Hello? It’s me. You know, your mom?

This is what I typically see when I look at my conversation history with my 13 year old son. Sometimes it feels really lonely. Like I’m talking to myself. I know he has a phone because his nose is in it much of the time we are together. So what happens to it while we are apart? Strange, I tell ya. Maybe I should ask him about it…

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Dressing for the Dance

Daryl’s middle school has an end-of-year dance. A couple of days before the dance this year, he asked a girl at school to be his girlfriend. And then he asked her to the dance. The night before the dance, Daryl was rummaging through his clothing, looking for something to wear.

“Do you know where my Easter clothes are?” he asked me.

“I thought you hated your Easter clothes.”

“I do, but it’s a Hawaiian themed dance and we are supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts or bright colored clothes.”

His Easter clothes certainly would fit the bill. He didn’t want to go with me when I shopped for Easter clothing, telling me instead to “just pick something out for me. I don’t care.”

He cared once I got home. I had purchased a pair of bright turquoise blue shorts on clearance and a sorta-bright pastel yellow shirt. He was horrified! But now? Now he was looking for those hideous clothes. But they weren’t even the best choice he had.

“You should wear your Hawaiian shirt,” I said, pulling a dark blue and white flowered shirt out of his closet. A much more sartorially accomplished friend of Jane’s had handed it down to Daryl a couple of years earlier and Daryl had never worn it.

“I’m not wearing that.” He said it in his serious, no-nonsense voice, which I groaned at and then ignored.

“Seriously, Daryl, that shirt is perfect. It’s a Hawaiian dance and this is a Hawaiian shirt. It doesn’t get any better than that. Here, try it on.” I slipped it off the hanger and handed it to him.

He tried it on. I could tell it was right on the edge of being too small for him but he looked good and I said so. He headed to our bathroom to check it out and I followed. As soon as he could see himself in the mirror, he wrinkled up his nose in disgust and said, “No way!”

“Oh, come on!” I tried. But, no, the Hawaiian shirt would not be worn. He found his Easter clothes soon thereafter and tried to get me to iron them. I pointed out that the Hawaiian shirt didn’t need to be ironed. He pleaded. I told him I was exhausted (I was) and that he could iron them himself. He said he didn’t know how. I said it was a good time to learn. He didn’t iron them but also didn’t switch to the Hawaiian shirt.

The next day, on the drive home from work, I thought about the clothes that still needed to be ironed. Since I was in the car with the bluetooth connection to my phone, I called.

“Get the ironing board and iron out so we can iron those clothes as soon as I get home,” I said.

“Oh, I don’t need to. I took care of it.”

“Really?” I asked in shock. “You ironed your clothes?” He must really like this girl, I thought to myself.

“No,” he said, “I’m not wearing those.” And this is where it got really good. I mean, really, really good.

“I’m wearing the Hawaiian shirt.”

My eyes went as big as saucers.

“Sally wants to match and she’s wearing blue so I’m going to wear that.”

A belly laugh began to work its way up to my throat. I forcefully shoved it back down and in the most neutral voice I could muster, said, “That’s wonderful dear. I’m glad you worked it out. I love you.” At this point, I was in severe danger of making it obvious I was laughing at the situation. “Good-bye,” I said, reaching quickly for the little red “hang up” button on my console.

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Tears rolled down my face. Mom couldn’t have threatened or rewarded him enough to get him to walk among his peers in that shirt. But a pretty young girl just had to say she wanted to match.

The hilarity continued when I got home and a hyper thirteen year old boy showed me how he had shaved. He fixed his hair (again and then again). He brushed his teeth. He took the toothpaste with him to freshen up after dinner. He checked his hair in the car’s mirror. In short, he acted like a completely different boy than I had been living with all this time.

How To Remember The Little Things

My mom always left notes for herself. Everywhere. There could be notes hanging from the ceiling fan pull in the dining room, guaranteeing she would see them since that was the main thoroughfare of the house. She’d tape notes on the inside of the front door so we’d see them as we left. Or on the door out to the garage. Or taped to the bathroom mirror. Or she might lay the note on her purse or on some other object that she wasn’t likely to forget.

I used to think she was forgetful. Now I know how smart she was.

Her notes would remind her to get something out of the fridge or to take something with her or make a phone call, some little out-of-the-norm activity that she needed to do. Or it would be a note reminding us of something we needed to do.

I actually come from a long line of note posters. My grandpa, her dad,  taped notes on the staircase banister, which was the central location of his house. These notes were often notes instructing my grandma on something she needed to do or a note for one of us coming to the house. The funny thing about his notes were that they were always typed and dated. I’m kinda surprised he didn’t sign them or have them notarized. I used to imagine that he filed the old notes away in case he needed them as evidence in a disagreement on something or for historical reference.

Despite having been raised by note-posters and understanding the intrinsic value of the activity, I’ve never made it part of my daily routine. And considering how badly I remember the minutia of life, that’s not a good thing.

While bemoaning the stacks of stuff in our entry way that my husband plans on (some day) (when he remembers) taking out to his studio, I remembered the notes.

“Maybe you need a better reminder {than all the crap in the way… I thought but didn’t say}. Maybe a note on the door so you see it on the way out.”

That put the thought in my head.

I have these Wella bars that I eat for breakfast at work and I accidentally took the entire box to work on Monday without remembering to leave one at home to eat before our half marathon this weekend. So I knew I had all week to remember to bring one back home.

Yesterday, as I retrieved one from the fridge in the morning, I thought, You aren’t going to ever remember to take one of these out at the end of the day.

Aha! I thought with a smile. A Post-It note will do the trick. But where? The fridge? My computer screen? No, I’ll get used to seeing it all day and it won’t work. Aha! On my purse!

And that’s what I did. Come the end of the day when I reached for my purse, I smiled broadly at my wild success and retrieved the almost-forgotten Wella bar from the fridge and slipped it in my purse, triumphant.

And then this morning as I pondered our upcoming race, I suddenly exclaimed an expletive. The must-be-refrigerated Wella bar from the day before was still nestled in my purse.

I guess I’m still in the beginner stages. Another note, perhaps? Maybe I should have carried the note with me and placed it on my steering wheel or back on my purse. So close, yet so far. I’ve got a long way to go before I earn my place among the great note-posters of my family.

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Cold Days, Warm Memories

I have very strong (and oddly fond) memories of sitting in a chilled but warming car as my mother scraped the ice off the windows of a morning. I remember watching through the ice, seeing her first only as a blur and then clearly as the ice was removed. I recall wondering whether she’d get that last little bit in the corner or if it’d be a quick job. I remember noticing that sometimes the ice came away more easily than other times.

These memories evoke a warm, comfortable feeling not unlike the memories of a grilled cheese sandwich and chicken noodle soup brought to me  when I was sick. Or of laying my head on her chest as I cuddled in her lap and listening to her talk to other people in the room, marveling at how different her voice sounded when heard through her chest. Listening to her heart beat. Relaxing in her strong and sure presence.

This morning, the weather had turned unexpectedly cold. Because of a shortage of pants brought on by rips in knees, holes in crotches, and massive stains on seats, I had mistakenly encouraged one of my children to wear shorts, thus saving me from the daily washing of the one pair of pants remaining (which itself was missing a button). We all rushed out to the cold car – no prewarming from this mother.

What appeared to be just water on the windshield and the windows on one side of the car turned out to be thick sheets of ice. As I scraped the windows, I saw my children’s faces silently watching me through the disappearing ice. Warm memories flooded my cold body. And can I just say this?

It sucks being the grown-up outside doing the scraping.

My Basketball Hero

Daryl expressed a strong interest in playing basketball this year. We’ve always avoided the sport because it starts during the Christmas season, which always seems so hectic. This year has been even crazier than most, and maybe out of a sense that it really couldn’t be any worse, we agreed to let him play.

The first time that I had to drop him off at practice, the assistant coach introduced himself and then commented on my son.

“He’s quite a scholar. Yes, he is. That one’s definitely a scholar. Just need to get some sports under his belt to get him nice and well rounded.”

So what you are trying to tell me, I thought but didn’t say, is that my son is a terrible basketball player. What I did say was “Yes, he is a very smart young man. He’s really excited about playing basketball this year. It’s his first time to play.”

His team had their first game yesterday. They only have five, maybe six, players but for their first game, they were down even further – to the minimum needed to play: four. The other team had seven. I was expecting slaughter.

Daryl was obviously uncertain what to do. I could see him hesitate as play shifted quickly. But he hustled and got into the mix. Even getting a rebound early in the game and immediately sending it back up for an attempted basket. Fortunately, he missed. It wasn’t his team’s basket.

His coaches didn’t get upset. They yelled in a supportive way to only score at the other end and talked him through it at the next time out. At half time, they made sure he understood that the sides had switched, but by then he had it.

Despite being short-handed, his team was winning easily. Two of the boys were strong players and dominated the court. Daryl still got his hands on the ball though, proving himself reliable at pulling down rebounds and then quickly shooting if on his end of the court, or passing to a more capable dribbler if not.

He even scored four points and assisted on several others. The first time he scored, my heart melted when he turned as soon as the ball swooshed to see if I had seen him.

The coolest thing about watching him play was to watch him running across the court and his face suddenly burst into a magnificent smile, as if he suddenly thought to himself, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing in a basketball game! This is the best thing in the world!” He looked like the happiest boy ever.

And because of that, I am the happiest mom ever. I’ve never been a basketball fan. I don’t know the rules, don’t recognize the referee’s calls, can’t usually tell when someone does something wrong. But for that boy, you’ll find me on the sidelines yelling and cheering and fighting back tears. Cuz that’s my kid out there loving what he’s doing.

Gizzards

A random comment on Facebook brought this childhood memory to mind recently. We didn’t eat out very often. When we did, it was likely fast food take-out. My mom would occasionally bring home Kentucky Fried Chicken – this was back before they tried to hide the fact that it was all fried by calling it KFC.

She always got an order of livers and gizzards along with the chicken. To this day, I still don’t know what a gizzard is. I just remember that both my brother and I thought they were delicious. We hated the liver though and it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.

Kind of like cherry and cinnamon Jelly Bellies. I love the cherry ones but can’t stand the cinnamon. I’ve gotten to the point that I’ve given up eating red jelly beans if I don’t know for sure there are no cinnamon ones hiding in the mix.

As a child, I was more stubborn with the gizzards. I really wanted them. So I’d carefully study the little nuggets of breaded and fried meat trying to detect the slight difference in color. The livers were darker. I’d compare them until I found one that seemed clearly lighter than the others and then I’d eat it. If it was a liver, I’d freak and try to spit it out. My mother, who loves eating liver, would react badly to such a waste of delicacies.

They don’t even sell livers and gizzards anymore. But back in the day, when eating out was a real treat, if mom opened a bag from KFC, we’d get excited. And my little brother would ask “Did you get some lizards and givers?!”

Clothes Hunt

Jane was digging through the clean laundry basket. She sat down on the couch with an armful of clothes and asked, “Do you know where my black shorts are?”

On volleyball game days, she’s allowed to wear her team T-shirt to school instead of the required polo shirt, but only if she wears black shorts instead of khaki. She only has one pair.

“I assume you wore them last Thursday?”

“Yes. And Monday too.”

“Oh, well if you wore them Monday then they are either still dirty or in the dryer. They should have been in the load you washed last night.”

“They weren’t! I don’t know where they are!”

“Well you might have wanted to start looking before this morning. Put those clothes back in the basket one at a time to make sure you didn’t miss them.” I then walked into her room to perform the Mommy Search.

I noticed an awful lot of clothes piled up on her desk. Quite a few were the dresses we had bought in Denver. I guess they had finally migrated out of the suitcase but not yet made it to the closet. It was difficult to dig through the clothes since they were interspersed with a dozen magazines, some posterboard, pencils, markers, school papers, cups, even a few breakable objects – just to keep me on my toes.

I found a workout shirt and a school polo, but no black shorts. So I turned to her chest of drawers. The top drawer was hanging open with so much stuff spilling out that I doubted its ability to close. I checked it anyway and then pushed it closed enough to open the second drawer. This one was mostly empty which meant it was very easy to spot the black shorts folded inside. She entered the room about that time so I handed them to her.

“What?! I never put clothes in my drawers so why would I look there?!”

I shrugged and returned to my room, where my husband handed me a pair of Jane’s khaki capri pants with the tags still on them. “Does she need these?”

I didn’t even ask why they were in our room. I just headed back across the hall and asked her if she needed them. As soon as she nodded, I tossed them on her bed and began to leave.

“Wait! They don’t belong there!”

“I know. They belong on your desk.”

I got the look.

“No! I was going to tell you to hand them to me so I could fold them up and put them in my drawer.”

Right. And she wonders why we find her unpredictable.