The story I did not get to tell at the Monti last night: "My Greatest Moment"
I stressed over choosing my greatest moment. For one thing, I had to consider what happened after the supposed great moment. I thought the day I got my first - and turns out, only - full-time job was a triumph -- but I soon hated the job and got fired a week later. Or just last month I got an all-expense paid trip to Mexico City to perform a Yiddish song I'd written for this international competition, a knockoff of American Idol called "Der Yidisher Idol." And in fact I won, I am the Grand Champion 2015! But turned out the organizers had blown their budget flying all us international finalists into town, so there was no Grand Prize, and now that I'm home if I take a stab at talking about it, people just look confused and say, "that's nice, dear."
I also didn't want to choose a greatest moment from long ago: then my whole life since would be an anticlimax. My grandmother had a brother Geoffrey: nineteen days after seeing a bobsled for the very first time he joins the US bobsled team at the 1928 Olympics and takes home a gold medal. Great, right? He lived another 60 years and never could top that.
Or my mom, she peaked right out of college and then spent the rest of her time on earth drinking alone and snarling at her family. Jeez, I was afraid her crappy mothering style would turn out to be genetic. There were morbid harbingers: when I was little and people gave me dolls I cut off their hair, took off their clothes and threw them naked into the little heap of plastic corpses at the dark back of my closet. Then there was the Christmas in junior high when for some reason I sewed a little dolly for each member of my family, I tucked each doll into a close-fitting handmade cardboard box covered with the same fabric her dress was made out of, nice little cardboard boxes with hinged lids, I realized years later they were little mini-mes in calico coffins.
But when I had kids, I was a better mom than mine had been, and that was great, and I don't drink, so that's great, and now my daughter Hannah's a mom, a much better one than I was, and that's great too.
This past weekend Hannah brought her 2-year-old to stay with me while she was at a conference. Hiram and I had a blast: we rode the train at the Museum of Life and Science and at lunch he fed burger and fries to his new toy moose. He made pretend soup in a little blow up swimming pool and shouted out Old McDonald Had a Farm at the drop of a hat.
Sunday we walked hand in hand down to a bouncy suspension bridge in the park. I showed how he could drop gravel off the bridge into the stream and he was electrified. For the next half an hour -- or maybe it was an hour and a half, I kind of lost track -- he was trundling back and forth, carefully selecting two choice pieces of gravel at a time, putting one little stone in each of his two pockets, climbing the stairs to the bridge, clumping carefully across the slats, then he'd sit down next to me, lean out over the water, and drop his two pieces of gravel in the stream, plonk, plink. Then he'd say "I do it again" and he'd go back for two more pieces of gravel, over and over. His mom did the same thing, at the same bridge, thirty years ago. She loved gravel too, so that's what's genetic.
Sunday night Hannah was back from her conference and together we put Hiram to bed in his indoor tent, but at 2am he was suddenly sobbing. I know poop stories are popular at the Monti so here's one: he had pooped so extravagantly the squishy stinkiness of it woke him up in a rage! Hannah changed his awful diaper and walked around jiggling him but he was stuck between being asleep and awake, screaming. So I held them both in my arms and started asking: "Hiram, do you remember the gravel?” He woke a little. “Today when we went to the swinging bridge? You got the gravel and put it in your pockets?” He had to cry less to hear this riveting tale. “Then you climbed the stairs and dropped the rocks in the water? Remember? Remember how the big stones went PLONK and the little stones went PLINK?"
He was still gasping woefully but when I said PLINK he laughed a little through his tears. "Don't you want to tell Matt [that's his precious stuffed elephant] about the gravel you threw in the water?" Great idea! Yes, he did! He started leaning toward his room. Hannah put him in the tent, which is just like the one she slept in 30 years ago, and I watched as she lay down on the floor in the dark, half in and half out of the tent, and she crooned him a quiet little nighttime song that got quieter and quieter. And so, standing in the doorway watching her there singing to her son in the dark, that was it, my greatest moment...