Archive | May 2012

Driving with Dad

My mother has been a good sport this week. Now it’s Dad’s turn.

My father, during my growing up years, was rarely provoked to anger. Provoked to exasperation frequently, but rarely actually angry. When he was aggravated, the most that usually happened was that he tautly pressed his lips together in a straight line and he inhaled deeply before speaking. And, if I had ever heard him say a curse word before I was fifteen, I cannot honestly remember it.

But, when I was 15 and learning to drive, Dad’s patience ran out. He took me to flute lesson and after I begged, he let me drive home in our suave marigold colored Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The route home took us along a winding two- lane road divided by a solid double-yellow line. Along the way a mixture of light commercial businesses and residential driveways dotted the landscape. And, critically, there was no shoulder. The roadway was elevated somewhat above the homes and businesses that turned off it, so dropping off the right-hand side of the road would be seriously ill-advised.

I hugged the steering wheel as I peered ahead for oncoming traffic, dutifully watching out to avoid cars. My fear of the double yellow center line and oncoming traffic was greater than my fear of the right white line. Not so for my father. The silence was abruptly broken by Dad slamming the dashboard with his open palm as he yelled “DAMN-IT, SUZY. GET OVER!” **

My fear of the white line was instantly cured. I now had a choice, fear the center line or fear Dad. I chose Dad since I had to go home with him.

(**Dad recalls his exclamation as being “DAMN-IT, SUZY.  GET OUT OF THE DITCH!”)

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Too Much Information

My sweet Southern genteel Mom, and if you have ever met her you know she is exactly that, is hard of hearing. Practically deaf. And, she doesn’t like to wear hearing aids. She owns them, but won’t wear them consistently. Instead she attempts lip reading resulting in mysterious interpretations of what she thinks you have said. Another notable trait about Mom is her, ahem, “assets”. Her assets require double alphabet letters to describe them….several letters into the alphabet.

When I was a second year law school student and was stressed out studying for the one and only final per class in December, Mom convinced me to stop studying and go with her to the newly opened Dillard’s. Big deal, you say. Yes, big deal. Dillard’s, or so Mom had heard, had an expansive undergarment department and somewhere within that store she would find the perfect fitting garment for her assets ….duly supportive with appropriate coverage and no offending straps that dug into the shoulders. (I rely on her for such information as my assets are not so worthy of description nor effort.) I had come to realize over the years that her belief that the perfect shape wear was out there somewhere was like believing Sasquatch was just behind the next tree.

We entered the Promised Land and parted ways. She went to the Holy Grail of underwire while I crossed the aisle into sleepwear. I found a pair of pajamas I liked. I hadn’t really been interested in this shopping trip, but it was Christmas and maybe she would get these as a gift for me? So, I held them up from the across the aisle and said hopefully “Mom, look at these?” Mom, from across the store yelled, as a person who is hard of hearing will do because they can’t determine their own volume….”OH, I NEVER WEAR ANYTHING WITH A CROTCH IN IT AT NIGHT!”

Say WHAT? I practically grew wings to cross that aisle. The entire department became eerily quiet and the entire Christmas season came to a dead standstill. Mothers covered the ears of their small children. Male patrons gazed admiringly at my Mother. Salesladies pretended to be busy straightening. The Elves were checking the list to see if my Mother was naughty or nice.

The Fahrenheit scale could not sufficiently measure the radiating heat from my cheeks and neck. Frantically, I asked “why did you say that??” Mom, as innocent as she is sweet, said “Didn’t you ask me would you like these? Because, I like nightgowns. I don’t like pajamas that get all twisted up on my legs.”

I pretended as we strode out of Dillard’s that people were whispering only about how lovely it was to see a Mother and daughter shopping together. If only I could have been deaf then and there.

Dying in the Deep End

We spent Memorial Day at Splash Country with the kids. And, that caused me to think back thirty years to the day I almost died. Of embarrassment.

My mother never learned to swim as a child. So, once Mom became a mom, she had to learn to swim, which was entirely different than learning to actually like swimming. Swimming for my mother was an exercise in getting minimally wet while supervising us in what she saw as a death defying activity. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever seen my mother’s hair wet from “swimming” maybe five times in my lifetime. Maybe.

The need to learn to swim led to me and my younger sister standing with noses pressed up against the second floor YMCA observatory window while the adult swim class clung frightfully to the pool edge below. Mom was decked out in the finest 1970’s rubber swim-cap with rubber flower clusters dotting the scalp, much like a powder blue hydrangea hugging the wall. I imagine the swimming instructor saying to Mom “Yes, Mrs. Sweet, in the water. Your face must go in the water.”

Fast forward to when I was about thirteen and my sister was about eleven. Ogle’s Water Park in Pigeon Forge was our favorite place and a real treat. They had a giant wave pool and inflatable inner tubes. The horn blew at regular intervals to signal the waves were starting and the inevitable screams of swimmers followed shortly after. The other swimmers’ screams were of eager anticipation. But, on this day it was Mom’s death rattling screams that prevailed.

We’ll never know what possessed Mom to decide that this was the day to go all out and bob around in the wave pool. Now, the waves –as posted on the sign on the wall—were large and strong. This was no sissy wave pool. Experienced swimmers only. We were strangely delighted and horrified that our mother, the tadpole worrywart, was all in for the wave pool.

So, we tried our best to warn her. Now, Mom, whatever you do, do NOT go to the wall to exit the wave pool!! Only exit it by swimming or bobbing back on an inner tube back to the shallow area!! The wall in the deep end did not have a ladder to climb, rather the steps were inset crevices with metal bars parallel at the top of each crevice so that you essentially climbed the straight face of Mt. Everest with no safety harness all while timing your climb in between the pounding waves which were much more forceful at the wall.

Mom did not heed our advice. She ditched her inner tube, headed for the wall, and quickly began drowning. Not figuratively, literally. The waves overpowered her. And, with regular rhythm, she would gain a toehold, gasp a breath, then scream and swallow more water before being submerged again. Mom, who trained in opera earlier in her life could sing and scream a High C. Aaagh! Strange gurgling silence. Aaaaghh! Strange silence. And so on.

My sister and I watched horrified. But not because Mom might die. No, because we were dying of embarrassment. Mom? Um, no we don’t know that woman. Wow, she can really scream. Wonder who that is?

The lifeguard stood up in his chair with safety belt at the ready. Then, he did a swan dive into the pool and surfaced right under Mom’s behind. He pushed Mom up the wall from behind, or rather, with his hands on her behind. And, mercifully, the place went quiet. The waves subsided and so did the screaming. My sister and I slinked, as best as one can slink on an inner tube, to the shallow end and then to the lounge chairs where Mom sat—totally wet from swimming.

Spic and Span

Every so often I issue warnings that if I find toys where they don’t belong ONE MORE TIME that the offending toys will be given or thrown away. So, recently after repeated instructions that the toy balsa wood airplanes DO NOT BELONG ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER, the planes were put away.

Several days passed and peace prevailed as the counter was clean and tidy. A place for everything and everything in its place. Mary Poppins has nothing on me!

Or so I thought. Noah cracked and confessed that Joel put them in the kitchen pantry “because Dad said you wouldn’t find them in there.”

So I opened the pantry and there they were! And I obviously had not been in the pantry. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be mad.

Post Script:

I originally posted this story on Facebook and my sister, Cyndi, posted the following comment:

“A) Too funny about Joel because he was right…the pantry for you is like a foreign country.

B) I take issue with you comparing yourself to Mary Poppins and order. I’ve seen your closet. It’s like a crazy college party where one shoe invited another and that shoe invited two purses and so on until it’s shoes and purses everywhere and only a CSI team could ever clean it up.”

Facts of Life

Facts of Life / Part IV

As a parent I used to have in my mind certain visions of how and when particular life topics will be discussed and explained. You know, sitting down, a cup of coffee in hand and a prepared for, thoughtful, age appropriate parent-child conversation. All hearts and flowers, you know.

But, the manufacturers of feminine products don’t share that vision. Instead, they run a commercial on the cartoon channel during the late afternoon–say just about the time kids come home from school — and at the end of it, Sarah Grace turns to me and says “Mom, what’s a tampon?”

I say “We can discuss that later.” She insists. Samuel pipes up and says “I know.” I say nonchantly, internally alarmed but calm outwardly, “No, you don’t.” He whispers in my ear enough to prove he gets the general concept. Now the term need-to-know springs to my mind…..Sarah Grace is young enough to still be on a need-to-know basis on certain topics but I need to know how Samuel knows.

Oh, mercy. Parenting is an adventure.

Facts of Life / Part III

I generally drive the kids to school, unless I have an early court appearance or meeting. And, the morning rides are a great time of conversation and education. Except, that I am the one being educated far more than the kids are. I never see it coming, either.

This morning’s drive to school discussion:

Samuel: Mom, is it illegal for boys and girls to have sleepovers?
Me: No.
Noah: Well, then why can’t we have sleepovers with girls?
Me: ……general discussion about modesty, privacy, etc……
Samuel: Well, [a boy] asked Sarah Grace to have a sleep over with him.
Me: Oh, well he’s young. He’s just a friend but we don’t have boy/ girl sleepovers and he probably didn’t know that yet. [Side note: That was news to me. Hmmm.]
Sarah Grace: Well, one day you get married to a boy and then they see EVERYTHING.
Me: [silence…..I am so not awake enough for these discussions at this hour.]

Facts of Life / Part II

Watching a commercial tonight and a little girl says to her father, where do babies come from? The father in the commercial makes a face and doesn’t answer. Sarah Grace sits up and announces dismissively and authoritatively “That is SUCH an easy question! Babies come from Jesus to your stomach and then out. Really, that is so easy!” Okay, we’ll go with that for now. 🙂

Facts of Life / Part 1

Joel shared some of the basic “birds and bees” with the boys this weekend. Noah’s response: “Well, that’s
disturbing.”

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Pride goeth before a fall. My fall to be precise. Today as I balanced the work-from-home and care for sick child roles, I was pleased that it was going so well. Metaphorically speaking, I had my business suit on with the June Cleaver apron tied sweetly in a bow. I was rocking it. Child tucked in bed napping while I wrote a report, returned emails, etc. …no problem and the bus is due to drop off the other two children at 3:45. OH NO THE BUS COMES AT 3:45! Which I realized at 3:47.

I wheeled around from my kitchen table and looked toward the neighborhood entrance and whew, I might still make it because I don’t see a bus yet. I left the napping son and hopped in the car to race to the stop. And, there were my children walking along the sidewalk with a neighborhood mom. Now all I wore was embarrassment— my apron was tattered and my suit was wrinkled. So much for rocking it.