Many years ago, as in about 45 years ago, my Mothah gave my father a Valentine. It was a pair of red, nylon boxer shorts. It was a joke. He never even had them on his body-not even once-because I, the one year old, snagged them and held on to them, well, for the better part of the next 45 years! I liked the way the nylon felt on my face when it got cold. If I set Britch (as in short for britches) to the side in my bed, I could grab him a few minutes later, and he felt so good to hold on to! Unfortunately, Britch’s friend, Nightie, did not make it. Nightie was one of Mothah’s hot pink, nylon nightgown’s that I also commandeered and took for my own. Sometimes, I would actually wear Britch and just carry Nightie around. Nightie disintegrated years and years ago-from so much love. I think she must have been made from nylon not as durable as Britch…because Britch lives! The other night, The Baby got into my bed because his Daddy was at a meeting. He had his Bunny and Penguin with him, and those are their names: Bunny and Penguin. They are (as if you wondered) a Bunny and a Penguin. Why complicate things? I think The Baby is very practical. Mini Me’s first teddy bear from Build-A-Bear was named Jim. Try to explain that one. Any way, we were chatting before going to sleep and I told The Baby all about Britch and Nightie. He stared at me with his eyes wide. You mean you actually slept with your father’s, um, I mean Poppy’s, underwear??? The Baby said to me. I chuckled. If you put it that way, I suppose it does sound a little…well….let’s just say strange and leave it at that. YES! I told him, and guess what? I still have him! The Baby’s eyes got wider as I jumped out of the bed. I only had to look in 3 drawers before I found Britch. See, I always know where Britch is. Just like The Middle Child always knows where Bippo is. Just like The Baby always knows where Bunny and Penguin are! I held him up for The Baby to look at. He was mystified. How, in God’s name, could his mother still have her security blanket? And furthermore, why in the hell was it a pair of nylon boxer shorts that are now unrecognizable as such? In fact, the only evidence at all that Britch was, at one time, britches of any sort, is the tag that says “Size 32”. I showed The Baby Britch’s paint stain. I got Britch in some wet, white paint at some point. It’s still there. Anyway, we finally went to sleep. The next day, I got up and made up the bed. That night, we got to go to see the Atlanta Braves play at their new stadium. We got home at midnight. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, when I heard JC (who never turns down our bed) yell out: OH MY GOD! Is that BRITCH? I spit on the mirror-from laughing. I walked into our room and he was looking at me, eyebrows raised. YES, HELL, IT IS BRITCH! I said, WHAT OF IT? I snapped a quick pic of Britch in our bed. He was still looking at me. That is seriously fucked up, he said. It is not! I said, and explained the whole thing. Then, not really caring what he thought about it, I got into the bed and turned out my light. Whatever, I said, and I went to sleep with Britch in my clutches.
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 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.
It was a momentous day in my career as a writer, as that is what I call what I do, as opposed to being just a blogger. Bloggers are writers! We are writers who blog our writings. Anyway, back to my momentous day…. I was asked to come speak to The Baby’s second grade class about creative writing and about writing my blog! I was so excited. I knew that The Baby’s teacher read my blog, because she had emailed me about how much she liked it and related to it with two teenagers of her own. There is just one thing, though….I write how I talk….which is quite, um….sailor-esque. I kind of equated my invitation to speak to the class to Heidi Fleiss being asked to speak about running her own business. Well, maybe not that bad! hehehe 😉 I did know that there probably were some parents (some maybe blog readers 😉 some maybe not!) who, if they knew that this momentous event was going to occur, would probably have tried to put a stop to it. This, in and of itself, made me even more excited. (I am sure that those parents would just have been worried I might let the name of my blog slip and then their kids would sneak online and read the profanity! I did not tell them the name of my blog!) I will say; however, The Baby knows the name of it! Kids these days just know how to access anything on the computer! I decided to take some early examples of my writing. Mothah had put my very first “book”, The Adventures of Lady Clinton in my senior scrapbook, along with a copy of a poem I wrote for the Valentine’s edition of the Hughes News in 7th grade. I grabbed those and a copy of Hobba Hobba Jobba , my collection of short stories I had bound for a creative writing class at the University of Georgia. I also picked up two photo books I had made for my family, because I had also added narratives to the pictures, and those are great examples of creative writing–made easy. The Baby and I set out for his school. He asked to see some of my stuff along the way. I could tell he was looking at the poem because he gasped and said, “MOM! look at this date!” Of course I could not look, as I was driving on 85 S. “It says February 14, 1984! MOM! You were 14 years old!” He said it as if it were 200 years ago. I gripped the steering wheel a little harder than I already was in morning rush hour traffic. “Yep. I was the same age as your sister is right now, ” I said, and I tried to muster a smile. It was very difficult. It seemed like yesterday. Okay. Maybe day before yesterday, but still–not 31 years ago. He babbled a little and I got lost in thought in my head about days of yore at Hughes Middle School in Greenville, SC…. We got to his school and I told him I loved him and I would be back at 9:00am sharp, then I headed straight to Starbucks to get my head on straight.
The teacher was telling the class about me when I got to the classroom door. The students were all seated on the rug–waiting for me. The Baby was sitting in a chair in front of the rest of the class, next to the chair where I would sit. I came in and took my coat off and sat down. Immediately, 9 or 10 hands shot into the air. The teacher told them to put their hands down, as there would be a time for questions when I was finished talking to them. I told the kids that I had known from a very early age that I wanted to write, and I showed them The Adventures of Lady Clinton. The table of contents page is actually typed from my old electric typewriter, so we talked about that, and about correct tape, and how there was no “spell-check” in the olden days…. I told them I could not pass The Adventures of Lady Clinton around because it was an ancient artifact, and it might fall apart. I was being serious about not passing it around because I did not want it to get torn up, but they believed me about the ancient artifact without question. That was somewhat disturbing to me. We moved on to the poem. I showed them the date. They did not gasp in horror, so that was somewhat redeeming. When we got to the collection of short stories, we talked about book binding and how typewriters changed over time. I then opened one of my photo books, and I happened to open it to a page that had a picture of Jack with his 7 inch Mohawk. This is not important right this minute. Remember it for later. I told the class that I had always wanted to write a book, but I had never taken the time. 5 months ago, I decided that I should start a blog, because if I could not even start and maintain a blog, then I would probably never write an actual book. The teacher then helped with a question session. It was quite entertaining. I did get mostly amazing questions. Do you write on your blog every day? No. If I wrote on my blog every day, people would get tired of reading it. If I did not write often enough, people would get tired of waiting for me to write. I try to write on it at least once a week, maybe twice. Where did you get your inspiration from to be a writer? From my Aunt Amy. She is also a writer. She was my English teacher in high school, and taught me how to write. Where did Aunt Amy get her inspiration to write? From famous writers, I think. Then we started to go downhill a little….Where did the famous writers get their inspiration to write? I don’t know. What came first? The chicken or the egg? Then we got to the real doozy: What was my favorite blog post I have ever written? I had to say that my favorite blog post is one I wrote about taking Mini Me (though in class, I used his real name, as that is how the class knows him) to the grocery store and he said a bad word. Of course I should have lied. Because that, my friends, that, opened up a can of worms that I should have expected! But, flaky, artist, airhead that I am……I never saw it coming. Hands shot up into the air right and left like I was playing whack-a-mole on steroids. WHAT WAS THE WORD HE SAID? was what every kid wanted to know, of course! Holy shit. How stupid was I? The teacher tried valiantly to put this fire out. One kid mouthed to me across the room, “DID IT START WITH THE LETTER F?” Oh. MY. GOD. I was laughing. I mouthed back to him, “NO!” “JUST GIVE US THE LETTER IT STARTED WITH!” “NO!” “PLEASE!” “NO!” “WE ARE LITTLE KIDS! WE PROBABLY WON’T GUESS IT ANYWAY!”, one even said. My head was kind of spinning at this point. I looked straight ahead and watched this one little girl, in her sort of metallic longish jacket, sitting in her chair with it leaning back on it’s back legs. She had her legs spread apart and her ankles hooked around the front legs of the chair. Her wildish hair had some colorful streaks in it and she had on a little make up. She stared at me and got her lip gloss out of her pocket and put it on while she watched me. I smiled at her and she smiled back. She reminded me a lot of The Middle Child at that age. Everyone was coming back under control and I made a mental note to try not to make a stupid mistake like that again. These were 7 and 8 year olds, for the love of God. Of course they want to know what bad word Mini Me said! Finally, we moved on. The teacher asked me how important I thought it was to proof read and how important drafts are. I told the class that even after I have proofread a blog post 3 or 4 times, I might publish it and still find something I have to correct, and I correct it. Proofreading and drafts are extremely important! They all groaned. They apparently hate proofreading and drafts. This was not at all surprising. In second grade, it takes some of them forever to write a sentence! Next question: Why did you let Mini Me (but by his real name) get a Mohawk? The teacher put a stop to this one. She said, “We are asking questions about writing, and that is not about writing. I should have known that one was coming too. How many books have I written? None. Unless you mean the paper ones like The Adventures of Lady Clinton. Then probably hundreds! My mother would probably tell you I killed an entire forest, using paper. No, I did not tell them that. I’m telling you that. What was the hardest part about writing your blog? Writing my blog is not hard. It was the technical part! I was determined to buy my own domain and set it up all by myself, with zero help from my computer guru husband or my children, who know far more than I! It was not terribly hard, but I had to learn new stuff. I managed to do it, and I consider it a huge accomplishment! What do you write about? Hmmm…. 😉 That one I had to think about before I spoke…I write about my family and everyday life. Sometimes I write stories from when I was growing up. Have you ever written a story about your entire family? I think so. I think maybe the one about The Santa Photo has all of us in it-I would have to go back and read it again. Then, I think maybe my favorite question….When you write, do you sit down and think about what you are going to write or does it come to you like AHA! THAT’S WHAT I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT! My answer was BOTH! I had to say that if it comes to me like AHA!, if I am driving, I have to hope I remember it later! If it is something really, really good that I am super excited about, I might pull over and write the topic down in the notes section on my phone. I explained that I don’t really have a set time to write every day. I may not finish something in one swoop. I have to stop to do laundry or drive carpool or cook dinner. I urged them all to make the time for their passions like writing when they get a little older. I have to say that I was quite impressed by my captive, yet very engaged audience. One kid even asked the teacher if they could go write after I left. The teacher and I both told the kids that there are places where kids can blog for free, but we both told the kids that they should never do anything like that without their parent’s permission. They all thanked me for coming and I thanked them for having me. I hugged The Baby goodbye and told him I loved him. As I was leaving, I felt a tug on my sleeve. I turned around and that same kid from earlier was standing there. He whispered, “Come on, just tell me what that word started with! That word Mini Me said in the grocery store– I won’t tell anybody–I promise!” Don’t worry. I did not tell him.
Yesterday, The Middle Child auditioned for musical. I think that sentence should have read: Yesterday, The Middle Child auditioned for the musical. The spring performance at The Middle Child’s school (and also that of Mini Me) is always a musical, and is simply referred to as musical until they (whoever they are) decide which musical is going to be performed. Sometimes, auditions for musical begin prior to this decision being made. Anyway, as I was saying, yesterday, The Middle Child auditioned for musical, and, according to her, she bombed it. She was not crying when she got home. She said that her monologue went fine. “What was the problem, then?” I asked, wondering what the hell could have possibly gone wrong. “My voice cracked in two major places,” she replied, her face heating up. My heart sank for her. I wanted to cry for her. She had worked so hard on her audition piece with her voice teacher. She was more than ready. “You know what? They KNOW you can sing. You do not need to worry about this. You gave it your best shot.” I said. Of course that did not help. I knew that nothing I could possibly say was going to help. She let me think that it helped, because that is who The Middle Child is. I let her go upstairs. My mother in law had brought her home for me. She and I analyzed the situation to death, trying to make ourselves feel better. It did not work. My mother in law left. I went upstairs to check on The Middle Child. She said she was fine. I gave her a hug. I sat down on her bed and put my arm around her. She never did cry–or at least she never let me see her cry. This kid. The things this kid has done! I cannot even begin to compete, myself! And I was the one who wanted to be a movie star! I could not even get more than a C in drama in high school because I was too shy to get up and play charades in front of the class! Well, there really is more to that story. There was this girl who unzipped my pants that zipped up the back…they were kind of like harem pants. They were really cool pants from this store in Athens. So this girl unzipped my pants and when it was my turn to get up and play charades, the whole class got to see that my pants were unzipped in the back. And everybody laughed. And I thought I would die. Wait. Stop. Put your tiny violin away. This story is not about me. I let The Middle Child study for her science test. I happened to be upstairs when I heard Mini Me come in from the gym. He must have remembered that The Middle Child had auditioned for musical, because he came running up to her room. I heard him ask her how it went. I cringed when I heard her tell him she bombed it. “What do you mean?” he asked her. I listened as she described what had happened. Then I heard the most beautiful words I had ever heard come out of Mini Me’s mouth. “Oh MY GOD! Eliza! Please! They know you can sing! Do NOT let that bother you at all! Let being an eighth grader worry you, but don’t let that worry you!” It was basically the exact same thing I had said to her earlier, but I knew that she might actually hear it coming from Mini Me. I wanted to give him a great big hug, but I knew that would not really be welcomed…..Anyway. I was not really supposed to be listening to this conversation in the first place. I kept minding my own beeswax and Mini Me went back downstairs. I walked back into The Middle Child’s room. “Did anyone else have a resumé?” I asked her. She and I had stayed up the night before, preparing a head shot resumé for her to take to her audition. “Not that I saw,” she said, “they said it looked very professional.” Well, at least there was that! The resumé was not a requirement, but I knew that it would make a statement. When I began listing her performances and accomplishments, I was shocked. This Kid. This 14 year old kid has a resumé that will make some Hollywood professionals look not so professional! I don’t care if she is in the eighth grade or not. She has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. So what if her voice cracked? Some days your voice might crack, some days it might not! This child, My child, The Middle Child, has the voice of an angel. Sorry. It’s not really bragging if it’s the God’s honest truth, and it is. She has a gift. It is a gift that I do not have. It’s a gift that not too many people have. I think that she is going to go very, very far–regardless of whatever happens with musical. I can only hope to ride her coat tails for as long as she will let me.
When Mini Me (Jack. He is 17 and a senior in high school now) was two or so, I had an epiphany. I was in dire need of adult conversation. Mini Me was in dire need of child conversation. Also, I did not think I could stand to play Blue’s Clue’s anymore. I just could not be Steve again. Mini Me got to make all the rules whenever we played anything. He was very hard to play with because everything had to be his way or the highway. I decided that I would go out and get a job! I would get a job doing just about the only thing I was actually qualified to do-that would also allow me to bring Mini Me along: teaching pre-school. And so I did. I was happy, and so was Mini Me. We had some time away from each other and we were happier when we were together. I was bringing home a little extra money. It was a win-win situation any way that I looked at it. I loved getting Mini Me’s little art projects out of his bag each day, and hanging them up on the fridge. I was so proud of his work. I still am. He was and continues to be a very talented artiste. We had a routine and that alone helped us a lot. We were going right along, doing our thing. Things were going well at pre-school. We had a little problem with some biting, but Mini Me was just biting back. This little girl in his class was biting him first and he was just doing unto her what she had done unto him. This was, actually, the truth. Then, Mini Me decided that biting was kind of fun, well, until I decided to bite him back. That pretty much but a stop to his biting issue.
Valentine’s Day was rapidly approaching. I was getting excited, and not for the reason that you might think. I have never been a big Valentine’s Day celebrant. I think of it as a Hallmark Holiday. I think it is seriously cheesy, but whatever. Anyway. I was so excited because I knew that Mini Me was going to bring me my very first Valentine that he had ever made for me. I was going to keep it forever and ever. I would be able to pull it out of a box and show his wife one day and say, “See, so and so, this is the very first Valentine that Jack made for me. He was 2 and a half years old”…… Little did I know that this was not in the cards for me. At least not this year.
On Valentine’s Day, Mini Me and I got home from school and I was getting his stuff out of his bag. I found this beautiful painted arrow that was made out of one of the cardboard rolls inside a roll of paper towels. It had a red tip that was made out of construction paper and then more construction paper bristly pieces on the bottom end. It was, and is to this day, one of the coolest kids’ Valentine’s Day art projects I have ever seen. I must have ooo’ed and ahhh’ed when I pulled it out of his bag, because Mini Me came back into the kitchen and was standing beside me. “There is a note in it”, I can remember him saying to me. I can remember turning the arrow on end and pulling that piece of paper out, anticipating what lovely thing was going to be written on it. Was it going to say, “I love you Mommy” ? or “To the Best Mommy Ever”? I carefully unrolled the piece of paper. I read it. Then I read it again. I was certain that I had read it wrong. Did I need glasses? Was I drunk? I read it one more time to be sure. The damn thing said, “I love you MIMI , Love, CUPID” What the hell? Mimi? That is MY mother, for the love of GOD! Seriously?! I looked at it one more time. “Do you think her is going to love it?”, Mini Me asked me. I did not want him to see that I was about to cry, so I looked the other way and got a grip real fast. “Oh yeah, “ I said, “her is really gonna love it!”.
Children really do repeat everything that they hear their parents say: good, bad, and everything in between-but you can pretty much bet your ass they are going to repeat any and every single bad thing that comes out of your mouth. When my Mini Me (Jack, now 17) was one and a half, he and I went to Kroger. I hate grocery shopping. If I don’t even like to go grocery shopping alone, how much do you think I despise going grocery shopping with one or more little kids? That, my friend, is on my “worst nightmare” list. Mini Me was an especially heinous grocery store shopping companion. I cannot even begin to tell you how many hundreds of extra dollars I have spent at the grocery store, simply because he would pull things off the shelves and throw them into the buggy when I was not watching! Usually, it was shit nobody at our house would even eat-like Kraft Mac and cheese, but it would have some cartoon character on it, so he wanted it and grabbed it and threw it in when I was looking at something else. Anyway, this one day, Jack and I were at Kroger and I was looking at the Lean Cuisine’s because I was still trying to lose the 65lbs I had gained while I was pregnant with him–not all 65 by then, but probably 25. Remember, he was just one and a half in this story. Kids learn very early that the bakery at the grocery store will give them a free cookie and Mini Me had been talking about that cookie since we pulled into the parking lot. In retrospect, I should have gone straight to the damn bakery and gotten the cookie over with at the very beginning, but I was new at this. I was going to make him work for the cookie. I was going to make this one and a half year old earn his cookie by behaving himself in the grocery store. It is laughable now-how stupid and naive I was back then! I was in for it and I had no clue. Mini Me had been asking for that cookie every 5 minutes. “When Mommy is finished with the shopping”, I would answer him. While I was standing there, trying to decide between Salisbury Steak and Lemon Chicken, Jack stood up in the seat of the shopping cart (they didn’t all have seat belts 17 years ago, people), and he clenched his little fists and he screamed at the top of his lungs, “I SAID I WANT A GOD DAMMIT COOKIE!!!” I turned around and immediately clapped my hand over his mouth and sat him back down in the seat. I was beyond horrified. There were only one or two other people on the aisle, but Mini Me was so loud, I am quite sure that the entire store heard him as if they were being notified of a Blue Light Special at K-Mart. I had a buggy full of groceries. I hate grocery shopping. I was not exactly sure what I should do. Should I pick his little ass up and leave the groceries and get the hell out of there? I really did not want to do that! The thought of having to go back to the grocery store at another time was enough to keep me from doing that. Should I scold him? Should I go to the bakery immediately and get the cookie. I was at a loss. My cheeks were fire engine red. I knew exactly where the kid had heard those words. He had heard them at home. Now, truthfully, he had heard them come out of both of his parents mouths, but in my defense, he had mostly heard those particular words from his father. My personal favorite bad word happens to start with the letter F. I told Mini Me that he should not ever say that again, and especially not at the top of his lungs at Kroger. As I was trying to get my wits about me, I looked up and there was a section of serve-yourself Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Mini Me said he would much rather have a chocolate covered doughnut with sprinkles than a cookie, so I got him one. We checked out and left, and never darkened the doors of that particular Kroger in Roswell, GA again. In fact, I tried very hard never to take Mini Me to the grocery store with me again! Of course that was not actually possible, but for a long time after that, I did make great efforts to go to the store at night after JC got home from work.