“That’s What I Like About You!” (Gracie & The Romantics)
There’s really nothing quite so illuminating as trying to share a small, tight, confined space with your own daughter. Honestly, I should know; I just spent Spring Break traveling with my 20 year-old daughter, Gracie. I know you’re thinking our hotel room was probably too small, and you are correct. It certainly was. But, by “small, tight, confined space,” I really meant that all of Manhattan wasn’t big enough for both of us.
Spending 4 days together on that crowded little island off the coast of New York, prompted Gracie to shed some light on a few personality flaws I could really stand to work on, if I want to be a better person – and who among us doesn’t strive every day to be a better person?
Mom has a Selfish Streak:
Apparently, I should try to be more willing to share my blessings with others, particularly my children, and most specifically Gracie. This was revealed to me on the very first morning of our trip. I finished my coffee, applied a smattering of make-up and decided to brush my teeth. I noticed a toothbrush that resembled mine was on the counter sopping wet. I asked her, “Did you use my toothbrush?” She promptly answered, “No!” Since all toothbrushes look alike to me, I believed her and launched a search for MY toothbrush. Taking pity on me, or more likely – in the interest of time – she confessed, “Okayyyyyy I used your toothbrush!” That wasn’t the only thing I shared with her on the trip. In addition to forgetting her toothbrush and her phone charger, she obviously forgot all her money, too. If she brought money with her, she kept it well out of sight…
Mom has Boundary Issues:
The only thing worse than a selfish mother, is one who doesn’t want to share her things, but wantonly helps herself to your things, without your express permission, as though she paid for them herself. You know – a Mother like me.
We had gone to a fabulous restaurant for dinner, but had been told by several native New Yorkers that we simply must swing by Magnolia Bakery for some Banana Pudding. The place is famous for it. We purchased a pint container to take back to our hotel room, but failed to get a fork or spoon. Nonplussed and satiated from dinner, Gracie promptly fell asleep. I stared despondently at that pudding for way too long. A combination of creativity and desperation inspired me to create an eating utensil out of Gracie’s criminally expensive makeup brush I bought her at MAC (Picture chopsticks). It worked like a charm! All up until the following morning, when Gracie started applying makeup. I deftly explained my dilemma from the night before, fully expecting her to be as impressed with me and the resultant solution as I was. It was a stroke of genius, a brush-stroke of genius…
Mom Sucks at Photography:
Millennials take a jarring amount of pictures. Not of landmark historical buildings, fountains or statues, mind you. They take pictures of themselves. Lots and lots of them. When Gracie’s arm wasn’t long enough to include both herself AND a particular background she liked, she reluctantly enlisted my services to take the photo with her cell phone.
That’s when I was confronted by this ugly truth: I am a TOTAL FAIL at picture taking. My hands shake, I don’t hold the camera at a flattering angle and I don’t know when to use the flash. Try as she may, Gracie could not help but express disappointment in my ineptitude. At one point, entirely exasperated by a candid I took of her, she remonstrated, “When you look through the lens, the trick is just to ask yourself: “Is this how I would want to look in a photo?” Too bad her “tip” wasn’t particularly helpful. It’s not going to help me to be a better photographer, because the way she looked was, in fact, exactly how I wish I looked in a photo. Not to mention, at my age, we love a little blur to our pictures. We pay extra for that…
And, that is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s an entire category of general garden-variety annoyances:
– When Gracie told me I looked cute in hats, I bought 7 more. Clogged up our suitcase. Moms who over-do things are annoying.
-When I tried to adopt the vernacular of the millennials, it was as irritating as listening to a person who learned English-as-a-second-language attempt to curse. Apparently, I used the word, “LIT” totally out of context. I just couldn’t pull it off.
-When I talked indiscriminately to strangers on the subway, I was informed that I, “had plenty of friends back home and didn’t really need any more friends, especially in NYC.” (I happen to know for a fact that my new friend from the Subway does not agree, because I talked to her this morning on Facebook.)
On a positive note, it’s downright invigorating to know there’s so much growth potential and room for improvement in my personality! I’m not the least bit daunted; I’ve got nothing but time on my hands to enroll in Charm School and maybe even take a Cell Phone Photography Course.
I guess the only thing I’m still a little baffled by, in light of all this recent self-insight, is how in the world do I actually have “enough friends?” You’d think they’d be pretty sparse.
It just doesn’t seem like I’m all that “LIT.
“Fly Away!” (We Battle Empty Nest Envy)
I was lying in my bathtub this morning when Jimmy came flying in with his usual sense of urgency.
“Do we own a net?”
“Yes! A Net!”
“No, but put it on the list and I’ll be sure and pick one up next time I’m at Walmart,” I said dismissively, with my characteristic lack of urgency, (most pronounced in all matters of household maintenance, of which I’ve grown decidedly weary and largely unmotivated.)
“Get out, of the tub! I need your help! We have birds in the house!”
I wasn’t sure at first that I heard him correctly. We have had NERDS in the house. We have, on occasion, even had TURDS in the house, but I think he just said we have BIRDS in the house. Which, I supposed, would explain why he’s asking for a net. Sometimes, I just need a minute to process things.
And, then I really put it all together – I realized that we had literally jinxed ourselves with a conversation we had earlier today…
Jimmy and I had Emilie and Mollie in our early 20s. At the time that we had these little girls, we were friends with several couples, approximately the same age as us, that also had two children. The difference being, these couples stopped reproducing themselves after two children. About 6 years after we had our first two, we caught what is often referred to as a “second wind” and had 3 more children. Suffice it to say, our second wind blew harder and more powerful than our first wind. The irony, however, is that many of our closest friends are now, “Empty Nesters,” while we are still deep in the throes of childrearing.
We see these Empty Nesters everywhere. We can not seem to escape them. They mock us on social media with their newfound freedom. Still young, beautiful and full-of-spunk, they frolic about, flaunting their utter lack of responsibility. They wander about Europe, attend wine tastings in Napa and dine in hoity-toity restaurants. We can’t verify this, but we are pretty convinced, with all that privacy, they make love right smack in the middle of the day, while they still have the energy…
Jimmy and I were sharing our morning coffee today, wistfully gazing at pictures of our college friends, Mike and Kay, prancing all over Facebook. There were pictures of them smiling merrily in a Gondola in Venice (clearly laughing at us) and shooting Limoncello in Rome (probably toasting their Reproductive Wisdom and Foresight.) Naturally, our conversation turned to wondering if we, too, might one day become actual “ENs.”
And, that’s when I’m pretty sure we jinxed ourselves. Instead of getting birds out of our nest, we actually let a few more in today!
Back to the bird situation: In the absence of a household net, Jimmy asked me to grab two towels. I was further instructed to hold one towel up vertically, “Like a Bullfighter in Spain!” I made an on-the-spot decision that this might not be the ideal time to mention to my Beloved that I’ve never seen a Bullfight, never been to Spain, and at the rate we are going, probably never will. (This is also probably not the time to bring this up, but Mike and Kay went last year…They invited us to join them, but we had a basketball tournament.)
Jimmy then impressed me with his proficient use of Towel #2. He tossed it over the first bird and released her tenderly into The Great Outdoors. The remaining bird, he pointed out, was the male. “This is going to be trickier,” Jimmy explained, as if he were a card-carrying member of The Audubon Society, adding that, “The male bird’s lack of focus and direction is probably what got them into this situation to begin with!” (It seriously took this man a full 32 years to admit the obvious?)
We had quite a battle on our hands with that male. Eventually, Jimmy managed to capture him and carried him flapping like crazy to our backdoor. Trying to be of assistance, I said frantically, “I’ll crack open the door, you thrust him high up in the air, with some force, and then when he starts flapping, jump back in the house and we’ll slam the door quickly behind you, before he has a chance to change his mind!”
It was infinitely harder to rid our home of the male-of-the-species, which we sincerely hoped wasn’t some kind of FORESHADOWING of our future…That little guy dug in and resisted his own emancipation. But, no matter! We now feel confident that we have a pretty merciless exit strategy planned for when the time comes to show James and Tommy the door.
“Come On Kathleen!” (Me & Dexys)
Today kicks off yet another Spring Break Week at our house. I admit, Jimmy and I take a sliver of pride in our reputation for providing ZERO amusement for our offspring over Spring Break. But this year, through some momentary lapse of judgement or faltered sense of family tradition, James talked us in to letting him fly down to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with a group of kids and their parents from his Senior class…
Ever since we gave him the green light for the trip, I have been filled with maternal dread and worry. I’m just not a big fan of a bunch of American high school students running around the beaches of Mexico. I’m not even a fan of Mexican students running around the beaches of Mexico. But, I do feel secure that James is in good hands down there. His “official chaperones” are the parents of one of his buddies, but I always favor a strong back-up plan. Included in the entourage is one of my closest friends, who is accompanying her daughter Sarah (a classmate of James’) on the trip.
Kathleen texted me yesterday to get James’ cell phone number so she could save him to her contacts. That went a long way towards reassuring me that she fully intends to keep excellent tabs on my boy. After I gave her his number, it seemed only appropriate to inquire, what, if anything, I could do for her here in Oklahoma while she was away. I’m sure I was just overwhelmed with gratitude and got swept up in the moment.
I barely got this semi-sincere offer out of my mouth, before she started rattling off a list of instructions. And what an extensive list it was! My head started swimming. I finally said, “Wow, that sounds like a lot. Can you just email that to me?”
And she did.
The good news is that I don’t have to do anything unless she dies down there this week. She hasn’t asked me to water her house plants, feed her cat or bring in her mail. I don’t have to run over and let her dogs out, or even pick the newspaper up off the driveway. But, the bad news is that, should she meet an untimely demise and perish in Mexico this week, I’m going to be busier than a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
She is dead set on these instructions:
I suppose I really don’t mind writing her eulogy. That’s fine. I have actually written a fair amount of eulogies for a woman as young as I am. It’s like everything else, there’s a formula.
Assuming I can easily locate that “red lock box,” (if it was my house, it will have mysteriously disappeared from the place where I told you it would be…) it will be pretty effortless to run that song list up to the church.
No problem splicing in some pall bearers, either. I would think anyone could tote this particular friend down the aisle. Even in a wooden box, she won’t weigh much. Trust me, I happen to know exactly how much she weighs, because she went on a diet 3 weeks ago for this trip and has texted me her weight every day. Her pall will be easy to bear.
And, I guess I really don’t even mind throwing this party she wants, but at some point I feel like she is starting to get a tad high maintenance. Is it just me, or is she asking a lot that I have to burn a CD? Why can’t I just take requests and suggestions from her grieving friends and family throughout the evening and play them on my iPad? It’s like she has me confused with her friend Pandora.
And, then putting ME, of all people in charge of her appearance in the casket? If I’m truly the one running the show, I’m apt to just ignore that open casket nonsense. Those pall bearers work for me now, right? When I slam that puppy shut and and tell MY PALL BEARERS, “Let’s Roll!” it won’t much matter which direction her little head is tilted.
On a positive note, I am starting to worry way less about James on this trip. He’s a good boy and we’ve done our best to raise him to make good choices. My primary concern has shifted to the safety and wellbeing of Kathleen down there. I’m really not thrilled that MY Spring Break might get bogged down in all these funeral-related tasks. There’s a reason we don’t plan anything over Spring Break – it’s because we are trying to relax…
All that notwithstanding, I do enjoy selecting music, so I thought I may as well knock that chore out this morning. Kathleen happened to call just now to “check-in” on their layover in Atlanta. I asked if she liked the song, “Come on Eileen,”from the early 80s.
When she answered, “Not really,” her 18 year old was as astonished as I was. “Oh my God Mom! Are you dead inside?” (Obviously Sarah agrees with me about this catchy tune…)
But honestly, at this point, I literally just have my fingers crossed. Not to be callous or anything, but if Kathleen is dead on the inside, that’s Sarah’s problem this week in Playa, if she’s dead on the outside, it just became mine.
Come On Kathleen! At this moment, you mean everything!
We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me… (James, Tommy & Sister Sledge)
Every year, for as long as any of our children can remember, Jimmy and I have taken a “business trip” with his company. And every single year, my mother, may she rest in peace, (she’s fine, she’s just staying home and literally resting in peace) has faithfully and lovingly driven across the country, to babysit our 5 kids for the extended weekend.
This started way back in the 1990s, when our daughters were toddlers and has continued ever since.
We are now down to the last two kids in the nest – our boys – who launched a protest this year, maintaining that they are sufficiently mature enough to look after themselves when we travel.
Their mutiny happened to coincide with some minor health concerns of Grandma’s, so after lengthy discourse and fractious debate, we decided to take our sons up on their offer. After all, James IS 18 and LEGALLY an adult, (he can go to war if necessary and plans to vote in November) and Tommy is…well, he’s Tommy.
I did, nonetheless, exercise due diligence by sending a series of TEXT ALERTS to my next-door neighbors, a friend who happens to be the President of our Homeowner’s Association, 9 of my sons’ friends’ parents, as well as Our Girlfriend’s Mother – all because I genuinely embrace the Utopian-esque concept of ‘It Takes A Village To Raise A Child.’
But, my Ace-in-the-Hole was my reliance upon The Ultimate Village, the roadblock of all roadblocks, a fail-proof infrastructure that was established long before we ever had boys tarnishing the family name; dating all the way back to when our Little Tykes toys were exclusively pink.
The plan was in place, if necessary, to activate THE SISTERHOOD…
It is simply an inescapable and universal truth that no one is going to rat you out with more passion and fervor than your own flesh-and-blood sisters. Rather than call this tattle-telling, we choose to refer to this additional layer of security as “PROTECTING THE BRAND.”
…And, that’s exactly what went down at our house this past Saturday night, when our 3 daughters converged upon their unsuspecting brothers with more femme-fatale force than an episode of Charlie’s Angels.
It was Boots-On-The-Ground in Oklahoma; with technical and on-line support streaming directly out of Manhattan and Fayetteville.
And, what an impressive well-oiled machine…The Command Center at NASA conducting a Full Scale Space Mission has nothing on these ladies.
The Trinity of Angels communicating via group text:
Edmond – “There are unauthorized vehicles in the drive-way. We’re going in.”
Manhattan- “Copy that. Are you there Fayetteville?”
Fayetteville- “Standing-By Manhattan”.
Manhattan – “Godspeed Edmond. Text pictures ASAP!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, (depending on how badly you wanted to make a “bust”) each of our 5 teenaged guests that evening had been “Pre-Approved” prior to my departure. All Emilie actually had to do was verify their wristbands, check their names off the ‘Authorized Guests’ list, poke around a bit, issue an empty threat or two, text Mamasita a few candids and retreat.
As you can see by the time stamp on the following screenshot, the marvels of modern technology available in Mexico delayed news of The Raid by several hours. I too, was resting in peace; apparently by the time I was ‘in the loop,’ the delinquents were tucked in bed, lights out and rosaries prayed. Unnecessary force and legal action averted.
Viva La Village! Viva La Sisterhood!
“I Ain’t No Fortunate Son” (My Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival)
A Spring Break letter to my Sons:
It blows my mind how many of your friends are on glamorous, luxury vacations this week. I apologize for not believing you, when you said, EVERYONE you knew was leaving town for Spring Break.
I really didn’t believe it was literally EVERYONE. But, it is…
I realized you weren’t exaggerating on Sunday, when we arrived late for Mass and the church was so empty that we still had our pick of the pews. I was completely convinced when there was zero wait time for a table at the restaurant afterwards. Later, last night, when I was casually skimming Facebook, I was inundated with even more evidence. There were hundreds of pictures of your friends hitting the slopes and the crystal white beaches of Mexico and the Caribbean. (I bet it’s hard to convince yourselves that your friends are laying around their houses, as bored as you are, when you are drowning in social media to the contrary).
So, you were right, apparently we do have the Great State of Oklahoma all to ourselves!
I know that you’re growing weary of hearing this, but, when Dad and I were growing up, things were way different. Of course, you know all about the ’70s because you have watched every episode of, “That ’70s Show,” but there’s a few things the show didn’t cover…
For starters, we didn’t have Spring Break in the ’70s. Spring Break, like many other questionable social ills, was born on the college campuses of this great country. Every year the media would cover thousands of college students flocking to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale and Daytona for Spring Break. But, grade schoolers and high schoolers stayed at their desks for the most part. We had a few days off around Easter, commonly referred to as Easter Vacation. We dyed eggs and spent hours hiding and finding them in our backyards for entertainment. This cost our parents less than $2.
But the most important thing we really wanted you to understand, when you innocently asked us last week,
“Where are we going for Spring Break?”
…is that, in the 70s, if we did have a day or more vacation from school, the last thing in the world we were going to do was advertise it to our parents!
Why – You ask? Because, our parents weren’t going to go skedaddle to a travel website to plan a luxury vacation for us. They were going to send us to fetch a pen and paper, so that they could make a list of things that needed to be done around the house. Our parents were delighted when we had days off from school so we could:
reorganize the attic
clean out the garage
and paint the house
I’m not going to go so far as to say, children were “a blessing” when we were growing up, (as in our grandparent’s generation when they genuinely needed more hands to work the fields) but, our parents were definitely not above using their children as Indentured Servants.
If my siblings and I thought we could pull it off, we would set our alarms on vacation days, get up early, get dressed and leave the house, hoping our parents would think we actually HAD school. Bottom line- We just weren’t as “in our parents faces” back then. We avoided them as much as possible. This is a concept that your generation isn’t familiar with; we called it, “making ourselves scarce”. It worked well for all concerned parties.
But, back to you- Please don’t think it didn’t make us feel super un-cool, remorseful and negligent when we saw your disappointed faces. We failed to plan and planned to fail, as they say. Nevertheless, it’s not too late to salvage your Spring Break! In an effort to make it up to you, we proudly announce:
THE TWO-FOR-ONE GRANDMA TOUR 2015!!!
That’s right guys, you are going on an all-expenses-paid Road Trip to visit, not one, but BOTH of your grandmothers!! Get your i-phones handy, you’ll want to post tons of pictures, as we drive you all over our old “stomping grounds” reminiscing and pointing out places of interest, such as our high schools, Tiger Stadium, where we went to make-out and many other exciting locales. We will sing songs and share our favorite memories, as you sit captive and captivated in the back seat.
We were able to pull this entire trip together at the very last minute, largely because we didn’t need advance reservations and the ladies aren’t charging us a dime for lodging.
Start packing! And be grateful we don’t think you can distinguish between a flower and a weed and we don’t trust you anywhere near our house with a paintbrush!
The Mom Who Saved Spring Break