A Protest Poem

Every year at Thanksgiving, the fifth graders at our school have to invent a turkey character (most boys do a spin on their favorite football player or superhero), dress it up as an art project, and write a poem about their turkey. So, in honor of the fifth grade tradition, I decided to have my fifth grader as my guest blogger.

Of course, he lost the cut-out of the turkey he’s supposed to use for the art part of the project, so he’ll be scrambling tomorrow night to cut out a tie-dye turkey shirt…..

…but given my teenager wants to register Republican, it’s kind of nice to have a hippy, social justice, protestor type in the family at the gates of the White House. Even if it is a turkey.

I’m a Protesting Turkey

I do not want to live in disguise

Or end up in somebody’s pies.

The Thanksgiving feast is like a beast

Devouring us.

So, I left the farm and traveled east.

I’m at the White House making a fuss.

To get here, I took a bus.

But people make fusses on busses.

So, I took a train

but it was a pain.

It took me nine hours to get this far

Not including my stop at the bar

Where they tried to bake me

But they couldn’t take me.

So here I am at the White House gates

Protesting turkeys’ fates.

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A 16 Year Old Gets His Driver’s License

When most sixteen-year-old kids walk out of the driving test with their new license, they can’t stop smiling. They know that they just earned themselves a new level of freedom…. and for some, a car.

“You’re a good, safe driver. You passed!” said the nice lady with the clipboard at the DMV.

We both grinned.

But his smile was much bigger when she asked, “Would you like to preregister to vote?”

It was fun to see for a mom who used to love politics.

A week before, he hounded me to fill out my mail-in ballot and read out loud from various websites as I considered each candidate and ballot issue.

A few nights later, he stayed up late watching the mid-term election results slowly roll in. I was surprised by how much he knew about the candidates from each state (not just ours), and how, when he didn’t know, he looked them up.

“Do you know your Party affiliation?” the nice lady at the DMV asked.

It was fun to see for a mom who used to love politics… even though…

He couldn’t contain his glee, “Should I really pick my Party, Mom?”

I guess, at least for now, we’ll just cancel each other out.

“I get to vote in the next election!”

But he’s reminded me what it feels like to love politics.

Study Skills as a Foreign Language

My son’s fifth grade class visited middle school this week in preparation for next year. They went to Drama, Science lab, and Spanish. Fun activities. All about seeing how cool middle school is going to be.

So, at the end of the day, he got in the car. Smiling. Excited. Looking to the future. “We get to choose L.E., Spanish or French!”

L.E. is a study and organizational skills class for kids needing a little extra help in developing as academic learners. I explained, “You don’t get to choose L.E. The teachers tell you if you need it.”

The light in his eyes went out. Smoke came out of his ears.

“I am NOT taking Spanish!”

“Well, actually, you are.”

“I don’t understand a word anyone saying! Not a single word! Today, he said ‘tocar something something’, and everyone pointed to their elbow. Soooooo, I pointed to my elbow. That’s how I do Spanish.”

“How does everyone else know what he’s saying?”

“I have NO idea!”

Hope he cools off by August, when his teacher greets him with… “Buenos Dias!”

Superheroes

Most nights at the dinner table, I think to myself that we – my sisters and friends and I – never talked about stuff like this. The Falcons game when Matt Ryan…. But Aaron Rodgers is… Who’s better at…. Who’s gonna win at…..

And the other day, overhearing my ten-year-old son and his friend argue the merits of Iron Man and Black Panther, I caught myself thinking the same. Boys are so different.

But then, I remembered Sabrina.

In my mind, she was the best Charlie’s Angel. The smart one. Never the one who sprained her ankle, got caught by the bad guy, or was stupid enough to fall for him. If we were playing Charlie’s Angels, I claimed her. She was going to solve the crime.

Kelly, of course, was a fan favorite, or Jill, or Chris, and their merits could be argued, for sure. Better hair, if nothing else. But I always fought for Sabrina, the grown-up, slightly nerdy tomboy.

Iron Man. Black Panther. Iron Man. Black Panther.

“The suit made him. He wasn’t a real superhero.”

“He made the suit. His brain made him a superhero.”

She was the smartest. The prettiest. The fastest. The bravest. The best.

Iron Man. Black Panther.

Sabrina. Kelly. Jill.

And then… Joe. Beth. Amy. Meg.

Laura. Mary. Carrie.

And we – my sisters and friends and I – talked about stuff like that all the time.

The Next to Disappear

My favorite room in our house was my dad’s wood-paneled study where I talked to my best friend Mary on the rotary dial phone every day. I’d sit with my legs over the arm in a big, soft, fake-velvety chair with a zig-zag pattern in subdued beige, white and black. Some days, the stale cigarette air was clocked with the sweetness of a weekend cigar. Our number, shared by the entire family with no caller ID or call waiting, was 301-656-5635. Hers was 301-654-1776. I twirled the long cord while we talked. My kids don’t have their place or home base like that. They carry their phones with them wherever they go. And none of us know our best friend’s phone number.

They’ve never seen a telephone booth, and I will never forget the night of a swim team pizza party, when Eleni and I got trapped inside the booth as some bad-boy teenagers threw firecrackers at it, then ran directly into the hood of a police car, chased of course by the swim team Dads.

My first 45, Hurt So Good. They were in the process of disappearing. Replaced by all the mix tapes friends and boyfriends exchanged to capture the beach trip or the summer, how we felt about each other or a year in our lives.

When was the last time you saw TAB in the soda machine? Or even a soda machine? It’s all energy drinks now – florescent blue – and water. TAB was my “go to” coming down off the Edgemoor lifeguard stand until I learned about iced tea mixed with lemonade.

I brought my Dad’s 100-pound IBM Selectric typewriter to college, managing perfectly fine with it as news editor the school paper until my senior year Chinese History professor told me he would fail any paper not produced on a computer. Back then, computer paper had the trim on the sides that you had to tear off, so it was obvious. He said my 30-page papers were disorganized and “White Out can’t save you.” What’s White Out?

Last year, my son never used his school locker. He said it was broken. Was too shy to ask for help. So, he carried a 50-pound backpack around all day, every day. His little brother, joining him at high school in recent weeks, stood in front of his, clueless about what to do. Walked away. So, they got on Youtube. Three turns clockwise, two turns counter-clockwise, then directly to the third number. And now they’re in.

Our lockers had combo locks. Our bike chain locks had combo locks. Most houses had an old combo lock or two lying around that no one could remember what it had been for. Little kids thought they were toys. But we all knew the pattern. Three turns clockwise, two turns counter-clockwise, then directly to the third number. And I remember how almost every year of middle and high school, I’d return from Christmas Break having forgotten mine. A few days without a locker trying desperately to remember. Until… click. I still dream about it.

Maybe it’s the next to go.

The Twists and Turns Regarding a Second Dog

Star is almost eight years old and is only just beginning to grow out of her puppy phase. With her maturity comes a quieter home, but apparently, teenage boys and their Dads seek chaos.

The pitch for a second dog – a large puppy – began in earnest about six months ago. Four against one. By mid-summer, I was losing. Dad was emailing breeders.

Until….

Star and I were crossing a stream while the boys fished on the shores of Jefferson Lake. Puppy excitement reignited by the new smells of the wilderness, Star tugged on her leash. I slipped off the log I was on, and broke my foot.

It silenced the new puppy talk. The only benefit to “the boot”…. Until….

Our car and garage were robbed. Two very nice bikes are now in the hands of local criminals. They managed to buy about $50 worth of snacks at a nearby gas station.

Star tried to alert us. She barked at midnight, which she never does. She scratched at the door. And when we finally stumbled downstairs to let her out, she stood unmoving in the yard. Watching. Protecting her herd.

But they had already absconded with the goods.

And what was the very first thing our teenage son said even before the police arrived? With Mom still in “the boot”?

“If we had two dogs, this never would have happened.”