July 8, 2004|Posted in: Uncategorized

…is what they call it.

I used to read Adair Lara in the San Francisco Chronicle every day, and I particularly loved the images she created of her mother, pinning out the wet clothes to dry and thinking of each child as she hung their shirts and jeans. I loved the images of her mother’s orangey-pink lipstick pressed onto Kleenex, a hundred kisses littering the tabletop.

I wonder what images my children will have of me. We were laughing and laughing on the Fourth of July — my three daughters, one of their friends, and my beau, who had volunteered to barbeque for us. My eldest, the beautiful Miss M, told stories about her sisters — the youngest one screaming and arching her back as a toddler when she didn’t get her way, the middle one timid and crouching behind furniture when she was small. All were delivered in such a comic voice, with such a madcap stance and delivery that you knew they were spot-on.

Scary, as well as howlingly funny, were her imitations of me. She’d imitate the things I say – you know, those amazing lines we repeat to our children. My father’s favorite was, “Do I have to draw you a picture?” and he never finished a lecture. You’d start to relax, then he’d walk back into the room and say, “And another thing…”

Miss M’s imitation of me was the famous, “Do I have to send you an invitation?” This line — yes, it’s beautiful, choice, inspiring! This is delivered when the child doesn’t attend or perform the first (second, third…) time asked.

And her favorite is me, in complete exhausted exasperation (me with three kids, two in diapers at once, and an alcoholic/workaholic husband, alas, at the end of her rope): “God damn it!

I guess you had to be there to appreciate it.

I can take it, though it hits a little close to the bone. I know I should have been more patient when the kids were younger. Heck, I should be more patient now. It’s a definite failing, and it’s not one you can pray about — God (if there is one) laughs at the plea for patience, sending instead long lines, loud noises, stupid clerks, fractious children, missed buses, empty gas tanks, plagues of locusts and more.

It’s a beautiful thing when your kids catch you in your shit. They are the ones who will carry forth your image, your reputation, your stories (your DNA). When they peg you, really nail you in your weakness, your inconsistency, your failings, well, there’s no way around it. You’ve gotta just step up and face it, laugh with them, and try a little harder not to be such a kvetch, nag, crank, whiner, control freak, what-have-you.

Kids see it all. And they have memories. And just when you least expect it (like when you’re impressing your beau with your children and they haul out their impressions of you behaving badly), well, it’s a beautiful thing.

Something to think about on a fogged-in Thursday.

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.

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