Tag Archives: kindness

The Ultimate Thumbs Up.


Thumbs Up by Laura Munson

The other day I was driving my kids to music lessons after school. My son was wondering if his guitar was in the car and I told him “It’s in the back,” pointing over my shoulder with my thumb. We were laughing about something at the time, so I was smiling as I did it. At that moment, something caught my eye and I looked to my right to see an elderly man, standing with a rake over a colossal leaf pile, giving me the thumbs up and mouthing, “Thank you” with a hearty grin in his lips and apple cheeks. My kids saw the whole thing too and as we put the pieces together we simultaneously burst out into laughter. What was a mother’s directions to her son became a compliment to an old man raking leaves. It was one of life’s rare moments of total gift. A misunderstanding just might have made someone’s day. The intention was absolutely impure. Misguided. Misunderstood. And still some good was done in the world at 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon in a small Montana town in Fall.

And my kids and I started thinking, What if we went around just giving the thumbs up to random strangers all day? How would that make the world a better place? Would we have the guts? Could we climb so fully into the word “Unabashed?” We all decided we’d be too shy. It was too invasive. Who are we to deem someone else’s moment thumb’s up-worthy? What do we know? our inner voices hollered, preaching fear like our own personal televangalists, scoffing at us, bullying us, critiquing our every move.

It was my ten year old son who made a case for the thumbs up. “If it were me, I’d love it if someone gave me a random thumbs up.” Leave it to the very young to see past fear and to not yet be under the grips of inner destructive dialogue.

I was so accustomed to my inner verbal abuse that in order to face her, I had to name her. I call her My Evil Twin Sheila; she made her public debut in my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. We all have one and it helps to name it. For a while I thought I needed to make her die a violent death and cast her out to sea in a nailed down coffin. Lately I’ve learned that since I created her, and she’s highly immortal, it might be more productive to not be at war with her. To let her have her moment of chatter, but to smile at her, so afraid and so reactive, a scared little girl who thinks you have to fight to win. And in-so-doing, more and more, I love her into submission.

So I’ve been trying it, the public thumbs up. Why not? There’s no want of word exchange or even reaction. It’s just a simple gesture. Good job. Way to go. Excellent. It’s not just a social experiment on how we give and receive random acts of kindness, it’s about publicly declaring that which is right with the world. You’re taking a bike ride on a Sunday afternoon with your three year old? Thumbs up. You’re walking with your groceries instead of driving. Thumbs up. You’re sitting on a bench talking to a friend. Thumbs UP, man! You’re mowing the lawn in the rain with a smile on your face. You’re my freaking hero!

And it doesn’t have to stop there. We can give ourselves a thumbs up. We just finished folding three loads of laundry? We made homemade chicken stock? We took the time to do a puzzle with our kid? We invited the new guy at work out for lunch? Thumbs up.

Please enjoy the following lovely essay by the wonderful therapist, writer, and wise woman, Stephanie Baffone, who teaches us that we can practice giving ourselves a surprise thumbs up even when our internal dialogue wants to tell us that we’re fools. Let’s be fools, then, unabashed.

Take it, Stephanie:

I am the Ultimate by Stephanie Baffone

When I was in eighth grade, about fourteen years old, I fell in love. Not with some young, strapping, adolescent fresh-faced boy with peach fuzz perched over his top lip.
Nope.
Not even with a human.
I fell hard and fast for a word. When said out loud, the sound of it made me pass out like a fainting goat. It had an air of pretense, which must have been some sort of psychological projection on my part because I was hardly a pretentious girl. Pretense made me feel inferior but this word, strung together with seven perfect letters relegated me to the likes of a Marcia Brady type-the Marcia who pined away for Davy Jones from the Monkees.
The word was ultimate and when I prefaced it with the, I decided we should declare our love publicly.
“I am The Ultimate,” became the signature phrase I used to announce my triumphant arrival into a room. Arms open wide, forming a big Y over my head, I made a grand entrance one afternoon afterschool when I greeted my Mom in the kitchen.
My Mom came from hearty Irish stock and as my Dad says was, “a real lady.” My father embraced his self-appointed role as God’s laughter lieutenant and gravitates to the spotlight. My Mom, in contrast, preferred to play the part of a spectator. She raised the five of us to embrace humility and while she found us entertaining she went to great lengths to be sure we knew our place.
She canned applesauce every fall from the apples she and my aunt picked at our local orchard and taught us about the birds and the bees without one euphemism. On winter Sunday afternoons, she curled up in the crushed orange velvet recliner in her bedroom and soaked in the sunny spot by the sliding glass door. After reciting her daily rosary, she wandered off into the worlds that lived inside the stack of books resting on her glass-top table.
That fall afternoon, she must have had enough of my shenanigans and found my love affair with the word ultimate no longer tolerable or appropriate.
Still dressed in my Catholic school uniform, I hiked up my skirt and with my white blouse inching up over my belly I hopped up on the countertop and reached for a glass.
“I am The Ultimate,” I repeated; poking around in the cabinet propped up on the laminate, marble countertop.
Just as I found my favorite glass, my Mom tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Steffi, stop saying that.” She lent me her hand to get down. “It’s not very becoming.”
My identical twin sister, sat at the kitchen table, munching on a snack and laughed.
“Mooom! Seriously?!” I slid down from the counter. “I don’t actually think I am the ultimate. I just think that word is funny. It cracks me up.”
“Steffi, I know that but it’s just not funny and it’s certainly not becoming,” she walked over to the stove.
An early exchange like this between a mother and a daughter is a therapist’s playground. Clients internalize experiences with their parental figures that go on to form introjections, defined as “the internalization of the parent figures and their values; leading to the formation of the superego.”
The superego is the place inside us where the critical, punitive voice of our psyches resides. This part of our psyche buddies up with criticism like macaroni does with cheese. Think Laura’s critical voice “Shelia,” as she named and outed in her book.
That short exchange with my Mom, formed a personal introject for me that’s become a real stage five clinger.
I loved my Mom. I knew she believed in me and as daughters go, I think she actually thought I was the ultimate. I harbor no ill feelings toward her for saddling me with this introject. Her lesson on humility that day was taught with a spirit of love and compassion. Bravado, even if only in jest, from her perspective, for her children-had no comedic value.
My mother’s intent aside, what I’ve noticed is that I have a tendency to qualify myself, especially when people encourage me to believe in myself. My knee-jerk reaction is to make a mad dash to my emotional closet and don that pesky reminder that I am NOT the ultimate.
In sharing this story with others over the years what I’ve discovered is how important it is for me (and them too) to let go of the tired, worn-out introjects whose main jobs are to self-sabotage. I’m learning to replace those tired introjects with mantras more psychologically productive.
Recently, I stumbled across a useful exercise for doing just that. “Defeating Your Inner Critic,” was originally posted at QueryTracker.net as help to writers struggling to conquer and quiet their critical voice. This exercise is very effective and is not only useful for quieting the writer’s critical voice but for quieting our critical voice across the board, regardless of what in particular it is yapping about. I use it personally and also professionally in my psychology practice.
If you too are struggling with an old belief that plagues you with self-doubt and tempers belief in yourself, try these exercises. You might just discover that you indeed, are the ultimate.

Bio:
Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC is a licensed, board certified mental health therapist and writer in private practice with a specialty in grief and loss, couples counseling and issues related to infertility. Prior to going back into private practice, Stephanie worked as the coordinator of the children’s grief and loss program at the largest hospice in the state of Delaware where she had the distinct privilege of supporting and guiding children whose loved ones were dying from terminal illnesses.
Stephanie is a consultant to other agencies developing programs on grief and loss and is thrilled to be an expert columnist at Savvyauntie.com on the very same issues.
In addition to wife of husband who loves her like you see in the movies she is “Mom” to two dogs and two goats and “Aunt Steph,” (by relation) to thirty-nine nieces and nephews. She is working on a memoir, Doris, Sophia and Me: A Memoir About A Mother Who Didn’t Live Long Enough and A Daughter Who Was Never Born.
Stephanie is a proud graduate of Villanova University, a member of The American Counseling Association, National Board of Certified Counselors, RESOLVE, The American Fertility Association and the American Academy of Bereavement. Stephanie has been featured and used as a trusted source in print, radio and television media including, The Huffington Post, Counseling Today, First for Women Magazine, Blog Talk Radio, CN8 and WHYY.
The consummate Italian hostess, she loves to host visitors at her blog StephanieBaffone.com. (Amelie—can you hyperlink this?) To contact her, email her at Stephanie@StephanieBaffone.com.

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Modern Love Strikes Again! Check out Kelly Valen!

As many of you know, the Modern Love column launched my career.  I am weekly inspired by it, and I want to share with you my new writer friend, sister in words, and high-road kind of a gal, Kelly Valen. 
You will be hearing a lot about her, if my instincts are right.  She is holding up a mirror to human behavior, asking the question: why can women be so brutal to one another.  Her book grew out of a Modern Love essay published a few years ago

that really hit a nerve.

Some of you may recall this piece I posted a few months ago about receiving an unexpected apology, years later, from a college friend. I think that we can hold the space for those apologies, without holding on with entitlement or bitterness. There is much freedom in that!

Check out Kelly Valen’s new book, The Twisted Sisterhood (Random House, Oct. 26). It’s getting great buzz and is sure to change the way girls and women think about their friendships. Get the scoop at www.kellyvalen.com and pre-order NOW through any online retailer.

Kelly Valen’s official site at www.kellyvalen.com

A smart, savvy, breakthrough look at the compelling, complex bonds that divide — and can ultimately unite — women of all ages and every culture.”
—Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of New York Times bestselling memoir Crazy Love, editor of Mommy Wars, and former Washington Post columnist
“If you think you are alone in nursing a clique-inspired emotional wound, are wary of certain types of women, or are worried about your own daughter’s peer-group, you need to read this validating and important book. Kelly Valen’s research shows that many of us have been hurt deeply by a girlfriend and we often carry the lingering pain throughout our lives. In sharing the poignant voices of women from her study, Valen shows us that we are certainly not alone and points a way toward civility, kindness and true sisterhood.”
—Rosalind Wiseman, internationally known educator and author of Queen Bees and Wannabees.
“Kelly Valen has written a smart, sweeping book about the ways women relate and given us all something to think about.”
—Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of The Middle Place and Lift
“This is a brave and deep book. Kelly Valen shares her own painful experience of exclusion and humiliation at the hands of “friends,” as well as the details of incidents she’s gathered in her research – the looks, gestures, gossip, and confrontations – that have wounded other hearts. Yet she shows us that it is the caring side of sisterhood that gives our relationships the power to hurt. She rightfully suggests that we understand and monitor our own behavior and potential to wound as much as we scrutinize how we’re treated.”
— Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, author of Surviving Ophelia, Girl Wars, and other books for girls and women; Founder, Club and Camp Ophelia

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Michael Franti and "Normal"


LOVE this video. Makes me SMILE!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoaTl7IcFs8
Okay– I know I’m supposed to be taking a week off but I am so blown away by this spirited human being that I had to share. My husband and I took a night to ourselves down in Missoula yesterday to see Michael Franti and Spearhead, and we happened to dine at the same restaurant. The whole band was right in front of us and we couldn’t help but ogle because we so love this man’s message of spreading love and goodness, and there he was, walking the walk. It was this great group of people sharing and laughing and sipping on wine– truly enjoying each other. No one was shooting heroin (not that we saw, anyway.) Talk about a new paradigm for rock stars. You know when you’re around somebody who lights up a room and makes the world a better place? My husband and I were just basking in this man’s great energy. I couldn’t help myself and I went over and told him how great I thought he was and apologized for being another fan wanting something from him but asked if we could have a photo with him. For some reason, when I approached him, these words flew out of my mouth: “I’m just a normal person, and I really appreciate what you do.” He smiled and said, “I’m just a normal person too.” Whatever normal is, may we all be this kind of “normal.” It was a great date. My husband and I are still smiling.

p.s. they do YOGA together as a band. And the concert was just one big ball of positive loveliness. It ended with a bunch of grade school kids on the stage rocking out and dancing. Had to share. I’m a little bit twitterpated.

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The Art of Stopping


I am so thankful for all the people who stopped by on my first open forum. Tonight we talked about the Art of Stopping. We went from wondering why it is so hard to stop our busy lives and just receive what there is to observe in the mundane, to being committed to saying YES to life. You can view our chat on this blog at The Art of Stopping. http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/the-art-of-stopping-for-bill/

Thanks for inspiring me to go outside and stand there and behold, recieve, and say…YES.

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Mean People Suck. Love Them Anyway.

 

 

“Sometimes you have to allow yourself to be misunderstood.”

Even though these are my own words, oh how hard this is to carry out sometimes.  Especially when people misrepresent you and then other people react to something that you never said or wrote or even remotely believe.  Why have we grown a society which wants to prey upon its own kind like vultures to smaller birds?  Why can’t we look at our society like us/us?  Will we ever outgrow our survivalist fittest-ish ways?  Will we ever grow up?  Will our hearts ever communally break apart so wide open that love will really rule?  Especially when people are willing to be honest and vulnerable in the hopes that it will help other members of this collective We that acts more like an auto-immune diseased species, fighting its own constitution.  

            Recently I’ve had the pleasure of writing a book that has helped many people.  I hear from people daily—men, women, religious, not religious, married, unmarried, from the US and abroad, sharing their own stories, opening their own veins.  And it blows me away that something as simple as being willing to commit to a philosophy of non-suffering and then getting the chance to apply it to a real life personal crisis can fill a heart hole in the world.  It makes me wonder how much we are all hiding and stuffing away—how much we are so silently suffering.

            What’s shocking to me, well maybe not so shocking really, is how people don’t want to be happy.  Or free from suffering.  Convinced that being victims serves them well, thankyouverymuch.  How violently they’ll resist and attack this simple age-old message that well-being is really a choice. 

            It inspires me to think of the work of mothers.  We would do our children well, then to point out that, no, no one made you mad.  No one made you cry.  No one made you sad.  You chose that.  Short of being punched in the face.  Emotional pain is your choice. 

            Why do so many people NOT want to hear this message?  Why?  Because they get to be right.  “See—the world sucks.”  And they point the finger just like they’re used to doing, and they stay in their world of hurt.  Again why?  Because that’s their comfort zone.  Well what if you started out being able to identify the pain and suffering in this sort of relationship with life and yourself?  What if you learned and loved what it was to be internally free from an early age?  Think of what the world would be like.  Mothers, we have work to do!

            It’s like the telephone game in grade school.  Begins in one form, ends in a new creature altogether.  It’s like the mean girl in high school starting a false rumor about you because her boyfriend has a crush on you or you grew boobs over the summer.  People, young and old, have all kinds of guts behind a computer screen, or in closed rooms without an audience. 

            I remember once when two of my friends started a rumor about me in 7th grade.  It was entirely untrue.  And I was pissed.  Not as much because of how it portrayed me in my school and my town, but because it proved that people are mean and I hated to see that this was so even in my own circle of beloved friends.  So I got on my bike and I rode it over to the house where they were spending the night.  I walked in the back door, and found them in the sunroom watching cartoons.  My heart was pounding and I lifted my head and breathed deeply and sat down on the couch. 

            They ignored me.

            I just sat there.  Heart pounding, but my mind strangely calm.

            Finally I spoke.  “Why would you make up a lie about me?  It hurt my feelings.  What did I do to you that you would be so mean?”

            They had no answer.  We just sat there, like I was waiting to be absorbed into a cell wall but didn’t really care if I was or not.  I just wanted to be a presence in the field of honesty.  A heart pumping visibly in a room of meanness.  Reminding them that they too had hearts.  And that I would forgive them their humanness, even though it hurt.  Eventually, we ended up playing outside and doing what kids/people do when they’re not being afraid and small and mean.

            Years later, I was out to dinner with one of those girls.  She had a big job in NYC and was a big celebrity because of it.  People came up to her and fawned all over her and I sat there in the wrong outfit feeling a bit invisible.  And finally, she said to me in a moment of privacy, “I’ll never forget that time I was mean to you when we were kids, and you came over to my house and confronted me.  I think about that all the time.  You were really brave.  We were just jealous of you, because somehow you were able to be a nice girl and be popular– have power and still be kind.  I don’t think we knew what to do with that.  I was in a lot of pain in my life back then.  You stood for a hope I didn’t know how to have.  I’ve used that as a baseline way to be with people who are mean to me.  And believe, me, people are mean to me, a LOT.” 

            I’d actually forgotten about that morning in the sunroom until she brought it up in that chic New York City restaurant.  And I’ll admit that I breathed deeply and felt proud of my little girl self.

            And now, although most of it is so incredibly positive and gracious, when I do read mean things about me or what I’ve written, I wonder what kind of pain people are in, that they cannot see the freedom in choosing to let go and that happiness is a simple choice.  But just like that sunny room all those years ago, there’s not much I can say except that my heart is open.  Is yours?

“We all need more kindness in this world”– Guy Davis

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Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Motherhood, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

Mother Bear at the Plaza

Plaza silver
Mother Bear at the Plaza
by Laura A. Munson

I was reared for walking in and out of places like New York’s Plaza Hotel. But I live in Montana now and sometimes I forget how to be that girl. That girl having her first tea at the Palm Court in low riding white tights and a scratchy wool coat, standing three feet and agape below the Eloise portrait, thinking, “Now that’s the life. Living in a fancy hotel, pouring water down the mail chute, dragging chalk along the corridor walls, no mommy telling you what to do. Eloise is my hero.” And later, in Chinaman pajamas, I do both and feel huge.
Much later, I am waiting in the lobby for my first boyfriend, a meeting place between airport and brownstone, with my dead grandmother’s Hartman luggage all around me, considering losing my virginity while the ladies in minks and high stiff hairdos go by. And I still feel huge.
eloise
But today, in jeans and steel-toed boots, a suede thrift shop jacket, a sloppy scrunchy bun flopping at the nape of my neck, a baby in a front pack like a kangaroo, I am the only one who recognizes my footprints in this red rug. The doorman, the concierge, the maitre d’ at the Palm Court, even Eloise, even the little girl in white tights standing agape—they all step aside as if I might be dangerous. I wink at Eloise and stroll by, holding my neck as tall as it has ever stretched and find the Powder Room, for I am here today not to pay homage to my first hero, nor for tea, nor to meet my old beaux. I am here to breastfeed. I am in the safest place I know in New York City, crummy old boots or no crummy old boots. I look down and see what is very possibly dried manure on the sides of the Vibrum soles and think, It’s good for this rug to know a little of God’s country. And I open the white door with the gold gilt. And I still feel huge.
Inside, there is a woman in a black dress and white apron staring at me with an expression that sighs, Oh dear, you must be lost.
“I need a place to breastfeed my baby,” I say, looking for a place to sit. Realizing there is none. Realizing women don’t breast-feed in public, not even in the bathroom, at the Plaza Hotel. I start to lose confidence. Maybe I am a stranger here now. Maybe the little girl who ran in here, tinkled on toilet-paper-lined seats, dilly-dallied at the vanity, transferred pettifores from napkin to coat pocket chatting with the nice maid lady like in a Frances Hodgson Burnett book, remembering to tip a little something, never was. And I am a rancher’s daughter, and I am scared of places like this, and rich people are strangers to me.
eloise

The woman speaks in broken English, which feels like my language now– something like, “I know good place. Come with me. I have daughter.” In silence, I follow her down the hall, into an elevator, up a few floors, through a grand lobby with twenty foot French doors all in a row, and the girl who knew debut parties and benefit fashion shows knows there is a ballroom through those doors.
The Powder Room attendant looks down the hallway toward a row of small well-lit rooms full of mumbled voices and whispers, “No let them see you. Here. In here.” With case-the-joint eyes, she ushers me through tall gold doors.
We are in some sort of V.I.P. Ladies’ Lounge. The kind of place where Madonna hides from paparazzi and society younglings sneak lines of cocaine. We are surrounded by mirrors and high gold and white ceilings, garish escutcheons holding up huge Baroque-looking chandeliers, red damask fainting couches.
“When you finish with baby, come back same way. Don’t talk to nobody.” She leaves.
I sit.
My knees poof up to my nose and I see myself in the mirrors. I see what they
have all seen: This me does not belong. Whatever possessed me to dress like some sort of cross between Salvation Army and Rodeo Queen? The thrift-shop-look hasn’t been in since the early Eighties. Have I lost all sense of taste? All sense of now? I could have at least put on a pair of Nikes and sweats and posed as a stay-at-home mom going to the gym.
eloise

My baby starts to fuss. She is unimpressed with the spectrum of me’s unless they include my lactating breasts. I take her out of the front pack and unbutton my shirt. In the mirrors, I see through maitre d’ eyes: I have too much of my breast showing. Not enough make-up. Ridiculous hair. And then I notice the bruisy-colored haystack– the Monet above me. And I start to sweat. I’m all alone in a room with a Monet. Our next door neighbor growing up had Monets. I’ve been in a room alone with Monets before. But this me, this Montana me, she’s got to touch that thing. Maybe it’ll make her real in this old world of hers. Gotta touch that thing. What if there’re cameras? What if there’re alarms? I reach up, eyeing my aim from the mirror across the room as if I am watching a movie of me. Baby gasping for more suction. A few more inches. Yep. Oil paint. Thick fat brush strokes. Either that’s a damn good reproduction or the real Mackoy. And why not? This is a room for people who own Monets. Who don’t have to touch a Monet to prove they belong. My finger returns to my baby. I guess I don’t know either me.
I consider the thing that brought me back to New York for this visit: to plug into my old scene. Museums. Art galleries. Take in a few shows. Drink ten-dollar-a-pop martinis and not bat an eyelash. Maybe buy a pair of absolutely fabulous leather pants from a gaunt Madison Ave. saleswoman who will greet me with a low-toned: welcome. To see how my old gaggle of friends are handling this next stage of motherhood. To compare gear notes where we used to compare hair stylists. To see if million dollar apartments with doormen and live-in nannies can make one exempt from stretch marks and saddle bags. To just for one night, sit in a trendy new restaurant with city friends and over foie gras hear the one in the self-important glasses say, That’s some of Venturi’s worst work. It’s exhausting looking at mountains all the time…dishing out that kind of awe all the time. I want a bit of what people have done. I want the Chrysler Building. I want—just for a few days– to not be on the food chain!
eloise
I look at myself in the mirror and see that I am instead in some sort of social purgatory. How do I plug into this scene when I’ve lived so long in a place where there is no scene? How can I care about leather pants for the sake of leather pants and not think: Do they repel water? Do they breathe? Do they come in poly-propalene? Good God! Where is my sense of humor? My sense of power? I am giving the light fixtures in this place more importance than myself. Than perhaps even my baby.
And then it occurs to me. It’s the city—it’s stealing my soul. I am feeding my child, for crying out loud. This is a pure moment where nothing should matter but nutrition– the arc between mother and child– let no man put asunder. I stare at my baby and try to keep from thinking about the dress I’ve packed for dinner tonight. The one that looked so chic on the mannequin in Whitefish, MT, that now strikes me as something a Phys Ed teacher would wear to the end-of the-season sports banquet. Whistle and all. Maybe I’ll dress down. I’ll wear jeans. What about all those movie stars that have homes in Montana? I bet they wear jeans when they’re in New York. I’ll pretend I’m one of them. Like I’m above all this…all this…ephemera.
eloise

And just when I am hit with the whiplash of my total-unenlightenment, the door opens. It’s a tall woman in a pink Chanel suit. Her hair is Ivana Trump high and I think, I’d rather talk to Ivana herself– she’s a foreigner. She might understand.
“What are you doing in here?”
This is my payback for all those years of ‘belonging,’ I think. I deserve this. I try to sit up straight in the poof of the couch but only manage a few inches of height. I thrust my chin in the air so I am at least staring at her kneecaps. I put every amount of Mayflower descent, Anglophile, Junior-Year-Abroad, boarding-school-procured nasal and lock jaw into these words: “I am breastfeeding my child.”
She raises a singular, well-plucked eyebrow. “Well, you will have to leave immediately.”
I imagine the guards. I imagine the I told you so on the doorman’s face. “Look, I was led up here–” and then I stop. I don’t want to get that sweet sample of humanity in trouble.
“Who? Who brought you here?”
Do you always talk in Soap Opera-eze? “I don’t feel at liberty to say.” Did I just say ‘at liberty?’ I tuck my boots under the sofa and eye the Monet. And then it happens. I feel this mother bear claw-sharpened edge raise its hackles down my spine and I look up even higher, to her pink Channel un-lactating breasts and say, “I will leave when my child is finished eating.”
“You will leave now.”
And whether I end up being hauled out of here by the scruff of my hickish laurels, I suddenly cannot hold back: “What do you think? Just because I’ve got a little shit on my shoes, I’m going to run outta here with the goddamn Monet?”
She lets out a giant Huffffffffff, blows through the door, and leaves a blinding trail of hairspray and Joy de Patou in her wake.
eloise
Bring on the guards– I’ll call the mayor. I’ll get on the front page of the ‘New York Times’– ‘Plaza Hotel– No Safe Place for Mother and Child.’ Ivana herself will give me a golden key to the front door. I’ll have an open tab at the Palm Court. I’ll be given a check for a million dollars and I’ll put that bathroom attendant’s children through college. I’ll buy a new pair of shoes. Maybe some leather pants?
The door opens. It’s the woman from the Powder Room. For some reason I can look her straight in the eye and it’s not because she’s no inch shy of five feet. “I thought you get lost.”
“No. We’re just finishing up. There was a lady who came in here and got mad at us and I didn’t tell her you brought us up here, but she might–”
“Lady? Lady with…” she holds one hand a foot over her hair and the other a foot in front of her chest.
“Yeah.”
“Uh-oh. You come with me, please.”
Baby back in kangaroo position, boots ready for any terrain, we go from hallway to hallway, looking around the corner before we go like James Bond babes. We skeeter down servant’s stairways thick with grey paint and the smell of rotting room service. One more door and we are back by the Powder Room and I am Eloise. No…better: I am at the intersection of all me’s. I am my own society.
I want to give this saint of a woman a hug. She has put her job on the line for me and my little girl, but maybe for more. The girl reared for tea at the Palm Court says, you owe her a fat tip. But that is an insult, the Montana me says. There is no financial compensation for human kindness. I give her a hug and she holds me hard and then sneaks back to her post taking quarters for hand towels.
eloise

And I walk tall back past Eloise, little girls in white tights, blue-haired dowagers sipping Earl Grey, suburban virgins in transit considering sex but for now a Marlborough Light, a doorman who doubles as a bouncer, but not to me, not today; I am looking at my sleeping baby, safe in my perfectly acceptable chest.
***
Back in Montana. Full of sushi and museums, sky-scrapers– the great stuff of Men. It is nighttime and my baby and I are driving back from a party. She has been fussy and I’m hoping she will fall asleep. I am watching the stars and keeping an eye out for deer, humming lightly to the country music station which I don’t normally like, but tonight it’s like what subway shoosh must be for a New Yorker– a hymn of Home Sweet Home. I look in the rear view mirror and see she is finally asleep and I feel tucked-in by the mountains around me; not awe necessarily. And then I see flashing red lights.
Immediately I get adrenaline in my chest cavity and a ringing in my ears and pull over, reaching for the glove compartment where I know the stuff cops want is kept. I unroll the window and wait, shaking. His boots on the gravel get louder and louder and by the time he is at my window I am no longer scared; I am mother bear. I am all hackles and sharpened nails and to his bellowing “Do you know how fast you were–” I raise my finger to my lips and hiss, “SHHH! I’ve got a sleeping baby in the back seat!”
“Oh!” His shoulders shirk and slump. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I know how that is.”
“Can we make this quick? I want to get her home.”
“Uh– sure, Ma’m. I’m sorry. You were going seventy-five and that’s too fast at night so uh–”
I look back at my baby. She’s stirring and she begins to cry. “Oh that’s okay darlin’. Go back to sleep.” I scowl at the police officer.
He looks in the back seat and whispers, “Tell you what. Let this be a warning. Now go get that baby to bed.” I see his teeth make a smile in the headlight.
“Thank you,” I barely say. I have no need to butter him up. There is a child who is teetering on the edge of sleep and I am her mother. Nothing can get in my way.

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