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.

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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.”

His First AP Test

He’s a freshman taking AP Human Geography. It’s his lowest grade entering exams. But when I dropped him off this morning to take his first AP Test, I gave him a high-five, “You’ve got this!”

Keeping our fingers crossed…

5 Days To Go: He begins re-reading his text book. A few hours, face serious, with the book open.

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“I’m soooo tired.”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

4 Days To Go: Same thing. Book open. Occasionally shouting out interesting facts. Then, Dad starts quizzing him.

Not good. Blank stares. Lots of “we didn’t learn that” and “wait… I know this… don’t say anything…” then “why can’t I remember?!”

Time to intervene.

3 Days To Go: I find an AP Human Geography Quizlet online. More than 900 terms. Multiple ways to test himself. “This is your life for the next three days. Go!”

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“A snack?”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

2 Days To Go: Amazon Prime delivers AP Human Geography flashcards. Quizlet by day. Flashcards with Mom by night.

“Can I go to bed?”

“10 more.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

1 Day To Go: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And then… “We did that one last night!” and “Ohhhhhh, nailed it!”

And then, finally headed to bed… “I’m really looking forward to the test tomorrow. I think I enjoy reaching mental capacity.”

Nurse Star

Our fourth grader started throwing up at 4:30 this morning, and spent the next three hours lying on the bathroom floor. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke.

After one such bout, our dog Star, with her aching hips, forced her creaky self off the hall rug and scratched to be let outside.

“My tummy hurts so bad,” moaned the little guy, as I lay a blanket over him.

Star re-appeared at the door moments later with a dirty bone dug out of hiding. Passed right by me when I let her in. Dropped the bone outside the bathroom a foot from my son’s feverish forehead. “Here, try this,” she seemed to say, “It always makes me feel better.”

Then returned to her nap nearby… just in case he needed her.

Return to the Playground

When the boys were little, we spent many mornings at the park. It’s where I made my first friends in our then-new hometown. So, it was a little strange when, after not going for a few years, my ten-year-old son and niece veered in while walking the dog.

They climbed, “Count how long it takes me!”…

…and swung, “Come on! Higher!”…

…and spun each other around, “Faster! Faster! No, stop! Stop! Stop!”…

The dog and I followed the path encircling the playground equipment. It brought back  memories of trailing my sons on their tricycles as they rode along that same path. Of moving from one side of the playground to the other, as they did, to make sure I was close enough in case they fell, got stuck, got their feelings hurt. Of standing, eating cold green grapes, next to the big tree they all loved to climb.

I walk past the park almost daily, but a ten-year-old body at play makes the playground look a miniature version of the one in my memory. Had my teenagers been with us, I imagine it would have seemed even smaller. You can get anywhere in a few quick steps. See everything from any bench.

Apparently, I didn’t need to follow so close back then. It would never dawn on me now to interrupt their play with “Not so fast!” “Not too far!” “Don’t jump off that…”

So, as the dog and I wandered, they happily climbed and swung and spun and squealed at each other.

And when we got home, my ten-year-old threw up all over the carpet. Too much spinning, but still the best part of his day.

Last Year’s Baseball Uniform

Our fourth grade son is about to begin another baseball season.

“You probably need new baseball pants, but your cup was too big last year. So….”

“I grew a lot.”

“That doesn’t mean your penis grew a lot.”

“Oh my god, Mom!” Big belly laugh. “I can’t believe you said that!”

Best laugh I got so far in 2018. Such a comedian.