Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I'd like to begin this post by wishing all of the mothers out there a very Happy Mother's Day. I've been a bit slow with posting my blog entries for the past week or two and, ironically enough, it's because of Mother's Day! I have been toiling away at my Mother's Day present for my wife since I came up with the idea and, as a result, the blog (and practically everything else) has gotten less than the attention it deserves. Since this is her first Mother's Day, I wanted to do something extra special for her; after all--it's her being a Mom that makes me a Dad!

I had the idea a few weeks ago of creating a photo slideshow of Heather's "Journey to Motherhood." I've used a program called the HP Memories Disc creator, which allows me to pair digital photographs with music. I've enjoyed making many of these discs for Heather, my friends, and my family, but I've always been frustrated with the lack of fine-tunability. Basically, I was limited to something like two hundred pictures and maybe fifteen or sixteen minutes of audio.

When I thought of doing the "Journey to Motherhood" slideshow, I realized that I would need much more space and flexibility; I decided to explore Windows Movie Maker's capabilities. As it turned out, it was precisely what I needed. No longer was I limited to the 700 MB space restriction of the CD-ROM; now, I could create DVDs, which hold much more data and thus would allow me to be more detailed in my creation. Little did I know that I would be embarking upon a project that would take me weeks to complete!

What began as a slideshow idea quickly grew (as many of my creative ventures do) into something much larger. Knowing that I could do more with the Movie Maker program, I decided to explore the obvious option of making a movie instead of simply a slideshow. I wound up writing a script that covered many of Heather's milestone moments in her life and in our relationship, leading up ultimately to her pregnancy, the delivery of our first child, and the past three months spent raising him. The script then had to be paired with photographs, videos, and music...down to the second. Therein lay the problem. Now, not only did I have to sift through literally thousands of photos to select the best ones, but I had to program them into the project so that they would appear precisely when I said something in the script that they related to, and also to figure out exactly how long they would have to remain on the screen before new photos would be placed in. I never knew I had the patience to figure out, literally for hundreds of pictures, that this one needed to be on screen for 1.97 seconds, then the next for 3.64, and the next for 5.00 seconds, and so on.

Ultimately though it was a labor of love and, despite the guilt that I felt for letting many things fall to the wayside, I knew that this was something that Heather would both appreciate and enjoy. I finally finished the project last Friday, placing the final mix of music for the score, video footage from our personal archives, photographs, and my own narration. I gained great appreciation for the effort that goes into the making of large scale productions! The final product ran one hour and forty three minutes long--nearly six times the length of the other slide show program's creations!

After returning from a hike at the Delaware Water Gap yesterday morning, I tested out the movie to make sure that it would run the way that I wanted it to. Then, inviting Heather upstairs while she ate lunch, I connected her laptop to the TV using our HDMI cable and showed her the film. She loved it (to my great relief) and I found myself overcome with emotion as well. Of course I was hoarse from laughing so hard at the blackmail section I had put in (nothing like a bunch of unflattering photos set to music to make for a good time!) but I was also feeling a little heartache.

For the finale of the film (and truly its longest part), I set to music the photos from the most important moments of our married life together. I paired photographs from our wedding with our two wedding songs, those from the honeymoon with three songs that remind us of our time in Hawai'i, and some from our trip to Puerto Rico. I used John Fogerty's "Centerfield" and Bernie Williams' cover of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" (seriously--if you haven't heard it, you're missing out: ) for our trips to baseball stadiums across the country, and then I found myself faced with pairing photos of Timmy with music. I decided to separate the photos into two sections: one of pictures with me and him, and one of Heather and him (to finish out the movie). For my section, I used Kenny Loggins' hit, "Danny's Song" and John Lennon's, "Beautiful Boy." Both songs tap into many of the feelings I've had about my marriage to Heather, my becoming a dad, and my relationship with my son. For Heather's, I used the Backstreet Boys' song, "The Perfect Fan," which, as it turned out, was what hit me unexpectedly.

Heather had introduced me to the song back in 2007. We were discussing what music we would like to use for the wedding and I was looking for a song for the mother/son dance. She played the song for me and I knew that it was the one. Watching that section of the video yesterday with Heather in my arms and Timmy in hers just stirred up a bunch of emotion. Part of me was bursting with happiness because I know what it's like for a son to have a special relationship with his Mom. I consider my Mom to be as much a friend as a parent; many of my closest male friends seem to share similar relationships with their own mothers.

Anyway, sitting and watching the photos of Heather and Timmy coming up on the screen and listening to the song made me hopeful that they too would share the type of relationship that I have with my mom; judging from the way that he looks at her and smiles, I suspect that they will. What surprised me though was the sadness that I felt too. I didn't figure out what it was until after the movie had finished playing but I wound up realizing that I missed my Mom. I hadn't seen her in a while and I wasn't going to be seeing her on Mother's Day (for perhaps the first time). Heather and I had already decided that we were going to spend the day together alone with Timmy and I had no qualms about it. Still, though, I guess I felt terrible about not at least giving my Mom her cards.

Thankfully, I have a wife who is quite flexible and understanding when it comes to my spontaneity and, a few hours later, we were driving into Brooklyn so that I could surreptitiously place both my gift and Heather's, along with our cards, onto my parents' kitchen table. I was fortunate not to have woken anyone up and, as I found out today, I gave my Mom a pleasant surprise when she awoke this morning.

Both my Mom and Heather seem to have had a wonderful Mother's Day and I'm thrilled to have been a part of the reason why. I made a smorgasbord for Heather this morning for breakfast and did my best to give her a relaxing and carefree day. For me, especially, it was a wonderful day because it was perhaps the first time we were celebrating a day for her and I did not make her cry or get upset. In the past, I feel like I have had a streak of ruining days or at least putting a damper on them (though Heather would probably beg to differ on both counts) though, in truth, things probably were not as bad as I've remembered them. I have a tendency to recall those moments where I have caused Heather grief or emotional pain with an exaggerated level of vividness and detail, perhaps because of the guilt I feel for having done so. More often than not, my fear of creating a negative situation on those days and my attention to preventing their occurrence has led to me being tense and thus more prone to being snippy; my fear became a self-fulfilling prophecy a la one Mr. Skywalker.

Still, though, for as great of a day as today was, both for me and for Heather, I find myself sitting at the computer with an angry pit growing inside of me. Though Heather received a tremendous outpouring of love from friends and family in honor of her first Mother's Day as a Mom, there are two people who have overlooked her, neither of whom I can offer an excuse. Whether Heather is hurt or not I haven't ascertained (she is an enormous proponent of forgiving and forgetting with a particular emphasis on the latter, though, at times, it is more ignoring in the first place than forgetting) but it is a moot point as I am hurt enough for her.

There is something particularly vicious about seeing a loved one, particularly your wife, get hurt by someone, especially when that someone is close to them (or should be); I can only imagine how difficult this will be when Timmy is older and faces such disappointment. I am not looking forward to those moments of pain for him for the same reason that I hate the fact that Heather was slighted today by these two people: I am a doer. Though I am not a huge believer in astrology, one thing that I can say for the Aries sign is that it is definitely accurate about us Rams being a fiery bunch. Sometimes that is good because it usually prompts me to stand up for myself, to speak up when I need to, and to defend both myself and others when it is necessary (and even sometimes when it isn't but it is the right thing to do).

I suppose that I am trying to figure out if now is one of those times. The aforementioned role as a "doer" frustrates me at times because I want to "do" but I am unable to do so for a variety of reasons. Mostly it comes down to politics, either social or personal in nature. Thankfully, Heather's levelheadedness often balances out my impulse to crush skulls and to light people up (as with the case with "Judas"...but not every time (like now)). For me, there are few things worse than seeing that person that you love get hurt and knowing that you cannot say nor do anything about it. This has happened before with these particular people and I have had to stand by idly, to sit on my hands and to seal my mouth, if for nothing other than to preserve the political homeostasis.

This time though it feels a little different. The slight, for me, is not a minor one, especially given the significance of this day (Heather's first ever Mother's Day as a Mom), the nature of the relationship between Heather and these two people, and the perceived reason on my part as to why this slight occurred. I understand that Heather's policy is just to forget it and that it's easier and often better not to say anything and to let things go...but then there's that Ram lighting the furnace inside of me. The one that says, "Yeah, you've turned your cheeks--now it's time to make a stand." The one that calls into question my honor as a man (perhaps at the heart of the issue, if truth be told) for allowing my family, my wife, to be disrespected, hurt, and overlooked.

The irony in all of this is the fact that I am incredibly quick to forgive under most circumstances. Usually, if it is me that feels put out or hurt, it is often a simple acknowledgement of the situation that does the trick; I don't need apologies nor do I seek them out. When it comes to things with Heather though there is a deeper, colder blood that seems to fill my veins. It reminds me of an incident when I was a child in a pizza place in Gerritsen Beach. I had just finished up a Jiu Jitsu class and my parents were picking up pizza for dinner. I was in the eatery with my Mom when a man (possibly drunk, probably just poor judgment) came up to me and said something like, "Martial Arts, eh? What about THIS!" as he poked me in the chest. Hard. I don't remember exactly what happened next, whether my Mom grabbed his finger, or simply shoved hers in his chest, but what I DO remember was the feral look on her face and the way she went right at him. The gloves (had she been wearing any) would have been dropped and she would not only have kicked his ass but would have taken his name. Because that's how she rolls. And that's how I feel I should roll.

One of the worst moments of my life was overhearing someone make disparaging comments about Heather's appearance on the bus. The short of it was that I wanted to reach through this person's mouth, down his throat, and into his chest to pull out his puny, pitiful excuse for a heart and to then shove it back down his throat so that he could choke on it. Again, Heather saved the day. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to let that person walk off the bus and to keep myself on it. What made it easier was the fact that he was a few years younger than me, that I wasn't one hundred percent sure that he had been talking about Heather (he was running his mouth about a number of people on the bus), and that I was concerned about keeping my personal record immaculate and I knew that that would not happen if I followed the kid off of the bus.

I am often at odds internally in circumstances like this. My primal instinct is to smash heads but my intellect reminds me that not only is violence wrong it is rarely ever justifiable and is almost always unnecessary. I have never been in a true fist fight (though there have been a few skirmishes) and I have never instigated any sort of physical altercation. I know how to defend myself and could do so if necessary...but could I truly lay my hands on someone else? Not likely. Not even if I would be justified, depending on what had transpired.

The number of instances in which the impulse towards violence has ever arisen is infinitesimal; the number of instances where I have wanted to tell people what I really think, however, are innumerable. And therein lies my frustration. I want to defend Heather and I know that I either can't or won't use my fists (and rightfully so), but then when I want to use my words, I hear her voice in the back of my head telling me to let it go. And she's right. It's just hard to do every time. Mostly because I don't want to because I feel like, by not acting, I am not defending her honor; inaction would be perceived both as weakness and fear (by whom, I do not know...probably only me). Again, though, she is more emotionally evolved than me and she finds ways of reminding me that this is not the time for me to act.

Why is it so easy to see that when it deals with something with me but less so when it relates to Heather or to Timmy? The more someone comes at me and attempts to antagonize me into reacting violently, the more I laugh it off and entertain the impulse to walk away. But when it comes to my family? I haven't mastered that impulse quite yet.

The funny part in all of this is that she'll probably read this at some point during the week and say, "Don't do it. Whatever it is that you're thinking of doing, don't do it. Please. Just forget it. I don't care, it doesn't bother me. Just let it go. It's not worth it." Really. All of that. She's probably smirking right now as she reads it, feeling a mixture of irony in my ability to pluck her words from her future mind and drag them back to the past with me (or my present...if that even exists...ahh...that's an argument for another time) and that sick feeling rising inside of her that can be described only as, "Uh oh...what did he do or what is he planning to do?"

The short answer, as always, is nothing. But I spent all day with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can describe best as a nervous type of tension--one that I could not quite get a grasp on until late this evening. I knew that something bad was going to happen (the psychic twinkle in its finest form) and I was right. I realized it at some point after the phone calls and text messages died down. I think that the nervous tension was the addition of that last proverbial piece of straw or perhaps the removal of that penultimate Jenga piece; I am reaching my limit where these two people are concerned. For years I have bit my tongue and swallowed the bile that I have built up as a result of the way my wife has been treated. I think today my cup (...of bile?...that would be pretty gross. Imagine having this in a cup? has overflowed and, though I probably won't say anything soon, I realized what that nervous tension meant:

That day of reckoning is coming--the one where forgiveness and forgetting go out the window and it's all about standing up for someone else when they can't or won't do so for themselves, consequences be damned. My gut says that that day is fast approaching. The Ram is stoking the fire that will eventually become an inferno as I transform into Eyjafjallajökull personified.

May Swenson says it best: Rage works when reason won't. When locked up, bear down.