Iron Man

{I just found this post in my drafts folder. I guess I wanted to add more to it or add some commentary or something. But I think I’m going to let it go as is. Because sometimes kids just don’t make sense and there’s no point in doing more than just putting it out there and letting people scratch their heads. Or laugh. Or both.}

Sitting at a traffic light in front of a thrift store, Hal gazed out our window into the store’s window and announced, “Hey, mom! They have an Iron Man costume in there. We should get that for me to wear for Halloween.”

“Nope,” I said. “Not gonna happen. Your daddy hates Iron Man.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “I do too. But it’d still be cool to dress up like him.”


Unorthodox Halloween

There’s a football game tonight.  And it’s the game at which the middle school bands come and perform with the high school one.  And there’s an orchestra practice after school.  All of this makes it very difficult to go trick or treating.  Or go to any of the non-door-to-door options the city makes available.

Now, other than the downside of having to attend a football game, this doesn’t particularly upset me.  But Hal has been asking daily about how close we are to Halloween.  And Daryl typically enjoys it too.  So what’s a resourceful mom to do?

Bribe ’em.

After explaining the situation, I made the offer.  “What if, instead of trick or treating, I give each of you $5.  You can spend it on candy if you want to or you can spend it or save it for something else.”

Daryl was convinced and eager.  Hal looked uncertain.  I continued.  “And you can still wear your costume to the football game.  Sissy will be wearing hers.”

Now Hal was convinced.  Score!  And then I got an unexpected bonus victory.  Daryl said he didn’t want to wear a costume, which meant I didn’t have to help out with a last minute costume decision.  This might just be the best Halloween ever.  Except for having to go to that football game, that is…

TBT: Memories of Great-Grandma

This week’s “Throwback Thursday” post was inspired by a conversation I had with Marissa Bergen, Rock and Roll Super Mom, who writes some fun and clever poetry on her blog, Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. The conversation was on her spooky poem, The Picture. I encourage you to go check it out.  This recollection of mine seems appropriate to run the day before Halloween.

Marissa’s poem was about a (I assume) young child fearful of a painting on her grandmother’s wall and what happened when she decided to take matters in her own hands.  I don’t recall ever spending the night at my grandmother’s house.  Hers was walking distance from ours so I suppose a sleepover never made sense.  I do, however, remember spending the night at my great grandmother’s house.

The memory that I related to Marissa was of spending the night with my younger brother.  It was a very small farm house with one bathroom, a tiny kitchen, three bedrooms, two connected living rooms, and a basement.  Despite the house’s diminutive stature, the hallway going to the last bedroom was at least a mile long.  And not lit.  And I think there were cobwebs in the corners.  And rats watching us with beady little red, evil eyes.  And a witch cackling somewhere just out of sight.

Ok, so maybe the last few points are exaggerations.  Exaggerations on reality, not on how we felt.  I can remember the intense fear of being led down that (actually very short) hallway.  I hated it when my brother stayed with me because if it was just me, I got to sleep in grandma’s bed with her.  Until I got older and she claimed that I kicked her too much in my sleep.  Even then, I got to sleep in the second bedroom.  I never got banished to the end bedroom on my own.

There’s a reason for that.  I think Great Grandma knew that a child alone had no hope of survival in that bedroom.  We never wanted her to close the door.  We never wanted her to leave.  But she always did.

My brother and I would lie flat on our backs, huddled as close to each other in the dead center of the bed as possible.  We’d hold the blanket up tight under our chins.  Our fingers would begin to ache from clinching the sheets so tightly.  And we’d stare intently at the picture on the wall.

I don’t remember what the picture was.  I just remember truly thinking the person in the picture was watching us.  We’d whisper furtively to each other, wanting the reassurance of each other’s voice but fearful that the sound would draw out the demons watching us from that picture.

We were never as united as we were fighting for our lives in that dark room at the end of that long hallway.  “I want to roll over,” one of us would say.

“Ok,” the other would respond.  “I’ll keep watch.  You go ahead and turn over.”

We’d keep watch until we eventually dropped from fatigue.  The paralyzing fear I felt then is still palpable now.  I don’t know why.  It’s not like great grandma was a scary woman.  Well, barring the fact that she only had two fingers on her right hand and she was quite adept at pinching that fleshy underside of your arm with them if you were doing something wrong.  And she had false teeth that she liked to pop out of her mouth at us in a ghoulish expression that would cause us to shriek in mostly-fun fear.

Oh, and then there was the fact that she actually had those three fingers missing from her right hand in a jar in her basement.  I’m not making that up.  The fingers, and a chunk of the hand, were severed when she was two years old and was pretending to play the organ on a piece of sharp farm equipment.  She slipped and sliced her hand.

A very talented German doctor stitched up her hand.  And stored her fingers in a jar of formaldehyde that he kept on a shelf in his office.  And when she got a job working for him as a teenager, he handed the fingers back to their rightful owner.  Nothing spooky about that, right?

No, the truly terrifying thing about Great Grandma’s house was the time I realized just how old she really was.  When it dawned on me that none of my friends went to visit their great grandmas… because they didn’t have living great grandmas.  Or if they did, they were waiting out the end in nursing homes.

My great grandma lived by herself on a large farm out in the middle of nowhere.  When all of this came crashing down on me one day, I called my mom in a panic.  Had to stand at the rotary phone at the end of the kitchen.  And whisper – just in case Great Grandma was listening.

“But mom!” I pleaded.  “What if she… dies?!”

“Well,” she replied calmly and practically, “you’ll call me and I’ll come pick you up.”

“But what if I can’t reach you?!”

“Then you’ll call grandma.  One of us will come get you.”

“But what am I supposed to do until you get here?!”

“What do you mean?  Just wait for us.”

“But what about her?!”

“What do you mean, ‘what about her’?”

“I’d be in a house with a… dead body…”

“Well, it’s not like she’s going to jump up and grab you.  She’d be dead.”

Obviously, my mother had never taken the long walk to that end bedroom or she wouldn’t be so sanguine.  I resolved to sit out on the porch and wait for them there if, indeed, my great grandmother were to expire during one of my visits.  She didn’t, of course.  Like most childhood fears, that one was unfounded.

I had many wonderful experiences at Great Grandma’s house.  And I count the spooky, terrifying ones among them.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

Imagining Pumpkin Greatness

I walked into the preschool to pick up Hal. As I entered my code at the front desk, I noticed the pink decorated pumpkin sitting there. Ah, I remembered. Next week is the pumpkin decorating contest.

I am categorically too busy for these kinds of contests and rarely participate, but I started imagining what we might do if we did. Earlier in the week, I had contemplated an Avengers pumpkin, maybe Captain America or the Hulk. Ooh! I thought. What if I reference another holiday? What if we did a snowman made out of three stacked pumpkins?

Hal had picked up one of his baby carrots at dinner the night before and commented what a great nose it would make for a snowman. It was of course way too small for a full sized snowman, but for a pumpkin sized one? Perfect! He’ll be so excited!

The pumpkin snowman began to take form in my mind as I walked down the hall. He wasn’t in his classroom and after peeking out the window to the playground, I noticed his teacher cleaning the bathroom. She said he was down in the movie room, so I went ahead and grabbed his papers and backpack then headed back down the hall.

As I exited the building, I was thinking about the weekend and came to the conclusion that we needed to go ahead and buy the three pumpkins tonight on our way home. I better get buy-in from Hal on the plan.

I looked down and to the right to ask Hal what he thought. I then froze in front of my truck in a moment of profound confusion. I had left the school without my child.

What Makes a Geek

Daryl may very well qualify as a full-fledged Geek. And I think he’s pretty much OK with that. I have come to the conclusion that being a geek… or a nerd, I’m not going to try to distinguish between the two, has nothing to do with how smart you are or even what you are interested in. It has to do with your attitude and care factor.

Here’s what I mean. Jane is interested in many nerdy things. She is very intelligent and does well in school. However, she wants to be popular and she knows what parts of her might make that difficult if she let them shine too much… or at the “wrong” times.

Saturday, she was wearing neon green shorts, a hot pink cami, knee-high blue softball socks with white polka dots, and bright orange Converses. Her closest friends would have thought she looked quirky and cool. But when it came time to go to a birthday party, she had toned it down.

“Why did you change?”

“I needed to deweirdify myself. There’s going to be cheerleaders at this party. They wouldn’t understand.”

Daryl, on the other hand, really couldn’t care less what other kids think. He painted his fingernails in second grade and when a little girl told him that boys don’t paint their nails, he responded, “Well, that’s obviously not true since this boy does.”

He once spent two years growing out a rat tail because he wanted to dress up as a Jedi Padawan for Halloween and wanted an authentic braid. Some kids at school called him the “funny hair boy” but he didn’t mind.

I don’t have a problem with either child’s approach. So far, Jane’s desire to fit in has not caused her to compromise her interests and talents. She just acts the way that fits the group she’s with. She’s developing good social skills that will help her interact with a variety of people, not unlike her dad. At least, I hope that’s what she’s doing. As long as she maintains integrity and doesn’t do inappropriate things just to fit in, she’ll be fine.

Daryl is cultivating his independence and self-confidence. He’s not interested in conforming to other people’s expectations. He’ll probably have a better sense of himself than his sister will of herself. But he might have more trouble fitting in with people who lack his interests.

It’s fascinating to watch them each make their way in the world and to see how they each mix the qualities they gained from their parents in different and unique ways.

The Start of Us

Teenagers are goofy creatures. When I was in high school, note passing was serious business. Sometimes I think more communication took place in missives passed in the halls or across the classroom aisles than during lunch or after school.

I passed notes with several people. One was my best friend’s (recently ex-)boyfriend, who also happened to be my (recently ex-)boyfriend’s best friend. Got that? Like I said, goofy. We were in Latin club together and had come to enjoy each other’s company.

I had begun to “like” him but he was already dating someone else. I liked him enough that I resolved to just be his friend if I couldn’t be more than that. Lucky for me, the girlfriend broke up with him.

One day, shortly before Halloween, he asked me – in a note, of course – who I “liked”. I listed three names. First names only. One was his.

He wrote back, “So tell me more about this ‘Daryl’ guy.”

I don’t remember exactly how I responded. I suspect I was worried about being rejected, despite the undeniable signals I was getting from him. So I’m sure I paid him some compliments and also made some little jibes, enough that I wouldn’t be too embarrassed if he wasn’t interested.

He wrote back, “What would your answer be if I asked you to go with me?” I guess I wasn’t the only one that was uncertain about the path forward.

My mom had some really old books on a shelf in the living room. One of them was a ladies’ etiquette guide from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. I found the proper response to a gentleman who has requested permission to court and decided to use it. After all, that’s basically what he was doing.

Then, on Halloween day, 1990, he popped the question. Via a passed note. “Will you go with me?” I wrote “yes.”

And thus was the start of us.

We have other anniversaries. There’s the day he asked me to marry him, and then the day nearly 10 months later when we told people we were engaged. And, of course, our wedding day. Halloween, though, was and always will be our first anniversary. The day the two of us officially started down the path that has led us to where we are now. Still in love. And still goofy.