A few months or so ago there was a guest caller on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me. She was a mom. I know this because when asked what she did for a living she listed her job as a mom first, then mentioned her other full-time job which I don’t remember because she listed it second. I liked the way it sounded and made note to do the same going forward, although I have yet to practice this as I rarely engage in conversations with new people...or any adults for that matter. But, it’s definitely on the conversational itinerary for future interactions. What I also remember about this mom caller is that she got an answer to one of the game show’s questions wrong. I don’t recall the actual question, but I remember her perfectly timed response when she found out that her answer was incorrect: ‘Well, that’s not my fault’. I chuckled, but Peter Sagal only paused, then moved on to the next question-for despite his wit, mom humor appears to be lost on him. I don’t know why I’m being such a copycat of this random NPR guest, but I’ve since taken to using the 'not my fault' mantra right along with my 8-year olds. And I don't mean it with a deeper context of carrying burdens beyond the cross kind of not my fault. I've just found it's much more entertaining (to myself) to parent with sarcasm. Burn dinner: It’s not my fault. Late for everything: It’s not my fault. Children grow up to be entitled with no awareness of accountability: I may have to own a little bit of that one. So, I guess I’ll have to stop and go back to plain old mom’ing-which is fine…I’m not that funny anyways.
Before I completely abandon the blame casting, I will quickly mention that it’s not my fault that Poppy caught on fire this Christmas. She's totally fine. It's just unfortunate that we have to remember this season by such an event. If she hadn’t caught on fire, I might otherwise have remembered this Christmas as the one where Harlyn was born and my heart was more filled with joy than I ever imagined possible. And if not that, then I might have marked it as the Christmas that I started wearing the same shade of pink lipstick that my Grandma George had always worn. Milestones. Instead, we have to remember it as the Christmas that Poppy caught on fire, which as I mentioned wasn’t my fault. I do accept partial responsibility which Chad is more than willing to share; reminding me as we walked out of the warm church into the night’s icy parking lot that ‘We really need to be more careful with her’. To which I reminded him that I am careful with her and would never give a two-year old fire thankyouverymuch. But, I was happy to take some of the fault as Chad felt very horrible about the whole thing and also had noticed my new lipstick earlier, placing him in my good graces. I should have intervened. Watching an adult hand over a burning candle to a two-year old…any other mother would have stepped in. But, I felt there was a real spiritual moment going on between a father and daughter: the congregation singing Silent Night, lighting their candles one by one, the overhead lights flickering off and being replaced with the soft glow of candlelight, their eyes fixed on each other. The traditions of my Christmases being etched into their memories. So, I refrained.
Perhaps what I interpreted as a spiritual moment was really just Chad’s love of fire as I am apt to read a little too deeply into things. Either way, Poppy held out her trusting little hand and accepted the candle from her dad only to immediately snatch it back in a reflexive action. Very unfortunately though, the candle was still in her hand and before I could react, her golden hair caught on fire in a quick burst of flame, which Chad denies ever happened and I would believe him if it weren’t for the unforgettable smell of burning hair that accompanied the spark. I grabbed Poppy, rocking her tightly in my arms as her howls echoed through the church, drowning out the chorus of Silent Night. Thankfully, her crying appeared to be mostly out of fear as there was just a small wax burn near the corner of her left eye which I kissed, leaving a bright pink lipstick mark on her face, just like Grandma’s. Except that Grandma never actually had to kiss a burn on my face because my parents never gave me candles to play with. Not that I’m blaming anyone.