. Sometimes, when I come close to the tank, Smiles runs up to the nearest branch and stares at me with a gaping smiling mouth. At least that was how I perceived it, until I read a book on bearded dragons that said that they sometimes show dominance and aggression with their wide menacing expression. Ouch. I don’t care what that book say, Smiles loves me.
So on this gorgeous May morning, I decided that Smiles should feel the real sun on his back instead of the infrared light bulb that heats his cage. Tyler was in Hebrew School already and the other boys were occupied with a video game. It was just me and Smiles as I walked out my front door into the bright happy morning. At first, it was a Norman Rockwell picture. Me and my lizard on the green green lawn, under the blue blue sky with the yellow shining sun, so pretty. We basked as Smiles slowly scampered from my hand to the grass and back, until I got distracted for one damn second when my neighbor’s son biked past. I wanted Julius and Michael outside biking as well and turned my head to call into the house and draw them out. That was when it happened. Smiles took two quick leaps and scooted right into the bushes that line my front lawn. It was my turn to have a mouth open and wide and my eyes as well. “Howard!” I screamed, lunging for the plants. I was quick but he was quicker, and within a second, he was gone.
The person who would throw a paper towel at a spider and then run out of the room screaming was now full body deep in the bowels of a bush crawling with creepy creatures. I was beside myself. I could not believe what I had done. What the hell was I thinking bringing a small lizard outside without boundaries? All that went through my mind as I clawed helplessly thru the mulch and dirt, scratching my arms on the branches and staring maddeningly at the leaves was that Tyler was never going to forgive me. I could see it. On my deathbed, he would bring it up… remember when you lost Smiles?
Full on panic set in as the minutes passed and I realized my hope of recovering my baby dragon was as fleeting as he was. Howard was pulling apart our front shrubs. I had my face nose to nose with a giant spider and merely blew it aside. Things were crawling on me and I pushed my face lower to the ground and deeper into the bush. The shrub thinned out and I could see thru it to the other side and Howard’s face staring back at me. I was crushed. For one of the only times I can remember, Howard had the decency not to pour oil on the fire with, “why would you do something like that?” or “what were you thinking?” I can only imagine how desperate I looked. Although, I got some idea by my father-in-law who was there as well, slowly circling the bushes with very large feet. Every time he caught a glimpse of my crazy eyes, he started repeating this tense, optimistic mantra, “Don’t worry, hon. You’ll find him. Don’t worry, hon. You’ll find him. Don’t worry, hon. You’ll find him.”
That was when Julius and Michael decided to make their appearance running from the door. Howard and I halted them immediately, both afraid they might step on Smiles and wanting to keep them unaware of the situation, but it was useless, the little lizards were on to our game. “Why’d ya take him outside?” Michael wanted to know. “You lose Smiles?” Julius asked. Crap. There were no secrets now. In my mind I had already jumped ahead to the pet store to buy a replacement baby bearded dragon, but now with the boys in the know, there was no way out for me. The gig was up and I was officially the worst mom ever.
We continued like this, gently circling the shrub, staring hard at every branch – who was I kidding? He was four inches long and the color of bark. I sometimes couldn’t find him in his cage. I pictured his little face that was either happy to see me or territorially posturing for dominance. I was on the verge of heavy tears. Suddenly, Howard whispered something like, “I see him.”
There was no way. On my lawn of a thousand plants, a million blades of grass, Howard had found him, sitting in the center of the shrub next to the shrub that we had just mutilated. Slowly we closed in. Howard attempted retrieval but Smiles was deep in the shrub and he couldn’t get his hand around him. He tried coming in from behind but was afraid his tail would pull off if he tugged at it.
Barely breathing, I pulled apart the bush the best I could. He really was in there, deep in a crisscross of intersecting branches, his little face looking straight up at me without the hint of a smile. A large spider crawled over his back. I waited a second hoping he’d eat it or something. No such luck. Feeling like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom, I slid my hand down and around, praying that he wouldn’t bolt. He didn’t. I pulled Smiles out and into the cave of my shaking hands. Gently hugging my hands to my chest, I walked into my house, placed Smiles back into his tank and cried.
All day, I watched Smiles closely for signs of stress, but he was fine. Only I spent the rest of the day in a state of shaky exultation. We found him! In all the bushes and all the grass, we found him. It was a near disaster. It left me thankful and vulnerable. I had almost committed one of those parent crimes that children carry with them for the rest of their lives, or at least thru therapy.
When Tyler found out what had happen, his mood was light and airy. “You lost Smiles.” He almost joked. He had no idea of the tragedy averted. Later, Howard and I reflected on how differently the day could have gone. If he hadn’t looked in that bush… If he had run… we would all be without smiles for a long time. Thankfully we survived our first week as baby bearded dragon owners, and now I’m just going to shed this day like reptile skin, smile and move on to the second.