Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Run, Run Away

About a million years ago, I graduated high school. I turned my tassel with the class of 1987 after crossing the stage and receiving my diploma, my passport to the rest of my life. While I said I wouldn't cry, I did. I cried because I was excited. I cried because I realized a chapter of my life finished, the big world outside the halls of my small school awaited. I knew I'd miss my friends. My emotions were mixed.

I'd changed my mind about a bazillion times about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Briefly, the desire to be a pom-pom girl was my goal. Okay, so I was seven years old, and pom-poms were hard to come by. If I were a cheerleader by profession, I'd get pom-poms because my parents, and even Santa, weren't budging on my request.

Then through the years, I thought about being a lawyer. I seemed to have a natural talent for debate and quick rebuttal. When I announced this career choice, my dad looked a bit overwhelmed over the prospect of many years of schooling.

I decided, well, if finances are an issue, I'll be a beautician. That idea was nixed by my Dad and his wife at the time. "You're too smart to cut hair," they told me.

Back to the drawing board. For a couple months, I entertained the idea of being an interior decorator. It looked like a fun job. I didn't know squat about color schemes, but what the heck. I could give it a go.

One silly idea led to another, and I finally settled on Journalism. I took my SAT and submitted college applications. When my school of choice, Indiana University, accepted me with no problem, I could not have been happier.

You see, I had this idea that the farther away I went, the better off I would be. My teen years were comprised of having my confidence and self-esteem whittled down by the step-mom my dad was married to. She was a horrible woman, but that story is best saved for another time.

I'd never been away from home, save the week I spent at a Journalism camp at a college 45 minutes from home. Even then, a boy from my school was there at the same time. Indiana University was 3 1/2 hours away, and really the farthest away I could go without paying for a private college. I was running away under the guise of going to college.

Two weeks before I left for college, my step-mom cornered me and said, "I hope you have the money to pay because we aren't." Well, that was an interesting turn of events. Not surprising, but interesting. For four years, I stayed captive in that home (I use that term lightly) because of the promise of an education. "If you move in with your mom, we aren't paying. If you stay here, get good grades, you can go to college."

I'd been deceived. It was a blow that knocked the air right out of me. I didn't know what to do.

Financial aid was out because I didn't qualify for anything but a $400 grant. No government loans because the family contribution was everything but that $400. I borrowed a couple thousand from my grandma, which was only enough to pay for the first semester. For all intents and purposes, I was screwed. Royally.

Essentially, I accepted my defeat before I ever left for I.U. My step-mom managed to cause me distress from 200 miles away. When I didn't receive my weekly spending money of $20 that Dad had allotted me, she'd say she sent it and I was lying. I tried finding a part-time job on or off campus, but since I had no job experience (thanks to constant sabotage in earlier years by the step-mom), I wasn't even called for an interview. I didn't even have money for shampoo or soap, much less to hang out with anyone in my dorm.

I felt helpless. I was terribly homesick. It didn't help that the girl next door to me smoked pot in her room on an almost nightly basis. The smoke wafted through the phone box we shared. "Shh," she'd say through the box. "Don't tell, please." Of course, I wouldn't tell, and in fact, I had no clue what the smell of burning tires was until my roommate clued me in when she stuck her head between the rooms and inhaled deeply hoping to catch a "contact buzz."

My roommate, she was a darling girl, I must say. She and her best friend would come in at about 2 on most mornings, drunk and laughing. I was a little less than amused when she'd fall out of her top bunk and attempt to crawl into bed with me on the lower bunk. I had classes every day at 8 a.m. It made for a long day with little sleep.

I couldn't handle another week of it, so I dropped out at six weeks. I was miserable, overwhelmed, defeated, and just wanted to go home. Though, I had no real home to go home to. In the meantime, all of my things had been deposited into a closet and I didn't have a room anymore at my dad's house.

I went to my mom's, got a job, got an apartment, and the rest is history.

Maybe I could have figured something out. Maybe I could have found help if I would have known who to turn to for it. It wasn't like I had the internet at my fingertips to surf to see what my options were. I didn't know the options. I didn't know where to turn for the answers. I tucked tail and ran for the hills.

After 22 years, I've decided once again it's time to give this college thing a go. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was terrified. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Though, I'm going to focus on the general education classes that I'd have to take despite my choice of a major.

I'll not feign confidence and say I know I can do this. I don't expect it to be easy. Like I was at 18, I'm certainly in need of some guidance and good advice. There's little solace in being told, "If I can do it, you can do it," by those my age who have returned to school. When I glance over classes and descriptions, reading what is expected of the student, I want to run away, forget all about it, and look for a really good excuse like, "I'm too old for this."

The "too old" excuse is the best I can come up with right now. I've used the "the kids are young" and "I don't think I can get financial aid." Well, as it turns out, the kids are no longer young. My oldest will be attending the same college as I. I was able to get a chunk of financial aid in a government loan because I'm a displaced worker after being laid off.

I know I'm not too old. So, now, it's up to me to decide I can and will do this, even though I don't have the slightest clue what I'm getting myself into. No excuses. No running away. Not this time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Facebooking 101

I recently had a chance to catch up with an old friend via a phone call. We'd ran into each other again on Facebook, and I was so happy to talk to him. We got to talking about Facebook, and the things that drive us nuts.

He told me about a time he'd been deleted by a friend. It was rather a humorous story. His main offense was that he posted a quiz result. This offended a friend of his, and she zapped him like a bug. Over a Facebook quiz! As if they're accurate. Most are probably written by some bored 13 year old girl and her gaggle of friends. Check the grammar and spelling in the results sometime. See? It's not like a team of scientists and psychologists have carefully constructed the quizzes and when they say you're crazy, you damn well better listen.

It's just a Facebook quiz.

Really, I had to laugh because I, too, have deleted people who weren't close friends per se because they annoyed me. Probably those who know me best would pose the question right now, "What doesn't annoy you?" Good question, but there are things that bother me about these social networking sites.

I had a Myspace account for a good long while, and the thing that struck me the most about it is that Myspace could make adults carry-on like they were 14 years old. "You moved me from your top four friends, so I moved you out of my top friends." "Why aren't I your top friend anymore?"

I saw, and was involved, in my fairshare of Myspace wars. I finally deleted it after reaching the conclusion that Facebook didn't cultivate a playground mentality. At least not with the notion that one has the ability to tell the world who they like best on their friend list. And don't even think about randomizing your friends because that'll likely strike a nerve with the person who used to be your number three. I have to say, I don't miss Myspace at all.

That's not to say that Facebook doesn't bring its own set of annoyances. I've gotten the distinct impression that the biggest Facebook crime involves the status update. I'm not the only one who feel like I don't need a play-by-play of your trip to work. I've seen others lament that after 15 status updates in one hour's time, they've clicked the "X" beside someone's name.

This would be one example:

7:42 - I'm off to work. I'm running late.

7:45 - Stuck in traffic, running even more late for work.

7:48 - I was nearly t-boned at the stoplight. (I can't imagine why if you're sending updates and not paying attention while driving.)

7:51 - I'm going to need to have my brakes checked soon. I will do that after work.

7:59 - I'm running into work from the parking lot so I won't be late.

8:01 - I just dumped a hot cup of coffee in my lap. I think I have third degree burns on unmentionable parts. I'm off to the ER.

Really, I could have waited to read something like, "I was running late for work, got stuck in traffic, nearly died when I was t-boned, and now, after spilling coffee in my lap, I'm going to the ER because I see blisters on my hoo-hah."

It seems the status update is there to inform, enlighten, entertain, maybe offer a public service announcement. Perhaps, they are a good way to start a rousing conversation with your peers. I'm partial to the witty, sarcastic, and sometimes even cryptic updates.

I'm not partial, however, to the ones that turn into church sermons.

I don't know, maybe I'm missing something here, and God has decided to use the forum that is Facebook to preach to the masses. The pulpit, perhaps, has been replaced by a keyboard. I don't begrudge anyone their faith. I'm happy you have faith in something. That's a-okay with me. I know plenty of people who go to church on Sunday and for whatever reason don't make every other status update about thanking Jesus.

I understand if you want to add a little update after nearly being t-boned that you are thanking God that you were not. I'm only slightly disturbed by the fact that you don't have anything else to say unless you're collecting the jewels to throw at the feet of God when you witness in the end. Again, more power to you if you love church. But the thing is, if I want a sermon, I'll go to church.com or to an actual church...that's the building with the steeple, right?

Another status update that annoys me is the "gloom and doom, whining, my life sucks" posting. It's like catching an ongoing episode of "Hee-Haw," with a loop of the whole "if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

I'm sorry if you're life sucks. Sometimes, mine sucks, too. I'd hope if someone thought Debbie Downer had taken over my keyboard, they'd give me a head's up about it.

I remember back in my chatroom days, there was one chick who didn't go into the chatroom unless she had something to complain about. She couldn't help but take pride in letting everyone know that her life was far worse than anyone else's. I think in one month, her dog died, her teenage daughter got pregnant, she had to have a boil lanced, she found out she had chronic fatigue syndrome, her ulcer was acting up, she lost her favorite ring, and she had a hangnail.

One other type of person I don't get is the "friend collector." They are sort of like "soul collector," but not quite all burning in hell for an eternity. I once received a friend request from someone who was a year or so behind me in high school. I don't recall really ever having a conversation with the person. That might have mattered when we roamed the halls of education. But now, I don't care if I never uttered a peep to you back in the day. If you're funny, nice, and somehow enrich my life, I'll happily add you.

That is if you actually talk to me. When I clicked add, and went to this person's page, I realized she'd added every person listed under our high school. I guess there was a race I wasn't aware of to see how many people from one institution you could add. The concept was very strange to me. Was there an award for having the most friends that I didn't know about?

I know there's a Facebook option to hide the person's feed on the main page. I've done that. I've hid people who rub my mind sore and make me want to tell them to shut up. It's funny, though, that I would be friends with the person to begin with. I don't necessarily want to hurt someone's feelings by deleting them. I also don't want to to reach the point that I've had all I can stand, and I can't take it no more, and I'm wishing I could reach through the monitor and strangle them.

Sure, I hid them, but I still knew they were there. Like a glutton for punishment, I would occasionally click on the option to show hidden posts. Finally, I had to do some weeding because the temptation was too great.

Yeah, Facebook is a great way to stay in touch, squander some time, and seek out some entertainment...so long as you don't annoy your friends and acquaintances to the point of someone clicking the "X."

Motherhood Might Be Deadly

(A friend on Facebook suggested we stop focusing on the bad things that can kill us like cancer, heart problems, environmental hazards, and take a look at the fact our children might do us in...I concur. This is an older column.)

I always had this sneaking suspicion that my children were trying to kill me.  There have been plenty of incidents in my nearly 16 years of parenting to back up this theory, too. In retrospect, they’ve been at it all along.

The first inkling was pregnancy and childbirth.  The nausea and heartburn, plus over 24 hours of natural childbirth (compounded with back labor, and my friend Pitocin to speed things along the second time), was enough to make me wish for the relief that death would bring. I wasn’t sure I would survive bringing them into this world. That should have been the first clue.

Then they started doing things like playing in the dog's water, creating a small lake on the kitchen floor, to see if they could mangle, dismember, spindle, and mutilate me when I careened across the floor.  They’ve spilled shampoo in the bathtub that left me slipping and taking down the shower curtain when I grabbed something to hold onto.

There was the assault by a toddler with a frozen 2 1/2 lb. chocolate Easter bunny that left a bruise on my shoulder that turned every color of a jellybean before it dissipated. I've had my feet ran over, and skin peeled from my heels with shopping carts to the point that I've hobbled out of the grocery when they were just trying to help me out by pushing the cart. 

Speaking of feet, I've had a broken toe from being stomped.  The last time my youngest stepped on my toe, which felt more like he was prying off my toenail with a pair of vice grips, it was suggested I give up wearing flip-flops and wear "real" shoes. 
I've been hit in the head by footballs, baseballs, matchbox cars, shoes (while I was driving, nonetheless), and dirty underwear.  I've been ran into by a child on a four-wheeler.  I've gone for the ride of my life in a go-kart being driven by a child.

Every time I open the freezer after one of them has rummaged around looking for something to eat, which is no less than 17 times a day, I have to be ready to duck or catch things.  It reminds a bit of my high school days when my locker got stacked.  I was seeing stars one day after being attacked by a very large package of frozen chicken breasts.  A rump roast has also assaulted me.

I've had bruises, burns, knots, and scratches.  That's only the physical stuff, too.  They've taken years off my life, no doubt, and caused all sorts of mental anguish worrying about them.  I guess it could be considered physical, too, because undoubtedly the white hairs that continue to crop up are probably caused from excessive worry and concern. 

It's a mission they continue to this very day.  The proof being when I opened the fridge this morning, and before I could even react, a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce took flight.  An uncapped bottle, might I add.  The moment couldn't have been choreographed better if special effects were used. 

The bottle landed on the top of my foot, the impact causing hot sauce to shoot geyser-like, which landed on my face and in my eye.  Oh, and down my leg and all over my foot, too.  Let me share a fact that most probably would never give much thought to...hot sauce, eyeballs, and contact lenses do not mix.  Also, skin that is allowed to have prolonged contact with hot sauce (say five minutes or so while one is madly flushing her eye with water and cleaning off a contact) tends to get a little inflamed and red.  A bit reminiscent of a chemical burn. 

I don't know what happened to the lid to the hot sauce.  No idea, but when I can see again, I might look for it.  For now, it remains a mystery, much like why my children have the urge to off their mother.  Maybe next year for Mother's Day, I'll ask for some goggles, steel-toed boots, knee and shin guards, and a helmet. 


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Year of the Mikes

There must have been a secret alliance of boys named Mike who set out to pick on girls named Kelly in first grade. Every time I turned around, one of them was poking, pushing, or shoving me. By the end of first grade, they were everywhere taunting me. I didn’t want them near me on the playground or in line; it became obvious they enjoyed annoying me.

It all started on the playground. I was minding my own business when I felt a swift push on my back that nearly sent me flying out of the swing. A boy named Mike Brown delivered the shove. He sported a skin graft on his cheek from being burned on an iron, and if it hadn’t been for that element of intrigue, I doubt I would have noticed him at all before that day.

On a swing, I was happy to keep my feet near the ground. I had no desire to go high and less desire to have some boy push me. Mike pushed mightily, making me scream like a banshee. When I told him to stop, he only pushed harder.

“Miss Reinhart,” I yelled, “Mike is pussssshing meeeee.”

Obviously, she mistook my screams of “Oh God please help me, he’s going to kill me,” to be those of a child who was elated at having such a great friend.

“Well,” she yelled from across the playground from where the teachers stood when they were on duty, “Isn’t that nice of him?”

It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t nice at all. I screamed some more at her, and waved one arm while I held on like crazy with the other, and she smiled and waved back at me.

It was hopeless, I thought as I tightened my grip and expected death when I did a loopty-loop over the top bar of the swingset. I knew he enjoyed every minute of me screaming like a girl. I wanted to get off that swing and knock his block off. Better yet, I wanted to grab a hold of that graft and rip it right off his face. With tears in my eyes, as the teacher raised her hand to let us know recess time was over, the swing came to stop.

“Next recess it’s my turn for you to push me,” he said.

It wasn’t going to happen in my estimation. I hadn’t asked for a “turn,” especially from not some stinky ole boy.

“You have to,” he told me.

“Oh no, I don’t. I didn’t ask YOU to push ME,” I muttered while we waited in line to enter the school, boys on the right, and girls on the left.

“Yes, you do. I’m telling if you don’t. I pushed you, so you’ve got to push me.”

I was going to push him alright. I had never been overtaken by the urge to punch somebody who I was not related to at that moment. Sure, I’d slugged my brother a good one, but never anyone else.

Then something happened that night. For some reason, he got to spend the night with the teacher. His mom was sick, or in jail. I didn’t know, and I didn’t really care too much about the specifics.

Instead, I wondered if she made him learn at her house. Did she have a huge teddy bear like the one that set in our classroom in the corner that we used during story time? Did she read him a bedtime story? The teacher certainly was one of the best grown-up readers I’d ever heard.
I was envious. I wanted something to happen to me. I wanted my chance to spend the night at the teacher’s house. I wondered what she would make me for dinner. Maybe she would invite me over on a whim to spend the night since she’d let Mike.

He bragged incessantly the next day about staying with the teacher. She had even packed him a lunch to eat the next day. I wasn’t allowed to pack, which made it sting even more.

Every time I turned around, there was a Mike just ready to cause me stress. Typically if you shared a name with another classmate, you were referred to by your name and the first initial of your last name. Like Kathy R. and Kathy L. There was a small glitch with this because both of Mikes had last names that started with B.

Mike Brown and Mike Bay, they were called. It worked well with me because they deserved to get the last name if I had any business with them. They both took great pleasure in tormenting me to near tears.

While Mike Brown stuck to the playground, Mike Bay took over while we were in line or in the classroom.

He would knock over all the other kids just to get behind me in line. Since we weren’t allowed to tattletale on those who butted in line, I was stuck.

Standing behind me, he would pull my hair and pinch me. When I would turn around telling him to stop, he would quote the TV commercial for garbage bags, “Don’t get mad, get glad!”

He would cackle like it was the funniest thing he ever heard. It wasn’t funny, and it only made me madder. I was anything but “glad” when he crept up behind me. I wanted to kick him in the shin.

I told the teacher, “Mike won’t stop touching my hair.”

He lied. He lied like the stinky dog that he was.

He said, “Her butterfly was falling out. I put it back.”

“What a nice boy you are. Kelly, thank him for fixing your barrette.”

I was going to thank him all right, and I hoped he’d be glad that when somebody the urge overtook me to kick him in the shin and not in the boy parts.

Put Him in the P

Bobbie was a rough and tough girl who was in Special Ed. She didn’t mind being called retarded, either. In fact, I think she was happy with the attention that it garnered her. If the Special Ed class had a president, it was Bobbie. She didn't have groupies so much as she had unwilling draftees in her army. She scared me.

You could always hear Bobbie coming. She had a leg brace, and that foot was fitted with a specially made shoe that was attached to the brace. One of her legs was longer then the other, so when she walked it sounded like a herd of cattle moving in. She was also capable of stealth-mode, which I never really figured out.

If that wasn’t enough to announce that she was coming, she breathed loudly, and oftentimes slurped large amounts of slobber. I don’t know how old she was, and we often speculated that she had to be as old as the teachers.

And boy, was she ever mean and bossy. I guess when you had physical maladies working against you, you had to find a way to stand out in the crowd.

She terrified me something fierce, and it wasn’t because she was handicap and a little mentally off. She scared me because she didn’t hesitate to manhandle us younger kids, and I’m not so sure the teachers weren’t a little scared of her, too. Heck, she was almost as big and bossy as they were, and not nearly as nice.

Part of the time it was hard to understand what she was saying, and she preyed on the weakest of the herd. If you didn’t run fast enough, she’d grab you and pull you to the stage area in the gymnasium. Once in Bobbie’s clutches, you had to do her bidding. Employed by her, it was useless to try to get a teacher’s attention. They let her do what she wanted.

Usually her was request was to go get a boy, a certain boy, and bring him to her. I don’t know what she planned on doing with them, but I think she secretly enjoyed making us all come close to peeing our pants. Of course, boys were rascally, quick and sly, and to catch one meant getting the help of your friends.

One day, Bobbie got me. I couldn’t understand for nothing when she told me to go get Brad and put him in the pee. She reminded me of a cartoon pirate when she spoke. She was only missing a parrot and an eye patch. It would have been the perfect Halloween costume for her.

“Put him in the pee?” I asked. “What pee?”

“Put ‘em in da pee,” she slurred grabbing me harder by the arm. The teachers were just a few feet away, engrossed in talking about Ash Wednesday like it was something naughty.

“What pee?” Boy, I was getting nervous because her grip was like death on my arm.

“The P in the gym. The P over there,” she sputtered.

Except it didn’t sound like this at all. She rattled and sort of choked on her own spit, and she didn’t furnish towels with her showers.

She grabbed me by the neck of my dress, and did her Hunchback of Notre Dame walk over to the center of the gym. She pulled my collar tighter in her clutch until I thought I’d pass out from lack of getting air.

“I said, put him in the P,” and she pointed to the center of the gym floor. She didn’t mean pee, but the P in the PG, which stood for Poplar Grove. Not the G. Not in the middle of the P and the G, but she wanted Brad put precisely in the P. I got it, and it had nothing to do with toilets.

I had my orders. As luck would have it, recess had just started, so I would have to do as she wished. It never occurred to me that I might run away from her. And besides that, she might have been in Special Ed, but she didn’t forget when someone didn’t do what she wanted. She’d get me at the next recess.

Of course, I needed help. Some friends I had because they all suddenly remembered they had to play four square telling me they couldn’t help me. I was on my own. They were going to let me risk potential death on my own.

I scanned the gym, and I knew younger kids wouldn’t be of much help. Brad was tall for a boy, and I think he spent his time out of school just practicing running. He moved like lightning. Maybe this was something that Bobbie found intriguing about him. It could have been his red hair. I don’t know what it was, but she had set her sights on him in the P.

I did the only thing that made me think I stood a chance of living to make it home that day. I found a couple of other girls from the Special Ed class to help me out. If I was going to be bossed around, I was going to do some bossing myself.

“Bobbie wants you in the P,” I told Brad the first time the other girls caught him.

“What pee?” he asked, crinkling up his freckled nose.

“Not that kind of pee. The P in the PG.”

He ran off. Obviously, he wasn’t going to cooperate. The way I saw it, if would step into the P, my job would be complete, and I’d be off the hook. He probably had seen Bobbie in action enough to know things wouldn’t go smoothly for him. If Bobbie was rough with the girls, her special affinity for boys really made her true colors come out.

We still had fifteen minutes of recess left, and I stood on the G waiting for Brad to get tired. Those Special Ed girls didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Occasionally, when they ran past me, I’d attempt to snatch him. Bobbie watched from the sidelines, and after losing patience, she came at us, doing a near gallop, which was always the gait of her choice.

“I shed put’em in da peeh,” she crooned. By this point I guess she’d forgotten it was I who had gotten her assignment, and for this I was grateful.

Brad looked like he might pee his pants in the P. She grabbed him by the back of the neck and said what I assume was, “Boy, I shed git in that P and don’t yous moooove.”

And that’s what he did. He stood in the P, and he didn’t move because every time he did, she charged at him like a bull seeing red. There he stood for the rest of the recess while I silently prayed she would never have me put in the P.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Easily Annoyed & Aggravated

I really hate to pawn my moods off on hormones. I'm an adult. I should be able to control my urges to maim, spindle, and mutilate during various stages of the month. I don't use PMS as an excuse. It may very well be a reason I wish to rip your head off and stuff it into one of your orifices, but I don't use it as an excuse for my behavior.

(Then again, more times than not, I'm more easily annoyed than easily amused. It's part of my charm. I tend to gravitate towards people who have the same no-nonsense/anti-bullcrap approach to life. Either you "get" me or you don't.)

Who knows whether it's estrogen levels or the fact I'm overwhelmed and stressed out with this graduation stuff going on that is causing my angsty aggravation. The bottom line is keep your hands and feet inside the ride lest you lose an appendage. Do not feed the wild animal. Tread lightly. You get the idea.

Yesterday, I found myself on a cleaning roll. It doesn't happen often. It doesn't happen nearly enough. I cleaned the utility room, the oldest's sty, err bedroom, and almost had the kitchen complete (short of cleaning the fridge and mopping the floor).

With graduation this weekend, oldest child decides he has forgotten a few people he'd like to invite to his open house. I had the worst time imaginable designing and then printing these invitations. I stopped when I ran out of ink in the old printer. Yes, the old printer because the new one decided to profess a perpetual paper jam. It's a long, gruelling story ending with me staying up till 1 a.m. and threatening to make lawn art out of either printer. Or really anybody who got in my way.

So, I'm cleaning and annoyed that he suddenly wants me to do something else. I should be used to this. I am a mom, after all. Get me, take me, make me...it's my life.

The ink cartridge printed it's last print, so I sent the child on a mission to get me an ink cartridge refill kit. I proceeded to continue cleaning the cabinet fronts. About this time, my husband came home.

"Where's the child?" he yelled out to me as soon as he came in the door. I was three rooms away. I heard him. I opted not to yell back. I cannot stand being called out to from another room. Get up off your sweet caboose and speak to me in normal tones. Though, I should be used to it by now.

"Hello?" he called out as he neared the kitchen. I don't know if he thought I'd made good on that running off to join the circus threat, but he was still using an outside voice.

"Not talking to me?" he asked.

Ugh. Of course, I was talking to him. I just wasn't yelling to him. He expressed the need for some fix-a-flat, got a hold of the kid, and went to change his clothes.

He entered the edge of the kitchen again in his work shirt, a pair of shorts, and his black, cotton socks. I stress cotton because if they'd been those nylon sort of dress socks, I'd probably be committed somewhere right now.

He just stood there. Looking at me. He put his hands in his pocket. I waited for him to say something as I scrubbed what might have been gorilla glue from a cabinet handle.

"I wouldn't come in here sock-footed," I told him, my contempt growing because he was wearing shorts and black socks. I know it was no fault of his own. He's not a fashion-conscious sort. He really doesn't know any better. He didn't set off to annoy me.

He turned around, acting as though I'd banished him to some far away land. I merely wanted him to know the floor was wet in the areas I'd been scrubbing, and wet socks send him into orbit.

I warmed up some lasagna for him, brought him his plate, and returned to finish scrubbing.

The phone rang various times. The child was asking questions about refill kits and cartridges. Twice, my husband asked, "Who was that?"

He full well knew the child was on a mission. I wasn't talking to some random stranger about HP 57 refill kits and replacement cartridges. It wasn't a poll asking what kind of printer I owned, yet he asked who it was.

Now, this isn't abnormal behavior from that man of mine who I love so much. In fact, it's typical. Most of the time, I'm able to overlook it.

Next, he asked how long the child was going to be gone. Well, let's see. Walmart is a good 20 minute drive. The child sometimes isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to electronic devices. Add the stop at the automotive store, and he was going to be gone at least one hour - if not longer.

"I'm going to have a full flat tire. If I knew he was going to be so long, I would have gone myself," my husband told me in a tone that suggested since I gave birth to the boy, it was likely somehow my doing that he wasn't home with the tire remedy.

I'd like to say my mood has improved today, but I'd be lying. My fingers are various shades of blue, red and yellow, and those colors they make when mixed. I was reminded three times in one hour that one kid has a hair cut appt. at 1:30. The phone has rang no less than ten times since 10 a.m.

"What's going on?" my husband asked, suggesting something was wrong and we were going to play 20 questions.

"Going on with what?"

"I don't know, just wondered what was going on," he said.

"Oh, nothing a little Midol, a vacation, or a fifth of something couldn't take care of," I told him.

Thoughts on Turning the Tassel

A friend of mine said to me, "I can't believe you have a child graduating from high school. How is it possible that we're that old?"

But, yes, it's true. Come Sunday, I'll be the parent of a high school graduate. This brings mixed emotions. For one, I can't believe I'm actually old enough to have an 18 year old child. That doesn't come from an "oh, hell, I'm old" sort of place. It comes from that place that makes me wonder where the years have gone. Wasn't it just the other day that I graduated high school?

I remember my first day as a freshman. I remember my first day of kindergarten. The latter of which my son informed me was downright freaky that anyone 40 years old could remember her first day of school.

It amazes me. 18 1/2 years ago, this newborn baby that was my son was flopped on my chest, and congratulations, it's a boy. I remember the first day he and I were left alone when my husband returned to work after his arrival into this world. I looked at him. He looked at me. "Okay," I said out loud, "Now what?"

It wasn't long until this nagging panic and worry overtook me, and I began to question a lot of things. What if he got sick and I didn't know what to do? Did I even have the first clue about this motherhood business? Would I know what to do and when to do it? The one thing I knew for sure was that he needed me. This realization made me worry about his first day of kindergarten long before he took his first step.

It seems like a week ago Monday that I stood outside with him waiting on the bus that first day. His backpack on his back was nearly bigger than him. I thought he might need a boost to make it up the steps of the bus. Waiting on the bus to bring him home might have been the longest day of my life.

He survived; more importantly, I survived.

Another thing the whole cap and tassel event brings forward is pride. There was never any doubt that he'd graduate. He's not a dumb boy. Prone to putting his all in things that interest him, yes. Dumber than a box of rocks, no. This being a baby, toddler, kid, and teenager - no easy feat.

I'm also proud of myself. This kid rearing thing - not an easy task, either. Letting go and letting a child grow up, even more difficult. There are times I hold my breath, wish I had a prescription for a sedative, and hope for the best.

"Look both ways before you cross the street" has been replaced with "Come to a complete stop and proceed through the intersection only after you're sure nothing is coming."

"Don't eat crayons or bugs" has become "I hope you're smart enough not to get involved in drugs or alcohol."

"Don't talk to strangers" is now "It's great to have a lot of friends and hang out with new people, but if they are doing things you know you shouldn't be doing, be a strong enough individual to remove yourself from the situation."

"Don't jump off the garage roof or run with scissors" is replaced with "Don't drive like a maniac. You don't only risk hurting yourself, but anyone in your car or on the road."

Some of the best advice I was given was not to forget what it was like to be that age. I haven't forgotten. I understand when he tells me it is a little scary. I remember being ready to take on the world. I was ready to grow up and be an adult. In retrospect, I would have heeded the advice to be in no hurry.

I don't know when a parent reaches the point they can say, "I've done what I can for you, now it's your turn to take over." I don't know if I'll ever feel that way entirely. While the apron strings are a tattered mess, thread-bare, and strained from his pulling away and my pulling back, I know that I'll always be mom whether he's 8 days, 8 or 80.

He's no longer that tiny babe that depended on me for everything, but I still look at him and ask myself, "Now what?"