Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Ties That Bind

When I began writing a column for the Irregular 11 years ago, my children were 17, 5 and 4 years old. Guy was a junior in high school, Josie was in kindergarten, and Eli was still at home with his mum.

Guy left for college two days after his high school graduation in 2001 and has never moved back home. Not even for ‘a week or two’. Josie-Earl is going to be an 11th grader in the fall, and Elias graduated from 8th grade last week. It doesn’t seem possible that the end of our ‘school daze’ is in sight, but it is. A small part of me will be sad to see it end—-but I’m excited for my children and their futures, too. Life is an amazing ride, and even the smallest decisions we make can have long-lasting impacts on our lives. How I wish I were in their shoes right now, with the whole world opening up in front of me. Except… this time I’d like to start my young adulthood with the wisdom I have at 47!

It took me two weeks to pull information about an 8th grade graduation from my youngest son. I’d ask, “Hey, Eli… is your class holding a graduation?”

“I dunno.”

“Your teachers didn’t send home any notes?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well...wouldn’t you know, if they did?”

“I guess so…”

A day or two later, I tried it again.

“Any news about graduation?”

“Not yet, Mum.”

“Well, it’s the first of June. Exactly when would they tell you?”

“I dunno.” A nonchalant shrug of his shoulders.

“So, I suppose that means you still haven’t brought home any information about it?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well, Eli… if you’d brought home papers from school; who WOULD know about it?”


On Friday, June 3rd, I tried again.

“Eli? What’s up with graduation, anyway?”

“Oh! We’re having marching practice on Monday. Or maybe Tuesday. Oh yeah, and I need a note, too.”

“Well, when’s graduation?” I’d already found out the 'old fashioned way'… I’d asked the mother of an 8th grade girl. They pay far more attention to these things, since such occasions call for a shopping trip, hairdo, fingernail polish, toenail polish, shaving of legs and much fretting over who their marching partner will be.

“I dunno. Thursday, I think.”

“What time?”

“I dunno.”

Oh, brother.

Come on, Eli! Pay attention! It would be nice if we could tell Papa when graduation starts, so he can leave work on time, wouldn’t it?”

“I guess….”

“And why do you need a permission slip?”

“Oh! We’re going to the beach.”

“Ooh, that’s nice. Which beach?”

“I dunno.”

You don’t know which beach… Is it Popham?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, for crying out loud! When are you going?”

“I don’t know, Mum! Monday or Tuesday, I guess.” He was beginning to sound exasperated.

Welcome to my life, kid.

At 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, Eli came into my bedroom. Gone were the baggy jeans and faded tee shirt. In their place were khaki slacks and a dark dress shirt. He had a necktie draped around his neck.

“I can’t tie this.”

I grinned. That’s one of the cool things about being a mother… this tying of her young man’s necktie. He cautioned me not to snug it too tightly, so I didn’t.

He looked sharp, and I told him so. He wandered into his bedroom to check himself out in the mirror.

“I’m not going to wear this tie. It looks dumb.”

Just then, Josie-Earl wandered upstairs. You know…Josie-Earl; the sister who argues with her little brother all the time, and who tries to boss him around until he loses patience with her! She heard me tell Eli that the tie didn’t look 'dumb', so she popped into her brother’s bedroom.

I overheard the conversation.

“You look GREAT! That tie does NOT look dumb! Wow, Eli! You’re handsome! Oh, my gawd; girls are going to be hanging all over you next year when you get to high school!”

Without another protest, Eli wore the tie.

I love my kids.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Driving With Miss Josie--Part Two

It was a sad day when I realized that I’m not as ‘cool’ as my mother.

Josie-Earl just turned sixteen. She has her driver’s permit, and as all teens do… she wants to get her license. But over the winter, she didn’t fulfill the required 35 hours of driving time.

So… we’re trying to make up for it, now.

My truck is tall. It’s long. It’s got a towing package which makes it a little ‘stiff’. It’s not a sedan; it’s a work truck… something we need around The F.A.R.M., and for hauling the tractor, and for driving to those real estate showings which are off the beaten path. Or to those which don’t have a path, at all.

Josie hates my truck. But Josie wants to learn to drive. Josie wants to get her license. I’ve told her that once she is comfortable driving my pick-up, she’ll be comfortable driving anything (except my pick-up in the city, or in parking garages!)

On Saturday morning, Josie needed to be delivered to her grandmother’s house for a trip to Portland to attend her cousin’s birthday party. She needs driving time, so… I let her drive.

It’s no wonder I have frizzy hair. What IS a wonder is that I have any frizzy hair left on my head.

It’s not that my daughter is a bad driver—she’s not. As long as there are no other cars on the road, she’s actually quite safe. Oh, and as long as there are no corners on the road, either. Or soft shoulders. Or snapping turtles wandering across.

We managed to drive 10 of the 14 miles to Mum’s without a single bellow coming from the passenger seat. I spoke calmly.

“Josie, you really need to stay out of the ditch.” Calm as a clock, see?

“Sweetie, that yellow line is there for a reason. You should be able to see it out your side mirror. No, YOUR side mirror, not mine.” Patient as the day is long.

But then there came a particular corner at the top of John Hall Hill, by the bog. She took it too fast, and swung way out into the opposite lane. And I simply couldn’t help myself.

“Josie! You’re on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!”

Her head whipped around and she snapped back.

“Yes, Mama! I see that!”

Like I was a goober, or something! Like I was simply pointing out the obvious in an attempt to irritate her!

“Well, then! Get back over here!”

I think I also swore, but my memory is a bit foggy. Blind panic does that to me.

Moments later, we arrived at the Bessey home. Mum came out onto the porch to wish us ‘good morning’ as we climbed from the truck.

“How are you?” she asked.

“My nerves are shot, “ I muttered, walking on shaky legs to the driver’s side. I kissed my gorgeous teenager, wished her a ‘good time’, and resumed my rightful place behind the wheel of my pick-em-up truck.

When Josie returned home the next day, she informed me that Nanny let her drive part of the way home from Portland.

“She’s WAY cooler than YOU! Nanny never hollered at me once!”

That stung. Hurt. But I’m not letting it get me down. Now I have a new goal. Someday, I want my grand-daughter to tell Josie-Earl that I’m WAY cooler than she is.

I might not have any nerves left… but I’ve got a goal.