Category Archives: Relationships

Artisanal Cough Drops

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Artisanal Cough Drops

Man Cold Log, Day 9 –

Provisions are starting to become scarce. An order for more cough drops has just been placed. Not that CVS generic stuff. No we need artisanal, organic, real honey infused magic drops.

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Where shall I fetch this mystical concoction you speak of? From the real honey made by bees whose names begin only with the letter “V” (he’s kidding, right).

What’s that, they’re located in Vermont? Sure I’ll drive to Vermont (I see we’re sticking with the V theme) so I can purchase cough drops that cost more than a line of cocaine at Studio 54 in 1985.

What’s that…I need to get them from Virgil’s Honey Farm where all the B’s are V’s. Sure that’s reasonable. I’ll shake hands with Van, the proprietor (pronounced Vahn, spelled using only hieroglyphics)…the guy with the beard and man bun who drives a vintage VW Bus (wth happened to Virgil?).

He bakes them out of his cellar. (Looking at website) Judging by the discarded pita chip bags and plume of smoke, that’s not the only thing he’s baking down there. I’ll go and be sure to fist bump Vera, Vicky, Victor and Vinny (worker bees, keep up) in the hopes they will regurgitate nectar into that sweet bee vomit sticky mess that you so crave.

How do bees make honey? (spoiler: It’s gross) Bee Vomit

Leaves for 2 days, returns with this…

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*Relax no bees were fist bumped in the writing of this completely (coughs into fist) fictional, not a spec of truth to it, post (maybe).

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“See” Day

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“See” Day

After Tallin, Estonia we had a sea day…in my case it was a “see” day because that evening was the last of the four Princess Production Shows – Born to Dance! For those that are just jumping onboard, this post is part of a series about an 11-day Baltic Sea Cruise I took in August. My niece, Peanut, and her boyfriend, Special K, are entertainers on the ship. Peanut sings and Special K dances, it’s kind of amazing to watch them. And yes those are nicknames because this is still an anonymous blog, kind of…I’m keeping the pen name.

This day started with a behind the scenes stage tour open to all of the passengers. Special K was assigned to work this event. Peanut joined me and mingled with the other guests and answered questions. The most frequently asked question was about their makeup – as in who does it? Spoiler – the cast does their own. Except when Special K is a Sorcerer, then Peanut does his eyeliner but it isn’t in her contract.

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It was great to hear from the production crew and go back stage. The backstage is like a gigantic theater version of Tetris. They have gotten very creative with storage out of necessity. It’s not as if they can move stuff to Joey’s garage if things get tight, they have the space they have and that’s it. After the tour I had a greater appreciation for the behind the scenes choreography that happens with each show. Unlike the dancers on the stage, their dance is supposed to be seamless and invisible to the audience – they do a phenomenal job.

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In-between stage tours, long walks with Peanut and smoothies, I was hustling back and forth to the cabin. Sadly my daughter was getting sick so I was fetching her tea and ham croissants every couple of hours. I purchased DayQuil at the rate of $1.25 pill which seemed steep for something you wouldn’t take at a Rave (yes, I’m old). My girl rested most of the day as I coated myself in hand sanitizer and blew air kisses her way.

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That night we went to watch Born to Dance, a nod to many of the most beloved Broadway Shows, the emphasis on dancing. Here’s a clip that Princess created for the show – Born to Dance

This was an incredible show and the entire cast really nailed it! I watched both the 8pm & 10pm shows as I didn’t want to miss a minute of them on stage. I’m grateful my own kids aren’t into theater because I would be the most outrageous stage mom on the planet.

Naturally I posted an obscene amount of photos when I got home. Most of Peanut and Special K’s family and friends won’t get to see these shows so they were happy to see the posts. The next day my daughter and I were scheduled to tour Berlin.

Stay tuned…

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Estone-a-what?

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Estone-a-what?

After two action packed days in St Petersburgh, Russia we were ready for a slower pace. My niece took my daughter and me into the Old Town section of Tallin. Her boyfriend had drill duty on the ship that morning and planned to meet us later. The walk from port to town was easy to navigate.

Tallin is the capital of Estonia. Estone-a-what? you ask….Estonia, a small country which borders the Baltic Sea with Russia on it’s right and Latvia on it’s left. It went by the German name of Reval from the 13th century through the first half of the 20th century. They’re pretty keen on changing city names in that part of the world (St Petersburgh to Leningrad – back to St Petersburgh). It was also known by it’s Russian name of Revel and a few other names. Such a pretty country, strategically located, many larger more powerful countries were eager to take over the place.

After being passed around like a party platter between the Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and plenty of guys named Vlad, Estonia gained her independence in 1918. Independence was short-lived as Estonia was occupied by the Red Army, then the German Nazis at various times during World War II. Despite the occupation, Tallinn was never razed or pillaged and as a result has kept her Old Town charm. Unlike many of the sites we visited in St Petersburgh Tallinn did not experience significant war repair renovations to it’s Old Town. Estonia reclaimed it’s independence in 1991 and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Enough with the history lesson, what did we do in Tallinn…we ate and shopped and it was divine. We started with mini pancakes dolloped with Nutella and a shocking amount of confectioners sugar. Peanut (niece) went with raspberry preserves and condensed milk (OMFG are you kidding me???!). I sampled both as was my duty as the eldest adult. I proclaimed Nutella the winner but the condensed milk did cause me to hesitate (actually it caused my heart to stop momentarily, defibrillator anyone?)IMG_9239

After stuffing our faces with mini pancakes we walked around a bit to fight the carb coma that threatened our ability to stay upright. We wandered around the open air market where we looked at knits, Christmas ornaments, hats and other odds and ends. We found a side alley which featured a couple of cat statues….ON THE CEILING (paw prints and all). I stopped to buy a postcard for Rob & Laura and entrusted the store clerk to mail it for me after I purchased the postage.

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Me after consuming mini pancakes.

Then we decided to pour some caffeine on the morning and headed to a favorite cafe. Peanut and Special K have a favorite cafe in every port along the Baltic Sea. I’ve yet to be disappointed in their selection. This place in particular had fantastic Chai Tea and something I really appreciate, a sense of humor as noted on the sign.

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After Special K (niece’s BF) joined us we headed to The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, because that’s what my kid is into (makes sign of the cross, says silent prayer). It was a predictable assortment of horrific devices used to inflict as much pain as possible in creative ways – explanations and diagrams were provided. Then it was time for lunch because who doesn’t get hungry after a morning of mini pancakes, cats on ceilings and torture devices.

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We walked a bit more after lunch to the scenic overlook and passed through one beautiful street after another. The weather cooperated fully with blue skies and a just right air temperature. Cleaner than an Epcot Country it seemed like something out of Shrek (inspiration for Duloc?). Thanks for the memories Estonia.

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Venus on the Half Shell

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Venus on the Half Shell

I had a wonderful outing with Rob and Laura today. When I arrived Rob presented me with some spoon bread that he made special just for me. When a 95 year old man puts himself through the effort to cook for you, it’s very humbling. Honestly anytime anyone cooks for me I’m thrilled, this was just extra sweet. Spoon bread tastes like cornbread and I marvel at how someone who eats this stuff on the regular hasn’t succumbed to heart disease. It’s filled with the artery clogging goodness of butter, milk with more butter for good measure, eggs and cornmeal. It’s tasty and lethal to mere mortals like myself. I took a few bites, proclaimed it delicious and took it home to savor later. Seriously this dish should come with a defibrillator.

As we were driving to the grocery store we had our usual carefree chatter. I was discussing travel because I’m leaving for a cruise this weekend. We got on the topic of paintings and I mentioned my all time favorite was Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Rob mentioned that his mother used to refer to that painting as Venus on the Half Shell and in that moment I felt such regret for having never met the woman. Now whenever the question of which person, living or deceased, would you like most to converse with, my answer will be Rob’s mother. Raise your hand if you agree….that’s a lot of hands in my imagination.

When we got to the grocery store, Laura asked Rob if he wanted his walker. He hesitated a moment and then agreed. I got the shopping cart and gave it to Laura as Rob went on his merry way. Here’s the interesting bit…Rob agreed to that for Laura’s sake. Laura has been struggling more with mobility and refuses to upgrade to a walker from her cane. The grocery cart is basically a socially acceptable walker in Laura’s mind. Rob figured this out in seconds and I pretended not to notice.

As I was getting them tucked back into their home after our outing, Rob took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me how much he appreciates me and that I am like a third daughter to him. I assured him the affection was mutual. Then two minutes later I threatened to brawl with Laura if she didn’t surrender the grocery bag that was half her body weight. She gave me a steely gaze as I took the bag from her.

Me: Let me get that Laura, it’s really heavy.

Laura: Grabs bag with determined look.

Me: Seriously, I will fight you on this.

Laura: Steely gaze.

Me: (Struggles to take bag, maintains eye contact and smile the entire time) Thank you.

 

I Do!

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I Do!

Today is a big day, it’s a family wedding on the hubs side. For those not in the know, my husband is first generation Italian-American born and raised in Brooklyn. Now download every stereotype of New York Italians into your brain and imagine those people at a fancy wedding venue, that’s what I have going on tonight.

The hubs and I are at the stage in life where the wedding invitations have slowed down. If we get invited to a friend’s wedding, it isn’t their first. Most nuptials we attend now are for the grown children of friends. Every time we attend one of these events I am filled with gratitude that we eloped. We plan to offer our kids bonus gifts if they elope instead of having a big wedding.

I like a party, it’s just so much pressure and expense. Tonight’s event is black tie optional and it starts at 7pm, that means formal attire. For this minimalist makeup, tousled hair, sports bra wearing woman, formal takes effort. Significant effort. It’s also expensive as hell just to be a guest.

About 6 weeks ago I went dress shopping with a friend who is kind but doesn’t mince words. That’s who you want with you when you attempt to dress yourself for a special occasion. We started out at Nordstrom Rack. I tried on about 37 outfits, most were dresses in various lengths with a few jumpsuits thrown in for giggles. It was painful.

There were a few outfits I simply could not figure out how to get on. That’s an immediate pass, the idea of getting stuck in one of those makes me shudder. The last time I went shopping alone I had to will myself to become disjointed to escape the dress I apparently had no business trying on. If I have to summon my inner Houdini it’s simply not worth the effort. I have a real fear of having to claw my way out some overpriced frock which I’m forced to purchase because I went all Hulk-woman on it. No thanks.

You don’t have a complete understanding of how much you detest your body until you’ve seen it encased in something that mere moments ago brought you hope and a twinge of excitement. Exuberance gets replaced with disappointment, self-loathing and a general sense of WTF. An hour or so into the expedition I still needed a dress so we drove to the mall. The mall is my least-happy-place.

The stores and the dresses all started to look the same. I was sticking with black because I like my clothes to match my soul. OK it’s slimming I’m not the anti-christ FFS. On the 56th attempt my friend and I agreed on the dress I would get. Sweet relief, that task was done. Never mind that I had to order up a size from my usual which put me into the size which I swore I would never wear…sigh. Basically, I hated myself the least in this particular dress so I bought it.

The next day I started to question my choice. Self doubt crept in and tapped me on the shoulder. For those that aren’t familiar, I have named my self doubt Ethel. I envision Ethel as Grandmotherly looking prairie dog, she wears a knitted sweater vest and she has bifocals. She also swears a lot, has a tattoo and chain smokes Marlboro Reds. Ethel is a straight up bitch, she has too many opinions and she is persistent AF.

Anyhoo, Ethel convinces me that the dress is all wrong. In fact, she tells me it’s hideous and that I look like a bloated Morticia (Addams Family) in that lacy ace bandage. I panic and begin to look online for something else. After several hours, I purchase a gown that may or may not work. That dress arrived a few days later and Ethel told me that it was even more ridiculous than the first, so I punched her in the face and decided to embrace my inner Morticia.

Next on the agenda was shoes. Gawd I hate heels. I love the way they look…walking in them however, is a fine art that I have not mastered. A couple of years ago we went to a wedding in Malibu, California and my feet still ache when I think of the shoes I wore. Once again I am torn between wanting something that looks good and what I can actually pull off with minimal scarring (emotional or physical). As mentioned before, this wedding is NY Italian, anything under 4 inch heels will be laughed at. The 81 year old grandmother will be wearing stilettos and I’m not even kidding.

My primping is minimal but the basics need to be covered. This week I got a mani/pedi and freshened my hair color. I actually got my hair done yesterday and I have done very little since then because I don’t want to lose the blow out. Seriously I have limited my time outside (current temp is surface-of-the-sun hot) and I skipped the gym to avoid needing to wash my hair. These are sacrifices one most make.

For some this may seem like a lot…to you I say Ha! I guarantee you some guests have had surgical procedures to prepare for this wedding and yes I am serious. The results of cool-sculpting, breast augmentation, Botox, chemical peels, tanning salons and varicose vein correction will all be on parade this evening, I have no doubt. Don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening, I may be blinded by 9pm. I’ve got nothing against those procedures I’m just too chicken to try them out (oh and I’m cheap).

Stayed tuned for the details of how it went…

Oh Fiddle!

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Oh Fiddle!

It’s been a while since I posted about Rob & Laura, they’re doing fine. They’ve had lots of visits with their children. One daughter asked me to check on a cut that Rob mysteriously acquired last week. She really wants Rob to put a bandage on it. When I mentioned this to Rob he informed me that it had a bandage on it already, it’s called a scab. Alright then.

Last week Laura was a bit miffed about the laundromat. She muttered about getting there late and how bad it is if you don’t get there early. I took the bait and showed up 20 minutes earlier today to see if that would alleviate the problem. She was pleased that I was early then in her exuberance she forgot to bring the laundry detergent. That set us back a bit and I got concerned when I heard her say “oh fiddle” from the back seat. “Oh fiddle” is the 92 year old version of Code Red, I acted with extreme caution. If I heard “Fudge!” I would have considered turning around and calling it a day.

While Laura was doing laundry, Rob and I went to the grocery store. We only needed two things and I asked Rob if he wanted to use a cart or his cane, he went with the cane. As we were crossing the parking lot I stated “And they’re off!” in my most announcer like voice. Rob didn’t miss a beat and added “Like a herd of turtles!”

Upon entering the store we heard, “cleanup in produce”. We both chuckled at that because it happens 100% of the time and we go twice a week. Then we looked for Marty, the useless grocery store robot. As we were making our way toward the check out, Marty approached, it got a little weird. At one point Marty got stuck between an older man in a wheel chair and me. George was on my right, Marty on my left and the wheelchair guy was left of Marty.

I could tell Marty was confused as he went back and forth in incremental choppy movements because he didn’t have a clear path out. I was hoping the circumstances would cause Marty extreme frustration resulting in fried wires, a mechanical meltdown of some sort.  For a moment I imagined the encounter would render him incapable of fulfilling his duties (which seem to be limited to aggravating customers with a precision focus on geriatric clients), no such luck.

On the way out Rob commented that the cart with four wheels was easier to navigate than his cane. I remarked that he has a walker which also has 4 wheels and that got me some side eye. I replied with “oh fiddle”.

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.

 

So Far…

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So Far…

Relationships are slippery suckers aren’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect grip to keep them from slipping away. Too much pressure, not enough, longevity comes from the ability to apply just the right amount of pressure, that and dumb luck.

A Facebook friend posted about her insecurity within her decades long marriage. She wondered why so many years and 3 kids in, why do these feelings still show up, when does the insecurity stop? My guess is (23 years in) that it doesn’t? Insecurity isn’t a constant companion in my marriage but that bitch does visit from time to time, completely uninvited.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the negative thoughts come from an accurate observed change in your spouse or the internal bad wiring most of us have to diagnosis and re-configure. We’ve been told that half of marriages end in divorce forever, that’s not entirely true. To get an actual percentage, you’d have to study a specific set of marriages over a lifetime to see how many dissolve.

If you’re curious, I found an interesting read on the topic. No proper notes of the specific studies or statistics touted, more of a compilation of weird divorce nuggets put together by a law firm (my guess is they specialize in divorce)Weird Divorce Stats

One statistic stated that the average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. Seems to me that a lot of marriages end once the kids finish high school or after the wife turns 50 which often happen around the same time. Women file for divorce more frequently than men somewhere between 66 – 75%.

According to the weird list I linked above my marriage is doomed. We met in a bar (24% more likely to divorce), my parents divorced (50% increased risk of divorce), we have a daughter (and 5% to the doomed calculation)…Geezus we are already at 79% chance of implosion and I haven’t even gotten to our premarital sexual history and lack of strong religious background yet. Our calculated risk for divorce is somewhere around 200%…But wait, we live in Pennsylvania, are college educated and have children, phew, we might make it. Some of these stats are ridiculous in their specificity.

So what makes a marriage work? Obviously this varies by couple, there isn’t one universal magic formula. Personally, I’m just grateful that I still like my husband and it seems mutual at this point. We still “enjoy” each other’s company (wink) and we know when to give the other space. I try to find new ways to keep him happy…no not that, I’ve already done everything I’m willing to do there. Now I mulch or weed and make the bed, the real sexy stuff no one told you about in early ’80s Home Ec class. I try to take some of his burdens away and when I need help with something, I’m specific and neutral in my requests. That seems to be working so far.

DMV

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DMV

Hello my blogging friends, I have missed you. Nothing exotic happening here I just haven’t been able to steal time from other parts of my life to get a post up. I have some catching up to do…

My teens are off from school, that happened approximately 312 hours 37 seconds ago. I’m teaching one of them to drive, that’s fun. He’s a good driver for the most part, sometimes he takes turns like he’s in an electric go-kart. When we sent him for camp and winter league a few years ago, I didn’t think through the driving habits that were being downloaded into his brain at the time. I try not to gasp out loud or visibly wince, that’s been tricky. Now I make the sign of the cross and genuflect before I get in the passenger seat so that’s new.

The first official day of summer break I took my son and my mother to DMV. My mother and I needed to get photos for license renewal and my son needed his permit. Once again, I didn’t think this one through friends. We went on a Tuesday which apparently is the worst day to go (because of course it is). The DMV is closed on Sunday & Monday so Tuesday is the busiest day of the week and I can vouch for that.

My son was going to a different counter he was number 442. My mother and I were 195 and 196. As soon as we arrived, mom plopped her stuff on a chair that I found for her (the last chair, I had to race to beat a 90 year old to it and she almost got there first but I did a home base slide to secure it…I’m sure the walker slowed Ethel down). Anyhow, mom doesn’t even sit down she goes out to get some air (smoke). So I sit in her seat to hold it and ignore the dirty looks from Ethel and her friends from Sunnyside Eldercare. Mom comes back forty minutes later sipping from a large aromatic coffee cup and says “I guess I should have asked if you wanted one” as she reclaims the hard plastic throne.

90 minutes later we are starting to get to our place in line, 192 pops up on the display. Mom decides to get more air. I pointed to the display and reminded her that our numbers were almost up, she shrugged it off. “I’ll be back in a jiff” she smirks and she’s out the door before I can lift my jaw from the floor. Three minutes later, the numbers get to 194. The average wait time between clients has sped up from a 10 minute average to 90 seconds. My son’s line is also making progress with just a few people ahead of him. I send him out to do a quick Nannie search, he comes back sweaty and panicked, “I can’t find her”. OH FFS I think to myself and then my number gets called.

I am clearly distracted as I go through the process of license renewal. I steal side glances to see if mom has returned and wonder how much stalling I can do to buy her time. My brain goes blank, I give a pensive smile for the camera and do not take the time to check my hair or put on lipstick. I regret the lack of primping as soon as I see the image that will humiliate me for the next 4 years, sigh.

While I’m taking a shitty picture and contemplating the location of my mother, my son’s number is called. I slide from counter A to B and join him for the inquisition. The gentleman, Reggie, working the counter is a textbook definition of a disgruntled government employee. My son takes his paperwork out of his jean pocket which has been folded into a square. Reggie conjures his inner thespian and makes a dramatic display of unfolding the papers and mentions that he’ll need to “ern them”, which took me a second to mentally translate to iron.

I continue to smile and act pleasant while Reggie sighs heavily and gives off the I-want-to-end-it-all vibe that radiates off him like heat on asphalt in July. My son remains respectful, a little anxious, waiting for instructions. Reggie grunts and points to a row of computers which my son and I interpret as a cue to take the written test online.

I wait nearby and watch as Reggie makes the “I’m going to lunch” announcement. Announcement isn’t entirely accurate, it was more like a muttered statement that I happened to over hear. For a moment I get hopeful that perhaps a more charming individual will replace him and we will end this nightmare on a positive note.

I finally see my mother who has somehow managed to slip in just in time to hear her number. The boy finishes his test and stands next to me, I tell him about Reggie’s lunch break. Then I am hit with the sad realization that there will be no Reggie replacement and we need to wait for him to get back. I cry a little but only on the inside because I’m a winner, damn it.

We meet other Reggie castaways as the minutes tick by and we all come to the same conclusion, Reggie sucks. After about thirty five minutes our counterman is back and he begins his reign of disregard toward his line constituents. When it’s our turn he doesn’t say anything beyond, “here” as he shoves paperwork into my son’s hand and thank GAWD it included his permit. I make a mental note of how time moves differently at the DMV. For instance, 10 minutes at DMV is equivalent to 3 hours outside. I suspect it may be comparable to prison time, we managed to survive 27 hours in the joint.

How’s your summer going?

Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

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Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

It’s fine, I’m fine, everything is FINE….my Gawd why do I get so emotional at these predictable Hallmark milestones? My kid just finished 8th grade and naturally there was a ceremony, we have one for everything now, first period parties, hard pass. I approach these events with the cynicism of a crone, meh, it’s 8th grade not med school, calm the hell down and yet…

As I scan the faces on the stage I feel a strange mix of emotions. I’ve known a dozen of these kids since preschool, most since Kindergarten, half the grade has been at my house at some point. It’s not a huge grade maybe 115 kids and as I watch them, I’m reminded of the ever growing gap in the parental/child relationship. I’m keenly aware that while I once knew everything about my kid, I’m no longer the primary confidant. One of my friends summed it up – once we shared them with the world, now they share a piece of their world with us.

Throughout the day I hear the refrain of Sunrise, Sunset go through my brain and my emotions play out like a predictable plot, so pedestrian in their ebb and flow. Somehow I’m OK with that because this is the shared camaraderie of parents. I can catch a side glance toward another mom and within seconds I know she’s on the verge of losing it as I quietly pass her a tissue. There’s comfort in that, knowing your peers are experiencing a similar cocktail of bittersweet emotions.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

Sunrise, Sunset – Jim Nabors

I’m sure the middle school promotion ceremony plays out in a similar format throughout America. The same six kids get recognized every year – leadership, citizenship, athleticism and all around Stepford child awards. My kids never get them. My son was one B away from straight A’s in middle school.

The single B was from 7th grade gym class where they had to choreograph a dance. Three dudes where set to shake it to Shaggy’s  Bombastic but some Lynne Cheney type bish decided that was too risque so they had to switch songs at the last minute. So basically censorship prevented my kid from making straight A’s in middle school. That same year they were forced to do square dancing and since there were more guys than gals, his partner was a known douche bag who likes to pick fights. I don’t think I’ve hated anything more in my kids school careers than 7th grade PE.

Bombastic

My girl had one C in middle school and it happened last semester in Algebra. I can barely spell Algebra let alone do the equations, I won’t hold it against her. My kids are good. They usually make the Honor Roll, don’t get in trouble and they are respectful around adults (well, the girl gets testy around me, she is fine with other adults). So in sum, my kids are slightly above average academically and there isn’t an award for that.

They stopped doing sports when they realized that concussions are a strong possibility and my son got sick of @ssholes on the soccer field. My daughter flirts with instruments – flute, piano, and now guitar, she has some musical abilities she just hasn’t stuck to one thing long enough to excel. Should I force her to play the piano an hour a day? Seems stupid to me and I’m done paying for lessons that aren’t enjoyed.

And those six kids that get the awards, they work their asses off and so do their moms. These kids have been groomed in utero and on through to this day to stay on track – musical instruments, student council, tutors, travel sports – resources and talent have been carefully mixed to keep their kids in the front of the pack. I admire their tenacity yet I opted out. I picked calmer weekends and weeknight dinners around the table, I was hoping for some sanity.

If my kids decided they wanted to do something specific, I followed their lead. We had one year of travel soccer (crazy and expensive) and a brief foray into lacrosse, neither stuck and I wasn’t too sad about it. So now my kids don’t do sports and I think the Grown & Flown types would have me feel bad about it but I just can’t muster up the guilt (yawn). BTW, the Grown & Flown Facebook Group has some seriously mean people in it. The posters routinely include “please don’t be mean” in their posts because there are some ragers in there.

As I’ve been a witness and a participant in this raising of humans, I am constantly aware of the privilege around us. I did not grow up like this. I was raised by a single mother and I had a dead beat dad, we were broke. My brother and I had to fend for ourselves. There were no tutors, no activities that required rides from mom or added any extra expense, it wasn’t an option. We were latch key kids who understood that there wasn’t money for extras, we barely got by.  I used to clean my neighbors apartment so I could earn money to go roller skating.

My kids don’t know that struggle. They have two parents that would set themselves on fire to give them what they need and we have financial resources that neither my husband nor I had growing up. He came from a working class family, his parents were immigrants, they worked their asses off to get their kids a better life.

When the college admissions scandal blew up this spring, I wasn’t surprised. I can see this happening where we live, these people are so primed for it. All the money, time and sweat equity they have poured into their offspring, they aren’t settling for anything less than Penn State. The ones that want Ivy Leagues pay for college coaches, they’ve all spent at least a year’s tuition on the prep before they receive their admissions letters.

Back to the ceremony…there was the obligatory photo montage featuring a small collection of photos for each student. A guarantee for tears is what it is…pictures of babies morphing into high school kids on a continuous loop until the ceremony begins. My brain went through a total recall of my daughter’s childhood. It extended into the known parts of her friends, past and present.

There were times when I felt like I knew too much…that girl is on anxiety meds, that one is struggling with her sexual orientation, another was once a close friend until she wasn’t, that kid’s dad has cancer, his parents are separated, divorce, divorce, affair, those 4 kids each lost a parent (one dad died 7 weeks ago, heart attack), the boy who has been in a wheelchair since he was two, the blind kid who has the same birthday as my daughter…..my heart broke a million times yesterday knowing some of their struggles. And while, I am still somewhat involved in the district, I don’t know everything. Each one of those kids is struggling with something, regardless of the awards, perfect hair or blatant talent, privilege can’t take away every obstacle in life.

Last night there was a party at the school for the kids. It had a theme because of course it did. I can barely remember a time when parties didn’t have a theme, barbaric. The theme last night was Aloha High School. Some moms came up with theme related activities. Decorations included grass skirts around the basketball hoops. These parents are EXTRA, they go all out. There were at least 8 different activity stations all with Hawaiian flair – hot potato, scooter hockey, volley ball, an inflatable obstacle course, limbo, hula hoops, and my personal station Flip Flop Flippin.

Flip Flop Flippin or FFF as it is known on the street, features two elevated hula hoops and flip flops. The goal is to flip a flip flop off your foot through one of the hoops. Yeah, sounds easy, in reality, not so much. It’s easier to do with a heavier shoe, I know this now, I know it deep in my sole (typo intentional, calm down grammar nerds). I had maybe five customers in 2 hours.

Midway through the party,  I went over to assist at the inflatable obstacle course. Actually, I wandered over to chat with a mom friend, she soon put me to work. Before I knew it was the inflatable course warden yelling at boys to stop grabbing each other’s ankles as they attempted to climb the slide. I yelled to the point where my throat hurt and some dudes got black listed from the course. I have without a doubt destroyed my daughter’s chances of dating any of those guys, mission accomplished.

Despite the carefully planned curated activities it turned into a zoo in no time. Noodles for the scooter hockey were immediately weaponized as 14 year old boys unleashed their inner Zorro. The boy in the wheelchair had at least 4 kids on the square scooters trailing behind him in a whip chain for at least 40 minutes (I was happy about that, he had a blast and his mom is a G-damn hero).

In the end, the gym looked like a Hawaiian party war zone. The “no food in the gym” rule was breached, a Moku dessert bowl bleeding pomegranate on the wooden floor. Remnants of leis were scattered like ashes from Mauna Loa. No doubt, the remains of a good time as they leave this part of childhood behind. I’m not crying, you are.