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.