HARLEY’S HALLOWEEN NIGHTMARE
This being Halloween, I got to thinking about the scariest thing in my life right now.
The runner-up? Rashly volunteering to host this year’s Pot-luck in the ‘Hood—you’re reading this while I’m readying my house for 25 children, 25 adults, and a fair number of dogs.
The winner? It started last week with a date. As my husband and I drove down the canyon roads to see A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE—great movie, by the way—I cracked open a window.
“What are you doing?” my husband said. “It’s freezing.”
“No, it’s not,” I said. “You must be getting sick.”
(This, for us, is reverse dialogue. He generally dresses for the beach, while I dress for the North Pole.)
Cut to: two mornings later, 6 a.m. I’m making school lunches, and wondering how the house has gotten so hot. I set down the peanut butter, throw off my sweatshirt in irritation, and then remember the window-cracking incident.
Then realize I’m always kicking off the covers in bed lately, except when I’m freezing.
Then it hits me. In a flash. And not just any flash. A hot flash.
OH, MY GOD.
(superimpose Edvard Munch’s “The Scream .”)
I can’t be having hot flashes. Okay, yes, fine, I’m technically old enough, but doesn’t one get some special dispensation for having children still in diapers? Not that hot flashes per se scare me. It’s what they’re symptomatic of that gives me pause. And not just any pause. Menopause. There. I said it.
My own reaction startles me. When it happened to my sister Dory, it seemed interesting, her “I’m having a hot flash” announcements. But Dory is my big sister, Sibling #4 out of 7. I am #8. The Baby. This can’t happen to me. I write Chick Lit, for God’s sake. I’m emotionally immature.
I finish the lunches in a blur of existential anxiety, putting the peanut butter sandwich in the lunchbox of the child that prefers cream cheese, and vice versa. What are the other symptoms of menopause? I wonder. Memory loss?
Now I begin to notice how things suddenly make me . . .peevish. Snappish. Irked.
“When do you plan to give those up?” I ask my 3 and a half year-old daughter, watching her change her own diaper.
“When I’m thirty-one,” she replies. Her twin brother informs me he’ll be ready by age 7.
After getting the kids to school, and noticing how annoyingly young the other preschool moms, teachers, janitorial staff, and bus drivers look, and having hot flashes every 15 minutes, I drive home and do the unthinkable. I go back to bed. I will stay in bed, I decide, until I have a philosophical epiphany. My husband, exiting the shower and seeing me in bed, jumps. I am never in bed at nine in the morning.
“What are you doing?” he asks, shocked.
“Having hot flashes,” I say.
Does he come over, look deeply into my eyes, and tell me I have never looked more beautiful? No. But neither does he announce, “time to get a trophy wife!”
He says, “okay.”
I miss my mom. I (hot)flash back to her in the hospital, after her hysterectomy. She was in tears. “What’s the big deal Mom?” I said, with all the compassion of a teenager. “It’s not like you were planning to have more kids. Like eight isn’t enough?”
30 years later, in bed, I get it. But I do not get a philosophical epiphany. Instead, I nap. I wake to a hot flash.
I e-mail an old classmate and discover the single best reason to maintain alumni relations: Same-age sympathy. Linda informs me that this is NOT menopause. It’s PERI-menopause. Whole different ballgame, she assures me. I can chill out.
Five days later, the hot flashes are in recession, and my son goes a whole afternoon without diapers and his twin sister, more resistant to change, exchanges diapers for Pull-ups. I celebrate by giving them each an M&M and then knock back a few dozen myself.
And that’s my plan. My philosophical epiphany. To eat chocolate with reckless abandon.