NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 15, 2011

The Mother Load: A farewell to columns

The Mother Load
Nancy Crochiere

About 14 years ago, I wrote about how the trash I left on the curb for pickup kept mysteriously finding its way back into my house.

My children — then ages 5 and 9 — had trouble letting go of anything, whether it was a broken laundry basket ("we can use it for forts"), a tattered one-eared stuffed rabbit ("she's disabled — she needs us"), or a ratty old dish towel ("that was my favorite dish towel!"... as if either of them had ever used a dish towel).

That article, titled "Let's Talk Trash," was printed in The Daily News and became the first of many columns that I wrote as my girls grew. As they moved from playing with Glitter Hair Barbies to scoring soccer goals, from learning to drive to tossing their mortarboards, my husband and I spent those same years stepping on tiny pink high-heeled pumps; freezing our behinds on metal soccer bleachers; putting claw-marks in the car upholstery as they braked for fuzzy caterpillars; and helping them choose a college by keeping our mouths shut.

Over the years, my columns chronicled typical family experiences:

"Just Desserts" was the confessions of a guilty grocery shopper who sneaked a grape to her toddler, only to have the child gag and throw up all over the produce.

"What to Expect When You're Long Past Expecting" listed things no one told me before becoming a parent. For example, that projectile vomit can go that far; that with both arms full of children, you can still open milk cartons with your teeth; and that you will someday cheat at Chutes & Ladders — in order to lose — just to end the torture.

"Bake-off Bub!" detailed the cake-baking disaster that occurred when my 11-year-old daughter and her friend entered a bake-off competition, mistakenly believing that I — a woman famous for serving mac & cheese out of a box — could help them win.

"Better Luck Next Yuletide" related how, after 17 tries at taking a family holiday photo, we settled for the only one in which nobody's head was cut off and no one had a finger up her nose.

"Take a Hike — But Don't Invite Me" told of my ill-considered remark to my husband that hiking Mt. Washington someday might be fun. ("Someday," in this case, had meant "perhaps with your next wife.") The 8- and 12-year-olds had no problem with the hike; I, however, slipped in a stream bed, soaking my pants and giving new meaning to my role in "holding up the rear."

"How I Learned to Cook in the Outback" confessed how, between driving one child from piano lessons to gymnastics and taking the other from softball practice to a basketball banquet, I once put together a salad while in line at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru.

"And I Say to Myself, What a Wireless World" told of my children's talent for calling my cell phone at inappropriate moments like during church services, the playing of the national anthem, or when I'm trying on bathing suits at the Gap. (After whispering, "Mommy can't talk right now because I have no clothes on," there was a pause before the 9-year-old asked, "Where did you say you were?")

"Prom Night II —The Horror Continues" detailed my education in the many requirements and lingo of modern prom, including tanning, limos, and "mani-pedis" — a term that always sounded like it could lead to doing hard time in the big house.

"Guess Who Came to Dinner?" told of our older child's first visit home from college, during which she was cheerful, chatted with her parents and raced upstairs to do laundry. I was forced to approach her with a fireplace iron, demanding, "Who are you, and what have you done with my daughter?"

Over the years, people have asked how my family felt about being the subjects of my writing. Though, as an adolescent, my older daughter occasionally questioned the accuracy of certain stories, claiming she "did not swerve the car to avoid a fuzzy caterpillar!" (she did), and the younger one once requested, in embarrassment, "Could you please not write about carving our Halloween pumpkins on Christmas Eve?" they were, in general, amazingly good sports. And my husband has been positively heroic, not to mention my biggest promoter.

Like my kids, I sometimes have trouble letting go of things, and writing these columns has been no exception. However, now that my children are grown, I'm looking forward to exploring some different kinds of writing.

In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who over the years has read my column and allowed me to share my stories with you. I especially thank those who emailed, called, or approached me in the supermarket to say that you could relate.

And extra thanks to those who saw me in the supermarket and ignored the fact that I was sneaking my child grapes.

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Nancy Crochiere works as an editor for a college textbook publisher and, in her spare time, tries to write humorously about modern family life. You can email her in care of ndn@newburyportnews.com.