Like 'stay-at-home mom' or 'Britney Spears', suburbia has its fans, satirists, detractors. Until 2005, I was smugly ensconced in the third category, a self-styled city slicker who wore black garb, told cabbies the best route to get across town, exchanged intimacies with people riding elevators. Typical New Yorker. Suburbia to me -- a psychologically-scarred Brooklyn-born kid whose family never 'made it' to Long Island -- was an aseptic construct where women over 40 lost their edge and their calf muscles because they spent their days driving to the strip mall and schlepping kids to soccer practice.
"That will never be me," I'd swear to my husband driving over the George Washington Bridge after visiting friends who lived in cavernous colonials with marbled foyers and Labrador retrievers. “Never!”
My lifelong scorn for suburbia enabled me to put up with every city-related inconvenience or absurdity. Circling like a hungry buzzard for a parking spot or keeping windows shut on hot summer nights to drown out whining sirens or the occasional gunshot. Even when I was tripping over my toddler's loot, I believed IKEA was the solution to our ever-shrinking 700-square-foot apartment.
We could not afford a bigger apartment in a steroidal real estate market but I would not contemplate suburbia.
I was mentally and physically asphyxiated by my long-held beliefs that the sticks were filled with people who stopped going to independent films and who ate dinner before 7. Sure, I was yearning for room and trees and a driveway but my childhood demons were ninjas. It all started the day my family piled into the yellow Cadillac to see the white house for sale in Long Island. At ten, this was the most glamorous house I'd ever stepped inside of - it was nothing like the cramped ones in Brooklyn. My mother wanted this house and this life more than anything in the world. My father didn't. He thought a Cadillac in his driveway and a detached house in Canarsie was good enough. My mother's brooding and envy for greener pastures turned into scorn for all-things-suburban. An emotionally resourceful woman, she came up with plan B: raise her daughters to worship Manhattan....
Traster eats these words as she leaves her beloved Manhattan and embraces her new, often absurd, life in an old farmhouse raising chickens and raising hell. In Burb Appeal: The Collection readers meet nutty neighbors, bumbling town officials, a plethora of domestic and wild animals and of course Tina Traster's family. The collection is based on Traster’s long-running New York Post column Burb Appeal.
The attendant in scrubs lifted the box from me and whisked him through wood doors with glass transoms. I rose on my toes to see what I could see through the glass. I couldn’t see him. I wanted to be there to comfort him. In that moment of pandemonium I thought about my dog Chelsea; how I had not been there at the end. How when it came time to play God and administer relief from suffering I lay in bed wailing, the way I imagine a soldier’s wife does when the man with the telegram leaves. I lay in bed that night writhing in a pain so searing I couldn’t see or breathe. I had kissed him good-bye and my husband lifted him into his arms and took him into the living room. There he met the doctor. I covered my ears because I didn’t want any last sound to remember. When my husband returned to the bedroom, he handed me a lock of his silky hair. That was 10 years ago. When I conjure it, or it catches up to me, it is five minutes ago and I am raw and unprotected from the shock of loss and finality.
“We’ve put your cat in oxygen,” the doctor told me when she came out of the room. My knees buckled and I dropped hard onto the metal chair, the television blaring overhead. “Oxygen,” I asked, obviously frightened. “We need to take a chest x-ray to see what’s going on. Can you sign here?”
“What’s wrong with him,” I cried.
“He’s wheezing. There’s some congestion in his lungs. I don’t see anything lodged in his throat. I think we should take an x-ray. I suspect it may be kitty asthma.”
I nodded. I signed the paper. I remembered that awful night when Chelsea was put in an oxygen tank. How the young night-shift attendant assured me he wasn’t dying. But he was. He had a rare cancerous tumor in his nose. He was gone in six weeks. He had been the only warmth I’d known in the final years of a cold marriage. He was the child I never had with my first husband. His death was the first death that mattered. I lost a piece of my heart the day the gravediggers lowered his little pine coffin into the hole of dirt on the hillside at Hartsdale Cemetery.
Uplifting collection of more than 80 short stories and poems celebrating the remarkable ability of animals to ease our physical and emotional pain while showing us love, compassion, and acceptance.
I always thought I’d be a great mother. The love I expressed for my animals reinforced the notion I had great capacity to nurture. At the airport waiting to leave Siberia I had our baby on my lap. Suddenly I heard a pop, then a mountainous ooze of putrid yellow diarrhea exploded from her diaper. I was horrified, unable to stand the smell of the stench. I thrust the baby into my husband’s hands. Calmly he changed her diaper and pulled out a clean snowsuit.
Terrified my first instinct was to push this baby away from me rather than come to her aid, I wondered how in the world I would be able to care for her.
Living Lessons is an inspirational collection of short stories and poems illustrating the enduring legacy of life’s most important lessons in courage, tolerance, optimism, love and support as it is passed to us by the amazing people who touch our lives.
Mamas and Papas
Mamas and Papas fully explores the dimensions of being a mother or father (or not being one)—the good, the bad, the sublime, and the truly horrific. In this multi-genre anthology we include short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and memoir. While we published valentines to the experience of being a parent, we also included pieces that explore the difficulty, contradictions, and frustrations of raising children as well as work that explores what it means to not have children or to acquire and parent them in other ways.