Bimpnottin Nackle

In our middle school carpool many years ago, I rode daily with three neighborhood boys who played Dungeons and Dragons. Unable to follow their strange conversations, I looked out the window or chatted with their mom, who was lovely and worked at our school.

I thought the game disappeared with our generation, until my sons went to high school, and I read they had a Dungeons and Dragons club there. 

My kids remind me a little of the boys in that long-ago carpool. “You might like it?”

The shook their heads. Rolled their eyes.

Then our fifth grader announced that his friend was learning to play with hisDad, and out came my husband’s Dungeons and Dragons books. As father and youngest son perused the books, our teenagers hovered, reading too and, at first, cautiously admitting, “this is soooo nerdy, but reallyfun.”

They created their characters: a cleric, a human fighter, an elf with magical powers, and a dragon-born ranger. And they started on their first adventure with Dad, the cleric, as the lead.

And then it happened, as it inevitable does… 

“Mom, you should play,” said the sixteen-year-old.

And just as I joined Fantasy Football in this house of boys, I am now Bimpnottin Nackle, a Forest Gnome from the Druid Class. I can talk to animals. I am wise. In my first move, I bought a spear and a dagger. I can cast goodberry and longstrider spells, although I am not yet sure how I do either. 

I have no idea what the adventure I am joining will bring, or what Bimpnottin Nackle will do in the heat of battle, but after nearly 40 years, I give up. Let the game begin!

Advertisements

It’s Time to Do the Puzzle

.Last night, the family attended a Boxing Day Junkanoo, a colorful, musical street parade in the Bahamas. At 9:00 p.m., just as the floats approached where we stood against a white fence, and the horns and drums and flashing lights with them, my 87-year-old father-in-law suddenly didn’t look good. Didn’t feel good. 

My husband ran to get the golf cart. I ducked through the crowd in the opposite direction, across the street, looking for someone selling water though I had no money. I returned just ahead of the first float.

But what struck me most about the evening took place once we are all back in the quiet of the house. Grandpa was fine and resting in bed. That day, he had walked two-miles on the beach, spent another hour sitting in the sun, shared in the wine at dinner, then joined us in the Junkanoo crowd. He just needed rest. But we remained concerned, a little on edge, adrenaline still high from what had looked like an emergency.

And in that moment of what-do-we-do-now, our sixteen-year-old shined. It might sound silly to notice it as an important moment to anyone who has not watched him grow up. But…

He walked over to the puzzle, its edges completed by the rest of us earlier in the day while he played Clash of the Clans on his phone. He has never enjoyed puzzles. Not sure he has ever worked on one. But he saw that, despite the late hour, Grandma wasn’t ready for bed. 

“Well, Grandma,” he offered, “I think it’s time to do the puzzle.”

He did it so gracefully, so easily that no one but me noticed what he’d done. He is becoming such a sweet, good man.

She sat down opposite him, and they got to work, him chatting to her mostly, and celebrating each connection until she grew tired and said goodnight.

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.

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.