Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Cynical Optimist Plans a Bar Mitzvah

I have really, truly accepted that I am indeed a Cynical Optimist. For many years now, I have been trying to convince myself that life is easier when you are optimistic, and have tried very hard to wear that uniform and get with the program. I do have a weakness for a man in uniform (especially my adorable UPS man), but I myself am neither a man nor look good in a uniform of any kind, and have given up. My mantra is now:  I think there is a chance that things will get better, but probably not.

This could be a testament to my ethnic heritage, where lateness is the equivalent of being dead in a ditch. In order to cope with any potential upset or disappointment, I have to prepare for the absolute worst case scenario. This can be very freeing, like at my son's bar mitzvah--one of the worst things (to me) would have been running out of food, (which for a Jew is the mistake never lived down) but I had Pino's Pizza programmed into my phone should that very unlikely situation actually happen. Of course it did not, not nearly. Barbecue from Blue Ribbon is likely to be in my freezer until Medium's bar mitzvah, three years from now. So in this case, the Cynical Optimism manifested itself as Being Practical. And Being Practical is an excellent life skill, one that people strive to achieve. And I can, and have. But the dark side is always there. And in this case, the dark side was towels.

See, I got this awesome idea that, as a party favor for my son's bar mitzvah party, I would give away beach towels. Pool party and beach towels=cute. One of those things you can never have enough of. Yes, well, I got 154 beach towels. At Target. Three shopping carts full at one store and two at another, when there weren't enough to satisfy my irrational fear that if I ran out of beach towels, the party would be RUINED, by my bad planning, by my cheapitude, ruined by my own hand! I did carefully look at my guest list and somehow this seemed like the right number. Because I could not run out. Could not. Absolutely, no.

Then the Cynical Optimist got a kick in the ass. The Bar Mitzvah Boy, my eldest, the Large of my Small, Medium and Large, had a seizure at school. Out of the blue. Call from the husband that Large was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. And I didn't know whether he was still alive or not, and being who I am, at that darkest of all moments, I assumed he was not. I drove down to the hospital, getting onto the wrong highway in my fear and grief, and when I got there, he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily, and said "Hi, Mama." And thus, my ass was kicked. Because looking at him lying in that hospital bed, not knowing whether this was now to be our path, thinking how unbelievably unfair the universe is, I also knew that this was the reminder i needed that 154 towels is TOO MANY TOWELS. It is too much. Scale back, remember who the bar mitzvah is for. Leave the towels. Let go of the damn towels.

And yes, I did do those things. I scaled back, made it the bar mitzvah it was always supposed to be. It was truly the most moving, amazing, proud moment of my life, more than I ever could have dreamed. And yet...and here is what makes me question my sanity and my fitness as a parent...I could not take the towels back. I could not do it. Like a security blanket, the existence of the towels in the huge black contractor bags in my attic kept me from losing my shit. Large could have had a dozen more seizures between his first and his bar mitzvah (he did not, fortunately) and I would have dealt with it. I would have Been Practical. My worst case scenario for Large actually came to pass, something that I had envisioned from the day he was born. That dreaded phone call actually came. And we managed. But I was not prepared to deal with the self-flagellation that would come from running out of towels. So, no, it wasn't an important thing. But at least I could do something about it, something I could control. There would be towels, towels for everyone. 

Children climbed out of the pool and used a fresh, dry towel each time. It was a colorful, beautiful mess of towels and barbecue, to celebrate the day I never knew would arrive exactly the way it did. The people I loved went home with a stack of towels in the color of their choosing. And while I do still have many, many, MANY left, i am ok with it. We will be using beach towels after showers for the rest of our lives here at Casa Simone B., but at least we'll be dry. My sanity is worth 90 extra towels.

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