I’m almost positive this is going to get me kicked out of the elementary school PTA, but I have a confession to make: I hate school carnivals.
I try to be one of those moms who seem to look forward to it. For years I donned my little mommy ballcap and stood in line for pre-weekend carnival tickets. I talk to the other moms and pretend this is going to be really, really fun. But I’ve never, ever, ever had a good experience with the school carnival, and I think I’m done pretending.
Maybe it’s the sticky sidewalks. Maybe it’s the possibility of clowns being there. Maybe it’s the terrible combination of over-the-top joy with the sudden devastation when your little ring doesn’t quite go around the milk bottle. I don’t know what it is. I just know they sort of depress me.
It doesn’t help that the elementary school carnival is always plagued with terrible end-of-the-school-year weather: it’s either 102 degrees outside or strangely raining. I swear I’ve been to both. The year it was 102 degrees I actually tried to work the carnival with my 4th grader (see? I try!). All I remember is turning bright red in a no-canopy throw-the-ping-pong-ball-in-the-goldfish-bowl booth while my son got sick on cotton candy and cried because he lost a whole row of tickets behind some chain-link fence. Continue reading →
Nate and I went to the skateboard park the other day. He got lost in the concrete crowd, among a bunch of boys who were about three times his height, and tried to hold his own among the “bowls” and “rails” and “ramps.” He’d hang back, watch the other kids, then throw his board down and give things a try. I was proud of him. He looked fearless. He has his sticker-covered helmet, his scratched-up forehead, and enough holes in his jeans to give clear commentary that he’s a boy who’s not afraid of much.
Every 20 minutes or so, though, he’d ride back in my direction. He’d kick up his board, throw off his helmet and plop into the grass by my feet under the shade of the tree.
I would put my book down and ask him how it was going. “They’re good,” he’d say, shrugging a little and glancing over his shoulder at the bigger kids.
But then he’d smile at me, with his hand under his chin, and look at me in that way, with those eyes. He’s still my little guy. He still comes back and finds his comfort near me, every 20 minutes. Next month it’ll be every 30 minutes. Then next year it’ll be every hour. Then … maybe … not so much. Then he’ll be one of the big kids, doing his own thing. Fearless and not so much needing Mom, who brought him the Thermos of water and has the shady spot under the tree. …
In comments the other day, Bill Q. brought up a topic that tends to slide its way into my family’s dinner conversation from time to time:
Unfortunately, what I recall in my high-school days is that many of the girls seemed to go for the good-looking guys who treated them like dirt.
Hmmm … yes, unfortunately, I remember that, too, Bill. And my 15-year-old son brings it up a lot.
My son considers himself one of the “nice guys.” He bemoans this sad truth and simply shakes his head at the fact that many of the girls he likes tend to gravitate, instead, toward the boys who are the troublemakers, the attention-getters. The boys who shrug off authority and any kind of … well … learning.
I told him that this won’t go on forever. I passed the salt and pepper shakers and said eventually girls will see “his type” as the more desirable. (I believe he gave me that “yeah, sure, Mom” look.)
But in the meantime I was faced with the question he posed to me and my tween daughter: Why do girls go for the “bad boys”? And why has that been true for generations?
At the time neither of us had an answer. (In fact, I think we both denied it.) But later, I thought about it again and remembered some discussions I’ve participated in on romance-writing blogs, where the “bad boy” is still alive and well in many a fiction setting (usually with boxing gloves, tatoos, a motorcycle and a mysterious past). Continue reading →
Ah, Sunday drives. If you can find two words in the English language that more abruptly call to mind gargantuan Cadillacs, clean-cut hair styles, and slow cruising, let me know.
Sunday drives were a big part of my growing up. I spent countless weekends in the backseat of some Pontiac or another, sliding around with my brothers on the vinyl upholstery, listening to Karen Carpenter on the radio and smelling my mother’s Jean Nate.
My parents were both from Ohio. They grew up there, trudging through the snow (uphill, both ways, of course) and working at various gas stations and five-and-dimes throughout their teens. But about a year after they got married, my dad jumped at a great job offer in the aerospace industry and they moved to California. They drove the 2,500-or-so miles when I was 6 weeks old – two young 23-year-olds, eyes open wide, amazed that they were permanently in a land of squawking seagulls and 70-degree temps. And their amazement at the west coast ultimately resulted in regular weekend awe: every chance they got, they’d get out their maps and explore.
All through the late 60s and early 70s, we drove. My parents and I, then later my two brothers, would drive to Newport Beach in a Pontiac Catalina and watch the waves crash on the jetty. Continue reading →
My husband has a Happiness Book. I’m not sure which part of this charms me most: the fact that he thought to start such a thing, the fact that he spent some minutes getting out a piece of paper and making a little cover for it, or the image of him searching for little plastic holder thingys at work every time he adds a page. (Picture this guy with big biceps, carefully putting a tiny little piece of paper – maybe something with little blue clouds on it – into a three ring binder, then clipping the rings shut and staring at the drawing.) It all seems rather out of character for him as a man, yet completely in character as a dad.
The Happiness Book started about 8 years ago, when our eldest son was 7. Our son – like all children, I’m sure – would create lots of drawings: fingerprint characters, short stories he wrote, stick figures playing basketball, and lots and lots of dinosaurs. He’d tuck his little drawings into my husband’s drawer at home so my husband would be sure to see them when he left for his sheriff’s job at the courthouse. My husband dutifully brought each piece to work, but eventually the drawings came to cover too much uniform-locker space, and then too much bailiff-desk space. So my husband got a white binder from the supply room, made a simple cover, and started putting all the drawings in plastic pages. The Happiness Book was born.