(finding parenthood painfully funny)
Nothing makes time stand still more than when you’re stuck watching your children go down the same slide for the 27th time. It’s like watching paint dry, while simultaneously waiting for water to boil. To survive the psychological torture of the park—you know, the place where no matter how hard you push your mistakes away from you, they come swinging back to kick you in the face with a pair of sand-filled Crocs—I typically arrive by the middle of my day, 9:00 a.m. Right when the dew on the slides can penetrate down to the Underoos. I generally like to assess the scene for a cool-looking parent with whom I can converse so as to properly ignore my children.
Enter Amanda. Playground Left. Sunlight bouncing off her hand-combed ponytail. Fashion-forward sweatpants. Easily the coolest mom at the park. I convince my littlest to eat the sand near her kids so I can make my move. Amanda is super-sweet. She tells me she makes killer organic, vegan, gluten-free apple-spinach muffins, and that she talks to dead people.
Um … okay. So she’s your typical Whole Foods mom, as played by Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost. I’m not a supernatural fanatic. I don’t watch Ghost Hunters and I don’t know the name of the latest Jersey ghost whisperer. But I’ve always been curious.
I’ve only lost one person, my grandfather. Poppa always addressed me as “My Angel” and snuck me warm orange gumdrops from his pocket when Grandma wasn’t looking. He was pretty awesome. (Except for that one time I visited him in the hospital shortly before he died. He mistook me for a hot nurse and tried picking up on me.)
If you met my Poppa, he would tell you two things about me. One, when I was four years old I begged him to take me to the mall to get my ears pierced. Since my mother would not allow ear piercing, he took me to the mall and bought me clip-on earrings. I screamed for the entire three-hour outing, refusing to accept the second-rate gift. The unstoppable fit-throwing caused him to forget where we parked, and he had to drag a defiantly limp, bawling child up and down 52 aisles of parked cars in the 107-degree, humid heat of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He might have called me a few names that day other than his angel.
The second thing he’d tell you about me is that I loved egg rolls. Chinese food was my reward for straight As. We had family dinners every Sunday night for years, and when it was my turn to be celebrated, Poppa ordered me a giant, crispy egg roll that would burst with steam on the first bite. He’d pinch my cheek, wipe off the grease dribble from my chin, and wink at me. (Huh, maybe he was hitting on me back then …)
Poppa passed away a few years before my first child was born. I was heartbroken they never met.
One night, when my daughter was a baby, I was rocking her to sleep in our ritualistic shake down. The glow from her pink night-light danced in her eyes. Kissing her chubby cheeks and neck was my favorite nightly pastime. But that night she kept looking away from me and reaching for the center of the room, grabbing at the air behind her and giggling wildly.
“What are you laughing at?” I nervously chuckled. I fought for her attention so I could get more sloppy kisses. She continued to reach for nothing in the middle of the room, lurching out of my lap.
“Poppa passed away a few years before my first child was born. I was heartbroken they never met.”
“What? Is something there?” I joked, easing the fear creeping into the back of my brain. Suddenly the pink night-light flickered. So did my heart. I’d heard spirits can communicate through lights. I squinted into the shadows of the room. I saw nothing. “Hello?” I squeaked. My daughter started cooing loudly and bouncing frantically, incessantly reaching for the darkness. The light flickered again. So I did what every mother would do: I plopped my baby in her crib and bolted from the room. “Night, night!”
For the next few years my daughter had many night-time “play dates.” They became less and less frequent as she grew. But when my son was born, I would hear him giggling through the baby monitor on several evenings. Either I have really happy children who laugh themselves to sleep, or Poppa likes to tell them stories about earrings and egg rolls.
Fast-forward. I made an appointment with my new BFF medium, Amanda. I didn’t necessarily need to speak to any spirits, but, as I said before, I was curious, curious as to who had been visiting my children, if it had been Poppa as I’d suspected. Amanda summoned the spirits and began speaking. “Ear. Did someone like to tug on your ear? Massage your ear?”
Is it …?
Amanda barked, “Chinese food! Sunday night dinners!”
Poppa. I knew it! Goosebumps.
“He is with someone else,” she continued. “Am I allowed to talk about anything that has happened in your life, Nicole?”
“You have a baby spirit that follows you. Did you lose a baby?” My throat clenched. Hardly audible, “Yes.”
“She likes to visit and play with your children at night. Make them laugh.”
I felt dizzy. Disoriented. Tears sprang to my eyes.
“Most of all she loves watching you play with your children. That makes her the happiest.” I struggled to take a deep breath. I still feel so sad about that loss.
“She says not to feel sad.”
I nodded. I cried. “Thank you.”
A little reminder, I thought to myself as I left Amanda’s, a bit weak in the knees, to take pleasure in the slides and swings. I only have a few more years of picking playground sand from my nose, and I should enjoy them. One day, soon, my kids won’t swing back to me for another push; they’ll be soaring on their own.
When I got home that evening I ransacked my closet. Time for some spring cleaning of the skeletons. I presented my daughter with a gift before bedtime. Sitting next to the familiar pink night-light, she opened the old velvet jewelry box. A huge smile appeared across her face. The clip-on earrings glimmered in the light as it flickered wildly, bouncing our silhouettes across the wall. I squinted into the shadows in the middle of the room. “Goodnight, my angel.” The flickering light stopped. And I haven’t seen it since.
For information on Amanda Daniels:
For more information on Nicole Blaine or to see her perform stand-up: www.NicoleBlaine.com