The Layoff Diaries: Down the rabbit-hole

caterpillar

I’m a lifelong skeptic, so I have great difficulty explaining why, on a fairly consistent basis, I stumble upon things in my reading life that address, in an uncanny way, something I’m experiencing right at that very moment.

For instance, last year, when my father-in-law had a handful of long stints in the hospital, and I was on my own with the girls one night because it looked like he might be facing his final hours, Lily randomly chose (for her reading practice) this Shel Silverstein poem from the collection, “Falling Up”:

Stork Story

You know the stork brings babies,
But did you also know
He comes and gets the older folks
When it’s their time to go?

Zooms right down and scoops them up,
Then flaps back out the door
And flies them to the factory where
They all were made before.

And there their skin is tightened up,
Their muscles all are toned,
Their wrinkles all are ironed out,
They’re given brand-new bones.

Ol’ bent backs are straightened up,
New teeth are added, too,
Tired hearts are all repaired
And made to work like new.

Their memories are all removed
And they’re shrunk down, and then
The stork flies them back down to earth
As newborn babes again.

I’ll confess, I struggled mightily to keep myself from sobbing as Lily read these words aloud. My father-in-law had long been suffering from a rare form of skin cancer, so these images of renewal and release and rebirth worked like a salve on an awful night.

And last night, after dinner (and a couple of games of the kids’ version of Apples to Apples), Lily and Neve made tunnels out of the couch cushions and pillows and asked me to read from the book Joe recently started with them: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

You can see where this is going.

The chapter where Joe had left off reading, “The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill,” tells what happens when the White Rabbit mistakes Alice for his housemaid; as she tries to carry out his wishes, she takes a swig from a bottle marked “DRINK ME” and grows so big that Rabbit’s house can barely contain her.

Alice, in this moment, thinks to herself, “I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole – and yet – and yet – it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me!”

You and me both, Alice.

For although I may not have bumped into you on my way down the rabbit-hole, we’re both clearly taking up semi-permanent residency in Wonderland, with all the delights and horrors contained therein.

Indeed, that’s what this strange, surreal post-layoff time ultimately boils down to. There’s sheer terror and worry underlying each day; but there’s also a palpable spark of hope for new adventures, too. You feel more alive than you do before, but at the expense of – well, being able to take care of expenses.

Unlike the days and years that came before, you just have absolutely no idea what’s coming up ahead (looking at you, trippy hookah-smoking caterpillar).

And depending on your mood on a given day, that notion will make you either jump up out of bed or burrow ever deeper under the down comforter.

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My Year in Culture: a brutally honest list by a parent of 2 kids under 4

Some movies I desperately wanted to see, but didn’t get to:
“The Descendants”
“Hugo”
“Young Adult”
“The Artist”
“War Horse”
“Moneyball”
“Super 8”

Movies I actually got to watch in a movie theater for work assignments (thank goodness this is actually part of my job sometimes):
“Scream 4”
“Win Win”
“Cedar Rapids”
“Ides of March”
“Answer This!”
“Clash of the Wolves” (a 1927 silent Rin Tin Tin film, which was screened as part of a book promotion event with Susan Orlean)

Movies I watched in a movie theater when NOT on the job:
“Rio”
“Mr. Popper’s Penguins”
“The Muppets” (Are you noticing a pattern here?)
“Crazy Stupid Love” (anniversary date night)
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2” (a weekday matinee watched during one of my and Joe’s patented “date days”)

Movies half-watched when rented On Demand, due to a child waking up or one or both of us falling asleep:
“Sex and the City 2”
“Bridesmaids”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1” (we finished watching the following night)
“The Hangover” (watched solo, in pieces, during my maternity leave)

Movies I can nearly quote by heart now:
“Tangled”
“Toy Story 2”
“The Sound of Music” (admittedly, this was true before Lily was around)

The Tony Awards made me anxious to see:
“The Book of Mormon,” of course
“The Normal Heart”
Norbert Leo Butz in ANYTHING (Sutton Foster, too, though I previously got to see her in “The Drowsy Chaperone”)
New York City again, in general

Live shows that led us downtown to the Fox Theatre
An awesome live taping of “A Prairie Home Companion”
Barney’s Birthday Bash

Books half-read – usually because I needed to start reading a different book for work:
“The Imperfectionists,” by Tom Rachman
“Here Comes Trouble,” by Michael Moore
“Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend,” by Susan Orlean
“Lastingness: The Art of Old Age,” by Nicholas Delbanco
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Of the books I managed to finish, my favorites were:
“Bossypants,” by Tina Fey
“Poser,” by Clair Dederer
“This is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper

Favorite shows during maternity leave:
Lots and lots of “West Wing” episodes on DVD
“Up All Night” – Duh. It’s like watching our life, but with sharper dialogue.
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”
“30 Rock”
“Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”
Occasional forays into “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” while eating lunch. The actor that plays Ridge on “Bold” is so painfully bad that I started to wonder if it was some kind of ironic performance art thing, a la James Franco on “General Hospital.”

Things I love about watching “Sesame Street” with Lily:
The opening sketch; dance-oriented bits; and songs like will.i.am’s “What I Am,” Hunter Foster’s “Lever Lover,” and one of my comedy faves, Ricky Gervais, singing Elmo a lullaby.

Things about “Sesame Street” that make me want to run into traffic:
Abby’s Flying Fairy School – the theme song alone nearly sets off my gag reflex these days. Twinkle think about that.
Elmo’s World – the segment that never, ever seems to end.

Hosts of my favorite “Muppet Show” episodes from the first 3 seasons, which Lily has been watching on DVD:
Harry Belafonte
Gilda Radnor
Roger Miller
Chloris Leachman

Things that keep stacking up on the DVR, but I never, ever seem to watch:
“The Office” – after Jim and Pam got married, it just felt over.
87 episodes of “House,” from various seasons, all slammed together.

Purchased CD by a band I love, yet I have yet to listen to:
Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light”

CD that, four months after I bought it, I listened to for the first time:
Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now”

Song I’ve heard a million times, and that continues to be played as if on a loop, because Lily likes to dance and sing to it, though it now makes Joe want to pierce his eardrum with an ice pick:
Michael Buble and the Puppini Sisters’ “Jingle Bells”

How the last moments of 2011 were spent:
For the first time this past year, we watched an On Demand movie in its entirety in one sitting – Woody Allen’s wonderful “Midnight in Paris” – while drinking champagne, and then we watched the ball drop, and finished up the night with the last scene from “When Harry Met Sally” (my request). About as nice of an evening as we could hope for, really.