Mom! I'm ready to leave now. Of course I'm dressed. Wonder Woman? Underwear? Hello?

 Buttercup asked me if fairies were real the other day. I have to admit, the question knocked me on my ass and I didn’t know how to respond at first. My Little, my One and Only, sat patiently as Mama tripped over words to try and reassure her that the very foundation for her world built of imagination, fairy tales, and Tinker Bell, is cracking. She’s five. She’s brilliant. She has known how to outwit me and The Husband with actual and applied logic when trying to get her way since she was two.

But magic and fairies that smell of cinnamon and the Easter Bunny that can take a bow for being the only reason I take her to church once a year? Santa and his elves making toys for all the children in the world and Christmas magic and Santa’s magic key to get into our house with no chimney…all of these little white lies we’ve built up and encouraged and reinforced as parents simply because she has always looked at the world through the eyes of the child I wish I had been. At her age, I knew too much, had seen too much, and Santa was something to say I believed in so I could open a few extra presents every year.

I was eight when I finally fessed up and said I was no longer a believer of the fat guy in the red suit who somehow made it legal to break into houses all over the world just to leave presents. I grew up in Detroit. I’ve been to Mexican weddings where the final dance is the cue for every woman with a free arm and three kids running along to help to grab as many centerpieces as they can just because they are there. I wasn’t buying this Santa business. And then I kicked myself after because suddenly my Christmas present pile looked pretty sad as it got smaller. Pretending to believe the half-assed Spanglish Christmas my Green Carded father and his family put on for us kids every year was something I suddenly missed.

Buttercup didn’t grow up in that craziness. It’s been me and The Husband and a few very close friends most of her life. Presents appear under the tree while we sleep and as they should so that Christmas morning is magical and Mama and Daddy try to stay awake with coffee after wrapping all night. Mexican weddings scare the shit out of her because she was never trained to address anyone as old or older than her parents as Tia and Tio or to kiss and hug every single person in the room on demand upon arrival and departure. And she sure as hell wants nothing to do with People She’s Never Met grabbing at her and cooing at her and expecting her to come willingly into their arms just because that’s Tia So and So and No You Are Not Supposed to Tell Her that Her Perfume Stinks.

My baby speaks Dora Spanish and believes in personal space, magic, and that if you smell cinnamon it must mean that a fairy was just in the room. So I make sure to keep the Fairy Magic spray bottle I made with water and cinnamon essential oils hidden away for the days when magic and a simple Do You Smell Cinnamon are all it takes to make her entire spirit radiate with happiness because fairies exist.

I could have told you I would become a non-fiction writer when I was eight. If my kid ever decides she wants to become a writer, she’s a novelist in the making. She’s too little and innocent to have Mama bursting her Happy Place wide open but too smart to have me lie to her face and not blow my cover.

Do fairies exist? She asked me again and I cried inside because it wasn’t that long ago that she sucked her fingers as she slept and that eleventeen was a number. Now she wanted me to reassure her that something I wished to be true actually was.

Fairies and their magic exist for those that believe in them, I told her. It’s the lucky ones like you who know a fairy just flew by when you smell cinnamon.

She smiled and sat back on the couch, satisfied. And I waited for just the right moment to spritz some Fairy Magic in the air when she wasn’t looking.

 

 

I’ve been trying to decide for a while now how I will celebrate the day my (currently non-existent) agent calls me with the incredibly fantastical awesome news that I have a book deal. It’s much like the fantasy normal people have about how they will spend their fortunes the day they hit it big with the lottery, except the ticket is a publishing house contract with my name on it.

I could buy an(other) expensive purse. As in, not in the clearance section at Target. (Not gonna happen.)

I could go celebrate in Vegas…if I brought my mom along with me so we can take turns leaving the hotel room sans pre-schooler. (Boring.)

Or I could just treat myself and my little family to a nice dinner out? (Typical.)

If this ever happens, I want to mark the event with something memorable. So last night I told The Husband I was going to buy a Finger Monkey when The Day arrives.

The conversation went something like this:

The Husband: “Are you insane?”

Me: “That wasn’t the topic of the conversation. The Finger Monkey is.”

The Husband: “You are insane. Why do you want a Finger Monkey?”

Me: Blink, blink. “Really? Just look at that little face!”

The Husband: (Sighing) How much do those things run?

Me: That’s is also not up for discussion at this point. But if I get my dream agent and they get me my dream book deal, then I’m pretty sure the Finger Monkey won’t really be an issue.”

The Husband: “You’re dreaming.”

Me: “You’re forgetful. We had this conversation when we got engaged. Getting my own monkey is all part of the Master Plan.”

The Husband: “What Master Plan?”

Me: “The one where I first get you to say I can get a Finger Monkey after I get a book deal and then I turn it around and convince you that you told me I could get one now and name it Platform.”

The Husband: “Platform?”

Me: “Exactly. That way when another agent writes to say the book sounds interesting but thinks I need to build a bigger platform, I kindly email back with a photo of Platform: The Secret Agent Monkey, wrapped around my pointer and explain that I already have a very cute and manageable platform already. Then I ask them where I sign.”

 

***

This post was originally published one year ago on Aspiring Mama and because someone linked this post on Pinterest and the entire world thinks I have a blog devoted to finger monkeys (which is honestly not a bad idea) I thought it might be a good idea to re-post, mainly because I still want a monkey.

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Claus,

May I call you Kris? I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your yearly contribution to the marked improvement in my daughter’s behavior at the end of the year. Although I do have to say that it is a tad disconcerting that, unless reminded that you can see her when she’s sleeping and know when she’s awake, I can’t get her to put one foot in front of the other without a fight. Not to mention that, after having reread that last sentence, I just realized I may be a little bit afraid of you now.

No matter, Kris. I may call you Kris, right? Santa seems to be reserved for the sitting on your lap crowd, and I am obviously beyond that. But do you mind if I ask you to submit to a background check before next year’s mall photo and gift request? (I do hope you understand.)

I found it quite charming how you made Buttercup so comfortable during her time with you this year. She can’t wait to see if you brought her that special doll she asked you for. And no thanks is necessary, Kris. My husband and I took it upon ourselves to go to extreme lengths to purchase the requested item, buy a special roll of wrapping paper that is only being used for gifts “from you”, and hide said gifts until one of us can sneak downstairs after she falls asleep on Christmas Eve to leave the small stash of goodies “from you” beneath the tree. We all know the economy sucks and I’m sure the lost manpower during the last round of elf lay-offs still has you frantically trying to keep up with and meet product demand by the expected deadline. We will, however, be submitting an itemized expense report outlining all expenses incurred on your behalf and expect to be reimbursed for our troubles. I hope Paypal works for you and the Mrs.?

I’d also like to ask your opinion on parenting tactics come the day after Christmas. Let’s face it, Kris. She’s four and has no real concept of time. Next year is about as threatening to her as next week, and because neither is happening in the next five seconds, they don’t matter in the slightest. That means I’m looking at about 10 months of parenting hell because I can’t drop a Santa-bomb until Target kicks the Halloween candy to the curb, skips right over the Thanksgiving turkey, and starts blasting the Christmas music early enough to make even you want to throw up. And please give me more detailed advice than last year because asking her to “follow me in merry measure” when we would both rather throw tantrums frankly does me no good.You deal with a world-full of children in one 24-hour-period, while they are all sleeping of course, so I’m sure you understa…

Oh never mind.

Anyway, feel free to stop in on Christmas Eve and don’t feel that you need to BYOP (We already covered the presents, remember?) but do enjoy the cookies we will be baking in your honor. We left a magic key for you to use since we don’t have a chimney and you can’t seem to remember the alarm code before the damned thing goes off, so please, consider the key our gift to you. We will leave it hanging on the front door. We just ask that you remember to lock up after you leave. And for the love of Christmas, please make sure to pick up and properly dispose of any reindeer business before you take off. I’ll be sure to place the garbage can where you can find it.

Please give my love to Mrs. Claus and remind Rudolph that he’s always special. I do remember how the therapist said he thought Rudolph only felt worthy of attention after a major snowstorm and all.

Sincerely,

Aspiring Mama and The Husband

 

 

Ever since I can remember, the response to “My birthday is the day after Christmas,” has been one form or another of  “Oh, that really has to suck.” I used to argue the point as a child, especially when I was young enough to still be included on Santa’s list because really, gifts from Santa, every relative in a huge family, and the parents kind of made up for the constantly combined gifts. I got older eventually and Santa Stopped bringing my presents. My refusal to get pregnant without planning the child’s birthday to be as far away from Christmas as possible is probably more telling about what it’s like to have been brought home in a Christmas stocking than anything else.

I’m the oldest of five girls and my sister immediately following me was born on December 23 just a few days before my second birthday. Trust me, I’ve made it perfectly clear to my mother that she should have seriously considered knitting during the month of March instead of working on procreating. Think of the children, lady.

Because we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with our extended family on my father’s side, my sister and I would jointly blow out the birthday candles on the shared cake, laughing every year as our names got jumbled because it was more fun that way, after our holiday meal. Our birthday gifts were then handed over as a means to distract us for a few hours. Tradition in our family dictated we open the presents under the tree at midnight, after placing the baby Jesus in nativity scene between Mary and Joseph, to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. I’ll be honest in telling you that all of this was lost on us as children because the chance to stay up all night and sleep all the next day was something we looked forward to all year just as much as opening our gifts to see what Santa brought us.

Nonetheless, that was how it went, and we eventually got smart enough to start putting the presents in pile for each relative around 11:30 so that the moment my tia had placed the baby Jesus in the  collective rip of wrapping paper signaled the start of the races. We’d stay up for hours playing with our new stuff; sisters and cousins trying to fight the sleep that would eventually see us nodding off into a pile of wrapping paper before we were shuffled off to our make shift beds. Morning always came late on Christmas day with dinner leftovers for breakfast (Mexicans are famous for scrambling anything in eggs and calling it a meal) and adults playing poker while we basked in the New Toy smell of as-of-yet-unbroken toys and games without any missing pieces, at least until my parents herded my sisters and me in the van so we could drive over an hour to my mother’s sister’s home for dinner with her side of the family. By the time we got back to my tia and tio’s house that night, we were tired enough to not be kept awake by the always loud and sometimes louder jokes and resulting laughter while the adults finished their poker game and enough beers to rival the empties found on the floor after a college frat party.

Sometime around noon, our rumbling stomachs would be loud enough to stir us from our beds the next day. Tio would already have been up for hours and something scrambled with eggs would greet us for breakfast. The rest of the adults usually joined us later and dove into a steaming bowl of menudo to cure their hangovers. Sometimes I remembered it was my birthday before the first relative kissed me and wished me a happy day and sometimes I didn’t. Either way it kind of didn’t matter because I’d already opened my birthday gifts after dinner and before midnight on Christmas Eve. At least there was leftover cake.

I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me, unless you are also a Mappy Birthmas baby, because then you are totally allowed to relate. My birthday is what it is, and even though the date isn’t even singularly spectacular enough to refer to it as anything other than “the day after Christmas,” only three birthdays in my entire memory actually sucked.

The most obvious one is my 30th birthday, which came just about four weeks after my father died unexpectedly. Then there was that Christmas when I was about ten and had begged and begged all year for a ten-speed bike. Points for you if you’ve already figured out why your father proudly putting together your new Birthmas gift in the living room turned out to be the world’s biggest punch line until summer. But perhaps my favorite was the year an aunt took me to see The Nutcracker Ballet and I sat through the entire performance proudly playing my “air flute” on my lap during the appropriate parts. We were there because I had asked her to bring me because I was learning some of the music in concert band. And it sucked because I soon learned that my ticket was my Christmas gift and hers was my birthday gift.

The kicker was that we didn’t even have good seats.

This year I finally realized I’ve hit that time in my life that children won’t understand themselves until they, too, get to where I am. It’s just a day. Another year. I hear most women turning 34 are like that, which makes your birthday and my birthday just about the same.

And for the record? Buttercup was born in June.

 

I wrote this on August 25 and it’s been sitting in my draft folder for the right time to publish. Considering I am still at a loss for blog time while revising my manuscript with the help of a professional editor, the topic is beyond appropriate, especially considering I hired Brooke Warner after I wrote the post, which I just dug up because I don’t have time to blog because I’m trying to make my book Not Suck.

See? The Universe? It’s all tied together, yo.

***

 

 

I’ve decided I don’t give a shit anymore.

Not about an agent. Not about a book deal. Not about the number of blog hits I get. And not about the fact that my platform is barely big enough to reach the cookies on the top shelf.

I’ve had one dream since I was 8 years old: to become a published writer with a book of my own. My inspiration was Gordon Korman after my fifth grade class was assigned to read the book that got him a book deal when he was all of about 13.

I know. The pressure was on, yo.  And I had three years to deliver.

To say I had a midlife crisis at the age of 14 is an understatement. I was devastated in only the way a teenager with a broken dream can be. And please, let us not focus on the fact that I couldn’t even blame the Man for keeping me down. Gordon Korman got a book deal because his English teacher was blown away by a writing assignment that turned into a manuscript that turned into a career that has spanned decades. I didn’t have a book deal before getting my driver’s license for the very obvious reason that I hadn’t done any work to fucking earn it.

I got over myself for a while and moved on. There was middle school to deal with. And all the hell that comes with it.

And there was high school. That was a nightmare. So busy concentrating on the cliques I didn’t qualify for to make many meaningful friendships with those who I could have. I joined student congress, played varsity tennis, was part of the Spanish club, played a few instruments in the concert and marching band, organized class trips to Cedar Pointe in the hopes of earning some cool points with the In Crowd…

And then I found myself holding in the tears when my speech wasn’t selected for my classes graduation ceremony. I never wrote for the school paper. I wasn’t an enterprising young writer with a check list of publications in which my work had been accepted. I was just a girl who wrote essays and shared them with friends on the phone at night who turned in what I assumed was a given for the commencement ceremony speech.

Are you following along with me, here? I assumed that because my dream was older, my visions of the future grander, and my ego bigger than was good for me, that I didn’t need anything more than a bit of patience for the Universe to send a message to the right people about my hidden genius.

Stupid? Yes. And had I outgrown that thinking, it might have been excusable. To my credit, I did…for a little while. I was too busy to writing for the college paper and failing math classes and finally graduating with honors. Then I was too busy getting married and buying a house and working as a city editor for a small town newspaper. I was too busy to do much, really, until I left my job at a respected newspaper for bed rest, have the baby, survive the first two years of her life, lose my father, and move cross country.

That’s about the time I decided to take a breath and start a blog to get my name out there for the book idea that had just come to me. Twitter was an obvious choice, and while other writers worked on multiple projects and vented about rejections from literary magazines, I happily wasted away hours online “building my platform”  and yes I totally just did air quotes because I still blindly thought that was all I needed. Surely an agent would stumble across my blog and discover me. Talent like this can’t be ignored, right?

Every twitter follower gained was another reason to think I was more of a someone than I had been yesterday. Every blog hit a reason to think things were happening for me. And when I started querying my book, you can bet your ass I assumed I was going to be one of the lucky ones.

Multiple rejections?

My work not actually ready?

My query letter sucking?

Nah…

I was, quite obviously, wrong.

Just like the fourteen-year-old with the midlife crisis, I had no one to blame but myself for my misery. Dreams coming true are not usually the stuff of fairy tales. To happen, they take work on the part of the dreamer.

Do I still wish for a book deal? Sure. But I’m also very aware of the fact that focusing on the goal is not the point of The Writing Dream. The point is actually writing. Everything else is just gravy.

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