Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Way It Looks Like One Thing But Is Something Else Entirely

We used to live near an old cemetery when Mo was little. I guess it would have been called a grave yard. It was so old that the letters on the headstones had worn away. It wasn't meticulous or sterile or manicured the way some cemeteries are. It was comfortable. You could sit there and read a book if you felt like it and no one would think you were some sort of odd freak who would cast a spell on you if you caught her eye. Years after we lived there, I came back to it once late at night with a boyfriend and we lay between two tombs and kissed and laughed at how it might look if someone walked by and saw our feet sticking out.

When I had Mo I looked like a teenager. Occasionally people would treat me like I was her nanny, or worse, give me a "oh, poor thing" shake of the head to which I would give a "fuck off" glare of my own (not realizing that's exactly the sort of thing a teenager would do). I didn't think of it as a compliment (I look young!); I thought of it as an affirmation of my inability to be a parent/adult (not realizing that the worst parents are probably the very ones who say "I know what I'm doing").

I remember Mo's nursery school was on the other side of the cemetery and it was always nice to walk through it in the afternoon. Quite often I was late and I'd have to run through to get to the school before they charged an extra fee. When I got there Mo would be sitting on a bench, wearing her backpack, swinging her legs.

"Morgan, your babysitter is here!" Mrs. Noyes said without raising her voice. She was the lady behind the desk at the end of the day. She never stood up or even looked above her bifocals when you came in but she was ready to mark you down for an extra $20 if you were even 30 seconds after 5. She was always mean and agitated.

"What's agitated?" Mo asked back in the graveyard.

"It's like this," I picked her up under her arms and shook her like a jackhammer and said, "Ahhhhhhhhh".

"Ahhhhhhhh", she said back, her voice shaking. "That's fun".

"It's not fun if you have to sit still behind a desk and not move an inch while that's happening. It makes you frown. Here, try." I sat her down on a tomb and squeezed her head still, I pulled her mouth down into a frown but it kept popping back up. I could see her tiny teeth. "No smiling, Mrs. Noyes, only frowning"

"Only frowning", she said. We sat on the tomb frowning.

"I just thought of something," I said, and we both snapped out of it. "Mrs. Noyes spells her name No, then yes. It's no, then yes. No... then yes! No wonder she has a problem".

"She's no" Morgan frowned, "Then yes", she smiled and raised her little eyebrows.

No, then yes, we said and walked through the cemetery back home.

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