Saturday, May 19, 2012


I was busy preparing dinner last night when the front door opened and The Boy arrived, scooter in one hand and backpack in the other, home from adventures with friends down the street.  More and more these days, seeing him walk through the door catches me off guard, because he just looks so damn grown.  Not completely, of course - he’s not even in high school yet - but in the past year he has been maturing at a startling speed.  He’s as tall as I am now, lean and lank and boyishly handsome, with just a hint of a moustache developing.  No longer my little boy, but not yet a man.  “’s you,” I teased, feigning disappointment.

He returned the greeting in similar fashion, and casually added, “I think I’m going to need a Band-Aid.”

“Oh dear,” I said.  “What happened?”

“No big deal,” he said.  ‘We were playing outside with sticks as pretend clubs, and I swung a little too hard and cut myself.”  He strode over to the kitchen and showed me his hand; a small cut in the soft area between his thumb and first finger was just barely oozing.  “I wasn’t even sure if I’d need a Band-Aid.”

I resisted an old ingrained urge to take over, to take him to the medicine cabinet and wash his hand and put on a Band-Aid and taa-daa, make it all better.  He’d have probably been insulted anyway, so I just nodded agreeably instead.  “Band-Aids are in the medicine cabinet.  But I’d wash that first.”

“Oh, I already did, but I will again,” he said as he headed off down the hall.  So grown-up sounding, I thought again.  After a couple of minutes, he returned to the kitchen.  “Band-Aids are amazing,” he said, and held his hand out toward me.  “Doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

A moment later, he held out his other hand.  “Oh, and uh, guess what I made?”

In his hands he held what appeared to be a crinkled handful of newspaper, held in place here and there with tape.  “ made a ball of paper?”

The Boy grinned self-deprecatingly.  “Yeah okay, well, it’s wrapping.  Can you guess what’s in it?”

I tried to think of a good smart-ass answer, but couldn’t seem to settle on one.  After a few moments, he let me off the hook.  “It’s....a mug!” he declared, starting to unwind the paper ball.

“A mug?” I repeated.  “That’s kind of...random.  Where did you get a mug?”

“I made it in art class.”  He freed the mug from the wad of paper and held it up.  It was large and ceramic, clearly sculpted and painted by hand.  He gave me an awkward smile.  “And, I thought, maybe, it could be a....delayed....Mother’s Day gift.”

He handed the mug to me, and for a moment I could only stand in silence.  He immediately began cataloging flaws in the mug - the paint had bubbled in one spot, he had trouble getting the handle right, he wasn’t very good at painting, and so on.  As I turned the mug over in my hands, I delighted over the unique little bubbles in the paint, the oddly-shaped handle, the somewhat irregular borders of its painted stripe.  It was a classic Mother’s Day gift.  I even flipped the mug upside-down to find his name carved into the ceramic.

Still holding the mug, I pulled him into my arms for a long hug, and kissed him on the cheek.  “I love it, sweetie.  Thank you.”

“There’s kindofa crack in the side near the handle, too,” he said, looking embarrassed.  “I fixed it a bunch of times, but I could never get it quite right.”

“Well that’s the thing about mugs,” I smiled.  “They’re pretty heavy for the handle.  Hard to make a big mug like this and get the handle just right.  I never could do it myself, but this looks pretty good!”  I hugged him and kissed him again before letting him escape.

That’s The Boy for ya.  Maybe he doesn’t always show his appreciation when and how I might expect, but the appreciation is there.  Maybe he’s a little uncomfortable with sentimentality, but that’s understandable at his age.  Not quite a man, not a little child...but still my little boy once in a while.

Check it out folks, it's a MUG SHOT!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Self-Service Mother’s Day and the Sacrilegious Twinkie

Every Mother’s Day, I miss the days when my kid was in elementary school.  That one special Sunday in May would roll around, and out would come some sort of handmade tchotchke, shyly proffered - a bookmark, a drawing-filled calendar made from construction paper, a tempera-painted plant pot.   Always accepted with gratitude and genuine delight, although I knew perfectly well he was assigned these projects by teachers, who then gently prodded and reminded him all week to hand them over when Mother’s Day arrived.

After the fourth grade, he moved on to intermediate school and then middle school...and all recognition of Mother’s Day stopped completely.  With no prompting or prodding from anyone, he simply ignores it.  Every year it stings, more than it should I suppose, and every year I spend Mother’s Day mildly depressed, irritable, disappointed, and increasingly - rebellious.

‘Rebellious’ just started last year, the second Mother’s Day since The Boy left elementary school.  I didn’t expect much, but I thought, maybe a card.  Or hell, at least an “oh yeah, happy Mother’s Day” - which I eventually got after several hours, and turns out?  That actually makes it worse.  “Ohyeahhappymother’sday” feels a lot like “See, I didn’t forget...I just don’t care.”  So I got up, took my keys, and left the house.  I bought myself a dress at Goodwill - an adorable, bright, cotton summer dress.  I took a friend’s mom out for lunch and girl talk at an amazing vegetarian Indian buffet.  I stopped at the mall on my way home to buy my hair dye absolutely nothing because I am a Natural Green.  I danced in a department store as a professional pianist played Vince Guaraldi selections on a baby grand, I spritzed myself with expensive perfume I would never buy, I sang in the car on my way home, and actually found myself in a pretty good mood that lasted right up until I got home.

When I got home, I holed up in my room with a book I’d been meaning to read, and responded to the intermittent inquiries of “When’s dinner?” with a deliberately obtuse “I don’t know, when IS it?” until they backed cautiously away and ordered takeout.  It was mean and bitchy, and I felt a little bad about it, but Mother’s Day is one day where I feel I’m entitled to the admittedly frustrating and unhelpful “if you don’t know, I’m NOT going to tell you” attitude.  It’s also the one day when “look, just tell us what you want us to do for you and we’ll do it” doesn’t cut it either.  Me dictating the manner in which I am appreciated somehow feels...coerced.  Obligatory.  I suspect that boils down to the equally frustrating “no, I want you to WANT to”, but again, I’m entitled once a year.

ANYway.  Flash forward to this year.  I really expected nothing different, but somehow it disappointed me again all the same.  On top of it all, my friend declined my invitation to repeat last year’s lunch, plus I had signed up to volunteer at the fair trade store in the afternoon anyway.  At least The Boy didn’t even “ohyeah” me this time...leaving me the option to tell myself he’d just completely forgotten, and of course would be simply mortified if he suddenly remembered.  Awesome.

I headed out to the grocery store, but not before donning the same bright, cotton summer dress that I had bought last year.  In the fresh fruit section, a couple of middle-aged women were having a cart-to-cart talk, swapping cute stories of their burnt but well-intentioned breakfasts in bed; I tightened my grip on my cart and sailed past.  As I gathered the last items I would need to cook dinner, I realized I felt a bit peckish myself, and decided to get myself a treat.  Something indulgent, but still a little responsible perhaps?  I wandered briefly past the fair-trade chocolate bars and the vegan-friendly snack, today, that just wouldn't do it.  As I turned a corner, my eyes lit on a display of Twinkies, and immediately my rebellious mood whispered YES.

They weren’t vegan.
They weren’t even vegetarian.
Hell, they weren’t even food, beyond the broad definition of (1) they have a flavor many people find pleasing, and (2) they are manufactured with the express purpose of human ingestion.

I grabbed an individually wrapped Twinkie and dropped it into my cart.

Returning to the car, I slung the grocery bag over to the passenger seat, climbed into the driver’s seat, and rummaged through the bag for my Twinkie.  Oh Twinkie, you evil little temptation, you taste like childhood memories.  Or would....except that I now noticed for the first time the tiny lettering next to Twinkie the Kid on the package, touting the “all-new CHOCOLATE CREAM filling!”

Wait, chocolate cream?  No.  There is NO motherfucking chocolate cream in a motherfucking Twinkie.  Oh, I ate it anyway.  Sat right there in my parked car, in the parking lot of the supermarket, and ate the chocolate cream monstrosity.  It did not taste like childhood.  It did not taste like a Twinkie.  I felt a wave of irrationality crashing over me, one of those grand moments where you know you’re kind of a crazy person right now, on the verge of meltdown over some inane trivial inconvenience.  But I couldn’t help it.  I mean what the fuck, Hostess, all I wanted was one goddamn moment of nostalgic sinfulness.  I don’t eat meat/eggs/dairy, I volunteer, I give money to that nice lady on the corner who collects for the homeless every week, I donate platelets, I study, I work, I take care of my family, and I finally give in to your siren call for just one moment, one brief clandestine affair, and you RUIN it.  The moment’s gone, Hostess, like bitter fucking chocolate cream ashes in my mouth, and I hope you’re happy.  I wanted to march right up to Hostess headquarters in my cotton summer dress of rebellion and hurl baked goods at their windows.

But I didn’t know where the Hostess headquarters actually were, and they were probably far away, and anyway I’d probably get arrested.  Then I’d have to go to court and plead temporary insanity, and my lawyer would call me to the stand and he’d say...wait for it...“Tell ‘em about the Twinkie.”*

I had to giggle at that, and my absurd indignation faded.  The weather was warm and lovely, and my volunteer shift at the fair trade store went smoothly.  The customers were mostly mothers and daughters spending the day together - and I missed my own mom - but my mood remained upbeat.  At home, I cooked dinner, hung out with the fam, and got my usual goodnight hug from my son, still without so much as an acknowledgement.  Oh well.  He’s well-behaved, studious, funny, and generally affectionate and appreciative from day to day.  Some moms would kill to ‘settle’ for that.

Happy Mother's Day!  May I interest you in some scrapbook paper made from elephant dung?

Next year - no expectations.  Well okay, it’ll probably still hurt my feelings a little.  But from now on, I'm just planning on it being me, my car keys, and my Cotton Summer Dress of Rebellion, going out and celebrating Whatever-Mom-Fucking-Feels-Like Day.  Or to put it more diplomatically, Self-Service Mother’s Day.  Oh, yeah.

* The PVP guys were is always a good time for a Ghostbusters quote!

"Cotton Summer Dress of Rebellion, what are you rebelling against?"  "Whaddya got?"
 ...okay, I was going for the wall-leaning disaffected look, but I think I missed it somewhere.