Terence, This is Stupid Stuff

Last night, my husband and I were sitting at our fire-pit drinking wine, talking about how people eventually get what’s coming to them. And he said, “That reminds me of a poem I memorized by A.E. Housman.”


He memorized it in high school without being assigned to do so. “I just liked the poem.”

Well, I too memorized poems and Shakespearean monologues when I was young. I got an A on the hardest exam I ever took – 10th grade English, when we had to identify a long list of obscure quotations and say what texts they came from, which author, and why important. I was in multiple plays. I only missed a line once, but in that play, I was actually Head of Costumes, and only because I had memorized most of the lines in Annie Get Your Gun, I was a last-minute understudy.

But I no longer remember any of it. That monologue by Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream? Nope. My favorite quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald? I’ll have to check the book that I used to keep by my bed. The really hard-to-memorize …ugh… what was the name of that poem… Canterbury Tales. Nope.

I only remember one line, “It’s like the ladies’ restroom at the Oriental Theater.” From Auntie Mame. I was the nanny.

Meanwhile, my husband, the science guy, sitting at the fire-pit at least thirty years later, recited – almost flawlessly and without pause – the second half of Housman’s Terence, This is Stupid Stuff.

And I felt stupid.

So, inspired by my husband with the memory of an elephant, I pulled out my – yes, I kept it –  10th grade Norton’s Anthology, and today, I’m going to re-memorize an old favorite.

Hopefully, it stays in my head long enough to recite it around the fire-pit.


They Cheer for the Little Guy

On summer vacation, we ran the OBX 5K. A great experience.

I am 49, and the last race I ran was in second grade, when the winner told my mom, “If no one else was in the race, she would have gotten second!”

The members of our family ran at different paces. Our 12 year old entered the race in the second wave, confident he could finish in less than 28 minutes. He finished third of all 14 and unders. Our thirteen year old had a goal just to finish. He rocked it. And our eight year old wanted to beat as many family members as possible – “at least two of you” – which meant boxing me off the sidewalk.

I ran with the 13 year old for 21 minutes. Then my husband, who was run-walking faster than us with the eight year old, couldn’t take it anymore. He raced to catch up with the 12 year old. I shifted to the little man.

“Mom, slow down.”

“Mom, you’re walking too fast.”

“Mom, STOP!“

But as we turned into the Whalehead Club with the finish line in view, me on the verge of throwing up, my eight year old took off. Sweaty. Fast. All I could see was the big 25 on the back of his Jamal Charles jersey.

And what did I hear as we approached the finish line?

“Go, dude!”

“Keep it up, kid.”

“You rock, little man!”

What about the 49 year old mom of three boys in 97% humidity running her first 5K?! The kid is cute, but he’s eight. Top time for his age group. Good knees.

Just asking…who needs the cheers? The little guy or his mom?





When I Imagined Life as a Grown-Up

When I was a teenager, I pictured myself as a war correspondent, or a world traveler doing research for National Geographic, or if my best friend got to be the first woman President, then maybe ambassador to Ireland or Secretary of State. Whatever I was going to do, adulthood looked exciting and glamorous.

I certainly did not picture myself alone in my car, parked outside of a local late night hangout, waiting in the dark for my thirteen-year-old son’s Mary Poppins’ cast party to end.

The party, orchestrated by the fifteen-year-old girls in the play, was at the Village Inn, where you can get French fries, mac-n-cheese, or chocolate chip pancakes at any time of day. Its parking lot at night – somewhat quiet, only slightly sketchy.

As I tried to stay awake. watching the rare coming and going – two old men in polo shirts, tattooed twenty-somethings holding hands, three baggy-jeaned teens looking to stay out of trouble (I hoped) – I suddenly saw a more realistic view of my life as my son passes through the pre-driving-but-starting-to-be-social years.

“Mom, can I go to the football game tonight?”

“There’s a party at my friend’s house tonight.”

“Mom, all my friends are going to see the new Star Wars movie tonight.”

“I can’t wait for the dance tonight!”

Many more late nights in parking lots waiting as his life begins to look like a big adventure. And I was so proud and excited for him.

When I was at my first cast party, I couldn’t have known that that feeling would be better than the glamorous life I imagined.

The Certainty of Youth

My sons have never:

  • Voted
  • Voted for a winning candidate and regretted it later
  • Voted for a losing candidate on principle
  • Voted for the lesser of evils
  • Aligned with a political party
  • Voted for the loser and the winner turned out to be outstanding

That’s why I miss half of what is said in this winter’s increasingly heated political debates – my kids won’t shut up. They opine through every minute of every debate.

At twelve and thirteen, they are the color commentary. Opinionated. Sarcastic. Utterly confident that they know best. Eager to comment on anything – the candidates’ ties, their hair, their intellect.

“He doesn’t know anything about the Klu Klux Klan?!”

They borrow catch-phrases from adults, other twelve year olds, ad campaigns on the side of a bus as if they were time-tested facts.

Sometimes I shush them, “I want to hear this.”

But most of the time, I like listening to them.

“He’s a crook.”

“She’s a liar.”

“He’s a socialist, and socialism never worked anywhere, any time.”

“I mean, mom, he’s going a build a wall?! He might as well take down the Statue of Liberty while he’s at it.”

Unable to hear what the candidates are saying above the din of my boys’ joyful, humorous political certainty, I remember a day when I was sure I had all the answers… and voting was easy.


A Wise Old Man at 8

The second graders are preparing for their African-American reports this month. They are assigned an African-American hero (ranging from Obama to Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan to Harriet Tubman). The goal is to create a report and then present it, in costume, to their classmates and parents.

Yesterday, my second grader told me that one of his classmates is really nervous.

“So, mom,” he said, “I told him that I understand how he feels. My younger self would have been nervous too.”

Passing Down Our Stories

A question a few weeks ago, and then again this weekend with Dad. So I thought I should write something.

“Tell us a story about when you were a kid.”

“Let me think,” I responded slowly, as all three boys waited.

“Or when Dad was a kid. You guys never talk about your childhoods.”

We don’t? How can that be? I am sure I’ve told every story a hundred times.

“Like the school camping trip when I scored a touchdown?”

“You told us that one.”

“My first bad word when your great-grandmother came to visit and I was 2?”

“That one too.”

“When I ate the icing off my birthday cake right before….”

Swimming back from the Annapolis rope swing in a thunderstorm. Looking out the car window for Rudolph’s red nose on Christmas Eve. Cookies and coke after “Scenes!” for next week’s Little House on the Prairie. Fireworks thrown in the phone-booth at Shakey’s Pizza. The 8th grade Mafia. Skipping the funny lines when we did Annie Get Your Gun at the National Theater, because I was the supposed to be Head of Costumes.

Slumber parties on the screened-in porch. Dance contests to ABBA, Billy Joel and the Monkeys. Shattering the overhead light with a celebratory fist-pump when I made a rare trashcan three-pointer. M&M soap operas on the environmental science trip. A great seaweed battle on the Brewster beach and reenacting Chariots of Fire when we ran.

Private-time walks. Kick the Can games on Hampden Lane. Lifeguarding at Edgemoor, and getting sprayed off the chair with a huge hose by the tennis crew. Winning team got Smarties, losing team got Dum-Dums, and wanting to throw the third grade spelling bee… just once.

The Passing Goddess on the road to Rehoboth and the Parking Goddess everywhere. Laughing so hard that we couldn’t carry the groceries home. Maggie watching out the window for us from the top of the dining room table, now covered in her sweet-dog scratches so we don’t forget her.

Just moments really. Each one not worthy of a story on its own. But together, they are me, their mom. So where to start?



When We Were… Old


My son’s electric guitar teacher spreads joy and wisdom on a weekly basis. You go into a lesson with Shon feeling down about school or friends or a disaster on the athletic field, and it’s almost a guarantee that you will come out grinning and chewing gum, his prize for a strong week of practicing.

Shon has a philosophy that “it will work out somehow,” and it usually does. Last minute change of lesson time? Someone else will cancel for just the half hour you need. “See?” he says. “It always works out. I don’t know how, but it does.”

Today, when he walked my smiling son out after a session rocking out to Nirvana’s Teen Spirit, he said he was feeling old. He is starting to hear our generation’s theme songs translated to elevator music.

“I heard the Muzak version of Led Zeppelin in the grocery store! That is so wrong.”

I am still trying to hum a Muzak version of Whole Lotta Love, after Googling “Led Zeppelin songs”, with a picture of big-haired, shirtless men in my brain. Never my cup of tea, but I still cannot translate.

Are we really that old?

Of course, Shon seemed to brush it off as soon as he said it. On to the next middle school guitar player waiting to be freed from school-grind-boredom. It’s just me left freaking out. No joy for mom at guitar today.