Dear Lily June,
The expression “to put lipstick on a pig” is one meant to indicate that someone’s trying to trick or cheat you by taking one thing and dolling it up until it looks like another. But, as they (the purveyors of fine cliche everywhere) also say, you can’t “polish a turd.” Why am I teaching you these expressions now? Because your parents almost purchased a Pig, and worse, might have gotten stuck investing in a lifetime supply of turd polish.
We lost the house, Lily. The truth was that the Pig needed $15,000 worth of foundation repairs. The Pig had had water leaking into its crawlspace for years that remained untended to, soaking into the stones and eventually cracking the corner of the house right off, shifting the masonry blocks and making the center of the whole home’s floor get soggy like a piece of wet white bread. One thing your parents have already learned as aspiring homeowners: Always take care of your gutters and downspouts!
The Pig’s owners had done what they could to hide it: They re-caulked a window and painted over the patches to hide how the walls had shifted around its frame. They replaced the soffit and re-mortared the brick. They made it look like the home was standing where it had always stood. In other words, they applied a generous coat of lipstick to their Pig, and put it on the market. And your parents, dreaming of giving you a home to form the foundation of your life, fell for the Pig owners’ ruse and were about to spend all the bacon we bring home on a turd that could never shine like silver.
Luckily, the foundation inspector wasn’t so easily fooled, and all told, across the inspections, we lost about $500 (at least once we get our earnest money back) to learn a $15,000 lesson. We know, going forward, how to better look beyond the seemingly luscious lips to spot the snout underneath.
Of course, that doesn’t stop our hearts from breaking now, especially after we’d already wallpapered our imaginations in dreams of this particular house. But there’s something to Langston Hughes’ pondering about where a deferred dream goes. He posits, at the end of the poem,
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I think of that house’s floor, Lily, that lost the opportunity to hold up your pitter-pattering feet, and I know that the floorboards sadly sag a fraction of a millimeter more for it. I think of the fireworks we may see this weekend and imagine that the splintering sparks might hold their own metaphor: Sure, one dream has to burst, but in doing so, its fire lights the darkness, illuminating other possibilities.
Or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into feeling more positive than I do, less burned out on the whole process, less bitter that we might have been hoodwinked, less hurt that the system (from the realtor to the lender) is built to work against folks like your dad and I who are the (hard-)working poor, who were sold a dream of what education would do for us, and woke to a reality of back-breaking debt.
It’s times like these that call for a hardcore perspective shift. It’s times like these to tuck the future up into a shelf on the closet, Lily, and deal with the present you’ve been keeping in a drawer. It’s time, my darling daughter, for an updated Happy List because focusing on what brings you joy, right here, right now, reminds me that the world can be a simpler and more forgiving place than I tend to make it. We did a list when you were four months old. We did it again when you were ninth months old. Now, at thirteen months, I think we’re overdue for yet another. So it goes…
The Top Ten Things that (Currently) Make You, Lily June (at Thirteen Months Old), Happiest:
In your last Happy List, you had just started to stand. Now, Lily, you’re a full-blown toddling toddler. Except, it would be more accurate to call you a “shambler.” To navigate your world, you throw both arms out and drag your legs, toes down sometimes, like a zombie dazed for brains (if by “brains” you mean “tubes of Go-Gurt”).
2) Greeting the Morning in Song
For Christmas, your Grandpa Eddie got you a Super-yard, an extended wall of baby gates all connected into each other that can be made into a circular pen. Once you outgrew it, we ran it the length of our entire living room wall, effectively creating a kind of adorable toddler prison. As a stop-gap measure for the other side of the room, we’ve crammed heavy boxes topped with car seats between furniture.
We’ve had to be creative as jailers, because you’ve found a way to scale over, scamper around, squeeze into, and chew through almost every defense we put up. I swear I once saw you flatten like a cat and limbo under a recliner. I can only imagine that once you’ve gotten the hang of language, you will turn to us like former U.S. President Ronald Reagan (figuratively) turned to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and you will demand that we “tear down this wall.”
4) Abusing Your Parents
In all fairness, all the weird attacks on us (including but not limited to hair pulling, nipple-pinching(?!), face-slapping, fingernail-scraping, scaling us like human ladders, spinning around like a sun-dial and accidentally kicking us when you nap while we’re holding you, etc.) seem entirely incidental to your development, and not like intentionally malicious cruelty.
In fact, when, after you’ve accidentally hit me hard in the face, and I correct you by grabbing your chubby hand and rubbing it over my cheek softly saying, “Gentle…gentle,” you often bury your shy smile into my shoulder and attempt to give me what feels like a conciliatory hug, exactly like the gif seen here.
5) Eating G0-Gurt
You’ve broken with tradition (only eating foods that end in -eez, like peas, cheese, Jell-o cut into the shape of an isosceles, etc.) and have opened your heart to America’s favorite mobile dairy dessert, Go-Gurt. If this, too, creates its own trend, I can only imagine that the Walking Taco is next in line.
6) Splashing in the Tub
You went from being afraid of grass and the bathtub to thrashing around across the one and splashing around in the other. Add this to the ongoing list of things I am SO GLAD your Daddy taught you. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that the neighbors who live below us in our apartment complex are SO GLAD, too.
7) Communicating through Your Diaper
We should have guessed that the house we were trying to purchase had major problems when every single time we visited there for another inspection/estimate, you dropped a dookie in your diaper. Like some cross-breed of Carrie and Cassandra, you were trying to use your psychic abilities to doom-cry through your dumper. But your curse is that your diaper is never to be believed.
I think I speak for your dad as well when I say we can rarely believe what you’ve done in there.
In the meantime, though, you’ve learned a new adorable habit, too. When your dad or I ask you, “Did you poop?,” you now pull up your shirt and tug at your pants in order to give us a better view of your diaper. It is absolutely fantastic, right down the poo-eating grin you sport in pride when we laugh at your efforts to direct us.
8) “Helping” with Laundry
In that same vein of helpfulness, it can’t go unnoticed that you’ve recently tried to get in on the laundry-action we have going at home. You jump into the freshly dried basket o’ clothes and repeatedly fling items–socks, burp clothes, pj’s, towels (you name it, you chuck it)–around the room.
If it didn’t make you so happy, I might have to insist that you find a pile of leaves to leap through instead. But considering that we don’t have a yard or a tree, and it’s not Autumn, and you don’t speak competent English yet…
9) Driving Your Car
You may recall that your first birthday brought you your first set of wheels, a Cozy Coupe. Though I’m not one to toot my own horn (and you’ve only just figured out how to toot yours), I’m really proud of this purchase, given how much time you spending climbing into it and moaning when it’s not being pushed.
Technically, Lily, in the state of Indiana, you’re not supposed to drive until you turn sixteen. And yet, not only did I purchase you a vehicle, but I also allow you, under the clandestine cover of summer sunshine, to drive it all throughout our apartment complex’s parking lot. I don’t know how we get away with it, but I’ll be reminding you of this when you’ve hit puberty, and you find yourself wanting some way to escape.
We’ll keep this puppy in the garage for you (if we ever get a garage), and I’m willing to bet you’ll look just as cute (if not more so!) climbing into it at 16 years of age as you did at 12-13 months.
10) Giving Yourself a Round of Applause
Speaking of tooting horns, you’ve developed your own distinct pride-smile that I find intoxicating. While your dad and I compliment you with “Good job, Lily!,” you’ve learned to grin AND clap for yourself, not needing anyone else’s external validation or praise. My darling dear, in all seriousness, I can’t tell you how happy it would make ME if you keep this quality forever.
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but being able to celebrate yourself is a skill that will pull you through hard times, like when you’re kicking yourself for picking a home with a $15,000 foundation repair. I have to remind myself that I had the foresight to call in a foundation expert–just in case–and I ended up saving us a lot more money and heartache in the long run.
I’m not ready to clap for me quite yet, Lily, but I am so proud of you for being proud of you, and it definitely makes me want to give you the standing ovation you deserve just for being every ounce of who you already are, apartment-dweller and all.
- Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=137230
- By Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/pt/zumbi-mortos-vivos-monstro-156055/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49383485
- By Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23330856
- By Aleksandr Zykov from Russia – Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47281613