I honestly wanted to do nothing more than absolutely nothing yesterday.
Yesterday, I woke up as a square. An odd square. A product of two odd primes. It’s the fourth time I’ve been the square of primes, and, in all probability the last, as I’ll have to be 121 to celebrate the next truly odd birthday. For this birthday oddity I’d planned a trip to the University of New Hampshire for the last college visit before my first son has to figure out which dotted line he’ll sign.
But that wasn’t what made it odd — or wonderful.
For the past two weeks Thing1 has been dealing with anemia brought on by his disease. He could not tolerate a drive of any length, so we had postponed the UNH visit already. The newest drug, however, seemed to hit pause on his symptoms, and his affable nature had re-emerged over the last day or two. We knew this was the last best chance to go.
We got Thing2 to school and then headed down to the hospital. Thing1 needed bloodwork to check trough levels for one of the five drugs trying to control his auto-immune disorder. It was already 9 by then, and Thing1 was ready for Breakfast Number 2 — a side effect and a sign he was starting to feel more himself.
Treating the day like a field trip day (if it were run by an really over-indulgent teacher), I took him to our favorite diner in Bennington (my next blog will be titled ‘Diners I have Known’). We’ve been going there since Thing1 was in a car seat carrier, and my eyes started sweating as I watched my gentle giant pick out two entrees for a ‘snack’ (although it could have been tears brought on by the impending dent in my wallet).
“Mom,” he said in that tone that said other people could see me getting emotional as my baby prepared to leave the nest. There would be a few more warnings.
After breakfast we headed east toward the other side of Vermont and then to the east side of New Hampshire.
We stopped for a break during the three and a half hour drive. A girl playing scratch tickets, reminded me of a failed lesson in probability from another road trip a decade ago. On a whim, I bought a ticket, thinking he’d be my good luck charm again. Ten years ago, I’d told him we’d paid a tax on people who are bad at math and wound up winning on three $50 scratch tickets in a row. I’d chalked it up to some ‘magic’ which had everything to do with being with my seven-year-old and nothing to do with Math. Yesterday I lost, of course. Thing1 is too old and skeptical to channel that kind of magic anymore, but we were both laughing as I scraped the silver goo off the losing numbers. He’s still my good luck charm.
It had been a long time since I’ve heard Thing1 really laugh.
We got UNH and asked our questions before walking around. Thing1 loved it and was even more undecided about his future. A few more drives around the bucolic campus, we headed back to meet the Big Guy and Thing2 in Vermont for dinner.
It poured most of the time until we got near the Vermont border. It rained from Bellows Falls to Londonderry and got foggy as we headed over Bromley mountain to Manchester.
My body was getting weary from the travel and from the constant travel and worry of the last few months. It was as if a day of not worrying — of seeing Thing1 happy and debating over pleasant aspects of his future — had let my muscles relax too much for a moment.
When we got the the restaurant, Thing1 mentioned a worrying symptom that had appeared, and we knew the tension release was temporary. In reality it’s always temporary, but it is always welcome.
When we got home, I got my sketchbook, planning to doodle and promptly passed out on the sofa with Thing1 next to me and eleven year old Thing2 draped over the cats that came to sit on my legs. I woke up long enough to send Thing2 and myself to bed for the dreamless, satisfying sleep that only an exhaustingly perfect day can produce.
And the oddest thing was that it was the best present I hadn’t even thought to ask for.
Saturday our rural internet started feeling like we should be attaching rabbit ears to our modem, so I went to work at the round table with the red and white checkered table cloth at back of our local country store, parking myself next to the deli case, compete with a view of the giant rolltop desk that sits in front of a sign that reads, “If we don’t have it you don’t need it.”
Most Saturdays what I need, in addition to the internet, are soda and vittles from the deli, but there are other things I need from our country store that aren’t on any shelf — and they can’t be had any place else.
Yesterday, the store’s proprietress sat at the desk working on an order for the summer season, and we chatted as we both worked and visited with neighbors stopping in for groceries or a coffee break.
Around lunchtime, the owner’s granddaughter came in for her shift. Her son toddled behind her, continuing a time-honored tradition of ‘helping’ at the family business. Kids love the sights and constant flow of friends and family in and out, and this toddler did an excited two-step, giving a little squeal whenever someone he knew came through the door.
While his mom worked in the office, he darted between her and his great-grandmother. Occasional soft whimpers began signaling the need for a nap , and his great-grandmother reached out, inviting him to snuggle with her for short nap. He went happily to her outstretched arms and, with a little help, climbed onto her lap, resting his head on her shoulder and looking as contented as a person can be.
It took only a moment to draw enough energy from that hug before he got back to the business of being a toddler. I watched him explore thinking how nice it is that somethings can still be made right with a hug, which was exactly what I needed.
A popular meme depicting T1’s generation as iPhone-addicted idiots found its way into my Facebook feed tonight among the countless photos of his peers peacefully marching and calling for an end to violence.
I’m a member of the generation that, defined by John Hughes movies and political disengagement, came of age with the MTV and PacMan. At our high school most of the focus for seniors was on the goals that would improve our own lives.
By contrast, this generation of high school seniors has engaged with the world (and they did inspire people around the world), starting the work towards their vision of a more positive future for their peers but also for the kids who will follow. They are indeed fixated, but technology seems to be the conduit for their passions, not the objects of it.
Remembering that the idea for the march was instigated by teenagers, it occurred to me that while my generation has been deriding the attention they lavish on smartphones and tablets, T1’s generation may have been using them to acquire and share ideas and make loftier plans than anyone has given them credit for.
Thanks to T1 and his girlfriend (thinking SuperGal will be her secret identity since she has demonstrated some superpowers which are fodder for future posts), I do hear about kids making plans for futures defined by civic engagement, so when I see memes mocking their cohort, I tend to roll my eyes. It’s not enough, though, to just ignore an inaccurate stereotype. Today’s marches made me rethink how I should be talking about this generation, beginning with talking about and to them with respect .
For some reason I can’t quite remember, I found an hour or two to myself on Christmas Eve of all days. Presents were wrapped, someone else was responsible for Christmas Eve dinner, the table was set, and the Sunday New York Times was sitting on the end table waiting to be read. it turned out, that that Sunday Times contained a little lump of coal in the form of an article about the advent of sensitivity readers at publishing houses. I shouldn’t be surprised that there are 1 million ways to offend potential readers or that publishers might want to keep one or two of those readers, but I was suddenly very grateful for all the classic works of literature that, having survived government censors, had the good sense to be written before sensitivity readers existed.
Then I thought about my own kids’ book (and future book ideas) and all the ways it might possibly offend people.
The pictures are black-and-white and red all over, so some people might get offended by the predominance of red or the fact that the starring role in the book is played by kid with really bad hair. Or some sensitivity reader might worry that I’m insinuating that mom is with bad hair can’t get their kids to clean their rooms.
But as I thought about the ending of my little book about a kid who has his own idea about the definition of a clean room, I realized the people with whom I’m really gonna be in dutch are the millions of moms who are also trying to get their kids to clean their rooms. OK, so maybe I’ll only be in dutch with the moms who still have kids under 12. And I can whittle down that number to the number of moms who read my blog who haven’t figured out the magic formula for getting their kids under the age of 12 to clean their room. So that’s like, five or ten moms at least.
I don’t want to scare you because the book does have a happy ending, if you’re the kid with the messy room, and I do want to go on record that I am not endorsing the non-cleaning of rooms. I do find myself in the controversial situation of being willing to support a flexible definition of the term “clean room“.
This last week, was winter break and, after ordering Thing2 to clean his room two days in a row before he was allowed to invite friends over for “get together’s“ (formerly known as “play-dates” which, out of sensitivity to our resident tween, has been dropped from the approved household lexicon), I realize I’ve been a bit insensitive to him on this sensitive and highly controversial subject.
Thing2, now getting better at making the room look clean (at least to the casual observer), will stuff a few things end of the bed where they were less likely to show and spend the rest of his energy putting away all the shards of paper from his last homemade light saber, organizing his props for his next special effects project, and finding a place for all the disassembled electronics he rescues from the trash.
When he’s done, the room still looks like hazardous waste site, but in all fairness, the madness is the result of a creative but methodical and investigative spirit. What looks like a shambles to me is for him a laboratory of life.
I’m a huge believer in encouraging the creative spark in everyone, especially in my offspring. That laboratory is why he comes to me at the end of the day to show me the special effects space movie he’s just made or the book he’s just “published”. So even though even a domestic anti-goddesses such as myself sometimes has to draw a line between the dirty socks on the floor to establish benchmarks for distinguishing the a laboratory from a trashcan with a bunkbed in it, the laboratory is part of what makes Thing2 grow.
It’s also why, at the end of a book about a little boy who has his own idea about how to clean room, I decided to let that idea win out.