Saturday, September 30, 2006


When I was in third grade we had an in-class poetry contest. I had written mine in about five seconds when my friend Jennifer said, "Amy, you are suuuch a good writer. Can you do a poem for me?" Always wanting to please a friend, I agreed. And it was about gum. And in the end of course, she won the contest. By parents were pissed.

Years later when my sister was in school she had to write an essay about time. I wrote it for her, a hundred stretched out metaphors about time wasting and it's all about timing. She got an A, and her teacher made a big fuss in red loopy letters on the top of the page.

Later in elementary school, I was unfortunate enough to attend a school where classes were tracked in three levels. They were not called "A, B and C" but they should have been. And you were placed in a class based on your lowest common denominator, meaning, if you sucked at math, then you were in the C group for math, and english and history. This did not bode well for the English brains who could not add. I was placed in a remedial English of sorts, which I remember as taking place in the basement of the school like a dungeon for kids who did not know how to spell, who rarely talked in class and instead sat in corners doodling. Mrs. Fleisher - the sweet middle aged type who had endless patience but who clearly wished she was in an AP class somewhere - would test us in vocabulary and for extra credit said we could try to use one of the words in a sentence. Instead, I wove an intricate story of god knows what, using all of the words. She passed the paper back to me the next day and had written, "You're terrific." That always stayed with me, that she had chosen to write "You're terrific" instead of "This is terrific", the first of many times that I believed my penchant for the pen would make me somehow special.

On the inside, I kept a diary frenetically as a child, recording everything from first crushes to deaths of grandparents, all in hot pink, behind locks that I never kept closed. When I ran out of space I used speckled composition books which I should have been filling with homework. I'd write pages and pages of story, usually starring an idealized version of myself named Jessica or Nicolette who always wore a side ponytail, had a dressing table and was allowed to wear eyeliner. These are the things I coveted in the 80s.

On the outside, I fought hard for writer's recognition. I sobbed in the vice president's office in high school when I was not chosen as a yearbook editor, once again burned by our highschool's tracking system where only those in the A classes were considered. I took an advanced honors English class my first semester freshman year in college, only to buckle under the pressure of Shakespeare and my professor's demands that we memorize passages and recite them alone in his office. A boyfriend, upon reading one of my poems had said to a mutual friend, "She's really good", but in the end my strategically woven allusions to love freaked him out.

I used writing for good and for evil. I wrote the perfect birthday card, but could also create a perfectly searing critcism when wronged by a friend. I got away with style over substance on more than one occassion when it came to my term papers. As a young adult, I edited the hell out of break up emails and small public speeches and resignation letters for multitudes of friends. When someone says "Can you look at this for me?", my chest swells with pride.

Once in a while, I scored. My college essay. My sister's wedding speech. Emails to my now husband. All perfectly penned and successful in their intent. Still, I craved further proof that I had something. Enthralled by "Felicity", and having heard that he hired a young writer, I sent J.J. Abrams some pieces that I cringe to think about now, begging him to hire me. Still he left a message for me, telling me I was great. I saved it for years, re-playing what I am sure was condescension that I somehow missed. I got a few things published in major papers - stories that mattered, like my grandmother's death. But I wanted more. I still want more.

In my current job, my boss hates my writing. This is the first time I have experienced this - rejection of the source of my most fundamental pride. I have tried to write as she wants me to for the sake of keeping her happy, but can not muster the fragmented sentences, the bold insinuations, the abandonment of grammar, the artificial affections. It feels sloppy and saccharine and not at all me.

It is hard to exist in a space where you are not doing what you most want to be doing, and where the only talents you dared to believe about yourself are dismissed. I am thankful for my friends, for Gail and Elise and Leslie and others who think I have what it takes. My parents, of course, but they kind of have to say so. Regardless, it's because of them, I continue to hold on to the belief that my words are worth remembering.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Unexpected Shout Out

Dear Port Authority Police Department of Laguardia Airport,

I am writing to thank you for locating my cellphone, recklessly abandoned at the Delta Baggage Claim. My husband spied it from across the room but in my rush to keep a squirming toddler from mounting the conveyer belt, I believed it to instead be a chewed-then-abandoned piece of blueberry bagel.

Hallucination, you ask? Well, it may have been a symptom of post traumatic stress after having to change an enormous poop in a airplane lavatory on a closed toilet seat. As my blog-crush Julie asserted at, not all plane bathrooms are retrofitted with changing tables. I was in denial of the side effects of that fact when reading her blog entry from the comfort of my own home, but when faced with a screaming toddler, steaming load and the stewardesses suggestion that I lay a blanket down on a filthy toilet seat and get at it -- it was a whole 'nother story. My husband did do all the dirty work, all six feet three inches of him crouched down in the two foot two inch air borne porta potty, while I paced unhelpfully and gagged even more unhelpfully. My only moment of smug retailation was handing the unsoiled but well used blanket back to the stewardess who looked at me like it was on fire. Note to all flying with children - beware of Delta airlines.

Anyway, imagine my distress when I found myself to be without cellphone after rooting through all carry on bags which were instead filled with cheerios and tabloid magazines. We were in a cab because the car service never showed up - damn the seven sevens. I came home and was instructed to "dump" my bag, and mentos and crumbs went a flying. Calls to unhelpful Verizon stores and bickering with husband ensued. No, I do not want a new phone number. No, I will not pay $300 for a new phone. Why did you throw out your old phones? I so do NOT lose everything. Etc.

Then, as if by magic, someone from the airport called my mom, extracted from my contact list, I presume, and told her they had the phone. I called Lost and Found, and got repeated voicemails. I imagined my little cheapo phone in the bottom of some bin filled with orphaned luggage and liquids and gels that are no longer allowed through security. In a daring move, I pressed the number for the "Laguardia Airport Detectives" and expecting to be laughed at and then chastised for bothering them about my phone when the terror alert is at level ORANGE, the lovely detective said that he actually had my phone, sitting right there. He gave me slow directions to the police building at the airport. He wished me a nice day.

So we went to the airport, and the New Yorker in me still doubted the possibility that I would be reunited with my phone. After following the impeccable directions I entered the police building (which looked exactly as I imagined it would.) Lovely officers in blue swarmed around, and as I entered the glass doors one turned to me and said:

"What, you come to someone's house and you don't even bring any RUGELACH?"

In five minutes, I was handed my phone, with apologies for stickiness from the police tape. I could not believe it. Even harder to believe was that the officers called each other "honey".

So I thank you all, for renewing my faith in customer service, validating my affections for the NYPD. I promise to bring gooey kosher pastries next time. Who knew?


Friday, September 15, 2006


Let's talk for a moment about how smell can act like a time machine - transporting you back into another space. I have written about this before, how I have been known to inhale a strangers aroma in quick, deep breaths, trying to locate its link in the mosaic of my memories.

My first primary smell memory would have to be my parents. In my youth, my mother was Oil of Olay, the light pink cream which may be the reason today her face is line-free. This would be combined with a heavy, sophisticated scent like Clinique's Youth Dew or Chanel No. 5, both of which seemed to conflict with her down to earth attidude. My father has always been an intimidating mixture of chilly mint, aftershave a clean cologne-of-the-moment and vaguely like stiff dry cleaning. Even when jogging, his sweat smelled businesslike and not at all offensive.

I fell in love with fragrance after a torrid affair with Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth perfume. OK, you can laugh. It was hot pink, and smelled like fruit with a spiraling tube down the middle. I debuted it at a bat mitzvah and felt immediately older. I stuck with Debbie for a while, until I had enough money to really indulge my addiction. My high school years became a blur of Body Shop scents - vanilla, mango, white musk. The vanilla was so potent that my friend Israel who sat in front of me in class would half-complain that it made him crave cookies. Along this time, a best friend named Elizabeth wore a Body Shop scent called dewberry, which was an intense and flowery, much like her. I was madly in love with her, in the way that you can be at 16 when friendships are your life, and it did not end well. Still today, I will sniff it in the store to torture myself with the memories of when our friendship was in tact.

My first boyfriend wore Eternity, and it still makes me swoon a bit. A bad boyfriend wore CK One, and I should have known that any guy who wears a unisex scent would have commitment issues.

All the girls at camp would overdose on Anais Anais, which came in a cute porcelain bottle and I will therefore forever associate it with Long Island and how it smells when combined with bug spray. And I know this isn't really a fragrance, but a bunkmate used Agree shampoo and MAN that stuff smells good. Too bad it makes my hair too soft.

My first new friend in college, Jill, wore a powerful combination of Liz Claiborne and Paul Mitchell mousse which smells like coconut. Liz Claiborne may not be top of line but it has a unique scent which I do think drives the boys wild. She sure did.

For my first job, I wore Quelque Fleurs, which is guaranteed to cause a small riot at a time where I really wanted to fly under the radar.

Around the time of my wedding I bought a new perfume to wear then and never again, so that I could forever smell it and remember that day. It was Robert Piguet's Fracas, which I chose based on the name which sounded exciting and chaotic. When my husband came in to see me for the first time as his bride, I smelled him before I saw him and it made my heart race and my knees weak. It was Carolina Herrera. I recently bought him Gaultier and I find myself missing that Herrera scent which is classic A.

Lately, I have been having a hard time finding the right scent for me. Whatever I choose seems to fade too quickly. I am attracted to musky and heady fruit rather than clean and sophisticated (though I use the latter for work-related activities). I might need to return to the staple of my adulthood, Gaultier for women in the sexy bottle. I believe this is the scent that made Abs fall in love with me, but it is also the scent that my friend Denise spilled all over our dorm floor and became slightly nauseating. I want to create a new scent association, now that I have stopped nursing and no longer need to worry that Chloe will smell like a French whore. Something to capture this time when I am often too busy and too tired to care for myself, exhuated from days of endless wonder. The right spritz is one of the few things I have which recalls the time when grooming was a routine.

I'll keep looking.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back Up

A is away - he took the Newark to San Francisco flight on September 11. Anyone who read my "Blues Traveler" entry can only imagine how well I did with that.

Anyway, I collapsed last night caked in Yo Baby yogurt (Chloe only wants to feed herself), damp from bathwater (hers, not mine) wondering how the hell single parents do what they do. They should get medals, I swear to god. I am sure most of them work, which makes it all the more unimaginable. And some have more than one baby at home?! I know we all find a way to work with the hand we are dealt, but I really have so much appreciation for that extra set of hands. Even when they are grasping the remote, watching SpongeBob Squarepants when he should be helping me with dinner, it is so comforting to know that there is another adult around for back up. Not to mention one who gives the bath every single night and tells me that it's all going to work out when I send him profanity laced emails about the panic of the moment.

There was a single mother in one of the new mother groups that I went to. I expected that she would slink in with hair matted and head down, the picture of depression. Instead, she bounced in with a Bugaboo and perfect curls. I was hyper aware of her during all of the husband banter which ensued and wondered if she felt left out. She would pepper the conversations with remarks like "it's just me, so I do what I can". She was so...together. I was never sure of the story behind her son, whether she chose a sperm donor or broke up with the father or something else. At a lunch that she was absent from, the other girls would speak of pity for her, shaking their impeccably smooth hair from side to side in sympathy. But I only had reverence for this woman, who exuded confidence - at least on the outside.

I think that as new mothers, there are always those moments of feeling totally alone. But for those of us who are lacking a partner, or an extended family, or friends - those moments must be pretty damn scary. Because it really does take a village.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Almost as soon as I had birthed Chloe, I swear the amniotic fluid was still dripping, I was told "you need to join a mommy class and make mommy friends."

A little background here. I had a lot of girl friends. Some active – the ones I see at least once a month, they are mostly from camp or college or high school. We would be friends even if not for email and birthdays. I have some dormant friends. We connect intermittently -- my special occasion buddies, we celebrate major life events and dine together when the guilt gets heavy. I have a best friend. And a sister-best-friend. And a mother-best friend. They are my every-days, my Poland Spring, life-water.

Even when my hair was a frizzy bowl and I wore red Sally Jessy Raphael glasses I had a bunch of friends who were either blind to my dorky qualities or were worse off than I was. In college, I had somehow stumbled into the power of good hair products and the luck of rooming near a gaggle of Long Island lolitas. I was part of a popular posse, with parties and drama and later, lifelong bonds born at Brandeis.

So the need to find new friends was lost on me, until I struggled beneath the heavy waves of the baby blues which knocked me down and out for weeks. Most of these friends did not have babies. Their exhaustion was borne of beer-benders and deadlines. Mine was filled with mastitis and middle-of-the night shrieking. One of my college friends called me and said "I heard from (mutual friend) that you are a wreck". Suddenly, I felt like an alien life form, unrecognizable to those visiting my planet with worried eyes and vague disgust from that unwashed mommy aroma.

I hungered for empathy and a cure for my "alien-ation". My one mom friend lived too far away to visit frequently. And her kids were just old enough to make the fourth trimester blues dissolve from her memory. And four years ahead of me and a stay at home mom herself, she had gobs of mommy friends. Finding my own was her prescription for my pain.
I joined a new moms group when Chloe was six weeks old. It was a few blocks away, which was all that I could muster. I chose an outfit for cool over comfort for the first time in over a year. I put a bow in Chloe's small tuft of hair. The meeting was held in the same room where I took Lamaze, which was a bizarre experience to begin with. Chairs arranged in a semi-circle, with carseats holding our new bundles on the floor in front of us. "Don't cry, don't cry", I whispered to my sleeping newborn, begging her to behave. I made awkward small talk with the mommy to my left, whose child looked suspiciously like the Gerber Baby. When I heard she lived in Queens, I wrote her off as a geographically undesirable match for my plans of playdates. We went around the room, dishing about colic and crying and baby acne. When the facilitator asked if anyone was feeling depressed, no one raised their hand. Suddenly, my leg felt moist and I noticed that milk had sprayed from my engorged breast, through my shirt and onto my skirt. It was not a good sign.

When 45 minutes had passed, I fussed with the straps of Chloe's seat, waiting to see how I would go about meeting my new BFF. Women and their strollers started to swarm towards each other. Suddenly, I found myself alone in the classroom, watching the facilitator pack up her bag. I left the building and lingered as the women talked all around me. Someone needed a pediatrician, and I offered mine. She smiled in return. I had noticed her in class. She looked friendly and got her masters degree at the school where I worked. She also had a baby girl. As I tried to think of something interesting to say without sounding like I was picking her up, she waved goodbye and walked off with some other moms. I went home alone. Well not alone, I brought Chloe, who had failed as my adorable wingman.

And it continued like this for weeks. I was confused. In my old life, I was popular enough to have a constant stream of unreturned phone calls and social activities. In my new life, I watched cliques form all around me. The formula feeders. The York Avenue dwellers. The stay-at-homes. What was a breasfeeding-Lexington-Ave-living-back-to-working mom to do?
I blamed it on the class. It was a fluke, I was convinced. Maybe I tried too hard, looked too polished. So when Chloe was three months old, and I was determined to find a new crew despite the fact that I was feeling much better, I joined another class. I wore yoga pants and a ponytail. Chloe was the oldest baby by far. So when the facilitator looked around at the exhausted group to poll sleeping patterns, I could not help mentioning that mine slept through the night. Eyes rolled. Three months in, I had become a near expert and could not help chattering away about my signature swaddle and perfected use of a nasal aspirator. When class would break, I all but invited myself out to lunch with this group or that group. They tried to include me, but it was clear that I was not gelling with these brand new moms. At the last class, we all exchanged phone numbers. But my phone never rang.

I was stumped. So many cliques, but so few “clicks”. Part of me wonders if I was too hungry. Much like shopping when you are ravenous, there was desperation there. I may have smiled too enthusiastically, complemented too aggressively. I am not sure how much of my true self I presented through the haze of those post-partum months. But more than that, I found that often the bond of motherhood was not always enough to find common ground. We were strangers, after all, who shared a knowledge of episiotomies and stretch marks, but perhaps not much more. Unlike high school, or even work, friends were suddenly not chosen by a shared love of Madonna or hatred of a bad boss. Where my relationships had once grown organically, these felt like blind dates – awkward, staged, and ultimately, depressing.

I think what bothered me most was a lack of choices. As a new mom, those few months were all about primal need, and less about discrimination. The baby is hungry, and suddenly, your body becomes a mechanism to produce food for someone else. You have thirty seconds to shower, only time for the necessities – leg shaving is an extravagant. Meals become whatever can be consumed standing up with one hand. Pants need to be stretchy enough to sit on the floor in. Gone are the days of cleavage for husband’s sake, five course dinners, and favorite jeans. In meeting these new moms, I found myself surrounded by limited options and the driving need to make one of them fit me. But relationships can’t be forced, especially when you are still grappling with your new identity.

It took a while to understand that despite my new status as a mommy, I was still the same person who had a life full of friendship and love, despite the fact that not everyone understood what I was going through first-hand. And with all of the pressures of new parenthood, perhaps a driving need to expand my rolodex of relationships was not as paramount as understanding what it was to be alone, with or without my baby without being lonely.

In the end, I was lucky. The girl I eyed at my first class sent me an email and we have had the playdates I hoped for. Luckier still, my best friend and my sister have both become moms. And more often than not, I find the very best days are spent just staying in. Because as months have passed, and Chloe and I have both grown closer, there seems to be even more room to breathe.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Help Wanted

I have some questions that could use expert or non-expert advice:

1. I need to know how to wean Chloe from bottle to cup. At 14 months, I have a feeling this is going to be harder than mom-milk to cow-milk. She uses a cup for water but not for milk. Picky, picky. I was sooo one of those smug moms who proclaimed that I would wean her to a cup at 12 months ON THE DOT. Ignoring the fact that motherhood has been one huge acceptance of the "exception to the rule" thing, and going with the flow. Especially when the flow freaks out when the bottle is taken away and whose screams reach impossible decibels.

2. Moving on from beverages, I need some lunch and dinner ideas. Keep in mind that Chloe hates pasta, cheese and meat of any kind. And please don't say things like, "make your own pancake batter and store in a ketchup bottle so you can squeeze out a new pancake every day". That is so NOT me. I mean, cleaning out the ketchup bottle alone would give me a nervous breakdown.

3. Suggestions of comfortable footwear that can be worn on the weekends with kids? And don't say Crocs. I am a big lover of high heels and hater of sneakers. And loafers are weird. Something that looks good with jeans. And leggings - yes, I caved. I own this season's most over hyped accessory. And my legs are so NOT Lindsay Lohan's.

4. Ideas of gifts for my husband's 35th birthday. We don't have a car, he does not watch sports, and we don't have a babysitter. I promise, we are cooler than we sound. At least he is.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Porn and Pancakes

It's 9:30 AM and I am emerging from sleep to meet my daughter and husband who have eaten breakfast hours ago. I know, I know, how can a mother of a toddler be waking up at 9:00 in the morning - but actually, it is one of the great gifts which my husband has given me post-baby. Since he is more the morning person and generally around less, he takes her out on the weekends when she wakes up. At 6:30 AM. Sometimes earlier. I in turn do most of the middle of the night caretaking which I find far less awful than a daybreak start to a Saturday or Sunday.

So they frequent a diner which is at least a mile further than I would ever go for food but A likes the coffee. I meet him on the street after they have returned as I am going out to locate a bagel. He immediately relays the following:

A: "Chloe and I were picked up this morning."
Amy: "Oh really? Where?"
A: "At the diner."
Amy: "How so?"
A: "We were eating, and a woman said to the hostess, can I sit next to this lovely baby?
Amy: "And that's what you mean by picking you up?"
A: "Well she kept talking to us. Telling me how beautiful Chloe is. And she said 'Look how Chloe keeps staring at me! I must be very beautiful.' And then..."
Amy: "Yes?"
A: "Her identical twin came and sat with her!"

So clearly, the mere presence of an identical twin does an illicit scene make. Ahh, to be in the mind of a man, if only for a moment, where porn can be created out of pancakes.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Don't leave a sista hanging

Ok, I have to vent for a moment.

I have worked very hard for very long (12 months actually), to be one of those moms whose dipaer bag is always filled appropriately. Note that I said appropraitely, not organized. Regardless, sometimes I slip up. Wipes dried up, or I am out of diaper cream. And it's not just me. Yesterday at Barnes and Noble (no kissing incident, don't worry) I watched a woman realize that her son had just taken a huge poop and she had neither a diaper nor a wipe. He was about C's size, so A whispered to me, "you should give her some stuff". And I did. She was so grateful. I even lent her the changing pad so she would not need to use B and N's grimy ground as a surface for her toddler's tushie.

I thought I paid it forward.

Until today, when my clearly famished kid went lunging for another's sandwich. I loudly said, "I am sorry C, but mommy forgot a snack". And I watched the kid's mom smile as she packed up her extra sandwiches. Would it kill you to offer one up as my child is kicking and screaming as I lead her away from the alluring snack??? I find that nannys are the first to share a cheese-cracker pack, or some veggie booty. Not so much the upper east side moms.

So next time you see a mom-in-need, lend her a hand. Or at least some goddamned Purell.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Can you become...a new version of YOU?

There's nothing like a job interview, or a first date, to completely re-create yourself. The person sitting across from you knows, and generally believes, only what they see and what you tell them. At a job interview, your greatest weakness can be the fact that you are a "perfectionist" when in reality its the fact that you spend too much time on the E! Online website and don't know how to really use Excel despite what your resume says. On a first date you can play bimbo or breezy when you are really magna cum laude and still a wreck over your ex.

It's nice that life gives us the ability to fake our best selves, because sometimes you actually can become that. The tidy briefcase you buy to bring to the interview instead of your cluttered purse filled with wrapperless gum can actually become your favorite accessory. Saying "the past is the past" enough times might bring you closer to believing it.

As my favortite mantra explains, "It's never too late, in fiction or life, to revise."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back to School

I was just in an elevator with a young man and his father and a dolly full of duffel bags and suitcases and Poland Spring. The son was talking about minutes on his cellphone, how he'll try not to go over. He was very tall, and blonde, and moderately handsome with an outfit that looked too planned - a perfectly fitting tshirt, jeans just the right wash of "cool" and a brown belt. His similarly statured father was watching him talk, looking wistful, as if he were already gone.

This, combined with the chill in the air and the unreasonably long line at Staples reminded me that it is "back to school" time. Or specifically, back to college time. September snuck up on me and anyone who knows me knows that I hate fall, the slow goodbye to summer, the decay of all things warm, long days, eating outside and pedicures. Some years, the trip to Brandeis still felt like summer. The window was down, the beachy tunes still on the radio and I looked tan. Other years, the decay had already set in, the jean jacket was out, the window was up, the radio made me cry.

It occurs to me that city kids don't have cars, so this father was likely driving his son to school. The first year that I drove myself to school was junior year after one of the best summers of my life. I had spent it in Waltham with roommates Leah, Leigh and Yakka. I was repairing myself from a year of despair, and had it not been for that summer - for steamy drunken nights, for the Dave Matthews Band, for spaghetti on the wall, for watching real love happen, for tucking in my stoned friends who had passed out waiting for me to bring pizza, for solitude without loneliness- had it not been for friends old and new, I don't know where I would be today. After that summer, I drove to Brandeis after a brief stint home. I was wearing a sundress. We were living sorta off campus. It was my longest drive, and I gripped the steering wheel with sweaty palms until my knuckles whitened for most of the drive, scared of crashing, scared of returning. When I reached the parking lot, my friend Gail was hanging out the window, calling to me and waving. When she saw me, she said, "you look so good". I had not looked so good when we last parted. Soon enough the suite was filled with luggage and laughter and bagel crumbs. It was good to be back.

This time every year, I have a litte ache. I miss the friends calling me from windows. Despite my loathing of fall and all of its goodbyes, it's the hellos that I still miss.