Monday, March 30, 2015

The one where I hope my posts aren't ever read post-mortem

When they’re little, you watch them with a hawk’s eye, ready to swoop in and save them from harm. As they age, you stand a little way back, hoping they make their own way, and feeling your spirit crushed when they hang back or get shoved aside – metaphorically or literally – by others. But you hang back. Because you’re supposed to hang back. If you don’t hang back, you’re one of THOSE parents. You know, the helicopter ones, the ones who weep for 30 minutes before the long-delayed bus finally transports your precious butterfly off to outdoor camp.

You lay in bed, sleepless, while they’re gone, but you feign sleep for those left behind and for the spouse who already knows you’re one of those ever-fretting mothers. [As an aside, that spouse has also feigned not knowing that I am, too, am feigning. He does rock the nation. I never say it enough, but he does.]

You age. They age, too, far too quickly for your tastes, but soon enough you fall asleep – for real – when they’re working until late or out with friends. And you trust when you awaken that they’ll be there. And every single morning, there they are.

But they grow ever older. (Not to say that you don’t, too, but you don’t care anymore that you’re ancient.) And you send them off to make their own way. And they’re smart kids. They’re good kids. But, whatever their birth certificate might say, they’re still kids.

A 19-year-old was killed this weekend. He was from our town. He went to a college nearby. He was an athlete. He had a good head on his shoulders. And for spring break, he went down south to party with friends. And he’s dead. Now, he’s dead.

I’ll still send Eldest off to college next year. And Daughter a year later. And Youngest just a scant few years after that. And I’ll hope that what befalls others won’t befall them.

And I’ll wish that there was some pixie dust I could sprinkle on them to make sure I don’t live a nightmare that never ends.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Before I Forget

It wasn't that long ago that Daughter and I first went to Camporee. No one in her troop wanted to go, so it was just the two of us, joining 150+ Girl Scouts from our town for a weekend at camp. You arrive Friday evening, you join with the other older girls who get to stay both nights, and you have a quaint evening program before you head off to sit around one of four or five big campfires, making s'mores and singing Girl Scout songs and meeting other Scouts (and their accompanying adults).

She was in 4th grade that first time, so she partnered up with another troop and did the workshops. Bead making! Butter making! Lanyards! Acting! The adults suckered into attending with their troops -- or, in my case, with the lone Scout from a troop -- chit-chattered their way through prepping meals, cleaning up after meals, overseeing the laying of campfires and playing the fascist house mother role.

Since it was just Girlie and me the first year, we got a room to ourselves and ultimately ended up sleeping in one twin bedframe with two mattresses on top, shivering our way through a freakishly cold couple of nights.

She grew older, she joined another troop -- one with muckety-muck adults who actually ran the whole shebang -- and she started running workshops.

I came each year, the only other adult in the troop willing to spend the weekend overseeing tweens, then pre-teens and, finally, full-blown teenagers on the cusp of adulthood.

My secret? It's an honor for me to be asked back each year, even the past two years when Daughter has stopped being a member of the troop and joins only at the weekend Camporee and the week-long summer day camp nearby.

I hate people. I hate kids. I am filled with disdain at the lazy mothers who sit and only watch until coerced into stepping in to -- for god's sake -- pick up a broom, control your girls, and shut the hell up when a leader is speaking.

But I love the women I see each and every year who make the weekend joyful for not only their own daughters or the girls in their troops but all the girls attending every year.

I don't have any real duties anymore. I am a Jill-of-all-trades, helping at archery or finding the backpack with the teddy bear and the red flashlight or creating a coffee table for fellow sleep- and patience-deprived women stumbling into the dining room for yet another meal.

I have showered, now. I've put on my ratty sweatpants and sleep shirt and have no intention of putting anything else on today. I am home. I am tired. I have bruises from making tables collapse and stacking chairs four-high onto said-collapsed tables and who-knows-what.

I am happy. And, before I forget, I am happy that I have this dancing Daughter who has unlimited patience with little girls who look at her as if she is a rock star. And I am happy that I get to smile when strangers come up to me and tell her how special she is.

As if I'd ever forget that.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Magnitude of Three

We've lived in this house at least three times longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life. I puzzle over whether we've done a grave disservice to the three kids we have, subjecting them to living their entire K-12 school years with the same people, the same parents, the same fucked-up school district.

There is a house next door. (Ain't there always a house next door? Cue horror movie music.) When we moved in, it was rented out to the most drugged-out, oft-arrested woman, Susan, and her high school son. (Yeah, I took photos of one of the times she was arrested.) When repeated calls to the police went unanswered, I took to calling the landlord at 2 a.m. so she, too, could share the joys of living next to her tenant. When Susan skipped town owing four months' rent, I thought it was a reasonable penalty for the landlord.

Circumstances being circumstances, the family of one of Eldest's best friends in kindergarten bought the house and moved next door. The handyman father built steps between our two yards so the kids could come and go. A ready-made commune, really. Until they pined for a home in the country and sold at the height of the market to another family.

Nice folks, the new ones. Husband hailing from El Salvador, wife of German-Mexican heritage, and two boys only slightly older than my own brood. Good folks. Good neighbors. And then, you know, divorce rears its ugly head amid a crippling recession. They leave.

And the childless spy and his equally childless wife scoop up a short sale and move in. Awkwardness of a grand scale. They are takers but not givers, until they finally move and rent the house out. When they move, they give us all of their opened-but-not-all-used condiments. What. The. Fuck. Right?

But the renters? They are delicious! A British couple with a girl nearly 3 years old. And we adore them. And they are the best. And, oh, can't they live next door forever?


They move out at the end of April, and a friendship the entire family adores may or may not endure as they move miles from us. Will it go the way of the ones who lived there two owners before -- who we were so very close to and haven't seen in years and likely couldn't pick out of a line-up (which isn't to say they're likely to be in a line-up but you know what I mean)?

I don't want to know. But I want to have faith. And I also want to know how I ended up always being left behind when I lived the first two-thirds of my life being the one leaving.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My boys...and my past...and I can't think of a title

Eldest is done with high school every day by 12:30. On Wednesdays, Youngest gets out a tad after 1 p.m. So Wednesday is their day of confluence. Youngest annoys the bejesus out of Eldest. He has for years upon years. Because, each of them, is who he is.

Today, when Eldest said he was going to go grab a burger and maybe Youngest would want to go with him, a memory started tap-tap-tapping me.

I am four years younger than my oldest brother, the protector of his two youngest siblings. He is the one I would run to, screaming for him to save me from my older brother. And he would step in. Because he was the oldest child, the one the parents lean on to always -- always -- do the right thing. And so he did.

As I begin to formulate the post, my two boys have arrived home, now, and Youngest is talking Eldest's ear off. Eldest brings me my receipt, and I say, "Did he behave?" "Oh, yeah," he says. "We played a trivia game on our way home."

I have nothing to do with my oldest brother now. I haven't for years upon years. It's the culmination of a colossal shift in his belief system. Not as bad as being a member of Scientology, but close enough. Je-cough-cough-hova. Cough cough. Honestly? It might as well be ISIS. [Fuck you, it might as well be.]

I won't be around when they reach the true ages of maturity. I will neither know nor care what becomes of their relationship. In this moment, I am beyond satisfied that my boys are my boys, and that they will make their way. Which isn't to say that I don't hear the niggling of long-ago memories and hope that they make their own way without losing the way of the other.

Monday, March 9, 2015

When the Restricted List Isn't Enough

I unfriended someone on FB. I actually know the person in real life. And, no, it's not one of the idiots from high school who, having slept around and gotten ass-falling drunk and stoned out of their gourds, turned into conservative asshats who oppose birth control and abortion and gay marriage and what-have-you. (I unfriended those people after the last presidential election.)

This is someone I actually know in the present time. Or maybe it's someone I thought I knew. Because I'm very picky about FBriending. I ponder a request. I wonder if it's someone that, if offended, will own up to being offended. That's fine. I offend my husband with my liberal leanings all the time. And I still crawl into bed each night, next to him, blissful that, next to me, is someone that I am blessed to have.

So, yeah, I unfriended someone.

And it felt really good.

And I am more than happy to have awkward encounters in the future because, yeah, we're not FBriends or friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Snapping that Rubber Band

An old-fashioned Texan was brought in by corporate to get a handle on expenses at the newspaper and act as a spy on the publisher and his presumed successor. I hated that guy. With a passion. One thing I hated about him was that he was such a straight-laced man who looked askance at anyone who cursed, particularly women. (What the fuck, right? Asshat.) I could go on and on about encounters that I had with him, but suffice it to say that I had to dial it back a bit.

I took to wearing a rubber band on my wrist, which I would snap when I felt the urge to curse. (And snap twice when the curses inevitably slipped out.) It was actually a great relief -- for a bit at least -- when the third publisher came in after the first one and then the presumed were each given the heave-ho. He cursed up a storm in that first meeting executives had with him. At the end of his spiel about what his intentions were, he asked if there was anything anyone had to say. "I just want to say how fuckin' happy I am to have you here," I said, taking utter glee in knowing that asshat would soon be shown the door.

Apropos of that intro, I am at a point where I am in need of a rubber band again. Not for cursing. As if. Even my Argentinian colleague and close friend has stopped cringing whenever I spew. That's a testament to how I can wear a soul down.

No, I need to keep snapping that rubber band to stop me from giving unsolicited advice to people whom I think really need not only a good sprinkling of advice, but a good shaking as well. It is not my place. Also? There's a degree of selfishness in my desire to want to say something.

So, instead, I'll just use that band. Snap!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Party House

Mine was consistently one in high school, particularly after it was just my mom and me for my final two years. I never threw a big bash, but friends could definitely come over and get wasted. More often than not, however, we went out to bigger parties, the cast parties after each show held at huge homes with parents utterly nonchalant about a bunch of high school kids getting hammered and then eventually driving away in that same hammered state.

Way back then, in the fine state of Virginia, you could buy beer and the absolutely-horrid-in-hindsight Malt Duck at 18. Go over to D.C. or Maryland, and you could also buy wine. Take the one-hour drive on backroads to West Virginia, and you could get hard liquor. In fact, my mom eventually started buying rum for me, saving me the trek. Of course, I didn't turn 18 until just before heading off to college, so I relied on my older friends to buy.

My freshman year of high school, there was an incident with six drunk kids getting into a car wreck. All lived with no long-lasting injuries. A year or two after I graduated, a guy about my age was walking along the street, wasted, when he was plowed into and killed.

None of that had any effect on me or other high school -- and then college -- kids. There's no reason I am alive today. I should have killed myself and my carload of friends at any given time. But we all lived. Matured. Had kids of our own. Raised them through Nancy Reagan's "Just Say 'No'" campaign and through the annual Red Ribbon Week festivities and Safe and Sober Graduation Night parties.

In November 2005, there was a drunk driving accident late at night that killed two of the four teens in the car. This happened not very far from where I live. Five years later, some kids from the high school skipped school at about 11 a.m. and the driver, drunk, had a wreck and one of the boys was killed.

I'm not sure when the Social Host ordinance was passed in our city, but it's been in place for a few years, and now the adults at a party where underage drinking is happening get cited. Subscribing to the crime alerts for the town, we now get notices when someone is busted.

For several years, neighbors of a party house have complained about what's been happening at the house. Kids partying while parents turn a blind eye. Maybe sometimes the parents are home. Maybe not.

In relaying the news to the kids yesterday that someone they know, newly 18, just got cited the other day, the older ones asked if I was glad they didn't drink. Certainly I'm glad they don't drink and drive or smoke dope and drive. And I sure as shit wouldn't let them host a party at my house. And I wouldn't want them to ever get into a car with an impaired friend driving. And, yeah, all that.

But I worry what college and beyond holds for them. Because I saw firsthand how many people went crazy with freedom when they first got to college. And we all read about the college freshmen who overdo it and die.

I am glad my kids don't party. But I do wish they'd at least feel the effects of alcohol in the safety of their home before they go on their way.


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