motherhood

October 13, 2007

October 13, 2007

 In my diary blog two days ago, I congratulated myself for being a good mother and exposing CD to new things. It’s ironic that in today’s entry, I chastise myself as a bad (let’s revise that to less good) mother even though I did essentially the same thing for different reasons. In the ‘81 entry, I was all about cramming CD full of life experience and knowledge. In ’07, it was more about getting myself out of a life experience by foisting it on my daughter.

TThe Knutsens - Christmas 2007

In my defense, treating an adult child to spectacular seats at a Genesis concert hardly qualifies as child abuse and apparently Sam had a good time. I might’ve enjoyed the show if I’d gone – why not give it a try?

Sometimes I hit social overload and fear I’ll die without alone time. In the above entry, my urgency leaps off the page – “couldn’t stand” “just unbearable.” Looking back, it was a weird over-reaction to a rock concert and dinner. Unfortunately – for Sam, not me – she’s even less extroverted than me but at least she’s a better sport.

Sam, Alex and cousin Carly
Sam, Alex and cousin Carly

In the spirit of true confession, my youngest recently recalled my most egregegious bad mother moment.  Alex and I were outside when we spotted a demonic possum drinking out of our dog’s water dish. Beyond phobic and hysterical at the sight of anything with a rodent tail, I shrieked, vaulted inside and double-locked the door behind me – stranding Alex on the wrong side of my barricade, face to face with a hissing possum. Alex hurled himself at the door, pounded it with his fists. “Mom! Let me in! Let me in!”  I was too distraught to do so until the possum departs.

J, Alex, Me and Sam
J, Alex, Me and Sam

Alex emerged unscathed, aside from the psychological damage of believing his mother valued her personal safety above his life. First, his life was not in mortal danger. Possums don’t kill suburban homeowners and their children (yet).  Second – I’ve got nothing.  (Other than sheer terror shot my adrenalin up to fight or flight levels which disabled my higher brain functions. Otherwise, I would’ve remembered possums can’t jimmy a lock.)

October 11, 1981

October 11, 1981

With Mom and Aunt Janet exploring Catalina Island
With Mom and Aunt Janet exploring Catalina Island

 CD was four, going on five, at the time of this entry. I thought he’d be mesmerized by the dinosaur bones but his attention span splintered in a million different directions. In my efforts to be a perfect mother and raise a perfect child, I exposed CD to as many cultural experiences as I could find – and there’s a lot of them in LA. In addition to museums, I took him to profound films which we discussed on the drive home. I signed him up for sports and science classes at the local YMCA and sent him to Lutheran school to be grounded in religion.

Look! Mt. Rushmore!! Okay, don't look. Whatever works for you.
Look! Mt. Rushmore!! Okay, don’t look. Whatever works for you.

Unlike me, J worked 40-60 hours per week, so he wasn’t available 24/7 for our cultural outings. In these cases, I recruited one of our friends – usually without children (because those with children couldn’t be suckered into this stuff) to stand in.

CD intrigued by a door on the Paramount lot. A door to what?
CD intrigued by a door on the Paramount lot. A door to what?

This was my one and only visit to the La Brea Tar Pits in my nearly 50 years in LA. I’m not a dinosaur afficianado – I think that tends to be a guy thing – but it was fascinating. Who would’ve guessed one of the world’s most famous fossil localities – displaying Ice Age fossils including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and mammoths – can be found on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles? The Carnation restaurant (product placement, anyone?) used to be within walking distance but – like so many other LA institutions – it’s gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by trendier restaurants and food trucks.

Jack Palance has a face the camera loved - and CD is clearly fascinated too but I don't think he wants Jack to know he's staring (with Holly Palance)
Jack Palance has a face the camera loved – and CD is clearly fascinated too but I don’t think he wants Jack to know he’s staring (with Holly Palance)
Silly fun in bed in Park City Utah on a ski trip with Mom and Aunt Joyce (among others)
Silly fun in bed in Park City Utah on a ski trip with Mom and Aunt Joyce (among others)

They’ve excavated significant new material since my visit 36 years ago. Maybe this time I’ll drag J along with me.

September 30, 1979

September 30, 1979

When this was written, J and I had been married four years and CD was two, going on three. Looking back, I can’t help wondering if my assessment of J’s restlessness wasn’t pure projection – I was just as edgy and impatient, I just didn’t cop to it. Our role models were better at this than we were. My parents routinely spent similar Sunday afternoons with me and my sisters and if they wanted to be somewhere else, they didn’t show it.

John and I with CD circa 1979
John and I with CD circa 1979

Why weren’t J and I better at this when it was our turn to parent? Arguably, we were too young to be married with a child. While that excuse only goes so far, maturity did play a part. I’d enjoy lazy afternoons like the one described above more today than I did then.

On the beach
On the beach

As proof, J and I have maintained a family membership at Descanso Gardens for at least fifteen years. Unlike the vanished LA landmarks I wrote about a few days ago (see September 24/73) Descano Gardens stands more or less intact since the late thirties although the camellia named for John’s grandmother has disappeared.  The miniature banana-yellow Enchanted Railroad gives toddlers and their parents a tour of the 150 acre gardens. There’s an elegant Japanese Tea Garden and ducks! On some summer Sundays, you can enjoy live music in the ampitheater.

Close-up of a camellia
Close-up of a camellia

Admission is reasonable General $9; Seniors 65 and over/Students with ID $6; Children (5 to 12 years) $4; Descanso members and children under 5, free). Parking is free and the gardens are open from nine to five every day of the year except Christmas. If you’re looking for someplace to enjoy natural beauty in LA (especially in the Pasadena/Glendale/La Canada area), check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

John at Descanso a few years ago.
John at Descanso a few years ago.

September 14, 2003

September 14 2003

I strongly considered skipping this diary entry; I prefer the impression I have a perfect marriage and this entry shows the cracks. I decided to publish it anyway because – while I can’t see behind anyone else’s bedroom door – I strongly suspect most long-married couples suffer through periods when they are less than enchanted with each other – when one of them is so unhappy that walking out the door is an option.

John absent for this big family shot.
John absent for this big family shot.

I was miserable enough to fantasize about divorce more than once but I never followed through. I realize now that I blamed John for my deep dissatisfaction with myself and my life. This was particularly true early in our marriage, when I was stuck at home with a baby and a writing career looked like an impossible dream.  I told myself I’d leave him as soon as I was self-supporting but when I became self-supporting, I was happier with myself so I no longer wanted to leave.

There were difficult times in the early days too.
There were difficult times in the early days too.

In 2003, we did separate – for a week. I think the reality of a split scared both of us; it scared me, I was a basket case. Things were significantly better when we got back together because we both chose to be there. That’s a big part of marital happiness, I think – the knowledge you chose and have been chosen.

Have things been all sunshine and rainbows since then? Of course not, we’re human. We disagree about many things. We can get on each other’s nerves. We know each other’s weak spots so we’re masters at sticking the knife in – although we do it far less often than we did when we were young. We’re old enough to know that most of the things we fight about aren’t worth it but that doesn’t always stop us. Both of us want it our way, all the time. Neither of us get everything we want.

Kathleen & John

That said, we get enough. We’ve been married 42 years and counting and I don’t see either of us filing for divorce anytime soon. If any young marrieds read this, don’t give up too soon. There are times when your relationship might look hopeless. That doesn’t mean it is hopeless. You’re not the first or last couple to feel broken. That doesn’t always mean it’s over.

 

May 15, 2005

May 15, 2005

My favorite photo (that I took) of Deadwood
My favorite photo (that I took) of Deadwood

 This was one of my favorite family vacations. Sam graduated from an upstate New York college the week before. John and I flew to Buffalo and rented a gigantic van. Our plan was to load four years’ worth of Sam’s worldly possessions plus ourselves in the van and drive it across the country to LA. None of us had done it before.

Alex joins the Rowell Road Trip a couple days late
Alex joins the Rowell Road Trip a couple days late

Aside from the fact our luggage didn’t travel with us to Buffalo and we weren’t able to reunite with it until we hit Philadelphia – aside from that snafu, everything went as smoothly as it possibly could for a sweaty family of four jammed into a hot (that’s hot as in sweltering, not Corvette).

The second time we drove far out of our way to see Mt. Rushmore and - once there - stuck around for less than five minutes.
The second time we drove far out of our way to see Mt. Rushmore and – once there – stuck around for less than five minutes.

We picked up Alex at the Columbus airport after he finished his finals. Regrettably, Chris and Serena couldn’t make it. Just as well, since two more riders would’ve meant strapping someone to the ski rack. Our van featured a DVD player to help the boring miles speed by. In between all the anime, we viewed the first season of Deadwood again to psych ourselves up for our visit to the same.

Alex in the Maze
Alex in the Maze

A brief review of Deadwood, the HBO series. The first season was brilliant.  The second had its moments. The third jumped the shark.  A traveling Shakespearean acting troupe planted themselves in Deadwood for the season and – like the big black hole of an idea this was – gulped airtime and sucked away all semblance of plot.  A mercy killing would’ve been kinder. The Shakespearean acting troupe  was tantamount to a Deadwood Talent Show.

Laverne & Shirley - The Talent Show

You remember the dreaded Talent Show trope, you’ve seen it before – most egregiously in the final season of Showtime’s OZ, when inmates in a maximum-security prison sang and tap-danced for their fellow sadistic killers. Laverne and Shirley’s brewery threw a Talent Show. So did General Hospital. Suffice to say none of them have elevated the art form.  IMHO, when a show stoops to the dreaded Talent Show, it deserves to die. No appeals, no reprieves. Everything must end someday; some should do it sooner.

Great Family Road Trip

Back to the Great Family Road Trip through Eccentric America in a few days.

April 16, 2006

April 16, 2006_edited-1

An earlier partial family Easter portrait at Salem Lutheran.
An earlier partial family Easter portrait at Salem Lutheran.

 This is one of those rare character flaws that – I think – diminishes with age. I made enough messes that eventually I learned from my mistakes. I suspect the impulse to talk too much, too indiscreetly – at least for me – sprang from insecurity. I’d blurt out something I shouldn’t in order to interest or impress somebody who intimidated me. It was never a particularly successful tactic, I’m surprised I persisted for so long.

Kids and dogs in McCann backyard. Before or since, Alex has NEVER had such long hair.
Kids and dogs in McCann backyard. Before or since, Alex has NEVER had such long hair.

My children don’t believe I’ve matured enough to be trusted with a secret. Any leak, anywhere, and they jump to the conclusion I’m responsible. In contrast, they’re capable of carrying secrets to their graves which makes it difficult – almost impossible – to ferret out info about their personal lives. This hardly seems fair, until I remember how many secrets I kept from my own mother.

Connor McCann, Sam and Alex with our dog Daisy, blowing bubbles and counting Easter eggs in the backyard.
Connor McCann, Sam and Alex with our dog Daisy, blowing bubbles and counting Easter eggs in the backyard.
Chris and Serena, in charge of the Easter egg hunt.
Chris and Serena, in charge of the Easter egg hunt.
Bree Salter Reiber and Sam having fun.
Bree Salter Reiber and Sam having fun.
An Easter family portrait in the McCann backyard.
An Easter family portrait in the McCann backyard.

I’ve become a huge fan of a site called Post Secrets. link  http://postsecret.com/  People mail their secrets on postcards, anonymously. Some are selected and posted on the web site (new ones every Sunday morning) and some appear in a series of Post Secret books. I check the site every Sunday. Usually, one or two secrets resonate with me. Almost always, at least one suggests an idea for a short story.

Post Secret book cover
Post Secret book cover

However, some aren’t really secrets at all. I’m referring to those in which someone brags and pretends it’s a secret. “I just want to be a good person.” What’s so secret about that? “I used to think the Sistine Chapel was called the 16th Chapel!” Cute story, but hardly a big secret.

Pyramid of postcards
Pyramid of postcards

This one is such a deep dark secret, someone cut out words from magazines and pasted them onto the postcard to avoid identification. Brace yourself! “Every time I accidentally wrong someone on the road, I wish I could apologize.” Really?? That’s your deep dark secret, you’re a sensitive, caring nice person?

Who remembers this TV show that ran from June 19, 1952 until its final episode on April 3, 1967?
Who remembers this TV show that ran from June 19, 1952 until its final episode on April 3, 1967?

You get the gist. IMHO, to qualify as a secret, it’s got to be something you genuinely don’t want anybody to know. I’ve got some. Do you?

April 10, 2007

April 10, 2007

My family.
My family.

 This is one of those unexceptional days I wouldn’t remember if I hadn’t written it down – and that would be a shame. On the surface, it’s mundane – nothing of great significance happened, our lives didn’t turn in a new direction – but I love the easy rhythms it captures, the beat of daily life in a family.

Happy Family on Stairs

Life can’t get much better than a day in which my husband helps me set up a computer, recommended by one of my smart sons, cozily viewing a movie together – so relaxed I actually doze off – followed by an invigorating night walk and stimulating wide-ranging conversation with my daughter and dog.

Family

It’s hardly a news flash that what matters most in life (to most people, anyway) is family. There’s something delicious about an unremarkable April day like this one, a day in which nothing particularly special happened – a day I wouldn’t recall if not for my diary – a day I long to live again but never will.

Paradise

There will be other golden days with my family but they’ll be different because time changes us, even though we don’t realize it – or appreciate what we once had – until much later. I’m going to try to appreciate sparkling moments in progress instead of waiting until I look back. In other words, to be fully present in the present. Because nothing lasts except in memory.

Appreciate

 

March 21, 1994

March 21, 1994

Roberta Gundersen, Sam, Bree Salter Rieber
Roberta Gundersen, Sam, Bree Salter Rieber

 For those of you who (like me) do not have photographic memories, here are the major winners that year.

Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson - long-time friends - enjoy chatting.
Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson – long-time friends – enjoy chatting.

Best Picture Best Director  

 

Rob Huddy and Deborah Amelon
Rob Huddy and Deborah Amelon

Best Actor

Best Actress_edited-1

Anne Kurrasch and Joyce Knutsen Salter
Anne Kurrasch and Joyce Knutsen Salter

Best Supporting ACtor

Best Supporting Actress

William Atherton thinks the program is running a little long. Bree Salter Rieber in bg, smiling at camera.
William Atherton thinks the program is running a little long. Bree Salter Rieber in bg, smiling at camera.

Best Screenplays

Bree Salter Rieber with childhood buddy Thomas Dadourian
Bree Salter Rieber with childhood buddy Thomas Dadourian

Best Foreign Film

John with future law partners Jack and Mary Denove
John with future law partners Jack and Mary Denove

 This was a fun, easy party to throw. I ask guests to dress in formal regalia, as if they were really attending the Oscars. Slightly more than half usually follow through, not a bad average at our age.

Stefanni Graham, Jazz, Mary Bennett
Stefanni Graham, Jazz, Mary Bennett

The house-cleaning, such as it is, is on me, but not the food. I let people know it’s pot luck but do not specify what type of food they should bring. For those who prefer a conventional dinner, this adds to the night’s suspense. (We might wind up with 15 desserts, 15 appetizers or nothing but wine!)

Thomas and Marva Fucci, Bobbi Goldin, Moi
Thomas and Marva Fucci, Bobbi Goldin, Moi

I issue ballots and everybody puts $2 into the kitty.  One year we upped it to $5 per person which was just enough to jack everyone’s competitive drive to an obnoxious level so the following year we brought it back down to $2 – not really enough money to come to blows over. (Neither was $5 a head but go figure.)

Anne with Dr. Patti Akopianz (Cavender)
Anne with Dr. Patti Akopianz (Cavender)

Just for the record, I have never won an Oscar pool, which seems a tad unfair since I host the party (apparently, that doesn’t make me any smarter.)

The hosts.
The hosts.
By the end of the evening, Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson appear to take their friendship to the next level. They will marry within the next couple years.
By the end of the evening, Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson appear to take their friendship to the next level. They will marry within the next couple years.

March 12, 1977

March 12, 1977

CD in his baby carrier.
CD in his baby carrier.

 When I wrote this, I’d known my in-laws for less than a year but so far everything I knew was fabulous. They’d fit right in at one of Jay Gatsby’s wild parties or a formal meet-and-greet with a sitting US President. (No exaggeration – through them, J and I met Gerald Ford when he was in office.)

J and I with both sets of parents. What's really scary is the realization that our parents in this photo are younger than we are now.
J and I with both sets of parents. What’s really scary is the realization that our parents in this photo are younger than we are now.

Other than J’s and my marriage and their own 40-plus year marriage, Chet and Flo had little in common with my parents. No value judgment is implied; they were different but neither one of them was superior to the other. Their strengths were in different areas.

One of my favorite photos of Florence - with Richard and Francie
One of my favorite photos of Florence – with Richard and Francie

John’s parents were more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than mine. They had more books in their house. They drank, they smoked, they went out to dinner and threw parties.  They played a mean game of bridge. Florence was a joiner, an active voice in clubs and charities throughout Fresno. Born a privileged San Francisco socialite, she was confident with a strong sense of self but never a haughty snob. She could make anyone feel like her new best friend. She was so entertaining, so easy to talk to, even a deeply reserved introvert like myself stayed up till 4 AM because it was fun to hang out with her.

Chet, Florence and their seven children plus some spouses.
Chet, Florence and their seven children plus some spouses.

John’s father was the ultimate family man, a good thing for the father of seven to be. CD was the first grandchild for John’s parents and mine – consequently, he was deluged by love and attention from both sets of grandparents. Sam and Alex got their fair share, too.

CD and Sam surrounded by both sets of grandparents and parents.
CD and Sam surrounded by both sets of grandparents and parents.

Did CD favor the Rowells or the Knutsens? He looked a lot like John as a baby.

J&CD

As he grew,  so did his resemblance to my father.

Look-a-likes

But, then again, also the resemblance to J.

Look-a-like Two

And perhaps a smidgen of a resemblance to me.

Look-a-likes Three

Which family had the more dominant genes? I call it a draw.

 

March 3, 1973

March 3, 1973

From the official website of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation - Sleeping Beauty
From the official website of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation – Sleeping Beauty

 The night before – my 22nd birthday – the guy I was dating took me to see Rudi Nureyev in Sleeping Beauty with the National Ballet of Canada at the Shrine Auditorium. Jani’s boyfriend  from Irvine took her to the ballet too so we met them at intermission – Jani’s 20th birthday would be the following day. I don’t know about Janet, but this is the only professional ballet I’ve ever seen. The lavish fairyland sets were amazing, as was Rudi in his prime, but the truth is ballet doesn’t hold my interest. I pretend to be interested, because I feel like I should be, but I’m bored. I don’t blame ballet – I’m well aware it’s my own attention span that’s deficient. (Yet another reason I failed to realize my early dream of growing up to be a ballerina, see November 7, 1966)

Jani and I might not have been ballet dancers, but we choreographed a mean routine to "Ain't To Mountain"
Jani and I might not have been ballet dancers, but we choreographed a mean routine to “Ain’t No Mountain”  (See September 23, 1972)

Jani’s comment – “Did you try and do any of the ballet steps when you got home?” – got to me.  It was so spontaneous, so in the moment. Obviously, she paid attention, so much so that she was moved and inspired to try to do the steps at home. I envied her enthusiasm then and I still do today. I’d love to be that kind of person but it’s impossible to be somebody I’m not.

CD and Geo in ballet class (not their choice - but they made the best of it).
CD and Geo in ballet class (not their choice – but they made the best of it).

The closest I’ve come to ballet since then is taking my kids to ballet lessons. CD and his BFF Geo Ackles took ballet as toddlers. It was a great excuse for the boys to get together and for me to chat with David Ackles but neither lad looked like a future Nureyev.

With the other dead ballet dancer, waiting.
With the other dead ballet dancer, waiting.

Sam was more interested in climbing than ballet although she did play a dead ballerina in one of my television movies, Friends to the End.  She and a dead male ballet dancer haunt the villainess in the final scene. Her blue costume was the reason I wanted to be a ballet dancer in the first place – the gorgeous fantasy clothing.

Why can't people wear clothes like this in daily life?
Why can’t people wear clothes like this in daily life?

Alex was spared ballet, to his great relief, so no embarrassing photo ops of him.


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