This is a tale that begs to be told, heinous though it may be. Prepare yourselves. It is a tad vulgar. Just a few years ago, when I was in the ninth grade, it was a Thursday night and I was getting ready to go to the first JV football game of the season. JV stands for ‘junior varsity’. We lived in Greenville, South Carolina at the time. I had a new outfit to wear. In retrospect, it was hideous. It was Ocean Pacific. Purple and gray-cropped pants and a matching vest. I had new gray Mia shoes with the thatched pattern, and I am 99.9% sure that I wore my John Taylor straw hat. I wore that damn thing all the time. The phone rang. “Jennifah, telephone!”, Mothah yelled from the kitchen. Our phone had a really, super long cord, and it would reach all the way into my bedroom. I said “hello”, and this strange, male voice on the other end said, “hey, Jennifer, can you talk until I come?” I said, “Who is this?” and the voice said, “Roger”. “Roger who?” I said. I did not know anyone named Roger. Then it hit me. There was a Roger in my math class. He was a senior. I was a freshman! “I said , can you talk until I come?” he said again. “Well, when are you going to get here?” I asked with hesitation. I really did not want Roger from math class to come over. He cracked up laughing and hung up. Weird, I thought. I hung up the phone and went back to getting ready. The phone rang again. “Jennifaaaaahhhh! Telephone!”, Mothah bellowed. Damn it. Who now? “Hello?” I said. “Jennifer, will you talk until I come?” It was Roger again. “I said when are you coming over!” Again, Roger started cracking up and hung up on me. About that time, Mothah appeared in my door way. “What is going on, Jennifah?”, she asked. I told her about the strange phone calls. Mothah hung her head and started laughing. I thought I heard her say “Oh. My. God.” under her breath. She made me sit down and she explained what Roger really meant. Roger wasn’t really coming over. I was horrified. “Don’t give it anothah thought, Jennifah. If Rojah calls back, I will take care of it.” Mothah said. I was scared. I went to the ball game with my friends and forgot about old Roger. When I walked through the door, Mothah was waiting for me on the couch. She had a smirk on her face. “What?” I asked. “Rojah called,” Mothah said, “and he asked me if I would talk until he came”. Oh. My. God. “What did you say?”, I asked, terrified to hear the answer. “Jennifah, you won’t have to worry about Rojah calling again. I told him if he evah called heah again, I would wack his dick off with a sledgehammah!” OH. SHIT. Mothah said dick? I did not even know she knew that word! “MOTHER!”, I said. “Well, Jennifah, I would! I would knock it flat as a pancake!”, she said. And I knew she meant it. Lucky for Roger, he never called back.
I have been scrolling, or better yet, trolling, through my Facebook feed as of late…usually right before I go to sleep, holding onto my College Freshman’s blanket that he left here on his bed in his bedroom…sometimes even crying myself to sleep, remembering the little boy that he used to be, not so long ago, if only in my mind….AND….I see all the cute little pictures of the little pre-k’ers and the little kindergartners and the captions from their mothers about how sad they are to see their babies go off to school! Oh, how they never knew how hard this day would be! Oh how hard it was for them! etc. etc. Let me tell you mothers something. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it. Immediately, if not sooner. YOU, Madame, do not have a fucking clue of what is to come, and in your not-too-distant-future! In fact, one morning, little Junior is leaving for Pre-K, and the next morning, he is a Senior in high school. Yes, ma’am, that is exactly how it happens. You are enjoying his little baby hair, and his little smocked john-john’s now, but enjoy it while it lasts, Mama. Junior is going to grow up, fast. Your ass is gonna be shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch for the muscle fit polo, crew neck, and v neck: ASAP.
It comes in solids and stripes-all color combinations you can possibly think of. And be prepared. That place reeks of eau de teen. You will want to vomit about 20 feet outside the store. Carry a paper bag in your purse–you can use it to breathe into. Enjoy the little saddle shoes and English sandals too, Mama, because Junior is gonna go for nothing but Chuck Taylor’s. High and Low. Mostly in black. Because what doesn’t go with black? And Mama, while you are at it, enjoy little Junior’s longish hair….because he is going to have a Mohawk one day. A big one. And you are gonna need to flat iron that bitch with a shit load of Got2B Spiked Up Gel.
While you are at it, Mama, enjoy little Junior liking YOU, because eventually, he is going to pretty much hate your fucking guts. Everything you do is gonna be wrong….what you say and how you say it….even the way you look out of your eyeballs at him. I can hear you right now, Mama, “not my little Junior!” That will be one big platter of bullshit for you, Mama! Just you wait…. Right now, your little Junior wants to be by your side every minute of every day, and he wants to talk to you…But in just a few very short years, little Junior is gonna shut himself in his room and never come out. Except to go to school, and only then because you will tell him about the evil, awful truant officer who will come and get him if he doesn’t come out. And soon after that, the only word you will ever hear from Junior is “whatever” or possibly “no”. I know I have scared you, Mama. You should be scared. It does level out a bit, around the end of 11th grade. That’s when they realize they are almost outta here and you realize you are about to lose them forever. They are finally happy! And you, Mama, you are holding on to whatever time you’ve got left with Junior, and at that point, it ain’t much at all. I cried when all 3 of mine went to Pre-K and Kindergarten. It is nothing in comparison to what it feels like when a child goes off to college and you have to wake up and realize that, for the most part, as far as day to day living is concerned, with that one, that kid, your ass is done. Finished. It’s over. It feels like my heart has been pulled out of my body and run over by a Mack truck over and over again and then stabbed with a razor sharp butcher knife and then cut up into tiny pieces and then put into the Cuisinart. That is how much it hurts. The only consolation prizes are things like knowing that my kid is a good kid, and he has survived having me for his mother and still loves me. So, Mama, cry in your beer over your baby going to Pre-K or Kindergarten. You don’t know it yet, but that’s not really why you are crying. You are crying because it’s already the beginning of the end. I’m over here at my house rolling my eyes at you and wishing my big baby just walked out the door for Pre-K or Kindergarten. I’m over here at my house, clutching my big baby’s blanket and crying myself to sleep at night because he doesn’t really live here anymore. And you, Mama, do not feel sorry for me. You have no more time with your little Junior than I had with mine. Don’t blink. You’re up next.
Preface: I am well aware that this is entirely too long😉 I actually cut some of it out and left the best parts, so just be thankful for that.
Sunday was a week since we moved Mini Me to college. I think I have tried to write this story a hundred times. I feel like I am missing a limb. The first time I cooked dinner and went to set the table, I realized that I only needed to set four places, and the knife, that was plunged into my heart last weekend, twisted again. It was not that Mini Me has eaten every single meal with us all of his life, it was that that time was different. It seemed more permanent. Like for real. I am going to tell you about taking Mini Me to Belmont last weekend, and it is not like the beautiful, sweet stories people have been sending me on Facebook. Please don’t misunderstand me–I appreciate all of the well wishes and kind words and thoughts, more than anyone knows. It helps to know that people are thinking of me. But….I really need to tell you that most of those stories are exactly that: Stories. And that is just a nice way of me calling a real loud and clear ‘BULLSHIT’. I am here to tell you the truth.
I have gone back to work, after an 8.5 year leave. This has not proven to be the easiest task on the planet, but despite my best efforts, I am actually enjoying the hell out of it. This job thing does get in the way of a lot of my would-be normal, day to day activities. I could not just randomly gather all of the shit that Mini Me needed, whenever I felt like it, on my random, every other day trips to Target. Those no longer exist. I also could not just give Mini Me my debit card and say, here ya’ go, sonny! Go get whatever you think you might need! I never have the energy to go to Target after dinner, and somehow, the weekends preceding his departure had been filled with other things, sooooo the morning of the day we left, I ran to Target to do some last-minute-Mini-Me shopping.
My list was relatively short. I ended up with two shopping carts and a grand total of just under $400. It took me over an hour and a half because I kept getting text messages from all three children. Most of these were unnecessary. I do not need a text message response of “NP” or “OK” or “THX” or “It would be really cool if you would bring home Starbucks”. This only makes my shopping trip longer, with me having to dig for my phone in my black hole of a purse. If the important points of our textversation are over, then, for the love of God, just leave it alone. When I got home, I backed the car into the carport so that I could unload all of the shit I had just bought, only to take it inside the house, repack it and then reload it into the same car. Mini Me and I had decided to try to pack the car before JC got home. We knew that if we had the car half loaded when he got there, he would make us unload it and he would start over. JC likes to load the car. In his defense, he is a good car-loader. BUT….we had a LOT of stuff to load and we knew, from many previous packing experiences, that JC would require one or more of us to bring all of the shit out to the car, and stay out there and watch while he thought about what would be loaded and when. Then, if he changed his mind and thought of a better plan, he would make us help unload it and start over. This may happen multiple times before he got it right. This sort of perfectionism drives me insane, and I refuse to take part in it. Mini Me and I started haulin’ ass. We actually got most of it done before JC got home. Since all 5 of us were going to Nashville, it was decided that Mini Me and JC would ride in the other car, and I would drive The Middle Child and The Baby in the minivan, that was packed so full that I could not see out of the rear view mirror. We were getting ready to walk out the door and JC and Mini Me and I were in the kitchen alone. I burst into tears, realizing that this was it. This was the last time we would be here, in our house, like this. Mini Me grabbed me and hugged me hard.
We hit Atlanta rush hour and Chattanooga rush hour, which was par for the course. Somewhere beyond Adairsville, Georgia, when I had started to make up some time, I came upon a Scion, riding leisurely in the left hand lane. Left lane riders really piss me off. Also, about this time, The Middle Child and The Baby were starting to bitch at each other. Unable to pass on the right, my road rage took over, and I rode the Scion’s bumper for about 10 minutes. When I could finally pass on the right, I happened to glance over at Scion, to give a scowl, and saw a Native American woman shooting me a bird….her giant dream catcher dangling from her rear view mirror. I thought to myself that there was seriously something wrong with that picture. Bitch. I blew her doors off and traveled onward. The Middle Child and The Baby and I were having a lot of fun between fights. We were listening to the only thing we listen to, ever: The Hamilton Soundtrack. We tested ourselves and we made it almost 1 hour without listening to it. We then decided that there was simply nothing better to listen to, so we just turned it back on and never considered listening to anything else again. I now have to make sure that I remind The Baby, each and every morning, before he gets out of the car at school, that he may under no circumstances be caught singing under his breath (or at the top of his lungs) any of the following lyrics: How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore….; ….he’s been kicking ass as the ambassador to France; …..Sittin’ there, useless as two shits, hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you where my shoe fits!; or the ever so great: Southern Mother Fuckin’ Democratic Republicans, OH! I am seriously just waiting on the school to call me. Two out of three of my children sing incessantly. I think they don’t even know they do it about 95% of the time. I’m telling you….the call is coming. “Broadway Musical Soundtrack” had best be enough to get us both off the shit list. Anyway, we found ourselves to be a little hungry, and were overjoyed to realize that the bag of Mini Me’s snack foods was, indeed, in the minivan, and also easily accessible! The 3 of us put back an entire big bag of Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn in less than 30 minutes. With traffic and rain, it took us 5 full hours to get to Nashville. And guess what? We arrived in the nick of time for JC and Mini Me to get to the Butch Walker concert. Imagine that! So guess what else? The Middle Child, The Baby, and I ordered room service for dinner. Imagine that!
We had to be at Belmont the next morning at a specified time. I can no longer remember what that specified time was, but sure as hell, we were running late. I was the last one to get ready, so everyone just left me in the room and told me they would see me in the car as they ran out of the door. I told them if they left me, I’d kill every damn one of them. We managed to pull up within 5 or so minutes of our designated time frame. There was a team of students, all dressed in Belmont shirts, waiting to greet us at the front door of Kennedy Hall. They immediately asked for our student’s name, which we provided, not realizing, that when we opened all of the doors of the minivan, the team of Belmont students would start cheering his name and clapping for him. The most fun thing to watch was the Belmont students unloading my car! Within 5-7 minutes, my entire Honda Odyssey had been completely emptied, and the only thing I’d carried was the Ryan Adams Boxed Vinyl Set. Things got a little testy in the dorm room, what with all 5 of us in there, trying to help unpack and give helpful decorating and organizing tips of how we would do it. Eventually, 4 of us were banished to the lobby for 15 minutes so that Mini Me could collect himself, because he was on the verge of cussing us all out. It had already become abundantly clear that my little ‘last minute’ jaunt to Target just hadn’t cut the mustard, and we would be making another trip after lunch at Edley’s. I really thought that if we could just raise our blood sugar a tad, we would all be much better off. Oh, how wrong I was. All 5 of us fought our way through Target. To be fair, Target had about 2500 customers, and all of us seemed to be in the same general vicinity: lamps, rugs, towels, white boards, printers, food, school supplies, household goods….basically the entire store. It was a clusterfuck of such gigantic proportions, that I thought I might have a panic attack at any moment. Those times make me really bitchy and snappish. JC said we should have gone to Wal-Mart. He was right. And, damn it, I cannot think of any time I have ever made the statement that ‘we should have gone to Wal-Mart’. It really pissed me off that he said it because I felt like he was blaming me for us being in Target! I said You were driving the damn car! Why didn’t you just drive us to the damn Wal-Mart if you wanted to go there so bad? Huh? He said because you said go to Target. And I said, well, I’d a heap rather go to a Target any damn day before a damn Wal-Mart! ( knowing, as the words were coming out of my mouth, that at that moment, I probably looked as though I belonged at a Wal-Mart) And The Middle Child was all like PARENTS! STOP IT! So, we did. We had only about $179.87 worth of shit in the shopping cart, so we just checked on out of Target and guess where we went to get the last 3-5 items on the list? YOU GOT IT! Wal-Mart. It was nice to shop for those 3-5 things in a less clustered atmosphere, I do have to admit. By the end of that shopping extravaganza, most of us were just plain done. I dropped JC and Mini Me off at the dorm and I took The Middle Child and The Baby back to the Hilton. We ended up ordering pizza and watching some completely inappropriate crime show-Dateline or something-before calling it a night. JC ubered back to the hotel, and Mini Me was spending the night in his dorm, but we would spend the day with him the next day.
The next day, we ate lunch at Edley’s. I know I said we did that the day before. We did do it the day before. And we did it again. We really like Edley’s. So what? Then, we went and picked up this red, microfiber futon we found on Craigslist, for the dorm room. It was brand new, in the box. It was really awesome. What was not really awesome was that when we got in the car to leave, all the doors to the van had been open while we were loading the damn thing, and the van was now full of baby yellow jackets. Like we were parked on a yellow jacket nest or something….Nobody got stung, and it only took us about 5 minutes of riding with all the windows down and the sunroof open and screaming to get them all out. In fact, I am quite sure that the screaming was the main factor that contributed to getting them out. Fun times, I am talking about, People, fun times. We went to Carter Vintage Guitar. It is one of our Nashville Rituals. Mini Me loves to go in there and play guitars. I decided to sit in the car with The Baby, who was screaming about how much he hates Carter Vintage Guitar, and how boring it is to go in there, and how much he did not want to go in there, and why were we making him do such an awful, miserable thing like going into Carter Vintage Guitar when he so really, really did not want to go? I damn sure did not want to go into Carter Vintage Guitar and have to listen to that whiny bullshit. I’d just assume sit and listen to it in the comfort of the van. We also had promised The Baby that we would take him to Third Man Records-another one of our Nashville rituals. The longer we sat in the car, the later it got, and the whinier The Baby got. OH MY GOD! When are they gonna come out? This is awful. I can’t stand this. Please go get them. Please make them leave. Can’t we just leave them here….I told you I did not want to come to Carter Vintage Guitar!!!! As you can imagine, I really wanted to bitch slap The Baby, but he had a point. I looked at the clock on my phone and was shocked to see that it was almost 5:00pm, Nashville time. That meant it was almost 6:00pm, Atlanta time. I had to work the next day. The kids had school. We had to get this show on the road. I started texting The Middle Child, and JC. They came out a few minutes later. Mini Me jumped into the front seat and slammed the door like he might break the damn thing off it’s hinges. He then went off on a tirade about some guitar that was apparently like the Holy Grail of guitars. He was really pissed off. I finally pieced together what had happened. He was enjoying playing guitars, and then JC handed him this fancy schmancy one to play, and it was like the bomb. Like a $7-8000.00 bomb, which is really not all that big of a bomb in the world of guitars. He was thoroughly pissed off that JC would actually hand him a guitar to play that we had no intentions of buying. Now, this whole situation was ridiculous. Mini Me has gone in Carter Vintage and Gruhn’s and played instruments that cost a whole lot more than this guitar I am telling you about, and he has known every time that nobody was buying a damn thing, unless it was a time when we were looking to buy a damn thing. He knew this particular day, that nobody was buying a damn thing. But he went off like the spawn of satan. He said some things that I am not going to repeat–mostly because I think he regretted them the instant they came out of his mouth, the second time he said them, since he said them more than once😉 I sat there and thought to myself that just maybe, this whole leaving him here at college, 4 hours away from home, was not going to be as hard as I had imagined…little fucker. In fact, I thought we might just ought to leave his ass right there, in the parking lot of Carter Vintage Guitar and let him walk his ass back to his dorm! We went to Third Man Records and JC sat in the car. His feelings were hurt by the awful things that had come out of the spawn of satan’s mouth. Usually, all of us are pretty quick to apologize when we have done something we know is wrong. That apology we were waiting on did not come until we were headed back to the dorm a little while later, but when it came, it was very sincere. I had heard about this ‘spawn of satan’ behavior. It is apparently a quite common defense mechanism…..I had hoped we would be able to avoid it, but I should have seen it coming a mile away. After we unloaded the futon and put it together, we asked Mini Me to come outside to tell us goodbye.
I really thought I was going to be fine. I really did. I did not feel the least bit weepy. Then, I turned around and saw Mini Me hug The Middle Child, and I heard an audible sob come from her, and that–that was all she wrote.
I sobbed most of the way home, but managed to belt out a few Hamilton songs with The Middle Child in between breakdowns. I called Mothah and Daddy. JC had The Baby with him in the other car. I think he knew that after our stint in the van at Carter Vintage Guitar, The Baby and I needed a small break from each other. When we pulled into our driveway, I felt this surge of sadness come over me because we had actually come home without Mini Me. He really was not here. I went straight to his room and the tears just kept falling. It seemed so empty without him. I grabbed the gray blanket off his bed and carried it with me (I have slept with it every night since). I went into the playroom and looked at the side that was and is his side–the music side. There were still a few guitars hanging on the wall, and of course the piano is there, but the cables and mic’s and amp’s-all that stuff is gone. And my Mini Me is not there. Elvis has left the building.
I am one great big contradiction. What you see, is most definitely not what you get. I think I dress fairly normal. Sometimes I dress a little funky and sometimes I wear things that are considered super preppy. Sometimes I mix funky and super preppy because I have eclectic taste. When JC and I were engaged and planning our wedding, we went to pick out our china. I had already picked out my silver pattern and basically told him he could like it or not: Repousse by Kirk Stieff. We went to this little boutique shop in Sandy Springs, and the lady kept telling me that I simply could not put Repousse with Kusumam by Rosenthal. It was so horrible a faux pas, it was practically illegal. Wellllllll, you know how I love me some illegal anything… I was waiting for someone to walk out and make a Citizen’s Arrest. We left that little boutique that day, fully registered for Kusumam by Rosenthal, as well as Repousse by Kirk Stieff. The lady was horrified. I did not give a rat’s ass. It was not her future table I was going to be setting, It was mine, and I was not even going to be inviting her to dinner. Why did she care what I chose? It was none of her damn business which china I wanted to put with Repousse by Kirk Stieff! Who really gives a shit what china I put with Repousse by Kirk Stieff? I bet Kirk Stieff would not give a shit which china I wanted to put with Repousse. I would have left that shop, but it was the only place we could find Kusumam by Rosenthal. Go figure. The picture has to be big, so you can see how big the wine goblets are. I still drank wine back then, and I chose the largest goblets known to man. You can fit a half bottle of wine in those suckers.
Even with my eccentricities, I am not sure that “let me tell you about my first tattoo” is something that most people expect to ever hear me say. And, to be fair, I do not actually say that-ever! The story is mortifying and I don’t really like telling it, but I will, because it is necessary. I did not even get my first tattoo until I was 33 or 34, and had been sober for a couple of years. My husband and I went to San Francisco, and for some strange reason, I got this idea in my head that I was going to get a tattoo in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. JC was like: Whatever. He knows how I am. When I get an idea in my head, there is just no turning back. We found a tattoo parlor (I hate that word: parlor ) that looked decent and the artist gave me some stuff to look at since I had not yet decided what I wanted my tattoo to be. Now that was a problem. Tattoos are very personal. I should have known what I wanted before going in. I learned that lesson and did not need to learn it again. All of my other tattoos have a reason behind them. We learn from our mistakes, I suppose. I picked out a yellow crescent moon and some stars. The location was the middle of my lower back. I decided this would be the best spot because I could cover it up easily. It did not hurt as badly as I had expected. Don’t get me wrong–it hurt! But I had been afraid that I might cry, and it just wasn’t that kind of pain. A few days after we got home, I was driving down the road, listening to a local radio show. I felt my face turn red, as I picked up on the conversation…something about a tramp stamp. I had never heard this term before, but it did not take me long to realize that I now had one. Fuckety fuck me. Of course I did. Of course I had a fucking tramp stamp! Great. Later that week, I almost ran off the road as I had a sickening revelation that my lovely tramp stamp looked very much- too much –like the logo for the Crescent Moon Diner…fuckety fuck me AGAIN. Since it was located on my back, if I wanted to look at it there, I had to look in a mirror. I could pretty much forget about the damn thing and pretend it never even happened….well…unless I was bending over to get something out of my bag at the kids’ school and my shirt and my jeans were separated for that split second that Suzy Q. Homemaker from the neighborhood happened to be looking down my way. Those little incidents were so much fun, they almost made me want to wear things that invited the opportunity. I loved hearing the shock in their voices. “YOU have a tattoo?!” It was almost too much for some of them. I did actually get,” Jennifer, is it REAL? “ several times, as if I would actually apply a fake tramp stamp just for the hell of it. Seriously, people? Is it real? Come on. When I clocked in at a hefty 225 the day before The Baby was born, it looked like it was the size of a paper plate. There have been lots of times when I would have made a different decision regarding that particular tattoo. The good thing about it is that I don’t have to look at it, and neither do you, so we are all good. I have a Sons of Anarchy tattoo on the inside of my right forearm. I got that one at Kat Von D’s L.A. Ink. It’s about the size of a quarter. I have a Buddhist symbol for mindfulness on the inside of my left ankle and a skull and crossbones on the outside of my right ankle. All three of those tattoos have meaning for me. Nothing is larger than a half dollar. When Mini Me started talking about getting a tattoo awhile back, I was not surprised. I expected it, actually. What I did not expect, was for him to ask permission to get it. I think I just thought he would go to college and show up with one someday. Tuesday, I got a text from Mini Me, saying he really needed to talk to me about something, but wanted to make sure he wasn’t bothering me at work. This sort of text is not usually a good sign, as it means I might go ape-shit, so he wants to make sure I am not around other people who would matter. Finally, he asked me if I would mind if he went and got his tattoo. I was disappointed. I had secretly envisioned the two of us going to Liberty Tattoo together, on a mother/son field trip before he leaves for college next weekend. We could get tattoos together! It would be so much fun! What 18 year old boy wouldn’t want to go get a tattoo with his mother??? I sent him a text with my idea and asked him if he would just consider it. He responded that it had to be today because it was the anniversary of Jerry’s death. Today was not an option for me. Even though I was disappointed that our little tattoo bonding experience would not be happening (yet! ;) , I totally understood this utmost importance and pressing need. Mothah remembers where she was when JFK was shot. I remember where I was when it was announced that Jerry Garcia died. It was like 6:00am. JC and I were dating. We had stayed up all night with JC’s brother, re-decorating their mother’s kitchen as a surprise. She was due in from a trip later that day. I had made an early morning Krispy Kreme run. This was before cell phones, so I had to actually wait until I got back to the house to let anyone else know this tragic news. My kids think that is the worst part of that story-that I could not call people and share the news on my way home. I told Mini Me that I had to tell (warn) his father that he was going to get a tattoo, so I texted this information to my husband and got no response. I got tired of waiting, so I called him. His response was this: I do not have time to deal with this. Oh, okay. I knew he was coming home late. I told him that I had to be up extra early for work and asked him not to wake me up when he got home. A little while later, I was getting ready to go to bed and Mini Me texted me a picture of his tattoo. I thought I might pass out. It was HUGE. It looked like it might be 4 or 5 inches long. Mother of GOD. I asked him if he was happy. He was, and very. I asked him if it hurt and he said HELL YES. I told him that I did not expect it to be that big, and I am pretty damn sure that he knew all along that I had no idea how big that thing was going to be. And now, as a result, Tuesday night, August 9, will now be forever known as The Night FUUUCK Was Heard ‘Round the Neighborhood. JC got home, got in bed, and got on his Instagram, and saw a photo of Mini Me’s tattoo. I was awakened to FUUUCK!!! GOD DAMN IT! The kind when you are so mad that it sounds like: GOT TAM IT! JENNIFER! WAKE UP! Have you seen this? OH MY GOD! etc. etc. I was livid. Of course I had seen it. It wasn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it wasn’t worth all of this drama queen bullshit. The ONE thing I had asked–was that I not be awakened, and damn it, here I was, awakened. I know it is supposed to be Jerry Garcia’s hand print, but I can’t help it. To me, it looks like it could be Harambe the Gorilla’s hand print. I am sure it will be much better when Mini Me’s skin calms down. One can hope… As for the size, Mini Me originally said, and I quote, “as small as possible”. I assumed (obviously incorrectly) that this meant he could get it as small as my quarter-sized tattoos. This is as small as he could get this tattoo, and now that I think about it, I really should have known that this would be a design that could never go a small as a quarter! It’s way too intricate. It’s someone’s actual hand print. but that is really my only issue with it. Like I said before, tattoos are very personal. It does not matter to me if you like my tattoos or not-they are not for you, they are for me. Mini Me’s tattoo is not for me. It’s for Mini Me. If it makes him happy, then he can rock right on with his bad ass self, and it’s really nobody else’s damn business. As for me, I can certainly say that Jerry Garcia has, posthumously, left an indelible mark on my son, and I am not exactly sure what to think about that!😉
I have been a cynic since the fifth grade. In my opinion, I’m lucky I made it that far. I can pinpoint the exact moment that my life changed for the worse. It was going so well. We lived in a nice neighborhood. We had a pool at our house. We had a sauna in our house. We had a bidet in our house. We moved into this house in 1978, people. Mothah, who is like 5 ft. 2 (if that) , drove a Cadillac. Granted, it did look like a pimp mobile. It was navy blue with some glitter in the paint and it was a two door. It was loooong. I think it may have been called a sedan-de-ville. It had crackled white leather seats and a white leather top and wire wheels. Can’t you just hear some Curtis Mayfield playing in the background as you are reading? Superfly…. I know you are laughing your asses off, just imagining this. When my brother or I would get out of the car, the doors were so heavy, we could not hold onto them and they would go flying off onto the sidewalk and get stuck, making this awful scraping sound. ( I am laughing my ass off just typing this) We could lay in the back window, on the speaker area- and we loved to do that. I think Eli and I could lay up there at the same time-one of our head’s at each end. Seat belts existed back then, but of course were not a requirement. Daddy had an orange Corvette. God, that thing was U-G-L-Y-it-didn’t-have-no-alibi-it was UGLY, but baby, we were stylin’ and profilin’. I walked to school or rode my bike, and guess what? The school was not in sight from my house. In fact, it was about a mile away. I don’t remember anything sinister ever happening. Imagine that. Well….except for the time that I cut through a yard I was not supposed to cut through, and these people’s dog bit me on the butt. Mothah said, “Well, Jennifah, you shouldn’t have cut through their yahd.” Imagine that. We used to roller skate up and down the hill in front of my house in boot skates with metal wheels. I can remember saving up my babysitting money (.50 an hour) to buy the skates. They were $12.99. Skating down that hill is how I broke my wrist. We played in the creek behind my house. We played “Cowboys and Indians” and none of us had ever heard the phrase politically correct before. We played with all different kinds of toy weapons-guns, knives, bows and arrows. We loved cap guns too-those were lots of fun! None of it was never deemed inappropriate. We ran in a pack of neighborhood kids-after school and in the summer. It was just the way it was. Life was carefree and fun-until the fifth grade. I almost hit a snag before the fifth grade , when a friend of mine told me about the horrors of sex. I think that was around the third or fourth grade. I was certain she was wrong about all of that. That was such vile and disgusting information– I had to go to Mothah and ask-just to make sure that something so nasty was not in my future. I was instantly sorry I had opened that can of worms. It resulted in my having to watch NOVA’s The Miracle of Life video and then having a Q and A session with Mothah afterwards, that was mostly silent. NOVA had explained it all very well. The only real question I had was, “How could I get out of doing it ?” and I don’t recall asking Mothah that. I could forget about sex, I decided. I just put that nasty junk out of my mind, as it was a long way off for me. Sex was nothing compared to the complete and utter devastation that came in fifth grade, when this same friend, who shall remain nameless, as we are still friends today, informed me that indeed, there was no Santa. I assured her that this time, she was dead up wrong and how dare she take the name of Santa in vain like that? She started laughing and asked me how I could actually believe that a fat man in a red suit traveled in a sleigh, with reindeer, to every house on earth, in one night, delivering gifts to every child? I thought about that for a moment and had to admit that the idea was a bit ludicrous….yet I went back to defending the great name of Santa….When I got home from school, I went to Mothah, hoping like hell she was going to tell me that of course, my friend had it all wrong, Santa was totally real! He was magic! Magic was real! Yet, to my disappointment, that is not what happened. She told me a beautiful story about how Santa is love. Santa is how your parents show their love for you at Christmas time. I can’t remember now exactly how she said it, but it was beautiful and we both cried. I looked at her, sobbing, and I said, “Well, I guess this means that there is no Easter Bunny and no Tooth Fairy either?” and she nodded her head. And that was it. Fuckety fuck me. Life, as I knew it, was over. And things have never been the same again, and they never will be. I will say that things improved, somewhat, when I had children of my own, and could do the whole Santa-Easter Bunny-Tooth Fairy-thing myself, but, it’s still not the same as it was . It will never be the same as it was. Damn it.
Time is closing in on me. I can feel it–as if I am in a room and the walls are closing in. The air is getting thin and I am finding it harder and harder to breathe. If I think about it too long-5 seconds or more-I can work myself into a panic attack. My stomach starts to flip flop and I can even break a sweat. It is actually going to happen. And soon. On Wednesday, it will be a mere month away. We will take Mini Me to college on August 20. Part of me would like to lock him in the dog crate. He would fit. I could put a padlock on the outside and just keep him there. I know I would never get away with that. He is far to loud and boisterous. He has started doing his own laundry this summer. Do not say a word. NO, I haven’t ever made him do it before! I have enjoyed every moment of doing his laundry! Okay, well maybe not every moment, but I have not hated it! Okay, okay. At times, yes, I have hated it-but only because I knew he was putting dirty clothes on top of clean clothes that he had not put away, and I was having to do all of the laundry over again! His laundry has been my job, and I have done it well. I have sort of missed doing his laundry. NO, I do not want him to mail it to me from Nashville. He can keep on doing it himself. He says he is actually going to hand wash everything. I am interested to see how long that will last!😉 I am getting sick just writing this. I want to trash it and go do something else and pretend I never started this. Maybe that will make it all go away. I know it won’t. I know that Mini Me is perfectly capable of taking care of himself while he is at school. I don’t want him to make the same mistakes I made. How do I stop that from happening? I know I can’t. I can only hope that I have taught him well. I know that everyone has to make their own choices and mistakes and learn from both. I want to hold his hand. I want to be there to tuck him in at night, and be there when he wakes up in the morning. I want to protect him from all of the evils that lurk in the shadows of college…..Then I remember that he is not going to Athens. He isn’t me. He hasn’t already started off on the wrong foot. He pretty much knows what he wants to do–I did not at his age, or 5 years later, or even now. God, I am going to miss him, and his music that has filled our home since he was 10 years old. It’s going to be too quiet-even with The Middle Child and The Baby still here. Maybe I will take up guitar at the ripe old age of 45….
I cannot, for the life of me, remember when The Middle Child, who I will call by her actual name: Eliza, (periodically, in this piece, for just reason) introduced me to Hamilton, but I know it was some time ago. This is my child who stays in her room a lot, on her iPad too much, yet I have checked her browsing history and all I can ever find are Broadway links and such. There is much eye rolling that goes on between us and I have longed for a connection. I have often thought maybe it would come when her brother goes off to college. She thinks I don’t get her at all, but I do-if only a little. I had an Annie obsession in the early 1980’s and would go to the library and research Andrea McArdle on occasion, as the internet was not at my fingertips! I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, how silly-to be so taken with a Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton! (like my obsession with an orphan girl was any better?) At the same time, I was ever so thankful to have a self-proclaimed Broadway Nerd for a 14 year old daughter. There were far worse things to get involved in at her age-I knew from my own experience as a teenager. The things that I started doing at just about her age are what have led to my having just about 14 years of sobriety today. The Middle Child could have as much Hamilton as her heart desired! She knew every word to every song-all 46 of them! She would excitedly tell me things about the Schuyler Sisters when she could get a minute of my attention. Last school year was a blur, what with one brother a senior (Mini Me) and another a second grader (The Baby). I would tell myself to stop and listen to her. I knew it was important–she was trying to share something that she loved with me. I would catch bits and pieces here and there. I caught that Hamilton’s wife’s name was Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. AHA! A name connection. This, I got. Strange…I know. It’s just how my mind works. After that, when my Eliza would talk to me about Hamilton, I was a little more receptive to hearing about it. I would hear her singing the songs in her room. There is one song, The Schuyler Sisters, where the chorus goes: Angelicaa, Eliiizaaa, and Peggy: The Schuyler Sisters! Work! Work! I started calling The Middle child Eliiizaaa just like in the song. It drove her nuts, which of course egged me on. The more time went by, the more I heard about Hamilton, and the dude who wrote it: Lin-Manuel Miranda. LIN WHO? I remember saying. The Middle Child told me all about him, and about how he had written In The Heights, which Dekalb School of the Arts (our beloved school) had put on two years ago. Oohhhh, I said, remembering going to see In The Heights with Eliza and my mother in law and being slightly embarrassed. I could not resist. I had to ask. Is it sexy like In The Heights? I will never forget her answer. MOM!!!!NO!!! IT’S A HIP HOP MUSICAL ABOUT OUR FOUNDING FATHERS!!! ….. Broadway Nerd, much?😉 So…little by little, I learned more and more about Hamilton and its founding father, Lin-Manuel Miranda….and the more I became intrigued. When Eliza showed me a picture of Lin, I said, he looks like Shakespeare. HE HAS BEEN COMPARED TO SHAKESPEARE, MOM!!! The Middle Child practically squealed at me. Sheesh. I had not seen her so excited over something and/or someone in quite awhile. It reminded me of my adoration of Adam Ant ….okay…I won’t go there. Eliza would play the Hamilton soundtrack in my car whenever we went anywhere. It was always, MOM! YOU HAVE GOT TO HEAR THIS ONE! So I heard it. Usually more than once. And I liked them. All of them. I found myself picking up the words-most especially to You’ll Be Back. I would make Eliza play that one over and over. Finally, she got sick of it and refused to play it for me. I figured out how to YouTube it and then eventually just broke down and bought the album on iTunes. Summer came and we would go out to the pool and play the Hamilton soundtrack. Loud. Yes, even with OH! Southern motherfucking (uh-huh) Democratic-Republicans! from “Washington On Your Side”….I did not care. It was Hamilton or nothing. When we were in NYC in June for Eliza to sing at Carnegie Hall with her choir, we entered the lottery for tickets numerous times and lost. I told The Middle Child how sorry I was that I could not buy us tickets. Hamilton is sold out until 2017 and resale tickets average around $1250. We did not have $2500-$3000 for 2 of us to buy tickets to go see a show! Even if we did, my conscience would never allow it. I would never sleep again if I spent that kind of money on something like that.(We aren’t destitute…just average, middle class Americans with a kid going off to a private college in August and two other kids, a mortgage, etc.) MOM!!! I KNOW!! I WOULD NEVER EXPECT ANYTHING LIKE THAT EVER!!! I KNEW WE COULD NOT SEE IT!!! my sweet, sweet Eliiizaaa said to me. I tried to put it out of my mind, but it simply would not go away. Lin (Manuel Miranda-we are now on a first name basis LOL) held a sweepstakes to benefit the Hispanic Federation. The Grand Prize was to be 2 tickets to his LAST performance in Hamilton on July 9, complete with 2 airline tickets, and hotel accommodations, as well as getting to go to an after party with the cast. There were different levels at which you could enter. There was an Eliza level for $225. This gave you 2,250 entries, a hoodie and a beanie with the sweepstakes logo “I Did Not Throw Away My Shot” on it. The Middle Child used some of her own money to enter. When it was getting close, I had a mental snap, and well, let’s just say I had 750 entries and will be receiving a t-shirt ;) We spent the last week of June at the beach in South Carolina.- Laurens is in South Carolina, redefining brav’ry-I now have Hamilton lyrics for every occasion😉 I began reading stories online about people camping out for cancellation line tickets outside of the theater. I had camped out for concert tickets before-back in the day-The Grateful Dead, in particular. I began to view this option as somewhat of a dare, if you will…so I took myself up on it. I did not realize that Eliiizaaa had not taken me seriously when I had been talking about it. When I told her I had bought our plane tickets, she jumped out of her beach chair and started screaming. Looking back now, the me that she knows is far more mundane, I suppose. She has never known me to be spontaneous and compulsive in this way. I may have scared her a little.
When we got to NYC, it did not take long for me to figure out that talking about this and doing this were two completely different things! Sleeping on 46th Street in a kid-sized Lightning McQueen sleeping bag, which was stuffed inside a Hefty Cinch Sack because of rain, was, in my mind, a new low for me. And, sleeping in a kid-sized sleeping bag at 5 feet 5 inches is like sleeping in a short-sheeted bed. It was hot-a different kind of hot than in Atlanta. On the very first day, not long after we arrived there, I thought to myself, what the fuck have I done? , though later that night-watching my Eliiizaaa sing the songs from Hamilton with all of our fellow Hamilcampers, on the steps of The Richard Rodgers Theater, that question was answered for me….I had done the right thing. I never questioned myself again.
The Cancellation Line (CL) is a few different things, and probably more than what I know. And, what I think I know, may or may not be true! It is just what I was told by others. Seats become available for different reasons. Cast and crew have seats for family and friends. If their family and friends are not using the tickets, those tickets may go to the CL. If a lottery ticket winner does not pay for their ticket by the specified time, that ticket may go to the CL. Ticket re-sellers may sell unsold tickets back to the theater at the last minute and the theater may sell those tickets to the CL. For whatever reason, the tickets that go to the CL do not go there until the last minute. This means that if you have been sleeping out in the line for days and you get tickets, you go in exactly as you are. You do not get to go take a shower and get dressed up. What happened for us was better than it could have been. On Tuesday, when we did not get in, the line had to disperse for the duration of the show. We hopped on a train and went to our friend’s house in Pelham. We took a shower and re-packed our backpack’s and left our big suitcase there. That was the best shower of MY LIFE. We got back to Hamilcamp around 11:00 and it had cooled off, so we did not get all sweaty and nasty again-we went to sleep. Wednesday was a complete clusterfuck. Ham 4 Ham happens on Wednesday’s. This is when some of the cast comes out and does a skit and they have a live lottery. The lottery tickets cost $10. A Hamilton for a Hamilton-get it? This was to be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s last Ham 4 Ham. Over 5000 people showed up–the most ever. I started to get nervous. The theater recognizes the first 20 in the line. We were barricaded off to the side. We even had NYPD protection for awhile-it was wild. Some dishonest people tried to lie and say they had been in the headcount. I have never seen grown adults lie outright like that. I was greatly disappointed in humanity that day. There were so many people. I had a feeling that everything line-related was about to fall apart. The lady from the theater started coming out and offering us premium tickets. These cost $544 each. I really did not want to do that. I wanted to hold out, but I was scared. A few people bought premium’s.I decided to wait one more day, then I decided I was going to cave. I was up next for premium’s when they came out with regular tickets-$199 each, but there was someone in front of me for one regular, which meant one for him and one for us. I looked at Eliza and I said YOU GO! MOM! Are you SURE? she asked me, with tears in her eyes. Tears sprang to my eyes. ABSOLUTELY!, I said, without hesitation, we came here for you! with my heart breaking in half because I was dying to see it with her, and we had done all of this together, as the only mother/daughter Hamilcampers at that time! I handed her a credit card and when she left, people started cheering. I had not really noticed that there was still a long line of people next to us-getting ready to go into the theater. These people had watched all of this go down. The tears started flowing and I couldn’t make them stop. Please let there be one more ticket. The Middle Child sent me a text message that said, you have reached a new level of awesome momness among the group. More tears. She had already told me several times that the others had said they thought I was an awesome mom for doing this. This really had been a great bonding experience for the two of us. We had not fought a single second. There had not been a single eye roll. About 10 minutes went by. I kept thinking that it had been too long-the lady was not coming back. One of the guys in line came up to me and told me we still had 15 minutes and I should not worry! About that time, the lady came around the corner again, I have two more!! she said. I just need one! I said with my voice shaking and tears streaming down my face. Okay, is there someone else who will take the other one? the lady asked. Of course there was-there always is for Hamilton! As I ran in the theater with the lady, I heard everyone cheering. Let me just say that this was serious Lifetime Movie Material, people. I could not have scripted it better, myself! I was shaking so hard I could hardly pay for my ticket. When I got inside the theater, my heart was pounding so hard I thought surely it could be heard outside my body. I WAS IN! WE WERE BOTH IN! WE WERE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS! OH MY GOD. When I got to my seat in the center orchestra section, and there was my Eliiizaaa, and all of our new BFF’s we had been sleeping on the sidewalk with since Monday morning, Eliza jumped up , and we hugged and our little group cheered, and the people all around us cheered , and everyone was crying…I am totally serious. At that moment-we were the stars of this show! Eliza and I did not sit next to each other, but our whole little group was together, and it was all good. The lights dimmed and it began….How does a >>bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman >>dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean>>by providence Impoverished, in squalor>>Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?>>…. People were cheering and audibly gasping. Then it got to the world is gonna know your name…what’s your name, man?….and Lin-Manuel Miranda came out, and I thought I might pass out right there. People were screaming and cheering-I among them. There was a noticeable pause-there had to be-before Lin could sing his next line…Alexander Hamilton>>My name is Alexander Hamilton. I had read about the pause, and how it had grown. The audience goes completely nuts when Lin comes out at the beginning. In fact, we got a couple of glimpses of Lin on Tuesday, and the same thing happened each time-uncontrollable screaming from everyone who is around. He is charming and marvelous and adorable. The entire play is in song. One right after the next. There is no way for me to adequately describe how magnificent it all is–the costumes, the set, the rotating stage floor design, the dancing, the singing, the music, it is all perfect. I cried through most of it-not only because I was so happy to be there, but because the whole thing is really so beautiful and wonderful and GRAND. I thought my heart might burst with love for Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Lafayette! Whoever would have thought it? It is so fabulous that you can hear people openly weeping during parts of it. I was one of those people. I could not help myself. I was a wreck. It was that much.
I could see The Middle Child’s face from the side. I could see that she was having the same spiritual experience that I was having. When it was over, I could not stop crying. I was taken aback that the cast did one curtain call as a whole. Nobody came out by themselves for applause. They held hands together because they had worked together and made all of this wonderment happen together. For me, it symbolized that not one person had done anything alone. It was sort of the same with all of us sitting there together on the right sides of those 2 rows in the center orchestra section–we had not done this alone. During Cabinet Battle #1, after Thomas Jefferson did his rap, Lin did his, and after we know who’s really doing the planting, our wonderful Jawan gave Lin a thumbs up, and I swear to you, Lin gave one back! Our little group felt like Lin gave that thumb’s up to all of us-not just to Jawan ;) I just got chills while typing that sentence!
The most important piece happened after the show. The Middle Child and I went to grab some dinner at Junior’s before heading out to Pelham for another shower. While we were there, my Eliza said to me, Mom, thank you. Thank you so much for finally getting one of my Broadway obsessions! Oh. I got it, alright. I got it baaaaaaddddddddd. And it has made all the difference in our relationship. How weird is it to think that my daughter and I have been brought closer together by one of America’s Founding Father’s? Or was it Lin-Manuel Miranda? Or maybe it is that we slept on the sidewalk in NYC…..? I guess it’s just the whole shebang.
Throughout our big adventure, I gave updates on Facebook and on thepsychomother.com, with #ATL2Lin_Manuel, created by my friend Wendy Weir (Greater Than Gravity )-thanks Wendy! You ROCK! When I started, I fully expected people to tell me I had lost my mind. I never, in a million years, expected the outpouring of love and support that I got from family and friends and friends of friends as well as complete strangers who just happened to hear about me. Some of the comments were things like you are showing Eliza how to make something happen for herself–which was a view I had not yet taken. See, what some of you do not know is that I wanted to see Hamilton as much as she did. As I sat there, in my sweaty Belmont t-shirt, old Lilly shorts, and purple running shoes, Lin’s words were resonating in my heart and in my head….And I wanted what I got>>When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game>> Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it You get nothing if you…Wait for it, wait for it, wait>> And then click boom, and it happened….my Eliiizaaa and I were in the room where it happened.