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Flirting With Forty

I turn away, push wet bangs off my forehead as the hood on my coat doesn’t quite cover my face. I’m cold, tired, wet and grouchy and would give almost anything right now for a tall, non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte. Or just a plain old cup of coffee would do.

“William. Jessica,” I call, trying to inject some enthusiasm into my voice. “Come and help me find a six foot tree.”

Jessica comes skipping out of the drippy pine tree forest, her lavender sweatshirt soaked, her long blonde hair matted.

“Where’s your coat, Jessica?”

She stops, gazes back, around, blue eyes wide. “I don’t know.”

“Honey, go get it.”

“I’m hot.”

“Jess, it’s raining.”

“I’m hot.”

I will say this for children born in the Pacific Northwest, they’re not wimps. Fog and rain don’t slow them down any. “It’s forty degrees, Jess. Get your coat on or we go.” I warm to the threat. I like this threat. I’d love to go home right now. “If you can’t cooperate then we’re heading home.”

William, my nine year old, has heard this last part and he comes stumbling out of the trees in protest. “But you said, Mom, you said–“

“I know what I said, but I’m not going to fight with you or your sister, not today. Getting the Christmas tree is supposed to be special. I want this to be fun, not a hassle.” Right.

And there are times (like now) when I wonder where I got all this parent-speak from. Is it something inherited? Something transmitted in the XY chromosome? Because sometimes (like now) my mouth moves and words come out and I hear my voice, and the tone, and I am a nag. A mother.

William turns to his sister who is conveniently three and a half years younger and continues to live up to her status as the baby in the family. “Knock it off, Jess,” he hisses. “Get your coat and do what Mom says or we’ll go home and we won’t have a Christmas tree and there won’t be any presents and Santa won’t come and it’ll be all your fault.”

Jessica gets her coat.

I look at William, my handsome first born who is thicker around the middle then he used to be, putting on size where I didn’t know size would go, and silently congratulate him on getting the job done. These days I’ll take all the help I can get.

Reaching up I wipe my face dry again and think of the two umbrellas in my car that have been there for two years and never used. Odd to live in a place that rains so much and yet never use an umbrella. It’s just that most of us who live here don’t pull out umbrellas for something as insignificant as showers. We’re well…tough…tougher.

Or maybe just stupid. Stupider.

I feel stupider right now, walking through wet mushy soil to stare at staked trees. We’re the only ones at the lot. Yes, it is a Monday at four in the afternoon, but surely there must be other parents who promised their kids they’d buy a tree today if they were good.

If they were good, and glancing at my two, I see Jessica take a swing at William. Jessica with her blonde hair and blue eyes and great dimples at her mouth may look like an angel but is the devil incarnate. She’s hell on wheels and I wish I could blame it all on Daniel, but word has it I was difficult at five, too.

And six. Seven. Eight. But whose counting?

Certainly not me because I just want to go home.

“How about this one?” I say, pointing to a relatively attractive fir that’s in the five to six foot tall range.

Both Jessica and William shake their heads. “It’s short,” Jessica says.

“It’s ugly,” William adds, moving his hand in one of the tree’s huge holey-pockets. “There’s nothing here. How will you hang ornaments if there’s nothing to hang them on?”

He has a good point but I’ve seen the price tag. The tree is sixty-five dollars, twenty less than the better groomed brothers in the seven foot row. “We can put something special there,” I say.

“Like what? A piƱata?”

He’s getting funny in his old age. I can only imagine the excitement of adolescence. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice tree.”

He hrmphs me, much like his father used to do, and then finds the tree we end up buying. While Jessica splashes in puddles in her best shoes (why didn’t I see she was wearing her best shoes earlier?) and then cries the whole way home that she’s cold.

The good news is we have a tree tied to our roof and we’re in our car heading home.

The bad news is that it’s only step one. Swiftly I review the other steps–

Step one: buy tree & tie on car

Step two: drive home without losing tree

Step three: get tree off car

Step four: get tree in house in stand

We’re home soon–I like step two, I feel really good about step two and congratulate myself for a job well done and now it’s time for three.

end of excerpt

Flirting With Forty is available in the following formats:


5 Spot

ISBN: 978-0446509435

May 7, 2008