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.

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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.

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.

Another Day at the Museum

Yesterday, with no school on a Friday, my high school freshman asked if I would take him to the Museum of Nature and Science. As we were walking out the door, his friend texted that he too was home. So, he joined. It has long been a favorite place for both of them.

Over the years, I’ve stood in the center of the Space Odyssey watching as they journeyed from earth to mars and the moon – early on, donning astronaut costumes in the toddler dress-up area. I’ve followed their eyes skyward to count dinosaur bones hanging from the ceiling. Held my son’s hand – smaller then – when he was too scared to enter the dimly lit mine shaft to see sparkling gems and minerals.

Most fun was always Expedition Health, where they tested their height and arm span, knowledge of nutrition, and their resting and target heart rates. I remember them being barely tall enough to climb on the bikes for that. There, they have donned lab coats, goggles and plastic gloves to run numerous DNA experiments over the last decade. I have at least one picture from back in the day. Little guys. Chubby cheeks. The lab coats so big on them, hems hit the floor.

So yesterday, as these two nearly six-foot-tall young men enjoyed the museum in a sea of tiny elementary school kids, I was compelled to take another. Two hours in and eager to stay longer. Back in their lab coats and goggles. All smiles.

Mister Sarcasm

“You are sooo right, sooo right, exactly.” Our fifteen-year-old thinks sarcasm is the highest form of humor. I can’t even recall what sparked it this time at breakfast. “You are sooo right, mom. Sooo right.”

“Shut up!” his brother’s first words of the morning exploded forth. “Just shut up! I want to punch you every time you say that!”

Mr. Sarcasm, the only morning person in the room, froze, eyes wide. Innocent. “Why?”

“Just stop saying it.”

“Mom,” Mr. Sarcasm appealed to me, “you think it’s funny.”

“No, I don’t.”

Seriously? I thought it was our thing, that bit we do.”

That bit we do? I shook my head.

“But you never get mad. It’s just our bit we do together. You’re chill,” he paused. Looked at the two of us staring at him incredulously. Then, doubting, “Right?”