Friday, March 27, 2009

Are You My Mother?

I walked into TGI Friday's at 5:30, printed coupon in hand, and saw my daughter light up and yell hi, both arms outstretched. She hugged me with her whole body. The Boy had picked her up from day care so I could go to band rehearsal, and we met for dinner in between because I have become adept at scoring coupons for free meals. Mirabella was restless, lunging from lap to lap. I produced a plastic container of animal crackers.

"How do you have cookies in your purse?" The Boy asked.

"Mommies carry cookies in their purses," I explained. He looked flabbergasted.

I'm not embarrassed to be seen in public with spit up, drool, or cookie stained garments. I'm not fazed at work when I reach for my planner from my tote bag and a Sesame Street play thermometer or block falls out. I'm getting to the point where I'm no longer bothered when my child yells, squeals or shrieks in public. It's a little embarrassing when she says "hi" to passersby at the store, increasing her volume the longer they do not respond, but mostly that's funny. But one of her latest habits is deeply upsetting.

Aunt Nae, her day care provider, is at the top of her list of favorite people. I have mostly come to terms with this, and mostly I am grateful. If I have to be away all day, which I do, at least I'm able to leave her with someone who adores her (and whom she adores). But. Recently, Mirabella has learned to call Aunt Nae. She does this when she has finished her nap, when another child takes a toy from her, when she wants some milk, when she's not getting her way. And now, apparently, when her parents just aren't cutting it. Last Sunday in the church nursery, she had parked herself at the top of the slide, as is her custom, waving and shouting hi to the people below, with no regard for the children waiting to slide behind her. One of the kids pushed her out of the way. She squealed, "Ahh Na-ay! Ahh Na-ay!" I pretended I didn't know what she was saying.

One of the volunteers said, "Who is she calling?"

"Oh, um . . . Aunt Nae. That's her day care provider," I blushed.

Later that day in the grocery store, I had let her have a sip (or 20 gulps) of my chocolate milk. She had taken the straw out and spilled the milk all over her shirt. I pried it from her milky hands and moved it away from her. Again, she shrieked in frustration and yelled, "Ahh Na-ay! Ahh Na-ay!"

Since then? She calls Aunt Nae after she has said "ahh-dow" (all done) and we have not retrieved her from her high chair fast enough. She calls her if she can't reach a toy she wants, if we take something away we don't want her to have, if we force her to sit (not stand and walk across) the couch she has recently learned how to climb on. And last night, the kicker, after I had put her to bed I heard her on the monitor, calling softly, "Ahh Na-ay."

The other night while I worked on the computer in the office, I heard her downstairs calling Aunt Nae, presumably because The Boy hadn't rescued her from her chair fast enough for her liking. I then heard him correct her, "No, not Aunt Nae, Mirabella. Ma-ma, Ma-ma." At least he tried.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Respectfully Challenged

"Respectfully challenge," the defense attorney said about me and in my general direction, but without meeting my eyes. I would have been the last alternate on a full jury, and I was disappointed. When The Boy was summoned last week and groaned about missed time at work and wasted time in the Quiet Room, I scolded him. "The very foundation of the democratic freedoms we enjoy in this country is the right to due process. How can we say we believe in this, but only if it's someone else who has to serve?" I said variations of this for days leading up to his appointed day in court and was met with rolling eyes. He came home from the first day, naturally having been selected, complaining of "idiots" who tried to elude jury duty. "Isn't that what you wanted to do?" I asked.

"C," he said, "A trial by a jury of your peers is essential to our way of life. It may be inconvenient, but I never tried to get out of it. It's my civic duty." I couldn't believe he had the audacity not only to reinvent history, but then to fail to give me attribution. But it is kind of typical.

The day of his trial everything was closed because of an "in like a lion" March Nor'easter. I got a snow day and his work was delayed. But Baltimore City circuit court was right on time! When he got home from his trial, he said, "I don't want to talk about it. I have lost faith in our legal system." He got into multiple arguments while the jury deliberated, once when a juror said she thought the defendant was guilty but that she, "wasn't there" so she couldn't be sure, and again when another juror alleged that he could not possibly understand the plight of the (white) defendant because he was white. The Boy, incredulous, mentioned a related (and expunged) arrest in his history, but to no avail. I asked lots of questions. "You probably won't get picked, you know, just since you want to do it," he said cynically.

So Thursday I made arrangements for everything to get done at work in case I wasn't there. After 5 I was on the road, so I asked The Boy to check the website to see if would need to report to court. I did. I called a cab last night to make sure I'd get there on time. I waited on the bench outside our house with my laptop bag full of snacks and things to read and work on. I found my way at the courthouse. I changed my name and collected $15. I waited my turn. I found (not free) wifi in the courthouse, thus spending my "expense pay" before I ever went to lunch on cab fare and wifi alone.

I was summoned. I paraded in front of the judge, counselors and defendant with minor confessions I swore would not affect my judgment. I didn't think I'd get called. And when my number came up, I stood in front of the lawyers, one of whom "respectfully challenged" my appointment as alternate #3. I saw other jurors, upon having been placed in the box, then "challenged," actually pump their fists with excitement or thank the "challenging" lawyer. I was disappointed. Rebuffed, I'm back in the Quiet Room with the others who were challenged. Thank goodness for wifi and vpns.
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